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Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Keep Death Before Your Eyes: Part 1
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No one likes to think about his own death.  Most people live moment to moment, perhaps afraid to reflect on the fact that every life must come to an end.  We would rather imagine that death only comes for some people, but not for us.  On this difficult subject, Blessed John Henry Newman delivered a sermon at once convicting and encouraging, painful and comforting, and pinning us under its truth – our safe and sturdy shelter.

Newman draws his subject from an unlikely passage in Ecclesiastes, “Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (9:10).  What our hand finds to do, our most important work he says, is the salvation of our souls.  As Solomon tells us, this work must be done with all our might and done before we leave this life.

We know this, Newman says, and give as our excuse for not wanting to hear it that we hear it too often:

Yes; thus it is that sinners silence their conscience, by quarrelling with those who appeal to it; they defend themselves, if it may be called a defence, by pleading that they already know what they should do and do not; that they know perfectly well that they are living at a distance from God, and are in peril of eternal ruin…Thus they witness against themselves.

But we must hear it again, for from this repeated reflection we may hope to “gain some conviction of it.”  If we have no conviction, Newman says, then we cannot we say we know this truth.  It hasn’t sunk down in our soul, but remains on the surface.

Urging us down this path, Newman reflects on the reality of death.  We all must die and “Death puts an end absolutely and irrevocably to all our plans and works.”  Every day we rush around, moving back and forth about our business, but one day this will cease.  Our plans will be unfinished, our thoughts stopped cold.  There is no man or woman so holy or kind or loving who will escape death; it takes good and bad, rich and poor, healthy and unhealthy.  We would like to believe that it will take us at a time we like or understand, in a way that is fair according to our judgment.  But it doesn’t, and we are too weak to stop it or change it.

If we fear these facts, we should fear all the more the effects of death, Newman says.  The moment to choose our steps is over: “…their deeds are suddenly gathered in—a reckoning is made—all is sealed up till the great day.”  All the bonds of love between us and our family and friends will break and we will become as memories to those on earth.  “We talk about them thenceforth as if they were persons we do not know; we talk about them as third persons…And their possessions, too, all fall to others. The world goes on without them; it forgets them. Yes, so it is;”

Newman explains that the world does all that it can to ignore death, to think of it as a natural event as no different than the death of an animal.  But we should know better, for “whenever a man dies, rich or poor, an immortal soul passes into judgment.”

Next week we will listen to Newman as he examines what happens to an immortal soul after death, and how we can learn from death the way to live.  Until then, we will reflect on our death, that we might gain true knowledge of its reality so as to live more closely a life patterned after our Lord.

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Newman lays down a firm rule in the light of life's abundant blessings: the Christian is not allowed to be gloomy.

Newman wrote, “I have been accustomed to consider the action of the creator on and in the created universe, as parallel in a certain sense to that of the soul upon the body.”

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We need to remember our mortality, so that we may be ready to meet Our Lord each and every day. Lent and lenten mortifications have a role in this preparation. We must die to self daily, so that we may be brought to the glory of His resurrection. 

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About Cardinal John Henry Newman

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A Guide to John Henry Newman will interest educated readers and professors alike, and serve as a text for college seminars for the purpose of studying Newman.

Review by Catherine Maybanks
(Catholic Herald, April 1, 2023)

Review by Serenheed James
(Antiphon, April 2023)

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Fr Peter Conley takes us on an exciting journey into the spirituality and inner life of Saint John Henry Newman.
 

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Endorsement by Neyra Blanco (Amazon)
I bought this book for my son and he loved it, he wrote this review and urged my to submitted: “I think this book has a very beautiful message, because it shows how the young Newman was so determined to achieve his dream of becoming a priest, but even after his dream he continued to work in the church with passion until the day he died, it’s so admirable that even Newman so old and so weak still had that urge to continued his work of being a priest. And the book is well written with words not too complicated with very enjoyable texts and well illustrated pictures. I highly recommend this book for a 5th grader.  

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What is a Classical Liberal Arts Education? Why is it so important for the development of a person?

Fr. Juan R. Vélez answers these and more questions you might have about University Education in the 21st century. This book is aimed for parents, prospective University students, and educators. It will help you discern why adding Liberal Arts electives to your education will help it form it better, and help the student learn to reason, and not just learn.

He also explains how many Universities have changed the true meaning of Liberal Arts, and the subjects, and gives advise on how to choose College Campus, Subjects, and Teachers.

A wonderful book that every parent should also read way before your children are College bound. A Liberal Arts education can start earlier in life, even from home.

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Endorsement by Christopher Moellering (Goodreads, September 14, 2019)
In Passion for Truth Fr. Vélez gave us an outstanding biography of Cardinal Newman. In this work, he provides a concise overview of his thought and his devotion. This is a great work for someone who, perhaps hearing of Newman for the first time because of his beatification 13 October, 2019, wants to know more about this English saint.Vélez is a wonderful writer in his own right, and the frequent quotations from Newman round out the work nicely. I especially appreciated the frequent citing of Newman’s Meditations and Devotions, which show a different side of his spirituality than his more well-known works, Development of Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Assent.

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Take Five: Meditations with John Henry Newman, endorsement by Illow M. Roque (Amazon, September 3, 2010)
“There is a time to put direct inquiry on hold and give ourselves to prayer and practical duties.” Sound advice from one of the earlier, thought-provoking reminders in this sparkling gem of a book: Take Five | Meditations with John Henry Newman, written by Mike Aquilina and Fr. Juan R. Vélez and published by Our Sunday Visitor. This particular paragraph, referenced above, which begins with a direct quote from soon-to-be canonized priest, cardinal and poet, John Henry Newman: “Study is good, but it gets us only so far . . .” is actually the 15th in a series of 76 concise, logically organized meditations moving from the elementary to the sublime. Each meditation–one per page–is built upon the great man’s writings and remarkably rich spirituality. Whether taken whole in one reading or in part page-by-page over a course of weeks and months, these wonderfully insightful meditations will open up, even to the busiest reader in the midst of the world, a unique pathway into prayer and contemplation. My advice to spiritual inquirers at all levels, from the novice to the spiritually adept, is to follow the authors’ recommendation to use this book as a guide for daily prayer and meditation. The structure of the book itself is ideal: first, the authors introduce us to Cardinal Newman, the man, where we are given the opportunity to get to know him through a brief sketch of his life and spirituality at the beginning of the book. This is something readers will likely find themselves referring to again and again, prompting many, I suspect, to even wider explorations of this most gifted Christian leader. Then comes the meditations, consisting of a short summary of Newman’s thoughts on subjects taken, as the authors explain, from various salient points for which Newman is justly remembered: The pursuit of objective religious truth; Teaching on the Virtues; Defense of the Catholic Church; A devout spiritual and moral life; and Generosity and loyalty in his friendships, which sets the topic and tone for each meditation to follow. Each meditation consists of an excerpt taken from Newman’s thirty-plus volumes of writings and diaries. Next comes three brief and extremely useful sections entitled: “Think About It,” which establishes a prayerfully resonant tone throughout the book; “Just Imagine,” which provides a vivid, prayerful experience of the Scriptures that tie in, and finally, “Remember,” a pithy summation which the authors suggest may be used as a daily aspiration. Each meditation is given its own page, which makes it ideal for daily reflection for readers on the go. This book is a must have for every serious Catholic who wants to take their faith to the next level, which is to respond appropriately to the universal call to holiness and seek interior union with God.
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