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On September 19, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI made an exception to an ecclesial custom dictating that local bishops beatify, popes canonize. He overrode this in the case of John Henry Newman, and beatified him in Birmingham on that date as Pope. It would appear the late Emeritus Pontiff was eager to indicate his immense debt and gratitude to the English convert, cardinal and saint. 

Some, however, notice the lack of direct attention to Newman in Benedict’s theological works. It is thought that this represents a lack of real influence, or a divergence in theological interest. However, as several addresses and writings of Pope Benedict make clear, Newman exemplifies Benedict’s papal motto, cooperatores in veritate—co-worker or co-laborer in the truth (rf. 3 John 1:8). Benedict did not only admire Newman’s theological content, but sought to emulate Newman’s personal theological form: he looked to Newman as a personal exemplar, and sought to emulate him as a fellow worker for the truth. In this integrated sense, Benedict’s occasional explicit statements show, even early on, a clear acknowledgment that Newman’s saintly contributions deserve him the title Doctor ecclesiae, Doctor of the Church.

In Rome on April 28, 1990, then Cardinal Ratzinger gave an address honoring the first centenary of the death of John Henry Newman (see Prof. Donald Graham’s excellent overview). He cites how crucial Newman was in articulating that the conscience is the “way of obedience to objective truth.” Living in accord with conscience is “commitment to the truth, to God.” Newman helped Ratzinger and other German theologians develop categories for “personalism” in philosophy, which seeks to describe truth under the aspect of the person, not merely as an individual or autonomous agent, but as a living rational creature whose most inward being is defined by loving obedience to a Moral Governor. To be a co-worker in the truth is to live in accord with fundamental reality, the truth about God the Creator and his creations, the world and man.

In his teaching on the conscience and development of doctrine, Ratzinger says Newman “placed the key in our hand to build historical thought into theology… to think historically in theology and so to recognize the identity of faith in all developments.” If truth is the full participation of a mind with reality, as St. Thomas Aquinas would say (Summa 1.16.1), then there is a deep connection between history and theology, as we study the tradition of human minds encountering truth and allowing it to form them in personal and living ways. 

And herein is the key to understanding Newman’s immense influence on Ratzinger: “Newman’s own life plays a role… Throughout his entire life, Newman was a person converting, a person being transformed, and thus he always remained and became ever more himself.” Ratzinger saw in Newman a personal model, a living exemplar, of the theologian transformed by truth. The deep consonance between Newman’s life and thought made him a personal witness to the truth, a truly worthy teacher (Latin, “doctor”). Ratzinger quotes Newman’s words: “…to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” He did not just study Newman’s thought—he aspired to be like Newman, to co-labor with him in the truth, with the truth, for the truth of God, the world, and man.

Ratzinger’s short work On Conscience, comprised of two essays, is sufficient to indicate the depth of influence owed to Newman. In a paper delivered to a Workshop for Bishops in 1991 in Dallas, TX, titled “Conscience and Truth,” Ratzinger says that Newman’s life and work is “a single great commentary on the question of conscience.” What Newman calls the voice of God in the soul, Ratzinger argues, is synonymous with a “co-knowing with the truth,” also called the “inner Teacher” by St. Augustine and the light of truth in the soul by St. Thomas Aquinas. All humans have an inward capacity to remember and recall the truth “written on their hearts.” The reality of conscience is far deeper than individualistic whim, experience or opinion—it makes each person morally accountable to God’s law. Ratzinger’s synthesis of the Catholic tradition on conscience, culminating in Newman, is an essential documentation of the profound impact Newman had on him. The conscience is that by which one becomes personally formed in the truth, a reality to which both Newman and Benedict bear personal witness as exemplars.  

The conclusion of Ratzinger’s 1990 address strongly commends Newman’s status as saint and teacher: “The characteristic of the great Doctor of the Church, it seems to me, is that he teaches not only through his thought and speech but also by his life, because within him, thought and life are interpenetrated and defined. If this is so, then Newman belongs to the great teachers of the Church, because he both touches our hearts and enlightens our thinking.” 

Much fruitful work is to be done investigating the harmony between the lives, thoughts and writings of Newman and Benedict. As “co-workers in the truth,” they teach us that only from within the setting of truth can true human or divine relationships occur, can “heart speak unto heart,” in Cardinal Newman’s motto. Exploring their deep connections may advance not only the cause of Benedict XVI’s witness of sanctity in fidelity to the truth, but also the cause, as Benedict himself strongly hints, of Newman’s status as a Doctor of the Church. 

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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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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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