Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lenten Resolutions

I’ve thought about the problems of our country a lot lately. Its people are often in my prayers. But as this Lent begins, I ask myself “What prayer would you have, if you were praying for yourself?” Oh, not the same-old, same-old prayers that you say most days, prayers for Wisdom, perseverance, and to know the Father’s will --- and do it, but rather what prayer should I be saying to make me a better man, one better able to use well these other gifts I pray for, should they be given to me. What task should I put upon myself this Lent, to make me truly a better person?

I shall try to do the fasting called for in Lent, abstaining from foods I like. I’ll even give up that coffee I’m more addicted to than like. I shall also try to do the alms called for, and shall endeavor to find those people or charities most in need, and give them a special gift, including a gift of time, if that is what is needed. I wrote out a monthly donation pledge to the Lingap Center today, for a start. And of the penance called for in Lent, what shall I do there? That’s the hard one, I think.

At confession recently, part of my penance was to pray the Litany of Humility. Oh, I’ve prayed that prayer before. Oh yes, I know it well. It is a VERY hard prayer to pray sincerely. In fact, that Friday of my confession, I put that part of the penance to the back of my mind --- I’ll get to that, I thought. I did remember that on Saturday and Sunday, but made no effort to pray the prayer. On Monday morning, however, as I knelt with my eyes closed, just before getting up to join the communion line, I prayed: “Lord, what would you have me do this day?” Then as I stood to walk in the line to the altar I looked down, and there on the pew in front of me the woman had laid her small worn prayer book, which I knew immediately contained the Litany of Humility.

Watch out what you pray for; God answers promptly sometimes!

I prayed that prayer, using the woman’s prayer book, before I left the church. And as to my questions, what I should do to make myself a better person, what should I pray for? I think I’ll pray that prayer each day of Lent. Perhaps God was telling me something more than to just do my confessional penance.

And if that truly was a hint, what more bluntly is the problem? What am I doing which calls for more humility? I thought about that some; I even glanced through my thoughts written here. I looked at what has been occupying my mind of late, and I saw the political scene which is occupying many of our thoughts. And my reaction was to be critical of most politicians, people acting as if they, and they alone, knew the answers to huge problems, as if they were gods. And I strongly felt they were wrong, as were others who acted like them. But now I realized that, for as much as I was criticizing them for thinking wrongly, I was equally vehement in saying: “I’m right” --- the exact same thing they were saying. Perhaps there is something there in this need for humility.

For Lent, I shall try not to speak ill of other people or their ideas. Politicians, friends, family, the guy on the street, I’ll try to treat them all with more respect. I know it will be a difficult thing for me, and I know that my thoughts will likely fail this resolution, but if I can control my words, that will be a start. I shall try not to make other people lower by my words, but shall instead try hard to humble myself.

Perhaps somewhat along those lines, I shall make a list for things to do this Lent, all those things I have been putting off doing because I was too busy doing other things that “I knew” were more important. I’ll resolve this Lent to do those things that I was too important to do. The list is easy to start:
• I’ll write all those notes I’ve been putting off composing, to those less important people.
• I’ll edit those book chapters I’ve been putting off, letting the editors spend too much of their time, because I was not willing to spend mine.
• I’ll get up earlier, and do that exercising that is so easy to out-prioritize, before I start my day.
• I’ll write that paper for Ave Maria University that I promised, months ago.
• I’ll clean off the dining room table --- and not just put everything on the pool table downstairs. I’ll clean that off too.
• And I’ll take down my Christmas tree, and my President’s Day tree, and my St. Valentine’s Day tree, and my likely St. Patrick’s Day tree --- before it becomes an Easter tree, and all the decorations still lying around the house.

Some of these things will definitely be harder than others but, to some degree or other, all of these inconvenience someone else, while I think myself too important to do them. I shall try to be humbler.

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,
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,

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase, and I may decrease,
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,
That others become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,

Yes, this will be a hard prayer to pray each day, and a fitting Lenten penance.


  1. Tom, thank you for your wonderful blog, for your steady and faithful presence on the internet. Thanks for all of the kind and uplifting notes you send my way. Thank you for caring for your mother and your many friends. Thank you for sharing stories of your life that makes others smile and learn. You are such a blessing! Humility, though difficult to desire, is already in you in many ways, I can read it in your words. You are one who is always striving to bring God to others and that can't be done by someone who is so proud that they can't even see that it is God who works within them for the good of others. Thank you for your example and your friendship!

  2. Oh good grief, Anne. Temptation; temptation; temptation. You don't tell someone trying to be more humble how great they are. They're already too good at doing that.

    But I thank God for you also, and the example you provide us with your life, and struggles. Like my caregiver's support group, I find that it is of great help to realize that we are not alone in this world in our struggles.