Tag Archives: Cardinal Newman

Daily life and Saint Bartholomew

Today is the feast of St. Bartholomew, the apostle, often identified with Nathaniel.

In John’s Gospel 1:45-51, Philip finds him seated under a fig tree and calls him to come and see this Jesus. A little skeptical – “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” – Bartholomew follows his friend and then follows Jesus.

He is called in his daily life and he lives a life which was probably not full of moments of grandeur, but full of the concerns of daily life, even the daily life of a disciple and a missionary. And I can attest that the life of a missionary is not all excitement; it’s full of the ordinary.

But it’s in the ordinary where we can begin to live out faithful discipleship.

Benedictine Daily Prayer offers part of a sermon of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman for Vigils. This section spoke to me today.

…sometimes we are led to think we ought to be useful on a large scale, and go out of our line of life, that we maybe doing something worth doing, as we consider it.

Here we have the history of St. Bartholomew and the other apostles to recall us to ourselves, and to assure us that we need not give up our usual manner of life, in order to serve God; that the most humble and quietest station is acceptable to God, if improved duly. Indeed, it affords means for maturing the highest Christian character, even that of an apostle. Bartholomew read the Scriptures and prayed to God; and thus was trained at length to give up his life for Christ, when he demanded it.

We are trained at length in the little things, the constant repetitions of daily life. There we learn how to follow, how to “Come and see.”

Being in charge

You have not chosen me;
I have chosen you.
John 15: 16

I like being in charge, knowing what I will be doing and not experiencing many surprises.

But I’m not sure that’s the way God works. More often than not, God surprises us and moves us where we don’t expect to go.

We do make choices and they are important. But what is important is that God has chosen us. It doesn’t matter if we’re smart or handsome or witty. What matters is God’s choice and our response.

As I wrote these words I thought of this prayer of Cardinal John Newman which someone gave me years ago:

God has created me to do Him some definite service.
He has committed some work to me
which he has not committed to another.
I have a mission.
I may never know it in this life
but I shall be told it in the next.
I am a link in a chain,
a bond of connection between persons.
He has not created me for naught.
I shall do good — I shall do His work;
I shall be an angel of peace,
a preacher of truth in my own place,
while not intending it,
if I but keep His commandments.
Therefore I will trust Him.
Whatever I am, I can never be thrown away.
If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him.
In perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him.
If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.
He does nothing in vain.
He knows what He is about.
He may take away my friends.
He may throw me among strangers.
He may make me feel desolate,
make my spirits sink,
hide my future from me —
still He knows what He is about.

 

Called out of great love

This morning, reading the Christian Community Bible translation of the first lectionary reading, Galatians 1:13-24, I was struck by the translation of verse 15:

But one day God called me out of his great love.

The word translated as love, χάρις, is usually translated as grace, though dictionaries also give mercy or kindness as its meaning, though it is also etymologically related to charity.

God called Paul, one day, out of great love, as he calls us.

Today the Catholic Church celebrates Blessed John Henry Newman, a nineteenth century convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism.

A brilliant professor at Oxford, he had to leave his position because his interpretation of part of Anglican doctrine seemed too Catholic. As a result he set out to prove that the tradition of the Church was held onto by the Anglican tradition, in the face of changes by Catholicism. He came to the opposite conclusion, published  On the Development of Doctrine,  and was received into the Catholic Church on October 9, 1845.

In the Catholic Church his intellectual honesty led him to be suspect by the more conservative members of the English Catholic Church. But he persisted in his work and tried to be a voice amid the factionalism of the Catholci Churhc in England.  He was, surprisingly, made a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII.

Cardinal Newman has been taken as a patron for Catholic campus ministry in the United States, where many Catholic student centers on secular campuses are called Newman Centers.

A few years ago, a friend shared this reflection of Cardinal Newman, which reflects the sense of Paul’s comments to the Galatians:

God has created me to do Him some definite service.
He has committed some work to me
which he has not committed to another.
I have a mission.
I may never know it in this life
but I shall be told it in the next.
I am a link in a chain,
a bond of connection between persons.
He has not created me for naught.

I shall do good — I shall do His work;
I shall be an angel of peace,
a preacher of truth in my own place,
while not intending it,
if I but keep His commandments.

Therefore I will trust Him.
Whatever I am, I can never be thrown away.
If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him.
In perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him.
If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.

He does nothing in vain.
He knows what He is about.
He may take away my friends.
He may throw me among strangers.
He may make me feel desolate,
make my spirits sink,
hide my future from me —
still He knows what He is about.