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Five Reflections on the Blessed Virgin Mary by St. John Henry Newman
When St. John Henry Newman made the momentous decision to convert to the Catholic faith from Anglicanism in the 19th century, it sent shockwaves through the English world. As the country's most prominent and influential religious preacher, his departure from the Church of England invited ridicule and skepticism from both Anglicans and Catholics who questioned his motives. However, over time, Newman's true intentions became clear, and his sanctity shone through as he "finished the race" in the Catholic Church, eventually attaining the status of a cardinal and being canonized as a saint on October 13, 2019.
Newman was not just a great intellectual of his era but also a devoted follower of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In his writings and reflections, he explored various aspects of Mary's role in the Catholic faith. On the occasion of St. John Henry Newman's feast day on October 9, let's ponder five of his reflections on the Blessed Virgin Mary:
1. The Immaculate Conception: In his religious autobiography, "Apologia Pro Vita Sua," Newman passionately defended the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, a belief that Mary was conceived without original sin. He explained that this doctrine, while seemingly complex, is a simple fact for Catholics and highlighted that it was defined not because they believed it but because they believed it. He considered Mary's immaculate conception as God's way of preparing a pure vessel to be the mother of His Son.
2. The Annunciation of Mary: Newman referred to Mary as the "Gate of Heaven" because it was through her that Jesus descended from heaven to earth. He saw a connection between this and the prophecy in the Book of Ezekiel, stating that Mary played a crucial role in the economy of redemption. Just as Eve played a part in the fall of humanity, Mary participated in its restoration by agreeing to be the mother of God. Newman emphasized that Mary's maternity was not a passive role but one filled with merit and duty.
3. On the Assumption of Mary: Newman believed that, as the mother of God, Mary was exempt from the ordinary fate of mortals. He thought that Mary died on earth and her soul separated from her body, but her body did not remain in the tomb. He reasoned that just as other servants of God had been raised from the grave, it was inconceivable that God would not extend this privilege to His own mother. Thus, Newman confidently affirmed that Mary's body received the full merits of Christ's Passion.
4. Why May is the Month of Mary: In his work "Meditations and Devotions," Newman explained why May is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He associated May with the rejuvenation of nature in spring and the blossoming of flowers and trees. He linked the season's joy and gladness to devotion to Mary, whom he called the "Mystical Rose" and the "House of Gold." May, according to Newman, is a time of promise, joy, and rejoicing in the Church's redemption and sanctification.
St. John Henry Newman's profound reflections on the Blessed Virgin Mary continue to inspire and guide Catholics in their devotion to the Mother of God. His writings remind us of the important role Mary played in salvation history and the enduring significance of her immaculate conception, the annunciation, the assumption, and the celebration of May as the Month of Mary in the Catholic faith.
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