105. But the more essential the grace we are asking of God is for us, the more necessary is humility. Before going however to the tribunal of penance do you humble yourself, and ask God to give you that sorrow for your sins which is necessary for the validity of the Sacrament? As this sorrow must be supernatural, it is certain that you could never attain to it of yourself, however much you were to try and force yourself to feel it. God alone can give it to you, and it is equally certain that this is not a debt which He owes you, but a great grace which it pleases Him to confer upon you out of His goodness alone and without any merit on your part. If, however, you desire to receive this grace, you must ask it with humility, protesting from your heart that you do not deserve it, that you are unworthy to receive it, and that you only hope for it through the merits of Jesus Christ. But do you practice this humility, which is, one may say, of precept for you, because it is an essential means of obtaining contrition?
106. The same can be said of your resolutions, which are equally necessary to render the confession valid. These resolutions must be constant and efficacious, but cannot be so without the special help of God. Do you ever think of humbling yourself and asking for that help, knowing and confessing your instability and weakness, and that you are not capable of yourself to keep the smallest resolution, either from morning till night or even from one hour to another?
It is for this reason that you so often fall over and over again into the same faults, because you are lacking in humility. The truly humble man is altogether diffident about himself, and putting all his trust in God, is helped in the most admirable way by Him. “Humble thyself to God and wait for His hands.” [Ecclus xiii, 9]
How many times do you not say: “I have taken this firm resolution, and I mean to keep it, I am not afraid of breaking it,” trusting iniquitously in yourself, without acknowledging the Divine help in any way? Take care that you may not be counted among those reprobates ” who were destroyed trusting to their own strength.” [Ecclus xvi, 8] If you even presume only a little upon yourself, that little can be the cause of great ruin, according to the prediction of Job: “They are lifted up for a little while, and shall not stand, and shall be brought down.” [Job xxiv, 24]
107. And how do you practice humility in your sacramental confession? It is in your confession that you should humble yourself like a guilty malefactor in the presence of your Judge. “Humble thy soul to the ancient.” [Ecclus iv, 7] This advice comes from the Holy Ghost.
How often do you not try to appear innocent in the very act of accusing yourself of guilt—–now by excusing your sins, now by covering or diminishing their malice, now by putting the blame on others instead of taking it yourself? This is a real lack of humility, and of that humility which is not of counsel but of precept. You should say with David: “I said I will confess against myself my iniquity unto the Lord.” [Ps. xxxi, 5] The shame which prevents you from confessing your sin clearly and plainly, comes from pride alone.
108. There are some people who, under the pretext of making acts of humility, desire from time to time to accuse themselves in their confession of some grave and shameful sin of their past life. If peradventure you are among these, beware lest this arise more from a desire to appear humble than to be humble in reality. Self-love is cunning, and knows how to work secretly.
This fault was discovered by St. Bernard: “The more subtly vain confession is, the more dangerously hurtful it is, as when, for instance, we are not ashamed to reveal our shameful deeds, not because we are humble but that we may seem to be so. What more perverse or shameful than that confession, the guardian of humility, should take service under the banner of pride?” [Serm. vi in Cant.]
This kind of humility is not always desirable even outside the confessional, because it can easily lead us to create scandal by speaking of certain sins which should not even be named. If you have this strange fault, there is no reason why you should pride yourself on it, but you should rather be ashamed of it; for, as the holy abbot says: “What species of pride can this be, that thou wouldst fain be better by what thou appearest to be worse? That thou canst not be thought holy without seeming to be wicked?”