Humility Of Heart Part 13

54. O my soul, humble thyself in the remembrance that there is a Hell, not considering it only in the abstract, nor even as a contrivance for the punishment of sinners in general, but regard it rather as a place specially prepared for thyself, and deserved by thee more than once!

For there the proud will be cast headlong, and I should be there with them at this moment, eternally insulted and tormented by devils, had I not been preserved therefrom by the mercy of God. Millions of Angels have been imprisoned there for having committed one sole sin of pride and that only in thought. Ah, my soul, continue thus in thy pride and thy false self-esteem, guarding thy own susceptibilities and oblivious of the rights of others, and “thou shalt be brought down to Hell;” that place of torment awaits thee, and there below thy pride shall indeed be humbled. Thou who delightest now in thy own proud thoughts shalt there be thrust into flames of fire, and thou who now wishest to be above all shalt then be below all. For there below thou wilt have to face a God Who bears an infinite hatred to the proud and is infinitely angry with them. And as it is a truth that the humble shall be exalted in Heaven, it is also a truth that the proud shall be humbled and cast down into Hell.

“And the rich man also died”; thus writes St. Luke of a proud man who was “clothed in purple and fine linen.” And the rich man died—–that is the end of all humanity and vanity; and “he was buried in Hell” [Luke xvi, 22] —–that is the end of all pride. The grave is the end of man; Hell is the end of the proud.

55. But above all the thought of eternity should keep us humble. Taking it for granted that I am mistaken in practicing humility in this world, and in giving place to others, I know that my mistake is small because everything below comes quickly to an end; but if I am deceiving myself by living in reckless pride, my mistake is great because it will last for all eternity. But even if I am living in humility, I must still fear because I can never be sure whether this humility which I think I possess is true humility or not; how much more then should I fear if I am living in open pride? So be it, O my soul! satisfy all thy proud desires: be thou esteemed, praised and honored by all the world; possess knowledge, riches and pleasure without adversity, without opposition, without any obstacles to trouble thee or restrain thy vicious passions. And then? And then? I pray thee in this to imitate the proud Nabuchodonosor, who even in the fulness of his power thought of “what should come to pass hereafter.” [Dan. ii, 29] All is vanity that hath an end; and we are doomed to enter into that eternity which hath no end; therefore what will be the end of the vanity of thy pride? The most ignominious humiliation:. and most bitter lamentations that will last for ever and ever.

On this side the grave all things pass away, but on the other side what will become of me? Quid futurum post hæc? To this I give no thought; and to speak the truth this is the reason why I am dominated by vanity, because I give so little thought to eternity. King David was most humble of heart because he he was filled with the dread of eternity: “And I meditate in the night with my own heart: Will God then cast off for ever.” [Ps. lxxvi, 7, 8] Whenever the world offers thee honors, fame and pleasure, remember, my soul, to say within thyself: And then? And then? “Remember what things have been before thee.” [Ecclus xli, 5]

How many of those who were conspicuous amongst the proud of this world have overcome their pride and acquired humility by one single serious thought of eternity! The words of the prophet have always been and will always be found true: “And the ancient mountains were crushed to pieces, the hills of the world were bowed down by the journeys of His eternity.” [Hab. iii, 6]

56. There is one kind of pride which is more abominable in the eyes of God than any other, and it is that, says Holy Writ, which belongs more especially to the poor. “A poor man that is proud My soul hateth.” [Ecclus xxv, 4] If the pride of one who is rich in merit, talents and virtues—–treasures most precious to the soul—–is displeasing to God, still more displeasing to Him will it be in one who has not these same motives for pride, but who on the contrary has every reason to be humble. And this, I fear, is the pride of which I am guilty.

I am poor in soul, without virtue or merit, full of iniquity and malice, and yet I esteem myself and love my own esteem so much that I am troubled if others do not esteem me also. I am truly a poor, proud, miserable creature; and the greater my poverty, the more my pride is detestable in the eyes of God. All this proceeds from not knowing myself. Grant, O my God, that I may say with the prophet: “I am the man that see my poverty.” [Lam. iii, 1] Make known unto me, O Lord, mine own wretchedness, that of myself I am nothing, know nothing, and possess nothing but my sins, and deserve nothing but Hell. I have received from Thee many graces, lights and inspirations, and much help, and yet with what ingratitude have I responded to Thy infinite goodness! Who more sinful, who more ungrateful, and who more wicked than I? The more Thou hast done for me, the more humble I ought to be, for I shall have to render unto Thee a most strict account of all Thy benefits: “And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required.” [Luke xii, 48] And yet the greater Thy goodness, the greater my pride. I blush with shame, and it is the knowledge of my pride that obliges me now to be humble.

