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home : our faith : faith alive February 21, 2019

FAITH ALIVE -- Lenten series: Humility
Reese Witherspoon and Storm Reid star in a scene from the movie
Reese Witherspoon and Storm Reid star in a scene from the movie "A Wrinkle in Time." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.CNS photo/Disney

By Catholic News Service


Humility seeks to put others first and ourselves last. For the Christian, it is about putting Christ first.

Mindfulness of others, gratitude, our constant need for growth and improvement -- these help us to balance the uneasy coexistence of moving about in this competitive world while striving to live our faith.

Lent offers the perfect opportunity to pray for and work toward growing in humility.

How to grow in humility in the social media era this Lent

By Father Geoffrey A. Brooke Jr. | Catholic News Service

When I was in college, a classmate posted on Ash Wednesday that she was giving up Facebook for Lent. Thursday, she joined Twitter. Funny? Yes. Inconceivable? No.

This begs the question, What was she hoping to get out of giving up Facebook for Lent?

When I was younger, it seemed like everyone gave up chocolate for Lent. Now the popular thing seems to be giving up your social media platform of choice. Perhaps that's merely a reflection of my aging and maturing, or a reflection of the social media dominated "millennial era," of which I find myself right in the middle.

Just as we can ask the question, why give up Facebook? we could ask the same of sweets. Are we giving up those things because we want to lose weight in time for the summer? Are we giving up Facebook or candy because they are the easy and popular thing to do? What's the point?

Lent is a time of growing closer in our relationship with Christ through purification from sin. Giving up candy could be a good way to build up self-discipline in avoiding more serious or debilitating temptations. Giving up social media could help you to reprioritize your relationship with God in your life.

In turning away from sin, we are called to seek virtue. Part of the problem with our societal dependence on -- or dare I say, addiction to -- social media is that it blinds us from the virtue we should be seeking, humility.

Social media has a tendency to force us into broadcasting ourselves. Our laptops and cellphones become very expensive self-promoting bullhorns.

Humility is the opposite. It seeks to put others first and ourselves last. For the Christian, it is about putting Christ first.

Humility recognizes that same sinfulness in need of purification during Lent, whereas social media recognizes our accomplishments worth posting for the world to see.

While various social media platforms haven't been around all that long, it's safe to say they are here to stay. The particular names might rise and fall (Remember Vine and Myspace?), but the phenomenon is permanent.

So what are we to do? How can we grow in humility in the social media era?

Fleeing social media completely neglects the exhortations of both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. We must figure out how to embrace and use social media for good, for Christ.

How can we still grow in virtue in an ever- developing and changing social media landscape? Here are some ideas to help you get started growing in humility -- on and off your favorite electronic device.

Away from your device:

-- Prayer and confession: In seminary, our rector, now Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen, New Jersey, used to ask us, "Are you spending more time on Facebook or in the chapel?"

Christ desires to enter into relationship with us; we must spend time with him in prayer. How do we prioritize our time? Do we spend it all consumed by ourselves on social media? Or do we give time to Christ?

Is it easy for us to shout our accomplishments and accolades on social media, but when it comes to confessing our sins, is it too hard? Just as we make a regular habit of checking social media, we should make a regular habit of going to confession to help us grow in humility and holiness.

-- Serve: Spend time serving those who are in need, those on the "peripheries" as Pope Francis likes to say. Encountering the face of Christ in the poor is a transformative experience. It should teach us to be grateful for things we have, and out of that gratitude should sprout humility.

When we encounter those who are poor, yet still full of joy, we realize that our happiness or self-worth should not be tied to how many followers or likes we have.

On your device:

-- Share: When we encounter greatness, it changes us. Shouldn't we want to share that with others? The next time you read a great article or watch an informative video, share it so others can appreciate it too. Then your feed won't be filled exclusively with posts about what great things you have done, but rather what others have done as well.

-- Compliment: One of the unfortunate side effects of hiding behind a screen is that it can bring out the worst in us. Unfortunately this vitriol has seeped into the church as well; such divisive, hate-filled speech does nothing to build up the kingdom of God.

What if instead of commenting negatively, we stuck to compliments? How does it make you feel when you put hard work into something and others recognize it with their compliments (and likes)? Shouldn't we want to return the favor to others?

Complimenting others is another way for us to put others first and ourselves last. To use social media in this way helps to build others up instead of tearing them down and bolstering our own egos, and in turn helps us to grow in humility.

Father Brooke is a priest of the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri. His website is and his social media handle is @PadreGeoffrey.

Happily humble: Virtue in a competitive world

By Maureen Pratt | Catholic News Service

To me, two of the most striking and humbling passages in the Bible are from Mark 14:53-65 and Mark 15:1-5, where Jesus is grilled first by the Temple hierarchy and then by Pilate about his identity.

By this point in Scripture, Our Lord has cured the sick and lame, and expelled demons. He has multiplied loaves and fishes. He has walked on water. And he stands before his accusers, undoubtedly knowing he could take one breath and destroy them and free himself.

Yet, he does nothing, says very little. Much like in the beginning of his ministry, when he withstood temptation in the desert (Mt 4:1-11), Jesus does not use his gifts for his own gain or to escape, but humbles himself for a greater good -- our salvation -- and accepts the crueler fate, death on the cross.

