Monday, September 20, 2010

This past Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Henry Cardinal Newman. Note that Newman was a confessor, not a martyr. There are a lot of English martyrs, and plenty of British monks, but there are few intellectuals and writers like Newman was. Here is Benedict XVI's homily at the Mass in Birmingham:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This day that has brought us together here in Birmingham is a most auspicious one. In the first place, it is the Lord’s day, Sunday, the day when our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead and changed the course of human history for ever, offering new life and hope to all who live in darkness and in the shadow of death. That is why Christians all over the world come together on this day to give praise and thanks to God for the great marvels he has worked for us. This particular Sunday also marks a significant moment in the life of the British nation, as it is the day chosen to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Britain. For me as one who lived and suffered through the dark days of the Nazi regime in Germany, it is deeply moving to be here with you on this occasion, and to recall how many of your fellow citizens sacrificed their lives, courageously resisting the forces of that evil ideology. My thoughts go in particular to nearby Coventry, which suffered such heavy bombardment and massive loss of life in November 1940. Seventy years later, we recall with shame and horror the dreadful toll of death and destruction that war brings in its wake, and we renew our resolve to work for peace and reconciliation wherever the threat of conflict looms. Yet there is another, more joyful reason why this is an auspicious day for Great Britain, for the Midlands, for Birmingham. It is the day that sees Cardinal John Henry Newman formally raised to the altars and declared Blessed.
I thank Archbishop Bernard Longley for his gracious welcome at the start of Mass this morning. I pay tribute to all who have worked so hard over many years to promote the cause of Cardinal Newman, including the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory and the members of the Spiritual Family Das Werk. And I greet everyone here from Great Britain, Ireland, and further afield; I thank you for your presence at this celebration, in which we give glory and praise to God for the heroic virtue of a saintly Englishman.

England has a long tradition of martyr saints, whose courageous witness has sustained and inspired the Catholic community here for centuries. Yet it is right and fitting that we should recognize today the holiness of a confessor, a son of this nation who, while not called to shed his blood for the Lord, nevertheless bore eloquent witness to him in the course of a long life devoted to the priestly ministry, and especially to preaching, teaching, and writing. He is worthy to take his place in a long line of saints and scholars from these islands, Saint Bede, Saint Hilda, Saint Aelred, Blessed Duns Scotus, to name but a few. In Blessed John Henry, that tradition of gentle scholarship, deep human wisdom and profound love for the Lord has borne rich fruit, as a sign of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit deep within the heart of God’s people, bringing forth abundant gifts of holiness.
Cardinal Newman’s motto, Cor ad cor loquitur, or "Heart speaks unto heart", gives us an insight into his understanding of the Christian life as a call to holiness, experienced as the profound desire of the human heart to enter into intimate communion with the Heart of God. He reminds us that faithfulness to prayer gradually transforms us into the divine likeness. As he wrote in one of his many fine sermons, "a habit of prayer, the practice of turning to God and the unseen world in every season, in every place, in every emergency – prayer, I say, has what may be called a natural effect in spiritualizing and elevating the soul. A man is no longer what he was before; gradually … he has imbibed a new set of ideas, and become imbued with fresh principles" (Parochial and Plain Sermons, iv, 230-231). Today’s Gospel tells us that no one can be the servant of two masters (cf. Lk 16:13), and Blessed John Henry’s teaching on prayer explains how the faithful Christian is definitively taken into the service of the one true Master, who alone has a claim to our unconditional devotion (cf.Mt 23:10). 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). On this day when the author of those words is raised to the altars, I pray that, through his intercession and example, 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.
While it is John Henry Newman’s intellectual legacy that has understandably received most attention in the vast literature devoted to his life and work, I prefer on this occasion to conclude with a brief reflection on his life as a priest, a pastor of souls. The warmth and humanity underlying his appreciation of the pastoral ministry is beautifully expressed in another of his famous sermons: "Had Angels been your priests, my brethren, they could not have condoled with you, sympathized with you, have had compassion on you, felt tenderly for you, and made allowances for you, as we can; they could not have been your patterns and guides, and have led you on from your old selves into a new life, as they can who come from the midst of you" ("Men, not Angels: the Priests of the Gospel", Discourses to Mixed Congregations, 3). He lived out that profoundly human vision of priestly ministry in his devoted care for the people of Birmingham during the years that he spent at the Oratory he founded, visiting the sick and the poor, comforting the bereaved, caring for those in prison. No wonder that on his death so many thousands of people lined the local streets as his body was taken to its place of burial not half a mile from here. One hundred and twenty years later, great crowds have assembled once again to rejoice in the Church’s solemn recognition of the outstanding holiness of this much-loved father of souls. What better way to express the joy of this moment than by turning to our heavenly Father in heartfelt thanksgiving, praying in the words that Blessed John Henry Newman placed on the lips of the choirs of angels in heaven:

