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In two previous posts, we have evaluated John Henry Newman’s two foundational principles for his Idea of a University as expressed in the “Preface.” Now, let us turn our attention to the end result, the final fruit: Newman’s sketch of what a real graduate of such a real University looks like. As any good horticulturist knows, the best fruit is grown from trees given the best soil and nutrients, and given the best supporting trellises. The University pupil is the fruit; born on the tree of the University, guided by the trellis of the Church. To understand the fruit fully, it is important to know how it is grown–so, if you have not yet done so, take a moment to read the previous two posts in order to fully grasp Newman’s vision of a University graduate.

Today, one would be hard-pressed to find a school that does not promise exciting and compelling things as a result of attending its institution. In fact, most schools today exist in a competitive market, vying for parent, student, and government dollars, all of them promising a highly sought-after product: vital career, sharpened skills, and increased life possibilities. Indeed, marketing, media, and consumerism have had an immense impact on education today. However, one must, to a certain extent, put aside these various cultural pressures related to scholastic outcomes in order to grasp Newman’s vision of how a University forms a human being–how an individual subject enters an institution with all the meekness of a sapling and, through the formative process of learning, grows into a well-watered tree that bears fruit in due season. The promises made by schools today are often mechanistic–a program or a system claims to offer some kind of guaranteed spot in the workforce or in higher academia. While career and educational progress are a natural end of University education, they are precisely a natural end to what is a deeper and more complex process of growth than what assembly-line schools assume.

According to Newman, a University education results in “the real cultivation of mind.” [In his book on the Roman poet Virgil, Virgil, Father of the West, German scholar Theodor Haecker reminds us that this word cultivation, which comes from culture, is a word borrowed from the farming industry (48-49)]. A University engages in a similar kind of agricultural work. There is serious and hard labor involved; this includes not just brute work, but rational awareness: being in tune with the weather, the seasons, the needs of the crops. It requires being in tune with nature. Just so, education–the project of cultivating a “culture of the intellect”–must be in tune with true human nature, and must be aware of the true forces of human growth in order to know what labor should be involved and at what times. But it also requires the grace of being able to step back and know that the fruit itself will grow of its own accord, given the right conditions. The fruit cannot be forced–the pupil must be allowed to blossom, given the right circumstances.  

Knowing the agricultural roots of the word for cultivation and culture helps us see that the essence of a “liberal education” is to “bring the mind into form” (7). A liberal education, in the form of its cultivated pupils, “… does manifest itself in a courtesy, propriety, and polish of word and action, which is beautiful in itself, and acceptable to others” (7-8). Newman describes the successful pupil as having acquired “good sense, sobriety of thought, reasonableness, candor, self-command, steadiness of view … power of influencing others, and sagacity,” which all culminates in “… a faculty of entering with comparative ease into any subject of thought, and of taking up with aptitude any science of profession” (8-9).

The well-cultivated mind possesses the power to learn anything it turns itself to. This is the true fruit of a liberal arts education, what some today are calling a classical education, or a classical Catholic education. Further, this entails a maturation and transformation into a person of sense and manners–a person who does not merely know things, but knows how to apply those things, and knows how to apply those things in eloquent, compelling and beautiful ways. Thus, the end of a University education is the total integration of knowledge into the heart, mind, and soul of a well-cultivated person.

Thus, a true graduate of a true University becomes a blessing to society in whatever he or she does. The well-formed student, by mere personal presence, leavens the world with truth and charity, and can engage in any intellectual or practical enterprise. He is not a “mere hereditary Christian,” who does nothing because he does not realize the grandeur of the truths he holds; but he is also not an “infidel, fanatic, or heresiarch” who does much, and does much energetically, for the sake of an erroneous, albeit consistent, view (9). Newman’s star pupils are those who energetically and consistently do much for the sake of truth. Given accuracy of true knowledge, and given the moral, theological, and philosophical guidance of the Church, the fruit of a University is a well-matured human person, fully alive to God, the self, the world and others, fully cultivated in mind, heart, and will.

In essence, Newman’s University is a place for teaching universal knowledge. In practice, Newman’s University must also be assisted and informed by the Church, whose possession of Revealed Truth and authoritative love for her children grants her the duty and right to undergird the human enterprise of seeking universal knowledge. And the natural result is the propagation of well-matured human persons who, truly cut from the cloth of their cultural setting, nonetheless are instructed in universal knowledge and honed into natural and spiritual blessings. Based on these principles, Newman gave a series of lectures upon the founding of the Catholic University of Ireland, which is now called University College, Dublin. Newman’s personal interest in and experiment with quality University education not only flowered into a real University, but also left us with a record of his thinking in the form of the lectures, or discourses, that make up his book The Idea of a University.  Forthcoming posts will look at The Idea of a University, Discourse by Discourse, unpacking Newman’s insights that are, indeed, universal in their wisdom and potency, and desperately needed for our own times.

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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.

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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.
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.

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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.

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

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