“I don’t think the teacher will let me say that, Mom.” Our son had the lead in a school play- a musical – many years ago. He did a lot of singing and dancing and was pretty good at it. He came to enjoy the appreciation, compliments, and crowd response he was receiving. His mother, concerned about his “hat size”, had counseled him to recite Psalm 115:1, “Not to us, not to us, O Lord, but to your name give the glory.” She had to hasten to clarify to our little actor that he should only say it to himself, not out loud on stage! And, by the way, he followed that advice and continues to do so today, as should we all.
NON NOBIS, NON NOBIS, DOMINE
Some might recognize these words from their study of history and/or English literature. In Shakespeare’s play, “Henry V”, the king has his troops sing this verse after their victory at the famous Battle of Agincourt. Non nobis, non nobis, Domine…They then followed by singing the traditional hymn of thanksgiving, “Te Deum Laudamus” (We praise you, O God).
HUMILITY AND THANKFULNESS
Humility joined to thankfulness is a good combination! Our Blessed Lady combined those sentiments in her Magnificat. “Because he looked upon the lowliness (humilitatem) of his handmaid; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48).
For many years my confessor and spiritual director was a Benedictine monk, Fr. Andrew. He counseled me to begin every day by praying for “humility, gentleness, confidence, and abandonment.” I have tried to do that but have often thought that, after praying for so many years, I should actually have more of those virtues to show for it!
Humility may be similar to meekness but it surely is not weakness. St. Teresa of Calcutta – Mother Teresa – was a diminutive nun in stature but a mighty force to be reckoned with in spirit and power! I have heard this from people who had to deal with her. Fr. Benedict Groeschel used to say that he had more than one argument with her – but lost every time!
There was a nun, Sr. Mary Victor, who was a longtime member of our CCRNO prayer group. She was very quiet, gentle, humble, soft-spoken – but again, a mighty warrior in God’s kingdom! She used to minister in a women’s prison and was a discussion leader in the Life in the Spirit Seminars. I was in great admiration of her. Her humility and obvious holiness made her powerful indeed before God and men.
PRIDE COMES BEFORE THE FALL
Tradition tells us that the sin of pride and rebellion caused Lucifer to be expelled from heaven: “I will not serve!”
The sin of pride and disobedience wrecked God’s initial plan for our first parents and got them expelled from the Garden of Eden.
The sin of pride caused the men of Shinar to build a city and the Tower of Babel in order to “make a name for ourselves.” We know how that ended.
Even the pagan Greeks recognized pride – hubris – as the “tragic flaw” that brought down the heroes of their dramas.
I remember lying awake at night on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Unable to sleep due to jet lag, I was trying to pray about some situations that concerned me. I was sort of complaining to the Lord, asking Him to “change things.” I sensed the Lord speak this word to me interiorly: “I like humble things and humble people.” That wasn’t exactly what I was hoping to hear at that point, but it was what I heard.
BACK TO HUMILITY AND THANKFULNESS
We have to be sure to join our humility to thankfulness as Our Lady did. Thankfulness reminds us that, yes, we have received gifts and blessings from the Lord. Humility reminds us that, if we have received these from the Lord, we cannot boast as if we have not received them (cf. 1 Cor. 4:7).
May I recommend that we all commit this verse to memory, in Latin, English or both, and say daily as often as needed. It will help us to keep our “hat size” in check. “Non nobis, non nobis, Domine…Not to us, not to us, O Lord, but to your name give the glory” (Psalm 115:1).