The Teaching [Wisdom] of the Saints
by a Parish Priest
The Catholic Church, the Teacher of Mankind
3. HUMILITY; MEEKNESS; OBEDIENCE
The whole life of Christ upon earth was a continual lesson of morality, but He in a special manner proposed to us His humiliation for our imitation. The Son of God says not to us: Learn of Me to make Heaven and earth, to create all visible things, to work miracles, to raise the dead; but learn of Me to be meek and humble of heart, for solid humility is much more powerful and safe than empty grandeur. -----St. Augustine.
Have these three things always present to your mind: what you were, what you are, and what you will be. -----St. Bernard.
When trees are much loaded with fruit, the quantity weighs down, nay, sometimes breaks the branches; whereas, those which are not so laden remain straight; and when the ears of corn are full, they hang down, so that the stalk seems ready to break; but when they stand up, it is a sign there is little in them. Just so it is as to spiritual things. They who bear no fruit continually shoot upward, but they who are laden with the fruit of grace and good works are always hanging down their heads in a humble posture; they make the favors they have received from God a subject of further humiliation and fear. -----St. Dorotheus.
We are only worth the price at which God values us. True merit must be weighed in His scales, for it is His judgment which alone can decide between real and counterfeit virtue. -----St. John Berchmans.
Nothing can tend so much to humble us before the mercy and justice of God as the consideration of His benefits and our own sins. Let us, then, consider what He has done for us, and what we have done against Him; let us call to mind our sins in detail, and His gracious benefits in like manner, remembering that whatever there is of good in us is not ours, but His, and then we need not be afraid of vainglory or of taking complacency in ourselves. If, however, when reflecting on the graces with which God has favored us, we should be assailed with thoughts of vainglory, the consideration of our ingratitude, imperfections, and wretchedness will be an infallible remedy against them. If we consider what we have done when God was not with us, we shall see at once that what we do when He is with us is not our work or production; we shall, indeed, rejoice in the possession of it, but we shall give all the glory to God, Who alone is the author of it, as the Blessed Virgin proclaimed that God had done great things in her behalf, but only to humble herself and glorify God. "My soul," said she, "doth magnify the Lord, because He has done great things for me." -----St. Francis of Sales.
A treasure is secure so long as it remains concealed: but when once disclosed and laid open to every bold invader, it is presently rifled; so virtue is safe as long as secret, but, if rashly exposed, it but too often evaporates into smoke. By humility and contempt of the world, the soul, like an eagle, soars on high, above all transitory things, and tramples on the backs of lions and dragons. -----St. Syncletica.
Believe me, that a little attention to acquire humility, and an act of this virtue, are worth more before God's infinite wisdom than all the learning of the world . . . Humility drew the Son of God from Heaven to the womb of a Virgin, and by the same humility we can draw Him into our souls. The more the flower of humility blossoms in a soul, the greater is the good odor it imparts to her who possesses it, to those who behold her, and to those who are about her. -----St. Teresa.
It is foolish to be puffed up with human favor, or to be proud of earthly honor. For what is great before men is abominable before God, and what a man is in the sight of God, that he is and no more.
It cannot be known how much humility or patience a servant of God has, when he has everything according to his own wishes or necessity. But when the time comes that those who ought to befriend him turn against him, then he has as much humility and patience as he shows, and no more. -----St. Francis of Assisium.
God takes especial delight in the humility of a man who believes that he has not yet begun to do any good. -----St. Philip Neri.
Humility is a Divine shield and veil which conceals our good works and virtues from our own too curious eyes. Penance awakens us; holy sorrow knocks at Heaven's gate; humility opens them. This virtue is the only one no devil can imitate. If pride made demons out of Angels, there is no doubt that humility could make Angels out of demons. -----St. John Climacus.
Humiliation is the road to humility, as meekness in suffering tribulations and injuries produces patience. If you do not exercise humiliations, you cannot attain to humility. -----St. Bernard.
In the order of the virtues, humility holds the first rank,-----in this sense, that it drives from us pride, which sets us at war with God; and that, on the contrary, it renders man submissive and entirely open to the effusions of Divine grace. -----St. Thomas.
As, when the sun is eclipsed, the whole earth is dark, so, if there is a want of humility, all our works are blighted, and are nothing but blemish and corruption. -----St. John Climacus.
No man can attain to the knowledge of God but by humility. The way to mount high is to descend; for all great falls which ever happened in this world were caused by pride, and all spiritual advantages arose from humility. -----Blessed Giles.
By humility a man finds grace before God and peace with men.
