It seems like we are living in a time where everyone has an opinion to express and the means to express it.  The collection of voices can be so overwhelming that some people refrain from speaking when they should. In our last reflection, we looked at Blessed John Henry Newman’s “Profession Without Ostentation,” a sermon dedicated to the question of how to witness to Christ while remaining humble, to shine our light before men, but not to make a show of ourselves.  When we obey the Church and when we live Christian lives in the midst of our ordinary duties, we witness well. But there are times, Newman says, when we are called to speak our opinion on religious matters and world events as Christians, to pass judgment when called for, and to rebuke others when necessary. How do we go about these delicate matters?

There are times when Christians should give their opinion on religious matters.  Newman says we have a duty, depending on our station in life, to speak our mind; but this is not the only way to express ourselves: “We must never countenance sin and error. Now the more obvious and modest way of discountenancing evil is by silence, and by separating from it; for example, we are bound to keep aloof from deliberate and open sinners. St. Paul expressly tells us, “not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother (i.e. a Christian) be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one, no not to eat.’ [1 Cor. v. 11.].”

To express our opinions on world events is also our duty, because we should try to persuade men of the truth.  This is a remarkable point from Blessed Newman that would likely offend contemporary listeners who believe men have a right to believe whatever they want, especially in matters of religion; we would benefit from Newman’s counter cultural perspective that not only defends objective truth, but demands we convince others of it.  All Christians, clergy and laymen, must lead others to the truth, just as the first Christians did: “Did not the Apostles, with all their reverence for the temporal power, whether Jewish or Roman, and all their separation from worldly ambition, did they not still denounce their rulers as wicked men, who had crucified and slain the Lord’s Christ? And would they have been as a city on a hill if they had not done so? If, indeed, this world’s concerns could be altogether disjoined from those of Christ’s Kingdom, then indeed all Christians (laymen as well as clergy) should abstain from the thought of temporal affairs, and let the worthless world pass down the stream of events till it perish.”  We are in this world, even if we are not of it, and we do not have the false luxury to live private Christian lives, which is an oxymoronic phrase.

Finally, Newman says there are times when we need to rebuke and correct others.  This task is difficult to do without seeming “arrogant or severe.” Newman offers his listeners a few prudent thoughts.  First, although it is a duty, it is not a duty of all men. We have to take into account our position and the circumstances of the rebuke. Teachers of the faith, such as parents and catechisms, for example, would more readily be prepared to deliver a rebuke.  Second, some rules will guide us: young people should not rebuke elders, except by silence, and the same is true of inferiors toward superiors. Third, there is an order to our duties as Christians, and correcting others’ errors is not at the top of our list. “I mean, that our duties come in a certain order, some before others, and that this is not one of the first of them. Our first duties are to repent and believe,” Newman adds.  

How do we know if we have done well?  To be persecuted openly for witnessing to Christ is not necessarily a measure of how faithful we have been.  Some of us will be in positions in which we must speak openly and suffer the consequences, others of us will live more quiet Christian lives in the middle of the world.  We will have done well if we have loved well, and if we love our Lord, we will not be able to hold back from letting His light shine through our words and deeds.

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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.”

For a Christian, death is no longer defeat nor something to fear, rather it is the sign of Christ’s victory.

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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.
About Newman
Fr. Peter Conley

Slopes, Popes and Newman

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