Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Paul Kokoski

3/23/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

True humility is thoroughgoing poverty of both heart and mind

In the words of St. Augustine: "If you should ask me what are the ways of God, I would tell you that the first is humility, the second is humility, and the third is humility. Not that there are no other precepts to give, but if humility does not precede all that we do, our efforts our meaningless."

The humility of Christ

The humility of Christ

Highlights

By Paul Kokoski

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

3/23/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: humility, humble, kenosis, agape, lent, pride, virtue, holiness, spirituality, Paul Kokoski


HAMILTON, ONTARIO, CANADA (Catholic Online) -Newly elected Pope Francis is being hailed as a potential modern saint whose concern for the poor is mirrored in his humility and simple lifestyle. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he refused to live in the bishop's residence, opting instead to live in a simple apartment, cook his own meals, and take public transportation. As pope he intends to continue this same legacy. The path he has set forth for both himself and the church can be summed in his initial statement "This is what I want, a poor church for the poor."

Today we are living, morally, in what some have called a crisis of faith. This has been due, in no small measure, to the rapid advancement and influence of secularization and moral relativism which has permeated modern society. In order to reverse this trend a certain rediscovery of essential virtues like humility is  necessary for mankind.
 
The Meaning of Humility
 
The word humility signifies lowliness or submissiveness and it is derived from the Latin humilitas or, as St. Thomas says, from humus, i.e. the earth which is beneath us. St. Bernard defines the  moral virtue of  humility as the "virtue whereby man, through a true knowledge of himself, becomes despicable in his own eyes."

Humility is rooted in truth and justice. Truth causes us to know ourselves as we truly are: that which is good in us belongs to God and that which is evil proceeds from ourselves. Justice inclines us to act  upon this knowledge and to praise God for his many gifts and graces.

We all enter this world tainted, wounded, by original sin. Due to concupiscence we habitually fall into sin and are continually in need of God's mercy. We, therefore, must learn to  love humiliations and accept all reproaches. Being nothing of ourselves we must love oblivion and self-effacement: to be unknown, to be reckoned as nothing. As sinners we deserve every kind of humiliation.

To practice humility one must first begin by waging war against pride since it is pride that constitutes the primal evil in our souls. Remedies against pride include the acknowledgment that God is the Author of all good, and that  to Him belongs all honor and glory.

With this in mind we must strive to attain the humble dispositions of the soul of Christ who "being in the form of God, did not deem to be equal with God, but emptied Himself"(Phil. 2: 6-7). Humility implies this  express act of self-humiliation, a voluntary descent beneath our legitimate natural dignity, an act of reducing ourselves to naught before God. It implies the gesture of a permanent inner dying of the self, in order that Christ may live in us - a gesture that has found its unique expression in the figure of St. John the Baptist and in his words: "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John. 3:30).
   
The Humility of Christ
 
Our Lord gave us many examples of humility upon which  we can meditate and strive to imitate.
During His hidden life He practiced humility primarily through self-effacement. Before His birth He hid Himself for nine months in the virginal womb of Mary where He submitted Himself to Caesar's edict and suffering without complaint the rude refusal of His mother to stay at the inn.

At His birth the Son of God  appeared as a poor infant.  Following His Birth He was  circumcised and then obliged to flee into Egypt in order to escape the persecution of Herod. Later at Nazareth he submitted Himself for thirty years in obedience to His parents where He was  known only as the carpenter's son. He hid  Himself in the most complete obscurity  in order to merit for us the grace that would enable us to sanctify our most commonplace actions and  inspire within us a love of humility.

Throughout the course of His public life Jesus practiced humility by proclaiming in both word and deed that He was the Son of God. He did this in a discreet manner and without forcing assent. He surrounded Himself with Apostles that were, in the eyes of many, ignorant and of little esteem. He lived by alms and showed a marked preference for those in particular whom the world often despises such as the poor, sinners, and the sick.

His teaching was simple and direct. He often used parables that were taken from ordinary life with the aim, not of winning the admiration of men,  but of instructing and touching their  hearts. His miracles were rare and He often charged his beneficiaries not to speak of them.

