de Ribera, Jusepe; A Philosopher-Poet; National Trust, Oxburgh Hall; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/a-philosopher-poet-171556

A recent book called Faith and Reason: Philosophers explain their turn to Catholicism collects stories of contemporary philosophers who found compelling reasons to convert to the Catholic faith. Dissatisfied by the prevailing atheism in the academies, and often left adrift with unworkable Protestant, evangelical, or Calvinistic ideas, these philosophers found faith through reason, through a diligent and rigorous pursuit of truth. These stories are an important reminder that Catholics should promote, defend, and support the flourishing of what Newman calls, in Discourse 6, “intellectual perfection” through “intellectual culture.” 

Newman describes the inner process of learning; that is, how one becomes a good student in search of truth. Like traveling to a new, foreign, less cultivated land with a “different nature,” or viewing the stars through a telescope, or finding new animal species, Newman thinks “enlargement of mind,” synonymous with what he has called “intellectual culture” or a “philosophic habit of mind,” brings about a fresh vantage point, a new, more totalizing point of view. Gaining new insights in history or biology is like embarking into previously untrammeled wildernesses or exploring formerly unknown civilizations. The traveler must become acquainted with the landscape, culture, idioms, peoples, histories and traditions of a new place. Just so, the intellectual inquirer, to persevere and succeed, needs a cosmopolitan spirit, an open mind to something new and beyond his or her land of origin. There is a “sense of expansion and elevation—an intoxication in reality… an illumination.” 

Learning is not inert or static, but changes our awareness of everything else that those new facts stand in relation to. He compares the experience to forming new religious opinions. For example, a convert to religion develops a totally new view of everything. He is a “different being” from what he was. This analogy illustrates Newman’s classic personalist point: gaining new knowledge transforms us, changes our whole being and actions, not just our reason. 

And so by these illustrations Newman contrasts mere acquisition with what he calls “enlargement or enlightenment” of the mind. Expansion of the mind involves not only passive reception of new senses and information, but more deeply “the mind’s energetic and simultaneous action upon and towards and among those new ideas, which are rushing upon it….” This is an action with “formative power, reducing to order and meaning the matter of our acquirements; it is making the objects of our knowledge subjectively our own….” It is a “digestion” that relates fact to fact, increasing awareness of reality, and results in “enlargement or enlightenment” of mind.

In other words, gaining knowledge is not a mere process of addition. It is not, as our world seems to think, merely piling up bits of mental information, or uncritically accepting a prevailing opinion. It is “locomotion, the movement onwards, of that mental centre …” that all our learning gravitates toward and throbs outward from. The truly “great intellect … is one which takes a connected view of old and new, past and present, far and near….” Enlargement or expansion of mind is truly termed “philosophy,” which is not an abstract but a personal knowledge, manifest in the activity of the greatest minds that have been transformed by knowledge. 

One may be well-read and well-informed but still be narrow-minded and not have experienced this transformation. Newman thinks this is not true knowledge. It may look like knowledge but it is artificial, puffed up, and does not deserve the name “culture of mind” or “Liberal Education.” The falsely knowledgeable are men who “generalize nothing” and have no “observation,” while they might have seen a great deal of the world. They are simply “talking,” not “discussing” or “teaching or instructing.” They abound in curious and entertaining details without the influence of “clear or settled principles.” All things to them are mere disconnected phenomena, “complete in themselves” and leading to “nothing.” They might travel the world, hold numerous degrees, be sought after, but still have an impoverished vision of the whole. They see “the tapestry of human life” on the wrong side; for them it tells no “story,” has no meaningful thread or “drift or relation,” no “history” or “promise.”

But a truly mature—not merely knowledgeable—mind will always be open to the full totality of reality. The true learner is docile, humble and grateful, never puffed up or self-satisfied by his past accomplishments. He submits himself to the constant and transformative process of growth that intellectual perfection requires. This is not merely moralizing, but is the precondition of any real knowledge. This kind of mind “makes everything in some sort lead to everything else; it would communicate the image of the whole to every separate portion, till the whole becomes in imagination like a spirit, everywhere pervading and penetrating its component parts, and giving them one definite meaning.”

