St. Peter

 

In a previous post, I considered Newman’s first grounding principle in Idea of a University:  teaching universal knowledge as the essence of a University.  His second core principle central to his Discourses is that, in practice, the University depends upon the guidance of the Church. A University “cannot fulfill its object duly … without the Church’s assistance… the Church is necessary for its integrity” (3). The object of a University is to form minds in the truth. According to Newman, this object is essentially “intellectual, not moral” (3). However, in order for this object to be carried out, a certain moral and spiritual assistance is required. The University has an office to perform: its essence, teaching universal knowledge; the Church “steadies it in the performance of that office” (3). A University is a vessel with a long and arduous sea to cross: the cultivation of a “culture of the intellect” (7). The Church–the barque of St. Peter–offers much necessary guidance, security, and ballast for that voyage.

Newman recognizes that some may not readily see the necessity of the Church in the intellectual enterprise of a University. However, in our own day, it is readily apparent that the rapid progress of technologies and sciences, often based in university research centers, requires much ethical and moral guidance for application. Artificial intelligence, human reproduction, and genetics are all fields requiring serious examination from a higher perspective of philosophy, moral theology, and absolute truth. Newman engages in a slightly humorous imagined dialogue with those who might object that this means the Holy See has a vested and direct interest in “secular knowledge as such,” as if “the Vicar of Christ [were] bound by office or by vow to be the preacher of the theory of gravitation, or a martyr for electro-magnetism” (4). Rather, Newman keeps the focus of the Church’s assistance on two things. First, the Church is interested in “Revealed Truth.” Revelation offers a necessary counterpart to the University, which explores truth through Reason. While Reason is a God-given aspect of human nature (see Romans 1), Scripture also attests that fallen man is wrapped in sin and ignorance, and is thus in need of truths that are revealed. Newman says that the Church rejoices in “philosophical systems of intellectual education,” because Truth is really the ally and profession of the Church, and “Knowledge and Reason are sure ministers to Faith” (4). There is no inherent contradiction between faith and the sciences, the Church and the University; and, the Church, in assisting the University, does not dogmatically insist on a limited or narrowed scope of knowledge. Rather, the Church illuminates the full extent and possibility of that knowledge in a joyful proposal of Truth.

Even so, Newman thinks the Church is not invested in assisting the University for the sake of pursuing Truth as such, but in so far as acquiring knowledge results in the common formation of the Church’s “own children” (4). In his own time Newman was actually advancing the case for the establishment of a Catholic University in Ireland, and he clarifies that the Irish Hierarchy’s involvement in this project had the object of benefiting its members with “exercise and growth in certain habits, moral and intellectual” (4). The true end of quality education, of a real University, is well-formed human persons–not test scores, not research grants, not accolades, although these are good things in their own measure. Human persons, themselves, alone retain the potential to be salt and light in the world, blessing the Church and society with their robust formation. The Church helps remind the University that her prime aim is not to groom future potential workers for careers, but to cultivate souls with intellectual and moral decisions to make bearing eternal weight. Therefore, the Church’s involvement, whose prime interest is the salvation and sanctification of souls, is of paramount importance.

The Church, summarized in the See of St. Peter, has a deep and abiding pastoral concern for University pupils “with a view to their spiritual welfare and their religious influence and usefulness, with the object of training them to fill their respective posts in life better, and of making them more intelligent, capable, active members of society” (4-5). The Church sees to the full flourishing of University students, a flourishing that includes intellect, fulfillment of duty, and participation in society. The University can achieve much for mankind, but without the grace, without the gift, of the Church’s guidance, it will run the risk of becoming a new Tower of Babel: asserting its progress, technologies, and words to “make a name” for itself over and against God, ending in confusion and destruction (Genesis 11:4). The Church, by her teaching of the Scriptures and Tradition, and by her offering of sacramental life and guidance, is the body of Christ which, with Christ, makes up the totus Christus, the total Christ, and bestows on mankind the grace of truly directing all his efforts to God (Catechism of the Catholic Church 795).

The Church offers the student more than what studies alone can provide: the grace that cannot be acquired with books. This includes a pupil’s intellectual, moral, and spiritual cultivation in the fullness of truth and charity, Revelation and Reason. Have we truly considered the social and personal transformation that would take place if these truths were fully lived out in our schools?

In a third post on the Prologue of Newman’s Idea of a University, I will provide a sketch of Newman’s ideal graduate, the true human fruit, of a University.

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What is the doctrine of the Trinity? The Athanasian Creed, in common use around the sixth century, formulates it this way: "We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son's is another, the Holy Spirit's another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal."

The true light of Christ’s divinity was made visible to the Apostles at the Transfiguration.

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What is the doctrine of the Trinity? The Athanasian Creed, in common use around the sixth century, formulates it this way: "We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son's is another, the Holy Spirit's another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal."

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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)

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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.
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