Humility of Heart
Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo

Thoughts and Sentiments on Humility Part 17

Humility generates confidence, and God never refuses His grace to those who come to Him with humility and trust. Say therefore to God: I can remain here as long as I like and do all that I can to obtain sorrow for my sins, but it is impossible for me to attain to it of myself, if Thou dost not grant it to me, O my God! I do not deserve it, but Jesus Christ has merited it for me, and it is through His merits that I ask it, and through Thy infinite goodness that I hope to obtain it.

Place yourself in this humble disposition of mind and you will be happy, for it is written of God: that "He comforteth the humble"; [2 Cor. vii, 6] "and He hath had regard to the prayer of the humble and hath not despised their petition." [Ps. ci, 18] This sorrow or contrition by which the soul is sanctified is one of the greatest graces that God can give us, and it would be presumption, temerity, and pride on our part to pretend to this grace without having asked for it with due humility.

74. A doubt may arise in our mind that since to obtain the grace of humility we must ask it of God, and ask it with humility if we wish God to hear our prayer, how can we possibly ask with humility since it is precisely that humility which we have not and for which we are asking? Do not let us lose ourselves in such speculations, which are useless in practice, since "Simplicity of heart is what the Lord desires of us."
[Wisd. i, 1]

There are certain efficacious virtues that God has infused into our souls in holy Baptism, independently of our own dispositions, "principally by infusion in Baptism," says St. Thomas. Such, for example, is faith, and such also is that humility which is necessary for us so that we may believe and pray as we ought. Let us therefore exercise in our prayers this infused humility, and in making good use of it we shall in time acquire that other evangelical virtue which is necessary to our salvation and which can only be obtained by our own co-operation.
Prayer, says St. Augustine, is essentially the resource of him who knows that he is both poor and needy: "Prayer is only for the needy." ["Oratio non est nisi indigentium" (Enarr. in Ps. xxvi] Let us acknowledge and confess our poverty and indigence before God, and by this confession we shall exercise humility. The really poor do not need to be taught how to ask alms humbly. Necessity is their master, and if man can humble himself before man, why should he not also humble himself before God?

If we wish to discern what belongs to God and that which is our own, it is sufficient for us to reflect that by rendering to God all that is His, nothing is left to ourselves but nothingness. So that we can truly say with the prophet: "I am brought to nothing." [Ps. lxxii, 21] This is a true saying, that all that is within us that is more than nothingness belongs to God, and He can take away what is His when He chooses without doing us any wrong.

 Therefore in what can we pride ourselves, since God can take anything away from us the moment that we begin to glory in it?

For he who glories in his wealth may soon become poor; he who glories in his health may suddenly become infirm; he who glories in his knowledge may suddenly become insane; he who glories in his holiness may suddenly fall into some great sin. What vanity, what folly, then, to glory in that which is not our own, nor even in our power to keep! "What hast thou that thou hast not received?" [1 Cor. iv, 7]

This reflection alone should suffice to make us humble, and it may be said that all true humility depends upon our persevering seriously in this thought. Oh, my soul, thou shalt be humbled when, as God says by the prophet, He will "separate the precious from the vile." [Jer. xv, 19] Thus the essence of humility consists in knowing how to discern rightly that which is mine, and that which belongs to God. All the good I do comes from God, and nothing belongs to me but my own nothingness. What was I in the abyss of eternity? A mere nothing. And what did I do of myself to emerge from that nothingness? Nothing. If God had not created me, where should I be? In nothingness. If God did not uphold me at every turn, whither should I return? Into nothingness. Therefore it is clear that I possess nothing of myself but nothingness. Even in my moral being I possess nothing but my own wickedness. When I do evil it is entirely my own work, when I do good it belongs to God alone. Evil is a work of my own wickedness; good is a work of God's mercy. In this way we separate the precious from the vile; this is the art of all arts, the science of sciences, and the wisdom of the Saints.

76. Let us imagine a man who possesses many beasts of burden which he has bought for the purpose of carrying such loads as he requires. The beasts are loaded, one with gold, one with books of philosophy, mathematics, theology and law, another with weapons, another with sacred vessels and vestments belonging to the Church, and another with reliquaries in which are precious relics of the Saints, and so on.

