Newman, Catechesis and the ‘Earthing’ of Saintly Lives

Authored by Fr. Peter Conley in Issue #32.3 of The Sower

Fr. Peter Conley highlights the importance of saints in catechesis and calls on us not to overlook some of their more unexpected sides.

Cardinal John Henry Newman, in his Fragment of a Life of St Philip, has left us an unexpected (and often overlooked) hermeneutic key to unlock the nature of holiness in both canonised saints and those in the making.

‘…a saint’s life may often have in it things not directly and immediately spiritual. To find a saint sitting down to cards, or reading a heathen author, or listening to music or taking snuff, is often a relief and an encouragement to the reader, as convincing him that grace does not supersede nature, and that as he is reading of a child of Adam and his own brother, and he is drawn up to his pattern and guide while he sees that pattern can descend to him; whereas that shadowy paper-Saint, as I may call it, bloodless, ideality which may be set up in the mind from the exclusive perusal of a roll of unconnected details, may, from the weakness of our hearts, chill us unduly, lead (us) to shrink from the Saints and to despond about ourselves. The lights and shades of the saintly character are necessary for understanding what a Saint is.’1

Blessed John Henry challenges us to admit that we can become susceptible to a diet of bland, lifeless accounts of holiness which emphasise the ‘sublime’ without ever delighting in the ‘ridiculous’ or, at least, the quirkiness about a saintly character. The passage pulsates in its appeal to search for a person’s humanity because it is in and through this that we encounter the kindly light of Christ’s divinity shining out from them.

The rest of this online article is available for current subscribers.

Start your subscription today!


This article is from The Sower and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of Maryvale Institute. Contact sower@maryvale.ac.uk

Articles from the Most Recent Issue

Editor’s Reflections: The Church: Becoming What We Are
By Dr. James Pauley
Free “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.” [i] These are the striking words of St. Joan of Arc, boldly spoken as she stood trial. “They’re just one thing” because Jesus himself described his relationship to the nascent Church as the relationship of vines united to a single... Read more
That They May Be One
By Scott Sollom
The seventeenth chapter of John’s Gospel captures an intimate conversation between Jesus and God the Father. Jesus and his disciples will soon cross the Kidron Valley and enter into the Garden of Gethsemane. He will be arrested and enter into his Passion. “The hour has come” (Jn 17:1). Earlier in John’s Gospel, when Mary approaches Jesus at the... Read more
The Church Is Holy: Perspective and Hope from St. Augustine
By Fr. Pieter van Rooyen
Free At a time when we know all too well the sins of our leaders, the “mark” of holiness raises questions. But insights from Saint Augustine can give perspective and hope—because even while the Church is “always in need of purification” (CCC 827), she is united with Christ and she is “sanctified by him; [and] through him and with him she becomes... Read more

Pages

Watch Tutorial Videos

We've put together several quick and easy tutorial videos to show you how to use this website.

Watch Now