THE LITTLE BOOK OF HUMILITY & PATIENCE
by Archbishop Ullathorne
Being Selections from "The Groundwork of the Christian Virtues"
and "Christian Patience"
The Newman Bookshop 1945
I. The Divine Law of Probation
II. On the Nature of Christian Virtue
III. On the Difficulties of Virtue
IV. On the Nature of Humility
V. On the Grounds of Humility
VI. On Humility towards our Neighbor
VII. How Humility responds to the Benignity of God
VIII. The Divine Master of Humility
XI. On Humility as the Receptive Foundation of the Divine Gifts
X. On the Magnanimous Character of Humility
XI. On the Detestable Vice of Pride
XII. The World without Humility
XIII. On the Foolish Vice of Vanity
XIV. The Humility of Faith
XV. On the Schools of Humility
XVI. On Humility as the Counterpart of Charity
I. The Work of Patience in the Soul
II. On the Nature and Object of Christian Patience
III. On Patience as a Universal Virtue
IV. On Christian Fortitude
V. On the Patience of the Son of God
VI. On Patience as the Discipline of the Soul
VII. On Patience as the Perfecter of our Daily Duties
VIII. Encouragements to Patience
IX. On the Gifts of the Holy Ghost
X. On Prayer
XI. On Patience in Prayer
XII. On the Cheerfulness of Patience
The Divine Law of Probation
Spiritual natures are on the summits of creation; there is nothing but God
There is no master so large-minded, so generous, or who is so well
acquainted with you and your requirements, as God; no father so loving and
bountiful; no friend so free from all jealousy; none who so completely
loves you for your greater good. Whilst there is no tyrant so
narrow-minded, so proud-hearted, so exacting, so suspicious, so utterly
bent on keeping you to your own littleness, as the one we all know so
well, of whose tyranny we have had such bitter experience, and who goes by
the name of Myself. Yet God or yourself you must choose for your master.
The whole design of God's beneficent government of souls is to draw them
out of themselves and to bring them to His truth and good.
This ever-moving earth is not only attracted to its own center, as all
that constitutes man is held together by the central force of the soul,
but it is held on its rapid course by the attraction of the sun; and as it
turns towards that mighty luminary it receives his image, and partakes his
light, warmth and fertilizing power. Yet his rays are intercepted by the
vapors which the earth produces, and by the turbulence arising from their
conflicts. And so by His creative influence does God hold the ever-active
soul, in which He has placed His image, in her dependence. But when she
turns her face with desire to Him who attracts her, He sends forth the
celestial influence of His light, grace and charity upon her, attracting
her to move towards Him by faith, hope and love, and she becomes a
partaker of His goodness. But as the soul is not necessitated like the
earth, but free to make her choice, if she prefers her own central
attraction, and the drawing to herself of the small things around her
instead of the divine attraction, and her own uneasy love instead of the
divine love, that soul is left to her own littleness, is clouded and
darkened by her own vapors, and troubled in herself.
Who can express the magnificence of the light of faith as compared with
the light of reason? In the things of God and the soul, reason but gropes
among the shadows reflected here below; whilst faith, with its light
direct from God, opens out the infinite and eternal prospect of divine
truth, which, though obscurely seen, is yet surely seen by the humble
mind, giving a breadth and firmness to the mind that nothing can explain
but the action of God in the soul.
God and His angels are near to the man of faith--so near that the gross
veil of the body alone intervenes between our soul and the presence of God
and our guardian angels.
It is the fostering of minor troubles till they swell to a flood of
sadness and discouragement that gives the devil a turbid pool in which to
cast his nets. If those minor troubles befall you, let them drop. Be not
disturbed: turn your heart to God. Do not look at them; do not dispute
with them; answer them not a word. Only turn your mind from them and let
Only the power of God can bear us up to God. Our will is free, and if we
follow the divine attraction, the grace of that attraction will bring us
to His presence. But if we choose the attraction of these base and low
things among which we are placed for our probation, and prefer the sordid
limits of our nature to the heights of the divine goodness, we remain in
the bonds of our disordered existence, distressed in spirit and far from
God. The whole plan of our happiness is defeated from our want of
generosity. What does God ask of us? Not that we should be stronger than
we are, but that we should confess our weakness and accept His strength.
For God has provided all things for us in great abundance. Nothing is
wanting but our will. If we are in a low position and short of sight, He
has sent forth His light and His truth to lead and guide us. If we are
weak of will, He sends His grace to strengthen and lift up our will. If we
are uncertain of His ways, He has sent His Son in our likeness to teach us
His ways, who has ordained His Church for every place and time, that His
truth and will may be always at our door. Our will may be weak, very weak;
He asks for that will that He may make it strong. All that God asks of us
is our will; when given to Him, in whatever condition, He will make it
good. But, without our will, every provision to help and strengthen us is
in vain; they cannot be ours.
On the Nature of Christian Virtue
When virtue in all perfection did appear in visible form to the eyes of
men, when Christ, "the wisdom of God and the power of God," was seen, and
heard, and touched by men, the humble alone were drawn to Him with
wondering love. The sensual and the proud scorned and crucified Him.
Something more than human eyes is required to love that virtue which
descends from God. We cannot love that of which there is no element within
us; and as the divine grace is the principle of Christian virtue, we first
require the grace of humility to open our eyes to the divine beauty of
that virtue which alone is worthy of God.
Christian virtue differs so widely from natural virtue that its power
begins from God. The effect of virtue is to make the person good as well
as his work, and to perfect the soul according to the quality and degree
of the virtue exercised. Virtue, then, is not a sentiment or a feeling, or
any conscious enjoyment of one's own goodness, as some people are blind
enough to imagine; the pleasure of virtue is derived from its object and
is a result of its exercise, whilst the reward of Christian virtue is
neither the virtue itself nor the enjoyment of it, but the God of virtue.
As St. Ambrose says: "He who quits himself and cleaves to virtue, loses
his own and gains what is eternal."
The exercise of every habit of virtue includes five distinct elements.
These are the object of the virtue, the motive, the law of the virtue, the
decision, and the action.
The object of a virtue is that upon which, or towards which, it is
exercised. The object of faith, for example, is the invisible truth
revealed to us by God.
The motive is the end we have in view. If a man helps the poor because it
becomes his station in life, or because he accounts it honorable that no
one in distress should leave his door unrelieved, this man has no higher
motive or end to his virtue than his own honor, which is the heathen
virtue of self-respect, beginning and ending in the man himself. If
another assists the poor from the natural feeling of sympathy and
kindliness, and looks to no higher motive, this is the natural virtue of
benevolence, but nothing beyond. If the Christian helps the helpless not
merely from kindliness but from the love of God, the motive is charity;
and whilst his object is to help his suffering neighbor, his final motive
is the love of God. "A work is then truly excellent," says St. Augustine,
"when the intention of the workman is struck out from the love of God, and
returns again and again to rest in charity." What a prodigious waste of
value is caused to the virtues by exercising them on low motives and with
low intentions, when they might be exercised on the very highest motives
The higher the motive, the nearer the soul is carried towards God and this
is true even in the lowest occupations.
Man sees in the face, but God in the heart. Man looks to the present value
of the virtues as they affect this life, but God looks at the inward
motive and intention as it regards eternity. The soul may draw near to God
whilst the body is humbled down to the lowest toil; but this the world
cannot see. There is a sublimity arising from the high flight of the
intention above the meanness of the work, whilst both unite in the will of
the workman, which angels may admire, but which the world, that sees but
the mean work, can never understand. The poor man, rich in faith, who
toils for the love of God and is generous of the little fruit of his
labors, is much nearer to heaven than the rich man who spends a fortune in
good works from no higher motive than his natural inclination to
Restlessness and excitement betray weakness; tranquillity is a quality
that belongs to solid virtue.
The Christian virtues are the feet and wings whereby the soul moves in the
direction of her final end; for even those duties that have their
immediate end in this life, when directed by spiritual motives have their
final end in God.
Our share in the world's affairs is too apt to take us from ourselves and
from the divine examplers seated in the inward man, and so bring us down
from supernatural to natural habits, and from divine to human motives. It
is, therefore, a great advancement in the virtues when the soul can be as
simple, as sincere, as little given to vanity and as well habited in
Christian goodness abroad in the world as at home. This depends much upon
interior watchfulness and the keeping of the center of the soul in a state
of calm recollectedness.
It belongs to the man who is in quest of his supreme good to draw as near
to divine things as his condition of life will allow.
To this we are often urged in the Gospel. our Lord says: "Seek first the
kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added to
you."(St. Matthew vi, 33.) And, again, He tells us: "Be ye perfect as your
Heavenly Father is perfect."(St. Matthew v. 48.) That is to say, as your
Heavenly Father is perfect God, be you perfect man, formed upon the type
of the one perfect man.
On the Difficulties of Virtue
The two fundamental efforts of Christian virtue are these: The first is to
leave our own selfish affections as much as we can, and to get as near to
God with our will and affections as we may. The second is to get the habit
of acting as much on principle and as little on sentimentality as we can.
The whole labor of virtue consists in transferring the will from the
attractions of nature to the attractions of grace, and in getting out of
that narrow selfishness and away from those morbid sensibilities, to reach
the divine atmosphere of truth and justice.
The only insurmountable obstacle is want of humility, to obtain which is
the greatest labor of the soul.
The chief reasons why the real beginning and each great step in advance on
the way of divine virtue are laborious are that they demand
self-renunciation and self-denial; they involve the breaking up of old and
cherished habits to which nature clings; they require an ever-increasing
humility descending further and further into the soul, pulling down the
last remains of the pride of life and opening the innermost soul to the
influence of grace; they have to master human respect; they have to detach
the will from self-love, a detachment that rends nature to her center
before the healing and restoring life of charity can enter thus far and
close the wound of nature; they have to transfer our powers more
completely from nature to grace, and to raise what still acts in us under
human motives to divine motives. All this requires that we be subject to
The difficulties to be overcome in these ascensions to better things are
not in them, but in ourselves, and there is a grandeur in the enterprise,
a magnificence in the venture, that is full of encouragement. What a charm
to be linked and united more closely and ever more closely with the
eternal mysteries! What a help in the divine power! What a glory for us
mortals to be always approaching nearer and nearer to the Supreme and
Infinite Good! What are all the petty interests of this mortal life, that
they should absorb the soul, compared with the wonderful things above us
that hang on the tree of life, and are always ready for the soul that is
willing to reach up to them. We have also a Divine Leader, not in the
remote distance of history, but with us, always with us; God in our
nature, God with us, God within us, our way, truth and life, lighting us
to the virtues, giving us the force to practice them.
Nothing cramps the freedom of the soul in a greater degree than the fear
of what others will think and say. The first thing to be done after taking
the narrow way is to shut the world out of consideration and look only to
the approval of God.