Now, if these animals could discourse among themselves, do you think that the one laden with gold would boast of his riches, and the one laden with books of his knowledge, and that in the same way the others would boast of bravery or of holiness according to the nature of their loads? Would not such pretensions be vain and ridiculous? Most certainly; for the rich and precious burdens borne by these animals belong to the master and not to the beast. For the master might have laden with dung the one he loaded with gold or other precious things, and being their owner he could unload each animal whenever he pleased, so that each one would appear before him as he is, namely, a vile beast of burden. Or, with St. Augustine, let us picture to ourselves the ass on which Jesus Christ sat when He was met by the multitude with their branches of palms, acclaiming Him with cries of: "Hosanna to the Son of David, Hosanna!" [Matt. xxi, 9]  Who would be so foolish as to imagine that these honours were given to the beast? These praises were not given to the ass, but to Christ who was seated on the ass. "Was that ass to be praised? That ass was carrying some one, but He who was being carried was the one who was being praised." " [Enarr. in Ps. xxxiii].

Let us apply the simile to ourselves, saying, with David: "I am become as a beast before Thee." [Ps. lxxii, 22] and whatever may be the object of our pride let us use this simile to exercise ourselves in humility.

77. We may say with St. Thomas, [12, qu. iv, art. 2] that this craving of ours to be esteemed, respected and honoured is an effect of Original Sin, like concupiscence which remains to us even after our Baptism; but God has ordained that these appetites and desires should remain in us in order that we might have occasion of mortifying ourselves and that by such means we might gain the kingdom of Heaven.

We need not be astonished nor sad when we feel these instincts within us. They belong to the wickedness of our corrupt nature and are remnants of the temptation of our first parents by the serpent, when he said to them: "And you shall be as gods." [ Gen. iii, 5] Therefore I repeat that these desires which arise from the weakness and depravity of our human nature must be borne with patience. If these desires gain the mastery over us, it is because we have encouraged and given way to them; and a bad habit which we have formed ourselves can only be cured by ourselves, and therefore the mortification of the same also lies with us. This mortification of the senses, inspired by humility, is taught by Christ in the self-denial which He imposed upon us when He said: "If any man will follow Me) let him deny himself." [Matt. xvi, 24]  And therefore I must draw this conclusion, that if I will not mortify myself with humility-----that is to say, crush my self-love and craving for esteem-----I shall be excluded as a follower of Jesus Christ, and by such an exclusion I shall also forfeit His grace and be eternally exiled from participating in His glory.

But in order to practice it, it is necessary for me to do violence to myself, as it is written: "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence) and the violent bear it away." [Matt. xi, 12]  Who can obtain salvation) except by doing violence to himself?

78. Let us listen at the gates of Hell and hear the lamentations of the eternally damned. They exclaim: "What hath pride profited us?" [Wisd. v, 8] What use or advantage was our pride to us? Everything passes and vanishes like a shadow, and of all those past evils nothing remains to us but the eternal shame of having been proud.

Their remorse is vain, because it is the remorse of despair. Therefore while there is still time let us consider the matter seriously, and say: "What advantage have I derived from all my pride? It makes me hateful to Heaven and earth, and if I do not insist upon mortifying it) it will make me odious to myself for all eternity in Hell." Let us lift up our eyes to Heaven, and, contemplating the Saints, exclaim: "Behold how their humility has profited them! Oh, how much glory have they gained by their humility!" Now, humility is looked upon as madness by the worldly, worthy only of scorn and derision; but a time will come when they will be obliged to recognize its virtue, and to exclaim, in seeing the glory of the humble: "Behold how they are numbered among the children of God." [Wisd. v, 5]
If I am humble, I shall be exalted with that glory to which God exalts the humble. O my God, humble this mad pride which predominates within me. "Thou shalt multiply strength in my soul," [Ps. cxxxvii, 3] for, "my strength hath left me." Ps. xxxvii, 11] And I will not and cannot do anything without Thy help. In Thee I place all my trust, and beseech Thee to help me. "But I am needy and poor; O God, help me. Thou art my helper and my deliverer: O Lord, make no delay." [Ps. lxix, 6] 

Thoughts and Sentiments on Humility Part 18

79. Truly, no one cares to be thought proud, for even according to worldly ideas the greatest blame that one can give to a man is to say that he is proud. And yet few try to avoid the very thing they would least desire to be accused of by others.

