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John Lancaster Spalding

By Lucinda A. Nolan


(1840-1916) JOHN LANCASTER SPALDING was the first Bishop of Peoria, Illinois, and an outstanding proponent of Catholic religious education in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His philosophy of education laid the groundwork for the incorporation of many of the principles of progressive education into Catholic religious education. Spalding was a nationally recognized advocate for many social justice issues including the equal rights of women in all arenas of life, but most essentially in the field of education. While accepting public schooling as necessary for the development of a responsible citizenship in any democracy, Spalding maintained that any educational system that excluded religious considerations was destined to turn out students who were little more than improved machines. For the Bishop of Peoria, a sound religious education was the key ingredient to developing the harmonious completeness the human person needs in order to live a life of virtue in this world and attain salvation in the next.


The Spalding family first came to St. Mary's County, Maryland, circa 1650, from Lincolnshire, England. In 1788, members of the Spalding family courageously relocated to Kentucky ahead of the Maryland Colonization League, seeking both to escape discrimination and to enlarge the Catholic presence in the new world. By the time John Lancaster Spalding was born to Richard Martin and Mary Lancaster Spalding in Lebanon, Kentucky, in the year 1840, the Spalding family had been on American soil for almost two hundred years. "Lank," as he was called, was a seventh generation American Catholic, a credential that would serve him well in years to come in contrast to fellow clergy who were more newly assimilated into the American culture.

John's father, Richard M. Spalding, was the brother of Martin J. Spalding, the noted Bishop of Louisville, Kentucky and later of Baltimore, Maryland. Richard himself considered the priesthood, but decided against it, marrying and raising his family of nine on, what was in John's memory, an idyllic farm the family named Evergreen Bend. Until the age of twelve John Lancaster Spalding received home schooling from his mother who was among the first graduates of the Loretto Academy of Kentucky for girls. Mary Jane Lancaster instilled in her son a deep love of learning and devotion to a life of intellectual pursuit. She awakened in her son an awareness of the spiritual side of life and the idea that human beings are in the world, "to know truth, to love goodness, to do right, that so, having made ourselves god-like, we may forever be with God" (Spalding, 1890, p. 151). Mary Jane Lancaster modeled for her son the importance of an educated mother for the health of the home and society.

John Lancaster Spalding attended St. Mary's College in Lebanon, Kentucky (a secondary school in today's terms) and later Mount St. Mary's College, a petit seminaire, in Emmitsburg, Maryland. John was a brilliant student, excelling in debate and public speaking. He graduated from Mount St. Mary's of the West as class valedictorian.

It was largely his admiration for his Uncle Martin and his observations of the clerical lifestyle that led him to become a candidate for the priesthood for the Diocese of Louisville. In the fall of 1859, Spalding, following the advice and arrangements of his Uncle Martin, sailed for the American College of the Immaculate Conception in Louvain, Belgium. There he earned bachelor and master degrees in sacred theology and, in 1863, was ordained into the priesthood. After some travel in Germany and a brief period of studying canon law in Rome, Spalding returned home in 1865 to a country devastated and divided by the Civil War.

It did not take "Father Lank" long to gain recognition as a dedicated servant of the cause of justice, a sound writer and gifted speaker. He campaigned for and pastored the first parish in Louisville, Kentucky for African-Americans. While in New York writing the biography of Martin J. Spalding, young Spalding had many opportunities for public speaking and became more involved in issues of schooling and education. The Depression of 1877 led to his involvement in the Irish Colonization Association, a group that sought to help Irish families leave the destitution of overcrowded cities to find land to farm in rural areas of the Midwest. That same year, Spalding was appointed the first Bishop of Peoria, Illinois, "in spite of an apparent reluctance to shoulder the burdens of the episcopacy" (Sweeney, p. 107).

Among the key issues that captured Spalding's energy and attention during the 1880s and 90s were the development of the Baltimore Catechism (1885), the founding of the Catholic University of America (1888), and the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago (1893). The Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884) gave major impetus to the eminent role Spalding came to play in Catholic education in the United States. The issue of a national catechism that would give unity to the presentation of the faith was of great concern to many bishops and Spalding was appointed to the Council committee to address the matter. The move to develop a national catechism was quickly approved and a draft prepared by Monsignor Janarius De Concilio of St. Michael's, Newark, was presented to the Council just eight days later (Mongoven, 2000, pp. 40-42). The Council closed on December 7, 1884, and Spalding was left with the task of collecting suggested revisions from the archbishops in order to expedite the publication of the catechism. He was anxious to complete the work and did so in less than a year. (Sweeney, p. 107).

One possible, and most likely the primary, reason for Spalding's haste in getting the catechism published was his desire to begin work on the task closest to his heart-the planning and development of a Catholic university on American soil. Years before, Spalding and his Uncle Martin had discussed the possibility of establishing in this country a national university along the lines of the American College of the Immaculate Conception in Louvain, Belgium. The younger Spalding thought seminary training narrow and limited to preparation for professional practice. He held that, in the absence of a highly educated clergy, Catholicism would remain at a disadvantage in American public and intellectual life. The Catholic Church in America was destined, in the Bishop's eyes, to greater things.

At the time of the Council, James Cardinal Gibbons invited Spalding to speak on the need for higher education of the clergy and the need for an American Catholic university. Spalding is widely credited for his zealous efforts in establishing the Catholic University of America. James Cardinal Gibbons stated:

All great works have their inception in the brain of some great thinker. God gave such a brain, such a man, in Bishop Spalding. With his wonderful intuitionary power, he took in all the meaning of the present and the future Church in America. If the Catholic University is today an accomplished fact, we are indebted for its existence in our generation, in no small measure, to the persuasive eloquence and convincing arguments of the Bishop of Peoria. (Gibbons, 1916, p. 195)

Likewise, John Tracy Ellis heralded Spalding's accomplishments:

The Catholic University of America will, indeed, always remain the principal monument to Spalding's memory as an educator. . . . Both by the spoken and written word, employed over a period of forty years, John Lancaster Spalding earned the distinction of having made the most significant contribution to education of any single member of the American Catholic community, as well as having won an honored place in the general educational picture of the United States of his time. (1961, p. 50)

In 1892, already recognized as a leading proponent of Catholic education, Spalding was asked to oversee the Catholic educational exhibit at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The exhibit was ultimately successful in making public the practical and philosophical contributions of the nation's Catholic school system and its zealous pursuit of Christian education. In an article written for the Catholic World about the upcoming Catholic exhibit, Spalding stated that there could be no compromise. "The Catholic Church is irrevocably committed to the doctrine that education is essentially religious, that purely secular schools give instruction, but do not properly educate" (Catholic World, July 1892, p. 4). The article proposed the convening of a religious education congress for Catholic schoolteachers to stimulate learning and discussion in the science of pedagogy. Spalding also hoped the educationally based exhibition would lead to the development of a journal of Catholic education. He asked:

