A Catholic perspective on humility (question)
#11
(03-05-2017, 01:01 PM)formerbuddhist Wrote:
(03-05-2017, 12:10 PM)GangGreen Wrote: I also find reading any monastics to be somewhat difficult. That's because their works are, with some exceptions, targeted towards other monastics. While we can still apply many of the things that they talk about, we also need to understand that a monastic or priest would have different standards of piety than a lay person.

That's a good point.  Keeping our state in life in perspective is always wise.  The Ladder of Divine Ascent,say, is not exactly appropriate for a layman, neither is the Philokalia.

Too true.  This was a point I was going to make earlier but didn't.  Thankfully, there are modern "interpretations" (if that's the right word) for some of these writings that can be immensely helpful and useful.  For example, two of the books I'm currently reading and return to almost every Lenten season, Thirty Steps to Heaven and On The Passions and Repentance: Asceticism For Non-Monastics are both excellent and easy to read.  Another good book that I have, but haven't picked up for a while is Fr. John Mack's Ascending The Heights: A Layman's Guide to The Ladder of Divine Ascent.  There are also a number of "guides" to the Philokalia.  One day I'll get around to those  :). 
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#12
St Bonaventure is likely just offering a corrective for dealing with pride. Many people tend towards considering themselves worthy of too lofty things. St. Bonaventure seems to be saying to his intended audience that acting as though they are "worthless" or "slime of the earth" can help them find a balanced, reasonable way to act. But what knowledge does he presume his audience to have? That is a crucial question.

St Thomas wrote that we can foster too much sensible sorrow for our sins. (Rather, it is the "sorrow which is in the reason" that cannot be in excess.)
Quote:I answer that, Contrition, as regards the sorrow in the reason, i.e. the displeasure, whereby sin is displeasing through being an offense against God, cannot be too great.... But as regards the sensible sorrow, contrition may be too great, even as outward affliction of the body may be too great. In all these things the rule should be the safeguarding of the subject, and of that general well-being which suffices for the fulfillment of one's duties; hence it is written (Rom. xii. 1): Let your sacrifice be reasonable. (S.T. Suppl. Q.3. Art. 2. Emphasis Added.)

So, consider humility in a parallel way. We can foster sensible experiences of humility too much.

St. Thomas also writes that the virtue of humility works in tandem with magnanimity. It restrains us from "tend[ing] to high things immoderately..." (S.T. II-II Q. 161, A. 1). We only need a reasonable amount of these "high things" to meet the goals God has given us. Beyond that, taking lofty, unnecessary means begins to hinder us. The overzealous politician will be too distracted from the immense promise of a share in divine happiness. This is clearly unreasonable because a share in divine happiness is infinitely better than the benefits of being a politician.

The virtue of magnanimity must be fostered alongside humility. It "strengthens the mind against despair, and urges it on to the pursuit of great things according to right reason" (ibid). There are good contributions that we all need to make to society and the Church, for the common good. Our prayers are even demanded for the Holy Father, the souls in purgatory, and others in great need. Our alms are requested. We are expected to be edifying family members and friends. We are required to be productive at work or school. We are offered a certain measure of abilities, and God expects us to develop and use them.

St. Thomas is saying we need a healthy and reasonable understanding of our place in the world. Not unreasonably lofty, for which we have the virtue of humility. But not unreasonably despairing of our contributions, for which we have the virtue of magnanimity.

St. Bonaventure, it seems, is offering a tool to help certain people find what is a reasonable balance. That might not necessarily be you or me. It's clear St. Bonaventure would want us to make good practice of both humility and magnanimity.

If someone struggles too much with self-esteem issues, perhaps they could think instead about the future opportunities God is giving them to contribute to His Kingdom. Then they could make a good resolution to overcome their procrastination, laziness, or fear of failure and actually contribute as they believe they should.
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#13
(03-04-2017, 03:52 PM)J Michael Wrote: Just because someone's been canonized doesn't mean that what they write, especially in translation from their native language, is easy to read, easy to comprehend, or free from cultural biases and perspectives that seem strange to us. :)

Definitely. And just because someone is canonized doesn't mean that their writings are error-free, for that matter.

The bigger lesson, I think, is that not all Saints are "for everyone" in the sense of their being spiritual guides. Hunt around and look for the Saints who "speak to you" the best, whose works and lives actually help you to live in holiness. We've got a gazillion to choose from, and a Saint that might help one person might bring a second person down or confuse them. (Of course, they're all "for us" in the sense that we're on the same team and they'll all pray for us! I just mean that a given Saint might not be a good choice for a given person when it comes to reading their works and following the particulars of their lives...)

