Friday, November 27, 2009

Poverty of spirit amid the recession.


Do you buy it?
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Watching news coverage of shops open on Thanksgiving and stores invaded by shoppers on Black Friday, one might not believe there is a recession going on.  It all seems to be business as usual...  Thus far our  recession is not like the Great Depression - masses are not exactly lining the streets standing in breadlines.  At least we are not hearing much about it if they are.  Network news no longer hides the fact it is a propaganda machine for the the liberal agenda, in today's terms, a mouthpiece for the Obama Administration.  So you won't learn anything there.
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There are really poor people out there, families who have lost jobs and homes.  Yet if you get all of your information from television - as many Americans still do - you get the impression everything is just fine despite the recession and the isolated stories of financial woe.  Climate change is still the big crises as evidenced by NBC's Green Week, wherein all the programming adapted some sort of green story line to their prime time line-up.  See, so we are so not poor if we can worry about greenhouse gasses.
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Every American is aware that as a nation, we are the most affluent in the history of human society.  We continue to have access to all the riches our world offers.  We are a country where many of the poor are too fat - few, if any are actually starving; I just read today we throw away 40% of our food.  As we all know health care is a problem - nevertheless - there really is access, albeit limited.  (Ironically, with reform, it could be even more limited - rationed.) 
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My point is that most of the poor in the U.S. can get what they need - the basics.  Yet even in welfare homes, most have a television, DVD player, cell phone, and so on.  And even if  these things are lacking - these items - or the material perks they represent - are often the first things poor people want - after better food, clothing and shelter of course.  But people want that no matter how affluent they become:  A newer, bigger house, better clothes, fancier food... In our era of the epicurean, the ostentatious, and the avaricious.
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Who are the poor?
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Which poses the question, where is poverty of spirit?  Indeed, what is poverty of spirit?  Many established religious orders of vowed men and women seem to offer a sort of lip service to poverty - many genuinely working for social justice issues and wearing ugly clothes - but the majority live pretty well, benefiting from paid for higher-education, health care, housing (including apartments), wardrobe budgets, travel expenses, and so on.  Of course there is nothing wrong with that when it is necessary for the mission of the congregation.  In such case, the well formed religious understands the necessity to practice spiritual poverty and detachment - which happen to be interior virtues usually unascertainable to outsiders, not to mention none of my business. 
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Nevertheless, it is extremely difficult to be truly poor in spirit when modern men - religious or otherwise,  take pride in their academic achievements, intellectual riches and progressive socio-politico ideals, which tend towards an elitism oblivious to the devastating moral poverty the culture.  Moral poverty is not the same thing as spiritual poverty, much less, actual poverty. 
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Moral poverty is not a virtue.   

14 comments:

  1. Superb post. Today reminds me of the stories in Scripture where the people made merry in Sin before the Lord smote them.

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  2. Wow. Great post.

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  3. Well said, Terry. I'm going to link to this latter. First I must go to a parade and watch some fireworks...

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  4. Terry, thanks for pointing out that spiritual poverty and detachment are "...interior virtues usually unascertainable to outsiders". We tend to forget that in our age of instant communication of everything, whether it's appropriate or not.

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  5. Terry, this is just excellent.
    As religious, we are constantly being challenged to what is exactly "needed" and what is "wanted".
    Right now, we cannot pay our medical insurance (which has climbed about 12% in less than three months, which I am not complaining about, just mentioning)...we have adjustments to make, that is for sure.
    But it makes us very aware of being in solidarity with most of the people in this country.
    If we profess poverty as an evangelical counsel, then we had better be ready to accept the consequences.
    The economic and financial situation of this country is in big trouble; but if we have to suffer with those who have little, that is our mission, our call.
    And I, for one, am not afraid of the consequences. Stupid me.

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  6. NP, I'll pray to Our Lady of Good Remedy for intercession on your behalf.

    If you don't know her, she's the manifestation of Our Lady venerated by the Trinitarian Order for having provided money when they were in need.

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  7. Nan: Thank you, dear. And God and our Lady of Good Remedy bless you!
    After Office of Readings and Morning Prayer, we pray her Novena EVERY day.
    She, along with St. Joseph, have never been stingy...we do have enough for each day, but this medical insurance is KILLING us...we're looking into other options.
    Thank you, again, for your suggestions and prayers.

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  8. Father - I'm talking the mega-orders here - not the new ones - I know how hard it is for the new communities. You are an excellent witness to poverty - God bless you!

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  9. Terry, thank you.
    The real consequences of holy poverty are being made real to me every day. I am ever more grateful to God, His Holy Mother and Saint Joseph to learning how to live each moment of every day completely dependent upon Divine Providence.
    St. Teresa of Jesus is teaching me this, while reading her autobiography.
    Thank you for your support and understanding. And for this post which shows the disconnect with many congregations of apostolic religious with the real demands of apostolic poverty.

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  10. Austringer8:50 AM

    Diocesan priests are susceptible to the distortion of "wants" into "needs" as well. I think a particular temptation arises when the priest must court the wealthier members of his flock in order to finance particular projects that are of benefit to his parish. Also, parishioners, of course, like to give their priests gifts and trips and vacation spots....I see the temptations for our priests.

    Our parish has been affected by this -- recently, our pastor was distressed that the parish collection had dropped 5.4% over the last few months. I wonder how many parishioners have had to deal with a lot more loss than 5.4%???!!

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  11. Remember when Mother Teresa said that the poorest people she had ever seen were in NYC, where spiritual poverty was epidemic? You can feed someone who's financially poor. Curing spiritual poverty takes a lot more than that.
    Excellent post, Terry.

    (I can't help but think that if Dubya was still in office, it'd be wall to wall coverage of a "dismal shopping season." Blech. To me, the "Black Friday" garbage is consumer pornography. Nothing less.)

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  12. Yesterday's homily referenced shopping in the morning; I don't remember in what context though, neither did I shop except online for two seconds. And no, not the 7:30 am post black friday shopping Mass.

    NP, lets' try Ss. Cosmos and Damian.

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  13. Interesting: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/nov/29/duin-fewer-candidates-religious-life/

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  14. Terry you wrote..Thus far our recession is not like the Great Depression - masses are not exactly lining the streets standing in breadlines. At least we are not hearing much about it if they are.
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    I think that Credit cards are keeping many people out of the bread lines/ soup kitchens and at Catholic charities outside of Kansas City, the place was packed last week . As soon as food goes upon the shelves it's taken. The waiting room is full and the phones ring constantly. It's heartbreaking. It's so fightening because it could be us , any of us. Especially after a medical issue and expenses.

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