IX. PATIENCE UNDER CORRECTION
To preserve humility you must not allow yourself to be disquieted by reproof or correction. He who, when rebuked, yields to disquietude, shows that he has not yet acquired humility, and therefore should beg of God that holy virtue, which is so necessary for salvation. Father Rodriguez says that some resemble the hedgehog: when touched they become all thorns, and instantly break out into words of impatience, of reproach, and even of murmuring. “We have known many,” says St. Gregory, “who, when no one accuses them, confess themselves sinners; but when they have been corrected for a fault, they endeavour with all their might to defend themselves, and to remove the imputation of guilt.” Such ought to attend to the words of the Holy Ghost: He that hateth to be reproved, walketh in the trace of a sinner (Ecclus. xxi. 7). Whoever is disturbed by correction, walks not in the way of the just, but in the path of sinners — the road to hell.
St. Bernard says: Some are displeased with the physician who cures them by reproof, and are not angry with the man who wounds them by flattery. Terrible is the threat of the wise man against all who spurn correction: Because they have hated instruction … and despised all my reproof, the prosperity of fools shall destroy them (Prov. i. 29). The prosperity of fools consists in their privation, in their contempt of advice, and therefore they are miserably lost.
St. John Chrysostom says that the just man when discovered in a fault weeps for his fall. The sinner, too, says the Saint, if detected in a criminal act, weeps — not for his transgression, but because his guilt is discovered; and instead of repenting, he seeks to defend his conduct, and pours out his indignation on the friend who corrects him. Have you indulged in anger against those from whose charity you have received correction? And if you have, are you disposed to repeat such conduct? Give thanks, says St. Bernard, to him who has rebuked you: be not sad when he shall have shown you the way of salvation. Is it not most unjust to be displeased with him who points out to you the way to eternal life? You know that you are full of miseries and defects. The only remedy for them is to humble your soul when you perceive them, or when others make them known to you. “Humility,” says St. Augustine, “is our perfection.” Since our manner of practising the virtues of the Gospel is so full of imperfections, let us at least be perfect in humbling ourselves, and in rejoicing under the confusion occasioned by the reproofs we receive for the faults we have committed. It may be here observed, that to our pride undeserved reproach is more tolerable than well-merited censure, because the latter is more painful to self-love. When justly reproved, be careful to offer to God, in atonement for your transgression, the shame and confusion you experience. Make use of that confusion as a means of repairing your fault; crush the scorpion on the wound it has inflicted, and be assured that the mercy of the Lord in granting you pardon will be proportioned to your humility in receiving correction.
When corrected for a fault, be careful never to defend or excuse yourself, and thus you will practise an act of humility highly pleasing to God. St. Teresa says that such an act is more profitable than to be present at ten sermons. Should you, then, ever receive an unmerited reprimand, abstain for the sake of holy humility, from the vindication of your conduct, unless, to prevent scandal, such vindication be necessary. To a Religious who requested her director — Father Anthony Torres — to vindicate her with a certain person who had charged her with a fault, the Father replied: “I am astonished at your request. I pity your weakness. I suppose that the occupations in which you were engaged for the last few days must have soon obliterated from your mind the remembrance of the doleful narrative which you so lately heard of the sorrows of your Spouse, Who had been called a seducer. It is impossible that you can have remembered the calumnies and the blasphemies that were uttered against Him, and at the same time request me to vindicate your character. Filled with sentiments of shame and confusion, and prostrate before the Crucifix, implore of your crucified Spouse the pardon of your infidelity. Resolve neither on this, nor on any other occasion, to justify or excuse your conduct, but always acknowledge, however galling such acknowledgment may be, that you have erred. For your sake the Saviour died on the Cross, saturated with opprobrium; and it is by humiliation that you are to obtain the possession of your Spouse.”