What more interesting subject is there than education? It is a question of life, of religion of country; it is a question of science and art; it is a question of politics, of progress, of civilization; it is a question even of commerce, of production of wealth. What could be more instructive than a series of articles on the history of education, on the great teachers and educational reformers, on pedagogics as a science and as an art; on educational methods; on the bearing of psychology upon questions of education; on hygiene in its relation to the health of teachers and pupils; on the educational values of the various branches of knowledge; of personal influence as a factor in education; on the best means of forming true religious character? (Catholic World, July 1892, p. 8)

The 1890s were years marked by educational tensions between public and parochial school systems and Bishop Spalding never shied away from stating his views. While state schools had their place, any school that excluded religion, being less than wholistic in its approach to the students, was inferior. Spalding, whose rhetoric was less inflammatory than some of the other Catholic voices, recognized both school systems would inevitably have to exist side by side. American Catholics should, he believed, recognize the freedom inherent in this great country's founding and acknowledge the universal right of all people to a religion and an education of their choice. The focus and energy should be on improving methodologies and teacher training, not in arguing over what seemed to him the inevitable problems (Sweeney, p. 203).

John Lancaster Spalding will also be remembered for his contributions to Catholic social thought during the years of his service. Involved deeply in the causes of racism, sexism, immigration and labor disputes, Spalding served as a role model to others, including a young priest named John Ryan. Ryan considered Spalding "undoubtedly the greatest literary artist in the entire history of the American hierarchy" and acknowledged that the Bishop of Peoria had "a greater influence upon my general philosophy of life, my ideals, my sense of comparative values than any other contemporary writer" (Ryan, 1941, p. 28).

Keenly aware of the plight of all immigrants, Spalding became embroiled in the tensions of Americanism. In March of 1900, just nine-months following Leo XIII's condemnation of the ideas of the "heresy of Americanism," Spalding gave his famous discourse in the Church of the Gesu just outside of Rome entitled "Education and the Future of Religion." Spalding pleaded for intellectual freedom and made his case for the necessity of addressing the science and culture of the times. John Tracy Ellis wrote that this sermon was: his most notable pulpit performance. Delivered at a time when the memory of all informed men was still alive with the subject of Americanism, it constituted a bold challenge to those who seemed determined to find doctrinal errancy among American Catholics. . . . The leading Protestant weekly of the United States made it the subject of an enthusiastic editorial in which it was said, "For the intelligence, courage and sound Americanism of this admirable sermon Catholics and Protestants may be equally grateful. Such a leader, who is scholar, theologian and poet, is an honor to his Church."(Ellis, p. 79)

European modernists and liberal bishops in the United States hailed Spalding for his firm stance against any who would claim as heresy the actual methods of Americanism in the Catholic Church.

The twentieth century marked a decline in the Bishop of Peoria's health. Shifts in episcopal assignments in major U.S. dioceses meant political maneuvering for Spalding. Considered for the dioceses of Milwaukee, San Francisco and Chicago, he preferred to remain in Peoria. His health may have had something to do with his declining of Harper's invitation to serve on the Council of Seventy. What energy Spalding did have went into the building of The Spalding Institute, a secondary school for young men of his diocese and serving at the request of Theodore Roosevelt on the Strike Council for the anthracite coal crisis of 1902. He remained active in speaking and fund-raising on behalf of the Catholic University of America. His ideas on women's education were instrumental to Father Thomas E. Shields who established the Sisters College of the Catholic University of America (Ellis, pp. 81-82).

Spalding was to say in 1905 of the stroke that left him partially paralyzed and considerably weakened, "I was intoxicated with work and God saw it and struck me down" (Sweeney, p. 343). His remaining years were spent in such a state of ill health that by 1908 he resigned his See. He was elevated to the rank of titular Archbishop of Scythopolis and moved into a home overlooking Peoria built for him by the priests of the diocese. In 1913, Spalding, with some assistance, presided over his golden sacerdotal jubilee mass where he was addressed as "the prophet of Catholic higher education" (Sweeney, p. 368). He died shortly thereafter on August 25, 1916, at the age of 76.

Spalding's biographer, David Sweeney, O.F.M. wrote:

Because of Spalding, education in the United States, and particularly higher education, was changed forever, and for the best. He was, by determination, if not explicitly, a champion of the religious and political pluralism so cherished in our day, and a staunch advocate of intellectual freedom. (p. 373)

William T. Harris, U.S. Commissioner of Education said of Spalding's influence:

All serious and earnest minded thinkers engaged in solving the problems of education . . . have received help from the personal counsels or educational writings of the Bishop of Peoria. (Cosgrove, 1960, p. 107)

Archbishop John J. Glennon spoke at Spalding's funeral saying:

I need not recount for you what Archbishop Spalding has done for the cause of Christian education. How he has sought to unify and strengthen the parochial school system, to bring it from the narrow confines of race or language to the broad platform of Christian teaching; how a national exposition gave an opportunity for his genius, with the result that America was made to realize that there were millions who believed in, and were prepared to defend the platform of Christian education. (Cosgrove, p. 107)

If there are common threads that ran through the work of John Lancaster Spalding, it would those he learned from his mother-the undeniable personal and social worth of a right education and the crucial role that religion plays in realizing the aims of such an education.


John Lancaster Spalding's thought on education was a unique combination of Thomist and progressive philosophical principles. Believing the aim of religious education was the holistic perfection of the human body and soul for eternal, supernatural life with God, Spalding also saw that such an education must address the personality of the learner and their experiences in life. Spalding's philosophy of religious education may be extracted from collected volumes of his writings which included aphorisms, essays, sermons and lectures. In every volume Spalding returns to the topics closest to his heart: life, religion and education.

Franz De Hovre wrote concerning Spalding, saying, "Taken as a whole, his work is best described as an educational exposition of the philosophy of life which in addition to a criticism of the various schools of thought, presents us with a clear statement and a logically ordered defense of Catholic ideals and life and education"(1934, p. 173). Bishop John Lancaster Spalding took seriously the teaching office of his episcopacy.

It is difficult to judge whether it was his educational philosophy or his actual endeavors on behalf of education that most significantly influenced Catholic education in his time. His great zeal for both is evident in his efforts to develop Catholic educational institutions and to train those who would teach in them. While far from exhaustive, seven thematic strands emerge from Spalding's writing, each of which makes evident the Bishop of Peoria's passion for Christian religious education.

1. The Supremacy of the Gift of Life in Religion and Education

Life alone has absolute value: the rest, as religion, philosophy, art, science, wealth and position, have worth only in so far as they are related to life, proceed from it, express its meaning, and increase its power and beauty. (Spalding, 1901, p. 284)

Spalding's emphasis on life as the Creator's greatest gift led to his understanding of the abundant life as the ultimate goal of all religion and education. "Religion is life in and with God through Jesus Christ; and the stronger, the purer, the more loving the life, the higher and holier is one's religion" (Spalding, 1902, p. 147). The Catholic religion is more a way of life to be lived than a doctrinal body to which one would adhere.

