Frequent Acts of Humility: an Anti-Pride Medicine

 

Objective Truth Series – reflections article #10

In the last reflection we considered how important it is to look for and to want to do God’s Will and not our own.  We saw how seeking God’s Will helps us avoid frustration and discouragement.  We again saw the value of agere contra, as counterattacks to combat the devil.  Simply saying little quotes in one’s mind can have a tremendous impact on one’s attitude as well as help to foster acquired virtue.[1]  Because virtue is the repeated act of doing good and needs to be practiced over time, it is very important to repeat the action for any particular virtue sought.

Furthermore, Our Lord said, “He who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  It follows that Our Lord is encouraging us to make acts of humility often.  Thus if we repeat humbling thoughts and/or prayers, even small ejaculations frequently, we will get into the habit of thinking and putting ourselves in our proper place.

Since God is the Sculptor of souls, He chooses a soul; He loves that soul and then makes the soul worthy of His Love.  If we make acts of humility and self-abnegation, then God won’t chisel us so hard.  In fact, our frequent acts of humility which are inspired by Him, are in a sense, our cooperating with the Divine Sculptor.  Thence, as a consequence, our wills become more and more submissive to God’s Will.

We can make little acts of humility anywhere and just about any time. Some examples of these little acts are:

 “My life is in Thy Hands, O Lord.”

“Thy Will be done, O Lord, not my will.”

“O God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (500 days indulgence)

“Without Thee, Lord, I can do nothing.”

“Jesus, Meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine.”

Of course, these acts of the will and acts of self-abnegation are very helpful if they pertain to our particular faults.  For example, if one’s particular fault is pride in the form of impatience, one could say things like:

“Lord, You know how frail I am and how impatient I get, please help me patiently accept Thy Will”; or

“Help me to seek Thy Will in all the circumstances that come to me.”

Or one could use an even harder-hitting abnegation such as:

“Lord, You know how I ridiculous I am when I get upset at the least thing that conveniences me; please help me let go of my irritable will and cheerfully accept every circumstance that comes to me.”

These acts of humility remind us that we are worthless compared to God.  They keep us more recollected and living in the Presence of God.  When we keep in mind that, “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (St. James, 4:6), these acts will help us persevere and keep in Divine friendship.  All in all, by saying frequent acts of humility, we can fight pride and foster the virtue of humility.  

These acts then become like our daily doses of anti-pride medicine.  This anti-pride medicine is something we should be glad to self-administer very often, knowing that this medicine helps our souls so much and by this medicine, we will be pleasing God.  With all these preventative measures against pride in mind, our hearts could gladly praise God in words like these:

Through humble acts, though they be small,

One is reminded, he can fall,

No one is safe and none secure,

‘Cause for we humans, pride’s a lure.

 

By simple quotes and simple prayers,

Help us not be, caught unawares,

Pride is subtle, and Satan sly,

Can’t be seen, with the naked eye.

 

‘Tis why we need, to keep alert,

And very often, to assert,

Our wretchedness, how we are low,

And by this means, virtue can grow.

 

These acts do build, virtue’s muscle,

Can ev’n be said, mid daily bustle,

They give a boost, to one’s morale,

And ‘round passions, keep a corral.

 

So little by little, God’s Plan,

Has a striking effect, on man,

God’s chisel works, as blow by blow,

One’s littleness, one comes to know.

 

So he wants not, to self-exalt,

And only wants, to see his fault,

Let only God, not man be praised,

Let man by God, alone be raised.

 

So with joy, let lowly acts come,

And ev’ry day, try to make some,

With medicine, doses ‘gainst pride,

We’ll find ourselves, e’er on God’s side.



[1]           There are two types of each moral virtue: 1) an acquired virtue; and 2) an infused virtue.  The acquired moral virtues come from repeated acts, e.g., repeated acts of temperance cause the acquired virtue of temperance.  By contrast, God gives us infused moral virtues (e.g., the infused virtue of temperance) along with sanctifying grace.

