Build yourself a spiritual cell, which you can always take with you, and that is the cell of self-knowledge; you will find there also the knowledge of God's goodness to you. There are really two cells in one, and if you live in one you must also live in the other, otherwise the soul will either despair or be presumptuous; if you dwelt in self-knowledge alone you would despair; if you dwelt in knowledge of God alone you would be tempted to presumption. One must go with the other, and thus you will reach perfection. - St. Catherine of Siena
From my hidden faults acquit me O Lord.
Monsignor Pope wrote a short post on the subject of 'hidden faults' - not those faults we intentionally hide from others, but the faults we do not even realize we have... though we see the splinters in other men's eyes, we miss the log in our own. Just as we may see the faults of others, those they may not be aware of, they too see faults in us that we may not be aware of in ourselves. Oddly enough, the faults we condemn in others can sometimes even mirror our own hidden faults. But I digress from Monsignor's original thought.
Indeed we all have sins and behaviors that are often clear to others but of which we are unaware. Indeed there are even deeper faults of which no one is aware except God himself who sees our innermost heart.
Yes, some of our sins are obvious to us and we may rightfully work upon them. But lest we sin through pride, we ought always recall that we have sins and faults that are often hidden from us. Others may see them, or perhaps only God.
Catherine of Siena, and all the mystics, over and over stress the need for self-knowledge. Teresa of Avila insists upon humility at every stage of our spiritual life. Yet we are so easily deceived. We think by doing what is right and good, as best we can, that we are on the way to perfection, if not already there. We think we are 'alright'. We can even think we are good enough to instruct and guide others, or at least to point out the errors others commit... not understanding of what spirit we are.At the end of the day we’re all going to need a lot of grace and mercy! - Monsignor Pope
I think today, the Pope has something to say regarding these mysteries...
We don't know ourselves.“How many believe they are living in the light and they are in darkness, but they don’t realize it? What is the light like that Jesus offers us? The light of Jesus can be known because it is a humble light, it is not a light that imposes itself: it is humble. It’s a meek light, with the strength of meekness. It’s a light that speaks to the heart, and also a light that offers you the Cross. If we, in our inner light are meek, if we hear the voice of Jesus in the heart and look on the Cross without fear: that is the light of Jesus.”
But if, on the other hand, a light comes that “makes you arrogant,” he warned, a light that “brings you to look on others from on high” to despise others, “that leads you to pride” – that is not the light of Jesus: it’s the light of the devil, disguised as Jesus, as an angel of light.” The Pope pointed out the way to distinguish the true light from the false: “Wherever Jesus is, there is always humility, meekness, love, and the Cross.” But, he added, sometimes “we find a Jesus that is not humble, that is not meek, that is without love, and without the Cross.” So we must follow the true Jesus “without fear,” following His light because the light of Jesus “is beautiful and does so much good.”
In today’s Gospel, he concluded, Jesus cast out the devil and the people are lost from fear in the face of a word that casts out unclean spirits:
“Jesus doesn’t need an army to cast out the demons, He has no need of pride, no need of force, of arrogance. ‘What is there about His word? For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.’ This is a humble word, meek, with so much love; it is a word that accompanies us in the moments of the Cross. Let us ask the Lord to give us today the grace of His Light, and to teach us to distinguish when the light is from Him, and when it is an artificial light, made by the enemy to deceive us.” - Francis' homily for 9/3/13
I think that is the problem much of the time, we don't know ourselves. We neglect to examine our conscience in the light of Christ. We neglect mental prayer in the interior cell of our heart, in the presence of the Sacred Humanity of Christ Crucified. We fear humility and meekness and the cross. We cover ourselves in spiritual and material vanities and falsehoods, we distract ourselves with trifles, fascinated by "a light that “makes you arrogant, a light that brings you to look on others from on high - to despise others - that leads you to pride – that is not the light of Jesus: it’s the light of the devil, disguised as Jesus, as an angel of light.”
Because we don't know ourselves, we can't know our hidden faults. God can purify us of them in 'the dark night' or in purgatory - his mercy remedies them. Sometimes he allows us to see - in his light, his mercy - some of our hidden faults. Sometimes he allows others to point them out to us. Sometimes he even allows us to fall into serious sin, to bring us to a deeper humility and repentance which keeps us from presumption.
Just thinking through some things here...
Thinking out loud, trying to formulate my thoughts. So when I write 'you' or 'we' I'm really speaking to myself - don't think I'm writing about this person or that person - I'm working through something in these posts.
I think men who are same sex attracted - that sounds so dumb - gay men, have an especially hard time with humility and self-knowledge. First of all, there seems to be an aversion to authentic self-knowledge within the gay Catholic community. Understanding the root causes of sin is important in Catholic spirituality, for how else can one battle temptation if one doesn't know one's weakness and propensity for sin? How else can one avoid the occasions for sin? To be sure, in and of itself, homosexual inclination is not a sin, and if one never engaged in homosexual behavior or fantasy, one hardly has any need to 'identify' as a homosexual, since the inclination is nothing more than a temptation. However, if one is so inclined, and acts upon it - the acts are sinful - disordered. Therefore a person may want to know the why and wherefore of the inclination in order to adapt. My POV sounds dated and old fashioned, I'm sure, especially since contemporary gay Catholics believe "debates about causation are not important." Yet it begs the question.
Last week I came upon an interesting letter from C.S. Lewis to Sheldon Vanauken, wherein he discusses the issue of homosexuality. The author of the post, Ron Belgau remarked that the section of Lewis' letter cited below, was somewhat insulting, although I recognized it to be right on the mark. Lewis wrote:
"I have mentioned humility because male homosexuals (I don’t know about women) are rather apt, the moment they find you don’t treat them with horror and contempt, to rush to the opposite pole and start implying that they are somehow superior to the normal type. I wish I could be more definite. All I have really said is that, like all other tribulations, it must be offered to God and His guidance how to use it must be sought." - Source
One thing I hope I've learned is not to generalize regarding homosexuals, however a serious lack of humility is something I've experienced in myself and have recognized in others. Speaking of Rosie O'Donnell and her fall from grace on The View, Barbara Walters said one of her problems was that she "wasn't content with riding along - she had to drive the bus." - in other words, she wanted to call the shots. The observation accords with what Lewis pointed out, "I have mentioned humility because male homosexuals (I don’t know about women) are rather apt, the moment they find you don’t treat them with horror and contempt, to rush to the opposite pole and start implying that they are somehow superior to the normal type."
I may be wrong of course, but it has been my experience and I've lived with and worked with homosexual men all of my life.
The lack of self-knowledge and lack of humility is a serious deficit - at least it has been in my life.
Ed. note: I would add 'to be continued' but everyone already knows I write about this stuff way too much.