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Today, from a young age and throughout their lives, many desperately ask themselves, even if subconsciously, “Who am I?” The question is so common that we forget that it is a peculiarly modern question, one that we ask all the time, even when we don’t use those words: “Am I a nurse, a teacher, a businessman by nature? Does this house fit me? What does my vote say about me?” The identity question is also having a moment, politically. The rise of identity politics – where groups of people from a common background break from traditional parties to coalesce around a movement of their own – is a public instance of this strongly-felt need to find identity.

As Christians, we understand this struggle. In Christ, we have discovered who we are – children of God – a fact St. Josemaría Escrivá, founder of Opus Dei, calls the deepest truth about ourselves. From this truth we strive to live so that our words and deeds match who we are, which is a reflection of who God is. In “The Strictness of the Law of Christ,” St. John Henry Newman calls us to reflect on our nature as human beings and Christians and allow the truth of our condition to guide how we live.

In the very first book of Scripture, we are told that we were made for God, though we have the choice of rejecting Him. In being made for Our Creator, our human nature compels us to worship, and our free will gives us the ability to worship what we will. This fact about who we are and what we were made for explains the various lives of people we meet every day. All of us are seeking, adoring, worshipping something. The urge is so strong it’s appropriate to call it slavery – for we give our money, our time, our whole lives to that thing.

The image of slavery is straight from Scripture. In worshipping other gods, the Hebrew people fell into slavery and bondage to Egypt, Babylon and Rome. But the opposite is also true: Newman explains that when St. Paul says that in being saved we become servants of Christ, “servants” really means “slaves.” “Christians are not their own, but bought with a price, and, as being so, are become the servants or rather the slaves of God and His righteousness; and this, upon their being rescued from the state of nature.” Moreover, “We no longer indeed belong to our old master; but a master we have, unless slaves on being bought become freemen. We are still slaves, but to a new master, and that master is Christ.”

In other words, we are slaves no matter what. Our only choice is what to worship. One need not be a Christian to understand this truth. The brilliant, secular writer and professor of English, David Foster Wallace, had this to say in his 2005 commencement address at Kenyon College: “In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.” In his autobiographical essay, “Good Old Neon,” Wallace explains all the things he tried to worship, all to no avail. Tragically, he committed suicide in 2008. 

St. Josemaría says it like this: “We will be slaves either way. Since we must serve anyway, since this is our lot as men, then there is nothing better than recognizing that Love has made us slaves of God. From the moment we recognize this, we cease being slaves and become friends, sons.” 

This is how God designed us. Freedom comes when we say “fiat,” “yes,” “Thy will be done” as the Virgin Mary replied to the archangel Gabriel. The secret, in a sense, is to will what happens to us, to will reality, knowing that through all things God works out our salvation. Newman says that “the perfect Christian state is that in which our duty and our pleasure are the same.”

The trouble is that our hearts are not right. We don’t want to say “yes” to all of God’s plans, all the time, with all our heart. We want to hold back something for ourselves, because we do not really trust God to take care of us. Newman explains: “In a word, the state of the multitude of men is this,—their hearts are going the wrong way; and their real quarrel with religion, if they know themselves, is not that it is strict, or engrossing, or imperative, not that it goes too far, but that it is religion.”

But considering more carefully that we are God’s creation – His children –  we must examine how we are living. What are we worshipping? What can’t we do without? Where is our treasure? In answering these types of questions, we may find several idols, good things that have become too important. Perhaps our reputation is so important that it prevents us from speaking the truth. Maybe our financial security is so important that we find it hard to give charitably. Whatever the idol or idols are, we know that we cannot just cast them off and worship nothing. We don’t have a choice about that. However, we can replace them with someone who alone can satisfy our worship and free us from our slavery – for whom the Son sets free, is free indeed.

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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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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.
About Newman
Fr. Juan Velez

The Indwelling Spirit

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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David Warren

The Fellowship of the Apostles

Preaching the truth means Jesus Christ is the goal in our conflicts with others – not winning the argument. This is why we can approach everyone with understanding, respect and patience, in other words, in a Christ-like way.

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About Newman
Prof. Barb H. Wyman

Many Called, Few Chosen

Though the invitation is open to all, not everyone responds to it in faith. Those who accept the call, embrace Christ, and live according to His teachings; they are the chosen ones.

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Sermon Blog
Fr. Juan Velez

The Gospel Feast

John Henry Newman calls the Holy Mass the Gospel Feast and takes us through numerous biblical passages that prefigure this great Sacrament.

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