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Humility

Humility

Presence of God – O Jesus, You who were so humiliated for us, teach me how to practice true humility.

MEDITATION

Charity is the essence of Christian perfection, for charity alone has the power to unite man to God, his last end. But for us poor, miserable creatures, whom God wishes to raise to union with Himself, is charity the ultimate basis of the spiritual life? No. There is something deeper still which is, so to speak, the basis of charity, and that is humility. Humility is to charity what the foundation is to a building. Digging the foundation is not building the house, yet it is the preliminary, indispensable work, the condition sine qua non. The deeper, and firmer it is, the better the house will be and the greater assurance of stability it will have. Only the fool “built his house upon the sand,” with the inevitable consequence of seeing it crumble away very soon. The wise man, on the contrary, “built … upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24-26); storms and winds might threaten, but his house was unshakable because its foundation was solid.

Humility is the firm bedrock upon which every Christian should build the edifice of his spiritual life. “If you wish to lay good foundations,” says St. Teresa of Jesus to her daughters, “each of you must try to be the least of all” that is, you must practice humility. “If you do that … your foundation will be so firmly laid that your Castle will not fall” (cf. Interior Castle [Mansions] for post on humilityVII, 4). Humility forms the foundation of charity by emptying the soul of pride, arrogance, disordered love of self and of one’s own excellence, and by replacing them with the love of God and our neighbor.

The more humility empties the soul of the vain, proud pretenses of self, the more room there will be for God. “When at last [the spiritual man] comes to be reduced to nothing, which will be the greatest extreme of humility, spiritual union will be wrought between the soul and God” (St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mt. Carmel, II, 7, 11).

COLLOQUY

“O my God, You make me realize how far I must descend in order that my heart may serve as a dwelling-place for You: I must become so poor that I have no place whereon to lay my head. My heart is not wholly emptied of self, and that is why You order me to descend. Oh! I want to descend much lower so that You will be able to rest Your divine head in my heart and know that there You are loved and understood. O sweet, divine Guest, You know my misery; that is why You come to me in the hope of finding an empty tabernacle, a heart wholly emptied of self. This is all You ask” (cf. St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Letters).

O Lord, help me to excavate in my poor soul that abyss of humility which will attract the abyss of Your infinite mercies. Help me to descend, although my pride seeks to rise. Help me to recognize and humbly confess my nothingness and my weakness, although my pride desires so much to have me esteemed as something great. Help me to glory in my infirmities, although my pride always tends to glory in what is not mine, but Your free gift. How true it is, O God, that grace follows an entirely different road from that of nature! Give me the strength to travel on this way with courage, to swim against the current, the muddy, treacherous current of my pride. How can I succeed if You; do not come to help me? But I trust in You, Lord, because I know that You are always ready to uphold the weak who have recourse to You with trust; because I know that, if my pride is great, Your mercy is infinite and Your omnipotence is invincible; because I know that if “anyone is an inactive man that wants help, is very weak in ability and full of poverty, Your eye looks upon him for good, and lifts him up from his low estate and exalts his head” (cf. Sirach 11:12, 13).

O Lord, who is more “full of poverty” than I, who have not yet conquered my pride? Who then is in greater need of Your help?

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Note from Dan: These posts are provided courtesy of Baronius Press and contain one of two meditations for the day. If you would like to get the full meditation from one of the best daily meditation works ever compiled, you can learn more here: Divine Intimacy. Please honor those who support us by purchasing and promoting their products.

Art: St. John of the Cross, 1656, Francisco de Zurbarán, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D., mirror from open source material.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Camila

    What a great sentence.

    I must become so poor that I have no place whereon to lay my head.

    St. Benedict teaches in the seventh step of humility that the humble man

    not only admits with his tongue but is also convinced in his heart that he is inferior to all and of less value, humbling himself and saying with the Prophet: I am truly a worm, not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. I was exalted, then I was humbled and overwhelmed with confusion. And again, It is a blessing that you have humbled me so that I can learn your commandments.

    (The Rule of St. Benedict)

  • judeen

    humility… a gift from God… humble thy self unto the Lord…. every saint needs to have this gift… often it comes through great trials and great sorrow…. when we have nothing else left.. but to turn away from our stubbern hearts and turn to God… some learn this easyer than others… but alot of the times we have to hit rock bottom…. is this why it is written blessed are the poor… ? their hearts and lives depend on God…. their very exestance…

  • Jeanette

    Words of Pope Benedict XVI:

    … Humility is the virtue of the followers of Christ Who, “being equal to God, ‘humbled Himself, accepting the status of servant, and obeying even unto the cross.’ [Philippians 2:5-11] This was the Son’s journey of humility, which we must imitate.
    “… The opposite of humility is pride, the root of all sin. Pride means arrogance, which above all seeks power and appearance. … It has no intention of pleasing God; rather of pleasing itself, of being accepted, even venerated, by others. The ‘self’ becomes the centre of the world; the prideful self which knows everything.
    “Being Christian means overcoming this original temptation, which is also the nucleus of original sin: being like God, but without God.”
    By contrast “humility is above all truth, … recognition that I am a thought of God in the construction of His world, that I am irreplaceable as I am, in my smallness, and that only in this way am I great. … Let us learn this realism; not seeking appearance, but seeking to please God and to accomplish what He has thought out for us, and thus also accepting others. … Acceptance of self and acceptance of others go together. Only by accepting myself as part of the great divine tapestry can I also accept others, who with me form part of the great symphony of the Church and Creation. In this way, likewise, we learn to accept our position within the Church, knowing that “my small service is great in the eyes of God.” Lack of humility destroys the unity of Christ’s Body.

  • The best definition that I have found is in 1Peter 5:5-7: “Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you”.

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