Monday, February 4, 2008

Cardinal Newman and Touching Hearts

Last week I read in the Tablet (Jan 19 issue) an article on John Henry Newman and the fact that he was a pretty regular down-to-earth guy when you met him. Part of the article made me sit up because it quoted him on the topic of education, and his thoughts were well in line with everything I've read about Catholic and Lasallian education - eerily so.

The next paragraph is a quotation from the article by Roderick Strange:

He had no time for theories, however splendid, if they could make no impact. As he remarked later in his life: "I do not want to be converted by a smart syllogism; if I am asked to convert others by it, I say plainly I do not care to overcome their reason without touching their hearts." Touching hearts was one of his fundamental preoccupations. It inspired his commitment to education. There is an entry in his journal in January 1863 in which he described education as his "line." He wanted to touch hearts and win minds.

Newman would have been right at home with the writings of De La Salle. I still find it amazing that DLS never got into writing books, or articles, or letters that dealt with educational philosophy, something that many of the great writers of his age were busy doing. No, instead he wrote the practical books needed for everyday classroom use. All of his writing had a practical impact - in the lives of both students and Brothers and others. Like most things that have a solid impact on human society, his "educational philosophy" communicated itself through his meditations, through the Conduct of Schools, through the book on politeness, and through his example, each of which had a profound effect on others.

I'd like to think that De La Salle and Newman shared a passion for education that each lived out according to his own talents, circumstances, and personal integrity. Sounds like that daily dance with Providence to me.