A new saint with an old soul

When it comes upon me how late I am trying to serve the Church,
the obvious answer is, even saints, such as St. Augustine, St. Ignatius,
did not begin in earnest till a late age.

Blessed John Henry Newman


(courtesy AP)

Today Pope Francis will canonize a new saint.

To those of you who are non-Catholics, this news is no more than a blip from some
religious news feed, but to me, I find it quite interesting.

As many of you reading this already know, I was born and raised in the Episcopal Church—
which is, in a nutshell, the American branch of the global Anglican communion.

Anglican being the Chruch of England.

A denomination I once loved, but for many years have found myself at a crossroads of odds.
I have found that I cannot remain in a fold that disregards the Word of God while
preferring to re-write God’s tenants to suit a disgruntled liberal culture.

John Henry Newman was an Anglican priest, writer and intellectual who was considered
‘an evangelical Oxford University academic.’

He too felt at odds with his “church.”

And so I offer you a little background from a few periodicals who offer us a bit of background
to this new saint with an old soul…

According to Wikipedia,
He [Newman] became known as a leader of, and an able polemicist for the Oxford Movement,
an influential and controversial grouping of Anglicans who wished to return to the
Church of England many Catholic beliefs and liturgical rituals
from before the English Reformation.

In this, the movement had some success.

In 1845 Newman, joined by some but not all of his followers,
officially left the Church of England and his teaching post at Oxford University
and was received into the Catholic Church. He was quickly ordained as a priest and
continued as an influential religious leader, based in Birmingham.
In 1879, he was created a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in recognition of his services
to the cause of the Catholic Church in England.
He was instrumental in the founding of the Catholic University of Ireland in 1854,
although he had left Dublin by 1859.
CUI in time evolved into University College Dublin, today the largest university in Ireland.

Newman came to his faith at an early age.

At the age of 15, during his last year at school,
Newman was converted, an incident of which he wrote in his Apologia that it was
“more certain than that I have hands or feet”.
Almost at the same time (March 1816) the bank Ramsbottom, Newman and Co. crashed,
though it paid its creditors and his father left to manage a brewery.
Mayers, who had himself undergone a conversion in 1814,
lent Newman books from the English Calvinist tradition.
It was in the autumn of 1816 that Newman “fell under the influence of a definite creed”
and received into his intellect “impressions of dogma, which, through God’s mercy,
have never been effaced or obscured”.
He became an evangelical Calvinist and held the typical belief that the
Pope was the antichrist under the influence of the writings of Thomas Newton,
as well as his reading of Joseph Milner’s History of the Church of Christ.
Mayers is described as a moderate, Clapham Sect Calvinist,
and Newman read William Law as well as William Beveridge in devotional literature.
He also read The Force of Truth by Thomas Scott.

Although to the end of his life Newman looked back on his conversion to
evangelical Christianity in 1816 as the saving of his soul,
he gradually shifted away from his early Calvinism.
As Eamon Duffy puts it, “He came to see Evangelicalism,
with its emphasis on religious feeling and on the Reformation doctrine of
justification by faith alone, as a Trojan horse for an undogmatic religious individualism
that ignored the Church’s role in the transmission of revealed truth,
and that must lead inexorably to subjectivism and skepticism.”

According to a news article on the Washington Post,
Pope Francis on Sunday will canonize John Henry Newman,
a Victorian-era intellectual, Catholic convert and cardinal.
A self-described “controversialist,” Newman was an early leader in the Oxford Movement,
an attempt to reinstate ancient forms of faith and worship in the Church of England.
After converting to Catholicism at age 44,
Newman went on to found a Catholic university and a religious community,
as well as a school, and he clashed with authoritarian,
or “Ultramontane,” Catholics over the issue of papal infallibility.

Newman called liberalism “false liberty of thought,”
or the attempt to find truth through reason alone independent of faith and devotion.
He characterized his life as one long campaign against this view in his spiritual autobiography.

The Wall Street Journal continues Cardinal Newman’s story…
noting that he could well be known as the patron saint of the lonely…

On Sunday Pope Francis will officially recognize as a saint the
British clergyman and Oxford academic John Henry Newman (1801-90).
Nearly 130 years after his death, Newman’s writings still offer readers
incisive theological analysis—and practical wisdom.

A theologian, poet and priest of the Church of England,
Newman found his way to Catholicism later in life and was ordained a
Catholic priest in his 40s.
Pope Leo XIII made him a cardinal in 1879.

Cigna, a global health service company,
surveys feelings of social isolation across the U.S. using the UCLA Loneliness Scale.
Last year Cigna released the results of a study of 20,000 Americans.
It found that adults 18 to 22 are the loneliest segment of the population.
Nearly half report a chronic sense of loneliness.
People 72 and older are the least lonely.

