Vanity

In these excerpts from Groundwork of the Christian Virtues, Archbishop Ullathorne examines the connection between pride and vanity:

“If we compare pride in its elation to a dark, swelling wave, vanity is the foam upon its surface. If we compare pride to a soul-destroying fire, vanity is the smoke that flies out of it. . . . The word vanity sounds of things hollow, shallow, and trifling; but that is no trifle which makes the soul light and trivial and unrobes her of her dignity.”

“The vain man has such an image of his perfection before his eyes that, when you point out his failings, he cannot recognise them as belonging to that image. Give a much-needed advice, especially intended for him, and if there are fifty persons present he will applaud its wisdom and see its application to everyone but himself. Give him the same advice in private, and whatever be the wisdom and authority of the adviser, and however kind and gentle the admonition, it wounds him to the quick that anyone should think of him that of which he is so utterly unconscious, although everybody sees it but himself. There is no armour so impenetrable to advice as the chain-mail of vanity.”

“Our converse with our fellow-creatures is too often a comedy of vanity, vainglory, or pride. For more characters are acted on the stage of the world than on the stage of the theatre. It is more difficult to be simple before man than before God; yet even before God how much there is in many souls that come before Him which is far from simplicity and near to vanity. For instance, when you wish to show the Eternal Majesty, who sees every fibre of your poor nature, what fine speeches you can make to Him in your prayers. We are constantly managing our reputation with our neighbours either by fictitious presentations of one’s self, or by suppression of one’s true character, or by being one thing to one’s self and another to one’s neighbour, playing the comedy of vanity in one way to one person and in another way to another. Self-love moves us to act these parts, although the actor most commonly appears through the character.”

Quotations from Michael F. Glancey, Characteristics From the Writings of Archbishop Ullathorne (London: Burns & Oates, 1889).

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Pride Among Us

Archbishop William Ullathorne enumerates a few ways in which pride gives rise to various social maladies:

“Pride makes a man envious and jealous, peevish and passionate, contentious and disputatious. Easily provoked, he is hard to reconcile, especially when his self-esteem is touched; for he is suspicious of the kindliest advances, fancying a design to win his submission. He has a large appetite for flattery, but a queasy stomach for friendly advice, which he regards as dictation. He is rude and ungenial, self-opinionated and meddling, ambitious and aspiring. As he has no faults, or does not see them, which appears to him the same, his troubles arise from the ill-judged conduct of other persons, and especially of his friends. He is keen, however, in sighting another’s faults, or in imagining them where they do not appear. He is troublesome and ungovernable, resolute against reason, and stiff against wise counsel. Contemptuous to his inferiors, he is critical of his betters, and disobedient to his superiors; unfit to govern, he is unwilling to be governed. With all his show and pretension, he is hollow within; with all his outward bravery, the moral courage inside of him is low; and although artificial manners may cloak much that is here described, they take nothing of it away from the inclinations of the heart.” (Groundwork of the Christian Virtues)

“Self-love, self-opinion, self-interest, and self-exaltation are the motive powers that move the world in opposition to the kingdom of God. . . . Pride resists God and dissolves all unity; whether by heresy it sets up man’s opinion against the unity of faith; or by schisms it sets up self-will against obedience to authority; or by ambition it stirs up nation against nation; or by iniquity it divides the man against his conscience.” And again: “Pride judges, and will not be judged; it exacts obedience unreasonably, and will not reasonably obey.” (Endowments of Man)

After hearing this litany of social ills, one can better understand why God prefers the humble. Ullathorne concludes: “From the beginning to the end of the Holy Scriptures, we shall find . . . that what God accepts from man is humility, and that what He rejects is pride. His blessings are for the humble, His maledictions are for the proud. In every virtue it is humility that He rewards, in every vice it is pride that He punishes.” (Groundwork of the Christian Virtues)

Quotations from Michael F. Glancey, Characteristics From the Writings of Archbishop Ullathorne (London: Burns & Oates, 1889).

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Rash Judgment

Archbishop Ullathorne asks the question: “How can anyone, having the light of Christ, think any other really worse than himself?”

“To form true judgment of any soul, we must have the sum of all these elements of knowledge before us. We need to know the chain of all his lights from beginning to end, the chain of all his training, the chain of all his providences, the chain of all his opportunities, the chain of all his helps and graces, the chain of all his acts, thoughts, desires, and motives, and the chain of all his temptations.”

