Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Keeping Fast and Festival
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In books, online and in the company of others, we can always find advice on how to handle difficulties, but counsel on how to celebrate  is hard to find. There are whole programs devoted to fasting, but what about feasting? Most of us don’t think we need advice on feasting. But a quick survey of how Americans celebrate holidays and events should show us otherwise: On Thanksgiving, we eat excessively until we fall asleep; Christmas is full of ceremony, but it doesn’t last long, as the day after is also considered a holiday: Box Day, the day we return the gifts we don’t want; When youth reach the age of 21 in our culture, the standard practice is for them to drink until they need their friends to help them walk out of the bar; 

Among Christians, the problem is just as pervasive. We know what the excesses of feasting look like, and we attempt to avoid them, but we don’t know how to feast well. St. John Henry Newman, in his sermon “Keeping Fast and Festival,” teaches us how to approach feasting – specifically the very feasting we are engaged in during Easter season. 

There is something different about the joy that Easter brings, and Newman adroitly identifies it: “at Easter our joy is highly wrought and refined in its character. It is not the spontaneous and inartificial outbreak which the news of Redemption might occasion, but it is thoughtful; it has a long history before it, and has run through a long course of feelings before it becomes what it is. It is a last feeling and not a first.” That long history is the penance of Lent, the mortifications we impose on ourselves and our identification with Christ’s suffering on the cross. 

Leaving Lent and entering Easter can be disorienting. Newman compares it to recovering from a feverish sickness. In sickness we can have strange dreams, confusion and volatile emotions. So also in our time of suffering during Lent, while we attempt to live and understand the mysteries of Christ’s suffering and death, we can become disoriented in the process. Sometimes our emotions match the moment, and at other times they contradict it. “Only at moments his heart has caught a vivid glimpse of what was continually before his reason,—because the impression it made upon him was irregular, shifting, and transitory,—because even when he contemplated steadily his Saviour’s sufferings, he did not, could not understand the deep reasons of them, or the meaning of His Saviour’s words” Newman says.

Slowly, as the clouds clear, joy arrives. This joy is a concluding feeling, Newman says, because it started as sorrow and upon sorrow it depends. Those who have grieved during Lent have the greatest share in that rejoicing. Therefore, entering into Christ’s passion is the first prerequisite to sharing in the joy of the Resurrection.

The second is to enter into the season of Easter, just as we enter into Lent. Lent is long enough to demand more than a simple, effortless sacrifice. It requires a change in lifestyle. The same change should occur in Easter. Newman says, “In such a spirit let us endeavour to celebrate this most holy of all Festivals, this continued festal Season, which lasts for fifty days, whereas Lent is forty, as if to show that where sin abounded, there much more has grace abounded.” Easter is not just a day of celebration to come in and go out with a bang. It’s a season of entering into the freedom and joy Christ’s glorious Resurrection has brought us, and to be propelled out into the world with the Good News.

The third prerequisite to sharing in the joy of Easter, and of feasting in general, is to possess the virtue of temperance, which helps us rightly enjoy created things: “Sobriety in feasting which previous fasting causes, is itself much to be prized, and especially worth securing. For in this does Christian mirth differ from worldly, that it is subdued; and how shall it be subdued except that the past keeps its hold upon us, and while it warns and sobers us, actually indisposes and tames our flesh against indulgence? In the world feasting comes first and fasting afterwards; men first glut themselves, and then loathe their excesses; they take their fill of good, and then suffer; they are rich that they may be poor; they laugh that they may weep; they rise that they may fall. But in the Church of God it is reversed; the poor shall be rich, the lowly shall be exalted, those that sow in tears shall reap in joy, those that mourn shall be comforted, those that suffer with Christ shall reign with Him.” A man truly enjoys wine when he knows when to stop drinking. 

Newman’s advice on feasting reminds us that sanctity takes effort. To follow Christ, it’s not sufficient to avoid excesses and to pile on penances – the Pharisees accomplished both. If we desire holiness, we will walk with Christ in His sorrow and rise with Him in His glory, aiming always to imitate Him and inviting others to join us.

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

With this indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have the indwelling of Christ in our souls. Christ is born in us. The Holy Spirit makes us children of God, crying out Abba Father, and restores in us the likeness of Christ.

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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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