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A model for men and women searching for the Mystery of God.

cardinalnewmanWhen we say the Creed, we need to realise that we are doing something extraordinary and counter cultural. In a world where so many people live atomised existences, we are doing something as a community. In an age that shies away from commitment, as we say the Creed we are committing ourselves to a set of convictions and to each other. The Creed is our symbol, the way we recognise each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s a sign of our common membership. It is our Catholic identity. (JerichoTree). It is to this identity that Newman endeavoured to cleave himself through his search for Truth in the Mystery of God.

“I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it.” ~ John Henry Newman

I went on a pilgrimage to Newman’s Littlemore College in Oxford, where I learned more about this inspirational man,and his fascinating journey into the arms of the Catholic Church.The influence of Blessed John Henry Newman, one of the outstanding voices of 19th century Roman Catholicism, has spread throughout the Christian world and is stronger than ever today. He lived and prayed for four years at The College in Littlemore where he was received into the Roman Catholic Church on 9th October 1845.Blessed John Henry Newman lived at “The College” at Littlemore from 1842-1846, making it a place of quiet prayer and study for himself and some friends.

Littlemore college

Littlemore college

“There it has been, that I have both been
taught my way and received an answer to my prayers.”

Newman, Letters and Diaries, XI 132/3

Newman’s oratory has again become a place of prayer and worship, with the Office, daily hours of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and regular masses. A substantial and specialized collection of Newman-related literature has been built up on the site of Newman’s own library, together with an exhibition of Newman memorabilia (prints, etchings, photographs, sculptures and original letters). Newman wrote in total, 20.000 letters!

In 1963 Pope Paul VI beatified Fr. Dominic Barberi, The Passionist ,who received John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church. On that occasion the Pope spoke about Blessed Dominic; but he also spoke about Newman. He said ‘, Newman’s journey of Faith was ,’the greatest, the most meaningful, the most conclusive, that human thought ever travelled during…the modern era.’

This quote from Blessed Barberi on Newman's request to become Catholic.

This quote from Blessed Barberi on Newman’s request to become Catholic.

A relic of Blessed Dominic Barberi at eh church I visited at Littlemore.

A relic of Blessed Dominic Barberi at the church I visited at Littlemore.

I had an opportunity to pray in front of the Crucifix Blessed Newman prayed in front of daily.

I had an opportunity to pray in front of the Crucifix Blessed Newman prayed in front of daily.

Newman's bedroom kept today as it was when he lived there.

Newman’s bedroom kept today as it was when he lived there.

Pilgrims can visit Newman’s room, in which many historic features have been preserved. The chapel, which is regularly used for prayer and Mass, is similar to how it would have been when Newman and his companions prayed there. I prayed in the same place where Newman spent so much of his time in search of the truth, and where he had the grace and happiness of being received into what he believed to be “the one true Fold of Christ” (Letters and Diaries XI, 5).

Newman's writing desk on which Blessed Barberi performed the mass after Newman's conversion. Newman never write on it again and kept it inverted after this .

Newman’s writing desk on which Blessed Barberi performed the mass after Newman’s conversion. Newman never wrote on it again and kept it inverted after this mass .


Newman’s writing desk in his bedroom.

The intellectual genius of Newman coupled with is humility struck me to the core. His dogged determination in search of the truth cost him dearly as far as his friends and family were concerned.  On his desk is a diary of his writings and included is a letter to his sister Jemima telling her of his decision to convert to Catholicism. He begins, ”My dear Jemima, I must tell you what will pain you greatly, but I will make it as short as you would wish me to do…”.  This letter he sent to her only after his conversion. The non-pre-existent relationship with his sister caused his much sadness.

In 1845 Newman wrote his ‘Development of Christian Doctrine’ and towards the end of this work it became clear to him that he must seek admission into the Roman Catholic Church. When Fr Dominic Barberi visited Littlemore, Newman and two of his companions were received into the Church on 9th October 1845.

