Secret Faults (Part 1)

Thee Minutes with Newman

Secret Faults (Part 1) - by Fr. Juan Vélez
Most people have little self-knowledge, and because of this have a poor understanding of what God asks of them. Thus daily examination of conscience is necessary.

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DSCN2935 (1024x768)Secret Faults, Part 1

It is no mere generality that our age is characterized by superficiality and constant noise, and that people do not know themselves. John Henry Newman began a sermon titled Secret Faults with the words of Ps 90: “Who can withstand his errors? Cleanse Thou me from secret faults.”

He remarks that, “Strange as it may seem, multitudes called Christians go through life with no effort to obtain a correct knowledge of themselves.” Sure enough, people have some vague knowledge of themselves but no exact knowledge, nor do they seek it. Throughout the ages the saints have urged Christians to know themselves. St. Augustine’s Confessions indicate the extent and sincerity with which he knew himself.

Newman notes that, without a good self-knowledge, we cannot receive and act upon Christian doctrines because “self-knowledge is a necessary condition for understanding them.” Without a daily habit of self-examination we use words without meaning. The doctrine of the forgiveness of sins, the nature of sin and new birth, cannot have meaning for us.

Educated people fall into the error of thinking that, since they are familiar with words, they understand the ideas behind them. Having used these words all their lives they think they understand them.

Newman asserts that “unless we have some just idea of our hearts and of sin, we can have no right idea of a Moral Governor, a Saviour or a Sanctifier, that is, in professing to believe in Them, we shall be using words without attaching distinct meaning to them.”

He wishes us to understand that self-knowledge is at the root of all real religious knowledge. God speaks primarily to our hearts, not merely through books and sermons.

Naturally self-knowledge admits of degrees and no one is entirely ignorant of his faults but we should not be satisfied to have a vague knowledge of our secret faults.

Like St. Ignatius of Loyola before him, and St. Josemaría Escrivá after him, he insists on a daily habit of self-examination.

(to be continued)

10 Comment(s)
  • Mrs. L John Posted August 20, 2016 10:46 pm

    Thank youl

  • Fr. Juan Velez Posted August 21, 2016 8:48 am

    From Cathleen Gillies
    “Good morning! Thank you Fr Juan Velez for this concise reflection. Blessed be Jesus for his kindness and encouragement. During the moments I miss my good intention but he is with me to correct myself and move forward.”

  • Dan Hoffman Posted August 21, 2016 6:25 pm

    This a valuable reflection on self-knowledge, and I find it coincides with things I am learning about in the Christian life today. Newman’s depth and profound understanding of the rigors of truly seeking and living in conformity with Christ is invaluable. We need more of this!

    Dan Hoffman

  • Lisa Kende Posted August 21, 2016 7:19 pm

    What a valuable and thought-provoking reflection this is, particularly relevant in a world where ‘superficiality and constant noise’ is compounded by educators trying to build self-esteem in young students without having them earn it through hard work and accomplishment. Empty praise only delays getting in touch with one’s God-given gifts and talents. Self-reflection and self-knowledge are sadly underrated in a world that judges success based on superficial and often material accomplishments. Finally, your words about “God speaking directly to our hearts” truly resonated for me since this takes a concerted effort in a world that encourages us to be always busy and rely on our own efforts to achieve happiness. Of course enduring inner peace and joy can only come from knowing God, His word and hearing His directives in our lives. I look forward to your next reflection with more inspiring words of wisdom.

  • Daniel Clark Posted August 22, 2016 3:36 pm

    Sadly, with the impact of American culture on many other parts of the world, I wonder if we are exporting our superficiality to other countries?

  • Lisa Mladinich Posted August 23, 2016 12:05 pm

    It’s a funny thing to talk about self knowledge, in a society that esteems self-absorption. We only truly find ourselves in relation to God, who shows us who we are meant to be by giving of himself completely. When we give “without counting the cost,” we image him and encounter our truest selves, true freedom, and lasting joy.

  • Nadine Haines Posted August 27, 2016 10:17 am

    Thank you, Fr. Juan!
    Nadine

  • J. Larralde Posted August 28, 2016 9:15 pm

    This is a concise and powerful concept that yields a very joyful and optimistic resolution to begin and begin again.
    Thank you!

    • Fr. Juan Velez Posted August 30, 2016 7:17 am

      Yes, this focus on “today” and beginning again is very important. It is one of the points that St. Josemaría Escrivá underlines as a corollary to daily examinations of conscience.

  • Oscar Mejia Posted September 20, 2016 9:15 am

    Married life entails many small and big sacrifices, and these are sign of true love for God and others.

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