This post is part of a monthly feature where I match – mostly fiction – books to the monthly virtue for the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilla’s popular Catechesis program, “Virtues in Practice”. A note that not all – not even most – of the books I recommend are “Catholic” in the sense that they speak directly about Catholics, Saints, virtue, etc. Rather, they are books – regardless of the author’s faith – that promote the virtue of the month the program focuses on. A note, too, that Amazon links are affiliate links. If you should click and buy through one of my links I will receive a small commission. How small? Put it this way, I’ve a long way to go before I can buy a cup of coffee.
For November in the year of Hope, the virtue is
Humility – accepting our limitations and God-given talents
Finding characters in novels that demonstrate humility can be tough. That’s what I thought at first, anyway. I racked my brain and mentally went through my bookshelves. When that didn’t pan out, I hit the bookshelves themselves. I was drawing a blank. And then I realized that this virtue will look differently in various books.
Humility in Picture Books
Crafty Chloe is an obvious choice here. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the book, little Chloe knows what she’s about and she’s not afraid to be that. To be the little Crafter that God made her to be. Honus Wagner knew what he was about, too. And the baseball world is a better place for it.
The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane comes to mind, too. Poor Brother Theophane just wasn’t cut out to copy words day in and day out. Oh! But let him out in the garden and give him a little breathing room and look what he can accomplish! When Brother Theophane is able to use those God-given talents, he beauties this world by creating colorful inks. This, in turn, inspires his brothers, who begin to illumine their documents.
Humility in Middle School Literature
Humility in middle school literature looks a little bit different, I think. Gone are the obvious ways to just “be who you are.” It’s replaced, now, with the real life angst of facing who you are. Especially when the world in which you live doesn’t necessarily appreciate that. Take, for example, Gabe, in a.k.a. Genius. Gabe has been normal all his life until 7th grade. Now all of a sudden he is gifted. At least, in the seventh grade he’s been given a label. And he’s being asked, as far as we can tell, for the first time, to perform at a higher level. He is being asked to be who he is. It’s not always easy to come to terms with who you are, especially in the seventh grade. But Gabe manages to do just that. Humility in action, for sure.
If you are looking for something more “classic” you might look to Alcott’s Little Women, or Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables.
Secret Benedict Society. Okay, I know I gave this book as a recommendation for the virtue of Studiousness. But! BUT! It fits so perfectly with humility as well. Every single one of those kids has a “gift” and the only way they can do what they do is to be who they are and work together. Listen, there are four books in the series (at least so far). The way I figure it, I can site them two more times as illustrations for virtue in action!
Humility in Young Adult Literature
And, as we get older, it sometimes just gets harder. Ya know? There’s that whole “I don’t even know who I am” process that comes with growing up. A lot of young adult literature centers on that, of course, under the broad heading of “coming of age.”
If I Stay certainly centers on two characters who know what they are good at and then pursue it at all costs. It’s refreshing, actually, to have read a book with such confident teens. This book has a few iffy scenes so make sure to read my review before handing it to your younger teens.
A short read, but not necessarily an easy one, is Lilies of the Field. Here you have characters from across the humility spectrum, if you will. There are the nuns, who act with confidence and grace, certain of who they are. And you have Homer, a man who uses his gifts and talents – almost against his will – to build something beautiful. The movie doesn’t even do it justice.
Like I said, I think humility – or at least the struggle with it – can be seen in nearly any book. The discovery of one’s gifts and talents is intimately tied up into who a person is. And that, of course, is a central theme in an overwhelming number of books. Are you studying humility this November? If so, are you suggesting any books to your kids by way of subtle influence? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!