A farmer will observe that his neighbour’s property is doing better than his own. This makes him very angry so he will speak evil of him. There are others who slander their neighbours from motives of vengeance. If you do or say something to help someone, even through reasons of duty or of charity, they will then look for opportunities to decry you, to think up things which will harm you, in order to revenge themselves. If their neighbour is well spoken of, they will be very annoyed and will tell you: “He is just like everyone else. He has his own faults. He has done this, he has said that. You didn’t know that? Ah, that is because you have never had anything to do with him.” A great many people slander others because of pride. They think that by depreciating others they will increase their own worth. They want to make the most of their own alleged good qualities. Everything they say and do will be good, and everything that others say and do will be wrong. But the great bulk of malicious talk is done by people who are simply irresponsible, who have an itch to chatter about others without feeling any need to discover whether what they are saying is true or false. They just have to talk. Yet, although these latter are less guilty than the others – that is to say, than those who slander and backbite through hatred or envy or revenge – yet they are not free from sin. Whatever the motive that prompts them, they should not sully the reputation of their neighbour. … perhaps, my friend, you are mistaken [in your judgments], and although everything may have been exactly as you have said, perhaps he is already in Heaven, perhaps God has pardoned him. But, in the meantime, where is your charity?
ON ENVY AND PRIDE
From St. John Vianney’s Sermons of the Cure of Ars NOT LIKE THE OTHERS
“I am not like the others!” That, my dear brethren, is the usual tone of false virtue and the attitude of those proud people who, always quite satisfied with themselves, are at all times ready to censure and to criticize the conduct of others. That, too, is the attitude of the rich, who look upon the poor as if they were of a different race or nature from them and who behave towards them accordingly.
Let us go one better, my dear brethren, and admit that it is the attitude of most of the world. There are very few people, even in the lowliest conditions, who do not have a good opinion of themselves. They regard themselves as far superior to their equals, and their detestable pride urges them to believe that they are indeed worth a great deal more than most other people. From this I conclude that pride is the source of all the vices and the cause of all the evils which have occurred, and which are still to come, in the course of the centuries. We carry our blindness so far that often we even glorify ourselves on account of things which really ought to cover us with confusion. Some derive a great deal of pride because they believe that they have more intelligence than others; others because they have a few more inches of land or some money, when in fact they should be in dread of the formidable account which God will demand of them one day. Oh, my dear brethren, if only some of them felt the need to say the prayer that St. Augustine addressed to God: “My God, teach me to know myself for what I am and I shall have no need of anything else to cover me with confusion and scorn for myself.”
We could say that this sin is found everywhere, that it accompanies man in what he does and says. It is like a kind of seasoning or flavouring which can be tasted in every portion of a dish. Listen to me for a moment and you can see this for yourselves. Our Lord gives us an example in the Gospel when He tells us of the Pharisee who went up into the temple to pray and, standing up where all could see him, said in a loud voice: “O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men steeped in sin. I spend my life doing good and pleasing you.” Herein consists the very nature of the proud man: instead of thanking God for condescending to make use of him for a good purpose and for giving him grace, he looks upon whatever good he does as something which comes from himself, not from God. Let us go into a few details and you will see that there are hardly any exceptions to this general sin of pride. The old and the young, the rich and the poor, all suffer from it. Each and everyone congratulates himself and flatters himself because of what he is or of what he does – or rather because of what he is not and what he does not. Everyone applauds himself and loves also to be applauded. Everyone rushes to solicit the praises of the rest of the world, and everyone strives to draw them to himself. In this way are the lives of the great majority of people passed.
The door by which pride enters with the greatest ease and strength is the door of wealth. Just as soon as someone improves his possessions and his sources of wealth, you will observe him change his mode of life. He will act as Jesus Christ told us the Pharisees liked to act: these people love to be called master and to have people saluting them. They like the first places. They begin to appear in better clothes. They leave behind their air of simplicity. … Take a young woman who has a shapely figure or who, at any rate, thinks she has. You see her walking along, picking her steps, full of affectation, with a pride which seems colossal enough to reach the clouds! If she has plenty of clothes, she will leave her wardrobe open [or be sure to display them to others in some way] so that they can be seen [and this vice applies to any material possessions, deeds, or even body parts that people are sure to display to others through vanity and pride].
