Few people today think of excitement as something that needs a cure. At the same time, we all know how it feels to be carried along by the currents of our emotions. They are powerful forces capable of leading us astray, if we allow them to do so. Robert Frost once wrote, “More than once I should have lost my soul to radicalism if it had been the originality it was mistaken for by its young converts.” We, too, can be caught up in our emotions and later find ourselves lost. Looking to the epistle of St. James, St. John Henry Newman explains how worship, particularly public worship, is capable of channeling our emotions and directing us to God.

Emotions or passions are neither good nor evil in and of themselves, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us. They are inclinations natural to being human, and they help us act “in regard to something felt or imagined to be good or evil.” But they have become disordered through original sin, and must be “governed by reason,” aided by grace. Anger is rightly felt toward evil, fear toward danger, joy toward good things. But many times we allow the passions to dictate our choices and states of mind. When we get caught up in our passions or excitements, we need something to return us to a peaceful state of mind fixed on God. These powerful inclinations can become an “indisposition of the soul” as Newman puts it.

To remedy this indisposition, St. James recommends prayer and praise:Is any one among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any one cheerful? Let him sing praise.” Newman helps us understand how this remedy works for two types of excitements: secular and religious. 

Secular excitements include “. . . The pursuit of gain, or of power, or of distinction. Amusements are excitements; the applause of a crowd, emulations, hopes, risks, quarrels, contests, disappointments, successes. In such cases the object pursued naturally absorbs the mind, and excludes all thoughts but those relating to itself. Thus a man is sold over into bondage to this world. He has one idea, and one only before him, which becomes his idol.” Newman identifies the pursuit of gain as the most common in his country (England) in his day, and this seems to be only more true of our country in our day. Captivated by this excitement, we forget about God, heaven, hell – the fundamental supernatural world around us and our place in it.

What can prayer and praise do in this circumstance? Newman explains: “Here we see one very momentous use of prayer and praise to all of us; it breaks the current of worldly thoughts. And this is the singular benefit of stated worship, that it statedly interferes with the urgency of worldly excitements.” Public worship especially, like attending Mass, has the power to free us. Regular prayer is essential to the life of a Christian, but how easily it can be intruded upon! “. . . A man, amid the business of life, is often tempted to defraud himself of his private devotions by the pressure of engagements. He has not many minutes to give to them; and if by accident they are broken in upon, the season is gone and lost. But the public Service is of a certain length, and cannot be interrupted; and it is long enough to calm and steady the mind. Scripture must be read, psalms must be sung, prayers must be offered; every thing comes in course.”

In such a feverous, workaholic culture such as our own, it feels as if every minute must be spent productively and efficiently. Weekends and holidays have increasingly lost their ability to force us to rest. As a result, many remain caught in their excitements and drift every so slightly farther and farther from our Lord. We need to take hold of our leisure with a firm grip.

Religious excitements can be equally dangerous. Newman recalls the Philippian jailor whom Sts. Paul and Silas lead to Christ. “The jailor, who for the first time heard the news of salvation through Christ, gave evident signs of transport. This certainly is natural and right; still it is a state of excitement, and, if I might say it, all states of excitement have dangerous tendencies.” In the course of our lives, we will meet those souls who quickly catch the fire of the Holy Spirit and are ready to give themselves wholly to our Lord, but who then get carried off in the wrong direction. Some leave the Church as their excitement fades; others want an increasingly radical and intense devotion to God that sometimes leads them to heretical sects. These we must pray for, but we must also watch for the same excitements in ourselves. 

At times of great excitement, let’s remember what God asks of us: a contrite heart that is ready to say “yes” to Him in the most ordinary of things. Newman shows us that just such communion with God in the ordinary course of our day is more powerful than we can imagine: “Did you give your body to be burned, and all your goods to feed the poor, you could not do so much as by continual intercession. Few are rich, few can suffer for Christ; all may pray.” 

This season of Lent is a special time given to us to purify and order the passions. Are you afflicted by excitement – either secular or religious? Now is the time to find your remedy in prayer and praise, perhaps at daily Mass, and allow our Lord to keep you close to His Sacred Heart. 

Like this article?

What is the doctrine of the Trinity? The Athanasian Creed, in common use around the sixth century, formulates it this way: "We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son's is another, the Holy Spirit's another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal."

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

Leave a comment

What is the doctrine of the Trinity? The Athanasian Creed, in common use around the sixth century, formulates it this way: "We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son's is another, the Holy Spirit's another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal."

Our Books

About Cardinal John Henry Newman

Purchase Book

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)

Purchase Book

Fr Peter Conley takes us on an exciting journey into the spirituality and inner life of Saint John Henry Newman.

Purchase Book

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.  

Purchase Book

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.

Purchase Book

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.

Purchase Book

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.
Sermon Blog
David Warren

The Mystery of the Holy Trinity

What is the doctrine of the Trinity? The Athanasian Creed, in common use around the sixth century, formulates it this way: “We worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity, without either confusing the persons or dividing the substance; for the person of the Father is one, the Son’s is another, the Holy Spirit’s another; but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.”

Read More »
About Newman
Fr. Juan Velez

The Eucharistic Presence

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

Read More »
About Newman
Prof. Barb H. Wyman

The Priestly Office

The sacrifice of the altar as a re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary is a “bloodless rite,” but nevertheless, like that sacrifice, it too is a “fire of Love,” and a “Fount of Light.”

Read More »
About Newman
Fr. Juan Velez

The Indwelling Spirit

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.

Read More »