Newman: Radiating Christ

One of the great privileges of my first two years of priesthood was celebrating Mass several times a week for the Missionaries of Charity in Peoria. It was there that I encountered the prayer “Radiating Christ,” a favorite (according to many places on the Internet) of St. Mother Teresa and chosen by her to be recited after Mass by the sisters of her order.

Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance wherever I go.
Flood my soul with Your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly, that my life may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul.
Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus!
Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine, so to shine as to be a light to others.
The light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be mine.
It will be you, shining on others through me.
Let me thus praise You the way You love best, by shining on those around me.
Let me preach You without preaching, not by words but by my example, by the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do,
the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You.
Amen.

It is indeed a beautiful prayer, but I was a little startled to discover one day that it was attributed to Blessed John Henry Newman. Parts of it sound like him; parts of it do not. Is the attribution accurate?

The short answer is that some of it is and some of it isn’t. Here’s the third paragraph of his  mediation “Jesus the Light of the Soul” (Meditations and Devotions Part III, VII, 3):

Stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as Thou shinest: so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from Thee. None of it will be mine. No merit to me. It will be Thou who shinest through me upon others. O let me thus praise Thee, in the way which Thou dost love best, by shining on all those around me. Give light to them as well as to me; light them with me, through me. Teach me to show forth Thy praise, Thy truth, Thy will. Make me preach Thee without preaching—not by words, but by my example and by the catching force, the sympathetic influence, of what I do—by my visible resemblance to Thy saints, and the evident fulness of the love which my heart bears to Thee.

The connection of this to the latter portion of the “radiating Jesus” prayer is evident. But where does the first part come from? Not, I think, from the works of Newman. I searched the Newman Reader website for the word “fragrance,” and none of the hits are anything resembling this. I searched for the words “penetrate and possess,” and they occur nowhere together on the site. Just to be sure, I tried the same sort of search for “sympathetic influence,” and found the quotation I gave above.

Google searches for phrases from the first part of the prayer, both web searches and  Google Books searches, turn up a torrent of hits for the prayers itself and nothing that I could find that could have served as a basis for the first part. Where St. Mother Teresa found it and whether it was she or someone else who first attached it to Newman’s meditation to form the prayer, I can’t tell.

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Newman: We can believe what we choose

We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe.

Attr. Blessed Cardinal Newman

Memed-up a bit but more or less accurate. It comes from a June 27, 1848 letter to Mrs. William Froude, sister-in-law of his late friend Hurrell Froude. Mrs. Froude with struggling with a decision to convert to Catholicism. The whole letter is on pp. 227-229 of Vol. XII of Newman’s letters, which exists online only as a PDF, as far as I can tell.

The second sentence of the meme is only the first half of Newman’s sentence. Here’s the full thing: “We are answerable for what we choose to believe; if we believe lightly, or if we are hard of belief, in either case we do wrong.”

Newman and the Engine Room

“Those who love the barque of Peter ought to stay out of the engine room.” — Attributed to Blessed John Henry Newman by Fr. Barron in an Oct. 14, 2014 column and by George Weigel in an Apr. 3, 2013 column.

I suspect that both of these men got the attribution to Newman from a common third source, which I haven’t bothered to track down because Newman definitely didn’t write or say it. A search for it on the invaluable Newman Reader site turned up nothing, and a search for just the word “barque” on that site turned up only unrelated hits.

Moreover, there’s an actual definite source that’s not Blessed Cardinal Newman. It’s Ronald Knox, according to Wikiquote, which gives the correct quotation as: “He who travels in the Barque of Peter had better not look too closely into the engine room,” and gives as the source The Knox Brothers, by Penelope Fitzgerald, where it’s said he said that as a reply when asked why he did not want to visit Rome.