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 Salunke Vihar flowers 29 Jun 2012 006into 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?

About dilipnaidu

An open mind! Love to share my thoughts and a keenness to learn. An engineer and a MBA I had a wonderful innings in the Army and later moved to consultancy and teaching. My current interests are music and growing culinary herbs. Love to play golf and do yoga regularly. I am serious on "Living life less seriously". A warm welcome to you be well and be cheerful always.

33 responses »

  1. girish kohli says:

    Thank you sir,

    please keep spreading and sharing your great wisdom to us all.

    With deepest regrds,

    yours remains faithfully,

    Girish kohli


  2. amira says:

    It is sad that time and again, people lose sight of this beautiful virtue known as humility. When some reach the height of power and fame often times they tend to forget about the people who led him/her there.
    thanks for the story.


  3. What a powerful and inspiring story – thank you!

    Blessings ~ Wendy


  4. Mps Siglos says:

    how do i share this in my facebook?


  5. seeker says:

    What a beautiful story.


  6. A beautiful inspiring story! You share your own gifts here spreading your own words of wisdom.. Many thanks for your most welcome visit .. Keep spreading the ‘Light’ through your words
    Blessings ~Sue


    • Dilip says:

      Welcome to my blog Sue. I found your blog to be one with a beautiful cause and I am honored by your visit. Glad you liked the story it highlights the virtues of Humility.

      Many thanks!


  7. Your words ring true and always a precious jewel to embrace…wonderful post!


  8. Geetha Chandar says:

    Extremely thought-provoking post on Humility, Sir. Thank you!

    We can develop the virtue of humility in ourselves by chanting this Sanskrit shloka everyday:

    Karacharana Kritam Vaa
    Kaayajam Karmajam Vaa
    Shravana Nayanajam Vaa
    Maanasam Vaa Paraadham
    Vihitama Vihitam Vaa
    Sarvame Tat Kshamasva
    Jaya Jaya Karunaabdhe
    Shri Mahaadeva Shambho

    Meaning: O Lord, kindly forgive all the wrong acts and omissions I have committed, whether I committed them knowingly or unknowingly, with my hands, feet, words, ears, eyes or mind.

    Glory to you, who is the ocean of kindness and compassion, and the cause of happiness.

    Significance: Before going to sleep, one ends the day saying sorry and letting go of the past

    Thanks and regards,



    • Dilip says:

      So very kind of you Geetha to share with us this beautiful Sanskrit shloka. It may take me time to memories it in Sanskrit but the English translation is itself so meaningful. Yes I am sure if one goes to sleep with “Letting go” thoughts our sleep will be really sound.

      Many thanks once again. Best regards.


  9. feelingjoy says:

    Hi Dilip. Thank you for the like. I’ve enjoyed visiting your blog. As I’ve learned we are all teachers and students to one another (we are each others mirrors). In this story, Anselmo admired Mario’s qualities, which resided in Anselmo although he didn’t see this. Anselmo was a teacher to Mario (humility) as well as Anselmo held his dear friend in prayer. As Gary Zukov said, “We are in earth school.” Pam


    • Dilip says:

      Beautiful response on the moral of the story Pam. It is true the real teacher (preacher) was Anselmo for Mario. And on Anselmo’s passing away Mario realized it ~ “It is true. He was the substance, I am the empty husk”!

      Many thanks


  10. drsuraiyanasim says:

    Endearing and beautiful. Immensely touching….one of the qualities that impresses me most about a fellow humanbeing. Thankyou for sharing such a heartfelt story,


  11. SUHAS says:

    Anselmo had spent his life in a small cell near the stables, attending to the birds and beggars around and praying for a lay brother, for a good intention. This indicates a strength, dedication to your work. He knew his limitations, but his presence was a booster for Mario.Mario took his strength from the presence of Anselmo.
    It is similar to a child feeling confident in a exam. room if the parent is outside the hall..
    Honour and shame from no occasion rise act well thy part, there all the honour lies


    • Dilip says:

      Another beautiful response from you Suhas. The last line caps it fittingly “Honour and shame from no occasion rise act well thy part, there all the honour lies”!
      Cheers 🙂


  12. Binky says:

    I guess we all have an ego, and we probably all let it get in the way at least some of the time. But if we can put it aside in a group setting and accept ideas or input no matter who they come from, we can usually achieve much more.


