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
147. Ambition is a vice which makes us seek our own honour with inordinate avidity. [St. Thomas, 2a 2æ, qu. cxxxi, art. 2] Now, as this honour is a mark of respect and esteem, given to meritorious virtue, and to him who is of superior degree, and as it is certain that we have no merit of ourselves, because everything we receive comes from God, it is not to ourselves, but to God alone that such honour is wholly due.
Moreover, as this honour has been ordained by God as a means to render us capable of helping our neighbour, it is certain that all such honour must be used by us in fulfillment of this end. Two things therefore are needful to enable us to flee from ambition. The first is that we should not appropriate merit of the honour, and the second is that we should confess that this same honour is due wholly to God, and is only dear to us in so far as it can serve our neighbour. If therefore we are wanting in one of these two things, we commit the sin of ambition. He is ambitious therefore who seeks to have some office or position, whether in the world or in the Church, when he has not the requisite virtue and knowledge to maintain it, and who schemes and plots to be put before others who are more worthy than he.
He is ambitious who desires to be esteemed, honoured and revered more than his position merits, and as if he were of higher rank than he is, to be honoured as an eloquent preacher or as a clever writer, or in any profession to which he may belong, although in reality he can only be classed amongst the indifferent and mediocre.
He is ambitious who, without a single thought for the glory of God, or of serving his neighbour, desires or seeks some worldly or ecclesiastical office, simply with a view to his own temporal welfare and for the advancement of his family, or wishes to gain the honour of some high office or bishopric, "from the love of power," as St. Augustine says, "and from pride of place." [Lib. xix, De Civ. Dei., cap. xiv]
Jesus Christ shows a special hatred for this vice in several places in His gospel, [Matt. xviii, 20, 23; Luke ix, 12] and the Fathers argue from this that the ambitious man is in a state of mortal sin; and it is easy for the most spiritual persons to commit this sin, as St. Ambrose says: "Ambition often makes criminals of those whom no vice would delight, whom no lust could move, whom no avarice could deceive." [Lib. 4 in Luc.]
The worst of ambition is that few people have any scruples about it, and the reason is that by this vice conscience is depraved, because it is united to this passion and seldom recovers its integrity. [St. Thomas, 2a 2æ, qu. cxxxi, art. 1 et 2; qu. clxxxv, art. 2]
148. Envy is a sadness arising from the contemplation of our neighbour's welfare, when we imagine that the good which happens to him must be to our own detriment, prejudicial to our own glory and interest; but of his goods we only envy those which bring us esteem in the eyes of the world-----riches, dignity, the friendship and favours of the great, science, praise, fame, and all that which seems to us to contribute to our credit and to bring us honour.
And it is thus that envy is born within us, when we see one who is richer, more learned than we are, another wiser and more virtuous than we, another who has more talent and ability, and whom therefore we should like to see deprived of these gifts in order that he might alsobe deprived of the praise and honour and any other advantages which we imagine are more due to us than to him. Now the sin consists in this: that when we ought, from a sense of charity, to rejoice at our neighbour's prosperity, we are only saddened at it, wishing in our pride that it. might be ours, in order that we might be superior to our neighbour in merit; and this sin is the especial sin of the devil, as the Wise Man says, "the envy of the devil," [Wisd. ii, 24] and therefore the Holy Ghost most justly commands us through St. Paul to guard against it: "Let us not be envying one another," [Gal. v, 26] as it is easy to sin mortally in one way or another. But nevertheless, how common this vice is in families, in communities, in every state of life, to high and low, rich and poor, to seculars and even to the Religious themselves!
All this evil proceeds from a false conscience, which leads us to believe that envy is not a great sin, and therefore, although it be a grievous evil, it is neither feared, nor avoided, nor do we study to amend ourselves of it. This reflection is from St. Cyprian: "Envy seems a small offense, so that, whilst it seems slight to us, it is not feared; whilst it is not feared, it is despised; whilst it is despised, it is not easily avoided, and thus becomes a secret source of ruin." [See [St. Thomas, 2a 2æ, qu. xxxiv, art. 6; et qu. xvi, art. 1 et 2 etc.; et qu. clviii, art. 11 et 14]
149. Vainglory consists in an inordinate appetite for praise, and a desire that our merit should shine forth with glory, and in three different ways this glory can be called vain and wicked.