Since education is furtherance of life, its value is manifest. Life is the only good, and the supreme good is the highest life. At the heart of all things, giving them reality, endurance, splendor, and serviceableness, there reigns not death, but life. Nothing has worth except for living. . . .What can give us wealth and power and goodness and freedom and joy? Education and education alone. . . . Religion is judged by its influence on faith and conduct, on hope and love, on righteousness and life,-by the education it gives. (Spalding, 1905, pp. 127-129)

Religious education leads to a higher and richer life. It is "a kind of celestial education, which trains the soul to godlike life" (Spalding, 1895, 185). Education and religion act together in bringing about the blessings of "a larger liberty, wider life, purer delights, and a juster sense of the relative values of the means and ends which lie within or reach. . . . Wisdom and religion converge, as love and knowledge meet in God" (Spalding, 1895, p. 191). For Spalding, a religious education is essential to the attainment of the highest qualities of human life.

Indeed, Spalding's exalted view of life as the supreme reality would place him within the parameters of progressivism and pragmatism. De Hovre pointed to the foundational element of Spalding's pedagogy: "Real life is a process of education and education is a life-process"(1934, p. 171). Humans cooperate with God in the ongoing creation and progress of life to the extent that they participate in life-enhancing religious education of self and others.

John Lancaster Spalding's philosophy of education is grounded in his elevation of the value of human life above all else. Life as the ends and means of religious education gives coherence and consistency to this philosophy. This sort of education for life and life-process does not end. Spalding believed that education is not merely or chiefly a scholastic affair; it is a life-work, to be carried on with unwearying patience, until death bids us cease or introduces us to a world of diviner opportunities. The wise and good are they who grow old still learning many things, entering day by day into more vital communion with truth, beauty, and righteousness, gaining more and more complete initiation into the life of the wisest, noblest, and strongest who have thought, loved and accomplished. (Spalding, 1905, p. 92)

Bishop Spalding, addressing the 1901 gathering of the National Education Association, gave his views on the close relationship between the Christian understanding of the sacredness of life and the ultimate goal of education: Faith in the goodness of life, issuing in ceaseless efforts to develop it to higher and higher potencies, has determined our world-view and brought us to understand that the universe is a system of forces whose end is the education of souls; that the drama enacted throughout the whole earth and all the ages has for its central idea and guiding motive the progressive spiritual culture of mankind, which is the will of God as revealed in the conduct and teaching of Christ. (Spalding, 1902, p. 209)

2. The Pursuit of Truth is a Religious Endeavor

All truth is orthodox, whether it comes to us through revelation, reaffirmed by the voice of the Church, or whether it comes in the form of certain scientific knowledge. Both the Church and the men of science must accept the validity of reason, and must therefore hold that reason cannot contradict itself. Knowledge and faith both do God's work… (Spalding, 1902, p. 156)

John Lancaster Spalding believed there was no higher purpose in life than the pursuit of truth. This is part of the human struggle toward perfection in all arenas of life, but the nature of the pursuit is, for Spalding, religious. Likewise, Spalding believed that truth is housed in discoveries of all kinds- intellectual and affective, scientific and theological, natural and supernatural. A firm supporter of liberal education, he believed strongly in a broad curriculum that included the arts, science, literature, theology, music, and history. All knowledge is related and all truth is orthodox. Spalding wrote:

All facts are sacred, since the truth is sacred; . . . Our Catholic faith is akin to whatever is true or good or fair; that as it allied itself with the philosophy, the literature, the art, and the forms of government of Greece and Rome, so it is prepared to welcome whatever progress may make, whether it be material or moral or intellectual; nay, that it is prepared to cooperate, without misgivings or afterthought, in whatever promises to make for higher and holier life. (1900, pp. 74,79)

The deep pursuit of self-knowledge, insight into life's mysteries, and comprehension of things natural and supernatural are the most human of all efforts. For Spalding, "We are human because God is present in the soul; we have reason because the divine light shines with us" (1902, p. 155). Therefore, humanity need not fear the consequences of the discovery truth. He asked:

Does the religion of Christ, the absolute and abiding faith, need the defence of concealment or of sophistical apology, or of lies? Truth is the supreme good of the mind, as holiness of the heart; and truthfulness is the foundation of righteousness. . . . If only we go deep enough, we never fail to find God and the soul. . . . What God has permitted to happen, man may be permitted to know. . . . The fundamental principle of the Catholic theologian and apologist is that there is harmony between revelation rightly understood, and the facts of the universe rightly known; and since this is so, the deepest thought and the most certain knowledge must furnish the irrefragable proof of the truth of our faith. (1902, pp. 159-160)

From the point of view of the first Bishop of Peoria, education, and more specifically a religious education is a life-long, humanizing endeavor that has the potential to elevate humanity to a higher level, closer to the Divine that transcends all reality. He was not naive enough to believe that all would spend their life's energy in this pursuit. But for those who are able to:

The unseen world ceases to be a future world; and is recognized as the very world in which we now think and love, and so intellectual and moral life passes into the sphere of religion. We no longer pursue ideals which forever elude us, but we become partakers in the divine life; for in giving ourselves to the Eternal and Infinite we find God in our souls. (Spalding, 1890, p. 171)

3. Religious Education: A God-given Means of Human Growth and Moral Development

The aim and end of education is to bring out and strengthen man's faculties, physical, intellectual and moral; to call into healthful play his manifold capacities; and to promote also with due subordination their harmonious exercise; and this to fit him to fulfill his high and heaven-given mission, and to attain his true destiny. (Spalding, 1894, p. 128

Humanity's perfection in Christ is the ideal of all education, but in particular, Christian religious education. Without such a vision, the Christian identity is blurred or lost. John Lancaster Spalding's philosophy of education was that it be essentially religious because he saw religion as "enveloping and diffusing itself through the whole life of man. It must therefore be a fundamental part of his education. To exclude religion is equivalent to denying its truth and efficacy" (Grollmes, 1969, pp. 242-43). All truth, all things are to be seen in light of their relation to the divine. All education then must be directed toward this sort of growth. Spalding believed:

Growth is development, and the universal means God has given us to unfold and strengthen our being is education. . . . Religion itself, the worship of God in spirit and in truth, can be maintained only by education. . . . To educate rightly, we must touch the depths of man's being; we must speak to him in the innermost recesses where faith, hope, and love are born, where God is present and appealing. (1902, pp. 149-50)

The enlightened human spirit sees all things and all truth as "bound together in harmony around the feet of the eternal Father" (Spalding, 1902, p. 166). Morality serves to strengthen religion and schools, therefore, should strive to become centers of moral influence. For Spalding this is the essence of the Catholic view of education. He queried, "Do we not all recognize that to quicken the wits and leave the conscience untouched is not education" (Spalding, 1900, p. 99)? Any hope of a moral transformation of humanity and society is seated in right education and a right education is religious by nature.

