Lessons in Humility


Image from rcspiritualdirection.com

Image from rcspiritualdirection.com

Be humble.

How many times haven’t I heard or read that simple phrase, but lately it has been on my mind more and more. I need to be humbled, and I need to remember to be humble – especially amid a world that increasingly glamorizes the great sin of pride. What great temptations there are today to soak up praise and applause, compare ourselves to others, or to fear rejection, and so much more.

I recently came across an article written earlier this year that helps to give a clearer picture of the importance of humility throughout life and how to apply it to our day-to-day routine. The author shared a passage from the writings of the Venerable Concepción Cabrera de Armida, a Roman Catholic mystic and writer who lived in Mexico from 1862 to 1937. Thee following passage from her diary seemed the most poignant to me and the most relevant to modern society: “The greater number of souls are sleeping caught in a very fine web of spiritual pride. They pass a tranquil life in all their glory. Without searching themselves and finding out what’s really underneath their motives, they are gently lulled by the evil one. They are being formed in an atmosphere of being  satisfied with oneself. Inside they are secretly showing off their manner of doing good works and of being the preferred ones of God. They practice false  virtues! Deep in their gut, no air can penetrate them to divest them of their falsity. They put themselves on a pedestal and very secretly adore themselves. Oh how many, many are there of this kind in religious people.”

Tough words, to be sure. But they are only brutal if we are unwilling to admit that many times they are true. How many times don’t we succumb to the allure of pride. How many times don’t we take pride in our own efforts, without offering them up to the Lord. How many times don’t we despair over our weakness  Without the grace of God, we can all too easily become blinded by our own sinful pride. We can become spiritually blinded, lose our freedom, and fail to recognize the workings of the Lord in our own lives. In fact, we can end up “conspiring to destroy Him,” at least figuratively.

In order to avoid this, we must seek to discover the areas of our lives where pride has come to rule, for it is through this pride that the devil has gained a foothold in our souls. Saint Vincent de Paul said, “The most powerful weapon to conquer the devil is humility,” so it is humility that will ultimately set us free. And one of the greatest methods to aid in the cultivation of humility is prayer. Prayer helps us to see ourselves clearly and to recognize our own need for repentance. And for those with a desire to be humble, one particular prayer can be of immense service and power: The Litany of Humility. In this litany, composed by Rafael Cardinal Merry de Val (1865-1930), the Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X, we ask that God fill our hearts and souls with genuine humility, an essential virtue for holiness. In developing humility of heart, the great ‘lever of the soul that conquers pride,’ we can “complete the race…[and receive] the crown of righteousness that awaits [us]” (2 Tim 4:7b, 8a).

It is a very good daily prayer, especially when recited in front of a crucifix so that we can recall the humility of Christ. The Litany of Humility primes us so we are ready to handle challenges virtuously as “kisses from God” like Mother Teresa suggested. For, as we read in the letter of Saint James, “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). May this litany help you as much as it continues to help me.

The Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus. 

From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus. 

From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus. 

From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus. 

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

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