“Thou God seest me.” Gen. xvi. 13.

Do you sometimes feel as though God has forgotten you? Perhaps you feel that your problems are small when compared with so many greater problems, and God has more important work to do. This is not an uncommon way to think. Many people are tempted to think that God has forgotten them or even more that God cannot possibly be interested in them much less in their small things, especially thinking of  the millions of people in the world. But this is not so. Using the Scriptures, St. John Henry Newman teaches otherwise. He begins a sermon about Providence using the Old Testament. He points to the passage where Hagar flees into the wilderness away from her mistress, and she is visited by an angel. Hagar calls the place “Thou God seest me.”

In reality, God sustains the world and every creature in existence, and cares for each. He takes, in other words,  “particular Providence” of his creatures. Newman writes: “We conceive that Almighty God works on a large plan; but we cannot realize the wonderful truth that He sees and thinks of individuals. We cannot believe He is really present everywhere, that He is wherever we are, though unseen.” We forget that He is on our path and sees us (Ps. 119) and knows what is going on around us. “We know He is in heaven, and forget that He is also on earth. This is the reason why the multitude of men are so profane.”

This “forgetfulness” of God and His presence leads men to sin. In addition, the world cannot provide men and women with the happiness they need. “The world fails them, and they despair, because they do not realize to themselves the loving-kindness and the presence of God.”

Newman explains that people conceive of a good and almighty God acting in the world like the light of the sun, but in a universal way through general laws “because they have not accustomed their minds to feel that He is a merciful God, regarding them individually, and not a mere universal Providence acting by general laws.” Some are then surprised, like Hagar, that God does see them and cares for them individually.

 And contrarily, they go to the other extreme and forget that God loves all other men too. For Newman God’s tenderness and considerateness for man “are the very perfection of kindness between man and man; but, from the very extent and complication of the world’s system, and from its Maker’s being invisible, our imagination scarcely succeeds in attributing them to Him, even when our reason is convinced, and we wish to believe accordingly.”

It is true that God’s Providence is manifest in general laws that apply to all men, the good and the bad, yet one of Christ’s most winning properties according to Newman is the individual way in which He deals with his own. He writes: “This might be illustrated, as is often done, by our Lord’s tender behaviour towards Lazarus and his sisters, or His tears over Jerusalem; or by His conduct towards St. Peter, before and after his denial of him, or towards St. Thomas when he doubted, or by His love of His mother, or of St. John.”

 Newman closes his sermon with the poignant narrative of Christ’s personal dealing with Judas. Jesus sought to save him and offered him many opportunities of repentance. This is the tender and personal love for individual persons, the revelation of God’s particular providence for men.

 Along with these thoughts, Newman also reminds us of God’s constant and loving gaze;  we cannot love ourselves more than God loves us. St. Thérèse de Lisieux wrote in a letter to her sister Céline the way we should respond to Jesus’ love: “Yes, one who loves Jesus is all His family; in that unique Heart which has no other like it, he finds all that he desires, in it he finds heaven!….” Both these saints affirm this beautiful truth, that we each matter to God; our very hairs are numbered.

 Let us ask ourselves: where did I see God’s hand today in my life? If we have experienced pain or loss we must consider: God has allowed it; and so what good does He have planned out for me? And all the while we can recall those words of Scripture: “Thou God seest me.”


Like this article?

The true light of Christ’s divinity was made visible to the Apostles at the Transfiguration.

We call His presence in this Holy Sacrament a spiritual presence, not as if ‘spiritual’ were but a name or mode of speech.

Leave a comment

Our Books

About Cardinal John Henry Newman

Purchase Book

A Guide to John Henry Newman will interest educated readers and professors alike, and serve as a text for college seminars for the purpose of studying Newman.

Review by Catherine Maybanks
(Catholic Herald, April 1, 2023)

Review by Serenheed James
(Antiphon, April 2023)

Purchase Book

Fr Peter Conley takes us on an exciting journey into the spirituality and inner life of Saint John Henry Newman.

Purchase Book

Endorsement by Neyra Blanco (Amazon)
I bought this book for my son and he loved it, he wrote this review and urged my to submitted: “I think this book has a very beautiful message, because it shows how the young Newman was so determined to achieve his dream of becoming a priest, but even after his dream he continued to work in the church with passion until the day he died, it’s so admirable that even Newman so old and so weak still had that urge to continued his work of being a priest. And the book is well written with words not too complicated with very enjoyable texts and well illustrated pictures. I highly recommend this book for a 5th grader.  

