IrelandBy Fr. Juan Velez

In a fitting manner, Newman turns his attention to the history of a Catholic university in Ireland. He traces a history of many attempts, primarily by bishops and clergy, since the beginning of the 14th century. Until that time thousands of students had studied the Trivium and Quadrivium at the School of Armagh, but a university with a charter conferring degrees had not been established. There were many reasons for starting such a university such as the growing national character of universities, facilitating the education of scholars and the expense and danger of traveling abroad.

In 1311 or 1312 John Lech, Archbishop of Dublin obtained a papal brief from Pope Clement V for the establishment of the university but the archbishop died the following year. The project was revived by his successor Archbishop Alexdander de Bicknor who drafted statutes, and appointed as two Dominicans and a Franciscan as its first doctors but without funds again the project did not go forward.

Newman comments: “It was the age of national schools, of colleges and endowments; and, though the civil power appeared willing to take its part in endowments in furtherance of the new undertaking, it did not go much further than to enrich it now and then with a stray lectureship, and wealthy prelates or nobles were not forthcoming in that age, capable of conceiving and executing works in the spirit of Ximenes two centuries afterwards in Spain.”

Despite the absence of such a figure, there were other attempts by the clergy and crown to further the cause. In 1358 Irish clergy and scholars obtained from Edward III the endowment of a lectureship in theology, and issued letters ensuring special protection and safe-conduct to English and Irish going, residing or returning to the university. A few years later, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, founded a preachership and lectureship in the Cathedral which was to be held by an Augustinian.

Another attempt on behalf of a University was made in 1465 when the Irish Parliament erected a University at Drogheda and endowed it with privileges but for want of funds it seems not to have gone ahead.

Newman continues the sketch of this history mentioning a supplication by Dominican and other friars to Pope Pius IV shortly after said ParliamentIn their appeal they “represent that in Ireland there is no University to which Masters, Doctors of Law, and Scholars may resort; that it is necessary to go to England at a great expense and peril; and consequently they ask for leave to erect a University in the metropolitan city.” The Pope granted their request yet the university did not get off the ground.

In 1496, another Archbishop of Dublin continued the effort of starting a university. In a provincial synod, Walter Fitzsimon, Archbishop of Dublin, agreed that for an annual contribution to be levied for seven years in order to provide salaries for the Lecturers. Again, however, the efforts did not prosper.

Newman concludes this short historical narrative almost five centuries later asserting that the time had finally arrived for a Catholic University in Ireland.

“Times are changed since these attempts were made; and, while the causes no longer exist which operated in their failure, the object towards which they were directed has attained a moment, both in itself and in its various bearings, which could never have been predicted in the fourteenth or the sixteenth century. Ireland is no longer the conquered possession of a foreign king; it is, as in the primitive times, the centre of a great Catholic movement and of a world-wide missionary enterprise. Nor does the Holy See simply lend an ear to the project of others: it originates the undertaking.”

Again an Archbishop of Dublin would be involved. This time it was Archbishop Paul Cullen, who asked Newman on behalf of the Irish bishops to establish the university. Fr. Newman, an exceptional intellectual was an able founder and rector (1854-1858) of the Catholic University of Ireland but after many disagreements with the Irish bishops he resigned his position and returned to the Birmingham Oratory in England. For various reasons including the lack of sufficient number of students and financial difficulties the university floundered. It was eventually absorbed by the National University of Ireland founded in 1909.

This was the sad ending of a promising university for a Catholic nation that had produced so many Catholic saints, missionaries and scholars. Some of the lessons to be learned were ones for which Newman had fought: the need to allow and encourage laymen to run the university, and the importance of working with leading Catholic laymen, and welcoming foreign professors.

Like this article?

The world which sees only appearances cannot comprehend the hidden reality of a heart captive to Christ. 

With this indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have the indwelling of Christ in our souls. Christ is born in us. The Holy Spirit makes us children of God, crying out Abba Father, and restores in us the likeness of Christ.

Leave a comment

Our Books

About Cardinal John Henry Newman

Purchase Book

A Guide to John Henry Newman will interest educated readers and professors alike, and serve as a text for college seminars for the purpose of studying Newman.

Review by Catherine Maybanks
(Catholic Herald, April 1, 2023)

Review by Serenheed James
(Antiphon, April 2023)

Purchase Book

Fr Peter Conley takes us on an exciting journey into the spirituality and inner life of Saint John Henry Newman.

Purchase Book

Endorsement by Neyra Blanco (Amazon)
I bought this book for my son and he loved it, he wrote this review and urged my to submitted: “I think this book has a very beautiful message, because it shows how the young Newman was so determined to achieve his dream of becoming a priest, but even after his dream he continued to work in the church with passion until the day he died, it’s so admirable that even Newman so old and so weak still had that urge to continued his work of being a priest. And the book is well written with words not too complicated with very enjoyable texts and well illustrated pictures. I highly recommend this book for a 5th grader.  

