Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Pondering Newman, A Guide to John Henry Newman

Pondering Newman

Mary, as our pattern of faith-filled reflection, according to Newman, inspires us to be ‘detectives’ of God’s Providence because, like her, we “investigate, weigh and define as well as profess the Gospel.” (University Sermons XV).

In view of this, I eagerly opened a parcel containing a scholarly, accessible and interesting volume of essays edited in the States, by a good friend of mine, Fr Juan Valez.  It is entitled A Guide to John Henry Newman: His Life and Thought (The Catholic University of America, 2022) and I recalled that Newman, a super sleuth himself, always took copious notes.  As I grabbed my pen and paper, his words rang in my ears “dipping into books or skimming them, and consulting them is not reading.” (LDXXXl, p.33*).  Point taken!

This particular text is very timely, given the synodal pathway discussions taking place across the world, as it invites St John Henry Newman to be a shining light upon them, and provide inspiration for the future shape of the Church. Looking at the table of contents, I was immediately drawn to consecutive Chapters, focusing on Newman’s ecclesiology. I found, in them, keys to listening for his pastoral heart beating within the volume itself. The first, by Fr John Ford CSC, a well-known scholar, is entitled The Church: A Leitmotiv in His Writings (p.448-468). Using a perceptive musical metaphor throughout, Ford blends the notation of Newman’s biography memorably. Fr Velez complements this analysis with an apposite piece Newman’s Far-sighted Understanding of the Laity’s Role in the Church (p.469-488) as does Tracey Rowland’s John Henry Newman on the Development of Doctrine: A Via Media between Intellectualism and Historicism (p.352-372). These contributions have direct bearing on my context as a priest combining Parish and University ministry, as does Paul Shrimpton’s comprehensive An Educator from first to last (p.191-208). I recalled that Newman viewed the daily events of his own life, and that of those he cared for, from within a liturgical framework. This led me to read Fr Keith Beaumont’s exploration of Newman from two perspectives: The Spiritual and Doctrinal Significance of His Sermons (p.309-336) and The Connection between Theology, Spirituality, and Morality in his works (p.393-413). (On this theme see also John Crosby’s Newman’s Vision of Intellectual Virtue in its Relation to Moral and Religious Virtue p.233-246). I then turned to the Chapters by Fr Uwe Michael Lang and Fr Juan Velez From the Book of Common Prayer to the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Roman Breviary (p.373-393) and Msgr Roderick Strange’s exploration of Newman’s Christology Jesus as Saviour (p.414-425).

Realising that my choices were forming into cadences, I was led to Barbara H. Wyman’s The Poetry of John Henry Newman: Intimations of the Invisible World (p.247-266) which identifies the internal harmony within Newman as a poet, who experienced Christ’s call, in the midst of natural and human creation, as one world – where earth is wedded to heaven. This made me remember the beautiful observations on nature Newman offers in his letters and diaries, and especially in his novel Callista. One of Wyman’s colleagues at McNeese University, Scott Goins, drew my attention, in his A Student and Tutor of Classics (p.140-156), to the influence that Cicero had on Newman’s sentence construction. This made me realise why his ability to ‘picture paint’ creation has had such an impact on me. I then turned to Stephen Morgan’s appreciation of Newman as An Imaginative Mind (p.38-55), and consolidated the benefits of my literary travels, through the informative richness of the Guide, via reading John Henry Newman’s Lifelong Journey of Conversion by Fr Juan Alonso (p.21-37).  I recommend the book highly.

 Fr Peter Conley,

Author of Newman: A Human Harp of Many Chords      


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Newman lays down a firm rule in the light of life's abundant blessings: the Christian is not allowed to be gloomy.

Newman wrote, “I have been accustomed to consider the action of the creator on and in the created universe, as parallel in a certain sense to that of the soul upon the body.”

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We need to remember our mortality, so that we may be ready to meet Our Lord each and every day. Lent and lenten mortifications have a role in this preparation. We must die to self daily, so that we may be brought to the glory of His resurrection. 

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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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