Crucifix, Northridge

Holy Week is approaching; are there ways to draw closer to our Lord to accompany Him through His passion? We are familiar with Christ’s physical journey in praying the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary. But what of his interior journey? We can turn to Blessed John Henry Newman who invites us to think of our Lord’s interior sorrows and to remember that Jesus knew when His passion was drawing near. In the meditation, “The Mental Sufferings of our Lord” Newman describes events in Christ’s final days, the days leading to the crucifixion. Here Newman considers Judas:

“An evil temper of murmuring and criticism is spread among the disciples. One was the source of it, but it seems to have been spread. The thought of His death was before Him, and He was thinking of it and His burial after it. A woman came and anointed His sacred head. The action spread a soothing tender feeling over His pure soul. It was a mute token of sympathy, and the whole house was filled with it.”

Newman recounts the story of Mary Magdalene as presented in the Gospel of St. John, 12:1-8. It is in St. John’s gospel that Judas is named as the disgruntled apostle, who complained of Mary Magdalene’s costly offering. Newman continues:

“It [the scene] was rudely broken by the harsh voice of the traitor now for the first time giving utterance to his secret heartlessness and malice. Ut quid perditio hæc? ‘To what purpose is this waste?’—the unjust steward with his impious economy making up for his own private thefts by grudging honour to his Master. Thus in the midst of the sweet calm harmony of that feast at Bethany, there comes a jar and discord; . . . . for the devil is abroad.”

Newman explicates Judas’ stinginess further, and how this “impious economy” at the wasted nard is a foreshadowing of Judas’ desire for money, gained by him later for the betrayal of Jesus. Newman leads us to consider what Jesus knew about Judas’ betrayal beforehand. Newman writes:

“Judas, having once shown what he was, lost no time in carrying out his malice. . . . Our Lord saw all that took place within him; He saw Satan knocking at his heart, and admitted there and made an honoured and beloved guest and an intimate. He saw him [Judas] go to the Priests and heard the conversation between them. He had seen it by His foreknowledge all the time he [Judas] had been about Him, and when He chose him . . . . He had treated Judas as one of His most familiar friends. . . . He had sent him out to preach and made him one of His own special representatives, so that the Master was judged by the conduct of His servant . . . . What desolation is in the sense of ingratitude!”

We are told little of Judas’ motives, and his betrayal of our kind and loving Lord remain incomprehensible to us. Still we can find great comfort knowing that Jesus’ love “to the very end” is even more beyond our understanding. Though the gospels do not clarify the internal darkness of Judas, they do reveal the depth of God’s love for us. Newman ends this meditation with strong words:

“God who is met with ingratitude daily cannot from His Nature feel it. He took a human heart, that He might feel it in its fullness. And now, O my God, though in heaven, dost Thou not feel my ingratitude towards Thee?”

These last words of Newman sting. How often have we not shown gratitude to Our Lord, for all our many blessings? But we can find comfort, too, for even with the unimaginable betrayal, we know that Jesus still loved Judas, though Judas was overtaken by evil. The gospel says that as soon as Judas left, Jesus said that the Son of Man “was glorified” the moment when He gave his love to Judas (John 13:31). In the darkest night of resentment and hatred, Jesus manifested the unbelievable radiance of God’s love.

Let us return God’s unfathomable love by offering ourselves to Him daily, and in the coming days as we live through His passion and glorious resurrection, to draw ever closer to Him, with renewed fervor to follow Him always. St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.

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The world which sees only appearances cannot comprehend the hidden reality of a heart captive to 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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