What a price would be paid in souls lost for all eternity! Let us resolve to pray and sacrifice to avert such a chastisement, and labor to make these truths known to complacent "Catholics," that they too may realize their peril and strive to avert it! Following the conditions to pray "for ourselves," and to pray "for things necessary for salvation," St. Thomas Aquinas then assigns a third condition for our prayers to be heard by God, that we pray "piously," that is, with humility and confidence. The Lord God does indeed regard the prayers of his servants, but only of his servants who are humble.
Others He does not regard, but rejects them: "Wherefore He saith: God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble" James He does not hear the prayers of the proud who trust in their own strength; but for that reason leaves them to their own great frailty; and in this sad condition, deprived of God's aid, they will certainly perish. David was forced to acknowledge that this is the case: "Before I was humbled I offended It is good for me that thou hast humbled me, that I may learn thy justifications" Ps.
The same misfortune occurred to St. Peter on the terrible night of Our Lord's betrayal, after he had been plainly warned by Jesus that all of the disciples would abandon Him, "All you shall be scandalized in Me this night" Matt.
The Simple Humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Nevertheless, instead of humbly and prudently acknowledging his own weakness, and begging Our Lord's aid against his unfaithfulness, Peter was too confident in his own strength, and said that he would never leave Him: "And Peter answering, said to Him: Although all shall be scandalized in thee, I will never be scandalized" Matt. And although our Savior again foretold to him, in a special manner, that in that very night, before the cock-crow, he should deny him three times; yet, trusting in his own courage, he boasted, saying, "Yea, though I should die with Thee, I will not deny Thee" Matt.
But what came of it? Scarcely had the unhappy man entered the house of the high priest, when he was accused of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, and three times he denied with an oath that he had ever known him: "Then he began to curse and to swear that he knew not the man" Matt. If Peter had humbled himself, and had asked Our Lord for the grace of constancy, He would not have denied it to him. We ought all to feel that we are standing on the edge of a precipice, suspended over the abyss of all sins, and supported only by the slender thread of God's grace.
If this thread fails us, we shall certainly fall into the abyss, and shall commit the most horrible sins. If God had not assisted me, I should have fallen into a multitude of sins, and should now be burning in Hell.
Mary's Humble Estate: An Advent Reflection
So said the Psalmist, and so ought each of us to admit. This is what St. Francis of Assisi meant when he said that he was the "worst sinner" in the world. Francis; "because if God did not keep His Hand over me, I would commit every possible sin. It is a doctrine of Faith, that without the aid of grace it is impossible for us to perform any good work, or even think to entertain a good thought. Augustine De Corr.
And holy David had said it even before St. Paul: "Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it" Ps. In vain does man weary himself to become a saint, unless God lends a helping hand: "Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it" ibid. If God did not preserve the soul from sins, in vain will it try to preserve itself by its own strength: therefore did the holy prophet protest, "I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me" Ps.
I will not hope in my arms; but only in God, Who alone can save me. Therefore, whoever finds that he has done any good whatsoever, and does not find that he has fallen into any greater sins than those which others commit, let him say with St. Paul obviously saw the need of warning us that he who, in his pride, feels secure of not falling, is in the gravest danger of falling. This is why St. Augustine wrote so wisely that "the presumption of stability renders many unstable; no one will be so secure as he who feels himself insecure" Serm.
If a man says he has no fear, it is a sign that he trusts in himself and in his good resolutions; but such a man, with his pernicious self-confidence, deceives himself, because, through trust in his own strength, he neglects to fear; and through not fearing he neglects to recommend himself to God, and then he will certainly fall. And thus, we should all abstain from pridefully examining the sins of others; but rather should then esteem ourselves as worse than they are, saying, "Lord, if thou hadst not helped me, I should have done worse. For this cause St. Paul instructs us to labor for our salvation; but how?
Always in fear and trembling: "With fear and trembling work out your salvation" Phil. Yes, for he who has a great fear of falling, mistrusts his own strength, and therefore places his confidence in God, and will have recourse to Him in all dangers, and God will aid him, and so he will overcome his temptations, and will be saved. Philip Neri, walking one day through Rome, kept saying, "I am in despair! In so doing we shall imitate St. Philip, who used to say to God the first moment he woke in the morning, "Lord, keep Thy hands over Philip this day; for if not, Philip will betray Thee.