What manner of man am I? Dealing with Typical Human Tendencies – Frustration & Discouragement

 

Objective Truth Series – reflections article #9

 

In our last reflection we considered some methods on how we can be on our guard against pride.  We discussed how the devil can find our weak spot and subsequently attack us.  Two typical ways the devil works against us weak humans with our fallen human nature, is to tempt us with frustration and discouragement.  If we look at the word frustration, it is easy to see how it is precisely a tool of the devil.  The dictionary explains that the word frustration comes from the Latin word frustrare meaning to deceive, and then that frustra means vain, or useless.  The definition of frustrate is “1) to bring to nothing; defeat, also to nullify, and 2) implies a rendering vain or ineffectual all efforts, however feeble or vigorous.”[1] This shows the subtle trap of the devil who wants us to give up making any efforts.

 

This trap can likewise be seen in the following definitions for some synonyms of frustrate.

 

·         Thwart – frustration by running counter to one’s making headway.

 

·         Foil – a repulse that destroys one’s inclination to go further.

 

·         Baffle- a frustration by confusing or puzzling.

 

·         Balk – implies frustration by interposing obstacles or hindrances.

 

It is very interesting to note the thread that all these definitions have in common is that to be frustrated is not for our good.  One can see how frustrations are a diabolical trap to foster demonic pride – precisely because to be frustrated is to not put sole trust in God and His provident care for us.  It is to allow ourselves to get upset or discouraged because something did not turn out the way we wanted, namely, we didn’t get our way in something.  It encourages us to be self-centered and not God-centered which is how pride works.  Likewise, the devil uses frustration to foster discouragement in us so we give up trying to cooperate with God in our salvation.

 

“For if a man be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass.  For he beheld himself, and went his way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was.”  St. James, 1:23-24.

 

We forget what manner of man we are, namely, a creature who depends on God.  When we get frustrated, we simply forget our dependence on God and that we can do nothing without Him.  To be frustrated is to really not look for God’s Will in the circumstances at hand.  We must remember God allows circumstances for the greater good – “all things work for the good for those who love God.”  We must remind ourselves, “This is for my good.”

 

Likewise, when we are tempted to discouragement, it is important to note that this discouragement really comes from the devil because he wants us to think that we can accomplish something by ourselves, without God’s help.  And when we fail to succeed, we are disheartened.  This is the method the devil uses to get us to give up.

 

As we discussed in the last reflection, we must do an agere contra [counter–action] immediately in order to combat this trick of Satan.  For example, we must reflect that God wills that we suffer patiently and humble ourselves.  Moreover, the learning of virtue takes practice over time.  Other possible agere contras that we could say within ourselves are: “Everything is in Thy Hands, O Lord”; “Thy will be done, O Lord, not my will,” or “What will this [circumstance] matter after I’m dead?”

 

Another agere contra to use when one is discouraged, is to try to get one’s mind off of himself by thinking of the needs of others. For example, there are so many pagans in the world that need to be converted.  As our Lady of Fatima said that so many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray for them.

 

One could then think how much God has blest him with so many undeserved blessings.  Further, counting one’s blessings is another powerful way to go against Satan’s pomps and works and to foster humility.

 

Last, but not least, is to pray – whether it be an ejaculation or longer prayer – in order to fight against the temptation to be frustrated or discouraged.

 

With the above in mind one sees his great need to beg the Holy Ghost for His Light and His Grace to want God’s Will always to reign in us, and the following may come to mind:

 

 

O Holy Ghost, O Paraclete,

Why do I try, to e’er compete?

Against Thy Will, and what’s in store,

Why do I not, Thy guidance implore?

 

 

 

How could I think, my way is best?

And see events, as only a pest?

Why do I, second guess Thy Will?

And thinking, I know better still?

.

And as a result, I do find,

Only frustration, in my mind,

True peace within, cannot exist,

When I try, Thy Will to resist.

 

Then comes the, “feel sorry for me,”

Getting my fill of self-pity,

Discouragement, then takes its hold,

Shame on me, for being so bold.

 

Let me see, Lord, my only need,

Only with Thy Will, am I freed,

From endless worry in my life,

That there should not be any strife.

