“The Search” Parish Study

This week we are beginning an online study called “The Search!” I thought I’d give a little explanation of it here to help build connections.

It is produced by the Augustine Institute, and available through their formed.org streaming service. This is a great, user-friendly way to connect with a lot of high-quality materials for growing in faith (it uses the same interface as Netflix, which probably helps for many!). It can be used through your web browser or through an excellent app. St Malachy/St Elizabeth parishioners can get a free log-in by noting that they belong to the parish on the log-in screen, otherwise you may need to check with your local parish to see about availability.

Out of all of the series on the website, why did I choose to start with “The Search?” I think it provides an excellent step-by-step reflection on our search for God, and therefore is a great resource for anyone, no matter where they are on the spectrum of faith. As we go through the seven videos in the series, we are asked to begin our reflection on the desires of the human heart and our identity. The topics then move through the encounter with God, our encounter with Jesus Christ, and our encounter with the Catholic Church. Along the way we are able to reflect on the reasons for our belief as well as make/deepen a personal connection.

Each Sunday I will share a link to the next excerpt on my social media (see the links on the sidebar of the main page of this website), and each Thursday I will host a discussion on Facebook live at 5:30pm (6pm en español). All are welcome! If you’re not able to join this live, the recap will be available to view on Facebook/YouTube.

Here is a short excerpt (four minutes) from the first video, which should be accessible to all: http://watch.formed.org/videos/the-search-excerpt-what-do-you-seek (the full twenty minute version is available on formed.org).

También hay una versión en español: http://watch.formed.org/videos/thesearch-ep1-formed-esp-1

I hope you can take part in this reflection, God bless!

Star Wars, Good/Evil, and the Communion of the Saints

Spoiler alert: this article spoils one of the main final scenes of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker, although I will try to keep other spoilers to a minimum

“Be with me.” This is the first phrase that we hear from Rey in the latest episode of the Star Wars saga (Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker). At the moment, it is not clear whether she is speaking to the Force in general, or a person/group of people in particular. I think the development of this idea in Rise of Skywalker is very significant to the philosophical/religious foundation of the concept of the Force in Star Wars.

At first glance the spirituality of the Force and the Jedi seems to have an immediate application to the Christian faith. The battle between the Light Side and the Dark Side of the Force (the Jedi and the Sith) seems to be a great analogy for Good vs. Evil, Holiness vs. Sin, God vs. the Devil, etc. However, there are actually a few classic problems with the philosophy of the Force.

First and foremost, the two sides of the Force are portrayed as being roughly balanced. This dualism sees the two sides as equals. When one side increases, the other side responds with an increase to match it. This is completely contrary to the Christian conception of the battle between good and evil. The Easter season in particular is a reminder that God has already triumphed. What remains is the extension and application of this victory throughout time, until the ultimate realization of the heavenly kingdom in which death will be no more. Likewise, the power of God is infinitely greater than that of the devil, who has no power over us unless we allow it.

Secondly, there is the problem that the Force is portrayed as an impersonal power like gravity. It is not something that can be said to know and love us. There is some discussion of being “absorbed” into the Force at death, perhaps losing our individual identity. Again, this is completely at odds with the Christian conception of God and the afterlife. In heaven we are fully alive in God and bound to each other, but not in a way that loses our individual existence.

How does Rise of Skywalker handle these questions? In response to the first objection (that the Light Side and Dark Side are even), there is the showdown at the end between a character that possesses the power of all of the Sith and one that possess the power of all of the Jedi. The power of the Light Side clearly defeats and destroys that of the Dark. Shortly before this battle, a voice (see the next paragraph) even encourages this defeat of the Dark as “bring[ing] back the balance.” This supports the theory (which I hold) that the classic prophecy of “bringing balance to the Force” is achieved when the Dark is defeated and the Light is shown to be superior, rather than by bringing Light and Dark into an equal standing. Although not all writers or pieces of Star Wars lore have backed this theory, I think that the clear sense has always been that there is a greater power in the Light rather than the Dark. The Dark is portrayed as having a quick and apparent power, while in reality being corrupting and illusory. It is the Light that perseveres and conquers in the end.