According to St. Augustine, this is the sum total of Christian knowledge, to know that we are nothing, and can do nothing. For then we will never neglect to furnish ourselves, by prayer to God, with that strength which we do not possess of ourselves, but which we need in order to resist temptation and to do good.
It is thus, with the help of God, Who never refuses anything to the man who prays to him in humility, we will be able to do all things: "The prayer of him that humbleth himself shall pierce the clouds, and he will not depart until the Most High behold" Ecclus. The prayer of a humble soul penetrates the heavens, and presents itself before the throne of God; and departs not without God's looking favorably upon it, and hearing it.
And although the soul be guilty of any amount of sin, God never despises a heart that humbles itself: "A contrite and humble heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise" Ps. As the Lord God is severe with the proud, and resists their prayers, so is He kind and generous to the humble.
This is precisely what Jesus Christ revealed to St. Catherine of Sienna: "Know, my daughter, that a soul that perseveres in humble prayer gains every virtue" Ap. However, our humility must not be that kind of impractical lamentation which is in reality a species of pride. True humility is eminently practical in its dire necessity. It will be useful here to give the advice of the learned and pious Palafox, Bishop of Osma, for spiritual persons who desire to become saints.
Where Did Jesus Learn Humility?
Speaking of the grades of supernatural prayer with which God had favored St. Teresa of Avila, the bishop tells us that these supernatural graces are not, strictly speaking, necessary in order to arrive at sanctity, since many souls have become saints without them. On the other hand, there are many who have arrived at holiness, and then relapsed into sin and have been damned. Therefore he says it is superfluous, and even presumptuous, to desire and to ask for supernatural gifts of this kind in prayer, when the true and only way to become a saint is to exercise ourselves in virtue and the Commandments, and in the love of God; and this is done by means of prayer, imploring the assistance of God, Who wishes nothing so much as to see us saints.
Here is a summary of the bishop's wise advice for those who truly wish to be sanctified in prayer: What we ought to ask of God is that He would free us from attachment to worldly goods, and even the desire of them, which give no peace, but bring disquiet and affliction to the soul: "Vanity of vanities," as Solomon rightly called them, "and vexation of spirit" Eccles. The heart of man will never find true peace if it does not empty itself of all that is not God, so as to leave itself all free for His love, that He alone may possess the whole of it. But this the soul cannot do of itself; it must obtain it of God by repeated prayers.
We ought to ask God for grace to keep our senses asleep to all that is temporal, and only awaken them to consider God's goodness, and to set our hearts upon His love and eternal happiness. Let us pray God to give us grace to use our faculties for the high purpose which He intended; not to think, nor to seek, nor to wish anything but what God wills; since all sanctity and the perfection of love consist in uniting our will to the holy Will of God.
HUMILITY – Mother Clelia
Instead of desiring ecstasies and raptures, let us pray God to draw us away from the inordinate love of ourselves and of creatures, and to draw us entirely to Himself. Instead of desiring "flights of the spirit," let us pray Him to give us grace to live altogether detached from this world, and to do as the swallows, that do not settle on the ground even to eat, but take their food on the wing; so should we use our temporal goods for all that is necessary for the support of life, but always flying, without settling on the ground to look for earthly pleasures.
Instead of seeking involuntary "impulses of the spirit," let us pray Him to give us courage and strength to do violence to ourselves, whenever it is necessary for resisting the assaults of our enemies, for conquering our passions, and for accepting sufferings even in the midst of desolation and dryness of spirit. Finally, we ought to pray God to wound our hearts with His holy love in such a way that we shall always be reminded of His goodness and the infinite love which He has borne us; and thus we should live in continual love of Him, and should be always striving to please Him with our good works and the affections of our heart.
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Mary, whose feast we celebrated on August The true nature of her humility became more apparent at the time of her visitation to Elisabeth, when she proclaimed the ecstatic utterance we know as the Magnificat. What a moment that must have been! Perhaps it was too intimate and private to have been recorded. But I cannot help wondering if Mary had a pretty good idea. We do not know when Mary died, the event associated with this day — what the Orthodox call the Dormition, or Falling Asleep, and Anglicans used to call the Repose.