“Are you saved?” This question is posed to strangers by some who worship in certain protestant denominations; though asked with good intentions, it often seems out of place. The motivation for asking the question is to share the good news of Jesus Christ, to impart “saving knowledge.” What is this saving knowledge and just what is its purpose? Nothing less than “eternal life, to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.” [Eph. i. 17, 18. Col. iii. 10. 2 Pet. i. 2. John xviii. 3.] But how do we gain this knowledge and how do we know if  we are “saved?” It is just this that Newman teaches in his sermon, “Saving Knowledge.”

Gaining this knowledge, Newman posits, should be our goal on earth. The unseen God Who made us desires to draw us to Himself, but humanity, with fickle mortal eyes, repeatedly turned their backs on Him; it was therefore necessary that He be physically seen. St. John Henry writes: “He who was before unseen has shown Himself in Christ; not merely displayed His glory . . . but really He Himself has come upon earth, and has been seen of men in human form . . .  man has seen the Invisible God; and we have the history of His sojourn among His creatures in the Gospels.” These gospels, written by eyewitnesses of Christ, are the good news that teach us the saving knowledge.

Newman continues, “To know God is life eternal, and to believe in the Gospel manifestation of Him is to know Him.” He follows with this logical question  . . . “but how are we to ‘know that we know Him?’ How are we to be sure that we are not mistaking some dream of our own for the true and clear Vision?” Newman notes that Christians give varied answers to this question though the Biblical answer is clear: “Obedience is the test of Faith.”

St. Newman then expands upon this quite clearly: “Thus the whole duty and work of a Christian is made up of these two parts, Faith and Obedience; ‘looking unto Jesus,’ the Divine Object as well as Author of our faith, and acting according to His will.” But Newman warns against certain stumbling blocks for the Christian.  One is a sentimentality which depends on “certain notions, affections, feelings, and tempers [which are] not a necessary condition of a saving state.” Neither, he says, is rote rule-following and a scrupulosity practiced without love. On the contrary! In keeping with Jesus’ teaching and St. James’ explanation he says that a Christian’s duty lies in practicing the faith; for herein lies the secret of inner peace.

A Christian’s “saving knowledge” is manifest in the witness of his life, rather than in uttered phrases. In discourse with others he should act soberly and with naturalness. His faith is manifest in his work and inner thoughts. In Newman’s words:  “His heart is in his work, and his thoughts rest without effort on his God and Saviour. This is the way of a Christian . . . True spiritual-mindedness is unseen by man, like the soul itself, of which it is a quality; and as the soul is known by its operations, so it is known by its fruits.”

Newman reminds us of the necessity of an examination of conscience, with the desire to rid oneself of evil inclinations by repentance in order to ‘mould our hearts’ heavenward. But rather than trying to ascertain one’s salvation, which may lead to a morbid and counterproductive introspection and self-contemplation, the Christian should dwell on God. He concludes: “The essence of Faith is to look out of ourselves; now, consider what manner of a believer he is who imprisons himself in his own thoughts, and rests on the workings of his own mind, and thinks of  his Saviour as an idea of his imagination, instead of putting self aside, and living upon Him who speaks in the Gospels . . . which has ever been received in the Church Catholic, and which, doubtless, is saving.”

In these troubled times, when the world has been sent reeling by the coronavirus pandemic, and the threat of death is heavy around us, we can take comfort in this saving knowledge, this truth, which will set us free. “’If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.’ [John xiv. 15. 1 John ii. 6. Col. iii. 1.] This is all that is put upon us, difficult indeed to perform, but easy to understand . . . because Christ has done everything else. He has freely chosen us, died for us, regenerated us, and now ever liveth for us; what remains? Simply that we should do as He has done to us, showing forth His glory by good works. Thus a correct . . .  an orthodox faith and an obedient life, is the whole duty of man.” 

Are you striving to live a holy life, to practice the faith, even without recourse to the sacraments in the present situation of churches closed by quarantine? Perhaps these difficult and uncertain times can provide the necessary distance from the normal hustle and bustle, allowing us to turn more purposefully in our reliance on Him, Who bore human suffering for us.


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

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

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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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