In terms of the second objection to the Force (its impersonal nature), the initial phrase “be with me” is repeated just before this climactic battle between the Sith and Jedi. It is not an impersonal surge of strength that responds, but individual, personal voices. Rise of Skywalker portrays the deceased Jedi as alive, aware, distinct, and involved in the affairs of the world (as the presence of “force ghosts” has always done in the series). It is a wonderful parallel to the Catholic understanding of the communion of the saints. The saints and angels in heaven are active and involved, and we can ask for their prayers in our times of need. While it does not portray the Force as something other than an impersonal power, I think that this is important step in the right direction of personal existence.

As a huge Star Wars fan, I was very happy to see the way these ideas were developed in the film! I hope that this reflection has helped you to appreciate the echo of the victory of the Resurrection and the communion of the saints, which are at the heart of this Easter season!

Dyngus Day

My mother’s side of the family is Polish, and through this I was introduced to the celebration of “Dyngus Day” the day after Easter Sunday. I thought I’d share a little about what this celebration is about, and how it connects in a Catholic sense with the Easter season!

The celebration of Dyngus Day in the United States (and my experience) is sort of a combination of what St Patrick’s Day is for the Irish and what Mardi Gras is before Lent. It celebrates the cultural heritage of Polish Americans with polka music, authentic Polish sausage/kielbasa, pierogi, and other traditional things. It also is connected to celebrating the end of Lent, and this is something I have come to appreciate more and more over the years!

Whereas Mardi Gras has a sense of cramming in a last bit of celebration before the fasting of Lent, Dyngus Day has a note of continuing and developing the joy of the Resurrection! Too often we can think of Easter as a single day, when in our faith Easter Sunday is celebrated for an entire octave of eight days, and the Easter season the fifty days until Pentecost! Commemorating Easter Monday helps to prepare for a season of joy. This reminds me of a reflection given by Venerable Fulton Sheen, who spoke of two approaches to life: the pattern of feasting followed by headache (the approach that seeks to grab what it can today at the expense of tomorrow) and the pattern of fasting followed by feasting (the approach that takes the effort to lay the groundwork today so that tomorrow can be a true celebration).

I am thankful to the great tradition of faith connected with my Polish ancestry – Our Lady of Czestochowa, St Faustina and the Divine Mercy devotion, St Maximilian Kolbe, and Pope St John Paul II, to name just a few parts of it! And although (as with St Patrick’s Day) some would see Dyngus Day as merely an excuse for a party, I would include it as a part of this list for the way that it inaugurates a great season of thanksgiving. God bless!

The Angelus Prayer

Have you ever heard of the Angelus prayer? It is an old and widely popular devotion throughout the world, but was not one that was part of my home parish/family growing up (no matter how much we learn growing up, there is always so much more out there!). I first encountered it at the Newman Center at the University of Illinois, where we would pray it before the noon daily Masses. Then, in seminary it became even more prominent – we were all expected to have it memorized, we prayed it before most meals, and bells rang for it three times every day! It was at this point when I realized how well-known this devotion had been, and came to appreciate it as a daily practice.

The “Angelus” became popular in the Middle Ages, and gets its name from the beginning of the prayer in Latin, “Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae…” (“The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary…”). It commemorates the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel to announce the birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary (Gospel of Luke 1:26-38). Traditionally it would be prayed at 6:00am, Noon, and 6:00pm. Church bells would ring to mark the times. People throughout the town – whether at work in the fields or at home – would pause and pray the prayer together. It consists of three sets of responses each followed by a Hail Mary, and then a closing prayer (I will list the full prayer at the end of this post).

What I came to love about the Angelus was the way that it invites us to pause at three key points of the day – the beginning, middle, and end (or breakfast, lunch, and dinner) – to reflect on the presence and action of God. Praying the Hail Mary in between the verses gives us a moment to reflect on the meaning of each section.

The first verse proclaims the Annunciation to Mary – a moment to reflect on what God has done in the history of salvation, and what He has done/is doing in our personal life. Next, it remembers Mary’s response: “Be it done unto me according to Thy word.” It invites us to see God’s will in the concrete circumstances of our life and to respond positively to His call. Finally, the Angelus calls to mind the fruit of Mary’s response: the Incarnation, Christ dwelling among us in her womb. The end result of cooperation with God’s will is receiving the life of Christ. We have no need to fear it or avoid it.

I wanted to share this devotion as a practice that may be helpful to you in your daily life now! Whether you pray it at multiple times a day or just once, it can help to give us a practical moment of discernment and reflection in the middle of a busy day. Like Mary, may we be open to the voice of God, and respond with our “yes” in every circumstance!

