When you see any one who desires esteem and honors and avoids contempt, and who, when contradicted or neglected, shows resentment and takes it ill, — you may be sure that such a one, though he were to perform miracles, is very far from perfection, for all his virtue is without foundation. -St. Thomas Aquinas
That the Angelic Doctor held this belief truly before God, is certain, for his conduct proves it. Not only did he not desire honors and applause but he abhorred them, and avoided them as far as he could. He was offered the Archbishopric of Naples by Clement IV, at a time when his family, being out of favor with the Emperor, had fallen into great poverty. He was, therefore, earnestly entreated by them, as well as by others, to accept it. However, he not only refused it but obtained from the same Pope a promise that no dignity should ever be offered him for the future.
Besides, he entreated his Superiors not to compel him to take the degree of Doctor, as he greatly preferred being learned to being called so; and if he finally took it, it was purely from obedience.
But instead of avoiding contempt, he always accepted it with a tranquil soul and a serene countenance. When he was a student, he did not disdain to receive as monitor a fellow-student, who, finding that he talked but little, attributed it to ignorance and want of talent, and called him “the dumb ox.”
One day, when the Saint was reading aloud in the refectory at dinner, he was corrected for mispronouncing a word, and though he knew that he had pronounced it properly, he, nevertheless, repeated it in the way he was told. Being afterwards asked by his companions why he had done so, “Because,” he replied, “it matters little whether we pronounce a syllable long or short, but it matters very much to be humble and obedient.”
Illustration from Pictorial Lives of the Saints With Reflections for Every Day in the Year (New York: Benziger Bros., 1922). Text from A Year With the Saints (New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1891).