Lord, please save us from our many desires

The View from the Rectory Window
By Fr. Ken Van Haverbeke
Second of two parts
“You changed my life Father!” she said again. “I will never forget what you said to me after our parish’s mission at Saint John the Baptist. The gentle, yet firm way that you assured me that I was loved by God, was exactly what I needed at that time in my life, and it changed the way I thought about God and about me. Thank you! You are wonderful!”
I was embarrassed. Not only am I not the perfect priest she was exalting about in the parking lot, I really and truly was not the priest she thought I was….I have never given a parish mission at St. John the Baptist parish. I was not the priest who changed her life. That was a different priest. The priest who people regularly get us confused with one another, and rather irritating!
I want to be recognized for what I do. By thinking I am someone else, and even complimenting me for someone else’s gifts, that tells me “You are so un-important, that I don’t even know you! But that other priest, him I know!” Ahh, the foibles of humanity! Yes, we priests are human too!
It was truly irritating once I found out my brother priest never corrected a person, not wanting to embarrass them. Rather when a person complimented him about an article they thought he had written (really written by me), he would simply thank them. Can you imagine! The gall! The humility!
Not me! Nope, I make certain they know who I am, and what I do and don’t do – that was until I began to pray about it. Note: never bring to prayer something you do NOT want the Lord to change. In prayer, two things happened.
First, I found the Litany of Humility, or it found me. This litany is attributed to Rafael Cardinal Merry de Val (1865-1930) who was Cardinal Secretary of State of the Holy See under Pope Saint Pius X. I say “attributed” because there is little evidence to support that he, in fact, was the author. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the author of the Litany of Humility was an unknown person, and that Cardinal Merry de Val got the credit all these years?
The Litany of Humility is a very dangerous prayer. Do not pray it, unless you really mean it. Once you begin to pray it, the Lord seems to provide you many “opportunities” to live it. Here are some of the lines from this litany:
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 forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus…
That others may be esteemed more than I, 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…
After beginning to pray the Litany of Humility the second thing happened in prayer. I began to read in scriptures how mistaken identities happened even with Jesus. King Herod hearing about Jesus thought Jesus was John the Baptist come back to life, Mark 6:14. Or, when Jesus was preaching well into the evening and the people were hungry, Mark 6.
The apostles of Jesus came to him and said he should send the people away to get some food, not realizing that Jesus was capable of not only feeding their souls, but also their bodies.
The ultimate mistaken identity for Jesus was the failure of the people, whom he loved, to recognize his divinity, his love for them. It was such a horrendous mistaken identity, that Jesus was hung on a cross because of it. Yet, Jesus freely took our place, took our identity, and died for us. What a saving action this “mistaken” identity affected.
These two ways of praying changed me. Pride can get the better of all of us, but for Christians proclaiming the Gospel, isn’t it odd that we would struggle with pride? “Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Co. 1:13). Even in the early church, the minister’s pride was attacked by the enemy, thinking the messenger was more important than the message.
I have always relished, when after celebrating a Mass in parish as a substitute, to have parishioners ask me, “Tell us Father, what is your name?” I appreciate this because when I come into a parish to celebrate Mass and offer confessions, I come in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. So if they know who I am or not, they know I am in persona Christi, I come in the person of Christ.
“Oh Father, you changed my life!” “Thank you,” I now respond, “but it really wasn’t me. I’m just God’s instrument.” And then I think, ‘An instrument that looks like at least one other instrument of the Holy Spirit, and probably others!’
Hmm, I continue my thoughts. “Now if my brother priest gets complimented about the good things I do, I wonder if I was more ornery, if he would also get credit for those things too? Hmm.” That might be material for another article!