The Litany of Humility

O Jesus meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I,
   Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I,
   Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase, and I may decrease,
   Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
   Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
   Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
   Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I become as holy as I should,
   Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Written by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val.

Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val

Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930) was apparently accustomed to recite this prayer daily after his celebration of Mass. He was also a composer, and is even mentioned in Henry Morton Robinson’s famous (or, at least it used to be, among Roman Catholics) fictional book The Cardinal. I found this extraordinary litany in the beautifully produced little Latin-English Roman Catholic Daily Missal produced by Angelus Press, based upon the 1962 Missale Romanum. These missals have become quite popular again, with Pope Benedict XVI having derestricted celebration of the Tridentine Latin Mass. The above litany is a fine example of the kind of apatheia (dispassion, or better, the mastery of one’s passions) that is often found so strikingly in the Desert Fathers, and among many others of the ancient Church Fathers and the lives of Saints, and which is still emphasized in Eastern Orthodox asceticism. In the modern world, it seems foolish, or at the very least counterproductive, to pray for such things. But such is the grand ship of the Church, whose mooring is in another world, that of the eternal Kingdom of God.

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17 Responses to The Litany of Humility

  1. Pingback: Pseudo-Polymath » Blog Archive » Morning Highlights

  2. Here’s more on Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val, an article from the Our Sunday Visitor paper, by friend Mike Aquilina:

    Surely Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val found it hard to be humble. Humility is elusive to any member of the fallen human race. But his case was extraordinary even among the great success stories.

    He was born in London in 1865, his bloodline the confluence of several noble lines. Generations back, on his father’s side, were the great medieval knight Laval as well as a canonized saint, Dominguito del Val. Rafael’s father was a diplomat. His mother’s family, which had only recently settled in England, made a fortune in banking.

    Early in life, Rafael discerned a vocation to the priesthood, though many of his friends thought he was better suited for the military. The boy excelled in sports: cricket, soccer, fencing, swimming, horseback, billiards and tennis. He was master of many languages, a bright student, and an accomplished musician.

    But overriding all these gifts was a hunger for souls. He especially desired that his native England should return to the Catholic faith.

    At 18, when he entered the seminary, he told his father, “For God, one should and one can sacrifice everything.”

    Before long, he would know just how much one could be called to sacrifice.

    At age 20, he traveled to Rome to study and began his stay by accompanying his father to a papal audience. Pope Leo XIII, questioning the young man about his studies, took an immediate liking to him. By the end of the audience, the pope commanded that Rafael leave the college in which he was enrolled and sign on at the Academy for Noble Ecclesiastics, the training school for the Vatican’s diplomatic corps.

    Pope Leo assured Rafael’s father: “I will be the father of your son.” The pope gave Rafael the title “monsignor,” though he had not yet been ordained a deacon.

    With honors, however, comes the cross, and Rafael surely knew that. Once entering the papal service, he would likely never be permitted to leave. And while life in the Vatican may bestow a measure of prestige and power, it can also be frightfully lonely, beset by enemies on one side and toadies on the other.

    But in obedience he took the pope’s assignment, effectively sacrificing the desire that animated his vocation: to return to England and work for its conversion.

    Msgr. Merry del Val, ordained in 1888, soon became a trusted advisor to the pope. Some across the Atlantic blamed Merry del Val for inciting the pope to take action against what the pontiff called “Americanism,” the tendency to emphasize social activism over supernatural faith.

    And there were other battles. Leo called on his young assistant to investigate the validity of the Anglican priesthood. A party within the Church of England was pressing for reunion with Rome, but many insisted that Rome should officially recognize the Anglican clergy. Msgr. Merry del Val concluded that Anglican orders were invalid, and Pope Leo eventually declared the same. Some of the monsignor’s countrymen who had hoped otherwise blamed him for the pope’s verdict.

    Msgr. Merry del Val completed a doctorate in sacred theology and a degree in canon law. In 1899 Pope Leo named him president of the Academy for Noble Ecclesiastics — and an archbishop — at age 34.

