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Humility in regards to our neighbor and ourselves

3 min • Digitized on February 11, 2022


From The Spirit of St. Francis de Sales, page 166
By His friend, Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley


One one occasion somebody quoted in his presence the maxims of a very great and very holy person (St. Teresa) on the way to attain perfection: “Despise the world. Despise no man. Despise yourself. Despise being despised.”

Our Blessed Father observed:

Be it so as regards the three first sayings, but, in regard to the fourth, to my mind, the very highest degree of humility consists in loving and cherishing contempt, and in being glad to be despised.

David so acted, when he showed himself pleased to be depised as a buffoon by his own wife Michol. St. Paul, too, gloried in having been scourged, stoned, and looked upon as a fool, the off-scouring and very refuse of the world. The Apostles came forth rejoicing from the presence of the Councils in which, for the love of Jesus, they had been loaded with opprobrium, contumely, and contempt.

A really humble man despising himself, is only too glad to find others ready to agree with him, and to help him to humble himself. He receives reproaches as God’s good gift, and deems himself unworthy of aught else.

He had something, too, to say about the first three maxims.

Taking the world in the sense of the universe, it is, he said, a great stage, on which are shown the wonders of Almighty God, all of Whose works are very good—nay, are perfect. But, even taking the word “world” in the sense in which it is mostly used in Scripture, meaning the company of the wicked, he said, that we should indeed despise their vices, yet not themselves; for who knows but that they will in the end, be converted? How many vessels of contempt have been, by the change of the right hand of God, transformed into vessels of honour?

To despise no one, which is the second dictum, seems at first sight to contradict the first, if, by “the world” be meant the vicious and not merely their vices. It is certainly very right to despise no one, but it is still more reasonable and more advantageous to ourselves, who wish to advance in perfection, to value and esteem all men, because created by God to His image, and because fitted for partaking of His grace and of His glory.

The third maxim, which tells us to despise ourselves, also needs some explanation. We ought not under pretence of humility to slight and despise the graces which God has given us. To do so would be to throw ourselves over the precipice of ingratitude in order to avoid perishing in the pitfall of vanity. He said:

Nothing can so humble us before the mercy of God, as the multitude of his benefits; nothing can so abase us before the throne of His justice, as the countless number of our misdeeds. We need never fear that the good things God has given us will feed our pride, as long as we remember that whatever there may be in us that is good, it is not of us.

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