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Peace of Soul and Humility

Peace of Soul and Humility

 

Nothing troubles us so much as self-love and self-regard. Should our hearts not grow soft with the sentiment we desire when we pray and with the interior sweetness we expect when we meditate, we are sorrowful; should we find some difficulty in doing good deeds, should some obstacle oppose our plans, we are in a dither to overcome it, and we labor anxiously. Why is this? Doubtless, because we love our consolations, ease, and comfort. We want to pray as though we were bathing in comfort and to be virtuous as though we were eating dessert, all the while failing to look upon our sweet Jesus, who, prostrate on the ground, sweat blood and water from the distress of the extreme interior combat he underwent (Mark 14:35; Luke 22:44).

Self-love is one of the sources of our anxiety; the other is our high regard for ourselves. Why are we troubled to find that we have committed a sin or even an imperfection?

Because we thought ourselves to be something good, firm, and solid. And therefore, when we have seen the proof to the contrary, and have fallen on our faces in the dirt, we are troubled, offended, and anxious. If we understood ourselves, we would be astonished that we are ever able to remain standing. This is the other source of our anxiety: we want only consolations, and we are surprised to encounter our own misery, nothingness, and folly.

There are three things we must do to be at peace:

  • have a pure intention to desire the honor and glory of God in all things;
  • do the little that we can unto that end, following the advice of our spiritual father [director];
  • and leave all the rest to God’s care.

Why should we torment ourselves if God is our aim and we have done all that we can? Why be anxious? What is there to fear? God is not so terrible to those who love him. He contents himself with little, for he knows how little we have. Our Lord is called the Prince of Peace in the Scriptures (Isaiah 9:6), and because he is the abso­lute master, he holds all things in peace. It is nevertheless true that before bringing peace to a place, he first brings war (cf. Matthew 10:34-36) by dividing the heart and soul from its most dear, familiar, and ordinary affections.

Now, when our Lord separates us from these passions, it seems that he burns our hearts alive, and we are embit­tered. The separation is so painful that it is barely possible for us to avoid fighting against it with all our soul. Peace is not lacking in the end when, although burdened by this distress, we keep our will resigned to our Lord, keep it nailed to God’s good pleasure, and fulfill our duties cou­rageously. We may take for example our Lord’s agony in the garden, where, overwhelmed by interior and exterior bitterness, he nonetheless resigned himself peaceably to his Father’s divine will, saying, “not my will, but thine be done” (Luke 22:42, Douay-Rheims). And he maintained this peace when admonishing three times the disciples who failed him (Matthew 26:40-45). At war with sin and suf­fering bitterly, he remained the Prince of Peace.

We can draw the following lessons from this consid­eration:

  1. The first is that we often mistakenly think that we have lost our peace when we are bitter. If we continue to deny ourselves and desire that everything should be done in accord with God’s good pleasure, and if we fulfill our duties in spite of our bitterness, then we preserve our peace.
  2. The second is that it is when we are suffering interiorly that God rips off the last bits of skin of the old man in order to renew in us the “new man that is made according to God” (cf. Ephesians 4:22-24). And so we should never be disturbed by such sufferings or think that we are disgraced in our Lord’s eyes.
  3. The third is that all the thoughts that give us anxious and restless minds are not from God, who is the Prince of Peace; they are, therefore, temptations from the enemy, and we must reject them.

We must in all things remain at peace. Should interior or exterior pains afflict us, we must accept them peacefully. Should joys come our way, they must be received peace­fully, without transport. If we must flee evil, we must do so calmly, without being disturbed; otherwise, we may fall in our flight and give the enemy the chance to kill us. If there is good to be done, it must be done peacefully, or we will commit many faults through haste. Even penance must be done peacefully. “See,” says the penitent, “that my great bitterness is in peace” (cf. Isaiah 38:17).

