By Lora Williamson

The litany of humility always confused me to the point that I couldn’t even say the words out loud. I don’t want to be loved. I don’t want to be praised. What? Who doesn’t want to be loved and praised in our endeavors? I felt like this until someone explained the true meaning. If humility is hard to describe, it might be easier if you think of it as the opposite of pride or as C.S. Lewis wrote, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” Volunteering is a great way to take your focus off of yourself and to cultivate humility. Most, if not all of the saints embody extreme humility. When Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val created this litany in March 1948, he never could have imagined where society would be today with selfies, likes and the extreme lack of humility, let alone a whole month devoted to pride. 

In the litany, we’re asking God to deliver us from personality traits or desires if they become more important than God. No matter what comes our way, it should not affect our feelings or identities. Our value can’t come from success, love or approval. Our value comes from being a child of God. His grace is sufficient and if we lose everything all the worldly positives in the litany, we are still rich, loved and blessed. We’re children of God and his grace fulfills all the desires of our heart. Carnal desires can hold us back from humbleness and connecting with God. In the litany, we are asking to be delivered from fear and to focus on Jesus because in Jesus, there is no fear. The litany is not about seeking out mediocrity. If we’re given a certain gift of talent from God, we are to use it to glorify God and not our ego. Praises and accolades that come to us should be used to glorify God and bring others to Jesus.

What is humility and how do we get it? People frequently believe that humility is making yourself, “less than,” or lowering your self-esteem or value. Christ, the disciples, Mary, and the saints, are perfect examples of humility. The litany refers to a humility that elevates love, compassion and confidence in knowing that we’re all created in the image of God. No one thinks of Jesus or Mary as having low self-esteem or value. When I think of someone humble, I think of someone like Mother Teresa, Padre Pio and St. Francis. I’m pretty sure no one would consider them wimps or weak. Gratitude for every breath is also a great place to start. Gratitude for health, food, pretty grass, the beautiful ocean, laughing, and God.

To become more humble, it helps to mirror yourself after someone. Find someone whose actions you can emulate and bring into your daily life. You don’t have to save the dying in India or start a monastery to be humble and follow in their footsteps. It’s an attitude as much as an action. Seeking after the heart of God and his will for your life is a great place to start. Pray and ask God for answers. Ignite a desire to get close to God. Minimize worldly things like T.V., radio and scrolling social media mindlessly and replace it with prayer and be outside marveling at God’s creation. Volunteer and be the hands and feet of Jesus. Try looking at others with the heart of God. 

When I pray the Litany of Humility, my heart is crying out for closeness to God and I’m looking for that peace beyond all understanding that only God offers. It also makes me think of that saying in the 1990s, “What would Jesus do?” I often think about what Jesus, or the saints would do. I like to use the saints as models because they were 100% human and that gives me hope for my actions. That’s the path I want to go down to become humbler. 

In the litany, once you pray to be delivered from the desire for accolades, you pray for the desire to be delivered from fear. As you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, your total focus is on Jesus and to be delivered from anything worldly. God becomes above all else. Although we live in the world, if we focus more on God, our hearts, minds and souls become less affected by worldly desires. In a world of selfies, influencers and people dying to go viral, the Litany of Humility delivers us from vanity, self-absorption and a false sense of self-worth. It truly is the remedy for a sick and dying world.