If we feel inward satisfaction when we are given credit for a humility which we do not possess, why do we not endeavour to acquire that with which we like to be credited? If we seek after the vain shadow of humility, it means that we care very little for the substance of this virtue. A man who would be contented with the appearance of virtue without trying to acquire it in reality, would resemble a merchant who valued false pearls and gems more than real ones.

O my soul, perhaps thou too art among those who, being proud, resent the accusation of pride and desire to be thought humble! This would be lying to thy own conscience, lying to God, to His Angels, and to men. As St. Paul says: "We are made a spectacle to the world, and to Angels, and to men." [1 Cor. iv, 9]

It is a shameful thing for us to wish to appear humble when we are not so. There are certain occasions when in our interior acts we must practice humility; but we must watch over ourselves carefully, so that in thus practicing it we may not desire to be thought humble. And that is why hidden acts of humility are safer than exterior ones. But if there is pride in wishing that the humility we have should be recognized and known, what measure of presumption would there not be in wishing to be thought humble when we have no humility? Let us beware lest the words of Holy Writ be applicable to ourselves:

"There is one that humbleth himself wickedly, and his interior is full of deceit." [Ecclus xix, 23]

80. The more we reflect upon this great virtue of humility, the more we should learn to love and honour it. It is natural to the soul to love a good which it recognizes as such, and there is no doubt that we shall love humility when we recognize its intrinsic value and the good that comes of it. Our love of what is good is measured by our knowledge of it, and in the same measure that we love we desire to obtain it, and in the measure that we desire it we embrace the most proper and efficacious means of acquiring it. It was thus that the Wise man acted in order to obtain wisdom. He loved her, desired and prayed for her, and applied his whole mind to possess her, so great was the esteem in which he held her: "Wherefore I wished, and understanding was given me, and I preferred her before kingdoms and thrones, and esteemed riches nothing in comparison of her." [Wisd. vii, 7] 

It is necessary to thoroughly understand this doctrine because we shall never succeed in acquiring humility unless we really desire to obtain it; nor shall we ever desire it unless we have learnt to love it, nor shall we love it unless we have realized what humility really is-----a great and most precious good, absolutely essential to our eternal welfare. Consider for a little while in what esteem you hold humility. Do you love it? Do you desire it? What do you do to acquire it? Do you ask this virtue of God in your prayers? Do you have recourse to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin? Do you willingly read those books that treat of humility, or the lives of those Saints who were most noted for their humility? "There is a certain will," says St. Thomas, "which had better be called the wish to will than the absolute will itself"; [3 part., qu: xxi, art. 4]  by which it seems that we can will a thing and yet not will it. Therefore examine yourself and see whether your desire for humility be only a passing velleity, or really in your will.

81. To be humble, we must know ourselves; and this self-knowledge is difficult, but only by reason of our pride, the principal effect of which is to blind us. Therefore to acquire the virtue of humility we must first fight against and subdue its enemy pride; and in order to overcome it-----having prayed to God, with the valiant Judith: "Bring to pass, O Lord, that his pride may be cut off"-----three other things are necessary.

Firstly, in meditating on the subject, we ought to feel hatred and abhorrence of our pride, because we can never get rid of all the ills that affect our soul as long as we continue to love them. Secondly, we must make a firm resolution of amendment at all cost, because in whatever light we consider it, it will always be to our advantage. Thirdly, we should at once endeavour to uproot all our habits of pride, especially those which are most predominant, for it is well known that the longer we allow a had habit to grow, the stronger it will become, and the greater will be our difficulty in eradicating it: "And I said, now have I begun." [Ps. lxxvi, 11]

We must not lose heart or be discouraged but commend ourselves to God's mercy, this being above all things most necessary: "And He will do it."  [Ps. xxxvi, 5]  It is through God's grace alone that we can overcome our numerous evil passions, and it is through Him alone that we can hope to subdue our pride. Let us therefore cry unto Him with King David:" My mercy and my refuge: my support and my deliverer. My protector: and I have hoped in Him who subdueth my people under Him." [Ps. cxliii, 2]

82. Is it not well to apply ourselves to eradicate a fault, when we know that by so doing our hearts will be gladdened? And therefore is it not true that once our pride, which is the cause ot so many of our troubles, is subdued, we shall be far happier?

