Conquering pride

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In one of his revelations to Saint Faustina, as recorded in her Diary which, its English version, titles Divine Mercy in my Soul, Jesus said this to his Secretary and Apostle of Divine Mercy, and through her, obviously, to you and me: “The greatest misery does not stop Me from uniting Myself to a soul, but where there is pride, I am not there” (1563).

Where there is pride Jesus is completely absent in that soul! In order to rightly understand why this is so suffice to revisit what Saint Augustine said some 16 centuries earlier: “It was pride that changed angels into devils”. This catastrophic change from life to death reminds me of what C.S. Lewis wrote in his book Mere Christianity: “According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind… it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began”.

Pride is the cause of the lack of love found in religious communities. Jesus’ laments to Saint Faustina need to be taken with utmost seriousness. Our Lord told her in entry 1702: “Love has been banished from convents. Souls without love and without devotion, souls full of egoism and self-love, souls full of pride and arrogance, souls full of deceit and hypocrisy, lukewarm souls who have just enough warmth to keep them alive: My Heart cannot bear this. All the graces that I pour out upon them flow off them as off the face of a rock. I cannot stand them, because they are neither good or bad. I called convents into being to sanctify the world through them. It is from them that a powerful flame of love and sacrifice should burst forth. And if they do not repent and become enkindled by their first love, I will deliver them over to the fate of this world……” A grave warning indeed!

On the other hand, Augustine’s quote on humility has an extremely happy ending! Indeed, it says: “It is humility that makes men as angels.” As always Augustine’s writings, since they are inspired by God’s Word, offer an everlasting hope that can be enfleshed in daily life. From this simple quote one can decipher the fact that the Bishop of Hippo points to the virtue of humility as the prime medicine against the most terrible evil of pride.

Saint Bernard of Clairveaux defines humility as “a virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself. Jesus Christ is the ultimate definition of Humility”. Therefore, the humble person submits himself and herself to God and legitimate authority. He and she acknowledges the virtues and talents that other people have, especially those that outdo his and her own and giving appropriate honour and, when requested, obedience. The humble person recognizes the limits of his and her talents, ability and even authority. And, most importantly, the humble person acknowledges that his and her talents come from God and thus attributes to Him alone his and her successes.

This Biblical self-emptying is essential if the person wants to be filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus. In his Rule Saint Benedict mentions twelve degrees of humility. Some of them are really relevant to our daily lives. For instance, always have the fear of God before your eyes and never forget it; love God’s will, not your own; be obedient to God and your superiors; accept hardships with patience and endurance; humbly confess all your sins to the priest; be happy with having the worst of everything; be happy not only saying but sincerely believing that you are the lowliest of all people; wherever you are, whatever you are doing, believe that you are a sinner and do not lift your eyes from the ground or from your work.

Pope Francis said: “Humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but rather of the strong, who do not need to mistreat others to feel important.”

Lord, mold me in your humility so that your powerful presence in me heals me and those around me. Amen.

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