Purchase Book

What is a Classical Liberal Arts Education? Why is it so important for the development of a person?

Fr. Juan R. Vélez answers these and more questions you might have about University Education in the 21st century. This book is aimed for parents, prospective University students, and educators. It will help you discern why adding Liberal Arts electives to your education will help it form it better, and help the student learn to reason, and not just learn.

He also explains how many Universities have changed the true meaning of Liberal Arts, and the subjects, and gives advise on how to choose College Campus, Subjects, and Teachers.

A wonderful book that every parent should also read way before your children are College bound. A Liberal Arts education can start earlier in life, even from home.

Purchase Book

Endorsement by Christopher Moellering (Goodreads, September 14, 2019)
In Passion for Truth Fr. Vélez gave us an outstanding biography of Cardinal Newman. In this work, he provides a concise overview of his thought and his devotion. This is a great work for someone who, perhaps hearing of Newman for the first time because of his beatification 13 October, 2019, wants to know more about this English saint.Vélez is a wonderful writer in his own right, and the frequent quotations from Newman round out the work nicely. I especially appreciated the frequent citing of Newman’s Meditations and Devotions, which show a different side of his spirituality than his more well-known works, Development of Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Assent.

Purchase Book

Take Five: Meditations with John Henry Newman, endorsement by Illow M. Roque (Amazon, September 3, 2010)
“There is a time to put direct inquiry on hold and give ourselves to prayer and practical duties.” Sound advice from one of the earlier, thought-provoking reminders in this sparkling gem of a book: Take Five | Meditations with John Henry Newman, written by Mike Aquilina and Fr. Juan R. Vélez and published by Our Sunday Visitor. This particular paragraph, referenced above, which begins with a direct quote from soon-to-be canonized priest, cardinal and poet, John Henry Newman: “Study is good, but it gets us only so far . . .” is actually the 15th in a series of 76 concise, logically organized meditations moving from the elementary to the sublime. Each meditation–one per page–is built upon the great man’s writings and remarkably rich spirituality. Whether taken whole in one reading or in part page-by-page over a course of weeks and months, these wonderfully insightful meditations will open up, even to the busiest reader in the midst of the world, a unique pathway into prayer and contemplation. My advice to spiritual inquirers at all levels, from the novice to the spiritually adept, is to follow the authors’ recommendation to use this book as a guide for daily prayer and meditation. The structure of the book itself is ideal: first, the authors introduce us to Cardinal Newman, the man, where we are given the opportunity to get to know him through a brief sketch of his life and spirituality at the beginning of the book. This is something readers will likely find themselves referring to again and again, prompting many, I suspect, to even wider explorations of this most gifted Christian leader. Then comes the meditations, consisting of a short summary of Newman’s thoughts on subjects taken, as the authors explain, from various salient points for which Newman is justly remembered: The pursuit of objective religious truth; Teaching on the Virtues; Defense of the Catholic Church; A devout spiritual and moral life; and Generosity and loyalty in his friendships, which sets the topic and tone for each meditation to follow. Each meditation consists of an excerpt taken from Newman’s thirty-plus volumes of writings and diaries. Next comes three brief and extremely useful sections entitled: “Think About It,” which establishes a prayerfully resonant tone throughout the book; “Just Imagine,” which provides a vivid, prayerful experience of the Scriptures that tie in, and finally, “Remember,” a pithy summation which the authors suggest may be used as a daily aspiration. Each meditation is given its own page, which makes it ideal for daily reflection for readers on the go. This book is a must have for every serious Catholic who wants to take their faith to the next level, which is to respond appropriately to the universal call to holiness and seek interior union with God.
About Newman
Fr. Juan Velez

The Eucharistic Presence

We call His presence in this Holy Sacrament a spiritual presence, not as if ‘spiritual’ were but a name or mode of speech.

Read More »
About Newman
Prof. Barb H. Wyman

The Priestly Office

The sacrifice of the altar as a re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary is a “bloodless rite,” but nevertheless, like that sacrifice, it too is a “fire of Love,” and a “Fount of Light.”

Read More »
About Newman
Fr. Juan Velez

The Indwelling Spirit

With this indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have the indwelling of Christ in our souls. Christ is born in us. The Holy Spirit makes us children of God, crying out Abba Father, and restores in us the likeness of Christ.

Read More »
Sermon Blog
David Warren

The Fellowship of the Apostles

Preaching the truth means Jesus Christ is the goal in our conflicts with others – not winning the argument. This is why we can approach everyone with understanding, respect and patience, in other words, in a Christ-like way.

Read More »