Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Novena for Humility

A few years ago, I was invited to take part with 11 other women in a special project that a dear friend was planning.  She introduced each one of us at the meeting and as she did, she offered her impression of each of us.  What she said about me made me nearly fall on the floor.

"Joyce is the most humble person I have ever met."

And my response was an incredulous: "Me?"

The more time you spend with Jesus in Adoration, and the more you listen to what He has to say, the more the layers are peeled away. Often, by the time He's finished with you, what's left isn't very pretty, but it's necessary for Him to strip away the veneer and get to the base upon which everything else is built.

Last week, I had a rather difficult time because it seemed like every time I turned around, someone was else was "just dropping by" to see my husband.  My kids are all pretty outgoing, like their dad, and they are often puzzled at my reaction when (fill in the blank) invites themselves over.

One of my sisters-in-law likes to open closet doors,  roam throughout the house in areas I would rather she didn't venture (like our bedroom)  and ask a ton of questions about topics I usually don't feel like discussing.  She's a sweet person otherwise but I always feel like I'm undergoing a root canal when she visits.  I would never behave similarly in someone else's home.  I endured what seemed like an interminable visit a week ago and offered it up as penance.

One of my husband's friends is a musician whose one-time addiction to heroin cost him just about everything.       He rents a room in a nearby boarding house and only recently was weaned off methadone. I have had this person over for Thanksgiving and Christmas and then felt extremely guilty about it afterward because I find him revolting.  "Keep looking for Christ," I have to tell myself but I tell  you - it gets harder and harder and harder.  

Another of my husband's relatives is also a recovering addict to both drugs and alcohol.  Again, the connection is music.  For a time, this person liked to drop by with his wife on Sunday evening so they'd have a place to crash before one of his gigs at a nearby club.  Never mind that Joyce has to get up for work at 5 AM and is not in the mood to entertain anyone, let alone these two.

On Monday, the double-whammy occurred.  The relative and his wife were "just dropping by" that evening and then the friend called to see if he could come over today to "jam".    When I nearly went ballistic about the latter announcement, my husband pleaded with me: "But it's going to be acoustic, nothing electric."  Perhaps what bothers me most about his friend isn't his past so much as his behavior when he comes into my home.  He acts like he owns the place.  His presence is like escaping gas that disseminates everywhere.  When we last had him over for dinner, something that every part of my being screamed silently about, I was appalled at how ill-mannered he was.   I was also shocked to learn that no one else really noticed his behavior except me.

"You know," Ms Heathen said to me, "if you dislike him that much, why do you bother to invite him?  You kind of defeat the purpose."

Am I that obvious?  No, she said, but if you're going to complain about him later, what's the point?  I explained that I really didn't want to invite him but since her father asked me, it would just nag at me if I didn't acquiesce.

One of the kids asked me why I object so much to uninvited and/or unexpected guests.  I tried to explain that my core just isn't very tolerant of ill-mannered and intrusive people and that I'm a very private person.  I was running this conversation through my head in Adoration the other day when I heard that inner voice say: "Did you ever stop to think that what you consider your 'core' is really just an extension of your pride and selfishness'" ?

To be honest, I had not thought of this before but I've given it a lot of thought since.  I'm someone who abides by the rules and by the etiquette dictated by each situation.  If the sign says "Use other door", that's what I do.  If the sign says "Turn off all cell phones before entering", that's what I do.  If  I'm with someone who thinks those rules are for other people, I cringe.  The worst is being out to dinner with someone who is rude or demeaning to the wait staff.   Something inside me makes me want to flee.

My mother and I have visited the home of a woman who, by invitation only, sells some of the crafts that she makes.  The first year, the woman held the sale in her living room but in subsequent years, she moved the operation to her barn.  It never fails that every time we visit, my mother heads for the front door, and I insist with her that the sale is in the barn, and it never fails that the woman has to remind her "no, not here, ladies, in the barn".  And then my mother laughs and says to me "I just wanted to sneak a peak at her living room."  And then I want to crawl under one of the hedges.

It occurs to me that maybe these people, whose behavior I find so offensive, are really the humble ones, because they are completely lacking in pride.  They don't cringe if they're corrected for using the wrong entrance or snooping in someone's closets.  And if they do, you'd never know it.