    Though he fulfilled his public duties conscientiously, he kept hardly any social life, taking his meals at the institute or not at all. He used public transportation, lived in spartan quarters and slept on the same hard iron bed from his student days. His workload grew enormous. He confided to a friend: “There are moments when I feel the very life going out of me.”

    His great solace came in the time he spent at a school for boys in one of Rome’s slums. As a young priest, he had been named the school’s spiritual director and, as monsignor, archbishop and cardinal, he visited the school frequently. Merry del Val wrote plays and songs for the boys, taught them to play cricket, preached their retreats, and fostered in them a devotion to the Sacred Heart. They grew to love him. Many would remain his friends till the end of his life.

    Pope Leo died in July 1903 and the cardinals convened in Rome to elect a successor. Archbishop Merry del Val served as secretary of the conclave, and it was he who was charged with the difficult task of persuading the man who was chosen, Cardinal Giuseppe Sarto of Venice, to accept the honor. It was Merry del Val who finally placed the papal zucchetto on the head of Sarto, who chose to rule as Pope Pius X.

    Pius shocked ecclesiastical circles when he named the young archbishop to be his secretary of state. Merry del Val was barely 38. What’s more, he was British, and it had been centuries since a non-Italian had held the post. With the new job came a red hat, and Merry del Val became the youngest cardinal in the world.

    The new pope and his secretary of state were alike in many ways. One biographer emphasized their “identity of viewpoint, of love, zeal, and sacrifice in the service of the Church.”

    They were even more alike in their love for Rome and all it stood for. Notre Dame historian Father Marvin O’Connell observed recently that “There has hardly ever been as attractive a representative as Rafael Merry del Val of that phenomenon . . . called ROMANITA. The Roman ideal . . . gave form and substance to the life of this handsome, cultivated, single-minded man. No one appreciated better than he the grandeur of papal Rome, the magnitude of its spiritual and cultural achievement . . . There could be no higher vocation than upholding, at whatever cost, her prerogatives . . . If this brought him enemies, so be it.”

    And it did. Pope Pius launched a crusade within the Church against the heresy he dubbed “Modernism” — “the synthesis of all heresies.” Theologians charged with the heresy protested that they were only trying find a way to reach modern culture with the gospel. But Pius claimed they went too far in accommodating the culture and compromising core doctrines.

    Those who sympathized with the Modernists spoke scornfully of Merry del Val, thinking him either too influential with the pope in these matters, or too willing an instrument of the papal wrath. The truth is likely that he and the pope shared a revulsion for Modernism along with a belief that the Church was in a state of emergency — the very creed was under siege. A cousin of the cardinal said that doctrinal error caused him “physical pain.”

    Still, excommunication is never an easy order to carry out. Cardinal Merry del Val made his indelible mark in history as he enforced the pope’s policies with dissenting theologians. His actions during the Modernist crisis made him forever a patron saint to some, an archvillain to others.

    He loved Pius X with his whole heart, and was with him as the pontiff breathed his last in 1914. As World War I began, the cardinal found himself tagged as a possible successor to his great mentor. But it was not to be. The new pope, Benedict XV, gave Merry del Val a secondary post in the Holy See, and the cardinal continued as archpriest at St. Peter’s Basilica. His influence diminished.

    In a sense, at the end of his life, he received his first wish: to be a pastor and work for the conversion of souls. At St. Peter’s, he said Mass daily, looked after the poor, instructed converts. He continued his longtime practice of making night trips into nearby neighborhoods to slip envelopes full of money under the doors of needy families. He sold the sapphire out of his episcopal ring for this purpose.

    When he died, suddenly, of appendicitis in 1930, his friends found among his few effects the means of his humility: a well-worn hair shirt, the same old hard iron bed he had slept on as a seminarian, and the Litany of Humility he had composed for his prayer after Mass every day. Cardinal Merry del Val, the man who had everything, was willing to give it all up, till there was nothing left.

