Chapter Talk – 28thSunday of the Year – October 13, 2019, cycle-C
Today is the canonization of Cardinal John Henry Newman. He was a prolific writer, an intellectual whose heart very much balanced who he was, what he preached and what he wrote. I will share multiple quotes to support this statement!
To begin: “God has created me to do Him some definite service. God has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.” Here Newman expresses a personal musing, one which can be applied to each of our lives. His words parallel what Pope Francis wrote in The Joy of the Gospel: “I am a missionon this earth; that is the reason why I am here on this earth” (p.132, #273). Each of us has our ‘mission’, each of us has our calling. We are created for God, ‘capax Dei’; we are endowed with this capacity for Divine life and as such we become a link in this universal ‘chain’, of all those who have gone before us….a living chain of hope, radiating God’s love and compassion.
This text of Newman continues: “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.” No person is created for ‘nothing’…if we believe this it opens up the meaning of each of our lives; this spiritual reality becomes a compass for our choices, for meeting whatever each day brings.
“Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. God does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about…” These words of Newman are a profound example of a faith alive and effective. What is the extent of our trust: are we able to utter something similar in prayer: ‘If I am in sorrow, may my sorrow serve you, O God’?
Now I like to share simple, pithy statements uttered by this remarkable saint…words that can guide us on our way…and I will add a comment.
“I sought to hear the voice of God and climbed the topmost steeple, but God declared: ‘Go down again - I dwell among the people.’” We meet the living God in our humanity, in the midst of our everyday interactions with one another.
Next: “Here below to live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often.” One of our vows is ‘conversatio morum’, which includes conversion of heart and mind…being open to this change interiorly is pivotal to our vocation and it is never ending.
Newman says: “Growth is the only evidence of life.” Think about this: our growth ushers forth LIFE…we feel alive and good, thankful as we behold this inner growth, which we see embodied in our lived life!
Next: “Good is never accomplished except at the cost of those who do it, truth never breaks through except through the sacrifice of those who spread it.” To do good involves a cost: we have to give something of ourselves for the good to be accomplished.
Newman hits the nail on the head with these words: “If we insist on being as sure as is conceivable... we must be content to creep along the ground, and never soar.” Do we not fall into ‘self-righteousness’ when we are so sure, so tightly sure?
“The love of our private friends is the only preparatory exercise for the love of all men.” Any true love of another helps us love the ‘other’ without prejudice or restraint.
These next words of Newman, who also wrote poetry, are profound in depicting an understanding of ‘faith’: “With Christians, a poetical view of things is a duty. We are bid to color all things with hues of faith, to see a divine meaning in every event.”
Finally, “Without self-knowledge you have no root in yourselves personally; you may endure for a time, but under affliction or persecution your faith will not last.” Bernard of Clairvaux would certainly applaud this statement. With self-knowledge, which is never separated from knowledge of God, we are graced with substance interiorly, which gives us ground to stand on. This root of self-knowledge gives us an inner strength, which then helps us endure all kinds of trials and tribulations.
Let us then pray that through the intercession of St. John Henry Newman we may ‘color all things with hues of faith’ and behold ‘divine meaning in every event’.
(Note: All quoted texts of Cardinal John Henry Newman are taken from the web site of ‘Goodreads’.)
-Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess
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