In his Development of Christian Doctrine’, Newman spoke of how ‘to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.’ These memorable words are well known and often quoted, and it seems obvious that change was a particular characteristic of his life. The Roman Catholic Church in England was itself going though great change at the time of Newman’s conversion.


A ‘must-have’ read.

I purchased this book last year as a digital copy and then almost immediately purchased a hard copy because is is such a wonderful book to ‘have and to hold close’ (in your hands and in your heart!) This is a book I will be purchasing as gifts  for friends and family.

THE BETTER PART, buy Fr John Bartunek



is a’ Christ-centred resource for personal prayer.’ It is changing my relationship with Jesus and is helping me through the most difficult time of my Journey to Christ to date. My prayer life is becoming deeper and more meaningful. I feel prepared and eager for a meeting  with the Lord every day.

It’s the only book that has shared with me a 4 step structure to personal meditation, making my prayer life more intimate and meaningful for me.

Here are some titbits to whet your appetite:

  1. ‘ Jesus has made the appointment to meet  with you in prayer’ –  In other words it’s no accident that I am yearning to be closer to Jesus and that a deeply personal relationship is one that I want so much with Him, because he yearns for the same relationship with me. He is the one calling me to prayer.
  2. ‘ Among the most basic prayer commitments is one that can have more bearing on your life that any other, because is is more personalised: the daily meditation.’ – I do much spiritual reading to find out more about my Faith and my Lord and Saviour, I need to keep a daily meeting with my Lord for the sole purpose of getting to know Him better and to recommit myself to uncovering His will for my life. I realise that there is a difference between spiritual reading and meditation in that even the readings of the day can become spiritual reading, and not so much a meditative reading if I merely read them as part of a routine day in and day out. In order to get to know the Lord more intimately and to unwrap His will for my life, His messages for me alone, I need to excavate what’s in the Gospel with tenacity and purpose. This is done through meditation and prayer over the Gospels.
  3. ‘Prayer is similar to walking. To walk everyone has to follow the same principles of physics- friction, gravity, muscle propulsion, momentum. And yet, even though the principles are the same, everyone’s walk is a little bit different. When babies learn to walk, they start out clumsy and awkward, until they develop the rhythm and style proper to their body type, personality, and environment. Meditation follows a similar pattern: the same principles for all, activated uniquely by each. The Better Part can help you wherever you happen to be on the spectrum.’ 


If any one of you have read this amazing book please comment on how you have found it deepening your relationship with Jesus. I intend to post more on this book as I read on.

the Story of Mary and MArtha: Mary is doing 'the better part', listening to the Lord's teaching.

In the Story of Mary and Martha: Mary is doing ‘the better part’, listening to the Lord’s teaching.

An introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:Do you know why there is a Catechism?

I came across this video here. The CCC is such an important document, that all Catholics should own one. This comprehensive video gives you the reasons why it’s a good idea and is explicit in its content with regard to why and how it was put together.

The Catholic Faith is explained in detail in the CCC, and warrants further discussion within a parish group context.



…becoming a Christian begins only when a person sloughs off any illusion of autonomy and self-sufficiency.


First of all, it seems important to me that the Church does not regard becoming a Christian as the result of a course of instruction or even of a training process. She regards it as a sacrament. This means that no one becomes a Christian by his own unaided power. No one can make himself a Christian. It is not man’s business or within his competence to upgrade himself, as it were, into a great-souled person and finally into a Christian. On the contrary, the process of becoming a Christian begins only when a person sloughs off any illusion of autonomy and self-sufficiency; when he acknowledges that man does not create himself and cannot bring himself to fulfillment but must open himself and allow himself to be led to his true self.To be a Christian, then, means first and foremost that we acknowledge our own insufficiency and allow him—the Other who is God—to act upon us.—Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)

(As posted on Ignatius press facebook)
From his book “Dogma and Preaching”, available on our site here:www.ignatius.com/Products/DP2-H/dogma-and-preaching-2nd-ed.aspx?src=ipfb

16522_495077690527404_2055274199_n (2)

Image: St. Francis Xavier baptizing. Photograph by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. See more of his images at www.flickr.com/photos/paullew/


A cartoon that gets the juices flowing.

