I Only Wrote One Prayer
I only wrote one prayer.
God grant me the humility and the patience
The strength and the wisdom
And the courage to do your will.
It was a prayer that I recited to myself before I went into every St. Bonaventure’s College Board meeting, a prayer I repeated over and over on my morning run.
I made it more elaborate and recited it at every high school graduation over which I presided, and named it “The Graduates’ Prayer”:
"It is my sincere prayer that God grant you
The humility to realize that your achievements are never just your own, but also of those who helped you;
The patience to tolerate your own shortcomings as well as those of others and also the patience to find the answers you seek,
The wisdom to discern the path you should take
The strength to persevere and stay the course
And finally the courage to be that person God has made you to be."
That first gift of humility is the most liberating. When I talk about humility in Sunday school, I discuss the difference between humiliation and humility. “Humility is just about acknowledging that you don’t succeed on your own. You realize you may not be able to do it all, but also you don’t ever put yourself down. You are precious to your family, and you are precious to God. You have a contribution no one else can make.”
“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.” (1 Corinthians 2:12)
Humility is appreciating that indelible bond between each of us and God, understanding that our accomplishments are the result of a cooperative effort where God’s grace forms a foundation upon which other things can be built. God’s involvement doesn’t guarantee fulfilment of a plan, but acknowledging the presence of God in our doing and being creates a spirit willing to be open, creative and accepting.
My role as chairman of the Board at St. Bonaventure’s College taught me humility. I ended up being chair of the Board by calling the first meeting. I suggested that with the next meeting, we could elect a Chair. That never happened, and I remained for almost 14 years. I the anaesthesiologist knew nothing about starting or running a school. I learned very quickly that succeeding at opening a new private Catholic Jesuit school required people other than me who actually knew what they were doing; my humble role was to keep them focused and working, and it worked.
Fr. Winston Rye SJ, our first President and Principal, mentored all of us on how to do this task. We would have been so lost without him. He understood our collective humility; this would not succeed on our efforts, but on God’s. “If God means it to be, it will be.” His most important lesson to me was to say this when I would start to panic about something:” Michael, sometimes you just have to sit back in awe of all God’s wonderful work.” He never doubted the presence of God’s grace in the project called St. Bonaventure’s College. I still do sit back in awe of all God’s wonderful work.
In order to accept a sense of humility there must also be a strong sense of trust.
And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. (Mark 6: 41-42)
One reflection on this reading suggested imagining the trust the Apostles must have had in Jesus to produce enough food for 5000 with five loaves and two fish. They left it all to him. Great humility comes from a strong trust.
And so based upon humility and trust comes faith, the complete trust and confidence in God – confidence that he loves through every sin and every moment overcoming sin, every failure and every success, all of life and all of death.
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen… (Hebrews 11: 1-7)
So humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that he exalt you in due time. Cast all your worries upon him because He cares for you. (1Peter 5:6-7)
I yearn to become a window for Christ, for if I were that window, I would never have to worry about what to say or do because Christ would always give me what I should say or do. I would merely have to let it shine through.
To always be able to do God’s will, to never have to plan, but just to listen and to trust sounds so simple. I would be at peace with whatever size of window I am, or whatever room I am privileged to light. I can only hope that the smudges – and they will certainly be there, won’t mess the message up.