106. The same can be said of your resolutions, which are equally necessary to render the confession valid. These resolutions must be constant and efficacious, but cannot be so without the special help of God. Do you ever think of humbling yourself and asking for that help, knowing and confessing your instability and weakness, and that you are not capable of yourself to keep the smallest resolution, either from morning till night or even from one hour to another?
It is for this reason that you so often fall over and over again into the same faults, because you are lacking in humility. The truly humble man is altogether diffident about himself, and putting all his trust in God, is helped in the most admirable way by Him. "Humble thyself to God and wait for His hands." [Ecclus xiii, 9]
How many times do you not say: "I have taken this firm resolution, and I mean to keep it, I am not afraid of breaking it," trusting iniquitously in yourself, without acknowledging the Divine help in any way? Take care that you may not be counted among those reprobates " who were destroyed trusting to their own strength." [Ecclus xvi, 8] If you even presume only a little upon yourself, that little can be the cause of great ruin, according to the prediction of Job: "They are lifted up for a little while, and shall not stand, and shall be brought down." [Job xxiv, 24]
107. And how do you practice humility in your sacramental confession? It is in your confession that you should humble yourself like a guilty malefactor in the presence of your Judge. "Humble thy soul to the ancient." [Ecclus iv, 7] This advice comes from the Holy Ghost.
How often do you not try to appear innocent in the very act of accusing yourself of guilt-----now by excusing your sins, now by covering or diminishing their malice, now by putting the blame on others instead of taking it yourself? This is a real lack of humility, and of that humility which is not of counsel but of precept. You should say with David: "I said I will confess against myself my iniquity unto the Lord." [Ps. xxxi, 5] The shame which prevents you from confessing your sin clearly and plainly comes from pride alone.
108. There are some people who, under the pretext of making acts of humility, desire from time to time to accuse themselves in their confession of some grave and shameful sin of their past life. If peradventure you are among these, beware lest this arise more from a desire to appear humble than to be humble in reality. Self-love is cunning, and knows how to work secretly.
This fault was discovered by St. Bernard: "The more subtly vain confession is, the more dangerously hurtful it is, as when, for instance, we are not ashamed to reveal our shameful deeds, not because we are humble but that we may seem to be so. What more perverse or shameful than that confession, the guardian of humility, should take service under the banner of pride?"
This kind of humility is not always desirable even outside the confessional, because it can easily lead us to create scandal by speaking of certain sins which should not even be named. If you have this strange fault, there is no reason why you should pride yourself on it, but you should rather be ashamed of it; for, as the holy abbot says: "What species of pride can this be, that thou wouldst fain be better by what thou appearest to be worse? That thou canst not be thought holy without seeming to be wicked?"
109. And also, after confession, you must remember the sins you have committed, in order to excite your heart to feelings of shame and sorrow, humbling yourself before God. But do you remember to exercise yourself in this humility? This is a humility of precept. "The whole life of the Christian must be one long penance." Thus speaks the holy Council of Trent, where the whole Church of Christ was assembled, and its dogmas are infallible not less in matters of morality than in those of faith.
The Council of Trent says "must be," which is a formula not of exhortation but of necessity; and it does not prescribe such penances as scourgings, hair shirts, or fasts, but speaks generally; and we cannot interpret the sense of these words with more discretion than by saying: "If you cannot perform certain exterior penances, you must nevertheless never neglect those interior penances which consist in the contrition and humiliation of the heart, saying with David: 'Have mercy upon me, O God. . . . against Thee only have I sinned. . . . A contrite and a humble heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.' " [Ps. l] Do you practice this penitential humility? O my God! Your sins are so numerous, and yet you live in absolute forgetfulness of them, as if you were innocent!
Do you remember the obligation you are under to think often: "What have I done? What great evil have I done to offend God?" Pray to God that He may give you light to know the gravity of your sin, and you will have that continual sorrow which King David had, if you can say with him: " I acknowledge my iniquities."
110. How necessary humility is, in order that you should approach Holy Communion worthily, your own faith can teach you. But in your preparation for that Divine Sacrament and in your thanksgiving, do you make due acts of humility? It is true that you kneel down in all exterior humility and beat your breast at the "Domine non sum dignus," but have you really that true humility of heart which is becoming to such a holy function?
The centurion was sanctified when he received Jesus Christ in his own house, because he prepared himself to receive Him with deep humility and said, more from his heart than with his lips, "Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof." [Matt. viii, 8] This mystery more than others calls for humility, and when the Son of God took flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it was specially by virtue of her humility, "because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid." [Luke i, 48] Oh, if you were to reflect that it is a God you are going to receive; but do you think of this as God Himself exhorts you to do? "Be still and see that I am God." [Ps. xlv, 11]