Eeckhout_Elisha_and_the_Shunammite_woman
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Elisha a Type of Christ and His Followers
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Elisha with the Shunnamite Woman (Gerbrand von de Eeckhout, 1649)

Unless we pay close attention to the Scriptures, we can confuse Elijah and his disciple Elisha, or think that the latter was somehow less important than his teacher. 

In a careful reading of the Book of Kings, John Henry Newman noted that both prophets share many traits:  both worked miracles;  withstood kings; both manifested God’s mercy to pagans; both lived in the same land and time, and they both witnessed against idolatry.

Despite their similarities, Newman distinguishes the character and works of each. Whereas Elijah was an ascetic who lived a solitary life, a great reformer of Israel, avenging God for idolatry with the sword, Elisha “lived in the world, mixed with all classes of people, had greater political influence (as we now call it), and the higher invisible gifts.”

Although all the prophets are types of Christ, Newman suggests that Elisha is more a type of Christ than Elijah who is more a type of St. John the Baptist even though unlike the Baptist, Elijah performed miracles.

Newman explains: “I think we may say that, as Elijah represents the Baptist, Christ’s forerunner, so Elisha prefigures Christ’s successors, His servants which come after Him and inherit His gifts; Christ Himself being exactly represented by neither, coming between them, or (if at all) represented by both at once, when the one was departing, and the other taking his place.”

For Newman, Elisha is more like a type of Christ’s “favored and special servants” in which he includes not only bishops but those ascetics, founders of orders, doctors and others who have special marks of holiness. He identifies, among others, the following points of resemblance of Elisha with the lives of saints:

  1.     Like Elisha who received a double portion of the Spirit of Elijah, the saints received the Holy Spirit at the waters of the Jordan.
  2.     Christ’s servants are aware of the great communion of saints. This is exemplified in the life of Elisha. On finding himself surrounded by a Syrian army, his servant asked what they should do. Elisha answered, “Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” [2 Kings vi. 15-17.
  3.     The saints have the gift of discerning spirits. Such was the case with Elisha who was able to reveal to the King of Israel the plans of the King of Syria, and when he foretold the evil Hazael, future King of Syria would do to Israel.
  4.     The prophet Elisha also had power of inflicting spiritual censures and punishments as when he blinded some Syrians (2 Kings vi. 18.) or foretold the death of a ruler who scoffed at a prophecy (2 Kings vii. 2.)
  5.     Elisha was gifted with an extraordinary sanctity that a touch of his relics raised a person who had died….. Such miracles occurred when St. Peter’s shadow fell on some who were sick and others were touched by a handkerchief used by St. Paul.  
  6.     The miracles worked by Elisha point to the sacraments, for instance the cleansing of Naaman suggests baptism, and the multiplication of loaves is a reference to the Holy Eucharist.
  7.     Elisha spoke with authority to men and women, high and low, for example the Shunammite woman and Naaman, the minister of the Syrian King.

In this sermon, Newman does not give examples from the lives of saints except for SS Peter and Paul, but in modern times we know of how St. John Vianney multiplied the flour to feed the children of the parish school; St. John Bosco foretold the death of many, and St. Padre Pio could read the thoughts of many who came to confession.

 Newman draws the conclusion that God’s almighty power accompanies the Church, and much lies beneath the appearance of what is visible. He writes:

 “If Elisha be in spirit still among us, I mean, if the Church of Christ, viewed in her rulers, her confessors, her ascetics, and her doctors, be represented in the prophetic writings, such as Elisha is described in the history of Israel, how much have we to learn before we gain a clear and simple view of its real character! What a veil is on the eyes of men who treat it as a mere institution of this world!”

In God’s Church there is more than meets the eye. God raises saints to teach, correct and guide, and through whom He also continues to work miracles. The saints, like the prophet Elisha, are types of Christ, and they remind us of the supernatural aspect of the Church which lies beneath the surface of things. They invite us to greater faith in God and his action in the Church and the world.

 

 


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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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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
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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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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.

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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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“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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