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Newman’s sermon on the feast of St. Monica in the year 1856 Essay


In the sermon Intellect, the Instrument of Religious Training, John Henry Newman persuades his congregation that intellectual knowledge and religion should not be alienated (Newman 85). Newman is an icon in the history of the Church of England. He was a priest and an intellect. He wrote several religious articles in the 19th century (Hasson 1). Newman was a key founder of the Catholic University of Ireland.

The above-mentioned sermon was delivered at the University Church, Dublin in 1856 (Guiley 65). In the sermon, Newman explores the risk of self-sufficiency, which is the notion that an individual can exist without God. Academic tone, analogy, comparison, and similes are the techniques employed by Newman to deliver a strong and persuasive sermon. This rhetorical analysis paper focuses on Newman’s sermon on the feast of St. Monica in the year 1856.

Based on the sermon’s delivery location, the sermon was conveyed to university students and staff. The sermon was delivered to individuals who shared different views with the preacher. In his sermon, Newman believes that a number of intellects separate intellectual knowledge from religion.

He persuades them that the two fields should not be separated, and that they have coexisted peacefully from time immemorial (Ker 67). Newman was very knowledgeable with his subject. This gave him the adequate credibility to convince his congregation that religion and intellect should not be separated.

As such, he notifies the congregation that his sermon do not dispute the common doctrines held by intellects. According to his arguments, the differences between religion and intellect have resulted in controversies. His main wish is for the two fields to unite and coexist in harmony (Ker 67). He is successful at convincing undergraduates about the importance of religion in their lives. His opinions were well organized and they were made more appealing with the use of logos and pathos.

Newman commences his sermon using an analogy to aid the audience understanding of the character of St. Monica. He asserts that St. Monica was not a teacher, evangelist, or a bishop and did not own an office, but was a widow who spent sleepless nights praying and wandering for her son to be brought back to life.

Similarly, Newman asserts that after her son was brought back to life, he did not only become a saint but also a physician. Through this stylistic device, the preacher is able to put across the character of St. Monica by using the blueprint of teacher, evangelist, bishop, and administrator as a starting point for understanding her identity. Similarly, Newman conveys the son’s identity by using the blueprint of a saint and a doctor as a way of revealing his personality.

Through this, the preacher is able to create a psychological link between the different personalities in the minds of the congregation to help them come up with an understanding between the two saints in an easy and concise manner. Analogies such as those used by the preacher are enjoyable and are likely to cheer up the mood of the sermon. Similarly, it enables the congregation to relate the characters of the two saints with their personal experiences.

Soon after attracting the congregation’s interest with the use of analogies, Newman begins to use similes. He asserts that Christians, in their preference of a gospel for the Feast of St. Monica, have associated the woman with the depressed widow whom Jesus encountered at the entrance to the city. Similarly, in the subsequent paragraphs the preacher likens the widow with the Holy Church that is always mourning over its misplaced siblings.

The preacher uses similes to make his illustrations about the modern church and the widow more emphatic. Several examples of similes in the sermon illustrate how the Holy Church and the Widow are similar, especially in the manner in which they mourn over their lost children. The sermon asserts that age after age St. Monica’s son is born with ambition making him a victim of sin. Similarly, age after age St. Monica laments over his child.

The child she has grown up with, wandered with her, and kept his name in her lips. In the same way the widow is lamenting, the preacher asserts that the church is lamenting over intellectuals who have been lost and are hurrying towards the path of destruction. Like the widow, the Holy Church has not lost hope over these individuals, as it is always praying for them.

Nearly halfway to the sermon, the preacher tells his congregation that he is excited that the Academic Worship Day falls on the Feast of Saint Monica. He further asserts that the chief purpose of the university and religion is to supply what Saint Monica wanted and always yearned to achieve through her prayers.

Through this, he manages to appeal to those who are against the mixture of academics and religion and informs them of the chief purpose of the sermon. He achieves trust from the congregation by informing them of the achievements science could accomplish in the modern age. He asserts that science could invalidate knowledge against itself; make a fact to contradict another fact, and influence humanity that to be spiritual an individual ought to be uninformed and to be scholar one ought to be unspiritual.

