IN Paradise there are many Saints who never gave alms on earth: their poverty justified them. There are many Saints who never mortified their bodies by fasting, or wearing hair shirts: their bodily infirmities excused them. There are many Saints too who were not virgins: their vocation was otherwise. But in Paradise there is no Saint who was not humble.
1. God banished Angels from Heaven for their pride; therefore how can we pretend to enter therein, if we do not keep ourselves in a state of humility? Without humility, says St. Peter Damian, [Serm. 45] not even the Virgin Mary herself with her incomparable virginity could have entered into the glory of Christ, and we ought to be convinced of this truth that, though destitute of some of the other virtues, we may yet be saved, but never without humility. There are people who flatter themselves that they have done much by preserving unsullied chastity, and truly chastity is a beautiful adornment; but as the angelic St. Thomas says: "Speaking absolutely, humility excels virginity." [4 dist. qu. xxxiii, art. 3 ad 6; et 22, qu. clxi, art. 5]
We often study diligently to guard against and correct ourselves of the vices of concupiscence which belong to a sensual and animal nature, and this inward conflict which the body wages adversus carnem [Gal. 5,17] is truly a spectacle worthy of God and of His Angels. But, alas, how rarely do we use this diligence and caution to conquer spiritual vices, of which pride is the first and the greatest of all, and which, sufficed of itself to transform an Angel into a demon!
2. Jesus Christ calls us all into His school to learn, not to work miracles nor to astonish the world by marvelous enterprises, but to be humble of heart. "Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart." [Matt. 11, 29] He has not called everyone to be doctors, preachers or priests, nor has He bestowed on all the gift of restoring sight to the blind, healing the sick, raising the dead or casting out devils, but to all He has said: "Learn of Me to be humble of heart," and to all He has given the power to learn humility of Him. Innumerable things are worthy of imitation in the Incarnate Son of God, but He only asks us to imitate His humility. What then? Must we suppose that all the treasures of Divine Wisdom which were in Christ are to be reduced to the virtue of humility? "So it certainly is," answers St. Augustine. Humility contains all things because in this virtue is truth; therefore God must also dwell therein, since He is the truth.
The Savior might have said: "Learn of Me to be chaste, humble, prudent, just, wise, abstemious, etc." But He only says: "Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart"; and in humility alone He includes all things, because, as St. Thomas so truly says, "Acquired humility is in a certain sense the greatest good." [Lib. de sancta virginit. c. xxxv] Therefore whoever possesses this virtue may be said, as to his proximate disposition, to possess all virtues, and he who lacks it, lacks all.
3. Reading the works of St. Augustine we find in them all that his sole idea was the exaltation of God above the creature as far as possible, and as far as possible the humble subjection of the creature to God. The recognition of this truth should find a place in every Christian mind, thus establishing-----according to the acuteness and penetration of our intelligence-----a sublime conception of God, and a lowly and vile conception of the creature. But we can only succeed in doing this by humility.
Humility is in reality a confession of the greatness of God, Who after His voluntary self-annihilation was exalted and glorified; wherefore Holy Writ says: "For great is the power of God alone, and He is honored by the humble." [Ecclus. iii, 21]
It was for this reason that God pledged Himself to exalt the humble, and continually showers new graces upon them in return for the glory He constantly receives from them. Hence the inspired word again reminds us: "Be humble, and thou shalt obtain every grace from God." [Ecclus. iii, 20]
The humblest man honors God most by his humility, and has the reward of being more glorified by God, Who has said: "Whoever honors Me, I will glorify him." [1 Kings ii, 30] Oh, if we could only see how great is the glory of the humble in Heaven!
4. Humility is a virtue that belongs essentially to Christ, not only as man, but more especially as God, because with God to be good, holy and merciful is not virtue but nature, and humility is only a virtue. God cannot exalt Himself above what He is, in His most high Being, nor can He increase His vast and infinite greatness; but He can humiliate Himself as in fact He did humiliate and lower Himself. "He humbled Himself, He emptied Himself," [Phil. ii, 7, 8] revealing Himself to us, through His humility, as the Lord of all virtues, the conqueror of the world, of death, Hell and sin.
No greater example of humility can be given than that of the Only Son of God when "the Word was made Flesh." Nothing could be more sublime than the words of St. John's Gospel, "In the beginning was the Word." And no abasement can be deeper than that which follows: "And the Word was made Flesh."
By this union of the Creator with the creature the Highest was united with the lowest. Jesus Christ summed up all His Heavenly doctrine in humility, and before teaching it, it was His will to practice it perfectly Himself. As St. Augustine says: "He was unwilling to teach what He Himself was not, He was unwilling to command what He Himself did not practice." [Lib. de sancta virginit. c. xxxvi]
But to what purpose did He do all this if not that by this means all His followers should learn humility by practical example? He is our Master, and we are His disciples; but what profit do we derive from His teachings, which are practical and not theoretical?
How shameful it would be for anyone, after studying for many years in a school of art or science, under the teaching of excellent masters, if he were still to remain absolutely ignorant! My shame is great indeed, because I have lived so many years in the school of Jesus Christ, and yet I have learnt nothing of that holy humility which He sought so earnestly to teach me. "Have mercy upon me according to Thy Word. Thou art good, and in Thy goodness teach me Thy justifications. Give me understanding, and I will learn Thy Commandments." [Ps. cxviii, 58, 68, 73]
5. There is a kind of humility which is of counsel and of perfection such as that which desires and seeks the contempt of others; but there is also a humility which is of necessity and of precept, without which, says Christ, we cannot enter into the kingdom of Heaven: "Thou shalt not enter into the kingdom of Heaven." [Matt. xviii, 3] And this consists in not esteeming ourselves and in not wishing to be esteemed by others above what we really are.
No one can deny this truth, that humility is essential to all those who wish to be saved. "No one reaches the kingdom of Heaven except by humility," says St. Augustine. [Lib. de Salut. cap. xxxii]
But, I ask, what is practically this humility which is so necessary? When we are told that faith and hope are necessary, it is also explained to us what we are to believe and to hope. In like manner, when humility is said to be necessary, in what should its practice consist except in the lowest opinion of ourselves? It is in this moral sense that the humility of the heart has been explained by the fathers of the Church. But can I say with truth that I possess this humility which I recognize as necessary and obligatory? What care or solicitude do I display to acquire it? When a virtue is of precept, so is its practice also, as St. Thomas teaches. And therefore, as there is a humility which is of precept, "it has its rule in the mind, viz., that one is not to esteem oneself to be above that which one really is." [22, quo xvi, 2, art. 6]
How and when do I practice its acts, acknowledging and confessing my unworthiness before God? The following was the frequent prayer of St. Augustine, "Noscam Te, noscam me-----May I know Thee; may I know myself!" and by this prayer he asked for humility, which is nothing else but a true knowledge of God and of oneself. To confess that God is what He is, the Omnipotent, "Great is the Lord, and exceedingly to be praised," [Ps. xlvii, 1] and to declare that we are but nothingness before Him: "My substance is as nothing before Thee" [Ps. xxxviii, 6]-----this is to be humble.
