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Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
The Kindness of Holiness: Newman and Benedict
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“Who am I? I am the beloved. That’s the voice Jesus heard when he came out of the Jordan River: ‘You are my beloved; on you my favor rests.’ And Jesus says to you and to me that we are loved as he is loved. That same voice is there for you. When you are not claiming that voice, you cannot walk freely in this world.” These words from Henri Nouwen are a call to deeper intimacy with our Lord. But they are also a description of His followers, especially those who follow Him so closely they are recognized as saints. Within the heart of his closest disciples, as we see in their writings, observe in their behavior or hear through the witness of their contemporaries, they have a profound sense of unity with our Lord. It is a sense of unity that gives birth to confidence, to interior peace that shines forth as kindness towards others. It’s no wonder then that In the lives and writings of St. John Henry Newman and Pope Benedict XVI we can see, practically, the link between holiness and kindness that we also are called to demonstrate.

It’s axiomatic that a dogmatic person must also be a rigid person, unbending, inflexible, stubborn. Yet Newman, an Oxford scholar, and Benedict, also a distinguished professor, scholar, and eventual head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, were both ardent defenders of divine revelation and ranked highly among the most generous and thoughtful interlocutors. They submitted faithfully to the dogmas of the Church, but this made them less rigid, not more. By faith they held onto truth, and so they didn’t fear lively debates, conflicting opinions or difficult questions that brought them to the limit of human knowledge. 

Monsignor Fernando Ocáriz, prelate of Opus Dei, recently reflected on his personal experience of Pope Benedict’s kindness, especially in relation to his love of truth: “In those encounters, he was never the one to end the conversation or to point out that he had other issues to attend to. It was edifying to see his consideration for others’ opinions, even when they differed from his. Contrary opinions could be put to him with ease; they did not bother him, even when they came from someone younger or with less training or experience. The truth was what really mattered to him, so he took his episcopal motto from some words of St. John: Cooperatores veritatis.”

Likewise, the whole of Newman’s life can be characterized as a pursuit of truth. From Anglican scholar to founder of the Oxford Movement to Catholic convert and ordained priest to university founder and Cardinal, Newman never ceased to follow the truth where it led him. His writings therefore reflect a childlike curiosity even when confronting difficult, painful or perplexing moral or theological obstacles. He had great joy in asking questions and he strove, as a good teacher, to gently address legitimate objections to his understanding of particular questions. He did not see himself as above his parishioners in any way, but addressed his homilies as a man sharing what he had found with his fellow men and women. Listen to his very human reaction to the parable of the man thrown out of the wedding feast because he didn’t have a garment: “Surely, there is something very awful and startling in the doctrine thus contained in the Parable. It would seem from thence that we are compelled to accept religious advantages, for the use of which we are answerable, for the misuse of which we shall be condemned. We are compelled to become Christians, yet this compulsion is not taken into account when the day of reckoning comes.” Newman read the words of Scripture for what they were, allowing them to poke and prod, to challenge and to affirm, as they were designed to do. At times they shocked him, like this parable, but he always humbled himself before them.

Newman forgave friends and co-workers with whom over the years there was a parting of ways. His gentle spirit in correspondence and their chance meetings led to the renewal of various friendships after years of separation. A touching example of his kindness was his endearing attempt to win back Fr. Nicholas Darnell who resigned as headmaster of the Oratory School in Birmingham and, despite Newman’s entreaties, left the Oratorians.

If today we find pride, bitterness and malice in theological, social or political conversations in our news outlets, our offices or our homes, God is not their source. Belief is not their source. Conviction in the truth is not their source. Instead, their source is a profound insecurity and fear, which imprisons man and turns him in upon himself. In contrast, in both Benedict and Newman we have models of kindness, a kindness rooted in commitment to truth, to reality. Secure in the knowledge that they were loved by God and in the truth that had set them free, they were at liberty to love others. We, also wanting to be kind, must seek God as they did, with the same willingness to allow the truth to shape us and mold us each into a little Christ. How do we do this? By beginning as we began this reflection: pausing and listening to His voice as it tells us that we are His beloved.

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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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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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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)

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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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