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Since God is our Father, naturally we want to listen to Him and speak with Him about ourselves.  Regular Mass attendance does not offer enough time spent with the Father for the child of God. In other times and places this time with God has been called by different names: mental prayer, devotions, conversation with God – as the founder of Opus Dei, St. Josemaría Escrivá liked to describe it, or, simply,  private prayer. How to converse with God is the subject of Blessed John Henry Newman’s sermon, “Forms of Private Prayer.”

It does not seem necessary to learn how to do something as simple as conversation until one tries to converse with God.  But the Scripture Blessed Newman draws from – the disciples’ request to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples” – reveals the difficulty of prayer for all men and women.  Understanding our need, God, through His Church, has provided certain forms of prayer to help us: “All of us in childhood, and most men ever after, require direction how to pray; and hence the use of Forms of prayer, which have always obtained in the Church. John taught his disciples; Christ gave the Apostles the prayer which is distinguished by the name of the Lord’s Prayer. . .”

While these forms of prayer have been passed down to us from ancient times, in Blessed Newman’s day, and more emphatically in our own, the sincerity and necessity of these forms are called into question.  His defense of these forms is rooted in his understanding of God, the nature of man, and a deep life of prayer.

Newman begins by reminding his hearers of the awesomeness of God.  When we enter into prayer, we must understand whose presence we are entering.  The holiness of God should move us to reverence and silence. We come before Him as unworthy servants who need forgiveness. “Therefore, to avoid the irreverence of many or unfit words and rude half-religious thoughts, it is necessary to pray from book or memory, and not at random.”

Newman then turns to the nature of man, which is so easily distracted.  How often do our minds move from petition about our work or family to thinking about how we will get this or that task done, or our feelings towards a co-worker or family member?  Newman says: “This wandering of mind is in good measure prevented, under God’s blessing, by Forms of prayer. Thus a chief use of them is that of fixing the attention.”

Newman also praises the forms of prayer for their ability to manage religious emotionalism and to help us remember what we should pray for.   Newman points to the sobriety and simplicity of the Lord’s Prayer, which also reminds us of what is important.  We do not want to leave it to the chance that our minds will remember what needs prayer.  

Besides these practical considerations, Newman exhorts his hearers to take full joy in reciting these prayers that join us with the Church and the whole Communion of Saints.  He warns all believers not to make their faith about sentiment, but about practice. Like St. Josemaría Escrivá, who said “love means deeds, not sweet words,” Newman says, “the works of every day, these are the tests of our glorious contemplations.”

When the Lord answered His disciples’ plea and taught them how to pray, he taught us as well.  We would do well to begin with this prayer and use these words handed down to us by our Lord Himself to help us approach God, our Creator and our Father.

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