Up Front and Personal

Finding the Quality In the Church Pews

By John Fitzgerald

We spend a lot of time during our lives developing qualities. We wish to be good people. People that others like and want to be around. 

You want to be a good friend, a good father, a good husband, etc. I know I want to be all these things. And so I started to list the qualities I think make a good person. 

I came up with integrity, trust, dependability, loyalty, empathy, and confidence. I didn’t stop there but went to the dictionary (you remember the dictionary) and then to Google to see if there were others. There were in fact so many that some lists had the title “the top 100 qualities for” you fill in the blank. 

I got the feeling that even with the wealth of qualities listed, something was missing. There had to be a quality that supported all the others. 

My question was: Is there a quality needed to be able to help develop all the other qualities? I looked to family, friends, and the people who have influenced my life. The overriding quality was and is humility. The next question was, where do I find humility and how do I achieve it? 

That question led me to a place that provides the necessary ambiance for humility — the church. In church, we who can’t carry a tune, sing praise in front of our family, friends, and neighbors. 

When the Gospel is read, we stand in reverence. When the host is raised, we who would not kneel to anything else, kneel to honor the presence. We who find it important to put on an aura of confidence and steel in our everyday lives, humble ourselves during Mass. 

Do we have a model we look to to learn humility? 

Christ gave us two great commandments. The first: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” 

The second gives us a clue on how to accomplish the first: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” If I believe that I can be better than anyone, I cannot honor either commandment. 

Humility opens us up to all our neighbors. To look at all as “in the likeness of God” we can begin to live the two great commandments. Our model is Christ, who from birth humbled Himself. He asked John to baptize Him and prayed to the Father in quiet and private. 

His life was a life of humility. A humility we can only hope to achieve. 

John Fitzgerald is a parishioner of St. Joan of Arc, Jackson Heights. He was commissioned as a Lay Ecclesiastical Leader by the now defunct Pastoral Institute (Diocese of Brooklyn)