Praise to the Holiest in the height
And in the depth be praise;
In all his words most wonderful,
Most sure in all his ways!
(The Dream of Gerontius).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The First Tract

As the summer draws to an end and the school year is about to start, the New Tractarians are gearing up for a full year of thinking, writing and Seeking Truth. I have now completed a first draft of the first Tract and will be presenting it to the rest of the New Tractarians as soon as I see them, which should be soon. Hopefully we can get this done in a timely fashion.

--Nathaniel Gotcher, President

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Younger than Sin

The Center for Ethics and Culture at Notre Dame is calling for papers for their fall conference "Younger than Sin" (November 18th-20th). A few Tractarians are considering submitting something. The theme is all about Retrieving Simplicity through the Virtues of Humility, Wonder, and Joy. Possible paper topics are:

 Education and the cultivation of the simple mind
 Cultivating a sense of wonder
 An addiction to self-distraction—Web-surfing, infinite playlists, and the pursuit of novelty ―on demand‖
 E.F. Schumacher and distributivism—small is beautiful
 Subsidiarity and the role of small, mediating institutions in a flourishing society
 The clear sight of truth—the complexity of simplicity in the arts
 The role of wonder and beauty in the sciences
 The modern emphasis on youth
 The beauty of simplicity
 The virtue of smallness
 Contraception and abortion—the rejection of children
 Childishness v. childlikeness
 The simplicity of the Liturgy
 Advent and Christmas mediations on childhood
 Herod and the Massacre of the Innocents
 Awakening us to the sacred: what children teach us about God
 St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Doctor of the Church, and her ―little Way‖
 The Christ-child—The Word has made Himself small
 Reflections on dependence, vulnerability and trust
 Reflections on the adage, ―wise as serpents and innocent as doves‖
 Reflections on wonder, whimsy, and spontaneity
 ―Divine play‖ and ―divine order‖ in Christianity and Eastern religions
 Analysis of legal protections for the vulnerable and the innocent
 The virtue of humility in politics and business
 Humility and humor
 Mediations on the virtue of hilaritas
 Exploration of the theme of childlikeness in the work of:
o St. Therese of Lisieux
o George Bernanos
o Charles Peguy
o Hans Urs von Balthasar
o G.K. Chesterton
o C.S. Lewis
o Hans Christian Anderson
o John Paul II

A couple ideas we are having are papers on Music and Wonder, Naivete, and Obedience in Catholic Universities.

Hopefully if we end up giving papers, we'll be able to enter the arena with our ideas and will have an easier time writing and spreading the Truth.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Newman to be beatified by Pope Benedict

This September-September 19th to be exact-Benedict XVI will personally beatify Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman. Of course this is wonderful news for those of us who have a devotion to Newman, the New Tractarians being some of those. Benedict himself is a Newman fan, which is pretty obvious considering this is the first beatification he has ever done.

We still face a problem here at Notre Dame. Newman has been a huge help in getting us started, but more than ever, the students need to understand that Truth is more than what feels right, or what accomplishes our desires, or what the world says. I hope we can announce our first is certainly in the works. I pray through the intercession of Cardinal Newman that God's will be done.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Prayer of Cardinal Newman

This one pertains to our current topic: Work.

God created me
to do him some definite service;
he has committed some work to me
which he has not committed to another.

I have my mission -
I may never know it in this life,
but I shall be told it in the next...
Therefore, I will trust him...
If I am in sickness,
my sickness may serve him;
in perplexity,
my perplexity may serve him;
if I am in sorrow,
my sorrow may serve him...
He does nothing in vain;
he may prolong my life,
he may shorten it,
he knows what he is about.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Our Mission

Formulated last semester:

1. The New Tractarians are a group of students at the University of Notre Dame dedicated to promoting the Catholic University according to the teaching of Ex Corde Ecclesiae and the tradition of John Cardinal Newman.

