Paula Huston

Simplifying the Soul

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Ave Maria Press (December 19, 2011)

For centuries, humility was seen as a key component of a healthy spiritual life.  In more recent times, it has lost a good deal of status.  Instead, we prefer to focus on the development of self-esteem, on achievement, and on self-fulfillment; our temptation is to dismiss humility as a relic of the unsophisticated past, a time when people supposedly knew next to nothing about psychology or good mental health. 

Yet scripture is filled with references to humility, from the Beatitudes that open the Sermon on the Mount to Jesus’ declaration that unless we become like little children we cannot enter the kingdom.  St. Benedict devotes the longest chapters in his famous Rule to the subject, and considers the journey toward humility to be one and the same as the journey toward Christlikeness. 

The beauty of the Lenten season is that it encourages the development of a humble heart.  Structured as an individual Lenten retreat, Simplifying the Soul presents daily readings from Jesus and the desert fathers and mothers, along with a meditation focused on a specific activity that can be carried out that day.  Many of these activities come straight out of Catholic tradition, but others are adaptations of old wisdom woven into contemporary life (cleaning out a junk drawer, walking instead of driving, etc.).  All are designed to lead to conversion of heart and a transformed life.

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