10137Sections 126 - 130: Humility of the Heart - by Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo
- Jan 30, 2014
126. In order to know to what extent you are lacking in humility, examine yourself from this point of view. The humble man not only is not angry with those who offend him, but loves them and gives them back good for evil. Yes, it is indeed so, because he looks upon them as instruments of the mercy and justice of God, and he is also persuaded that his sins and ingratitude towards the Divine Goodness deserve far worse punishment. And you?
The humble man, when he hears that people are speaking ill of him, is not disturbed, but quietly learns to amend his ways, even though he may not have committed the faults of which he has been accused. He does not lament, as if he were persecuted: he does not say that those who speak thus of him are malignant and jealous rivals; but he believes that they know him better than he knows himself. Do you do this?
The humble man, when he is reproved, receives the correction in good part, and thanks him who has had the kindness and goodness to give it. He does not judge or speak evil of anyone, because he believes that everyone is better than he is, and because he knows he is capable of doing worse things still. He lives in peace with all and respects all and, without expecting to be honored himself, he is the first to honor others, as the holy Apostles Peter and Paul have commanded: "Having peace with all men." [Rom. xii, 18] "With honor preventing one another." "Honor all men." [1 Pet. ii, 17] And you-----what can you say of yourself?
Perhaps you may imagine that these things are points of perfection; but they are points of humility, which, as far as you are concerned, may be of precept. When it is a question of humility, I should not like you to imagine that you need only reach that point which is absolutely necessary for you, without going a single hair's breadth beyond it.
When you say to yourself, "I am not obliged to do this or that act of humility," it may be that you are making a great mistake. However much your exterior humility must be directed by prudence, you certainly cannot dispense with the interior humility of the heart.
127. If the humble man becomes aware that he has offended or injured his neighbor, he immediately humbles himself, apologizes and asks to be forgiven, manifesting sorrow for the offense he has given. The humble man always fears to be dictatorial when carried away by his zeal, and therefore proceeds with much circumspection, exercising his zeal more on himself than on others. He gives his opinion modestly, and submits it to that of others without obstinacy. But you?
The humble man respects and reverences those above him, and he is kind and courteous to the poorest of the poor; and in this he only follows the teaching of the Preacher: "Make thyself affable to the congregation of the poor, and humble thy soul to the ancient." [Ecclus. iv, 7] Is this the way in which you generally behave?
The humble man does not seek to appear humble by affectation of manner; on the contrary, if he knows that others believe him to be humble, he feels a painful confusion. His nature is to be sincere, simple and straightforward. He is of lowly bearing, and lowly too has he kept his human caprices and his pride. He is not hard and haughty, but gentle, reverent and obedient. And you?
Ah, try and realize how backward you are in the school of Jesus Christ! He came to teach you one single lesson, that of humility: "Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart." And how have you profited by this lesson hitherto? You will reply that many of these practices seem very difficult to you; but say to yourself: "The impure find it difficult to live in chastity, the avaricious find it difficult to give alms, and in the same way the proud man finds it difficult to practice humility." It is not that humility be difficult of itself, but it is your pride that makes it difficult, and we may say with Eusebius: "You make the yoke of the Lord heavy for yourselves."
Examen on Humility Towards Oneself
RICHARD of St. Victor defines humility as the interior contempt of oneself. Examine a little whether you have this feeling towards yourself. When you have dreams of dignity and honor, and you imagine yourself in the midst of grandeur and chimerical honors, how do you behave in these proud and vain imaginings? Do you rejoice and delight in them, desiring to dwell in them more and more? If we love humility we must treat these dreams of worldly ambition and pride with disdain and hatred, just as those who love chastity treat impure thoughts. We ought to pray thus with King David: "Let not the foot of pride come unto me," because pride first enters into the soul through the thoughts of the mind, and he who accustoms himself to delight in these thoughts has already formed the bad habit of pride in his heart.
129. Do you forget your own nothingness? Have you any self-esteem? If such be the case you are a seducer, a deceiver of your own self, because, as St. Paul says: Whoever believes himself to be something "deceiveth himself." [Gal. vi, 3] Do you delight and glory in your knowledge, your power, your riches, or in some other gift natural or moral? Remember the word God spoke by the Prophet Jeremiah: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, and let not the strong man glory in his strength, and let not the rich man glory in his riches." [Jer. i, 23] And again by St. Paul: "We ought not to please ourselves." [Rom. xv, 1]
This delight and glory insinuates itself insensibly, but he who is humble notices it quickly and repels it as being nothing but vanity and only puffing up and filling the heart with pride.
In the same way with the spiritual life. Do you think yourself virtuous because you sometimes do a little good? You would do well then not to regard yourself as good, but to imagine yourself in Jerusalem repudiated by God, because, as the prophet said, thou art "trusting thy beauty." [Ezec. xvi, 15] And St. Gregory says of such as you: "The soul hath confidence in its beauty when it takes some good action upon itself." [Epist. cxxvi]
The proud man dwells more willingly on the little good he does, on the little devotion he feels, than on the thought of the evil he has committed and which he does daily. He puts behind him the multitude of his sins, so that he need not be ashamed and humble himself; and he reflects often upon certain of his minute exercises of Christian piety, so as to indulge his self-complacency, as St. Gregory says: "It is easier for them to see within themselves that which is pleasing to them, than that which is displeasing." Perhaps you also have this tendency.
130. Humility teaches us also to hold ourselves unworthy of any good that we may possess, even to the very air that we breathe, and to hold ourselves worthy of all the evils and vituperations of the world. Such are the thoughts of the humble man. He always keeps before his eyes the sins he has committed, and his malicious tendency to commit them again. Therefore he esteems himself worse than the Turks, who have not the light of grace, while he has also that of faith; worse than all sinners, that do not realize the gravity of sin, and who have not received so much help of grace as he has; worse than the Jews, "For if they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory " [1 Cor. ii, 8]; worse even than the demons, who sinned only once in thought, whilst he has sinned so often even in action. But do you ever stop to consider these things seriously?