People take pride in their animals and in their households. They take pride in knowing how to go to Confession properly, in saying their prayers, in behaving modestly and decorously in the church. A mother takes pride from her children. You will hear a landowner whose fields are in better condition than those of his neighbours criticising these and applauding his own superior knowledge. Or it may be a young man with a watch, or perhaps only the chain, and a couple of coins in his pocket, and you will hear him saying, “I did not know that it was so late,” so that people will see him looking at the watch or will know that he has one. … No, my dear brethren, there is nothing that is quite as ridiculous or stupid as to be forever talking about what we have or what we do. Just listen to the father of a family when his children are of an age to get married; in all the places and gatherings where he is to be found you will hear him saying: “I have so many thousand francs ready; my business will give me so many thousands, etc.” But if later he is asked for a few coppers for the poor, he has nothing.
If a tailor or a dressmaker has made a success of a coat or a frock and someone seeing the wearer pass says, “That looks very well. I wonder who made it?” they will make very sure to observe: “Oh, I made that.” Why? So that everyone may know how skilful they are. But if the garment had not been such a success, they would, of course, take good care to say nothing, for fear of being humiliated. … And I will add this to what I have just said. This sin is even more to be feared in people who put on a good show of piety and religion. A PUBLIC PLAGUE
As you know my dear brethren, we are bound as fellow creatures to have human sympathy and feelings for one another. Yet one envious person would like, if he possibly could, to destroy everything good and profitable belonging to his neighbour. You know, too, that as Christians we must have boundless charity for our fellow men. But the envious person is far removed indeed from such virtues. He would be happy to see his fellow man ruin himself. Every mark of God’s generosity towards his neighbour is like a knife thrust that pierces his heart and causes him to die in secret. Since we are all members of the same Body of which Jesus Christ is the Head, we should so strive that unity, charity, love, and zeal can be seen in one and all. To make us all happy, we should rejoice, as St. Paul tells, in the happiness of our fellow men and mourn with those who have cares or troubles. But, very far from experiencing such feelings, the envious are forever uttering scandals and calumnies against their neighbours. It appears to them that in this way they can do something to assuage and sweeten their vexation. …
We can see that this sin makes its first appearance among children. You will notice the petty jealousies they will feel against one another if they observe any preferences on the part of the parents. A young man would like to be the only one considered to have intelligence, or learning, or a good character. A girl would like to be the only one who is loved, the only one well dressed, the only one sought after; if others are more popular than she, you will see her fretting and upsetting herself, even weeping, perhaps, instead of thanking God for being neglected by creatures so that she may be attached to Him alone. What a blind passion envy is, my dear brethren! Who could hope to understand it?… This is surely a cursed sin which puts a barrier between brothers and sisters, too. The very moment that a father or a mother gives more to one member of the family than the others, you will see the birth of this jealous hatred against the parent or against the favoured brother or sister – a hatred which may last for years, and sometimes even for a lifetime. There are children who keep a watchful eye upon their parents just to insure that they will not give any sort of gift or privilege to one member of the family. If this should occur in spite of them, there is nothing bad enough that they will not say.
Unfortunately, this vice can be noted even among those in whom it should never be encountered – that is to say, among those who profess to practice their religion. They will take note of how many times such a person remains to go to Confession or of how So-and-So kneels or sits when she is saying her prayers. They will talk of these things and criticise the people concerned, for they think that such prayers or good works are done only so that they may be seen, or in other words, that they are purely an affectation. You may tire yourself out telling them that their neighbour’s actions concern him alone. They are irritated and offended if the conduct of others is thought to be superior to their own....
Take another example. Here is a merchant who wants to have all the business for himself and to leave nothing at all for anyone else. If someone leaves his store to go elsewhere, he will do his best to say all the evil he can, either about the rival businessman himself or else about the quality of what he sells. He will take all possible means to ruin his rival’s reputation, saying that the other’s goods are not of the same quality as his own or that the other man gives short weight. You will notice, too, than an envious man like this has a diabolical trick to add to all this: “It would not do,” he will tell you, “for you to say this to anyone else; it might do harm and that would upset me very much. I am only telling you because I would not like to see you being cheated.”
A workman may discover that someone else is now going to work in a house where previously he was always employed. This angers him greatly, and he will do everything in his power to run down this “interloper” so that he will not be employed there after all. Look at the father of a family and see how angry he becomes if his next-door neighbour prospers more than he or if the neighbour’s land produces more. Look at a mother: she would like it if people spoke well of no children except hers. If anyone praises the children of some other family to her and does not say something good of hers, she will reply, “They are not perfect,” and she will become quite upset. How foolish you are, poor mother! The praise given to others will take nothing from your children. … You will see this even among the poor. If some kindly person gives a little bit extra to one of them, they will make sure to speak ill of him to their benefactor in the hope of preventing him from benefiting on any further occasion. Dear Lord, what a detestable vice this is! It attacks all that is good, spiritual as well as temporal.
