Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"On Humility" by Joe McHenry

One of our juniors, Joe McHenry, is abroad in Costa Rico for the semester.  Many of our GW Catholic juniors are abroad; we miss them all terribly! But, we are very happy for them and the rich experiences they are enjoying.  Joe is keeping a travel blog.  Please click here to view. Here is a recent post of his on humility which reveals a deep desire for this beautiful and necessary virtue in the Christian life.  I was just preaching on humility yesterday!  Thanks, Joe.

On Humility

This week, I began reading a biography of Saint Dominic, a 13th century Spanish priest and the founder of the Order of Preachers, also known simply as Dominicans. I have had the opportunity in Washington to spend some time with the Dominicans at their priory and was left impressed by the level of both their intellectual and spiritual fervor. St. Dominic founded the order with the idea that the friars would be men of study, and that they would utilize that knowledge to preach the Gospel for the salvation of souls. St. Dominic lived during a time when heresies threatened the Church, and his order of preachers sought to defend the Church as the true institution founded by Christ. Now, some 800 years later, the Dominican mission is no less necessary in light of our morally relative and increasingly atheistic culture; a culture that no longer wishes only to reject God, but one that seeks to
altogether eliminate religion from society.

One thing I learned while reading about St. Dominic's life he left virtually no written record. This surprised me, given that many Dominicans, such as Saint Thomas Aquinas, have been prodigious authors. As I continued reading, however, St. Dominic's lack of written works made more sense when viewed in the context of his humble life. He lived, like John the Baptist, that he might decrease in stature so that Christ would increase. This detachment from self was evident to those who knew him, and through their testimony we can learn a great deal regarding the benefits of a humble life. It is said that St. Dominic only spoke either to God or about God. He passed up higher offices within the Church, and only at the urging of his brethren did he accept the position of Master of the order he himself had founded. He viewed himself as dependent and possessed full confidence in his fellow friars, so much so that when he died he asked to be buried below their feet. Though he was a supremely holy man, he was also wholly available to all, regardless of their rank or station in life. He lived with insatiable joy, yet never forgot the severity of his mandate: to save souls for eternal communion with God.

He lived in the world in such a way that his presence was known only through the good works God wrought through him. Surely, he would view it as a success that today he is not as well known as other saints, such as his contemporary Francis of Assisi. A description in the biography says:
Scarcely one ray falls on Dominic's cappa, yet so pure and holy is he that this little light is in itself a brilliant witness. The light is hidden because the man of God is far from the noise and blood of the battle; because, faithful to his mission, he opens his mouth only to bless, his heart to pray, and his hand to work for love; and because virtue, when it stands alone, is lit only by the light of God.
Many of us do virtuous deeds. But the truly humble person does them for God alone. Even when we act to relieve someone's suffering or hunger, we are doing so for the Lord, whether or not we are cognizant of it. The truly humble person does not shy away from warranted acclaim by pretending their deeds or contributions are not valuable. Rather, a person filled with humility flees from accolades by always acknowledging that God is the giver of all talents and abilities. How foolish it is to accept recognition for things for which I was created to achieve. We see this more clearly if we consider nature. Nobody congratulates the Sun on its rising or its setting. Never will you hear someone applaud a tree on its growth. All rational humans, even if they deny God, have a general sense that these things are natural actions. So too are our commendable actions natural, in that they are the actions for which God created us. Our thanks, therefore, should go to the Creator.

It is by pride that we set ourselves up for great falls. In humility, however, we can shield ourselves in the immensity of God. A humble person need not promote themselves because they are sufficiently satisfied in being pleasing to the eyes of God. Saint Dominic's example is one in which I try to imitate daily but fail at hourly. One of my evening prayers, which I took from a longer litany of humility, is a good one to reflect on:
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire that others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should.

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