He wins their trust by emphasizing on their potentials. Thereafter, he employs pathos to appeal to the feelings of his audience that humans are intellectual and moral. He asserts that humans are intellectual to the extent that they safeguard the truth, and safeguard the morality to the extent that they defend duty. He refers to the excellence of the intellect as skill and talent, and refers to the excellence of moral nature as a virtue.

Thereafter, he asserts that the human being’s mind is made up of several faculties. According to him, these faculties and their powers have been separated for a very long period that most people believe it cannot be united (Lorimer 68). Through this, he aims at appealing to his congregation that the above powers and faculties can be combined peacefully. At this instance, the congregation sees how philosophers have continually lied to them that science and religion should be separated.

At the beginning of the eighth paragraph, the preacher poses a question to his audience. He asks them if they confess to the truth of his words and if not their curiosity has let them to the path of sin. He establishes his ethos or credibility of setting up higher institutions by stating that his sole purpose is to unite things that had been earlier joined by God and later alienated by human beings.

Newman informs his audience that he was not after refuting the common doctrines held by intellects. He informs them that he wants intellect and religion to enjoy an equal freedom without compromising on the others existence. According to his arguments, the differences between the fields have resulted in confusions. His main wish is for the two fields to unite and coexist in harmony.

In conclusion, it should be noted that the sermon effectively persuades his congregation that intellectual knowledge and religion should not be alienated. Newman was able to achieve this because he was very knowledgeable with his subject. This gave him the adequate credibility to convince his congregation that religion and intellect should coexist as one.

He is successful at convincing undergraduates about the importance of religion in their lives. Equally, He asserts that the chief purpose of the university and religion is to supply what Saint Monica always yearned to achieve through her prayers. Through this, he manages to appeal to those who are against the mixture of academics and religion and informs them of the chief purpose of the sermon.

He achieves trust from the congregation by informing them of the achievements science could accomplish in the modern age. His opinions were well organized and they were made more appealing with the use of logos and pathos. He establishes his ethos or credibility of setting up higher institutions by stating that his sole purpose is to unite things that had been earlier joined by God and later alienated by human beings. However, his arguments might not be appealing to the modern scholars as it did during its time (Cassidy 112).

Works Cited

Cassidy, Peter. The development and use in a study of an instrument to measure teacher’s perceptions of their effectiveness in teaching Catholic moral principles to middle and upper secondary students. New York: Oxford University, 1994. Print.

Guiley, Rosemary. The encyclopedia of saints. New York, NY: Facts on File, 2001. Print.

Hasson, Thomas. “Sermons Preached on Various Occasions – Sermon 1.” Newman Reader. N.p., 4 Jan. 2007. Web. <>.

Ker, I. T.. John Henry Newman: a biography. New York : Oxford University Press: Oxford ;, 2009. Print.

Lorimer, George C.. Christianity in the nineteenth century. Philadelphia: Griffith & Rowland Press, 2000. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2019, May 14). Newman’s sermon on the feast of St. Monica in the year 1856. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/newmans-sermon-on-the-feast-of-st-monica-in-the-year-1856/

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"Newman’s sermon on the feast of St. Monica in the year 1856." IvyPanda, 14 May 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/newmans-sermon-on-the-feast-of-st-monica-in-the-year-1856/.

1. IvyPanda. "Newman’s sermon on the feast of St. Monica in the year 1856." May 14, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/newmans-sermon-on-the-feast-of-st-monica-in-the-year-1856/.


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IvyPanda. "Newman’s sermon on the feast of St. Monica in the year 1856." May 14, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/newmans-sermon-on-the-feast-of-st-monica-in-the-year-1856/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Newman’s sermon on the feast of St. Monica in the year 1856." May 14, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/newmans-sermon-on-the-feast-of-st-monica-in-the-year-1856/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Newman’s sermon on the feast of St. Monica in the year 1856'. 14 May.

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