The burden of life is from ourselves, its lightness from the grace of
Christ and the love of God.
Charity gives peace to the soul. For whoever loves God above all things
rests his heart on the eternal peace. "God is greater than our heart." He
can fill all our desires, and when the heart knows this, the nearer it
draws to the Divine Fountain of Good, the more it finds repose. But we
must keep in mind that charity can never come from oneself; it can only
come from God.
Let it be plainly understood that we cannot return to God unless we enter
first into ourselves. God is everywhere, but not everywhere to us. There
is but one point in the universe where God communicates with us, and that
is the center of our own soul. There He waits for us; there He meets us;
there He speaks to us. To seek Him, therefore, we must enter into our own
On the Nature of Humility
Here are four Virtues, the fruits of divine grace, which in their union
bring the soul to God: these are humility, faith, purity and charity. With
the loss of the knowledge of the true God they were lost to the world, and
our Lord Jesus Christ brought them down anew from heaven to mankind. Their
union in the soul is the distinctive sign of Christian holiness. When
pride throws off obedience to God, humility dies. When the mind rebels
against the authority of God as the Revealer of truth, faith dies together
with humility. When the graceless soul allows the body to revolt and
defile the soul with uncleanness, holiness is extinct. When self-love
holds the place of charity, the spiritual life of man is no more. When
these virtues have departed, the man is left to nature and the world, but
to nature in cruel disorder, and to the world, not as God has made it in
His goodness, but as man has made it in his concupiscence, to the world as
it is taken up for a final end in place of God.
The men of the world have their measure of virtue, but that virtue falls
short of God, and ends in this life. They measure their virtues upon the
requirements of their fellowmen.
The least known amongst the virtues, and consequently the most
misunderstood, is the virtue of humility, and yet it is the very
groundwork of the Christian religion.
Humility is a grace of the soul that cannot be expressed in words, and is
only known by experience. It is an unspeakable treasure of God, and can
only be called the gift of God. "Learn," He said--not from angels, not
from men, not from books--but learn from My presence, light and action
within you, "that I am meek and humble of heart, and you shall find rest
to your souls."(S. J. Climacus, "Sea la Paradisi," Grad. 25.)
The more we are subject to God, the nearer we are to Him. He is infinitely
above us, but by this very subjection we ascend to Him, and find in Him
whatever is truly great.
Humility consists in the confession of the grace of God.
The first office of the grace of God is to make us sensible of the giver.
The grand object for which we came into existence is more than the light
and grace of God; it is God Himself, and those gifts are given to guide
and lead and help us to Him. We are not our own good, nor are the things
around or beneath us our good, however useful in their place and order,
but God is our good, and whatever comes from God that is better than
ourselves helps us on to Him. We have but the capacity for good, and the
power of working with the good we receive. Pride is the practical denial
of this truth, a truth that springs from the constitution of our nature.
And therefore it is said in Holy Scripture that "pride was not made for
man."(Ecclesiasticus x, 22.)
Again, humility is the interior, spiritual, sacrificial action through
which, with the profoundest veneration and gratitude, we offer to God the
being and life we have received from Him, with the desire and prayer that
we may die to ourselves and live to Him; that we may be wholly changed and
transformed into His likeness, detached from earth and united with God.
But as we come to our God from sin and dark ingratitude, we owe more to
Him than our being and our life; we owe Him the contrition, the breaking
to pieces of our sinful form, with regret and sorrow that we have defiled
and defaced His beautiful work; we owe to Him that we throw away every
breath of vanity, falsehood and evil, which, when cast out of us, is
Perfect humility is the fruit of perfect charity. The more we love God the
less we value ourselves. He who is truly humble, truly empty of himself,
is a vessel of election to God, full to overflowing with His Benedictions.
He has only to ask to receive still more. He is the child of all the
beatitudes, poor in spirit, meek of heart, hungering and thirsting after
When humility finds nothing in herself to rest upon, she finds her true
center, and that center is God. For the humble soul alone has got the
divine as well as the human measure of things.
On the Grounds of Humility
The first ground of humility is our creation from nothing. We are of a
short time; our beginning was feeble, as became our origin, and nothing
was the womb of us all. Whence are we? From the creative will of God. What
are we? An existence dependent on the will of God. Whither are we going?
Onwards, ever onwards, the body to the dust, the soul to the judgment-seat
of God. God is the one, absolute, perfect Being; we are but existences,
the products of His will, dependent on Him for all we are and have; and
all this great scene about us that fills our senses is of less value than
the last soul that was created and born into this world; for the soul is
for God, but this visible universe for the service and probation of the
The second ground of humility is our intellectual light. That light makes
us reasonable creatures. In that light we see the first principles of
truth, order and justice; it is the foundation of our mind and of our
conscience. Man is variable and changeable, and one man differs from
another; but the light of truth and justice shines one and the same to
all, and the chief difference between one man and another is in the degree
of his communion with that light.
The third ground of humility is in our dependence on the providence of
God. Our life with all its conditions is in the hand of God.
The fourth ground of humility is our sins, whereby we have deformed and
denaturalized our nature, ungraced ourselves before God, and incurred His
The fifth ground of humility is in the weakness, ignorance, and
concupiscence that we have inherited from original sin, and have increased
by our actual sins.
The sixth ground of humility is in the open perils and hidden snares with
which we are surrounded. Error in all its forms, unbelief in all its
modes and varieties, move in their motley shapes through nearly every
grade of life, with the apparent unconsciousness that truth is one and
comes from God. The widespread evil of modern life is the amazing
indifference to the well-being of the soul. An intense activity outside
the soul pursues its many ways in the name of progress, although the
object or ultimate aim of that progress is neither thought of nor spoken
of. But it is chiefly a progress, not to, but from the soul, not to, but
The seventh ground of humility is in the special odiousness and deformity
of pride, which is in direct opposition, beyond every other vice, to the
order, reason, and truth of things. Pride turns all things from God;
humility turns all things to God.
The eighth ground of humility is in the consideration of what this virtue
does for us. It opens the soul to the truth of Christ, and the heart to
the grace of Christ.
The ninth ground of humility is the knowledge of God and His divine
The tenth ground of humility is the secure rest provided for the soul in
the unspeakable benefits of our Divine Redeemer.
The eleventh ground of humility is in our distance in this vale of
suffering and tears from the Supreme Object of our soul, and the risks we
run in the meanwhile from our infirmities.
The twelfth foundation of humility is the holy fear of the judgments of
God. For unless we shelter ourselves well in the humility of Christ, and
do penance, and use the world as though we used it not, we are not safe.
Unless, again, a humble dependence on God be the foundation of our life
and the love of God be our ruling affection, we know not in what state God
will find us in the hour when we shall pass from this world.
On Humility towards our Neighbor
If the virtue of humility is often misunderstood when directly exercised
towards God, the same virtue is liable to still greater misconception when
exercised towards our neighbor.
There are two things to be considered in every man, and these two things
have to be well and carefully distinguished from each other; what the man
is of himself, and what he is by the superadded gifts of God. Every man
ought to subject what is purely his own to what is of God, whether that
which is of God is in himself or in another.
This is the principle of humility in its exercise towards our neighbor; it
is not a reverence given to human nature, but to the gifts of God within
But the same humility forbids the unreasonableness of judging another
man's soul. We can only act on what we know, and we always know much more
of our own internal weakness and defects than we can know in the case of
Few persons, perhaps, reflect on the beauty of the reward we receive for
humility to our neighbor. This humility opens the soul to all the good
that God has planted in other souls.
Those are the happy, sunshiny souls that are open to see all the good
influences of God around them, and that receive into themselves the
reflection of the divine good which God has given to other souls. This is
one of the great privileges of a truly religious society where humility
and charity are the dominant virtues, that each soul is always receiving a
beautiful and powerful influence from all the rest of the community.
The very spectacle gives a light to the words of our Lord, that "where two
or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst of
them."(St. Matthew xviii, 20.)
It is the will of men acting apart from God, and preferring in their pride
to see the evil rather than the good in their fellowmen, that so bitterly
entangles this world of human nature. It is the myriads of self-wills,
impelled each by its own self-love, that produce the knots, the ravels and
the interminable complications that make this world such a wearying
perplexity to thoughtful minds devoid of the wisdom that descends from
God. Even David was perplexed in his musings on these things until he
remembered the judgments of God.
The tragedy of human life is not that strife of free-will with fate that
the ignorant Pagans imagined, but it arises from the collision of pride
with the providence of humiliation, of self- will, destined always to
defeat, against the will of God. There is such an enormous distance
between what we are by nature and what God would have us to be by grace,
that we may pass from misery to happiness; and the obstacles within us
that hold us back or throw us the other way are of such a kind, tending to
seek false instead of true greatness, in the exaltation of ourselves, and
not in ascending to things greater than ourselves, that this alone shows
us what a great part humility must take in replacing us on the path that
leads to God.
Although the light that descends to us from God is the chief principle of
self-knowledge, the watching of our conduct towards our neighbors also
helps us very much to know ourselves.
How Humility responds to the Benignity of God
Although all the virtues imitate God, God Himself has not our virtues, but
He is one infinite virtue and perfection. Our virtue is a struggle against
frailty, a progress to better things, a triumph over weakness, and it is
perfected, as St. Paul says, amidst infirmity. It is the effect of good
will, helped by the grace of God, to bring us near to God.
The Father gives all He has to every creature He has made, and to His
intelligent creatures, capable and willing to receive them, things divine
as well as earthly; but with them He gives the law of justice, which
demands that we give them all back to Him. To do this is humility in man.
Humility, therefore, is nothing less than the reflection in our life of
the truth and justice of God. By humility we also imitate the purity of
What, then, is the benignity of God but the lowering and diminishing of
Himself in the minds and hearts of His rational creatures, that He may
adapt Himself to our limited understanding and contracted sense?
God descends into our ways to raise us to His divine ways, and we obtain
the divine likeness in the degree in which we love Him.
God delights to call Him self our Father, and by that holy title He seems
to preside over His human family in a homely and familiar way. It is
unspeakable what service God is always rendering to us, and what benignity
and condescension we are daily and hourly receiving from our Heavenly
The humble ways of God in this world are His tender, loving ways. They are
the sublimest of all lessons to the proud, if the proud could only learn
them. But whilst they attract the humble, and fill their souls with
sweetness, proving, above all things else, the love which God has for
them; they repel the proud, who could not receive them without the utter
condemnation of their own evil condition.
Had we the true spirit of God, and a humble trust in His benignant care of
all humble things that do His will, we should never want in anything that
might conduce to our eternal good. For His special love and care is for
the humble, whose sincere spirit resembles His own.