Firstly, when we seek to be praised for a virtue or any other gift of body or soul which we do not possess, or else to be praised for some frail transitory possession which is not worthy of praise, such as health, beauty and other gifts of the body, riches, pomp and other goods which are called the gifts of fortune.
Secondly, when in seeking praise we value the esteem and approbation of one whose judgment is unreliable.
Thirdly, when we do not use this praise either for the honour of God or the good of our neighbour, and this is always to sin against the dictates of holy Scripture: "Let us not be made desirous of vainglory"; [Phil. ii, 3] and it can be a mortal sin when we seek to be praised for some wrong which we have done or have the intention of doing, or for some other wrong which we have never done and have had no thought of doing, or else to accept praise for a good which we have not done and which we want to make others believe that we have done; it can also be a mortal sin if we do good only out of human respect with the intention of being seen and praised.
This is, in short, always a very dangerous sin, not so much because of its gravity as on account of its grave consequence and because it prevents the soul from receiving the help of grace, and disposes it to various mortal sins: "Vainglory is said to be a dangerous sin, not so much on account of its gravity, as because it is a disposition to grievous sins in so far as it gradually disposes a man to the loss of all inner good." [D. Th. 2a 2æ, qu. cxxxii, art. 3]
He who suffers from vainglory is in danger of losing his faith also, according to the saying of Christ: "How can you believe who receive glory one from another?" [John v, 44] St. Augustine reflecting upon this, and how little this great evil is known, affirms that none is wiser than he who knows that this love of praise is a vice: "He sees best who sees that love of praise is a vice." [Lib. 5, De Civ. Dei., cap xiii. See also St. Thomas 2a 2æ, qu. xxi, art. 4; et qu cccv, art. 1; et qu. cxxxi, per tot.; et qu. clxxviii, art. 2]
150. Boastfulness is a vice by which man, desiring to be supremely honoured above all others, begins to praise and exalt himself, exaggerating and amplifying things so as to make his own merit appear greater than it is. It is also
called ostentation, self-praise or forwardness; and St. Augustine calls it "The worst of all pests"; [Lib. 1 De Ord. cap. xi] and St. Ambrose calls it a net spread by the devil to catch the strongest and most spiritual: "The devil lays snares such as entrap the strongest"; [Lib. in Luc.] and this is a vice which is beyond measure, because in vaunting ourselves for that which we have not, we lie to our own conscience and to God; and as God said of Moab by the prophet: "He is exceeding proud; I know his boasting, and that the strength thereof is not according to it." [Jer. xlviii, 29, 30]
It can be a mortal sin when we boast of some sin which we have committed; when we praise ourselves, despising others; or else when we praise and exalt ourselves through an excess of pride which abounds in the heart.
The Angelical Doctor notes that this is an ordinary and not an infrequent case, and that the habit is easily formed.
[2a 2æ, qu. lxii, art. 1. See also 2a 2æ, qu. cx, art. 2; qu. cxii, art. 1; et qu. cxxxii, art. 5 ad 1; et qu. clxii, art. 4 ad 2]
151I. Hypocrisy is a vice by which we affect to demonstrate externally a virtue and a sanctity which we do not possess; and he is really a hypocrite who, being full of wickedness within, pretends in his outward appearance to be good.
There is no vice against which Jesus Christ has inveighed so much in His Gospel as against this one [Matt. vi, 7, 15, 21], condemning it with eight cries of "Woe unto you," which are eight maledictions. And St. Gregory remarks that the hypocrites, blinded by pride and hardened in their sins, generally die impenitent without ever being enlightened, for a reason which is perhaps taken from St. Peter Chrysologus, because while we can see that the remedies to the amendment of other vices do good, the disease of hypocrisy is so pestilential that it affects the very remedies themselves, so that they only serve to foment and increase the evil. "Brethren," says the Saint, "this pestilence must be avoided that turns remedies into diseases, medicines into maladies, holiness into vice, saintliness into sinfulness."
