It was 1995, I was an emotional wreck because of my divorce, and I was about to tell a priest I really liked that he was completely out of his mind.
It had been three years since my divorce and I just couldn’t seem to move past the intense pain. I had tried dating and new relationships to kind of snap me out of my funk, but I felt only more hurt, and definitely not healed.
A friend referred me to Father Peter and he agreed to counsel me through the painful process of healing. Each time we met, he gave me homework to complete before our next meeting. But, his request to complete my homework this time was definitely a tough one to obey. In fact, I didn’t obey. I needed to know why in the world he would ask me to pray an absolutely ridiculous prayer like the Litany of Humility every day.
I had never heard of it before, but I was able to find a copy at the local Catholic book store. The first time I read through the prayer, I thought it was a joke! I just couldn’t believe what I was reading.
From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, Jesus…
From the desire of being loved, deliver me, Jesus…
This is supposed to be my prayer? Seriously?
From the fear of being despised, deliver me, Jesus…
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me, Jesus…
From the fear of being wronged, deliver me, Jesus…
I was perplexed. After all, I was trying to heal from the single most devastating experience of my life, the betrayal and abandonment of my spouse. I didn’t want to be more despised, more forgotten and suffer more wrongs than I already had. Moreover, these words contradicted every piece of advice I had gotten up to this point on how to heal those wounds.
“There’s someone better out there for you,” was something I heard often, and, “It’s time to reinvent yourself and go out there and get what you want in life” was advice given by a trusted confidant. My mind wandered back to one particular counselor I saw who told me, “You’re young and you have your whole life ahead of you. Stop being sad and go out and find someone who will treat you like the princess you are!”
No, something was wrong with this prayer. I need to repair my self esteem and sense of worthlessness, not pray that it be taken away! I don’t think I read through even half of it because I was so incensed. And now, I wanted answers.
A Heart Full of Clutter
Father Peter explained that in praying this prayer, I was not asking for those things to actually happen to me, but instead, I was letting go of two major obstacles that were standing in my way of healing: fear and disordered desires.
You see, I had been led to believe the right way to address the pain of being divorced was to indulge myself and focus on “me.” I had been convinced that through working to elevate my level of self-esteem in this manner, I would find the peace and healing I sought. But, how could I ever find the peace I was seeking if I was afraid? And if my heart was cluttered with anger, resentment, a desire for retribution, and self-pity, what resources did I have to draw from? Feeding my ego might feel good in the moment, but the return on that investment is emptiness. I needed to let go of my emotional fears and find my self-worth in God, the One who loved me like no other and who would provide me with all the strength, healing and forgiveness I needed.
That made so much sense, I decided to give it a try. The first few times I prayed this powerful litany, I was reluctant. But as I continued to pray it day after day, it started to make a lot of sense.
I realized that, at it’s root, humility holds the key to healing from hurt because humility is the basis of charity. I can’t really heal, unless I forgive. I can’t forgive, if I don’t have charity. When I’m hurt, I can’t find that charity I need to forgive unless I have humility. It is humility that nurtures the seed of charity and prompts me to forgive.
“Humility is to charity what the foundation is to a building” (Fr. Gabriel of Mary Magdalene, O.C.D., Divine Intimacy, pg. 312)
I share this story with you because you may be one of the many people who struggle with trying to heal from their divorces, but often find themselves stuck and unable to move forward. They believe the rhetoric that comes from, often times, well-meaning people who would like to see them find happiness, but miss the fact that focusing inward – not outward – and working on your interior life is essential to healing a broken heart.
As we begin our Lenten journey, I invite you to pray the Litany of Humility with me each day and witness the amazing transformation that can take place in your heart.