Tuesday, July 24, 2012

THE LITANY OF HUMILITY


Here's what I'm discovering in my old age: There is a whole huge ton of stuff you simply get to let go of in this world. Things you find annoying, things that are disappointing, things that are not the way you wish they were. You get to let go of all hope of being perceived a certain way, all hope of being “understood,” all hope of your work being recognized in the way you pictured it being recognized, all hope that your own personal plan for happiness is going to work.

I'm never much fired up by these people who have undergone a miracle conversion, who’ve had a vision, who’ve seen Mary or Jesus or God. Okay, I want to say, but THEN WHAT? How did your day-to-day experience of life change? How did your view of the world transform? How do you interact with your fellow humans? After twenty-plus years of prayer, action, and inner work, this is how my own world has transformed: I have a lot of opinions but I don’t ALWAYS have to air them. I’m still insanely triggered by petty slights, but I don’t ALWAYS have to let my hurt show. My likes often differ from yours, but I don’t ALWAYS have to point that out, thereby ruining or tainting your likes. I don’t ALWAYS have to be right, I don’t always have to have the last word, I don’t always need to over-apologize, over-thank, or over-explain. You can either find fault with every tiny thing--and trust me, I am a champion fault-finder, I am an expert fly-in-the-ointment seer--or you can say 'God bless us all' and move on.

People can sometimes mistake this for a kind of looseness, can sometimes take me for an anything-goes type, as happened earlier in the week. “You know what you’d be great at?” a new acquaintance gushed. “You’d be great at giving a Tantric sex workshop. You should take a workshop in Tantric sex—I know you’ve mentioned you’d like to be more vulnerable—and then you could give your own workshop!” I am possibly the last person on earth who would be interested in taking a Tantric sex, or any kind of sex, workshop but more to the point—unh-unh. “My sexuality is not up for discussion,” I told him. “That is not a discussion to which I am open, nor a discussion I invite.” Later I thought, If you want to work on being vulnerable, throw a birthday party for yourself. Throw your fear of rejection, of abandonment, of looking like an ass, of not being lovable, of wanting everything to be perfect, of wanting more than anything in the world to stay in your room and read out the window.

Interestingly, what allows us to make better boundaries, to be imperfect, to be vulnerable, is not “strength,” but humility. For years, I’ve read a dog-eared Xerox of the following every morning:

LITANY OF HUMILITY

O Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
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,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
Deliver me, Jesus.

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,
Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I,
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 become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should.
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
Imprimatur: James A. McNulty, Bishop of Paterson, N.J.

Another twenty yearsand the darn thing might actually start to take hold!


CANNA LILIES,
ATWATER VILLAGE

16 comments:

  1. I turn 60 next month. Thank you for this post. It resonates clearly.

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  2. Oh! How I need this! I would say, "How this resonates with me" but I don't think I have even BEGUN to make an inroad on this journey.

    It seems striking to me that those of us who over-apologize, over-be-nice, are the ones who have to give an opinion, have to point things out, have to let the stranger know that his behaviour is simply NOT up to scratch.

    Especially if said stranger is an offical of some kind. "What! You didn't do your job 100% well? Let me explain what I expected of you, and how you've inconvenienced me, and how things are just NOT PERFECT!").

    The issue really is how to be vulnerable. Over apologising really has nothing to do with being vulnerable, does it.

    The poem is so stirring, and I see that the "road" it sets before us seems to narrow from the first verse to the last; the last verse seems to me the most difficult, or perhaps one should say "refined", of all. But thank you for it; I would like to make it mine, too, and from today it will also go up next to my bed.

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  3. I guess I should read that often.

    Terrific post Heather. Humility-acceptance-concepts which are oh, so so hard.

    Pretty pictures, too.

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  4. From the sayings of the Desert Fathers:

    Abba Anthony said, "I saw the snares that the enemy spreads out over the world and I said groaning, "What can get through from such snares?" Then I heard a voice saying to me, "Humility."

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  5. That litany is a prayer I need to pray daily.

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  6. Hi Heather, Beautiful as always! You can't see what you are and this is a grace I think, because if we did see our own goodness we would be more enamored of that than the source of that goodness. By not seeing it, we are spared the closed-circuit of narcissism in which we would be forever gazing at our own goodness and then lose the desire to look outward. I don't know if that makes sense, but my own observations lead me to believe that good people often don't see their own goodness and bad people don't see their own evil. Thanks for this post!

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  7. Heather---A beautiful reflection...You are clearly on Teresa's "Way of Perfection": "humility, detachment and charity toward all." Greetings on the feast of St. James the Apostle!

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  8. Dear Heather,
    again, it's not that I can't think of what to say but rather that your writing, your perspective is much in sync with my own and I can think of too much I want to say. Too much for a comment. Too much to post without first giving pause and consideration. So, it goes in my personal journal and here I simply say, Thank you, again. And, God bless you.

    P.S. My Mom, who is not a Christian and whom we have just spent our summer 'holiday' with, would very much agree with all you've said here (apart from the Christian perspective). She is well ahead of you at 81 and I not that far behind at shy of 53.

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  9. It's hard to have faith — real faith, without humility, for it takes humility to ask God for help and humility to trust Him to know best, to trust that His will is better for you than your own will. My faith life was pretty stagnant until I started consciously working towards cultivating humility by consciously putting others before myself.

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  10. Attributed to Cardinal Merry del Val. Scares me a bit to say it but I should say it more often.

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  11. My goodness this was something I needed to read today. Thank you Heather and God bless you.

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  13. Heather, I so appreciate how you not only seem to have a grasp of the paradoxes that we must endure in this life with Christ, but you have a way of expressing the beauty of the struggle that makes me feel like a little rosebud getting some sunlight... an ever so slight stirring, the beginnings of an unfolding, receptivity, hope....

    I experienced that with Shirt of Flame: yesterday on the bus I was so moved as I read the chapter on Aridity, where you talk about purification, the Real Presence, community, identification.... Makes me think "the world will be saved by beauty." You don't shy away from the difficulties, but you absolutely communicate hope and beauty.

    A Catholic singer/songwriter named Danielle Rose has a wonderful album called I Thirst, where she put to music some of the writings and favorite prayers of Mother Teresa. Apparently the Litany of Humility was one of Mama T's faves!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3A3B02WSC0

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  14. I'm never much fired up by these people who have undergone a miracle conversion, who’ve had a vision, who’ve seen Mary or Jesus or God. Okay, I want to say, but THEN WHAT? Have you ever asked one of them that question? It might make an interesting piece. I'm not volunteering, you understand, I'm not prone to visions, and my miracles are only the sort that everybody has--like Communion--stuff like that.

    AMDG

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  15. Thanks, folks--as Gooley points out, (and a few other people via FB), the prayer was written by Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930). Michele, lovely, the Danielle Rose putting of the prayer to song.

    What interests me is how much energy is saved on those (admittedly rare) occasions when I resist having to have the last word, be right, engage in what promises to be a fruitless "discussion"...though I still, of course, want everyone to love me!!

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