Two weeks ago the Sunday’s second reading at Holy Mass was from our father and patron St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 12:7-10. In this passage, the Apostle writes “…a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from becoming too elated.” What exactly that “thorn” was, we will probably never know on this side of life. Through the centuries numerous Fathers of the Church and other scholars have given their hypotheses that it was a chronic or reoccurring physical ailment, a frequent carnal temptation, or some other issue that caused him much bodily (and spiritual) distress. Yet it is probably better that we do not know what St. Paul’s affliction was, so that we do not focus specifically on it, but rather on what it led him to do with it, and how we can take our physical, emotional, and spiritual pains, sufferings and setbacks – whatever they may be – and turn them to the good “for the sake of Christ,” for our own eternal profit and that of our brothers and sisters. These “thorns” offer us the opportunity to be humbled before God; neither believing ourselves to be greater nor lesser than we truly are in His sight. “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The word humility comes from the Latin humilitas; which is derived from humus, i.e. the earth which is beneath us. As applied to persons and things it commonly means that which is abject, ignoble, or of poor condition, as we would ordinarily say, something that is not worth much. Thus we say that a man is of humble birth or that a house is a humble dwelling. As restricted to persons, humility is understood also in the sense of afflictions or miseries, which may be inflicted by external agents, as when a man humiliates another by causing him pain or suffering. It is in this sense that others may bring about humiliations and subject us to them. Humility in a higher and ethical sense is that by which a man has a modest estimate of his own worth, and submits himself to others. According to this meaning no man can humiliate another, but only himself, and this he can do properly only when aided by Divine grace. We are speaking here of the virtue of humility.
The virtue of humility may be defined as: "A quality by which a person considering his own defects has a lowly opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to God and to others for God's sake." St. Bernard defines it: "A virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself." Yet this abasement does not mean that we put ourselves down in some sort of self-detesting manner.
To guard against an erroneous idea of humility, it is necessary to explain the manner in which we ought to esteem our own gifts in reference to the gifts of others, if called upon to make a comparison. Humility does not require us to esteem the gifts and graces which God has granted us, in the supernatural order, less than similar gifts and graces which appear in others. No one should esteem less in himself than in others these gifts of God which are to be valued above all things according to the words of St. Paul: "That we may know the things that are given us from God." (1 Corinthians 2:12). Thus we may interpret the humble expressions of the saints as true and sincere. Moreover, their great love of God caused them to see the malice of their own faults and sins in a clearer light than that which is ordinarily given to persons who are not saints.
Humility is the first virtue – the “key to the virtues” – inasmuch as it removes the obstacles to faith, as St. Thomas says. It removes pride and makes a man subject to and a fit recipient of grace, according to the words of St. James: "God resists the proud, and gives His grace to the humble" (James 4:6). Faith is the first and the positive fundamental virtue of all the infused virtues, because through it we can take the first step in the supernatural life and in our access to God: "For he that comes to God, must believe that He is, and is a rewarder to those who seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6) Humility, inasmuch as it seems to keep the mind and heart submissive to reason and to God, has its own function in connection with faith and all the other virtues, and it may therefore be said to be a universal virtue.
Sometimes too, even where our own duty does not require us to embrace humiliations, it is an act of virtue to take them up in order to encourage others by our example more easily to bear what is incumbent on them, i.e.: for a general will sometimes do the office of a common soldier to encourage the rest. Sometimes again we may make a virtuous use of humiliations as a medicine. Thus if anyone's mind is prone to undue self-exaltation, he may with advantage make a moderate use of humiliations, either self-imposed, or imposed by others, so as to check the elation of his spirit by putting himself on a level with the lowest class of the community in the doing of menial tasks.
An individual may be called “humble” by some in the secular media, yet such reporters likely know less of the essence of the term than a baboon; to such persons, “shabby” equals “humble.” This seriously misses the mark! The more we are puffed-up by praise and conversely dejected crushed to the heart by having our weaknesses and shortcomings exposed, the more we can say that (self-centered) pride is very much alive in us. Generally speaking, the truly humble person (i.e.: a saint) will show himself to be such through complete respect and obedience to God and to legitimate authority; and when, whether highly praised and honored and successful or treated with distain, disrespect or suffering failure, receives it all with the same holy indifference, caring most about how he appears to almighty God than to anyone else. He is not self-focused. What will hurt him is knowing that through his words, attitudes, actions/inactions, that he has displeased the Lord.
