Skip to comments.A remedy for Pride based on something Jesus told St. Catherine of Siena
Posted on 09/02/2013 1:39:02 PM PDT by NYer
We live in times collectively marked by pride. And, while pride is a problem of the human condition that has beset us from the very beginnings of paradise lost, our modern age, with the rise of atheism, rejection of God, scorn for the metaphysical, and a hyper-emphasis of the “autonomous” self, pride has taken an even more prominent place.
Largely absent from the modern psyche is any deep notion that we are contingent beings, radically dependent on things, people and factors outside our “autonomous” self. Even before we bring God into the discussion, we seem less aware today that our existence and capacity to survive is deeply rooted in thousands, if not millions of factors outside us and beyond our immediate control.
Thank God (oops, did I say that?!), that your parents met, and your great grandparents, and your great, great, great, great…grandparents met, in all the combinations necessary for you to exist. Otherwise, no you!
And let us not forget the trillions of other things necessary for all those human combinations to have happened. The earth has kept its almost perfect circular orbit at just the right distance from the Sun; the Sun and all that is necessary for its working has kept its stable burn, with no big flares or dimishments; the Van Allen belts have been up and running in the high atmosphere to deflect harmful radiation from the earth; the asteroid belt has collected asteroids and kept then from hurling on earth, Jupiter and Saturn are out there catching comets for us and keeping them away; every part of every cell of your body is functioning at a high rate of success, every molecule, and every atom too….well you get the point. We are very contingent beings.
To say that we are contingent beings is to say that our existence is not necessary, does not explain itself, and is the result of other factors and people, not us. Our existence is neither necessary, likely, nor even all that predictable.
We have discussed on the blog before that, according to the playful (but probably understated) odds of a mathematician the probability of you or I existing at all is 1 in 102,685,000. Thats a number so huge it hurts to think about it. (More on that article here: On the “Non-Probability” of your existence). There is no such thing as a “self-made man.” We are contingent, VERY contingent.
Our existence, is astonishingly unlikely and I would say miraculous. That you or I am here at all is almost inexplicable, given the number of things and people necessary for us to exist.
Even before one brings God into the picture, a little humility is called for here based on how remarkably contingent and dependent we are are. For all the braggadocio of modern man, and all our talk about autonomy, Nietzschean Existentialism, “uberman”, self-determination, self-referentialism and all other anthropocentric, prideful and bold assertions, we look pretty pathetic, when we realize how dependent and contingent we really are.
In a certain sense we barely exist at all, so dependent are we on things and people outside our self. If you can read this, thank a teacher, If you exist at all thank ten trillion (I am not exaggerating) other factors, forces and people.
And how about thanking God? Frankly everything that exists in this created world is contingent and highly unlikely by itself. At some point everything cannot exist based on nothing. There must be some one or something that is “existence itself” and does not depend on, or stand on anything, or anyone before it. And that something, that someONE we call God.
God is not some other thing in the universe, or even outside the universe. He is existence itself. To deny the existence of a non-contingent being is to deny yourself, for something cannot ultimately stand on nothing. There has to be a foundation that depends on nothing else to stand, that explains itself. For other things to subsist, there must be one who exists, who is existence itself. And that someone we call God.
All of this came to mind the other day as I was reading The Life of St Catherine of Siena by her confessor, Blessed Raymond of Capua. In that work he relates a conversation that St. Catherine had with Jesus (which Catherine also relates in the Dialogue). In this conversation Jesus reminds Catherine of her contingency and dependance. He also gives Catherine the secret of overcoming pride so that our ancient enemy will never outwit us. Blessed Raymond recounts the dialogue of Jesus with Catherine in this way:
The holy Virgin told her confessors, of who, though unworthy, I was one, that, at the beginning of her visions, when the Lord Jesus Christ first began to appear to her, he said, “Do you know, daughter, who you are, And who I am? If you know these two things, you will be blessed. You are she is not; whereas I am He who is. Have this knowledge in you and the enemy will never deceive you “
[Blessed Raymond continues]: A succinct doctrine Oh, Immeasurable wisdom, wrapped in a few brief syllables ”You,” said the Lord, “are she who is not.” Indeed, all creatures are made from nothing, for “to create” means to make something from nothing. When creatures are left to themselves they tend to return to nothing, and if the creator ceased for one moment to preserve them in existence, they would rapidly be reduced to nothing again. The Apostle says, “…for if any man think himself to be something, whereas he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Galatians 6:3). And Jesus says “For without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
And [Blessed Raymond continues] here is a healing remedy, for what wound of pride can enter into a soul that knows itself to be nothing? Who can glory in anything he does? And thus, all vices are driven out by the words, “You are not”.
And here too are many anxieties diminished. For, as Blessed Raymond attests, “Whenever I or any of the other friars was afraid of any danger, Catherine would say, “What have you to do with yourselves? Leave it to Divine Providence. However much afraid you are, Providence still has his eyes on you and is always aiming at your salvation.” [Pages 62-65, selected verses].
