A Year with the Saints – 8 February


Hold thyself as vile; rejoice to be so held by others; never exalt thyself by reason of the gifts of God, and you shalt be perfectly humble. – Saint Bonaventure of Bagnoregio

A soul of precisely this type was Saint Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi. It is recorded of her that she was so vile in her own eyes that she constantly looked upon herself as the lowest of creatures and the most disgraceful and abominable thing upon earth. Being one day called to the grate by the Duchess of Bracciano, she said with great feeling, “If my lady Duchess knew that Sister Mary Magdalen is the abomination of this convent, she would not think of naming her, much less of sending for her.” In the same light in which she looked upon herself, she desired also to be viewed by others; and when she was treated contemptuously, or in any way humiliated, she rejoiced so much that in reward for the great gladness with which she received humiliations, she was often rapt in ecstasy after them. For this reason she could not bear to see that she was honored and esteemed, and that others had a good opinion of her; and to prevent this, she would often accuse herself in public and in private of her smallest defects, even with exaggeration.

And so, with things which were not really faults, she mentioned them in such a way as to make them seem grave faults. For example, in cutting up a pineapple one day, she ate two morsels that fell from it. Therefore, she accused herself of gluttony, and of eating outside of the refectory, contrary to the Constitution. She took, besides, all possible pains to conceal from others her virtues and holy works, and when she could not do this, she would try to depreciate them by showing that they were full of defects; in this way she would make the most perfect actions seem worthy of reproof, or, at least, merely natural, and springing from her own inclination. And as she could neither prevent nor conceal the ecstasies which were granted to her, it displeased her exceedingly to be looked at, or listened to, while they lasted, even to such a degree that she once complained to the Lord, saying: “O my Jesus! how is it that Thou hast conferred upon me so much that is known only to Thee and myself, and now Thou wilt have me reveal it? Hast Thou not promised me that as Thou wast hidden, so should I also be?” Once when her confessor ordered her to report to her companions what happened to her in these ecstasies, she wept bitterly, as she did also in making the relation, so that finally she went so far as to entreat the Lord to make her no more communications of the kind. She was so far from drawing any complacency or self-esteem from this source that, as if she had committed a fault, she would humble herself after these favors, even to the last novice or lay-sister, and set herself to perform the daily exercises with them, and converse with them with so much humility and charity that it was an admirable thing to see and hear her, first holding communion with the Divine Majesty with such loftiness of ideas, and then, immediately after, to behold her so humble, dependent, and submissive to her neighbors.

MLA Citation