I spend a lot of time with young adults in my job,
and the results don’t surprise me.
I often observe young couples out on dates, looking at their cellphones rather than each other.
I see students walking while wearing earbuds, oblivious to passersby.
Others spend hours alone watching movies on Netflix or playing videogames.
The digital culture in which young people live pushes them toward a kind of
solipsism that must contribute to their loneliness.

“No one, man nor woman, can stand alone;
we are so constituted by nature,” Newman writes,
noting our need to cultivate genuine relations of friendship.
Social-media platforms like Facebook and Twitter connect people,
but it’s a different sort of connection than friendship.
The self one presents on Facebook is inauthentic,
someone living an idealized life unlike one’s daily reality.
Interaction online is more akin to Kabuki theater than genuine human relations.

When young people do connect face to face, it’s often superficial,
thanks in part to dating and hookup apps like Tinder and Bumble.
Cigna’s study found that 43% of participants feel their relationships are not meaningful.
Little wonder, if relationships are formed when two people decide to swipe right on their phones.

Cardinal Newman never married, but warm, sincere, and lasting friendships—the kind that
we so seldom form through digital interactions—gave his life richness.
He cultivated them with his neighbors in Oxford and, after his conversion to Catholicism,
at the Birmingham Oratory. He sustained them in his correspondence,
some 20,000 letters filling 32 volumes.

In one of his sermons, delivered on the feast of St. John the Evangelist,
Newman reflects on the Gospel’s observation that St. John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”
It is a remarkable thing, Newman says, that the Son of God Most High should have loved
one man more than another.
It shows how entirely human Jesus was in his wants and his feelings,
because friendship is a deep human desire.
And it suggests a pattern we would do well to follow in our own lives if we would be happy:
“to cultivate an intimate friendship and affection towards those who are immediately about us.”

On the other hand, Newman observes that “nothing is more likely to engender selfish habits”
than independence.
People “who can move about as they please, and indulge the love of variety”
are unlikely to obtain that heavenly gift the liturgy describes as
“the very bond of peace and of all virtues.”
He could well have been describing the isolation that can result from
an addiction to digital entertainment.

When Newman was named a cardinal in 1879, he chose as his motto
Cor ad cor loquitur.
He found the phrase in a letter to St. Jane Frances de Chantal from St. Francis de Sales,
her spiritual adviser:
“I want to speak to you heart to heart,” he said.
Don’t hold back any inward thoughts.

That is a habit of conversation I hope we can revive among our sons and daughters.
Real friendship is the cure for the loneliness so many young people feel.
Not the self-referential stimulation of a cellphone or iPad;
not the inauthentic “friending” of Facebook; not the superficial hooking up of Tinder,
but the honest, intimate, lasting bond of true friendship.

Mr. Garvey is president of the Catholic University of America.

“Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th’encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!
Meantime, along the narrow rugged path,
Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Saviour, lead me home in childlike faith,
Home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life.”

John Henry Newman

Oh really?

“Jesus is not one of many ways to approach God,
nor is He the best of several ways;
He is the only way.”

A. W. Tozer


(The Stoning of St Stephen by Rembrandt who just happens to make a small cameo appearance in the scene…the awkward face peeking out from just under the raised arm
of the man with the large stone / 1625 / Musée des beaux-arts, Lyon, France

Day before yesterday I wrote a post featuring a story about the first Christian
martyr– Stephen.

I gave a bit of the back story behind what led to Stephen’s martyrdom.
We learned that Stephen would not back down from his conviction of belief even
when faced with his own imminent demise.
He wasn’t about to start back peddling when he knew what the Truth of life
and living actually was all about…despite facing a horrific death.

That truth which was the chief cornerstone to Stephen’s very existence, was a living
and breathing knowledge of God as Father and Christ as Son
and the Spirit as mediator.

Stephen did not waiver or waffle nor did he mince his words to the those in authority
as to what his life’s choice would be…and that was to stand as a man who believed
in Jesus Christ as both his Lord and Savior….there was no thought of cost or hurt feelings or loss…

And yet the cost for him was pretty tremendous as far as the world was concerned..
It cost Stephen his earthly life.

Not his friends, not his job, not his security, not his comfort, but his life.

Conviction….a fixed or firm belief..

Stephen had such conviction.

So yesterday I came across a story in the news about a college in the Oxford
University system there in England that banned a campus Christian organization
from participating in a welcoming fair for the incoming freshman class.

Another rampant example of waffling and wavering.

I can remember when I was a college freshman.
I recall that near ecstatic level of excitement of all that was new.
New faces, new places, new friends, new opportunities…
With some of those opportunities being right up my alley and some of them not…

And isn’t that what something like this is all about…the choices offered to us?
We pick and choose…what looks appealing while discarding that which does not.

