Humility and Love

Whoever Receives One Child Such as This Receives Me. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

I remember when each of my children were born, and placed in my arms marveling at the miracle God had rendered in human flesh. The tiny fingers and toes, the delicate complexion, soft lips, and feathery eyelashes simply filled me with awe and gratitude. With each bundle of joy, I also recall pondering the utter vulnerability of the newborn child. Cognizant of the limitations of purposeful fine motor movement, I’d often wonder how it must feel to be so completely dependent upon the goodness of another. When those little arms would flail without apparent rhyme or reason, I’d wonder if my child had an itch he or she desperately wanted to scratch, or some other discomfort that could not be expressed and addressed voluntarily.

Perhaps I was more sensitive to this vulnerability because as I was taking care of my newborns, I was also caring for my Mom throughout her battle with Alzheimer’s Dementia. I recall watching my first-born son, then only a few months old, gaining skill daily while at the same time I was caring for Mom as she was losing her abilities with equal rapidity. As God blessed me with more children, I found myself contemplating the inverse proportional relationship between the rate at which my progeny gained independence and that at which my mother lost hers. I recall feeding Mom spoonsful of aromatic pureed nutrition, while tapping an infant’s seat with my foot, and watching two youngsters quibble over a container of cheerios.

Faith, Hope and Love Remain © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

We all long to feel important and valued– to have our basic needs met with tenderness and consideration. Yet it is paradoxical that as our ability to have those most basic needs met independently is achieved, that our capacity to empathize with the vulnerable diminishes. When we are in the greatest position to help others, we are often blinded to their needs. Yet, we were once as helpless as they, and are an accident, an illness, a natural disaster or an age away from being equally vulnerable again.

Often we spend our lives posturing to distance ourselves from an awareness of our own defenselessness. We wrap ourselves in the false-security blanket of accolades, achievements, and material possessions in an effort to insulate ourselves from any true cognition of our own innate weakness. While we are conscious of the limitations of others, we quell any sense of personal frailty by striving for a sense of superiority over them.

Humility is the antidote for arrogance; meekness the remedy for pride. Our Lord Jesus Christ directs us to “Learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart (Matthew 11:29).” He does not say: “Pattern your life after Me for I Am omnipotent and omniscient.” Rather, He directs us to “right-size” our egos, to become fully aware of our littleness, our utter dependence upon God and our fellow human beings.

In today’s Gospel, Our Lord offers the Apostles an attitude adjustment, as He compels them to truly follow Him in humility. The disciples are journeying throughout Galilee with Jesus, and He begins to tell them that:

“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill Him, and three days after His death, the Son of Man will rise (Mk 9: 31).”

He is explaining to them that His kingship is to be different than they anticipate. He has not come to over-throw the Romans and create a new political order. No, His ascent to glory will come via the cross rather than the crown. The Apostles cannot comprehend Christ’s words. Later, on the road to Capernaum, they engage in that all too human activity of posturing for power. As they enter the house, Our Lord asks them: “What were you discussing on the way?” To their silence and shame, Christ responds:

Unless You Become As A Child, You Shall Not Enter the Kingdom of God. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

“’If anyone one wishes to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.’” Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting His arms around it, He said to them, ‘Whoever receives one child such as this in My Name, receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me, but the One Who sent Me (MK 9: 35-37).’”

Like the Apostles we are also called to serve. To do so, we must “right-size” our self-perception, and follow the One Who is meek and humble of heart. From the greatest to the least, our call is to embrace our weakness and allow His Omnipotence to be our strength. As Christians, when we embrace Christ in each other, particularly in the vulnerable and the weak, we conform ourselves to Our Master, and resemble Him in grace. The call is universal, none of us is too great to excuse his or herself from the obligation of charity. Our Holy Father’s official title is “Servus Sevorum Dei” for he is truly the Servant of the Servants of God.

God is Good! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

I struggle in my own personal efforts to “right-size” my ego. Yet, as St. Therese, the Little Flower said, “Humility is the truth (Thoughts of St. Therese, p. 40).” Authentic humility is seeing the reality of our weakness, and offering it to the Almighty to fill with His Greatness. It is only in embracing our frailty and seeking to meet the needs of the vulnerable in our midst that we achieve the greatness to which we are called. In contemporary society, the vulnerable, the unborn, the elderly, the disabled, the marginalized, and the weak, are often viewed as unworthy of attention. It is our vocation to address their needs with humble compassion if we are to be worthy of the name Christian.

Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. JMJ

St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Please Pray for Us! (Novena)

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

“In order that Love may be fully satisfied it must needs

stoop to very nothingness and transform that nothingness into fire (Story of a Soul, Chapter XI).”

St. Therese of Lisieux, or St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, remains one of the most beloved of all the saints. In 1888, this young sister entered the Carmelite Cloister (with the special permission of the Holy Father himself) at the tender age of 15; she died a mere 9 years later. Therese longed to be a missionary, an apostle, and a prophet,- to travel to each of the continents spreading the Gospel of Christ, yet her plans were not God’s plans. She would indeed travel to the five continents, and spread the love of Christ, but it would be after her death, in the hearts of those who sought Christ through her “Little Way.” I was present in October of 1999 when her relics arrived at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary at Holy Hill, as they continued in pilgrimage around the world. Hundreds of thousands of faithful were introduced to her unique path to sanctity during this world-wide tour, and the shower of grace continues.

Young Therese petitioning the Pope Leo XIII for entrance to Carmel at the age of 15. This beautiful stained glass window is one of a series on the life of the saint that will soon grace the St. Therese Chapel at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary at Holy Hill. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

As her life in the Carmel of Lisieux unfolded, St. Therese soon realized that her ultimate vocation was a call to love within the heart of the Church. In her short time in Carmel, she perfected her “Little Way,”- a path of love which leads right to the Door of Heaven. St. Therese found that offering her weakness and littleness to God was as mighty and heroic as magnificent deeds beyond her call.

In Chapter 4 of her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, St. Therese states:

“Jesus made me understand that the true, the only glory is that which will last forever; that to attain it we need not perform wonderful deeds, but rather those hidden from the eyes of others and self, so that the ‘left hand knoweth not what the right hand doth (Matthew 6:3).’”

St. Therese states, “I am a very little soul who can offer only very little things to the Good God. . . (The Story of a Soul, Ch. X).” The Little Flower realized that mighty heroic deeds as a missionary were not what had been planned for her from all eternity. No, her daily sacrifice of the mundane, her authentic humility, and unwavering love brought the Little Flower into full communion with her beloved spouse. “Love alone have I ever given to the good God, and with love He will repay me (Story of a Soul,Chapter XIII).”

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, Stained Glass Window from the Chapel in the Carmelite Monastery in Denmark, WI. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

Therese discovered the intense mystery of Love in the simplicity of daily duty. As St. Therese made an “Act of Oblation to Merciful Love,” she completely abandoned herself to the merciful love of Christ. She lived, suffered, and died, united to her beloved spouse. She became little so that the Almighty might reveal His glory through her humility.

Pope Pius X called St. Therese: “the greatest saint of modern times.” In 1927, Pope Pius XI named St. Therese the patroness of the missions, and in 1944 Pope Pius XII placed her beside her beloved St. Joan of Arc, in naming her co-patroness of France. On October 19, 1997, Blessed Pope John Paul the Great declared St. Therese to be one of the thirty-four doctors of the Universal Church, in his Apostolic Letter Divini Amoris Scientia(The Science of Divine Love).

Among her ardent admirers have included such souls as: Pope John Paul I (Cardinal Albino Luciano), Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, St. Guiseppe Moscati, and St. Maximillian Kolbe. This remarkable young woman, and her “Little Way” have greatly influenced a myriad of souls. As St. Therese predicted, a shower of roses, a plentitude of grace, is often granted to those who earnestly seek her intercession with the God whom she loved and served so well while on Earth.

St. Therese statue at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

In preparation for her Feast Day, celebrated on October 1, please consider joining me in the following novena, which begins today:

Eternal Father, I thank you for the graces you have bestowed upon St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face. I offer you the Precious Blood of Jesus in gratitude for the beauty of her soul. Thank you for preserving her baptismal innocence and instilling in her a burning love for You. Thank You for calling St. Therese to the sweet sacrificial life of Carmel. Thank You for giving her the grace to live as a beloved and faithful spouse of Christ, and a spiritual mother to many souls.

Please fill my heart with the grace of a humble child-like love, so that like the Little Flower, I may live in Your friendship and enjoy the gift of everlasting bliss in Your Heavenly presence. Please grant me the spiritual and temporal graces that I need to live in imitation of this saint whom I so deeply admire, especially the grace which I request in this novena, if it be for the good of my soul and in accord with Your Divine Will (mention your request here). I place my petition in the hands of the Little Flower, and the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin. Amen. (One Our Father, One Hail Mary, One Glory Be).

May St. Therese of Lisieux, intercede for us and send a shower of roses upon all those who invoke her intercession.

Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. JMJ