Adapted from Chapter IV of The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi by Brother Ugolino:
IT CHANCED ONE DAY, as St Francis was praying in the forest, that a handsome young man, dressed for traveling, presented himself at the convent-gate, knocking thereat so loudly, so quickly.... asking for Brother Elias. Said the stranger, "I wish to put a question to him, having heard that he is full of wisdom."
Brother Masseo went and called Brother Elias; but he, being angry, refused to go ... Now the young man was the angel of God, under the form of a traveller. St Francis, without moving and still looking up to heaven, said to Brother Masseo: "Go, tell Brother Elias, in virtue of holy obedience, to go and speak with that young man."
So Brother Elias, having received the order of St Francis, went to the convent-gate in an angry mood, and opening it with violence, asked of the young man what he wanted with him. The latter answered: "Beware of being angry, as thou appearest to be; for anger woundeth the soul, preventing it from discerning the truth." Brother Elias said again: "Tell me what thou wantest with me."
"I wish to know," answered the stranger, "if it be permitted to such as follow the Holy Gospel to eat whatever is served before them, according to the words of Christ to his disciples; and I wish to ask thee, likewise, if it be lawful for any man to teach a doctrine contrary to the liberty preached in the Gospel."
On this Brother Elias answered proudly: "I know what answer to make thee, but I am not inclined to give thee one. Be gone about thy business." The young man replied: "I know better than thou dost what answer to make to these questions." Then was Brother Elias much troubled; and, being very angry, he slammed to the door, and went his way....
In the meantime St Francis, to whom all had been revealed by God, returning from the forest, addressed himself reproachfully to Brother Elias, saying: "Thou doest wrong, proud Brother Elias; for thou hast sent away the holy angel of God, who came to instruct us. I tell thee that I greatly fear lest thy pride will make thee end thy days out of the Order." And so it happened even as St Francis said, for he died out of the Order.
WHEN I TOLD MY FRIEND F. this Franciscan story that i learnt while looking for The Meaning of the Message, her eyes widened, "O my God! I am a proud person too." Then she exclaimed, "Oh yes, isn't pride the reason why the angel Lucifer was expelled from Heaven? Isn't that why Adam and Eve had to leave the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3)?"
So it is! Adam and Eve did not leave God's presence because of one stupid apple, or because God is an autocratic god who cannot tolerate disobedience, or because God is afraid that they might become as great as He is.
Pride, as defined by St Thomas, is "an inordinate affection against right reason, by which man esteems himself and desires to be esteemed by others above that which he really is". The proud are in St Paul's words, "lovers of themselves", and in St Augustine's words, "doers of their own will".
The folly of the creature to imagine itself equal to or even better than its creator! Yet, history repeats itself over and over again in different forms -- in so many of us.
Didn't Psalm 90:4,10 say:
"...a thousand years in your [God's] sight are like yesterday when it is past....
The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong;"
And Psalm 139:1,2:
"O LORD, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away."
God can see everything that are happening in a period of time concurrently. He is somewhat like, but infinitely better than, the top management of a company because He has "perfect vision" -- he can see more accurately over a much longer span of time, and he can even look into everyone's hearts! He also has "peerless wisdom" and "matchless compassion".
How foolhardy of anyone to insist on doing his or her own will, and not God's will! In doing so, such people are effectively choosing their own destruction! How terrible the dangers of this vice are! As Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo wrote in his book, Humility of Heart (adapted version):
Pride destroys all virtue. According to St Gregory, pride is like a cancer which not only eats away one limb but attacks the whole body, "Like a widespread pestilential disease." As he put it, "Pride is the most manifest sign of the lost." From Pride comes presumption, ambition, envy, vainglory, boastfulness, hypocrisy, disobedience and discord. (See footnotes below.)
Pride is insidious and tenacious. Other vices are easily recognizable and therefore easy to hate and amend. Pride is a vice that is not so easily known because it goes masked and disguised in many forms, even putting on the semblance of virtue and the very appearance of humility. As taught in the maxim of St Ambrose: "Hidden things are more difficult to avoid than things known."
As St Augustine says, "For those who are returning to God, pride is the last thing to be overcome, as it was the first cause of their leaving God." After having fought against and overcome the other vices, we may justly rejoice, but as soon as we begin to rejoice that we have triumphed over pride, it triumphs over us, and becomes victorious over us in that very act for which we are praising ourselves for conquering it.
Finally, as another friend W. put it, "If all of us are humble and gentle, there would never be any war." Yes, if everyone is humble enough to think that the other party could be right, what is there to fight over? What a world it would be! Perhaps this is the reason why there is No Saint Who Is Not... humble in Heaven!
(See also The Original Sin II.)
Presumption is a vice by which we esteem ourselves able to achieve things beyond our strength, forgetful of the necessity of divine help.
Ambition is a vice which makes us seek our own honour with inordinate avidity.
Envy is a sadness arising from the contemplation of our neighbour's welfare, when we imagine that the good which happens to him must be to our own detriment, prejudicial to our own glory and interest; but of his goods we only envy those which bring us esteem in teh eyes of the world -- riches, dignity, the friendship and favours of the great, science, praise, fame and all that which seems to us to contribute to our credit and to bring us honour.
Vainglory consists in an inordinate appetite for praise, and a desire that our merit should shine forth with glory.
Boastfulness is a vice by which man, desiring to be supremely honoured above all others, begins to praise and exalt himself, exaggerating and amplifying things so as to make his own merit appear greater than it is.
Hypocrisy is a vice by which we affect to demonstrate externally a virtue and a sanctity which we do not possess; and he is really a hypocrite who, being full of wickedness within, pretends in his outward appearance to be good.
Disobedience is a sin by which we violate the command of our superiors, treating them with contempt, and it can be a mortal sin even in small matters; because, as St Bernard says, we must not consider the nature of the thing commanded nor the simple transgression of the precept, but the pride of the will which will not submit when it ought.
Discord is a discrepancy of the will which prevents it from conforming to the will of God in such matters as it ought to conform for the glory of God and the good of the neighbour; and it is a grave sin because St Paul counts dissensions among those sins which exclude those who commit them from the kingdom of heaven.
From A Guide to The Passion published in 2004 by the Catholic Exchange, USA, and reproduced by Noah's Ark Creations, Singapore:
Question: Why is there so much sin and opposition to God?
Answer: Because of the sin of our first parents (original sin), we inherit a humanity that has a natural tendency towards sin. But that is not the whole story. Satan is a master at deceitful advertising. He makes sin appear glamorous and desirable, just as he did in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). He tries to convince us that God forbids things not because they are harmful, but because they will make us like Him and He wants to keep us down, subservient, under His feet. So Satan markets sin as liberating while it is the exact opposite -- enslaving. Our first parents fell for it, and so do we.
People's sins are rooted in their pride, anger, envy, greed, lust, gluttony, and laziness, otherwise known as the "seven deadly sins." Whereas chossing the high road can be difficult, choosing the evils of this world can be very attractive at times. It can all be traced back to the fall of Lucifer, the "Angel of Light" -- the devil -- who rebelled against God and established his kingdom on earth. God thereafter has allowed people the freedom to choose for themselves between His way of truth, selflessness and light, and the devil's way of lies, selfishness and darkness.
Question: If sin is such a grave matter, why don't we hear more about it in the public discourse?
Answer: We live today in a permissive society that embraces sin as virtue. There are the ways of God and there are the ways of the world -- two very different ways for humanity to live. The communications media is often filled with the implicit message that "anything goes" and that sin is "no big deal."
(See also Seven Deadly Sins.)