The Personalist Project

Class details

The Thought of John Henry Newman

Jules van Schaijik

Fall 2012


519 N. High St., West Chester, PA


Tuesdays between 8 and 10 pm

Class sessions

Newman’s Life & Times
Faith and Reason
Bigotry, Wisdom, and Development
Why Theology at a University?
The Aim of a Liberal Education
Real and Notional Assent
Faith and Certainty
Doctrinal Development


The recently beatified John Henry Cardinal Newman, 1801-1889, is considered by many to be the most important Catholic thinker of the modern period and a pioneer in Christian Personalism. His insights on conscience, the individuality of the person, on reasoning, friendship, the dignity of the laity, and so on, anticipated and paved the way for the developments of 20th century Catholic thought. This course is an introduction to his life, writings, and major themes.

More about the class

While drawing from many of Newman's religious writings, including the Apologia Pro Vita Sua and  Parochial and Plain Sermons, the course will center on four of Newman's most important and enduring philosophical works:

(Don't want to buy the books? All of Newman's works can be found online at

The course is for personal enrichment, not academic credit. There will be no tests, papers or grades. The readings are optional, But the course will be much more valuable to those who can manage it.  After all, it is Newman we are dealing with. Not just a giant among thinkers, but a master of the English language as well. (George Eliot memorized entire sermons of his, just for their beauty.)

Participate online or in person

Classes will be held at our home in West Chester, between 8:00 and 9:30 pm on the dates listed above. Each lecture will be recorded and posted online a day or so later for those who can't come in person. Enrolled students can listen to these lectures, and participate in an online discussion about them. (They can also contact me via email, of course.)

Want to get a head start?

If you would like to dive into the subject right away, I highly recommend Ian Kerr's John Henry Newman: A Biography. It is a large book, but very well written, often using Newman's own words, and it discusses Newman's thought as well as his history. Newman's sermons are another excellent place to start. O'Connel has a good selection here, and Copeland has one here.