6. There is no valid excuse for not being humble, because we have always, within and without, abundant reasons for humility: "And thy humiliation shall be in the midst of thee." It is the Holy Ghost who sends us this warning by the mouth of His prophet Micheas." [vi, 14]
When we consider well what we are in body, and what we are in soul, it seems to me most easy to humble oneself, and even most difficult to be proud. To be humble it suffices that I should nourish within myself that right feeling which belongs to every man who is honorable in the eyes of the world, to be content with one's own without unjustly depriving our neighbor of what is his. Therefore, as I have nothing of my own but my own nothingness, it is sufficient for humility that I should be content with this nothingness. But if I am proud, I become like a thief, appropriating to myself that which is not mine but God's. And most assuredly it is a greater sin to rob God of that which belongs to God than to rob man of that which is man's.
To be humble let us listen to the revelation of the Holy Ghost which is infallible. "Behold you are nothing, and your work is of that which hath no being." [Isa. xli, 24] But who is really convinced of his own nothingness?
It is for this reason that in holy Scripture it is said: "Every man is a liar." [Ps. cxv, 2] For there is no man who from time to time does not entertain some incredible self-esteem, and form some false opinion as to his being, or having, or achieving something more than is possible to his own nothingness.
To know what our body is in reality, it will suffice for us to look into the grave, for, from what we see there, we must inevitably conclude that as it is with those decayed bodies, so it will soon be with us. And with this reflection I must say to myself: "Why is earth and ashes proud?" [Ecclus x, 9] "Behold the glory of man! for his glory is dung and worms; today he is lifted up, and tomorrow he shall not be found, because he is returned into his earth, and his thought is come to nothing." [1 Mach. ii, 62, 63]
O my soul, without going further to seek truth, enter in thought into the heart of thy dwelling which is thy body! "Go in and shut thyself up in the midst of thy house." [Ezek. iii, 24] Go in and look well around thee, and thou shalt find nothing but corruption. "Go into the clay and tread." [Nahum iii, 14] Wherever thou turnest thou wilt see nothing but putrefaction oozing forth.
7. In order to learn what we really are, let us examine our own conscience. And finding therein only our own malice and a capacity to commit every kind of iniquity, shall we not all say to ourselves: "Why dost thou glory in malice, thou that art mighty in iniquity?" [ Ps. li, 1] What hast thou of thine own, my soul, wherewith to glorify thyself-----thou who art a vessel of iniquity, and a sink of sin and vice? Is not all this self-glorification-----whether it be for thy bodily or spiritual gifts that thou buildest a reputation for thyself-----but vanity and deceit?
Oh, how true it is that every man is a liar, for one need have but little pride in order to be a liar, and. there is no one who has not inherited through our first parents something of that pride which they learned in listening to the deceitful promise of the serpent: "And you shall be all Gods." [Gen. iii, 5]
Again it may be said that every man is a liar in this sense-----that he not infrequently prizes earth more than Heaven, the body more than the soul, things temporal more than things eternal, the creature more than the Creator-----and it is for this reason that David exclaims: "O ye sons of men, why do ye love vanity and seek after lying?" [Ps. iv, 3] "The sons of men are liars in the balances." [Ps. lxi, 10]
But in reality a lie dwells essentially in that pride which makes us esteem ourselves above what we are. Whoever regards himself as more than mere nothingness is filled with pride, and is a liar. It is St. Paul's statement: "If any man think himself to be something whereas he is nothing, he deceiveth himself." [Gal. vi, 3]
Every time I esteem myself, preferring myself to others, I deceive myself with this self-adulation, and commit an error against truth.
8. It is enough for a virgin to have fallen once for her to lose her virginity; and for a wife to have been but once unfaithful for her to be perpetually dishonored; even though she may afterwards perform many noble works, still her dishonor can never be effaced, and the sting and painful memory of her shame and guilt must remain for ever in her conscience.
And thus, even though in the whole course of my life I have only committed one sin, the fact will always remain that I have sinned and committed the worst and most ignominious action. And even if I should live a life of continual penance, and be certain of God's forgiveness, and though the sin exist no longer in my conscience, still I shall always have cause for shame and humiliation in the fact that I have sinned: " My sin is always before me; I have sinned and done evil in Thy sight." [Ps. l, 5, 6]
9. What should we say if we saw the public executioner walking in the streets and claiming to be esteemed, respected and honored? We should consider his effrontery as insufferable as his calling is infamous. And thou, my soul, each time that thou hast sinned mortally thou hast indeed been as an executioner, nailing to the Cross the Son of God! Thus St. Paul describes sinners as "crucifying again to themselves the Son of God." [Heb. vi, 6]
And with this character of infamy which thou bearest within thee, dost thou still dare to demand honor and esteem? Wilt thou still have the courage to say: " I insist upon being honored and respected, I will not be slighted"? However much pride may tempt me to boast and seek esteem, I have ample cause to blush with shame when I hear the voice of conscience reproaching me for my ignominy and my sins, and not ceasing to reprove me for being a perfidious and ungrateful rebel against God, a traitor and an executioner who co-operated in the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. "All the day long my shame is before me, and the confusion of my face hath covered me at the voice of him that reproacheth me." [Ps. xliii, 16, 17]
10. We must acknowledge that one of the five reasons why we do not live in this necessary humility is because we do not fear the justice of God. Look at a criminal, how humbly he stands before the judge, with lowered eyes, pallid face and bowed head: he knows that he has been convicted of atrocious crimes; he knows that thereby he has merited capital punishment, and may justly be condemned to the gallows, and hence he fears, and his fear keeps him humble, chasing from his brain all thought of ambition and vain-glory. So the soul, conscious of the numerous sins it has committed, aware that it has indeed deserved Hell, and that from one moment to another it may be condemned to Hell by Divine justice, fears the wrath of God, and this fear causes the soul to remain humble before Him; and if it does not feel this humility, it can only be because the fear of God is wanting: "There is no fear of God before his eyes." [Ps. xxxv, 1] Oh, cry to God from your heart: "Pierce Thou my flesh with Thy fear." [Ps. cxviii, 120]
this holy fear which is the beginning of wisdom will also be the beginning
of true humility; for, as the inspired Word says, humility and wisdom are
inseparable companions: "Where humility is, there also is wisdom." [Prov.