The Angelus

[Note: if two or more people are praying together, the leader says the parts in normal type, and the other(s) respond with the italicized parts]

The Angel of the Lord declared unto to Mary:

And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord:

Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

Hail Mary…

And the Word was made Flesh:

And dwelt among us. [Traditionally a bow or genuflection is done here]

 Hail Mary…

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,

that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Prayer Service in Time of Sickness (bilingual)

Begin with the Sign of the Cross. In the Name of the Father…

Leader: Let us call to mind the presence of God as we listen to these words of Scripture:

[It is recommended to use the Gospel from the Mass of the day, which can be found by clicking the date on the calendar on US Conference of Bishops website, http://www.usccb.org. Otherwise, this reading from Matthew 8:23-27 or another reading may be used instead]

And when [Jesus] got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

Leader: In a spirit of confidence let us continue with prayers of petition. [Note: the italics in the petitions mark the responses]

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

For an end to spread of Coronavirus COVID-19 and every other illness, we pray to the Lord. Lord, hear our prayer.

For all those who are ill, that they may be given strength and recover, we pray to the Lord. Lord, hear our prayer.

For all those who care for the sick, and all those working on a cure or vaccine, that they may be successful, we pray to the Lord. Lord, hear our prayer.

For our family and friends, the poor, and for all those in particular need right now, that they may be protected from harm and illness, we pray to the Lord. Lord, hear our prayer.

For all who have died and for those that mourn the loss of loved ones, that they may be given peace, we pray to the Lord. Lord, hear our prayer.

For all of us, that we may grow in faith and conversion to the Lord during this time, we pray to the Lord. Lord, hear our prayer.

[Optional: For any other intentions that you would like to share…]

Let us pray for all of these petitions in the words that our Savior taught us, Our Father, Who art in heaven…

Let us also ask for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of the Sick. Hail Mary, full of grace…

We end by expressing our confidence in the power of the Most Holy Trinity as we pray, Glory be to the Father, and to the Son…

Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, by the grace of your Holy Spirit cure the illnesses of your servants. Heal their sicknesses and forgive their sins; expel all afflictions of mind and body; mercifully restore them to full health, and enable them to resume their former duties, for you are Lord for ever and ever. Amen.

St Malachy, pray for us.

St Elizabeth of Hungary, pray for us.

St Sebastian, pray for us.

All angels and saints, pray for us.

 Prayer of Spiritual Communion:

Appropriate to pray daily, and especially at a time you would normally attend Mass.

My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there, and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.

Prayer of Adoration of Jesus in the Tabernacles of the World:

May the heart of Jesus in the most Blessed Sacrament be praised, adored, and loved at every moment, in all the tabernacles of the world, even until the end of time. Amen.

 

Servicio de oración en tiempo de enfermedad

Comience con la Señal de la Cruz En el Nombre del Padre…

Líder: Recordemos la presencia de Dios al escuchar estas palabras de la Biblia:

[Se recomienda utilizar el Evangelio de la Misa del día, que se puede encontrar en las “Lecturas del Día” en el sitio web de la Conferencia de Obispos de EE. UU., http://www.usccb.org. De lo contrario, esta lectura de Mateo 8: 23-27 u otra lectura puede usarse en su lugar]

Subió [Jesús] a la barca y sus discípulos le siguieron. De pronto se levantó en el mar una tempestad tan grande que la barca quedaba tapada por las olas; pero él estaba dormido. Acercándose ellos le despertaron diciendo: «¡Señor, sálvanos, que perecemos!» Díceles: «¿Por qué tenéis miedo, hombres de poca fe?» Entonces se levantó, increpó a los vientos y al mar, y sobrevino una gran bonanza. Y aquellos hombres, maravillados, decían: «¿Quién es éste, que hasta los vientos y el mar le obedecen?»

Líder: En un espíritu de confianza, continuemos con oraciones de petición. [Nota: las cursivas en las peticiones marcan las respuestas]

Señor ten piedad. Señor ten piedad.

Cristo, ten piedad. Cristo, ten piedad.

Señor ten piedad. Señor, ten piedad.

Por el fin de la propagación del coronavirus COVID-19 y cualquier otra enfermedad, roguemos al Señor. Te lo pedimos, Señor.

Por todos los que están enfermos, para que se les den fuerzas y se recuperen, roguemos al Señor. Te lo pedimos, Señor.

Para todos los que cuidan a los enfermos, y todos los que trabajan en una cura o vacuna, para que tengan éxito, roguemos al Señor. Te lo pedimos, Señor.

