Newman Centers- Lighthouses of Grace

Newman Centers- Lighthouses of Grace

Illustration of an old stone lighthouse at night during a winter storm. ** Note: Slight graininess, best at smaller sizes

newman centers-lighthouses of grace
Illustration of an old stone lighthouse at night during a winter storm. Newman Centers- lighthouses of grace

Newman Centers-Lighthouses of grace

“My name is Matthew, and I am a senior at Cal Poly. Four years ago, when I arrived at the college, I found the ‘freedom’ of being away from home intoxicating…too much so, in fact.” Newman centers-lighthouses of grace.

The good-looking Hispanic young man looked out at the parishioners at St. Patrick’s Church in Arroyo Grande California. And then he explained, “In my family, the church was a Sunday morning event without any impact on the rest of the week. We talked about ‘Church,’ never about Jesus. It was at the Newman Center where I first encountered Christ. There, I have developed the strength to thwart the merciless pounding of the world about sex, abortion, alcohol, and drugs. At the Newman Center, we have begun weekly student chastity and pro-life discussion groups…One of my favorite Pope Francis quotes is the one he uses to describe our church as a ‘field hospital.’ “

I was not the only listener who was transfixed by this young man. We were riveted by Matthew’s frank and faith-filled counter-cultural story. The college senior credits the two priests who serve at the Cal Poly and Cuesta College Newman Center, Fathers John and Kevin, as the catalysts for life now back on track as a devout Catholic and the Newman Center for his development of an intimate relationship with Christ. 

I’ve written before about my grief on learning of the destruction of the classics by pseudo-intellectual faculty in a distressingly vast array of colleges and ivy-league universities. Matthew’s graphic “merciless pounding of the world about sex, abortion, alcohol, and drugs is amplified by radically Marxist faculty and can make us feel sad and angry.

And yet, Over 1000 college campuses have Newman Centers-Lighthouses of grace battling the secular storms cloaking our colleges.

Young men like Matthew show us that God will find a way to get through to those who are open to truth.

Could there be a better guide than St. John Henry Cardinal Newman?

Newman Centers were started in American Universities during the late 1800s.

St. John Henry Cardinal Newman was at the height of his academic success at Anglican, Catholic intolerant, Oxford University England, when he became a “papist.” A primary spokesman for the Oxford Movement of the Anglican Church, Newman’s study of church history convinced him that the true home of Christianity was the Roman Catholic Church. Two weeks after he published a document that argued the main doctrinal bases of the Anglican Church, could be interpreted in a way that supported the Roman Catholic Church., it was censured.

John Henry Newman’s conversion to Roman Catholicism ignited a storm of controversy and derision among his former colleagues. And cost him his entire career.

  • “Nothing is more common than for men to think that because they are familiar with words they understand the ideas they stand for.”
  • “Alas! It was my portion for whole years to remain without satisfactory basis for my religious profession, in a state of moral sickness, neither able to acquiese to Anglicanism nor go to Rome. But I bore it, till in course of time, my way was made clear to me.”
  • “To be deep in history, is to cease to be Protestant.”
  • “We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe.”
  • “It is as absurd to argue men, as to torture them, into believing.”
  • “Knowledge, the discipline by which it is gained, and the tastes which it forms, have a natural tendency to refine the mind, and to give it an indisposition, simply natural, yet real, nay more than this, a disgust and abhorrence, towards excesses and enormities of evil, which are often or ordinarily reached at length by those who do not from the first set themselves against what is vicious and criminal.”

When he was offered an opportunity to found a Catholic university in Ireland. Newman jumped at it because education had always been “his line.” His book, The Idea of a University remains a classic. In it he explains that the purpose of a university is liberal education.

By that phrase, however, Newman means, the cultivation of mind, “which enables a person “to have a connected view or grasp of things” and which manifests itself in “good sense, sobriety of thought, reasonableness, candour, self-command, and steadiness of view.”  It is “the force, the steadiness, the comprehensiveness and the versatility of intellect, the command over our own powers, the instinctive just estimate of things as they pass before us” that is the object of a liberal education…” Newman Centers- Lighthouses of Grace

When John Henry Newman was elevated to Cardinal, bypassing Bishop,

he was filled with “profound wonder and gratitude” at the decision of Pope Leo Xlll. In the Biglietto Speech, Newman wrote that unlike the saints, his writings had been filled with error. And yet he had been wholly dedicated to opposition of the “one great mischief: liberalism in religion.” Newman centers-lighthouses of grace.

