True Humility

Humility, to be true, must be always accompanied by charity; that is, loving, seeking, and accepting humiliations to please God, and to become more like Jesus Christ; to do otherwise, would be to practise it in the manner of the heathen. -St. Francis de Sales

St. Jerome relates of St. Paula that when she heard it said that she had become a fool through too much spiritual fervor, and that it would be well if a hole were made in her head to give air to her brain, she answered modestly, in the words of the Apostle, “Nos stulti propter Christum” — We are fools for Christ’s sake. (1 Cor 4:10)

St. Jerome also says that when she received insults, contempt, or ignominy, she never allowed the slightest word of resentment to escape from her lips, but was accustomed in such cases to repeat to herself the words of the psalm: Ego autem quasi surdus non audiebam, et quasi mutus, non aperiens os suum — But I as a deaf man, heard not, and as a dumb man, who opens not his mouth. (Ps 38:13)

Text from A Year With the Saints (New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1891).

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Humble Tasks

St. Mary Magdalen di Pazzi willingly occupied herself in laborious tasks; and the lower and meaner they were, with the more pleasure and readiness did she accomplish them. The same thing was done by St. Aloysius Gonzaga.

The blessed Alessandro Sauli, Bishop of Aleria, a man of learning, and esteemed in his Order, willingly occupied himself, even when he was Superior, in humble employments, such as sweeping the house, washing the dishes, drawing water, bringing wood to the kitchen, working in the garden, serving the old and the sick, carrying heavy burdens on his back, taking charge of the door, ringing the bells, or helping the sacristan. When, on account of preaching or other spiritual works, he was at any time prevented from performing these daily exercises, he was accustomed to supply the omission by doing double work on the next day.

St. Camillus de Lelli was also remarkable in this way. When he was Superior General of his Order, he was often seen serving in the refectory, washing dishes in the kitchen, carrying the cross, and sometimes even the coffin, at funerals, and going about Rome with a wallet on his shoulders, begging bread; though he was blamed for it by some great nobles and cardinals who were his friends and happened to meet him in the streets in this guise.

Text from A Year With the Saints (New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1891).

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Our Lady of Lourdes

As our blessed Lady cooperated with Jesus in our redemption by the martyrdom of her heart, so she does not cease to interpose her powerful intercession before the throne of God, to obtain the salvation of her devoted servants. Among all the shrines of the world from which she bestows her graces, there is none that surpasses Lourdes in splendor and celebrity. It is there especially that Mary shows herself to be truly our heavenly Mediatrix.

On the eleventh of February, 1858, toward noon, a poor but pious girl, of the name of Bernadette Soubirous, went to gather faggots on the banks of the river Gave. She was coming to the foot of the mountain, when suddenly she beheld standing before her a Lady of incomparable beauty. The Lady’s hands were devoutly joined and through them were passing the beads of a Rosary as if she were reciting it. This was the first of those apparitions which continued until Easter Monday, the fifth of April, in presence of a large concourse of people.

Bernardette, on these occasions, would begin by reciting the Rosary and our blessed Lady, as if attracted by this prayer, did not tarry in showing herself to her chosen servant.

Thus the Queen of Heaven deigned to make known to the world the treasures of her maternal goodness by means of this pious maid. She had chosen Bernardette as the instrument of wonderful happenings and as her messenger to the Christian people. On Wednesday, the twenty-fourth of February of that same year, more than twenty thousand people were assembled on the banks of the river Gave, to witness, not the apparition of Our Lady, for to Bernardette alone was the vision granted, but the spectacle of the transfiguration of the face of this simple and pious maid during her ecstasy. Indeed, the multitude could see the reflection of Our Lady in the resplendent face of Bernardette in the same way as we see the reflection of the sun on the mountain top, when the sun itself is hidden behind the rocky heights.

On one occasion Bernardette was commanded by Our Lady to turn up the dry soil with her hands, and at once there gushed forth a small spring which later grew into a limpid stream, and which, from that time, has ever continued to flow abundantly. The water from this spring, carried into different parts of the world, has wrought many marvelous cures.

We see from this how Mary, the Mother of Mercy, has designed, especially in these later times, to come to the aid of her servants. Happy are they who place their whole trust in her, for they will not be deceived.

Text from Alexis M. Lepicier, The Fairest Flower of Paradise (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, Ltd., 1922).

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St. Scholastica

Of this Saint but little is known on earth, save that she was the sister of the great patriarch St. Benedict, and that, under his direction, she founded and governed a numerous community near Monte Cassino.

Her brother was accustomed to visit her every year, for “she could not be sated or wearied with the words of grace which flowed from his lips.” On his last visit, after a day passed in spiritual converse, the Saint, knowing that her end was near, said, “My brother, leave me not, I pray you, this night, but discourse with me till dawn on the bliss of those who see God in heaven.” St. Benedict would not break his rule at the bidding of natural affection; and then the Saint bowed her head on her hands and prayed; and there arose a storm so violent that St. Benedict could not return to his monastery, and they passed the night in heavenly conversation.

