red breasted birds

 

In 1848, St. John Henry Newman composed a short and well-known meditation on personal vocation or mission. It is a powerful, ennobling consideration, which, in just a few words, teaches us the importance of our lives on earth. This meditation tells us about our nobility as children of the living God, and as such, is an appropriate introduction to Newman’s 1831 Pentecost sermon entitled, “Christian Nobleness.”  Newman’s vocation meditation begins, “God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments . . . .”. And we are able to fulfill this mission on earth, because of the descent of the Holy Spirit into the world. 

In Greek, the greatest good, agathon, is defined by a life that involves the exercise of the highest faculties, fulfilling a person’s telos or end. For Aristotle, whom Newman held in high regard, this goal of fulfilling a person’s end would bring eudaimonia, that is, happiness or contentment, a life of flourishing.  For a Christian, our end is heaven, and the highest good is to live the life of nobility, that is, a life that befits children of God.

In the sermon, “Christian Nobleness,” St. John Henry observes that the apostles, who knew Jesus so well on earth, had to come to terms with a very different type of fellowship with Him through the spirit, after He left them. The disciples, who were used to a natural, convivial relationship with our Lord, after receiving His gift of the Holy Spirit sent to them (and to us) was meant to comfort them, but this comfort was, “a serious, sober, lasting comfort, full of reverence, deep in contemplation.” It is a nobleness, one which engenders a “greatness of mind” and should bring the “deepest humility.” This nobleness is, according to Newman, one of the great “Christian privileges.” This characteristic of the Christian mind is the expression of the supernatural life, the divine life which God shares with his children.

Newman reminds us that the apostles, too, had to learn how to live their lives with this great gift, and in his Pentecost homily, he challenges us to a new mode of life:

“Christians are called upon to think little of the ordinary objects which men pursue – wealth, luxury, distinction, popularity, and power . . . If the goods of this world came in their way, they were not bound to decline them; nor would they forbid others in the religious use of them; but they thought them vanities, the toys of children, which serious men let drop.” 

We have grown used to our easy comfort and benefits of an advanced society. When the world was fearful of the Covid19 virus, a modicum of concern over what life is about seemed to enter into the hearts of many. Now that the pandemic is not so worrisome, many have returned to their former life of living only for the day, not considering what their last end might be, wrapped up in a selfish and materialistic view of the world. In contrast, St. John Henry explains that a Christian should behave with devotion and reverence towards the Divine Master, keeping in mind that God’s eye is over him, and God’s hand upon him, and God’s voice within him.

The conclusion of the pentecost sermon is invigorating … we have a mission to do while we are on earth, to live our lives as God intended. He invites us to put into practice our spiritual resolutions, to grow in devotion, taking pleasure in religious worship and aiming towards holiness. He reminds Chrsitians to meditate and to practice mortification, living as heirs and citizens of the kingdom of heaven. We must remember St. Paul’s entreaty to redeem the times in which we live (Eph 5:14-17).

The Christian is aware of the difficulty of the task before him and of his own weakness and sinfulness. Newman ends his short meditation on vocation with the following thoughts:

“Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.”

At times we may momentarily doubt God’s calling or question the difficulties we encounter along the way. If this were to happen we should consider the greatness or nobility of God’s calling, and make some of the acts of faith and trust in God suggested by that noble English soul, St. John Henry Newman.

 

Like this article?

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.

Leave a comment

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."

Our Books

About Cardinal John Henry Newman

Purchase Book


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)

Purchase Book

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

Purchase Book


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.  

Purchase Book


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.

Purchase Book


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.

Purchase Book


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.
Sermon Blog
David Warren

Newman, Education and Sport

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.

Read More »
Sermon Blog
David Warren

The Mystery of the Holy Trinity

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.”

Read More »
About Newman
Fr. Juan Velez

The Eucharistic Presence

We call His presence in this Holy Sacrament a spiritual presence, not as if ‘spiritual’ were but a name or mode of speech.

Read More »