Ampleforth Abbey

14 December 2017

Humility: grounding in the truth

The Annunciation of the Lord
Abbot Patrick Barry OSB comments upon Chapter 7 of the Rule of St Benedict, which discusses St Benedict's attitude towards the virtue of humility. Abbot Patrick is the oldest member of the Ampleforth community. In his many years of monastic life, he has served in a wide variety of roles. In addition to teaching Classics in the College, he was a housemaster and later became headmaster of Ampleforth College. From 1984 until 1997, he served as Abbot of Ampleforth.

Anyone who is anxious to get on well in modern, competitive society will probably not think much of humility as a way of succeeding, but he may just possibly be mistaken.

St Benedict begins with a very simple, very telling story from Christ Himself in the Gospel of the man who rushed to take the first seats in a great reception, only to be humiliated when the Master of Ceremonies came in and moved him to the lowest place.

He uses many other stories from the Gospel including the greatest of all stories, including the story of Christ, who is Lord of All but came to serve by becoming obedient even unto death.St Benedict’s teaching is that, by sticking to the stark truth about  oneself and turning away from the fantasies of ambition and greed one is led to the only success worth having, whish is “the love of God which casts our all fear.”

That is the gift of Christ offered to monks and laity who deep down are committed to the humility which Christ came to teach through suffering transformed by love. After all we may in the end have to face the stark possibility that the way to ultimate success is not self-assertion but unassuming (that is, humble) self-denial.