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A short road to perfection

2 min • Digitized on June 11, 2024

#Meditations #What the Saints Say #Wisdom

From Meditations and Devotions, page 285
By St. John Henry Newman


September 27, 1856

It is the saying of holy men that, if we wish to be perfect, we have nothing more to do than to perform the ordinary duties of the day well. A short road to perfection—short, not because easy, but because pertinent and intelligible. There are no short ways to perfection, but there are sure ones.

I think this is an instruction which may be of great practical use to persons like ourselves. It is easy to have vague ideas what perfection is, which serve well enough to talk about, when we do not intend to aim at it; but as soon as a person really desires and sets about seeking it himself, he is dissatisfied with anything but what is tangible and clear, and constitutes some sort of direction towards the practice of it.

We must bear in mind what is meant by perfection. It does not mean any extraordinary service, anything out of the way, or especially heroic—not all have the opportunity of heroic acts, of sufferings—but it means what the word perfection ordinarily means. By perfect we mean that which has no flaw in it, that which is complete, that which is consistent, that which is sound—we mean the opposite to imperfect. As we know well what imperfection in religious service means, we know by the contrast what is meant by perfection.

He, then, is perfect who does the work of the day perfectly, and we need not go beyond this to seek for perfection. You need not go out of the round of the day.

I insist on this because I think it will simplify our views, and fix our exertions on a definite aim. If you ask me what you are to do in order to be perfect, I say, first—

  1. Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising;
  2. give your first thoughts to God;
  3. make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament;
  4. say the Angelus devoutly;
  5. eat and drink to God’s glory;
  6. say the Rosary well;
  7. be recollected;
  8. keep out bad thoughts;
  9. make your evening meditation well;
  10. examine yourself daily;
  11. go to bed in good time,

and you are already perfect.

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