“No one reaches the kingdom of Heaven except by humility”

Its impossible to not notice, or to be affected by, the increasing pridefulness and vanity of our friends and family. It is rare to find a person that accepts correction well or is repentant about their sinful ways. This does not bode well for the world or for their eternal salvation. Humility is the glue that hold all the virtues together. Let us all pray fervently for an increase in humility. St. Augustine please pray for us.

Please read the important essay from Father Peter Carota on the importance of humility in your spiritual development.


Humility Of Heart – Part 1

September 22, 2015

IN Paradise there are many Saints who never gave alms on earth: their poverty justified them. There are many Saints who never mortified their bodies by fasting, or wearing hair shirts: their bodily infirmities excused them. There are many Saints too who were not virgins: their vocation was otherwise. But in Paradise there is no Saint who was not humble.

1. God banished Angels from Heaven for their pride; therefore how can we pretend to enter therein, if we do not keep ourselves in a state of humility? Without humility, says St. Peter Damian, [Serm. 45] not even the Virgin Mary herself with her incomparable virginity could have entered into the glory of Christ, and we ought to be convinced of this truth that, though destitute of some of the other virtues, we may yet be saved, but never without humility. There are people who flatter themselves that they have done much by preserving unsullied chastity, and truly chastity is a beautiful adornment; but as the angelic St. Thomas says: “Speaking absolutely, humility excels virginity.” [4 dist. qu. xxxiii, art. 3 ad 6; et 22, qu. clxi, art. 5]

We often study diligently to guard against and correct ourselves of the vices of concupiscence which belong to a sensual and animal nature, and this inward conflict which the body wages adversus carnem[Gal. 5,17] is truly a spectacle worthy of God and of His Angels. But, alas, how rarely do we use this diligence and caution to conquer spiritual vices, of which pride is the first and the greatest of all, and which, sufficed of itself to transform an Angel into a demon!

2. Jesus Christ calls us all into His school to learn, not to work miracles nor to astonish the world by marvelous enterprises, but to be humble of heart. “Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart.” [Matt. 11, 29] He has not called everyone to be doctors, preachers or priests, nor has He bestowed on all the gift of restoring sight to the blind, healing the sick, raising the dead or casting out devils, but to all He has said: “Learn of Me to be humble of heart,” and to all He has given the power to learn humility of Him. Innumerable things are worthy of imitation in the Incarnate Son of God, but He only asks us to imitate His humility. What then? Must we suppose that all the treasures of Divine Wisdom which were in Christ are to be reduced to the virtue of humility? “So it certainly is,” answers St. Augustine. Humility contains all things because in this virtue is truth; therefore God must also dwell therein, since He is the truth.

The Savior might have said: “Learn of Me to be chaste, humble, prudent, just, wise, abstemious, etc.” But He only says: “Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart”; and in humility alone He includes all things, because, as St. Thomas so truly says, “Acquired humility is in a certain sense the greatest good.” [Lib. de sancta virginit. c. xxxv] Therefore whoever possesses this virtue may be said, as to his proximate disposition, to possess all virtues, and he who lacks it, lacks all.

3. Reading the works of St. Augustine we find in them all that his sole idea was the exaltation of God above the creature as far as possible, and as far as possible the humble subjection of the creature to God. The recognition of this truth should find a place in every Christian mind, thus establishing—–according to the acuteness and penetration of our intelligence—–a sublime conception of God, and a lowly and vile conception of the creature. But we can only succeed in doing this by humility.

Humility is in reality a confession of the greatness of God, Who after His voluntary self-annihilation was exalted and glorified; wherefore Holy Writ says: “For great is the power of God alone, and He is honored by the humble.” [Ecclus. iii, 21]

It was for this reason that God pledged Himself to exalt the humble, and continually showers new graces upon them in return for the glory He constantly receives from them. Hence the inspired word again reminds us: “Be humble, and thou shalt obtain every grace from God.” [Ecclus. iii, 20]

The humblest man honors God most by his humility, and has the reward of being more glorified by God, Who has said: “Whoever honors Me, I will glorify him.” [1 Kings ii, 30] Oh, if we could only see how great is the glory of the humble in Heaven!