Life is like that sort of endless buffet of picking and choosing is it not?
Yet what happens when that buffet is gravely limited due to others deciding options
should not be made available.
It is then that the buffet becomes something very different from
a buffet—it becomes more of a pre fixed plate of flavorless offerings.

The opportunity for intellectual and spiritual growth becomes near stagnant
when the powers that be decide the masses might just become too dangerous if they
are given too much choice.

When only the few decide for the many that the freedom of choice and the ability
of personal decision should be a limited offering, then there is no true human growth.

A college of Oxford University banned a student Christian group from appearing at a freshman fair out of fear it would lead to “alienating” students who practice other religions.

Yet did they opt to ban the Jewish organizations, perhaps b’nai b’rith?
What of the Muslim organizations?
Perhaps any sort of pagan organization?
What of the Buddhists?
What of any political organizations?

Here is the reasoning….if one can call such reasoning rational thought….

The Christian Union of Oxford’s Balliol College was initially banned by an
event organizer who felt students might feel “unwelcome” due to what he calls
the Christian religion being “an excuse for homophobia and neo-colonialism,”
The Times of London reported.

Potts added: “Christianity’s influence on many marginalised communities has
been damaging in its methods of conversion and rules of practice,
and is still used in many places as an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism.”

At last check, there is a massive difference between something perceived as a
phobia, or irrational fear, verses simply following the tenants of one’s faith.

“Many students, especially students of colour and of other faiths, may already feel alienated and vulnerable in Oxford, a university with a reputation for racism and lack of diversity, and a city with barely any appropriate places of worship for non-Christians,” Potts said, according to The Telegraph.

Ahh, so the issue here is now of overcompensation…
the act of apologizing, once again, on behalf of a past time period…
an act that is neither productive or even necessary as we are not them and they
were not us…as in days gone by….

A time period that is far removed from modern times—

So are those mutton chop young men of all things British Academia,
say the 17th and 18th centuries, during the reign of monarchs who were setting
sail in exporation in the name of the Crown, are those such young men still haunting the halls of places such as Oxford or Cambridge….I think not.

And last I checked, if I wanted to attend school in say Beijing or Riyadh,
I think I would be hard pressed in either city on finding an openly Christian place to
worship…and I would certainly not be surprised at such as neither of these cities
have a deep Christian heritage as say England—- quiet the contrary in fact.

So is this particular school spokesperson suggesting that a predominately historical Christian country, such as England, should now do away with its own heritage in order to bend over backwards…
doing away with Christian houses of worship in order to construct more mosques as a
form of overt appeasement or as some sort of welcome mat?

“A spokesperson with the Church of England told The Times that the ban was not
in line with “freedom of religion and belief,” and “is at odds with the kind of society
we are all seeking to promote.”

Finally is there actually a bit of clarity coming from the Church of England…
really???

“Leaders of the Balliol student body reportedly condemned the ban, and passed a motion calling the ban a “violation of free speech, a violation of religious freedom, and sets dangerous precedents regarding the relationship between specific faiths and religious freedom,” according to The Daily Telegraph.

Maybe there does remain a few brave souls not afraid and who will not backdown or recant
the Word of God when push comes to shove….

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/10/11/christian-group-at-oxford-university-banned-from-fair-out-fear-it-would-alienate-students.html

Be on your guard;
stand firm in the faith;
be courageous;
be strong.

1 Corinthians 16:13

hedonism

“Men in the vehement pursuit of happiness grasp at the first object which
offers to them any prospect of satisfaction,
but immediately they turn an introspective eye and ask,
‘Am I happy?’
and at once from their innermost being a voice answers distinctly,
‘No, you are as poor and as miserable as before.

‘Then they think it was the object that deceived them and turn precipitately
to another. But the second holds as little satisfaction as the first…
Wandering then through life restless and tormented,
at each successive station they think that happiness dwells at the next,
but when they reach it happiness is no longer there.
In whatever position they may find themselves there is always
another one which they discern from afar, and which but to touch,
they think, is to find the wished delight,
but when the goal is reached discontent has followed on the way stands
in haunting constancy before them.”

Johann Gottlieb Fichte


(ripening persimmons / Julie Cook / 2017)

We wonder where it started…this hedonistic nature of ours.
History certainly speaks of the Roman’s thirst for all things sensual and soothing.
An insatiable appetite of all things of pleasure.
With a never-ending quest for the wanton.

And yet we know of other societies, other cultures that were equally focused on
a hunger for lusty tastes.
So does this mean that this hedonism of ours is an innate quality or
is it rather a learned trait?

Oftentimes we of the present feel a smug sense of superiority to those people
of the past.
We believe ourselves to be more knowledgable, more sophisticated,
better educated…
so therefore we grow overtly confident and even pompous believing ourselves
better than.

