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Feb. 20 at 7:51pm
February 21 is a great day for us at the Personalist Project. It is the birthday of John Henry Newman, of whom it has rightly been said that he “stands at the threshold of the new age as a Christian Socrates, the pioneer of a new philosophy of the Individual Person and of Personal Life.”
I can't think of a better way to celebrate than by listening to these lectures by John Crosby, on the Christian Personalism of Newman. (My thanks to Franciscan University for making them available on youtube. Members only: to listen offline you can download audio versions here.)
Lecture 1: The Personalist Spirit of Newman's Thought
Lecture 2: The Human Person as a World of his Own
Lecture 3: Newman …continue reading
Oct. 19, 2012, at 11:50am
Two weeks ago, I wrote a post questioning T.S. Eliot's "impersonal theory of poetry", according to which a good poem should contain "no trace" of the subjectivity and individuality of the poet who wrote it. Thanks to a reader, I have since found an essay by John Henry Newman that confirms and improves my thinking. "Literature," Newman writes,
… is essentially a personal work, it is … the expression of that one person's ideas and feelings, — ideas and feelings personal to himself, though others may have parallel and similar ones, — proper to himself in the same sense as his voice, his air, his countenance, his carriage, and his action, are personal. In other words, Literature expresses, …
Sep. 8, 2012, at 12:35pm
Preparing for his Newman class—it begins Tuesday!—Jules bought a new book: Newman and His Contemporaries. I picked it up this morning. The essential personalism of the opening lines of the introduction jumped out at me:
The literary critic and biographer Mona Wilson once began an introduction to a selection of Samuel Johnson's prose and poetry with a memorable disclaimer, "I shall say nothing of Johnson's life. No one should read even a selection from his writings who is not aleady familiar with the man. Boswell must come first. This is not to say that he is greater than his writings, or that they are only interesting because he wrote them, but they are the utterances of the whole …
Jul. 5, 2012, at 4:00pm
In light of revelation, we can certainly conclude that we attain to our deepest understanding of the human situation, and of who we are, as we stand before Christ. This is our real situation; thus, if we are to approach other human beings in truth, we must "arc" through Christ to get to them. We never only stand before another in a direct one-on-one way; Christ always stands with us, before us, in us, and between us.
And how do we stand with Christ? We eat with Him (and of Him) as his friends at the Last Supper (with the hope of the heavenly banquet/wedding feast) and then we stand before Him (dying on the Cross) as His betrayers, mocking and torturing Him. And he forgives us. This is …continue reading
Jun. 16, 2012, at 9:06pm
Earlier today a member texted to ask whether I knew of answers to Walter Kaufmann's The Faith of the Heretic. He said it had caused him to reexamine his own faith. I had never heard of Kaufmann, so I googled, and read a few paragraphs. Then I put it down, comme d'habitude, as they say in France.
Later, thinking of something else entirely, I was recalling a moment years back. We were living in Steubenville. It was some anniversary of Newman's. We invited John Crosby to come over and speak to a small circle about his life and legacy. Someone asked him to describe Newman's essential greatness in brief. John said that the more he read and "walked with" Newman, the more he was …continue reading
Jan. 21, 2012, at 1:33pm
I appreciate Jules' wonderful quote from Newman (below) on the education of adolescents! It is of prudential importance for universities and their student life policies, of course, but also for all parents, most of whom have a natural tendency toward overprotectiveness. But it is especially relevant--I would think--for homeschoolers.
Perhaps in the modern day, however, it is important to clarify what Newman is talking about when he refers to Aristotle's comments on the "Lesbian Canon" from Nicomachean Ethics, 5, 14. Thus I append the explanation below with a line from the text and the accompanying footnote by Francis Lieber:
chapter xxix.: advantages of institutional government, …continue reading
Jan. 21, 2012, at 9:27am
A discussion we had in our class on Courtship in the Christian Vision, made me go back to this great quote from Newman, which I found in Fergal McGrath’s Newman’s University: Idea and Reality (pp. 338 – 339). It is far too good an example of Newman’s personalist wisdom not to share it here.
I will not comment on the passage other than by fully agreeing with McGrath, who introduces it by saying that “lengthy as the passage is, it deserves quotation in full, as saying about all that is worth saying of the difficult and ever-recurring problem of combining liberty and discipline in adolescent education.”
It is assuredly a most delicate and difficult matter to manage youths, and those lay …
Dec. 30, 2011, at 12:56pm
Besides the distinction Mircea Eliade makes between the religious and the secular man (see earlier post, Dec. 26), one can further distinguish between the genuinely religious man and the conventionally religious man. The latter follows religion more out of social habit or expectation rather than authentic faith and devotion.