 

‘Tis only Thy Will, should be sought,

And only my will, should be fought,

Thou dost send me, what is sublime,

Looking for Thy Will, all the time.

 

There’s only one, true joy for me,

That is to stay, one heart with Thee,

Not for myself, anything seek,

I want to be, like Thee so Meek.

 

For this I pray, that Thou wouldst grant,

 Thy Holy Will, in my heart plant,

So firmly in me, I won’t desire,

To ever leave, Thy Guiding Fire.

 

Then e’er Thy Will, would be my goal.

Filling me, with wonder, in my soul,

Then thou wouldst be, Oh Paraclete,

My happiness, ever complete!



[1] Webster’s 6th New Collegiate Dictionary [emphasis added]

The Need of an Anti-Pride Filter

Objective Truth Series – reflections article # 8

We have considered in the last few reflections just how subtle pride is. Indeed, our fallen human nature is so prone to this vice. St. John says in his first epistle, “For all that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh and the concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life, which is not of the Father but is of the world.”[1John 2:16]

Thus, knowing this about our fallen human nature, we see one of our weak spots in the fortress of our soul.  St. Ignatius of Loyola describes how the devil studies our souls in order to find our weakness and then tempts us in our vulnerable spot.[1]  It follows that if we know ourselves, then we can better be on guard against his onslaughts.

We well know that pride is a horrible enemy of our souls and that we must be on guard against, and fight this horrible sin. We can do this by watching all of our thoughts as they come.

Yet what should we do about our thoughts?

First we have to judge each in-coming thought and weigh if it will foster pride.  If we determine that the thought would lead us to the trap of pride, then what must we do with it?

In another of his rules for the Discernment of Spirits, St. Ignatius explains how we must do the opposite from what the devil suggests as a means to combat him. St. Ignatius calls this Rule the agere contra or “to go against”.[2]  By the agere contra we counteract the devil and foil his plans.

Consequently, for every prideful thought that comes, we must immediately knock it down with an agere contra humility thought. Thus, we could call this our anti-pride filter or shield.

 

Some possible agere contras are:

When someone compliments us, we should say, “Thank-you” and immediately give some praise to God Who deserves the glory of the compliment.

If it doesn’t work out for us to outwardly deflect the praise from ourselves and direct the praise towards God instead, then we should at least direct the praise to God internally.

Sometimes it can occur that internal compliments come to our mind, for example, thoughts, such as, “that wasn’t so hard.” or “I can’t believe that this [whatever venture] came out so well.” “Won’t the others be pleased when they see this?” “That came out great!” etc.  Then with these thoughts, we should counteract them saying within ourselves, “If it wasn’t for God that [whatever it was that pleased us] wouldn’t have happened.” Or “God inspired that, I didn’t, and I couldn’t have done that without His Aid. And/or “I can’t take any credit for that.”

Or again, sometimes a beautiful thought or truth comes into one’s mind, and then one should immediately remember that the thought came from God and was simply God’s inspiration.

 

Other helpful shields are:

One important filter/shield against pride is to not have a progress bar or a regression bar.

One should not measure himself or judge whether he is growing in virtue, because only God knows our hearts.  Likewise, one should not allow himself to be discouraged because he seems not to be advancing in holiness. Judging our own case is a dangerous trick of the devil, as St. Paul warns us, “But to me it is a very small thing to be judged by you or by man’s day. But neither do I judge my own self. For I am not conscious to myself of anything. Yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore, judge not before the time: until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts. And then shall every man have praise from God.”  1st Corinthians [4:3-5]

 

Watch critical thoughts [we need to go against them too]

If one finds himself getting critical and finding fault with his neighbor, he should recall to his mind the fact that he probably has that same fault in a most glaring and annoying way.

 Likewise, he should keep in mind that others have been so patient with him and have put up with him and his faults. It is important to remember that the Good Lord has been so patient and commands that one be patient and forgive his neighbor.

 

Memorize handy quotes to keep in mind as agere contra thoughts.