All the examples of divine condescension that we can accumulate cannot
bring home to the truly humble soul a conviction equal to the loving sense
within that soul of what God is to the humble. If He rejects the proud, it
is because they are alien to His nature; if He receives the humble, it is
because they are conformable to His life. Those humble spirits who look to
nothing but His goodness are His true children, and He loves to yield to
their prayers and expostulations.
God loves to be resisted in His displeasure, and to be restrained by the
humble from inflicting punishment. One saint will often save a nation; so
true is it that humble souls are the hinges on which God moves the world.
Humility so perfects man for God that when the SON OF GOD took our nature
He could find no other virtue so capable of uniting that nature with God.
The Divine Master of Humility
The Scriptural sense of the word Master signifies one who teaches with
authority, and this title was given to the Son of God both by His
disciples and His adversaries.
Who is the true Master but He who is all that He teaches and incomparably
more than He teaches? Jesus Christ was the substantive Master of
When we speak of Christ as the Master of humility, we speak of something
preeminently great and excelling. The Son of God could not take the nature
of man without making that nature morally perfect, and He has shown in
Himself that the foundation of moral perfection in a creature is perfect
humility. He could not, again, take the office upon Him of our Mediator
and Redeemer without showing us in a pre-eminent way by what virtue we are
reconciled to God and made open to His sanctifying gifts. This virtue He
therefore manifested the most conspicuously in Himself. He took it as His
singular prerogative because it was the perfect subjection of His humanity
to His divinity, because it was the virtue by which He redeemed the world,
and because it is the one virtue by which every soul that He came to
redeem returns to God. TO this virtue, therefore, as to His great human
prerogative, He especially appealed as to the chief lesson that we are to
learn of Him, "Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart."(St.
Matthew xi, 19.)
The Son of God could never have accepted this condition of humility but
for the divinest reason of glorifying the Holy Trinity, which He did in
taking the headship of humanity, in perfecting that humanity in Himself,
in recovering that humanity to God when lost, and in restoring that
humanity to the great and divine end for which every intelligent soul was
created. He took this humble condition to drive back and destroy the huge
invasion of pride that was the ruin of the human race. "Being in the form
of God, He thought it no robbery to be equal with God, but emptied
Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of man,
and in habit found as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto
death, even the death of the cross."* In which form of a servant He was
less than the Father, less than Himself, unequal to Himself, unlike
Himself, emptied to all appearance of Himself, in this land of misery and
sorrow, that by restoring us to humility He might restore us to God.
Thus through His Incarnation the Son of God both consecrated and deified
humility, making it more glorious to be humble with God, than to be
exalted with pride among the children of men. To imitate Christ in His
humility is something truly great.
But pride was not the only evil that withheld men from God; the
covetousness of the things of this world, and the appetite for sensual
pleasures drew them with an overpowering fascination from the knowledge of
God and from the love of eternal good. On this account it was necessary
that we should not only have the example of humility but also of
self-abnegation, which is so intimately connected with humility. Our Lord,
therefore, united His humility with poverty, and His poverty with self-
abnegation. Nor was this merely for our example, but because the life of
humility, poverty and self- abnegation is the most perfect of human lives,
as depending on God alone, and as setting the things of this mortal life
at their true value as compared with the things of eternity. Yet through
all the humility and poverty of Christ His Divinity shines; as in the
humility of His Saints the Spirit of God shines through every abasement.
The calm and gentle way in which the Son of God first makes Himself known
to the people of Nazareth, to those who had known Him for thirty years
from His infancy, and let them know that He, whom they had only known as
an obedient son and a pious working man, was the expected Messiah, and the
fulfillment of the Prophets, has always appeared to me to be one of the
most remarkable passages in the history of His divine life. It is not only
remarkable for the calm gentleness of His bearing at so solemn a moment,
but for the humility with which He makes an announcement so startling to
His audience. There is none of the excitement or fervor of enthusiasm with
which mere human nature would have announced a great personal claim for
the first time, especially when contrary to all the preconceptions of his
hearers; there is the calmness of God in the figure and voice of man. He
reads the prophetic description of His divine mission in the ordinary
course of His duty as a reader in the Synagogue, and then, when all eyes
are fixed upon Him, He gently drops the word to their attentive ears,
"This day is fulfilled this Scripture in your ears." All the rest He
leaves to the silent inference of their own minds.
Let it be further observed that in all His humble words and ways, our
Divine Lord never speaks directly of His own humility but once. He lives
and breathes and personifies the virtue, as what is inseparable from Him;
but of his own humility He spoke but once. He spoke once because that was
necessary for our instruction; He spoke once to consecrate this wonderful
virtue; He spoke only once because of the exceeding delicacy and hidden
nature of the virtue, which, like purity, is far too modest to be spoken
of by its possessor except in a case of absolute necessity. And in this,
too, He conveys to us a profound instruction. "Come," He says, "to Me,
learn of Me;" "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh to the
Father except through Me.(St. john xiv, 6.) He is the way to heaven, the
truth from heaven, the life that brings heaven; and He says, Come to Me;
learn this one thing from Me, and you shall know all things; learn this
one thing from Me, and you shall possess all things; learn of Me to be
meek and humble of heart. There is nothing so wonderful in power as the
humility of Christ, who, resting the created nature of His humanity wholly
upon His Divine nature, ascribes nothing whatever to that human nature,
which He knew so perfectly to be nothing without God.
Having once learnt from Christ that the great lesson He has come to teach
us is His own meekness and humility, we then discover that His
Incarnation, His birth, all the actions of His life, His sufferings and
death, all speak to us, and breathe into us, this divine lesson of
humility; and everywhere, even when His voice is silent, His life and
conduct say to us: "Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart."
The passion of our Lord presents all the great virtues in their perfection
for our imitation, whether self-denial, poverty of spirit, obedience,
silence, humility, purity, patience, prayer, resignation, contempt of the
world, or charity. But among all these virtues He pre-eminently appears as
the Master of humility. His passion is the book of humility, His Cross is
the throne of humility, the terrible way from the Mount of Olives to Mount
Calvary is the substantive exposition of the words, "Learn of Me, for I am
meek and humble of heart."
The Cross is the instrument of contrition upon which the earthly man is
broken to be reformed upon the heavenly man. The Cross is the divine
school of patience; the school of self-abnegation; the school of penance;
the school of charity. The foot of the Cross where Mary stood with John,
and where the prostrate Magdalen wept her loving grief, is the great
school of humility, where the soul is purified and brought to God. There
for ever sounds the great command of the Divine Master, "Learn of Me, for
I am meek and humble of heart."
Humility the Receptive Foundation of the Divine Gifts and Graces
It is impossible to imagine holiness in any of God's creatures without
humility and purity. For as chastity is the body's purity, humility is the
soul's purity, and purity is the first condition of sanctity.
The more humble and pure a soul is, the more she looks away from herself
into the perfect type of holiness in whose light she sees nothing in
herself but the gifts of God and her own defects.
Humility is the virtue that measures our failures from justice, and our
distance from the Eternal Justice, and that labors to make and to keep us
truthful and honest within ourselves and before God.
What God seeks in man, what He loves in man, what He rewards in man is
St. Paul calls the true Christian God's building and God's husbandry. He
lays in us the foundation of faith that we may know Him, of hope that we
may desire Him, and of charity that we may love Him, serve Him and rejoice
in Him. But this can only be done in a soul that is duly disposed. For God
cannot build a divine edifice on an earthly foundation, not upon
self-love, not upon self-elation, not upon self-seeking, not upon hollow,
delusive, revolting pride; not upon animal concupiscence. A building upon
such quicksands would soon be swallowed up. All this creation of our own,
if anything so vain ought to be called a creation, must be swept away. And
why? That God may find His own creation, and not a mere falsified creature
made into a lie by vanity and pride, but His own creature as He made it,
pure and simple, and duly subject to Him, that He may work what is good
and holy on His own foundation.
We are not created with virtue, but with nature; we are not created with
grace; that must be given to our nature.
Empty yourself, and see that I am God."(Psalm lxxii, 20-28.) Humility is
the animated capacity of the soul, vacated of self-seeking, and looking to
God with desire to be filled with His light, grace and goodness.
God will not throw away His noble gifts upon those who cannot be made
worthy of them even by the gifts themselves. If the soul is not subject to
God as well as open, she cannot receive the grace of the Christian
Frail as man is, humility will make a foundation in him strong enough for
God to raise an edifice upon it that shall last for eternity. The progress
of humility is the progress of the soul. We may know the extent of the
grace that is given us by the strength of our humility. Our very
perfection is humility. The gifts and prerogatives conferred on the
Blessed Virgin were all given to her humility; this she expressly declares
in her Canticle of gratitude.
On the Magnanimous Character of Humility
Christian magnanimity is a most generous virtue, because it is essentially
opposed to selfish considerations. It is greatness of soul opposed to
littleness of soul. It is also concerned with security or tranquillity,
which rests with a sincere conscience on God.
Great generosity gives to every virtue the quality of magnanimity, because
generosity proceeds from greatness of soul, great in aiming to please God,
and to do Him honor. The sons and daughters of the Eternal King, ought to
have great souls, they ought to be ready to do great things for His honor
He is magnanimous who rudely mortifies his senses, giving no more to the
body than it needs, that the spirit may hold command, and be free, and the
soul filled with good things. He is magnanimous who will not let his soul
be ruffled by offensive words or violent deeds. He is greatminded who has
his chief conversation with the eternal truth and justice. Why should that
truth be always near us, and we commonly far away, unless from our
little-mindedness? He is great-minded who keeps himself in the Divine
Presence, and is never long away from the sense of the Eternal God. God is
always with us, why should we not always be with God? The great souls of
all ages have walked with God.
Soft and pusillanimous souls are too weak to walk steadfastly before God
through the pilgrimage of life; but the great-souled are subject from
their inmost heart to God, accounting that nothing can be greater for them
than to be in the hands of God. TO be great-souled is to be full of faith,
of a faith that so lights up the eternal world to them, that the mortal
things of this world fade before their eyes like dying flowers. The
great-souled are magnanimous in sacrificing the love of self to the love
of God, until all their strength flows into charity. Happy they who are
released from bondage to themselves, that they may be large and free in
the generous atmosphere of light and grace. All that we require is that
the soul be open and generous. Humility opens the soul, charity makes her
For nigh two thousand years the world has known the Son of God in human
Christ Jesus was the perfect man in perfect union with God, the model of
manhood to all men, most perfect in magnanimity as in all virtues, yet the
world could not understand Him; so very different is the Divine from the
human view of magnanimity.