John Henry Cardinal Newman calls this a distinction between vital religion and nominal religion. Soren Kierkegaard conveys the same idea with his distinction between a Christianity which is socially acceptable compared to Christianity as a “scandal,” as described in the Acts of the Apostles. We could perhaps capture the difference here in five points.…continue reading
Dec. 12, 2011, at 11:09am
Over the weekend I expressed to a friend how much I love the re-introduction of "consubstantial" in the creed. Not that I had any difficulties with the previous translation. "One in being with" seems to me about as clear and direct as can be. Still, I like the change, and I think my liking has a lot to do with some passages from Newman's Grammar of Assent that I read and pondered many times while writing my master's thesis.
In the first of these, Newman deals with the charge, also heard today, that the term "consubstantial" is needlessly abstruse and likely to result only in unending, fruitless controversy. Newman shows how this objection has a long history in the Church and also how it …continue reading
Oct. 4, 2010, at 1:30pm
In a recent talk I gave on his life and thought, I tried to explain that John Henry Newman is an especially important saint for our times, in large part because of the modernity of his faith. He lived in a culture that, in spite of some obvious differences, is nevertheless very close to our own. But he did not just live in this culture, he was also a part of it. His inner life and thought was shaped by it, and so, therefore, was his faith. Newman, in other words, shows us what holiness looks like in today’s world.
In a recent interview Pope Benedict XVI expresses the same point better than I did. Asked about the significance of Newman, he answered (in part)
Newman is, above all, a …
Sep. 25, 2010, at 9:10pm
The Friends of Newman have a web page dedicated to his influence on Pope Benedict. This passage highlights several of the themes we touched on at our gathering last night. It also makes me think how close he and Wojtyla were in their thinking.
For Newman, the middle term which establishes the connection between authority and subjectivity is truth. I do not hesitate to say that truth is the central thought of Newman’s intellectual grappling. Conscience is central for him because truth stands in the middle. To put it differently, the centrality of the concept of conscience for Newman is linked to the prior centrality of the concept of truth and can only be understood from that vantage …
Sep. 22, 2010, at 3:14pm
As a parent with two children in college and three to follow soon, I sympathize with Roger Scruton’s recent article in the American Spectator. Given the condition of the average university in America today, one does wonder whether they are worth the money and time they take. And that’s not to mention the moral and religious risks they pose. It is understandable that more and more people are starting to look for alternatives.*
I have doubts, however, that the alternative that Scruton proposes is a good one:
I envisage an experiment in “distance learning,” in which students work from home, and attend lectures, receive tutorials, and engage in discussions through Internet …
Sep. 19, 2010, at 1:35pm
From an article in the UK Guardian:
When Cardinal John Henry Newman died in August 1890, the Manchester Guardian’s obituary spoke of him as one of the very greatest masters of English style - the paper meant prose, not dress sense - and a man “of singular beauty and purity of character … an eminent example of personal sanctity”.
Today, 120 years on, the Roman Catholic church finally caught up and beatified him, the penultimate stage to his being made a saint.
And from the Pope’s homily at last night’s vigil Mass in Hyde Park, attended by 80,000 faithful:
As you know, Newman has long been an important influence in my own life and thought, as he has been for so many people …
Nov. 15, 2009, at 9:51pm
A chapter about the passing of Cardinal Newman I came across tonight concludes with some description of his reputation among his Victorian English contemporaries. Some were dismissive or contemptuous. Others—clerics, men of letters and statesmen like Gladstone, revered him for his moral stature and literary genius.
But it is with the name of a poet, the only one of the Victorian converts to the Church with a vision in literature transcending his own, that I shall end my list of the lovers of Newman—even as in a procession the greatest figure is the last:
Sweetly the light
Shines from the solitary peak at Edgbaston,
sang Coventry Patmore, who understood that even the polemical …
Sep. 29, 2009, at 11:25pm
Here is the context for the great Newman quote in Jules’ post below.
A Short Road to Perfection
September 27, 1856
IT is the saying of holy men that, if we wish to be perfect, we have nothing more to do than to perform the ordinary duties of the day well. A short road to perfection—short, not because easy, but because pertinent and intelligible. There are no short ways to perfection, but there are sure ones.
I think this is an instruction which may be of great practical use to persons like ourselves. It is easy to have vague ideas what perfection is, which serve well enough to talk about, when we do not intend to aim at it; but as soon as a person really desires and sets about …