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Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Inward Witness to the Truth of the Gospel: Part 2
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When the Sadducees heard the disciples proclaim the Gospel boldly, knowing they were “uneducated, common men, they wondered; and recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Have you ever been around someone whose very presence instructs you? That much more did the Son of God mature his disciples on earth, and whose Spirit continues to do so for every believer.

God himself is our teacher, and he uses our experience to teach us. In his sermon, “Inward Witness to the Truth of the Gospel,” Blessed John Cardinal Henry Newman shows us how one comes to the knowledge of truth. We heard in Part 1 how we must approach the truth with ears to listen and eyes to see. This is the first condition of witnessing truth. In this second part we learn why truth finds those who open themselves to it.

Blessed Newman explains that listening to the truth of God’s Word actually conditions us to understand and take it in: “…those who are trained carefully according to the precepts of Scripture, gain an elevation, a delicacy, refinement, and sanctity of mind, which is most necessary for judging fairly of the truth of Scripture.” Now, we tend to think that adherents of religion are poor judges of the truth of their own religion; after all, they want to believe it is true. Wouldn’t a nonbeliever be a more impartial judge of Scripture? Newman says that actually it is the nonbeliever whose opinion is not to be trusted, because it is against his interest to believe. Since Scripture expressly convicts sinners and bids them repent, it is actually in the interest of the hearer to reject its message as false. Assenting to its truth would require conversion from the sin our tainted hearts love. Newman says many people do not plainly reject Scripture, but do so indirectly:

“They try to persuade themselves that Christ will save them, though they continue in sin; or they wish to believe that future punishment will not last for ever; or they conceive that their good deeds or habits, few and miserable as they are at best, will make up for the sins of which they are too conscious.”

Having been conditioned to receive the uncomfortable truth of Scripture, the one who listens and obeys it gains knowledge of himself – which is the first step in knowing God, Newman explains. As one tries to follow the commandments his own heart reveals to him that he falls short of perfection, that every day he turns away from God and serves his own selfish desires. Moreover, he sees that mere effort can never bridge the gap between himself and the holiness of God and that he needs someone to save him. Here the Word of God convicts his conscience and then comforts him with the message that Christ is his Savior. In hearing this, Newman says he will see the truth like the Samaritan woman whom Jesus met at the well, for she says that Jesus knew her heart and told her everything she ever did.

God wants every man and woman to find the truth, and so he makes it plain:

“God is not a hard master to require belief, without affording grounds for believing; only follow your own sense of right, and you will gain…a conviction of the truth and …you will bear witness to the truth of one doctrine, by your own past experience of yourselves; of another, by seeing that it is suited to your necessity; of a third, by finding it fulfilled upon your obeying it.”

This inward witness to truth is our surest sense of belief in this age of skepticism, Newman says (and how much more so in our time). If and only if the truth is “lodged in our hearts” will it be enough to combat every doubt and doubter. Those who do not have an inner conviction of the truth grounded in action, but simply take it on trust of what others say, have no root in themselves and will likely fall away, Blessed Newman says.

We come to truth by way of approaching it with humility, and then listening to and obeying God, who teaches us about himself through knowledge of ourselves. If we humble ourselves, we will receive this great gift of belief and the confidence that accompanies it.

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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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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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