Sunday, February 20, 2011


FCJM delivered a meditation on humility, a unique virtue insofar as it's neither theological nor cardinal, yet it's indispensable to situating oneself correctly in reality.  It best expresses our relationship to God: we are creatures, He is creator.  Humility, thus, captures the only appropriate response to the truth of our being.  As in all things, Jesus is our example.  He tells us: "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Mt. 11:29).  He performed miracles and cured people throughout the gospels, only to tell them to not tell anyone.  He didn't seek notoriety, because he wanted people to be drawn to him by grace, not because of his miracles.  He called little children to himself, and taught that "unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt. 18:3).  It is hard to be like little children once you are an adult, which raises the question of how.

FCJM recommended frequent short acts of sorrow and contrition for the myriad ways in which we fall short of the perfection we are called to.  "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect" (Mt. 5:48).  Moreover, time spent in prayer concentrates the mind on our total dependence on God, from beginning to end.  Frequent confession, weekly if possible, and nightly examinations of conscience help us to see ourselves as we really are.  None of this is done to put ourselves down.  Rather, it enables us to reach our goal, which is to give glory to God, and to fulfill our desire: to share our joy with others--especially our significant others.

As hard as it is to live humility with God, it's even harder, but good, to live it with others.  St. Josemaria has a lengthy point in Furrow (#263) that gives us some food for thought.  "Allow me to remind you that among other evident signs of a lack of humility are: Thinking that what you do or say is better than what others do or say; Always wanting to get your own way; Arguing when you are not right or--when you are--insisting stubbornly or with bad manners; Giving your opinion without being asked for it, when charity does not demand you to do so; Despising the point of view of others; Not being aware that all the gifts and qualities you have are on loan; Not acknowledging that you are unworthy of all honor or esteem, even the ground you are treading on or the things you own; Mentioning yourself as an example in conversation;  Speaking badly about yourself, so that they may form a good opinion of you, or contradict you; Making excuses when rebuked; Hiding some humiliating faults from your director, so that he may not lose the good opinion he has of you; Hearing praise with satisfaction, or being glad that others have spoken well of you; Being hurt that others are held in greater esteem than you; Refusing to carry out menial tasks; Seeking or wanting to be singled out; Letting drop words of self-praise in conversation, or words that might show your honesty, your wit or skill, your professional prestige...; Being ashamed of not having certain possessions.  Noman says "Ouch!"

The meditation ended on a humorous note with an anecdote about NBA great, Karl Malone.  At the height of his fame with the Utah Jazz, he was mistaken for a skycap at the Salt Lake City airport where he was picking up his brother.  A woman asked him to carry her bags to the car, which the millionaire superstar did without protest.  Only when she pulled out bills to tip him did he introduce himself, and decline to accept.  A similar incident happened recently at a Washington dinner when White House advisor, Valerie Jarrett, mistook Four-star General Peter Chiarelli--the army's #2 ranking officer--for a waiter.  The General served Jarrett a glass of wine as requested, and good-naturedly excused her for the faux-pas.  Both men demonstrated a magnanimity and bigness possessed only by people not stuffed with a mistaken sense of their self-importance.

As in all good things, Mary illustrates the point.  It was her humility that drew God to her, and made her the woman He chose to bear His son.  Only a humble woman, not to mention St. Joseph, could bear her child in a manger and ponder things in her heart as shepherds and wise men came to adore him.  Noman says he's inspired to work on it.

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