Monday, February 20, 2012

SOLI Vocation Video

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Poverty Unplugged

Does the vow of poverty scare you?  Are you afraid that your life will be empty without going to bed with your iPod (with Christian music of course!), without a stash of your favorite snacks, without the comforts that you have always enjoyed thus far?  Are you drawn to religious life but feel that the vow of poverty is too hard for you and therefore wish to draw back?

If this is you, this article is for you!

First of all, you should understand what religious poverty is not, and what it is.  You may find that you are only scared of what you THINK it is and not what it really is!

If after the first section you know what it is and it still scares you, read on, for we will explain:
1.       Why the vow of poverty is a necessary accompaniment to the vow of chastity;
2.       Why the vow of poverty entails more of a receiving than a giving up;
3.       And why ultimately, instead of misery, the vow of poverty brings immense joy!

Does this sound impossible?  Then please read on…

What religious poverty is NOT

1.       Destitution; Utter pennilessness;  famine and starving to death, freezing and dying of tuberculosis.
2.       Merely being available to others, and giving of our time.  Any other strange definition not compatible with the explanation below.

What religious poverty IS:

1.       A sparing-sharing lifestyle in community.
Avoiding luxury
Avoiding superfluities.
Feeling the pinch of poverty sometimes in needs.
2.       Permission to use temporal things.
Reliance on the Constitutions regarding the use of temporal things.
Seeking permission from the Superior to use temporal things.
3.       Factual poverty which leads to spiritual poverty.
Poverty not an end in itself but to give us interior freedom to belong to God totally! Claiming so-called “spiritual poverty” without factual poverty is an illusion. We grow attachments by repeated use of things.  By avoiding the use of what we do not need, our hearts are free to belong ever more totally to Jesus Christ.We are finite beings.  Therefore the love of our heart is finite as well.  It is like the space on a computer’s hard drive memory.  Only a certain number of items will fit there.  What is in there? So, if we truly want to free up more “memory” to love God, we need to remove some files from our hard drive.
4.       Modeled after the poverty of the Son of God made Man, Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ, in His birth, in His hidden life, in His public ministry and in His death on the cross lived poverty.  He is our model.
5.       Modeled after the teaching of Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man.
He taught self-renunciation, self-emptying and the giving up of possessions.  If we say we want to follow Christ, we must live according to His teaching.
6.       Self-emptying after the model of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ, being God made Himself man, emptying Himself for our sake.  Even though He was rich, He became poor, to make us rich out of His poverty.  Jesus is our model.
7.       A radical readiness for the Kingdom of God.
This self-emptying is not an end in itself.  This purifies our heart, our desires to the point where we desire God alone, live for God alone, forsaking our selfishness.
8.       Emptying oneself of things in order to receive God, in order to love God with one’s whole heart.
In A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge’s fiance complains that he doesn’t love her anymore, that the love of wealth has filled his heart and changed him.  He doesn’t deny it.  The history of man attests to the greed and attachment of the human heart to possessions.  If we really want to love God, we must detach ourselves from created goods and only use them insofar as they help us to love God and do His Will.
Jesus said that you cannot serve both God and mammon. 
9.       The necessary accompaniment to the vow of chastity.
If we give up exclusive, intimate relationships of love, of marriage and family for the sake of living for the love of God alone and all men in Him, it is only the natural accompaniment that we would detach ourselves from the inordinate love of sub-rational creation as well.
10.   Necessary to be effective in the apostolate.
If we want to draw souls to God through our works of catechesis, caring for the elderly or in any other way, how could we incite others to follow the teaching of Christ, including detachment and poverty, if we ourselves do not follow it?  There is no authenticity, and where there is no authenticity, there is no impact.  For if the messenger does not believe the message enough to put it into practice, why would the hearer be impacted enough to put it into practice?
11.   Necessary accompaniment to the virtue of humility.
When a person accumulates possessions, the virtue of pride can begin to grow.  We associate wealth with importance, and with importance comes pride and thinking that we are superior to others. While a person could indeed become proud of their poverty, and one must avoid this pitfall, the more natural accompaniment to poverty is humility.  The poor are not accounted among the great of the world, and thus do not have the temptation to think they are better than others.
So… what do you get?

