Over the last few weeks I have been tested, leaving me in some desolation of spirit, but mostly stripping me of my self-confidence. I have been on a steep learning curve which shocked and confused me. Then this week everything which comes before me is about humility—confirming the whole point of my hard lessons.
Powerful words came to me from my spiritual mother, Lourdes, in a teaching which she sent to our whole community. What especially struck me were these two passages from The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena:
“For one does not arrive at virtue except through knowledge of self, and knowledge of Me, which knowledge is more perfectly acquired in the time of temptation, because then man knows himself to be nothing, being unable to lift off himself the pains and vexations which he would flee…”
Then this one:
“…in order to exercise them in virtue and raise them above their imperfection, I withdraw from their minds My consolation and allow them to fall into battles and perplexities. This I do so that, coming to perfect self-knowledge, they may know that of themselves they are nothing and have no grace, and accordingly in time of battle fly to Me, as their Benefactor, seeking me alone, with true humility…”
These passages tell me that God permits, even takes care to design, pains, vexations, battles, and perplexities specifically to teach me humility, my powerlessness, my utter inability to help myself, that I may fly to Him. Yes, this is exactly where I have been in the last few weeks.
How kind the Holy Spirit—all this week He has brought all manner of teaching about humility to my face, reinforcing what I learned with great pains in the battles.
In the meditation today in DIVINE INTIMACY by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, O.C.D., I read: “We must humble ourselves …under the mighty hand of God, sincerely recognize our nothingness, take account of our poverty; and if we wish to glorify ourselves, we must glory, like St. Paul, solely in our infirmities. It is only in our weakness, humbly acknowledged, that grace and divine virtue work and triumph…[God] stoops only to the humble; the more lowly He finds a soul, the closer He draws it to Himself. Humility deepens the soul’s capacity to receive the fullness of divine gifts.” [#106]
How long have I known this? For years. In how many battles has God permitted me to learn this? I cannot begin to estimate. Why am I so hard-headed? Yet to know this in an intellectual way is to remain ignorant still.
We have to experience the full frustration of deception by the evil one, perplexities, vexations, and spiritual pain—to endure a real beating sometimes—to gain the experience of our nothingness. And then to repeat the whole process often at a later time! What miserable children we are!
I also found in ROSARY TO THE INTERIOR [http://rosarytotheinterior.com/the-first-joyful-mystery-the-annunciation/ ] this passage from the reflection on the Annunciation/Incarnation:
“The one truth regarding Our Lord’s Incarnation which is totally inexplicable, and therefore truly does make it the ‘most hidden’ of all of the mysteries of Christ is offered to us in a passage from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians:
“For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But 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, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.” (2: 5-8).
“ It is the humility of Christ in the Incarnation which is the ‘least understood’ of all the mysteries of Our Lord. It can make no rational sense to us as to why an Eternal and Infinitely Perfect God should lower himself to be united in human nature with men who are nothing in themselves; that He should then voluntarily suffer the most ignominious and cruel death at the hands of men – that He should be spat upon, scourged, mockingly tortured with a crown of cruel thorns, forced to bear His own Cross, and Crucified – in order to merit the grace of their salvation; and then still be rejected by the vast majority of mankind.”
If He emptied Himself, how can I not empty myself? In DIVINE INTIMACY, same meditation, St. Therese exclaims: “O Divine Guest, You know my misery; that is why You come to me in the hope of finding an empty tabernacle, a heart wholly emptied of self. This is all You ask.”
Finally, last night I was deeply touched by Mark Mallett’s post, “On True Humility.” I have read repeatedly the wonderful poem and part of his post which I cite here:
“Humility is perpetual quietness of heart.
It is to have no trouble.
It is never to be fretted, vexed, irritated, sore, or disappointed.
It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me,
to feel nothing done against me.
It is to be at rest when nobody praises me,
and when I am blamed and despised.
It is to have a blessed home in myself, where I can go in,
shut the door, kneel to my God in secret,
and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness
when all around and above is troubled.
“Finally, a soul is abiding in true humility when it embraces all of the above—but resists any kind of self-satisfaction—as if to say, “Ah, I am finally getting it; I’ve got it figured out; I’ve arrived… etc.” St. Pio warned of this most subtle enemy:
“Let us always be on the alert and not let this very formidable enemy [of self-satisfaction] penetrate our minds and hearts, because, once it enters, it ravages every virtue, mars every holiness, and corrupts everything that is good and beautiful. —from Padre Pio’s Spiritual Direction for Every Day, edited by Gianluigi Pasquale, Servant Books; Feb. 25th
“Whatever is good is God’s—the rest is mine. If my life bears good fruit, it is because He who is Good is working in me. For Jesus said, “without me, you can do nothing.” 
“Repent of pride, rest in God’s will, and relinquish any self-satisfaction, and you will discover the sweetness of the Cross. For the Divine Will is the seed of true joy and real peace. It is food for the humble.”
I don’t know where Mark found this little poem, but how amazing it is. How amazing that the Holy Spirit constantly supports us with every grace for union with God—whatever we need. This Lent is a time of immense grace and gratitude for me—I hope it is the same for you.