Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Newman's Umbrella

Newman’s Umbrella 

Newman, growing up in London, was familiar with cockney slang and used colloquial language in his letters.  Perhaps, he sympathised with his Oxford parishioners having, as his 1824 diary notes, buried “Gedge the umbrella maker” by calling him ‘the Brolly Man’.  A popular English expression for an umbrella is ‘a brolly’. How often Newman protected those he wrote to, undergoing the storms of religious doubt, with an ‘over-arching canopy’ of reassurance. We see an example of this sure shelter in his 1839 Sermon, heralding the journey of forty days with Christ to Calvary and beyond:

From the first age downward, not a year has passed but Christians have been exhorted to reflect how far they have let go that birthright, as a preparation for claiming the blessing.  At Christmas we are born again with Christ; at Easter we keep the Eucharistic feast. In Lent by penance, we join the two sacraments together. (Parochial and Plain Sermons VI, 2).

In thanksgiving for his spiritual reading on 27 March 1867, two weeks into the penitential season of accompanying Jesus in the wilderness, Newman enthusiastically responds to Emily Bowden’s gift: “…I rejoice to have this volume… I have long had a devotion to the Fathers of the Desert.” (Letters and Diaries XXIII,110).

Newman also sounds a note of caution – advising us not to set unrealistic Lenten goals. They are to be challenging, but achievable and carefully tailored.

We should very much be on our guard when we are engaged and contemplating the lives of Holy Men, against attempting just what they did; which might be right indeed in them, and yet to be wrong in us…We ought to attempt nothing but what we can do. (Parochial and Plain Sermons VI, 3).

Newman outlines the consequences of choosing penances which are too difficult to manage and become occasions of sin, which harm others, through our inevitable “ill-temper”. (Parochial and Plain Sermons VI, I).

He also warns us to be watchful: “It will be a sad remembrance…if we shall find after all that we have undone what was right and profitable in our Lent exercises by a relapse in Easter-tide.” (Parochial and Plain Sermons VI,3).

Newman recognizes that every serious spiritual intent benefits from a lightness of approach. Struggling to manage this balance himself, he crisply replies to Miss Munro’s Pre-Lent letter of 11 February 1850, because her friend, Miss Moore, has described him as “a saint”:

I have nothing of the Saint about me as everyone knows …I may have a high view of many things but this is very different from being what I admire… It is enough for me to black the saint’s shoes – if St Philip uses blacking in heaven. (Letters and Diaries XIII, 419).

Newman encouraged everyone to believe that becoming holy was within their reach and offered the following practical advice as a guide to reflecting upon Jesus’ risen presence at work in every event of their lives. Sharing a proverbial expression, commonly used by his congregation, he concludes:

It is an old saying, “out of sight, out of mind”. Be sure, so it will be, so it must be with us, as regards our blessed Saviour, unless we make continual efforts all through the day to think of Him, His love, His precepts, His gift, and His promises. We must recall what we read in the Gospels and in holy books about Him; we must bring before us what we have heard in Church; we must pray God to enable us to do so…In a word we must meditate, for all this is meditation; and this even the most unlearned person can do and will do, if he has the will to do it. (Parochial and Plain Sermons VI, 4).

Fr Peter Conley

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

We call His presence in this Holy Sacrament a spiritual presence, not as if ‘spiritual’ were but a name or mode of speech.

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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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