This week we have a visiting priest at daily Mass.  He went straight from the altar to the pulpit to do the readings and psalm.  I had been doing the readings in the absence of the usual lector, who is recovering from an illness.  Afterward, some of the weekday regulars asked me why I didn't read.  It just doesn't feel right to me to race up there when the priest is obviously willing to do it.  Talk to him afterward and let him know you're the lector, someone else suggests.  That's OK, I say, it's only for a week.  Really, the issue is that I would never bother the priest in the sacristy and what if I did and he said he would prefer that I did not read?  Wouldn't that be embarrassing?  So what if it is?

This week, as many of us pray the Divine Mercy Novena, I realize that while forgiveness comes easily to me, giving of myself does not.   Since I've been home I've tried to be more open to having guests.  We've had a revolving door of school chums stay for dinner.  It's the others I haven't been so open to, the ones who keep Christ buried deep beneath their offensive exteriors.

What it seems I need is a novena for humility.  Here at least is a Litany for Humility.

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. I saw that litany somewhere else recently. It's hard to imagine myself even being able to comprehend wanting all those things. A good thing it says, Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
    I am also a pretty private person and love it when I can be home alone for a little while. I can only imagine how precious the time at home is for you, since you have not had much of it until very recently.
    Of course, with all the kids, we frequently have a stream of people coming and going. I try to remember that once the house goes quiet for good, I will miss them so much! I thought that when they were all little, too, on the rough days -- how much I would miss the little kid days once they passed.
    It is tough to have people in your house, your personal space, that make you uncomfortable. You certainly have had no lack of things to offer up lately!
    love and prayers

  2. I don't mind the kids and their friends. It's the adult and HIS friends (and some relatives) that have me wanting to head for the hills. You are right - it is a good thing the litany says "Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it" I think it is our nature to desire just the opposite. I just think that in order to abandon ourselves completely and impoverish ourselves in Christ, we have to give up some of the things we cherish, like privacy and solitude. But not all the time.
    Prayers and love are most appreciated and reciprocal!

  3. "His presence is like escaping gas that disseminates everywhere".
    Joyce, if I could come up with a line like that I'd personally find it very hard to be humble.

    1. Oh, Julie, I have used that analogy before and I'm sure others have too. It just seems to fit some people! God bless! Joyce

  4. Great blog Joyce. So much in there to think over. Three thoughts come to mind.

    First, my pastor, Fr. Veras, I've mentioned him before, gave a great homily once where he told us about his wish to work with the poor and destitute. I forget what order he tried joining, but he spent I think he said six months as a trial with them, mostly feeding and taking care of drug addicts and mentally ill. He was actually shocked at first on how they treated him and others and their general attitude. He knew their general appearence would be grimy but he didn't realize what their actual personalities would be. It took him a while to finally get used to it, but even at the end of his trial the pastor in charge told him he wasn't cut out for this type of ministry. He was told he may have love for the poor, but you actually have to love their very being (not sure if this is how he phrased it) in the state their in. He was told he should seek a different calling. It takes a special type to have that kind of calling. I know I wouldn't have it.

    Second, don't be too hard on yourself. There are religious hermits who totally recoil from dealing with humanity in general, let alone drug addicts. They seek isolation. That would not be my calling either, but I've grown to understand it. They have love for humanity, but their focus is inward and to prayer. We all have different callings.

    Third, my biggest sin is lack of humility. I've thought about this and have tried to work on it this past year. I even include in my prayers. I think I've improved, but that might be self delusional. And hey, now that I think about it, me saying I've improved is an act of pride in itself.

    Peace and prayers for you.

    1. Good point about the personality of some in the drug culture, etc Manny. I remember being treated very rudely by someone I thought I was helping and I really had to take a step back. True humility evades most of us, I think, even those of us who appear humble to others, and that's really the point I was trying to make. But when we realize our weaknesses and shortcomings, we are charged with doing something about them, not throwing up our hands and thinking humility is something for other people who can perfect it. Let's all pray the litany for ourselves whenever we can and that will be a good start towards true humility.
      God bless!


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