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#14
This is a really good discussion. :)

(03-05-2017, 06:19 PM)Vox Clamantis Wrote: The bigger lesson, I think, is that not all Saints are "for everyone" in the sense of their being spiritual guides. Hunt around and look for the Saints who "speak to you" the best, whose works and lives actually help you to live in holiness. 
Good point. It's a bit disorienting after reading cheerful and gentle works by St. Therese and St. Louis de Montfort to read things that use terms like "worthlessness" and "slime." Sometimes the translator has taken some liberties and the language sounds harsher in one translation than another as well. For example, in my copy of Interior Castle, St. Teresa says she is a "stupid creature," whereas in an audiobook I have listened to, she simply says something to the effect of, "There are others more qualified than I am to help you, but I'll help you as much as I can," which is a much more sensible rendering. Perhaps sometimes a translator is altering the words and makes them different. I know Sequentia warned about that when she got a feminist translation of Interior Castle.
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#15
And then there's Saint Faustina, who was told by Jesus that He shields her from the reality of her own miserableness, because if she saw it, she would die from the horror of it. I'm paraphrasing somewhat, but that's the basic message.

Would the horror kill her because she was so holy that she'd experience a "normal" amount of miserableness as unbearable? Or was she, by all accounts pretty holy, still a horrifying soul compared to the perfection of God?

This does give me some confusion. But on the whole, for myself anyway, it seems safe to believe that pride is an ever-present danger, and it doesn't hurt to knock one's self down a few pegs in our own estimation. I doubt many of us have been given the grace to see the full spiritual gravity of our sins and imperfections, so the reality is probably a lot worse than what we might imagine it is. But we shouldn't get stuck dwelling on that or on anything else about our *selves* -- we have to keep asking for the ability to keep our eyes on Him.  :)

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#16
(03-05-2017, 07:37 PM)Margaret-Mary Wrote: And then there's Saint Faustina, who was told by Jesus that He shields her from the reality of her own miserableness, because if she saw it, she would die from the horror of it. I'm paraphrasing somewhat, but that's the basic message.
I read the Diary quite a while back and I have to admit that I find some of it strange. Why did Jesus in the Eucharist leave the Tabernacle to rest in her unconsecrated hands?  In the lives of other Saints, He would come out and rest directly on their tongues.

Or there are things like this:

“From today on, do not fear God’s judgment, for you will not be judged.” (ibid., p. 168)

“Now, I know that it is not for the graces or gifts that you love Me, but because My Will is dearer to you than life. That is why I am uniting Myself with you so intimately as with no other creature.” (Divine Mercy in My Soul, The Diary of Sr. Faustina, Stockbridge, MA: Marian Press, 1987, p. 288)

I find the prayer itself to be beautiful, especially with musical accompaniment, and I'm not criticizing the devotion to the Divine Mercy at all. I'm just saying that the Diary has some passages that I find unusual and confusing.
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#17
(03-05-2017, 07:52 PM)In His Love Wrote:
(03-05-2017, 07:37 PM)Margaret-Mary Wrote: And then there's Saint Faustina, who was told by Jesus that He shields her from the reality of her own miserableness, because if she saw it, she would die from the horror of it. I'm paraphrasing somewhat, but that's the basic message.
I read the Diary quite a while back and I have to admit that I find some of it strange. Why did Jesus in the Eucharist leave the Tabernacle to rest in her unconsecrated hands?  In the lives of other Saints, He would come out and rest directly on their tongues.

Or there are things like this:

“From today on, do not fear God’s judgment, for you will not be judged.” (ibid., p. 168)

“Now, I know that it is not for the graces or gifts that you love Me, but because My Will is dearer to you than life. That is why I am uniting Myself with you so intimately as with no other creature.” (Divine Mercy in My Soul, The Diary of Sr. Faustina, Stockbridge, MA: Marian Press, 1987, p. 288)

I find the prayer itself to be beautiful, especially with musical accompaniment, and I'm not criticizing the devotion to the Divine Mercy at all. I'm just saying that the Diary has some passages that I find unusual and confusing.

There were reasons that Pope Pius XII placed the whole thing on the Index and both he and St John XXIII condemned it.
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