Humility of Heart
Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo
Translation by Herbert Cardinal Vaughn,
Archbishop of Westminister, England1903
TAN BOOKS AND PUBLISHERS
On the Vice of Pride, and the Best Use to be Made of the Practical Examen
SAINT THOMAS [2a 2æ, qu. clxii, art. 1] defines pride as an inordinate affection against right reason, by which man esteems himself and desires to be esteemed by others above that which he really is; and as this affection is opposed to right reasoning, it is certainly a sin which partakes of the gravity of a mortal sin, because it is in direct opposition to the virtue of humility, and Saint Paul puts the proud in the same category as those whom "God delivered up to a reprobate sense and are worthy of death," [Rom. i, 28, 32] although sometimes it is only a venial sin, when the reason is not sufficiently enlightened or there is not full consent of the will. [D. Th., loc. cit., art 5]
137. Pride is placed among the deadly sins, because it is from pride that so many other sins are derived, and that is why St. Paul, seeing the innumerable wickednesses of the world, called them to the notice of his disciple Timothy, saying: "Look how many are haughty, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents," [Tim. iii, 2] without love for their neighbour or for God. From whence do you suppose all these vices derive their origin? This is the source: the inordinate love which everyone has for himself. "Men are lovers of themselves." This is the explanation which St. Paul gives to it, and as St. Augustine observes, "All these evils flow from the source which he first mentions-----self-love," [tr. 123 in Jo. lib. iv, De Civ. Dei, c. xiii] and as the same Saint says, "This excess of self-love is only pride."
Therefore we can conclude from this that whoever overcomes pride overcomes a whole host of sins; according to the explanation given by St. Gregory [Lib. 31, Mor. c. xvii] of this text of Job: "He smelleth the battle afar off, and the shouting of the army." [Job xxxix, 25]
138. Pride holds the first place among the deadly sins, and St. Thomas not only places it amongst the deadly sins, but above them, as transcending them all, the king of vices which includes in his cortège all the other vices, therefore it is called in Holy Scripture: "The root of all evil," [Tim. vi, 10] "The beginning of all sin." [Ecclus x, 15] because as the root of the tree is hidden under the earth and sends all its strength up into the branches, so pride remains hidden in the heart and secretly influences every sin through its action. Therefore whenever we commit a mortal sin, we are in reality opposing and directing our own will against the will of God.
Job speaks thus of the sinner: "He hath strengthened himself against the Almighty," [Job xv, 25] and in this sense one can also say of pride that it is the greatest of all sins, because the proud rebel against God, setting themselves in opposition to God, nor do they mind displeasing God in order to pleasE themselves, leaving the All to attach themselves to their own nothingness, as St. Augustine says: "Abandoning God, he seeks his own will, and by so doing draws near to nothingness, hence the proud according to Scripture are called doers of their own will," [Lib. IV, De Civ. Dei, cap. xiv] which is to say with St. Paul: "Lovers of themselves." And the same holy father makes this reflection, that even venial sins committed more from frailty than from malice may become mortal if they are aggravated by pride. "Sins creep in through human weakness, and although small they become great and heavy if pride adds to their weight and measure." [Lib. de Sancta Virginit. cap. ii]
But since God has sworn to detect this vice: "The Lord God hath sworn by His Own Soul, I detest the pride of Jacob," [Amos vi, 8] what wonder is it that He should punish it more than all vices? St. Augustine remarks with singular force that amongst all the sins by which sinners fall, none is so great, so ruinous, or so grave as that of pride. "Amongst all the falls of sinners none is so great as that of the proud." [Ps. xxxv]
139. Let us now consider wherein lies the terrible danger of this vice. (1) Because while all other vices destroy only their opposite virtues, as wantonness destroys chastity, greediness temperance, and anger gentleness, etc., pride destroys all virtue, and is according to St. Gregory like a cancer which not only eats away one limb but attacks the whole body: "Like a widespread pestilential disease." [lib. xxxiv, Mor., cap. 18]
(2) Because the other vices are to be feared only when we are disposed to evil; but pride, says St. Augustine, insinuates itself even when we are trying to do good. "Other vices are to be feared in sins, pride is to be feared even in good deeds." [Epist. cxviii] And Saint Isidore says: "Pride is worse than every other vice from the fact that it springs even from virtue and its guilt is less felt." [Lib. de Summ. Bono]
(3) Because after having fought against and overcome the other vices we may justly rejoice, but as soon as we begin to rejoice that we have triumphed over pride it triumphs over us, and becomes victorious over us in that very act for which we are praising ourselves for conquering it. St. Augustine says: "When a man rejoices that he has overcome pride, he lifts up his head for very joy and says: Behold, I triumph thus because thou triumphest." [Aug., Lib. de Nat. et Gr. cap. xxvii]
(4) Because if the other vices are of quick growth, we can also rid ourselves of them quickly; but pride is the first vice we learn, and it is also the last to leave us as St. Augustine says: [Enarr. 2 in Ps. cxviii] "For those who are returning to God, pride is the last thing to be overcome, as it was the first cause of their leaving God."
