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ON PRAISE, PRECEDENCY, AND POINTS OF HONOUR

Observe carefully the stirrings of your heart in matters of superiority.  Pray to be delivered from such thoughts as these: I am older.  I deserve better.  I have laboured more.  I have more talent.  Such thoughts are the plague and poison of the heart.  Believe me, if there remain in you any allowed hankerings after the praises of men, though you may have spent many years in prayer, or rather in idle forms of prayer, you have made no progress, and never will, till your heart is crucified to the approval and the praise of men.  If you feel in yourself any point of honour, any pride, any desire of eminence or pre-eminence, you must free yourself from that abominable bondage, and for that chain there is no hammer and file like humility and prayer.  Among the rest of my great imperfections this was one.  I had very little knowledge of my Breviary, or of that which was to be sung in the choir, and all the while I saw that some other novices could instruct me.  But I was too proud to ask any questions.  I was afraid that my great ignorance should be discovered.  Shortly afterwards a good example was set before me, and then, when God had once opened my eyes to my sinful pride, I was content to ask information and the help even of little children.  And yet,—and this surprised me, I lost no credit or honour thereby.  Nay, it seemed to me that my Lord after that gave me better skill and a better memory.  I could sing but very ill, and I was troubled at this, not because I failed in my worship of God, but because so many heard me, and thus I was disturbed on the mere point of honour and praise.  I told them that I could not do what others did, and what was expected of me.  At first I had some difficulty in this, but it soon became both natural and pleasant to me to tell the truth.  By these nothings,—and they are really nothings, and I am sufficiently nothing when such things could put me to so much pain,—and by little and little His Divine Majesty vouchsafed to supply me with strength.  I was never good at the choir, but I tried to do my part for it in folding up the mantles of the singers; and, methought, in that I was serving the angels of God who so well praised Him.  I did that also by stealth, such was my pride, and my pride was hurt when they discovered what I did.  O my Lord, who that ever reads this can fail to despise and abhor me?  I beseech Thy Divine Majesty that I may soon be able to leave all such vanities as the praise and blame of men, and seek Thy praise only!  And then add this, which is worth knowing.  The devil will not dare to tempt one to pride or precedency who is truly humble because, being very crafty, he fears defeat.  If you are truly humble, you will only grow in that grace by every temptation to pride or praise.  For, immediately on the temptation, you will reflect on your whole past life and present character, and on the stupendous humility of Jesus Christ.  And by these considerations your tempted soul will come off so victorious, that the enemy will think twice before he comes back, for fear of a broken head.

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