By Judith Costello
Slowly yet steadily it has been happening …“Good” has become “bad.” According to the ways of the world, the virtues and standards of our faith have been twisted to look ugly and distasteful.
Case in point: “humility.” The saints proclaim this virtue as absolutely necessary. Humility means having an honest perspective on our relationship with God. He is the Infinite, the Creator and the Savior. We are the ones he loves in spite of our sinfulness. A humble attitude counters pride, and replaces it with awe and gratitude for God.
But humility is hardly ever written about in a good way anymore. Instead, the world tells us, “Don’t be a doormat. Don’t be docile. Question all authority. Claim your rights and claim the good life.”
Meanwhile the busy-ness of the world leaves us no time to cultivate a relationship with the Almighty and develop virtue.
It’s a good thing this is not all that’s going on in our world. Fortunately, we can find examples of thriving virtue. And we need to identify these in the face of worldliness.
My friend Dollie is an inspiration. She comes from a family of 12 children. The mother of this clan turned 101 last August. For the past seven years, as Mom’s health declined, the grown children have dedicated themselves to making the sacrifices required so that Mom can live out her last years in her own home.
Although their mom is bedridden and has no teeth, five of the sisters and two brothers come to her home at least one day a week to spend 24 hours with their mom. They bathe her, feed her, entertain her and monitor Mom’s health. This care requires some hard work at times.
It also requires charity, humility and obedience to the fourth commandment. (Honor your father and mother.) The virtue of these family members comes from their love for Mom as well as grace from God which gives them the strength to persevere.
Virtue is defined as a habitual and firm disposition to do the good.
The reason more people don’t do what Dollie and her siblings are doing is that it requires giving up time, experiencing discomforts and interrupting a worldly routine. Yet Dollie never refers to her time with Mom in any other way except as a joyful experience.
“I’m so glad we have this time with Mom. She did so much for us growing up.”
Theologians say this kind of virtue requires grace — heavenly help. It also takes diligent practice so that it becomes a “divine habit.” Once developed, virtue is accompanied by peace.
During a homily to young people in 2007, Pope Benedict emphasized the virtue of humility by saying, “Humility has never been more important than now… Humility represents the very way in which God himself behaves … It’s the result of love’s victory over selfishness.”
To be virtuous really means becoming putty in God’s hands. To allow him to shape us and to do as he desires, rather than as we desire. Such a concept may be contrary to the ways of the world, but it is the message that will transform our world into something better, something beautiful.
(Judith Costello is a freelance writer who grew up in Davenport and now lives in rural New Mexico. Her website is www.thedailychristian.com.)