St. John Henry Newman teaches that the duty of Christians is to accept filial correction, not to shrink from it. In the sermon, Rebuking Sin, however, Newman is concerned with the opposite excess: a presumptuous or imprudent correction. This sermon is frighteningly relevant. Today’s expanded use of mass-media communication has multiplied those who take upon themselves what Newman calls the office of “Reprover” or “Censor,” moral policemen who are too quick to point out the flaws of others.  

The occasion of this sermon was the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist, but Newman, instead, focused on the cause of his martyrdom. St. John’s task was to “rebuke a king,” to tell Herod the Tetrarch he was wrong to have “taken his brother’s wife” (Mark 6.18). Rather than propose St. John the Baptist as an ideal model, Newman emphasizes that one should not take this role upon himself lightly. He then establishes proper criteria for filial correction. For one to effectively “rebuke vice boldly” requires personal holiness, as a duty to do so given by competent authority. Furthermore, it requires tact, prudence, and love in order to rebuke well. 

How does one rebuke well?  It requires “a maturity and consistency of principle seen and acknowledged.” It is the “necessary result” of possessing such an office, since such a call involves having a “weight of character” from which the reproof can be effectively exercised. Lacking moral character will result in “false shame, timidity, undue delicacy,” and a failure to be “prompt and collected in withstanding evil.” 

A rebuker must himself stand habitually under the “law of Christ” and be truly healed of his own sins by grace. Practically, this means being “cheerful, honest,” rebuking faults in a natural way because the rebuker views “all things in a plain and candid light … calling them by their right names.” This starts within ourselves, being frank and candid in the confessional. 

Thus, the person regenerated in holiness will not  “[keep] notions of right and wrong to himself, nor, on some conceit that the world is too bad to be taught the Truth, suffer it to sin in word or deed without rebuke.” One who lives in the light will prudently and lovingly call others into that light. When done properly, Newman notes how the “single-hearted Christian will find fault, not austerely or gloomily, but in love; not stiffly, but naturally, gently, and as a matter of course, just as he would tell his friend of some obstacle in his path which was likely to throw him down, but without any absurd feeling of superiority over him, because he was able to do so.” The end goal is not highlighting the sin, but is to point out a better way out of sin into righteousness. Failing to do so in love can not only be offensive, but can develop “a spirit of self-complacency.” Strikingly, Newman thinks that these sorts of “self-appointed censors of vice are not to be countenanced or tolerated by any serious Christian.”

Newman thinks the formal “office of a censor” flows naturally from duty, from adherence to some authority outside of oneself that authorizes an act of filial correction. Newman is chiefly concerned with the problem of “self-appointed rebukers” who take the burden upon themselves of pointing out others’ flaws “on their own authority,” and tend to do so in a public way, rather than in private conversation. Electing oneself as a moral policeman may stem from deeper sins of pride and vanity. It can be the case that those whose duty it is to point out sins have failed to do so; but the “self-appointed censors of vice,” noticing this failure, then inappropriately “flatter themselves with the notion that they are energetic champions of virtue, strenuous and useful guardians of public morals or popular rights.” This degenerates from authentic filial correction into public shaming and inflated self-righteousness. Authentic filial correction is a “divine commission,” and it is a sin to undertake it “without a call.” 

Finally, how  one goes about issuing reproof for sin must itself be holy. The one who is called to rebuke sin must be pure, to “keep from sin themselves in all things,” and to know that giving reproof often brings suffering. St. John the Baptist was, after all, beheaded. One must have counted the cost, must actively and intentionally know what is his duty, and must perform his real duty of reproving sin without concern for the outcome, like the prophet Jeremiah whose prophecies were not well received, but who nevertheless performed his duty in keeping with God’s call. A reprover must put aside his “preferences and partialities” and perform his function with respect, love, personal character, and out of his own “ripeness in Christian holiness.” St. Paul says we are but crashing cymbals if we have not love in any endeavor, natural or spiritual; St. John Henry Newman says our rebukes of sin are fruitless if we have not the “ripeness of Christian holiness.” 

While many are becoming increasingly vindictive and vitriolic about important moral questions, both online and in-person, having taken up the self-appointed offices of censor, reprover, moral policeman, Christians must be those who are neither silent nor shaming, neither apathetic nor over-zealous, but who use delicacy, prudence and rebuke “seasonably” out of an objective duty or call. Christians have a duty to shape the culture for the good; when this involves rebuking sin, it must be done “at the right time, in a right spirit, and a right manner.” Perhaps this means taking steps to more actively discern our role in the world as lay people or religious, going on retreat or frequenting more daily masses. Perhaps it means delving into deeper study on a theological or cultural topic in order to speak intelligently to an important issue being discussed in the workplace or family. Above all, we must be first conformed to the will of God in prayer, from which our thoughts, words, and deeds must flow.

Not all of us are Jeremiahs or Baptists; while we may have a duty to do or say certain things, it must start with an accurate and sanctified perception of the persons we are called to be. 

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There is a clear picture that emerges from these glimpses into life at The Oratory School: Education was in service of man, not the other way around. Play found its proper place, not only as a balance to rigorous academic study, but as an important part of human development.

O most Sacred, most loving Heart of Jesus, Thou art concealed in the Holy Eucharist, and Thou beatest for us still.

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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
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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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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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