A Year with the Saints – 14 February

Entry

Vain self-complacency and the desire of making a show of being spoken of, of having our conduct praised, and of hearing it said that we succeed well and are doing wonders – this is an evil which makes us forget God, which infects our holiest actions, and is, of all vices, the most injurious to progress in the spiritual life. I do not understand how anyone can believe and hold it as a truth of faith that he who exalts himself shall be abased if he desires to pass for a man of worth, a person of prudence, foresight, and ability. Saint Vincent de Paul

The widely known Franciscan, Brother Justin, entered the Order of Saint Francis after refusing great favors and most honorable offices which the King of Hungary offered him. He then advanced so far in religion, that he had frequent ecstasies. One day while dining at the table in the monastery, he was raised in the air and carried over the heads of the Religious, to pray before a picture of the Virgin which was painted high on the wall. On account of this wonder, Pope Eugenius IV sent for him and embraced him, not allowing him to kiss his feet; then, seating him by his side, he had a long conversation with him, and gave him many presents and indulgences. This favor made him vain, and Saint John Capestran meeting him on his return, said: “Alas! you didst go forth an angel, and you art come back a demon!” In fact, increasing every day in insolence, he killed a monk with a knife. After a term of imprisonment, he escaped into the kingdom of Naples, where he committed many crimes, and finally died in prison.

A holy monk once passed a night in a convent of nuns where there was a boy continually tormented by a devil. Through all that night the child remained undisturbed, and so, in the morning, the monk was requested to take him home to his monastery and keep him until the cure was complete. He did this, and then as nothing more happened to the boy he said to the other monks, with some complacency: “The devil made light of those nuns in tormenting this boy; but since he has come into this monastery of God’s servants, he has no longer dared to approach him.” No sooner had he said this than the boy, in the presence of them all, began to suffer as he had previously, and the monk bewailed his error. Another monk once boasted, in presence of his abbot Saint Pachomius, that he had made two mats in one day, when the Saint reproved him and ordered him to carry the two mats on his shoulders before the other monks and ask the pardon and prayers of all, because he had valued these two mats more than the Kingdom of Heaven. He also commanded him to remain five months in his cell without ever allowing himself to be seen, and to make two mats a day for all that time. From his earliest years, Saint Thomas Aquinas was always opposed to receiving praise, and he never uttered a word which might lead to it. Therefore, he never felt any temptation to vanity or self-complacency, as he himself testified to Brother Reginald, saying he rendered thanks to God that he had never been tempted by pride. Saint Vincent de Paul made this resolution to close the path against self-complacency: “When I am performing some public action, and may complete it with honor, I will perform it indeed, but I will omit those details which might give it luster or attract notice to myself. Of two thoughts which come into my mind, I will manifest the lower, to humble myself, and I will keep back the higher, to make in my heart a sacrifice of it to God; for it is at times expedient to do a thing less well outwardly, rather than to be pleased with ourselves for having done it well, and to be applauded and esteemed for it; and it is a truth of the Gospel that nothing pleases the Lord so much as humility of heart and simplicity of word and deed. It is here that His spirit resides, and it is in vain to seek it elsewhere.” This resolution he observed carefully. One day when traveling with three of his priests, he told them, by way of diversion, an adventure which had once happened to him. But in the midst of his story he stopped short, striking his breast, and saying that he was a wretch, full of pride and always talking of himself. When he reached home, prostrating himself before them, he asked pardon for the scandal he had given them by talking about himself.

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