57. It is easier to be humble in adversity than in prosperity, and it is impossible to say how much temporal happiness influences man to be proud. “They are not in the labor of men”; [Ps. lxxii, 5] thus the Prophet-King speaks of sinners, and adds: “Therefore pride hath held them fast.” [Ps. lxxii, 6]

Adversity counterbalances our self-love and prevents its growth, for on the one hand it makes known our frailties to us, the more so when it is unexpected and grievous, and on the other hand it compels us to turn our thoughts to God, implore His mercy, and humble ourselves under His hand, as did the prophet: “In my affliction I called on the Lord”; [Ps. xvii, 7] “And as one sorrowful so was I humbled.” [Ps. xxxiv, 14] Therefore, if we know not how to bear our tribulations with cheerfulness, let us at least endure them with patience and humility.

Oh, how precious are those humiliations by which we acquire, and learn to exercise, humility! It is then that we ought to exclaim with the psalmist, “Thou hast humbled the proud one, as one that is slain”; [Ps. lxxxviii, 11] or else, like King Nabuchodonosor when he came to his senses, and humbly exclaimed: “Therefore I do now praise and magnify and glorify the King of Heaven, because them that walk in pride He is able to abase.” [Dan. iv, 34] Afflictions are not wanting in this vale of tears, but there are few who know how to use them as a means of becoming humble. Grant of Thy mercy, O my God, that I may be amongst those few!

58. We must not be too apt to flatter ourselves that we possess any special virtue. Our chastity may be the result of a want of opportunities or temptations: and in like manner our patience may proceed from a phlegmatic temperament, or be dictated by worldly, and not by Christian, wisdom. This can be said of many other virtues in which we are liable to make the same mistake.

We must study this doctrine well, that the true Christian virtues are “born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God”; [John i, 13] that is, that they are not the work either of the desires, passions or reason of man, but proceed from God as their first principle, and return to God as their last end. This knowledge is necessary for us, so that we may not imagine ourselves to be virtuous when we are not, nor think ourselves better than others when we see them falling into some sin.

We should ever learn lessons of humility from the faults of others, and say: If I had found myself in like circumstances, and had had the same temptation, perhaps I should have done worse. If God does not permit great temptations to assail me, it is because He knows my weakness and that I should succumb to them; with eyes of compassion He sees what I am, “a weak man.” [Wisd. ix, 5] And if I do not fall into sin, it is not by my own virtue, but by God’s grace. Let me therefore abide in humility, and it is to my advantage, because if in my pride I count myself greater than others, God will abandon me and suffer me to fall, and will humble me through those very things for which I wish to exalt myself. Listen to the advice of St. Augustine: “I make bold to say that it is profitable for the proud to fall, in order that they may be humbled in that for which they have exalted themselves.” [Serm. liii, de Verb. Dom.]

Humility Of Heart Part 12

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]

Humility Of Heart Part 11

47. Who knows if the one I judge and speak ill of may not be dearer to God than I am? Whether another whom I esteem but little and despise for his physical or moral defects be not destined to be very happy with God for all eternity? Who knows whether I may not be condemned to the pains of Hell for all eternity? With this uncertainty how can I then presume to consider myself better than any other?

No one is worth more than what he is worth in the eyes of God, and how can 1 know whether I am an object of hatred or of love to God? “And yet man knoweth not whether he be worthy of love or hatred.” [Ecclus ix, 1] How do I know if God will fashion a vessel of honor or of dishonor from the clay of which I am made? “For who distinguisheth thee?” [1 Cor. iv, 7] “But what is the use of these vessels? the Potter is the judge.” [Wisd. xv, 7]

When I read of St. Paul, the herald of the Holy Ghost and great doctor of the Gentiles, who said of himself that he lived in fear of falling into sin and becoming a castaway after having converted so many thousands of souls to God: “Lest perhaps when I have preached to others I myself may become a castaway;” [1 Cor. ix, 27] ah, if St. Paul himself, who was rapt unto the third heaven and could say that “Christ lived in him,” “and I live now, not I, but Christ liveth in me,” [Gal. ii, 20] should thus fear, what shall I say of myself, who am so contemptible? At the day of judgment how many shall we see on the right hand of God whom we looked upon as castaways! and how many shall we see on His left whom we believed to be amongst His elect!

