Monday, February 3, 2014

Fr. Alphonsus Rodriguez on Vainglory in the Apostolate

Although all the world in general has reason to take precaution against vainglory; yet those who, by their institute and charge, are employed in the salvation of souls, have yet a more particular obligation to be always upon their guard in this respect. For their employment being so sublime, and so exposed to public view, they have a great deal more to be afraid of than others; and they will render themselves far more guilty, if in this function they only regard themselves and seek nothing else than the vain applause of men. This were to make use of the graces and gifts of God as instruments to rebel against him; and it is for this reason, St. Bernard cries out:— Unhappy are they, who have received the gift of speaking and thinking well of God, if they look upon piety as merchandise, and apply that to the profit and interest of vainglory, which they received to promote God's honour [sic]: if the greatness and generosity of soul that moves them to undertake so high enterprises, be not founded upon true humility of heart let them truly fear that they are not such as we read of in the prophet [Hosea]: I have given them silver and gold, wherewith they have made an idol of Baal.— that is, they have erected my gifts, as an idol to their own vanity.

On this subject, St. Gregory(Greg lib. ii. Mor. c. 17.) relates what St. Paul said to the Corinthians:—We are not like the great number of those who corrupt the word of God; but we speak with sincerity, we speak as those who are of God, and in his presence, and speak in Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. ii.17.) This passage, says he, admits of two explanations, and shews that we may corrupt the word of God two ways. The first is, when explaining the holy scripture after another manner than we ought, we draw thence innumerable falsities, which, like illegitimate children, are produced by our understanding; for, the Holy Ghost being the author and spouse of holy scripture, it ought to have that true and legitimate sense, which he declares to his church by the saints and doctors thereof. The second is applicable to our purpose, which this great saint gives us to understand after this manner: There is this difference, says he, between the spouse and the adulteress — the one proposes to have children, and the other thinks of nothing else than to gratify her passion: so that he who by his preaching, intends not to beget spiritual children to God, conformably to the obligation of his office, and according to these words of the apostle, I have begotten you by the gospel, (I Cor. iv. 15.) but only seeks his own satisfaction, and to gain for himself the esteem of men, is a mere adulterer, who corrupts the purity of the word of God. [...]

Let as not in effect seek our own ends in our employments, but let us always have the honour and glory of God alone before our eyes.

We ought in all our employments, to have the same fidelity to God he had to his prince, and we ought never desire that any one should attribute to us the glory of the conversion of souls, or any other good success, but refer it always to God alone; according to what the prophet says: Give not thy glory to us, O Lord, but to your name, (Ps. cxiii. 9. ) and according to the canticle the angels sung at our Saviour's [sic] birth: Glory be to God on high. (Luke ii. 14.)

We read in the life of St. Thomas [Aquinas], that he was never touched with the least sentiment of pride; and that neither his profound knowledge, nor his angelical talents, nor the other favours [sic] he had received from God in great abundance, ever moved him to take the least vain complacency in himself. We read also of St. Ignatius, that for many years before his death, he was not the least moved by temptations to vainglory; because the light of heaven, illuminating his mind, filled him at the same time with such knowledge of his nothingness, and with such contempt of himself, that he was accustomed to say, That there was no vice he less feared, than that of vainglory. See therefore after what models we ought to form ourselves, and what ought to be the subject of our confusion, when, even in our most frivolous and insignificant actions, we permit ourselves to be carried away by vanity. For if in these small things you shew so little moderation, how would you be transported, if you were eminent for learning — if you had the character of a great preacher — if you had converted and advanced in perfection a great many souls, and if you heard yourself applauded by the whole world? We ought therefore in small things to accustom ourselves betimes to set little or no value on the praises of men, and to do nothing at all through human respects; to the end that we may more easily do the like on other occasions of greater moment.


Source: Fr. Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J., The Practice of Christian Perfection, vol. 1, tr. 3, ch. 5, p. 49.

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