john-everett-millais-portrait-of-cardinal-newmanAdult Catholics have many questions such as: What is the Church’s doctrine on communion for married Catholics who after a civil divorce have entered into a second union? Is Jesus truly present in the Holy Eucharist? What is wrong with IVF?

These and many other questions that confuse Catholics indicate the need for deeper adult faith formation in our country and throughout the world. The degree of misinformation about religion and society has only increased with its easier access via cyberspace networks. So often writers misquote Cardinal Newman “to grow is to change” without conveying what his understanding of growth in continuity. Catholics are swayed by beliefs and practices that are contrary to the faith which many try to pass as authentic Catholic teaching.

John Henry Newman (1801-1890), English convert from the Anglican to the Catholic Church, whose feast day falls on October 9th, could be considered the patron of adult faith formation, as I propose below.

Newman lived in a nineteenth century England which was marked by modern technological development and an industrial revolution – with a consequent rise in materialism and atheism. He understood well the materialistic and relativistic culture, which is why he is able to speak to our times. He also defended the harmony between faith and reason that is so much lacking in our society. Our times prides itself in scientific advances and looks to science almost as a god. Like St. Josemaría Escrivá and St. John Paul II, he taught lay people to strive for holiness in their work and daily pursuits, whether in universities, factories or fields, finding the harmony between faith and reason.

Blessed Newman, beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on September 19, 2010, offers us a deep understanding of the Church’s tradition, teaching office and true development of doctrine, countering the prevalent and simplistic approach to growth in doctrine.

With regard to change, or what he called development in doctrine, he wrote: “(It) is indeed sometimes said that the stream is clearest near the spring. Whatever use may fairly be made of this image, it does not apply to the history of a philosophy or belief, which on the contrary is more equable, and purer, and stronger, when its bed has become deep, and broad, and full.” He explained that, for this to happen, authentic development must be in continuity with the past.

Newman is the person to whom we can turn for developing a better program for adult faith formation (RCIA) and continuing education, especially in parishes, but also at Newman centers in our universities. When adults really study and learn about the faith they discover its beauty and inner logic; they are motivated to go deeper, and they become capable of transmitting it to their children and co-workers.

Knowledge of the faith is attractive and engaging. It leads to a growth in friendship with Christ. As a result we are able to evangelize and to teach it to family and friends. Newman had many friends and cultivated friendship with people, and he realized that through genuine friendship one can have a healthy influence on others.

The study of the Catechism and the Gospels in parish adult formation can be supplemented with some selections of Newman’s writings on the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Scriptures, the Sacraments, as well as on the moral life taken from some of his books such as Development of Christian Doctrine andGrammar of Assent.

His novel Callista, about a young third century Christian convert, serves as a moving example and guide for apologetics today. In it we can see how the heroine is attracted to Christianity by a deep desire for happiness. Soon she begins to read the New Testament, discovers the person of Jesus Christ, and starts to listen to her moral conscience speaking to her of right and wrong. The Church’s doctrine makes things clear for her, and in the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, she finds union with her new Love.

Adult faith formation and continuing education should include the study of the lives of saints, and their writings. It should also include Church history, for example, The History of the Church by Peter Armenio (from the Didache series). For more detailed studies there are the works of Philip Hughes or Christopher Dawson.

But accepting the Church’s moral teaching requires more than doctrine, or better a doctrine that becomes part of one’s life. Christian formation is a path that entails growth in virtue and the habit of daily prayer. The writings of saints like St. Theresa of Àvila, St. Thérèse of Lisieux and St. Francis de Sales are fundamental guides along this path. Here, too, Newman serves himself as a guide. In addition to his sermons, in particular the Parochial and Plain Sermonsfrom his Anglican period, he offers beautiful mediations and prayers composed as a Roman Catholic (Meditations and Devotions).

Just as there are patrons for all types of endeavors we need a patron for adult formation, and Blessed Newman is just that person. However, first he would need to be canonized – which we hope will take place in the near future. In the mean time, the United States bishops could obtain permission from the Holy See to celebrate throughout the country the memorial Mass each year on his saint’s day, October 9.

[Editor’s note: see Blessed John Henry Newman, Ora Pro Nobis.]

This article first appeared on Catholic Lane on October 9, 2016

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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."

The true light of Christ’s divinity was made visible to the Apostles at the Transfiguration.

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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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