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“Our Future” – St. John Henry Newman

It has already become cliché at the end of this tumultuous year to exclaim that 2021 has got to be better. But better in what way? And what happens if 2021 is, instead, worse? And by what yardstick do we measure such sentiments? Aren’t we as Christians called upon to sanctify and give thanks for all time, even difficult times? St. John Henry Newman helps us answer these questions in his poem, “Our Future.” He begins with a quote from the Gospel of St. John 13:7, in which Christ hints at His future suffering: “What I do, thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.”  In the first stanza that follows, Newman ponders what would happen if we were given foreknowledge of the future: 


“What I do, thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know


             Did we but see,

When life first open’d, how our journey lay

Between its earliest and its closing day,

    Or view ourselves, as we one time shall be,

Who strive for the high prize, such sight would


The youthful spirit, though bold for Jesu’s sake.


In this stanza, Newman says that if we, when young, knew what lay before us in our life’s journey, it might break our spirit, even if we intended our life to be for Christ. In the next lines of this short poem, St. John Henry addresses Christ directly, thanking Christ for sparing him this knowledge of his future.


             But Thou, dear Lord!

Whilst I traced out bright scenes which were to


Isaac’s pure blessings, and a verdant home,

    Didst spare me, and withhold Thy fearful word;

Willing me year by year, till I am found

A pilgrim pale, with Paul’s sad girdle bound.


(Tre Fontane. April 2, 1833)

In this stanza, Newman tells us of all the plans he had for his life, referring to Isaac’s blessing. Newman believed that God spared him punishment or “fearful word” for youthful pride and doubts. Instead God prepared him for future suffering. Composed in 1833, this “girdle” foretelling suffering might refer to his losses at Oriel College or other future hardships involved in the Oxford Movement which was about to begin. In the final line of the poem, “Our Future,”  St. Paul’s harsh death is referenced, which serves to remind us that we all will face trials and hardships in life. But those who possess persevering faith not only live by faith, but also die in faith. This is a poem about supernatural  hope. 

There is human hope and supernatural  hope. Human hope is the natural desire for some future good in life, for ourselves or our loved ones, and it relies on our own effort and the goodness of others. In contrast, theological hope is not natural; it is supernatural. It is the desire of obtaining from God the heaven which He promised to those who serve Him faithfully and the necessary means to reach heaven to be with Him forever. Our faith and hope depend on our understanding what we believe and what we hope for. 

St. John Henry Newman tells us how we should approach the future: by faith, which is impossible without grace. Regardless of how much of our human hope is dashed by the rocks of hardship on our pilgrim journey through life, nevertheless, the real measure of whether our 2021 will be better or worse than 2020 is through our fidelity and trust in God’s promise of eternity.


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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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