In other words, someone with a liberal mind, with perfection of intellect, is always prepared to engage his or her reason, no matter how trying the occasion. Not having merely learned by rote, or become a fact-machine, or acquired disconnected and inert parcels of data, the true intellectual is personally transformed by what he knows, has achieved … 

the clear, calm, accurate vision and comprehension of all things, as far as the finite mind can embrace them, each in its place, and with its own characteristics upon it… almost prophetic from its knowledge of history; almost heart-searching from its knowledge of human nature, it has almost supernatural charity from its freedom from littleness and prejudice; it has almost the repose of faith, because nothing can startle it… it has almost the beauty and harmony of heavenly contemplation, so intimate is it with the eternal order of things and the music of the spheres.

The true Catholic intellectual is in harmony with God and the Created order in knowing rightly. His subjectivity is rightly ordered, fully formed, mature, alive to truth. This kind of personal formation of mind is not only an essential aspiration for the Catholic, but it is also hard to imagine the flourishing of authentic Catholicism without it. The Gospel is corrupted if we do not remember that it addresses our minds and makes intellectual demands of us. The transformation of our being in Christ is a result of full and sincere belief; it is our duty and our joy to seek understanding by faith, and to perfect our intellectual grasp of truth as far as we are able. More practically, we should be careful to guard, defend, promote and support—financially if we can, and always by prayer—good Catholic schools that combine the best of intellectual training with the fullness of the Catholic faith. 

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For forty days we are in ‘spiritual circuit training’, with the goal of joining St Peter on his morning run to Christ’s tomb.

But our Lord is clear: He said “to all” that “if any” man, and in doing so both offers Himself to every man and leaves no room for half-hearted disciples.

Newman encourages us to be more of what we are: courageous Christians who do all we can, to our utmost, for His Kingdom.

In this ingenious poem, “Candlemas,” Saint John Henry Newman weaves together the entire liturgical year using the theme of light as the thread

Newman approached his teaching from an obviously Christian anthropology. He saw every young person from the start as a being in the image of God.

Do we treat time, which is always slipping through our hands, as the precious resource it is?

Dominic abundantly shared with John Henry the gifts inspired by the Saints he admired, who are recorded in his spiritual journal.

The contemplation of Him, and nothing but it, is able fully to open and relieve the mind, to unlock, occupy, and fix our affections.

Our Books

About Cardinal John Henry Newman

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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)

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

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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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.
Fr. Peter Conley

For forty days we are in ‘spiritual circuit training’, with the goal of joining St Peter on his morning run to Christ’s tomb.

David Warren

But our Lord is clear: He said “to all” that “if any” man, and in doing so both offers Himself to every man and leaves no room for half-hearted disciples.

Robert Kirkendall

Newman encourages us to be more of what we are: courageous Christians who do all we can, to our utmost, for His Kingdom.

Prof. Barb H. Wyman

In this ingenious poem, “Candlemas,” Saint John Henry Newman weaves together the entire liturgical year using the theme of light as the thread

Scott Goins

Newman approached his teaching from an obviously Christian anthropology. He saw every young person from the start as a being in the image of God.

David Warren

Do we treat time, which is always slipping through our hands, as the precious resource it is?

Fr. Peter Conley

Dominic abundantly shared with John Henry the gifts inspired by the Saints he admired, who are recorded in his spiritual journal.

Robert Kirkendall

The contemplation of Him, and nothing but it, is able fully to open and relieve the mind, to unlock, occupy, and fix our affections.

Fr. Juan Velez

Merry Christmas to all! In the following video from Colombia, I send you a warm greetings for Christmas. May God richly bless you and your families, and may St. John Henry Newman continue to be a source of inspiration for