Blessed John Henry and Catholic Education

On this day, September the 19th, the Church beatifies Cardinal John Henry Newman. "What does Blessed John Henry have to do with Mount Royal Academy?", one may ask. Well, he was a holy and gentle pastor, a prolific scholar, and a great spiritual leader endowed with deep wisdom. He has impacted all who are involved in Catholic education immensely.

This saint has profoundly influenced Catholic education in the 20th and 21st centuries by promoting a holistic understanding of learning. All truths must be taught and learned under the direction of the primary truth - God Himself - according to Cardinal Newman.

In a gesture of profound significance, Pope Benedict XVI has presided over the beatification mass of this powerful yet humble man. He lived according to the motto "hearts unto hearts," a motto which we educators at Mount Royal also attempt live out and instill into our students. Cardinal Newman was a great champion of Catholic education, and his legacy continues to affect countless educators and youthful minds alike through the Cardinal Newman Society.

Below, we will share with you a selection of Pope Benedict XVI's homily at the beatification mass.

"Newman helps us to understand what this means for our daily lives: he tells us that our divine Master has assigned a specific task to each one of us, a "definite service", committed uniquely to every single person: "I have my mission", he wrote, "I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do his work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place … if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling" (Meditations and Devotions, 301-2).

The definite service to which Blessed John Henry was called involved applying his keen intellect and his prolific pen to many of the most pressing "subjects of the day". His insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance for Victorian England, but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world. I would like to pay particular tribute to his vision for education, which has done so much to shape the ethos that is the driving force behind Catholic schools and colleges today. Firmly opposed to any reductive or utilitarian approach, he sought to achieve an educational environment in which intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment would come together. The project to found a Catholic University in Ireland provided him with an opportunity to develop his ideas on the subject, and the collection of discourses that he published as The Idea of a University holds up an ideal from which all those engaged in academic formation can continue to learn. And indeed, what better goal could teachers of religion set themselves than Blessed John Henry’s famous appeal for an intelligent, well-instructed laity: "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it" (The Present Position of Catholics in England, ix, 390)."

Please join us in praying with Pope Benedict XVI these following words:

"[We] pray that through [the] intercession and example of [Blessed John Henry], all who are engaged in the task of teaching and catechesis will be inspired to greater effort by the vision he so clearly sets before us."