We feel a natural aversion towards the proud, and we cannot love them; but may not this instinct of aversion which we have towards the proud be felt by others towards ourselves? For it is true that "Pride is hurtful always." [Ecclus x, vii] Sometimes we lament that others do not love or esteem us. Let us examine the cause, and we shall find that it proceeds from our' pride. On the other hand, do we not see the affection that is generally shown towards the humble? Every one seeks their company, everyone places confidence in them, every one wishes them well. This would be the case with us if we were humble; and what happiness we should feel in loving and being loved by all! It seems at first as if this were a question of human respect; but it is inspired by charity, and comes from God and from a desire to resemble Him. Humility is clad in the same garb as charity, which, St. Paul says, "is patient, is kind, envieth not, is not puffed up, is not ambitious." [1 Cor. xiii, 4]  And it is easy to invest humility with the same virtuous intentions as charity.

83. Pride is the root of all our vices, so that, when once we have uprooted it, those vices will little by little disappear also. This is the true reason of our having to accuse ourselves of the same sins over and over again in our confessions, because we never confess that pride which is the root of them all. We do not wonder when we see the fig-tree bearing its figs year after year, and the apple-tree its apples. No; because each tree bears its own fruit. In the same way pride is rooted like a tree in our hearts; and our sins of anger, envy, hatred, malice and uncharitableness and rash judgments of others which we confess over and over again are the fruit of pride; but as we never strike at the root of this pride these same sins, like clipped branches, ever sprout out anew. Let us endeavour to eradicate pride thoroughly, following the advice of St. Bernard: "Put the axe to the root" [Serm. 2 de Assum.] and then we shall have great joy and consolation in our own conscience.

We must regard pride as the king of all vices and follow the wise advice given by the king of Syria to his captains: "You shall not fight against any, small or great, but against the king only." [3 Kings, xxiii, 31]  Judith too, by killing the proud Holofernes, conquered the whole Assyrian army. And David triumphed over all the Philistines by slaying the proud Goliath; and in like manner we shall also triumph, because by conquering pride we shall have subdued all other vices.

King David erred in one thing, for knowing Absalom to be the chief of the rebels he yet commanded that he should neither be killed nor hurt: "Save me the boy Absalom." [2 Kings, xvii, 15] Alas, how many imitators he has found! We know full well that pride is the chief rebel among all our passions, but notwithstanding it is the one which we seem to respect the most, and which we almost fear to offend displaying even a tendency to encourage it.

84. There are certain sins we seldom or never mention in our confessions, either because our conscience is too easy and elastic or perhaps because we do not really desire to amend. Pride is one of these sins; there are but few who accuse themselves of it; but those who really wish to amend their lives should make it a special subject of their examen and confession, so as to learn to hate it and repent of it; and to make firm resolutions of amendment in the future.

Whoever desires to make a good confession should not only confess his sin, but also the reason and occasion of the sin; saying for example: "I accuse myself of having taken pleasure in impure thoughts, caused by my want of custody of the eyes, too great freedom of speech, and frivolous behaviour." And in the same way we must confess our sins of pride, saying: "I accuse myself of having been angry and annoyed with those around me, and the sole reason of my anger and annoyance was my pride. I accuse myself of having envied and even of having taken what belonged to others, only to satisfy my pride and vanity. I have also spoken with contempt of my neighbour and this again because of my pride, that can bear no one to be thought superior to myself." Continue to examine all your faults in the same way, and you will find the truth of the inspired words:

"The spirit is lifted up before a fall"; [Prov. xvi, 18] and "Before destruction the heart of man is exalted." [Ibid. xviii, 12] To subdue our pride it is well to mortify and shame it by these accusations which are also acts of virtuous humility, but it is most necessary too to insist upon our own amendment for "What doth his humbling himself profit him that doth the same again?" [Ecclus xxxiv, 31]