(5) Because as we have need of some special grace of God in order to enable us to do any of those good works that pertain to our eternal salvation, so there is no vice which prevents the influx of grace so much as pride; because "God resists the proud." [James iv, 6]
(6) Because pride is the characteristic and most significant sign of the reprobate, as St. Gregory says: "Pride is the most manifest sign of the lost." [Lib. 34. Mor. cxviii]
(7) Because the other vices are easily recognizable, and therefore it is easy to hate them and to amend; but pride is a vice that is not so easily known because it goes masked and disguised in many forms, even putting on the semblance of virtue and the very appearance of humility; thus being a hidden vice it is less easy to escape from it, as is taught in the maxim of St. Ambrose: [Epist. 82] "Hidden things are more difficult to avoid than things known."
140. This last danger is for us the greatest of all, and all the more because we ourselves seem to co-operate so as not to recognize this vice, inventing titles, colours, artifices to conceal its ugliness, and studying innumerable pretexts in order to deceive ourselves into believing that pride is not pride, and does not reign in our heart at the very moment when it is more dominant than ever.
As humility is generally called weak and contemptible by the blind lovers of this world, so pride is called courage and greatness, and the proud are said to be spirited, dignified, of noble behaviour and good judgment, sustaining their position with honour, maintaining their reputation, keeping up their rank and fulfilling the duties of their state. What a vocabulary of vanity! But let us set against it the vocabulary of truth which was used by Job: "I have said to rottenness, Thou art my father; to worms, my mother and my sister." [Job xvii, 4]
If you sift these worldly expressions, you will find that the quintessence of a most consummate pride issues therefrom. This is indeed the only thing I ask of you, that if you have unfortunately been deceived by others, you will at least not deceive yourselves. Study to know your own ills, if you wish to be cured of them. I recommend you only to apply yourselves to learn the truth and profit by this advice, that if the knowledge of this truth seems difficult to you, it is a sign that you are proud.
It is St. Thomas himself who will convince you of this. You can learn truth in two ways, that is by the intellect and by the affections. The proud man does not know it by his intellect, because God hides it from him, as Christ said: "Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent"; [Matt. xi, 25] and still less will he know it with his affection, because no one who takes pleasure in vanity can take pleasure in truth. "When the proud delight in their own excellence," explains St. Augustine, "they recede from the excellence of truth." [D. Th. 2a 2æ, qu. clxii, art. 3]
The proud man does not take any pleasure in sermons, meditations, instructions concerning eternal truth, in fact they are wearisome to him. If you discover any signs of this in yourself, you must at once conclude that you are proud, and humble yourself a little, O you who read this doctrine, in order that the eternal Father of all light may give you light even as Christ said: "I confess to Thee, O Father, Who hast revealed them to little ones." [Matt. xi, 25]
141. St. Gregory and St. Thomas teach that one can sin in four different ways by one's own acts of pride. The first is when we hold that we have any good, either bodily or spiritual, of ourselves, and glory in it as really belonging to us without thinking of God Who is the giver of all good gifts. It is with this pride that Arfaxad, King of the Medes, sinned when he gloried in the power of his enormous army; and King Nabuchodonosor sinned likewise when he boasted of the building of Babylon: "Is not this the great Babylon which I have built by the strength of my power?" [Dan. iv, 27] In the same way the rich man, mentioned in St. Luke, sinned when he took such pleasure in his riches and regarded them as his own substance, saying: "I will gather all things, and will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years." [Luke xii, 18, 19] And, therefore, we may say that it is through this pride that all sin who flatter themselves and are ostentatious, glorifying themselves either for their great talents, or for their riches, or their prudence, or their eloquence, or the beauty of their body, or the costliness of their apparel, as if God had nothing to do with it, and who, esteeming themselves immoderately, desire also to be esteemed by others.
This is true pride, because if God had given all these good things for our use, He has reserved the glory of them for Himself. "To God alone be glory and honour," [1 Tim. i, 17] and whoever usurps this glory is guilty of pride.
And therefore we must observe with Saint Thomas that in order to commit a sin of pride it is not necessary to declare positively that these gifts do not come from God, for this would be a sin of infidelity, but it is enough that we should glory in them as if they belonged to us, "which relates to pride." [2a 2æ, qu. clxii]
142. The second way in which we can sin in our actions by pride is when, knowing and admitting that we have received such and such a gift of God, we nevertheless attribute it inwardly to our own merit and desire that others should do so likewise, and in our exterior demeanour we behave as if we had indeed deserved to receive these gifts. It was thus that Lucifer sinned through pride; for being infatuated with his own beauty and nobility, and although he recognized that God was the author of it all, he nevertheless had the presumption to think that he had merited it himself and was worthy to sit beside God in the highest Heaven, "I will ascend into Heaven." [Isai. xiv, 13]