It is very helpful to have quotes from the Scriptures or from the saints readily available in one’s mind to recall, when tempted, especially when tempted to pride. One then might repeat and/ or ponder on the quote for some time. This has a very sobering effect on the soul and also is a consolation in times of temptation.

Immediately following this article is a list of quotes which may be helpful in starting such a mental list. Dear readers, if you have any additional ones to share, please send them along. God is so wonderful to allow the members of His Mystical Body to fight in the trenches together in this valley of tears.    

With all of these concepts in mind one can truly appreciate the Mercy of God and perhaps the following would come to mind:

On my heart, a guard must I keep,

‘Cause proud thoughts, therein do creep,

As subtle as, the serpent of old,

Who tempted Eve, to think so bold.

 

As to think she’d, like God could be,

By eating of, the forbidden tree,

Even now there, are countless ways,

In these troubled times, faithless days.

 

 Satan sees how, we all do lack.

He sneaks upon us, to attack,

And Satan likes; to puff our pride,

This keeps us firmly, on his side.

 

But how can one, keep him at bay?

Counter-‘tack him, without delay!

If he tempts left, get to the right,

If he tempts to be sad, stay bright!

 

If he fawns saying, “You are great!”

Then only the Lord, appreciate.

If he says, “You’re doomed to hell!”

Then think, “Only God knows me well.”

 

With dozens of quotes, in one’s mind,

Agere contras, one can find.

 Thus God does guide, the soldier-soul

And keeps one looking, on his goal

 

With tender care, God did us teach

How to keep out, of Satan’s reach

Mary helps us, with strategies,

Showing us how, her Son to please.

 

We ask Our dear, heavenly Queen,

To help us keep, our souls most clean,

And use the tools, she did provide,

To keep us close, to her Son’s side.

 

 Quotes to commit to memory in order to fight proud thoughts:

 “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” [Our Lord says to the father whose son was possessed by the devil]  The father replies, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” St. Mark 9:22-23

“For though I should have a mind to glory, I shall not be foolish: for I will say the truth. But I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth in me, or anything he heareth from me.” 2 Corinthians 12:6

St. Thomas Aquinas says, “Humility consists, above all, in the submission of man to God.”  Summa, Ia IIae, Q.161, a.3, objection 1 and its reply. 

Our Lord says, “Without Me, you can do nothing.”

“What hast thou that thou hast not received?  And if thou hast received, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”1 Corinthians, 4:7

“Bear ye one another’s burdens; and so you shall fulfill the law of Christ.  For if any man think himself to be something, whereas he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.”  Galatians, 6:2-3.

“The Lord is merciful and compassionate: long-suffering and plenteous in mercy.”  Ps. 102:8.

“Unless you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” St. Matthew 18:3

“Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” Ps.126:1



[1]              The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Rules for the Discernment of Spirits Week One, Rule #14 [The Spiritual Exercises were dictated by Our Lady to St. Ignatius.]

[2]           The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Rules for the Discernment of Spirits Week One, Rule #12.

Taking Corrections Well

Objective Truth Series – reflections article #7

In the last reflection, we considered having a deeper mistrust of ourselves and practicing a real compassion on our neighbor.  On the one hand, it is a noble and commendable thing to want to instruct one’s neighbor. {Of course, the instruction must be done with charity and compassion, with one taking precautions that one doesn’t take any credit for the work, lest he become self-complacent.}

Yet, on the other hand, because we all are in need of amendment, one must consider well how he takes instruction, particularly corrections, from his neighbor.  We must always be open to the advice, the admonishments, and even criticism from others.  One could ask himself the question, “Why?” Then an answer could be, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” St. John’s first epistle, ch. 1:8.

Then further considering the Words of Our Lord, “For this was I born, and for this I came into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth.  Every one that is of the truth, heareth my voice.” [St. John,18:37], we certainly would want to be open to the truth about ourselves.  And since we are usually the worst judges of our own case, it seems reasonable to listen to what others have to say about us.

Certainly, we would not want to scoff at truth as Pilate did by saying, “What is truth?”  St. John’s Gospel, 18:38.

