st-paulWorld news in today’s age travels with such speed that we are aware at once of wars, cruelty, famine and other human disasters. We must pay attention, pray, and in our own measure do what we can to alleviate human sufferings, but we must first look to ourselves. We should not forget our own personal shortcomings and sins, and more importantly God’s forgiveness and blessings. Blessed John Henry Newman helps us through his sermons to do precisely just that.

Faced with our human weaknesses and failings it is easy to be discouraged and at times even to doubt God’s plan for mankind and the possibility of living in a state of grace. Considering this apprehension of our human condition Blessed Newman highlights as St. Paul’s characteristic gift his understanding for fallen human nature.

In a sermon titled “St. Paul’s Characteristic Gift” Newman writes:

I think his characteristic is this;—that, as I have said, in him the fulness of divine gifts does not tend to destroy what is human in him, but to spiritualize and perfect it. According to his own words, used on another subject, but laying down, as it were, the principle on which his own character was formed,—”We would not be unclothed,” he says, but “clothed upon, that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”

St. Paul does not deny human infirmity and rebelliousness against God but he insists on God’s grace always raising us to a new life in Christ. The Apostle teaches that the Holy Spirit makes children of God and leads us to a gradual identification with Christ, the Only Begotten Son.

According to the Apostle human nature is not totally depraved. A Christian must fight against disordered passions and self-will but he does so acknowledging the body, good sentiments and desires granted him by God. Newman explains:

A heathen poet has said, Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. “I am a man; nothing human is without interest to me:” and the sentiment has been widely and deservedly praised. Now this, in a fulness of meaning which a heathen could not understand, is, I conceive, the characteristic of this great Apostle. He is ever speaking, to use his own words, “human things,” and “as a man,” and “according to man,” and “foolishly”:—that is, human nature, the common nature of the whole race of Adam, spoke in him, acted in him, with an energetical presence, with a sort of bodily fulness, always under the sovereign command of divine grace, but losing none of its real freedom and power because of its subordination.

Newman notes St. Paul’s teaching that God has given to all mankind a law written in their hearts and, so to speak, a ‘natural revelation’ of himself. He then gives us the reason why St. Paul on three occasions cites heathen writers:

Some of the ancient Fathers consider that the Greeks were under a special dispensation of Providence, preparatory to the Gospel, though not directly from heaven as the Jewish was. Now St. Paul seems, if I may say it, to partake of this feeling; distinctly as he teaches that the heathen are in darkness, and in sin, and under the power of the Evil One, he will not allow that they are beyond the eye of Divine Mercy. On the contrary, he speaks of God as “determining their times and the limits of their habitation,” that is, going along with the revolutions of history and the migrations of races, “in order that they should seek Him, if haply they may feel after Him and find Him,” since, he continues, “He is not far from every one of us.”

Addressing the students at the Catholic University of Ireland from the pulpit of the university church he was showing them that, like St. Paul, they could learn to see the traces of God’s providence among pagans, and thus devote time to the study of history, literature and culture. At the same time Newman was presenting them with St. Paul’s understanding for the human tendencies towards self-love and idolatry. He went on to beautifully describe St. Paul’s love for the Jewish people to whom belong the promises, the prophets and the covenant.

By way of summary, Newman tells us that St. Paul’s characteristic gift was his understanding of human nature and his affection for human beings. He made human nature “his own to the very full, instead of annihilating it; he sympathized with it, while he mortified it by penance, while he sanctified it by the grace given him.” Newman wanted the university students to learn to die to their passions and whims, and thus become leaders in the service of others.

For us today, in a world that is often riddled with violence and injustice, Blessed Newman’s homily is an invitation to place our hope in Christ. It is a call to strive through prayer and penance to respond to God’s grace and mercy, thus becoming signs of his love among men.

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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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