Loving our Failure: Salesian Insight on the virtue of Humility and Abjection

Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

by Sr. Mary Virginia Schmidt, VHM

“[H]ow do we deal with failure that is so much a part of our lives?” – S. Mary Virginia

We are, most of us in the US, infected with the virus of perfectionism – in all areas: business, science, religion… It is the heart of advertising, is it not? So how do we deal with failure that is so much a part of our lives?

St. Francis de Sales, in his lists of little virtues, has one that he calls “love of our own abjection.” It is not one of his more popular virtues, probably because we do not know what it means, especially in a society that values success so much. Basically it means to love our failure and humiliations — our wretchedness. If we pay attention to these, they always teach us something.

St. Francis de Sales, Co-Founder of the Visitation Sisters

St. Francis de Sales, Co-Founder of the Visitation Sisters

“That Humility makes us love our own Abjection”
– Title of Chapter VI of St. Francis de Sales’ “The Devout Life.” 

The Gospel teaches us how to pay attention and be still in order to learn. So to love a failure is a form of humility which acknowledges our littleness and imperfections: our share in the suffering of Christ. We learn our need for mercy.

Actually it is one of my favorite virtues, one that I make frequent use of. It is one that will not make me proud and one that teaches me that I am never removed from God’s mercy.

Amen.

God is in everything part two…

Written by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

If we are to commit to “finding God in all things,” then this informs our discernments; our holy decision making. It colors our perspective, enhances our outlook on life, makes our life feel touched by the sacred, the divine. Our marvelous ordinary life becomes extraordinary, and in its extraordinary space comes forth an expansive humility that St Jane de Chantal and St Francis de Sales speak of when they encourage the little virtues as the road to holiness.

If we really take on this cloak of finding God in all things in our life, we begin to see patterns that emerge, some we might find life giving and others we might be invited to prune in order to make room for more life. This is noted by our interior responses of our heart. that if we stay authentic to the revealing pattern it will lead us toward more life, more love, and more generosity of spirit.

I can look at the apparent chaos of my life and see it as just that chaos. A slew of requests when I am getting the littles ready to go out the door in the morning. Or I can invite myself to find God in my mornings, and breath in the littles simple dependance. With this prayer on my heart their need for me to do, assist, help, or encourage depending on their ages becomes sweet like honey that God gave me these four gifts to nurture and nudge along in their growth from getting dressed, to grasping the intimacy of their loving God. The mere fact that they can trust that I am here with them through the mundane muddle of everyday routines to the bigger questions they pose, “Is God visible?” and be just as in awe at them buttoning their pants alone for the first time as the questions they ask, means together we encounter the sacred as we clothe ourselves in God’s graces. This brings me to my knees; I am humbled by their beauty.

What patterns emerge for you when you contemplate God’s grace flowing in your life?

Back to School calls for Salesian Virtue: Humility

Back2SchoolParty2

"Humility is true knowledge." --St. Francis de Sales

Written by Visitation Alumna, Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan

These last few weeks have been marked by back to school rituals and a flurry of fall activities. With learners young and old returning to the classroom, I am reminded of St. Francis de Sales wisdom on the Salesian virtue, humility. He says, that “humility is true knowledge.” If humility is true knowledge then we need to immerse ourselves in learning about the world, our communities and ourselves to clothe ourselves in humility, which will bring us closer to God and others.

Just think if each of us employed this attitude of humility with our neighbors in the classroom and next door — what a gentler, kinder world this would be on our playgrounds, lunchrooms, and on our streets! — Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan

The Visitation Sisters say that the Visitation Spirit can best be found in St. Francis de Sales quote: “Great humility before God and great generosity with our neighbor.” Just think if each of us employed this attitude with our neighbors in the classroom and next door — what a gentler, kinder world this would be on our playgrounds, lunchrooms, and on our streets. So may the Visitation spirit of humility send you forth to seek further knowledge for greater humility and gentleness toward yourself and others bringing you closer to our loving God this school year. Blessings on your learnings wherever it may bring you.