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Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Righteousness not of us, but in us
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Growing up Protestant, I remember learning that salvation was something I didn’t need to worry about. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross had freed us from sin and all we had to do was humble ourselves and acknowledge this fact. Of course, we went on living as Christians because we loved God, but that our salvation could ever be in jeopardy was unimaginable. Since we had accepted Christ into our hearts, not even God could reverse it.

In college, I met other Christians who believed similarly, but in practice regularly questioned whether they said the prayer to accept Jesus properly, who wondered whether they actually became Christians or were simply fooling themselves. Far from relieving anxiety, this belief about salvation seemed to exacerbate it.

This question – whether salvation is something God does or we do – is natural and necessary. It wouldn’t have been one of the main sources of the Church’s most bitter split if it wasn’t an important query. Moreover, if Scripture was straightforward and direct about it, there wouldn’t be a question. But the reader of Scripture often finds himself thrown by the wave of determinism and pulled back out by the undertow of Pelagianism (pride in our own effort). 

That isn’t to say Scripture is the cause of confusion or heresy, just that it deliberately avoids simplicity. It refuses to say, “It’s all God, just sit back and relax,” or “It’s all on you. If you don’t obey, you will not be saved.” In other words, it avoids what St. John Henry Newman terms two other opposite errors: on the one hand pride, and on the other hand, fear and sloth. 

It turns out that these two opposite errors share a cardinal flaw, according to Newman: “ . . . whatever their differences in other respects, agree in this,—in depriving a Christian life of its mysteriousness. He who believes that he can please God of himself, or that obedience can be performed by his own powers, of course has nothing more of awe, reverence, and wonder in his personal religion, than when he moves his limbs and uses his reason, though he might well feel awe then also. And in like manner he also who considers that Christ’s passion once undergone on the Cross absolutely secured his own personal salvation, may see mystery indeed in that Cross (as he ought), but he will see no mystery, and feel little solemnity, in prayer, in ordinances, or in his attempts at obedience. He will be free, familiar, and presuming, in God’s presence.” 

This mystery, this tension between God’s grace and our effort, is what Protestant pastor and author Timothy Keller calls, “the tension that fuels the narrative” of Scripture. All throughout Scripture we wonder if God will exact his justice on Israel’s disobedience or if he will have mercy on them. This tension we witness in the people of God is the same tension that exists in our interior life. Most people, Keller says, tend to relieve the tension by choosing one or the other way out. They choose to say, “Yes, God expects something from us, but ultimately He just forgives us and accepts us,” or “Yes, God is merciful, but ultimately we have to act rightly and justly.”

But the one who resolves such a tension misses the ultimate point. Salvation is not a prize for effort or a free pass to live as we will; it is a Person with Whom we relate. Salvation is not a grade, a review or a paycheck. Because it is a relationship with God, it must be fostered with the love that every relationship on earth also requires – attention, time, effort.

When I was received into the Church, the personal God I had been introduced to in my childhood became more personal. I learned that a relationship can be strengthened or weakened, bolstered or broken. I am continually learning that, as Newman says, righteousness is not OF us, but it has been imputed IN us in our baptism. It is our duty and our privilege to maintain the intimate relationship He initiated, to fan the flame of love Christ placed in our hearts when we agreed to be buried with Him in His death and to rise with Him in His resurrection. 

Today we can pray that God will give us the courage to struggle, to fight against our inclinations to pride ourselves on our good behavior or to conceal our errors. We can take solace in the fact that “What was actually done by Christ in the flesh eighteen hundred years ago, is in type and resemblance really wrought in us one by one even to the end of time,” and with confidence resolve to grow ever closer to the One who is our salvation. St. John Henry Newman, following the teaching of Church Fathers, explains that the Holy Spirit gives spiritual life through the sacraments of the Church. In this way, we allow God to dwell in our lives and build the Body of Christ.

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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."

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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."

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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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