And thus, a sense of our contingency, that compared to God, you and are “are not”; is a remedy for pride. In an era of pride, of a false and excessive sense of self-sufficiency, autonomy, and that we can “craft” reality and answer to no one, a simple reminder of our contingency is essential. And here it is given and it is put in a way that only a Saint can relate: “You are she who is not… I (the Lord) am He who IS.”
Have this knowledge in you you and you will be blessed, and the ancient enemy will never deceive you. For by this knowledge is the back of pride broken and is the basis for all humility formed.
“Fascism” is just a word representing the amount of false pride
a) to which a person chains his or her self;
b) to which people chain themselves.
Ego, it is, that misleads you into thinking, that you are not simply a butterfly.
Yet you are, simply a butterfly, mostly aware of what you must do in the form of never-ending chores, while you are most-of-the-time un-aware of how you are held aloft.
The Big Egos / The Big Fascists tell you that *it’s all you* / *it’s all them* ... but they offer you only hot air that appears to keep you aloft for a while as it indelicately works against your structural security.
On the other Hand, is Jesus telling us that He holds us aloft; and when you consider how small are your chores in relation to how great are the forces that truly keep you aloft, that may cause a body to consider Him and thank Him.
Seems to me.
Your choices are
- to amount, you are assured by Big
- to be held, we are assured by Him
To Big, you are a useful ... amount.
To Him, you are a butterfly relative to the immensity. He watches you struggle with your ever-present, un-relenting chores, but He is aware of so much more that holds you aloft.
You have two choices
- the center of your universe
- a part of He who is.
Before you start pontificating on how improbable our existence is, you may want to learn what probability is. Just because there is some 1 in 10^2747277318234 chance that carbon atoms aimlessly drifting through the universe would randomly assemble into the Earth and you on it, doesn’t mean that’s how that happened. The processes of nature do not happen “randomly” in the sense that every outcome is equally likely. Nature’s processes play with loaded dice, where the desired outcome is far more likely than the others, and, like a casino owner faced with players using loaded dice and marked cards, you would be wise to take such things into account in your calculations. So go ahead and find out how many other stars have Jupiters (lots) before saying how special Sol is that it has one. Or how many other planets have circular orbits, or how many stars burn steadily without incinerating everything around them. You just might find out that the Earth is not so special after all.
Not to mention certain aspects of multiverse theory where it is suspected that there are an infinite number of universes and that each of us have repeated this life an infinite number of times.
That might be someone's idea of hell, but fortunately if its true you have no memory of it.
I find it funny that we get lectured about pride from someone who has claimed to have had a one-on-one conversation with the divine.
I'm pretty sure the odds of me existing were 1:1. In fact I'd bet on it if I were the gambling type.
Or would that be 1:0? Not really my area of expertise.
The greatest misery does not stop Me from uniting Myself to a soul, but where there is pride, I am not there.
Our Lord's message to St. Faustina - Diary (1563)
Humility is the only thing that no devil can imitate.
St John Climacus
Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven.
Saint Ephraem of Syria
Envy, my children, follows pride; whoever is envious is proud. See, envy comes to us from Hell; the devils having sinned through pride, sinned also through envy, envying our glory, our happiness. Why do we envy the happiness and the goods of others? Because we are proud; we should like to be the sole possessors of talents, riches, of the esteem and love of all the world! We hate our equals, because they are our equals; our inferiors, from the fear that they may equal us; our superiors, because they are above us.
Saint John Vianney
"God is stern in dealing with the arrogant, but to the humble He shows kindness." - Proverbs 3:34
I've heard of several things that are the "only" things the devil supposedly can't do or imitate.
She wasn’t prideful at all, but very humble. Otherwise this would not have happened.
I am not Catholic so I don't automatically take such church-approved private revelation claims at face value.
In my own personal opinion which you can disagree with, most of the people claiming to have these types of supernatural encounters are attention-seeking imposters which is a form of pride.
Where to draw the line? I've heard of enough Virgin Mary in the grilled cheese nonsense over the years that I mostly just dismiss all of it now.
How Many Miracles are Required to Canonize a Saint?
Saints [Catholic, Orthodox, Open]
SAINTHOOD 101: Rules for Becoming a Saint [Catholic Caucus]
The Process of Becoming a Saint (Canonization) [Catholic Caucus]
Pope Lists Criteria for Causes of Canonization
Isn't deceptive appearances one of the favorite tactics of the devil?
Not saying it is so in this case, but why use an image (especially a painting which is an artists rendition anyway) as your justification?
Regardless of what you think she is a doctor of the Catholic Church.....that means a great teacher.
St Catherine did not write the article
it was written by Msgr. Charles Pope
How much of this Catholic stuff is actual from the Bible?
To the best of my knowledge, the Church has neither approved or disapproved these private revelations ... in any event, no Catholic is obligated to believe them.
St. Catherine is generally considered to be a mystic. I suppose their are some who say that there is no such thing as a mystic, that it is impossible.
It’s fair to say that believing that would be contrary to the Gospel.
“From the beginning of From the beginning of 1380, Catherine could neither eat nor swallow water. On February 26 she lost the use of her legs. St Catherine died in Rome, on 29 April 1380, at the age of thirty-three, having suffered a stroke eight days earlier”