4. Humility is a virtue that belongs essentially to Christ, not only as man, but more especially as God, because with God to be good, holy and merciful is not virtue but nature, and humility is only a virtue. God cannot exalt Himself above what He is, in His most high Being, nor can He increase His vast and infinite greatness; but He can humiliate Himself as in fact He did humiliate and lower Himself. “He humbled Himself, He emptied Himself,” [Phil. ii, 7, 8] revealing Himself to us, through His humility, as the Lord of all virtues, the conqueror of the world, of death, Hell and sin.

No greater example of humility can be given than that of the Only Son of God when “the Word was made Flesh.” Nothing could be more sublime than the words of St. John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word.” And no abasement can be deeper than that which follows: “And the Word was made Flesh.”

By this union of the Creator with the creature the Highest was united with the lowest. Jesus Christ summed up all His Heavenly doctrine in humility, and before teaching it, it was His will to practice it perfectly Himself. As St. Augustine says: “He was unwilling to teach what He Himself was not, He was unwilling to command what He Himself did not practice.” [Lib. de sancta virginit. c. xxxvi]

But to what purpose did He do all this if not that by this means all His followers should learn humility by practical example? He is our Master, and we are His disciples; but what profit do we derive from His teachings, which are practical and not theoretical?

How shameful it would be for anyone, after studying for many years in a school of art or science, under the teaching of excellent masters, if he were still to remain absolutely ignorant! My shame is great indeed, because I have lived so many years in the school of Jesus Christ, and yet I have learnt nothing of that holy humility which He sought so earnestly to teach me. “Have mercy upon me according to Thy Word. Thou art good, and in Thy goodness teach me Thy justifications. Give me understanding, and I will learn Thy Commandments.” [Ps. cxviii, 58, 68, 73]

5. There is a kind of humility which is of counsel and of perfection such as that which desires and seeks the contempt of others; but there is also a humility which is of necessity and of precept, without which, says Christ, we cannot enter into the kingdom of Heaven: “Thou shalt not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” [Matt. xviii, 3] And this consists in not esteeming ourselves and in not wishing to be esteemed by others above what we really are.

No one can deny this truth, that humility is essential to all those who wish to be saved. “No one reaches the kingdom of Heaven except by humility,” says St. Augustine. [Lib. de Salut. cap. xxxii]

But, I ask, what is practically this humility which is so necessary? When we are told that faith and hope are necessary, it is also explained to us what we are to believe and to hope. In like manner, when humility is said to be necessary, in what should its practice consist except in the lowest opinion of ourselves? It is in this moral sense that the humility of the heart has been explained by the fathers of the Church. But can I say with truth that I possess this humility which I recognize as necessary and obligatory? What care or solicitude do I display to acquire it? When a virtue is of precept, so is its practice also, as St. Thomas teaches. And therefore, as there is a humility which is of precept, “it has its rule in the mind, viz., that one is not to esteem oneself to be above that which one really is.” [22, quo xvi, 2, art. 6]

How and when do I practice its acts, acknowledging and confessing my unworthiness before God? The following was the frequent prayer of St. Augustine, “Noscam Te, noscam me—–May I know Thee; may I know myself!” and by this prayer he asked for humility, which is nothing else but a true knowledge of God and of oneself. To confess that God is what He is, the Omnipotent, “Great is the Lord, and exceedingly to be praised,” [Ps. xlvii, 1] and to declare that we are but nothingness before Him: “My substance is as nothing before Thee” [Ps. xxxviii, 6]—–this is to be humble.

Gluttony is a Disease of the Soul

Just like all of our vices, Gluttony is a sign of a sick soul.  There is no diet, no pill, no Gilad-like personal trainer that will cure a disease of the soul.  There is only Jesus Christ through the sacraments of his church as administered by a holy priest that will save you. So climb on board the Barque of Peter and start your journey to heaven.

Please read the outstanding article by Zac Alstin on a huge problem of our day and age: Gluttony.



To Fight Obesity, Let’s Call Gluttony What it Is: A Disease of the Soul

by Zac Alstin

Something’s very wrong with our relationship with food

When considering the epidemic of obesity across the West, we are not encouraged to view the problem as a failure of individual willpower, but as the result of complex causes ranging from childhood behaviours to genetic predisposition, with the additional catch-all of “lifestyle issues.”