Although both heathen and Christian magnanimity aim at making the soul
great, and that by seeking great things and despising little things, there
is an immeasurable distance between them, which is still visible in the
man of the world as compared with the servant of Christ. The man who
prefers himself to God, or the things of this world to the things of God,
or the interests of time to the interests of eternity, or the being
honored by men to the being honored by God; not great-souled, but
The sublime way of humility is, that a man be poor in himself and rich in
On the Detestable Vice of Pride
As pride is the root of all evil, the vice of vices, and destruction of
the virtues, it is the chief enemy of God and of man. It contradicts the
whole reason of humility. It is not only irrational, as all sins are, but
it is an uncreaturely sin, which other sins are not.
The proud man does not behave like one whom God has recently created from
nothing, and whom He may summon to His presence at any hour. He acts as
though he were not dependent on God, and as if what he is, and has, were
not altogether owing to the divine will and bounty. This vice is so
thoroughly opposed to the nature and condition of man, as well as to the
rights and claims of God, and is so destructive of all spiritual good,
that God has proclaimed to us this warning in His Scripture, "Pride was
not made for man."
The greatness of the soul is her capacity for God. A soul without the
Spirit of God is an existence without its object, a mere failure from the
reason of its existence, like a house that is never inhabited, or a body
that is never animated. The soul can only be perfected, as the very
constitution of her nature is an image of God, in so far as she possesses
the life of God.
Sin is an aversion from God and a conversion to the creature, accepted as
a good in place of God against all reason and justice; and pride is the
aversion from God in all sin.
Inordinate self-love is the cause of pride.
From the beginning to the end of the Holy Scriptures, we shall find if we
study them attentively, one fundamental truth, and one unceasing
admonition. We hear it in Paradise, we see it on the Cross. It runs
through the sacred histories, is loud in the prophets, frequent in the
sapiential books, continuous in the Gospels, and rises in many pages of
the Apostolic writings. This fundamental truth instructs us to know, this
constant admonition exhorts us to act on the belief, that what God accepts
from man is humility, and that what He rejects is pride. His blessings are
for the humble, His maledictions are for the proud. In every virtue it is
humility that He rewards, in every vice it is pride that He punishes. And
when we remember that it is humility that subjects the soul--and the
virtues to God, and that it is pride that sends the soul away from God,
and inflames the vices with its malice, we shall see that it cannot be
Let us, then, entreat of God with our whole powers, that in His mercy He
would deliver us from pride, and would grant us the inestimable gift of
humility, that we may not follow the evil spirits in their pride to
destruction, but Christ, the Divine Master of humility, to sanctification.
Which may God in His goodness grant us now and for ever. Amen.
The World without Humility
The light of reason is sufficient to teach the knowledge of God, but not
to bring man into union with his Creator. For the light, naturally
implanted in the human mind, bears witness to God, and the conscience is
His voice. But the pride that is in man separates him from God, turns his
soul from the light, corrupts his interior sense, and smites him with
In the Scriptures and the Church we learn that the true progress of man is
towards God, and that the path of this progress is upwards to greater
truth and higher justice.
But the heathen world teaches us the terrible lesson of the final end of
false progress, of progress away from God through the dreary downward path
by the ways of negation and false liberty. First, the sense of dependence
on God is lost, and so the virtue of humility departs. Then man forgets
his Creator, forgets Him until he no longer knows that he is a creature,
and so the intellectual principle of humility disappears from his mind.
Pride, then, remains master of his heart without a rival, but still
wanting a God, though a God consistent with his license, he begins to
deify the creature.
The rejection of the humility of faith and of the Gospel, is rapidly
bringing the world at large to the old heathen conditions of thought and
conduct, and to the old heathen confusion of substituting the powers of
the world for the sovereignty of God. This is manifested in many ways.
Again, the idolatries of the modern world are in various respects more
gross than the idolatries of the ancient world. For the ancient world
idealized nature, and, however erroneously, still associated that nature
with some ideal of the divine, and ascribed divine attributions to its
departed heroes; but the modern idolatries are given to the gross,
unidealized facts and products of nature. and to human inventions, without
having associated any divine ideal with their powers; the ancient world
had a sense of religion, however corruptly applied. But modern heathenism
has dismissed every sense of the divine, and has given its devotion to the
bare powers and phenomena of nature; or to the worship of poor fallen
humanity; to the deification of accumulated wealth; to the veneration of
mechanical inventions; to the cultivation of material luxury; and to the
superexaltation of pride, independence and self-reliance. Whatever a man
seeks, honors, or exalts more than God, that is the God of his idolatry.
There is no need of temples, altars or statues for material, mental or
social idolatry; whatever is preferred in mind and heart to God, whatever
is chosen as the chief end of man's pursuit in place of God, constitutes
the idolatry of these times.
Modern states have certainly not claimed divinity for themselves like the
old heathen Government; their tendency is to discard religion as a
foundation, and to remove its sanctions from beneath their constitutions
and laws Hence the ever-growing tendency to substitute temporary
expediency for the fixed principles of wisdom, and the unstable voice of
the multitude for the maxims of experience and the long foresight of
prudence. There is everywhere visible an enormous jealousy of the
authority of religion over the souls of men; and like the heathens of old,
the ambition of States is to reign alone, and to have no power above their
own in the world. In nothing is this shown more than in those secular
systems of education held in the hands of the State, in which all minds
shall be trained by compulsion upon the mind of the State, after the
fashion of the Spartans, leaving the rights of God and of the family out
of consideration, and reducing all minds to one dead level of rationalism.
On the Foolishness of Vanity
Vanity, or vain-glory, is the off-spring of pride, and the eldest daughter
of that detestable vice. Pride is her father, self-love is her mother,
and cobwebs are her clothing. She is such a light, fond thing, that were
it not that her seductions weaken and undermine the best-formed minds and
hearts both of men and women, for her own sake she would be unworthy of
any serious consideration. A man or woman given up to vanity is filled
with light follies unworthy of the dignity of the soul and the noble end
for which the soul is created. It may be more secret, as a rule, in men
than in women, but it is not the less dishonest for that reason.
The word vanity sounds of things hollow, shallow and trifling; but that is
no trifle which makes the soul light and trivial, and unrobes her of her
Every creature has in it a natural vanity, because created from nothing,
and unless supported by God, of its own nature it would go back to
nothingness. It is vain also, because by the mere force of its own nature
no creature can come to its final end.
The worst effect of vanity is that it makes the soul empty and inane. It
not only destroys good but leads to evil As nothing in human nature is so
sensitive as vanity, there is nothing that suffers more. It is easily
wounded, often mortified, and frequently disappointed. What vanity tempts
is the empty soul, and the soul inflated-with the ruinous pride of
The remedy for this disorder is in the exercise of that most sincere of
virtues which wars against pride and all its offspring, and which bears
the name of holy humility.
The Humility of Faith
Our life begins in utter ignorance of all things, and our mind is first
opened by the instinctive faith that we place in those around us. Without
this faith we could make no beginning of knowledge. The simple, open,
confiding spirit of childhood enables us to learn much in a short time.
But youth advances in knowledge through faith in the teacher as well as
childhood. We are now speaking of human faith. There are three moral
elements in this teachableness. The first is the consciousness of
ignorance, which is an element of natural humility. The second is the
opening of the mind to the teacher, which is a second element of humility.
The third is the belief given to the teacher, which is a third element of
humility. This is the human way of knowledge; it begins with faith, and
the greater part by far of every one's knowledge has no other ground than
The principles of divine faith are totally different from the principles
of human faith. Human faith rests on the testimony of man; divine faith on
the testimony of God.
The natural man cannot understand divine faith; he must be prepared for
it, and God alone can prepare him.
As the truth revealed by God is above all created nature, and is divine,
the grace of God must dispose the soul for its reception; and this
disposition is obtained not by study but by prayer, not by disputation but
Faith is the first light, the heralding light, the foundation placed in us
of what in its final perfection will be the beatific vision of God. It is
the beginning of the eternal ways in us, the commencement of our union
with God, and is compared in the Scriptures to a first espousal of the
soul with God: "I will espouse thee to Me in faith."(Osee i, 20.) It is
the first thing that makes us acceptable to God, for as Paul says,
"Without faith it is impossible to please God."(Hebrews x, 6.) We please
Him by the humility with which we acknowledge Him to be the fountain of
truth, and subject ourselves to Him as the children of His truth.
Faith is by its very nature a subjection of the mind and will to God as He
is the Sovereign Truth, a subjection to His divine authority as the
illuminator and teacher of the soul, and a subjection to the truth which
He teaches by revealing. Moreover, as a test and trial of this subjection
to Him, God is pleased to require that this subjection of faith shall be
openly made and manifested before all men, by our open submission to the
Church which He has appointed to represent His authority, and to the voice
of her teaching, and to her ministry of grace, as exercised in His name
and by His power. This is not only faith, but the humility of faith,
because it is the subjection of the mind and heart to the authority of
God, and to His truth in the way that He imposes and prescribes.
Humility must remove pride and open the soul that the grace of faith may
What prevented such numbers of those who followed our Divine Lord, and,
attracted by curiosity, heard His words and saw His mighty power in His
miracles, from believing in Him? Our Lord Himself has proclaimed the three
causes of their unbelief: their pride, their love of this world's
interests, and their, human respect. And He proclaimed the two conditions
which would alone enable them to follow Him as disciples, and to become
members of His kingdom. These were humility and self- abnegation.
Humility, then, is the groundwork of faith, and faith the groundwork of
the other Christian virtues, which are all exercised in the light of
faith. Humility frees the soul from pride and error, faith fills her with
light and truth; humility opens the soul that faith may enter; humility
brings us to the knowledge of ourselves, and faith to the knowledge of
God. But the knowledge of God brings so great an increase to the knowledge
of ourselves, when we use that knowledge rightly, that humility may be
said to rest on faith as much as faith rests on humility.
The force and wisdom of faith is the love of God and our neighbor. For
charity is the light of faith, and faith is the light of charity.
Wherefore let us cultivate humility, that we may have a larger soul for
faith and charity; and faith, that we may have a greater light from God
and deeper knowledge of the eternal mysteries, and charity, that we may
obtain the fruit of faith and humility through the closer union of our
soul with God. But faith is cultivated by prayer, and by meditation, and
by contemplation, and by living, and thinking, and acting in the light of
faith, and in the presence of God.
On the Schools of Humility
Every science is founded upon certain fixed and unchangeable principles of
truth, and is guided by rules that spring from those principles. The
science of humility rests upon the knowledge of God and of oneself; it
fills the whole distance between the creature and the CREATOR. The Giver
of this science is God, whose light descends into our interior, and shows
us what we are in His sight, and what we ought to be. Hence the science of
humility is profound, descending as well as ascending beyond the sphere of
human comprehension; for the depths of the soul are unfathomable and the
heights of God are unattainable in this day of probation. We must,
therefore, learn the great laws of humility from God, who has sent us His
SON to teach them, who is himself their great example, and whose Cross is
lifted up as the beacon-flame of His doctrine over the whole troubled sea
of human life.