It would be well for us, however, when we make comparisons between ourselves and others, to say what Juda said of Thamar, “She is juster than I,” and in some circumstance or other this will always prove to be true. St. Thomas taught that a man may truthfully say and believe that he is worse than others, partly on account of the hidden defects which he knows that he possesses, and partly on account of the gifts of God that are hidden in others. [xxii, qu. 161, art. 6 ad 2]

48. Who can assure me that before long I shall not fall into some mortal sin? And having once fallen, who can assure me that I may not die in sin, and thus be condemned to eternal punishment? As long as I live in this world I cannot be sure of anything. I must hope to save my soul, but I must also fear to lose it. O my soul, I do not in tend to depress thee; no, nor do I wish to fill thee with pusillanimous despair by these thoughts. I only desire thee to be humble. And how much reason hast thou to humble thyself in this uncertainty, not knowing what manner of death shall be thine, nor what shall be thy lot for all eternity? It is only by the measure of thy humility that thou canst hope to please God and save thyself, because it is certain that God will “save the humble people,” [Ps. xvii, 28] “and He will save the humble of spirit.” [Ps. xxxiii, 19]

There are some who think that to meditate on the mystery of predestination is likely to fill us with despair; but it appears to me, as it also did to St. Augustine, that this thought is a most efficacious means of practicing humility, [Lib. de Praedest. et Grat.] because when I meditate upon my eternal salvation I see that it does not depend upon the power of my own free-will, but only upon the Divine mercy. Not trusting to myself, but placing all my hope in God, I must say with the wise Judith: “And therefore let us humble our souls before Him, and continuing in a humble spirit in His service, ask the Lord that He would show His mercy to us.” [Jud. viii, 16, 17]

49. It is a special gift of God to know how to govern the tongue, as the preacher says in his Proverbs: “It is the Lord who governs the tongue”; [Prov. xvi, 1] and when God wishes to confer this gift of His upon anyone, He does so by means of humility. And the Savior teaches us in St. Matthew xii, 34: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Therefore, if the heart is well-regulated by humility, the tongue will be well-regulated also.

He who is humble of heart has but a poor opinion of himself and a good opinion of others; hence it is that he never praises himself or blames others. The humble man speaks but little, and weighs and measures his words so as not to say more than truth and modesty require, and, as his heart is free from vanity, so is his speech. We argue therefore that there can be little or no humility in our hearts when there is little or no circumspection in our speech. “Their heart is vain,” says the prophet, and this is the reason why he also adds: “Their throat is an open sepulcher.” [Ps. v, 10, 11] We speak of those things that fill the heart, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” [Luke vi, 45] and our speech will determine whether truth or vanity predominates in our hearts. It is well to ask God to curb our tongue, but let us also ask Him to give humility to our heart, for this alone will be a most powerful curb.

Humility Of Heart Part 10

44. Although sin is in itself a great evil—–in fact the greatest of all evils—–still under a certain form it can prove a food to us if we know how to avail ourselves of it as a means of exercising humility. How many great sinners have become great Saints without having done anything more than keep their sins constantly before their eyes, and humble themselves in shame and confusion before God and their fellowmen!

Those words: “Against Thee only have I sinned,” which David carried in his heart, contributed more than anything else to make him a Saint. And the angelic St. Thomas in explaining the verse of St. Paul to the Romans: [Romans viii, 28] “This is the good that profits them that love God, for when they fall from the love of God by sin they then return to Him more humble and more cautious.” [3 par, qu. lxxxix, art. 2 ad 1]

It is in this that the good and wisdom of God is most admirably set forth, that He offers us a means of sanctifying ourselves through our very miseries, and we shall never be able to make the excuse that we could not become Saints because we committed grave sin, when those very sins might have been the means of sanctifying us by urging us to a deeper humility. How great is God’s mercy in thus giving me the means of sanctifying myself only by remembering that I have sinned and by meditating in the light of holy faith upon what it means to be a sinner!

St. Mary Magdalen did not become holy so much by the tears she shed as by the humility of her heart. Her sanctification began when she first began to be humble in the knowledge of herself and of God. “She knew.” [Luke vii, 37]

She advanced in sanctity as she advanced in humility, for when she did not dare to appear before Jesus Christ she remained behind Him, “and standing behind,” [Luke vii, 38] and she completed her career of sanctity by her humility, for, as St. Gregory says, she did nothing all the rest of her life but meditate upon the great evil she had committed in sinning. “She considered what she had done.” [Hom. 20 in Evang.]

