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In our last reflection, we admitted that while we have several sources to consult as we attempt to listen to our Lord, they all require interpretation. The Holy Scriptures are a primary means of communication from God, but applying them to our lives can be difficult, especially Old Testament passages that speak to us from a different place and time. When we apply the Scriptures to our lives, we should consult the Church’s teaching, our spiritual director or mentor, and wise brothers and sisters. That said, we have to apply our judgment, and when we do so, we should seek to hear what the Lord is saying to us and avoid simplicity while remaining simple. Simplicity consists in trying to make concepts easy while leaving out important nuances; but being simple consists in facing difficulties, doubts, and contingencies for what they are and wrestling with them.

St. John Henry Newman was simple in his approach to the Scriptures. He took the Scriptures seriously, even when they were difficult to understand. For example, he read the Psalmist’s words in regard to hating his enemies, and he did not dismiss them as antiquated. In fact, he called on his listeners to consider the endurance of Psalms in particular, despite the complicated and often harsh feelings we find in them: “And such, in fact, has ever been the temper of the Christian Church; in evidence of which I need but appeal to the impressive fact that the Jewish Psalter has been the standard book of Christian devotion from the first down to this day. I wish we thought more of this circumstance. Can anyone doubt that, supposing that blessed manual of faith and love had never been in use among us, great numbers of the present generation would have clamoured against it as unsuitable to express Christian [sic] feelings, as deficient in charity and kindness?”

In the Psalmist’s harsh words, Newman recognized zeal for God and hatred for sin. But he knew this could not contradict Jesus’ command to love our enemies. Here is how he wrestled with this challenge: “Of course it is absolutely sinful to have any private enmities. Not the bitterest personal assaults upon us should induce us to retaliate. We must do good for evil, ‘love those who hate, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who despitefully use us.’ It is only when it is impossible at once to be kind to them, and give glory to God, that we may cease to act kindly towards them. When David speaks of hating God’s enemies, it was under circumstances when keeping friends with them would have been a desertion of the Truth . . . But no personal feeling must intrude itself in any case.”

However, even when Christians are called to hate God’s enemies as David was called to do, it is also our duty to show them mercy when they are in need. Newman says, “ . . . it is quite compatible with the most earnest zeal, to offer kind offices to God’s enemies when in distress.” Jesus Himself says that God rains on the just and unjust, and neither belief, attitude, or behavior of His enemies prevents God, or should prevent us, from caring for them in their need.

When we must confront these enemies, as the Psalmist did, we must do so with the intention of saving them. “And, further, the Christian keeps aloof from sinners in order to do them good. He does so in the truest and most enlarged charity. It is a narrow and weak feeling to please a man here, and to endanger his soul. A true friend is he who speaks out, and, when a man sins, shows him that he is displeased at the sin.” These are hard words for us to accept, and perhaps harder to apply. We have so many examples these days of judgmental Christians, believers who are more concerned with telling others how little they think of them, that we can be hesitant to step into the role of judge. Here, other Scriptures can give us perspective. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples to take the log out of their own eyes before they tell their brother about the speck in his eye. The good judge shares his care for his neighbor in seeking to restore him to God’s grace, but he doesn’t do so until he examines himself and his motives first.

The motive of the lover of God is clear: “Accordingly, the more zealous a Christian is, therefore is he the more charitable.” There is nothing contradictory about these two sentiments, which find their unity in God and the saints. “Joseph could speak strangely to his brethren, and treat them as spies, put one of them in prison, and demand another from Canaan, while he hardly refrained himself in doing so, and his bowels yearned over them; and by turns he punished them, and wept for them. Oh, that there was in us this high temper of mingled austerity and love! Barely do we conceive of severity by itself, and of kindness by itself; but who unites them? We think we cannot be kind without ceasing to be severe.”

A student of the Scriptures often finds himself at odds with his culture and his nature. It is good and necessary to wrestle with difficult passages and strange sentiments, which challenge us to listen closely to our Lord. The Jewish people regularly confronted the prevailing culture at the time, so that Newman says of them, “It required an exceeding moral courage in the Jews to enable them to go straight forward, seduced neither by their feelings nor their reason.” 

God requires at least the same courage from us, who have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. That same Spirit will empower us as He did the apostles and all the saints who have said, “Lord, your will be done, if you but do it within me.”

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What is the doctrine of the Trinity? The Athanasian Creed, in common use around the sixth century, formulates it this way: "We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son's is another, the Holy Spirit's another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal."

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What is the doctrine of the Trinity? The Athanasian Creed, in common use around the sixth century, formulates it this way: "We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son's is another, the Holy Spirit's another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal."

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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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