Franciscan Spirit Blog

Saint Francis Novena | Day Four: Humility

What a person is before God, that he is and no more.
(Admonition XX)


“What a person is before God, that he is and no more.” This is perhaps the most powerful thing that Francis of Assisi ever said. Thomas of Celano recorded it, and Saint Bonaventure wrote that Francis repeated this saying frequently.

In August of 1967, I was introduced to this saying during a retreat before I entered the novitiate (a year-long type of boot camp). In some way, I have been reflecting on it during 50 years of Franciscan living.

With no disrespect to Francis, I think we could add “and no less” to the end of the quote above. Unfortunately, some people think that they can grow in virtue only if they lie to themselves. For example, with some frequency, you hear individuals try to deflect a compliment by saying “But the mashed potatoes were a little lumpy” or “I could have done better if only . . . ” (usually identifying something beyond the person’s control).

In his novel David Copperfield, Charles Dickens shows that humility can be easily counterfeited. The character Uriah Heep is extremely proud of being “very ’umble, living with a very ‘umble mother in a very ‘umble house.” Eventually, however, Uriah is exposed as an extremely greedy man.

Living honestly before God always carries over into living honestly with other people and in one’s own eyes.

Saint Francis on…

Humility: “Humility, patience, perfect simplicity, and true peace of heart are all its aim, but above everything else it desires the fear of God, the divine wisdom and the divine love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”


God of all mercy, you know how easily we get
confused about the virtue of humility, very
often worrying that if we grow in that virtue
other people will take advantage of us. Help
us to be humble enough always to tell ourselves
the truth at the deepest level and live it out.

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7 thoughts on “Saint Francis Novena | Day Four: Humility”

    1. I think that humility is so often distorted as mentioned here as putting yourself down. I think the Church has often reinforced in the past that we are terrible sinners and has filled us with shame.
      I like what she said about adding.. and no less. Humble kindness, based on our inherent goodness is what I seek.

  1. It reminds me of how some Desert Fathers were led to vainglory in their pursuit of staying humble. It’s a fine line. Maybe that’s why St. Francis repeated that phrase often, since we do need constant reminders.

  2. Richard Rohr said he used to pray for humility… but then he realize it is not something to strive for humble us that. It is facing each humiliation that comes our way everyday. And they do come.
    Example not to make excuses for a mistake. Accepting the jabs of the day.

  3. When someone compliments me ,
    I say to myself or aloud “Thanks be to God” 😉 For me, I sense this supports the growth/ or grounding of humility ..I acknowledge that something good has happened in or thru me ..but to “God be the GlORY/and PRAISE!

  4. “What a person is before God, that he is and no more.”

    I wonder if St Francis was getting at how God sees us all as we are with all the ego attachments and lies people tell themselves. God its Truth and Truth is that which is, so how could God see us for anything less than this?

    May God grant us the humility to accept and the graces to perceive and understand truly and rightly, “that which is”, in every moment of our lives. Amen.

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