The Beginning

The Beginning

Friday, October 8, 2010

What is Poverty?

About once a month, instead of having class in the morning, the five of us postulants get together with Fr. Bill and Fr. Marty, our directors, to have a morning of reflection. Usually beforehand a topic is chosen and then they give us something to read about the topic along with some questions to think about and to prepare us to have a discussion about the topic. Today's topic was on poverty. Now for me personally the issue of poverty has weighed heavily on my heart. I don't think that I can say that I know what poverty is or what the best way to live it is. There are so many definitions, and ideas about what it means to live a life of poverty. Infact it has been this one issue of poverty that has been at the center of the many divisions within the Franciscan family. As a kid and as I entered into high school and thinking about religious life at the time, what always attracted me to religious life was the radical sense of material poverty. I was attracted to it for many reasons which I wont get into. And I think that maybe a small part of me may still be attracted to it. Coming into the Capuchin order the idea of poverty is different. And let me make myself clear that when I say different I do not mean it in a bad way. Like I said before there are many definitions of poverty. One is not better or worse than the other. Within the Capuchin community I will always be provided for. What I have is not my own. But we do have many good things. There is always food on the table, and with Capuchins it is always plenty of food. lol. I have a bed to sleep in, though small, is still more than what many have. I have a closet and dresser full of clothes, a bookshelf full of books, not all of which are mine. I have a sink in my room and a desk and my computer. I could go on and on with the things I have. the issue I brought up in our reflection is the question of how can I relate with and be empathetic with those who have absolutely nothing when I myself have never and probably never will experience the situation of having absolutely nothing. I can go and help at a soup kitchen, I can go and be the youth minister for inner city kids that have lived more difficult lives than I could ever imagine, I can go into a prison and visit the people there. I can do all these things, but I will never "KNOW" what it's like to have nothing. And I guess this bothers me a little bit. How can I relate? How can I minister? I have always been a man who has believed heavily in experience. It is our experiences that drive us to become who we are today. It is our experiences that help us to help others. So the issue of poverty is a troublesome one for me in all honesty. But at the same time by having what we need, being well fed, well rested, we are able to be better ministers. What we do have we take care of and cherish. We have been blessed as a community to have many great and holy benefactors that provide for our needs. So maybe I'm looking at it in the wrong way. Maybe instead to live a life of poverty is to be humble enough to be thankful for what we do have. Maybe poverty is realizing our dependence on God and relying on Him to provide for us, which He does through our benefactors. So maybe this is what poverty is. I don't know. It is something I struggle with and pray a lot about. And hopefully one day I will find the answer. Until that time keep me in your prayers.

Peace and all good,

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your post and I will keep you in prayer. As a Secular Franciscan, but also a husband, father, sole provider etc, my idea of poverty is probably far different from yours. I try to do the best I can, without abandoning the people who depend on me. By some Capuchin standards you seem to think you have a lot, and maybe you do. If you feel troubled, pennance is always good. My wife sleeps on the floor next to our bed for a week at a time when she feels the need. You may want to try something like that. It sounds like you have wonderful providers, probably just people like me who know the importance prayer and monks and nuns and priests still have to play in our lives. In all humbleness appreciate what the Lord has provided for you now. Down the road may well be a different story. Peace and all good. k