Image of Jesus Crucified
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman
Self-Denial, the True Test of Religious Earnestness, Part 3
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Thee Minutes with Newman

Self-Denial, the Test of Religious Earnestness, Part 3

by Fr. Juan Vélez

Jesus bids us to take up our cross daily. We must be careful, however, of the danger of self-deception by doing things for our own praise. Self-denial in daily life is the chief duty and test of whether we are living as Christ’s disciples and are on our way to heaven.

[trx_audio url=”https://www.cardinaljohnhenrynewman.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Self-Denial-part-3_01.mp3″ title=”Three Minute Reflection” author=”Fr. Juan Velez”]

 

Image of Jesus CrucifiedSelf-Denial, Part 3

Granted that we wish to fulfill Christ’s words to take up our cross, Newman asks: “In what sense do we fulfill the words of Christ? Have we any distinct notion what is meant by the words, ‘taking up our cross?’

We accept that a person’s faith is known by his works. Self-denial cannot be an occasional act, a kind word or a casual prayer It must be a continual practice – taking up the cross daily. In the world ‘great men’ are those who perform impressive feats, but the Christian lives self-denial throughout the day. According to Newman, for the Christian –

“Self-denial which is pleasing to Christ consists in little things. This is plain, for opportunity for great self-denials does not come every day. Thus to take up the cross of Christ is no great action done once for all, it consists in the continual practice of small duties which are distasteful to us.”

Newman also points out that self-denial consists in overcoming one’s defects, and that everyone should determine where his weak points lie. He says:

“His trial is not in those things which are easy to him, but in that one thing, in those several things, whatever they are, in which to do his duty is against his nature. Never think yourself safe because you do your duty in ninety-nine points; it is the hundredth which is to be the ground of your self-denial, which must evidence, or rather instance and realize your faith.”

St. Josemaría Escrivá also opportunely cautions: “Don’t say: ‘That’s the way I’m made… it’s my character.’ It’s your lack of character: Be a man.”

Others may mistake our character defects but we know them, and we must pray to God continually for the grace to avoid faltering .

Newman continues:

“Oh, that you may have the wisdom to care little for the world’s religion, or the praise you get from the world, and your agreement with what clever men, or powerful men, or many men, make the standard of religion, compared with the secret consciousness that you are obeying God in little things as well as great, in the hundredth duty as well as in the ninety-nine!”

Let us consider thus where we are lacking in the full measure of obedience to God: often they are the small defects influencing our whole being and judgment. Through the habit of daily self-denial we will be readier to address moments of anger and passion when we are caught off guard. We will grow in self-mastery and be pleasing to God, and be prepared also to give up innocent pleasures, live our schedule, rise on time, and practice mortification at meals.

The Scriptures exhort you and me: “But thou, O servant of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (1 Tm 6:11).

In doing so let us keep in mind the words of St. Thérèse of Lisieux: “The smallest actions done for His love are those which charm His Heart.” What can you and I do today to please him?

 

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Newman lays down a firm rule in the light of life's abundant blessings: the Christian is not allowed to be gloomy.

Newman wrote, “I have been accustomed to consider the action of the creator on and in the created universe, as parallel in a certain sense to that of the soul upon the body.”

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We need to remember our mortality, so that we may be ready to meet Our Lord each and every day. Lent and lenten mortifications have a role in this preparation. We must die to self daily, so that we may be brought to the glory of His resurrection. 

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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.  

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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.

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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.
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