Even if we thought rightly that our neighbor was wrong in his assessment of us, we would do well to consider that our neighbor may have hit the nail on the head in some respect.  In other words, our neighbor’s view of us could have some seed of truth in it; otherwise, the neighbor wouldn’t have noticed the thing he has mentioned to us.  (And he might be legitimately pointing out problems we have).  And because we must never try to judge the interior of another, we would do well to think our neighbor found some real flaw in us.  For example, perhaps we come across to our neighbor as being haughty in some way.

It is in the nature of man to react to stimulation whether from people or things.  Thus, it is part of the natural interaction between humans to notice things about one another.

Unfortunately, because we have fallen human nature, we often bristle when having our faults pointed out to us.  This is certainly a finger of pride creeping over us.  Often, in addition to giving in to irritation, we give in to feeling sorry for ourselves – which is really a form of discouragement.  If we look deeper here, we can readily see that discouragement is a form of pride. Why?  It is because of the disappointment in ourselves in the fact that we are not already perfect. What is the solution to learning to take corrections well? 

The happy solution is to think that since God has allowed the correction/warning/advice to happen, this incident must be God’s Will for us.  With this in mind, it is certainly easier to take the correction. In addition, one could really ponder God’s Providence deeper, by thinking about God sculpturing our souls. Then, we can find a great consolation that God deemed fit to communicate our correction using our neighbor as His Instrument.

Indeed, God uses His Creatures to do His Work.  Doesn’t Our Lord tell us to see Him in our neighbor?  We can think of the parable of the Good Samaritan, or what Our Lord tells us that He, Himself will say at the last judgment, “…Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to Me.”  St. Matthew’s Gospel, 25:40.

Oh, how wonderful God is to correct us so lovingly.  God does not cudgel us and we shouldn’t feel cudgeled when someone points out our failings to us.  We should see that our neighbor is trying to help us for the sake of love.  We should be grateful, thank God, and lovingly tell our neighbor “thank you”.  Then, begging God for His help, we should make every effort to amend.  Our soul would then count the correction as a great blessing from the Dear Lord and perhaps our gratitude would be expressed as follows:

“Sanctify them in Truth,” Thou hast said,

And our search for Truth, is our bread, 

“Thy Word is Truth,” Thou also spoke,

Thy burden light, as well, Thy yoke.

 

To know Truth, Thou dost me invite,

For with Thy Truth, I can delight,

An invitation, to know more,

Through inspiration, I can soar.

 

When a new truth, is shown to me,

Then I’m thrown, into reverie,

Why should I squawk, if someone see,

The flaw or defect, of my evil tree?

 

My fruits can be seen, that is clear,

By my neighbors, those near and dear,

Gratitude in my heart, should swell,

It is good to know myself well.

 

 Compare my darkness, to His Light,

 Get a clearer view, in my sight,

To see His Work, He makes me free,

 God carves off, the roughness in me.

 

Not so painful, His chisel chips,

And praise of Him, should be on my lips,

O Sculptor Divine, tell me all,

My weakness, ‘cause, through pride I fall.

 

Oh, dear Truth, Why should I Thee fear?

Why am I a coward, Thee to hear?

 Please plant in me, Thy fruitful seeds,

Thou knowest all, of my poor needs.

 

Thou willst for me, myself to know,

So that my love, for Thee can grow,

Correct me oft’, I now implore,

Thy Voice, from neighbors, I’ll adore.

Self-Complacence vs. a Real Compassion for My Neighbor

Objective Truth Series – reflections article #6

The last reflection showed how self-complacence is such a poison for souls because it leads to pride.  Because self-complacence is a satisfaction with oneself, it naturally leads one to think less of his neighbor.  This is why St. Paul warns us when he says, “Let nothing be done through contention[1]: neither by vain glory: but in humility, let all esteem others better than themselves” (Philippians, 2:3). 

