Humility is fast becoming a lost virtue in our society. Who wants to put the mental and emotional effort into downplaying their strengths when the world tells us to speak loudly, be aggressive, and tout our successes as fervently as possible? Humility is seen as a weakness. To be small is to be less.
The Catholic Church, on the other hand, tells us to be little. We are taught to be last, not first. To acknowledge and be grateful for our gifts, use them for the glory of God, yet not take any glory for ourselves. In a Church where God Himself diminished His greatness enough to be our food, rarely is anyone called to make themselves a superstar.
A note: I received an email from a reader who thanked me for not excluding her because she’s atheist. I’m humbled again by her kind words, and I’m pleased that folks don’t feel excluded here. I’m going to be Catholic and motivated by God, and I’m going to share my faith, but I’m certainly not going to judge anyone for theirs. I’m happy to remind people who don’t share my beliefs that it won’t hurt my feelings if they skip over the Mary and Martha Moments.
The Little Way
St. Therese of Liseux made her “Little Way” popular by teaching us to do everything for love of God, even the little things like sweeping. Our daily duties can be used by God to change the world if we do them in the right spirit. When Christ said we must be like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, one small slice of that teaching includes letting go of our complexity. Children are simple. They have simple needs, simple joys, and simple pursuits. We would do well as a culture to seek a return to the simplicity and wonder of childhood.
The Little House
As a parent, I’ve found it helpful to my own faith that I have to distill some complex teachings down to what a 2-year-old can understand. I call the Tabernacle Jesus’s “Little House”. Jesus is truly present there. It is where He “lives” in a sense, while He waits for us to come visit Him. I like to narrate what the priest is doing during Mass. “See, he’s taking Jesus back to His Little House…”
This is how I used to describe it to my third graders when I took them into the church to “practice Mass” at the beginning of the school year:
This may look a little like a movie theater or a football game, but when we enter, we have to make sure we’re not treating it like we’re an audience there. We’re in God’s house. When we enter, we tell Him hello. We give Him our attention before we sit down.
Why do we genuflect on one knee? It makes us smaller. We are saying with our bodies, “I am small because You are BIG, Lord.” We are giving him respect and being humble ourselves.
We make sure we genuflect toward the tabernacle, Jesus’s Little House, not toward our pew or a random spot. It’s important to find Jesus when we’re coming to visit Him and when we’re leaving. We say, “Good morning Jesus, I love you. Teach me today,” and “Good bye Lord, please come with me as I leave. I love you!”
I don’t know how theologically sound that is, but it’s what the Holy Spirit inspired me to say at the time.
The Little Children
When you enter a new church, find the Tabernacle. Greet the Christ. Honor Him by your humble genuflection and acknowledge that not only is He present, but He is the Host of the gathering/household.
Teach this to your children as well. It gives me no greater joy than to whisper to my kids at the consecration: “Look, there’s Jesus!” I think it’s just lovely that my son knew the word “Tabernacle” when he was three, and that my 18-month-old genuflects when we enter and exit the pew.
Share the little-ness of Jesus in the Eucharist with your little children, and allow their innocence to remind you to be more like a little child, trusting in Him to allow ourselves to become simpler.
Please see the beginning of the Eucharist series if you’ve missed any.
You may also like these Mary and Martha Moments:
- Capturing Kitchen Prayer Moments
- Trust in the Promise of Your Meal Blessing
- Accept the Baby Steps
- Soul First, Body Second
Photo source from the St. Therese calendar.
Please also visit Finer Things Friday at Amy’s Finer Things.