Image @http://www.swordofpeter.blogspot.co.uk/

I believe in Christianity.

‘I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else.’   C.S. LEWIS


Our Lady’s birthday.

A modern picture of Our Lady

Mary was born to be the mother of the Saviour of the world, the spiritual mother of all men, and the holiest of God’s creatures. Because of her Son’s infinite merits, she was conceived and born immaculate and full of grace. Through her, Queen of heaven and of earth, all grace is given to men. Through her, by the will of the Trinity, the unbelieving receive the gift of faith; the afflicted are tendered the works of mercy; and the members of Christ grow in likeness of their Head. In Mary all human nature is exalted. We rejoice in her birthday, as the Church has done from the earliest times. This is one of the three birthdays in the Church Calendar — the Birth of Jesus (December 25), the Birth of John the Baptist (June 24) and the Birthday of Mary. All three were born without original sin, although Mary and Jesus were conceived without sin, and St. John was cleansed of original sin while in the womb at the Visitation of Mary. (Catholic Culture)

The girl, Mary.

Mary is born.



What is Casual Catholicism? Its Defining Symptoms and Five Cures

I am re-blogging this from Ascending Mount Carmel. With the Year of Faith looming large, this fantastic post just hit the spot. I know some casual Catholics who pick and choose, condemn and criticize. I find it hard to be around them. This is where practising Catholics need to be strong and courageous enough to continue conversations and ask and answer pertinent questions that will get these ‘Casuals’ to take a closer look at the Faith. In my opinion, the ‘Casuals’ need conversion and straight talking, firing shots straight from the hip!

We all know the term “cafeteria Catholicism” by now – simply put, the one who picks and chooses from elements of their faith and leaves the rest behind.  But what about “casual Catholicism”?  Ever heard of this?

Casual Catholicism cannot be precisely defined, but it certainly has its trademark aspects.  I’ll list a few hallmark elements of what could be said to define a casual Catholic:

1.  A casual Catholic treats the Eucharist as a light snack, as a symbol and nothing else, as merely a “wafer” and some wine.  Holy Communion is just something one “takes” at Mass out of custom, not because they are in a state to do so, or are desirous of receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.  No, it’s just the thing that one does.

2.  A casual Catholic really knows about as much about their faith as one might know about the fine print on a box of Lucky Charms cereal by heart.  Ask them who St. Augustine was, and they’ll shrug. Ask them about the Council of Nicaea and they’ll probably give you the most quizzical look of all time.

3.  A casual Catholic only goes to Mass when they have to – Sundays at best, Christmas and Easter at worst.  Casual Catholics never go out of their way to do anything extra.

Those are just a few observations I have made – of course, not everyone has time to engage in copious study of their faith, nor are they able to go to Mass when they aren’t required to.  People are simply busy sometimes.

Nonetheless, casual Catholicism (one might also all it “nominal Catholicism”) as a phenomena is one of the worst ills plaguing the Church.  The world begins to assume that Catholics don’t really care about what they believe in.  Protestants begin to view Catholics as never picking up a Bible, and simply as being duped by “smells and bells” or as merely being born into something they don’t really believe in.  In effect, casual Catholicism can be summed up as being one giant spiritual shrug.

