October 2 is the Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels, and so the beautiful poem, “Guardian Angel,” by Blessed John Henry Newman, is appropriate for this week in which we have commemorated our faithful friends. In addition, in this week we recall the foundation of Opus Dei on Oct 2,1928 – on the feast of the Guardian Angels. St Josemaria’s devotion to these angels, whom he saw as celestial protectors and messengers, went back to his childhood. Many saints, like St. Josemaría and Blessed Newman, have had special devotion to these dear companions, assigned to us at birth.

In this moving poem, Blessed Newman tells us of his love for his angel, but he also gives  sound Catholic teaching on guardian angels. “Guardian Angel” is one of Newman’s hymn poems, written after he had established the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in England. Newman’s earlier poetry, before he converted to Catholicism, was written during the Oxford Movement, and is often complex and can be difficult to understand. The early poetry was written for a different purpose than his later poetry; these later poems he wrote expressly to be sung as hymns, with the intent that they be easy to understand, especially by children. These hymn poems are straightforward and charming in their lyrical language. “Guardian Angel” is another fine example of Newman’s hymn poems; the verses need little explanation. This poem can be sung to several hymn tunes, since it is in Common Meter.


“Guardian Angel”


MY oldest friend, mine from the hour

   When first I drew my breath;

My faithful friend, that shall be mine,

   Unfailing, till my death;


No beating heart in holy prayer,

   No faith, inform’d aright,

Gave me to Joseph’s tutelage,

   Or Michael’s conquering might.


Nor patron Saint, nor Mary’s love,

   The dearest and the best,

Has known my being, as thou hast known,

   And blest, as thou hast blest.


Thou wast my sponsor at the font;

   And thou, each budding year,

Didst whisper elements of truth

   Into my childish ear.


And when, ere boyhood yet was gone,

   My rebel spirit fell,

Ah! thou didst see, and shudder too,

   Yet bear each deed of Hell.


And then in turn, when judgments came,

   And scared me back again,

Thy quick soft breath was near to soothe

   And hallow every pain.


Oh! who of all thy toils and cares

   Can tell the tale complete,

To place me under Mary’s smile,

   And Peter’s royal feet!


And thou wilt hang about my bed,

   When life is ebbing low;

Of doubt, impatience, and of gloom,

   The jealous sleepless foe.


Mine, when I stand before the Judge;

   And mine, if spared to stay

Within the golden furnace, till

   My sin is burn’d away.


And mine, O Brother of my soul,

   When my release shall come;

Thy gentle arms shall lift me then,

   Thy wings shall waft me home.  (The Oratory, 1853).


Blessed Newman calls his angel his oldest friend, who guided and helped him during every moment of his childhood, a friend who knows him completely. He thanks his angel for whispering in his ear, giving him guidance, calling him back when he had strayed. And then Newman reminds us that our guardian angels will remain with us, throughout life, and on our deathbed they will be there for us as well, lending us courage and strength in our last moments.

Newman would develop this theme more fully in “The Dream of Gerontius” written in 1865,13 years after writing the poem to his guardian angel. “The Dream of Gerontius,” his most famous poem, is a poem about the soul at the moment of death and ensuing judgment. The role of angels, particularly of the guardian angel, is one of the delightful aspects of “Gerontius.” The guardian angel accompanies Gerontius into Purgatory, but already in his earlier poem Newman teaches as well that the angel will remain by his side as his sin is “burned away” in the “golden furnace,” that is, Purgatory.

The poem “Guardian Angel” ends with a beautiful image, that of the guardian angel, whom Newman calls “brother of my soul” carrying him in his arms, the angel’s wings wafting him home, to heaven.

Do you remember your guardian angel as the ”brother of your soul”? Do you ask him for assistance? Guardian Angels, pray for us! Help guide us Home!


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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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