Thoughts for June 11 from Fr Willie Doyle

The Third Degree of Humility.

1. Accepto. I will receive with joy all unpleasant things which I must bear : (a) pain, sickness, heat, cold, food; (b) house, employment, rules, customs; (c) trials of religious life, companions; (d) reprimands, humiliations; (e) anything which is a cross.

2. Volo et desidero. I will wish and desire that these things may happen to me, that so I may resemble my Jesus more.

3. Eligo. Wtih all my might I will strive every day agere contra in omnibus: (a) against my faults; (b) against my my own will; (c) against my ease and comfort; (d) against the desires of the body; (e) against my habit and inclination of performing my duties negligently and without fervour.

COMMENT: Today’s text from Fr Doyle comes from his notes on the Long Retreat in the autumn of 1907. This retreat was to have a profound influence on his life; everything that came after, including his sacrifices in the trenches, seem to be fruits of the seeds that were planted on this retreat.

In these notes, Fr Doyle reflects on St Ignatius’ meditation on the three types of humility, which is placed during the second week of the Spiritual Exercises. The full text from Ignatius is as follows:

Third Humility. The third is most perfect Humility; namely, when…in order to imitate and be more actually like Christ our Lord, I want to choose poverty with Christ poor rather than riches, opprobium with Christ replete with it rather than honours; and to desire to be rated as worthless and a fool for Christ, Who first was held as such, rather than wise or prudent in this world.

Fr Doyle shows us a way in which we can attempt to reach this degree of humility, namely by acting agere contra in omnibus – against myself in all things. This was the basis of Fr Doyle’s spirituality, and it is crucial to remember that the hero of the trenches was not born that way – he made himself strong and courageous, with God’s grace, by acting against himself in small things every day.

The benefits of this spiritual discipline can help us not only in spiritual terms but in human terms as well. The Jesuit priest, Fr Walter Ciszek, who suffered greatly for the faith in prison camps in Siberia and elsewhere in Russia, reports in his own memoirs that it was his own daily discipline in denying himself that helped him prepare for long years of deprivation, solitude and hard work.

The Western world continues to face economic difficulties. At the moment there are negotiations underway to assist Greece with another so-called “bailout”. If these talks fail, or if the bailout fails, there it is possible that there could be serious consequences for much of the Western world. There are those who go so far as to suggest that the knock-on effects of a Greek debt default could lead to significant economic upheaval throughout the Western (and indeed, global) economic system. Hopefully this does not happen. If it did come to pass, many people would suffer. But those who would survive best are those who have already trained themselves to be frugal and to act against themselves in all things. In some ways, the richest person in the world is the one who needs the least, the one who is not attached to material things and to comfort. It obviously takes time to reach this level of detachment, but the main thing is to make a start.

Fr Doyle, Fr Ciszek and so many saints show us in their lives that traditional ascetical practices not only train us for the next world, but they also equip us to face challenges in this life as well.

Fr Walter Ciszek SJ