After the pope finished, he stood and walked from behind his desk. He knelt in front of the young priest and said, "Now, will you hear my confession?"
Fr. James Farfaglia likes a definition from St. Teresa of Avila: She said that humility is living in the truth ("andar en la verdad").
This makes sense. If we are pompous, we are not living in the truth. If we see others as "less than," we are not living in the truth. And if we believe ourselves to be horrid and ugly and unlovable, we are not living in the truth.
If humility is the virtue, pride is the vice. When we act pridefully, we place ourselves in higher esteem than others. We believe some tasks are simply beneath us, and that we are not meant to serve other people.
Humility, like any virtue, must be cultivated. It does not come naturally. We need to pray that we are humble, asking God to give us the grace we need to possess the humility of Christ. Christ washed the feet of his disciples. He welcomed children, telling his followers they needed to be like them in order to gain Heaven. Ultimately, the humility of Christ led Him to the Cross.
Of course, when we pray, God answers those prayers. If we pray for humility, not only will He grant us humility, He will give us circumstances to practice and grow in humility.
As the Bard would say: there's the rub.
A couple of weeks ago, I accepted a job, ending my 3-1/2 month of being jobless. I prayed, and it seemed like a good move. Sure, there were a few hiccups, but no job or organization is perfect.
It did not go well. Not well at all.
I had been told my job would be one set of responsibilities by the owner. Just after she hired me, she left for a 3 week trip for work. I was thus left to be trained by a manager that I had not met.
The manager seemed to have a completely different view of what my responsibilities were meant to be. Was this poor communication or bait and switch? I didn't know, and I had no way of contacting the owner, who was literally half way around the world.
There was a steep learning curve. I'll admit, I had some trouble learning things. There were many details, all important. However, I thought I was doing pretty well. My manager did not. She told me I was not learning quickly enough and was asking too many questions.
I was a bit baffled. I'd never had a job where asking questions was considered troubling. The manager, it appeared, had done her job and it was done. Any further questions seemed to signify moral failure on my part.
I was getting more and more uncomfortable, and she was getting more and more frustrated. Finally, they "made an executive decision," deciding "this was not working out."
I nearly blurted out: "Thank God!" Of course, it still stings. It feels as if I can't do anything right. In fact, the only thing I seem to be good at is losing jobs.
Yes, it is humbling. It is not comfortable. It is not easy. It is not fun. Yet, God has His reasons, and I must trust Him, despite how awful it feels. If I want to be more and more virtuous, I have to gratefully accept this lesson.
I'd rather kick and scream and suggest that this was all the manager's fault. Yes, there were clearly problems on the part of the employer. But I have to accept responsibility for my own issues. I am not better than, more than, holier than. Nope, I'm the same old sinful soul that has been praying for the perfect job, the place where I can really shine.
Humble pie is not shiny. It does not taste good. It's not bad either. It just is: sort of like oatmeal. It nourishes and fills one up, but no one is excited about it.
So pass me the fork and I'll eat my humble pie. The Chef who prepared it knows that it is just what I need.