"Are we prepared to promote conditions in which the living contact with God can be reestablished? For our lives today have become godless to the point of complete vacuity. God is no longer with us in the conscious sense of the word. He is denied, ignored, excluded from every claim to have a part in our daily life." - Alfred Delp, S.J.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Holy Poverty

"Poverty was not to be found in heaven ...Therefore the Son of God, longing after it, came down from heaven to choose it for Himself, and to make it precious to us" (St. Bernard).

Fr. Hardon on poverty.
There is no option. Either we practice poverty or we shall not only not be sanctified; we shall not even be saved. It was not a pious platitude but a sober truth when Jesus said how hard it is for the rich person to enter heaven.

Certainly, the Gospels were meant to be lived not only in first century Palestine, but in twentieth century North America. The crucial question is how. The following are some directives. While referring directly to poverty, their underlying principles apply equally to the practice of Christian chastity and charity. Along with poverty, they form the triad of virtues that are mainly on trial in the affluent, sexual and self-preoccupied societies of our times.

1) We must be convinced on faith that the First Beatitude of Christ's Sermon on the Mount is a divinely revealed truth. Only the poor in spirit will inherit the Kingdom of heaven. We shall be only as zealous about practicing poverty as we are convinced that our salvation depends on our being, and not merely professing to be, poor in spirit.
2) It is not quite true to say that an abundance of worldly possessions is no hindrance to salvation. It is.
3) We must pray to understand how we, in our state of life, with our possessions of money, property, living facilities, food, clothing, means of travel and entertainment are nevertheless to remain poor in spirit.
4) We must be sincere with God in telling Him that we are interiorly detached from the material things we possess or have access to. Self-deception is easy when I have all that I want of earthly satisfactions and then verbally tell God that my heart is not addicted to what I enjoy.
5) We should examine our conscience daily on this internal detachment from what may externally surround us like the air that we breathe. Poverty of spirit is not a figure of speech. It is a living reality. If I am truly practicing the First Beatitude, I will experience something of what it means to be poor.
6) If I am practicing poverty of spirit, I will be industrious. Poor people have to work for a living. "To labor is to pray," says St. Benedict. And Thomas à Kempis asks, "Why do you want to rest, since you are born to labor."
7) If I am practicing poverty of spirit, I will be sensitive to the material needs of others. Poverty of spirit means charity of spirit. I want to share what I have with others; and not only of my superfluities, but even of my necessities.
8) A good index of how poor we are is how peaceful we are in spirit. Worry and anxiety about the things of this world are, on Christ's own testimony, signs of a lack of trust in God's providence. According to St. Alphonsus Liguori, this means detachment "not only from what is valuable, but also from what is trifling."
9) Internal detachment from worldly things frees the human heart for attachment to heavenly things. The more time we have in our leisure society, the more time we should give to prayer.
10) The world in which we live needs our witness of poverty. People who know what we believe should see our faith put into practice. It will take much light from God to live among the affluent and yet remain internally poor. We must call upon all the resources of grace to be patient and prudent and kind in our dealings with others without compromising our fidelity to Christ who became a poor Child to show us the way to heaven. - Source
Art: Giotto: Allegory, St. Francis weds Lady Poverty.


  1. Good stuff here, Terry. Hard, but true.
    I need to face the fact that often I give what is only convenient for me to give.

  2. T - needed this message to start my morning. Thank you for posting!

  3. Terry,
    I read your blog all the time, but I'm an in-the-background person a good bit of the time.

    This is an _excellent_ post on poverty. Excellent.


  4. The thanks goes to Fr. Hardon.

  5. Wow Terry! Did I ever need to read this today.
    About six years ago I made a private vow of poverty - to live with a minimum of possessions, and to endeavor to live even without those if called upon to give them.
    During these six years I have had to purge at least a dozen times. No matter what I give away out the front door, something sneaks in the back door and takes up residence. Either that or stuff reproduces when I am not looking...
    Maybe it's like keeping gerbils or something.

    Anyway - practicing poverty requires a certain level of ruthlessness in this society. The siren song of "more" is ever before our faces and we have to determinedly look away.

    I went to a seminar on voluntary poverty at our parish a few years ago and was both gratified and astounded. Gratified because it was very well attended.
    Astounded because of the attendees most of them were very well-off and they spent a great portion of the seminar justifying their goods and chattels, and saying that there was nothing wrong with being rich, but that one must be careful what one DID with the money...

    I think they wanted to be blessed for their wealth.

    I also have found that I need to be so very careful of my thoughts and judgements. For instance - I often see those who I know have a lot of money and who spend a great deal on their pleasure and possessions, put a dollar in the collection basket. (I get roped into taking up collection a lot of the time. Is this to keep me challenged?) At the time I so want to turn them upside down and shake them until they fork over a substantial amount! Then I have to figuratively smack myself upside the head to remind me to have some charity. I don't know their thoughts, and I don't know their struggles and I've been there myself.

    Humility is a bear.

    Charitable thoughts are a bear.

    Poverty is great - just a bear to attain voluntarily.

    A lot of bears in life.

    Back to my original intent in this comment and that is to thank you so very much for your words today and everyday. Your refreshing honesty and your sense of humor along with your well-chosen posts and choices of quotations have helped me on my daily path so many times.
    I thank God for you and for the Internet that gives me access to you.
    (BTW - I have an old computer that is slower than the second coming. Both my daughter, my son, my sister, and a friend pursue the idea of gifting me with a flashy new one. See what I mean about keeping it simple? Oiy.)

  6. Clear as a bell, right? He loved "Alphonsus", as her referred to him. I spent last night reading throught the entire Beatitude index. I swear the Holy Spirit moved his pen. How else is it that I am able, w/ so little effort, to remember so much of what he said? Thanks, Terry. Detatchment, of the sort Alphonus describes, is one uphill road, isn't it?

  7. So how do we know when we're detached enough, since even those of us struggling to make ends meet live a standard of living miles and miles ahead of the rest of the world and totally unprecedented in human history?

    We, Americans, Westerners, are "the rich". But how much is enough - sometimes I feel like it's just simply a sin to go to the movies, to eat dessert, to enjoy any modern convenience at all. I mean, would it be a sin to save money to go on vacation? Even if I'm not wasting my tine buying all the latest gadgets and fashions, I still have nice gadgets and nice clothes.

    How does one draw the line between detachment and feeling evil for having things we've been blessed with?

  8. Hi Mercury - you always have the tough questions. I don't know.

    I kind of posted this for people who are always asking for donations and hawking stuff on their websites as well as asking for specific dollar amounts as stipends and or for an instant online prayer when the donation registers online. $5: "Kaching! Hail Mary!" $6: "Kaching! Hail Mary full of grace!" $10: "Kaching! Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with you!" LOL!

    As for the rest of us - the way the economy is going - we will all be poor, so I wouldn't worry about it. Big wink and a smile!

  9. Anonymous1:14 PM

    Maryjohn: "I think they wanted to be blessed for their wealth."

    And maybe in this culture, Calvinist roots and all, we drift towards "My wealth is a sign of God's blessings".


  10. Good point Vickie!

  11. I love anything by Fr.Hardon.
    As I was reading your post, I kept on recalling an article I read in Monday's paper:


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