45. When we feel ashamed and disturbed at having fallen into sin, this is but a temptation of the devil, who tries to make use of our distress to draw us perhaps into some graver sin.

The sorrow we feel at having offended God does not distress the soul, but rather leaves it calm and serene, because it is a sorrow united to humility, which brings grace with it; but to be distressed and overwhelmed by sadness—–either from the shame we feel at having committed some disgraceful action, or from a sudden recognition of our liability to fall just when we thought ourselves stronger and more faithful than ever—–is simply pride, which is born of an excessive self-love. We have too good an opinion of ourselves, and this is the reason why we are disturbed when we see our reputation injured by others or diminished by our own actions. If I reflect well whenever I am distressed about my own faults, I shall find that my distress is only due to pride, which persuades me by the subtle artifice of self-love that I am better than the just themselves, of whom it is written: ” A just man shall fall seven times.” [Prov. xxiv, 16]

He who is humble, even though he fall through frailty, soon repents with sorrow, and implores the Divine assistance to help him to amend; nor is he astonished at having fallen, because he knows that of himself he is only capable of evil, and would do far worse if God did not protect Him with His grace. After having sinned it is good to humble oneself before God, and without losing courage to remain in humility so as not to fall again, and to say with David: “I have been humbled, O Lord, exceedingly; quicken Thou me according to Thy word.” [Ps. cxviii, 107] But to afflict ourselves without measure, and to give way to a certain pusillanimous melancholy, which brings us to the verge of despair, is a temptation of pride, insinuated by the devil, of whom it is written, he is king “over all the children of pride.” [Job xli, 25]

46. However upright we may be, we must never be scandalized nor amazed at the conduct of evil-doers, nor consider ourselves better than they, because we do not know what is ordained for them or for us in the supreme dispositions of God, “Who doth great things and unsearchable and wonderful things without number.” [Job v, 9]

When Zaccheus thought only of usury and oppressing the poor, when Magdalen filled Jerusalem with scandal, when Paul cursed and persecuted the Christian religion, who would have imagined that they would ever have become Saints? And on the other hand, who would have believed that Solomon, the oracle of Divine wisdom, would die in the midst of wantonness and idols? That Judas, one of the Apostles, would betray his Divine Master and then give himself up to despair? Or that many holy men advanced in sanctity would have become apostates? These are examples which should make us tremble when we reflect upon the unfathomable mystery of the judgment and mercy of God: “One He putteth down, and another He lifteth up.” [Ps. lxxiv, 8] “He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble.” [Luke i, 52]

Every Saint can in a moment become a sinner if he is vain of his sanctity; and a sinner can as quickly become a Saint if he is contrite and humbles himself for his sin. How many there are who in the fervor of their prayer “mount up to the heavens” and soon afterwards, at the slightest occasion of sin, they “go down to the depths”! [Ps. cvi, 26] How many there are too who, given up to vanity and stained with the deepest sins, are suddenly changed by having their eyes opened to the knowledge of the truth and who thus attain to Christian perfection! Indeed the high counsels of God are to be adored and not scrutinized, for “The Lord humbleth and exalteth; He raiseth up the needy from the dust, and lifteth up the poor from the dung-hill. [1 Kings ii, 7, 8]

Humility of Heart Part 9

40. It may be said that humility is the most efficacious remedy for all evil and a most potent antidote to preserve the soul from that death and guilt which leads to everlasting perdition. And yet it is this virtue which we neglect most of all.

O my soul, God, Who Himself desires thine eternal salvation, desires also that thou shouldst acquire it through humility; “And humility goeth before glory”; [Prov. xv, 33] therefore bow down and adore His sovereign Will. When we say the “Our Father,” let us meditate upon that petition, in which we ask that the Will of God may be done, and let us apply that prayer to our own needs: O my God, since Thou desirest that I should be humble, “Thy Will be done.” Thy Will is done in Heaven by all those blessed Spirits who worship Thee with profound humility; may Thy Will be done by me also! “Thy Will be done on earth, as it is Heaven.” And in the same way let us apply the last petition to ourselves also, saying: “And deliver us from evil,” praying God to deliver us and preserve us from pride, which is the worst of all evils, if indeed it may not be called the greatest of all sins; for St. Augustine, inquiring into which sin King David desired most to be delivered from when he said, ” I shall be cleansed from the greatest sin,” [Ps. xviii, 14] answers that this sin was pride, for pride is the greatest of all sins, because it is the chief of all sins and the cause and origin of them all: “This I take to be pride, which is the chief and cause of every sin.” [Enarr. in Ps. xviii]

