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Catholic Activity: Humility and Detachment


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Some good advice on humility and detachment from St. Syncletica who might be called one of the Desert Mothers.


Many times children are so exhilarated by their success at overcoming some fault (at least temporarily) or performing some act of virtue that they can hardly wait to tell it. Yet the fruitfulness of such acts depends in part on resisting any pride that may rise up out of success and concealing (except perhaps from a parent or confessor who is helping the child conquer himself) its triumphs. If the soul is to profit from its triumphs, it must remember it succeeds only because God has given it the grace to succeed. Its only independent accomplishments are its sins. In the life of St. Syncletica there are many wise things about humility and the secret possession of one's virtues.

St. Syncletica was a Macedonian, born at Alexandria in Egypt. Her family was wealthy and this, together with her beauty, brought many young men to her as suitors. But she had given her heart to Christ so she fled to the desert to escape the lure of life in the world. Many women came to her for counsel and it is evidently from her discourses to them that her wise quotations derive. About humility and the need to keep triumphs secret between ourselves and God, she said this,

"A treasure that is known is quickly spent: and even so any virtue that is commented on and made a public show of is destroyed. Even as wax is melted before the face of fire, so is the soul enfeebled by praise, and loses the toughness of its virtues."

Asked if it were a perfect good to have nothing, she said this about detachment and poverty of spirit (which, if one cannot live the kind of life where one can have nothing, is necessary if possessions are not to be a danger) in a way which shows how the work of women — wives, mothers, grandmothers — can lead them to profound meditation: "It is a great good for those who are able (to bear it). For those who can endure it endure suffering in the flesh, but they have quiet of soul. Even as stout garments trodden underfoot and turned over in the washing are made clean and white, so is a strong soul made steadfast by voluntary poverty." When so many families live in at least a state of frugality, which while not entirely voluntary is nevertheless accepted by them because it is God's will, it is helpful to see how great a good such a state can be and to be reminded to praise Him for it. It is especially necessary to point this out to children, who will otherwise accept the standards set by the world which complains that enough is not enough — one must want more.

Activity Source: Saints and Our Children, The by Mary Reed Newland, P.J. Kenedy & Sons, New York; reprinted by TAN Publishers, 1958

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