Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Christian Sympathy

Most people agree that to be free to choose, to determine one’s actions, is essential to what it means to be a person. Even as our country is slowly ripping apart, this idea finds broad support from the most loyal advocate of gender fluidity to the orthodox Christian. At the same time, many of us are aware of how our warped, one-dimensional commitment to the individual and his freedom robs us of other goods, especially the brotherhood of man. 

Everyone we meet is our brother or our sister. We need to consider this, especially at present when families are estranged by ideology and the pursuit of individual fulfillment. “We are all in this together” was a popular pandemic phrase meant to evoke a sense of familiarity and communion between citizens. But the sentiment was largely utilitarian. It meant, for example, “If you wear a mask it will help me and if I wear a mask it will help you – let’s make this pact.” 

But brothers and sisters, families, must be motivated by love, which frees us from using others for our ends. That love begins with sympathy, or builds upon sympathy, so that we feel what others feel and stand with them in their experiences. We can feel sympathy with any person, because we share one and the same fallen nature. St. John Henry Newman explains how even the righteous can have sympathy with the depraved: “any man of tolerably correct life, whatever his positive advancement in grace, will seldom read accounts of notoriously bad men, in which their ways and feelings are described, without being shocked to find that these more or less cast a meaning upon his own heart, and bring out into light and colour lines and shapes of thought within him, which, till then, were almost invisible. Now this does not show that bad and good men are on a level, but it shows this, that they are of the same nature.”


As sons and daughters of Adam, we share the same nature and suffer the same disease of original sin. This fact bonds us to all men, regardless of race, religion or creed. Yet a deeper sympathy dwells among Christians, Newman says. In becoming Man, Christ not only sympathized with man, “His presence in us makes us sympathise (sic) one with another . . . the Christian, as he is naturally found everywhere,—has everywhere the same temptations, and the same feelings under them, whether innocent or sinful; so that, as we are all bound together in our Head, so are we bound together, as members of one body, in that body, and believe, obey, sin, and repent, all in common.”

Despite such bonds of unity we have with all men and with Christians especially, many Western Christians live as if they were islands. Newman says, “Persons think themselves isolated in the world; they think no one ever felt as they feel. They do not dare to expose their feelings, lest they should find that no one understands them. And thus they suffer to wither and decay what was destined in God’s purpose to adorn the Church’s paradise with beauty and sweetness . . . and deny themselves the means they possess of at once imparting instruction and gaining comfort.”

In other words, we cut ourselves off from the very means of our salvation. Yes, God sees us as unique, unrepeatable beings whom He loves; but he did not create us to live in isolation. In fact, it has been said that the gifts we have, natural and spiritual, have been given to us precisely to help others, that we each have a piece of someone else’s puzzle. In Christian marriage, spouses are informed that their primary goal is to get their spouse to heaven. But the same is true, in a different way, of every person. We are all called to love, to inspire each other to deeper intimacy with our Lord. 

In 1978, the author and Soviet dissident Aleksander Solzhenitsyn gave a shocking and powerful commencement address at Harvard entitled, “A World Split Apart.” There he chastised Westerners and Americans in particular, for a diseased individualism that was actually harming individuals and the community as a whole: “The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals. It’s time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.” This is the task of every Christian. Not to ask what our rudimentary responsibilities are, but to ask what our brother or sister – in nature or in Christ – needs from us. 

Part of what makes us human is our ability to choose for ourselves, but that’s not all. We cannot be defined apart from our relationship with God and one another. It was Christ Himself who prayed that we might be one. Ask yourself today if you answer our Lord’s prayer by sympathizing with the needs of your family members, friends and coworkers. Do I seek to live with others as brothers and sisters in Christ, or am I only concerned with myself and how others can help me? 

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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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