VI. HUMILITY OF THE INTELLECT OR JUDGMENT
Consider yourself the greatest sinner on this earth. They who are truly humble, because they are most perfectly enlightened by God, possess the most perfect knowledge, not only of the Divine perfections, but also, of their own miseries and sins. Hence, notwithstanding their extraordinary sanctity, the Saints, not in the language of exaggeration, but in the sincerity of their souls, called themselves the greatest sinners in the world. Thus St. Francis of Assisi called himself the worst of sinners; St. Thomas of Villanova was kept in a state of continual fear and trembling by the thought of the account he was one day to render to God, for his life, though full of virtue, appeared to him very wicked. St. Gertrude considered it a miracle that the earth did not open under her feet and swallow her up alive, in punishment of her sins. St. Paul, the first hermit, was in the habit of exclaiming: “Woe to me, a sinner, who am unworthy to bear the name of a monk.” In the writings of Blessed John of Avila we read of a person of great sanctity who besought the Lord to make known to her the state of her soul. Her prayer was heard; and so deformed and abominable was the appearance of her soul, though stained only with the guilt of venial sins, that, struck with horror, she cried out: “For mercy’s sake, O Lord, take away from before my eyes the representation of this monster!”
Beware, then, of ever preferring yourself to any one. To esteem yourself better than others, is abundantly sufficient to make you worse than all. “Others,” says Tritemius, “you have despised; you have, therefore, become worse than others.” Again, to entertain a high opinion of your own deserts, is enough to deprive you of all merit. Humility consists principally in a sincere conviction that we deserve only reproach and chastisement. If, by preferring yourself to others, you have abused the gifts and graces God has conferred upon you, they will only serve for your greater condemnation at the hour of Judgment. But it is not enough to abstain from preferring yourself to any one: it is, moreover, necessary to consider yourself the last and worst of all. First, because in yourself you see with certainty so many sins; but the sins of others you know not, and their secret virtues, which are hidden from your eyes, may render them very dear in the sight of God. You ought to consider also, that by the aid of the lights and graces you have received from God, you should at this moment be a saint. Ah! had they been given to an infidel, he would perhaps have become a seraph, and you are still so miserable and full of defects. The consideration of your ingratitude ought to be sufficient to make you always regard yourself as a fit object of the scorn of all: for, as St. Thomas teaches, the malice of sin increases in proportion to the ingratitude of the sinner. Hence, one of your sins may be more grievous in the sight of God than a hundred sins of another less favoured than you have been. But you know that you have already committed many sins; that your life has been one continued series of voluntary faults; and that whatever good you may have done is so full of imperfection and of self-love, that it is more deserving of punishment than of remuneration.
All these considerations ought to inspire you with the sentiments of humility which St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi inculcated on her spiritual children, with a continual sense of your unworthiness to kiss the ground on which others walk. You ought to consider that, had you received all imaginable insults, and were cast into hell, under the feet of all the damned, all this would be but little in comparison with what you deserve. And, therefore, from the deep abyss of your own miseries you should continually cry out, with holy David: Incline unto my aid, O God; O Lord, make haste to help me (Ps. lxix. 1). Lord, hasten to my assistance, otherwise I am lost, and shall offend Thee more than ever, and more than all sinners. But this prayer must be repeated continually — almost every moment. You must cry out: “Assist me, O Lord! Lord have mercy on me!” At the very moment you cease to invoke the Divine aid you may become the most wicked monster in creation. Shun, as death itself, even the most trifling act or thought of pride. I conclude with that great saying of St. Bernard: “In the soul no humiliation, however great, is to be feared; but the least elation is to be regarded with horror.” Yes; for the smallest degree of arrogance may lead us into every evil.