Wisdom

We have just celebrated the Feast of All Saints, the day we honor those who have attained what should be the goal of every Christian:  “To know God, love God, to serve Him, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.” The saints are now happy with God forever; they learned well how to love and serve Him while in this world. St. John Henry Newman can now be counted among their number.  Serving God well on earth includes understanding and practicing repentance, “ … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). St. John Henry gives valuable insight into Christian repentance, using the parable of the prodigal son to do so.

Most are familiar with this parable of the profligate son who squandered his inheritance, lived with swine, saw the error of his ways, and returned as a servant to his father, who welcomed him back, rejoicing. But St. John Henry shows that this well known tale can be misinterpreted. He writes:

“ … We need not understand the description of the returning prodigal to imply that there is a state of disobedience and subsequent state of conversion definitely marked in the life of Christians generally. It describes the state of all Christians at all times  … fulfilled in one way and measure at the beginning of our Christian course, and in another at the end. So I shall now consider it, viz. as describing the nature of all true repentance.”

Newman explains that there is not just a one-time repentance, when a sinner is “saved” and all is well. On the contrary.

“Repentance is a work carried on at diverse times, and but gradually and with many reverses perfected …It is a work never complete, never entire…  We are ever sinning, we must ever be renewing our sorrow…. The most perfect Christian is to himself but a beginner, a penitent prodigal, who has squandered God’s gifts, and comes to Him to be tried over again, not as a son, but as a hired servant.” 

We must remember, teaches Newman, this prodigal  was first a beloved son. This son chose to leave his father at some point in his blessed life. And when he returns home, he does not make any request of his father. He simply desires to come home as a servant.

“Such is that perfect way … which our Lord enjoins in the parable—a surrender. The prodigal son waited not for his father to show signs of placability…. He made up his mind at once to degradation …  [and] perhaps to rejection … and the willingness to bear the heavy yoke of bond-servants, if He should put it upon us.”

St. Josemaría teaches the very same: “Human life is in some way a constant returning to our Father’s house. We return through contrition, through the conversion of heart which means a desire to change….  We return to our Father’s house by means of that sacrament of pardon in which, by confessing our sins, we put on Jesus Christ again and become His brothers, members of God’s family.” (Christ is Passing By)

This understanding of sin and repentance, that of total surrender to God, is anything but “easy grace.” Newman stretches us to see this parable as one for everyone, even those of us who have striven to be good Christians, going frequently to confession. He writes:

“ … The truest kind of repentance … is gained by long practice—it will come at length. The dying Christian will fulfil the part of the returning prodigal more exactly than he ever did in his former years.”

St. John Henry wants us to realize that we are ever the prodigal son, in need of constant surrender throughout our lives, approaching our heavenly Father as a servant. This is something Christians must practice. Newman ends this thought-provoking sermon thus: “Doubtless you must render yourselves to God’s mercy here, or else be forced away before His anger hereafter. ’Today, while it is called today, harden not your hearts.’ [Heb. iii. 7-15.]”

Are you in the habit of regular confession? Do you have a certain time, perhaps the same Saturday of each month, when you go to confession? This regularity of confession is the “practicing” of which Newman speaks. We approach the confessional as prodigal children, surrendering ourselves over and over again. In this time of doctrinal confusion, we must remember to keep our eyes on Christ, to remember that He is the Paschal Lamb, and through HIm and Him alone, are the doors of heaven opened. And then we can hope to be welcomed at last into heaven, to live with Him forever, and from our labors rest with St. John Henry and all the saints. 

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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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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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