J. H. Newman

Center of  Studies

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Who is John Henry Newman

By Ricardo Aldana Valenzuela

Translated by Kassandra Portillo and Danielle Castlehow.

 The leading figure of John Henry Newman has that unquestionable attractivity of a man that gathers in himself virtues and commitments that seem to be incompatible. And thus, he was able to dedicate his life to different activities such as theology, cultural and social debates, poetry, novels, and in a special way, education. In his mature years, the education of children in the school he founded in Birmingham with the rest of the members of the Birmingham Chapel was his focus. However, at his core was university education, since his incorporation as a fellow to the Oriol College, in the University of Oxford. If his conversion to Catholicism moved him away from Oxford, that was in that moment an Anglican institution, that did not stop him from always carrying the ideal of the university tradition, especially the Oxonian, in his heart. 

After becoming an octogenarian, he was invited in 1880 again to visit Oxford, now as a very distinguished son of the University (the previous year, in 1879, he had received the naming of Cardinal of the Catholic Church 1879). Ian Ker, in his authorized biography of Newman, wonders which one of the two honors would have resonated more personally in the elderly man of God. [1] On the one hand, the Cardinal title implied a recognition from the Pope León XIII of the achievements of his work and the honor of seeing himself especially associated to the ministry of Peter's Successor. But of equal value, the recognition of Oxford internally reverberated his chosen dedication to education, the ancient friendships and the unique purity of Oxford Movement, in which Newman and his colleagues and pupils tried to connect the University with its most profound roots. It can be seen in the aching article from 1838 Medieval Oxford up to what point a still young Newman carried in his heart the ideals of the University, at the same time that he recognized the danger of ruin that threatened him [2].

A couple of years after his dismissal from Oxford, Newman was requested to take charge of the Catholic University of Dublin as a founder and first dean. He was in charge of the University for eight years, which was a constant sacrifice for the continuous coming and going between Birmingham and Dublin, but also of certain lack of understanding of what he considered the academic task, as well as that of a Catholic University.

[1] Cf. Ian Ker, John Henry Newman, Oxfor, New York 2009, 694ss.

[2] En Historical Sketches III, London, New York, Bombay, and Calcutta, 1909, como se encuentra, con la misma paginación, http://newmanreader.org/works/historical/volume3/universities/index.html  




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