Purchase Book

What is a Classical Liberal Arts Education? Why is it so important for the development of a person?

Fr. Juan R. Vélez answers these and more questions you might have about University Education in the 21st century. This book is aimed for parents, prospective University students, and educators. It will help you discern why adding Liberal Arts electives to your education will help it form it better, and help the student learn to reason, and not just learn.

He also explains how many Universities have changed the true meaning of Liberal Arts, and the subjects, and gives advise on how to choose College Campus, Subjects, and Teachers.

A wonderful book that every parent should also read way before your children are College bound. A Liberal Arts education can start earlier in life, even from home.

Purchase Book

Endorsement by Christopher Moellering (Goodreads, September 14, 2019)
In Passion for Truth Fr. Vélez gave us an outstanding biography of Cardinal Newman. In this work, he provides a concise overview of his thought and his devotion. This is a great work for someone who, perhaps hearing of Newman for the first time because of his beatification 13 October, 2019, wants to know more about this English saint.Vélez is a wonderful writer in his own right, and the frequent quotations from Newman round out the work nicely. I especially appreciated the frequent citing of Newman’s Meditations and Devotions, which show a different side of his spirituality than his more well-known works, Development of Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Assent.

Purchase Book

Take Five: Meditations with John Henry Newman, endorsement by Illow M. Roque (Amazon, September 3, 2010)
“There is a time to put direct inquiry on hold and give ourselves to prayer and practical duties.” Sound advice from one of the earlier, thought-provoking reminders in this sparkling gem of a book: Take Five | Meditations with John Henry Newman, written by Mike Aquilina and Fr. Juan R. Vélez and published by Our Sunday Visitor. This particular paragraph, referenced above, which begins with a direct quote from soon-to-be canonized priest, cardinal and poet, John Henry Newman: “Study is good, but it gets us only so far . . .” is actually the 15th in a series of 76 concise, logically organized meditations moving from the elementary to the sublime. Each meditation–one per page–is built upon the great man’s writings and remarkably rich spirituality. Whether taken whole in one reading or in part page-by-page over a course of weeks and months, these wonderfully insightful meditations will open up, even to the busiest reader in the midst of the world, a unique pathway into prayer and contemplation. My advice to spiritual inquirers at all levels, from the novice to the spiritually adept, is to follow the authors’ recommendation to use this book as a guide for daily prayer and meditation. The structure of the book itself is ideal: first, the authors introduce us to Cardinal Newman, the man, where we are given the opportunity to get to know him through a brief sketch of his life and spirituality at the beginning of the book. This is something readers will likely find themselves referring to again and again, prompting many, I suspect, to even wider explorations of this most gifted Christian leader. Then comes the meditations, consisting of a short summary of Newman’s thoughts on subjects taken, as the authors explain, from various salient points for which Newman is justly remembered: The pursuit of objective religious truth; Teaching on the Virtues; Defense of the Catholic Church; A devout spiritual and moral life; and Generosity and loyalty in his friendships, which sets the topic and tone for each meditation to follow. Each meditation consists of an excerpt taken from Newman’s thirty-plus volumes of writings and diaries. Next comes three brief and extremely useful sections entitled: “Think About It,” which establishes a prayerfully resonant tone throughout the book; “Just Imagine,” which provides a vivid, prayerful experience of the Scriptures that tie in, and finally, “Remember,” a pithy summation which the authors suggest may be used as a daily aspiration. Each meditation is given its own page, which makes it ideal for daily reflection for readers on the go. This book is a must have for every serious Catholic who wants to take their faith to the next level, which is to respond appropriately to the universal call to holiness and seek interior union with God.
About Newman
Fr. Juan Velez

The Indwelling Spirit

With this indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have the indwelling of Christ in our souls. Christ is born in us. The Holy Spirit makes us children of God, crying out Abba Father, and restores in us the likeness of Christ.

Read More »
Sermon Blog
David Warren

The Fellowship of the Apostles

Preaching the truth means Jesus Christ is the goal in our conflicts with others – not winning the argument. This is why we can approach everyone with understanding, respect and patience, in other words, in a Christ-like way.

Read More »
About Newman
Prof. Barb H. Wyman

Many Called, Few Chosen

Though the invitation is open to all, not everyone responds to it in faith. Those who accept the call, embrace Christ, and live according to His teachings; they are the chosen ones.

Read More »
Sermon Blog
Fr. Juan Velez

The Gospel Feast

John Henry Newman calls the Holy Mass the Gospel Feast and takes us through numerous biblical passages that prefigure this great Sacrament.

Read More »