The devil, having an angelic nature, knows how to trap us poor humans.  We must remember that the devil was the highest angel and his nature didn’t change with his fall, albeit that he is blind with his pride.  The devil tempted Eve with pride, and Adam fell through pride, by caring more about Eve than he did about God.  Thus, humans, through the fall of Adam, are blind.  The will is blind and needs the intellect to inform it, and pride is blind, thus, we have a sort of double blindness. 

And in this double blindness, it is so easy to get comfortable with ourselves and think that, after all, we are not so bad.  We fall into finding fault in our neighbor and not finding any fault(s) in ourselves.  As Our Lord said, we tend to look for motes in our brother’s eye and not see the beam in our own eye.

We can even think that we want to help our neighbor and instruct him on some point.  Yet, do we think carefully on whether it is our place to instruct him?  If we conclude that we should in charity instruct our neighbor, and/or stand up for the Faith, what steps do we take in our plan of action?  Do we consider ourselves carefully as St. Paul also warns, “Brethren, and if a man be overtaken in any fault, you who are spiritual instruct such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” (Galatians, 6:1).

One way to have a deeper mistrust of ourselves is to ask ourselves about our own motives for wanting to instruct another; to be sure that we really want to instruct for God’s glory and not our own. (e.g. “Am I seeking praise or recognition?”)

If we conclude that we want to instruct truly for God’s greater glory, then we must be careful about the method we use to instruct or help our neighbor as St. Paul further warns, “Bear ye one another’s burdens; and so you shall fulfill the law of Christ.  For if any man think himself to be something, whereas he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.”  Galatians, 6:2-3.  Again, St. Paul warns us, “Put ye on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience: bearing and forgiving one another, if any have a complaint against another: even as the Lord hath forgiven you, so do you also.  But above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians, 3:2-14).

Thus, we must work for our neighbor with forbearance, patience, and mercy.  Obviously, one way to do this is to find out all we can about what our neighbor understands about the topic of instruction.  Then we can patiently work at our neighbor’s level and bring him slowly to the level of understanding which God has been so merciful to have given us.  (It may even happen that it is we ourselves who are ignorant of the truth and our neighbor actually ends up instructing us.)

In addition to these points, we should carefully consider our neighbor’s perspective based on his gender, temperament, background, upbringing, past experiences, and habits.  Then we can more easily put ourselves in his shoes in order to understand and compassionate him; thus imitating Our Lord.  “The Lord is merciful and compassionate: long-suffering and plenteous in mercy.”  Ps. 102:8.

This shows our neighbor our charity towards him, and that we are not looking down on him or pre-judging him.  Our neighbor can then feel that charity which is “the bond of perfection” of which St. Paul speaks.  Furthermore, our actions would also show our neighbor that we take St. Paul’s warning against contention seriously, and we want to be cautious and avoid becoming puffed up.

Our Lord not only had empathy (putting Himself in our shoes, as it were), but He actually took on human nature and became a man.  This also shows that He had more than empathy for us, but namely, compassion for us – so much so that He actually suffered and died for us.

Dear reader, is it not wonderful that Our Lord has shown us such wonderful examples of how we can be compassionate towards our neighbor and work in His Vineyard for love of Him!  Yet, with fear and trembling we do our work for Him and beg His mercy for us and our neighbor, saying, perhaps:

Oh Divine Lord, please do help me,

Compassionate on others be,

Without Thy help, I can know naught,

The truth I know, Thou hast me taught.

 

In these sad times, of such great need,

When souls are seeking the good seed,

Fill my heart with mercy like Thee,

So, Thy mercy, others can see.

 

We all need kind understanding,

And patience in befriending,

Forbearance Thou didst likewise show,

Thou wouldst for perfection to grow.



[1]           Contention = to strive in opposition or rivalry; to compete, to vie; to strive for superiority.

A Healthy Mistrust of Self

Objective Truth Series – reflections article #5

The last reflection was a consideration of how important it is to have a complete submission to, union with, and trust in the Divine Will.

God wants us to have trust in Him, in fact, to have complete confidence in Him. As far as we are concerned, He doesn’t want us to trust in ourselves alone.  Surely, He wants us to have confidence to use the abilities that He gave us and that He expects us to use to do our duty of state. He expects us to not be slothful, having an irrational fear of the difficult. He doesn’t want us to be cowards when it comes to doing our duty.

