Mango, Mango, Mango all over the place.
Summer is mango season in the Caribbean.
Mango trees decorated with yellow mangoes,
Mangoes splattered on the ground like carpet.
Mangoes on roadside stalls,
Mangoes on market stalls,
Mangoes on country road,
Mango smell perfuming the air,
Rotten mangoes attracting flies.
- a Caribbean metaphor for St. Benedict’s Ladder To Humility. Each rung of the ladder is a step towards growing in humility.
Step One: Emmanuel – God is with us.
Like flourishing mango trees, God is ever present. “. . . keep God before your eyes at all times” (Benedict).
Step Two: God’s will is the best.
Like wild mango trees, food for the poor, God feeds and supports us. “If God is with us always, then no matter what happens to us, no matter how difficult life may seem, in the end God’s will. . . will be best for us” (Joan Chittister).
Step Three: Pay attention to the covenant relationship.
Like our relationship with the mango tree, pay attention to God’s relationship with us, “because it needs careful development, needs guidance to help us chart our ways, to keep us spiritually centered on the dark days” (Joan Chittister).
Step Four: Invest in spiritual direction.
Imagine sitting under the blanketing shade of a mango tree and simply baring your weary soul in silence. In Step Four, Benedict speaks of the need for a confidant, someone before whom you can make yourself naked – a spiritual director who provides you with cool shade to bare your soul.
THE MANGO OF HUMILITY
The core of the mango fruit is its seed. It is hidden and covered by the flesh of the mango. It’s the seed that is the fruit of life. The flesh and the skin surrounding and protecting it must rot away and die for the seed to sprout new life. From Step Five to Step Eight we begin to peel away the false or outer self to reveal the inner self from which abundant life springs.
Step Five: Unedited Honesty
Like peeling away the hard skin of the mango, “we do not conceal any sinful thoughts entering our hearts or any wrongs committed in secret” (Benedict). It’s what Chittister refers to as “unedited honesty” snubbing the thought of being two persons: the one inside, which no one knows, and the one outside, of which everyone is in awe.
Step Six: Be content with menial treatment.
Mango falls from the tree and smashes violently to the ground, bursts and/or bruises, and then starts to rot. Birds begin to eat its flesh. Flies plant their eggs. Maggots are born. Mango begins deteriorating. Humble people “are content with the lowest and most menial treatment” (Benedict). No need to pretend. Our raw inferior self is exposed and free.
Step Seven: Be aware of our inferiority.
Lying flat out and helpless on the ground in a rotting state, the mango is unattractive, abandoned and left to decay. Benedictine Rule says, “we begin to realize that we are inferior. . . to everyone. There is nothing in the worst in people that is not also in me. . . At that point, I have begun to taste the bread of humility. . .” (Joan Chittister).
Step Eight: From death to life
When the skin and flesh of the mango finally decay, all that remains is the seed, the most treasured part of the mango. It’s the core that has the potential to give life, to germinate, and continue the cycle of life that contributes to the growth of the community of mango trees. On this rung of the ladder of humility, “I won’t show off again. I will live like everybody else, within the norms of the human community, and do everything I can to maintain its goodness, its tradition, its holiness” (Joan Chittister).
Written in honour
of the late
Bishop Malcolm Galt, CSSp.
Described as a man of humility
Funeral Mass – Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago,
October 24, 2022.
One thought on “Step to Humility”
What a beautiful description of life.