Monday, May 9, 2011

John Henry Cardinal Newman

The Catholic Church is truly blessed with an enormous depth of powerful thinkers whose illuminated writings await the faithful and the converting fortunate enough to begin exploring them; and among this pool of thinkers, few are as enjoyable to read as Cardinal Newman.

In this article from Catholic Culture, the impressions gained from beginning to read Newman’s most popular book, The Idea of a University, are shared; and Dr. Mirus' impressions led me back to my copy, which indeed, led to several underlinings and margin notes, my preferred method of highlighting.

An excerpt.

“Perhaps I've already mentioned that, when I grow up, I want to be like John Henry. It is impossible to read the great Cardinal Newman’s writings even for a few minutes without seeing some important point expressed better than you’ve ever seen it expressed before. Newman is definitely a writer’s saint. It’s a vain dream, I know, but Blessed John Henry Newman is who I want to be when I’m big.

“To take a case in point, I’ve just started reading the entirety of Newman’s The Idea of a University, of which I have read only excerpts in the past. I had to put several sticky-notes on key passages just in the first thirty pages. The delicious example I want to put before you today is Newman’s rejection of the perversion of authentic intellectual formation occasioned by the demands of journalism, which he expounds in the Preface to his book.

“Newman is attempting to explain the way a student’s mind should be formed, so that by developing a certain suppleness of intellect firmly rooted in the basic disciplines of human thought, the student should emerge with a facility for reflecting upon and effectively turning his attention to the various issues which come before him in the course of his personal life and his life as a citizen: “Let him once gain this habit of method, of starting from fixed points, of making his ground good as he goes, of distinguishing what he knows from what he does not know, and I conceive he will be gradually initiated into the largest and truest philosophical views, and will feel nothing but impatience and disgust at the random theories and imposing sophistries and dashing paradoxes, which carry away half-formed and superficial intellects.”