Poor In Spirit

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By Mary Grace Dostalik

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. | Matthew 5:3

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the virtue of humility and what it means to be “poor in spirit.”

It can be discouraging to realize that most will measure your worth according to the standards set by society. Do I appear successful to the world? If the answer is yes, I feel worthy as a person. If the answer is no, it is easy to succumb to the voice of the devil who tells me I am not enough.

So how do we grow in humility in a world where it seems that the recognition you receive is all that matters? How can we grow in humility when we lose sight of what humility even is?

Humility is the realization that you are nothing without God. Humility is forgetting yourself. Humility is surrendering your need for acceptance and recognition.

Oh, but how we as humans yearn for acceptance. I have felt the intense hunger for affirmation keenly. I have felt useless and unworthy when I am not recognized. I have felt as if I am nothing because no one has noticed me. However, even when I am recognized, the satisfaction it brings is fleeting. It can only satisfy for so long. True fulfillment can only come from Christ.

Especially as women, when it seems we are constantly being judged for how we look and how we behave, it is easy to become addicted to the need for outside reinforcement. I have caught myself wishing to perform dramatic acts of penitence not for the sake of the action itself but for the sake of receiving attention from others.

In St. Faustina’s Diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, St. Faustina records Christ telling her to penetrate into the spirit of My poverty and arrange everything in such a way that the most destitute will have no reason to envy you. I find pleasure, not in large buildings and magnificent structures, but in a pure and humble heart.

It is not necessary for each one of us to perform the most dangerous and visible acts of holiness. We are not all called to such actions. What we do need to do is forsake all else in favor of Christ. We must perform the actions we are individually called to humbly and joyfully. Outward displays mean nothing without inward humility.

Fr. Jacques Philippe in his recent work on the Beatitudes, The Eight Doors of the Kingdom, describes being poor of heart as “knowing how to abandon oneself, trustingly allowing oneself to be led along the unforeseen pathways of life, and saying yes to reality.”

What can we do to grow in humility? Some simple ideas include:

Humble Adoration

Try spending some time in prayer without mentioning yourself or your own desires. Simply tell Christ how much you love Him.

Ask for Acceptance

Say the Litany of Humility frequently and accept your own role in this world. Accept that others may receive more recognition than you. Accept that your efforts may go unnoticed.

Daily Sacrifice

Each day, offer up small humiliations. Instead of complaining, say a prayer. Instead of going through the motions of housework, do it joyfully. When someone says something hurtful to you, thank God for the humiliation and use the opportunity to grow.

It is so difficult to find the strength to rely solely on God. Yet being poor of heart means completely giving all that you have and all that you are to Him. This is what we are called to do. As St. Therese of Liseuex writes, we experience such great peace when we’re totally poor, when we depend upon no one except God.