September 28, 2009

Positive Poverty

Over the last month, by the hand of Divine Providence, I have had the opportunity (or been required!) to speak publicly about the religious life of our congregation to a variety of different groups, in a variety of situations. From one-on-one conversations with teens interested in (or curious about) our life, to a full presentation to the Serra Club of Kansas City, people have been interested in hearing about why we do what we do.

One of the things they "get" most easily is the vow of poverty. Obedience is simply a mystery - and chastity a completely alien idea - but the concept that a holy person should be poor seems to be taken for granted. Sometimes the understanding is a bit distorted, but the idea that "I give up everything for God" seems to be a prerequisite for the authentic living of a godly life.

It just makes sense.

It has several pieces to it. One is the concept that I love Him so much that I give Him everything. A further ideal is identification with the Cross. Another has to do with common life - how can I have something that my Sisters don't have, just because I have rich friends or a family who is generous? It is the gospel teaching of "he who would be perfect..."

The poverty of our congregation, like everything else about us, is practical. We are an apostolic community, so we need things. We must have cars to reliably get to our apostolic work on time. We must have stable housing because we have a common life. We must have money with which to feed, clothe and educate our Sisters. But, in all things, our life is simple. It is detached. I do not have that which I do not really need.

And everything is held in common - for the good of the poor, of the children, of the sick. Everything is given to us as a sacred trust.

And in the end, really, everything is His, to dispose of as He sees fit.

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