Three Kinds of Humility

St. Ignatius, like many spiritual masters over the centuries, suggested that humility was a prerequisite for the spiritual life. In his Spiritual Exercises, he described three kinds of humility: To humble myself to total obedience to God. To be ready for honor or dishonor, poverty or wealth, or anything else for God. To desire poverty, dishonor, and even be a fool for God, since Christ was. The last of these, he said, was the most […]

What Was God Calling Me to Do?

“Uh, Mom?” my son said, motioning towards the window of our parked car. Outside the window, uncomfortably close, stood a slight woman, her face lined with age. I rolled down the window. With nary an introduction, the words starting pouring out. Decades ago, she had come from deep in the South. She had worked in the circus, had been a barn hand, a stage hand, a waitress, and a house cleaner. She wanted to know […]

With the “Blessed”

The stench of the mud hut with the tin roof that was home to a woman dying of breast cancer, her two children in torn, dirty clothes, and their cow—that stench will never leave me. After 12 days in the heart of Africa, I found myself almost numb to the poverty. So many seemingly impossible situations. The average life expectancy is 55. The orphans, street children, child wives, AIDS victims, deformed bodies, dirt-floored schools, and […]

A Change of Preposition

A little change of preposition can make a big difference. Imagine that you see a disheveled looking man holding a cardboard sign saying “Hungry, out of work, please help.” You feel the typical internal angst. Shall I ignore and look away? Shall I give money (most likely to make myself feel better)? But somewhere inside you realize that this person is not so very different from you. Perhaps he once had a good paying job and frequented […]

What the Poor Teach the Comfortable

Dean Brackley, SJ, died recently.  He was an American Jesuit who moved to the University of Central America in 1989 shortly after the murders of Jesuits there.  Jim Martin, SJ,  reprints a powerful article he wrote about what the poor can teach us. The middle-class cultures of the North are newcomers to world history and have only existed for about 200 years. We’re not all bad people, we’re just a tiny minority under the common […]