Triumph_of_faith_by_Eugene_Thirion

It seems like every week now we have news of great suffering, from forest fires to mass shootings to plane crashes.  It’s hard to listen to the stories and to think of those who died tragically, especially as many of us live undisturbed, comfortable lives.  Then, to imagine that there are some who have chosen to suffer for the sake of their faith, this can shake us. They are the martyrs, literally witnesses, to the Christian faith; and their witness should wake us during this Lent.  In his sermon, “Martyrdom,” Blessed John Henry Newman helps us understand the nature of the martyr’s sacrifice and its effect on us.

Though there have been martyrs all throughout Christian history, including today, Blessed Newman looks to the martyrs of the early Church for his examples.  The suffering and death of these martyrs was as foreign to ancient culture as it is to our own for two reasons. First, their suffering was voluntary. They lived their lives with warnings of persecution, threats of torture if they continued in the Way, and daily anxiety over their own safety and the safety of their loved ones.  Their fears were compounded by temptations to abandon the faith, and pressure from those who did abandon it to join them.

Newman imagines the mental state of the faithful during these times: “They sigh for peace; they gradually come to believe that the world is not so wrong as some men say it is, and that it is possible to be over-strict and over-nice. They learn to temporize and to be double-minded. First one falls, then another; and such instances come as an additional argument for concession to those that remain firm as yet, who of course feel dispirited, lonely, and begin to doubt the correctness of their own judgment; while, on the other hand, those who have fallen, in self-defence become their tempters.” When they finally came to the end, “Death, their final suffering, was but the consummation of a life of anticipated death,” Newman says.

Blessed Newman points out that we may know of people who have suffered worse through disease or accident, or those who have endured trials and death against their will, and yet it is quite another thing to walk voluntarily into tribulation.  We must not confuse this attitude with suicide, in which despair of living overcomes the desire to live. These martyrs knew the value of their lives, but they forfeited them because something was more valuable – that is, love of God and their fellow men.  Rather than deny their Lord, they chose to witness to His consuming love, which was more real than the fire that consumed them. Tertullian, writing in the second century, said, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” Their witness showed the world that there is something, or rather Someone, whose love is greater than life itself.

The second reason their suffering was altogether different was that it was public.  In a culture where honor and respect were of great importance, their voluntary acceptance of public humiliation and death was shocking.  Newman compares it with suffering and death in his day – “It was a death, cruel in itself, publicly inflicted: and heightened by the fierce exultation of a malevolent populace. When we are in pain, we can lie in peace by ourselves. We receive the sympathy and kind services of those about us; and if we like it, we can retire altogether from the sight of others, and suffer without a witness to interrupt us. But the sufferings of martyrdom were for the most part public, attended with every circumstance of ignominy and popular triumph, as well as with torture.”

We can hardly imagine what it meant to be Christian during these perilous times and for these Christians to choose Christ over comfort, to enter into suffering and death not as an act of resignation, but of love.  Newman concludes that their witness is enough to make those of us who live comfortable Christian lives feel as low as dirt – “What are we but sinful dust and ashes, growlers who are creeping on to heaven, not with any noble sacrifice for Christ’s cause, but without pain, without trouble, in the midst of worldly blessings!…Notwithstanding, after all, if we get to heaven, surely we shall be the lowest of the saints there assembled; and if all are unprofitable servants, we verily shall be the most unprofitable of all.”

Lent is the perfect time for humility.  By our prayer, fasting, and charity, we hope to imitate our Lord and these great saints who were motivated by love.  We should not miss this opportunity to tell Our Lord that although we have so little to offer Him, we want to offer him more each day, to say yes to His every prompting.  Do not forget to ask for the intercession of these great saints who were sinful men and women like us, but who let God use them mightily.

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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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