We have already said that this vice indicates a mean and petty spirit. That is so true that no one will admit to feeling envy, or at least no one wants to believe that he has been attacked by it. People will employ a hundred and one devices to conceal their envy from others. If someone speaks well of another in our presence, we keep silence: we are upset and annoyed. If we must say something, we do so in the coldest and most unenthusiastic fashion. No, my dear children, there is not a particle of charity in the envious heart. St. Paul has told us that we must rejoice in the good which befalls our neighbour. Joy, my dear brethren, is what Christian charity should inspire in us for one another. But the sentiments of the envious are vastly different.
I do not believe that there is a more ugly and dangerous sin than envy because it is hidden and is often covered by the attractive mantle of virtue or of friendship. Let us go further and compare it to a lion which we thought was muzzled, to a serpent covered by a handful of leaves which will bite us without our noticing it. Envy is a public plague which spares no one. We are leading ourselves to Hell without realising it.
But how are we then to cure ourselves of this vice if we do not think we are guilty of it? I am quite certain that of the thousands of envious souls honestly examining their consciences, there would not be one ready to believe himself belonging to that company. It is the least recognised of sins.
Some people are so profoundly ignorant that they do not recognise a quarter of their ordinary sins. And since the sin of envy is more difficult to know, it is not surprising that so few confess it and correct it. Because they are not guilty of the big public sins committed by coarse and brutalised people, they think that the sins of envy are only little defects in charity, when, in fact, for the most part, these are serious and deadly sins which they are harbouring and tending in their hearts, often without fully recognising them. “But,” you may be thinking in your own minds, “if I really recognised them, I would do my best to correct them.”
If you want to be able to recognise them, my dear brethren, you must ask the Holy Ghost for His light. He alone will give you this grace. No one could, with impunity, point out these sins to you; you would not wish to agree nor to accept them; you would always find something which would convince you that you had made no mistake in thinking and acting in the way you did. Do you know yet what will help to make you know the state of your soul and to uncover this evil sin hidden in the secret recesses of your heart? It is humility. Just as pride will hide it from you, so will humility reveal it to you.
From St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life CHAPTER IV.
OF EXTERIOR HUMILITY.
Some become proud and insolent, either by riding a good horse, wearing a feather in their hat, or by being dressed in a fine suit of clothes; but who does not see the folly of this? for if there be any glory in such things, the glory belongs to the horse, the bird, and the tailor; and what a meanness of heart must it be, to borrow esteem from a horse, from a feather, or some ridiculous new fashion! Others value themselves for a well-trimmed beard, for curled locks, or soft hands; or because they can dance, sing, or play; but are not these effeminate men, who seek to raise their reputation by so frivolous and foolish things? Others, for a little learning, would be honored and respected by the whole world, as if everyone ought to become their pupil, and account them his masters. These are called pedants. Others strut like peacocks, contemplating their beauty and think themselves admired by every one. All this is extremely vain, foolish, and impertinent; and the glory which is raised on so weak foundations is justly esteemed vain and frivolous. … Honors, rank, and dignities, are like saffron, which thrives best, and grows most plentifully, when trodden under foot. It is no honor to be beautiful when a man prizes himself for it: beauty, to have a good grace, should be neglected; and learning is a disgrace to us when it degenerates into pedantry. If we stand upon the punctilio for places, precedency, and titles, besides exposing our qualities to be examined, tried, and contradicted, we render them vile and contemptible; for as honor is beautiful when freely given, so it becomes base when exacted or sought after.
OF MORE INTERNAL HUMILITY.
We often confess ourselves to be nothing, nay, misery itself, and the refuse of the world; but would be very sorry that any one should believe us, or tell others that we are really so miserable wretches. On the contrary, we pretend to retire, and hide ourselves, so that the world may run after us, and seek us out. We feign to wish ourselves considered as the last in the company, and sit down at the lowest end of the table; but it is with a view that we may be desired to pass to the upper end. True humility never makes a show of herself… A man that is truly humble would rather another should say to him that he is miserable, and that he is nothing, than to say it himself; at least, if he knows that any man says so he does not contradict it [or feels sad or angry or seek to excuse himself], but heartily agrees to it; for, believing it himself firmly, he is pleased that others entertain the same opinion. The Secret of Sanctity of St. John of the Cross, by Fr. Lucas of St. Joseph, O.C.D., Bruce, Milwaukee, 1962. (Fr. Lucas was martyred by the Communists in Spain in 1936.)
