CONSIDERATIONS ON THE RELIGIOUS STATE. XV.
Consider how necessary are the virtues of meekness and humility for Religious.
Our Most Holy Redeemer willed to be called a Lamb that He might show us how meek and humble He Himself was, and that His disciples might learn from Him to be likewise meek and humble of heart (Matt. xi. 29). The Holy Ghost says: That which is agreeable to him is faith and meekness (Ecclus. i. 34, 35).
Learn of me because I am meek and humble of heart. Meekness and humility of heart are virtues that Jesus, the Lamb of God, principally requires of Religious who profess to imitate His most holy life. He who lives as a solitary in a desert has not so much need of these virtues; but for him who lives in a Community, it is impossible not to meet, now and then, with a reprimand from his superiors, or something disagreeable from his companions. In such cases, a Religious who loves not meekness will commit a thousand faults every day, and live an unquiet life. He must be all sweetness with everybody — with strangers, with companions, and also with inferiors if he should ever become Superior; and if he be an inferior, he must consider that one act of meekness in bearing contempt and reproach is of greater value to him than a thousand fasts and a thousand disciplines.
St. Francis said that many make their perfection consist in exterior mortifications, and, after all, are not able to bear one injurious word. “Not understanding,” he added, “how much greater gain is made by patiently bearing injuries.” How many persons, as St. Bernard remarks, are all sweetness when nothing is said or done contrary to their inclination, but show their want of meekness when anything crosses them! And if one should ever be a Superior, let him believe that a single reprimand made with meekness will profit his subjects more than a thousand made with severity. “The meek are useful to themselves and to others,” as St. John Chrysostom teaches. In short, as the same Saint said, the greatest sign of a virtuous soul is to see it preserve itself in meekness on occasions of contradiction. A meek heart is the delight of the Heart of God. That which is agreeable to him is faith and meekness.
O most humble Jesus, Who, for love of me didst humble Thyself, and become obedient unto the death of the Cross, how have I the courage to appear before Thee, and call myself Thy follower? I who see myself to be such a sinner and so proud that I cannot bear a single injury without resenting it. Whence comes such pride in me, who for my sins have so many times deserved to be cast forever into hell with the devils? Ah, my despised Jesus, help me and make me conformable to Thee. I will change my life.
It would be well for a Religious to represent to himself in his meditations, all the contradictions that may happen to him, and arm himself against them; and then when the occasion presents itself, he ought to do violence to himself, that he may not be excited or break out in impatience. Therefore, he should refrain from speaking when his mind is disturbed, till he is certain that he has become calm again.
But to bear injuries quietly, it is above all necessary to have a great fund of humility. He who is truly humble is not only unmoved when he sees himself despised, but is even pleased, and rejoices at it in his spirit, however much the flesh may resent it; for he sees himself treated as he deserves, and made conformable to Jesus Christ, Who, worthy as He was of every honour, chose, for the love of us, to be satiated with contempt and injuries.
Brother Juniper, a disciple of St. Francis, when an injury was done to him, held up his cowl, as if expecting to receive pearls from Heaven. The Saints have ever been more desirous of injuries than worldlings are covetous of applause and honours. And of what use is a Religious who does not know how to bear contempt for God’s sake? He is always proud; humble only in name, and a hypocrite whom divine grace will repulse, as the Holy Ghost says: God resisteth the proud, but to the humble he giveth grace (1 Peter v. 5).
O Jesus, for love of me Thou hast borne so much contempt; I, for love of Thee, will bear every injury. Thou, O my Redeemer, hast made contempt honourable, indeed, and desirable, since Thou hast embraced it with so much love during Thy own life. God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. vi. 14). O my most humble Mistress, Mary, Mother of God, thou who wast in all, and especially in suffering, the most conformed to thy, Son, obtain for me the grace to bear in peace all the injuries which henceforward may be offered to me. Amen.