Hypocrisy is always a mortal sin when we pretend to be spiritual and holy, and try to appear as such, when we are not so at heart, caring more for the opinion of men than for the opinion of God; and it is worse still when we affect sanctity in order to further our own advancement and to acquire credit in order to reach and to work evil; or else to obtain some honour, or other temporal good.
In this way also we sin gravely by hypocrisy when we show ourselves scrupulous about works of supererogation or in certain minute observances, not fearing at the same time to transgress against the essential duties of religion and our own state of life, "having left the weightier things of the law," like those Scribes and Pharisees whom Christ reproved, saying that they "strain a gnat and swallow a camel." [Matt. xxiii, 24]
Also when in all the functions connected with the service of God we pretend to have a pure intention when we have it not: "And seek to please not God but men, not the conversion but the favour of the people." [D. Th. 2a 2æ, qu. lxi, art. 2]
The fathers generally call hypocrisy perversity, iniquity, impiety; and it is easy not only to fall into this sin, but to become so accustomed to it that it leads us into atheism. We often begin by serving God with a certain degree of holy fervour, but when this diminishes, we no longer serve God but only pretend to serve Him in order to keep up outward appearances. "Woe unto you hypocrites!" [See St. Thomas, 2a 2æ, qu. xi, per tot.]
152. Disobedience is a sin by which we violate the command of our superiors, treating them with contempt, and it can be a mortal sin even in small matters; because, as St. Bernard says, we must not consider the nature of the thing commanded nor the simple transgression of the precept, but the pride of the will which will not submit when it ought. [Lib. de Præcept et Dispens., cap xi] "It is not the simple transgression of the wish but the proud contention of the will that creates criminal disobedience," and the grievousness of the sin can be judged under three different heads.
First, the rank of the superior, because the higher the one who commands, the more grave is the disobedience. It is a greater sin to disobey God than to disobey man, a greater sin to disobey the pope than a bishop, or a father and mother than other relations; and it is also a greater sin to disobey with contempt of the person who commands, than with contempt only of the commandment.
Secondly, in respect of the nature of the things commanded, because when these are of greater importance, especially in the laws of God, the disobedience is greater, therefore it is a graver sin to disobey those precepts which enjoin the love of God than those which command us to love our neighbour.
Thirdly, in respect of the form of the command, by which the superior expresses his intention that he wishes to be obeyed in such and such a matter, but it is principally pride that aggravates the disobedience, as the will refuses to submit as it should to Divine law. [St. Thomas, 2a 2æ, qu. lxix, art. 1; et qu. cv per tot.]
153. Discord is a discrepancy of the will which prevents it from conforming to the will of God in such matters as it ought to conform for the glory of God and the good of the neighbour; and it is a grave sin, because St. Paul counts dissensions among those sins which exclude those who commit them from the kingdom of Heaven. [Gal. v, 20] And God declares His hatred and abhorrence of all those that disseminate discord among their neighbours. [Prov. vi, 9] Dissensions arise generally from pride, which prompts us to over-esteem ourselves and to set our own welfare and opinions against those of others, and from this arises the quarreling, litigation, obstinacy, slandering, faction, hatred, strife and many other evils without number and without end. [St. Thomas 22, qu. xxxvii, art. 1 et 2; et qu. xxxviii, art. 2; et qu. cxxxii, art. 5]
Recollect yourself now interiorly, and examine yourself, and having found that under one or other of these headings pride really dominates you, judge how necessary it is for you to fight against it with humility, because if pride is conquered, a host of other sins will be conquered also. And in order to give yourself courage remember this, that before the tribunal of God the proud will be condemned, and only the humble can hope to find mercy. To say that we are humble is the same as to say that we are amongst the elect and shall be saved; and to say that we are proud is the same as to say we are reprobate and lost. "Pride is a sure sign of the reprobate, as humility is the sign of the elect." [Hom. 7 in Evang.; et lib. 3, Mor. cap xviii] We owe this conclusion to St. Gregory.
Praised be Jesus Christ.