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Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M., The Christophers’ Board of Directors

Overcoming Pride to Accept God’s Mercy

In her diary Divine Mercy in My Soul, the mystic St. Faustina Kowalska recalled Christ saying to her in a vision: “The greatest misery does not stop Me from uniting Myself to a soul, but where there is pride, I am not there.” What a profound revelation of the mercy of God, yet at the same time a grave warning about the destructive nature of pride.              

In his Treatise on the City of God, St. Augustine wrote, “Pride is the beginning of all sin.” The irony of the sin of pride is that it stems from a desire for greatness, yet results in our becoming so much less than we could be.

Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange wrote, “Pride is a bandage over the eyes of the spirit, which hinders us from seeing the truth, especially that relative to the majesty of God and the excellence of those who surpass us. It prevents us from wishing to be instructed by them, or it prompts us not to accept direction without argument.”

A way to avoid the diminished state that pride brings upon us is to focus less on attaining greatness for ourselves and more on becoming part of accomplishing something great with the help of God and others. Father Garrigou-Lagrange writes, “Whereas the proud man immoderately desires his own excellence, the magnanimous man devotes himself to a great cause, superior to himself, and accepts in advance all humiliations in order to accomplish what is in his estimation a great duty.”

In his Steps of Humility and Pride, St. Bernard of Clairvaux explains how pride can lead to a downward spiral where we become trapped in sin. In an essay summarizing St. Bernard’s teachings, Monsignor Charles Pope writes, “The prideful man increasingly rejects any restraints or limits. But the freedom of the proud man is not really freedom at all.”

            St. Maximillian Kolbe believed that pride leads us to fall because God wants us to understand that we cannot be truly good without His help. Sam Guzman, founder of The Catholic Gentleman, a group of men dedicated to pursuing holiness, explores the teachings of St. Maximillian, whom Guzman has chosen as a patron of his organization. Guzman notes that pride can cause us to despair when we fall. In that moment, we should abandon ourselves to the mercy of God. But, as St. Maximillian writes, “The devil, instead, tries to inject in us discouragement and internal depression in those circumstances, which is, in fact, nothing else than our pride surfacing again.”

                Writing for Catholic Exchange, Constance T. Hull discusses what we can learn about pride from the story of St. Martha. Hull says we need to abandon the idea that life is a race to get things done and rack up accomplishments. She writes, “Christ reminds us that the most important thing is to spend time with Him. He constantly goes to pray on His own in order to spend time with the Father. He is our example. He teaches us to take a step back. It is crucial in order for us to grow in holiness.”

Confidence in the mercy of God is a great replacement for the false sense of power we seek through pride. That confidence can accomplish so much more in our lives. So find the courage to unburden yourself from pride, and accept God’s mercy instead. You will grow by leaps and bounds and become part of something truly great in this life and the next.

 

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