Furthermore, God expects us to not be lazy and shirk our duties because we don’t “feel” like doing them or because we want to relax. But having confidence in the human abilities that God gave us does not mean we have abilities above our nature, or that we should think that we are using our abilities perfectly. No one should imagine he can do things that are super-human or that he is perfect in any respect.

For example, we cannot know the thoughts of others. We often guess what others are thinking, but unless another communicates his thoughts aloud or in writing, we cannot know with any certitude what another is thinking. Thus, we cannot judge the interior of another. We can only judge the external actions (fruits) of others. To judge the interior is called rash judgment. St. John Chrysostom said, “You will not easily find anyone, either the father of a family or a cloistered religious who is free from rash judgment.”[1]

This quote ought to give us pause and give us a fear and a healthy caution over our thoughts and speech.

We humans get so self-complacent, in other words, self-satisfied, and from this, conceit grows in the soul. Self-importance takes control of the soul usually in a creeping, subtle manner, and, before one knows it, he has over-confidence in himself. “Wherefore, he that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall” (1st Corinthians 10; 12).  

A quote like this should prick one’s conscience. Questions then bombard the mind like: Am I self-complacent? Do I say things or act as if I have all the answers, even about a single subject? Do I act over confident? Do I act as if I have been looking down on others, in any way? Do I act as if I realize that any good I have, especially the faith, or insights, has been given to me by God and that I know I do not deserve them? “What hast thou that thou hast not received?  And if thou hast received, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”[2]  Do I forget this truth of which St. Paul reminds me? Do I acknowledge the gifts of God to me? If so, do I thank God for His gifts and tender mercies? Do I expect others to have received these same gifts and/or insights, and make all their decisions in the same manner that I make my decisions? And if others do not act in the same manner as I, do I look down on them as if they are big sinners or have something wrong with them?

Oh, how the conscience does prick when we realize how easily we humans get into this typical complacent frame of mind. We have to be so cautious and follow St. Paul’s advice, namely, “With fear and trembling work out your salvation” (Philippians Ch 2; 12). Likewise, we need to heed carefully Our Lord’s words, “Judge not, lest you be judged.” Here Our Lord is clearly warning against judging the interior of a person.

Nor can we forget our human roots, namely, how Eve was tempted with thinking she could become like God. The devil certainly knows how to trap us humans with this temptation and tries to puff us up. Self-complacence is one of the devil’s subtle tools to achieve this. Thus, we need to see that we need advice, and be willing to get advice. This will help us avoid self-complacence.

Our Lady explained the Rules for the Discernment of Spirits to St. Ignatius of Loyola, when giving him the Spiritual Exercises. She explained in Rule #5 in the Second Week that we must pay close attention to the course of our thoughts and look carefully at their beginning, middle, and end to see whether they are inspired by the good angel or the devil. This means a person must truly distrust himself and have a healthy mistrust of his own motive for acting. Again, Our Lady knows how the devil tricks us poor humans with self-conceit and, being Our Good Mother, she warns her children about his snares.

With all of the above in mind, perhaps our thoughts naturally will flow into something like the following:

Oh, my soul, if I have a treasure,

Am I grateful, or do I take pleasure?

Thinking this gem, is a gift self-bestowed

That it comes from God, to me, not owed?

Do I remember, my God to thank?

Am I really, with myself frank?

This gift, this talent, from where did it come?

Could I e’re pay for it, with any sum?

I am nothing, a worthless being

Whence this prize, that I am seeing?

Tis not really mine, to the Lord, belongs

Only He gets the credit, [only I do wrongs.]

God could punish, my self-conceit,

This would be fitting, would be meet.

That He could take, this gift away

And not make it last, not one more day

I must be grateful, give God His due

And rely on Him only, tis so true!

I need so much help, and advice

Each plan I make, I must think thrice

Where did it start, where does it lead?

Does it, my self-complacence, feed?

I must tremble, yea, I must quake

Do I work for me, or for God’s sake?

