A Year with the Saints – 16 February


When you see anyone who desires esteem and honors and avoids contempt, and who, when contradicted or neglected, shows resentment and takes it ill, you may be sure that such a one, though he were to perform miracles, is very far from perfection, for all his virtue is without foundation. Saint Thomas Aquinas

That the Angelic Doctor held this belief truly before God is certain, for his conduct proves it. Not only did he not desire honors and applause, but he abhorred them and avoided them as far as he could. He was offered the Archbishopric of Naples by Clement IV, at a time when his family, being out of favor with the Emperor, had fallen into great poverty. He was, therefore, earnestly entreated by them, as well as by others, to accept it. However, he not only refused it but obtained from the same Pope a promise that no dignity should ever be offered him for the future. Besides, he entreated his superiors not to compel him to take the degree of Doctor, as he greatly preferred being learned to being called so; and if he finally took it, it was purely from obedience. But instead of avoiding contempt, he always accepted it with a tranquil soul and a serene countenance. When he was a student, he did not disdain to receive as monitor a fellow student who, finding that he talked but little, attributed it to ignorance and want of talent, and called him ‘the dumb ox?’ But he was soon undeceived, when he saw that he had so much talent that he could easily serve not only as a monitor but even as a master to himself. One day when the Saint was reading aloud in the refectory at dinner, he was corrected for mispronouncing a word, and though he knew that he had pronounced it properly, he nevertheless repeated, it in the way he was told. Being afterwards asked by his companions why he had done so, “Because,” he replied, “it matters little whether we pronounce a syllable long or short, but it matters very much to be humble and obedient.”

Saint Clare once said: “If I should see myself honored by all the world, it would not arouse in me the slightest vanity; and if I should see myself contemned and despised by all the world, I should not feel the least perturbation.” Saint Philip Neri never seemed grieved or displeased at any insult or contempt he might receive. This was a trait so visible and so well known among his associates, that they used to say, “Anything can be said to Father Philip, for nothing ever troubles him.” When it was one day reported to him that some people had called him an old simpleton, he laughed and was much pleased at it.

Saint Anthony, hearing a monk very much praised, treated him contemptuously; and when he saw that he took this ill, he said: “This man is like a palace, rich and elegant without, but within, plundered by robbers.”

MLA Citation