The Morning Sermon on Saint Francis, 1255 - 523 

morrow; today a rich man, tomorrow perhaps a beggar; wise today, possibly you will become foolish tomorrow. Who, then, could dare to be proud, surrounded by such adversity? Nobody, except perhaps the person who makes no just assessment of himself, but rivets his attention on present prosperity and says what we read in the Book of Revelation about the proud: For you say, I am rich in natural gifts; I have prospered in spiritual graces; and I need nothing of worldly goods. But examine yourself well and you will realize that you are wretched and pitiable for lack of natural gifts; poor and blind for want of spiritual graces; and naked in possessing nothing of this world's goods. For as Job realized: Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return, and Saint Paul reminds us: For we brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of the world. 1 Tm 6:7

The fourth pathway to humility is respect for one's neighbor. It consists in respecting one's neighbor outwardly, as Saint Peter writes: Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, and this especially toward one's superiors. There is also inner respect which is found when a person reckons others better than himself. Each one ought to do this, as Saint Paul advises: In humility count others better than yourselves. Undoubtedly, we should all have this inner respect for others, because anyone of our neighbors is blessed with hidden or manifest graces for which we ought to count him better than ourselves. Elijah was reproached for thinking he was the only servant of the Lord left in Israel: I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal. Each one knows his own sins better than the sins of others.

Finally, we come to consider the means by which humility is maintained and there are four. Anyone who desires to safeguard humility unfailingly must make his own the means which protect it.

First of all he must maintain a heartfelt sorrow for his sins. We read in the Book of Proverbs: Grief in a man's heart shall bring him low. Grief over sins deflates the puffed up spirit, and constant sorrow does not allow one word of praise which would flatter the spirit, to re-echo in the heart. This clearly is what is meant by the words in Job: No one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. Intense sorrow which springs from heartfelt lament turns the attention of the soul wholly toward God, empties the soul of vanity and fills it with humility. As the Psalmist says: I am afflicted and humbled exceedingly: I roared with the groaning of my heart. Ps 37:9 [Vulgate, Ps 36:9]

Secondly, he must observe silence because this protects humility. The Psalmist says: I was dumb and was humbled and kept silence from good things. Humility is safeguarded by silence, not about one's sins, but about one's virtues. For a person ought not to parade his virtues,




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 523