Well it seems Fr Longenecker and I have similar things on our minds, we must be reading the same blogs or something.
Could it be that I read his blog or he read my mind? (surely he didn’t read my blog!!! I should go back and re-read it and probably delete most of it if he did) Maybe we both read someone elses blog? or he just so happened to write about exactly the same thing on the same day albeit with a very insightful more direct element of personal challenge?
I don’t know but having met Fr Longenecker way back in the day I can testify unreservedly that anything that he has to say is very much worth hearing, so here is a link. His take on the four marks of the Church is what I would have said if I was twice as bright as I am and half as humble as he so have a gander.
Many of you will have heard of this blog through James Preece’s Catholic and Loving it link which I am eternally grateful for, though suddenly it means people are actually reading what I post which is a big honour, challenge and responsibility. I might have to start thinking before I type and not be rambling around a subject in the small hours of the morning, with a couple of tins of cider in me (yeah fat chance)
So then, I best think of something to say eh.
Right then, things I like about the Catholic Church. Virtues.
Humility, I don’t know there is a Church, or ecclesial community 😉 for that matter which promotes humility as a virtue as much as the Catholic Church, perhaps the Amish maybe? Indeed it has become a very strange taboo in our culture. People are positively encouraged to shamelessly self promote. I find it hard when I get to that stage of a job application, where you know that if you don’t show you are the greatest thing since sliced bread you won’t be looked at credibly for the role.
It is perhaps the hardest virtue to cultivate since as soon as you think you are rather spiffing, doing rather well at being humble, the chances are you are back down at the bottom of the humility ladder.
I hope people already know the difference between timidity and humility, as the second reading at Sunday Mass yesterday pointed out, the spirit of God is not a spirit of timidity. So humility is not bowing & scraping, it is to know ones own worth in respect to God.
So how do you cultivate humility? tricky one that. I’m rather pridefully going to postulate an answer, its a virtue that can only be learnt from God. As is temperance but since my view of temperance is all things in moderation, especially moderation, I’ll just have to talk about humility instead. (It always reassures me that AA teaches the necessity of belief in a God in order to enter the school of temperance, though it doesn’t preach who that God should be)
All Jobs hopefully teach diligence, and society still appreciates that Charity and Kindness are virtues even when it distorts what the practice of them entails. The world inevitably teaches patience because otherwise we would go mad or despair, though it seems to be endorsing madness and despair in equal measure too.
Though the world despises it I do have the strange notion that people are beginning to realise the value of chastity even if they won’t acknowledge it or encourage it in others, since unbridled lust is such an obvious root of so many evils in the world, evils that often punish the sinner themselves and the modern world if nothing else encourages egocentricity.
I think only God truly teaches humility, we can’t get an inkling of it unless we listen to him in prayer. His example is of course our starting point, to come down from heaven and be born as a man, to live quietly as a carpenter for years before taking on his saving work, a saving work which involved the ultimate act of humility humbling himself to death on a cross. For God to experience such abject fear that the question arises, has God forsaken me? is stunning and the ultimate feat of humility, in fact it is totally mind boggling and theology fails to an extent when it comes to that point.
How could Jesus cry, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” even at the moment he fulfilled his redeeming work? He is the Son of God! the man who knew better than any other how much the Father loved him. The Bible itself says that Jesus isn’t omniscient, his Father didn’t tell him when the world would end for a start. But other than that we think, he must have known the resurrection would happen? well yes he did, but when agony and desolation cloud the senses sometimes it is impossible to remember God’s love and Jesus experienced even that deepest darkness with us and for us.
The Church teaches humility, it is a place for the broken and the self-acknowledged sinner to go and bow before God. Worshiping him is the root of humility. Genuflecting whenever you enter a church, bowing when you pass the altar, if you are honoured to have a role to play in the sanctuary to genuflect as you enter it, all are a good start. Physical acts of humility teach the soul to be humble, if the body is humbled hopefully one day the spirit will follow.
The practice of the discipline of self mortification, it seems all the Saint’s engaged with in one form or another. Something that the modern world and indeed us modern day Catholics struggle to accept. Is it self harm? is it self hatred? to bear in mind that Jesus said, “anyone who doesn’t hate himself cannot be my disciple”. Very strong words but again it is only through hunger for God that such a thing can be right, and has been the root of many people’s self control and defense against temptation.
Confession is the school of humility, we go and we give our darkness, our sin to a priest, who acts in persona-Christi as Christ to us. What an incredible and even scandalous thing we are told we should be doing, giving God our sins!
Saint Benedict has a good deal to say about humility. He recognised that even great feats of asceticism didn’t necessarily lead to humility. He gave up life as a hermit, something which he clearly loved, when it became obvious that it wasn’t what God was calling him to. He ended up teaching us that christian community, being kind to those who annoy us, is a great root of humility becuase when living in close proximity people will annoy you, no matter how saintly. (indeed perhaps especially if they are saintly, pride is a killer, almost literally in Benedict’s case)
According to that great and most humble source, wikipedia, the bastion of all people who can’t be bothered to find a proper quote, humility must not be practiced in any external way which would occasion vices in others. Well I think that one should be taken with a pinch of salt otherwise we would be unable to do anything good at all. How could you receive communion kneeling and on the tongue, since you know human nature, there will be someone out there thinking bad thoughts about you for being pious?
Indeed the very word Pious has been distorted, its second entry in the Oxford English dictionary is “making a hypocritical display of virtue”. How can it be hypocritical to display worship to God??? even if one is an abject sinner? perhaps in this day and age it is the one who stands in church and says to himself/herself thank God I’m not like that “pious” man, that has more need to worry.
The reason we can be humble is because we know God loves us. We can pray our small prayers, the prayers for the necessities of life, even our fantastic prayers for the luxuries of life, though on that front I often have to remind myself of the phrase, if God wants to punish us, he answers our prayers.
Anyway. Yes. Part of the reason that this blog is called the Catholic Shinobi, is so that people treat it with the respect I deserve as a scholar, i.e. not much. But we are all called to give glory to God so I’ll do my best.