Litany of Humility

posted 9/5/20

Rafael Merry del Val was a very influential figure in the Catholic Church in the beginning of the 20th Century. Born into a family of Spanish nobility in 1865, he spent much of his childhood in England before moving to Rome to study for the priesthood, to which he was ordained in 1888.  From there he began serving in the Vatican’s diplomatic service, rising to the position of Secretary of State at the age of 38, an office that led to his being named a Cardinal by Pope Pius X in 1903.  He later served as the Secretary of the Holy Office (now called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), another very important position in the Church.  Cardinal Merry del Val was by all accounts a very successful churchman, who knew how to work the levers of power and influence.  For all his accomplishments, however, he is most closely associated with a prayer called “The Litany of Humility,” which he either authored or popularized.  The litany is as follows (the bold-faced phrases being repeated at the end of each line): 

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me. 

From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…  

From the desire of being extolled…  

From the desire of being honored… 

From the desire of being praised… 

From the desire of being preferred to others… 

From the desire of being consulted… 

From the desire of being approved… 

From the fear of being humiliated… 

From the fear of being despised… 

From the fear of suffering rebukes…  

From the fear of being calumniated…  

From the fear of being forgotten… 

From the fear of being ridiculed… 

From the fear of being wronged… 

From the fear of being suspected… 

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. 

That others may be esteemed more than I… 

That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease … 
That others may be chosen and I set aside … 
That others may be praised and I unnoticed … 
That others may be preferred to me in everything… 
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should… 

It is an extraordinary prayer.  That it is associated with a man who wielded so much temporal power and influence in the Church is remarkable. It reveals the heart of someone who was very honest with himself and who desired the freedom that comes with true humility. In this regard, Merry del Val is a very good example to all of us who find it a challenging prayer to offer – and to mean. 

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