50. Humility is charitable, interpreting all things for the best and pitying and excusing the faults of others as much as possible. For this reason St. Peter, wishing to exhort us to love and have compassion upon our fellow-creatures, also exhorts us at the same time to be humble: “Having compassion one of another, being lovers of the brotherhood—–humble,” [1 Pet. iii, 8] for there can be no charity without humility, and therefore to censure and criticize too readily the actions of our neighbors and to judge and speak ill of them are vices which are directly opposed to the virtue of humility. Who has given me the power to judge my brethren? When I thus constitute myself their judge and in the tribunal of my thoughts condemn first one and then another, I am usurping an authority I do not possess and which belongs to God alone: “For God is Judge.” [Ps. xlix, 6] And if this is not pride, what is pride? In punishment of such arrogance God often permits us to fall into the very faults that we have condemned in others, and it is well for us to remember the teaching of St. Paul: “Wherefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest. For wherein thou judgest another thou condemnest thyself.” [Rom. ii, 1] There is always some pharisaical pride in the heart of him who judges and speaks evil of others, because in belittling others he exalts himself. It is in vain that we try ahd cover our evil-speaking under ,the veil of some good motive; it must always be the result of pride which is quick to find out the weaknesses of others while remaining blind to its own.
If we are guilty of pride let us try and amend and not flatter ourselves that we possess the smallest degree of humility, until by our good resolutions carefully carried out we have mortified our evil tendency to speak ill of our neighbor. Let us hearken to the Holy Ghost: “Where pride is there also shall be reproach, but where humility is there also is wisdom.” [Prov. xi, 2]
The proud man is scornful and arrogant in his speech; and the humble alone knows how to speak well and wisely. If there is humility in the heart it will be manifested in the speech, because “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good.” [Luke vi, 45]
51. But in order to acquire humility, it is necessary also to be prudent in not speaking well of oneself. “Let. another praise thee,” says the inspired word, “and not thy own mouth, a stranger and not thy own lips.” [Prov. xxvii, 11]
It is very easy for us to fall into this fault of praising ourselves “Until it becomes a habit, and with this habit so opposed to humility how can we be humble?
What good qualities have we of our own for which we can praise ourselves? All the good that is in us comes from God, and to Him alone we must give praise and honor. When, therefore, we praise ourselves we are usurping glory which is due to God alone. Even though in praising ourselves we sometimes refer all to the honor of God, it matters little; when there is no absolute necessity it is better to abstain from self-praise, for although we refer all to the glory of God with our lips, our ingenious and subtle self-love cannot fail to appropriate it secretly. And even speaking depreciatingly of ourselves there may lurk some hypocritical pride in our words, such as was mentioned by the sage of old when he said: “There is one that humbleth himself wickedly, and his interior is full of deceit.” [Ecclus xix, 23]
Therefore we can never watch over ourselves enough, because there is nothing that teaches us so well to know the pride of our heart as our words, with which we either reveal or hide the depravity of our affections. And this is the characteristic of the proud, according to St. Bernard: “One who boastfully proclaims what he is, or lies about what he is not.” [Epist. lxxxvii]
Let us bear in heart and mind this precious advice given by Tobias to his son: “Never suffer pride to reign in thy mind or in thy words.” [Tob. iv, 14] The words of a proud man are nauseous, whether he speaks of himself or others, and they are hated both by God and man: therefore we should detest this vice, not only from the Christian but also from the human standpoint.
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]
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.