Sr. Christina M. Neumann, OSF
For some time, I’ve been thinking of doing a series of posts on our three vows, the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Today’s liturgy, for the eighth Monday of Ordinary Time, with its beautiful references to poverty, inspired me to put to get started. It is also fitting to reflect on voluntary poverty as we just celebrated Pentecost, calling on the Holy Spirit as the “Father of the Poor.”
I was touched by reading the gospel antiphon in my preparations for Mass, which so beautifully states: “Jesus Christ became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” I was struck by how kind and generous He was to us in taking on our human poverty. At Mass today, we went on to hear about the rich young man.
As Sisters vowed to poverty, we seek to imitate this generous poverty of Christ in our daily lives. I’d like to share with you some passages from our Franciscan Rule and our constitutions that inspire and instruct us in our living of this poverty.
From the Rule:
“The truly poor in spirit, following the example of the Lord, live in this world as pilgrims and strangers. They neither appropriate nor defend anything as their own. So excellent is this most high Poverty that it makes us heirs and rulers of the kingdom of heaven. It makes us materially poor, but rich in virtue. Let this Poverty alone be our portion because it leads to the land of the living. Clinging completely to it let us, for the sake of Our Lord Jesus Christ never want anything else under heaven.”
“All the sisters and brothers zealously follow the Poverty and humility of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Though rich beyond measure (2 Cor. 8:9), he emptied himself for our sake (Phil. 2:7)”
“So excellent is this most high Poverty that it makes us heirs and rulers of the kingdom of heaven. It makes us materially poor, but rich in virtue (Jn. 2:5). Let this Poverty alone be our portion because it leads to the land of the living”
In our Constitutions, we read:
“Because Jesus Christ, although He was rich, became poor for us, we, as pilgrims and strangers in this world, will follow Him in Poverty and humility.”
“Only when Poverty makes us interiorly free and available can it witness to an unconditional trust in God, understandable to the people of our time.”
“In our Vow of Poverty, we obligate ourselves to a simple, unpretentious life.”
“For each of us individually, our freely chosen Poverty must find expression in spirit and in fact”
“Our personal efforts to acquire the spirit of Poverty will be perfected in our loving acceptance of the Will of God in sickness, aging, and death.”
“We have our goods in common. What we earn by our labor or what we receive as a gift belongs to the community.”
“As individuals and as members of a community, we frequently evaluate how well we are living our Poverty in the light of the Gospel and of St. Francis’ charismatic love of Poverty, so that our love for Poverty will grow in spirit and in fact.”
“In our concern for the right practice of Poverty, we keep in mind that Poverty is worthless unless we are devoted to one another in heartfelt love.”
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Everyone, regardless of his or her state in life, can strive to practice the counsels Christ gives us in the gospels.