On the great virtue of humility, A J Cronin outlines the story of Mario, a bright and prosperous boy and his companion Anselmo, relatively dull and poor.
Sensing his own capacities, even while young, Mario aspired to become a great preacher. Anselmo, who admired his dear friend, prayed for him, encouraging him with simple words. Years later, Mario entered the church as his simple companion took up the job of carrying out the menial duties of the house, happy in the feeling that he was near his dear Mario. On his being ordained, during his inaugural sermon, Mario was at his eloquent best. Other sermons followed, as he was sought after by many.
Years passed. Mario was now the cynosure of all eyes, becoming the bishop and attracting a large audience. Anselmo also accompanied him wherever he went, serving him devotedly, sitting in rapt attention and adulation, though unnoticed, in a corner, before his friend. Even Mario ceased to notice him, busy as he was in his own affairs and style of living.
One Sunday, as the bishop preached, he was conscious of the absence of Anselmo among the audience. Try as he did, he could not bring into his sermon the needed flow. On enquiry, he was informed that Anselmo had died just an hour before and that he had spent all the years in a small cell near the stables, attending to the birds and beggars around and “praying for a lay brother, for a good intention”.
Grief stricken though, Mario had no time to reproach himself for the haughtiness and indifference with which he had treated Anselmo, during his last years. He had to hurry off to Rome where at the St Peter’s, he was to address the archbishops. The next day, as he ascended the famous pulpit, he could not bring into his sermon the needed eloquence. He glanced down, in vain, to seek inspiration from those loving eyes of his companion.
Furious that he should have been seized of a fancy that a menial worker had influenced him so much, Mario sought to redeem himself for the ensuing sermons. But, alas, one instance after another, he had to grope for words, until one day, he broke down, muttering, “It is true. He was the substance, I am the empty husk”!
Mario spent his days in seclusion. One day, as the Prior saw him kneeling beside Anselmo’s grave, praying, he asked Mario, “My son, do you pray that eloquence be restored to you?”. Mario replied, “No Father. I ask for a greater blessing…. Humility”.
Food for thought!
What do we learn from the story? Why did Mario lose his power to perform in the absence of Anselmo? Mario learns the value of ‘humility’ under tragic circumstances. How can we develop this virtue in ourselves? What if people take advantage of our humility?