“But what know we of the interior history of anyone except ourselves? What, again, do we know of the native interior character of any soul except our own, or of the trials of that body to that soul? We know something of the external acts of another—something, perhaps, also, of his external conditions; but there our knowledge ends. We know no one by his interior and its course of life but ourselves. We have vast evidence of our own weakness and sinfulness against light and grace; but we cannot judge another, except superficially.”

“Therefore, God commands us to judge and sentence ourselves, but not to judge another. ‘Judge not, and ye shall not be judged.’ We cannot do it without enormous presumption. But, as far as we can have evidence, each one must see, if he see himself in God’s light, that he has no reason whatever to think anyone worse than himself. St. Paul says, ‘He came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief.’ He saw his own misery; he could not so see the misery of any other man. And David, contemplating himself in the light of God, says, ‘I am brought exceedingly low, I am as nothing before Thee, and I knew it not; I am as a beast of burden before Thee, yet I am always with Thee .'” (Letter in Memoirs of Lady Chatterton)

Quotations from Michael F. Glancey, Characteristics From the Writings of Archbishop Ullathorne (London: Burns & Oates, 1889).

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Diffusing Anger

In his book Christian Patience, Archbishop Ullathorne discusses the nature of anger. He writes: “Anger is not a movement of power, but a weak affection of nature destructive of power, although the angry man mistakes it for power, and at the time revels in it with a sense of satisfaction, as if it were a triumph of strength.” He adds: “Quick temper has a double sting; it stings the heart and stings the tongue.”

“One has seen from Alpine heights a little white cloud down in the valley below, which, unless some wind blows it away, will rapidly swell and grow until the whole region is enveloped in mist, fog, and rain. So is it with the first little cloud of trouble and discontent that moves in our lower nature: the breath of patience will disperse it, but if left to itself it will quickly grow on what it feeds, and will envelop and feed the soul with anger and vexation. For anger is a brooding vice that feeds on sensitive self-love and imaginary wrong far beyond the original offence, if indeed offence has been given.”

Anger also tends to blind a person: “When a man is filled with the impatience of anger from head to foot, he will tell you that he was never more calm or self-possessed in his life. He mistakes the equable balance of excitement and disturbance throughout his system for calmness and self-possession.” Hence, Ullathorne states that anger cannot be surmounted by human reason: “To reason with anger is to show a light to the blind; it is taken for reproach, and will only increase irritation.”

He suggests a way to diffuse anger: “Mild looks and gentle words subdue the fire of wrath as with a spiritual charm, and will save us from catching the contagion. If you can follow this up with benefits, you will overcome evil with good. In mastering yourself you will master evil as well.”

Quotations from Michael F. Glancey, Characteristics From the Writings of Archbishop Ullathorne (London: Burns & Oates, 1889).

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A World Without Conscience

In his book Endowments of Man, Archbishop Ullathorne considers what human society might be like if people did not possess a conscience:

“That we may better understand the power of conscience, and what man would be without its light and guidance, let us suppose it withdrawn from the human breast and extinguished in the race of man. God shall no longer assert His justice in the soul, or inspire her with the fear of His judgments. Man is left to his unbounded self-seeking: his pride and his sensual appetites have no curb, no restraint, any longer. His imagination is let loose, without fear or restraint, upon his natural propensities and passions. There is nothing any longer left to withhold him but opinion and human law. There is nothing to curb him within.”

“But when conscience is lost, what becomes of human law? Where are its principles to be found? Where are its rights? and where its sanctions? What ground, again, is left on which to build a public opinion? When the conscience of right and wrong has taken leave of the soul of man, where can it be found in the social life of man? Where, again, must we look for the common sense of what is, or is not, becoming, which is the foundation of public opinion, since that also takes its rise from the human conscience?”

“Nothing is left to hold man to rule but the force of that external legislation which prohibits the violation of its laws in open day, leaving free licence to secrecy and the night. The eye of human law searches nothing but public wrong; it cannot penetrate into the breast of veiled iniquity, nor reach the deeds that are committed in secret. . . . It cannot visit those hidden springs in the man from which all evil issues into day. It cannot deal with the sources of corruption. It knows nothing of sin, but only of certain open acts of injustice. The cognisance of sin is the mighty work of the ever-wakeful conscience, which is seated in power close by the spring of the human will; enlightening, guiding, arguing, entreating, rebuking, encouraging; rewarding the good and punishing the evil deeds.”