Por nuestra familia y amigos, los pobres, y por todos aquellos en necesidad particular ahora, para que puedan estar protegidos, roguemos al Señor. Te lo pedimos, Señor.

Por todos los que han muerto y por aquellos que lloran la pérdida de sus seres queridos, para que se les dé paz, roguemos al Señor. Te lo pedimos, Señor.

Para todos nosotros, para que podamos crecer en la fe y la conversión al Señor durante este tiempo, roguemos al Señor. Te lo pedimos, Señor.

[Opcional: Para cualquier otra intención que le gustaría compartir …]

Oremos por todas estas peticiones en las palabras que nuestro Salvador nos enseñó: Padre nuestro, que estás en el cielo …

Pidamos también la intercesión de la Santísima Virgen María, Ayuda de los Enfermos: Dios te salve, María…

Terminamos expresando nuestra confianza en el poder de la Santísima Trinidad: Gloria al Padre y al Hijo …

Señor Jesucristo, nuestro Redentor, por la gracia de tu Espíritu Santo, cura las enfermedades de tus siervos. Cura sus enfermedades y perdona sus pecados; expulsar todas las aflicciones de la mente y el cuerpo; restaura misericordiosamente a su salud completa, y les permite reasumir sus deberes anteriores, Tú que vives y reinas por los siglos de los siglos. Amén.

San Malaquias, ruega por nosotros.

Santa Isabel de Hungría, ruega por nosotros.

San Sebastián, ruega por nosotros.

Todos los ángeles y santos, rueguen por nosotros.

Oración de Comunión espiritual:

Apropiado para rezar diariamente, y especialmente a la hora en que normalmente asistirías a misa.

Jesús mío, creo que estás presente en el Santísimo Sacramento. Te amo por encima de todas las cosas y deseo recibirte en mi alma. Como ahora no puedo recibirte sacramentalmente, entra al menos espiritualmente en mi corazón. Te abrazo como si ya estuvieras allí, y me uno completamente a ti. Nunca permitas que me separe de ti. Amén.

Oración de Adoración de Jesús en los Tabernáculos del Mundo:

Que el Sagrado Corazón de Jesús en el Santísimo Sacramento sea alabado, adorado y amado en cada momento, en todos los tabernáculos del mundo, incluso hasta el fin de los tiempos. Amén.

A Way to Start Prayer Based on the Baptismal Promises

The way we begin our prayer often sets the tone for our receptivity to God’s action. God can work through even a distracted soul, but having an organized plan for the start often bears great fruit. As Catholics we generally begin with the Sign of the Cross, which roots our prayer in our relationship with God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I think a great way to build on this is to follow the approach of the ancient baptismal promises, which were made by us (or on our behalf) shortly before we were baptized in the name of the same Holy Trinity. This approach was shared with me by a retreat director, and so I’d like to take a moment to share it with you!

The baptismal promises are structured with three renunciations (of Satan, his empty works, and his empty promises), followed by three professions of faith (in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). Similarly, at the beginning of prayer we can take a moment to renounce the obstacles that keep us from prayer, or hinder our engagement. It is good to be specific to the moment. For example, a person might say, “I renounce the belief that God is not present to me,” “I renounce the belief that my television/phone/etc is a better use of my time than prayer,” or “I renounce the belief that I can live life to the fullest without prayer.” The retreat director recommended invoking the name of Jesus during these statements. It doesn’t have to be list of three things, it can just depend on what is on our mind at the time. The point is that this practice identifies things that sap our strength in prayer. Often these are unconscious thoughts, and naming them can bring them to light and lessen their power over us. Other times, naming them may show them to be illogical or inconsistent.

However, we don’t end with renunciations. What we profess in faith is at the center of our identity; what we reject is only to clear the way for these truths. Therefore, we can continue to follow the structure of the baptismal promises by naming what we believe. “I believe that God is present. That He hears me. That He loves me.” “I believe that God has something to share with me in this time of prayer.” “I believe that God is at work to strengthen my soul and give light to my mind even when I do not feel any emotional response.” Whereas naming a lie can rob it of some of its power over us, naming a truth reinforces the power that it can give to us.

This approach to prayer may only take a minute or two, or it may be extended. I think in particular it is a great way to begin longer times of reflection (whether personal prayer or at Mass). It can give us the help to push beyond merely reciting prayers without much reflection, and instead enable true heart-to-heart dialogue with God. God bless!

