Why This Little Book on Humility Is So Great

Why This Little Book on Humility Is So Great

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.