11. There is no Saint however holy and innocent who may not truly consider himself the greatest sinner in the world. It is enough that he knows himself to be man to recognize that he is liable to commit all the evil of which man is capable. As man, I have in my corrupt nature a proclivity to every evil; and so far as I am concerned I am quite capable of committing all kinds of sin, and if I do not commit them it is through a special grace of God which preserves and restrains me.
A tree does not fall while bending under its own weight, and this must be attributed to the strength of its support; and in the same way if I have not fallen into every kind of iniquity, it must not be attributed to my own inherent virtue but only to Divine grace, which by its goodness has supported me. Therefore how can I esteem myself more than another whilst we are all equal in human weakness? "For what is my strength?" [Job vi, 11] I am a son of Adam like every other man, born in sin, inclined to sin, and ever ready to fall into sin. I have no need of the devil to tempt me to sin; my own concupiscence is only too great a temptation; and if God were to withdraw from me His protecting and helping hand, I know that I should be precipitated headlong from bad to worse. When St. Augustine made his examen of conscience, he did not always find sufficient to excite within him sorrow and contrition, so he dwelt on those sins which he might or would have committed had he not been preserved from them by God's infinite mercy; and he grieved and accused himself and humbly implored pardon of God for the evil capacity he had to commit all kinds of heinous and impious sins. In this practice is to be found an exercise of true humility.
12. It has often happened that those who were more perfect than others have shamefully fallen, and this after a long period of good and virtuous works, showing the marvelous things that a man can do when able if abandoned to himself and left to the weakness of his own free-will.
God has shown His creative omnipotence by forming me out of nothing and making me a human being. Were God to withdraw His omnipotent preserving hand from me I should at once show what I am capable of when left to myself, by returning immediately into my nothingness. And, in the order of grace, the nothingness into which I relapse when left to myself is sin. How often "I am brought to nothing, and I knew not." [Ps. lxxii, 21] And what can I find to be proud of in that nothingness?
Give me grace, O my God, to know myself only as much as is necessary to keep me humble! For if I fully realized the insignificance of my own being and the extent of my malice which is capable of offending Thee in divers inconceivable ways, I fear I should be so filled with horror at myself that I should give way to despair!
have within ourselves, in our own experience and feelings, a knowledge
of how greatly our frail and fallen nature is inclined to evil. Today we
go and confess certain of our faults, making the resolution not to fall
into them again, and tomorrow notwithstanding we commit them once
At one moment we make up our minds to acquire a certain virtue, and the next we do just the contrary by falling into the opposite vice. At the time when we make these resolutions of amendment we imagine that our will is firm and strong, but we soon perceive how weak and unreliable it is, for we behave as though we had never purposed amendment at all.
heart is like a reed that bends before every wind, or a barque tossed by
every wave. It is sufficient to meet with an occasion of sin, a movement
of passion, a breath of temptation, for the will to yield to evil even
when in certain moments of fervor we seem most firmly rooted in good. This
is a strong reason for us to be humble and not to presume anything of ourselves,
praying to God continually that He may deign to confirm in our hearts that
which He works through His grace.
"Confirm, O God, what Thou hast wrought in us." [Ps. lxvii, 29]
Some masters of the spiritual life teach that it is better to divert our thoughts from certain heroic actions in which our weakness might lead us to doubt whether we should succeed or not; for example: if a persecutor should come and summon me either to renounce the faith or to die, how should I act? or, if I were to receive a terrible public insult, should I practice patience or resentment? No, they say it is not well to indulge in such imaginings because our weakness may cause us to fall before the idea of such a trial.
But should such thoughts arise, we can turn them to our good and use our very weakness to practice humility. When such ideas occur it would be well to say: I know what I ought to do on such and such an occasion, but I know not how far I can trust myself, because I know by personal experience that "my strength is weakened through poverty," [Ps. xxx, 11] and I have learnt on several occasions how my reason becomes blinded, my judgment weakened, and my will often perverted easily to evil. O my God, I can do all things if I am strengthened by Thy help; hut without this I can do nothing, nor shall I ever be able to do anything! If I had to confess Thee I should miserably deny Thee; if to honor Thee by patience I should give way to vengeance; if I had to obey Thee I should offend Thee by disobedience. "Thou art a strong helper: when my strength shall fail, do not Thou forsake me." [Ps. lxx, 7, 9] Thy saying is quite true, O my God: "Without Me you can do nothing." [john xv, 5] Not only without Thee can I never do any meritorious act of virtue whatsoever, but I cannot do anything at all; as St. Augustine instructs me: " Whether it be little or whether it be great, it cannot be done without Him without Whom nothing can be done." [Tract 31 in Joan.]
15. A beautiful way of asking humility of God was the following which was used by a great Saint. Lord, he said, I do not even know what humility is like, but I know that I do not possess it, and cannot of myself obtain it; and that unless I have it I shall not be saved; therefore it only remains for me to ask it of Thee, but give me the grace to ask it as I ought. Thou hast promised, O my God, to grant me all those things which I shall ask of Thee and which are necessary to my eternal salvation; and humility being most necessary to me, faith compels me to believe that Thou wilt grant me this, if I know how to ask it of Thee. But herein lies the difficulty, because I know not how to ask Thee as I ought. Teach me and help me that I may pray to Thee as Thou dost wish me to pray and in that efficacious manner in which Thou Thyself knowest that I shall be heard. And as Thou commandest me to be humble, I am ready to obey; but grant that through Thy help I may in truth become such as Thou dost desire. I ardently desire to be humble, and from whence comes this love and desire for humility if not from Thee, Who hast put it into my heart by Thy holy grace? Oh, of Thy goodness grant me therefore what Thou hast made me so love and desire. I hope for it, and I will continue to hope for it. "Strengthen me, O Lord God, that, as Thou hast promised, I may bring to pass that which I have purposed, having a belief that it might be done by Thee." [Judith xiii, 7]
16. We may persuade ourselves that we possess various virtues, because we have a tangible proof within us that we really have them. Thus we may judge ourselves to be chaste, because we feel really attracted to chastity; or we may think ourselves abstemious, because we are so by nature; or obedient, because we practice a ready obedience. But however much a man may exercise humility, he can never form any judgment as to his being really humble, for he who thinks himself humble is no longer so.
In the same way that to recognize that we are proud is the beginning of humility, so to flatter ourselves that we are humble is the beginning of pride, and the more humble we think ourselves the greater is our pride. That self-complacency which the heart feels, making us imagine that we are humble in consequence of some agreeable reflections we have had about ourselves, is a species of vanity; and how can vanity exist with humility which is founded solely on truth? Vanity is nothing but a lie, and it is precisely from a lie that pride springs.