Easter Homily 2019 (summary!)

Alleluia, He is Risen!

Today I think of an experience that we probably all have had as a child – what I call the “reassuring glance.” I can remember times as a kid of being nervous about an at bat in baseball, or jumping off the high dive in the pool, or having to speak in public, and then looking over and seeing my mom, dad, a coach, or a friend. In seeing them present, I was given courage to face the situation before me. When we see a child in one of these nervous situations make a reassuring glance like that, we can see their whole mood and expression change. They become more confident. Their fear is overcome and they can deal with the challenge.

For us as Christians, our ultimate source of assurance can be found in the Resurrected Christ. He has conquered death! Death no longer has power over Him, as St Paul says. As Christ drew all of our sufferings and failures to Himself in His death, He now includes all of our victories in His resurrection. This is what transformed the Apostles. As a saint said, if they were afraid to follow Him publicly while He was alive, what makes them rise up courageous and unconquerable after His death? It is their encounter with Jesus in His resurrection. For this reason St Paul can say that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him.

However, this change didn’t reach its fulfillment in one day. Jesus spent forty days after His resurrection with them before His ascension, strengthening them and letting this reassurance deepen. They spent the next ten days in prayer waiting for the Holy Spirit, and on the fiftieth day – Pentecost – they were ready. No matter how many Easters we have celebrated, we are invited in these next fifty days to return to this meditation on victory! When we face challenges – whether the every-day sort or the types that shake us to the core – let us repeat those words, “Jesus, you are risen. You are victorious. You are with me. I can face this situation in the light of your victory over death.” May we arrive at the end of this Easter season more deeply connected with our Risen Lord. Amen, alleluia!

Three Things about St Patrick

While I was at my first assignment I was blessed to come across a great little book that contained two documents written by St Patrick himself (which was fitting since one of the parishes was named for him!). I really enjoyed this glimpse into the saint’s own mind and personality. The two works are his Confession (the word is used here in a similar sense to St Augustine’s book, as a basic account of his life), and his Letter to Coroticus. Here are three things to share from them-

 

1. His humility.

St Patrick writes about himself in a very simple and humble way. This can be seen in the first line of each work: “I Patrick, am a sinner, the most uncultured and smallest among all the faithful…” and “I, Patrick, an unlearned sinner who dwells in Ireland…” He was well aware that the work he was doing was not a result of his personal strength but came from the grace of God.

2. His encounter with the Lord’s mercy.

This is the counter-point to his above humility. As much as he was aware of his own weakness, he was aware of the power of God. He writes, “But I know… that before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in the deep mud. But the Strong One came and in His mercy He took me out and He lifted me on high and placed me on the top of His wall. Therefore, I must cry aloud in thanksgiving to the Lord for so many good things which He has given me both now and for eternity… He thus prepared me to be the kind of person I am today so that I can care and work for the salvation of others; me who never cared for my own salvation.” My favorite line is his description that, “[God] watched over me before I knew Him and before I could tell right from wrong: He had compassion for me just as a father has for his son.”

3. The love that he had for the people of Ireland.

It sometimes surprises people to learn that St Patrick wasn’t Irish. He was British and originally came to Ireland as a captive. Patrick escaped his slavery back to Britain, but then felt the call to return to Ireland as a missionary. He talks about hearing the voice of the Irish in his dreams and prayers, and his heart being rent within him. He writes to Coroticus, “I am also urged by the love I have for my neighbors and children, for whom I have renounced my fatherland and family and handed over my very life even unto death.” Patrick describes coming to Ireland as if he had adopted the whole people to himself, and from history we know that the love of his dedication to the people of the island has been well felt!

 

These are just a few small samples, I highly encourage taking the time to read his works if you get the chance. God bless!

Lent 2019

I thought I’d post a few thoughts about Lenten goals for this year, based around the three classic works of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Many of these suggestions are similar to what I’ve written in past years, but there’s always a little something new!

1. Prayer

A. Sacraments

The sacraments are our baseline for prayer. Sunday Mass gives the core to our week. We should find a time to make a good sacramental Confession/Reconciliation at some point during the season. Daily Masses are a great way to keep the season holy, too.

B. Personal Prayer

Personal prayer and other devotions deepen our sacramental prayer. Scripture reading, books of reflection, the rosary, or the Stations of the Cross are all great aids to prayer. At its root, personal prayer develops a conversation between us and God.