Education for moral growth and development does not to exclude the intellectual aspects of a proper education. Spalding's wholistic understanding of the human person gave impetus to a balanced philosophy of education where reason and intellect were as important as the affective and moral dimensions. He wrote, "Man exists that he may grow; and human growth is increase in the power to know and love and help, and to promote this is the purpose of education" (1905, p. 137)

Essentially, character development, the primary aim and end of all education, demands the environment of a religious and liberal education. Spalding wrote:

Information is, of course, indispensable; . . . but the end is a cultivated mind. . . . In a rightly educated mind intellectual culture is inseparable from moral culture. . . . Moral character is the only foundation on which the temple of life can stand symmetrical and secure; and hence there is a general agreement among serious thinkers that the primary aim and end of education is to form character. (1902, p. 234)

Religious education is best suited to this task, in Spalding's view, because "conduct springs from what we believe, cling to, love, and yearn for, vastly more than from what we know" (1895, p. 170). "Religion is the profoundest and most quickening educational influence. . . . It has been and is the chief school in which mankind have learned to understand the worth and sacredness of human life" (Spalding, 1905, p. 117). Religion, Spalding believed, was to be judged by the education it gives and "the deeper tendency" of his time was not "to exclude religion from any vital process, but rather to widen the content of the idea of religion until it embrace the whole life of man" (Spalding 1895, p. 181). Statements like this one, which abound in Spalding's lectures and writing, make it easy to understand why William Rainey Harper, the leading force behind the forming of the Religious Education Association sought his counsel.

4. Exaltation of the Role of the Teacher

The truest patriots are not party leaders nor captains of industry, nor inventors, but teachers,-all the men and women who live and labor to make themselves and all who are brought under their influence wiser, holier, and happier. This is the noblest work. This is honor, worth, and blessedness. (Spalding, 1905, p. 140)

Bishop Spalding spared no accolades for teachers. A right education depended on the quality of the teacher and a school was only as good as its teachers. "The teacher makes the school; and when high, pure, devout, and enlightened men and women educate, the conditions favorable to mental and moral growth will be found" (Spalding, 1895, p. 179). Perhaps harboring his great love and respect for his mother who home schooled him, Spalding exalted the role of the educator. He wrote: "O fathers and mothers, O teachers and ministers of God, be mindful that in your hands lie the issues of life and death, that you are committed the highest and holiest hopes of the race" (1901, p. 120). In "The Meaning of Education," he wrote:

The mother-heart is indispensable in whoever would teach, for nothing is so persuasive as love, and nothing inspires such patience and such desire to help. It makes workers unmindful of disappointment and fatigue, holding their thoughts to one supreme end. (Spalding, 1905, p. 25)

All persons have a responsibility for self-education, but the fortunate student has the teacher who will

inspire the love of mental exercise and a living faith in the power of labor to develop faculty, and to open worlds of use and delight which are infinite. . . . It is the educator's business to cherish the aspirations of the young, to inspire them with confidence in themselves, and to make them feel and understand that no labor is too great or too long, if its result be cultivation and enlightenment of the mind. (Spalding, 1890, p. 75)

Well acquainted with ancient pedagogies, Spalding, like Socrates, thought teaching is best accomplished as a labor of love. "We can teach what we know and love to those who know and love us. The rest is drill." The Bishop continued,

Nothing has such power to draw forth human strength and goodness as love. The teacher's first business is to win the heart and through the heart the will of his pupils; and to this end a generous faith in them is the most effective means. (Spalding 1900, p. 116)

Only those of a gentle and loving nature can educate souls. "The teacher accomplishes more by making strong impressions than by constructing lucid arguments" (Spalding, 1900, p. 122).

The true educator strives to possess what he or she would pass on to students. "Educableness is man's true characteristic; and the teacher who loves his calling and understands his business will give his chief thought and labor to education, whether it is his own, or that of a few, or of the whole race" (Spalding 1900, p. 124). Spalding went as far as to say that the effectiveness of any school is dependent on the character of its teachers. Character is contagious and, conversely, disinterested, uncultivated teachers will produce only more of the same. Teachers should model the joyful pursuit of truth, goodness and beauty, inspiring students toward the highest ideals of human personhood. "Little depends of what is taught; everything on who teaches" (Spalding, 1905, p. 127).

In an address delivered at the 1899 Convocation of the University of Chicago entitled "The University and the Teacher," Spalding said:

The whole question of educational reform and progress is simply a question of employing good and removing incompetent teachers. And those who have experience best know how extremely difficult this is. In a university, at least, it should be possible; for a university is a home of great teachers or it is not a university at all. (Spalding, 1900, p. 140)

Spalding knew how difficult it was to find and keep good teachers. He well recognized the lack of respect held for what he considered the noblest profession. Addressing educators assembled at the 1901 NEA convention in Detroit, Bishop Spalding expounded on the challenges of teaching:

The wise take an exalted view of the teacher's office, and they know the difficulties by which he is beset. He is made to bear the sins of parents and the corruption of society. His merit is little recognized and his work is poorly paid. The ignorant take the liberty to instruct him and they who care nothing for education become interested when he is to be found fault with. The results of his labors are uncertain and remote, and those he has helped most rarely think it necessary to be thankful. But if he know how to do his work and loves it, he cannot be discouraged. (Spalding, 1902, pp. 230-231)

John Lancaster Spalding believed that if education as a whole was to be fostered, first and foremost educational leaders must encourage and inspire the brightest of young teachers in their work. He held that teachers and scholars should be granted intellectual freedom in study and research and that diversity in interpreting the Christian perspective should be expected and encouraged. He feared censorship would drive the brightest Catholic scholars into disciplines where their work would be better appreciated (Grollmes, 1969, pp. 72-75). Spalding stated, "The number of born teachers, however is not great; and nothing is left to us but to train, as best we may, those who lack power to interest, to command attention, and to create enthusiasm. (1897, p. 72)

"Whatever else the incapable be permitted to do, let them not become teachers" (Spalding, 1901, p. 232). Spalding called for serious thought on the question of how to make the profession of teaching more attractive, respected and well-salaried. Better conditions in schools, smaller classes, and shorter hours would lead to more pleasant working conditions for teachers and give them more hope for advancement in their vocation. Spalding hoped "to persuade the best men and women to devote themselves to teaching; for we shall make them feel that the teacher does not take up a trade, but the highest of art-the art of fashioning immortal souls in the light of the ideals of truth, goodness, and beauty." (1902, p. 232)

5. The Wisdom of Educating Wome

We must give to woman the best education it is possible for her to receive. She has the same right as man to become all that she may be, to know whatever may be known, to do whatever is fair and just and good. (Spalding, 1902, p. 152)