41. We may say that one of the principal causes of our lack of humility is that we forget too readily the sins we have committed. We only think of our sins when we are preparing for Confession, and even then we only think of our sins in order to sum up their kind and number, in order to make a valid Confession, but we hardly ever stop to consider their gravity, enormity and malice. And even if we do bestow some slight thought on them, it is only in order to flatter ourselves that our sorrow is sufficient for the validity of our Confession, and what is still more amazing is that we are hardly out of the Confessional when the remembrance of all our sins vanishes, and even the greatest sinner lives in a state of absolute peace, as if he had always led the most innocent of lives. O miserable state! We always retain a vivid remembrance of those insults which we receive from our fellow-men, thereby fostering our resentment; but we do not bear in remembrance those insults which we have offered to God, thereby becoming humble and exhorting ourselves to repentance. What wonder that we do not become humble if we remain oblivious to these urgent motives for humility!

Let us remember our sins, not in order that they should make us over-scrupulous, but so as to live in due humility. It is for that same reason that Jeremias the prophet said that he who does not do penance does not practice humility, because “There is none that saith: What have I done?” [Jer. viii, 6] If we thought well over this, “What have I done?” what have I done in sinning? what have I done in offending God? our hearts would certainly be far more contrite and humble. But few think of this.

We call upon the heavens to be astonished at us: “Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this.” [Jer. ii, 12] If a nobleman is insulted in some public resort by a low-born menial, the offense is considered great, and an adequate punishment is demanded for such an outrage; and yet it is only a man who has been insulted by another man, a worm that is offended by another worm, nothingness offended by nothingness. But that this worm, this nothingness, should insult the Divine majesty of God apparently causes no dismay. “Be astonished, O ye heavens,” but at least let us be ashamed and humble ourselves for our insensate hardness of heart.

42. There are two special virtues which the Son of God wished to teach us, and recommended us most earnestly to practice——humility and brotherly love; and it is precisely against these two virtues that the devil wages war the most. But it is enough that he should succeed in conquering humility for love to be overcome at the same time, because, as St. Augustine says: “You cannot attain to charity except through humility.” [Enarr. in Ps. cxxx, et serm. 10 de Verb. Dom.]

Pride is always ready to take offense; and with this disposition to resent slights and injuries how is it possible to live in charity? When we find two persons who are prone to disagree, and to whom reconciliation is difficult, we cannot be far wrong in concluding that both are full of pride. Therefore it is obvious that charity cannot exist without humility.

It is for this reason that St. Paul, after having exhorted Christians to brotherly love, advises them at the same time to be humble: “But in humility let each esteem others better than themselves,” [Phil. ii, 3] for well he knew that brotherly love cannot endure without humility; for where pride exists there will also arise contentions, quarreling and strife: “Among the proud there are always contentions.” [Prov. xiii, 10]

Let us accept the apostolic admonition, and do not let us blame others for their pride when they cause us displeasure, but rather blame ourselves for not knowing how to bear that displeasure with humility. Let us begin by acquiring that patient humility ourselves which we desire so much to see in others, remembering that it is not through the patience and humility of others that we shall be saved but by our own.

43. It is difficult for those who possess riches or learning to be humble, because these two gifts are apt to cause vanity in those who possess them. It is far better therefore to be less rich and less learned and to be humble, than to possess great riches or great learning and to be proud.

Nevertheless, many who are now Saints in Heaven were both rich and learned when they were on earth; but they are Saints because they were humble; and both riches and learning must be regarded as vanity, and not esteemed except in so far as they can help us to gain eternal happiness. This is the way of the truly humble; he does not esteem himself for his possessions or for his knowledge, but regards these all as nothing, because he regards himself also as nothingness.

“Set not your heart upon them.” [Ps. lxi, 11] This is not a counsel but a precept; and God, through His prophet, wishes to instruct us: If you are rich in possessions or in knowledge, be nevertheless poor of heart, that is to say, be humble. This is difficult, it is true; but to overcome the difficulty increases the merit of the virtue. There is no great merit in being humble when our condition is lowly, but there is great merit in being humble when we are surrounded by the incentives to pride, which are riches and learning. St. Bernard says: “It is no great thing for a man to be humble in abjection, but for one who is honored humility is altogether a great and rare virtue.” [Horn. iv super “Missus est”] It is a beautiful sight for men and for Angels to see a rich man who is modest and apparently forgetful of his wealth, and a wise man who seems unaware of his great knowledge.