A Year with the Saints – 28 February


All those who have truly wished to arrive at the possession of humility have applied themselves with all their power to the practice of humiliation, because they know that this is the quickest and shortest road thereto. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

The blessed Alessandro Sauli, Bishop of Aleria, a man of learning and esteemed in his Order, willingly occupied himself, even when he was Superior, in humble employments such as sweeping the house, washing the dishes, drawing water, bringing wood to the kitchen, working in the garden, serving the old and the sick, carrying heavy burdens on his back, taking charge of the door, ringing the bells, or helping the sacristan. When, on account of preaching or other spiritual works, he was at any time prevented from performing these daily exercises, he was accustomed to supply the omission by doing double work on the next day.

Saint Camillus de Lellis was also remarkable in this way. When he was Superior General of his Order, he was often seen serving in the refectory, washing dishes in the kitchen, carrying the cross, and sometimes even the coffin, at funerals, and going about Rome with a wallet on his shoulders, begging bread – though he was blamed for it by some great nobles and cardinals who were his friends and happened to meet him in the streets in this guise. The venerable Mother Seraphina often employed herself in humble tasks; she was also seen many times rubbing her face with an old shoe.

Saint Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi, of her own accord, adopted practices that might bring her into contempt, such as having her eyes bandaged, her hands tied behind her back, being trampled upon, struck, or rudely addressed.

We read of Saint Policronius that he wore a wretched habit, ate poor and very scanty food, and passed almost all night in prayer with an oak log on his shoulders, so heavy that Theodoret, the author of his life, who had seen the log, found by experiment that he could scarcely lift it from the ground with both hands.

Saint Rose of Lima, besides occupying herself as a servant in the lowest offices every day, invented a strange method of lowering herself still more. Having in the house a woman-servant of harsh temper and exceedingly coarse nature, she induced her, by urgent entreaties, to maltreat her both in words and acts. Retiring with her into a lonely part of the house, and throwing herself upon the floor, the Saint would cause this person to spit in her face, trample her underfoot, strike her with her fist, kick and beat her, as teamsters sometimes do a horse; nor would she rise to her feet until she had obtained as much of this treatment as she desired.

Saint John Climacus tells of a monk who had a great love for humility, that he devised this plan to overcome the thoughts of pride with which the devil inspired him. He wrote upon the wall of his cell these memorable words: Perfect charity. Loftiest contemplation. Total mortification. Unalterable sweetness. Unconquerable patience. Angelic chastity. Profoundest humility. Filial confidence. Promptest diligence. Utter resignation. So, when the devil began to urge him to pride, he answered within himself, “Let us try the test.” Then approaching the wall, he read these headings: “Perfect charity. Charity, yes, but how perfect, if I speak evil of others? Profoundest humility. This I have not; it is quite enough if I claim the profound. Angelic chastity. How can this be mine, when I allow admittance to unchaste thoughts? Loftiest contemplation. No, I have many distractions. Total mortification. No, for I seek my own gratification. Unalterable sweetness. No, for at the least vexation I lose my self-control.” And so with all the rest. In this way he banished the temptation to vanity.

MLA Citation