Son of God, Husband, Father, and Friend.
The Rule of Saint Benedict has been the cornerstone of the monastic way of life for centuries. Saint Benedict stated the purpose of that rule is to foster and perfect the spiritual life in order “that in all things God may be glorified”. The end result is a set of core values of how to live in community, a learning experience, a “school for the Lord’s service”, that allows one to notice and eliminate personal fault, and to bring about truth and goodness within oneself for the sake of God and neighbor. One of the largest take-a-ways of the Rule of Saint Benedict was the Steps of Humility, the long and arduous path that aids in bringing about perfect humility. In prayer, Saint Bernard then wrote the “sequel” to the ascending Steps of Humility, aptly named, the Descending Steps of Pride.
As a young adult, I find it eerily easy to draw connections with my way of life and way of life described in the descending steps of pride....
They were named, descending, for the path of pride can easily lead to the path of destruction, and allows us to create distance between ourselves and God. The ascending steps of humility is a path toward God and our personal glorification via his Grace. We can look upon both sets of these steps, presented by their corresponding authors, as a “how-to-kit and a how-not-to kit”. The world around us does not make any distinction or provide us with an understanding.
The relationship between humility and pride is expressed in our relationship to God, fellow-men and women, and the greater world in which we find ourselves in 2019. It is exemplified in our humility which is internal, and our pride which is often expressed externally. In his book, Saint Bernards Three-course Banquet: Humility, Charity, and Contemplation, Bernard Bonowitz claims that both humility and pride look much alike in their infancy, and the point at which they resemble each other is just before we begin the journey. In order to increase in pride or increase in humility, we must “engage in the essential labor” of gaining “deeper and deeper knowledge of who we are”. How do we, as young adults, find out who we are? We gain this deeper knowledge by dwelling within oneself, via prayer, and decide what to do with our temptations; to indulge or dismiss. These moments of trial and temptation are difficult and we often want to avoid them at all costs. But, one must stay the course, and gradually climb the steps of humility by realizing “more inescapably that one is a sinner saved by the mercy of Christ”. The goal of gradually ascending the ladder of humility by descending the ladder of pride is the difficult work of steadying our souls, and to “experience God’s love beyond mere knowledge”. Therefore, “let our Lord set before us the difficulties that we shall encounter and the reward that we shall receive for our toilsome journey”.
Bonowitz boils down the 12th and final degree of humility as obtaining “life in the presence of God” and the alternative is “life in the absence of God”. Humility should also be described as the gateway to all communion with mankind. How can anyone, let alone us young adults, keep relationships with others when we are constantly alienating themselves from their brothers and sisters due to anything less than humility? At the last step of humility, according to Father Benedict, one lives for Christ, not out of “fear of hell, but out of love for Christ”. We are weak, and surely have “forsaken the truth...but it is for these very persons that the kind and righteous Lord preserves the path of humility...that we may discover the truth”.
The Franciscan and Saint, Padre Pio, stated that that Humility and Charity were the two most important virtues when he reminded us to “Remain tranquil, striving ever more intensely with divine help to keep humility and charity firm within (us), for they are the most important parts of the great building, and all the others depend on them. Keep yourself firmly fixed in them. One is the highest thing, the other the lowest. The preservation of the entire building depends on both the foundations and the roof. If we keep our hearts applied to the constant exercise of these [virtues], we will encounter no difficulties with the others. They are the mothers of the virtues; the other virtues follow them like chicks follow their mother.” This may seem difficult, and it is. Christ is our light and our guide on this journey. Our God will “give us more Grace….Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” (James 4:6)