St. Peter was always so candid with Our Lord and so now, centuries later, we reap the benefits of his honest questioning. St. Peter asks Jesus point blank: “Lord, we have left everything and followed thee. What shall we get?”  Could one be any more blunt than that? Jesus answered that we would receive them all back, in the hundredfold, with persecutions in this life and in the next world, eternal life.Jesus is the most wonderful Teacher, for He models the example, He speaks the word and explains it to his Apostles.  As regards poverty, this is the case in a very clear way.

Religious poverty is a counsel. 
There is poverty of precept found in the OT (Thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not covet),  and in the NT – renounce possessions and attachment, avoid superfluities - Everyone must do this. There is ALSO poverty of counsel: e.g. the rich young man – sell all your possessions and come, follow the Lord.  This is the Radical Fullness. You are invited to do this by the Son of God!

OK – So I accept that taking a vow of poverty is valid and desirable because of its supremacy, but I still feel that it would be too hard – I think I would be unhappy.

My dear child, we know from history and experience that religious poverty is not the bringer of unhappiness but rather the bringer of joy.  OK, proof you say?

1.       What makes people happy?  Does affluence have a direct impact on happiness?  Usually the opposite bears out – suicide in affluent nations; rich and famous – OD, suicide...even  saw this in the ancient world. 
      OK – no.
2.       Have you ever had the experience, where you wanted something, finally got it and then you got bored of it quickly, or wanted something better?  Your own experience bears out that things do not fill the hole in the human heart, but actually leave it thirsting for something greater.   This thirst can only be satisfied by God.  True peace and happiness are to be found in God and in God alone.  Everything else is a teaser. 
4.      So if we want to be truly happy, lastingly happy, drink from the source – God alone.
5.       Convent life – in our experience, is a joyous thing.  I do not think that I heard such carefree, joyous laughter, except in the convent.  There is a joy in being consecrated to God that people in the world can not imagine.  Where they imagine drudgery and an almost unwilling putting up with the harshness of poverty, there is rather peace and joy, because our heart is being freed, little by little from its slavery to material things.

      Blessed Dina Belanger  testifies  that when she decided to be generous with Our Lord  she prepared herself for the pain and absence that would result, but instead she experience nothing but the joyous fruit of interior freedom.

OK – business approach – Gold for the Price of Dirt
Back to Peter – what did he really give up?  A couple of smelly fishing nets, his modest, poor life. 
What did He get in return?  Intimacy with Jesus, the Son of God – living with Him, being taught by Him for 3 years, eating with Him, conversing with Him, receiving the call of the papacy from Him.  Peter died a martyr, for the love of Jesus – totally possessed by the love of God. The call to religious life and religious poverty in particular is an adventure, but one in which the poor little human “giver” winds up being the recipient of something far greater than what He gives up. 

OK, shall we summarize even more?
You give up:
1.       Your own stuff ( you will give it away, or bring some to the community but not as your own)
2.       Calling anything your own (you have to share now)
3.       Using things as a possessor (you need to ask permission now)
4.       Certain objects/material things that you may be used to (you don’t bring everything with you!)
What you get:
1.       The assurance that you are giving everything to God.
2.       Freedom of heart to love God!
3.       The assurance that you are following Christ as close as possible.
4.       God Himself.  “I desire Thee and nothing more”
5.       St. Teresa of Avila said that God does not give Himself completely to a soul, unless she gives herself completely to Him.  When the soul holds nothing back, neither does the Lord.

I need encouragement, you say. . .  Has anyone else done this?
Oh my, yes! 
The Blessed Mother and St. Joseph
The Apostles
Early Jerusalem community
Saints of all walks of life

The early religious communities and all religious communities up to the present day – in varied forms.
Literally, there are thousands and thousands and thousands of people who have already done what you are considering doing!  There are thousands and thousands as we speak (write!) that are doing it at this very moment!  If you enter religious life, you will share this way of consecrated poverty with your Sisters in religion.  You are not alone.

OK – should I be more blunt? 
 You only have one life in which to become a saint, to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.  We are impeded in our love of God by attachment to all that is not God.  Therefore, whatever aids us in loving God should be our greatest desire.  For if we waste our life, our only life, on meaningless distractions, shall we not regret it greatly? Why not give God everything?  Why not radically embark on the journey to be a saint, to hold nothing back from God?  All else is a waste of time.  The end.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Happy World Day of Consecrated Life!