    SIDEBAR: Litany of Humility

    O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
    From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.
    That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
    That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
    That in the opinion of the world others may increase and I may decrease,Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
    That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
    That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
    That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
    That others become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

  3. Brother Burn says:

    Whatever happened to the cause for his beatification? Pope Pius XII I think initiated it.

  4. He’s certainly Servant of God Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val, but other than that, I don’t know. If you find out anything else, please do let me know.

  5. Jack D'Emic says:

    I want to add that, while I am going through a dark and
    difficult time of my life, the Litany of Humility, which I say
    every morning, has been an incredible source of inspiration
    and strength for me.

  6. Noreen says:

    This prayer is a terrific way of doing an examination of conscience. Even while I am praying, “From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me Jesus.” I am enjoying and actually thrilling in my heart when I hear that my clients like me better than my co-workers! And you know when I really ask right into the heart of God to delivery me from it and the thought of the coldness of the alternative hits me – I change my mind real quick. Ah ever the sinner.

    • Ardis Fagerholm says:

      Let me share this with you. Today, whilst trying to put music to “The litany of humility”, i decided to take a pause to pray to God to do so in me but it was a struggle. So difficult. That others should be loved more than i?? inside me was screaming “BUT WHAT ABOUT ME!!? That others may be chosen and I set aside” filled my heart with fear. All I could think was “BUT WHAT ABOUT ME? Whose to love ME?And as for “that others be praised and I go unnoticed”!! filled my soul with anguish “How can I live? Where´s for me?? That others may become holier than I, provided that I become as holy as I should” left me thinking “ok, I can agree to that, at least I am getting someting out of it for ME!” Horrible but that was how it was. Nevertheless, I confessed it all, and will just have to see how it turns out. My goodness…mercy.

    • Ardis, keep in mind that the Litany of Humility points the way toward storing up your treasure in heavenly storehouses, “where neither moth nor rust corrupts.” Everything here—everything!—is temporary and will fade away. And the only way to achieve anything toward that other world is to be called by God to do so, and to submit yourself to Him. God the Son didn’t shirk throwing off Divinity itself in order to come here, grub around like us, and then suffer a humiliating and unjust death—all to save us, not to do anything for Himself. That’s humility.

  7. MGRGEORGES FARRESE says:

    Congratulations !
    Cardinal Merry Del Val was a member of the Third Order of the Servites of Mary.
    I am also member of the Third Order of the Servites of Mary…TOSM
    MGRGEORGES FARRESE 2010.08.06 MGRGEORGES@YAHOO.CA

    • Thank you, Monsignor Georges, it’s a pleasure to hear of your connection with Cardinal Merry Del Val and the Third Order of the Servites of Mary! May God grant you many years in wisdom, honor, and rightly teaching the word of truth!

  8. Pingback: The Litany of Humility | Unsettled Christianity

  9. Colette MacNeil says:

    What a delightful article from the Catholic Register. Thank you for it. The “Litany for Humility” is a prayer I cut out to put in my prayer book from somewhere I don’t even remember. I had need to access it recently and try to say it every day. But I agree with your other writers: good heavens, it’s a difficult prayer to sday sincerely.
    P.S.: Anything Mike Aquilina writes is always beautiful, informative, and so very thoughtful.

  10. Fr. John Shedlock says:

    What history presents of Cardinal Merry del Val’s life is not always complete unless one can see with the “eyes of Faith” the inner longings of the heart, mind, and soul of this priest. His contribution to the Catholic Church and to the people he served represent the spiritual qualities and conviction of a good shepherd striving to lead his flock towards the truth of the Cross with authentic humility as did his model, Christ.

  11. Pingback: Modesty Matters – Part I « Puritas Blog

  12. cathy zeliff says:

    I wonder if his cause for canonization has stalled because up in heaven he asked that it not go forward! After all, we do remember him for his Litany of Humility! : )
    Thanks to the person who included the article about him — I wanted to learn more about him and you gave me a shortcut to it. His love for souls is so inspiring!

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