The Ten Evangelical Virtues of Mary

Third Virtue: Humility

Seeing as God Does

by Patrick Lorenz

Some wise person said that humility is simply seeing things as they really are. In other words, just knowing and living according to reality. This sounds simple, but we often distort reality to fit our own ideas.

Many people have the false notion of humility that it involves some sort of self-condemning. They confuse it with the word humiliation. They're not the same thing. That's not to say that coming to understand reality might not be a humiliation for us. Sometimes it is, but it doesn't have to be.

The Lord's Servant

In regards to Mary's humility, the Marians' Rule states: "In order to please God, she thought, spoke, and acted in the following way: She was troubled and made fearful by Gabriel's praise, and replied with humility saying: 'I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say' "(page 36).

So Mary recognized the reality that she didn't deserve to be addressed with "Hail, Mary". It was a gift of God that she became the Mother of God, not because she was such a great person. She was able to be the Mother of God because she was immaculately conceived — meaning she was born preserved from original sin, and only God can do that for someone. She was great because God made her great, not because of her own power. The fact that she knew this made her a humble person.

True Humility

On the other hand, a truly humble person also accepts that God wants to do something great through her. Many people might think it's humility to say, "God wouldn't do anything great through me. I'm just a worm, incapable of any good." That's not humility. That's self-condemning and having little faith — and neither one of those does much for the kingdom of God. We must accept the fact that God can do great things through us, if we have faith and give Him a chance.

Knowing God's Power

Accepting that God could work a miracle through you is just as much humility because that's accepting the reality of God's almighty power. When you have a correct view of God and His relationship with you, then the balance will be struck between seeing yourself as worthless, and seeing yourself capable of limitless perfection.

Cultivating Humility

So how do we cultivate this important virtue of humility? Some of the best ways are frequent examination of conscience and confession of sin. These are good ways to cultivate humility because they help us to understand ourselves better. They force us to look at ourselves in a more critical — but healthy — light.

Without examination of conscience, it's like we're trying to get dressed in the dark: We end up at work (or wherever we go) with two different-colored socks on our feet. Without examining our consciences, we are in the dark about who we really are, and we might end up seeing ourselves in two alternate extremes: as perfect or as worthless, depending on how our day is going.

Not Just the Mistakes

Without this examination, we're not acknowledging our sinfulness and our mistakes. If we don't take an honest look at those things, we'll never get to a stage of true humility. However, we should also be aware that examination of conscience doesn't have to focus only on the mistakes we make. Every night we can give time to our mistakes, but also give time to the good things we've done. If we don't think about the good things we do, we could start focusing too much on the negative things. We need to keep that balance.

Mary as Our Model

Our Lady revealed her humble understanding of reality when she sang her song, the Magnificat. (See Luke 1:46-55.) In one part of it, Mary says, "The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name." Her whole song is all about how glorious God is, and all the great things He's done for her. May we have a similar humble outlook on our lives, realizing the great things that God has done for us and giving Him due praise.