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In the second half of the poem, “My Birthday,” Blessed John Henry Newman continues to relate how worldly people celebrate birthdays in contrast to how he wishes to mark his day. This birthday poem gives an insight into the man Newman, while instructing on the proper way to mark the passing years within a life.

Yet wiser such, than he whom blank despair
And fostered grief’s ungainful toil enslave;
Lodged in whose furrowed brow thrives fretful care,
Sour graft of blighted hope; who, when the wave
Of evil rushes, yields,—yet claims to rave
At his own deed, as the stern will of heaven.
In sooth against his Maker idly brave,
Whom e’en the creature-world has tossed and
driven,
Cursing the life he mars, ‘a boon so kindly given.’

Stanza 4 speaks of another way that worldly men waste their precious time on earth — by giving in to worries and despair; yet at this vulnerable point, the pitiable man will try to boast of his many good deeds, refusing still to think of his Maker; his hope thus blighted causes him to mar “a boon so gladly given” – that gift of life. Here too Newman reflects on his college experience, and his worries to win honors as an undergraduate.

 

He dreams of mischief; and that brainborn ill
Man’s open face bears in his jealous view.
Fain would he fly his doom; that doom is still
His own black thoughts, and they must aye
pursue.
Too proud for merriment, or the pure dew
Soft glistening on the sympathising cheek;
As some dark, lonely, evil-natured yew,
Whose poisonous fruit—so fabling poets speak—
Beneath the moon’s pale gleam the midnight hag
doth seek.

In Stanza 5, this forlorn worldly man seeking to escape his black thoughts dreams of “mischief” and he pretends that his actions are without consequences. Yet even this will not bring him joy, instead these thoughts have the opposite effect; they poison the mind, as if fruit from the yew tree has been consumed. This will be the effect of giving into these dark thoughts instead of what should happen! And what should happen Newman reveals in the final stanzas: he gives the happy and proper way to mark the passing of time.

No! give to me, Great Lord, the constant soul,
Nor fooled by pleasure nor enslaved by care;
Each rebel-passion (for Thou canst) controul,
And make me know the tempter’s every snare.
What, though alone my sober hours I wear,
No friend in view, and sadness o’er my mind
Throws her dark veil?—Thou but accord this
prayer,
And I will bless Thee for my birth, and find
That stillness breathes sweet tones, and solitude is
kind.

In the 6th stanza is Newman’s joyous response to these worldly afflictions – the gift of a “constant” soul, which is “Nor fooled by pleasure nor enslaved by care;”

Newman prays in this stanza to be saved from passions and from the tempter’s snare, and when he is all alone, and perhaps even lonely, without friends to cheer his way, he will even still revel in the silence, for then he can, in his solitude, hear the quiet and “kind” whispers of Christ.

Each coming year, O grant it to refine
All purer motions of this anxious breast;
Kindle the steadfast flame of love divine,
And comfort me with holier thoughts possest;
Till this worn body slowly sink to rest,
This feeble spirit to the sky aspire,—
As some long-prisoned dove toward her nest—
There to receive the gracious full-toned lyre,
Bowed low before the Throne ‘mid the bright
seraph choir.

The final stanza is a poem unto itself! For in this stanza, Newman looks to heaven with hope, the desire of his heart, after passing many birthdays as a servant to Christ – the desire that he would, even as his body grows more feeble, have a spirit that grows stronger, and filled more with holier thoughts … His last image, of his soul being an imprisoned dove that will, at death – be released to find comfort in her nest …. Which for Newman is heaven … and then to join into the celestial choir, praising God.

In this poem, Newman has expressed gratitude, praise, and a yearning for heaven, even as he warns against the follies of the world. Happy Birthday, John Henry!

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There is a clear picture that emerges from these glimpses into life at The Oratory School: Education was in service of man, not the other way around. Play found its proper place, not only as a balance to rigorous academic study, but as an important part of human development.

O most Sacred, most loving Heart of Jesus, Thou art concealed in the Holy Eucharist, and Thou beatest for us still.

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What is the doctrine of the Trinity? The Athanasian Creed, in common use around the sixth century, formulates it this way: "We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son's is another, the Holy Spirit's another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal."

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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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