EXPLAINING THE LAWS OF FAST AND ABSTINENCE, FOR DAYS OF FAST AND ABSTINENCE On days of fast, only one full meal is allowed, at which meat may be taken. Two other meatless meals, which together are less than the full meal, are also permitted. Only liquids may be taken between meals. The law of fast must be observed by all between the ages of 21 and 59 inclusive under pain of mortal sin.
If fasting poses a serious risk to health or impedes the ability to do necessary work, it does not oblige.
There are also certain days of abstinence.
On days of complete abstinence (such as all Fridays), meat and soup or gravy made from meat (or anything made from meat) may not be taken at all under pain of mortal sin.
On days of partial abstinence, meat (and soup or gravy made from meat) can be eaten only once. The law of abstinence must be observed by everyone age 7 and older under pain of mortal sin.
There is no obligation of fast or abstinence on a holy day of obligation, even if it falls on a Friday (such as Christmas).
Eucharistic Fast 1. Priests and faithful before Mass or Holy Communion – whether it is the morning, afternoon, evening, or Midnight Mass – must abstain for three hours from solid foods and alcoholic beverages, and for one hour from non-alcoholic beverages. Water does not break the fast.
2. The infirm, even if not bedridden, may take non-alcoholic beverages and that which is really and properly medicine, either in liquid or solid form, before Mass or Holy Communion without any time limit.
Priests and faithful who are able to do so are exhorted to observe the old and venerable form of the Eucharistic fast (from foods and liquids from midnight). All those who will make use of these concessions must compensate for the good received by becoming shining examples of a Christian life and principally with works of penance, self-denial and charity (and fervent prayer).
(Pope Pius XII, Sacram Communionem, 1957)
The Old and Venerable Form of Fasting
Priests and faithful who are able to do so are exhorted to observe the old and venerable form of fasting (see Black Fast below). However, since this strictness may not be suitable for most people a compensation may be made, and that is that only one full meal a day or two smaller meals that is about the same (or a little more than the full meal per day) be taken. So either one of these per day and not both as the modern day weak and pathetic fast permits. Most people should be able to do this on regular fasts. However, this fast is much harder to practice during Lent. In general, the less one eats the better, and if the above fast is too much for a person, then he should try to eat three smaller meals a day instead and skipping the full meal or eating a full meal and one smaller meal and skipping the second small meal. All those who will make use of these concessions must compensate for the good received by becoming shining examples of a Christian life and principally with works of penance, self-denial and charity (and fervent prayer).
See the: Traditional Catholic Calendar and for the Laws of fast and Abstinence, for Days of Fast and Abstinence The Black Fast (from Catholic Encyclopedia) This form of fasting, the most rigorous in the history of church legislation, was marked by austerity regarding the quantity and quality of food permitted on fasting days as well as the time wherein such food might be legitimately taken.
In the first place more than one meal was strictly prohibited. At this meal flesh meat, eggs, butter, cheese, and milk were interdicted (Gregory I, Decretals IV, cap. vi; Trullan Synod, Canon 56). Besides these restrictions abstinence from wine, specially during Lent, was enjoined (Thomassin, Traité des jeûnes de l'Église, II, vii). Furthermore, during Holy Week the fare consisted of bread, salt, herbs, and water (Laymann, Theologia Moralis, Tr. VIII; De observatione jejuniorum, i). Finally, this meal was not allowed until sunset [for most people, a 4 hour wait period (at least) before the meal may be more suitable]. St. Ambrose (De Elia et jejunio, sermo vii, in Psalm CXVIII), St. Chrysostom (Homil. iv in Genesim), St. Basil (Oratio i, De jejunio) furnish unequivocal testimony concerning the three characteristics of the black fast. The keynote of their teaching is sounded by St. Bernard (Sermo. iii, no. 1, De Quadragesima), when he says "hitherto we have fasted only until none" (3 p.m.) "whereas, now" (during Lent) "kings and princes, clergy and laity, rich and poor will fast until evening". It is quite certain that the days of Lent (Muller, Theologia Moralis, II, Lib. II, Tr. ii, sect. 165, no. 11) as well as those preceding ordination were marked by the black fast. This regime continued until the tenth century when the custom of taking the only meal of the day at three o'clock was introduced (Thomassin, loc. cit.). In the fourteenth century the hour of taking this meal was changed to noon-day (Muller, loc. cit.). Shortly afterwards the practice of taking a collation in the evening began to gain ground (Thomassin, op. cit., II, xi). Finally, the custom of taking a crust of bread and some coffee in the morning was introduced in the early part of the nineteenth century. During the past fifty years, owing to ever changing circumstances of time and place, the Church has gradually relaxed the severity of penitential requirements, so that now little more than a vestige of former rigour obtains.
