Humility: The Cornerstone of Holiness

In order for us to truly grow in holiness, the most important virtue is charity—an authentic love for God and for neighbor. But alongside the theological virtue of charity is that of humility. In a certain sense they are the two pillars or foundational stones for the person who is truly pursuing a life of authentic holiness.

For the great woman Doctor of the Church, the Doctor of Prayer, Saint Teresa of Avila, humility is simply THE TRUTH. It is being aware of who we really are from the divine perspective, from the eyes of God, the Author of all truth. In fact, our dignity is sublime—being created in the image and likeness of God and through Baptism being transformed into icons of the Blessed Trinity. Our destiny is beyond words—to be united with the angels and saints in heaven to praise the Trinity for all eternity. However, being conceived in Original Sin, having concupiscence, and being sinners reveals a truly fallen human nature.

Indeed, a truly humble person recognizes with utmost clarity that all the good that they have done and are capable of doing is a result of God’s power, God’s grace, and God’s goodness in their life. On the other side of the coin, the humble person admits that all of their failures, especially in the moral realm of sin, is due to their abuse of the faculties that God has given to them.

Therefore, given the fact that humility is of paramount importance, let us strive to pursue this virtue in our lives; let us strive to attain it and plant it with deep roots in the very center of our souls. May our words, actions, deeds, and intentions be at all times imbued and permeated by a true spirit of humility.  

Of course, may Jesus and Mary be our models. Indeed, both were the holiest who ever walked the planet, but also the most humble. Only once does Jesus describe the attributes of His most Sacred Heart—His Heart is both meek and humble. May the prayer that resounds in the depths of our hearts be the prayer of the great humility of the Heart of Jesus: JESUS, MEEK AND HUMBLE OF HEART, MAKE MY HEART LIKE UNTO THINE.

The following part of our treatise will be certain steps we can take so as to attain this most sublime virtue, the virtue of humility.


1. APPRECIATE ITS VALUE.  Never will we be able to attain any good in our lives if we do not deem its value and worth. Misers pursue gold; the vain of heart honors, and the hedonists sensual pleasure. Why? Because they deem these goods of value—even though they are idols and false values. We must view and esteem humility of the greatest importance in the edifice of holiness and the foundational bedrock for holiness. If not, our life pursuit of holiness will be built on sand and will collapse quickly!

2. BEGGARS BEFORE GOD.  Saint Augustine, quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, asserts that we are all beggars before God. We desperately need God for all; we depend upon Him in everything. Most especially we need God so as to live lives of virtue and renounce pride—the polar opposite of humility—in all sizes and shapes. Jesus commanded us: “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Mt. 7:7) Our prayer? Lord, grant me a meek and humble heart.

3. DOCILITY IN SPIRITUAL DIRECTION.  We all have blind spots in our lives and especially in our spiritual lives. A well-trained spiritual director helps us enormously on the Highway to Heaven.

4. OBEDIENCE IN DIRECTION.  That means in concrete that in Direction we must be humble enough to obey the Director, who is God’s channel of Truth and grace. Beyond doubt, one of the hallmarks of the authentic sanctity of Saint Faustina Kowalska was her docility and obedience in spiritual direction. Without obedience, there is truly no growth in humility and holiness is blocked and thwarted.

5. ACCEPTING FRATERNAL CORRECTION.  This really stings, but is necessary for our spiritual growth and our growth in humility: accepting fraternal correction. Normally, due to our innate pride, when someone points out something in our life that has to be corrected we bristle, we recoil from the correction, and sometimes we come back with a defensive frontal attack. We simply resist having our shortcomings pointed out to us—this is due to an overweening pride. Saint Dominic Savio established a friendship with another boy in the Oratory of Saint John Bosco. Savio insisted that his friend be frank and point out to him his failures so that he could advance in holiness. Before reaching age 15 Savio had already arrived at heroic virtue and holiness and would one day be canonized.

6. ACCEPT HUMILIATIONS.  Perhaps even more difficult than accepting fraternal correction is willingly accepting humiliations that descend upon us. Whether we like it or not, we will receive humiliations. The golden opportunity is ours exactly in that moment when God allows us to be humiliated. Our natural inclination is to retaliate. Whereas the reaction of the saints upon receiving a humiliation is to remain silent, pray for the offender, and unite the humiliation to Jesus’ humiliations that He underwent in His bitter, cruel and humiliating Passion. Without God’s grace this is impossible, but with God all is possible!

7. CHARITY AND SERVICE.  This is an interesting twist: charity and service as gateways to humility. In fact, every time we put ourselves at the service of others, practicing charity and love of others, we are growing at the same time in humility. In fact, when we practice charity—supernatural love for God and neighbor—we grow in all the other virtues, and that includes humility.


1) HIS INCARNATION. The fact that Jesus, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, actually took on human flesh and became man was an enormous jump of debasement and humility. God became man so that we can becomes sons and daughters of God.

2) HIS PASSION. All the elements and details of the Passion of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ manifest an astounding and remarkable humility. However, you might take simply the Crowning of Jesus with thorns—the 3rd Sorrowful Mystery of the Holy Rosary. Mockeries, sarcasms and insults, being blindfolded then punched and struck in the Face, the pulling of His beard, spiting in His Face, and most important: being crowned with sharp and piercing thorns. In all of this, in words of the Prophet Isaiah, He was like a gentle, silent sheep being led to the slaughter. By meditating upon the Passion of Christ, our pride should plummet into the depths.

3) JESUS IN THE MASS AND EUCHARISTIC PRESENCE. Most Catholics ignore going to even Sunday Mass. Many take Holy Mass for granted. Still others receive Jesus in the state of Mortal sin thereby crucifying Him again. As a whole, Jesus, present in the Tabernacle, is forgotten, abandoned and left forlorn throughout the world. All the above are a source of piercing and penetrating humiliations for Jesus, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the greatest Lover of all Lovers.

9. THE AWARENESS OF OUR PAST SINS AND GOD’S MERCY.  When we are tempted to be lifted up on our high-horse of pride, it could be very advantageous and propitious for our spiritual growth in holiness and humility to call to mind the many times that we have failed the Lord Jesus and the shame behind these actions. Indeed, this can keep us humble, very humble, to put it mildly!

10. MARY: THE MODEL OF HOLINESS AND HUMILITY.  Of all of God creatures by far Mary was the greatest. But she was also the most humble of all women. Her words exemplify her great humility: “I am the handmaid (servant) of the Lord… My soul rejoices in God my Savior because He has looked upon the humility of His servant… Do whatever he tells you…. The few words that we have of Mary in Sacred Scripture highlight the sublime character of the holiness of Mary, but especially her humility.

A final word to grow in humility. One of the most efficacious means by which we can grow in humility is by receiving the Eucharistic Lord Jesus in Holy Communion with the best of dispositions. Upon receiving the Eucharistic Lord, we should beg Him to give us His Heart and say with great fervor and faith: “Jesus meek and humble of Heart, make my heart like unto thine.” This indeed is the shortcut to both holiness and profound humility of heart.

Image by Stig Alenas on Shutterstock

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Father Ed Broom is an Oblate of the Virgin Mary and the author of Total Consecration Through the Mysteries of the Rosary and From Humdrum to Holy. He blogs regularly at Fr. Broom's Blog.

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