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Blessed John Henry Newman ‘HEART SPEAKS UNTO HEART’

Blessed John Henry Newman

In his homily, during the Mass of Beatification of Blessed John Henry Newman celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in Birmingham on Sunday 19 September 2010, the Pope listed some of the many topics of his day to which Newman applied his keen intellect and prolific pen.

Amongst them was his ‘insight … into the vital place of revealed religion in civilised society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education’. His views continue to inspire and enlighten many. Pope Benedict paid 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 to-day’. Newman opposed a utilitarian approach and sought to achieve an educational environment in which intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment would come together.

In light of the re-organisation of structures to support Catholic education in Ireland and of the recent request to trustees from the Episcopal Commission on Education that they would try to improve the up-take of religion as an exam subject in Catholic second level schools, it is worth recalling Newman’s appeal for an intelligent, well-instructed laity.

He wanted a laity ‘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’. These nineteenth century words of Newman would make a very good vision statement for Catholic education in this twenty-first century.

With Pope Benedict we pray that, through the intercession and example of Blessed John Henry Newman, all who engage in teaching and catechesis may be inspired to greater effort by the vision he so clearly articulated.

Canice Hanrahan rsm