Friday, February 17, 2006

Humility

It seems humility is quite the hot topic in the blogging world. Okay, well I guess two blogs doesn't quite make it a 'hot topic' but since it's coming from two of my favorite blogs I get to call it what I want. While I'm at it I think I will throw out some shameless advertising for them... the first I came across today was from Happy Catholic, a blog which is funny, uplifting, thought-provoking, hip, and easy on the eyes. She offers a wonderful article and some great thoughts. Did I mention she was nominated in two categories in the ever-popular Catholic Blog Awards? Also today was a post from Lumen de Lumine, a sappy theology student blessed with Scott Hahn as a professor.

Okay, moving quickly on from that...
Humility is quite key to a fruitful and blessed existence here on earth. It is humility that allows us to see ourselves for what we are and what we are not. It is what allows us to submit ourselves to God and to others for God's sake.
The virtue of humility may be defined: "A quality by which a person considering his own defects has a lowly opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to God and to others for God's sake." St. Bernard defines it: "A virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself." These definitions coincide with that given by St. Thomas: "The virtue of humility", he says, "Consists in keeping oneself within one's own bounds, not reaching out to things above one, but submitting to one's superior" (Summa Contra Gent., bk. IV, ch. lv, tr. Rickaby).

To guard against an erroneous idea of humility, it is necessary to explain the manner in which we ought to esteem our own gifts in reference to the gifts of others, if called upon to make a comparison. Humility does not require us to esteem the gifts and graces which God has granted us, in the supernatural order, less than similar gifts and graces which appear in others. No one should esteem less in himself than in others these gifts of God which are to be valued above all things according to the words of St. Paul: "That we may know the things that are given us from God." (1 Corinthians 2:12). Neither does humility require us in our own estimation to think less of the natural gifts we possess than of similar, or of inferior, gifts in our neighbours; otherwise, as St. Thomas teaches, it would behove everyone to consider himself a greater sinner or a greater fool than his neighbour; for the Apostle without any prejudice to humility was able to say: "We by nature are Jews, and not of the Gentiles sinners" (Galatians 2:15). A man, however, may generally esteem some good in his neighbour which he does not himself possess, or acknowledge some defect or evil in himself which he does not perceive in his neighbour, so that, whenever anyone subjects himself out of humility to an equal or to an inferior he does so because he takes that equal or inferior to be his superior in some respect. Thus we may interpret the humble expressions of the saints as true and sincere. Besides, their great love of God caused them to see the malice of their own faults and sins in a clearer light than that which is ordinarily given to persons who are not saints.

I love NewAdvent. Sometimes I have to read through their articles twice or three times even before I fully comprehend what they are saying but when I finally do understand, I am so enlightened! Even such a thing as humility they find a way of expressing so clearly! As a side note: Can we get a round of applause for my favorite and oh-so-wise saint, Saint Thomas Aquinas?! It is not necessary for us to belittle the gifts which God has given us. It is not necessary to belittle ourselves so much that we call ourselves greater sinners or greater fools than our neighbor. Humility is a tricky thing, don't you think? I would try to say it better but I'm not sure it can be said any better than this:
"The problem with humility is that every time I see myself make great strides in that virtue, they instantly disappear. Go figure..."
Funny, yes, but sometimes, unfortunately, very true. We make great strides in the way of humility and instantly fall back into our pride. We think to ourselves "Hey I'm pretty humble. Look at me. I'm like the poster child for humility." And then we slap ourselves and wonder what just happened. A vicious cycle it seems - that is until we truly adopt this phrase:
"All for the greater glory of God."

It seems that if one can adopt this phrase and take it to heart that the humility starts to become so rich that one can only think on humility and say, "I have made great strides only because of my God. I can be more humble. All for the greater glory of His name."

It is true that all other virtues are linked to humility. Look at each of the other vitues and ask yourself if a prideful person could possess not only their immense pride, but also this or that virtue. Without humility we are striving for the impossible. Humility is the first of a mountain of traits which we must honestly aquire for our being in this lifetime. Quite frankly that's one of the scariest things I've said in a long time. If humility is the first building block in this tower of virtue and love for God, am I ever going to make it?

