January 2, 2014

The Pain & Beauty of Humility

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I’ve never had trouble reciting a prayer until this one: The Litany of Humility. It is the kind that is so good for the soul it makes me cringe.  

It starts off gently:  

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me! 
Me: Oh yes that’s nice. Please hear me meek and humble Jesus!

And then it continues:

From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me Jesus.  
Hm… OK Lord I guess I don’t need so much of that.  Yes, Lord deliver me from this.

From the desire of being loved, deliver me Jesus.  
Whoa there! Hold up now…

And it only gets harder from there with sentences like:

From the desire of being praised…being preferred to others…approved…  
But wait!  I like affirmation! Heck, I like being liked!
From the fear of being despised…ridiculed…humiliated…  
AH!  But that stuff is painful!

Then the litany switches gears, and just when I didn’t think it couldn’t get any harder, it does:
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 others may be praised and I unnoticed…
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, 
provided that I may become as holy as I should...

By the last sentence there is a small part of me that wonders what the consequences of this prayer will be.  What on earth did I just ask for?!  I like being liked!  I like being praised for doing a good job!  It kills me when I know people are unhappy with me.  Why would I want to embrace a virtue that makes me so uncomfortable?
Of course, the short answer is this:   
Because Christ did.  

 “…He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave… he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:7-8
Though the cross is painful, we also know that it isn’t the end of the story.  Humility can be painful, but it can also be beautiful when it is united to Christ.   

There’s no doubt in my mind that the reason the Litany of Humility is so challenging for me to pray is because I need it so much.  Humility is hard.  It means embracing a cross that isn’t always so fun to carry.  It also means recognizing that I am nothing without Christ, and without Him playing an active role in my life, I can do nothing at all.  

In his December 19th homily Pope Francis said that “Humility is necessary for fruitfulness.” He explained that we cannot bear fruit in our lives without God’s help and that we must acknowledge that we can do nothing on our own.  He encourages us to pray “ ‘Lord, I want to be fruitful.’ I desire that my life should give life, that my faith should be fruitful and go forward and be able to give it to others. Lord, I am sterile, I can’t do it. You can. I am a desert: I can’t do it. You can.”

As someone who works in ministry full-time, this is something I need to pray more often.  It is easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking that I can do everything on my own. “I’ll start this program!”  “I’ll give this talk!” “I’ll do it all!”  And in the middle of running my own show, pride is a comfortable thing to settle into.  Yet, it seems like the work I do is so much more meaningful and impactful when I get out of the way and take the time to ask “God, what are you calling me to do?”  Even my own prayer life and walk with Christ seems more life giving when I stop trying to push my agenda on God.  

I read through St. Josemaria Escriva’s 17 Signs of a Lack of Humility and there’s no doubt that I need a lot of work.  In this new year I feel like God is calling me to stop asking “What does Deanna want to get done?” and instead make the effort to pray “Your will, not mine, be done” on a daily basis.  And although it’s not my favorite prayer, I’m also trying to pray the Litany of Humility at the start of my work day.  These are just small steps that I think could lead to a very interesting and fruitful year! 

Humility will probably never be an “easy” virtue for me to embrace.  The good news is that this is where God’s grace kicks in.  By acknowledging our dependence on God, we make more room for him to work in and through our lives.  When we let go of things like the desire of being loved and the fear of being rejected we embrace the cross and the joy of our faith more fully.  

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like yours 
(even if it hurts).

be at peace
walk on water
be not afraid



  1. Oh girl – you are speaking the words of my heart. I read the 17 signs of a lack of humility, and it hit hard.

    I pray the LItany of Humility almost every morning – I honestly don't even always make it through, at least not with feeling, those last few intentions are so hard.

    And you are right, working in ministry sometimes makes it extra hard.

  2. It's so nice to know that I'm not alone 🙂 I wonder if the person who wrote the Litany of Humility had any trouble writing it down. I would have been saying "Umm Holy Spirit are you sure you want me to write that?" 🙂

    But in all seriousness I really do think there's a huge benefit to praying this, but it does hurt! I need to learn how to offer up the "humbling moments" for the souls we are trying to minister to. Knowing there are great people of faith like you striving to live this out is a great encouragement! 🙂

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