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Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Wisdom and Innocence
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These are dark days for the Church, marked by loss of faith and the sense of sin, doctrinal confusion, lack of charity and internal divisions.

Those words could have been said many times throughout her history, for she has always been one step away from persecution from without and division from within. Our Lord told us to expect as much: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” But what exactly does this mean and how should Christians live in the world today? St. John Henry Newman, in his sermon “Wisdom and Innocence,” (1843) gives us the principles to understand and the encouragement to apply these timely words from our Lord.

From her inception, the Church has been vulnerable. Scripture compares us to sheep, newborns, plants (branches of a vine), a house, a body, a field, etc. None of these demonstrate strength or intelligence. We are told, in St. Paul’s First letter to the Corinthians that we were chosen for our weakness, our foolishness, or lack of standing and importance. It’s no wonder the world so often bullies, attacks, shames and tempts the Church, often with success. If this were not enough, Jesus tells us that within the field of the Church, the enemy sows his seed. All this should disabuse us of the belief that the Church should be big, wealthy, strong, successful, popular, flawless and at peace. Newman says, “Such was the Church of Christ in its beginnings, and such has it been in every age in proportion to its purity. The purer it has been, the more defenceless…Seasons of peace, indeed, have been vouchsafed to it from the first, and in the most fearful times; but not an age of peace. A reign of temporal peace it can hardly enjoy, except under the reign of corruption, and in an age of faithlessness. Peace and rest are future.” If we are surprised to hear these words or to face the persecution Jesus told us we would always face, then we need to take our noses out of the New York Times and put them into the New Testament. St. Peter warned the first Christians, and us, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

So we are persecuted, weak, unimpressive sheep, and yet sheep have some noble qualities. First, they stay together. They have a bond of fraternity and feel safe when other sheep are around. They are greatly distressed when separated from their flock. Second, they know the voice of their shepherd and they follow it. We too must have these qualities – bound together in love with our brothers and sisters, following the voice of the Great Shepherd who protects us from danger and leads us to green pastures. 

This Great Shepherd tells us that despite our weakness, we should not be helpless. We can and should be “wise as serpents” despite being as “innocent as doves.” What does this mean? Newman says, “He did not forbid us to defend ourselves, but He forbad certain modes [sic] of defence” namely, violence or sinful responses. Prudence tells us to flee temptation, to endure suffering, to gain self-mastery, to keep getting back up after we fall, to pray without ceasing. Newman says these modes of defense look like weakness and trickery to the world, which only understands physical strength and cannot make sense of self-control and all the wisdom of God.

These words from Newman were not hypothetical. He delivered his sermon when still an Anglican but on the verge of entering the Roman Catholic Church. For three centuries, English Catholics faced persecution, loss of property and martyrdom, and until the 19th century they were unable to hold civil office or obtain degrees in universities. Newman urged Christians to resign their cause, trusting in his Divine Providence.

We too must trust our Lord in the midst of tribulation. If we do, we will not be surprised and distressed by fiery trials, we will not lose our peace and live in fear, we will not cave when temptations arise. Instead, we will see persecution as an opportunity to sanctify our souls and those who call themselves our enemies. For we know that it is the world that is running, the world that is in fear, harassed by Satan and its own sinfulness. We will have the wisdom to see that our battle is supernatural, that Christ has already defeated death and sin, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against us. 

These are dark days, but we have the light of Christ, thanks be to God.

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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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