As to humility, this virtue sees to it that we are neither troubled by our imperfections, nor in the habit of recalling those of others, for why should we be more perfect than our brothers? Why should we find it strange that others have imperfections since we ourselves have so many? Humil­ity gives us a soft heart for the perfect and the imperfect: for the former out of reverence and for the latter out of compassion. Humility makes us accept pains with meek­ness, knowing that we deserve them, and good things with gratitude, knowing that we do not. Every day we ought to make some act of humility, or speak heartfelt words of humility, words that lower us to the level of a servant, and words that serve others, however modestly, either in our homes or in the world.

How happy you will be if while you are in the world you keep Jesus Christ in your heart! Remember the principal lesson he left to us, and in only a few short words, so that we would be able to remember it: “Learn of me, for I am meek, and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29, Douay-Rheims). It is everything to have a heart that is meek toward our neighbor and humble toward God. At every moment give such a heart to our Savior, and let it be the heart of your heart. You will see that to the extent that this holy and considerate friend takes up a place in your mind, the world with its vanities and trifles will leave you.

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This article is from a chapter in St. Francis de Sales’ Roses Among Thorns, which is available from Sophia Institute PressPeace of Soul and Humility

Art for this post on peace of soul and humility: Cover of Roses Among Thorns, used with permission. Detail of Peinture Eveque 03184 saint François de Sales en extase (Painting Eveque 03184 Saint Francis de Sales in ecstasy), Louis François Félix Musnier, 1700s, photographed by G. Garitan, 7 August 2016, own work, CCA-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Charlie McKinney

Charlie McKinney is the Publisher of Sophia Institute Press and President of Sophia Institute for Teachers, CatholicExchange.com, CrisisMagazine.com, and EpicPew.com. Charlie is a convert to the Catholic Faith and is a regular guest on Catholic radio and television. He and his wife have four children and they reside in New Hampshire.

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  • Patricia

    St. Francis de Sales is such a kind and gentle soul full of practical advice for living a spiritual life in this world at all times in imitation of Jesus and Mary who did all things for the glory of God.

  • LT

    I am susceptible to this kind of anxiety, so this helps. There is one thing I just cannot get a handle on, though. The advice to “do the little that we can unto that end” is good but still leaves me wanting. I agree with it but how do I know that I am at least doing “the little” that I can to please God and that my heart and intentions have really been pure enough?

    • LizEst

      If you don’t already do so, you could start your day with a morning offering. Here is a traditional one:

      O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you all my prayers, works, joys, sufferings of this day, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass prayed throughout the world for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, the salvation of souls, the reparation for sin, the reunion of all Christians, and in particular for those recommended by the Holy Father. Amen.

      Praying this every morning should help put your mind at ease that everything you do is offered to the Lord. You could also tailor that prayer and add to it. When you doubt that you have offered enough, remember that you said this prayer. When you doubt the purity of your heart and your intentions, remember what you offered to God was offered through Mary’s Immaculate Heart and there is nothing impure there. Then, be at ease about this.

      Hope that helps … and God bless you LT!

    • Patricia

      St. Therese of Lisieux felt she could not do “great things” like all the “big” saints, so she did all that she did – her “little” things – with love. She wrote, “To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul.” So you can purify your intentions for each act that you do throughout the day by offering it to Jesus as an act of love for Him, She goes on to say this about pleasing Jesus: “He is compassionate and filled with gentleness, slow to punish, and abundant in mercy, for He knows our frailty, He remembers we are only dust.”

    • LT

      Thanks Patricia and LizEst. I will take your advice to heart. Blessings back for the blessings you have given me 🙂

      • LizEst

        You’re quite welcome LT … and thank you as well 😉

  • Anneli Sinkko

    I once prayed to Lord God: ‘give me humility, my arrogance is like a snake coiled in me’. And he answered – he taught me humility. And let me tell you – it was a bitter lesson and painful one. But now, I am at peace – all praise to my Lord and God, amen.

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