2. We acknowledge that a Catholic University provides essential development of the knowledge and skills necessary for a specific discipline or profession, but we emphatically maintain that this cannot come at the expense of the cultivation of the mind and person as a whole.

3. We understand that a Catholic University is a unified collection of colleges, schools and departments and therefore it should work to create a cohesive intellectual environment substantiated by a diversity of disciplines in pursuit of a Catholic understanding of Truth.

4. We understand that a Catholic University has a specific place in the world academic discourse with a specific Catholic message to bring to the academic community.

5. We understand that a Catholic University should be under the active jurisdiction of the Church with the understanding that, as the Bride of Christ, the Church has been endowed with special graces in pursuit of Truth that in no way interfere with the proper activities of a Catholic university.

6. As Catholics, we are endowed with the Truth from which we should start our intellectual pursuits. There are things we believe beyond dispute that should form every decision we make.

7. Because the University of Notre Dame is recognized throughout the academic sphere as an important exemplar of Catholic higher education, we assert that it is in a unique position to uphold and promote the authentic identity of a Catholic university on account of its rich intellectual tradition and history of excellence.

8. As Cardinal Newman says, to know all things we must first try to know about God because God is the origin of all things. The Church, in her Tradition and Scripture, serves as the primary source of our knowledge of God. As such, our knowledge of God in light of Church teachings should inspire our study of the world around us, since to know God is to know his creation. Through regular discussion and writing, The New Tractarians hope to intellectually engage in the Truths of our faith, while at the same time partnering our theological pursuits with our fields of study and our general experience of university life. It is our hope that our internal work will stand as an example of what we are trying to promote in the university as a whole.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Our Shepherd prods the Notre Dame Community

Today, Notre Dame officially welcomed His Excellency Bp. Kevin Rhoades to the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese and to Notre Dame with a Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Music was provided by the Notre Dame Liturgical Choir, three members of which are in the New Tractarians. However, this was not the highlight. Fr. Jenkins, president of the University stood up at the end of Mass, thanking the Bishop and giving him a crosier as a gift accompanying it with an explanation that the Bishop was the Shepherd, and often had to "prod" his flock. Earlier in the Mass, the Bishop gave an explosive exposition of what it meant to be a Catholic University in the United States. It was interspersed with why Notre Dame was significant to him. A couple thing stood out. He said very explicitly that Notre Dame was a Catholic University. This is important, considering what many people, many intelligent and respectable people say on the subject. Bp. Rhoades appears to believe in Notre Dame. However, he was emphatic about what the Bishop's role in the University was. An "inside agent" not an outside one. He said that it was his intention to be just that. Another interesting point, especially relevant to the New Tractarians was his declaration that a Catholic University should pervade its teaching, learning, curricular and extra-curricular activities with the Truth. Finally, he used the words "Catholic Identity" at least four times and was extremely pressing in his admonition for Notre Dame to retain its Catholic Identity.

It was a homily worth the read, and if I can get a copy, I will. Don't believe otherwise, but that Notre Dame is fortunate in Rome's pick for its shepherd. Someone who will prod us when we need it, just as Fr, Jenkins said.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Spring 2010

A new semester has arrived. With it comes another opportunity for the growth of the New Tractarians. We will once again be meeting regularly and discussing topics relevant to a faithful university.

Our work is of utmost importance. Everywhere people are despairing, and not even just bitter cynics but also well-meaning people. It's almost heartbreaking to see the disappointment that Notre Dame and other Catholic Universities are causing. In times like these, when tragedy after tragedy strikes our world, the world needs the voice of truth. The Church is that Voice, as it is the Body of Christ. The University, as a place of higher education is a huge instrument in this effort. Any instrument can go out of tune; sometimes so much that the strings or valves need replacement. However, just because a valuable instrument was given a horrible paint job, or bad strings installed (and not may can deny that Notre Dame was a valuable instrument at one time) doesn't mean it must be destroyed. We must carefully wash off the ugly paint, restring it and re-varnish it. However, although we can help, it is not we who do this work but the master builder, the Stradivarius. In short, it is God's work and it is only by uniting our work to his can we be successful, fruitful and faithful.

Currently our plans are as follows:
• Discussions concerning the Theology of work and other similar things.
• Having speakers from different disciplines come and talk on the impact of theology (in the technical Newman definition) on their disciplines
• Proposing seminar style one credit courses on theology in different disciplines

If anyone has any suggestions for topics for discussion, please feel free to bring them up. We're always looking for new topics.