It is not enough to confess our sins, Holy Writ says, but it is necessary also to amend them so as to obtain God's mercy: "He that shall confess his sins and forsake them shall obtain mercy." [Prov. xxviii, 13] 

85. Humility of heart, St. Thomas teaches, has no limit, because before God we can always abase ourselves more and more even unto utter nothingness, and we can do the same to our fellow men. but in the exercise of these exterior acts of humility it is necessary to be directed with discretion so as not to fall into an extravagance that might seem excessive. "Humility," says St. Thomas, "lies chiefly in the soul, and therefore a man may submit himself to another as regards his interior acts, and this is what St. Augustine means when he says: "Before God a prelate is placed under your feet but in exterior acts of humility it is necessary to observe due restraint." [2a 2æ, qu. clxi, art. 3 ad 3]

Profound humility should exist in every state of life, but exterior acts of humility are not expedient to all. For this reason Holy Writ says: "Beware that thou be not deceived into folly and be humbled." [Ecclus xiii, 10]
We can learn of the pious Esther how to practice humility of heart in the midst of pomp and honours: "Thou knowest my necessity," she cried to God, "that 1 abominate the sign of my pride." [Esther xiv, 16] I attire myself in this rich apparel and with these jewels because my position demands it; but Thou, Lord, seest my heart that through Thy grace I am not attached to these things nor to this apparel, and that I only wear them of necessity. Here indeed is a great example of that true inward humility which can be practiced and felt amid external grandeur. But now we. come to the point. This humility of heart must really exist before God, whose eyes behold the most hidden motions of the heart; and if it does not exist what excuse can we allege before the tribunal of God to justify ourselves for not having had it? and the more easily we could have acquired it now, the more inexcusable will it be for us on that day.

86. The malice of pride lies in reality in the practical contempt which we show for God's will by disobeying it. Thus it is, says St. Augustine, there is pride in every sin committed, "by which we despise the commandments of God." [Lib. de. Salut. docum. c. xix]  And St. Bernard explains it in this way that God commands us to do His will: "God wishes His will to be done"; and the sinner in his pride prefers his own will to the will of God: "And the proud man wishes his own will to be done."

And it is this pride that so greatly augments the grievousness of sin; and how great our sin must be when, knowing in our minds that God deserves to be obeyed by us, we oppose our will to the will of God, whom we know to be worthy of all obedience. What wickedness there is in saying to God, "I will not serve," [Jer. ii, 20] when we know that all things serve Him." [Ps. cxviii, 91] To give an example of this, let us imagine a person endowed with the noblest qualities possible, such as health, beauty, riches and nobility, and with every natural gift and grace of body and soul. Now, little by little, let us take away from that person all those gifts which come from God. Health and beauty are gifts from God; riches and rank, learning and knowledge, and every other virtue are all from God; body and soul belong to God. And this being so, what remains to this person of his own? Nothing; because all that is more than nothing belongs to God.

But when this person says of himself: "I have riches, I have health, and I have knowledge," etc., what is meant by this "I"? Nothingness; and yet this "I," this nothingness, that derives all it possesses from God, dares to disregard this same God by disobeying His sovereign commandments, saying to Him, if not in words most certainly in deeds, which is far worse, "I will not serve"; no, I will not obey. Ah, pride, pride! But, O my soul, "Why doth thy spirit swell against God ?" [Tob. xv, 13] Am I not right in preaching and recommending this humility to thee? Each time thou sinnest thou art like the proud, Pharao, who, when he was told to obey the commandments of God, said: "Who is this God? I know Him not." [Exod. v, 2] 

87. The mistake lies in our having too high an opinion of what the world calls honour, esteem and fame. For however much the world may praise or honour me, it cannot increase my merit or my virtue one jot; and also if the world vituperates me, it cannot take from me anything that I have or that I am in myself. I shall know vanity from truth by the light of that blessed candle which I shall hold in my hand at the hour of my death. What will it profit me then to have been esteemed and honoured by the whole world, if my conscience convinces me of sin before God? Ah, what folly it would be for a nobleman, possessing talents which would endear him to his king and make him a favourite at court, if he were to seek rather to be adulated by his servants and menials, and to find pleasure in such miserable adulation. But it is a far greater folly for a Christian, who might gain the praise and honour of God and of all the angels and saints in heaven, to seek rather to be praised and honoured by men and to glory in it. By humility I can please God, the Angels and the Saints; therefore is it not a despicable pride that makes me desire the esteem, praise and approbation of men, when we are told that "He is approved whom God commendeth?" [2 Cor. x, 18] 

