Friday, May 26, 2017

Why This Little Book on Humility Is So Great - Humility of Heart

Book marketing consists of finding the target audience of those who are looking for the subjects discussed inside a given book. Often this involves narrowing down the field so that the maximum amount of effort and resources can be applied to the targeted group interested in the subject. It is all part of Book Marketing 101.
The book Humility of Heart by Fr. Gaetano Maria de Bergamo, is a privileged book from this marketing perspective. This treatise on humility appeals to a broad audience. The humble know themselves well and thus will always see in this book excellent advice on how to avoid the dangers of falling into sin through pride. Those who say they do not need this book show themselves proud and thus would profit from its message of how to be humble. Thus, the target audience of this book is all humanity. No one escapes.
The marketability is further enhanced by the timelessness of the message. Indeed, the author is an eighteenth century Capuchin friar. Its message addresses the problem of man’s unchanging fallen nature. There is no period in human history when its message has not or will not resonate. Moreover, the theme of humility especially applies to present times that are plagued by insupportable pride and defiant independence from God.
In reproducing Herbert Cardinal Vaughan’s excellent translation of this spiritual classic, editor Michael Augustine Church has rendered a great service to Catholics everywhere. Reprinted in 2015, his painstaking review of the text includes a new index and updated reference materials. In addition, Mr. Church found 59 pages of the original text that have never been translated into English.
Not a Bestseller
Despite the ideal positioning of the book in the market, there is no possibility that it will become a runaway bestseller. While there is a universal need for the book’s message, there is also a general aversion for the topic. People know they should be interested in humility, but they reject its bitter medicine. The market that seems so promising is reduced to very few.
The problem is fallen human nature and its attraction to sin and disordered passions. Among those passions is pride whereby sinners appropriate that which is not theirs, imagining themselves to be greater than what they are. From pride springs a multitude of vices.
Upon entering into the book, the reader soon solves the mystery of why the book is not a bestseller. The cold hard look at human nature is painful. Fr. de Bergamo spares no words in describing corrupt human nature and its terrible pride that knows no limit.
Such a characterization of pride should be enough to seal the fate of this book forever. Humility of Heart is a resounding rebuke that is not often heard. In these times of frenetic intemperance, there could be nothing more anti-modern than this treatise that calls for truth, detachment and restraint.
A Drop of Honey
However, there is something intriguing about the book that attracts and beckons. One finds a sweetness that permeates its words and shows how the Church is a mother to all. There is a tenderness in treating the wounds of self-love that demonstrates all the skills of a gifted doctor. One finds in its counsels the wisdom of the Church in dealing with souls that leaves one at peace with God.
Even its format considers human frailty. The book is not made to be read in one sitting but rather is divided into one hundred short thoughts and sentiments that can be used for daily meditations. The bitter medicine is thus taken a spoonful at a time often with a drop of honey.
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One is further impressed by the logic of the arguments that call one to action. The simple reasoning is compelling and soothing like a balm that calms the soul and leads one to think of heavenly things. Far from being a stinging reproach, it becomes a discreet voice that penetrates deeply into the soul. Everything points to the Divine Model of Christ who is to be imitated in His humility.
A Retreat in a Book
But Fr. de Bergamo is not content to leave the reader with beautiful thoughts and sentiments. In his solicitude for sinners, he wants to see them healed. The second part of the book consists of a series of examinations of conscience on the virtue of humility. The thoughts are thus turned into action. The strong sentiments are forged into resolutions.
There are sixty-three points of examinations in which the author gently guides readers to examine themselves, make resolutions and look at their relationships with God, neighbor and themselves. In cultivating the spiritual life, these considerations make the reading experience seem like a retreat in a book.
The retreat could not be better crowned by appealing to the Blessed Mother. Mr. Church ends the book with the previously untranslated text that shows how humility of heart can be easily “attained and maintained with the devotion to the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
Thus, Humility of Heart presents itself as a contradiction for postmodern times. Everything seems to work against its message. And yet one senses that this very message is what so many crave in a world of uncertainty, brutality and frenzy. People are tired of falsity and insincerity and need this frank examination of self. In times of extreme alienation and loneliness, its text invites one to seek solace in He who is meek and humble of heart, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Perhaps this book that everyone needs may yet find a sizeable market.

Why This Little Book on Humility Is So Great - Humility of Heart - Why This Little Book on Humility Is So Great - Humility of Heart by Fr. Gaetano Maria de Bergamo, is a privileged book from this marketing perspective…

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Where Are the Nation’s Captains? -

Traveling by air these days can be stressful. It is increasingly difficult to go on a trip without some incident happening like the recent tussle on United Airlines Flight 3411. More often, however, flights are being canceled or delayed due to mechanical or weather problems. This can lead to hours of waiting at the gates compounded by the constant uncertainty about what is going on. However, enduring these incidents can be a real lesson about society in general.
I experienced two flights during a recent trip that displayed opposite ways of dealing with problems. It got me thinking of what is needed in times of crises on a larger scale.

