V. HUMILITY OF THE INTELLECT OR JUDGMENT
Since without the Divine aid you can do nothing, be careful never to confide in your own strength; but after the example of St. Philip Neri, endeavour to live in continual and utter distrust of yourself. Like St. Peter, who protested that not even death would induce him to deny his Master, the proud man trusts in his own courage, and therefore yields to temptation. Because he confided in himself, the Apostle had no sooner entered the house of the high-priest than he denied Jesus Christ. Be careful never to place confidence in your own resolutions or in your present good dispositions; but put your whole trust in God, saying with St. Paul: I can do all things in him who strengtheneth me (Phil. iv. 13). If you cast away all self-confidence, and place all your hopes in the Lord, you may then expect to do great things for God. They that hope in the Lord, says the Prophet Isaias, shall renew their strength (Is. xl. 31). Yes, the humble, who trust in the Lord, shall renew their strength; distrusting themselves, they shall lay aside their own weakness and put on the strength of God. Hence, St. Joseph Calasanctius used to say, that “whoever desires to be the instrument of God in great undertakings, should seek to be the lowest of all.” Strive to imitate the conduct of St. Catharine of Sienna, who, when tempted to vainglory, would make an act of humility, and when tempted to despair, would make an act of confidence in God. Enraged at her conduct, the devil began one day to curse her and the person who taught her this mode of resisting his temptations; and added, that he “knew not how to attack her.” When, therefore, Satan tells you that you are in no danger of falling, tremble; and reflect that, should God abandon you for a moment, you are lost. When he tempts you to despair, exclaim in the loving words of David: In thee, O Lord, have I hoped: let me never be confounded (Ps. xxx. 2). In Thee, O Lord, I have placed all my hopes; I trust that I shall not be confounded, deprived of Thy grace, and made the slave of hell.
Should you be so unfortunate as to commit a fault, take care not to give way to diffidence, but humble your soul; repent, and with a stronger sense of your own weakness, throw yourself into the arms of the Lord. To be angry with ourselves after having committed a fault, is not an act of humility, but of pride, which makes us wonder how we could have fallen into such a fault. Yes, it is pride and a delusion of the devil, who seeks to draw us away from the path of perfection, to cast us into despair of advancing in virtue, and thus precipitate us into more grievous sins. After a fault we should redouble our confidence in God, and thus take occasion from our infidelity to place still greater hopes in His mercy. To them that love God, says St. Paul, all things work together unto good (Rom. viii. 28). “Yes,” adds the Gloss, “even sins.” The Lord once said to St. Gertrude: “When a person’s hands are stained he washes them, and they become cleaner than before they were soiled.” So the soul that commits a fault, being purified by repentance, is made more pleasing in the eyes of God than she was before her transgression. To teach them to distrust themselves, and to confide only in Him, God sometimes permits His servants, and particularly those who are not well grounded in humility, to fall into some sin. If, then, you commit a fault, endeavour to repair it immediately by an act of love and of sorrow; resolve to amend, and redouble your confidence in God; say with St. Catharine of Genoa: “Lord, this is the fruit of my garden. If Thou dost not protect me I shall be guilty of still more grievous offences; but I purpose to avoid this fault for the future, and with the aid of Thy grace, I hope to keep this resolution.” Should you ever relapse, act always in the same manner, and never abandon the resolution of becoming a saint.
Should you ever see another commit some grievous sin, take care not to indulge in pride, nor to be surprised at his fall; but pity his misfortune, and trembling for yourself, say with holy David: Unless the Lord had been my helper, my soul had almost dwelt in hell (Ps. xciii. 17). If the Almighty had not been my Protector, I should at this moment be buried in hell. Beware of even taking vain complacency in being exempt from faults you perceive in others, or else, in chastisement of your pride the Lord will permit you to fall into the sins they have committed. Cassian relates that a certain young monk, being for a long time molested by a violent temptation to impurity, sought advice and consolation from an aged Father. Instead of receiving encouragement and comfort, he was loaded with reproaches. “What!” said the old man, “is it possible that a monk should be subject to such abominable thoughts?” In punishment of his pride the Almighty permitted the Father to be assailed by the spirit of impurity to such a degree that he ran about like a madman. Hearing of his miserable condition, the Abbot Apollo told him that God had permitted this temptation to punish his conduct towards the young monk, and also to teach him compassion for others in similar circumstances. The Apostle tells us that in correcting sinners we should not treat them with contempt, lest God should permit us to be assailed by the temptation to which they yielded, and perhaps to fall into the very sin which we were surprised to see them commit. We should, before we reprove others, consider that we are as miserable and as liable to sin as our fallen brethren. Brethren, if any man be overtaken in a fault … instruct such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest thou also be tempted (Gal. vi. 1). The same Cassian relates that a certain Abbot called Machete confessed that he himself had miserably fallen into three faults, of which he had rashly judged his brethren to be guilty.