Newman Centers- Lighthouses of Grace

Newman spent his life at Oxford and witnessed the decline into liberalism by faculty who considered themselves superior. Beginning with honest zeal, these men ‘reformed” Oxford, while falling victim to the “pride of reason.”

“Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion.

Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy. Devotion is not necessarily founded on faith…it must be borne in mind, that there is much in the liberalistic theory which is good and true; for example, not to say more, the precepts of justice, truthfulness, sobriety, self-command, benevolence, which, as I have already noted, are among its avowed principles, and the natural laws of society.

It is not till we find that this array of principles is intended to supersede, to block out, religion, that we pronounce it to be evil. There never was a device of the Enemy so cleverly framed and with such promise of success.”

Asked to write more about his defintion of liberalism, Newman explained further:

Now by Liberalism I mean false liberty of thought, or the exercise of thought upon matters, in which, from the constitution of the human mind, thought cannot be brought to any successful issue, and therefore is out of place. Among such matters are first principles of whatever kind; and of these the most sacred and momentous are especially to be reckoned the truths of Revelation. Liberalism then is the mistake of subjecting to human judgment those revealed doctrines which are in their nature beyond and independent of it, and of claiming to determine on intrinsic grounds the truth and value of propositions which rest for their reception simply on the external authority of the Divine Word.

Newman wrote these words in the mid-nineteenth century. Newman Centers- Lighthouses of Grace in Secular Education.

October 9th was St. John Cardinal Newman’s feast day

Controversy about Newman extended into his canonization. Newman’s elucidation of the doctrine of papal infallibility caused consternation about his beatification by Pope Benedict on October 9, 2010, the day he became a Roman Catholic in 1847.

“Too argumentative”, “contentious” argued those opposed to Newman’s beatification. Using his limitations on papal infallibility by conscience as examples of Newman’s polemics.

“Was St. Peter infallible on that occasion at Antioch when St. Paul withstood him? ….or Sextus V when he blessed the Armada? or Urban VIII when he persecuted Galileo?  No Catholic ever pretends that these Popes were infallible in these acts.  Since then infallibility alone could block the exercise of conscience, and the Pope is not infallible in that subject-matter in which conscience is of supreme authority, no dead-lock, such as implied in the objection which I am answering, can take place between conscience and the Pope.” Newman Centers-Lighthouses of grace.

Newman reminds us of the exalted role of conscience in discerning truth: “Thus conscience, the existence of which we cannot deny, is a proof of the doctrine of a Moral Governor, which alone gives it a meaning and a scope; that is, the doctrine of a Judge and judgment to come is a development of the phenomenon of conscience…”

While in a 1947 German seminary, Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict, found in Newman, a theology of conscience.

We had experienced the claim of a totalitarian party, which understood itself as the fulfilment of history and which negated the conscience of the individual. One of its leaders had said: “I have no conscience. My conscience is Adolf Hitler”. The appalling devastation of humanity that followed was before our eyes.

So it was liberating and essential for us to know that the “we” of the Church does not rest on a cancellation of conscience, but that, exactly the opposite, it can only develop from conscience.

Precisely because Newman interpreted the existence of the human being from conscience, that is, from the relationship between God and the soul, was it clear that this personalism is not individualism, and that being bound by conscience does not mean being free to make random choices — the exact opposite is the case.

The Theology of Cardinal Newman

This piece has barely touched the vast collections of the writings from the giant intellect of St. John Henry Cardinal Newman. Before I wrote it I thought I’d appreciated the gift we’ve been given. But as always, upon peeling back this, or any onion of wisdom, we see the enormity of what lies beneath. And understand we can never plumb its depths.

Newman Centers- Lighthouses of Grace


It was at the Newman Center where I first encountered Christ. There, I have developed the strength to thwart the merciless pounding of the world about sex, abortion, alcohol, and drugs. At the Newman Center, we have begun weekly student chastity and pro-life discussion groups…One of my favorite Pope Francis quotes is the one he uses to describe our church as a ‘field hospital.’ “

Newman Centers- Lighthouses of Grace

2 Comments

  1. Mary says:

    What gem from Matthew, the Cal Poly student!
    As always, a piece rich with instruction. Thank you Lin.

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