The worst part of humility is just that - humiliation. Accepting humility and growing in it means accepting the fact that it comes through humiliation - constant humiliation. It is a constant struggle, especially within myself, to accept faults and allow growth in this virtue and others. Taking our pride, setting it aside, and lifting up our humiliation for His sake is beautiful, but not always easy. It's easy to allow ourselves and others to thank us for helping them, guiding them, lifting them up when the fact is, we are but a vessel for God's work on this earth. We are not guiding people's heart to the right place, the Holy Spirit is. My fingers may type words of encouragement that turn a weary soul to Christ again, but it is not me nor is it anything I do which has caused this reversion. It is the Holy Spirit working in me which causes this.

This is humility in two ways. First, I am humbled admitting that I am not doing anything, that I am a mere vessel for the work of someone greater than myself. Second, knowing that the Holy Spirit has chosen me, a lowly servant, to carry out His work. It is easy though to put these things aside, pat ourselves on the back, and say, "Well done, Laura. You done good." Excuse my poor grammar. Only through Christ and through a constant plea for help shall we ever overcome our pride.
If we are very sincere with ourselves we shall ask Our Lord to stop us finding excuses to explain away our sins and failings, those things that humiliate us and for which we sometimes have to ask other people's forgiveness. from Julie D's post

Pope John Paul the Great once said,
"An excuse is worse and more terrible than a lie, for an excuse is a lie guarded."

Let us stop guarding our lies and face up to our failures and shortcomings. Let us ask forgiveness when we need it and seek advice when we need that. Let us put aside our pride and practice humility, all for the greater glory of God. We aren't hurting anyone but ourselves. Humility hurts but hell will hurt more.

Jesus, meek and humble of Heart, make our hearts like unto thine! St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

6 Comments:

Anonymous phatty said...

Prayer to St. Thomas Aquinas

Saint Thomas Aquinas, you are called by Holy Mother Church, the Angel of the Schools. Your wisdom, gathered through long meditation from the source of all wisdom, the most holy Trinity, has long been a shining light in the Catholic Church. Ignorance of the things of God is a darkness now enveloping the minds of many of our countrymen. In this darkness, we need an angel like you who will protect, foster, and nourish the schools we have, and guide and strengthen us in establishing and building newer and more adequate schools for the instruction of our children in the ways of Christ. Help and bless the generous sisters, brothers, and priests who labor so unselfishly in the classroom to spread the knowledge of Christ. Inspire our Catholic men and women to be most generous in the support of the schools we have. Grant to parents the wise generosity they need to give their child back to God when that child wishes to follow a priestly or religious vocation. Help us, Saint Thomas, Angel of the Schools, to understand what you taught, and to follow your example. Amen.

2/17/2006 06:20:00 PM  
Blogger Laura H. said...

Amen! *sigh* St. Thomas is so great.

2/17/2006 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger Julie D. said...

You're making it very difficult to keep my own humility going ... but thanks so much for all the kind words! :-D

Great post. I'm going to print it out and read it over several times myself.

2/17/2006 08:30:00 PM  
Blogger Daughter of St. John said...

I only had time tonight for a quick read, but I'll be back for more tomorrow. Humility is all the rage in Catholic blogdom today!

LOL, how ironic that it may be a lack of humility that leads us to blog! See my very first post of Feb '05 on my own blog....

Hmmm, that could be problematic! We'll have to learn to "blog humbly with our God!"

2/18/2006 10:27:00 PM  
Blogger Daughter of St. John said...

WOW, I'm just reading this again. Thank you. I am struck by your words, but especially by the bit on our role as instruments who bring people to Christ. We are just the instruments, but it's often hard to remember that. Often I think, "hmm, ok, now what can I say, what will 'work' to convince her?" When I do this I'm missing the point, I get too caught up in what they think about what I'm saying. Often I say too much, push too hard, or get too concerned about seeing a particular result. But when I trust the Holy Spirit will guide my words He never ceases to amaze me.

2/19/2006 09:15:00 PM  
Blogger Laura H. said...

It really is amazing how the Holy Spirit can use someone like myself, use my petty, foolish words, to help those in need. If there is His will, there is a way.

2/19/2006 10:34:00 PM  

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