Thursday 28 May 2020

Prayers Before the Eucharist - Saint John Henry Cardinal Newman

Prayers Before the Eucharist
St. John Henry Cardinal Newman
TAN Books
eISBN 9781505116472
ASIN B081NX3694

This is third of three new editions of works from this saint, available from Tan Books in new editions. The other two volumes that were released at the same time are Stations of the Cross and Prayers Before The Eucharist. The first was a reprint in new format, the second one was a new volume, and this one is an edited work.  This book is drawn from Meditations and Devotions of the Late Cardinal Newman, originally published in 1916. The sections in this volume are:

Hope In God — Creator
Hope In God — Redeemer
God And The Soul
The Resurrection
God With Us
The Properties Of God
The Forty Days’ Teaching
The Ascension
The Paraclete
The Holy Sacrifice
The Infinite God

The twelve selections are each powerful and moving in their own way. Once I started reading this volume I could hardly put it down. In the editor’s introduction we are told:

“When one thinks about John Henry Cardinal Newman, they remember the great English convert from Anglicanism, a great controversialist, writer, thinker, and above all—an intellectual. Brilliant in Greek and Latin, deeply learned in the Fathers and history, the last thing one would think of when they hear the name of Cardinal Newman is that of a mystic.

The publication of the Meditations and Devotions of the Late Cardinal Newman in 1893 rather changed this view. The meditations revealed a side of Newman with which the general English public was altogether unaware. Just as he was a profound thinker, he was possessed of a deep mystical love of Jesus Christ.”

This volume was composed with the intent for it to be used during visits to the blessed sacrament, or during adoration of the exposed sacrament. The editor states:

“These prayers are perfectly suited for meditations on the Blessed Sacrament, not only because of the singular focus on God’s mercy, perfections, and love for us that transcends the depravity of our sins, but also because of the frequent familiar conversation which engages God in each meditation and moves the heart to greater devotion.”

After the editor’s introduction we begin with a Prayer Before
Eucharistic Adoration. There are 56 meditations across the 12 chapters. With some chapters having as few as 3, and the most in a chapter is 9. And most of them are under 2 pages of text in the eBook edition. A sample is:


My God, who can be inhabited by You, except the pure and holy? Sinners may come to You, but to whom should You come except to the sanctified? My God, I adore You as the Holiest; and, when You came upon earth, You prepared a holy habitation for Yourself in the most chaste womb of the Blessed Virgin. You didst make a dwelling place special for Yourself. She did not receive You without first being prepared for You; for from the moment that she was at all, she was filled with Your grace, so that she never knew sin. And so she went on increasing in grace and merit year after year, till the time came, when You sent the Archangel to signify to her Your presence within her. So holy must be the dwelling place of the Highest. I adore and glorify You, O Lord my God, for Your great holiness.

O my God, holiness becometh Your House, and yet You make Your abode in my breast. My Lord, my Savior, You come to me, hidden under the semblance of earthly things, yet in that very flesh and blood which You took from Mary. You, who first inhabited Mary’s breast, comes to me. My God, You see me; I cannot see myself. Were I ever so good a judge about myself, ever so unbiassed, and with ever so correct a rule of judging, still, from my very nature, I cannot look at myself, and view myself truly and wholly. But You, as You come to me, contemplate me. When I say, Domine, non sum dignus—“Lord, I am not worthy”—You whom I am addressing, alone understand in their fulness the words which I use. You see how unworthy so great a sinner is to receive the One Holy God, whom the Seraphim adore with trembling. You see, not only the stains and scars of past sins, but the mutilations, the deep cavities, the chronic disorders which they have left in my soul. You see the innumerable living sins, though they be not mortal, living in their power and presence, their guilt, and their penalties, which clothe me. You see all my bad habits, all my mean principles, all wayward lawless thoughts, my multitude of infirmities and miseries, yet You come. You see most perfectly how little I really feel what I am now saying, yet You come. O my God, left to myself should I not perish under the awful splendor and the consuming fire of Your Majesty. Enable me to bear You, lest I have to say with Peter, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

My God, enable me to bear You, for You alone can. Cleanse my heart and mind from all that is past. Wipe out clean all my recollections of evil. Rid me from all languor, sickliness, irritability, feebleness of soul. Give me a true perception of things unseen, and make me truly, practically, and in the details of life, prefer You to anything on earth, and the future world to the present. Give me courage, a true instinct determining between right and wrong, humility in all things, and a tender longing, love of You.”

This volume is an excellent read. And it is one I will return to time and time again. You could randomly flip it open and read any of the sections. Or read it by jumping around the topics by chapter. Or just read it from beginning to end. But no matter how you choose to read it I am sure it will inspire and challenge you. And you will be thankful that you picked the volume up. 

I have read this book, and plan to reread it a chapter a month, each month before my monthly recollection, and really take some time to reflect upon the 12 devotions. And might end up doing that again and again over the next few years. Another excellent volume. One well worth picking up.  

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2020 Catholic Reading Plan!

Reviews of other books by John Henry Newman:
Stations of the Cross

Meditations on Mary, Our Mother 
Prayers Before The Eucharist

CTS books about Newman:
John Henry Newman: Lead Kindly Light -Dr. Raymond Edwards
Newman His Life and Legacy – Fr. Ian Ker
John Henry Newman Apostle to the Doubtful - Meriol Trevor and Leonie Caldecott
Newman Prayer Book - The Birmingham Oratory (ed)
The Mind of Cardinal Newman: From His Own Writings - Charles Stephen Dessain

CTS Books by John Henry Newman:
Meditations on Stations of the Cross
Christ upon the Waters - CTS Onefifties Book 3

Reviews of other books about Newman:
Take Five: Meditations with John Henry Newman -  Mike Aquilina and Juan Velez

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