This is the path to salvation, to rejoice in every advantage, and to grieve for every misfortune of your neighbor, to see and acknowledge your own evils and miseries, and to believe only good of others; to know others and despise yourself. -----Blessed Giles.
Who is the meek? Whose imitator is he? He is not the imitator of Angels nor of Archangels, though they are most mild, and full of every virtue, but of the Lord of the universe. Paul would have us to imitate the meekness of God, that by exhibiting to us His dignity, we might be convinced that all who suffer contempt, bear contumely, or endure any other evil with mildness, controlling their anger, are imitators of God. -----St. John Chrysostom.
Though Jesus is the absolute Lord of all hearts, yet what resistance does He not suffer from us against the illuminations of His grace? What rebellions against His holy inspirations? And although He is obliged to withdraw Himself from those who are unwilling to walk according to His way, yet He ceases not to return after a while and to renew His holy inspirations and most loving invitations. -----St. Francis of Sales.
Go and exhort men to penance for the remission of their sins and for peace. You will find some among the faithful, mild and good, who will receive you with pleasure, and willingly listen to you; others, on the contrary, without religion, proud and violent, will censure you, and be very hostile to you; but make up your minds to bear all this with humble patience and let nothing alarm you. Be patient in tribulations, fervent in prayer, and fearless in labor. -----St. Francis of Assisi.
If you desire to labor with fruit for the conversion of souls, it behooves you to mix the balm of gentleness with the strong wine of your zeal, to the end that the latter be not too ardent, but benign, pacific, long-suffering and full of compassion. For the natural character of men is such that, when treated with harshness, it becomes still more hardened, whereas mildness soon softens it. Moreover we ought to remember that Jesus Christ came to bless men of good will, and if we give up our own will to His guidance, we may be sure that He will render it fruitful. -----St. Francis of Sales.
Let us force ourselves to be affectionate, gentle, and humble in our intercourse with all, especially with those whom God has given us as our companions, such, for instance, as those of our household. And never let us consent to be of the number of those who, out of their own house, appear like Angels, but are more like devils at home. -----St. Francis of Sales.
When we have to reply to anyone who has insulted us, we should be careful to do it always with meekness. A soft answer extinguishes the fire of wrath. If we feel ourselves angry, it is better for us to be silent, because we should speak amiss; when we become tranquil, we shall see that all our words were culpable. -----St. Liguori.
We should also use meekness toward ourselves when we have committed a fault. To be in a passion with ourselves after a fault, is not humility but pride; it is depressing to acknowledge that we are weak and miserable creatures. St. Teresa said, that all humility which disturbs the soul does not proceed from God, but the devil. To be angry with ourselves, after the commission of sin, is a greater fault than the former; a fault which brings many others in its train; such as the omission of our usual devotions, of prayer, of Communion, or the imperfect performance of them. St. Aloysius Gonzaga said that the devil fishes in troubled waters. When the soul is in trouble, it has but a weak knowledge of God and its duty. When we have committed a fault, let us address God with humility and confidence and ask His pardon; saying to Him, with St. Catherine of Genoa: "O Lord, these are the fruits of my garden. I love Thee with my whole heart. I have offended Thee; I am sorry for it, and will never do so again. Grant me Thy holy grace." -----St. Liguori.
We must imitate the forbearance of God. Oh, how great is God's forbearance! He endures patiently the temples of the profane men who outrage His Majesty; He endures idols and sacrilegious ceremonies; He makes the sun to shine on the evil and upon the good, and His rain descend upon the just and
upon the unjust; He makes the elements serve all men alike, the impious as well as the good; the winds blow, the springs burst forth, the harvests swell with waving corn, the grapes ripen, the trees cover themselves with fruit, the forests put on thick foliage, the meadows adorn themselves with the enamel of flowers. God delays vengeance, and patiently waits, that man may correct himself and return to his Saviour. Such is the forbearance of the Eternal Father, and similar to it was that of the Son, for all the actions of Jesus Christ were characterized by patience and by that Divine evenness of soul of which nothing could disturb the tranquility. -----St. Cyprian.
Mildness is a virtue, in which principally consists nobility of soul. And for this reason it is that lovers of the world often fail in mildness, because they are not possessed of that nobility, or only in a very scanty and imperfect degree. If they are not the first to use insulting and uncourteous terms, at least when they are attacked by others they resent it with the utmost indignation, giving in return language doubly abusive, and thus showing by their vengeance that they have an ignoble disposition. The servants of God, on the other hand, whether provoked by word or work, by keeping themselves tranquil and peaceful, evince a perfect nobleness of soul. -----St. Thomas Aquinas.
