Meditations and Devotions

Meditations and Devotions

Publisher: Baronius Press
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Format: Brown Leather
Pages: 448
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To pray is to be a Christian, to be a Saint is to have prayed often. John Henry Cardinal Newman was a man of prayer and this book contains the culmination of his prayers and devotions, divided into three sections.

The first and second part of this book contain the vocal prayers he wrote for public use, the litanies, the Stations of the Cross and short meditations. The long meditations in the third part of the book are intended for private use, which draw one into deeper intimacy with Our Lord.

The prayers are also a testament to his particular devotion to Our Lady, with moving commentaries on several of her titles from the Litany of Loreto. These commentaries are tender and profound, yet without any trace of sentimentality.

Newman’s meditations are full of doctrine. Doctrine is the expression of Truth, and above all things, Newman longed to bear witness to the Truth. It is from the Scriptures, the Church Fathers and the living Church that Newman drew his doctrine, and in his meditations he made it his own.

To pray is to be a Christian, to be a Saint is to have prayed often. John Henry Cardinal Newman, the Blessed, was a man of prayer, and this book contains the prayers and devotions found in his room after his death and put together by his executors, as Fr William Neville tells us in his preface. They reveal the man, and the manner of his prayer. They reveal also his century and his formation. It is only since his time that there was the great revival of contemplative spirituality, expounded by Abbot Chapman and Evelyn Underhill, popularised, and perhaps vulgarised, by later authors. Chapman had to advise people who felt guilty about not being able to practise discursive meditation, and assured them that the various forms of wordless contemplation were equally valid, “pray as you can and don’t try to pray as you can’t”, he would say, repeatedly. Now perhaps we have the opposite problem: those who do not feel drawn to contemplation feel guilty about using vocal prayers, or pondering over the Gospels in the way of meditation. But these were the methods of prayer used by Newman, and indeed every Catholic priest of his time and place. The works of St John of the Cross remain unopened on his desk, the mediaeval English mystics were unknown, but the regular daily practice of meditation was the essence of his life as a priest and as an Oratorian.

Vocal prayers he wrote for public use, the litanies, the Stations of the Cross, the short meditations for the evening exercises of the Oratory in May, in the first and second parts of this compilation. They can still be used, with great profit. In private he also kept books with lists of names, all those to whom he had promised prayers, read over day after day to the end of his life. Newman became accustomed to this manner of prayer when he began to recite the Divine Office. This is a much longer affair than the present “Prayer of the Church”, and the psalms and readings have to be recited continuously, one word following fast on the one before, for even at that pace the Office occupies a significant portion of the day. Newman delighted in the Office, in the rich variety of its scriptural and patristic readings, as well as the familiar psalms, all one hundred and fifty recited every week, in the ancient tradition of the Church. Litanies, like the Office, are recited fast – and Newman wrote a famous vindication of the rapid patter of liturgical prayer – for the words are something of a background to the prayer itself. Indeed, paradoxically, litanies, the Office, the Rosary and other such repeated prayers are a form of contemplation, a steady rhythm of words, sacred words whose meaning is valuable, but not always consciously understood, as we fix our gaze on an image, or on the Blessed Sacrament.

The short meditations can also be used in public worship, and spoken aloud. They are to be read more slowly, for in this case the meaning has to be heard and understood, and stored up in the heart. They are the distillation of the longer forms of meditation, the usual form of prayer which Newman practised alone. The long meditations in the third part of the book are for private use. Each one can last half an hour, for they are to be read very slowly indeed, pausing on each phrase, each word even, to ponder their meaning, and passing on to the next phrase only when we become aware of the danger of distraction. Newman, like many others, meditated best with pen and paper to hand. This practice he began before his conversion, and he mentions it in a number of his Oxford sermons, although it was something new to an English congregation. He read the Scriptures, the entire Bible, taking each passage slowly and carefully, thinking about what it might mean, being aware of other passages that could shed additional light, bringing together a lifetime’s familiarity with the Word of God. The fruit is to be seen in his published sermons, all of which are full of Scriptural references, both conscious and unconscious. His meditations are full of doctrine – he would have nothing vacuous and sentimental. Doctrine, for Newman, is the expression of Truth, and above all things he longed to bear witness to the Truth, as his Master before him. It is from the Scriptures, the Fathers, and the living Church that Newman drew his doctrine, and in his meditations he made it his own, lodged in his heart. They are reprinted here, so that his heart may speak to our hearts.

Fr. Jerome Bertram

The Oratory, Oxford:
1st February, 2010.

Editorial Reviews

Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia
"Blessed John Henry Newman is remembered for the brilliance of his mind and the persuasive power of his writing. But above all, Newman touches the heart. He wins the reader with clarity and beauty, as evidenced on every page of this wonderful book. His work is a labor of joy; it changes us for the better. Everyday Meditations is the kind of book that, if taken to heart, draws us into the arms of God."

James D. Conley, S.T.L., Bishop of Lincoln
"Everyday Meditations will change your life. Blessed Newman's reflections will speak to your heart helping you grow in faith, hope and love."

Fr. C. John McCloskey, Research Fellow at the Faith & Reason Institute
"Who would not want to have arguably the greatest theologian and convert maker of the last two centuries at his side as he enters into conversation with the Lord on a daily basis? This book will help you immensely in your struggle for holiness and winning the world for Christ and His Church."

Stratford Caldecott, Director of the Centre for Faith & Culture, Oxford
"It is sometimes hard to pray, and often we are distracted from God's presence, though He never leaves us. Nothing makes it easier to remember Him than to follow the prayers and meditations of a holy person such as Newman: we become like children, led by the hand of a gentle and kindly father; or like wanderers once lost in the dark, following the warm light from an open doorway. These prayers and meditations are from Newman's heart, and this new edition of them is a great gift."

Pope Benedict XVI
"Blessed John Henry s teaching on prayer explains how the faithful Christian is definitively taken into the service of the one true Master, who alone has a claim to our unconditional devotion."

John Henry Newman:
John Henry Newman

St. John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was a poet and theologian. One of the most beloved writers and saints of English Christianity, he was first an Anglican priest and founder of the Oxford Movement, and later became a Catholic priest and cardinal. His autobiography, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, is one of the great Christian classics.

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