Part I: On the Habit of Humility
Jesus meek and humble of Heart, make our hearts like unto thine!
On this Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, a meditation on the virtue of humility
by Br. Alexis Bugnolo
As disciples of Jesus Christ we are called to believe in Him and accept Baptism. And when we do so, not only by memorizing the doctrines of the Faith or by being baptised in the laver of regeneration, but by intentionally and actively living them, that is conforming our minds and hearts to them, thus, we are promised the Kingdom of Heaven.
And being promised a Kingdom, means that we have been raised to a royal status.
But alas, most of us forget this. And it has not been preached in many years and decades.
Aristotle said more than 2300 years ago, that the worst form of government was Democracy, and that it ends up in tyranny. Aristotle has been heavily criticized for his simplistic political theories in recent decades but the Scamdemic has proved him once again to be one of the great and most trustworthy thinkers of history.
In Christianity too, our ideal is not democracy. Christ is King and by His grace in the Sacraments we are made heirs of a kingdom. Heaven is not a democracy, but an absolute Monarchy, the justice and honesty of which is guaranteed by the Most Perfectly Honest and Just Ruler, Jesus Christ, Who is God incarnate.
And not only should we recognize that democracy does not work on Earth and is not present in Heaven, so we must acknowledge that the ideals of democracy as regards human character are not the best for humanity nor compatible with Christianity.
For in a democracy there is lauded a chaotic spontaneous liberty, restrained by no morality or hierarchical order. And as such, in a democracy, the individual is urged to manure himself all over, inside and out, with vain glory, pride, avarice, lust, envy, jealousy, intemperance, and worst of them all, toleration of all evil and all forms of chaos, whether they merely upset the public order or require the killing of hundreds of millions of innocents in the name of preserving the liberty or rights of someone else, usually the majority.
But it is quite otherwise in Christendom.
For Christ teaches us that we should and must imitate Him, the King, in His perfect humility. And at the same time, we should imitate Him, our King, in His perfect zeal for spiritual personal righteousness.
Christ is not a Marxist. He did not come to liberate nations from political problems or systems of corruption. He came to save individuals and to call each of us to be honest and just first of all, in our relationship with God and neighbor. And not just a vague hypothetical neighbor, but the ones who live next to our, whom we meet on the sidewalk, workplace, church, store, etc..
As regards the Humility of Christ, here is where most common definitions of humility fail to grasp the reality and essence of the virtue. For we are told that “humility is truth”, “humility is having a true or just appreciation for one’s self”. But these are definitions of the thing as a notion or from without, not how to practice it internally.
And when it comes to an internal virtue, whether humility or purity, its the awareness of how to practice it in the halls of our mind and heart, which is the key to holiness. The same goes with zeal, which is often confused with merely external behavior. So let us consider each more properly.
Humility is the royal garment which merits heaven. Because, “God resists the proud, but to the humble he gives grace”, and without grace, we can do nothing, because grace is a participation in the divine life of Jesus Christ, Who said, “Without Me you can do nothing”.
This means that without humility all our works, howsoever great or good in this world, are without merit for the kingdom of Heaven, because without humility God will resist our works, and see that they come to naught worthy of Heaven. Here is where we Catholics part with the Calvinists and jansenists who believed that exterior works prove the authenticity of a Christian’s faith or charity. Christ Himself warned us agains this, when He said, “They already have their reward”, speaking of the Jews who wore long tassels, blew trumpets to announce their alms giving, preferred the places of honor at table.
And Humility is not just a habit metaphorically, but also spiritually, because it must be the constant manner of comportment of our mind and heart in their consideration of the worth of one’s own self, actions, words, and thoughts.
And here is the real secret of humility which has not been preached or well explained, but which is found in the lives of the Saints if you reflect on their words and deeds and choices in life.
For a humble man does not presume he will be saved. Neither as a pagan, nor as a Christian, nor as a Catholic. Neither as one receiving the Sacraments frequently, or saying many rosaries, or making many pilgrimages or giving alms by measure.
No a humble man is first of all a cautious man, because he recognizes from observing himself that he himself is the greatest and only real threat to his own salvation. In his examination of conscience he finds the cause of sin not in others, nor in places, nor in this or that thing, but in himself and in his presumption to think, speak or act in a way which lead him down the road to sin.
A habitual sinner, considers always that sin is far off. And a petty sinner, is a sinner who always thinks it is not much a deal. But a humble man, seeing even the most smallest fault is worried and troubled, and does not remain in a sentiment of worry, but immediately resolves to fix the problem, just as a man arising from sleep to find the floor of his bedroom covered with sewage would take immediate and intense action to fix the problem or flee from that place.
Thus the habit of humility is a habit of mind, whereby we keep in mind our own wretched habits of inclining into sin and besmirching our soul and this world with our vices and sins and injustices. It is not simply something we do when we go to confession, it is a continual inclination of mind to see all the ugliness of our soul which is there, examining it carefully without the intention of being preoccupied by self, but rather with the intention of conforming oneself to God’s Will and Justice and measuring our wretchedness by These Eternal Measures.
But it is impossible to acquire the habit of humility by our own actions. We are given it in Baptism and we can merit an increase by practicing it. We can recover it in Confession, but rarely do so. We can obtain it by prayer and by the intervention of some saint who has special care for us, for some reason known to God. But it is an extraordinary gift and very rare. And that is why Our Lord warns us, strongly, saying, “Woe!” The path to salvation is narrow and truly few are those who find it. But the paths of pride are many and wide and crowds of souls walk upon them.
The fruit of true humility is seen in a habitual stream of actions, words and thoughts from a soul, which lead it away from the world, the flesh and the devil. If our generation has a problem detaching itself from evil, it is because it lacks humility. The humble soul flees the works of the flesh, the world and the devil. And that means rejecting all the values, interests, endeavors and entertainments and pleasures of men who are carnal, worldly or diabolic. And that is why there are far fare more Saints who were religious monks and sisters, than there are who were layman or secular clergy. Catholics of all ages agreed, but Catholics in modern times, addicted to pride, often down play this, saying that laymen wills save the Church.
But laymen of such pride will never even save themselves! And lead the many to ruin. We have to radically distance ourselves from such errors an d return to God and His will and plans for our sanctification, not just for our salvation. And that means returning to the examples of the Saints of all ages who rejected most firmly such an error. And they knew better, since they knew the root of salvation was in humility.
Moreover, the giver of humility is the Holy Spirit. When He visits a soul, so great is the light of truth, that the soul cannot but be shocked at the utter ugliness and depravity of itself. For this reason, most souls flee the Holy Spirit and make every effort to avoid His presence. And they are so good at this, that they can do so even in the presence of the Most Blessed Sacrament, on a daily basis.
This gift, this grace, this habit of humility is also a delicate one. For the habits of mind, heart, lips and life which presuppose that I, me, and my own, are important, good, upright, just etc.. each are capable of lethal injections of pride, which kill humility seconds after is generation in the soul. This is not on account of the impotence of God to create it, but on account of the delicacy of humility itself. For just as a great craftsman shows his power and talents in making the most delicately contrived art, which however is easily broken, so the gift of humility is breakable so easily to show its outstanding excellence. This explains why Our Lord said that only children will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, because we must have the delicacy of innocence, to avoid the lethality of pride which kills this essential quality of the noble Christian.