Let us pray to God with the prophet: "Let not the foot of pride come to me." [Ps. xxxv, 12] Grant, O my God, that I may be humble, but that I may not know that I am humble. Make me holy, yet ignorant of holiness; for if I should learn to know or even to imagine myself holy, I should become vain; and through vanity should lose all humility and holiness.
From what has just been said it is possible that a tormenting doubt might
arise in the mind of some one who might say: If I must judge myself to
be wanting in humility, I must conclude that I am lost, and such a judgment
would lead me to despair. But do you not perceive the error? To speak wisely
you ought to say: I know I am wanting in humility; therefore I must try
and obtain it; for without humility I am a reprobate, and it is necessary
to be humble in order to be among the elect.
There would indeed be cause for despair if on the one hand humility were necessary for salvation and on the other it were unattainable. But nothing is more natural to us than humility, because we are drawn towards it by our own misery; and nothing is easier, since it is enough for us to open our eyes and to know ourselves; this is not a virtue we need go far to seek, as we can always find it within ourselves, and we have an infinity of good reasons in ourselves for doing so. Nevertheless we must labor as long as life lasts to acquire humility, nor must we ever imagine that we have acquired it; and even should we have obtained it in some degree, we must still continue to strive after it as though we did not possess it, in order that we may be able to keep it. Let us have a true desire to be humble; let us not cease to implore God that He may give us the grace to be humble; and let us often study the motives that may help to make us humble of heart; and let us not doubt the Divine Goodness, but conform to the advice given us in Holy Writ: "Think of the Lord in goodness." [Wisd. i, 1]
18. Although we feel the humiliation keenly when we are insulted, persecuted or calumniated, this does not mean that we cannot suffer such trials with sentiments of true humility, subjecting nature to reason and faith and sacrificing the resentment of our self-love to the love of God. We are not made of stone, so that we need be insensible or senseless in order to be humble. Of some Martyrs we read that they writhed under their torments; of others that they more or less rejoiced in them, according to the greater or less degree of unction they received from the Holy Ghost; and all were rewarded by the crown of glory, as it is not the pain or the feeling that makes the Martyr but the supernatural motive of virtue. In the same way some humble persons feel pleasure in being humiliated, and some feel sadness, especially when weighed down with calumny; and yet they all belong to the sphere of the humble, because it is not the humiliation nor the suffering alone which makes the soul humble, but the interior act by which this same humiliation is accepted and received through motives of Christian humility and especially of a desire to resemble Jesus Christ, Who, though entitled to all the honors the world could offer Him, bore humiliation and scorn for the glory of His eternal Father: "For Thy sake, O God of Israel, I have borne reproach." [Ps. lxviii, 8]
The doctrine of St. Bernard is worthy of our notice: It is one thing to be humiliated, and another to be humble. It often happens that the proud man is humiliated, yet he nevertheless remains proud, receiving humiliations with anger and contempt, doing all he can to escape them with fretful impatience. It sometimes happens too that the proud man becomes humble; the humiliation teaching him to know himself as he is, and by this knowledge he learns to love this very humiliation: "He is humble who converts all his humiliations into humility and says unto God: 'It is good for me that Thou hast humbled me.' " [D. Bern, serm. 34, in Cant.]
19. In the spiritual life I can promise myself nothing without the special help of God; and most true is the teaching of the Holy Ghost: "Thy help is only in Me." [Osee. xiii, 9] From one moment to another I may fall into mortal sin: consequently, even though I may have labored many years in acquiring virtues, I may in one instant lose all the good I have done, lose all my merit for eternity, and lose even that blessed eternity itself. How can a king rule with arrogance, when he is besieged by his enemies and from day to day runs the risk of losing his kingdom and ceasing to be a king? And has not a Saint abundant reasons, from the thought of his own weakness, to live always in a state of great humility, when he knows that from one hour to another he may lose the grace of God and the kingdom of Heaven which he has merited by years of laboriously-acquired virtues? "Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." [Ps. cxxvi, 1]
However spiritual and holy a man may be, he cannot regard himself as absolutely secure. The Angels themselves, enriched with sanctity, were not safe in Paradise. Man, endowed with innocence, was not safe in his earthly paradise. What safety therefore can there be for us with our corrupt nature, amid so many perils and so many enemies, who within and without are ever seeking insidiously to undermine our eternal salvation?
In order to be eternally damned it is enough I should follow the dictates of nature, but to be saved it is necessary that Divine grace should prevent and accompany me, should follow and help me, watch over me, and never abandon me. Oh, how right therefore was St. Paul in exhorting us to "work out our salvation"-----which is for all eternity-----"with fear and trembling"! [Phil. ii, 12]
20. To be contented and self-satisfied, to lead a quiet, easy-going life, accomplishing only what duty prescribes, is not a good sign. After having done all that our Christian profession requires of us, our Lord nevertheless wishes us to consider ourselves useless servants of His Church: "So you also, when you shall have done all things commanded you, say: We are unprofitable servants." [Luke xvii, 10] Therefore how much more useless we ought to consider ourselves, if we live in tepidity and sloth, by which we are still so far removed from that perfection to which we are bound!
When I make my examen of conscience do I find that I fulfill all my duties in the sight of God? What virtue have I acquired hitherto? It may be said that we have acquired the habit of such and such a virtue when we come to practice it willingly and with facility; but when I examine myself, what virtue can I find which I habitually practice with pleasure and facility? I cannot find even one. I am a most unprofitable servant on earth; and if I were now called before the tribunal of my eternal Judge, I much fear that it would be said to me: "Thou wicked servant," [Matt. xviii, 32] and not, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." [Matt. xxv, 21]
Thoughts and Sentiments on Humility Part 3
21. In a country where all are blind it is sufficient for a man to have but one eye for him to be said to have good sight, and amongst a multitude of ignorant people one need possess but a slight tinge of knowledge to acquire the reputation of being very learned; and in the same way in this wicked and corrupt world it is easy to flatter ourselves that we are good, if we are not quite so bad as many others. "I am not as the rest of men." [Luke xviii, 11] It was in this way that the Pharisee praised himself in the temple.
