A Year with the Saints – 12 February

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Do not believe that you hast made any advance in perfection unless you considerest thyself the worst of all, and desirest that all should be preferred to thee; for it is the mark of those who are great in the eyes of God to be small in their own eyes; and the more glorious they are in the sight of God, the more vile they appear in their own sight. Saint Teresa of Avila

One day when Saint Anthony was praying, he heard a voice saying, “Anthony, you hast not reached the perfection of a man named Coriarius, who lives in Alexandria.” The Saint went immediately to find him, and inquired about his life. Coriarius answered: “I do not know that I have ever done anything good, and so, when I rise in the morning, I say in my heart that all people in this city will be saved by their good works, and I alone shall be lost for my sins; and I say the same thing in the evening, in all sincerity, before going to rest.” “No! no! no!” replied Saint Anthony, “thou hast secured Heaven for thyself by thy wise practice; but I have unwisely failed to attain this excellence of thine.”

In the Lives of the Fathers, a certain monk is mentioned who, in giving an account of his interior to the Abbot Sisois, said that he kept continually before his mind the thought of God. The Abbot answered: “That is nothing great. The great thing would be that you should see yourself below every creature.”

One of the chief men of Alexandria, having been received into a monastery, the Abbot judged from his appearance and other signs that he was a hard man, haughty, and inflated with worldly pride. Wishing to lead him by the safe road of humility, he placed him in the porter’s lodge, with instructions to throw himself at the feet of all who passed in or out and to beg them to pray to God for him, because he was a great sinner. He obeyed with exactness, and persevered in this exercise for seven years, acquiring thereby great humility. The Abbot then thought it time to give him the habit and admit him to the society of the other members of the Order. But when he heard of this, he implored and entreated to be left as he was for the short time which, as he said, remained to him of life. His request was granted, and he proved to be a true prophet – for, after ten days he died, in great peace and confidence in regard to his salvation. This is related by Saint John Climacus, who says that he had spoken with this man, and when he inquired how he occupied himself in all that time when he was remaining at the gate, he replied: “My constant exercise was to consider myself unworthy to stay in the monastery, and to enjoy the sight and company of the Fathers, or even to raise my eyes to look at them.”

We read of the venerable Maria Seraphina di Dio that she seemed to have no eyes except to see and exaggerate her own defects, and to admire the virtues of others. So, when she saw others performing any good action, she would say, with feeling: “How happy they are! All, except me, attend to the services of God!” When she saw any going to the confessors, she thought they would only have to hear and speak of God, while she reproached herself that she went solely to tell her errors and sins. If she ever saw anyone commit a fault, she always found means to excuse or palliate it, and thus she was able, in spite of the sins of others, to retain the opinion which she held of herself as being the worst of all.

MLA Citation