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Demystifying the Virtue of Humility

C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of ourselves; it is thinking of ourselves less.” What a great reminder in trying to understand humility because it is important to focus on the fact that this seemingly elusive virtue is not about putting ourselves down but about having perspective on our role in the world as children of God.

                In The Christophers’ two part video series on humility, Father Jonathan Morris points out that humble people are happy people, and he explains that this is due to the fact that humble people are not excessively focused on their own concerns. Father Morris says, “Somebody who is not concerned about themselves all the time, preoccupied with themselves and what they can get and how things are going to go for them, they’re able to enjoy life. There’s a joy that is present when we forget about ourselves and think about others.”

                Father Morris notes that humility can seem elusive because it is so often misunderstood. He says, “It’s not about weakness. It’s not about being quiet and over in the corner. It has to do with living in the truth of who we are in relation to God and to others.” And that, he notes, entails recognizing our importance as individuals willed by God into existence, with a purpose all our own, while at the same time realizing that we ourselves are not God and that we are not more important in His eyes than any other individual regardless of wealth or status in life.

In Italy there’s a centuries-old devotion to the Madonna of Humility, a name inspired by a style of painting depicting Mary seated on the floor and holding the infant Jesus. An altar was dedicated to the Madonna of Humility at the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence in 1361; and in Pistoia, an entire basilica was inspired by a 1370 Madonna of Humility fresco connected to a miracle.

It seems fitting that such great endeavors should be undertaken to honor the humility of Mary, because we are called to give glory to God by sharing our talents to improve the world around us. Builders of the great churches and artists who inspire an understanding of the faith have always understood the importance of their role in giving glory to God by sharing their talents with others.

Christ calls us to cultivate the greatness God has bestowed upon us for the benefit of others. And such pursuits are not without their crosses. Indeed, Christ promises the cross when we follow Him because challenges will invariably present themselves when we try to do what is right in this world. But the cross of Christ is the only way to true and lasting happiness because all other paths, as easy as they may seem in the moment, will lead to burdens that the human soul cannot bear.

To grow in humility, we must be willing to take up the cross and pursue our God-given talents in service to others. And as we become humble of heart, we realize this is the path that unburdens the soul and leads to freedom. As Christ says, “Come to Me all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-29).


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