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The Feast of the Epiphany we celebrated last week reminds us of how hopeless we are on our own.  Praise God He has not left us alone, but has revealed Himself in the law and the prophets, and then through His Son.  If this were not enough, He has given us His Holy Spirit, by which the Church has 

been inspired to teach us the meaning of His revelation.  Finally, today we inherit all this, and even the writings of holy men and women who help us understand, with greater clarity, the treasure of knowledge God has given us.  Blessed John Henry Newman is such a man, and in his sermon, “The Law of the Spirit,” he explains the meaning of those words so familiar to our ears, but foreign to our comprehension: law, righteousness, and faith.

Blessed Newman examines a verse tucked away in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, “Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (10:4).  This epistle addresses both the Jews who rejected the Gospel, and the Gentile Christians who neglected what they received.  At first, this verse seems straightforward and means Christians do not need to follow the Law because Christ has done away with it.  But this common misreading Newman intends to correct.  To do so, he breaks down the verse into the key words – Law, righteousness, and faith.

While the Law is reflected in the commandments given in Scripture, the Law has a broader definition.  Blessed Newman explains, “By the Law is meant the eternal, unchangeable Law of God, which is the revelation of His will, the standard of perfection, and the mould and fashion to which all creatures must conform, as they would be happy.”  The Law reflects God Himself, Who He is, What He is like.  The Law given to the Israelites was a shade of this Eternal Law, “and though earthly and temporary, had at the same time a divine character,” much like Adam, as a man of dust but made in the image of God, had both a human and divine aspect to him.  

Righteousness is even more obscure to our ears and difficult to translate.  “By ‘righteousness’ is meant conformity to the law,—that one state of soul which is pleasing to God. It is a relative word, having reference to a standard set up, and expressing the fulfilment of its requirements. To be righteous is to act up to the Law, whatever the Law be, and thereby to be acceptable to Him who gave it.”  Again, Newman offers us the example of Adam before his fall; In Eden he was accounted righteous before God.  When he fell, he lost his righteous standing before God, and his relationship with the Law changed.  It no longer remained a light inside him; it became external to him, judging him and condemning him.  For this we have to thank God, Newman says.  Better that our consciences prick us, than that we are abandoned by the Law entirely.  

We must thank God for not leaving us in this state, but sending His Son to save us.  In Christ, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, the Law enters into us once more, and righteousness with it.  This is what St. Paul means when he says, “Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness.”  In Christ we can stand righteousness before God; something we could never do when the Law remained external to us.

Though this makes sense, it’s hard to believe.  We know that in our natural state, we can never please God.  We know it from Scripture and experience.  We know, even after we give ourselves to Christ, we do not automatically conform to Law of God.  Yet Scripture tells us we can stand before God as righteous, in Christ, and not in the disguise of righteousness, but in the reality of it.  How can this be?

Blessed Newman explains, “I answer as follows:—We can only be justified, certainly, by what is perfect; no work of ours, as far as it is ours, is perfect: and therefore by no work of ours, viewed in its human imperfections, are we justified. But when I speak of our righteousness I speak of the work of the Spirit, and this work, though imperfect, considered as ours, is perfect as far as it comes from Him. Our works, done in the Spirit of Christ, have a justifying principle in them, and that is the presence of the All-holy Spirit.”  

The Apostle explains how all this comes to him “who believeth.”  Therefore, by faith we lay hold of our end.  Though we have not arrived at perfection, “God of His great mercy imputes it to [us] as if it were already completed. He anticipates what will be, and treats [us] that which [we] are labouring to become.”

Now understanding the meaning of this verse, we can understand how the Jews came to reject Christ and why the Apostle is so insistent on writing his epistle: “[The Jews] were in a path which never would lead to holiness and heaven. They were in a state which was destitute of grace and help. They were under the threatening and condemning Law.”  Every effort they made would only lead them further from the right path.  If they could only admit their mistake and turn around to start down the path of grace, they would find Him who is the Law.  

Yet this epistle was written for them and for us.  For we too often miss the path.  We tend to rely on ourselves, to settle comfortably and pridefully in the place where we are.  Fr. Jacques Phillipe, in Time for God, says mental prayer is about allowing ourselves to be loved by God, which involves accepting our poverty before Him.  Today, in mental prayer, we can thank God for loving us as we are, and ask Him to keep conforming us to the image of His beloved Son.

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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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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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