There is one unrivaled master in every science, and our Lord Jesus Christ;
the Supreme Master of Humility.
But the science of humility is not humility; the science only provides the
knowledge and the rules for its exercise. Humility is a virtue, and
belongs to practice; it is a divine art or discipline exercised in the
deeper regions of the soul. By this discipline the soul is opened,
enlightened, purified and invigorated to act with freedom in the gifts of
The rules that guide the science of humility spring from all the relations
that ought in justice to exist between the soul and God.
The Church has her great schools of humility in her Monastical and
Religious institutions. They may be properly called the schools of the
Beatitudes, devoted as they are to the methodical cultivation of the
divine counsels that were delivered to mankind by the Son of God. They are
founded on the virtues of humility and charity; their system of training
is based upon humility; and their discipline is perfected in the exercise
of that virtue, whose spirit pervades the Beatitudes as it begins with the
first of them, and whose true disciples are the choice and privileged
portion of the Church of God.
On Humility as the Counterpart of Charity
Let us ascend in mind through the grace of God to the Divine Fountain of
all charity. God is charity; charity is the life and perfection of His
being. What an infinitude of life and love is expressed in these three
little words: God is charity. As the shell on the sandy shore cannot
contain the ocean that rolls round the world; as the laboring breast of
man cannot contain the pure and boundless ether that fills the heavens; as
the body of man could not pass into the intense conflagration of the sun
without instant destruction; neither can the soul of man embrace,
comprehend or enter into the infinite charity of God. Yet some drops of
the ocean are in the shell; some little modified breath of that ether is
in the breast of man; and some tempered rays of the warmth of that sun are
in our earthly frame. Some created rays from His uncreated charity has God
also deigned to impart to the soul of the humble Christian, which are full
of divine life and love; and in virtue of that sublime gift, the moment
the words are sounded in his ears, he knows and feels to his inmost core
that God is charity.
There is no other reason for the existence of this world than the charity
of God and the communication of His charity. The world was made for man,
man for the soul, the soul for charity, and charity unites the soul with
God. From charity God created the world, and by charity He perfects the
end for which the world was made, for that end is the happiness of souls
possessed of charity.
There is a kind of life in the soul without charity, but it is not the
life for which the soul was made, not true life, but initiatory and mere
infantile life, which is life in pain and sorrow from want of our true
Humility disposes the soul and prepares the way for charity, and greater
humility prepares and disposes the soul for greater charity. True humility
never was, never is, and never can be without charity. Humility is the
sacrificial element in all sincere love. For as love is the transfer of
our affection from oneself to another, it includes a surrender of
self-love, and this surrender is humility. But when we give up our love
from ourselves to God, this giving up of our love of self to God is
humility, and the love that we give to God is charity.
To humble souls--for they alone are capable--the grace of charity will
never be wanting; for the God who is charity does not mock His children,
but when He commands them to love Him with their whole heart and soul and
strength and mind, He gives them the charity by which they may love Him.
True charity to our neighbor is to love him, whether friend or foe, as we
love ourself, in God, unto God, and for God's sake. For the charitable
love of our neighbor is embraced in the love of God, proceeds from the
love of God, and ends in the love of God.
Nothing makes us more like to God than to forgive those who offend and
injure us; and we may certainly obtain more grace and glory from God
through persecution than through kindness if we know how to use it
rightly. Of this true test of charity our Lord gave us the example in His
conduct to the traitor Judas.
Charity is the way to man as well as to God. It conciliates all
intelligences. And though there may be much excitement in what the world
calls pleasure, there is no solid joy of life or peace of heart except in
charity. "He who abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him."
The Work of Patience in the Soul
The perfection of the Christian soul consists in that complete and
exquisite charity whereby we love God above all things, and our neighbor
as ourselves, for the love of God. This love, this charity that perfects
the soul, is the sublimest gift that we can receive from God in this our
exile, because God Himself is charity, and the life of God is charity. By
charity God lives in us and we in Him.
The love of God is our spiritual life; it makes the will good, the
affections good, the soul good, and the work of the soul good. Without the
Charity of God we are nothing. Woe, then, to that false science which puts
matter before spirit, sense before conscience, darkness before light and
the creature before God, and professes to find the cause of light and
love, those sublimest gifts of the eternal charity of God, in the lowest
and least spiritual elements of His creation. It is an awful proof of the
extent to which cultivated intellects, lost to charity, can be gained to
pride, and of the utter perversion of that light of intelligence which
their minds have received from God.
The grace of patience is given with the grace of charity, as well to
protect it as to bring it to perfection. True patience for the love of
God's therefore the highest test and most evident proof of the presence of
a noble degree of charity, because it can only be obtained even with the
help of grace, by dint of labor, self-combat and effort; but we have the
sensible result in the possession of oneself and in peace of soul.
The soul cannot possess herself when she is held in the possession of her
mortal senses, appetites or passions, or when held in bondage to creatures
that are less than herself, and that trouble, degrade and divide the soul,
and take off her mind and will from what is greater and better than
herself. She can only possess herself in God through charity and patience,
in love adhering to God, in patience persevering in that adherence despite
of all the perturbations and fears of her inferior nature.
So intimate is the connection between patience and humility, that neither
of these virtues can make much progress with out the other; nor can
charity advance towards its perfection without their aid.
To the spiritual man patience is more essential than food, for food
strengthens the body, and preserves it from weakness, but patience
fortifies the soul, and without it no virtue can be firm and solid. But as
we are bound to take more care of the soul than of the body, it is evident
that we ought to be more solicitous for patience than for food.
God is our patience, our fortitude, and our strength, provided we rest our
souls on Him, adhere to Him, are subject to His strengthening influences,
and work with them in loyal co-operation.
Patience is the tonic medicine of our enfeebled nature; it fortifies the
will, soothes down the irritabilities that derange the soul, braces the
powers into unity, and gives stability to all the virtues. As the tree
obtains its strength from being rooted in the ground, the soul, which is
the tree of virtue, obtains her strength from patiently adhering to God.
Patience is concerned in all that we have to resist, in all that we have
to deny ourselves, in all that we have to endure, in all that we have to
adhere to, and in all that we have to do. Wherever patience fails, the act
is weak, and the work imperfect.
On the Nature and Object of Christian Patience
The first thing required to be understood is that patience is an immediate
exercise of the will, which is the spring of all free and moral actions.
It must not, therefore, be confounded with the sentiments, sensibilities
or feelings, because it is a pure act of the will. When the will rests on
God, looks to God and draws strength from God, that patience is generated
which resists all evils and disorders, gives us the possession of
ourselves, and keeps the soul in peace. "Be thou, O my soul, subject to
God, for from Him is my patience."(Psalm lxi, 6.)
The first movements of impatience, the first uneasiness of
dissatisfaction, are warnings to patience to be upon its guard, lest
trouble arise to disturb the soul and take hold of the will. If we calmly
look down from the superior soul upon the first movements of irritation or
impatience, nothing can appear more contemptible; and under the rebuke of
the gaze of our interior eye they vanish in shame. The breath of patience
will disperse the little cloud of trouble and discontent that moves in our
lower nature, but if left to itself it will quickly grow on what it feeds
upon, and will envelop and fill the soul with anger and vexation. For
anger is a brooding vice that feeds on sensitive self- love and imaginary
wrong far beyond the original offense, if, indeed, offense has been given.
There is nothing that drives us to impatience so vehemently, or throws us
into greater interior disorder, than an injury, or the imagination of an
injury, which is far more frequent than real injury. For many things are
said and done without the least intention of injury; some from quickness
of tongue, some from inadvertence or thoughtlessness, some in good-natured
jest, some from good intentions, some from mere imprudence; and no one has
any right to take any of them in bad part, and so commit himself to anger,
grief and sadness. But if anyone should falsely or maliciously assail our
good name and reputation--a mode of detractation not limited alas! to the
children of this world--let us in that case keep our magnanimity, that our
virtue may be stronger than another's vice, and that our patience may
suffer no loss by reason of another's improbity. Rather should we rejoice
in the Lord that He has called us by these means to greater justice, which
is commonly born, receives its growth, and obtains perfection among
injuries and insults.
When things are at their worst according to the world, if the calamity is
rightly used, they begin to be at their best according to God. All things
are in God's hands, to give or take as He chooses; and an immortal soul is
more precious in His sight than all that the world can give. When He
strips a soul of earthly things, He calls upon that soul to look to Him
and to trust in His care and providence.
There is nothing really lost so long as God is with us, nothing,
therefore, to be despaired of. As long as we are simple, upright, fearing
God and departing from evil, placing our hope in God and not in the
prudence of the world, He who has care of His servants will turn their
calamities into blessings.
The only good we have that is excellent and imperishable is our soul, and
the good which God gives to the soul. But by nothing except our own will
can the soul or its good suffer injury. No one can be spiritually injured
except by himself. So long as one possesses one's soul in patience, no one
can take any part of that good away from us. We can only lose the good of
the soul by not holding to it with constancy, and we thus sin by losing
Sadness is the most selfish of all selfish things, and the very essence of
self, eating and consuming the very heart of virtue. When sadness is much
indulged in, there follows a contraction of mind, a weakening of the
soul's power, a dissolving of the heart's strength, and an embittering of
the spirit, which causes restless discomfort, and brings forth indignation
God knows what we stand in need of far better than we know ourselves. Our
trials are the fatherly dispositions of His providence, and it is idle to
fix our mind on human causes, when you are ruled in the results that
affect us by the one Divine Cause. They are brought upon us for our
probation, the correction or the expiation of our sins. They refine away
those noxious humors, the products of self-love and sloth, that obstruct
and impede the generous flow of spiritual life. They plant in us the
ground seed of merit, and prepare the rewards of endurance. They make us
generous in conforming our will to the will of God. Hence the cheerful
endurance of trials and sufferings is a virtue truly sublime, reaching its
heroic degrees in the martyrs and confessors of God. We are made to enjoy
God. But we must be purified before we can be sanctified; and we must
deserve God, as far as we are able, by becoming more like to His Incarnate
SON, crucified in spirit as well as in body.
Be it understood and remembered that the darkness of trial is not evil,
that dryness of spirit is not sin, that confusion of mind is not malice.
They are invitations to patience, calls to resignation, beckonings to the
healing cross, admonitions to be humble and obedient to the will of God.
But if in our interior trials we lose patience, then we fall into sadness,
and so become weak, troubled and discouraged. The remedy for sadness is
prayer. God is secretly present with the suffering soul, and in reward for
patience she receives a secret strength and peace.
