By Father Christopher Heanue
Languages are incredible — but sometimes with languages, if you change one word or one letter, you change the whole meaning.
I remember the story of the English-speaking priest learning to speak Spanish, who said to his congregation, “I am sorry, lo siento, but I am embarrassed to speak Spanish, soy embarazada…” With that, the congregation burst into laughter. The timid priest, already afraid to speak Spanish, wondered why they were all laughing. Finally, he realized, his attempt at Spanish, made him exclaim that he was pregnant, not embarrassed.
In a similar way, the famous Latin expression of Christ, non ministrari sed ministrare, with a switch of the final vowel, you can change, “I have not come to be served, but to serve” to “I have not come to serve, but to be served”!
The latter, of course, is not the message of Jesus Christ, the true servant of all. Jesus Christ, in this Sunday’s Gospel reminds us that He is on a mission of service rather than a mission of comfort. This mission is centered in humility.
Our journey to holiness is a life-long one that requires constant attentiveness to our human weaknesses. Humility is a key part of our spiritual life. It is through his gift of God that we recognize our failings and begin to perfect the imperfect.
In the richness of our Catholic faith are prayers and devotions to God for various needs.
One of these prayers, one that I have a particular fondness of is the Litany of Humility.
This prayer is attributed to Cardinal Rafael Merry del Valle, the Secretary of State under Pope Pius X. in his position, he was the second in charge of Vatican City and of the dealings of the universal Church. He died in 1930 at the age of 64 during an operation for appendicitis. The Litany of Humility is one that we can pray daily for ourselves to grow in holiness.
The Litany of Humility
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved… From the desire of being extolled … From the desire of being honored … From the desire of being praised … From the desire of being preferred to others … From the desire of being consulted … From the desire of being approved … From the fear of being humiliated … From the fear of being despised… From the fear of suffering rebukes … From the fear of being calumniated … From the fear of being forgotten … From the fear of being ridiculed … From the fear of being wronged … From the fear of being suspected … Deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside … That others may be praised and I unnoticed … That others may be preferred to me in everything… Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should… Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
Readings for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark:10:35-45 or 10:42-45
Father Heanue is the Rector-Pastor of the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, Prospect Heights.