St. John Henry Newman, canonized one year ago, was born in London on February 21, 1801, the eldest of six children in an observant Anglican family.
He received a good elementary education and entered Trinity College at Oxford. Newman was ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1825 but at the zenith of his career, began to receive, from his reading of the Church Fathers, what he called “hits from Rome.” His Anglican convictions weakened as he came to believe that the Roman Catholic Church was the true Church established by Christ. After years of study and intense reflection, trying mightily to be open to grace and the love of God leading him, he decided to become a Catholic. He was received into the Catholic Church in October 1845.
In the same way, we can follow the example of John Henry Newman and try our best to stay open to God’s grace and let God’s love guide us. Through daily prayer and reflection, we find the grace and the consolation to keep moving forward.
It takes a heart surrendered to the Lord in prayer. It takes a heart that is humble and ready to be taught by the Spirit. We can’t simply muster up the kind of faith and conviction that we need to live the Christian life. We need to be filled with God’s grace as well. Newman himself put it this way: “We are Christ’s not by faith merely, nor by works merely, but by love. . . . It is love that makes faith, not faith love. We are saved . . . by that heavenly flame within us, which, while it consumes what is seen, aspires to what is unseen. Love is the gentle, tranquil, satisfied acquiescence and adherence of the soul in the contemplation of God.”
Our prayer is rooted in the contemplation of God, in acknowledging who he is and who we are before him. Pray today in the words of St. John Henry Newman:
[Lord, I am] ever changing. Not a day passes but I am nearer the grave. Whatever my age, whatever the number of my years, I am ever narrowing the interval between time and eternity. . . . O my God, I am crumbling away, as I go on! I am already dissolving into my first elements. My soul indeed cannot die, for you have made it immortal; but my bodily frame is continually resolving into that dust out of which it was taken.
Everything below heaven changes: spring, summer, autumn, each has its turn. The fortunes of the world change. What was high lies low; what was low rises high. Riches take wings and flee away; bereavements happen. Friends become enemies, and enemies friends. Our wishes, aims, and plans change. There is nothing stable but you, O my God! And you are the center and life of all who change, who trust you as their Father, who look to you, and who are content to put themselves into your hands.
I know, O my God, I must change, if am to see your face! I must undergo the change of death. Body and soul must die to this world. My real self, my soul, must change by a true regeneration. Only the holy can see you. . . . Oh support me as I proceed in this great, awful, happy change, with the grace of your unchangeableness. . . . Let me day by day be molded upon you, and be changed from glory to glory, by ever looking toward you, and ever leaning on your arm.
I know, O Lord, I must go through trial, temptation, and much conflict, if I am to come to you. I do not know what lies before me, but I know this. I know, too, that if you are not with me, my change will be for the worse, not for the better. Whatever fortune I have, rich or poor, healthy or sick, with friends or without, all will turn to evil if I am not sustained by the Unchangeable. All will turn to good if I have Jesus with me, yesterday and today the same, and forever.
Place your hope and trust in the Lord and pray today. Pray to know the stability that comes from nearness to God, for the grace to change helped by God’s unchangeableness, and to be molded into a lover of truth—a lover of Jesus, who is himself the way, the truth, and the life.