But in order to know ourselves as we really are, it is not with worldly-minded people that we ought to compare ourselves, but with Jesus Christ, Who is the model for all those who are predestinated. "Look," says St. Paul to everyone of us, quoting the words that were said to Moses, "Look and make it according to the pattern that was shown thee on the mount." [Heb. viii, 5]
How have I conformed my life to the life of the Incarnate Son of God, Who came to teach me the way to Heaven by His example? Ascend, O my soul, to the hill of Calvary, and gaze attentively upon thy crucified Savior! To this each one of us must conform in his own state of life if he wishes to be saved; such being the decree of the eternal Father, that the predestinated must "be made conformable to the image of His Son." [Rom. viii, 29]
But can I truthfully and conscientiously say that I imitate Him? In what way? Let me examine myself. Ah, how different I am from Him! And what just cause I find in this examen to humble myself! In comparing myself with sinners I think myself a Saint; but in comparing myself with Jesus Christ, Whom I ought to imitate, I am compelled to acknowledge that I am a sinner and a reprobate; and the only consolation left to me is to trust in the infinite mercy of God. "O God, my support and my deliverer." [Ps. cxliii, 2]
22. Read the lives of the Saints, and consider whose life your own most resembles: what degree of sanctity do you possess? If you were to die at this moment, to what part of Paradise would you think yourself destined? Perhaps amongst the innocents? No one is innocent who has committed even one mortal sin; and you-----have you still in your soul your Baptismal innocence? Perhaps, therefore, amongst the penitents? But where is your penitence when, far from seeking self-mortification, you seek in all things to please yourself? Do you think you deserve to be numbered amongst the Martyrs? I will not speak of the shedding of blood; but where is even your patience to suffer only the slightest trouble or adversity in this miserable life? Do you judge yourself worthy to be ranked with the virgins? But are you pure in body and mind? St. Anthony, the abbot, after having labored many years to perfect himself in holiness by imitating the virtues of all the most illustrious anchorites, found much to humble himself when he heard of St. Paul, the first hermit, and felt that in comparison with this holy man he himself had nothing of the religious left in him. O my soul, come too, and compare thyself with the Saints. "Call to remembrance the works of the fathers which they have done in their generations," [Mach. ii, 51] and thou wilt find innumerable occasions for humbling thyself in perceiving how far thou art from holiness. It is all very well to say: I do nothing wrong. To be saved it is not enough not to do evil, but one must also do good. "Avoid evil, and do good." [Ps. xxxvi, 27] It is not enough not to be a sinner by profession, but it is necessary to be holy by profession. "Follow "holiness, without which no man shall see God." [Heb. xii, 14]
23. Examine those virtues which you imagine that you possess. Have you prudence, temperance, fortitude, justice, modesty, humility, chastity, humbleness of spirit, charity, obedience, and many other virtues that may be necessary or suitable to your condition? If you have a few of these, in what degree do you possess them?
But I will say more: and that is, examine yourself first, and see whether you really have this virtue that you think you possess. What I mean to say is: is it a real virtue, or perhaps only a disposition of your natural temperament, be it melancholy, sanguine or phlegmatic? And even should this virtue be real, is it a Christian virtue or purely a human one? Every act of virtue which does not proceed from a supernatural motive, in order to bring us to everlasting bliss, is of no value. And in the practice of virtue, do you join to your external actions the inward and spiritual acts of the heart? O true Christian virtues, I fear that in me you are nothing but beautiful outward appearances! I deserve the reproach of God's word: "Because thou sayest: I am rich, and made wealthy, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched and miserable, and poor and blind and naked." [Apoc. iii, 17] And in the same manner the counsel of St. Augustine is good for me, that it is better to think of those virtues in which we are lacking rather than of those which we possess. "I will humble myself more for those virtues which I lack than pride myself on those I possess." [In Ps. xxxviii]
24. In order that an act of virtue be truly virtuous, it is necessary that it should be so in all its component parts, and if it be defective on one point only it becomes vitiated at once. A depraved intention, a single thought of vanity at the beginning, middle or ending of any virtuous work is sufficient to corrupt and change it into an evil one. It is enough for virtue to be wanting in humility for this virtue, which is no longer humble, to cease to be a virtue, and to become a cause of mortal pride.
It often happens to one who leads a spiritual life that the more he strives after virtue, the more he finds a sweet pleasure in himself, and therefore, as St. Augustine says, the sole fact of his self-satisfaction quickly renders him displeasing to God. "The more man thinks he has reason to be pleased with himself, so much the more I fear his self-esteem will displease God, Who resists the proud." [Lib. de Sancia Virginit., cap. xxxiv]
Oh, how poor we seem when we examine our own spirituality and goodness by the help of these reflections! May it please God that we may not be like those men who, dreaming that they possess great riches, awaken at the point of death to find that they are only beggars: "They have slept their sleep: and all the men of riches have found nothing in their hands." [Ps. lxxv, 6] May it please God that the plea of our virtue may not prove an argument for our greater condemnation: "And may that which is thought to be progress in virtue not prove a cause of damnation," [Lib. 5 Moral. cap. vi] says St. Gregory.
25. Humility is like purity: however little it may be contaminated it becomes impure. Purity is corrupted not only by an impure act, but also by an immodest word or thought. And humility is also so fragile that it is easily tainted by the love of praise, by a word or thought of self-esteem, by vainglory or self-love.
who really loves purity not only diligently banishes all impure fancies
but also does so with horror and abomination; and in the same way he who
really loves humility, far from taking pleasure in praise and honor, is
displeased by them, and instead of fleeing from humiliations embraces them.
Oh, how much I find to humble myself here, for I see from this that I have no real love of humility! What is the result? One does not esteem a virtue which one does not love, and one has but little desire to acquire a virtue which one neither esteems nor loves; and if this be the case, woe is me! If I have neither love nor esteem for humility, it is because I do not know how precious this virtue is in itself, nor how necessary it is to me. But, O my God, breathe over me that almighty word: "Be light made," [Gen. i, 3] so that I may be enlightened and learn to know this important virtue which Thou dost desire that I should love. And with Thy aid I will love it and guard it jealously, if I have light to understand it.
26. Every morning we ought to make this prayer and daily offering to God: I offer Thee, O my God, all my thoughts, all my words and all my actions of this day. Grant that they may be thoughts of humility, words of humility, and actions of humility-----all to Thy glory.
Also during the course of the day it will be well to repeat this ejaculatory prayer: "Lord Jesus, give me a humble and contrite heart." These few words contain all that we can possibly ask of God; because in praying for a contrite heart we ask Him for that which is necessary to ensure forgiveness for our past life, and in praying for a humbled heart all that which is required to secure life everlasting. Oh, may I at the hour of death find myself with a contrite and humbled heart! Then what confidence shall I not have in the mercy of God if I can exclaim with King David: "A contrite and humble heart, O my God, Thou wilt not despise." We very often offer prayers to God to which He might justly reply: "Thou knowest not what thou askest"; [Ps. l, 19] but when we ask for holy humility, we know for certain we are asking for something which is most pleasing to God and most necessary to ourselves; and in asking for this we must believe that God will maintain His infallible promise: "Ask, and it shall be given you." [Matt. vii, 7]
27. If we examine all our falls into sin, whether venial or grave, the cause will always be found in some hidden pride; and true indeed are the words of the Holy Ghost: "For pride is the beginning of all sin." [Ecclus. x, 15] Of this truth our Lord Jesus Christ Himself has warned us in His Gospel where He says: "And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled." [Matt. xxiii, 12] God can give no greater humiliation to a soul than to allow it to fall into sin; because sin is the lowest depth of all, that is base, vile and ignominious.