The basic biological fact that fat is the storage of surplus energy indicates a fundamental link between obesity and consuming more food than is required. But the equation of energy-in minus energy-expended is often distorted and blurred by a host of uncertainties: don’t some people put on weight more easily than others? Aren’t some of us genetically determined to store energy thanks to the faminous conditions of remote ancestors? Isn’t it true that certain foods distort our appetites, and that hormonal dynamics complicate our search for satiety?

All this and more may well be true: the battle-ground between appetite and weight-control is complex and convoluted.  So perhaps it is not the right battle to be fighting?

If questions of “willpower” are considered faux pas in relation to obesity, imagine how well the allegation of gluttony would be received. Yet the theory of gluttony might offer a response to obesity that bypasses the otherwise interminable struggle between our appetite for food and our desire for physical health and integrity.

Craving satisfaction

The problem with most approaches to dieting and weight-loss is that in various ways they try to tell us we can have our cake and eat it. As many and varied as such diets are, what they have in common is an attempt to satisfy appetite in addition to decreasing overall consumption.  Some diets seek to control the overall quantity of food consumed, without restricting the kinds of foods available, through various forms of calorie-counting. Others limit the type of food, yet leave quantity unaffected, for example: high-protein diets that regard carbohydrates as the true enemy of weight-loss, and rely on the satiating power of high-protein meals to diminish appetite.

These diets can work for some people, perhaps especially when their strict rules or unusual regimes help to break established eating habits and weaken the appetite through sheer unfamiliarity. The novelty of cutting out staple carbohydrates can radically challenge one’s relationship with food, but our appetites are nothing if not adaptable, and we soon find new ways to sate them on different fodder.

For some of us, the war between weight and appetite needs to be an all-or-nothing proposition. If we’re to have war, it needs to be total war, and appetite must be not merely rebuffed but routed. We need not only to change our eating habits, but to recognize the fundamental psychological and spiritual discord at the heart of a dysfunctional relationship with food.

As someone who has been more or less overweight all his teenage and adult life, two bitter yet liberating realizations have finally made a difference. The first is that I am a hedonist, materially if not formally. Food has been an immense source of pleasure, enjoyment, and unadulterated sensory satisfaction for most of my life, and any countervailing desire to keep fit and healthy through combinations of diet and exercise have been undermined by my visceral commitment to the escapist allure of eating.

A spiritual dysfunction

That the pleasure of eating serves as a surprisingly rich and enticing escape from the dreariness and banality of everyday life proved to me that self-indulgence was not merely a physical dysfunction but a spiritual one. For someone who spends nearly every waking moment thinking about things, the uncomplicated enjoyment of some moreish snack or delectable home-made dish offers a kind of peaceful respite from the interminable whirring of cognition.  Or as the 4th- Century ascetic monk John Cassian wrote in rather less affirming terms:  “nor can the mind, when choked with the weight of food, keep the guidance and government of the thoughts… but excess of all kinds of food makes it weak and uncertain, and robs it of all its power of pure and clear contemplation.”

Recognizing the escapism in eating dispelled the illusion that I was simply enjoying my meal, a non-purposive act that mirrors the wholesome integrity of a home-made lasagne or the richness of a goat curry. Instead, I was seizing the opportunity to gratify my appetite, and in so doing gained temporary yet total escape from whatever problems, threats or weariness life might present.

Perhaps this is why people so often recoil from the reality of being overweight? Very few people have the temerity to say “I am overweight because I eat more than I need, and I eat more than I need because the pleasure of it distracts me from other concerns, or the dullness of life more generally.” Such a statement would imply a degree of self-awareness and honesty that is not concomitant with escapist hedonism. It’s hard to enjoy an escapist pleasure while thinking about the bleak or unpleasant reality from which you are escaping.

As such, being overweight is for many people like a mysterious illness or unfortunate predicament that just happened to befall them while they were otherwise occupied. In a sense this is true: your body gained weight while your mind was lost in the pleasures of the eating.

Denying the appetite

If this allegation of escapist hedonism seems harsh, it’s still kinder than Cassian, who refers to “the vice of satiety” and, quoting scripture, notes that “the cause of the overthrow and wantonness of Sodom was not drunkenness through wine, but fulness of bread”, and wonders:  “what shall we think of those who with a vigorous body dare to partake of meat and wine with unbounded licence, taking not just what their bodily frailty demands, but what the eager desire of the mind suggests.”