ON RASH JUDGMENTS AND SLANDER [CONTINUED]
St. John [of the Cross] repeats the admonition relative to judgment of one’s neighbor in the first of his Four Maxims to a Religious. As he says: “Those who fail in charity toward their neighbor fail likewise to profit by any other works of virtue they may perform, and they continually go from bad to worse.”
It is sad to think that after many years in religious life one has lost not only the merit of his virtuous actions but has actually fallen into the dangerous state of sin. Let us consider in logical order the evils which may result from a neglect of this important admonition. There is, first of all, a tendency to judge one’s neighbor unfavorably, and this is termed “rash judgment.” This is equally serious, whether interior or exterior. St. John says that this consists in mental criticism and murmuring resulting in rash statements against one’s neighbor. This is corroborated in the celebrated passage of St. James: “If any man think himself to be religious, not bridling his tongue, this man’s religion is vain.”
In every order, religious, social, or moral, there are certain truths which are fundamental because everyone agrees to them. In secondary truths and the appreciation of details and concrete acts, each one sees them according to his own dispositions. Thus in the actions of our neighbor we see only the external action and know little or nothing of the motives which prompted him to do this act. In order to judge correctly whether a person is worthy of praise or blame, knowledge is a principal requisite. Usually we are ignorant of the true principle of morality guiding the actions of others, therefore it is inevitable that when we judge according to our own light we are often guilty of error.
In every rank of life there are narrow-minded individuals whose horizon is limited to the private and public life of their neighbor. This is not only deplorable but it is a genuine spiritual infirmity.
According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the tendency to judge one’s neighbor proceeds from two causes: “…either the person is evil-minded and unconsciously judges others by his own evil dispositions or he harbors such envy, hatred, or contempt for his neighbor that he experiences a secret delight in thinking evil of him and readily believes any misconception of his neighbor’s actions.” This teaching of St. Thomas should teach us to restrain our judgment of our neighbor, because suspicious and unfavorable judgments are a revelation of the infirmities of our own souls. When we are caught by a keen observer in a merciless judgment against our neighbor we should blush at the portrayal of a quality in ourselves which even natural pride would prompt us to conceal. It was St. Bonaventure who said, “When you perceive anything reprehensible in your neighbor, turn your eyes on yourself; before you cast any judgment, examine yourself well, and condemn in yourself that which you would have condemned in him.”…
St. Paul is even more severe when he says, “thou art inexcusable O man, whosoever thou art, that judgest. For wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself.” To the Corinthians he adds, “Therefore judge not… until the Lord come, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness.” The same exhortation is found in St. Luke: “Condemn not and you shall not be condemned. Forgive and you shall be forgiven. … For with the same measure that you shall mete, it shall be measured out to you.” Such words are indicative of the fact that on the day of final judgment the same standards will be applied to us personally as we have applied to our fellow men. …
Only when man possesses a deep self-knowledge and a broader knowledge of men will he find himself mild in his judgment of others. Yet this is the goal we must strive for, first in our thoughts, since charitable thoughts transform material actions into acts of supernatural value, and this only when we are completely imbued with the spirit of divine love and mercy. … Regardless of the actions of our fellow men we must always view them in the spirit of charity and in the realization that “judgment is the Lord’s, not man’s.” … Our judgments are usually based on personal antagonism, ignorance, and perhaps a clash of personalities; yet it is not expedient that we rely on such excuses for judging our neighbor. … we are bound to regulate our charity and justice toward our neighbor in accordance with God’s law of charity. This regulation must begin in the interior since it is our thoughts which govern our speech and our actions. Charitable thoughts will beget charitable words; likewise envious and uncharitable thoughts dispose us to hideous sins against charity and justice.
Everyone is aware from personal experience that rash judgment is moral poisoning. Once the imagination is given free reign then we find evil in others. The insidious poison which we have administered to ourselves increases with each uncharitable thought. We soon find it difficult to be amiable and indulgent toward our fellow religious and as the poison spreads we become more and more intolerant of any weakness, until even the smallest fault becomes magnified to alarming proportions. We can no longer remain master of our speech when we have arrived at this stage because it is always true, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”