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Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
When Should We Pray?
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Prayer is common to all Christians, but we do not all pray alike.  While our prayer differs because our lives and work differ, we need to ask what prayer looks like in the life of a a man or woman seeking to love God.  In “Times of Private Prayer,” Blessed John Henry Newman asks and answers the vital questions of the what, when, and how of private prayer.

Private prayer is conversation with God and as such is a gift.  Blessed Newman says we must begin by thinking of prayer as a duty, not only because it is, but because, in order to enter into the privileges of religion, it is necessary to experience its duties.  How often, then, should we converse with our Lord?  Of course Scripture tells us to “pray constantly” (1 Thes. 5:17), and so throughout our day we should be in conversation, perhaps making ejaculatory prayers (like “Lord, have mercy”) as St. Josemaría Escrivá, founder of Opus Dei, was fond of advising.  But does this constant conversation, so typical of the saints, remove the need for set times of prayer?

By no means, Blessed Newman says.  On the contrary, “we may be sure that, in most cases, those who do not pray at stated times in a more solemn and direct manner, will never pray well at other times.”  Regular times of prayer restore our attention to spiritual matters so that the conversation may continue.  Jesus Himself tells his disciples to “…go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret..” (Matt. 6:6).  Besides this admonition, we need look no further than the saints and the prophets and the apostles, even our Lord Himself, for evidence of the need for set times of prayer.  Newman recounts the Biblical references: Jesus goes up to the mountain to pray, St. Peter prays on the rooftop, Nathaniel under the fig tree, Daniel under the persecution of King Darius, and so on.

How often should we have these set times of regular prayer?  Newman says all of us should pray at least twice a day.  Some have more time and can devote even more time for prayer, but everyone can pray twice.  And he gives a reason for the time of day for this regular prayer:

“We know in the common engagements of life,the importance of collecting and arranging our thoughts calmly and accurately before proceeding to any important business in order to the right performance of it; and so in that one really needful occupation: the care of our eternal interests, if we would have our minds composed, our desires subdued, and our tempers heavenly through the day; we must, before commencing the day’s employment, stand still awhile to look into ourselves…preparing ourselves for the trials and duties on which we are entering. A like reason may be assigned for evening prayer, viz., as affording us a time of looking back on the day past, and summing up (as it were) that account…of confessing sin, and of praying for forgiveness, of giving thanks for what we have done well, and for mercies received, of making good resolutions in reliance on the help of God, and of sealing up and setting sure the day past, at least as a stepping-stone of good for the morrow.”

If we needed any more reasons for regular prayer, Newman reminds us that it is “also a more direct means of gaining from God an answer to our requests.”  It is Christ himself who tells us that God will reward us openly.  Even though we do not comprehend how we can have such persuasion with God, Newman explains that in our regular times of prayer, when our petitions are ordered, our faith is more fixed and focused, and therefore stronger.

For all these reasons, we must defend these times of private prayer.  “He who gives up regularity in prayer has lost a principal means of reminding himself that spiritual life is obedience to a Lawgiver, not a mere feeling or a taste,” Newman says.  If we lose this commitment to regular prayer – and he is serious about this – “this is the path that leads to death.”  From the loss of regular prayer comes the loss of commitment to regular church attendance, then belief in fixed moral laws.  We must do everything we can to safeguard it.  Even seemingly harmless changes in our life can become means of temptation – like the new schedule created by new work, or changes in our social life, or traveling.

As we approach these holy days before us, many of us will travel to visit family.  Our routine will be disturbed and our habits of prayer will be challenged.  Before this happens, we must take time to plan how to keep regular prayer despite these arrangements.  Satan will not rest in planning to stop us.  But the Lord who is with us throughout our day will give us the grace to overcome every obstacle to remaining by his side.

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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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