Therefore each time that we are humbled by falling into sin, it is certain that we must previously have exalted ourselves by some act of pride; because only the proud are threatened with the punishment of this humiliation: "And he humbled himself afterwards, because his heart had been lifted up." [2 Paralip. xxxii] For thus it is written of King Ezechias in holy Scripture, and the inspired writer has also said: "Before destruction the heart of man is exalted." [Prov. xviii, 12]
There never has been a case of sin, says St. Augustine, nor ever will be one, nor can ever be one, of which pride was not in some measure the occasion: " There never can have been, and never can be, and there never shall be any sin without pride." [Lib. de Salute, xix vel alias]
Let us be so truly humble that we may not incur the punishment of this humiliation. No one can fall who lies on the ground; and no one can sin so long as he is humble. My God! My God! let me remain in my nothingness, for it is the surest state for me.
28. We read of many who after being renowned for their holiness, fervent in the exercise of prayer, great penances and signal virtues, and who after being favored by God with the gifts of ecstasy, revelations and miracles, have nevertheless fallen into the hideous vice of impurity at the slightest approach of temptation. And when I consider it, I find that there is no sin that degrades the soul so much as this impure sin of the senses, because the soul, from being reasoning and spiritual, like the Angels, becomes thereby carnal, sensual and like brute beasts "who have no understanding." [Ps. xxxi, 9]
I am constrained to adore with fear the supreme judgments of God and also for my own warning to learn that pride was the reason of so great a fall; therefore we should all exclaim with the prophet, "And being exalted I have been humbled and troubled," [Ps. lxxxvii] and say to ourselves the words which he said to Lucifer after he had "meditated in his heart: 'I will ascend' "-----"How art thou fallen from Heaven, O Lucifer." [Isa. xiv]
The soul is humbled according to the measure of its self-exaltation, and great must have been the pride which was followed by such a tremendous and abominable humiliation. Ah, how much more precious is one degree of humility in comparison with a thousand revelations or ecstasies! Of what use is it, says St. Augustine, to possess unsullied purity and chastity and virginity if pride dominates the heart? "Of what avail is continence to him who is dominated by pride?" [Serm. de Verb. Dom.]
It is a wise and just disposition of God to permit the fall of the proud into every sin and especially into that of wantonness, as being the most degrading, so that by so great a fall he should be ashamed, humbled and cured of his pride. O St. Thomas, how well hast thou said: "He who is fettered by pride and does not know it, falls into the sin of impurity which is manifestly of itself disgraceful, that through this sin he may rise humiliated from his confession." [22, qu. clxi, art. 6, ad 3] From this, the Saint continues, is shown the gravity of the sin of pride; and as a doctor often permits his patient to suffer from a minor ill so as to liberate him from a greater, so God permits the soul to fall into the sin of the senses, so that it may be cured of the vice of pride.
To whatever sublime height of sanctity we may have attained, a fall is always to be feared. For, as says St. Augustine, there is no holiness that cannot be lost through pride alone: "If there be holiness in you, fear lest you may lose it. How? Through pride." [Serm. 13 de Verb. Dom.]
However much our Christian self-love desires to avoid the remorse and repentance which ever follows the humiliations caused by sin, we should nevertheless desire and seek to be humble, because if we are humble we can never be humbled. "O my soul," we must say to ourselves," O my soul, look well into thyself and be humble if thou dost not will that God should humble thee with temporal and eternal shame." God promises to exalt the humble, and Heaven is filled with the humble; God also threatens the proud with humiliation, and Hell is filled with the proud. God thus promises and menaces so that if we do not remain in humility allured by His great promises, we should at least remain in humility from fear of His potent threats: "And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled, and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted." [Matt. xxiii, 12]
God regards the petitions of the humble favorably, and inclines to answer them: " He hath regard to the prayer of the humble, and He hath not despised their petition." [Ps. ci, 18] But however much the proud man may invoke God, God will give him no spiritual consolation. St. Augustine says: "God will not come, even though thou call upon Him, if thou art puffed up." [Enarr. In Ps. 74]
These things are all old and oft-repeated, but it is because we know them and do not practice them that we deserve the reproof given by the prophet Daniel to Nabuchodonosor:" Thou hast not humbled thy heart, whereas thou knewest all these things." [Dan. v, 22]
Thoughts and Sentiments on Humility Part 4
30. At times we are over-scrupulous about works of supererogation, such for instance as having omitted on such a day to say a certain prayer or to perform some self-imposed mortification; these are scruples of omissions which in regard to our eternal salvation are of little or no importance; but we take but little heed of that humility which is to us most essential and necessary and without which no one can be saved. St. Paul warns us: "Do not become children in sense." [1 Cor. xiv, 20] Do not be like children who cry and despair if an apple is taken away from them, but care little for losing a gem of great value. Let us place humility above all things. It is the hidden treasure buried in the field, to acquire which we ought to sell all we possess. [Matt. xiii, 44] It is the pearl of great price, to obtain which we should sell all we have. [Matt. xiii. 45]
Do not let us call these sins against humility scruples, but let us regard them as real sins, worthy of confession and of amendment. May God guard us from too easy a conscience in respect to that true humility which is commanded us in the Gospel. We should indeed be taking the broad way mentioned by the Holy Ghost, which though it seems the right and straight road nevertheless leads direct to perdition: "There is a way that seemeth to a man right, and the ends thereof lead to death." [Prov. xvi, 25]
There are people who think like the Pharisees that virtue and sanctity consist in prayers of great length, in the visiting of churches, and in some special abstinence, in retreats, in modesty of attire, in spiritual conferences or in some exercise of exterior piety; but in all this who thinks of humility? Who esteems it and studies to acquire it? What is all this then but a vain delusion?
31. We read of various ancient philosophers who bore calumny, insults and contempt with perfect equanimity and without anger or perturbation, but they did not even know the name of humility. Their courageous fortitude was only an effect of refined pride, for as they considered themselves far above kings and emperors they cared little about insults, and maintained their equanimity by the contempt with which they looked down on those who insulted them. They overcame their feeling of resentment by a passion that was more dominating still, and that they were modest, peaceable and gentle was an effect of that pride which despotically ruled the feelings of their hearts.