The thought of death is profitable in order to acquire humility; and humility helps us greatly to obtain a holy death. St. Catherine of Siena, shortly before her death, was tempted to thoughts of pride and vainglory on account of her own holiness; but to this temptation she answered: "I render thanks to God that in all my life I have never felt any vainglory." Oh, how beautiful to be able to exclaim on one's death-bed: I have never known vainglory.

88. Even admitting the value of the world's esteem and fame for the sole reason that we love and desire it in our hearts, we can infer from this how great is the virtue of humility, since, offering all that we hold so precious to God together with our self-esteem, we offer Him something that we value very highly.

The vow of chastity is considered heroic, be cause we thus sacrifice to God the pleasures of the senses. Martyrdom is considered heroic, because the martyr thus offers up his life as a holocaust to God. And it is also considered heroic to give all one's goods to the poor. But our self-esteem is certainly what we hold more precious than either money, gratification of the senses, or even life itself, because we often risk all these things for the sake of our reputation. Thus by offering our self-esteem with humility to God we offer that which we deem most precious.

This is truly offering "sacrifice to God, and a good savour." [Ecclus xlv, 20]   Those who live in the world can often gain more merit by their humility of heart than those who are vowed to poverty and chastity in the sacred cloister, for it is by the practice of this humility that we form within ourselves the "new creature," without which St. Paul says that" Neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision," [Gal. vi, 15]
 which is as much as to say that whether you are priest or layman your state can avail nothing without humility.

Humility without virginity may be pleasing to God, but never virginity without humility. Were not the five foolish virgins displeasing to Him? "Vanitate superbiæ," says St. Augustine. And if the Blessed Virgin herself pleased God by her virginity, she also deserved to be chosen for His Mother because of her humility, as St. Bernard says: "By her virginity she pleased God, by her humility she conceived Him." [Hom. I sup. "Missus est"]

Thoughts and Sentiments on Humility Part 19

89. It is very easy for a proud person to fall into grave and terrible sins; and after having fallen to find great difficulty in accusing himself of them in the Sacrament of penance; for loving his self-esteem and reputation too well and fearing to lose them in the eyes of his confessor, he would rather commit a sacrilege than disclose his weakness. He goes in search of a confessor to whom he is unknown so as to avoid shame; but since he felt no shame in sinning, why should he feel so much shame in confessing his sin, if it be not from motives of pride?

My soul, say to thyself: The reason why I do not feel true sorrow for my sins is because of my lack of humility, for it is impossible for the heart to feel either attrition or contrition if it is not humbled. I lack humility, and it is for this reason that I have not the courage to confess my sins straightforwardly and without excuse. Ask God for humility; and in measure as thy heart grows more humble, it will feel deeper sorrow for having offended Him, and from this heartfelt humility the words will flow without difficulty to thy lips, because "He that pricketh the heart bringeth forth resentment." [Ecclus. xxii, 24] 

It is pride that compels us to withhold our sins in the confessional and seek to palliate their wickedness with many excuses. O accursed pride, cause of innumerable sacrileges! But O blessed humility! King David was humble in his repentance, because he did not excuse his sins but publicly accused himself of them; nor did he lay the blame of his own sins on others, but attributed them only to his own wickedness: "I am he that have sinned." [2 Kings xxiv, 17] And the Magdalen also in her repentance did not seek for Jesus Christ in some hidden spot, but sought Him in the house of the Pharisee and desired to appear as a sinner before all the guests. St. Augustine, being truly humble in his repentance, gave the confession of his sins to the whole world for his own greater confusion and shame.

90. It is difficult for us to realize our own nothingness, and it is difficult also to refer all things to God without reserving anything for ourselves, because is not our industry, our diligence, and the co-operation of our will really ours? Let us admit this, but if we take away the light, the help and the grace received of God, what remains to us of all these things? Our natural actions only become meritorious when they are supernaturalized by Christ Jesus. It is Jesus Christ who raises and ennobles all our actions, which in themselves would be entirely inadequate to procure for us the glory of eternal life.

