3 Feb. 4 June. 4 Oct.
The sixth degree of humility is, for a monk to be contented with the meanest and worst of everything, and in all that is enjoined him to esteem himself a bad and worthless labourer, saying with the prophet: “I have been brought to nothing, and I knew it not: I am become as a beast before Thee, yet I am always with Thee.”
Let me first make it clear that our in saying that “the sixth degree of humility is, for a monk to be contented with the meanest and worst of everything” our father Saint Benedict does not mean that a monk should be slovenly and that the monastery should be dilapidated, untidy, and falling to bits. Does not Saint Benedict provide in Chapter LV for the clothing and shoes of the brethren, prescribing that “the Abbot be careful about the size of the garments, that they be not too short for those who wear them, but of the proper length”? And does he not say in Chapter XXXI that the cellarer is “to look upon all the vessels and goods of the Monastery as though they were the consecrated vessels of the altar”? Saint Benedict would have us understand the importance of an environment characterized by cleanliness, good order, harmony, and beauty.
What Saint Benedict does not want to see in his monks is that imperious attitude by which one is forever going on about what one needs, requires, wants, and wishes to have. Our model is the Apostle who says:
I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be content therewith. I know both how to be brought low, and I know how to abound: (everywhere, and in all things I am instructed) both to be full, and to be hungry; both to abound, and to suffer need. I can do all these things in him who strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:11–14)
It may seem unrealistic for me to ask that each of us, in whatsoever state he may be, be content therewith. It may seem unrealistic for me to ask that we show a cheerful countenance in all circumstances and at every hour of the day. And, yet, this is what I ask of you and, before that, it is what I myself have resolved to do. So long as we pin our hopes and our happiness on things outside of ourselves, we will be subject to onslaughts of gloom and to the vagaries of our changing humours. Our happiness lies in the immense privilege of being able to say, at every moment of the day and of the night, “yet I am always with Thee” (Psalm 72:22). And again, in the same psalm:
Thou hast held me by my right hand; and by thy will thou hast conducted me, and with thy glory thou hast received me. For what have I in heaven? and besides thee what do I desire upon earth? For thee my flesh and my heart hath fainted away: thou art the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion for ever. For behold they that go far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that are disloyal to thee. But it is good for me to adhere to my God, to put my hope in the Lord God: That I may declare all thy praises, in the gates of the daughter of Sion. (Psalm 72:24–28)
Do not daydream or fantasize about what could be, what will be, what might be. Do not groan over what was not, what is not, what may not be. Instead, allow your heart to be magnetized by the pearl of great price, by the treasure hidden in the field. Fix your heart ubi vera sunt gaudia (there where true joys are to be found): in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. You will never be disappointed.