Sins of Ignorance and Weakness, Part 4

Image of Jesus CrucifiedSins of Ignorance and Weakness, Part 4

In light of what he has described, Blessed Newman observes that the task of priests is to help the faithful to recognize the many instances of lack of faith, of superstition and carnal notions, and calling on them to repentance and perfect obedience to God.

It is a work that is above the clergy whom he nonetheless encourages: “we are bound to serve God with a perfect heart; an exalted work, a work for which our sins disable us.”

Newman insists on the need for repeated forgiveness.

“We attempt great things with the certainty of failing, and yet the necessity of attempting; and so while we attempt, need continual forgiveness for the failure of the attempt.”

It would be some years before Newman first hears the confession of a penitent, and even more years before, as a Catholic priest, he administers the sacrament of Confession regularly. This is the ordinary means of grace by which God forgives Christians their sins. The catechism teaches that “Individual and integral confession of grave sins followed by absolution remains the only ordinary means of reconciliation with God and with the Church.” (n 1497)

But Newman does not know this yet and he asks his parishioners to turn to the “Great Sacrifice” of Christ by which men’s sins are expiated. He urges his listeners to daily private prayer, as well as to the public services of the Church, not only once a week but whenever possible, since Christ promised to be present ‘where two or three are gathered in his name.’

He reminds his fellow Christians to attend the celebration of the Lord’s Supper:

The Body and Blood of Christ give power and efficacy to our daily faith and repentance….. Christ died once, long since: by communicating in His Sacrament, you renew the Lord’s death; you bring into the midst of you that Sacrifice which took away the sins of the world; you appropriate the benefit of it, while you eat it under the elements of bread and wine.

He tells them that just as our bodies need food, our souls need this hidden grace; and urges on them to “look upon the consecrated elements as necessary, under God’s blessing, to your continual sanctification; approach them as the salvation of your souls.”

Newman tells the unrepentant sinner in the congregation that the Holy Eucharist is the “ordinary means of his salvation.” When received in the Catholic fold he would understand the need for sacramental absolution for grave sin before communicating with the Body and Blood of Christ.

We, who have the benefit of the Catholic Church’s teaching, should explain to family and friends this doctrine while at the same time reminding them, like Newman, to approach the Great atoning Sacrifice of the Mass with confidence and awe on the appointed days.

 

 

3 Comment(s)
  • Lisa Mladinich Posted November 13, 2016 7:03 pm

    Just beautiful! The sacraments are necessities, and our souls are hungry for them, whether we know it or not. Thank you, Father Juan! Blessed Newman, pray for us!

  • Barbara Wyman Posted November 14, 2016 9:55 pm

    One of the many things that I love about John Henry Newman is that his love for the Anglican Church brought him home, to Holy Mother Church. There is something powerful which the words prayed at an Anglican Church service point to — a glimpse into the true sacrifice of the Mass. The beauty and holiness of these words prayed with an open heart, as Newman did, can only do one thing, and that is lead one to Catholicism. The words of the Book of Common Prayer still bring me to tears, for their own beauty, and for what that beauty does. Thank you for this powerful reminder that the realization of our failings brings the longing for forgiveness … and that forgiveness encourages us in our desire to be saints.

  • Cecilia T. Gadenz Posted November 17, 2016 11:50 am

    Thank you, Father Juan, for your continued effort to bring us these inspiring meditations on Bl. Newman. I admire very much Newman’s continued struggle and effort to follow the “Guiding Light” in order to find the Truth. What he asked to have inscribed on his gravestone says it all: “Ex Umbris et Imaginabus in Veritatem”. From shadows and images into the Truth!

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