Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Poverty?

Today is the memorial of St. Clare of Assisi, the holy companion of St. Francis and, with him, the founder of the Poor Clares. This past June I had the privilege of visiting Assisi and praying before the incorrupt body of St. Clare and visit the monastery in which she lived and died. What struck me about it was the absolute poverty in which she and her sisters lived. They embraced voluntary poverty as a way to holiness. Relying upon God for everything, even day to day needs such as food and clothing, they grew in holiness.

When I as in Assisi, I also noticed a small band of Franciscans who took the call to poverty quite literally. All one had to do was observe their way of dress, their bare feet, and their joy to know that these were men who embraced poverty just as St. Francis and Clare did.

Today as I reflect on these things it makes me wonder if I, as a diocesan priest, am called to some form of voluntary poverty. So I turned to Pope Benedict's letter to priests for the Year for priests. The Holy Father hold us up for priests the example of St. John Vianney, and points out the choice this great patron of priests made to live in poverty. This is what the Holy Father said:

It was complete commitment to this “new style of life” which marked the priestly ministry of the CurĂ© of Ars. Pope John XXIII, in his Encyclical Letter Sacerdotii nostri primordia, published in 1959 on the first centenary of the death of Saint John Mary Vianney, presented his asceticism with special reference to the “three evangelical counsels” which the Pope considered necessary also for diocesan priests: “even though priests are not bound to embrace these evangelical counsels by virtue of the clerical state, these counsels nonetheless offer them, as they do all the faithful, the surest road to the desired goal of Christian perfection”.[35] The CurĂ© of Ars lived the “evangelical counsels” in a way suited to his priestly state. His poverty was not the poverty of a religious or a monk, but that proper to a priest: while managing much money (since well-to-do pilgrims naturally took an interest in his charitable works), he realized that everything had been donated to his church, his poor, his orphans, the girls of his “Providence”,[36] his families of modest means. Consequently, he “was rich in giving to others and very poor for himself”.[37] As he would explain: “My secret is simple: give everything away; hold nothing back”.[38] When he lacked money, he would say amiably to the poor who knocked at his door: “Today I’m poor just like you, I’m one of you”.[39] At the end of his life, he could say with absolute tranquillity: “I no longer have anything. The good Lord can call me whenever he wants!”.[40]


So what do you think? Would you like to see your priest embrace voluntary poverty in order to more closely follow Jesus, or is that just too much? Let me know in the comments what you think.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I praise the Lord for your humble reflection...sadly, it is not unusual to see some men take on the priesthood as if it is some kind of glorified bachelorhood and immerse themselves in materialism. I pray that more and more priests embrace the spirit of poverty, for it is only to the degree that you empty yourself, that you shall be filled with the Holy Spirit. You are in my prayers.

thebeaners said...

I think that this would be an extremely difficult lifestyle to follow.

My aunt worked as a teacher and missionary in Mexico some time ago. She always said that there are very few people in the US who know what true poverty is.

Gabriella said...

Yes, I certainly think that priests should embrace voluntary poverty - that would be giving quite an example!
I'm sure that if the faithful see their priest living in poverty they would provide food, transport, all the necessities and all would benefit enormously spiritually.

Anonymous said...

I think that poverty, whether forced or voluntary, is a calling from God just like one's vocation. What we think is not as important as the priest hearing that call. Can it provide a beautiful example? Yes, but it must be down from a deep love of Christ and the Father. If you are called to voluntary poverty, God bless you.

Father Christensen said...

Here is a brother priest with a post on the very same topic as we are discussing. Check it out: http://clericalreform.blogspot.com/2009/08/sacerdotii-nostri-primordia-8.html

Basil Knebel said...

I don't think a priest needs to take poverty to the extreme of St. John Vianney or St. Francis or Clare...

I think if more priests simply immersed themselves in the spiritual well being and warfare of and for their parishioners, it would be a better thing. Does this mean Fr. C should give up his I-phone? no. It means more the "Glorified Bachelorhood" that was mentioned by 'anonymous." Priests (or any Catholics for that matter!) that are immersed in 'self' are focusing on the wrong things. We are called to help and serve one another... and priests all the more. God Bless 'em!

pml said...

... given our times, perhaps God is calling for this from all ... to what degree needs to be discerned. But for those families that are facing economic hardship and unemployment, seeing a Shepherd in their midst joyfully surrendering the material would help to lead some souls ... just reflecting.

Brian said...

For the Catholic Christian - obedience to "Poverty" is of the utmost importance. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to "follow Him." To follow the Master is to be like Him. Jesus became poor for us, so we must become poor for others. Poverty can take many different forms. Some are born poor, some are born rich - all are called to live "Poverty."

In this way, we will all be rich.

God bless..