Humility and Lent

One of the great Roman traditions is the Station Church Masses each day during Lent. Coming out of the traditional Mass calendar, those of the North American College, the priests of the Casa Santa Maria and the priest faculty and seminarians on the Gianicolo go each day to a different Roman church as a pilgrimage early in the morning for Mass at 7 a.m. Each day, many other English speakers in the city who make this a major part of their Lenten experience join us at the Station Churches.

One of the more famous Roman stories involves an American priest from the Casa Santa Maria who was asked on Ash Wednesday to assist with the imposition of ashes in a Roman parish. Gladly, he accepted and asked the pastor what he should say as the formula as he performed this liturgical action. (Remember, in Rome, they generally only sprinkle the ashes on the top of your head rather than place them as a cross on your forehead.)

The Pastor told the American, “Remember to say: Convertitevi e credete al Vangelo,” which means “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” However, when the student priest began to distribute ashes in the parish, the reaction he elicited was only a broad smile and stifled laughter. Instead of the proper pronunciation in Italian, he said- “Convertitevi e credete in vongole,” which means more or less, “Repent and believe in the clam.”

Humility is the virtue that all of us need to cultivate in the season of Lent. We all make mistakes and none of us are perfect. We had all better learn humility, or reality will come along and make us humble.

We need to follow the example of the Lord who humbled Himself to share in our humanity so much so he opened his arms on the cross and died. We need to be humble, so that the Lord can be exalted and in our weakness, we can be exalted with him.