Several years ago, I got a tour of the headquarters for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, DC. Located near the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and near the campus of the Catholic University of America, it is the place that is central to the conference of Bishops who decide general Catholic policy for the United States. Remember, this also includes the territories from St. John’s Virgin Islands to Guam.
If there is one thing that the building speaks, which I understand was built into the design, it is that the leaders of the of the Catholic Church in the US are here and they have something to say to the leaders of the free world.
However, it is many years later and the Church has been in a deep crisis since 2002, I am not sure people are so apt to listen.
I am not being insulting to the bishops, I am making a point which we can find in today’s gospel.
Jesus warns those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
I think we are watching and have been watching some humbling being done by God to His Catholic Church here in the United States. That is a good thing, however.
When we are humbled before the Lord we learn to listen to Him. In fact, being humbled is a form of discipline where the Lord is correcting those whom He loves. We can truly say that the Church is undergoing a correction here in the United States and in the world.
Yet, Jesus also taught blessed are the meek for they will inherit the world.
Those and that includes all of us who humble themselves before the Lord will do great things in his name for it is He who will work through us. However, if we decide that we are representatives for God and everyone must listen to us, we better prepare ourselves to either be speaking God’s word perfectly or expect the Lord to say to us: “What are you doing?” I think the Church in the United States is encountering the: What are you doing?” phase.
So, the Lord is calling us to be humble before him so that he can show us how to speak for Him.
Humility is the most important of the virtues. It is not by the way walking around and acting like you are the worst of all human beings or you are the least of all creatures. Humility is the act of understanding who we are.
St. Francis of Assisi put it very well when we prayed: Who are you Oh Lord, and who am I.
The humble person will seek to be what Christ creates him to be and nothing more but nothing less.
The person will plumb the depths of all the gifts that Christ gave to each of us and offer them up to the Lord that He may help us to use them in the way that most glorify His name. This will lead him to glorify us in return.
Probably one of the most powerful examples of this very dynamic can be found in the lives of some of our most powerful serious Catholics in our own world.
My favorite is the case of Danny Thomas. He is the founder of the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. That is the fruit of a deal he made with St Jude.
He was starting out as a comedian and ended up walking into a Church and praying to St. Jude. He asked him to bless his career and he would do something for Him. Danny Thomas became not only a great comedian at one time he and Sheldon Leonard—who was Nick the bartender in It’s a Wonderful Life—became the number one TV producers with such credits to their name as the Andy Griffith Show, Dick Van Dyke Show and Gomer Pyle. He is the one who selected Mary Tyler Moore to be Laura Petrie. Yet, his greatest legacy is St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. I am sure you have seen the ads know and all the work they do. You have probably seen his daughter Marlo speaking on behalf of St. Jude’s. All this began with humbly approaching the Lord through St. Jude and asking him to bless his show business career.
Speaking of which another Catholic—Frank Capra had a movie flop that was his greatest triumph. It was It’s A Wonderful Life which is a powerful story of how everyone’s life is important. John Barrymore does such an excellent job as Mr. Potter, its intense. If you have noticed this Alfalfa is in the movie as well. He is one of the people who opens the swimming pool.
As popular as this movie is today—with the season when it is shown a short distance away—it did poorly at the box office. Further, this led to it being so disregarded that the copyright was not renewed. So now you have this movie moved into the public domain that became so popular partially because it had become so panned at one time. One of the reasons it was aired so much in television was because it was in the public domain.
The movie industry became so shocked by how popular this public domain movie had become they worked to find some way to renew the copyright. They found that the music in the movie was still under copyright and it got moved out of the public domain. I never said Hollywood believed in humility. Now it is one of the most important American Movies and tells the great message of how important every life is and the importance of friends. Frank Capra was excited how television gave success to the movie that he loves so much. It is a very Catholic movie.
Currently, the Church is being humbled, but when all is said and done, God will bring his power to the Church because He humbles us only to do His great work through us.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted. The more we humble ourselves before Our Lord, the more He will do through us, even what we never expected.
photo: James Tissot Brooklyn Museum Public Domain