In other words, deliver me from the desire for lots of attention, even posthumously. In the movie Troy, Achilles (Brad Pitt) wants nothing more than for his name to be remembered for eternity. He is the ultimate fighter. He fears no one and nothing…except being forgotten. Prior to facing an opponent twice his size, Achilles is told by a young boy, “I wouldn’t want to fight him!” Achilles says to the boy, “That is why no one will remember your name.” Theologians call it the fear of non-being.
We desire recognition because it validates our very existence. What good are we unless someone else believes we are good for something? We often feel we need an audience to offer some applause for who we are. Such validation can become addictive. It can also replace an awareness that our true goodness resides in having been created by God, not in our accomplishments.
Accomplishments are good, of course. They are only possible because of the gifts and talents God provides. Humility is not about pretending we have no gifts. We’re allowed to recognize and appreciate the talents and gifts God gives us. We can use them in constructive, loving ways. That’s gratitude. However, if the praise we receive becomes the primary motivation for using our gifts and talents, we are off track. We have constructed a golden calf with which to replace God as our soul reason for being. Rather than trusting in God, we have given in to the fear of non-being. This robs us of true joy and replaces it with fleeting emotions.
From the desire of being extolled, honored or praised, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, Jesus.
There is nothing wrong with being esteemed by others. We all enjoy that feeling and validation. The prayer is for deliverance of the desire to seek out such esteem as a validation of one’s worth and identity. Even the desire for self esteem can become a pursuit that distracts one from trusting in God. We live in a society that clamors for esteem, particularly self esteem. We risk making idols of ourselves.
In one episode of “The Simpsons” Bart says grace before the family meal. His prayer is, “Thanks for nothing God, because we earned it all ourselves.” The allure of celebrity is another example of esteem gone haywire. People practically worship celebrities, and the desire to be a celebrity is a common one. The show “American Idol” is popular. A show called, “American Humility” would likely not do so well.
It is not the esteem of others or self that gives us our worth and value. It is God. Every success, every breath and every heartbeat is possible only because of God. If others esteem us, we can hope it is because we have exhibited qualities that in some way point to the beauty of God, and in that we can rejoice. But we must not desire esteem for its own sake. We must do our best with our gifts and talents so that others can see God, not so that we can be esteemed by others or even by ourselves. Humility is not easy, but it is a source of true joy. We need God’s grace. We can’t do it under our own power.
One of the most challenging prayers (for me at least) is The Litany of Humility. Humility that is both psychologically and spiritually healthy is a delicate balance to find. There is a danger of embracing masochism rather than godly humility. Another danger is false humility where one actually takes pride in one’s humble ways. The goal is complete trust in God rather than in our own psychological defenses. Trust in God allows us to resist the need for acceptance or approval of others, to resist the need to constantly avoid being hurt by others and to seek the good of others in all things, even at our own expense. The goal is not self-defilement but a self fullfilment only achievable by placing confidence in God.
My intention for the next several blog entries is to walk through the Litany of Humility and comment on each part of the litany as it pertains to real life applications in my own spiritual journey and daily living. I may combine some parts into one blog post. We’ll see how it develops.
Already I am reflecting on my own desire to do this series, as my motivation could be a bid for the approval of others rather than a humble spiritual exercise. Since we are called by God to do our best with our gifts and talents, I suppose it all depends on my attitude. As long as I do this for the edification of others while using my writing talents, maybe there is hope for me. I know that I very much need this prayer.
Below is the Litany of Humility, and here is a wonderful song by Daniele Rose to accompany it:
Litany of Humility
RafaelCardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930), Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me. Fromthe desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.From the desire of being loved… From the desire of being extolled … From the desire of being honored … From the desire of being praised … From the desire of being preferred to others… From the desire of being consulted … From the desire of being approved … From the fear of being humiliated … Fromthe fear of being despised… From the fear of suffering rebukes … From the fear of being calumniated … From the fear of being forgotten … From the fear of being ridiculed … From the fear of being wronged … From the fear of being suspected …
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I … That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease … That others may be chosen and I set aside … 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…
(More info on the psychological aspects of the prayer can be found here.
The Church devotes the month of May to Mary. As May approaches, it is fitting to contemplate her role in the life of Christ and the Church. The Rosary is a prayer often misunderstood by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. I’ve recently blogged about the appropriateness of praying to saints and Mary is included in that number. I’ve also blogged about Mary specifically and her role in the life of Jesus and the Church. The following video dovetails nicely with my previous posts. Mr Jimmy Akin is an experienced Catholic apologist and master of explaining things clearly and respectfully. If you have ever had reservations or downright objections to praying the Rosary, I hope you find this video to be enlightening. Bottom line: every Catholic teaching is ultimately about Christ. The Rosary is no exception.
Recently I found myself thinking about things I prayed for as a child. As I reflected, it occurred to me that I can now see how some of those prayers have been answered.
I remember being in bed, in the darkness of my room, praying for my parents and my family. My father was an airline pilot. I sometimes worried about his safety. I heard him tell stories about flying, including malfunctioning landing gear and landing the plane on its belly. I prayed that God would protect him from crashing. I prayed that God would give my parents long, happy lives. They will both be 80 years old soon, with a multitude of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Yep, I think God said, “Ok, Tommy, I’ll keep an eye on them.” (I’m sure others were praying as well).
I prayed for my wife. I figured someday I would get married, so I asked God to help me find a good wife and to keep her safe, wherever she may be. I didn’t know who she was yet, but God did. I jumped the gun a few times thinking I had found her. It took a snowstorm to finally bring us together. I love how God works.
One of my earliest prayer memories is when I was in third or fourth grade. I went to Catholic School, which often included attendance at Mass before class. I remember kneeling during Mass, trying to process the many childlike questions about faith and God that bounced through my little head. My prayer became, “God, please show me the way.” That prayer resulted in quite a journey of many years. The journey continues, and God is still saying, “Ok, Tommy, I’ll show you.” I’m still learning, and God is still teaching.
I’m so grateful. One of my prayers now is, “Don’t let me lose that childlike faith!”