There is an immense difference between the morality of human philosophy and that evangelical morality taught by Jesus Christ. Read the works of Seneca attentively-----he who was held to exceed all other philosophers in morality,-----and you will see how in those very maxims with which he teaches magnanimity and fortitude he also instills pride. Read the works of the most famous of the Stoics, and you will say with St. Jerome that "When they are studied with the greatest care and attention, there is to be found no satisfactory fullness of truth, no correspondence with the true principles of justice." [Epist. 146, ad Damas.]
All is vanity that only inspires vanity.
It is only in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that are to be found the rules of that humility of heart which is true virtue, consisting in the knowledge of God's greatness and of our own nothingness; and it is by attending to the study of this wise humility that we fulfill the Apostolic precept: "Not to be more wise than it behoveth to be wise, but to be wise unto sobriety." [Rom. xii, 3]
Jesus Christ before teaching anything of His new law wished to teach humility, as St. John Chrysostom observes: "When He began to lay down His Divine laws, He started with humility." [Hom. 39 in Matt.] For without humility it is impossible to comprehend this Heavenly doctrine, but with humility we are enabled to understand everything that is necessary or useful to our salvation.
32. To confess our unworthiness and nothingness and to proclaim that all that is good in us comes from God is often the sterile exercise of a very contemptible humility, and may even be great pride, "magna superbia," as St. Augustine observes, and St. Thomas teaches: "Humility, which is a virtue, is always fruitful in good works." [22, qu. clxi, art. .5, ad 4]
Do you wish to have an idea of what that humility is which is a true virtue? The soul is truly humble when it recognizes that its true position in the order of nature or of grace is entirely dependent on the power, providence and mercy of God; so that finding in itself nothing but what is of God, it appropriates to itself only its own nothingness, and abiding in its nothingness it places itself on the level of all other creatures without raising itself in any way above them. It annihilates itself before God, not so as to remain in an otiose inactivity, but seeking rather to glorify Him continually, conforming with exact obedience to His laws and with perfect submission to His will.
Humility has two eyes: with one we recognize our own misery so as not to attribute to ourselves anything but our nothingness; with the other we recognize our duty to work and to attribute everything to God, referring all things to Him: "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Thy name give glory." [Ps. cxiii, 1]
The truly humble man considers that whatever is good to his material or spiritual nature is like unto the streams that have come originally from the sea and must eventually return to the sea; and therefore he is always careful to render to God all that he has received from God, and neither prays nor loves nor desires anything except that in all things the name of God be sanctified: "Hallowed be Thy name." [Matt. vi, 9]
33. Humility is not a sickly virtue, timid and feeble as some imagine; on the contrary, it is strong, magnanimous, generous and constant, because it is founded on truth and justice. The truth consists in knowing What God is and what we are. Justice consists in our recognizing that God as our Creator has a right to command us, and that we as His creatures are bound to obey Him.
All the Martyrs were perfectly humble because they preferred to die suffering the most terrible torments rather than abandon truth and justice. How great their endurance and courage in resisting those who tried to force them to deny Jesus Christ!
To contradict others is an effect of pride whenever we contradict them in order to follow our own unjust and mistaken will; but when our opposition to the creature proceeds from a determination to fulfill the will of the Creator it is dictated by humility; for by this we confess our indispensable obligation to be subject and obedient to the Divine will.
It is for this reason that the proud man is always timid because his pride is only sustained by the weakness of human nature. And he who is humble is always brave in the exercise of his submission to the Divine Majesty because he receives his strength through grace.
The humble obey men, when in so doing they also obey God; but they refuse obedience to men, when by obeying them they would disobey their God. Reflect upon that answer, as modest as it was magnanimous, given before the elders of Jerusalem by St. Peter and St. John: "If it be just in the sight of God to hear you rather than God, judge ye." [Acts iv, 19]
The humble man is above all human respect, and there is no danger that he will become a slave to the opinions, fashions or customs of the world; he knows his failings and that he is capable of every evil even though he does not commit it. If he sees others doing wrong he compassionates them, but is never scandalized or induced to follow the bad examples of others; because all his intentions are directed towards God, and he has no other desire than that of pleasing God and of being directed by God alone. "He clings to God alone;" hence, as the angelic St. Thomas says so well: "No matter how much he sees others acting inordinately in word or deed, he himself will not depart from his uprightness of conduct." [22, qu. xxxiii, art. 5]
34. The heart of the proud man is like a stormy sea, never at rest: "Like the raging sea which cannot rest;" [Isa. lvii, 20] and the heart of the humble is fully content in its humility-----"Rich in his being low" [James i, 10]-----and is always calm and tranquil and without fear that anything in this world should disturb him, and shall "rest with confidence." [Isa. xiv, 30] And from whence proceeds this difference? The humble man enjoys peace and quiet because he lives according to the rules of truth and justice, submitting his own will in all things to the Divine will. The proud man is always agitated and perturbed because of the opposition he is continually offering to the Divine will in order to fulfill his own.
The more the heart is filled with self-love, so much the greater will be its anxiety and agitation. This maxim is indeed true; for whenever I feel myself inwardly irritated, disturbed and angered by some adversity which has befallen me, I need not look elsewhere for the cause of such feelings than within myself, and I should always do well to say: If I were truly humble I should not be disquieted. My great agitation is an evident proof which ought to convince me that my self-love is great and dominant and powerful within me, and is the tyrant which torments and gives me no peace.
If I feel aggrieved by some sharp word that has been said to me, or by some discourtesy shown me, from whence does this feeling of pain proceed? From my pride alone. Oh, if I were truly humble, what calm, what peace and happiness would my soul not enjoy! And this promise of Jesus Christ is infallible: "Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart, and you shall find rest to your souls." [Matt. xi, 29]
When we are distressed by some adversity, it is unnecessary to seek consolation of those who flatter us or have pity on us, and to whom we can pour out our troubles. It is sufficient to ask our soul: "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why dost thou disquiet me?" [Ps. xli, 12] My soul, what hast thou? and what seekest thou? Dost thou perchance desire that rest which thou hast lost? Listen then to the remedy offered to thee by thy Savior, exhorting thee to learn of Him to be humble, "Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart," and further listen to what He adds when He assures thee that with thy lost humility thou shalt also recover thy peace: "And you shall find rest to your souls."
35. There are two kinds of humiliations: those which we seek of our own free-will, and those which proceed from the natural and temporal vicissitudes of this life. Against the first we must be on our guard, notwithstanding the ardor with which we embrace them, for the ever-lurking vanity of our self-love is so subtle that it seeks even to enhance its own vain-glory while it appears to seek the contempt of man. But if we accept the other humiliations which come to us, irrespective of our will, mortifying our feelings, thoughts and passions with prompt resignation to the will of God, it is a sign of a true and sincere humility; because such humiliations tend to mortify our self-love and to perfect the submission which we owe to God.