Sister Agnes Claire Schroll, O.S.B., wrote that Bishop Spalding changed his thinking about women's education over the course of time. In 1879 Spalding said, "When I hear a woman use intellectual arguments I am dismayed"("The Blessed Virgin Mary," The Ave Maria, 1879, ix). By 1884 John Lancaster Spalding was professing that women should receive the best of education if humankind was to achieve genuine progress. In the home, school, church and work place, women should be equal to men. Where society does not educate women it lacks the hope of progress and its young, male and female alike, remain callous and uncultivated. As noted earlier, the Bishop's mother was a highly educated woman, rare for her time. He valued the early education she gave him and the love of learning she imparted. While sometimes seemingly motivated by the benefits women's education would have for men, Spalding nevertheless was well ahead in his thinking on all aspects of women's equality for his time. In a lecture entitled "Women and Education," Spalding expressed his resolve to promote the equality of women in all arenas of life:

There is not a religion, a philosophy, a science, an art for man and another for woman. Consequently there is not, in its essential elements at least, an education for man and another for woman. In souls, in minds, in consciences, in hearts, there is no sex. What is the best education for woman? That which will best help her to become a perfect human being, wise, loving and strong. What is her work? Whatever may help her to become herself. What is forbidden her? Nothing but what degrades or narrows or warps. What has she the right to do? Any good and beautiful and useful thing she is able to do without hurt to her dignity and worth as a human being. (1895, p. 101)

Spalding lamented that women were excluded from many professions and "rarely get the same pay as men for the same work" (1897, 227). That women had been treated unequally for so long was for him "an indelible stain on the page of history" (1900, p. 49), one that was completely out of line with the notion of democracy. Spalding observed, "The domination of the animal in man had kept woman in subjection, had made of her a slave, a drudge, or a plaything; but faith in education as a human need and right revealed to the nineteenth century the duty of providing for the education of women as of men." (1905, p. 84)

John Lancaster Spalding genuinely endorsed women's participation in higher institutions of learning and all professions. He observed that women were superior students and read more books than men (1895, p. 111). In Spalding's view, education for women is not toward motherhood or being a good wife but toward human perfection as the ideal. In a lecture given on behalf of Trinity College, a Catholic women's college to be established in Washington, D.C., Spalding made his stance for women's equality perfectly clear. Historian and Spalding biographer, David Francis Sweeney, O.F.M., described the speech as eloquent, inciting an enthusiastic response from the listeners for both the future women's college and the higher education of women (1965, p. 329). Spalding's classic talk was entitled "Women and the Higher Education." In it he noted:

Woman's sphere lies where she can live nobly and do useful work. The career open to ability applies to her not less than man. It is good to have a strong and enlightened mind; therefore it is good for a woman to have such a mind. . . . To be a human being, many sided and well-rounded, is to be like God; therefore it is good that woman be developed on many sides in harmony and completeness. (Spalding, 1900, p. 58)

Without question, the Bishop of Peoria met with opposition to this line of thinking concerning women's equality in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. This did not deter him. In her dissertation, Sister Agnes Claire Schroll wrote that, for Spalding, the end of education is the same for girls and boys- "to develop power, faculty, self-control, sanity, breadth of view, wide sympathies, and an abiding sense of justice" (1944, p. 257). De Hovre called Spalding "a champion of the higher education of women" (p. 190).

6. The importance of freedom in research

If the Church is to live and prosper in the world, Catholics must not only have the freedom to learn, but also freedom to teach (Spalding, 1902, p. 158).

Spalding was ahead of his time in stressing the need for open scholarship in order for the Church to become an intellectual force in a nation founded on principles of human freedom. He looked upon his generation of Catholic thinkers and writers as sadly behind in their contributions to the body of American intellectual tradition. For the Bishop of Peoria, education and the free pursuit of new ideas about the relationship between religion and culture were the only remedies for the dearth of Catholic scholarship and the university was the place to best prepare such future scholars, men and women alike.

Whether clergy or lay, Catholics were encouraged by Spalding to study, read widely and put their intellectual talents to use on behalf of both the Church and the country. John Tracy Ellis noted Spalding's real fear that "if Catholics isolated themselves and withdrew from the circles where the thought of the modern world was being shaped, . . . they would drift into a position of inferiority and lose whatever chance they might have to make themselves heard and understood" (1961, pp. 74-75). Thus, in Spalding's view, "If mistrust of ablest minds be permitted to exist, the inevitable result will be a lowering of the whole intellectual life of Catholics . . ." (1902, pp. 163-164).

7. The importance of improving the education of clergy for improving religious education as a whole.

Professional men are united by indissoluble bonds. They all alike find their reason for being, in the needs and miseries of man; they all minister to his ills, and to all, science, culture, and religion supply the means which render them capable to help (Spalding, 1894, pp. 122).

That Spalding was exceptionally concerned with the role of priest as educator is confirmed by his repeated references to the necessity of improving their education so that they may become adequate to the task of pastoring the most active and progressive people of their churches. The task of teaching and preaching God's word, so central to the vocation, should be performed by the most cultivated and eloquently expressive bishops and priests. Only a higher education given to such excellence could help effect such a standard of quality in the priesthood. To Spalding, "so long as no step is taken to give to the Church in the United States men of the best cultivation of mind, each year seems like a decade, and each decade a century" (1882, p. 157).

Such an education is an education in the preparation for knowledge. It is a liberal education, bestowing freedom, courage and confidence. The clergy should not only be mindful of their initial preparation but should understand themselves as life-long students (1894, pp. 102-103). Freeing themselves from any narrowness of mind, the bishops and priests may execute the charge of teaching God's word in openness and freedom. The Church and its people are deserving of no less.

John Lancaster Spalding's dedication to the establishment of an American Catholic university is indicative of his great resolve that priests be afforded opportunities for the best of educations. "For what is the pulpit but the holiest teacher's chair that has been placed upon the earth?" (Spalding, 1895, p. 186). The urgency in his plea makes evident his desire for Catholics to take their place among the cultivated and intellectual minds of the new world. When priests are able to bring scholarly advancements into the realm of religion, Catholic theology "will again come forth from its isolation in the modern world" (Spalding, 1895, p. 216).


John Tracy Ellis noted that Spalding's "Lifelong crusade in behalf of higher educational standards for all Americans . . . was, perhaps, the characteristic by which he was most frequently identified in the minds of his contemporaries" (pp. 1-2). Spalding's work displays a wide knowledge and deep understanding of the history and impact of Christian education. There is very little of his work that does not allude to some aspect of teaching, education or school.

Nathan Mitchell, O.S.B., records that the early church defined the responsibilities of bishops as "overseeing and regulating the community's life, administering its fiscal resources and teaching sound doctrine" (1982, p. 156). Clearly Spalding saw the latter as the central focus of his vocation.

