The Three Violets


By Jane Luker




Spiritual tradition among the Marist Brothers likened the three virtues of humility, simplicity and modesty to three violets hidden in the garden, giving glory to God in their smallness and hiddenness.










The above quotation from Craig Larkin's A Certain Way inspired a meditation delivered at our Day of Recollection at Walsingham on 22nd September 2007. Marcellin Champagnat perceived these virtues as essential and supernatural graces (gifts of the Holy Spirit) - the bare ground and seedbed from which the life of Christian discipleship springs, grows, blossoms and bears fruit.

I would like to reflect on these three aspects of humility, simplicity and modesty which also arise in the spirituality of the other Marist founders. Indeed, these qualities of discipleship are very common in all faith traditions. For this purpose bear in mind the gospel parable: A sower went out to sow his seed. * Some fell by the wayside trampled on and eaten by birds, some on rock without enough root or moisture, some amongst thorns eventually choked by weeds, and some into the rich soil.

Jesus compares the seed to the Word of God. Imagine the seed as our soul seed - this minute but distinct word in the image of God which is what we are. How then shall we get in touch with the interior ground of the Spirit, be rooted in the good soil, make virtuous growth our path and not be overcome by thorn or weed, drought or adversity. How are we to grow this honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.* Our key virtues will help. They are very much linked and what is true of one is relevant to all.




Humility (from the Latin root Humus meaning ground, earth, soil To be truly humble is to be grounded, to be earthed. What is earth? Earth is just there,  trodden on by every creature, taken for granted, yet it is from earth that all life springs, grows, blossoms and bears fruit. To be grounded in God is the only true path to holiness. Just as earth is dependent on rain and sun to make things grow, so it is only through our humility that we come to know our complete dependence on the grace of God, to bring about the spiritual growth needed to produce a rich harvest.

It is clear that God manifests his power and strength through this humility: Christ came down to earth, emptied himself, taking the form of a servant; he washed his disciples feet, humbly gave and received love, sat down to eat with everyone, none excluded, and finally was humiliated on a cross for his perfect love of all. Mary's Magnificat is a hymn of praise to the humility of God. She says: No to pride, to ego, to domination, to injustice; Yes to the poor, the simple, the lowly. Humility is a power that does not corrupt.





 Simplicity  Humility allows us to live simply (poor in spirit) and in harmony with others. Simplicity is really about what is important in life. How often  do we hear the teaching of Jesus - don't get attached to material pleasures, securities and possessions but tend the inner wealth which is a gift from God. Be content with enough and avoid waste. Enjoy life as it is, delight in people, in all creation for its own sake not in order to manipulate or dominate. Be honest and fair, have integrity, share resources, be generous hearted. Ask for help - we are so afraid to be known in need.






                  Modesty Well, we mustn't be shrinking violets! No, to be truly modest is   to rejoice in God's gifts to us, doing the work entrusted to each one confidently, with enthusiasm and a zest for life and relationships. We live in hope, secure only in God's love and providential care, but also with a kind of self-forgetfulness (which is hard) not looking for praise or success or recognition. Natural talents are not to be hidden away but used creatively or will be lost. Be faithful in little things, but also risk great things for it's never too late to plant new seeds, start new ventures, face fresh challenges. How open am I to a sense of adventure? What risks will I take for God, what fears hold me down from growth? Humility, simplicity, modesty will help us along this way of greater love and mature faith, a deeper relationship with Christ and with others.

Jane Luker

August 2008

Luke 8, Matthew 13,Mark 4