On Patience as a Universal Virtue
One color cannot make a picture, nor one virtue a saint; many colors unite
and blend their shades to form a beautiful work of art, and many virtues
unite and blend together in happy mixture to make a beautiful soul.
All the Christian virtues live in the light of faith, all look to hope,
all obtain their life from the love of God. They are founded in humility,
sustained by fortitude, strengthened and protected by patience.
A soul given to impatience loses strength from every virtue and weakens
her hold on all that is good; she has not the spiritual nerve to hold
herself together; for in the impatient soul there is a restlessness, a
wavering, a want of spiritual fiber, a swerving from good intention, and a
want of steadfastness in action that disturbs the soul.
All the present conditions of life seem to combine in making men restless
and unstable. Most men have become eager for novelty and change, and they
live so much outside themselves as to neglect or even abandon the interior
good of their souls. The tree of knowledge of good and evil has been
shaken for its fruits, and if the knowledge of good has fallen to those
who are inclined to good, the knowledge of evil has fallen in great
abundance to those who are inclined to evil. We live in the midst of a
restless, impatient and fevered life, that more than ever demands for our
security patience of will and stability of mind.
Food is not more essential to strength of body than patience is to
strength of soul; and God in His goodness makes us conscious of our
weakness, that we may be induced to seek the means of strength. What God
loves and approves in us is the cheerful and loving patience that we put
into our duties, because that is the spirit of charity, and expresses the
amount of charity with which we serve Him. Every new restraint that we
put upon the hurry and impetuosity of our excitable nature IS a reduction
to order, a power gained, a weakness removed, a further subjection of
nature to grace, a step in the way of peace, that makes us less unlike to
God. The secret of cheerfulness and content is in the freedom of spirit
obtained by the conquest of the body.
There is also an impatience with oneself; and who is not acquainted with
that infirmity? It may have its beginning in some venial fault or error
into which we have slipped or glided with no great deliberation. But the
failure has wounded our self-love, and produced an interior annoyance and
vexation, which is far worse than the original fault. Like throwing away
the medicine when the disease appears, patience is given up at the very
moment when wanted to cure the infirmity. Had we taken to that steadying
virtue at once, the mischief would have been stayed; but the shame and
humiliation of failure is allowed to disturb the heart, to discomfort the
soul, and to bring on a certain sadness that goes from one act of interior
impatience to another, doing more harm than a hundred of those faults from
which this disorder is allowed to rise.
Patience would have purged the sin, and would have saved you from it in
future. Take hold of patience, or the one fault will bring you others that
are greater in its train.
On Christian Fortitude
The greatest moral strength of which the soul is capable comes of the
Christian grace and gift of fortitude, of which patience is a potential
part, that is to say, it agrees with patience in some respects and differs
from it in others. Patience is mostly concerned in overcoming the
restlessness of nature, in enduring adversities, in resisting temptations,
and in subduing or keeping away impatience, anger or sadness. Fortitude is
a braver and a stronger virtue, is more deeply woven into the
constitutions of the soul, and is concerned with difficult action as well
as with difficult endurance. Fortitude is required to face great dangers
bravely, to undertake great works beset with difficulties, or to undergo
martyrdom or the equivalent of martyrdom. Fortitude is a virtue more
deeply seated in the soul, is more calm in its operations, and less the
subject of consciousness than patience.
The world admires its own heroes, who, for honor, interest or the
excitement which it gives them, undergo great labors, do works that look
large in the eyes of men, encounter great perils with risk of life, or
endure extreme sufferings for some public cause. And though these men are
not infrequently known to have their moral deficiencies and failings, yet
the world exalts them, rewards them with honors and benefits, and erects
monuments to their memory. The hope of these things is often the leading
motive next to the pride that moves within them. But the heroes and
heroines of God, although the world takes little note of them, are far
more wonderful. Armed with Christian fortitude, their hearts are set on
God, in whose strength they do great things, and, whilst wholly
indifferent to the world's opinion, are a spectacle to God and His angels.
In their valiant combats they first conquer themselves, that they may be
in a position to surmount all outward dangers and difficulties. They have
no fears but the fear of God, and no will but His will. Let but the will
of God be known, and, however difficult the task may be to human nature,
no fear, no obstacle will daunt their ardor in accomplishing His will. The
way of God in His servants is the way of fortitude in humility.
Of all the burdens laid upon us in this life the heaviest is our own body,
and this is owing to the just law which God passed upon that old sin,
which is so widely known but so little understood. The soul trembles and
quakes with fear, lest the body be vexed or tormented with pain or labor,
or be taken from us by death. Through the mere custom of always carrying
the body, we love the burden of it, and find it hard to realize that, if
through the help of the law of divine love we govern the body wisely and
well, it will obtain its resurrection and salvation, and its rights will
suffer no injury. But when the soul is turned to God with the fortitude of
love, these things become known and death is not only endured but welcomed
There remains the great conflict with pain and suffering, yet nothing of
this kind is of such iron hardness and obstinacy but the fire of love will
master it. When this fire bears up the soul towards God, she soars up
freely and wonderfully on strong and beautiful wings over every torment
inflicted on the body, until her chaste desire brings her to rest in the
embrace of God. Can we ever allow that God would permit the lovers of
money, or of praise, or of sensual pleasure, to become stronger than His
own lovers? Their affections are not love, they deserve no other name than
that of concupiscence or lust; yet they show what a force the soul can put
forth, even in the heated and noxious pursuit of those poor objects. But
this is an argument for us, for if the lovers of these things can endure
so much whilst deserting God for the sake of them, how much ought we to be
ready to endure to save us from the unhappiness of deserting God.
A Life of self-denial is a martyrdom. The life of the true Christian is a
daily cross and martyrdom. To deny oneself, to combat the corrupt
propensities of our nature, to keep the desire of Eternity well advanced
before the things of time, and to endure whatever may come upon us,
demands a patience, a fortitude, and a perseverance like the force that
carried the martyrs through their sufferings.
Softness comes of ease and pleasure. A soft and easy life melts away those
energies whereby we endure labors and hardships, and dissolves the force
that encounters and conquers the difficulties that are met with in doing
good works, and especially in doing them in the best and most perfect way.
The proper cure for the contemptible vice of softness is labor and
Whatever befalls you, let it not upset or disturb your mind. The whole
world cannot injure a soul that is fenced with faithful fortitude.
On the Patience of the SON of GOD
Of all that God has taught us, and of all we have learnt by experience,
there is nothing that strikes the reflecting mind with more awe and
wonder, or proves more fully His perfection, than God's infinite patience
with His rebellious and sinful creatures. To the eyes of faith, this very
patience is one of the sublimest proofs of the divine perfections.
As the Lord of men, Jesus Christ became their teacher, and He exhorts us
to take up our daily cross, and to follow Him with patience.
Severe to Himself, He is gentle, mild and forbearing to all others. His
meekness is the beautiful flower, His peacefulness the sweet fruit of His
patience. His doctrine is doubted and disputed; He is charged with being
an impostor; He is called a blasphemer; His wonderful works are ascribed
to the devil; His adversaries gnash their teeth, burn with rage and are
prepared to stone Him. Yet His equanimity is unmoved, His meek demeanor is
not altered, the calmness of His peace undergoes no change. Resting on His
union with His Father, the ground of His invincible strength, His divine
fortitude is tried at every point, and at every point His patience is
If we enter into the interior of the SON of God, we shall there find a
crucifixion of the soul sustained by a charity most patient because most
divine. Nothing can be so helpful to souls under interior trials as to
enter in spirit into the interior crucifixion of our Blessed Lord. He
thirsts for the salvation of all whom by His Incarnation He has made His
brethren; and the resistance that He meets with from the pride of
self-seeking wills causes Him the greatest anguish of spirit.
Whenever we draw near to the suffering SON of GOD, and put our heart into
that furnace of love and patience, we receive a light, an affection, and
an unction that soothes all sorrows into peace, cleanses the soul from
evil, and comforts her with a cordial strength and an ever-increasing
desire of the Eternal Good. The world is full of mysteries; the soul is
full of mysteries; Heaven is all mystery to us earthly creatures. But
whoever embraces the Cross with open heart finds therein the explanation
of a thousand mysteries.
We profess to be the patient followers of the patient Son of God. Do we
understand how deep that patience goes which rests the humanity of Christ
upon the firm foundation of His divinity, and gives to His human will the
strength to hold to the will of His Father, unmoved and undisturbed in its
peace and self-possession by all that men can say or do against Him? Do we
understand the profundity of that patience which refrains from every
egotistical self-assertion, however grossly He is misjudged, however
ignominiously He is insulted? He only glorifies His Heavenly Father,
declares His unity with His Father, and equally declares that He can do
nothing without His Father. Yet He calls upon us to be the imitators of
His patience, to rest for strength on Him; to take up our daily cross and
follow Him; to refrain from our selfish egotism; and in patience to
possess our souls.
As the patient sufferings of our Lord were the cause of His glory, the
like patience in sufferings will bring us to His glory.
On Patience as the Discipline of the Soul
What is it to hold our soul in our own possession? As we have not our
resources from ourselves, because we are not created for ourselves but for
God, we cannot possess our soul except in God. We possess our mind in the
light of His truth, and our will in the grace of His love. Hence when Adam
fell from God he lost the possession of himself. So long as our mind
adheres to God in His truth, and the will adheres to God in His love, we
are in possession of ourselves. But if we follow the seductions of error
we lose the possession of ourselves. As our mortal life is only free and
self- possessed when we live in light and air, our spiritual life is only
free and self-possessed when we live in the truth and love of God.
Patience is the possession of the soul, enabling the will to keep the soul
in peace, and to regulate her actions and desires by the light of truth
and justice, with a constant view to her final end.
Impatience is the beginning of every movement that takes away the soul
from God, and so from her self-possession.
The greatest thing for us is the perfection of our own soul; and the
Saints teach us that this perfection consists in doing our ordinary
actions well. We do them well when we do them patiently and lovingly. We
have to perfect our ordinary actions for the love of God, that we may be
perfect in our human way before our Heavenly Father, as He is most perfect
in His divine way. But it is the patience of charity that makes our
actions perfect. It is not the habit or exercise of patience alone that
gives perfection to our actions, but it is patience proceeding from
charity, and working in the spirit abundance of charity.
HE first rule for acquiring patience is to hold its value in great
estimation, and to have a great desire of it.
The second rule is to begin the exercise of patience with our own
interior, and to direct our chief attention to the controlling of our
interior powers. For this virtue must be strong at home before it can be
The third rule is the government of the tongue, which is the surest test
of the custody of the heart. Let thought go before speech, not speech
before thought. The tree is known by its fruits, and man by his speech.