How the will is moved by grace to co-operate with grace is a mystery which we do not fully comprehend; but it is certain that if we go to heaven we shall then render thanks for our salvation to the mercy of God alone: "The mercies of the Lord will I sing for ever." [Ps. lxxxviii, 2]  We may therefore say with holy King David, and be fully persuaded of its truth, that human nature is weaker and more impotent than we can imagine, because in the nature which we have received of God we have only, through the fall of Adam, ignorance of mind, weakness of reason, corruption of will, disorder of the passions, sickness and misery of the body. We have nothing therefore in which to glory, but in all things we can find fit cause for humiliation. « Humble thyself in all things," [Ecclus iii, 20]  says the Holy Ghost, and He does not tell us to humble ourselves in some things only but in all things-----in omnibus.

91. Holy humility is inimical to certain subtle speculations; for instance, you say that you cannot understand how it is that you are yourself mere nothingness, in doing and being, because you cannot help knowing that in reality You are something and can do many things; that you cannot understand why you are the greatest of all sinners, because you know so many others who are greater sinners than yourself; nor how it is that you merit all the vituperations of men, when you know that you have done no actions worthy of blame, but, on the contrary, many worthy of praise.

You should reprove yourself for being still so far from true humility in thinking that you could grasp the meaning of these things. The truly humble believes that he is of himself mere nothingness, a greater sinner than others, inferior to all, worthy of being reviled by all as being, more than all others, ungrateful to God. He knows that this feeling of his conscience is absolutely true, and does not care to investigate how this comes to be true; his knowledge is practical, and even if he does not understand himself, and cannot explain to others, with subtle reasoning, what he feels in his heart, he minds as little being unable to explain this as he minds his inability to explain how the eye sees, the tongue speaks, the ear hears. And from this we may infer that it is not necessary to have great talents in order to be humble, and therefore before the tribunal of God it will not be a valid excuse for us to say: "I have not been humble because I did not know, because I did not understand, because I did not study." We can have a good will, a good heart, and yet not be clever; and there is no one who cannot grasp this truth, that from God comes all the good that he possesses and that no one has anything of his own except his own malice. "Destruction is thy own, O Israel: thy help is only in Me," [Osee xiii, 9] said God by the mouth of His prophet.

92. Humility is a potent means of subduing temptation, and in the same way temptations serve to maintain humility; because it is when we are tempted that we are practically conscious of our own weakness and the need we have of Divine grace.

It is for this that God permits us to fall into temptation, reducing us sometimes to the very brink of succumbing to it, so that we may learn the weakness of our virtue and how much we need the help of God.

And even in this we can see the infinite wisdom of God who has so disposed that the demons themselves, spirits of pride, should contribute to render us humble if we only knew how to make a good use of our temptations. Nevertheless, we must remember that in all our temptations the first thing is to exercise that humility which is derived from a practical knowledge of ourselves and of how prone we are to evil if God does not stretch out His hand to restrain us through His grace. Do not let us wait to learn our weakness till we have fallen; but let us rather know it beforehand, and the knowledge of it will be an efficacious means to keep us from falling. "Before sickness take a medicine; humble thyself," [Ecclus. xviii, 20, 21] says Holy Writ. The humble will never want for grace in the time of temptation, and with the help of this grace they will even derive profit from these very temptations; for the merciful providence of God has so disposed it that with the special aid of His grace He will "let no temptation take hold on you." [1 Cor. x, 13]

Thoughts and Sentiments on Humility Part 20

93. Let us strive with all our might to acquire this holy humility; and if, by the help of God, we succeed in possessing it only in such measure as our state of life demands, we shall then either imperceptibly attain to all other virtues or this humility alone will suffice to compensate for all our deficiencies. Many people desire to possess either chastity or charity, gentleness or patience, or some other virtue of which they are more in need, and are most anxious to know how they are to acquire it; they consult various spiritual directors to learn what means to take, but very few exercise due prudence in the choice of these means.

