The Way of St. Vincent Is Our Way. 26. Humble of Heart

Francisco Javier Fernández ChentoCharismLeave a Comment

Author: Miguel Pérez Flores, C.M. & Antonino Orcajo, C.M. · Translator: Charles T. Plock, C.M.. · Year of first publication: 1986.
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26. Humble of Heart

Come to me, all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.
Matthew 11:28-30

The Congregation, furthermore, tries to express its spirit in five virtues drawn from its own special way of looking at Christ, namely, simplicity, humility, gentleness, mortification, and zeal for souls. Speaking of these five virtues, Saint Vincent said: ‘The Congregation should pay special attention to developing and living up to these five virtues so that they may be, as it were, the faculties of the soul of the whole Congregation, and that everything each one of us does may always be inspired by them’ (Common Rules, ii, 14).
Constitutions, 7

Saint Vincent took humility seriously and spoke of it constantly. It seems as though he took delight in humbling himself and in speaking of humility. Nevertheless, he recognized that everyone likes to talk about the theory of humility but when the time comes to be humble, no one is enthusiastic. According to Saint Vincent, humility is the fountain of all other graces; it is the foundation of perfection; it is the well-spring of charity, peace, unity, generosity, and commitment.

1. The Crucifix, the Immortal Monument of Humility

Saint Vincent reflected on the humility of Jesus and saw the humility of the Lord as something that touched his whole life. Jesus left us the crucifix as a monument of his humility:

What is Jesus’ life, my brothers, but a series of acts of humility? It was a continuous humiliation, active and passive. He loved humility so much that he never abandoned its practice while on earth. Not only did he love it during his life, but even after his precious death, leaving an imperishable memorial of the humiliation of his divine person on the crucifix, appearing thereupon as a criminal attached to an ignominious gibbet. It was his will that the Church should place him before our eyes in this state of ignominy in which he died for us. It was his will that our benefactor should be set before us as a wicked man and that the Author of life should suffer the most disgraceful and ignominious death. O my Savior, what love for this virtue. Why have you delivered yourself up to these extreme humiliations? Ah! it is because you knew the excellence of this virtue, and the malice of the sin opposed to it, which not only increases the guilt of other sins, but vitiates works in themselves not evil, and even those that are good, even the most holy of works1.

2. Through Humility, All Other Things Will Follow

In the Common Rules, Saint Vincent showed us the way of humility and the three characteristics which this virtue demands of missionaries:

Let us realize that heaven is acquired by humility, for the love of self-abasement is able to raise us up, leading us step by step from virtue to virtue, until we arrive at our goal2.

But this humility, which Christ so often recommended to us by words and example, and which the Congregation must make every effort to acquire, demands these three characteristics: 1) that we sincerely consider ourselves deserving of other’s blame; 2) that we rejoice when others see our imperfections, and so hold us in contempt; 3) that we conceal, if possible, under the cloak of our lowliness, whatever God may be pleased to work through us or in us; and if this is impossible, that we then give the whole credit to the divine mercy and the merits of others. This is the foundation of all evangelical perfection, the mode of the whole spiritual life. All good things will come to those who possess this humility, while those who lack it shall be deprived even of the good which they possess, and will be disturbed by continual anxiety3.

3. Humility, the Hallmark of the Congregation of the Mission

Saint Vincent not only wanted his missionaries to be sincerely and profoundly humble, but he also desired the Congregation, in itself, to live in the same way. Indeed, humility is to be the hallmark of the Congregation of the Mission, the insignia of the missionaries:

The Apostle composed a Creed: ‘I believe in God the Father’, etc., not only for the purpose of preserving unity of faith, but also to distinguish Christians from Jews and infidels; so that when asked, ‘Who are you?’ their response was, ‘I believe in God, I believe in Jesus Christ.’ If we take humility as our distinguishing characteristic, and live it in such a way that we are truly different from other Christians and other priests, could we possess any greater gift? Let us beg the Lord for the courage to respond when asked concerning our state of life, ‘It is humility’. Let this be our particular virtue. If we hear the question; ‘who goes there?’ let our password be, ‘humility’4.

  • Saint Vincent said, and indeed it is our own experience, that humility does not impede generosity, the giving of what we possess: has “humility” prevented me from developing the gifts God has given me? Has my work and my success in it prevented me from exercising humility?
  • What are the most convincing forms of humility that I encounter in my living situation?


Savior of souls, fill us with those blessed sentiments which kept you so humble, which caused you to prefer insults to praise; fill us with those sentiments which caused you to see the glory of your Father. May we begin, from this moment on, to reject all that does not tend to your honor and our own humiliation; may we reject all that savors of vanity, of showing-off and of self-esteem; may we endeavor, for the future, to make acts of true humility; may we, once and for all, renounce the applause of others, deceived and deceiving as they are; may we renounce the useless day-dreams proceeding from the success of our works, and finally, through your grace and example, may we learn to be truly humble of heart. We pray in your name Lord Jesus, who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen5.

  1. “On Humility,” April 18, 1659, O.C., xi, 485-486.
  2. Common Rules, ii, 6.
  3. Common Rules, ii, 7.
  4. “On Humility,” April 18, 1659, O.C., xi, 491.
  5. Ibid, 495.

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