Humility of Heart
Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo
Translation by Herbert Cardinal Vaughn,
Archbishop of Westminister, England 1903
TAN BOOKS AND PUBLISHERS
Thoughts and Sentiments on Humility Part 15
When I consider the
words which Jesus Christ addressed to His heavenly Father in prayer,
saying that He did not pray for the world," I pray not for the world"
[John xviii, 9]-----and again that, when praying for His
disciples that His prayer might
be more efficacious, He emphasized the fact that they were not
followers of the world, "They are in the world, but they are not of the
confess that no words of our Saviour in the whole Gospel
terrify me more than these. For I perceive that it is necessary for
me to separate myself from the world, so that Jesus Christ may
intercede for me. And if I am a lover of the world, I shall be
excommunicated by Jesus Christ and shall have no part in His
prayers. These are the words of Christ Himself: "I pray not for the
world, but for those who are not of the world."
To pretend to serve God and the world is the same as to imagine that we can be both humble and proud at the same time. Vain dream!
66. The most familiar meditation which the seraphic St. Francis was in the habit of making was this, first he elevated his thoughts to God and then turned them towards himself: "My God," he would exclaim, "Who art Thou? and who am I?" And raising his thoughts first to the greatness and infinite goodness of God he would then descend to consider his own misery and vileness. And thus ascending and descending this scale of thought from the greatness of God down to his own nothingness the seraphic Saint would pass whole nights in meditation, practising in this exercise a real, true, sublime and profound humility, like the Angels seen by Jacob in his sleep on that ladder of mystical perfection "ascending and descending by it." [Gen. xxviii, 12]
This should be our model that we may not err in the exercise of humility. To fix our thoughts solely on our own wretchedness might cause us to fall into self-distrust and despair, and in the same way to fix our thoughts solely on the contemplation of the Divine goodness might cause us to be presumptuous and rash. True humility lies between the two: "Humility," says St. Thomas, "checks presumption and strengthens the soul against despair." [2a 2æ<>, qu. clxi, art. 1 ad 3]
Distrust yourself and
confide in God, and thus distrusting and thus
confiding, between fear and hope, you shall work out your salvation in
the spirit of the Gospel.
We should first reflect
upon the infinite mercy of God, so as to
our hope, as King David did: "Thy mercy is before my eyes," and we
should then reflect on His justice, so as to keep ourselves in the
fear thereof: "O Lord, I will be mindful of Thy justice alone." [Ps.
lxx, 16] And
also in turning our thoughts to ourselves we should first reflect upon
man as being the work of God created to His image and likeness, so as
to give God the glory; then we should reflect upon the sinner in man
which is our work and which ought to make us deeply dejected. "Man and
sin," say St. Augustine, "are as it were two distinct things. What
savours of man God made, what savours of the sinner man made himself.
Destroy what man has made that God may save what He has made." [Tract
xii, in 10]
68. Let us consider the things of this world in which we are apt to take a vain delight. Onc may pride himself on his robust health and bodily strength, another on the science, knowledge, eloquence andother gifts that he has acquired through study and art. Another prides himself upon his wealth and possessions; another upon his nobility and rank; another upon his moral virtues, or other virtues which bring him spiritual grace and perfection : but must not all these gifts be regarded as so many benefits proceeding from God, for which we must render an account if we do not use them to resist temptation and conform to the ordination of God? We are debtors to God for every benefit that we receive, and are bound to employ these gifts and to trade with them for the glory of God like merchants to whom capital is entrusted. When we consider how many benefits, both of body and soul, we have received from Him, we are compelled to admit that there are so many debts which we have contracted towards Him, and why should we glory in our debts?
No prudent merchant, if he has large debts, would go and proclaim the fact in the marketplace and thereby lose his credit; and how can we expect to gain credit by boasting of the many debts we owe to God? Debts so heavy that we run the risk of becoming bankrupt on that day when our Lord and Master will say: "Pay what thou owest." [Matt. viii, 28]
From the benefits we receive of God we should learn lessons of humility rather than of pride, following the teaching of St. Gregory: "The more strict the account that a man sees he must give of his duties, the more humble should he be in the performance of them,". [Hom. ix in Evang.] Our desire to boast of the favours we have received of God only demonstrates our ingratitude, and we have more cause to humble ourselves for being ungrateful than to glory in the benefits thus bestowed upon us.