Jesus's  abject humility is demonstrated in His Passion. Betrayed by Judas and deserted by His Apostles he did  not cease to love them. At His arrest He healed  Malchus who was wounded by Peter. He suffered the affronts of the crowd to which he was delivered in silence. He answered  the high priest out of respect for authority knowing full well that His words of truth would bring Him the death penalty. Treated like a fool by Herod and unjustly condemned by Pilate He kept  His peace. Without seeking a single miracle to vindicate His honor He allowed  Himself to be scourged, mocked and crowned with thorns. 

He accepted on His shoulders a heavy cross which He carried to His crucifixion without a single word of complaint. Insulted by His enemies he prayed for their conversion and excused  them before His Father. Deprived of all heavenly comfort, deserted by His disciples, His dignity as a man, His reputation, His honor, all set at naught, He suffered it seems every species of humiliation that the mind of man can conceive, and He can say with far greater truth than the Psalmist: "I am worm and no man: the reproach of men and the outcast of the people"(Ps. 22:7).

Our Lord's Eucharistic life in the tabernacle also reproduces examples of humility.  It is here that the Divinity of Christ is veiled perhaps to a greater extent than it was in the crib and  on Calvary. It is here that He continues to suffer affronts from non-believers as well as Christians  who either ignore Him or at times, either out of weakness or shame, make sacrilegious communions. Nonetheless, Christ incessantly proclaims "Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy burdened, and I will refresh you"(Matt. 11:28).
 
Our Humility
 
We can practice humility, after Our Lord's example, in many ways  toward God, our neighbor and ourselves.

Toward God we can practice the spirit of religion whereby  we contemplate God as  the fullness of being and perfection while at the same time joyfully acknowledging our own sinfulness and nothingness

We can also show our humility toward God by thanking Him  for all the good  He has bestowed upon  us and by confessing, in the spirit of dependence, our inability to do any good of ourselves. In regards to our neighbor, we can practice humility by seeing in him both the natural and supernatural good which God has placed in him and admire it without envy or jealousy. This means rejoicing at his successes and virtues. At the same time we must overlook, while praying for his conversion, those defects in our neighbor that it is not our duty to correct.

We can exercise  humility in regards  to ourselves by, first and foremost,  considering our defects, our nothingness and our sinfulness without failing to recognize the good in us and to give the proper thanks to God. This makes it easier to practice humility which must extend to the whole man, to the mind, heart and his outward conduct.

Humility of mind requires a proper distrust of self  that prevents us from overrating our ability, and disposes us to feel humiliated at the ill-use we have made of the gifts of God.  We must use our talents for good without seeking to be noticed or to be praised.

Humility of mind requires that we practice intellectual docility. This includes  accepting, as having a greater wisdom than our own judgements, the official  teachings of the Church - even those which do not possess the character of infallibility.

Humility of heart requires that we shun the exalted life of honors and glory and "Sit down in the lowest place" (Luke. 14:10). We ought not to dwell on the talents we have, for they are not ours; we are only the bearers of them, and even with these gifts we can lose our souls. For this reason no one should flatter himself, nor take any complacency in himself...he should rather humble himself and acknowledge that he is but a poor instrument which God deigns to employ.

External humility is the outward manifestation of inward sentiments born of decision of the will. There are numerous ways in which, by our outward conduct,  we express the virtue of  humility: by not seeking the finest lodgings or the most expensive clothes; by rejecting petty pleasures and honors; by avoiding slavery to conventions; by having  an unassuming posture; by engaging in humble occupations. The same may be said of the condescension, marks of deference and acts of courtesy shown to others. In our conversations we should seek not to discuss our own interests but those of others.

True humility is thoroughgoing poverty of both heart and mind. St. Theresa of Avila simply calls it "walking in truth". It is the correlative human effort to know both God and oneself as the two parties are objectively. Humility  is primarily a disposition of our will to restrain that tendency which we all have to claim an esteem and consideration which is beyond our due and to assert an independence of judgment and of will that does not belong to us as creatures. In the words of St. Augustine: "If you should ask me what are the ways of God, I would tell you that the first is humility, the second is humility, and the third is humility. Not that there are no other precepts to give, but if humility does not precede all that we do, our efforts our meaningless."

-----

Mr. Paul Kokoski is a freelance writer who holds a BA in philosophy from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. His articles have been published in several journals including, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, New Oxford Review and Catholic Insight.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for August 2014
Refugees:
That refugees, forced by violence to abandon their homes, may find a generous welcome and the protection of their rights.
Oceania: That Christians in Oceania may joyfully announce the faith to all the people of that region.