Many appear full of mildness and sweetness as long as everything goes their own way; but the moment any contradiction or adversity arises, they are in a flame, and begin to rage like a burning mountain. Such people as these are like red-hot coals hidden under ashes. This is not the mildness which Our Lord undertook to teach us in order to make us like unto Himself.
We ought to be like lilies in the midst of thorns, which, however they be pricked and pierced, never lose their sweet and gentle fragrance. -----St. Bernard.
Meekness, the greatest of virtues, is reckoned among the beatitudes. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the land." For that blessed land, the heavenly Jerusalem, is not the spoil of warriors who have conquered, but the hoped-for inheritance of the meek, who patiently endure the evils of this life. -----St. Basil.
It is better not to allow anger, however just and reasonable, to enter at all, than to admit it in ever so slight a degree; once admitted, it will not be easily expelled, for, though at first but a small plant, it will immediately grow into a large tree. -----St. Augustine.
When you feel the assaults of passion and anger, then is the time to be silent. Jesus was silent in the midst of His ignominies and sufferings. O holy silence, rich in great virtues! O holy silence, which is a key of gold, keeping in safety the great treasure of holy virtues! -----St. Paul of the Cross.
In the Christian combat, not the striker, as in the Olympic contests, but he who is struck, wins the crown. This is the law in the celestial theatre, where the Angels are the spectators. -----St. John Chrysostom.
It is better to err by excess of mercy than by excess of severity. . . . Wilt thou become a Saint? Be severe to thyself but kind to others. -----St. John Chrysostom.
Nothing is more powerful than meekness. For as fire is extinguished by water, so a mind inflated by anger is subdued by meekness. By meekness we practice and make known our virtue, and also cause the indignation of our brother to cease, and deliver his mind from perturbation. -----St. John Chrysostom.
Beware not to disturb yourself, nor to be irritated on account of the defects of others, for it would be folly, because you saw a man throw himself into a pit, to throw yourself into another. -----St. Bonaventure.
If, on a rare occasion, it is necessary to speak with some severity in order to make a grievous crime felt, we should always, at the conclusion of the rebuke, add some kind words. We must heal wounds, as the Samaritan did, with wine and oil. But as oil floats above all other liquors, so meekness should predominate in all our actions. -----St. Liguori.
Above all things we should be meek toward our enemies. We must overcome hatred by love, and persecution by meekness. It was thus the Saints acted, and in this manner they conciliated the regard of their bitterest enemies. -----St. Liguori.
It is better to have to give an account to God for too much mercy than for too much severity. -----St. Antoninus.
There are two methods to subdue anger. First, that before a person undertakes to act, he places before his mind the contumelies and sufferings which he will likely encounter, and, by reflecting on the shame borne by our Saviour, prepares himself to bear them patiently. Secondly, that when we behold the excesses of others, we direct our thoughts to our own excesses, by which we offend others. This consideration of our own faults will lead us to excuse those of others. For a person who piously considers that he also has something which others must bear patiently in him will be easily disposed to bear patiently injuries he receives from others. -----St. Gregory.
The morning light shines before the sun, so does meekness precede humility. Meekness is that unalterable condition of the soul in which it remains always the same in praise as in blame, without confusion, without disturbance, and without vexation.
Meekness aids obedience, and is a quality of the Angels. A meek soul is enlightened by the spirit of discernment, and is the seat of simplicity. The simple soul is far removed from all vain, curious, and perverse thoughts; it goes directly and sincerely to God, as a scholar to his master. -----St. John Climacus.
The obedience which we render to a superior is paid to God, Who says, "He that hears you hears Me;" so that whatever he who holds the place of God commands, supposing it is not evidently contrary to God's law, is to be received by us as if it came from God Himself; for it is the same thing to know His Will, either from His Own, from an Angel's, or from a man's mouth.
The truly obedient man does not know what it is to delay and put off the business till tomorrow; he is an enemy to any kind of demur; he prevents the superior, and even gets the start of his commands. His eyes and ears are always open to the least sign that is given him; all his other senses, and every power within him, faithfully waits the motion of his superior. He does what he is bid, goes where he is commanded, and is always ready to receive and execute any order. -----St. Bernard.
Obedience is a virtue of so excellent a nature, that Our Lord was pleased to mark its observance upon the whole course of His life; thus He often says, He did not come to do His Own will, but that of His Heavenly Father.
Naturally we all have an inclination to command, and a great aversion to obey; and yet it is certain that it is more for our good to obey than to command; hence perfect souls have always had a great affection for obedience, and have found all their joy and comfort in it.
