All Human Greatness Is Empty of Truth, Like a Lie.
The Memorial of Saint Charles Borromeo, Bishop.
Lessons from the primary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Romans 11: 1-2, 11-12, 25-29.
• Psalm 94: 12-15, 17-18.
• Luke 14: 1, 7-11.
…or, from the proper:
• Romans 12: 3-13.
• Psalm 89: 2-5, 21-22, 25, 27.
• John 10: 11-16.
…or, any lessons from the common of Pastors for a Bishop.
The Third Class Feast of Saint Charles Borromeo, Bishop & Confessor; and, the Commemoration of Saints Vitalis & Agricola, Martyrs.*
Lessons from the common "Státuit…" of a Confessor Bishop, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Ecclesiasticus 44: 16-27; 45: 3-20.
• [Gradual] Ecclesiasticus 44: 16, 20.
• Matthew 25: 14-23.
If a Mass for the commemoration is taken, first lesson from the common "Salus autem…" for Many Martyrs, Gradual from the common "Sapiéntiam…" for Many Martyrs, & third lesson from the common "Sacerdótes Dei…" of a Martyr Bishop:
• Hebrews 10: 32-38.
• Psalm 123: 7-8.
• Matthew 16: 24-27.
The Twenty-First Friday after Pentecost; the Feast of Our Venerable Father Joannicus the Great; the Feast of the Holy Martyr Nicander, Bishop of Myra; and, the Feast of the Priest Hermas.**
First & third lessons from the pentecostarion, second & fourth from the menaion for the Venerable, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• II Corinthians 5: 1-10.
• Galatians 5: 22—6: 2.
• Luke 9: 1-6.
• Matthew 4: 25—5: 12.
8:24 AM 11/4/2017 — We mark the First Saturday of November this year by observing the Memorial of Saint Charles Borromeo, who kind of started off on the wrong foot. Born in 1538, he rose through the ranks of the clergy very rapidly primarily because his uncle was Pope Pius IV; that was emblematic of the corruption that was rampant in the Church at the time. By the time he was twenty-two he was already a cardinal and his uncle’s secretary of state, but he turned out to be very effective. When Saint Pius V became Pope and announced his determination two wipe out all the corruption and implement the reforms of the Council of Trent, he became the new Pope’s right-hand man, establishing the first modern seminaries for the training of priests, and the principle author of the Catechism of the Council of Trent. He went on to become Archbishop of Milan, and was regarded as a model pastor by none other than Saint Francis de Sales. He died in 1584 at the age of forty-six.
His memorial is not optional, which is why we’re not offering a Votive Mass of the Mother of God, but we will nonetheless expose the Blessed Sacrament at the end of Mass and pray together another of those eclectic litanies I like to throw at you, this one being the Litany of the Life of Mary. You will then have the opportunity to keep company with our Lord until one-thirty, when we will conclude our Holy Hour with Benediction. During the Holy Hour, I will return to the confessional for the benefit of anyone who was not able to confess before Mass. With that, we turn our attention to our Blessed Mother and how she can relate to today’s Scripture lessons.
[Mary] is the gate through which all God's graces pass. She seasons our good actions, imparting an enhanced value to them. She makes our offering even more acceptable to God. Finally, she grants us the title of possessors of the divine Heart. It might even be said that she induces God to be our servant. This is because God has never been able to resist the supplication of a humble heart.***
That's from a sermon by the Curé d'Ars. I read it today not only because today's Gospel lesson is about humility, but also because it's First Saturday, on which we are accustomed to honoring the Mother of God, the model of humility.
The odd thing is, our Blessed Mother had little reason to be humble if we view this virtue the way most of us do: after all, She was conceived without the original fault that causes temptation and vice in the rest of us. And we have these thoughts because we tend to view this virtue in a purely negative way: it involves a denial of one's pride, a tempering of one's ambition, and extinction of our egoism and vanity; and, our Lady did not experience any of these temptations because it's our fallen nature which is the cause of all temptation, a fallen nature that our Blessed Mother does not share with us.
But when you look at the word “humility,” it derives from the Latin word humus, which means earth, soil or dirt. Humility is really a recognition of our human origin in the dust of which Adam was made. The virtue of humility consists in the living out of a realistic appraisal of our comparative insignificance as creatures who are totally dependent on God. The great spiritual writer of the Dominicans, Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, wrote:
Humility, by inclining us toward the earth, recognizes our littleness, our poverty, and in its way glorifies the majesty of God …. The interior soul experiences a holy joy in annihilating itself, as it were, before God to recognize practically that He alone is great and that, in comparison with His, all human greatness is empty of truth like a lie.†
So, humility is really nothing more than a recognition of reality. It's like I that line I threw at you the other day: we wouldn't worry so much about what others think of us if only we realized how seldom they do.
