Do you have friends or family members who have left the Church, their stated reasons displaying a grave misunderstanding of what the Church teaches? Do you find yourself upset by what is being taught in the name of the Church, things which contradict known Church doctrine? Over a hundred years ago, so did St. John Henry Newman. His sermon, Submission to Church Authority, speaks to the situation we are in today. As a convert to Catholicism, he had to work through many of these same questions before he made his own “submission” to the Church of Rome. 

For example, there is currently a push for ecumenism, with many seeing this as the higher good, suggesting that some of the “hard” teachings of Catholicism be relaxed for the sake of unity. It is instructive to see how Newman dealt with this issue. He writes: 

“Men, who have themselves separated from the Church, sometimes urge a union among all Christians [when] they say, ‘We dissent from you; yet we will cast aside our forms (or doctrines) if you will cast aside yours. Thus there will be mutual concession. . . . ‘”

To this Newman responds:  “Nay . . . there cannot be a like heart and spirit . . . between us and them, for obedience to the Church is one part of our spirit. Those who think much of submission to her authority, as we do, plainly do differ in spirit from those who think little of it. Such persons . . . in fact, ask us to give up something, while they give up nothing themselves; for [it] is not much to give up which a man sets no value upon.” 

He explains that those who have already left the Church have already rejected Church teachings, so they have nothing to give up for this supposed unity. He writes:  “All they give up is what they themselves disparage. . . . They call it a human invention . . . [and desire that] we call it so also . . . it must be a sacrifice in us to give it up, such as they cannot possibly make. They cannot make such sacrifice, because they have made it already, or their fathers before them, when they left the Church.”

Newman powerfully reminds us  . . . “those who differ from us . . . strip themselves of what we consider an essential of holiness . . . the Ancient Rule. Then, being unclothed, they are forced to array themselves in new forms and ordinances. . . .”  These new ordinances Newman equates to a type of new, inferior garment which is like “exchanging the fine gold for brass.” These new garments, or new doctrines, are doomed to “wither.”

St. Newman then speaks to the next proposition from those who seek false unity who say:  “Faith is not a matter of words, but of the heart. It is more than the formal doctrine . . .  surely external order must not lie upon us as a burden, stifling and destroying the true inward fellowship between Christian and Christian.”   Newman counters that if each Christian uses his own private judgment to decide what does or does not constitute faith, there can never be true fellowship because  “. . . if everyone follow his own rule of fellowship, how can there possibly be ‘one body’ and in what sense are those words of the Apostle to be taken?”

St. Cardinal Newman writes beautifully and logically of Church doctrine:   “ . . . [doctrines] are precise and definite. Once broken, they are altogether broken. There are no degrees of breaking them; either they are observed or they are not. . . . if we leave the Church in order to join what appears a less formal, a more spiritual, religion elsewhere, we break a commandment for certain, and we do not for certain secure to ourselves a benefit.”

Another reason given by many who leave the Church is that certain teachers within the Church seem to teach error. This shows, they say, that the Church cannot be what she claims.  Again, Newman clearly explains that this is a risk our Lord took when putting humans into the divine institution. For even though, St. Newman explains, those in error may teach false doctrine, still the very truth of the doctrine binds them anyway. 

Lastly, he asks: How are we to interact with our “separated Brethren,” those within and without the Church?

“ . . . we must not keep aloof. We are not bound . . . to court their society, but we are bound not to shrink from them when we fall in with them . . . [unless] they be the actual authors . . . of division. We are bound to love them and pray for them; not to be harsh with them, or revile or despise them, but to be gentle, patient, apt to teach, merciful, to make allowance, to interpret their conduct for the best . . . we feel that, if we and they are to be one, they must come over to us” 

Newman sums up this complex sermon by urging our obedience to the Church, having in mind the Church’s teaching authority and the Tradition of the Apostles. He gave personal example by obedience to his bishop and to the pope. And we will find their teaching explained in the Catechism of the Church. 

Now, more than ever, it is important that each Catholic know and understand the true teaching of Holy Mother Church. Do you participate in continuing education so that you will not be led astray by false teachers? Are you able to explain why you believe the tenets of the Church to those who do not understand?  But do not despair! “These things I have spoken unto you that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” St. John 16:33.

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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.
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