Joel Stepanek

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“Let my name be forgotten.” 

It was a prayer of humility that I thought I should be praying, but I didn’t mean it. I was about to speak in front of nearly 25,000 people. I was proclaiming the Gospel message and wanted to do my best. I wanted God to work through me. But I also, in the back of my mind, hoped that people would remember me. I hoped they would love the message I gave.  

So I prayed against that desire - the desire to be known - but I didn’t really mean it.  

The night happened and in the days that followed many news outlets and blogs covered the event. They talked about the musicians, the bishop that was there, and the crowd.  

But not me.  

In all those stories my name is nowhere. I was forgotten. My prayer was answered, but I didn’t want it to be

I needed to wrestle with that moment. I wanted something from God that I thought was very pious to ask, but my heart was far from my prayer. Yet, the Lord still gave me what I needed. I needed to have that prayer answered because I needed the virtue of humility to be rooted in my heart and not in my lip service. 

I want to be remembered. It isn’t because I want fame or notoriety, but because I fear being forgotten. I am afraid that I will simply drift off into the background like wallpaper; I am there but nobody notices. Maybe it is because I felt alone through elementary school and was bullied. Maybe it is because I struggle with my own sense of self worth. Whatever it is, my desire to be seen and remembered is present and was present that night I spoke in front of 25,000 people.  

And I was forgotten, and yet, seen.  

God heard my prayer - half hearted as it was - and gave me what I needed. Despite being “forgotten” I was remembered. The Lord saw me, heard me, and responded. My disappointment and the feeling of rejection I felt subsided and there was a breakthrough moment - God sees me.  

I can’t control how people see or perceive me. I can live honorably and strive to love others. At the end of it all though, their opinions may be fickle and change. People will forget me. But God remembers and sees. At the end of my life, it won’t matter where my name appeared or who remembered what I said. It will matter that God has chosen me and I have responded. Perhaps that is why Jesus reminded His disciples that they needed to pray in secret - so that they would have pure intentions before a God that sees the prayer. After all, our performance fades - but our prayer can become eternal.  

My prayer was answered in more ways than one. God gave me exactly what I needed and continued to chip away at my callous, hard heart and draw me close to Him, the one who sees me even when I feel invisible. He is the God who remembers me, even when I feel forgotten. He is the audience of one, the only one that I need.

Joel Stepanek is the Director of Resource Development for Life Teen International.

Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should.


"A gift."  "Joel Stepanek’s voice and vision are incredibly needed in the Catholic Church today. With clarity, joy, and a sharp intellect, he unpacks the virtue of humility in a way that is accessible and inspiring for people at all levels of faith. What a gift this book will be to anyone who picks it up!"   Emily Wilson Hussem Catholic musician, speaker, and author of  Go Bravely

"A gift."

"Joel Stepanek’s voice and vision are incredibly needed in the Catholic Church today. With clarity, joy, and a sharp intellect, he unpacks the virtue of humility in a way that is accessible and inspiring for people at all levels of faith. What a gift this book will be to anyone who picks it up!"

Emily Wilson Hussem
Catholic musician, speaker, and author of Go Bravely