The Litany of Humility Prayer

The Toughest Prayer - The Litany of Humility

I was first introduced to the Litany of Humility from a Priest at the Newman Center during spiritual direction. We prayed the Litany together and as we were ending our meeting, he look intently at me and said "Good luck with what ever happens to you the rest of the day."

Yikes. This prayer has consequences.

When asked what the three most important elements of the spiritual life are, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a 12th century Monk and extensive thinker on the virtue sitting opposite of pride, was once asked to name the three most important elements of spiritual life. St. Bernard meekly responded, “humility, humility, humility.”



Why Pray this Prayer?

I would advocate that a spiritual life of any depth is unattainable without first setting your course down the wonderful challenging road of developing the virtue of humility. Jesus himself stresses in the Gospel of Matthew, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” A ordered recognition of who you are, who your brothers and sisters are, and who God is the first step to growing in faith.

But learning the virtue of humility, and going through a process of peeling back our dirty pride is not an easy or comfortable task. The road to humility is long - about the length human life for most of us. But we do have a tool called the Litany of Humility to point us in the right direction.



What is the Litany of Humility?

The Litany of Humility is a wonderful, challenging prayer. The authorship of the Litany of Humility is often credited to Cardinal Merry del Val, who was the Secretary of State for Pope Pius X in the early 19th century. The Cardinal was known to pray the Litany of Humility every day after Mass. Christians have used litanies (which just series of 'asks') for the life of the Church. The Litany of Humility has only grown in popularity and renown in the recent years.

The prayer is not complicated or confusing to recite, but this is no easy endeavor. In it's simplest form the Litany of Humility is an ask to God, "Lord please make me humble." The Litany of Humility brings you face to face with the worldly, comfortable, sources of our pride. “That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.” This is just one of the striking, vivid petitions to God, asking him to take away the fuel to our pride. It's a tough statement to read, let alone pray.

Just read through the full prayer below, and I think you'll understand why the Litany of Humility is one tough sucker.



The Litany of Humility

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being extolled, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being honored, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being praised, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred to others, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being consulted, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being approved, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being despised, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of suffering rebukes, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being calumniated, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being wronged, deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being suspected, deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be praised and I go unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.



Free printable PDF "Litany of Humility"

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What Praying the Litany Can Do

I feel like I'm getting hit with a 2X4 when I read this prayer. Each line feels like its putting pressure on my tender, weak, and silly worldly desires. I think I could take any single line in the Litany, and pray on it for a week. This prayer forces my eyes to look up to heaven and rails against the silly, selfish motivations I walk around with most of the day.

But the real reason this is such a challenging prayer, is that it's not simple meant to be a personal reflection on your pride. The Litany of Humility is a series of 'asks' - we are asking out Lord to make us radically humble.

We are asking, that in the eyes of the world, that we might be unnoticed, be set aside, to be decreased, to be humiliated, to be rebuked, to be suspected, to be wronged, to be forgotten. And when we ask, God acts.

To pray intentionally for these things is a radical form of humility. That's why this is such a tough prayer.

But, I want Jesus. I want to learn to be a humble follower of him. I want to walk down that road of humility to him. And I pray that God creates that same desire in your heart.

So be daring! Dare to pray the wonderfully challenging Litany of Humility.

But let this post serve as a warning.

When you pray the Litany of Humility with real intention, expect God to act.

Expect the Lord to bring about the sometimes painful, but always good opportunity to learn humility.

Expect to eat some humble pie real quick. And don't forget to ask Mary for help too. 

 

Brennan 

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