The most influential churchman of the 19th century, Cardinal John Henry Newman, was canonized on Oct. 13, 2019, by Pope Francis. Considered the keenest and most comprehensive theological mind since St. Thomas Aquinas, Newman lived from 1801 – 1890 and wrote 21 books, along with more than 20,000 letters and incidental pieces. In 1845, his love of God, searching mind and intellectual honesty led him from the Church of England to the Roman Catholic Church.
Newman’s canonization has special importance to the students, faculty, staff and alumni of the University of St. Thomas. The Basilian Fathers, who established UST, considered him one of their intellectual fathers, along with St. Thomas Aquinas. Additionally, 2019 marks the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, akin to a diocese for Anglicans entering into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. UST’s St. Mary’s Seminary was the first seminary in North America to prepare Anglican clergy for priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church.
The Church gives us St. John Henry Newman as a model of sanctity for our imitation. For those in university life, Newman also provides an ideal of university education. Newman championed the value of a liberal arts education. To be sure, liberal education has important practical benefits, such as the ability to think and communicate well and to apply such skills in the service of one’s profession. But Newman argued forcefully and eloquently that a liberal arts education is primarily something good in itself, irrespective of any use we make of it in our work life. It attunes us to appreciating and understanding God’s creation and the highest achievements of human culture. In essence, it prepares us to follow better St. Paul’s counsel to the Philippians: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
St. John Henry Newman, pray for us.