While children are precious, few of us would hold them up as examples to imitate.  But Jesus did. When He told His disciples they needed to convert, to become like little children, at once He dismissed the idea of a heavenly reward based on ability, nobility, or effort.  These are the measures men and women take of themselves and of one another, but God measures differently. In His place, the Church also prizes different traits, which is why so many of her saints fail to possess worldly accolades.  Among these, none are so quickly overlooked as are the Holy Innocents.

The Holy Innocents are the martyred children slaughtered by Herod when he sought to kill the Christ Child.  From their innocence, which Blessed John Henry Newman notes in his sermon, “The Mind of Little Children,” we can learn what Jesus meant by placing a child in the midst of the disciples and closer in nature than adults to the Kingdom of God.

Children begin in innocence.  They suffer no shame in running around without clothing on, dancing without rhythm, singing off key, falling and failing repeatedly.  Blessed Newman says a child’s actions are so foreign to adults that they seem like otherworldly creatures just come from the presence of God: “The simplicity of a child’s ways and notions, his ready belief of everything he is told, his artless love, his frank confidence, his confession of helplessness, his ignorance of evil, his inability to conceal his thoughts, his contentment, his prompt forgetfulness of trouble, his admiring without coveting; and, above all, his reverential spirit, looking at all things about him as wonderful, as tokens and types of the One Invisible, are all evidence of his being lately (as it were) a visitant in a higher state of things.”

As we age, many of us grow cold and bruised by so many hurtful encounters, greater temptations and sinful falls.  Our consciences, which at one time spoke clearly and loudly of truth, become quieter and less confident. Now, if at times we see ourselves as we are, we are afraid to be vulnerable for fear we will not be loved.

The Holy Innocents gave their lives for Christ before they reached the age of reason or understanding before all these fears crept in.  They came from the presence of God and returned shortly thereafter, having accomplished something we will spend our whole lives trying to imitate: the loving surrender and abiding trust in God our Father.  But make no mistake, there is suffering in surrender, and these were not excluded. Newman writes, “All who came near Him, more or less suffered by approaching Him, just as if earthly pain and trouble went out of Him, as some precious virtue for the good of their souls.” The Virgin Mary, and, next to her, St. Joseph, both experienced great sorrow at the death of the children in Bethlehem and fear for their Son.

Today we have the same call to surrender.  If we want to approach Him, we must approach Him as little children.  We must lay before Him all our faults, weaknesses, failures, imperfections, sufferings and temptations.  Humility and sincerity are the indispensable virtues of intimacy with God. St. Josemaría Escrivá, founder of Opus Dei and preacher of the universal call to holiness, has these words: “Just because we discover how fragile we are is no reason to run away from God…Open up your soul! I promise that you will be happy, that is faithful to your Christian way, if you are sincere…We have to open up our souls completely, so that the sun of God and the charity of Love can enter in.”

Why do we have to be this vulnerable?  Because God’s tenderness is so great, His mercy so deep, that He will not force our hand.  Well then, how can we do it? Only by acting like little children, which means we must trust our loving Father and, by extension, the shepherds He has given us.  Newman writes of the Church, “Now those who in the first place receive her words, have the minds of children, who do not reason, but obey their mother; and those who from the first refuse, as clearly fall short of children, in that they trust their own powers for arriving at truth, rather than informants which are external to them.” Here, too, we can learn from the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, who promptly and wholeheartedly obeyed God.

Of course, children are still growing and developing and do not represent the highest form of humanity.  The mature Christian is striving to imitate Christ, but the humility, sincerity and trust that children exemplify should remind us to “beware of posing as a profound person – God became a baby.” (Oswald Chambers).  Especially during this month of May, let us entrust our hearts to our Holy Mother, who will teach us how to surrender to our Lord.

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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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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)

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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