That Spalding might be a perfect exemplar is hardly the point. Sweeney thought him "a victim of the flaws of his character" (p. 19). He was far from being a perfect bishop and he was not without critics. Both John Tracy Ellis and David Sweeney would agree that the best of the Bishop's energies were probably "in behalf of religious education and social betterment" (Sweeney, p. 14). His understanding of the importance of Catholic education in helping an immigrant Church find its place in the United States and his unrelenting belief in the educational power of the Christian religion are true legacies for religious educators everywhere and for all times. John Lancaster Spalding was without precedent and successor as an American Catholic philosopher of education.

Contributions to Christian Education

Works Cited

  • Cosgrove, J. J. (1960). Most Reverend John Lancaster Spalding: First bishop of Peoria. Mendota, IL: The Wayside Press, Inc.
  • Curti, M. (1935). The social ideas of American educators. New York: Charles Scriber's Sons.
  • DeHovre, F. (1934). Catholicism in education. New York: Benziger Brothers, Inc.
  • Ellis, J. T. (1961). John Lancaster Spalding: First bishop of Peoria, American educator. Milwaukee, WI: The Bruce Publishing Company.
  • Gibbons, J. C. (1916). Silver jubilee of the Catholic University. A retrospect of fifty years. Baltimore: John Murphy Company.
  • Grollmes, E. E. (1969). The educational theory of John Lancaster Spalding: The ideal of heroism. (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Boston College.) Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, 1970.
  • Mitchell, N. (1982). Mission and ministry: History and theology in the sacrament of order. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press.
  • Mongoven, A. M. (2000). The prophetic spirit of catechesis. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
  • Ryan, J. A. (1941). Social doctrine in action: A personal account. New York: Harper &: Brothers.
  • Schroll, A. C. (1944). The social thought of John Lancaster Spalding. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, Inc.
  • Spalding, J. L. (1879, June 21). The blessed virgin Mary. Ave Maria, ix.
  • Spalding, J. L. (1882). Lectures and discourses. New York: Catholic Publications Society Co.
  • Spalding, J. L. (1890). Education and the higher life. Chicago: A.C. McClurg &: Co.
  • Spalding, J. L. (1892, July). The Catholic educational exhibit. The Catholic World.
  • Spalding, J. L. (1894). Things of the mind. Chicago: A.C. McClurg &: Co.
  • Spalding, J. L. (1895). Means and ends of education. Chicago: A.C. McClurg &: Co.
  • Spalding, J. L. (1897). Thoughts and theories of life and education. Chicago: A.C. McClurg &: Co.
  • Spalding, J. L. (1900). Opportunity and other essays. Chicago: A.C. McClurg &: Co.
  • Spalding, J. L. (1901). Aphorisms and reflections. Chicago: A.C. McClurg &: Co.
  • Spalding, J. L. (1902). Religion, agnosticism and education. Chicago: A.C. McClurg &: Co.
  • Spalding, J. L. (1905). Religion and art. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press.
  • Sweeney, D. F. (1965). The life of John Lancaster Spalding. NewYork: Herder and Herder.



  • Archives of the American College, Louvain
  • Archives of the Archdiocese of Louisville
  • Archives of the Archdiocese of New York
  • Archives of the Archdiocese of Baltimore
  • Archives of The Catholic University of America
  • Archives of the Diocese of Peoria
  • Archives of the Paulist Fathers, New York
  • Archives of the Peoria Historical Society
  • Archives of the Peoria Public Schools
  • Archives of Saint Mary's of the Lake Seminary, Chicago
  • Archives of St. Mary's College, Kentucky
  • Archives of the Spalding Institute
  • Archives of the University of Notre Dame
  • Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress

Books By John Lancaster Spalding

  • (1873). The life of the Most Rev. M. J. Spalding, D.D. New York: Catholic Publication Society Company
  • (1877). Essays and reviews. New York: Catholic Publication Society Company.
  • (1880). The religious mission of the Irish people and Catholic colonization. New York: Catholic Publications Society Company.
  • (1881). Lectures and discourses. New York: Catholic Publications Society Company.
  • (1885). America and other poems. New York: Catholic Publications Society Company.
  • (1887). The poet's praise. New York: Catholic Publications Society Company
  • (1890). Education and the higher life. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Company.
  • (1895). Means and ends of education. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Company.
  • (1896). Songs chiefly from the German. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Company
  • (1897). Thoughts and theories of life and education. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Company.
  • (1900). Opportunity and other essays and addresses. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Company.
  • (1901). Aphorisms and reflections, conduct, culture and religion. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Company.
  • (1901). Things of the mind. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Company.
  • (1902). God and the soul. New York: Catholic Publications Society Company.
  • (1902). Socialism and labor and other arguments. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Company.
  • (1902). Religion, agnosticism and education. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Company.
  • (1903). Glimpses of truth. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Company.
  • (1905). Religion and art and other essays. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Company.
  • (1911). Brilliants. Compiled by Sister M. Gregory. Wichita, Kansas.


  • (1899). The university: A nursery of the higher life. Reprinted from the Catholic University Bulletin, 5, 463-496. Chapter III in Opportunity and other essays and addresses.
  • (1899). Woman and higher education. Lecture delivered under the auspices of the Auxiliary Board of Trinity College, at Columbian University, Washington. Chapter II in Opportunity and other essays and addresses.
  • (1878). Golden words of advice to our young men. Thirty-fourth annual commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. In revised form, Chapter I in Education and the higher life.
  • (1886). Growth and duty. Forty-second annual commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. Chapter VII in Religion and the higher life.
  • (1899). Agnosticism. Pamphlet No. 10, The Catholic Truth Society of America. Chapter II in Religion, agnosticism and education.
  • (1900). Education and the future of religion. Sermon preached in the Church of the Gesu in Rome. Chapter V in Religion, agnosticism and education.
  • (1900). The victory of love. Sermon at Eden Hall, Philadelphia on the occasion of the Hundredth anniversary of the Society of the Sacred Heart, Notre Dame, Indiana. Chapter VII in Religion, agnosticism and education.
  • (1893). Views of education. A paper read before the World's Congress of Representative Youth in Chicago, Illinois. Chapter III in Things of the mind.
  • (1884). University education considered in its bearings on the higher education of priests. Discourse delivered at the Cathedral, Baltimore, Maryland. Chapter VII in Means and ends of education.
  • (1904). The physician's calling and education. Reprinted from the Journal of the American Medical Association. Chapter IV in Religion and art and other essays.
  • (1892). The Catholic educational exhibit in the Columbian exposition, Chicago, Illinois. Reprinted from the Catholic World.
  • (1893). Pure morals at the World's Fair. Final Report, Catholic educational exhibit.
  • (1901). Progress in education. Address delivered before the National Educational Association, Detroit, Michigan, (Notre Dame).
  • (1888). University education. An address at the laying of the cornerstone of the Catholic University, Washington DC. Chapter VIII in Education and the higher life.