Voluntary and self-sought humiliations may cause the soul to become hypocritical. But involuntary humiliations sent to us by the Divine Will, and borne by us with patience, sanctify the soul; and for this reason the Holy Ghost has given us this most important mandate: "In thy humiliation keep patience. For gold and silver are tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation." [Ecclus ii, 4, 5] It is impossible except in rare cases not to discover the hypocrisy of affected humility: "Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke." [Ps. cxliii, 5] And, again, it is impossible not to know the virtue of true humility, because its spirit is "gentle, kind, steadfast, assured, secure, having all power." [Wisd. vii, 23]
36. There are also two kinds of temptations: those that come to us through the wickedness of the evil one and those which we go in search of ourselves in our own weakness and malice, but there is no better safeguard against either than humility. Humility causes the evil one to flee because he cannot face the humble on account of his great pride, and it causes every temptation to vanish suddenly because there can be no temptation without a touch of pride.
Temptations arise against purity or against faith or any other virtue, but we can easily overcome them if we humble ourselves in our hearts and say: "Lord, I deserve these terrible temptations as a punishment for my pride, and if Thou comest not to my help, I shall surely fall. I feel my weakness, and that I can do no good of myself. Help me!" "Come unto my help, O God, O Lord, make haste to help me." [Ps. lxix, 2]
The more a soul humbles itself before God the more God comforts that soul with His grace, and inasmuch as God is with us, who shall prevail against us? "The Lord is the protector of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?" [Ps. xxvi, 1] said King David; and St. Paul said: "If God be for us, who is against us?" [Rom. viii, 31]
The strongest subterfuge which the devil can employ in order to make us fall into temptation is to flatter our humility, thus preventing us from being humble, for if the evil one succeeds in persuading us that we have sufficient strength of ourselves to overcome temptation, we have already succumbed, as those succumbed of whom it was written that the Lord humbleth "them that presume of themselves and glory in their own strength." [Jude vi, 15]
Charity never grows cold nor fervor tepid except from lack of humility. Let us stand on our guard clad in the armor of humility, and that will be sufficient. God will help us in the measure in which we are humble, and with His help we shall be able to say: "I can do all things in Him Who strengtheneth me." [Phil. iv, 13]
37. As for those other temptations there must certainly be presumption on our part when we seek them of our own accord and place ourselves in dangerous occasions of sin. He who is humble knows his own weakness; and, knowing it, fears to place himself in danger; and because he fears it he flees from it. He who is humble trusts implicitly in the help of Divine grace, on those involuntary occasions he may encounter, but he never presumes upon the help of Divine grace on those occasions which he has sought himself.
Let us be humble and humility will teach us to fear and avoid all dangerous occasions. In the lives of the Saints we read how careful they were to avoid familiar intercourse with women; and also in the lives of Saintly women how equally cautious they were to avoid familiarity with men. Why did they fear so much, since they already had so many penances and prayers with which to defend themselves against temptation? The reason is that they were humble and distrusted the weakness of human nature without presuming on grace; and thus their humility was the means by which they kept their purity unsullied.
You say: I can put myself in the way of temptation, but I am not afraid, because I will not sin. This is a temerity proceeding from pride, as St. Thomas says: "This is a real temerity and is caused by pride, [22 qu. liii, art 3, ad 2] and you would find yourself shamed by an unexpected fall. "And he that loveth danger shall perish in it." [Ecclus iii, 27] All that presume thus will undoubtedly fall, and their fall is the just punishment of their pride, as the prophet predicted: "This shall befall them for their pride." [Soph. ii, 10]
38. God resists the proud, because the proud oppose Him; but He dispenses His graces liberally to the humble, because they live in subjection to His will. Oh, if we humbly made place for the Divine gifts, how great would be the affluence of that grace in our souls! One of the worst consequences of our lack of humility will be that it will render the Day of Judgment so terrible to us; because on that day we shall not only have to give account of the graces which we have received and of which we have made a bad use, but also of those graces which God would have given us if we had been humble, and which He withheld from us on account of our pride.
It will be useless then to excuse ourselves by saying that we fell into such and such a sin from want of grace. "Grace was there," the Lord will answer; "but you ought to have asked for it with humility and not forfeited it by your pride." Pride is an obstacle harder than steel which hinders the beneficent infusion of grace into the soul. And it is the doctrine of St. Thomas that it is precisely by pride that our soul is placed in such a state ''as to be deprived of all inner spiritual good." [22, qu. cxxxii, art. 3] Do you desire grace in this world and glory in the next? Humble yourself, says St. James: "Be humbled in the sight of the Lord, and He will exalt you." [Jas. iv, 10] God created out of nothing all that we can see in our world when "the earth was void and empty," [Gen. i, 2] and He filled with oil all the empty vases with which the widow presented Eliseus: "Empty vessels not a few." [4 Kings, iv, 3] And He also fills with His grace those hearts which are emptied of self-----that is to say, which have neither self-esteem nor self-confidence and do not rely upon their own strength.<> It is most humiliating to reflect upon this, that even though we be exempt from grave sins, yet, through some secret disorder within us we may be as guilty as if we had committed them. For if pride arises in our hearts and leads us to consider ourselves better than those who have committed these sins we are at once rendered guilty and worse than they in the eyes of God, because, as the Holy Ghost says, "Pride is hateful before God." [Ecclus. x, 7] St. Luke, in his Gospel, [Luke xviii, 11] records two different kinds of vanity shown by the Pharisee, one when he praised himself for the sins he did not commit, the other when he praised himself for the virtues that he practiced: and he was equally condemned for each of these vain utterances. He apparently referred all the glory to God when he said: "O God, I give Thee thanks." But this was only ostentatious self-esteem. It is only too easy for these thoughts of vain-glory to insinuate themselves into our hearts: and who can assure me that I am not guilty of many of them? "What I have done openly I see," I can say with more truth than St. Gregory, " but what I have inwardly felt I do not see." [Lib. 9, Mor., c. 17] O my God, my God, "let no iniquity have dominion over me." [Ps. cxviii, 133] Do not let me be dominated by pride, which is the sum of all wickedness; from my secret sins cleanse me. Purify me from those sins of pride of which I am ignorant; "then shall I be without spot." [Ps. xviii, 14] This thought, says St. Thomas, causes every just man to consider himself worse than a great sinner: "The just man who is truly humble thinks himself worse because he fears lest in that which he seems to do well he should grievously sin by pride." [in suppl. 3 part. qu. 6, art. 4]