Dear Lord, help me ever recall

Self-complacence, is a trap for all

Help me ne’r judge, things in a flash

Help me avoid, e’er being rash

If I forget my need, of Thee, Lord

Love of self, will become a sword

Which will cut me, from what’s most dear

To displease Thee, give me healthy fear!



[1]           St. Thomas Aquinas quoting St. John Chrysostom in the Catena Aurea on St. Luke’s Gospel, ch.6, vv. 37-38.

[2]           1 Corinthians, 4:7.

God’s Will: Something to submit to, unite to, and trust in

Catholic Candle note: Below is an article by one of the Catholic Candle Team, which is the fourth in a series of reflections related to humility.  Here are the first three in this series:

  https://catholiccandle.neocities.org/faith/god-is-the-sculptor-of-souls.html

  https://catholiccandle.neocities.org/faith/gods-school-of-sanctity-humility-hunting-a-source-of-great-delight-for-the-soul.html

 

  https://catholiccandle.neocities.org/faith/our-nothingness.html

 

Sweet submission to God’s Will leads to

Uniformity with It and complete trust in God

 

Objective Truth Series – reflections article #4

Who doesn’t feel the need to be safe?  When there is a calamity of nature or some kind of disaster, we seek protection and to survive, and so it is with our souls. God made us this way.   We do ever forget our need of Him and His wonderful Providence, yet God’s draws the soul and teaches it, little by little.  He shows the entire need we have of Him, until finally, the soul is convinced, and has no doubt of its need. A little child knows for sure that he needs his Dad and Mom. The child delights even to see Mom or Dad return home and runs to embrace his parent. Oh, to please his parents is such sweetness! He understands his proper place as the subordinate to his parents. He knows his ignorance, sees what his parents have done and still do for him, and thus sees his debt and what he owes to his parents. Thus, he has such gratitude, and this all builds such loving willingness to please.

Furthermore, a child feels so safe to be in the arms of his parent, he doesn’t care if it’s hot and humid, he just wants to remain there. With such knowledge and confidence in his parents, a child also learns to have a like knowledge of God and a trustful surrender to God. Our Lord alludes to this when He says: “Unless you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.”  St. Matthew, 18:3.  With this trustful surrender comes such an all-embracing peace of soul that one does not doubt that God is in charge and planning what He wills to do for His friends.  St. Paul reminds us of our need to submit to God and to see ourselves as little children, when he teaches: “For this cause, I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named.”  Ephesians, 3:14-15.

God’s Providence continually cares for and assists His friend – the soul of His adopted child.  How wonderful to ponder on this objective truth that we are really adopted children of God!  Now let us sincerely pray to live our true role in God’s eternal plan and lovingly trust Our Heavenly Father!  Then our hearts would perhaps spill over in the following words:

To see my needs is to count without number,

I am in Thy hands, O Lord, like a child in slumber,

How can I help, grateful to be?

When I see how thou carest for me?

 

My biggest need of all, is that I see,

My longing to say, that I love thee,

And I give Thee, a thankful embrace,

And I thankfully fall, before Thy Face.

 

I thankfully rest, once safely in Thy arms,

And I’m so overwhelmed, with Thy charms,

And with Thy wonderful care,

How could I ever wish or dare.

 

To run away from Thee,

Now knowing Thou wouldst ne’r abandon me?

Thou hast given me, complete desire to ev’r see,

That I am lost, if I run away from Thee.

 

But now my heart is filled,

To ever do, what Thou hast willed,

Thy Will is my heart’s desire,

My only safety, my only fire.

 

Oh, for Thy Will, I ever burn,

Oh, for Thy Will, my heart will e’er yearn,

Without Thy help, where can I be?

I need Thee, there is nothing in me.

 

Oh, sweet submission and surrender,

I unite my will with God, so tender,

I am cared for by Him, Whom I trust,

Into His Hands, my heart I thrust.

 

Where rest, peace, and safety I find,

To serve, and love Him with a child-like mind,

On this true view of things so sweet,

There my happiness— my joy complete!