So how do we cure the haphazard, shrugging nature of casual Catholicism, whose only great manifesto are the words “I guess…yeah…sort of…whatever”?  I’ve come up with some ideas – by your leave:

1.  Go to Confession for venial sins, and not just mortal sins.

From what I’ve gathered from the lives of the saints, they went to confession on a continual and constant basis for even the smallest of faults.  Of course, I’m not encouraging over-scrupulosity; no, I’m encouraging spiritual growth.  If we never approach the sacrament of God’s Mercy, how can we know it in that way?  How can we overcome the scars and little wounds of daily spiritual struggle if we only go to the Healer when a limb has been lopped off?  As St. Francis de Sales writes, “Our Savior gave us the sacrament of penance and confession to His Church so that we may be cleansed from all iniquities no matter how often and how greatly we have been defiled by them.”1

Much of the problems in the Church today, I think, stems from the fact that many view sin in a casual manner, that hell is just a symbol or non-existent, or that God will just forgive us anyway therefore don’t worry about it.  Yes, God will always forgive us – but if we presume upon God’s Mercy, then we become little more than antinomians and sloths.  As Seneca once wrote, “You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply – though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last.”2

Therefore, cultivate a healthy awareness of sin in your life – we all do it, we are all sinners.  It is recognizing it, repenting of it, and running to God everytime we do sin, that makes all the difference.

2.  Adopt a devotion.

There is nothing quite like the Catholic prayer life – and yet so many seem to make no use of all its splendorous avenues to the Heart of God.  If one’s prayer life is dry, if lukewarmness is filling one’s soul to the brim with stagnant, muddy water, then it’s time to adopt a particular devotion.

Saints abound – which one speaks to you?  Have you studied their life or their spirituality in order to compliment your reading of the Scriptures?  Choose a patron saint – if you’re lucky, one might voluntarily choose you!

Plus, there is much more to the world of Catholic prayer than simply the Rosary, though the Rosary is arguably the greatest prayer in the Christian West.  Understand too that it is a most beautiful, most wonderfully all-encompassing prayer I think in the Western Christian tradition.  But there is so much more – the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Rosary of the Seven Dolors, the Rosary of the Most Admirable Heart of Mary as prescribed by St. John Eudes, the prayers of the Divine Office, the Angelus, and the sweetest prayer of the Christian East – the Jesus Prayer.

I would also add that a great way to invigorate and give extra meaning to your prayer life is to pray for others in some way.  Pray daily for the souls in Purgatory, pray daily for those suffering in other parts of the world, pray Acts of Reparation to the Sacred Heart, pray for whatever group or persons speak to your own compassionate heart the most.

3.  Listen to sacred music.

I am sure this suggestion probably comes off a little out of left-field, but nonetheless, for me, music is a particularly excellent way to be edified and contemplate the things of God and holiness.  Ignore the vacuous modern praise and worship pop songs, and explore instead the beautiful world of Christian music as it existed for hundreds of years beforehand.

Also worth checking out are Jocelyn Montgomery’s angelic renditions of the music of St. Hildegard of Bingen, as well as the Georgian Orthodox Choir led by Nana Peradze.  If your heart is not moved by such music…

4.  Study your faith.

“It is very profitable to occupy oneself with reading the word of God in solitude, and to read the whole Bible intelligently…One should likewise nourish the soul also with knowledge of the Church.”3

I am firmly convinced that if more people took even a little time to really know their faith, even on a basic level, the Church would be strengthened by leaps and bounds.  Put away the pop theology books and Christianity-section “bestsellers”.  Read something of substance – if one is nervous to dive in too deep, always begin with the greats like C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton.

Frankly, aside from finding the time in a busy life and schedule, it is inexplicable to me why a Catholic would not want to explore their faith and soak it all in.  Bask in the history and tradition and lives of its members, sponge up all the theology and spiritual writings you can!  Ours is a fascinating faith – enjoy it and learn about it.

5.  Ask Yourself – “Who is Jesus to me?”

By asking this question of yourself, you will find out where your spiritual life is at pretty quickly.  More importantly, however, it will cause the gears to turn in your mind and soul.  St. Bernard of Clairvaux used to ask himself daily in the monastery, “Why am I here?” – so should we all ask ourselves why we are Catholic, why we believe, and what we hold Jesus to be.  Who do you say that He is?

