Over the course of his lifetime, John Henry Newman was many things: scholar, reformer, preacher, convert, theologian, priest, and cardinal. Through it all, however, he was an educator. Cor ad cor loquitur (“Heart speaks to heart”) was his motto, and he believed strongly that “personal influence” is the best means of teaching the truths of our Catholic faith.
“Speaking from heart to heart” was so much his manner that students at Oxford and later Dublin’s Catholic University would flock to hear his sermons. His guidance inspired the high-school boys at the Oratory School in Birmingham, England, including Hilaire Belloc. And Newman met personally with parents to forge genuine partnerships in the care of souls – an unusual practice at the time for English boarding schools.
The practical schoolmaster was also a great visionary, whose Idea of a University and University Sketches helped define the Catholic university at a time when education was splintering into diverse models and objectives. Amid many pastoral works, Newman also wrote numerous texts of devotion and theology on topics such as the Blessed Virgin Mary, development of doctrine, the role of the laity in the Church, and the nature of conscience.
It is extraordinary to find so many achievements in one man. And how do we reconcile the private Newman with the public intellectual, who eagerly battled “liberalism in religion”?
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