Deliver Me, Jesus: The Litany of Humility

Years ago my spiritual director recommended I pray the Litany of Humility every day.  The saints say humility is that virtue which must the foundation for all others. 

Here is the litany:

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 …

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 may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Amen.

 

What this prayer is asking is that we be delivered of all of these fears and fallen desires based on vanity, pride and inordinate self-love so that only God’s thoughts and approval matter to us. 

What this litany does not mean is a notion of false humility, as the saints warn us about. False humility would mean, for example, that we purposefully fail our tests in a pretense of “humility” to be the stupidest and “last” rather than first. Or trying to purposely deny or downplay that you’re a good artist or musician. God has clearly given you that gift and talent, so use it and use it for His glory, giving your best. Or, if you want to be delivered of the fear of despised (as the litany asks), it doesn’t mean that we intentionally seek out opportunities to be despised.

Humility is a virtue that’s meant to be incredibly liberating and freeing because “humility is truth,” as St. Teresa of Avila said in her autobiography.

“You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” [John 8:32]

All that matters is how we are before God. We’re not meant to be slaves to human opinions, human respect, and human approval. We’re not meant to be slaves to ourselves and our fallen desires. It’s all nothing compared to Who really matters.

In his book of meditations for the liturgical year, Divine Intimacy, Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene firmly says:

Many souls would like to be humble, but few desire humiliation; many ask God to make them humble and fervently pray for this, but very few want to be humiliated. Yet it is impossible to gain humility without humiliations; for just as studying is the way to acquire knowledge, so it is by the way of humiliation that we attain to humility.

As long as we only desire this virtue of humility, but are not willing to accept the means thereto, not even are we on the true road to acquiring it. [Divine Intimacy, meditation #110]

In St. Francis de Sales’ book Introduction to the Devout Life, he notes how it is so easy to say,”Oh Lord, I am but dust and deserving of nothing” because we see our sins. As the Psalmist says…

“For my soul is bowed down to the dust; my body clings to the ground.” [Psalm 44:25]

…But then when we actually get treated as such, we may immediately become offended and feel indignant, thereby indicating our lack of humility.  St. Francis says it’s better to take humiliations from others than pre-ordain it or pronounce our unworthiness ourselves because there is more merit and true virtue involved. [Introduction to the Devout Life, Part II, Ch. 5, Interior Humility].

Throughout my years of praying the Litany of Humility, I’ve seen enough hidden pride revealed to me that it has lead me to add on to this litany. Yes – add on!  Because self-love and pride can take so many different forms.

For example, in my first year of marriage and being moved into our new home together, we would have our families come over. I remember how difficult it was for me at first to transition into a “serving position” as a host. I remember feeling so annoyed that everyone was out there laughing and having a conversation and here I was “slaving away” missing out on much of it. It was a real struggle for me, as silly as it sounds. (I now laugh at how self-centered that thinking was!) I tacked onto the Litany: 

From the desire of being served…deliver me, Jesus.

That was only the first thing I added in. (Marriage and children have this funny way of bringing your self-love to light. But I mean that in a most grateful way!)  Since then, I’ve added in more, depending on which area of pride and self-love that I was struggling through…

From the fear of being unappreciated…deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being ignored…deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being considered beautiful….deliver me, Jesus. (against vanity)

From the desire of seeking consolations…deliver me, Jesus.

And really, it goes on and on. I still pray these same “tacked-on” invocations in my regular litany of humility, and then some.

I highly recommend tacking on your own personal invocations in this litany.  What area of self-love, vanity or pride are you struggling with right now? Do you find a hidden pleasure in being rebellious in some small way – even if it’s taken a “sting” at someone or going against their legitimate wishes in some small way?  …“From the desire of being disobedient/rebellious….deliver me, Jesus.” Do you find you’re a bit needy or clingy in a friendship? “From the desire of feeling needed…deliver me, Jesus.”

Pray for light from the Holy Spirit; notice what your weaknesses and irritations are. You’ll find greater interior freedom the more you pray for humility and the more you accept the humiliations God sends your way. As St. James tells us, “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

 

To Jesus through Mary.

Image credit: Jim DiGritz on Unsplash

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