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The author of the Book of Hebrews tells us that the Word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword, cutting through and discerning the heart of man. Whether you are introverted or extroverted, liberal or conservative, optimistic or apathetic, educated or ignorant, strong or weak, Scripture has something to say to you. It has a word of correction and a word of encouragement because its words are truth and life. In “The Powers of Nature,” St. John Henry Newman demonstrates that Scripture also discerns whole cultures and ages, and that ours could use both more truth and more life. 

What sin is peculiar to our culture? In one word, materialism. Immediately many of us think of shopping sprees and slot machines, and certainly they can be part of it. But materialism is, at heart, an improper love of earthly things. It’s the man or woman who is so taken up with the things of this world that he or she has forgotten the things of the spirit. Here, too, let’s not use that definition to exclude ourselves, as if materialism was only a philosophy or political party one chooses. One can be a de facto materialist by giving excessive importance to physical comfort, job or family situation, living conditions, possessions, etc. It’s quite an easy sin to fall into.

This is exactly where Scripture comes in to remind us of the unseen world all around us. In the “The Powers of Nature,” a sermon Newman delivered on the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel and All Angels, he points out that this world is not somewhere else, but is literally entwined in our own yet veiled from us. For example, throughout the Bible angels are the force behind nature. What we see as wind or fire are actually the work of angels: “It was an Angel which gave to the pool at Bethesda its medicinal quality; and there is no reason why we should doubt that other health-springs in this and other countries are made such by a like unseen ministry. The fires on Mount Sinai, the thunders and lightnings, were the work of Angels; and in the Apocalypse we read of the Angels restraining the four winds. Works of vengeance are likewise attributed to them. The fiery lava of the volcanoes, which (as it appears) was the cause of Sodom and Gomorrah’s ruin, was caused by the two Angels who rescued Lot.”

That angels are behind nature does not mean we cease to study physical science, or that the two are incompatible. In fact, it’s the opposite: the natural and the supernatural are inherently compatible. “Now all these theories of science, which I speak of, are useful, as classifying, and so assisting us to recollect the works and ways of God and of His ministering Angels. And again, they are ever most useful, in enabling us to apply the course of His providence, and the ordinances of His will, to the benefit of man. Thus we are enabled to enjoy God’s gifts; and let us thank Him for the knowledge which enables us to do so, and honour those who are His instruments in communicating it.” 

It’s easy enough to say one can be firmly rooted in both the earthly and the heavenly, but how do we do it? Newman says we must be humble and not “imagine that, because [a person] knows something of this world’s wonderful order, he therefore knows how things really go on.” In a way, that means recovering the wonder of children who delight in the world around them, so that “when examining a flower, or a herb, or a pebble, or a ray of light, which he treats as something so beneath him in the scale of existence, suddenly discovered that he was in the presence of some powerful being who was hidden behind the visible things he was inspecting.” 

The angels can help us do this. Not only are they a reminder of the invisible world and a consolation to us as we go about our days, they teach us how to have the kind of humility God calls us to: “The very lowest of His Angels is indefinitely above us in this our present state; how high then must be the Lord of Angels! The very Seraphim hide their faces before His glory, while they praise Him; how shamefaced then should sinners be, when they come into His presence!” 

Despite these wonderful truths, if our meditation on angels remains theoretical, we have missed the point, Newman says. God Himself has put us in our angel’s care for a reason—so that we might safely return to Him. Throughout our day we can have recourse to our guardian angel, who will never fail to help us. 

We couldn’t do any better than to look to the saints as examples. St. Therese of the Child Jesus wrote the following prayer to her angel: 

O glorious guardian of my frame!

In heaven’s high courts thou shinest bright,

As some most pure and holy flame,

Before the Lord of endless light.

Yet for my sake thou com’st to earth,

To be my brother, Angel dear:

My friend and keeper from my birth,

By day and night to me most near.

Another saint, Josemaría Escrivá also encouraged people to befriend their guardian angels and seek their help. He wrote: “Whenever you are in need of anything, or are facing difficulties, whether great or small, invoke your Guardian Angel, asking him to sort the matter out with Jesus, or to do the particular service you may require.”

Let’s resolve today to converse with our angel and to learn how to keep our eyes fixed on heaven even as we live on earth.

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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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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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