March 15, 2013

In pope's humility, Mainers see trait that resonates

Mainers give their views on humility, a word used often in the first few days of Francis' papacy.

By North Cairn
Staff Writer

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Newly elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina leaves after praying at basilica in Rome

Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters

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"It's not something I think a lot about," said Geoffrey Titherington, owner of Bonanza Steakhouse in Sanford. But he believes it is a quality of character that is developed over time and is an attitude one can choose and cultivate.

"A lot of people do things with – well, not ulterior – but multiple motives," he said.

Humility is not about giving or sacrificing money, but time, said Titherington, who has devoted countless hours to helping coach the Sanford Mainers baseball team and tutoring for Literacy Volunteers of Greater Sanford.

True humility, he said, comes from within and is expressed in giving without expecting any particular recognition or reward.

"It has to be the way you think," he said, "not the way you think people think you should think -- if you know what I'm saying."

"I think when you see a person with humility, that it attracts you," said Amy Wilson of Scarborough, a receptionist for the Good Shepherd Parish in southern Maine. "I think it's an attractive quality, because not many people have it. When you do, you know your own worth and you're not egotistical."

Those are qualities the new pope seems to have embodied throughout his service in the church, observers have said. Thursday morning, for example, he reportedly slipped out to celebrate a simple Mass before meeting with the cardinals who had chosen him to lead the church.

As Argentine cardinal Bergoglio stepped onto the balcony at the Vatican on Wednesday evening as the new head of the Roman Catholic Church, he made history, on several fronts.

He is the first non-European pope in the modern era, the first Jesuit, the first to take the name Francis and the first in 600 years to be chosen following a predecessor's resignation from the post, which the pontiff ordinarily holds for life.

"I have a particular perspective as a Jesuit priest, because this pope is a Jesuit," said the Rev. William Campbell, president of Cheverus High School.

"I feel connected to him because we have shared – the long retreat, the spiritual retreat of St. Ignatius," he said.

The tradition involves 30 days of silent reflection, prayer and meditation on the Two Standards (or Flags) of St. Ignatius.

A soldier, Ignatius held that the standard of the dark spirit is pride and the standard of the good spirit is humility. "Out of humility all our virtues flow," said Campbell.

Rather than choosing to have our actions proceed from riches to honor to pride, we should embrace poverty leading to insults and then humility, he said. That progression is what the spiritual life asks of believers.

It's especially difficult to accomplish such lofty goals now, in the era of social media, Campbell said. "What we lose is that time for reflection. The danger is to identify ourselves as what we do, or our title," he said, and to distort our importance and our place in the scheme of things.

"We are not God," Campbell said. "In living simply, we are reminded to remember our humble origins."

The origin of the word "humble" is the Latin "humilis," literally "on the ground."

Its root is "humus," or "earth," he said. "From dust we came, and to dust we will return."

"But is our time in greater need (of humility) than any other?" he said. "I leave that to the historians."

Lobbyist O'Neil had a slightly more worldly view. "Is it in short supply? Lord, yeah. In many respects it is." 

North Cairn can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:


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