Much talkativeness is the sign of a feeble mind, and an undisciplined
will. The tongue is the great disturber of our peace, and of the peace of
The fourth rule of patience is to keep all things in their just and due
order. To be careless about the order of external things is the sign of an
ill-regulated mind, St. Bonaventure says.
The fifth rule is to bear patiently with those whose tempers are infirm,
and to endure their tempers with charitable kindness.
The sixth rule is to manage our own infirmities of temper wisely. The
provocation may arise within ourselves, or may come from the voice or
conduct of another. Whichever it may be, the true cause of evil temper is
always in oneself. One who is ,habitually recollected in God cannot easily
be moved to anger. Resting the soul on her divine foundation, he enjoys a
peace which makes the soul quickly sensible of the first movements of
disturbance, and quick to turn from them, so that they cannot take hold of
the superior soul.
The seventh rule is given by St. Paul: "Be not overcome by evil, but
overcome evil by good."(Romans xii, 21.)
The eighth rule of patience is to bear our own interior trials, crosses,
and aridities with peace and resignation.
The ninth rule of patience, and one of very great importance, is to bear
patiently with one's own faults and failures. Unless we bear our failings
with patience they will lead us into numberless faults.
The tenth and last rule is that of the perfect, who find a cheering joy in
trials, contradictions, and sufferings, not only because they are great
helps for advancing towards God upon the groundworks of humility and
patience, but because they can find nothing more conducive to detachment
from all that is not God, nothing more effective in subduing their nature
to the reign of grace. They delight in bearing upon them the marks of
Christ crucified. This is a degree of fortitude more than human, a
singular gift of the HOLY GHOST, by which the superior will is so closely
united with God as to remove all repugnance to suffering.
On Patience as the Perfecter of our Daily Actions
That perfection of life consists in doing our ordinary actions well is one
of the wisest maxims of the Saints. Those duties make up the chief sum of
our lives during the time allotted to us in this world. As we owe our life
and time to God, the good Christian has duties at all hours.
The perfection of our ordinary actions depends on high motives, good will
and cheerful patience. High motives give them their value before God; good
will makes them vigorous; cheerful patience makes them orderly, peaceful,
effective and pleasant. Hence the poor man who goes to his daily toils
with good will and cheerful patience for the love of God is a much nobler
person in the sight of God than the man who, from mere human motives,
shines with splendid actions in the sight of the world.
Whatever we do is perfect in proportion to the self-possession with which
we do it, and that self-possession is proportioned to patience. Nothing,
however trifling, can be done well without good judgment. There are fifty
ways of doing anything, but only one perfect way. Nature is always
inclined to hurry, to run before judgment, but grace is deliberate. To
work fruitfully is to work with a patient will; fretful haste damages both
the work and the workman.
They who are patient with obstacles will be patient when the work runs
There are few greater proofs of a well disciplined interior than to be
able to break off at any time with cheerfulness from one duty and to turn
with equal cheerfulness to another, however unexpected the interruption
may be. It is an effect of that detachment of will that comes of patient
That our offices of kindness and charity may have all their sweetness,
beauty and consolation, they must proceed with direct simplicity from the
love of God in the heart. The love of God's the most earnest and most
practical of all things; and when it is devoted with sincerity to the
service of our neighbors it places us in a sublime position that has more
of Heaven than of earth in it. We enter into God's charity when we imitate
His patient love towards all that come within our sphere of action.
Beware of anxiety. Next to sin, there is nothing that so much troubles the
mind, strains the heart, distresses the soul and confuses the judgment.
Anxiety is not in the things about which we are anxious. It is caused by
taking our solicitudes and uncertainties into our own interior and there
making them the subject of our troubled, disquieted and overstrained
There is but one remedy for anxiety, and that is by using the firm force
of patience to keep the objects of our solicitude in their proper place,
and that place is outside of the feelings and before the mind. Every
advancement in humility and patience removes the causes of anxiety and
trouble, because they all have their roots in the restless impatience of
In all your affairs and responsibilities rest wholly on the providence of
God, who alone can bring your plans to a happy conclusion. Yet do your
best in a peaceful way to follow the guidance of God's providence, and
then be assured that if your trust has been in God, whatever success you
may obtain will be all the more profitable to yourself whatever you
yourself may be inclined to think of it.
Whenever you are perplexed as to what course you should take, if you go
blindly into action, you will be sure to repent of it. Wait for light,
wait with patience, and light will not fail you.
Encouragements to Patience
There are two Christian virtues whose names sound unpleasantly to the
sensual man. Humility is one of them, and patience is the other. Self-love
and impatience are cowardly vices, that shrink with insane fear from the
health giving labors of humility and patience.
So completely does the habit of patience form and perfect the character of
the Christian man, so thoroughly does it furnish the test of his faith as
well as of his charity, that St. Paul has not failed to point this out in
his own example to his favorite disciple, Timothy.
What is perfect is unchangeable. The patience of God is unchangeable. But
we, with our little patience, are the subjects of time and change; and
impatience always changes us for the worst. Change, like death, destroys
what went before; if the change comes from God, it is a happy change; it
makes us better than before. If it comes from impatience, it makes us
worse than before. But whoever by patience adheres to God is saved from
the changes that make us worse by union with the unchangeable good,
whereby we always change to better things.
In your patience you shall possess your soul." Every man is a man in so
far only as he holds the free possession of his soul. Every woman is truly
a woman only in so far as she possesses her soul in peace. The Christian
is so far a true Christian as he possesses his soul in God, so that the
world cannot take hold of him. And the secret of this self-possession is
in the patience which gives him a beautiful resemblance to Christ.
These words, "Thy will be done," when they spring from the surrender of
all to God, bring to the soul a peace and courage that are not without a
tasting of the goodness of God. Why are great trials allowed except to
bring the soul to devout acts of resignation? This pure resignation brings
the soul straight to God, establishes her in God, and makes her
comformable to God. True devotion, therefore, consists in true and most
humble resignation. Those who strive most vigorously against themselves,
though they may leave this world imperfect and have to be purified in the
next, will obtain a much higher place in Heaven than those who have not
striven with the same energy and patience, even though these last should
reach Heaven without any need of purgation.
There is nothing that we suffer for the honor of God, however little it
may be, that is not more serviceable to us than if we possessed the
dominion of the world. But suffering must be unselfish. God would not
have us suffer anything for His sake that is not both useful and fruitful
to ourselves. However great our trial or affliction may be, the Son of God
bore them first, and permits them for our good.
Christ our Lord not only perfected His own patience by His sufferings, but
He receives all the sufferings endured by His members for His sake,
incorporates them with His own, endows them with His merits, and thus
gives them a communion with His own proportioned to their loving patience.
For in virtue of His grace and love they are made sacred and holy.
We may sum up the value of patience and resigned suffering in the language
of the devout and learned Blosius.
1. Nothing more valuable can befall a man than tribulation, when it is
endured with patience for the love of God, because there is no
more certain sign of the divine election. But this should be
understood quite as much of internal as of external trials.
2. It is the chain of patient sufferings that forms the ring
with which Christ espouses a soul to Himself.
3. There is such a dignity in suffering for God's sake, that we
ought to account ourselves unworthy of an honor so great.
4. Good works are of great value; but even those lesser pains
and trials that are endured with peace and patience are more
valuable than many good works.
5. Every sorrowful trial bears some resemblance to the most
excellent Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and when it is
endured with patience, it makes him who endures it a more
perfect partaker of the Passion of his Lord and SAVIOR.
6. Tribulation opens the soul to the gifts of God, and when they
are received tribulation preserves them.
7. What we now suffer God has from eternity foreseen, and has
ordained that we should suffer in this way, and not in any other
On the Gifts of the HOLY GHOST
Fortitude is one of the seven gifts of the HOLY GHOST: it is the
strengthening gift, and patience is included in fortitude.
Through the Apostles the HOLY GHOST was manifested to the world in the
inspiration of their preaching, the fortitude of their sufferings and the
wisdom and sanctity of their lives. He is incessantly manifested in the
Church through her wonderful unity, the unchangeableness of her teaching,
the divine gifts of her ministering and the number of her saints.
What a mighty Creator is the HOLY SPIRIT exclaims St. Gregory. He has
only to touch the soul and all is taught.
We owe it to the supreme condescension of God that his HOLY SPIRIT
attaches Himself to His gifts of sanctifying grace and charity. By so
doing He dwells in us, imparts life to us, adopts us, establishes us in
dignity, makes us like to God, and moves us towards God.
The presence of God in the soul gifted with charity is a divine fact, to
be realized by the mind to the utmost. It places the possessor of grace in
a divine order of things that leads up to God and points to His glory.
Take the whole circle of created nature, where grace is not; that nature
is powerless to ascend to God. It follows of necessity that there can be
no proportion of value between nature and grace.
There are two principles of movement then in the Christian soul; one is
the movement of the man, the other is the movement of God. The mere human
virtues move from natural reason; the Christian virtues move from grace.
The gifts of the HOLY GHOST give a higher perfection to the faculties than
the grace of the virtues, raising our spirit to higher things, and
rendering it prompt, vigorous and readily responsive to the divine
Let the soul understand this thoroughly, and reflect upon it earnestly,
that it is the presence, charity and action of the HOLY GHOST within us
that makes us acceptable to God, when we are faithfully obedient to His
light and inspirations. For what pleases our Heavenly Father in us is His
own Divine Spirit, given to us through the merits of His SON, working in
our nature, and drawing our will and mind to work with Him.
St. Basil compares man to a ship under sail. The ship may be well
constructed and provided, but without the impulse of the wind it cannot
move towards its destination. So man may have sanctifying grace and the
habits of the virtues, but without the moving power of the HOLY SPIRIT he
cannot advance towards God. Without the wind the ship is not at liberty:
without the breathing of the HOLY SPIRIT the soul has not her spiritual
If we generously give up our will to the influence of the HOLY SPIRIT, it
will take away all doubting, diffidence, fear, shrinking, inconstancy and
changeableness, wherever the will of God shall manifestly appear.
The honest soul, and as no soul is honest without humility, the humble
soul, then, will ascend in union with the HOLY SPIRIT above all creatures
to worship God with gratitude and praise.
It is said in Proverbs: "Wisdom hath built herself a house, she hath hewn
out seven pillars." This house is the sanctified soul in which the HOLY
SPIRIT dwells, and the seven pillars are the seven luminous and
strengthening gifts that in the living house aspire to God. The seven
gifts are opposed to the seven deadly sins, and they are the life of the
eight Beatitudes. As the heart sends the life's blood through all the
veins and limbs of the body, the HOLY SPIRIT sends His living fire and
unction through all the powers of the soul.
