the many virtues that constitute the structure of
the spiritual edifice, Saint Anthony emphasises, as a
true Franciscan, four that reveal his spirituality: humility,
obedience, poverty and charity.
As the basis for his mystical exaltation, the Saint places
humility, root and mother of all virtues. Humility
became his identity, the essence of his way of thinking and
acting, as it clear from his Sermones.
is the consequence of reflection on the abjection and nothingness
in human nature.
the physiological consequences of the nutrition and digestion
of the human body which is required to defecate, Saint Anthony
says that, faced with a similar lowliness, every man should
be deeply humiliated. Even conception and birth are, for Anthony,
reasons to rid oneself of any feelings of arrogance.
helps man to know himself and God. As fire reduces things
to ashes and lowers things that are tall, so does humility
force the arrogant to bend down and humble himself, repeating
the words of Genesis, "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust."
(3,19) The truly humble considers himself a worm, a son
of worms and putridity. Scorn for oneself (contemptus
sui) is the main virtue of the just man, with which
he, earthworm, contracts and lengthens himself to reach heavenly
goods. Arrogance is the worst sin before God and humility
is the most noble of virtues. It sustains with modesty
ignoble and dishonest things and is helped by divine grace.
is compared to a flower, since, like a flower, it has
the beauty of colour, the gentleness of perfume and the hope
of fruit. "When I see a flower," observes Saint
Anthony, "I hope for fruit; in the same way, when
I see a humble man, I hope for his heavenly beatitude."
saint places the seat of the virtue of humility in the
heart. As the heart regulates the life of the body, in
the same way humility presides over the life of the soul.
As the heart is the first organ to live and the last to cease
to exist, in the same way the virtue of humility dies with
it. If the cardiac muscle can bear neither pain nor serious
disease without compromising the life of the other organs,
the virtue of humility can neither complain of the offences
received nor torment itself about other people's well-being,
because if humility is not up to its duties, the edifice
of the other virtues will collapse.
Anthony distinguishes ten levels of humility which synthesise
the whole path to perfection.
requires man to keep in mind the humble origins of
gestation in his mother's womb,
difficult earthly pilgrimage,
he should always keep in mind the thought of death,
"bitterer than any bitterness."
in addition, urges man to participate in the mystery
of the humble Christ,
became his servant and redeemer,
to love pushed to the brink of folly.
advancement of man along the path to perfection is in
proportion to his lowering, since every man who rises
up shall be lowered and he who humbles himself shall be
these ten levels he, conscience of his infirmity and his poverty,
enters into spiritual life thanks to God's grace, he frees
himself from the dangerous things that weigh him down,
he contemplates more clearly his authentic nature as a person
and he discovers the presence of God in the intimate depths
of his soul. Humility moves the saint because it lowers,
so that it may then rise higher and God can grow in him.
page of the Sermones is unfaithful, not to a principle
of vainglory which would be incompatible with sainthood, but
not even in a way that would reveal the knowledge of its real
value, which could even go together with humility. The
desire to make himself "small" was alive in
Anthony. He wished to keep his merits hidden and his defects
visible, to guard against any attack from arrogance.
who are ashes and dust, what do you take pride in? The
sanctity of life? But it is the spirit that sanctifies; not
yours, that of God. Do you enjoy the praise you receive for
your discourse? But it the Lord who bestows the gift of eloquence
and knowledge. What is your tongue, if not a pen in the
hand of a scribe?" "If an adulator tells you,
'You are an expert and you know many things,' it is as if
he were telling you, 'you are demoniacal' (the Greek use the
word daimonion to describe one who knows a great many things).
You must respond to them with Christ, 'I am not demoniacal,'
because I know nothing of myself and there is nothing good
in me. I glorify my God, I attribute everything to him
and I render him glorious. He is the prince of every knowledge
and every science."
man co-operates with divine bounty. It is impossible
not to be aware of this. Nonetheless, the saint proceeds with
caution in evaluating his personal merits. He underestimates
them rather than exaggerating their importance. Above all,
he never divides the positive aspects of life from the negative
ones. The virtuous man "together with the good things
he does, retains his defects for his humiliation. And not
knowing how to overcome them, despite their insignificance,
is a continual admonition to live in humility."
patrimony of virtue, that Brother Anthony worked continually
to increase, was united with a great knowledge. The
Sermones are a splendid demonstration of Brother Anthony of
Padua's excellent cultural level.
following special qualities, though perhaps not the
rare qualities of a genius, emerge from his writings:
a speculative mind,
a busy imagination,
sharp capacity for observation,
an indomitable will to learn. The first biography
of Saint Anthony points out this singular prerogative
of the young Franciscan from Padua.
saint did not consider himself to be, nor did he act
like, an erudite. On the contrary, he professed to
be a follower of the most illustrious teachers. Brother Anthony
compared himself to Ruth, the gleaner, in the field of learning.
He followed behind the "great" trying to gather
the crumbs of their teachings.
of his science, at the beginning of the Sermones,
and aware of its unimportance, he defines it in a short phrase
in which each word is an act of humility: a trickle of
poor little science. This was not just something he said
when faced with this serious assignment which he undertook
with fear and a sense of discretion, because upon completing
the work he felt like the most insignificant of all the monks.
invites his fellow brothers who read his work to give any
praise or honours to Christ for anything edifying he had
written an to attribute to his own ignorance any defects found
in the work. He entrusted the elders of the Order with the
job of reviewing and correcting his pages.