Keller Children

On December 25, 2017, Pope Francis prayed for the children of the world. He said that “Christmas invites us to focus on the sign of the Child and to recognize him in the faces of little children, especially those for whom, like Jesus, “there is no place in the inn”” (Lk 2:7).

This made me think of the numerous children who do not have access to good schools, and to the many parents who neglect their education. Newman believed that parents should be the primary educators of their children.This sounds obvious but in the twentieth century and the first two decades of the twenty-first this is no longer so to anyone. Television, movies and social media are their prime educators; and many parents are not involved at all in their education, but think that by putting them in a Catholic school they have fulfilled in large measure their responsibility.

Already in the nineteenth century Newman insisted that parents act as the primary educators of their children. In May 1859, together with a group of parents he opened a school for boys which in time came to be called the Oratory School. The parents looked up to him to prepare their boys for a university education and, later, employment in society.

But from the beginning Newman insisted that the parents should raise the needed money for opening and running the school. In fact, he did not want the Birmingham Oratory to be responsible financially or even administratively. When a sufficient number of parents agreed to fund the school and had discussed the principles and objectives for the school, Newman agreed to found it and thus, with his reputation, to draw families and their children to the school, and to ask the Oratory to provide a provisional headmaster.

It was a boarding school for boys founded along the lines of the elite English public schools, but which were not public in the sense of schools in the United States, but with the religious and disciplinary line of Catholic seminaries. Newman wanted the school to be a “Catholic” Eton where the boys had the freedom of famous Eton College together with the best religious formation of the Catholic schools.

The participation of the parents was much more than financial. Newman involved them by writing them frequent letters with information on the progress of their children during the year, and by pointing out corrections that the children required. He also asked the parents to guide their summer studies, and discussed with them plans for their future university or professional studies. In other words, the parents were fully engaged in the education of their children.

The younger boys at the school lived in various houses, each run by a woman called a matron who acted like their mother and who cared for their health and hygiene, and provided them with the necessary meals and affection.

Newman chose good teachers, including the young poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, and the academics were demanding. He opened a library for the students, established various prizes for learning competitions, and organized representation of classical plays with scripts adapted to remove immoral content. The religious formation of the children was an important part of the education as were religious practices such as daily Mass and prayer of the rosary. These practices were, however, optional because Newman underlined the value of education in freedom and responsibility.

Earlier on the most famous student was Hilaire Belloc, later a celebrated writer. Another distinguished writer, J.R.R. Tolkien, did not study at the Oratory School, but shortly after Newman’s death, was educated with the help of the same Oratorian Fathers in Birmingham.

As we begin the New Year 2018, we think of the countless young people who attend schools with poor teaching standards or whose parents are not involved in their education. With the inspiration of educators such as John Henry Newman, John Bosco, Josemaría Escrivá and, before them, Ignatius of Loyola, parents are challenged to see and embrace the vital role they have as their children’s primary educators. And all of us should consider how to support educational enterprises financially, and teaching or volunteering in various capacities. With the intercession of the Holy Family we will help many children to grow and develop as God’s children.


Like this article?

Newman lays down a firm rule in the light of life's abundant blessings: the Christian is not allowed to be gloomy.

Newman wrote, “I have been accustomed to consider the action of the creator on and in the created universe, as parallel in a certain sense to that of the soul upon the body.”

Leave a comment

We need to remember our mortality, so that we may be ready to meet Our Lord each and every day. Lent and lenten mortifications have a role in this preparation. We must die to self daily, so that we may be brought to the glory of His resurrection. 

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. Peter Conley

Slopes, Popes and Newman

Newman wrote, “I have been accustomed to consider the action of the creator on and in the created universe, as parallel in a certain sense to that of the soul upon the body.”

Read More »
Sermon Blog
David Warren

Endurance, the Christian’s Portion

Today, on Good Friday, we remember our Lord’s crucifixion, not as though it was a wrinkle in His otherwise peaceful earthly life, but rather as the focus and the pattern of His life.

Read More »
About Newman
Fr. Juan Velez

Fasting and Holy Week

In Fasting a Source of Trial, Newman reminds that we must not forget its main purpose: to unite ourselves with Christ.

Read More »