“He chose want of all things, suffering and a hard comfortless life”
Following straight on the heels of the meditations on the Two Standards and the Three Classes of Men, we will today consider the Three Kinds of Humility. This is even tougher than the previous meditations!
Once again, we must remember that we are not necessarily expected to have the third degree of humility; or at least not just yet. As Ignatius says, the First Degree is necessary for salvation; he does not say this about the other two. Possessing the Third Degreee of Humility and detachment implies heroic sanctity and union with God. After all, those with the Second Degree of Humility seem to be very holy to us, and if the truth is told we are likely to consider those with even the First Degree to be pretty good people as well. But then again, we are to consider the issue from the standard of Christ and not our own, flawed standard. We may never reach this level of holiness, but we should start out on the road towards it, little by little, even if it seems frightening to us at first.
Here is the text of St Ignatius:
First Humility. The first manner of Humility is necessary for eternal salvation; namely, that I so lower and so humble myself, as much as is possible to me, that in everything I obey the law of God, so that, even if they made me lord of all the created things in this world, nor for my own temporal life, I would not consent to breaking a Commandment, whether Divine or human, which binds me under mortal sin.
Second Humility. The second is more perfect Humility than the first; namely, if I find myself at such a stage that I do not want, and feel no inclination to have, riches rather than poverty, to want honor rather than dishonor, to desire a long rather than a short life – provided only in each alternative I would promote equally the service of God our Lord and the salvation of my soul; and so not for all creation, nor because they would take away my life, would I consent to committing a venial sin.
Third Humility. The third is most perfect Humility; namely, when – presuming the first and second degree are already attained, and the praise and glory of the Divine Majesty being equally served – in order to imitate and be more actually like Christ our Lord, I want and choose poverty with Christ poor rather than riches, opprobrium with Christ replete with it rather than honors; and to desire to be rated as worthless and a fool for Christ, Who first was held as such, rather than wise or prudent in this world.
Fr Doyle made this meditation 106 years ago today, at midnight on October 25, 1907. In the old liturgical calendar October 25 was the feast of St Margaret Mary Alacoque to whom Fr Doyle was especially devoted. This is why he refers to her so much in these reflections. Note also that St Margaret Mary was canonised in 1920 and thus he refers to her as Blessed Margaret Mary.
Fr Doyle’s words today are so direct that there will be no need for comments afterwards.
I have now reached the great meditation, the crucial point, of the retreat. God has been very good to me in enlightening my mind to see His will and in filling my heart with a most ardent desire to do it cost what it may. Jesus, dear Jesus, I want to please You, to do exactly what You want of me, to give all generously this time without any reserve, and never to go back on my resolution. In this spirit I made the midnight meditation on October 25th, the Feast of Blessed. Margaret Mary. I saw clearly what I knew years ago but would not admit: that God is asking from me the practice of the Third Degree in all its perfection as far as I am capable. I cannot deny it or shut my eyes to this truth any longer. Should I not be grateful to the good God for choosing me for such a life, since it will be all the work of His grace and not my own doing? God wants me to put perfection sanctity before me and to “go straight” for that, for holiness. He wants me not to be content with the ordinary good life of the average religious, but to aim at something higher, nobler, more worthy of Him. He wants me to make ceaseless war on myself, my passions, inclinations, habits; to smash and break down my own will, to mortify it in all things so that it may be free for His grace to act upon; in a word, to aim at the perfection of the Third Degree and all that that means, not for one day or month or a year, but for the rest of my life, faithfully, unceasingly, constantly, without rest or intermission. To do this I must strive to cut away all comfort in my life, choose that which is “hard,” go against my natural inclination, and give up the easy self-indulgent life I have hitherto led. The motive for this is the immense, deep, real love of the Heart of Jesus for me, His example which He wants me to follow, for He chose want of all things, suffering and a hard comfortless life, and by doing the same I imitate Him and become more and more like to Him. Can I do this for five, ten, twenty years – lead a crucified life so long? Jesus does not ask that, but only that I do so for this day so quickly passed and with it the recollection of the little suffering and mortifications endured once over, all is over, but the eternal reward remains.
My Jesus, I feel that at last You have conquered, Your love has conquered; and last night, kneeling before the image of Your Sacred Heart, I promised You to begin this new life, to begin at last to serve You as You urged me to do during the past sixteen years. I made my promise, knowing well my weakness, but trusting in Your all-powerful grace to do what seems almost impossible to my cowardly nature. Now I have begun. I promise You, sweet Jesus, to serve You perfectly with all the fervour of my soul, aiming at the Third Degree in its perfection. I make this offering through the hands of Blessed. Margaret Mary. Amen.
Tronchiennes, Oct. 25th, 1907. Feast of Blessed Margaret Mary.