Chapters, Introductions, Textbooks

  • (1874). The young Catholic's illustrated school readers. Editor. Compiled by Edward D. Farrell. 5 vols. New York: Catholic Publications Society Company.
  • (1875). The young Catholic's illustrated sixth reader and speaker. Editor. New York: Catholic Publications Society Company.
  • (1878). Introduction to John R.G. Hassard. A history of the United States of America for the use of schools. New York: Catholic Publications Society Company.
  • (1888). Introduction to James J. McGovern. The life and writings of the Rt. Rev. John McMullen, D.D. Chicago: Hoffman Brothers Company.
  • (1893). Introduction to P.M. Abbelen. Venerable Mother M. Caroline Freiss. St. Louis: B.Herder Company.
  • (1900). Introduction to Discourses of Epictetus, translated by George Long. New York: Catholic Publications Society Company.
  • (1905). The Spalding yearbook: Quotations from the writings of Bishop Spalding for each day of the year. Selected by Minnie R. Cowan. Chicago: A.C. McClurg &: Company.


  • (1882, July). American patriotism. The Catholic Review, 22, 37-38.
  • (1876, December; 1877, February). Amid Irish scenes. The Catholic World, 25, 384-94; 591-601.
  • (1878, September). An appeal for the sufferers in the stricken South. The Catholic Review, 14, 197, 204.
  • (1886, July). Are we in danger of a revolution? The Forum, 1, 405-15.
  • (1884, September). The basis of popular government. The North American Review, 139, 198-204.
  • (1884, August). Bishop Grace. The Catholic Review, 26, 85-86.
  • (1879, June). The Blessed Virgin Mary. The Ave Maria, 15, 1-10.
  • (1879, May 31). Catholic colonization in the West. The Northwestern Chronicle, 13, 5.
  • (1876, July). The Catholic Church in the United States. The Catholic World, 23, 434-52.
  • (1892, July). The Catholic education exhibit in the Columbian Exposition. The Catholic World, 55, 580-87.
  • (1894, September). Catholicism and Apaism. The North American Review, 159, 278-87.
  • (1892, October). Columbus. The Catholic World, 56, 1-16.
  • (1904, November). The development of educational ideas in the nineteenth century. The Educational Review, 28, 335-360.
  • (1877, March and April). English rule in Ireland. The Catholic World, 25, 799-814,103-17.
  • (1876, June). German Journalism. The Catholic World, 23, 289-301.
  • (1890, April). God in the Constitution-A reply to Colonel Ingersoll. The Arena, 1, 517-28.
  • (1885, May). Has Christianity benefited woman? The North American Review, 140, 399-410.
  • (1881, July). Higher clerical training. The Catholic Review, 20, 54-56.
  • (1879, June). Irish Catholic colonization. The Catholic Review, 15, 390.
  • (1888, March). Is our social life threatened? The Forum, 5, 16-26.
  • (1895, June). The making of oneself. The Ave Maria, 40, 701-12.
  • (1881, June). The marks of the Church. The Catholic Review, 19, 357-58.
  • (1880, March). Mr. Froude's historical method. The North American Review, 130, 280-99.
  • (1890, April). Normal schools for Catholics. The Catholic World, 51, 88-97.
  • (1879, July). Out of the house of bondage. The Ave Maria, 15, 575-78.
  • (1881, March). Pastoral letter. The Catholic Review, 29, 149.
  • (1874, December). The persecution of the Church in Germany. The Catholic World, 20, 289-98, 433-42.
  • (1904, December). The physician's calling and education. Journal of the American Medical Association, 43, 1831-36.
  • (1881, January). The position of Catholics in the United States. Dublin Review, 5, 91-116; reprinted (1881, March) in The Catholic Review, 19, 181-82, 197-98.
  • (1876, March). Prussia and the Church. The Catholic World, 22, 678-90, 787-99.
  • (1879, July). Religion and culture. American Catholic Quarterly Review, 4 (15), 38-414.
  • (1891, July). Religious instruction in state schools. Educational Review, 2, 105-122.
  • (1895, March). The scope of public school education. The Catholic World, 60, 758-67.
  • (1878, November). Sermon preached at the dedication of the Cathedral at Columbus, Ohio. The Catholic Review, 14, 287, 294.
  • (1891, September). Socialism and labor. The Catholic World, 53, 791-806.
  • (1879, January). Theories of education and life-Thomas Carlyle. American Catholic Quarterly, 4, 13, 1-21.
  • (1892, December). Why the World's Fair should be open on Sunday. The Arena, 7, 45-47.

Selected General References

  • Ceremonies of the Golden Sacerdotal Jubilee of His Grace John Lancaster Spalding. (1913). Peoria, Illinois.
  • Cosgrove, J. J. (1960). Most Reverend John Lancaster Spalding: First Bishop of Peoria. Mendota, IL: Wayside Press, Inc.
  • Curti, M. (1935). The social ideas of American educators. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  • Ellis, J. T. (1962). John Lancaster Spalding. Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company.
  • Hovre, F. D. (1934). Catholicism in education. New York: Benziger Brothers, Inc.
  • Schroll, A. C. (1944). The social thought of John Lancaster Spalding. Washington, DC: The Catholic University Press.
  • Souvenir of the Silver Jubilee of the Rt. Rev. J. L. Spalding. (1903). Chicago" Hollister Brothers.
  • Sweeney, D. (1903). The life of John Lancaster Spalding. New York: Herder and Herder.

Selected General Articles

  • Eaton, J. (1895, January). Catholic educational exhibit. American Catholic Quarterly, 20, 66-68.
  • Ellis, J. T. (1944). Some student letters of John Lancaster Spalding. Catholic Historical Review, 29, 510-539.
  • Henthorne, M. E. (1942, July). Bishop Spalding's work on the Anthracite Coal Commission. The Catholic Historical Review, 28, 184-205.
  • Hovre, F. D. (1940, October). Masters of contemporary Catholic education. The Catholic School Journal, 40, 257.
  • Killen, D. P. (1973, October). Americanism revisited: John Spalding and Testem Benevolentiae. Harvard Theological Review, 66, 413-54.
  • Nolan, L. A. (2004, November). Playing well in Peoria: John Lancaster Spalding, The Bishop who loved religious education. Proceedings, The Association of Professors and Researchers in Religious Education, Chicago.
  • Nolan, L. A. (2005, December). John Lancaster Spalding (1840-1916): A catalyst for social reform. Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry and Practice, 9, (2)178-197.
  • Power, E. J. (1953, December). Progressive education and Bishop Spalding. Catholic Educational Review, 51, 671-79.
  • Sharp, J. K. (1929). How the Baltimore Catechism originated. American Ecclesiastical Review, 81, 573-86.

