"Everyone who belongs to the Truth hears my voice…" (John 18:37)

Grounded in Truth

(Luke 14:1, 7-14) We all have people in our lives who inspire us, people whose example gives us hope that we, too, can aspire to lives of greater virtue. For me, that person is my husband’s Uncle Kees.  Uncle Kees isn’t famous or particularly gifted in any way, and truth be told, he is getting on in years. (He will be 83 this December.) But when I think of people who exemplify the virtues of love and humility, Uncle Kees is the first person that comes to mind.

samuel 1

25th Anniversary Celebration for Brother Samuel van der Sloot, M.C.

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Uncle Kees  – better known by his religious name, Brother Samuel – is a Missionary of Charity who lives in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  He began his religious life as a White Father, working in a leper colony in Tanzania, Africa. He later became a Missionary of Charity, living among the poorest of the poor, caring for the sick and the homeless.  My husband, Henry, visited him at the House of the Missionaries of Charity in Paris some years back.  Every night, Henry accompanied Brother Samuel and the other brothers as they went out into the streets – into the back alleys and the dark, damp corners of the subway – inviting the poor and destitute to return home with them.  Those who accepted their invitation were given a warm welcome on their arrival, a hot meal, and a clean bed to sleep in.  If there weren’t enough beds to go around, the brothers slept on the bare floor; their guests were always given the most comfortable places to spend the night. There wasn’t a lot of sleep anyway; the brothers often didn’t return home until well after midnight, and they were always up early for Morning Prayer. Brother Samuel was the head of the house – the one who we would regard as the most ‘important’ – yet he was always the first to give up his bed – the first to give whatever he had to those in need.

Although we may not personally know someone who exemplifies this kind of virtue, we can all look to the first and most perfect model of humility: our Lord, Jesus Christ. Even though He was God, “[Jesus] emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:7-8). It is to this kind of radical humility that we are all called: to die to ourselves and to our own sense of self-importance, to love others as Jesus loves them, to serve Jesus in others – even in the most distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor.

When we are humble, we know ourselves – we know who we really are.  We are grounded in the truth that God is the Creator; we are only His creatures. We know that everything we have and everything we are is nothing other than His free gift to us.  Without God, we are nothing – and we owe Him a debt of gratitude.  Humility leads us to realize that we are not worthy of any praise.  In fact, the only part of ourselves that we can claim as our own is what is bad – our sinfulness. We have nothing to be proud of, no reason to be puffed up or self-satisfied, no reason to compare ourselves with others or to envy the gifts that they have received from God. In whatever good we do, when we are humble, we know that we ought to refer all glory to God alone.

But for most of us, the battle with pride is a daily struggle. How can we grow in this virtue that at times seems so elusive? St. Benedict (480-547) wrote a guide to humility in response to the needs of his monks, but there is much that we can reflect on in our own lives.  To help us grow in this virtue, he suggested the following “12 Degrees of Humility”: 1

  1. Fear God and keep His Commandments.
  2. Be obedient to God’s will.
  3. Be obedient to your superiors out of love for God.
  4. Be patient in difficult circumstances without complaining.
  5. Admit your faults to your superior.
  6. Accept privations and menial tasks that you feel are below your station.
  7. Consider yourself inferior to others.
  8. Avoid drawing attention to yourself.
  9. Be silent when there is no good reason to speak.
  10. Guard against rude, sneering, or boisterous laughter.
  11. Be reserved in speech, choosing to be quiet and humble.
  12. Be modest in your behaviour, in your eyes, and in your posture.

The Litany of Humility (see below) is a beautiful prayer that we can pray each day as we patiently beseech God to transform our hearts, our lives, and our very beings so that we can be more like Him – so that we, too, can become more humble.

– Sharon van der Sloot

Litany of Humility2

By Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930)


(Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X)

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the 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 …

From the 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…

1 Adapted from St. Benedict, The Holy Rule of St. Benedict, “On Humility” (1949 edition), trans. Rev. Boniface Verheyen, OSB; electronic text prepared by Br. Boniface Butterworth, OSB; available from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/benedict/rule2/files/rule2.html – ch7; Internet; accessed 28 August 2013.

2 Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val, “Litany of Humility,” EWTN Global Catholic Network; http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/prayers/humility.htm; Internet; accessed 28 August 2013.

Tagged as: , , , , ,