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Upon returning from his tour of the Mediterranean, which included a near brush with death, St. John Henry Newman discerned a deep sense of calling and mission from the Holy Spirit. He had arrived at the island of Sicily increasingly persuaded of this, and after recovering from a delirious fever, in the midst of weeping, he told his hired servant, “I have a work to do in England” (See Apologia Pro Vita Sua Chapter 1). 

Newman’s life demonstrates that Christian discipleship is not for the faint of heart. It is challenging, requires effort, and is sometimes agonizing. St. Paul himself suffered, like Newman, with a burning Apostolic heart, saying things like “I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice…” (Romans 12.1). St. Paul was in agony to convey the urgency of offering our whole selves to God. Newman’s sermon, “The Work of the Christian,” the first in a series called “Sermons on Subjects of the Day,” exhorts us to put the full effort of mind, heart and soul into our Christian discipleship, not presuming upon God’s mercy but drawing down the full power of God’s grace by our hearty “yes” to Him and all He asks of us. Although the sermon was written for Septuagisima Sunday, which occurs three Sundays before Ash Wednesday in the Tridentine calendar, the reflections are ripe with fruits for the season of Lent as we persevere in our self-denial. 

Tracing the notion of “work” to the beginning, Newman says that our current earthly labor, earning our bread by the sweat of our brows, is marked by the curse of Adam. And even if the fall had not made our work more laborious, God created the cosmos with spans of time in which we rise and sleep, work and rest. God himself works for six days, gives man the task of tending the garden, places him as lord and steward over animals and the creation. Even when man rebelled, God “in his mercy did not desert him,” but engaged in a new work of bringing about redemption in the fullness of time. Metaphorically speaking, as in the parable, God hired laborers for his vineyard—prepared the way of Jesus Christ through the nation of Israel. God Himself, as Creator and Redeemer, shows us a model of grace-filled work, even as we struggle along under the lingering curse in the disorder of the fall. 

But gloriously, in Christ, our curse-laden labors can be sanctified and caught up in Christ’s work, who says “My Father works until now, and I work” (John 5.17). The Scriptures show us that the work of Christ is, above all, Apostolic—it is the work of spreading the Gospel and saving souls. By our self-denial, sacrifice, discipline, and good works for others, we draw upon the merits of Christ and cooperate with his work such that our work may also have eternal value. Newman suggests that this is the fundamental orientation of the season of Lent and its surrounding seasons: “whereas our Lord, in His Sermon on the Mount, speaks of three great duties of religion, prayer, almsgiving, and fasting—our duties towards God, our neighbor, and ourselves—we may consider the Epiphany to remind us of worship in the temple, Septuagesima of good works, and Lent of self-denial and self-discipline.”

In Christ, and only in Christ, our work and our suffering have meaning. This is why we are so encouraged to exercise prayer, fasting, and almsgiving during Lent. “God will o’erbrim the measures you have spent / With oil of gladness,” writes the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, a convert discipled by Newman, in his poem “Easter Communion.” The more deeply we can mortify our own desires and inclinations, the more deeply God can take root in our soul and work in us, allowing our own efforts to be perfected in full cooperation with His will His work. 

Some in Newman’s age and ours, in the historic wake of Protestantism, think the teachings of Christ annul or abrogate the need for works, contrasting the Old Testament Law too heavily with the so-called “grace” of the Gospel, as if grace had nothing to do with work or human cooperation. Scripture itself demurs. Christ declares that he came to fulfill, not abolish, the Law, and St. Paul makes it clear: “‘Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid. Yea, we establish the law… as sin hath reigned unto death,’ grace reigns ‘through righteousness…” (cf. Matt. 5:17, Rom. 3.31). Newman adds, “The Gospel does not abrogate works, but provides for them.” Christians in fact have a higher duty to fulfill all perfection and law, because unlike the Israelites, they are in fact given the gifts and graces they need to keep the law, to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:38). We have a Christian duty to work, to work to overcome temptation and avoid sin, and to work at sanctification and evangelization. The “original paradise” is not yet restored to us; “our duties still are not those of Adam innocent, but of Adam fallen.” Within this broken world, we are given the graces necessary to work, to work hard, and to work, in Christ, to perfection. Grace and forgiveness do not give us a free-pass from effort, work, or difficulty.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not an excuse for wallowing in ease and comfort. Christ himself gravely warns against it and depicts a quite contrary portrait of the Christian (Matt. 16:24-26). Consider Newman’s stirring exhortation: “It is not that our work is lighter, but our strength is greater.” Christians are given what they need to perform what without God’s grace would seem, and be, impossible. The gift of Christ, and its attendant responsibilities, are great indeed.

In the light of Christ there are no shadows, no extenuating circumstances, no excuses or qualifications. This Lent, “let us attempt, through God’s grace, to advance and sanctify the inward man. We cannot be wrong here. Whatever is right, whatever is wrong, in this perplexing world, we must be right in ‘doing justly, in loving mercy, in walking humbly with our God;’ in denying our wills, in ruling our tongues, in softening and sweetening our tempers, in mortifying our lusts; in learning patience, meekness, purity, forgiveness of injuries, and continuance in well-doing” (cf. Micah 6.8). Augment your Lenten disciplines with this seasoning of the sanctified inner man: a sincere and firm resolution to let every thought, word, and deed be to the glory of God. Adopt a truly Apostolic spirit that seeks above all the salvation of souls, and nothing less. 

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For forty days we are in ‘spiritual circuit training’, with the goal of joining St Peter on his morning run to Christ’s tomb.

But our Lord is clear: He said “to all” that “if any” man, and in doing so both offers Himself to every man and leaves no room for half-hearted disciples.

Newman encourages us to be more of what we are: courageous Christians who do all we can, to our utmost, for His Kingdom.

In this ingenious poem, “Candlemas,” Saint John Henry Newman weaves together the entire liturgical year using the theme of light as the thread

Newman approached his teaching from an obviously Christian anthropology. He saw every young person from the start as a being in the image of God.

Do we treat time, which is always slipping through our hands, as the precious resource it is?

Dominic abundantly shared with John Henry the gifts inspired by the Saints he admired, who are recorded in his spiritual journal.

The contemplation of Him, and nothing but it, is able fully to open and relieve the mind, to unlock, occupy, and fix our affections.

Our Books

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.
Fr. Peter Conley

For forty days we are in ‘spiritual circuit training’, with the goal of joining St Peter on his morning run to Christ’s tomb.

David Warren

But our Lord is clear: He said “to all” that “if any” man, and in doing so both offers Himself to every man and leaves no room for half-hearted disciples.

Robert Kirkendall

Newman encourages us to be more of what we are: courageous Christians who do all we can, to our utmost, for His Kingdom.

Prof. Barb H. Wyman

In this ingenious poem, “Candlemas,” Saint John Henry Newman weaves together the entire liturgical year using the theme of light as the thread

Scott Goins

Newman approached his teaching from an obviously Christian anthropology. He saw every young person from the start as a being in the image of God.

David Warren

Do we treat time, which is always slipping through our hands, as the precious resource it is?

Fr. Peter Conley

Dominic abundantly shared with John Henry the gifts inspired by the Saints he admired, who are recorded in his spiritual journal.

Robert Kirkendall

The contemplation of Him, and nothing but it, is able fully to open and relieve the mind, to unlock, occupy, and fix our affections.

Fr. Juan Velez

Merry Christmas to all! In the following video from Colombia, I send you a warm greetings for Christmas. May God richly bless you and your families, and may St. John Henry Newman continue to be a source of inspiration for