Humility of Heart
Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo
Translation by Herbert Cardinal Vaughn, 
Archbishop of Westminister, England1903

Thoughts and Sentiments on Humility Part 9

52. God has Himself given us the means of obtaining this humility of heart, in the remembrance of death and by meditation upon it. Death is the best teacher of truth; and pride-----being nothing but an illusion of our heart-----clings to a vanity which it does not recognize as vanity; and therefore death is the best means by which we can learn what vanity is and how to detach our hearts from it.

         Our self-love is wounded at the thought that we must soon die, and when we least expect it, and that with death everything comes to an end for us in this world; but at the same time this reflection weakens and humbles our self-love. Unfortunately, we do not think of death with that seriousness which we ought to give to it.

     If I knew for certain that I had to die within a year, I imagine that I should grow more humble from day to day at the thought that each day was bringing me nearer to my death. But who can assure me that I have one year to live-----I, who am not certain to live to the end of the day?

     O my God, true light of my soul, keep alive within me the remembrance of my death. Tell me often with Thine own voice in my heart that I must die, perhaps within a year, perhaps within a month, perhaps within a week; and thus I shall remain humble. In order that the thought of death may not be unfruitful to me, excite within my soul now that knowledge and those feelings which I shall have at that last hour of my life when the blessed taper is placed in my hands "in the day of trial." [Wisd. iii, 18] Make me know now as I shall know then what vanity is, and then how can I ever be arrogant again in the face of that most certain truth? "Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity." [Eccles. i, 2] Job was always humble even in in the days of his prosperity: "My days shall be shortened and only the grave remaineth for me."
[Job xvii, 1]

 53. Another humiliating thought lies in the remembrance of the judgment to come. Saints tremble at the thought that they will be judged by a God in Whose presence not even the Angels are immaculate. They tremble, although they have nothing to be judged except their good works. And what will become of me, therefore, who am guilty of so many sins?

     Therefore if I esteem myself and seek to be esteemed by others either as more virtuous or less sinful than I really am, it is certain that such a desire can only arise from my own hypocrisy, by which I appear before the eyes of men under a false disguise, leading them to believe that I am one thing when I am really another, because I know that they cannot see what is going on in my heart; but a time will come when God will reveal my wickedness to the whole world: "I will show thy nakedness to the nations, and thy shame to kingdoms." [Nahum iii, 5] And then I shall appear as I really am. And what will they say of me who have been deceived by my false dissemblings?

     O my soul, be humble and forget not that the more thou art exalted in thy own esteem the more wilt thou be shamed and confounded at the judgment day. For then, as says the prophet, "Man shall be humbled," [Isa. v, 15] and only the humble will be able to glory "in his exultation." [Jas i, 9] Remember that according to the saying of Isaias, the day of judgment has been appointed especially to humble the proud: "Because the day of the Lord of hosts shall be on every one that is proud and high-minded, and he shall be humbled," [Isa. ii, 12] and thou shouldest regard as though specially directed to thyself that prophetic voice from God which says: "Behold I come against thee, O proud one, saith the Lord, for thy day is come, the time of thy visitation. And the proud one shall fall, he shall fall down, and there shall be none to lift him up." [Isa. 1, 31]

     Ah, how can I indeed esteem myself more than others when we have all to appear as criminals, miserable and naked, before God's judgment seat? So writes St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans: "But thou, why judgest thou thy brother? And why dost thou despise thy mother? For we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ." [Rom. xiv, 10]



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