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5 Reasons to Imitate the Profound Humility of Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ
Mary is the most admirable divine mother of Jesus, a role model for all of us. As a Catholic Christian, Mary’s life has been an inspiring example of humility for me, and my devotion to her has grown with age and life experiences. St. Louis Marie de Montfort encourages us to practice and emulate the virtues of Blessed Virgin Mary as a path to holiness, namely:
Her profound humility
Her blind obedience
Her angelical sweetness
Her continual mental prayer
Her mortification in all things
Her surpassing purity
Her heroic patience
Her divine wisdom
Her ardent charity
Her lively faith
I have chosen to write on Mary’s profound humility, because she was an embodiment of the virtue of humility. Humility is the root/foundation of all virtues; yet, it is sometimes misunderstood and regarded as a sign of weak character on the part of those who practice it. To be humble means: having a good knowledge of self - understanding your defects/human limitations, despising no one - seeing everyone as God’s creation and not being arrogant or thinking you are better than other people, controlling your anger and frustrations, and living an authentic life according to God’s will. Mary, being the first human to be saved from sin, welcomed the gift of salvation by seeing in God her ultimate end, and the object of her happiness. As a result, she put into action the virtue of profound humility, which all Christians called to holiness and eternal life should imitate.
Why Imitate Mary's Profound Humility?
Mary is a model of humility
Now, I know you are reading this and thinking; how can Mary be a model when she was saved from all sin at birth, endowed with knowledge of all these virtues, and as a result more capable than any other created person of understanding God and all his works. Well, though she was saved from original sin, we should remember that she was still human (a Jewish woman) with a free will, who could have gone in any direction, but chose the will of God by saying “yes” to becoming the mother of Jesus. Her maternal functions (raising a child), and other aspects of her life, for instance, coping with damaging gossip, mourning the death of a loved one etc. reflects our human lives. Therefore, she remains a model for us. While imitating her virtues doesn’t equate to trying to be identical with her in every way, it shows our aspiration and desire to be like her. Let’s face it, if all Christians are called to holiness; to be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect, then a good starting point will be to imitate the Mother of Jesus who in her desire to unite herself with God, nurtured all virtues by her prayer and practiced them to a degree of perfection. She risked losing everything ( her espoused husband, her native home to go to Egypt, her son to the cross) by investing and submitting to the will of God even when she didn’t know what it was, and he did great things in her life, and in the lives of others through her.
Imitating Mary’s humility helps us to acknowledge our lowliness before God
Mary’s humility, which grew out of her faith in God, earned her the title of Mother of the Lord. She referred to herself as God’s lowly servant/handmaid thereby acknowledging her powerlessness and dependency on God as her sovereign master. In her song, the Magnificat, she is not only full of praise and thanksgiving for the favors shown to her, but also mindful of God’s mercy on those who fear him from age to age. The Magnificat teaches us a lot about Mary’s humility. Mary in her profound humility believed God and totally accepted him as her savor. Imitating her will enable us to recognize and rely on God’s power to solve our problems instead of trying to do everything on our own. Once we realize that we are nothing before God, and that all we have is given to us by God, we will not obsess about our achievements, but strive to please God by our actions. For example, if we have been privileged to be highly educated and elevated to a high position; then we have the responsibility of sharing what we have learned with the less privileged by using what we have to build up and encourage others instead of becoming all puffed up by our knowledge.
Humility encourages love of neighbor
In Mark 12:30-31 we are told “…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mary put these words in action when she went in haste to the mountainous Judean town to visit her relative Elizabeth who was said to be barren, but had conceived a son in her old age. She spent three months with her, and both found support in each other’s company. Mary has just been told she was pregnant in a mysterious way and must have been, in her usual way, quietly grappling with understanding all of that when she learns about Elizabeth who is also pregnant in her old age. She immediately went to serve and assist her in spite of her own condition. We learn through this humble act of Mary the value of true friendship formed out of love, service to others and the need to share in the joy of others. In her, we find the model after which we are to model our own love of neighbor. We can use the resources at our disposal to respond to the needs of our neighbors or people we meet in such a way as to bring them closer to their authentic self – that which God wants them to be.
Imitating Mary’s humility helps us conquer our pride
We also encounter the humility of Mary through the whole mystery of the incarnation and birth of Christ. When the Angel Gabriel said to Mary, “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestors David.” (Luke 1:31-32) she did not go out to the people of Nazareth to say; you watch out, I will soon be the mother of a King. Instead she pondered the angel’s word and said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38). Again, when Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem to find that all the rooms in the inn had been taken, rather than complain or show how frustrated she must have been, she humbly accepted what room was available – a stable and bore the savior, Jesus Christ. Remember, Mary was about to deliver a child, who was going to be the savor of the world; yet in her humility, she remained calm and was willing to go wherever God will guide them. God provided a safe place to have her baby, and that was all she needed. The benefit of contemplating this act of Mary is that it helps us to recognize that humility is important to God. He has shown us Mary as a teacher and living example of humility and true contempt of worldly vanity and pride, so we have in her a perfect model. God will always provide for us in the time of our need if we trust him, and focus less on the material things of this world. Though it is challenging in these modern times to show contempt for the world, if we realize that even when we are esteemed and honored in this world, it is just for a moment then we can despise it for the love of God.
Imitating Mary’s humility helps us to learn restraint
Mary pondered all of God’s words and actions in her heart and never expressed any anger or frustration. She pondered most things in her heart to enable her speak well when the time comes to speak (Eccles. 3:7 teaches us that there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.”). When did she speak? When there was good reason to speak, for example at the wedding in Cana. Even then, she showed her humility by referring everything to Jesus – “Do whatever he tells you.”(John 2:5). Silence doesn’t necessarily mean never speaking, but speaking when there is good reason to speak. If we desire to become holy, we should learn to speak only when it is necessary and out of love. For example, when we have conflicts in the family or with friends – little fights and disagreements, we can cease such opportunities to imitate Mary’s virtue of profound (silent) humility. Out of love, we can learn not to say anything, because we may say something that will be hurtful to the other person and vice versa. Most times it is our sensitivity to esteem and honor that makes us want to respond to something that hurts with hurtful words. So, let us learn from Mary by being humble and saying nothing, but ponder everything in our heart while praying to God to guide us in our actions.
Answering God’s call to holiness is a continuous struggle. To help me develop and grow in the virtue of humility, I pray the litany of humility by Rafael Cardinal Merry de Val (1865-1930), the Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X. I’ll therefore conclude by leaving you with the words of the litany. I hope you are able to find time to say it, and to show your profound knowledge of Mary’s humility: Just. Be. Humble.
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…