Nor is Cassian alone among spiritual authorities in prescribing such an uncompromising approach to the appetite for food and the desire for satiety. Confucius makes the same point from a less ascetic perspective:  “He who aims to be a man of complete virtue in his food does not seek to gratify his appetite, nor in his dwelling place does he seek the appliances of ease; he is earnest in what he is doing, and careful in his speech; he frequents the company of men of principle that he may be rectified– such a person may be said indeed to love to learn.”

More broadly the religious practice of fasting is typically understood not merely as a sacrificial or ritual act but as an ascetic effort to diminish the power of our appetites.  In simple terms, refusing to gratify the appetite sets a powerful precedent for how we choose to relate to our own desires: uncritically, self-indulgent, or with dispassion borne of higher principles?

Enjoyment is a choice

Yet the recognition of escapism is not enough to change the habits of a lifetime, even if it does provide the motive for such a change. What makes a difference in terms of daily habits is the realization that “enjoyment of eating” is not a universal, fixed, and unassailable property. Those of us who overeat tend to imagine that some people are just better at resisting their own appetites. It never occurs to us that some people simply don’t enjoy eating as much as we do, at least not in the full throes of an over-indulged appetite. The enjoyment of our favourite food is not passive but active; we actively enjoy the food, putting effort and care into our appreciation of taste and texture. We develop rituals and emotional cues; we covet the food and nurture a craving for it, drawing on anticipation and the particulars of circumstance as much as the flavour of the food itself.

But some people – and we ourselves when sick or in pain – simply don’t enjoy food to this degree; and if we did not enjoy food so much we would not find such pleasure in the dynamic of building and then sating our appetite.

Each time I go to eat something I now ask myself: would I eat this if I didn’t enjoy eating? If the effort of eating outweighed the pleasure, why would I eat more than was legitimately required?  Such questions can put us in the mindset of a person who doesn’t enjoy eating, and cut off the appetite before it has a chance to revel in the escapism of food.

The dynamic of vice

Without enjoyment, food loses its escapist value. If that outcome seems horrifically bleak then all the better.  If the thought of life without indulgent eating terrifies you, then perhaps you aren’t living at your best in the first place? What on earth is wrong with the rest of our lives that we rely so profoundly on the pleasures of the palate? This is by no means a question of blame or shame so much as awareness of a pervasive physical and spiritual problem. Curiously, even the most ardent moralists in the West seem to have neglected gluttony, focusing with some justification on the manifestations of lust instead. Yet as Cassian notes:  He then will never be able to check the motions of a burning lust, who cannot restrain the desires of the appetite… For of all virtues the nature is but one and the same, although they appear to be divided into many different kinds and names…And so he is proved to possess no virtue perfectly, who is known to have broken down in some part of them.

To recapitulate: gluttony entails both an escapist flight from a dull or unpleasant reality, and an actively inflated enjoyment of eating. The two are connected, nor can we expect to subdue our over-indulged appetites without addressing both aspects of the problem: the aversion from which we flee and the false comfort to which we are drawn.

Like any of the vices gluttony promises to free us from our troubles, even troubles as slight as boredom and procrastination. But the character of the vices is such that they cannot offer real freedom or relief – they only displace the problem, magnifying and embellishing it in the process. Those of us afflicted with gluttonous habits may feel that life without self-indulgent eating will be drab, joyless, and dull. Yet eating more will not change the substance of our lives, and escaping into the pleasures of food merely distracts us from the real challenge of life. If life without self-indulgence seems disappointing or burdensome, then our food-oriented escapism is holding us back from truly meaningful change.
On a societal level our fascination with food, including the growing commercialisation of “gourmet” via endless iterations of celebrity chefs and reality TV shows, approaches the level of a culturally sanctioned and economically encouraged indulgence of gluttony. Like a macrocosm of the individual’s struggle with escapist appetite, gluttony on a societal level implies a culture bereft of higher aims and more potent goods. It suggests a broader spiritual malaise where so much time, energy and attention is devoted to the appreciation of food, with corresponding physical maladies including the epidemic of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Putting the blame onto corporate interests – Big Food’s ever-increasing serving sizes and sugar, salt, and fat content – is most certainly a necessary step in correcting the societal drift toward obesity. But on the individual level, nothing could be more significant than a full appreciation of vice and virtue amidst the struggle to find meaning and happiness in our lives.

Zac Alstin is associate editor of MercatorNet where this article was first published. He also blogs at zacalstin.com