Look at the scenes of the Annunciation, and our Lady's Magnificat at the Visitation: as soon as the Archangel tells Her that She is to be the Mother of God, She immediately declares Herself the Lord's Handmaid. Even without the sin of pride, She clearly recognizes that She, like the rest of us, comes from the earth, created by God out of nothing, caused to exist moment by moment because God wills Her to exist. The more She is elevated by God, the more She is moved to be humble before Him; which is why, right after receiving the praise of her cousin, Elizabeth, who recognized Her as the Mother of God right away, She put herself at Her cousin's service, staying with her three months in order to serve her.
In today's Gospel lesson, our Blessed Lord concludes his little parable by saying, “Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he that humbles himself shall be exalted” (Luke 14: 11 Knox), but that's a loaded sentence; because, if we interpret it in a purely pedestrian and negative way—that anyone who puts on airs will get his comeuppance—we've missed the point. Our Lord doesn't waste his words giving practical, home-spun wisdom as one would get from Norman Vincent Peale or “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” The person who humbles himself will be exalted because the person who is thus exalted will, if he is truly conscious of his creature-hood—conscious of the fact that he was made from the dust of the earth, and that he wouldn't exist at all if God were not continually willing his existence moment by moment—would know instinctively that being raised up by God is a call to recognize the truth: the truth of Who God is, of who he is, and his place before God.
That's what our Lady knew instinctively, but we don't have to be free from sin like She was to know that about ourselves. It's just a matter of taking ourselves down a peg. When we examine our consciences in preparation for confession, we often don't realize that our frustration with habitual sin is really an exercise in the sin of pride. “Father, I keep struggling with this; I don't know what to do?” What do you mean you don't know what to do? You know very well what to do: acknowledge you are nothing, place it in the hands of our Lord, and then get on with your day. The idea that there's some sort of secret spiritual trick that we've missed out on, and if the priest would only tell us what it is our habitual sin would just go away, is all rooted in the fact that we think we're more important than we are, that just because we want to be holy and free from sin, that desire alone merits God just waving his magic hands and freeing us from the concupiscence of a fallen nature. And when we think that way, how are we any different from the Pharisee in the Temple? “I thank thee, God, that I am not like the rest of men, who steal and cheat and commit adultery, or like this publican here” (Luke 18: 11 Knox). Our Lord says that the publican was the one who went home that day justified, not because he was any better than the Pharisee—because he wasn't—but because he knew who he was; he recognized the truth about himself, and was able to live with it.
Let us, on this First Saturday, turn to the Mother of God, and ask Her to implore Her Son to grant us the Grace of self-knowledge.
* During the reign of Emperor Diocletian, Agricola, servant of the nobleman Vitalis, suffered terrible tortures for his faith, praying all the while with great fortitude. His master, inspired by this example, converted at the sight, and they were crucified together in Balogna in 304.
** Joannicus was born in Marycate, Bithynia, in 754. He served in the Imperial Army, then retired to Mount Olympus in 795 to live as a hermit. He died in 846 during the time of the Holy Patriarch Methodius.
The holy, glorious and right-victorious Hieromartyr Nicander of Myra (also Nikandros) was the first Bishop of Myra, centuries later the See of St. Nicholas. He, with his fellow martyr, the priest Hermas, were followers of the Apostle Titus, who had ordained them. Living the ascetic life amid incessant pastoral works, the saints converted many pagans to Christ. For this they were arrested and brought before the city prefect, Libanius. Neither flattery nor threats swayed the holy martyrs to renounce Christ, so Libanius gave orders that they be tortured. They endured fierce and inhuman torments: tied to horses and dragged over stones, their bodies were raked with iron hooks, and they were cast into a hot oven. The Lord helped them endure things that a mere man by his own strength could not endure. Towards the end, iron nails were hammered into their heads and hearts. They were thrown into a pit, then covered over with earth, sometime around AD 95.
*** St. John Vianney, Sermon on the 10th Sunday after Pentecost.
† R. Garrigou-Lagrange, The Three Ways of the Interior Life, II, p. 118.