The Way of Perfection
Great books, the spiritual classics are given those lofty titles because when they are read, they can change us. If we allow them to change us. Prayer can do that as well.
Recently, I read The Way of Perfection by St. Theresa of Avila. I completed it because it was with a book club that I was running and so I had to finish it. It was not an easy read. But it was very fruitful. At the risk of sounding dramatic, it has changed me.
To sum up the book in one sentence: the way of perfection is to have humility.
We could spend a long time contemplating that thought and some would say that the moment you think you have humility, it is lost. I agree with that – sometimes.
Humility, as C.S. Lewis has said, “Is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” Theresa tells us, “True humility chiefly consists in being very ready to be contented with whatever the Lord shall be pleased to do with them” and asks, “How can there be humility without love or love without humility?”
The more I thought about the subject of humility, the more I realized the necessity of it and my fear of it. One group member mentioned the Litany of Humility by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val y Zulueta which is a beautiful prayer and one I’ve prayed many times. It can bring you to your knees, internally and externally! I looked at it and each time I went to pray it, I had to stop. I simply could not say the words. I was afraid that if I became that full of humility I would disappear, and cease to exist as a person.
God gave me an answer, because, well, God does that sort of thing. At the end of confession one day, the priest gave me a gift. He gave me the Litany of Trust, written by Sr. Faustina Maria Pia, SV, prayer card. (Off topic, I have never gotten a gift from a priest after confession. He also gave something, different, to my husband.)
As I prayed the prayer, I was struck with a supernatural understanding of why I could not pray the Litany of Humility. I was not trusting God. I wrestle with him frequently, giving him my problems and concerns and then taking them back. Offering solutions as if God needs my help with figuring it out.
I will not argue with Theresa of Avila about needing love in order to have humility. First, I agree and second, she’s a saint and Doctor of the Church. But I will add, that humility is possible when we trust. If we do not trust, humility is frightening. With trust in God, we can embrace humility, relying on God’s providence and will for us, trusting that our humility will draw us closer to all those we love and better able to care for them as God ask.
I encourage you to pray either the Litany of Humility or the Litany of Trust, both will help you grow more deeply toward God, in trust and humility.