Dissertations and Theses on Spalding

  • Barger, R. N. (1976) John Lancaster Spalding: Catholic educator and social emissary. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  • Chiola, R. L. (1991). The fundamental theology of Bishop John Lancaster Spalding: The presence of God and nineteenth century Romanticism. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Saint Louis University.
  • Courtney, L. C. (1950). A partial analysis of the educational theories of Bishop John Lancaster Spalding and Henry Clinton Morrison. Unpublished Master's Thesis, St. Louis University.
  • Fritz, M. I. (1945). John Lancaster Spalding: Catholic social educator. Unpublished Master's Thesis, The Catholic University of America.
  • Garland, M. A. (1953). The work of Bishop John Lancaster Spalding in the Diocese of Peoria, 1877-1908. Unpublished Master's Thesis, University of Notre Dame.
  • Glynn, J. J. (1929). The educational theory of Rt. Rev. John Lancaster Spalding, D.D. as revealed in his writings. Unpublished Master's Thesis, The Catholic University of America.
  • Gollar, C. W. (1994). John Lancaster Spalding's religious anthropology: The genesis of an American Catholic understanding of the human person. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, University of St. Michael's College, Canada.
  • Grollmes, E. E. (1969). The educational theory of John Lancaster Spalding: The ideal of heroism. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Boston College.
  • Henthorne, M. E. (1930). The career of the Right Reverend John Lancaster Spalding, Bishop of Peoria. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Illinois.
  • Jendrus, M. R. E. (1946). Bishop Spalding and his position in respect to the higher education of women. Unpublished Master's Thesis, University of Notre Dame.
  • Killen, D. P. (1970). John Spalding's American understanding of the Church. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Marquette University.
  • LaForest, L. (1948). Character education according to Bishop Spalding. Unpublished Master's Thesis, University of Notre Dame.
  • Liston, M. V. (1946). Objectives in education set forth by Bishop Spalding. Unpublished Master's Thesis, University of Notre Dame.
  • Remm, G. F. (1961). The history of the Catholic Church in Peoria, Illinois from 1837 to 1877. Unpublished Master's Thesis, The St. Paul Seminary.
  • Roohan, J. E. (1952). American Catholics and the social question, 1865-1900. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Yale University.
  • Sandweg, M. J. D. (1995). The idea of a university: A comparative view of John Henry Cardinal Newman and John Lancaster Spalding. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, St. Louis University.
  • Schaefer, M. L. (1962). The sources and development of John Lancaster Spalding's educational theory. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, St. Louis University.
  • Sweeney, D. F. (1963). The life of John Lancaster Spalding, First Bishop of Peoria, 1840-1916. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, The Catholic University of America.

Excerpts from Publications

(1895). Means and ends of education. Chicago: A.C. McClurg &: Co.

The truly human is found not in knowledge alone, but also in faith, in hope, in love, in pure-mindedness, in reverence, in the sense of beauty, in devoutness, in the thrill of awe, which Goethe says is the highest thing in man. Is the teacher is forbidden to touch upon religion, the source of these noble virtues and ideal moods is sealed. His work and influence become mechanical. (p. 69)

(1897). Thoughts and theories of life and education. Chicago: A.C. McClurg &: Co.

In the world by which we are surrounded, the spiritual sense, the sense for things which have no material uses, needs cultivation far more that the faculty for contriving and getting. (p. 34)

(1900). Opportunity and other essays. Chicago" A.C. McClurg &: Co.,

Neither a fund of accurate and pertinent information nor the most approved methods can supply the essential and indispensable pedagogical requisite-the awakened mind, the loving heart, the quick and comprehensive view, to which, as to the eye of a skilful general or physician, the exigencies of each moment and situation are revealed. The true teacher is at once a leader, an inspirer, and a healer. (p. 115) Religion brings into accord our intellectual, moral, and emotional natures; it appeals to the imaginations as nothing else can. It is the inexhaustible fountain of hope, courage and patience; it is the chief consoler in the midst of the troubles and sorrows of life; it is the eternal light which shines on the grave and lifts our thoughts to enduring worlds. It gives an immovable basis to the ideas of rights and duty; it justifies faith in the superiority of mind to matter, and of pure and generous conduct to gross indulgence. It is the bond which holds us together in the family and the state; it is the source of the ardor and enthusiasm which suffuses morality with fervor and gives it contagiousness; it is the consecration of our holiest yearnings and highest aspirations; it is the force which enables us to transcend the sway of the fatal laws of a mechanical universe, and to rise to the pure sphere where God, the Infinite-Spirit, lives and loves and is free. (pp. 133-34)

(1902). Religion, agnosticism and education. Chicago: A.C. McClurg &: Co.(1905). Religion and art and other essays. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press.

The Church must be a school as well as a house of prayer; a source of knowledge, wisdom, and power, as well as a fountain-head of faith, hope and love. (p. 191)
Where there is question of education, in the true and large sense, the school is but an incident. The history of what man has become and achieved is only in a minor way the history of his scholastic discipline. The school is but one of the institutions that educate. (pp. 114-15)

Writings about John Lancaster SpaldingCurti, M. (1935). The social ideas of American educators. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. Curti describes Spalding's social ideas as they relate to his educational philosophy amid his treatment of other outstanding American theorists.

Ellis, J. T. (1961). John Lancaster Spalding: First Bishop of Peoria, American educator. Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company. Short and concise, Ellis' text emphasizes the educational thought of John Lancaster Spalding.

Hovre, F. D. (1934). Catholics in education. New York: Benziger Brothers. This translated text is an analysis of Spalding's educational philosophy.

Sweeney, David. (1966). The life of John Lancaster Spalding. New York: Herder and Herder. Originally his dissertation, Sweeney's book remains the definitive biography of the Bishop of Peoria.

Writings by John Lancaster Spalding (1890). Education and the higher life. Chicago: A. C. McClurg and Company. Among the earliest collections of essays, this text ends with "University Education," Spalding's address on the occasion of laying the cornerstone for the Catholic University of America.

(1895). Means and ends of education. Chicago: A. C. McClurg and Company. In this collection, "Woman and Education" and "The Scope of Public-School Education" are examples of the Bishop's progressive educational thought.

(1900). Opportunity and other essays. Chicago: A. C. McClurg and Company. This volume contains another fine essay on the education of women as well as "The University: A Nursery of the Higher Life" in which Spalding's views on the value of higher education are given expression.

(1901). Aphorisms and reflections: Conduct, culture and religion. Chicago: A. C. McClurg and Company. Rivaling Emerson, Spalding is noted for these short thoughts which often find their way into collections of notable quotations.

Author Information

Lucinda A. Nolan

Lucinda A. Nolan is retired Assistant Professor of Religious Education and Catechetics at The Catholic University of America. She earned the Ph.D. in Religion and Religious Education from Fordham University in New York. Dr. Nolan has published numerous articles and is co-editor of Educators in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition (2009). She has taught courses in theology, religious education, faith formation and catechetics at Lewis University, Santa Clara University, St. Elizabeth’s College, Sacred Heart University and Dominican University of California.