Today, October 9, is the feast day of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, whose ideas about and work with Catholic universities have been influential in shaping the landscape of Catholic higher education. His philosophies guide the mission of The Cardinal Newman Society, of which he serves as the eponymous patron.
In celebration of Cardinal Newman’s feast day Catholic Education Daily spoke with Fr. C. John McCloskey, III, STD—a priest of the Prelature of the Opus Dei and one of the foremost North American experts on Cardinal Newman—about applying Newman’s educational concepts to today’s students.
McCloskey, currently a research fellow of the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington, D.C., has written extensively on Newman; was featured in an ETWN series on the prelate; and was even involved with the miracle that led to Newman’s beatification. He explained how Newman’s lectures on higher education would delineate that a college education today should be about the most important things in life, such as how to live.
Over 150 years ago, Newman was named rector at the newly founded Catholic University in Dublin and delivered a series of lectures, which would eventually be compiled into The Idea of a University. But McCloskey believes those lectures are every bit as pertinent today as they were when first delivered.
“The best thing students can do to prepare themselves professionally is to have a well-rounded liberal arts education,” Fr. McCloskey explained, “True education is an education of the mind.”
Fr. McCloskey said that core curriculums including subjects like philosophy and theology enable students to read the same books and study the same literature, otherwise students have “nothing in common with their peers other than the football team.”
Newman, who converted to Catholicism from Anglicanism at the age of 44, was a prominent theologian and writer on a variety of topics. He was praised at his beatification for his “humility, his life of prayer, his unstinting care of souls and contributions to the intellectual life of the Church,” according to the Catholic News Agency.
Newman was a lifelong advocate for education that teaches students to reason and discover truth. He came to realize that a genuine commitment to truth, including the truth that is revealed by God, requires a strong foundation and adherence to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
“Students can attend some Catholic colleges without ever taking theology,” Fr. McCloskey lamented, “Newman described theology as ‘king’ because it’s the study of God.”
In honor of Newman’s feast day, McCloskey encourages Catholic families to familiarize themselves with Newman’s ideas (check out McCloskey’s writings here), pray through Newman’s intercession and ask for Newman’s guidance in college decisions.
The Cardinal Newman Society carries on the work of its patron by promoting faithful Catholic colleges and making Catholic families aware of the abuses in Catholic higher education. The Society recently published the 2014 edition of The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College, which recommends 28 institutions for fidelity and excellence.
The Society works to restore Newman’s idea of liberal education – where wisdom is gained for its own sake, and theology informs and guides all the other disciplines.
Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.