“Were the conscience removed from its office, and its light withdrawn, the cupidities, the lusts, the self-seeking propensities of men, would be like a world of prisoners let loose in the dark, each running against the other, each overthrowing the other, each in pursuit of his own licence and liberty; the whole multitude contending against each other, where all are seeking one and the same thing. Thus whilst each one sets his will and pleasure upon his own gain, and is bent on satisfying his own pride, indulging his own cupidities, and satisfying his own lusts, what rivalries, what jealousies, what contentions, what shocks of destructive conflict, would there be in the world, bestrewing the earth with the savage remnants of human nature, reduced to the condition of the fool who said in his heart, ‘There is no God.'”

Quotations from Michael F. Glancey, Characteristics From the Writings of Archbishop Ullathorne (London: Burns & Oates, 1889).

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What is Conscience?

Archbishop William Bernard Ullathorne writes in his Groundwork of the Christian Virtues: “We cannot return to God unless we enter first into ourselves. God is everywhere, but not everywhere to us. There is but one point in the universe where God communicates with us, and that is the centre of our own soul. There He waits for us; there He meets us; there He speaks to us. To seek Him, therefore, we must enter into our own interior.”

This interior meeting place is also where acts of conscience take place. In his book Endowments of Man, Ullathorne makes the following comments on the nature of conscience: “Conscience is both the law and the judge of the will, and in both these offices it is the organ and representative of God. It instructs us what to desire and what to fear, what to do and what to leave undone; and then it judges what we have done: applauds what we have done well, and rebukes what we have done ill. It gives peace to the good and terror to the evil.”

He cites the wisdom of St. Bernard, who says: ‘The conscience is a mirror that reflects into the man the knowledge of his exterior and interior condition. How can the man see himself without a mirror? A good conscience is the bright and pure mirror of religion. As a woman composes herself to beauty in a glass to please her husband, the soul contemplates herself in her conscience, and there sees how far she has gone from the image of truth, and what she still retains of her Creator’s image. . . . We therefore carry in our conscience, as the companion and tutor of our will, the sense of God, the voice of His law, and the mirror of our life; and our conscience is at once the witness and judge of our conduct, the approver of our good and the punisher of our evil acts, and the faithful recorder of our just or unjust life. When this record of our life comes to an end with the termination of our mortal years, it is sealed unto the day of judgment, when God will condemn nothing that has been blotted out by the tears of repentance, or consumed in the flame of charity.”

Quotations from Michael F. Glancey, Characteristics From the Writings of Archbishop Ullathorne (London: Burns & Oates, 1889).

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Liberating the Scrupulous

Padre Quadrupani suggests a strategy for banishing unreasonable scruples of conscience, thereby liberating the spiritual wayfarer from his prison and enabling him to progress onward and upward.

“It is a secret pride,” says St. Francis de Sales, “that entertains and nourishes scruples, for the scrupulous person adheres to his opinion and inquietude in spite of his director’s advice to the contrary. He always persuades himself in justification of his disobedience that some new and unforeseen circumstance has occurred to which this advice cannot be applicable. But submit without other reasoning than this: I should obey, and you will be delivered from this lamentable malady.” Quadrupani concurs, saying: “There is but one remedy for scruples and that is entire and courageous obedience.”

St. Francis de Sales said: “We should do everything from love and nothing from constraint. It is more essential to love obedience than to fear disobedience.”

Quadrupani gives this advice: “In all his actions a scrupulous person sees only an uninterrupted series of sins, and in God nothing but vengeance and anger. He ought, therefore, to consider almost exclusively the attribute of the divine Master by which He most delights to manifest Himself, mercy, and to make it the constant subject of his thoughts, meditations and affections.”

He repeats the stern words of St. Joseph of Cupertino: “Away with sadness and scruples; I will not have them in my house.”

The editor of Light and Peace offers the reader these inspiring thoughts of Archbishop Fenelon: “Woe to that narrow and self-absorbed soul that is always fearful, and because of fear has no time to love and to go generously forward. O my God! I know it is your wish that the heart that loves you should be broad and free! Hence I shall act with confidence like to the child that plays in the arms of its mother; I shall rejoice in the Lord and try to make others rejoice; I shall pour forth my heart without fear in the assembly of the children of God.”

Quotations from Carlo Giuseppe Quadrupani, Light and Peace: Instructions for Devout Souls to Dispel Their Doubts and Allay Their Fears (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1898).

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