|John William Waterhouse, "The Annunciation"|
One has only to look to Mary to see that it is in her humility, in her emptying herself of her own will and cooperating with God, that she was regarded so highly in the eyes of God to bear his son.
"...for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold. henceforth all generations will call me blessed: for he who is might has done great things for me, and holy is His name." Luke 1:48-49
Yes, but Mary was born sinless, you say. True enough, As the sinless Mother of God, Mary did not fall into the sins of pride that we must battle daily. But, we have other models to whom we can look for guidance.
Throughout history, women have played significant roles in the life of the Church, and their common denominators are humility, love and service. Through their willingness to be the clay in the hands of the Master, God has accomplished in them far more than they could have done on their own.
St. Catherine of Siena--the first woman to be named a Doctor of the Church, counseled Popes during one of the most turbulent periods in Church history.
St. Teresa of Avila-another Doctor of the Church, whose "Way to Perfection" and "The Interior Castle" have become staples of Catholic spirituality.
St. Bernadette Soubirous, a sickly, humble peasant girl who, in cooperating with Christ through His Blessed Mother, will be forever connected with the thousands of miracles at Lourdes.
St. Therese of Lisieux, a young nun who wanted to please God in "little ways" each day, and sends roses to those believers who pray for her intercession.
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who left her somewhat comfortable role as a teacher to begin the Missionaries of Charity and to serve the poorest of the poor.
Not one of these women sought power, fame, or glory. Each was fixed on doing the will of God, on surrendering their will to cooperate in God's plan for their life. In so doing, these women will forever be esteemed in the eyes of the Church and millions of pilgrims making their journey toward God.
While we have come to know these women as saints of heroic virtue, we also know of their humanity and their struggles in faith. With the exception of Mary, who was born sinless, we can find some of the struggles we experience in our own lives in the lives of these women; struggles with spiritual desolation, temptations, and frustrations.
But it is in their humility, their willingness to serve the Master, that allowed God to do great things in them and through them. Humility is one of the most difficult of the virtues to master, for the temptation of pride is all around us. It also takes great humility to be obedient, as these women were. In the "Dialogues," St. Catherine of Siena writes of this: "A soul is obedient in proportion to its humility and humble in proportion to its obedience." Wow, there's something to think about!
As the song says, "Oh, Lord, it's hard to be humble, but I'm doing the best I can." I have found the Litany of Humility, written by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930), Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X, to be of great help in reminding me of all the little ways in which pride can creep into my interactions and keep me from developing a truly humble soul. I have a long way to go.
Bernadette Boguski, Development Director at the maternal and prenatal care center, Womankind, Inc. in Cleveland, Ohio, has been a Pauline Cooperator for the past twenty years and is a regular contributor to this blog.