The title “Mary, Queen of Saints” describes just how holy and powerful our dear Mother is. Mary, Holy Virgin, pure and perfect, gave birth to Jesus Christ and so we revere her above all saints. Because Mary was full of grace, she excelled in every virtue to a greater extent than every other saint. Each of the saints excelled in a particular virtue, but Mary possessed all of the virtues that could be expressed in any creature. Because of the fullness of grace and the splendor of her virtues, she reigns above all the saints as their Queen. She is the holiest of all saints – the best model that we as women – can strive to imitate. We can all seek to follow after our Blessed Mother in a special way in order to bring peace, patience, and prayer into our homes and into every aspect of our daily lives. As women, we are called to imitate Mary, the spouse of the Holy Spirit and the Mother of the Church. This is not an easy task, particularly when we are inundated by constant messages from our culture encouraging us to behave in ways that are not conducive to developing virtues.
According to St. Alphonsous Ligouri, we are called to imitate our Blessed Mother in the virtues of: humility, faith, hope, chastity (purity), poverty, obedience, patience, and spirit of prayer. However, it’s important not to expect perfection in any one of these areas. God does not expect it, so neither should we. I would like to focus on one virtue that many people have difficulty with, myself included – the virtue of humility.
St. Bernard tells us humility “is the foundation and guardian of the virtues.” St. Augustine elaborates: Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.” St. John tells us that “humility is constant forgetfulness of one’s achievements.”
This statement is difficult for many of us, as growing up we are encouraged to achieve and to compete in all aspects of our lives. Parents, teachers, coaches all stress achievement and obtaining perfection, which is rewarded by both our peers and adults. When we enter adulthood, our society stresses that we must be the beautiful, brainy woman with the Ph.D., the glamorous Super Mom who can do it all and has it all in order to be successful and loved – even those of us who have been raised in a good Catholic environment. What’s the problem with this picture?
In her book, The Authentic Catholic Woman, Genevieve Kienke tells us: “…Many wrongly assume that authentic femininity means a blissful marriage, abundant pious (and well-mannered) children, a husband to rival Saint Joseph, an orderly home, a variety of community and parish activities, an even temperament, ample time for spiritual and corporal works of mercy, cheerful generosity toward extended family (also pious of course) and a prayer life patterned on that of any number of saints and mystics. This sort of conjecture can indeed be a woman’s worst enemy.” (p.6)
The humble woman is one who views herself honestly and who is living in the real world. She is secure and strong in her relationship with God and is focused on Him. She is aware that she is not in control of her world, but is small and vulnerable in comparison to God, the Omnipotent One – the loving Father who is in control of her life and wants what is best for her. Thus, she lives out her life in the truth about herself and relationship with God.
One of my favorite definitions of humility is that of St. Vincent de Paul: “Humility is nothing but truth, and pride is nothing but lying. We must never glance at what is good in ourselves, much less ponder over it, but we should search out what is wrong and what is lacking. This is an excellent way of remaining humble.”
St. Teresa of Avilla sums it best by saying, “We shall never learn to know ourselves except by endeavoring to know God; for, beholding His greatness, we realize our own littleness; His purity shows us our foulness; and by meditating upon His humility we find how very far we are from being humble.”How can we grow in humility?
1. One of the best ways to obtain humility is through obedience to a higher authority – which includes both divine and human authority. Obedience to God should come first, followed by obedience to man – our government (when the laws do not conflict with God’s commands.)
2. Making a daily examination of conscience keeps us aware of both our littleness and our need to remain close to God.
3. Frequent Confession keeps us humble
4. Reading and studying the lives of the saints and the works of the saints, especially St. John of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Catherine of Siena. For example, in The Dialogue, St. Catherine of Siena writes: “In self-knowledge, then, you will humble yourself, seeing that, in yourself, you do not even exist; for your very being, as you will learn, is derived from Me, since I have loved both you and others before you were in existence; and that, through the ineffable love which I had for you, wishing to re-create you to Grace, I have washed you, and re-created you in the Blood of My only-begotten Son, spilt with so great a fire of love. This Blood teaches the truth to him, who, by self-knowledge, dissipates the cloud of self-love, and in no other way can he learn.” (page 16, 21)
5. Study the beatitudes and practice them in your daily life.
7. Be thankful for the gifts God has given you to serve Him and others. Praise and thank Him daily for His gifts to you and be sure to make good use of them.
8. Accept compliments graciously and immediately thank God for the gifts He has given you.
9. Humiliations help us to grow in humility. Humiliations can be very painful, yet they help us to grow in humility and compassion for others – they help to make us holy.
10. Pray often for the virtue of humility.
Prayer for the Virtue of Humility
Mary, Mother of God, Queen of heaven and earth, Queen of angels and saints, pray for me before the throne of your Son for the virtue of humility that I may, be holy as you are holy, always seeking out God’s will in my daily life and obeying Him in all that He asks of me. I ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
~ Copyright Jean M. Heimann November 12, 2008