St. Benedict’s 12 Degrees of Humility: The Second Degree

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St. Benedict of Nursia

St. Benedict of Nursia

Last month we began looking at St. Benedict’s 12 Degrees of Humility that are found in the Benedictine Rule.  I need to make a correction.  I originally identified these 12 levels as steps, but St. Benedict actually calls them “degrees.”  Each is truly a degree, building upon the previous degree, that when learned and established in our everyday lives will help us to become more like Christ in His humility as well as His Mother, Mary, in her fiat.

We have already examined Degree 1, Fear of the Lord, (http://catholicmom.com/2013/09/14/st-benedicts-12-steps-of-humility/) and in review remember that St Benedict instructed us to remember that God is always present.  He sees not only everything we do and hears everything we say, but He also knows our every thought.  Realizing (and remembering) this first degree helps us to gain control of our thoughts, words, and actions.  But it should also give us comfort in knowing we are never alone in any situation.  Now let’s look at the second degree.

The Second Degree:  “That a person not love his own will nor take pleasure in satisfying his desires, but model his actions on the saying of the Lord, “I have come not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent me” (John 6:38).  It is written also, “Self-will has its punishment, but constraint wins a crown,””  (The Rule of St. Benedict).

In a fast-paced world with millions of activities to keep on track, this degree becomes challenging.  St. Benedict tells us that every choice we make, even the simple ones like which TV show do we watch tonight, must be guiding by first seeking God’s will.  (Meaning, there are probably few TV shows from which to choose.)  Did that last statement ruffle your feathers a bit?  If so, that may be an area to stop and examine, do I really let God be God in my life, in every aspect?  This degree of humility really can challenge us to see just how much we do invite God into our daily lives.

As women, we have the Blessed Mother as our example for just how to grow in this degree.  Her fiat, let it be done, shows us just how receptive we are called to be.  Sure it often easier to choose the less beneficial choice because the holier, and therefore more beneficial choice, might cause conflict.  But if we are to grow in our relationship with Mary’s Son, Christ Jesus, we must be willing to deal with conflict.  Most often times that conflict is only within ourselves more so than with others.

I used to tell my children that they should rely so comfortably on the Holy Spirit that they could open their closet door in the mornings, ask Him what they should wear that day, and believe that He would direct them.  Our ultimate goal in every decision we make, St. Benedict tells us, is to seek only God’s will.  He is our Heavenly Father that wants only what is best for us.  Another area of life we attempted to carry out this degree of humility is in aiding our children to determine their vocation and profession.  God gave each and every one of us certain talents and gifts through the Holy Spirit.  It would make sense that these gifts and talents were given for a purpose.  A person’s vocation and/or profession are not always supposed to be easy, but God’s will does always bring joy.  So it would follow that if our children are called to a state in life that requires a J-O-B that that job should be something to which God has led them.  Our profession may be our vocation and a vocation is a calling from God.  So rather than looking at the jobs in the world based on which ones offer the greatest financial income, parents can direct their children in asking God what He wants them to do.  Simply looking at their talents and gifts may be a place to begin because we are working from the framework of God’s design for each person.  This practice helps our children realize God is to be consulted in every detail of life, searching for His will in all things.

We can  begin to see how the Degrees of Humility build upon each other.  If, as the first degree taught, we understand God is everywhere and with us always, we can see that we should remember to seek His will in all choices.  We can begin to live what is called an illuminative life, allowing God to continually illuminate our way.  We begin to desire only to live within God’s plan rather than our own.  How often do we find ourselves saying, “Well, I don’t agree with …?”  St. Bernard wrote in one of his sermons, “What is it that God punishes if not self-will?  Hate your own will and there is no more hell.”

I have coined a phrase and create different Facebook posters on our page, Balanced Families Ministries, that says, “God is God.  I am not!  He’s got this!”  In our world of crazy schedules we often feel the need to be in control.  St. Benedict’s second degree of humility shows us that we really don’t have to be.  In fact, it is best if we are not.

God’s blessings!

Copyright 2013 Diane Schwind

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