  13. Doris says:

    What a great story and beautiful message, I think we need to let go of ego famous or not, and be more humble in all aspects of our life’s


  14. HUMILILTY, yes that is the lesson. Mario, in fact never forgot Anselmo & the profound affect Anselmo had on his being. Mario was only pretending to be busy . How can Mario the GREAT be associate with a menial like Anselmo???. Fame turned a kind Mario into a haughty person whose mind & soul were blurred, till he could not take the pretension any more. Mario had to cleanse his soul to be real; which he eventually did.
    Simple & humble Anselmo carried on to be himself as he was not lured by false fame. His simplicity &humility was so forceful tha it played on to bring in a change of mind of Mario.

    Parallel story is Sudama & Krishan. Unlike Mario; Krishan the Lord kept his wise counsel & did not forget his childhood friend Sudama. Krishan displayed great humility by accepting the meagre gift of small quantity of rice brought by Sudama. Krishan also knew the value of rice, the food which sustain life.


    • Dilip says:

      Bravo Roshan that’s a truly stunning response. Yes perhaps when the ego reaches it highest level it clouds the mind and makes it too heavy. Thus the man cracks up and/or goes into a ‘low’.

      The parallel story of Lord Krishna and Sudama is just perfect. Right from our school days we were told of the values of Humility, loyalty and true-friendship through this beautiful mythological story.

      Many thanks my friend. Namaste 🙂


  15. K Sriram says:

    Dear Sir,

    It is interesting that Humility & Omerta (the code of secrecy among mafia) have the same root word – which means submission of the individual to group interest. Now this act of submission is out of volition in humility and is out of fear in Omertà. So when we talk of a humble person we are talking of a free spirit rather than a servile, submissive person, as being humble is a choice made by the individual and is not forced. Since it is an act of choice, where does it cause ‘exploitation’? Even in the short story, we cannot claim that the Bishop exploited the humility of his friend, the friend was humble and chose to be so and had no regrets being so. Thus humility is a source of great strength and is one quality ‘demanded’ of persons in spiritual pursuit.

    The Bishop loses his eloquence because he has suddenly realized he is no ‘good’ but a balloon of self pride!. All his claims of being ‘great’ have been washed off in the naked truth of his friend’s life story and hence his seeking out for inspiration at the grave of his friend for humility!

    There is an interesting piece of research in behavioral economics on what is called the Moral Pendulum. It seems we have a pendulum within us which nudges us to behave morally after we have performed an immoral act & vice versa. Perhaps the Bishop Felt GOOD about his ‘helping others’ so much that he became ‘haughty’ with pride, thanks to the Moral Pendulum telling him, you can afford to be haughty as you are helpful!. This is the danger of being moral without being spiritual and therefore humble.

    Spirituality is about seeing the OTHER as the SELF. when there is NO OTHER, where have I been ‘good’ to the OTHER? so where is the question of pride? IF this kind of logic is esoteric, then its better to think of our goodness as a manifestation possible because there was a target / recipient of our goodness, in the absence of whom, we have no ability to be good! So we need to be ‘thankful’ that the recipient exists, and thus we get back to humility!

    So the Moral of the Story is to do ‘good’ without the effects of the ‘label’ on us – so we need to constantly remind ourselves that we are just one part of the transaction of good and hence the transaction is inherently in balance so there is NO NEED TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT BEING GOOD and that will deliver unto us the elusive humility!



    • Dilip says:

      Hi Sriram,

      Thanks for this interesting response to story which has fascinated me from years. The Humility & Omerta is a new input for me and fits well here. The humility which comes from fear or as a pretense is its negative dimension. The ‘Moral Pendulum’ is another interesting explanation but I wonder if it is guilt that forces a person towards becoming a good person.

      A person such as Mario who does good sermons etc and feels great about the acclaim he receives is bound to become pompous egoist. That is why it is a ‘Living Guru’ who directs the disciple to help others -Seva. When an act of helping others is done at the Guru’s behest the disciple is not susceptible to ego.

      Your sentence “Spirituality is about seeing the OTHER as the SELF when there is NO OTHER” is beautiful and answers many questions.

      And you have brought out the Moral of the story beautifully.

      Many thanks my friend and NAMASTE! 🙂


  16. We should all learn from this story!
    Thank you, Dilip!


  17. gardenerat60 says:

    Beautiful. We know what to expect , as we read. But the message is profound. Thanks.


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