By the gift of understanding the HOLY SPIRIT purifies the eye of the soul,
and leads us into ourselves, where we begin to understand what we are and
what God is. And whilst we subject our understanding to God, His truth
makes us children of light. Moving upwards through that light, we rise
above our senses, above our imagination, above the instincts of our
nature, and enter with intelligence into the presence of God. There we
receive the gift more abundantly in proportion as we die to ourselves; and
from the gift there grows a singular virtue that makes us watchful of
good, and conservative of the light of life. The soul delights in God, and
the interior man is renewed day by day.
We begin with the gift of fear," says St. Augustine, "and passing step by
step through the intermediate gifts, we reach their consummation at last
in the gift of wisdom." This gift is given in its abundance to the pure of
heart, and is chiefly cultivated in contemplation.
It is the final gift, because it tranquilizes the soul, and makes her
peaceful, fruitful and joyful.
The path of prayer is the King's highway from earth to Heaven. Whilst the
body remains on its kindred earth, the spirit ascends on the wings of
grace into that divine region of light and good for which she was created.
This royal path leads the soul into the Eternal Presence, there to plead
her cause with her CREATOR and Sovereign Lord; there to converse in the
humble spirit of child-like affection with her Heavenly FATHER; there to
receive His good and perfect gifts. This royal highway to God was opened
for us by our Lord Jesus Christ, was consecrated by His prayers and
sufferings, and was illuminated by His ascension to Heaven through the
path which He opened. By his Incarnation He bridged the whole distance
between the creature and the CREATOR. He is Himself the way, the light of
the way, and its security. Through Him we have access to the Father, who
answers us with mercy and benignity. "I go to the Father: and whatsoever
you ask the Father in My name, that will I do: that the Father may be
glorified in the SON."(St. John xiv, 13.)
Prayer is, therefore, the noblest and most exalted action of which man is
capable through the grace of God. It is the action of God's created image
seeking union with her Divine Original, and seeking it so that this image
may be healed from offense, and perfected into likeness by the reception
of life from the Eternal Life, and be prepared for beatitude through the
gifts that descend from God's infinite perfection. The voices that reach
the ears of God are not words but desires. If we seek the Eternal Life
with our lips, without desiring that life with our heart, our outcry is
nothing but silence. But when we desire that life from our heart, though
our mouth be silent, in that silence we cry to God.
The great obstacles to prayer are self-love, the inconstancy of the will,
and the sadness that results from self-love and inconstancy. Self-love
draws our sense, thought, and will to ourselves, instead of surrendering
them to God and to the guidance of His HOLY SPIRIT. This causes the will
to vibrate like a pendulum, but in a very unsteady way, between God and
one's self, making the soul restless, impatient, inattentive and
wandering. Yet we cannot look to God and to ourselves at the same time: we
cannot feel after God and after ourselves at the same moment. This is not
pure prayer, but prayer mixed with distractions, self-love and confusion.
The HOLY SPIRIT is the true teacher of prayer, and the liberty of prayer
consists in freely following the divine attraction, which always leads to
greater simplicity, humility, love, patience and union with God. "Commit
thy way to the Lord, and trust in Him.... Be subject to the Lord and pray
to Him."(Psalm xxxvi, 5-7.)
All prayer has one final end, that of our beatitude in God! and all should
be exercised in spirit and in truth. Every kind of prayer leads to
interior recollection according to each one's gift and disposition, and
when this recollection ascends to contemplation, the summit of prayer is
reached Contemplation rises above the senses, above the imagination, above
all processes of the reasoning powers. Collected within herself, the soul
rises above herself, and with a simple view beholds, though "darkly as
through a glass," some manifestation of the beauty, goodness and greatness
of God, which deepens her sense of God. The acts of contemplation are
four: to seek after God, to find Him, to feel His sacred touch in the soul
and to be united with Him and enjoy Him.
On Patience in Prayer
As that which is weak is strengthened by resting on what is strong, the
soul is made strong by resting with her interior center upon the
strengthening power of God. "Be thou, O my soul, subject to God: for from
Him is my patience."(Psalm lxi, 6.) What is restless by nature can only be
made calm and peaceful by union with what is calm and peaceful. We obtain
peace from our trouble by union with the God of PEACE. "It is good for me
to adhere to God, to set my hope on the LORD GOD."(Psalm lxxii, 28.) As we
can only obtain stability of mind and heart by union with what is
unchangeable, our soul obtains stability by union with the unchangeable
God. The principle of that union is charity, and God has placed the power
of patience in the gift of charity, that we may be able to adhere with our
spirit to Him in a firm, stable and patient love. "Charity is patient."
Whatever is created is made for an object and an end which is different
from itself, from which it receives its fullness, peace and perfection.
God has created us for Himself, and only by union with God can we receive
our fullness, peace and perfection. This union we seek in prayer, and by
prayer we prepare ourselves for our eternal union with God.
It is of great importance to understand what we ought to put into our
prayer; for the value and merit of our good works depend less on their
show than on the spirit and virtue put into them.
The first condition of prayer is attention, which word signifies
a stretching forth. We stretch forth the ear to listen, the eye
to see and the mind to understand.
The second condition is humility, whereby the soul is opened and
made subject to God.
The third condition is faith in God, and trust that He will hear
our prayer, and grant us according to His promises.
The fourth condition is the love of God, which makes our prayer
generous and acceptable.
The fifth is obedience to the interior movements of the HOLY
The sixth is patience. This virtue should be present throughout
every good prayer.
Let anyone who would feel the value of patient prayer take the "Our
Father" or "The Creed," or a Hymn of the HOLY GHOST and repeat it slowly
and attentively, with the heart on God and the mind on the sense of the
prayer, and he will find, perhaps with some surprise, how much more light
will come to his mind, how much more sweetness to his heart, how much
nearer he will feel himself to God, than when these customary prayers are
little better than gabbled without their full and solemn sense.
Patience is the Queen of the Soul. She is seated on the rock of fortitude.
She conquers, and is never conquered. This virtue is the marrow of
charity. By its presence we know whether the garment of charity with which
we are clothed is the true nuptial garment or not. If this garment have
rents in it, it is an imperfect garment, and impatience will escape
through the rents.
Impatience springs from one of two causes: from spiritual death when the
soul is in mortal sin; from imperfection of life when the root of
self-love is not mortified. Those imperfect souls live by grace, but they
are tender about themselves, sensitive from sensuality and have a soft
compassion for their own weakness. This leads them to murmuring, and to
judging the wills of other persons. All this comes from self-love, and
impatience is the proof of it. They love their own way, and what tongue
can tell the troubles of self-will? In these self-willed persons the eye
of the understanding is obscured; their faith, the very apple of the eye,
is clouded with self-love, and they are unfaithful to their light. The
impatience that follows makes them disobedient; this weakens their
judgment; and this again leads them to murmuring. Although they live in
grace their souls are imperfect; their self-love obscures their sight and
their virtues are imperfect. Impatience is the habitual outcome of
infidelity to what God ordains for us.
On the Cheerfulness of Patience
There can be no better proof of a healthy soul than habitual cheerfulness.
Christian cheerfulness is that modest, hopeful, and peaceful joy which
springs from charity and is protected by patience. It is the
well-regulated vigor of spiritual life that throws off all morbid humors
and depressing influences, refusing them a lodgement in the soul devoted
to God. Cheerfulness gives freedom to our thoughts and a generous spirit
to our actions. It makes our services to God acceptable, and our services
to our neighbor grateful. "God loveth the cheerful giver."(2 Corinthians
This cheerfulness of soul springs from the divine good which God has
placed within us, which acts within us, and of which we are partakers.
Hence purity of conscience is a great promoter of cheerfulness, for when
the conscience is clean the affections are pure. But the moving cause of
cheerfulness is in the exercise of the virtues, especially as they are the
ready servants of the joy of loving God. Yet even the joy of charity is
very imperfect, and is often troubled, unless that charity be patient.
If we had no greater joys than the world can give the body, or the body
give the soul, we should be poor creatures indeed, nothing but animals. If
we had no greater enjoyment than the material scientists can give us, we
should be unhappy creatures. Poring into matter until they lose sight of
their immortal souls, they materialize their souls, and wish to
materialize us. Losing the power of ascending from the creature to the
CREATOR, by an immense abuse of their intelligence they drown their souls
in their senses, cast a shadow of gloom and sadness over the world, and do
their best to make it a dreary habitation for immortal souls.
The Christian soul lives in communion with God, and to that soul a
prospect is opened into infinite and unchangeable truth. Within that soul
a sense is opened that tastes the infinite and eternal good. What opens
this eye to the soul? The light of faith descending from God. What awakes
this sense in the soul? The grace of charity from the HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD.
Can anything be so cheering to the soul as her growth in truth except her
growth in good? As truth and good come to our soul from God, can anything
secure their increase like prayer and communion with God? By this holy
converse hope is ever growing of greater things to come. Unlike our
converse with the world, it is inexhaustible in expectation of eternal
The children of the world who live for themselves, know nothing of the
enjoyments of the children of grace who live for God. Bent upon the things
beneath them, their enjoyment comes from nothing that is equal to their
spiritual nature; and what they do enjoy contains the seeds of sadness and
decay. Loving but mortal things with an immortal soul, they pervert the
order of their nature until their desires contradict their wants. The
flowers of their gladness fade and die, and the fruits of sadness come in
Nothing contributes more to cheerfulness than the habit of looking at the
good side of things. The good side is God's side of them. But even on
their human side, what makes them appear worse than they are is conferred
on them by the envy, jealousy and malice of our hearts, falsely imagining
that what depresses others exalts ourselves. Let patience keep down envy
and repress the fancy of our own superiority.
Cheerfulness implies hope, courage, confidence in God, the turning a deaf
ear to the complaints of self-love, and a certain modest joy in the
consciousness that in the hands of God, "in whom we live, and move, and
have our being," we are safe.
Why should we not rejoice in the good things of God? We can rejoice in the
good things of the senses, why not in the good things of the soul? If the
day is pure and serene we enjoy its gladness. Why should we not rejoice
in the serene light of truth that shines from Heaven upon our minds? Why
should we not delight in the beautiful gifts of God? Having an Almighty
and most loving Father, let us rejoice in Him. Having a-most loving
SAVIOR, very God of God, who has made Himself our brother, and feeds us
with His life, we ought surely to rejoice in Him. Having the HOLY SPIRIT
OF God with us, dwelling in us with wonderful condescension. making us His
temples, and pouring His love into our hearts, we ought certainly to
answer His love and rejoice in His overflowing goodness. Why should we
ever set a gloomy face against a guest so beautiful and generous?
The great enemy of the soul is not trial but sadness, which is the
bleeding wound of self-love.
"We may always rejoice," observes St. Chrysostom, "if we will only keep
our head a little raised above the flood of human things."