Address to Laymen

What I desiderate in Catholics is the gift of bringing out what their religion is; it is one of those “better gifts,” of which the Apostle bids you be “zealous.” You must not hide your talent in a napkin, or your light under a bushel. 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. I want an intelligent, well-instructed laity; I am not denying you are such already: but I mean to be severe, and, as some would say, exorbitant in my demands. I wish you to enlarge your knowledge, to cultivate your reason, to get an insight into the relation of truth to truth, to learn to view things as they are, to understand how faith and reason stand to each other, what are the bases and principles of Catholicism, and where lie the main inconsistencies and absurdities of the Protestant theory. I have no apprehension you will be the worse Catholics for familiarity with these subjects, provided you cherish a vivid sense of God above, and keep in mind that you have souls to be judged and to be saved. In all times the laity have been the measure of the Catholic spirit; they saved the Irish Church three centuries ago, and they betrayed the Church in England. Our rulers were true, our people were cowards.

Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England,

London and New York: Longmans, Green, 1896, p. 390.

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Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801 – 1890) was an Oxford academic and priest in the Church of England who co-founded the Oxford Movement. Following the publication of his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine in 1845, Newman converted to Catholicism and was made a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in 1879. His major writings include his autobiography Apologia Pro Vita Sua (1865–66), and his philosophical treatise An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (1870). Newman was the founding president of University College, Dublin, and his inaugural lectures on education were collected in The Idea of a University (1853). Newman was a widely respected and influential Victorian churchman who also wrote novels, poetry, and composed popular hymns. He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on September 19, 2010.

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