Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Fifth Week after Epiphany.
"The way that leads to God-practical counsels for those who aspire after true piety" by Abbe A Saudreau, translated by Leonora L.Yorke Smith. R&T Washbourne, Ltd, London 1911.

§3. Pride - continued

And to what devices will he not resort to secure admiration! Before clever people he too must be clever; he displays his powers of imagination, his knowledge, his ability. With the virtuous he shows himself a strong advocate of virtue; he affects the language of probity and integrity, he inveighs loudly against vice. The wish to obtain admiration is never absent from him; it makes him compose his countenance, dress his phrases, disguise his thoughts. Sweet simplicity has no attraction for him. "What will my audience think of me?" This is his continual anxiety. If needs be, he will relinquish his own ideas, he will run counter to his own tastes; for what would he not sacrifice to his desire of being admired? And if he exaggerates his merits, he also always finds excuses for his faults; conceals his weaknesses. If he is without any particular virtue, he simulates it; he will even at times control his other passions in order to satisfy his pride. Is he lazy? he will shake off his slothfulness; he will accomplish difficult tasks in the hope of magnifying himself in his own eyes and in the eyes of others. Such were the haughty Pharisee, whom Our Lord reproached with practising their virtues to be seen of men. The vain man is not only capable of almsgiving and fasting (as was the case with these enemies of Our Lord), but he is so athirst for admiration that he even strives to win it by acts which, if inspired by a better motive, would deserve to be called heroic. Gladiators and others greedy for glory have been seen to face death calmly and impassively, having no other care at that awful moment than the thought of bequeathing a reputation for courage to posterity.
46. Of what blindness is not this pride the cause! The humble man is honest and sincere; convinced as he is of his own misery, and making confession of it to God, he does not endeavour to hide it from men, and thus all his path are truth. He is simple and upright in all his doings, with the great and the small, the learned and the ignorant. He is at peace, not being troubled as to what anyone might say or think about him; he is a stranger to those agonies which the proud man endures - agonies as numerous as the persons with whom he comes in contact. But the proud man is not in search of truth. Absorbed as he is in the desire to please or to astonish, he sets himself to deceive others by seductive appearances. He likes to deceive himself, and, wishing at all costs to rise in his own esteem, he ends by thinking himself quite different from what he really is. Those alone know the truth who sincerely desire to do so. The proud man fears it, because it would show him his transgression, and so he flies in the opposite directionn. Is it necessary to add that the Devil, the Father of Lies, encourages this fatal tendency, encompasses the proud man with his snares, entangles him in a host of misconceptions and false ideas, obscures his intellect and enshrouds it little by little in a thick darkness? Very soon these errors,consented to, desired and sought after, becomes invincible, and the proud man finishes by persuading himself that everyone takes him at his own high valuation. If he could fear that he might be mistaken, he would perhaps pray for that light which God grants to the humble. But he loves his delusion, and he intends to go on admiring and idolizing himself to the end. And what deplorable consequences ensue: jealousy with regard to those who might eclipse him; antipathy - hatred, even - towards those who fail to admire, or refuse to submit to him; anger when he is contradicted or thwarted. The proud man is the docile instrument in satan's hands; the Enemy of mankind prefers him to the miser, to the sensual, and even to the impure man, as an assistant in his work of pervertingg souls. For the proud man, provided that he knows how to conceal his repulsive arrogance and to avoid exciting disgust, dominates weaker natures and forces them to accept his errors, or he ingratiates himself by his flatteries. For all means are good to him provided that he be accepted as a teacher whose words must be listened to, as a clever man whose advice is to be followed. All the heresiarch were inordinately proud; in all times those who have founded false schools, who have been the originators, or even propagators, of false doctrines, who have tampered with their brothers' faith and in many instances destroyed it, have been drawn to the novelties of belief by their exaggerated confidence in their own enlightenment. They made an idol of their knowledge or their talents; unconsciously at first, and then deliberately, they have cast God out of their hearts by denying the Divine teaching. These men are the real agents of Satan. So it is with those who, in the Church's conflicts, side with her enemies; those who, without breaking with her openly, show disloyal tendencies, throwing doubt upon her teachings, criticizing the measures taken by those in authority. What is the motive with which they are usually inspired but that of an infatuation for self?
48. The cases in which this insane pride makes a man an idolater of his own person, are less rare than might be supposed. Perhaps the reader is now thinking: "I am very far from falling into these deplorable follies. I do not blind myself to this point; I do not sacrifice everything to the wish to please or to shine. I am aware that I may not be particularly humble, but I see no signs of this senseless pride." It is true that those who read these pages have not, thank God, arrived at the excess which we have just depicted; but do not let us forget that in order to know any monster thoroughly, it is necessary to study it in the adult stage! To get a correct idea of a tree you must not examine it when the first shoot is rising above the ground. The newly hatched snake cannot yet kill with his fangs; the poisonous plant, when it first appears, is still harmless. But take the serpent and rear it, cultivate the poisonous plant, and the day will come when the one and the other will be able to destroy the life of the imprudent person who has cherished them.
The budding voluptuousness, the pride which is just budding to show itself, bears within it the seeds of perdition. If it does not actually slay, it paralyzes, it destroys the spiritual vigour. Those who fight feebly and make concession to their passions, who yield deliberately to the love of ease, to sensual pleasures, to feelings of self-complacency (more especially when the yielding becomes habitual), are doing to their souls an injury the gravity of which they do not understand; they are depraving themselves for all eternity of that superabundance of joy and glory which Our Saviour reserves in Heaven for those who have been His true friends here below. Those, on the other hand, who, realizing the hideousness of these two vices, and how displeasing they are to God, wage a relentless war against them, acquire by this means alone a title to the Divine favours.
Reader, if you have no cause to reproach yourself even of weakness with regard to these worst enemies of your salvation, if your generous soul is sullied only with those few light faults which proceed from the frailty of our poor human nature and are not the result of a considered and deliberate consent, it was none the less important that you should be shown the grave disorders into which a large number of your brethren fall. Your compassion for sinners will be increased thereby, and you will the better understand what prayers, what sacrifices, are necessary to obtain their conversion and their salvation. You will also understand what expiations such sins call for. It was to an innocent soul that the Immaculate Virgin at Lourdes spoke the words:"Penance! Penance! Penance!" Mary desired that this call, addressed to Bernadette, should be heard by all alike-by the just no less than by sinners. Has she been obeyed? And is it not because the good have not thought to make expiation for the guilty that the Divine justice is smitting us today? The epiatory oblations of God's friends are of the greatest worth in His eyes; they are necessary for the appeasing of His justice, and if they are not offered voluntarily, will He not exact them after another and a yet more terrible manner?