Humility allows charity to reveal our gifts

August 21, 2021 • 3 min

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 110
By St. Francis de Sales

To imagine we know what we know not is very great folly; to desire to be supposed to know that of which we are ignorant is intolerable vanity.

For my part, as I would not make a parade of the knowledge, even of that which I know, so, on the other hand, I would not pretend to be ignorant of it.

When charity requires it, we must freely and unobtrusively communicate to our neighbour, not only what is necessary for his instruction, but also what is profitable for his consolation; since humility, which conceals virtues, in order to preserve them, discovers [reveals] them nevertheless, when clarity requires it, in order that we may enlarge, increase, and perfect them.

In this she imitates a certain tree in the isles of Tylos, which at night closes up her beautiful carnation flowers, and only opens them to the rising sun; and, as the inhabitants of the country say that these flowers sleep by night, so humility covers all our virtues and human perfections, and never lets them appear but for the sake of charity, which, being not a human and moral, but a divine and heavenly virtue, is the true sun of all other virtues, over which she ought always to have dominion. So that the humility which is prejudicial to charity is assuredly false.

I would neither pretend to be a fool nor a wise man; for if humility forbids me to conceal my wisdom, candour and sincerity also forbid me to counterfeit the fool; and, as vanity is the opposite of humility, so artifice, affectation, and dissimulation, are contrary to plain dealing and sincerity.

But if some great servants of God pretended to be fools, in order to render themselves more abject in the eyes of the world, we must admire, but not imitate them; for, having had peculiar and extraordinary motives that induced them to this excess, no one ought from thence to draw any conclusion for himself.

David, when he danced and leaped before the ark of the covenant, perhaps even more than ordinary decency required, had no intention to make the world believe he was a fool, but, with all simplicity and without artifice, he made use of these exterior motions, in order to express the extraordinary and excessive joy he felt in his heart; and when Michol, his wife, reproached him for it, as an act of folly, he did not regret to see himself vilified, but, continuing in a true and sincere manifestation of his joy, he testified that he was glad to receive some reproach for the sake of his God.

Wherefore, remember, Philothea, that if for acts of true and sincere devotion the world shall esteem you, on the other hand, mean, abject, or foolish, humility will make you rejoice at this happy reproach, the cause of which is not in you but in those that reproach you.

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