Comments


More Living Faith

What Pope Francis said to make millions think again about abortion Watch

Image of On Saturday, August 16, 2014, during the apostolic visit to Korea, Pope Francis made a loud statement. However, he did not use words. He did not have to. His prophetic action brought to mind a saying attributed to his namesake, Francis of Asisi - I preach the Gospel at all times, but sometimes I use words.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

When Francis began his service from the chair of Peter, much hoopla filled the media about some alleged softening in the opposition of the Catholic Church to what are dismissively referred to as complicated "moral issues" such as abortion. Sadly, even some in the ... continue reading


DEAR CATHOLIC ONLINE: Keep it free, keep it going

Image of Keep it free, keep it live.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online is heavily invested in bringing you world class news delivered from the Catholic perspective. This service is provided for free and we intend for it to remain free for the foreseeable future. However, it comes at a cost and right now, we need each ... continue reading


You Go Into the Vineyard Too! Every Baptized Christian Has a Vocation and Mission Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The Church is a seed, sign and beginning of the kingdom, making the kingdom present in a world which is wounded by the effects of sin but waiting to be born anew. The Lord continues His work through us. We are the workers in His vineyard. It matters little what ... continue reading


Friendly overtures to Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) met with mixed response Watch

Image of LCWR presidents welcome the approximately 750 members to the assembly.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, or LCWR is comprised of Catholic women religious who are leaders of their orders in the United States. The group represents about 80 percent of the 51,600 women religious in the U.S. However, relations between the ... continue reading


POPE: 'It is legitimate to halt the unjust aggressor' Watch

Image of Pope Francis said that

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Answering a wide array of questions, which included the proper response to the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities by fundamentalists of the Islamic State in Iraq, Pope Francis said that "it is legitimate to halt the unjust aggressor." ... continue reading


POPE IN SOUTH KOREA: 'Peace is not simply the absence of war, but the work of justice' Watch

Image of Pope Francis told 200 South Korean government officials that the two Koreas, halved between North and South since the end of the Korean War in 1953,

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis, in his first trip to Asia, addressed South Korean political and civic leaders and encouraged them to stay on a steady course towards social justice and democracy. "Peace is not simply the absence of war, but the work of justice," the Pope said in ... continue reading


Will Suffering, Struggle, Failure and Pain Make us Bitter or Better? Watch

Image of Because of his close communion with Jesus Christ, the Risen One who had called him in the desert, Paul cultivated an interior strength which made it possible for him to walk through the pain, to even embrace the pain, and to experience failure itself as a path to the Cross where he found comfort in the wounded side of Jesus the Savior.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

St. Paul was an extraordinary man and an extraordinary Christian. An Apostle, raised up out of the ordinary course, he accomplished great things for the Lord as he eagerly responded to His calling to build the Church and, through her, to help change the world. A ... continue reading


The Assumption: The Virgin Mary goes before us in the Order of Grace Watch

Image of

By Deacon F. K. Bartels

What God has promised on the last day for those he loves, he has already accomplished in the Virgin Mary. Let us turn to Mary and love her as our spiritual Mother in the order of grace; let us open our hearts to her Immaculate Heart, that she may illuminate her ... continue reading


The Assumption or Dormition of the Mother of the Lord: What Does It Mean? Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

This event is a part of the naturally supernatural  progression in the life of the Blessed Virgin of Nazareth. Her Yes, her Fiat of surrendered love, brought heaven to earth. This exercise of her human freedom, responding to the invitation of God, as sent through ... continue reading


Making bad situations worse in the Middle East

Image of Only by following the non-violent Christ can our world that seems so steeped in violence be converted.

By Tony Magliano

The heart wrenching tragedies throughout the Middle East are not the United States' fault, that is, at least not entirely. The fact that many Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims distrust each other, that the Allies established artificial national boundaries to suite their ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ezekiel 43:1-7
1 He took me to the gate, the one facing ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14
9 His saving help is near for those who fear him, his ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 23:1-12
1 Then addressing the crowds and his disciples Jesus ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 23rd, 2014 Image

St. Philip Benizi
August 23: Servite cardinal and preacher. Born in Florence, Italy, to a ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter