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In 2017, Silicon Valley tech mogul Anthony Levandowski announced his sincere intention to start a new religion (reported by Mark Haris at wired.com). Under the belief that super-intelligence would soon rapidly proceed to self-governing robots and super-computers that could manage humanity better than humans, he thought his new religion, “Way of the Future,” would help ease the “Transition” through worship of Artificial Intelligence. The kinds of computers on the horizon, he argued, would essentially be gods by virtue of their massive intelligence, and he would like to make everyone, not just computer scientists, feel like they have a part to play in the new order through participating in his cult.

This harrowing real-life dystopia is perhaps not so much a disturbing new development as a visible revelation of what has long been an invisible problem: man’s tendency to worship his own creations, to deify his own ingenuity, to obsessively seek divinized power through knowledge, like Dr. Faustus and Dr. Frankenstein, builders of Towers of Babel, old and new. It is at root a spiritual problem, one that St. John Henry Newman brilliantly exposes in the conclusion of Discourse IV of Idea of a University.

Discourse IV is all about the relationship between theology and other disciplines of knowledge. Newman thinks theology is at the center, and all the other disciplines suffer if it does not retain this privileged place. “Revealed Religion,” the kind of dogmatic theology he has in mind, is what all other disciplines seek to become if they fail to recognize theology as its own discipline with unique standards. “Many men there are,” writes Newman, “who, devoted to one particular subject of thought, and making its principles the measure of all things, become enemies of Revealed Religion before they know it.” Newman says this is the case because each discipline “has made [its] own science, whatever it is … to the neglect of Theology, the centre of all truth, and view every part or the chief parts of knowledge as if developed from it, and to be tested and determined by its principles.” Each discipline begins to judge every other discipline through its own principles, and fails to acknowledge the principles of other disciplines. Each sees itself as the definitive authority of all things, a role only truly played by the science of theology. 

Further, Newman thinks this will naturally develop into an antipathy for real theology, for real religion. Of the thinker caught in this tangle, Newman says “ … an exclusive line of study has led him, whether he will or no, to run counter to the principles of Religion; which principles he has never made his landmarks, and which, whatever might be their effect upon himself, at least would have warned him against practising upon the faith of others, had they been authoritatively held up before him.” If he would just have ears to hear, religion would be able to authoritatively teach the scientist of the boundaries between his own and other disciplines. Instead, this kind of misguided science will, divorced from theology, always set itself in the place of God as the “summum bonum,” the greatest good.

More concretely, Newman shows by example how this problem includes confusing “moral sciences” with pragmatic or natural sciences, like “Political Economy.” Economists will begin to seek answers to questions proper to the domain of ethicists and moral theologians, arguing for expediency or efficiency when the real issue is one of human dignity and spiritual well-being. Assuming the “absence of all real religion,” thinkers like political economists will begin to see “the pursuit of [material] gain” as the only real source of “virtue, religion, happiness,” and “the pursuit of wealth” the only “great source of moral improvement,” failing to hear the Divine Shepherd’s words that “money is the root of all evil.”

“Private Judgement,” Newman goes on to say, will infect what should be scientific disciplines. Evolutionary theorists will deny the existence of God. Logicians will deny the Holy Trinity. Historians will deny the reality of miracles. In each of these cases, there is a purely technical problem: a theological claim is being made without reference to theology. A discipline separate from theology has presumed to make itself the measure of theology. For Newman, the great crisis of our modern age is quite simply forgetting what theology is, and what it isn’t. He concludes, “[If] Theology be not taught, its province will not simply be neglected, but will be actually usurped by other sciences, which will teach, without warrant, conclusions of their own in a subject-matter which needs its own proper principles for its due formation and disposition.” This is perhaps why higher academia is increasingly alienated from the wider culture; on the one hand, overly-specialized experts only exist in their own echo-chambers, and, on the other hand, self-styled cultural theorists mix and blend the boundaries of disciplines in a frenzy for ‘interdisciplinarity’ and ‘intersectionality.’ Both are a symptom of having lost what tutor them in their proper boundaries and relations, and grant them objective freedom to fully be what they are. They have lost theology.

Today, there is no lack of popular books on Catholic theology. Books about Augustine, Aquinas, Newman, and many more are sources of inspiration and renewal to many. We are at a pivotal moment in Church History when, like never before, laypeople and clerics alike should commit anew to ongoing formation in our rich Catholic intellectual and literary heritage. Theology is at the center of all knowledge, informing and forming all other branches of knowledge, just as God in His triune unity reaches out lovingly to man in diverse ways across time and space. 

 

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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.

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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