Newman cherished his role as a personal tutor. In his series of lectures he echoes the same ministry of encouragement, modelled by Jesus, in the Gospel Transfiguration accounts, when he writes:
If one leads students to the mountaintop, so that they see all the surrounding territory, then they may go back and work in detail at some specific spot of the valley. But they will never forget that Vista from the top of the mountain; all their work will have reference then to the whole terrain. (The Idea of the University, Longmans, Green & Co, 139-140).
Given the challenging missionary road Peter, James, John and the other disciples will have, after their Ascension day graduation, Newman likens the Post-Easter period to an extended series of revision classes, with Jesus as the supreme teacher:
What a time must that forty days have been, during which, while He taught them, all His past teaching must have risen in their minds, and their thoughts then must have recurred in overpowering contrast to their thoughts now. His manner of life, His ministry, His discourses, His parables, His miracles., His meekness, gravity, incomprehensible majesty, the mystery of His grief and joy; the agony, the scourge, the cross, the crown of thorns, the spear, the tomb, their despair, their unbelief, their perplexity, their amazement, their sudden transport, their triumph – all this was in their minds; and surely not the least at that awful hour when He led His breathless followers out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, He was parted from them and carried up into heaven (Luke 24, 50-51). (Parochial and Plain Sermons VI, 16).
Newman describes the vocation of following Jesus as, being like him, “the leaven which was secretly to make its way through the mass of human opinions and institutions till the whole was leavened.”
J.A. Foude, an Oxford tutee of Newman’s, shows how we can, by word of mouth, immerse ourselves and evangelize every cultural setting like he did:
Newman’s mind was worldwide, He was interested in everything… Nothing was too large for him, nothing too trivial, if it threw light upon the central question, what man really was, and what was his destiny. His natural temperament was bright and light. He could admire enthusiastically any greatness of action and character, however remote the sphere of it from his own… He seemed better informed on common topics of conversation than anyone else present. He was never condescending with us…neither didactic or authoritative; but what he said carried conviction with it… He was interesting because he never talked for talking’s sake, but because he had something real to say. (Merry England, October 1890, p.48-49).
Fr Peter Conley