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In this ingenious poem, “Candlemas,” Blessed John Henry Newman weaves together the entire liturgical year using the theme of light as the thread. In Newman’s day (and still in the Traditional calendar), the Christmas season ended 40 days after Christmas on February 2nd with simultaneous feasts: the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. These feasts are an extension of Christ’s Nativity.

It was Simeon to whom Mary presented Jesus, and in his prophecy to her, found in the Gospel of St. Luke (2:34-35), he told Mary her heart would be pierced with a sword. Before Simeon gave this prophecy to Our Lady, he referred to her infant Son as the Light to be the revelation of the Gentiles, and because of this, light and candles play an important role in the Mass, when the candles for devotional use throughout the year are blessed, hence the name for this Feast – “Candlemas.” Newman not only brings all of this into the poem in the first two stanzas, but manages in the third stanza to extend the light imagery up to and including the Paschal candle, lit on Holy Saturday.

Before the Paschal candle is lit, though, there will be the long “dim” season of lent. In another masterful stroke, Newman, in the fifth stanza equates the sword which pierces Mary’s heart to the wounds we give Our Lord by our sins.

The regular rhythm and uniform lines of 4 iambic feet alternating with lines of 3 iambic feet, give this lovely poem the sound of a hymn, which indeed Newman intended for it to be.

Though this beautiful hymn is not found in hymnals, nevertheless, it is sung in many oratories to the grand tune: Old Winchester.

Candlemas (A Song.)

THE Angel-lights of Christmas morn,

   Which shot across the sky,

Away they pass at Candlemas,

   They sparkle and they die.


Comfort of earth is brief at best,

   Although it be divine;

Like funeral lights for Christmas gone,

   Old Simeon’s tapers shine.


And then for eight long weeks and more,

   We wait in twilight grey,

Till the high candle sheds a beam

   On Holy Saturday.


We wait along the penance-tide

   Of solemn fast and prayer;

While song is hush’d, and lights grow dim

   In the sin-laden air.


And while the sword in Mary’s soul

   Is driven home, we hide

In our own hearts, and count the wounds

   Of passion and of pride.


And still, though Candlemas be spent

   And Alleluias o’er,

Mary is music in our need,

   And Jesus light in store. (The Oratory 1849)


In the last stanza, Newman brings light into all time, by reminding us that Jesus is and ever shall be the light of the world, and His Mother, our mother, music to us, rest for the weary soul.

The Virgin Mary presented Jesus in the Temple as a child, and at the foot of the Cross she stands next to her Son. Both in joy and in suffering, she reflects the light of Christ. Are we ready to stand with her, and to allow Christ’s light to shine in our hearts?    


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The world which sees only appearances cannot comprehend the hidden reality of a heart captive to Christ. 

With this indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have the indwelling of Christ in our souls. Christ is born in us. The Holy Spirit makes us children of God, crying out Abba Father, and restores in us the likeness of Christ.

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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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