A Slight Delay Becomes a Nightmare
The first incident was a short one-hour flight that would generally present few problems. This particular six o’clock flight was due to arrive at its destination at seven. The trouble began with a short half-hour delay. Apparently, there was a small mechanical problem that needed to be fixed and would only take a short while to remedy.
The short while soon became a long delay as problems compounded. One hour, two hours, three hours passed and we waited. Waiting is always difficult, but the worst thing was the unknown. No one seemed to know what was going on or at least would not tell us. We were left in the dark. The personnel at the desk, although polite, were hardly reassuring.
The situation started to get ugly when the captain and crew inexplicably walked out of the plane and left the scene. We did not know why they left but later figured out they had timed out their hours and by law could not fly. It was later announced that another plane had been found and that all were instructed to scramble over to another gate in the next terminal.
There was no plane at the next terminal. Passengers started to get angry and confront the poor airline representative left at the desk. People began to make problems and create scenes. No one seemed to be in charge. A plane finally arrived, but then we were told that the pilots and crew had just been called to the airport and would not arrive for another hour. After a time of chaos and confusion, the plane took off after midnight. An hour later, we landed, and our nightmare was over.
A Similar Situation Develops
I would have typically dismissed the incident as just another misadventure that has become part of traveling in these times. However, my next flight a few days later provided such a marked contrast that it helped me see a larger picture.
On this second occasion, the three-hour flight was slightly delayed because of weather problems. However, we soon boarded the plane, and everyone took their seats. We were all ready to leave the gate when the captain announced that there would be a delay because the tower at the destination would not give him permission to land.
Such an announcement hardly pleased the passengers that were cooped up in the plane. Everyone started to get a bit edgy with the news and the prospect of spending an hour or more at the gate.
But then something unexpected happened. It astonished me.
A Commanding Presence Reassures
As I looked down the aisle, I saw the figure of the captain. He was slowly making his way to the back of the plane explaining to everyone what was happening. He would stop and answer any questions and reassure everyone that he was doing his best to get this plane in the air. He was clearly in charge.
After returning to the cockpit, everyone waited. The pilot then made another announcement that the plane would be even further delayed. For a second time, he went down the aisle answering questions and reassuring passengers. The atmosphere aboard the plane was calm. People were not upset or angry. The captain’s prompt actions and commanding presence put them all at ease.
Later the captain made an announcement that by law everyone had to leave the cabin and stretch their legs, which everyone considered absurd. He apologized for the inconvenience yet firmly insisted that all comply. Everyone left without problems or complaint.
Finally, we took off, and the plane landed without incident. As I was leaving the plane, I could not resist asking one of the stewardesses if the captain’s going down the aisle was airline policy. She replied that it was not, but it was the way this particular captain operated. “Everyone likes to work with him. We love him,” she concluded.
A Tale of Two Flights
The contrast between the two incidents could not be more glaring. Here were two crisis situations that demanded leadership. In the first instance, no one seemed to care that all protocol was being followed. In the second case, everyone felt reassured that the situation was under control. The first flight had a pilot; the second had a captain.


The captain’s job is not merely to fly the plane. His role is to coordinate and harmonize the flight, dealing with whatever problems might arise, and deliver his passengers safely to the destination. The captain must connect with those under him and reassure them.
Searching for Captains
I cannot help but think that society is missing many captains today. So many go about the business of piloting and doing what is technically correct. They stay in their cockpits, so to speak, performing the task at hand. They do not go the extra mile to reassure those desperately looking for direction. Too few want to assume the responsibility of showing themselves in authority—for fear of offending others by asking people to do what they might not want to do.
We need captains everywhere today. They are sadly lacking in the family, schools, industry, politics, and religion. This is largely because people do not have a proper notion of what captains are. They think authority consists only in ordering people to do things. They do not realize it also involves unifying, reassuring and harmonizing.
Saint Thomas Aquinas defines authority as an animating and ordering intelligence, the vis regitiva that overcomes the resistance of the individual tendencies in men, organically directing and coordinating many wills toward the common good.
Thus, captains respect order and do not violate the rules, however difficult or absurd such rules might appear. Captains do not pander to those under them to please them. They do not make grand promises yet fail to mention the sacrifices needed to get the job done. Captains recognize that people need direction and act accordingly.
Above all, captains need to connect with those working with them to distil the best from them. Contrary to our egalitarian times, captains are not just “ordinary guys.” They need to appear as key representative figures, visibly and reassuringly, so as to secure the cooperation and confidence of those under them. Captains selflessly dedicate themselves to defending the common good to the point that they sacrifice themselves for and serve those whom they command.
Indeed, in our confusing and chaotic times, we do not need technocrats, economists, and politicians to craft their complex programs to solve our problems. We need to ask: Where are the nation’s captains?

Where Are the Nation’s Captains? -: Where Are the Nation’s Captains?