Cardinal Merry del Val’s classic Litany of Humility is known to many Catholics. It’s a powerfully worded prayer, one that always makes a splash. However, revisiting it as a Dominican, the litany raises questions for me. There surges within me a need to make distinctions…or even to write a new litany.
Dominican friars aren’t always known for humility, yet St. Thomas Aquinas has left us quite a rich inheritance on the subject. Thomas fundamentally roots humility in a true knowledge of reality, of one’s strengths and weaknesses. He details humility’s opposition both to pride, the queen of all vices, and indirectly to vainglory, pride’s first lieutenant. He also identifies the pitfalls of false humility. And unknown to many, Thomas links humility with magnanimity, that virtue which propels us to real greatness. Magnanimity keeps humility from turning us into doormats.
With the help of a few friars, I offer this litany of humility based on St. Thomas:
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, teach me.
From all pride and its effects, deliver me, Jesus.
From coveting greatness for its own sake or to excess, etc.
From contempt of You and Your law,
From a puffed-up self-image,
From claiming to be a self-made man,
From ingratitude for Your gifts,
From thinking that I have earned Your gifts by my effort alone,
From boasting of having what I do not have,
From excusing my faults while judging others,
From wishing to be the sole possessor of the skills I have,
From setting myself before others,
From all vainglory, deliver me, Jesus.
From craving praise for its own sake, etc.
From looking for flattery,
From withholding glory from You,
From showing off to the harm of my neighbor,
From presumption and false self-confidence,
From the excessive need to be fashionable,
From obstinacy and contention,
From all false humility, deliver me, Jesus.
From forfeiting my dignity as a child of God, etc.
From burying the talents that You gave me,
From an unreasonable fear of failure,
From avoiding my true vocation,
From despair at my weakness,
In the ways of humility, teach me, Jesus.
To know my limits and my strengths, etc.
To acknowledge the depravity of my past sins,
To acclaim You as the author of all the good I do,
To put my confidence in You,
To be subject to You and Your Church,
To be subject to others for Your sake,
To revere Your presence in others,
To rejoice in Your gifts in others, even the gifts unseen,
To do great things by Your help and for Your glory, strengthen me, Jesus.
To seek greatness in heavenly things and lasting virtue, etc.
To do my best even when unnoticed,
To put my share of Your gifts at Your service,
To be neither puffed up by honor nor downcast by shame,
To do penance for my sins and those of others,
Above all, to strive to love You with all my being,
And to love my neighbor as myself,
In Your name, I pray. Amen.
Image by Andy Wang