cur de ars

God puts more stock in who a man is than in what he can do. That’s a pattern we see as we read the Scriptures, and it’s something we learn when we come to see our own wretchedness and need for Christ’s salvation. God equips the men and women He calls—not the other way around. That’s why St. John Henry Newman can claim in his sermon, “The Christian Ministry,” that priests of Christ are greater than even the greatest ministers of the Old Testament, including Abraham and Moses. Let’s look at how this principle works in the priesthood Christ has established and what it means for us today.

What is it about the office of the Christian priesthood that exalts its ministers above all others? Newman tells us plainly: “Let us consider in what the peculiar dignity of the Christian Minister consists. Evidently in this, that he is the representative of Christ; for, as Christ is infinitely above all other messengers from God, he who stands in His stead, must be superior, beyond compare, to all Ministers of religion, whether Prophets, Priests, Lawgivers, Judges, or Kings, whom Almighty God ever commissioned.” This is a hard truth to accept, compelled as we moderns are to grade and evaluate everyone and everything according to its productivity. The merit, if we want to think about it this way, is Christ’s alone. His priests are His messengers and so they carry the force and weight of His person.

The Scriptures show us that Christ Himself confers His authority to His Apostles. Newman points to three examples: Jesus giving the disciples authority over demons (Luke 9:1-2), Jesus breathing on the disciples and giving them authority to forgive sins (John 20:21-23), and several statements from the epistles of St. Paul, including, “So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” (1 Cor. 5:20). Summarizing the priest’s role, Newman says, “By a Priest, in a Christian sense, is meant an appointed channel by which the peculiar Gospel blessings are conveyed to mankind, one who has power to apply to individuals those gifts which Christ has promised us generally as the fruit of His mediation.” Don’t miss those words—”in a Christian sense”—because there is nothing like the Christian (read Catholic) priesthood¹. The priests of other religions look similar to Catholic priests on the outside, but they are simply mediators, go-betweens, interpreters. A Catholic priest is an Alter Christus (literally “another Christ”).

This is exactly the point where some turn away. Many Protestants believe the Apostles were special and set apart, but they are not ready to believe their office continues to this day. And many Catholics simply see priests as men or leaders. Newman grants that “there is a strong line of distinction between the Apostles and other Christian Ministers,” but the very duties they exercised, including teaching, healing and baptizing, exist to serve the needs of God’s people. Since we have these same needs today, we need this ministry to continue. In short, Newman argues, if there are sacraments, then there must be sacred ministers. 

Those who fail to accept these facts are prejudiced, Newman says. They look at Scripture or the Church without really being open to the truth. That they accept some truths of Scripture and not others makes them inconsistent, which “in a speculative age, such as our own, a religious education which involves such inconsistency, is most dangerous to the unformed Christian, who will set straight his traditionary creed by unlearning the portion of truth it contains, rather than by adding that in which it is deficient.”

What about us? Are we formed in the faith and seeking the truth, or are we prejudiced by some other way of looking at life? Prejudice blinds one to reality by narrowing the scope of one’s focus to the point of excluding reason. There are many people today, for example, who view life through a political lens. They interpret all leaders’ decisions, especially in the Church, as strictly human struggles for power and influence. Unfortunately, until this lens is removed, they will retain this narrow bias.

Christ has come not only to free us from sin but to free us to live in the truth. We have to do our part in seeking the truth by reading the Scriptures and teachings of the Church (like the Catechism) and learning from mature believers. Let’s also ask our Lord to free our minds and hearts, to open them as He did for the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and to work in and through us, weak though we are, to bring others with us into the light of His truth.

 

¹ Newman gave this sermon in 1834, eleven years prior to converting to the Catholic faith. That said, he had developed an understanding of the priesthood which was beyond the Protestant concept of a minister.

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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."

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

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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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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)

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(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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