Spiritual Reading for Friday – Twenty-first Week After Pentecost

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Spiritual Reading



Let us examine now what we must do in order to attain humility.

There are two kinds of humility: humility of the intellect, and humility of the will or of the heart. Here we shall speak of the former, without which the latter cannot be acquired.

Humility of the intellect consists in thinking lowly of ourselves; in esteeming ourselves to be vile and miserable creatures, such as we really are. “Humility,” says St. Bernard, “is a virtue which, by the knowledge of himself makes a man contemptible in his own estimation.” Humility is truth, as St. Teresa has well said, and therefore the Lord greatly loves the humble, because they love the truth. It is too true that we are nothing; that we are ignorant, blind, and unable to do any good. Of our own we have nothing but sin, which renders us worse than nothing; and of ourselves we can do nothing but evil. Whatever good we have or perform belongs to God and comes from His hands. This truth the humble man keeps continually before his eyes; he therefore calls his own only the evil he has done, and deems himself worthy of all sorts of contempt, and cannot bear to hear others attribute to him what he does not deserve. On the contrary, he delights in seeing himself despised and treated according to his deserts; and thus he renders his soul most pleasing to God. “A Christian,” says St. Gregory, “becomes all the more estimable in the eyes of God in proportion as he is despicable in his own.” Hence, St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi used to say, that the two foundations of Religious perfection are the love of God and the contempt of self. “Because,” says the Saint, “he who will have humbled himself most upon earth shall see God most clearly in Heaven.”

It is necessary, then, to pray continually in the words of St. Augustine: “May I know myself: may I know Thee, O my God, that thus I may love Thee and despise myself.” Make me, O Lord, understand what I am and what Thou art. Thou are the source of every good: I am misery itself. Of myself I have nothing, I know nothing. I can do nothing but evil. It is only the humble that truly honour God. He, says the Holy Ghost, is honoured by the humble (Ecclus. iii. 21). Yes, it is only the humble that can give glory to the Lord, for they alone acknowledge Him to be the supreme and only Good. If, then, you desire to honour God, keep continually in view all your miseries; confess in the sincerity of your soul, that of yourself you are only nothingness and sinfulness, and that whatsoever you possess belongs to God. And, convinced of your own wretchedness, consider yourself deserving only of contempt and punishment; and offer yourself to accept all the chastisements with which God may visit you.

As a sequence of these principles we give here the following rules:

Be careful never to boast of anything. Far different from yours was the conduct of the Saints. It is my continual practice to exhort all to read, for their spiritual reading, the Lives of the Saints. The great labours and exertions of the Saints for God’s glory will humble our pride, and make us ashamed of the little we do or have done for God. But how is it possible that we should glory in anything, when we know that all the virtues we may possess are the gifts of God? “Who,” says St. Bernard, “could abstain from laughing, if the clouds boasted of having begotten rain?” Whoever glories in any good action deserves to be treated with similar derision. Blessed John of Avila relates that a certain rich nobleman who had married a peasant, to prevent her from being puffed up with pride at seeing herself attended by servants and dressed in rich apparel, caused the miserable garment which she wore before her marriage to be preserved as a reminder. You should imitate his example. When you perceive that you have performed a good work or acquired any virtue, look back to your former state, remember what you were, and conclude that all the good you possess is but an alms from the Almighty. “Whosoever,” says St. Augustine, “reckons up to Thee, O Lord, his own merits, what else does he reckon up but Thy gifts?” Whenever St. Teresa performed a good work, or saw an act of virtue performed by others, she immediately burst forth into the praises of God, referring the whole to Him as to its Author. Hence the Saint justly observes, that it is not incompatible with humility to acknowledge the special graces that God has given more abundantly to us than to others. Such an acknowledgment, continues the Saint, is not pride; on the contrary, by making us feel that we are more unworthy, and at the same time more favoured, than others, it assists our humility and stimulates our gratitude. The Saint adds that a Christian who does not reflect with gratitude on the sublime graces he has received, will never resolve to do great things for God. But in contemplating the gifts God has bestowed upon us we must always distinguish between what belongs to God and what belongs to us. St. Paul scrupled not to assert that for the glory of the Lord Jesus he had done more than all the other Apostles. I have, he says, laboured more abundantly than all they (1 Cor. xv. 10). But he immediately confessed that his labours were not his own works, but the fruit of Divine grace, by which he was assisted: Yet not I, but the grace of God with me (1 Cor. v. 10).

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