Holy Family, Santa Maria de los Angeles

It is right and fitting that soon after the great event of History, Christ’s incarnation, that we should turn our minds to the natural occurrences which this Birth initiated, Christ becoming part of a human family, and Mary, though human, being the Mother of God. These two things, so familiar, motherhood and family, are beautiful points of meditation for us, when we contemplate the reality of these mysteries … God as a child raised by human parents, and God as an infant, nurtured and fed at the breast of a human mother. Blessed John Henry Newman aids us in our meditation:

“When, for our sakes, the Son came on earth and took our flesh, yet He would not live without the sympathy of others. For thirty years He lived with Mary and Joseph and thus formed a shadow of the Heavenly Trinity on earth. O the perfection of that sympathy which existed between the three! Not a look of one, but the other two understood, as expressed, better than if expressed in a thousand words—nay more than understood, accepted, echoed, corroborated. It was like three instruments absolutely in tune which all vibrate when one vibrates, and vibrate either one and the same note, or in perfect harmony.”

How natural it is that these three would have had a “community of shared feeling, of sympathy” among each other. Sympathy is more than feeling for others’ sufferings, it is also a conformity of feelings among persons, derived from the Greek “sym” and “pathos” meaning “feeling together.” And to express this concept Newman uses a comparison with three musical instruments vibrating in perfect harmony.

Newman then reminds us that this unity on earth is an image of the eternal divine unity of the three divine Persons:

“SYMPATHY may be called an eternal law, for it is signified or rather transcendentally and archetypically fulfilled in the ineffable mutual love of the Divine Trinity. God, though infinitely One, has ever been Three. . . . The devil only is barren and lonely, shut up in himself—and his servants also.”

Each family on earth should reflect in some way the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To be part of a human family is the opposite of being alone. It is to be a part of a whole. Due to pride and selfishness, however, so many families are divided. The Holy Family teaches us the humility and love that should permeate every home.

In this short text Newman does not elaborate on the role of each member of the family but the mention of St. Joseph calls to mind the manliness, chastity, and complete self-giving of Jesus’ father on earth. Mention of his death serves to remind us of the sympathy and harmony between Jesus, the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph. Newman writes thus:

“The first weakening of that unison was when Joseph died. It was no jar in the sound, for to the last moment of his life, he was one with them, and the sympathy between the three only became more intense, and more sweet, while it was brought into new circumstances and had a wider range in the months of his declining, his sickness, and death. . . . . Not that Joseph, though so saintly, added much in volume of sound to the other two, but sympathy, by its very meaning, implies number, and, on his death, one, out of three harps, was unstrung and silent.”

The death of St. Joseph shows us that to be part of a human family on earth brings both joy and trials, for we rejoice and suffer together. In this, too, Christ has participated. Newman captures this combination of feelings beautifully:

“O my soul, thou art allowed to contemplate this union of the three, and to share thyself its sympathy, by faith though not by sight. . . . . Let the breathings of my soul be with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Let me live in obscurity, out of the world and the world’s thought, with them. Let me look to them in sorrow and in joy, and live and die in their sweet sympathy.”

Perhaps our own human families are more occasions of suffering, than of joy; nevertheless, Newman teaches us that we too may take part in the Holy Family’s sympathy, of their shared feelings, of their love. What an eternal joy! To so strive to conform ourselves to this family, that we become more holy, for Mary is our Mother too. Considering that this is in large measure the fruit of the the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Newman prays to Mary:

“O Holy Mother, stand by me now at Mass time, when Christ comes to me, as thou didst minister to Thy infant Lord—as Thou didst hang upon His words when He grew up, as Thou wast found under His cross. Stand by me, Holy Mother, that I may gain somewhat of thy purity, thy innocence, thy faith, and He may be the one object of my love and my adoration, as He was of thine.”

In this Octave of the Nativity of Christ which includes the feast of the Holy Family, and closes with the solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, let us try to conform our hearts and minds to Jesus, Mary and Joseph so that we may become worthy members of this Holy Family, and that we may be pleasing to Mary, our Mother, the Mother of God. Let us think of some specific trait that we need to acquire or increase to live in sympathy with Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

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Newman lays down a firm rule in the light of life's abundant blessings: the Christian is not allowed to be gloomy.

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.”

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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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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
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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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