THE VINCENTIAN VIRTUES SERIES IN THE LENTEN PERIOD
They are also referred to as “the five smooth stones”
In Vincentian tradition, Christ is characterized by five missionary virtues: simplicity, humility, meekness, mortification and zeal. Vincent De Paul upheld these virtues as the faculties of the soul of the Vincentians. In a nutshell
- a) It entails speaking the truth; saying things as they are without concealing anything, and referring everything to God.
- b) Entails recognition that all good comes from God. It involves acknowledgement of our own lowliness and faults, accompanied by absolute confidence in God. Christ is the admirable model of humility. God blesses humble beginnings. He humbles the pride and exalts the humble. Jesus urged his disciples to be humble by telling them: “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:35-45).
- c) Is the ability to handle anger by suppressing it or by expressing it in a manner governed by love. It is approachability, gentleness and serenity of countenance towards those who approach us. Entails enduring offences with forgiveness and courage. Jesus says in Matthew 11:29, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.”
- d) Is the subjection of passion to reason. The disciples left everything and followed Christ.
- e) Is the burning love that fills the heart of Jesus. This fire of love enables the missionary to go anywhere for the mission. It is the virtue of missionary actions which aims at extending the kingdom of God. St Paul writes, ‘The love of Christ urges us on’ (2 Corinthians 5:14). Zeal entails hard work for the salvation of others.
SERI ES 1: HUMILITY
Humility signifies submissiveness. Humility is simply the truth that we can do nothing without God. Humility is a quality by which a person considering his own defects has a lowly opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to God and others for God’s sake. St Vincent de Paul says humility is nothing but truth, and pride is nothing but lying.
Humility is the foundation and safeguard of all the virtues and the origin of all the good we do. It occupies the first place as the basis of other virtues just as the basement comes before the walls and pillars. Therefore, in the spiritual life humility must precede everything else in order to banish pride, to which God is so opposed. St Gregory says, “The one who endeavors to acquire the other virtues without humility is scattering dust before the wind.” Humility is a vital part of Christian life. Jesus also says in Matthew 23:12, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
God comes to the lowly; those who recognize their total dependence on him and long for him. Christ came into the world to teach by word and example the value of humility. “Though he was God, Christ emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself . . . even to the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:7). Jesus was born in humble background in Bethlehem and spent his time evangelizing in towns and villages. He departed this life, humbled and despised, on the summit of Mt. Calvary. He endured all this humiliation and contempt that we might follow his example. St. Augustine says: “If this medicine does not cure us of pride, I know not what other remedy can do so.”
Humility is at the heart of holiness, and union with the divine is about loving all those in our path, not holding ourselves above them. Humility is the only ground from which true love can spring. It is a giving up of self for something greater and enables us to see ourselves for what we truly are: created in the image of the divine, wounded through sin, yet transformed through love.
The greatest saints saw themselves as the greatest sinners and that is what made them the greatest saints. The closer the saints grew in their relationship with God, the more they could see their multitudinous imperfections, just as we can see floating particles of dust dancing within the light of a sunbeam. Just like us, saints had many flaws based on the periods in which they lived and more specifically dependent on their personality traits. Some of these failings the saints resolved in their lifetimes, while some others they probably took with them to their graves. Their belief in God’s mercy and grace enabled them to pick themselves up after falling, and continue to trek the Pilgrim’s Path.
Saints are the humble ones who have gone before us. We can aspire to live out their virtues and learn from their vices, and work hard to live up to our Christian identity in every act of our lives.
God speaks highly of the humble. The devil’s pride is what caused his downfall therefore the devil hates humility. St. Vincent de Paul said, “The most powerful weapon to conquer the devil is humility.”
How to cultivate the virtue of Humility
- Pray to our Lord and the Blessed mother who are models of humility.
- Accept humiliations. It is impossible to learn humility without humiliation. Many people wish to be humble but few desire humiliation. Humiliation is the only way to attain humility just as studying is the only way to acquire knowledge.
- Obey legitimate superiors. Disobedience manifests pride. The devil’s pride is what caused his downfall therefore the devil hates humility.
- Acknowledge your faults and accept the admonitions of others by recognizing that everyone has faults.
- Think better of others than yourself. Pride leads us to be like the Pharisee who went to the temple to pray and started exalting himself that he is not like other men.
- In any leadership position, act that others will not tell you are superior.
- Preach Jesus Christ and not yourself.
May we grow in this virtue these days as we go about with our daily Christian Living in this Lenten season. May every Good Intention You Bring to the Lord these Days and the Days to come Be Blessed, Amen
Presentation By: Sylvester Bulimo, Student at De Paul Seminary Nairobi, Kenya.