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Posts Tagged ‘humility’

Long-time readers may remember that I like kneeling

From Rome Reports, the awesome Pope Benedict on why we kneel.

During the general audience, Benedict XVI  explained how praying on one’s knees isn’t a symbol of slavery or poverty, but a way to recognize one’s limits and the need for God.

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On the blog of The New Theological Movement was this gem revolving around some of my favorite-est things:  St. Michael the Archangel, the importance of humility and the beautiful, intricate symmetry of Sacred Scripture.  As an added bonus, it includes the prayer to St. Michael which I have right over there >>> in my side items. 

Read it and enjoy!

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This beautiful quote was brought to me yesterday by one of my fellow Bible study members, handwritten on a pretty little notecard.  It is from the Mother Directress of St. Sister Faustina, Mary Joseph:

Remember this, Sister, for your whole life: as waters flow from the mountains down into the valleys, so too do God’s graces flow only into humble souls.”  From Diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul

Is humility the key to it all?  Or mayhaps a keystone?  Is it the building block of the other virtues?  It is of such necessary preeminence in our faith lives.  We cannot love without it, we cannot submit to God’s will without it, we cannot ask for real forgiveness without it, we cannot sacrifice without it.  In fact, we cannot be who we are called to be without the gift of humility.

The Catholic Encyclopedia says this:

Humility, inasmuch as it seems to keep the mind and heart submissive to reason and to God, has its own function in connection with faith and all the other virtues, and it may therefore be said to be a universal virtue.

It is therefore a virtue which is necessary for salvation, and as such is enjoined by Our Divine Saviour, especially when He said to His disciples: “Learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls” (Matthew 11:29). He also teaches this virtue by the words, “Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12).

Prayer:  God humble me so that I may submit more fully each day to Your divine will for my life.  Empty me so I may be filled with your grace.   Amen.

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Today we read the story of the Prodigal son, a parable which is only found in Luke.  I love this parable.  We discussed it this week in my Lenten Bible study, and of course, we discussed the points of view of the main characters and how each of us can – at some point in our lives – identify with all of them : the lost son, the dutiful son and the forgiving father.  Most around the table seem to be identifying with the dutiful son, at this point in their lives.  I thought that was interesting.  I almost always identify with the wayward son, myself but as of late, I had to admit that the parable character I most identify with is the Fatted Calf.  This garnered some chuckles around the table.  Unfortunately, I was only semi-joking…

I did observe that while I don’t frequently relate to the dutiful but resentful older son, if I were present for Jesus ministry, I might find myself in the role of the critical and doubting scribes and Pharisees.  I would probably see Jesus standing with sinners and become judgmental and discount his holiness.  I might gossip about him, or speculate on what shenanigans he is up to.  :-(   This got alot of agreement from our group.

Anyway, for reflection on the the gospel reading, I am sending you to two great sources for further enlightenment.  First, a video by Fr. John Riccardo of Our Lady of Good Counsel here in SE Michigan (which I have posted before).

Second,  biblical scholar Michael Barber‘s treatise on the Prodigal Son which he posted over on The Sacred Page yesterday.  (I wish he had posted it before Thursday, I would have looked very smart “coming up” with these brilliant ideas!)  (totally kidding, I would have given him credit.)

You Can Always Come Home

The Prodigal Son, New Life and Sacramental Imagery  by Michael Barber

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Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat: and the body more than the raiment? Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you of much more value than they?  And which of you by taking thought, can add to his stature one cubit?  And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin.  But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these.  And if the grass of the field, which is today, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, God does so clothe: how much more you, O you of little faith?
Matthew 6: 25-30

Just a reminder to me – God can’t work if I don’t let go. 

…from the awesomely positive guys at LetGodWork.com.   Check them (and their gear) out.  (My car has their symbol and I have this teeshirt.)

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St. Stephens Cathedral in Metz.

St. Stephen's Cathedral in Metz.

I came across this picture tonight.  It is an interior photo of the very tall nave in the Metz Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Metz).  The nave it shows is over 40 meters high!   That’s impressive, but that fact is not why I am posting this photo. 