Do you wish to know the most efficacious means of acquiring these virtues? Then begin by endeavouring to acquire humility; impregnate yourself with humility, and you will soon find that all other virtues will follow without any effort on your part, and you will exclaim with great joy: "Now all good things came to me together with her." [Wisd. vii, 11] And even when, through the frailty of your own nature, you are deficient in some particular virtue, humble yourself, and that humility will fully compensate for your other deficiencies.

There are some who are troubled because their prayers are full of distractions. This proceeds from pride, which is presumptuous enough to be astonished at the weakness and impotency of the mind. When you perceive that your thoughts are wandering, make an act of humility, and exclaim: " O my God, what an abject creature I am in not being able to fix my thoughts on Thee even for a few moments." Renew this act of humility as often as these distractions occur, and if it is written of charity that "it covereth a multitude of sins," [ 1 Pet. iv, 8] it is also true of humility and contributes greatly to our perfection. "The very knowledge of our imperfection," says St. Augustine, "tends to the praise of humility."
[Lib. 3 ad Bonif., c. vii]

94. We have more opportunities of practicing humility than any other virtue. How many occasions we have of humbling ourselves secretly, in all places, at all times, at every turn-----towards God, our fellow-men, and even towards ourselves! With regard to God: how much we have to be ashamed of in our ignorance and ingratitude towards Him; receiving as we do continual benefits of His infinite goodness. Knowing as we do His supreme and infinite Majesty, deserving of all fear; His infinite goodness, worthy of all love; how much we ought to humble ourselves in the thought of how little fear and love we have for Him! With regard to our neighbour: if he be wicked, we may humble ourselves by reflecting that we are capable of becoming suddenly worse than he, and in fact we may consider ourselves worse already if pride predominates within us. If he be good, we must humble ourselves in the thought that he corresponds better than we do to the grace of God and is better than we are by reason of his humility of heart. With regard to ourselves, we need never lack opportunities of humility when we remember our past sins, or consider the faults we commit at present in our daily life, or even when we reflect upon our good works which are all tainted with imperfection, or when we think of the future so filled with tremendous uncertainty: "I know how to be brought low everywhere and in all things," [Phil. iv, 12] says St. Paul. It is necessary for us to form the good habit of frequently renewing these interior acts of humility. Humility is merely a virtuous habit, but how can we acquire this habit without making repeated acts of humility? Like the habit of humility the habit of pride is acquired through frequent repetition of its acts, and in proportion as the habit of humility is strengthened, the contrary habit of pride becomes weakened and diminished.

95. Lucifer sinned once only through pride of thought. Ought we not therefore to consider ourselves worse than Lucifer as our pride has become habitual through the frequent repetition of its acts? We do not consider ourselves proud, because it does not seem to us that we are rash enough in our minds either to believe that we resemble God or to rebel against God; but this is the greatest mistake we can make, because we are full of pride and will not recognize that we are proud. Even if we have not sufficient pride to rebel, to think or to speak against God, we must be fully aware that the pride which prompts our actions is far worse than the pride of thought, and is that pride which is so condemned by St. Paul: "They profess that they know God, but in their works they deny Him." [Tit. i, 16] 

How great is our self-love! Do we ever mortify our passions for the love of God as He Himself has commanded? How often do we prefer to follow our own will instead of the will of God, and as His will is contrary to our own we place ourselves in opposition to Him and desire to gain our own will instead of fulfilling His, valuing the satisfaction of our desires more than the obedience we owe to God! Is not this a worse pride than Lucifer's? for Lucifer only wanted to make himself equal to God, whereas we wish to raise our will above God's. Thou must humble thyself, O my soul, even below Lucifer, and confess that thou art more proud than he!

96. We may compare ourselves to those who, suffering from foulness of breath consequent upon some disease, are rendered objectionable to those who approach them, although they are unaware of it themselves. In the same way when we are corrupted by interior pride we breathe the external signs of it in our words, looks and gestures and in a thousand other ways as occasion may arise, and yet, though our pride is apparent to all who approach us, we ourselves ignore it.

I am considered proud by those who know me, and they are not mistaken, for I show it by my vanity, arrogance, petulance and haughtiness. I only do not know myself as I am, and if I question myself: Am I proud? Oh, no, I answer, offering to myself incense which is more nauseous than all.