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How to Pray the Litany of Humility

litany of humility

No one reaches the kingdom of Heaven except through humility. -St. Augustine

 

When I think of the holiest people I know, “humble” is one of the first words I’d use to describe them. As you befriend the Saints and learn about the people they were and the lives they led, I think we’d all agree that a unifying characteristic in saintliness is humility. And of course, throughout the Bible, humility is exalted as a virtue to strive for, such as in Ephesians 4:2: “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Maybe it’s the fact that humility is so important on our path to holiness that it’s such a difficult virtue to cultivate. At least that’s been my experience. I often find myself praying to be more humble…and if I’m honest, what I really want is to just magically wake up one day a super humble person, rather than do the hard, soul-scrubbing work of getting there.

I was in Confession about a year ago and was admitting my ongoing struggle with pride, vanity, and envy. I relayed how it feels like I never make any headway in any of those areas, despite praying about them often. The priest suggested I look up a prayer called the Litany of Humility and commit to praying it regularly.

That suggestion forever impacted my walk with God.

The Litany of Humility

This prayer was composed by Rafael Cardinal Merry de Val, the Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X in 1963. It is a beautiful prayer that goes so much deeper than the simple, “Dear Jesus, please help me to be more humble,” that was my default at the time. At first glance, it is a hard prayer to pray. It hits right at the heart of so many of my insecurities that keep me tethered to pride, vanity, and often envy.

The first few times I prayed through the Litany, I felt really confused and frustrated. In just the third line, you’re praying that Jesus delivers you from a desire of being loved! Aren’t we supposed to desire love?!

The more I prayed the Litany, however, the more I came to understand the whole point of it. I think of another St. Augustine quote: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

When we look for love, validation, admiration, honor, praise, and accolades from man and when we place our worth and value in those, we’re settling for a less-than existence than what we were created for. Because we were lovingly created by the God of the universe, nothing will satisfy our hearts except true communion with Him.

To me, this is what the Litany of Humility is all about. It hits on so many areas that keep us tethered to the opinion of man which hinder us from full communion with God.

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Praying the Litany of Humility

If you, too, desire to grow in the virtue of humility (hello, probably everyone), here are three tips to incorporating this prayer into your regular routine!

1. Make it consistent.

This is my top tip. Praying this Litany every single day has made the biggest impact on my walk with Jesus. Saying the words day-in and day-out has had a profound impact.

I recommend a tool I like to call “stacking the habits” to get this done and make it consistent. The idea is simply to “stack” this prayer with something else you’re already doing on a regular basis. For instance, play an audio version of the prayer every morning as you brush your teeth. Or keep it written out in the Notes app and pray it out loud as you wait for your coffee to brew. Think through your day and find something you’re already doing consistently every single day, and add this prayer alongside a habit that already exists!

2. Pray throughout the day.

To truly enter deeply into this prayer, consider praying it throughout the day, focusing on a couple lines each hour. There are 24 lines in the prayer, so you could focus on three lines per hour over an eight hour day! I like to pray the lines a few times throughout the hour, really absorbing and digesting the meaning of the words.

3. Pray throughout the month.

This is another favorite way to pray this beautiful Litany! Focus on one line per day for about a month. You can meditate on Bible verses that coincide with the line, or ask God to show you specific areas in your life where you need to grow based around that line.

For example, for the line that reads, “from the fear of being despised,” you might meditate on John 15:18-19:

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

 

Writing Your Own Litany of Humility

Another powerful way to pray this Litany is to pen your own with the original as your guide, or simply add on a few extra lines for areas you particularly struggle with. There is no rule against writing your own prayers; in fact, this can be a very profound way to take your prayer to a deeper level. Considering jotting down your own “litany of humility” in your journal or Notes app, making it personal to your own journey and struggles!

Here’s an excerpt from one I wrote for myself:

From the desire to “grow my following” … deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being taken for granted … deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of having no time for myself … deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of what motherhood demands … deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being irrelevant … deliver me, Jesus.

 

The Purpose of the Litany of Humility

The point of this Litany, whether you pray the original or write your own, is to be delivered of our own selfish desires, reliance on self, distorted sense of self-importance, and fear of sacrificing our own comfort for the sake of another.

To be delivered of such vices is to be on our way to living in the world but not “of” it. To be delivered of such vices is a crucial step on our journey of sanctification.

Do you pray the Litany of Humility? Have a favorite quote from the Saints on the virtue of humility? Share in the comments and let’s all grow in this virtue together!

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Valerie Keinsley is a wife to a police officer and mama to two little ones living in central Indiana, where she and her husband are currently doing a massive renovation of their 116-year-old home. She loves WWII novels, decaf chai lattes, and trying to keep houseplants alive. She is striving to find and name beauty in the midst of the mundane, and loves to share her “good lists” on instagram. You can find out more about her here.

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3 Comments

  • Reply
    Mary Alice Tinari
    September 12, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    Is there a link to the Litany of Humilty?

  • Reply
    Alicia Potvin
    September 13, 2019 at 7:38 am

    The Litany of Humilty is my most favourite. I am still working on saying it daily but I do say it often and I say my own when I am at a stop light or even driving along. Sometimes though when a moment happens to practise humilty I find I have to stop and remind myself that I did ask for this. Especially at times when gathered with people at our church not jumping in to tell of something I am doing to do the ‘see how good I am doing’ I have to remember to keep it zipped and listen to others instead. (Very tough one I am working on)

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