And yet current events are appearing to indicate that we may not actually be
better than…as in better educated, better controlled or even a better people…

Take the following observation by our friend the Wee Flea….

“As an international chaplain I find it a source of constant embarrassment that many international students are bemused and offended by the banality and stupidity of a monolithic hedonistic culture, which seems to be encouraged by the University.”

The Rev Robertson offers us his latest observation in a posting concerning the recent
start to Dundee University’s school year with the welcoming of the new freshman class.

University Challenge

Pastor Robertson raises concern over what appears to be an ever increasingly
pleasure seeking college population.
Our western college and university campuses are now rife with a generation of
youthful learners known as snowflakes…meaning they rapidly melt at the
slightest hint of uncomfortableness…all the while the majority busy
themselves imbibing in any and all earthly and sensual pleasure…
with their mantra being “you only live once.”

Pastor Robertson recalls that “I once spoke to some third and fourth year
male students who had returned early for Fresher’s week.
“Why have you returned so early?”
“Fresh meat!” was their sickening reply.
They had come back to see how many new female students they could sleep with.
This is how in our ‘PC’ culture women are treated.”

University officials however, as we have witnessed throughout this country
in most recent weeks, appear not to be in control of their youthful charges
as they turn blind eyes to the raucous and even violent behavior.

Most college educated adults know first hand about the difficulties of balancing
both faith with what is known as “the college experience.”

Newly found freedoms, a plethora of choices, liberal academic thinking,
accented with open sex, alcohol and drugs…makes keeping the faith an often
difficult task for even the most ardent of Believers.

All the while administrations and educators are turning a blind eye, or even worse,
offering words of encouragement for experimentation…coddling and indulging a
growing generation of self indulgent narcissists.

That is until various troubles hit the news circuits…
Think Penn State’s current legal woes over the death of a college freshman at
the hands of his drunken fraternity brothers or the costly destruction to property following the riots at Cal Berkeley and Evergreen College in Washington.

In his most recent post, the good Pastor reflects on the backlash a school
administrator faced when pushing back on the young charges under her leadership.

The former principal of St Andrews University, Louise Richardson (now of Oxford),
has been told to apologise after she upset some students by claiming that they
have no right not to be offended.

Predictably they were offended by her remarks.

She claimed that she had been approached by several students who
are uncomfortable with the views about homosexuality expressed by some professors
and lecturers.
“they don’t feel comfortable being in class with someone with these views.
And I say, I’m sorry but my job isn’t to make you feel comfortable.
Education is not about being comfortable.
I’m interested in making you uncomfortable.
If you don’t like his views, you challenge them,
engage with them and figure out how a smart person could have views like that.
Work out how you can persuade him to change his mind.”

Her sensible and mature attitude surely would not in almost any other age in the UK,
have needed to have been said–but in today’s censorious,
dumbed down and intolerant culture they were deemed to be highly controversial.

Oxford University student union president Kate Cole, said
“Freedom of speech is not an excuse for homophobia”.
In other words forget freedom of speech if it is deemed across our absolutist line!

Oxford City Councillor, Tom Hayes added;”
it’s simply not acceptable for students to face prejudice tutors who will
propagate hateful views and pass of discrimination as debate”.
Doubtless Mr Hayes will tell us what hateful views are
(presumably anyone who disagrees with him)
and will ensure that no debate takes place at all.

In another sign of the irrationality gripping some sections of academia,
a student Latin course (Reading Latin by Jones and Sidwell)
was outed by an American PhD student because the text featured three goddesses,
each confidently stripping off, determined to win the golden apple from Paris,
and two rapes.
Such ‘offensive’ choices, she said, did not help the cause of Latin,
‘or make the historically racist and classist discipline of
classics more acceptable”.

Meanwhile back on planet earth normal students face their own University Challenge.

Rod Liddle – “The idea that she might subordinate her feelings for the good of
some higher purpose did not sit easily with Diana.
Because according to this new mantra, there is no higher purpose than
simply what one feels”

LED 8 – Yemen – The Proms and the EU Cult- Jacob Rees Mogg – Religious Decline in the UK – Canadian Immigration – Irma, Climate Change and Lovelock’s Change – University Principal takes on Snowflake Students – John Knox’s Transgender Toilets – Don Williams.

And so I will close our look at the new fall term taking place in our Western society
with words both thoughtful and prayerful offered by the good Pastor on behalf or our
students, those Believers amongst them and of the adults charged with their care and education.

Let us pray for, encourage and seek to serve those who have begun the new term this week. Especially those Christians who go against the flow and are prepared to stand up for what they believe in the face of an increasing hostile culture. As our Universities forget their Christian roots and market themselves as monolithic academic businesses.
They are becoming places where a diversity of views is not encouraged.
In such an environment Christians are the real radicals!

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,
but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct,
in love, in faith and in purity.

1 Timothy 4:12