Taken from The Dignity and Duties of the Priest
St. Alphonsus Liguori
with Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat, 1927

Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart. --- Matthew 11:29

Humility and meekness were the two beloved virtues of Jesus Christ, in which He wished in a special manner to be imitated by His disciples. We shall speak first of humility, and afterwards of meekness.

Necessity of Humility

St. Bernard says, "The higher one is placed, the humbler one should be." The more exalted, then, the dignity of the priest, the greater should be his humility; otherwise, he he fall into sin, the greater the height from which he is precipitated, the more disastrous his fall. Hence, St. Laurence Justinian says that the priest should regard humility as the most precious jewel that shines forth in his character. And St. Augustine writes: "The highest honor should be united with the greatest humility." And before him, Jesus Christ said, He that is the greater among you, let him become as the younger. [Luke 22:26] Humility is truth. Hence the Lord has said, that if we know how to separate the precious from the vile, that is, what belongs to God from what belongs to ourselves, we should be like His mouth, which always speaks truth: If thou wilt separate the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as My mouth. [Jer. 15:19] Hence we must always pray with St. Augustine: "O Lord may I know Thee, may I know myself." St. Francis of Assisi, admiring in God
ST. FRANCIS BORGIAHis greatness and goodness, and in himself his own unworthiness and misery, used to say continually to the Lord: "Who art Thou, and whom am I?" Hence the Saints at the sight of the infinite perfections of God humble themselves to the very earth. The more they know God, the better they see their own poverty and defects. The proud, because they are bereft of light, have but little knowledge of their own vileness.

Let is then, continue to separate what is ours from what belongs to God. Ours is nothing but misery and sin. And what are we but a little fetid dust, infected by sin? How, then, can we be proud? Why is earth and ashes proud? [Ecclus. 10:9] Nobility, wealth, talent, ability and the other gifts of nature, are but a garment placed over a poor mendicant. If you saw a beggar glorying in an embroidered garment thrown over him, would you not pronounce him to be a fool? What hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou hast received, why dost thou glory, as if thou hast not received it? [1 Cor. 4:7] Have we anything that God has not bestowed upon us, or that He cannot take away whenever He pleases? The gifts of grace that God confers upon us also belong to Him, and we contaminate them by so many defects. distractions, acts of impatience, and inordinate motives, All our justices are as the rag of a menstrous woman. [Isa. 64:6] Thus, after having said our Masses, Offices, and prayers, though perhaps we esteem ourselves more enlightened and rich in merits, we deserve from the Lord the reproof which He gave to the bishop in the Apocalypse: Because thou sayest: I am rich, ... and knowest not that thou art wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. [Apoc. 3:17] St. Bernard writes: "What we need in fervor we should supply by a humble acknowledgment of our misery." If we know that we are poor and full of faults in the sight of God, let us at least humble ourselves and confess our miseries. St. Francis Borgia, while a secular, was advised by a holy man, if he wished to make great progress in virtue, to reflect every day on his own miseries. Hence the Saint spent every day the first two hours of prayer in endeavoring to know and despise himself. He thus became a Saint and has left us so many beautiful examples of humility.

St. Augustine says: "God is the supreme being: humble thyself and He will descend to thee; but, if thou raisest thyself, He will flee from thee." To the humble, God unites Himself and gives the treasures of His graces; but from the proud He withdraws and flies away: Every proud man is an abomination to the Lord. [Prov. 16:5] The proud man
is an abomination to the Lord. God, says St. James, resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble. [James 4:6] The Lord hears the prayers of the humble. The prayer of him that humbleth himself shall pierce the clouds, ... and he will not depart till the Most High behold. [Ecclus. 35:21] But, on the other hand, He rejects the petitions of the proud: He resisteth the proud. He looks at the proud as from a distance. The Lord ... looketh on the low, and the high He knoweth afar off. [Ps. 137:6] When we see a person at a distance, we know him not; thus God feigns, as it were, not to know nor to hear the proud when they pray to Him. They call upon Him, but He answers: Amen, I say to you, I know you not. [Matt. 25:12] In a word, the proud are hateful to God and to men. Pride, says Ecclesiasticus, is hateful before God and men. [10:7] Men are sometimes compelled by necessity to pay external honor to the proud; but in their heart they hate them, and censure them before others. Where pride is, said Solomon, there also shall be reproach. [Prov. 11:2]

Praising the humility of St. Paul, St. Jerome writes: "As the shadow follows him who flies from it, and flies from him who pursues it, so glory follows them --- who fly from it, and flies from them who seek it." Our Lord says: Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled, and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. [Matt. 28:12] A priest, for example, does a good work; he is silent about it, but as soon as it is known, all praise him. But if he goes about proclaiming it to others, in order to receive applause, he shall earn reproach instead of praise. What a shame, says St. Gregory, to see the teachers of humility become by their example teachers of pride! You may say, I manifest my works to make known the truth, and to procure praise for the Lord; but I answer in the words of Seneca: "He that cannot keep silence about the thing itself will not be silent about the author." Everyone who hears a priest speaking of his good works will suppose that he relates them in order to be praised; thus he shall lose the esteem of men and merit before God, Who seeing him praised according to his desire, will say to him what he said to the hypocrites in the synagogue: Amen, I say unto you, they have received their reward. [Matt. 6:2] The Lord has declared that three species of sinners He hates with a special hatred, and that the first is a poor man that is proud. Three sorts My soul hateth, and I am greatly grieved at their life: a poor man that is proud; a rich man that is a liar; and an old man that is a fool. [Ecclus. 25:3]