During the last couple of months, I have been reading The Priest’s Way to God by Fr. M. Eugene Boylan, O.C.S.O. This book intrigued me because I was familiar with the author, an Irish Trappist Abbot, and the copy I borrowed was owned by the late Msgr. John J. McEneaney.
Fr. Boylan pays much attention to the virtue of humility. He writes that it “means of course a life of ever-increasing dependence on God, but it also means a life of ever-increasing strength, confidence and joy” (pgs. 115-116).
I think of those who are receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation throughout our Diocese this spring, and I pray that the Holy Spirit will give humility in abundance to them so that they will rejoice in their dependence on God and enjoy fresh strength, confidence and joy.
The year 2017 is the Centenary of the Apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. One hundred years ago, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta near the village of Fatima, Portugal. Humility is woven through the message of Our Lady and the acceptance shown by the three little shepherds.
Our world is vastly different now than in 1917. But human nature is the same. And so is our need for Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Humility lives in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She answered God’s summons, this time, to go to Fatima, but previously to Guadalupe, Mexico and Lourdes, Frances and a host of places. Our Lady celebrates her dependence on God. She shared with her cousin Elizabeth, “for He Who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name” (St. Luke 1:49).
Humility lives in the hearts of Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. Never for a moment did they consider themselves suitable for a visit from Heaven. Yet, that is what happened. And they delighted in Christ and His Virgin Mother, adhering to all that Mary requested of them.
Our Lady’s message at Fatima, I recently mentioned to some Catholic school teachers during their in-service, offers several important realities for our reflection. Here are a few.
1. Daily prayer is crucial. Receiving the Sacraments, especially Confession and Holy Communion, worthily and often is the best prayer “form” that I choose. Reciting the Holy Rosary as Mary asked at Fatima, reading Sacred Scripture and the lives of the Saints, praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet, making the Stations of the Cross . . . the possibilities for public and private prayer are nearly endless.
2. Reverence for God bespeaks of our love for Him. Do I live in awareness of my Creator? Do I seek to understand His will for me? Do I recognize the real, true and substantial presence of Jesus Christ in the Tabernacle and on the Altar during Mass and Eucharistic Adoration? Often, my best response to His majestic, gentle presence is silence. Last year, Pope Francis canonized Discalced Carmelite Elizabeth of the Trinity, who once said, referring to God, “Silence is Your greatest praise.”
3. Doing penance for our sins and those of others is a service that we can perform. To repair for my sins and those of my neighbor is charity to a high degree. My penances, whether voluntary or involuntary, afford me the gift of consoling the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, which are offended by sin.
4. Fulfilling our “daily duty” is fidelity to our individual vocations. If I am a priest, then may I be the holiest priest that I can be. My faithfulness to my vocation pleases God and gives good example to those who encounter me. Doing my daily duty—doing the ordinary in an extraordinary way—is the warp and woof of sanctity.
Humility lives in each of these realities. Without this virtue, we will never obtain what God has planned for us in the Father’s House in the next life. But with humility, we grasp what the Angel Gabriel communicated to Mary: “For with God nothing will be impossible” (St. Luke 1:37). Imagine the ever-increasing dependence on God and the strength, confidence and joy that await us.
May humility live in my heart and yours as we commemorate the six appearances of Mary to Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta 100 years ago. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.