John Henry Newman: March 2013 Archives

John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890)
I am visiting the Benedictine Abbey of St Anselm (Washington, DC) to get away from "stuff" where I normally live. Life there is particularly tense these days. A topic for another time. Time in quiet, time in prayer, time to think, to ponder bigger questions, time to read and to enjoy life in a different key for a short time. Life is fine. It won't last long, don't worry. I have friends here. Yesterday I was trying to understand happiness. Newman gave perspective. Today, I am trying to understand my place is a world of utter chaos, not exclusively my own chaos but more importantly the world's.

At breakfast another guest at the abbey said he thought the US was heading to another civil war. I received an email and later texts that the two year old son of a friend is in the hospital with a serious ear infection, an acute illness that has made itself a longtime, and unwelcomed guest in this person's life; there is also the fact that we are working toward the conclave but problems that need discussion, and the list goes on. This afternoon I sat for an hour with my friend Aidan, the abbot-emeritus of this abbey, who is just a delight to speak converse with, and who is living with the grace of Parkinson's. (Blessed John Paul II, pray for Aidan!) Aidan can track a conversation for the most part; he loses words and can be side-tracked; but he's capacity for friendship is great.

BUT what am I supposed to do? How do I approach the reality of life? Where is God leading me, why, and for what reason? Do I have a part to play in life? Newman has a helpful answer...

1. God was all-complete, all-blessed in Himself; but it was His will to create a world for His glory. He is Almighty, and might have done all things Himself, but it has been His will to bring about His purposes by the beings He has created. We are all created to His glory--we are created to do His will. I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created; I have a place in God's counsels, in God's world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by my name.

2. 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 my mission--I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his--if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion 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 do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

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English: Portrait painting of John Henry Newman
Discernment of God's will difficult, and living with the gift of happiness God hasgiven each of one us is a challenging thing. We can get in the way and obscure what is real and what is fantasy. I was speaking with a friend yesterday and our conversation at one point turned to John Henry Newman. Newman knows all! (So does Balthasar, Ratzinger Giussani, to name a few people). My friend and I are trying to locate happiness: what it is, what it is not, how do I experience it, and where, etc. Happiness is not easy to categorize, accept, give, reverence, promote, etc. What is clear is that true happiness involves God and life in God; what is less clear are the contours of that happiness and even lesser is knowing how my participation in happiness is supposed to be as God wants. If you find theway to happiness that is coherent, let us know. In the meantime, Newman makes sense especially in pointing to the fact that we have to have a level of abandonment to the will of God. 

On this day in 1848 Newman wrote the following:

1. GOD has created all things for good; all things for their greatest good; everything for its own good. What is the good of one is not the good of another; what makes one man happy would make another unhappy. God has determined, unless I interfere with His plan, that I should reach that which will be my greatest happiness. He looks on me individually, He calls me by my name, He knows what I can do, what I can best be, what is my greatest happiness, and He means to give it me.

2. God knows what is my greatest happiness, but I do not. There is no rule about what is happy and good; what suits one would not suit another. And the ways by which perfection is reached vary very much; the medicines necessary for our souls are very different from each other. Thus God leads us by  strange ways; we know He wills our happiness, but we neither know what our happiness is, nor the way. We are blind; left to ourselves we should take the wrong way; we must leave it to Him.

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the John Henry Newman category from March 2013.

John Henry Newman: December 2010 is the previous archive.

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