“When St John Henry Newman sat down to write a defense of his decision to enter the Catholic Church, he said, “the words, ‘Secretum meum mihi,’ keep ringing in my ears.” “Secretum meum mihi”—“My secret is my own.” Who was he to share the details of his long, confusing, and often painful path to Rome? His account of the quiet prompts, of the reasoning and intuitions, that he eventually knew to be God’s work in his life would necessarily fall short of the reality. Thankfully, despite these concerns, Newman decided it prudent to publish the defense, though not without a certain trepidation.
“My secret is my own.” The quotation comes from Isaiah 24:16 in the Vulgate, rendered “a finibus terrae laudes audivimus gloriam iusti et dixi secretum meum mihi secretummeum mihi vae mihi praevaricantes praevaricati sunt et praevaricatione transgressorum praevaricati sunt”. In modern English translations it is rendered, “From the ends of the earth we hear singing: “Glory to the Righteous One.” But I said, “I waste away, I waste away! Woe to me! The treacherous betray! With treachery the treacherous betray!” (Ed. “My leanness, my leanness – Or, my secret; so the Vulgate, Montanus, and the old MS; רזן razan has this meaning in Chaldee; but in Hebrew it signifies to make lean, to waste.”)
It has been repeated by a number of saints. Newman’s patron, St. Philip Neri, according tohis early biographer, “constantly repeated to himself the phrase, “my secret is my own, my secret is my own.” St. Philip “was well aware in himself of the gifts that God had given him, but wanted to keep them hidden from anyone else, for he remembered what St Gregory said, that anyone who carries his treasure about openly in the streets is asking to be robbed.” Those who flaunt spiritual treasures are like the Pharisee praying on the street corner—in most cases they are seeking worldly glory in place of true, heavenly treasure. St. Philip knew at least a portion of what God was sharing with him in his soul. But the saint knew not to attempt to express many of the spiritual delights and trials he received.
Edith Stein repeated the same words. When a friend asked why she converted to Catholicism, the future saint reportedly gave the answer: “Secretum meum mihi.” Reluctant to share her innermost thoughts, she allowed the inexpressible to remain unexpressed.
To say and mean these words, to pray them, we must know two things—that we have a secret, and that it’s ours, uniquely ours. What is the secret? Simply by existing, we fulfill a part of God’s plan that no one else can take. More technically, this is referred to as the incommunicability of the human person. Each person is unique and distinct from everything else that is. God does not make mistakes in creation—each of us has an irreplaceable role in His plan.
For those raised to friendship with God in grace, each of us has a relationship with Him that is unlike anyone else’s friendship with God. While close friends might list attributes that they appreciate in each other, the core of their friendship can only be experienced, not expressed. Their relationship is uniquely theirs.
When we live in grace, rely on the sacraments, and respond to God’s requests that we abandon ourselves to His plans, we receive “grace upon grace.” These graces form us and elevate us to be more like Jesus and bring us into union with God in a way that only we can be. We can each say, “the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name” (Lk. 1:49). This is friendship with God. This friendship—its shape, its contours, its times of joy and trial—is the secret God gives to each of us, and it is uniquely ours. Our secrets are our own, and together we praise the God Who shares with us the inexpressible sweetness of His life.”
Love, secretum meum mihi,
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "And above all, be on your guard not to want to get anything done by force, because God has given free will to everyone and wants to force no one, but only proposes, invites and counsels." –St. Angela Merici, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "We cannot always have access to a spiritual Father for counsel in our actions and in our doubts, but reading will abundantly supply his place by giving us directions to escape the illusions of the devil and of our own self-love, and at the same time to submit to the divine will.” —St. Alphonsus Ligouri, "The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder . . . What power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course, and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection." –St. Padre Pio, "Screens may grab our attention, but books change our lives!" – Word on Fire, "Reading has made many saints!" -St Josemaría Escrivá, "Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you." —St. Jerome, from his Letter 22 to Eustochium, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "God here speaks to souls through…good books“ – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, "You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. "Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading." –St. Isidore of Seville “The aid of spiritual books is for you a necessity.… You, who are in the midst of battle, must protect yourself with the buckler of holy thoughts drawn from good books.” -St. John Chrysostom