A prayer to St. Dominic


Great Saint Dominic,
you laboured for the
salvation of others by
preaching the Word of God
in dangerous times
even among the heretics.
Inspire me to be like you.
Let me be strong in my faith.
Help me to provide for the needs
of the children of this world.
Lead me to spend my days
as a reflection of Christ’s love
throughout my life.
Give me the right words
to always speak the truth
with a zeal for saving souls.

Memorial: 8 August

1170 at Calaruega, Burgos, Old Castile

4 August 1221 at Bologna Canonized
13 July 1234 by Pope Gregory IX at Rieti, Italy

Saint Dominic is the patron saint of astronomy and science, a reflection of his lifelong love of learning and teaching. He was a well educated man who believed that a strong intellectual base would allow a man to preach more convincingly, and therefore convert more people to the faith.

To that end, he established the Dominican Order, and chose the motto “to praise, to bless, to preach”. A central tenet of the Order was to incorporate intellectual pursuits with the needs of everyday people. Where heretics were normally punished or terrorized for not believing (this was around the time of the Inquisition), St. Dominic believed that by preaching from an intelligent base, one could peacefully convert people to the faith.

When Dominic was baptized as a baby, his mother reportedly saw a star shining from his chest. In portraits he is often depicted with a star shining on or above his head. And although there is no evidence that St. Dominic ever studied astronomy himself, this aspect of scientific learning was well known when St. Dominic attended university, and it’s certainly possible that he was exposed to the mysteries of the heavens.

St. Dominic is also the patron saint of falsely accused people. There are stories of Dominic himself being falsely accused as a boy, mostly as a result of boyish pranks played by schoolmates. This may be one reason why he is so closely associated with this group.

St. Dominic is the patron saint of the Dominican Republic as well. Much of St. Dominic’s life was spent in Spain, his homeland, and the Dominican Republic was originally a Spanish colony. Choosing St. Dominic as the patron saint was a natural for a country where he had done so much good work.


Shoots of understanding.

I found a website a few years ago and unearthed it in order to straighten out questions in my mind about Grace. This website (www.fisheaters.com)  is invaluable, as it details both Protestant and Catholic understanding of the Faith.The book that was the catalyst for my investigation about Grace was written by a Protestant Christian, and I had difficulty reconciling what I ‘d read in the book with what I know as a Catholic Christian, so this website provided the balance I needed to iron out questions I had about the author’s perspective on Grace.

The bottom line: all salvation comes from the grace of Christ’s Sacrifice and only from the grace of His Sacrifice. Salvation is a free gift — a gift that is not “owed” to us, that God didn’t have to offer us, and that we could never “earn” on our own — that we accept by faith and works. Christ doesn’t have to give us this gift of salvation; we don’t “deserve” this gift, we can’t “earn” it; but He, in His endless Love for us, offers it nonetheless. We have to believe this gift exists (have faith) and then open our hands to receive it (obey, inspired by the grace given to us).

 I really like this comparison: 

An analogy: there is a train called “Grace” that is the one and only route to Heaven and which is fueled by Christ’s Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension alone. Some Protestants seem to believe that all one has to do is believe the train exists and all will be well. They accuse Catholics of thinking that belief in the train is unnecessary, that we can give out free soup in the train station and, thereby, bypass the train altogether. But what Catholics actually believe is that the train — Grace — is the only way to Heaven, that it is the only means by which we are saved, that we can’t take another route and can do nothing about getting to Heaven without that train. But we also teach that we have to believe in the train’s existence and board it through repentance and obedience to what Christ teaches. God is the Conductor of the train, completely Sovereign, and can go off the tracks if need be to pick up those who are truly and invincibly ignorant of the train’s existence but who are of good will, obey the natural law, and whom He deigns to save. If, when, and how He might do such a thing is completely up to Him and not for us to bicker about. It is to us to do what He has taught us: to believe, repent, love God and neighbor, and preach the Gospel.