Today, with the pervasive tendency to wildly celebrate victories and talents large and small, Jesus' example of humility might seem utterly strange.

Ours is a very competitive world. Aren't we supposed to drown out the competition or defy naysayers by letting everyone know who we are and what we can do in whatever way we can, from billboards to bumper stickers ("My child is an honor student at "St. Name-the-School.")?

Isn't that, according to another passage, Matthew 5:14-16, the way to let our "light" shine before others?

As someone whose vocation of writing and speaking rests in a competitive arena, I confess I often fumble with balancing promotion of my skills and work with my desire to live in a humbly Christian manner.

But although I've had my own celebratory moments, I've had some practical lessons that help set a more hospitable table for the bounty of God's gifts while understanding better their use and purpose.

For example, in my first year of a master's program in playwriting, I was very happy about a play I'd written. "It's so good!" I crowed to a friend who was a theater producer.

"Never say that," he replied.

His words had the effect of a cold bucket of water poured over me. Was I supposed to not like my work? Not think it was good? 

He continued, "Let others say it."

In this brief exchange, I realized that, yes, it is all right to try to make our work as excellent as possible and believe that it is so. But we have only finite understanding of anything we do.

Egotism --"I am the reviewer, arbiter, judge of what I do" -- stunts the growth of humility, whereas sharing our work and our lives with others invites feedback and personal and professional growth.

A voice teacher helped with another aspect of humility. I had been receiving a lot of compliments on my singing. "But what to say in reply?" I asked her.

"Just say, 'Thank you,'" she said. "Be grateful."

Her emphasis on appreciation has stuck with me: Any good gift comes from God, and when others express admiration for that gift, it only makes sense to give credit where credit is due: to the Creator.

A third lesson from writing helped me understand the responsibility we have toward the gifts God gives.

"Who is this for?" asked one of my mentors about an early book-in-progress, something I wanted to write. "Never forget the reader."

And, in a broader sense, whatever we give or do, someone else is on the receiving end. Much better to ask, "Who will I/this help?" than "What can I do for myself?"

Mindfulness of others, gratitude, our constant need for growth and improvement -- these help me balance the uneasy coexistence of moving about in this competitive world while striving to live my faith.

And when I fail and I do wildly celebrate, Jesus' steady example, silent and strong, always brings me back to center -- a blessing for which I am ever and very humbly grateful!

Pratt is a columnist for Catholic News Service. Her website is

A litany of humility for the everyday

By Anna Capizzi |Catholic News Service

A litany is a series of petitions made in prayer. The Litany of Humility is a popular -- if challenging -- devotion today.

Lent offers the perfect opportunity to pray for and work toward growing in humility. While the traditional Litany of Humility is a powerful "gut check" in prayer, Catholics can craft their own litanies to suit their specific needs.

This Lent, pray this Litany of Humility for the Everyday, and try creating your own. There is no formula, there is no "right way." Ask God for what you need.

A Litany of Humility for the Everyday:

O Jesus, where I am weak, you are strong. Lord, hear my prayer.
From the temptation to withhold forgiveness, deliver me, Jesus.
From my pride and arrogance, deliver me, Jesus.
From my tendency toward perfectionism, deliver me, Jesus.
From the need to know and control all the details of my future, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire to be right and win an argument, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire to stand out, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of having my ideas accepted and praised, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of putting my schedule and priorities first above others, deliver
me, Jesus.
From the fear of being lonely, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being left out, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wrong and looking foolish, deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering and illness, deliver me, Jesus.
That I may think of and put others first, Lord, give me the grace to live this.
That I be slow to judge or think ill of others, Lord, give me the grace to live this.
That I treat others with kindness, even when it is not returned, Lord, give me the grace to live this.
That I see you in others, Lord, give me the grace to live this.
Give me confidence in your plan for my life, Lord, hear my prayer.
Give me wisdom to discern everyday decisions, Lord, hear my prayer.
Give me the courage to live my convictions, Lord, hear my prayer.
Give me a peace that can never be shaken, Lord, hear my prayer.
Give me the grace to love you and others more deeply, Lord, hear my prayer.
Give me a servant's heart, Lord, hear my prayer.
Give me whatever you want and not what I want, Lord hear my prayer.
Help me to pray and believe, like St. Paul that "I am content with weaknesses,
insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong."
Lord, give me humility so that "the power of Christ may dwell with me" every day.

Capizzi is the special projects editor at Catholic News Service.


Humility Prayer:

God, I am far too often influenced by what others think of me. I am always pretending to be either richer or smarter or nicer than I really am. Please prevent me from trying to attract attention. Don't let me gloat over praise on one hand or be discouraged by criticism on the other. Nor let me waste time weaving imaginary situations in which the most heroic, charming, witty person present is myself. Show me how to be humble of heart, like you.

 Author unknown

A Prayer for the Virtue of Humility:

Lord Jesus, when you walked the earth,
Your humility obscured your kingship.
Your meekness confused the arrogant,
Hindering them from grasping your purpose,
Your nobleness attending to the destitute.
Teach me to model after your eminence,
To subject my human nature to humility.
Grant me with a natural inclination
To never view myself greater than anyone.
Banish all lingering sparks of self-importance
That could elevate me greater than you.
Let my heart always imitate your humility.

-- Author unknown

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