C. Spiritual Reading

I’m going to add a separate category here because I think spiritual reading is so important! This is a little different than prayer, but nourishes our growth in faith. Search for great books or guides for reflection. If you are a member of St Malachy/St Elizabeth, Formed is a tremendous resource. You can gain access through stmalachyrantoul.formed.org. It includes not just books, but videos, talks, podcasts, and movies. Matthew Kelly organizes another daily option called “Best Lent Ever” (https://dynamiccatholic.com/best-lent-ever). I also provide resources on my website (if you’re reading this in another format, the address is borrowedlore.com).

2. Fasting

A. The basic regulations for Catholics are that all those 14 years of age or older are required to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent. Those 18-59 are required to limit their food to one main meal (with two smaller meals/snacks) on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. In case of medical necessity this requirement doesn’t bind.

B. In addition, we may personally choose to give something up for Lent. Screen time is always a recommendation that I give. I think it’s important to connect this to prayer and almsgiving. Our sacrifice could give us extra time to pray. Feeling the absence of something could be a reminder to pray. Money saved could be given to charitable causes.

3. Almsgiving
This can include any of the works of mercy. It is often the most neglected of the three works, and to be honest will be the shortest of my points here. However, that is because I plan to make this the focus of my reflections during this Lent- so, more to come on this area!

I encourage you to take some time in these next few days to discern what goals you are being called to set. Some might be daily goals, or weekly, or even once per Lent. Please pray for me, and be assured of my prayers for your Lenten season. God bless!

John Henry Cardinal Newman

I first heard of Cardinal Newman as the namesake of the “Newman Center” that I attended at the University of Illinois (the Catholic student center). It was with great joy that I heard he had been approved for canonization as a saint! In this post I thought I’d give a few reasons as to how he has been a positive influence in my life.

Cardinal Newman was a significant theologian of the 19th century (lived 1801-1890). He was a member of the Oxford Movement within Anglicanism and developed a deep interest in the writings of early Christians. Much of his research can be found in his work, “An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine” (although the word ‘essay’ may be deceiving… my paperback copy is 480 pages!). This study is particularly interesting because he began the research before entering the Catholic Church, and finished it as Catholic. It documents his discovery of the historical roots and unity of the early Church with the Catholic Church today. His writing is full of profound insight into the reasons for belief—which was not an abstract study for him, but a burning personal question. Newman’s writing can be dense at times, but very rewarding!

Second, I find his spirituality compelling and timely. He took as his motto “Cor ad cor loquitur” (heart speaks to heart). As important as study was to him, Newman recognized that what is most powerful is when the Gospel is embodied in a personal witness. In it we can consider the Heart of God speaking to our heart, as well as seeking to let our heart speak to others. My favorite explanation of this phrase comes from a book by Louis Bouyer about St Philip Neri (side note— When Newman entered the Catholic Church he decided to start a community of the Congregation of the Oratory, the religious order founded by Neri. At some point I will write a post on Neri! He is my favorite non-biblical saint). Bouyer writes, “Cardinal Newman’s motto, ‘Cor ad cor loquitur,’ sums up the Philippian ideal; neither speeches nor arguments can awaken a living faith in those whom Christianity has lost its meaning. Only contact with people whose daily lives are dominated by an intense and personal experience of the truths of the Faith can achieve such a result, and it is precisely this result which Philip achieved through his dual life of intimate communion with God and men.” There is a personal touch to his approach to preaching and teaching, and a good reminder that the Faith isn’t just to be studied, but to be lived.

Finally, his legacy keeps popping up in my life. Newman was the rector of a Catholic university and wrote a book called “The Idea of a University,” and his interest in this topic helped him to become the patron of the line of Catholic student centers that I encountered on campus in Champaign-Urbana. This center helped me to make the transition from my high school faith into a more adult faith, and to discern my vocation as a priest (another side note—when I entered seminary, the directors of our diocesan retreat center would begin the retreats with his prayer “Some Definite Service,” it’s worth looking up!). Also, his community and school at the Birmingham Oratory was closely connected with two of my favorite British writers: Hilaire Belloc and JRR Tolkien. Belloc graduated from there as a student himself. Tolkien’s mother appointed a priest of the community as the guardian for him when she was near death, which helped guide him to develop his faith and studies to become the author and professor that he was. Tolkien then sent his children to the school. So, Newman’s influence is all over!

I never can capture everything about a person in a summary like this, but hopefully that gives a little crash course on Newman. God bless!