Building Upon Humility

In his book Groundwork of the Christian Virtues, Archbishop Ullathorne discusses at length the benefits of the virtue of humility. For example, he suggests that “a few truly humble souls will change the hearts of many, and will prevent much sin, if only by their prayers.”

Humility, he argues, is a foundation for the other virtues. He offers this analogy: “Once make a good fire, and everything combustible will feed it. Once get a good foundation of humility, and every virtue that it receives will increase its power. Where a good soil has been well opened out, and the heavens are propitious, you may grow any fruit in it; but to humility the heavens are always propitious.”

Unfortunately, the value of humility is not universally recognized: “As the pillar that led Israel from Egypt to the Land of Promise was both light and cloud, so this virtue of humility is light to the children of belief, whilst to the children of this world it takes the appearance of an obscure and unintelligible cloud. It enlightens the humble; it perplexes the proud.”

“Because humility is accused by pride of acting the part of vice in lowering the dignity of man, in degrading him from his worth, and bringing him under a mean and timid superstition, our next duty will be to show that this virtue belongs to the dignity of truth and the nobility of justice. The fumes that ascend from the animal senses to the mind, and the enchantments that are worked by self-love in the imagination, obscure the vision of truth. . . . Instead of lowering man from his true dignity, this virtue dissolves the theatrical illusions of mock dignity; instead of debasing his worth, humility discovers where his true worth lies, and dispels the fictitious charms of false greatness. The first office of humility is to put up with no deception, but to find the very truth respecting ourselves. When the truth is found, the second office of humility is to do justice to the discovery, and to be severe in repressing what is false and unjust in the estimate we have taken of ourselves. But we can only take this just measure of ourselves in the light of God’s truth, and by the rule of His justice; and this caused the Psalmist to say: ‘I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are equity; and in Thy truth Thou hast humbled me.'”

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

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