Though the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes was yesterday, we are in a sense within the Octave of this Double Major Feast. Many of the Major Feasts - Doubles of the First Class - celebrate the Octave Day. Traditionally, the Octave Day of Our Lady of Lourdes - next Friday, February 18 is the Feast of Saint Bernadette. Therefore, though we are in Lent, we are also in the time of Lourdes. It is wise to recall that Bernadette's last words were "pray for me a sinner". As I wrote last year, St. Bernadette had a doctorate in simplicity which carried her to Heaven. Likewise, I recall reading that St. Francis once accepted the criticism of a peasant who sought to lecture him on the way he was serving others. From the words and actions of these two great saints and others like them, we see the hidden treasure leading to salvation which is an antidote to much of the poison of The New Order!
St. Thomas, St. Benedict, and St. Anselm have written that humility is not about ignoring or rejecting the gifts God has given us but, rather, recognizing and realizing that those gifts come from God and are only manifested through us. In this sense, humility reminds us that we are but mere vehicles for good and for the work of God in this world.
No good can simply come from us because we are all imperfect sinners and because any good we do have ultimately comes from God Almighty, Who is the true Author of good.
Humility merely reminds us that we are inferior to God in all ways and to each other in many ways. No person can see himself or herself as superior to another since we are all so far inferior to God that measuring superiority among ourselves proves relatively absurd. What can be gained, for example, by a man with one dollar boasting that he has more than his neighbor with 50 cents? Are not both men destitute regardless and vulnerable? Likewise, only God is completely perfect and therefore we all have imperfections in some regard. Therefore, to claim superiority over another is also absurd because that supposed inferior is likely superior to us in some way, making our claim false, selective, and hypocritical to say the least. How can I claim to be better than Beethoven because I can see when he could compose music while I compose absurdity?
True humility, therefore, is found in properly measuring one's condition in the light of one's defects and weaknesses, in appropriately realizing the value and superiority of others in other respects, in realizing that any good coming from us actually comes from God through us and not because of us, and in therefore seeing ourselves as stewards of those gifts with a duty to use them to serve God and not ourselves. As we struggle toward true humility, we move toward God and toward eternal salvation because we inherently submit to His Will and obey His commands while serving others. True humility will help us achieve temperance because it will avoid extremes, prudence because it will inspire caution, justice because it will encourage fairness, and fortitude because it will develop our moral and spiritual strength.
Humility as Self-Perpetuating
Like all of God's blessings and treasures, humility is self-perpetuating. Once planted in our minds, hearts, and souls, humility grows and transcends our human weakness and carries us toward salvation. As we practice humility, we grow in awareness of our sins and defects. As we grow in that awareness, we grow in our sorrow and pain for inflicting those wounds on our Savior and separating ourselves from our Loving God. As that sorrow grows, so does our resolution to reduce it which then inspires us to seek greater union with God through our works and actions. As that resolution for good and awareness of imperfection grow so does our submission to God and our appreciation of the value of others. As all of these things grow, so does our holiness which then leads us to greater perfection. As we increase our perfection, we likewise make whatever humility we practice even more worthy. Likewise, this cycle continues carrying us toward God because it inspires and aids all of the great virtues which lead to salvation. This is why Christ's humility is expressed by His humanity but magnified by His Divinity. Is it not more impressive to see an accomplished musician or athlete being humble than a mediocre or beginning one?
The New Order's Distaste for Humility
The New Order clearly detests humility. It sees this as a trait for losers, for hopeless fools wanting to salvage some good from the misery and despair of abject, ignoble situations. It wants to paint humility in earthly terms as being directly connected to humiliation befitting utter defeat or worthlessness. It mocks and ridicules those who would embrace any form of humility as embracing a self-fulfilling prophecy of low status and no impact on the world around them. It paints as fools those who would adore and honor a peasant prophet subjected to the most ignoble torture and execution known at that time.
Where humility confesses sin to God, the New Order denies sin amid relativism and subjectivism. Where humility encourages us to admit to our sin against others and be patient when others wrong us, the New Order tells us to never show defeat or weakness and to strike back quickly against those who would dare harm us. Where humility tells us to accept advice and the correction of others in a gracious way, the New Order tells us to rise above those who would lecture us and avoid being told what to do by anyone. Furthermore, the New Order tells us to seek individuality and independence rather than place ourselves in a position where we need help or advice or guidance from anyone else for such is the birth of inferiority for us. Where humility tells us to accept a lowly place and associate with those lower and less fortunate, the New Order tells to assume and demand the highest degree of respect and position and "network" with those who above us who can help us. Where humility tells us to serve others and be quick to forgive, the New Order tells us to be served and seek revenge to discourage betrayal and harm. Where humility tells us to be grateful and speak well of others, The New order tells us to demand and tear others down if possible and helpful. While humility reminds us of the manger and the cross, the New Order seeks to erase both so as to not offend anyone.
We find it inspiring and transcendent that a saint like Bernadette could ask for prayers because of her sin, but our praise is guided by ignorance because we think that somehow she overcame sin just by trying to be good or being visited by The Virgin. We believe that we will all be saved when we should tremble because such as Bernadette, Francis, and Theresa ended their lives unsure of their qualification for Heaven. Humility runs like the waters of Lourdes. It soothes throats thirsty for simplicity and discipline. It is simple like Bernadette. It acts with no pretence and out of pure love. It is a hidden treasure like the waters which spring up from the ground at Lourdes because it carries great power just below the radar screen. Above all, holy humility is the currency of a Divine Savior and a loving God by which we may begin making an investment in our eternal salvation.
If love is the key to Heaven, then humility is its currency by which the proper order of things is held. Holy humility is real while earthly pride, selfishness, and arrogance are delusions leading to distortions leading to damnation. Let us ask Our Lord, Bernadette, and the Doctors of The Church to inspire us to greater humility and thus widen our way to ultimate salvation!