Three days later St. Benedict saw in a vision the soul of his sister going up in the likeness of a dove into heaven. Then he gave thanks to God for the graces He had given her, and for the glory which had crowned them.

She died about the year 543.

St. Benedict, her spiritual daughters, and the monks sent by St. Benedict, mingled their tears and prayed, “Alas! alas! dearest mother, to whom dost thou leave us now? Pray for us to Jesus, to whom thou art gone.” They then devoutly celebrated Holy Mass, “commending her soul to God;” and her body was borne to Monte Cassino, and laid by her brother in the tomb he had prepared for himself. “And they bewailed her many days.”

Reflection. — Our relations must be loved in and for God. Otherwise the purest affection becomes inordinate, and is so much taken from Him.

Illustration and text from Pictorial Lives of the Saints With Reflections for Every Day in the Year (New York: Benziger Bros., 1922).

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Mary’s Triumph

On the day of her glorious assumption, body and soul, into heaven, Mary received the crown of all her graces. Truly, we may rejoice. We shall not lose our Mother. We only send her before us, to prepare our plans and to acquire for us rights over the heart of God.

Mary’s triumph is, also, that of Jesus. He will find again His Mother, He will again become a Son by her presence. Jesus loved His Mother so much—how, then, could He separate from her? He did it only through love of us. Having given her to us for Mother, it was right that He should allow us to enjoy the inestimable gift. But the time was come to recall that gift, and Jesus comes Himself to seek His Mother. . . . O what passed between Jesus and Mary at the moment of their meeting! We know the joy of a mother and a son meeting after a long separation. Jesus desired to see His Mother again, and, lo! she stands before Him! with what loving embraces He welcomes her!

Jesus introduces her Himself into glory, for He owes her a reward. All her life Mary was poor and despised, but now the time has come to crown her with glory and honor. She enters heaven in splendor, such as was never before seen. She enters by a special gate, open for her alone. She could not pass through that of the simple elect. If the twelve Apostles are the twelve gates of heaven, Mary is the royal entrance to that country, the gate par excellence. O august and holy Gate! How good to pass through thee! Doubtless, the observance of the Law will give us sure entrance into heaven, but it is better still to confide one’s self to Mary’s compassion. Mary seeks only to save.

Jesus led His Mother by the hand up to the throne of God. “Behold, O Father, her with whom Thou art associated, by choosing her to give Me My Humanity!” And the Father crowned her with her three most beautiful titles, Queen, Mother, Mediatrix. In Mary’s diadem, three pearls are shining with dazzling brightness, namely, that of her humility, that of her poverty, and that of her sufferings.

Text from Father Eymard’s Month of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament (New York: Sentinel Press, 1903).

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The Humility of Aquinas

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).

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St. Jerome Emiliani

St. Jerome Emiliani, Founder of the Congregation of Somasca, experienced in a marvelous way the great mercy of our blessed Lady. He was a noble patrician of Venice, and had first served as a soldier, during which time he had unhappily allowed himself to fall into every sort of vice.

It happened that he was once entrusted with the defense of the fortress of Castelnuovo, in Friuli. When this was stormed by the enemy, Jerome was captured and confined in a dark prison, where he was loaded with chains.

Not knowing what would happen to him, he began to be filled with remorse for his past life, almost to the point of despair, when the thought of Mary the Mother of God and men enlightened him. He remembered that this most powerful Mother was invoked as “Virgin most merciful” and as “Mother of divine mercy.” To her, therefore, from the depths of his prison he confidently turned, promising to lead a better life in the future. He also made a vow to go, clothed as he was, to give thanks before Mary’s shrine in Treviso, if this loving Mother should deliver him from his miserable condition. And lo! in an instant, Jerome beheld his prison filled with light, and the Virgin Mary descending from heaven to loose with her own hands the chains with which he was bound. Moreover, the Mother of God handed him a key with which to open the door of the prison and escape.

Being now freed in this marvelous way, Jerome directed his steps toward Treviso, bearing his chains on his shoulders in token of his wonderful deliverance. But as the roads were occupied by the enemy, he was in danger of falling into their hands. He had again recourse to Mary and this heavenly Queen instantly appeared to him, and caused him to pass unnoticed through the camp of the enemy on his twenty-mile journey. When he arrived at Treviso, he went and prostrated himself before the image of Our Lady, and wishing to fulfil his vow, he laid on her altar the instruments of his torture. From that hour he placed himself under Mary’s special protection and, in memory of the kindness shown him, began to recite her Office daily. Moreover, when he set on foot his memorable work of educating orphans, he exhorted not only these but all with whom he came in contact, to reverence this powerful Queen, by often reciting the “Hail Holy Queen” and other sacred hymns. He died a holy death on the eighth of February, 1537.

Text from Alexis M. Lepicier, The Fairest Flower of Paradise (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, Ltd., 1922).

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