As I was admiring the beauty of the cathedral, I noted that it has chairs instead of pews.  My very first thought was about how hard it would be to set out all of those chairs.  My next thought was, boy, I sure bet it’s difficult to keep all them straightly aligned, they must be knocked about pretty constantly….My next thought (stick with me, my thought process is rather tangential) was remembering that all the great churches of Europe lacked pews and chairs, and I immediately went into my next thought about how many thousands millions of Catholics through the centuries got down on their knees on the cold stone floor to pray and worship our Lord.   Not for timed “one hour masses.”  No, these were full on liturgical, Gregorian chanted, only the ordained priests touched the sacrament, loooong affairs.  Several times a dayEveryday.  When it was time to kneel, our predecessors got down on the stone…or tile…or bare floor.  On. Their. Knees.  And NOW we come to the reason why I posted the picture of the beautiful Metz Cathedral.  Seeing this picture reminded me….  

I remembered something my mom told me when I was a little girl.  It was a moment that will stay with me all of my life.  We were getting ready to go to church for Good Friday.  My mom told me that when she herself was a girl, she was moved to see, every Good Friday, all the faithful Polish men of her parish approaching the Wood of the Cross on their knees, and weeping profusely.  She told me, “Crying, they were crying.  Gruff men, men like Grandpa!”  And she repeated, shaking her head in awe, “They went the whole way on their knees!  on the hard floor!”  Though decades had passed, I could still hear the awe and emotion in my mom’s voice.

I remark this kind of faith and adoration, to approach our Lord in humility, in suffering, in sacrifice, in total gratitude.   Would that today we see such faith! 

I don’t know when I became aware that Protestants don’t kneel.  I do not know when I noticed a lack of kneelers in their churches.  But Catholics kneel.  I have always thought of our kneeling-ness.  And that reminds me of another family story.   Whenever we would see my mom’s extended family, my dad would tell the story of attending Mass early in my parents’ marriage with my mom’s cousin, the nun.   She stood next to my dad (then a Lutheran) and throughout the Mass “barked orders under her breath like a drill sergeant –‘Sit!Kneel!Stand!’”  I still think of that story at odd times and hear in my head, “Sit! Kneel! Stand!”  It makes me smile.  I love the kneeling.  I love the Church for kneeling.  It makes us special because it makes us submissive.   But over the decades, I have noticed a sad trend away from kneeling during Mass, even before and after Eucharist.   

Because of that story my mom told me when I was a kid, my attitude about kneeling during the Mass is completely different than most modern Catholics.  For instance, at my parish we have a few pew sections where there are no kneelers.  So,  I make sure that my family is the one which gets one of the ‘no kneeler pews’.  We are kneelers in my family, and I would just as soon that it be my kids and me on our knees on the uncomfortable floor, than another family which most likely would then feel permitted to sit all through the Mass.  I tell my kids, “With all Christ suffered for us, we can kneel on the carpet for 15 minutes.”  When our knees hurt, we know to think, “Thank you, Lord, for letting us share in your suffering.”  (When we first started doing this, the kids weren’t too happy but now they never complain.)    I have found that our example sometimes seems to affect others in ‘no kneeler pews’, although that is not why we are doing it.  We do it because we can choose to do it, we do it as a love offering to our fellow parishioners so that they don’t have to, and even more importantly, we do it so that they will not be tempted to ‘sit out’ the worship.  We are helping them avoid this near occasion of …ingratitude and complacency

In our modern society, we might think it is undignified to kneel.  We might feel like it is uncomfortable and unnecessary.  But kneeling has never been comfortable or dignified.  The whole point, in fact the very reason why kneeling is NECESSARY, is because it demonstrates physically that we honor God, and submit to His Will.  When we worship God, a necessary part of the worship is to acknowledge that He is great, and we are…not.  If we cannot prostrate ourselves before our Lord, I fear our faith is shallow and our self-importance deep. 

We are not doing God a favor by being in church on Sunday.  We are not working our way into God’s good graces.  We are allowed, through God’s infinite mercy, to be filled with all the blessings that the Mass imparts, to witness a miracle every Eucharist, to join in Christ’s divinity through it.  We are honored and we are humbled and we say, “For you alone are the Holy One!  You alone are the Lord!  You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ!” 

The LORD’S fire came down and consumed the holocaust, wood, stones, and dust, and it lapped up the water in the trench.  Seeing this, all the people fell prostrate and said, “The LORD is God! The LORD is God!”  — 1 Kings 18:39

Prayer:   Jesus, You graciously and mercifully bore our sins upon Your back, suffering not only torture and death, but humiliation and scorn.  Thank you!  Lord, I beg You to work in me a miracle–convert my heart to love You with a fullness that drives out selfish thoughts for myself.  Do not permit that my pride keep me from worshipping You in true love, as You deserve.  Lord, You bring all sinners who seek You to forgiveness and grace.  Fill me with grace now, I humbly ask.  Amen.

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