Whoever wishes to live happily and to attain perfection, must live conformably to reason, to rule, and to obedience, and not to his natural likes and dislikes; such an one must esteem all rules, must honor them all, must cherish them all, at least in the superior part of the will; for if one rule be despised now, another will be so tomorrow, and on the third day it will be no better. When once the bonds of duty are broken, everything will be out of order, and exhibit a scene of confusion. -----St. Francis of Sales.
St. Paul commands us to obey all superiors, even those who are bad. Our Blessed Saviour, His Virgin Mother, and St. Joseph have taught us this kind of obedience in the journey they took from Nazareth to Bethlehem, when Caesar published an edict that his subjects should repair to the place of their nativity to be enrolled. They complied with this order with the most affectionate obedience, though the Emperor was a pagan and an idolator, so desirous was Our Lord of showing us that we should never regard the persons of those who command, provided they be invested with sufficient authority. -----St. Francis of Sales.
One of the greatest graces for which I feel myself indebted to Our Lord is, that His Divine Majesty has given me the desire to be obedient; for in this virtue I find most consolation and contentment, it being that which Our Lord recommended by His own example more than any other, and on this account I desire to possess it more than anything else in the world.
The more we see that any action springs not from the motive of obedience, the more evident is it that it is a temptation of the enemy; for when God sends an inspiration, the very first effect of it is to infuse a spirit of docility. -----St. Teresa.
Obedience is a short cut to perfection. They who are living under obedience, if they really wish to advance in the ways of God, must give themselves up always and in all things into the hands of their superiors; and they who are not living under obedience must subject themselves to some learned and discreet confessor, whom they may obey in the place of God, disclosing to him, with perfect candor and simplicity, the affairs of their soul; and they should never come to any resolution without his advice. Nothing gives greater security to our actions, or more effectually cuts the snares the devil lays for us, than to follow another person's will, rather than our own, in doing good. -----St. Philip.
He who always acts under obedience may be assured that he will not have to give an account of his actions to God. -----St. Philip.
By the other virtues, we offer God what we possess; but by obedience, we offer ourselves to Him.
They who obey are conquerors, because by submitting themselves to obedience they triumph over the Angels, who fell through disobedience. -----St. Gregory.
Obedience is a penance of reason, and, on that account, a sacrifice more acceptable than all corporal penances and mortifications.
God is more pleased to behold the lowest degree of obedience, for His sake, than all other good works which you can possibly offer to Him. -----St. John of the Cross.
A single instant passed under simple obedience is immeasurably more valuable in the sight of God than an entire day spent in the most sublime contemplation. -----St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi.
He who follows his own ideas in opposition to the direction of his superiors needs no devil to tempt him, for he is a devil to himself. -----St. John Climacus.
There are three sorts of obedience; the first, obedience when a strict obligation is imposed upon us, and this is good; the second when the simple word of the superior, without any strict command, suffices for us, and this is better; the third, when a thing is done without waiting for an express command, from a knowledge that it will be pleasing to the superior, and this is the best of all. -----St. Ignatius.
See God in your superiors; so shall you learn to revere their will and follow their commands. Be well assured that obedience is the safest guide and most faithful interpreter of the Divine Will. Pour out your hearts to them as freely as water, mindful that they are charged with the direction of your souls. . . . Above all, do not be your own master, relying on your own prudence, contrary to the caution of the wise man. -----St. Ignatius.
He that is truly obedient does not wait for a command, but as soon as he knows what his superior wishes to have done immediately sets himself to work, without expecting an order. -----Blessed Albert the Great.
It is better to cherish the humble desire of living according to the rule of the community, and to be diligent in its observance, than to entertain exalted desires of performing imaginary wonders, for such imaginations only tend to swell our hearts with pride, lead us to undervalue our brethren, from an impression that we are better than they. -----St. Pacomius.
All that is done by obedience is meritorious . . . It is obedience, which, by the light of Faith, puts self-will to death, and causes the obedient man to despise his own will and throw himself into the arms of his superior . . . Placed in the bark of obedience, he passes happily through the stormy sea of this life, in peace of soul and tranquility of heart. Obedience and faith disperse darkness; he is strong because he has no longer any weakness or fears, for self-will, which is the cause of inordinate fear and weakness, has been destroyed.
Oh! how sweet and glorious is the virtue of obedience, by which all other virtues exist, because it is the offspring of charity! On it is founded the rock of faith; it is a queen, whom he that espouses is rich in every kind of good and whom no evil can assail. -----St. Catherine of Siena.
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