Monday, October 13, 2014

Making Blessed John Henry Newman Better Known

Father Juan Velez wrote last week on the Memorial of Blessed John Henry Newman about making him better known, and he has some suggestions:

The writing and promotion of short biographies of Cardinal Newman will make him more accessible to people. My biography Passion for Truth, the Life of John Henry Newman is an attempt to fill this gap. Short articles in journals and websites will also foster interest and awareness of his life and contribution. These types of articles have become more common in the last decades. Conferences on Newman and his thought such as those sponsored by the Newman Studies Institute will continue to help Newman scholars in their research. The participants in these meeting will need to continue to find creative ways to teach people in general about Newman. To this effect there should be many more talks and seminars in parishes and diocesan centers on Newman’s life and ideas.

There are two others measures that will bring Newman to a much larger number of Catholics. The first, which applies to the United States, is for university Newman Centers to develop and put into effect a comprehensive study plan on Newman’s contributions to doctrine and spirituality, and to foster devotion to him. The second refers to the liturgical celebration of Newman’s memorial in the dioceses of English speaking countries. A petition to the Holy See of one or more conferences of bishops from English speaking dioceses to include the memorial of Blessed John Henry Newman as an optional memorial in their liturgical calendars would most likely be well received and result in the liturgical observance of this memorial. In consequence the faithful would hear about Blessed Newman and many would wish to learn about him.

There are understandable reasons for ignorance of Newman:

People in general, Catholics included, do not read a lot of books; instead they watch television or movies and read news articles. Newman’s English flows in elegant and articulate sentences with rich and nuanced vocabulary. Unaccustomed readers are easily turned off after reading a few lines or unable to comprehend them. Furthermore given his depth of historical knowledge Newman’s writing refer to historical events, peoples and ideas; without some knowledge of these the reader finds himself at a loss. As for the Church going Catholic he will rarely hear about Newman because pastors know little about him and thus will not explain what he taught and quote from his works.

I made some other suggestions in a comment, as this blog post coincided with my preparation of a list of suggested reading for my Newman class at the Spiritual Life Center tomorrow night:

For those who can’t undertake a systematic study of Blessed John Henry Newman, I think works like your Five Minutes devotional, or excerpts from his sermons (Scepter Publishers has a nice collection, The Rule of Our Warfare: John Henry Newman and the True Christian Life) or Sophia Institute Press’s Everyday Meditations are good places to start. They will promote devotion to him, intercession to him, and canonization for him!

And it's also nice to think that I have made small contributions along the lines Father Velez mentions: articles (here and here) on Newman and conscience; presentations; and even radio interviews.

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