From the Renovaré Newsletter Archive

The selection below is from a July 1994 Renovaré newsletter. Download a PDF of the original newsletter.

In recent days I have been repeatedly drawn to the powerful poem/prayer of John Henry Newman, that great intellectual of the nineteenth century and a leader in the famous Oxford Movement.” It is known simply as Newman’s prayer.” Allow me to share a few lines:

God has created me to do him some definite service.
He 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
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.

The Smallest Act

I hope you have that sense of mission, of service, of work. No one else can do what God has given you to do. If your offering of service is withheld, all are less; if it is faithfully given, all are enriched. And it matters not a whit if your work is unvalued by the culture. The smallest act of kindness can send ripples of joy throughout a community. They also serve who only stand and wait.”

And from the perspective of spiritual reality I rather think that more is happening than we imagine. It is like the laws of mathematics have been superseded, or at least stretched in ways we do not fully understand. Evil has its effect, to be sure — to the third and fourth generation, as the Scripture says. But acts of love and justice and mercy … why, their effect goes on and on and on — to the thousandth generation.” So I tell you, never devalue the work you have been given — it is precious beyond measure.

Let me share with you the final lines of Newman’s poem:

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
He does nothing in vain
He knows what he is about
He may take away my friends
He may throw me among strangers
He may make me feel desolate
Make my spirits sink
Hide my future from me — still
He knows what he is about.

Peace and joy,

Richard J. Foster

Text First Published July 1994