There are myriad examples of what-is-humility-and-what-is-not that could be used, yet we haven’t space for all those. Suffice it to say that our Blessed Savior showed the complete humility of God by suffering the most ignominious death on the Cross and all the calumnies and insults that were undeservedly heaped upon Him… so that we might have Life Eternal. If we were all truly humble, the world’s problems would soon disappear…
“Jesus meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine.”
Picnic: Our parish Picnic will be on Saturday September 12th. This annual event is a happy occasion for all our families to come together as a parish family. As the pastor, no other parish event is so lovely as seeing everyone come together. Naturally, this monumental effort takes much work. May I encourage you to contact our Picnic Committee Chair, Jesse Cromer, and volunteer your time? This was an event to which our parishioner Mr. Jack Shannon gave so much effort throughout the years. This year he will look down from eternity to see that to which he had given so much. There is an admission price: we ask every family to bring something for our food pantry. We see Christ in the faces of the poor.
Gala: We are now in the midst of planning for our annual parish Gala Dinner Dance. As always, I am most grateful to Mrs. Paula Maturo and her dedicated committee who plan this wonderful event. This event is
the major fundraiser for our parish. Please see the bulletin for details. The parish gala will be on Friday October 30th. It will be a Dinner Dance at the Milleridge Inn Cottage and its theme will be Casino Night. Our friends the M&M Twins (Marco and Michael Posillico, whom I have known for 25 years) will present a wonderful evening of entertainment. St. Paul’s depends on this fundraiser. It is my fond hope that many parishioners will come together for this fundraiser so that we may continue to exist as a viable and vibrant parish.
Financial Considerations: Last week I wrote about why we have a second collection each week. I hope many now understand why that is the case. I told you I would write about our financial situation, for a burden shared is lightened. St. Paul’s depends upon your generosity to exist as a parish. Many may wonder why we have one priest. Some often say, it is because there are not enough priests to go around. The more accurate explanation is that St. Paul’s could not possibly support two priests. As it is, the parish supports only one priest and only half the annual support at that. As you know since I also serve as Judicial Vicar the Diocese remunerates the parish monthly for the support of the one priest assigned here. Although my term as Judicial Vicar goes from year to year I pray to God to keep me in that office because it would be a great hardship for the parish to support even only one priest. Just as many fathers work two jobs to support their family, and know that to lose one of them would be a financial hardship, so I pray to continue in office as Judicial Vicar. The parish staff is minimal. There is no cook; there is a housekeeper one day a week. There is one secretary and one maintenance man. At one time, as many may recall, the parish supported the presence of three priests with a full time cook and full time housekeeper. Such would be unthinkable today.
Last week I enumerated some of the projects (but not all) that have been undertaken. One not mentioned last week was the installation of a state of the art sound system by the Monte Brothers Company. They are the company that has placed the sound system in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Some may have sadly noticed that no longer do bells ring out in joy to announce Sunday Mass; no longer do they peel in joy for a bride and groom; no longer do they toll in mourning as the mortal remains of the faithful are carried from the Church to their place of rest. After 50 years our carillon system has completely broken and cannot be repaired. The Monte Brothers would have replaced the system at the time they did the sound system, but it was too great an expense for me to justify. It is my hope and prayer that one day St. Paul’s will have a voice again and that the sweet peeling of the noonday angelus will flow through our neighborhood.
Mission Sunday: Today it is our joy to welcome Deacon Raymond P. D’Alessio who will speak to us about our diocesan mission parish in the Dominican Republic. Deacon Ray has selflessly visited the mission for the last eight summers. The mission depends greatly upon our generosity. Deacon D’Alessio is assigned to St. Edward the Confessor in Syosset, our neighboring parish. Deacon Ray has been a great friend to St. Paul’s and to me personally. We welcome him in the charity of Christ.
Tickets for Papal Events: At present we have no information about the tickets for events during the Apostolic Visit of the Pope to the United States of America in September. These tickets will naturally be limited and they will be free of cost (The Governor has been announcing this to the media as though he were hosting the Pope). As soon as we have information about this, it will be made known.
Nos cum prole pia,
Benedicat Virgo Maria!
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda