If we loved our poverty more, we would take it a lot better. I want to strive with intellectual and spiritual possessions, but that is not the way to union with God, nor the way to sanctity and perfection of love. Blessed are the poor in spirit is to be without talents, or to lose them, or have them frustrated; to be without distinctions, without colors or decorations, without special abilities, or to have them ignored and denied. That can be one way to sanctity, if you accept your emptiness with burning love and gratitude and wait for God to fill you. And when He does, you will get all the rest thrown in with His wisdom.
Simple living in littleness and openness further takes shape by identifying with Christ and following his example in such a way that we reduce material needs, curb a thirst for possessions and the domineering power that comes from ownership, and use all God’s gifts in a spirit of generosity, justice, and moderation. Gospel poverty for Secular Franciscans, then, consists in acquiring possessions justly, keeping needs to a minimum, and using what we have as custodians for the generous benefit of others. In this way we achieve the wealth of the kingdom and do not get enslaved by the wealth of the world according to the charter for happiness given in the beatitudes.
Jesus teaches the way of poverty, and he lived it. He says clearly that we must renounce all of our possessions. But he goes further and says that we must even renounce our relationships and our very selves as well. Why? Probably because we have done these things so poorly in the past, and these unhealthy patterns have become so ingrained that only complete renunciation will allow us to break free. Jesus on the cross is the ultimate example of poverty. It was there that he gave up not only possessions and relationships but also his very life. He not only taught the way of the cross, the way of poverty, but he actually became that way.
The material things we surround ourselves with can be powerful signs of an unclean, disorder soul, and of misdirected desire. In a world awash in the cheap consumerism of the Cult of the Self, our possessions and the value we attach to them speak volumes. So, amidst the decadence and waste of modernity, we must live modestly. The cars we drive, the houses we live in, the clothes we wear — all should reflect the humility of spirit that distinguishes those living lives of radical discipleship to Christ. By so doing, we demonstrate our rejection of the mores and lifestyles of the Selfies, and become signs of contradiction that can be emulated by others.
The world seeks freedom in the accumulation of possessions and power. It forgets that the only people who are truly free are those who have nothing left to lose. Despoiled of everything, detached from everything, they are “free from all men” (1 Corinthians 9:19) and all things. It can be truly said that their death is already behind them, because all their “treasure” is now in God and in him alone. The people who are supremely free desire nothing and are afraid of nothing. All the good that matters to them is already guaranteed them by God. They have nothing to lose and nothing to defend. These are the “poor in spirit” of the Beatitudes, detached, humble, merciful, meek, peacemakers.
This article of the Rule (Article 11) calls us to begin where Francis did, trusting in God, for without this trust we can do nothing. Francis chose exactly what Christ chose and nothing more: he chose a poor and humble life. Are we called to give up everything as Francis did? No, but we are to give up our inordinate possession of things. The rich young man, whom Jesus looked upon with love, turned from Jesus because his possessions were many.
~ Teresa V. Baker, OFS, For Up to Now (FUN), Chapter 12: “The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order”
In reality, sin is part of the human terrain and a daily challenge to our discipleship. And if our hearts are cold, if our minds are closed, if our spirits are fat and acquisitive, curled up on a pile of our possessions, then the Church in this country will wither. It’s happened before in other times and places, and it can happen here. We can’t change the world by ourselves. And we can’t reinvent the Church. But we can help God change us. We can live our faith with zeal and conviction – and then God will take care of the rest.
~ Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
The world tells us to want more and more, and praises us when we acquire it. It holds us up as winners of life’s lottery and of the American Dream. But when the possessions get in the way of our ability to develop a living relationship with God, we have lost a great deal to these empty, pretty idols of prosperity, which we have allowed to stand before him.
~ Elizabeth Scalia, Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life
If I were to be a good Franciscan, that is, Christlike, I would first of all have to be in almost all points as this peasant appears to be. That is–to set no store on pride in knowledge, or possessions, or ambitions, but completely obscure looking and acting: and with all that not envious, not ambitious, but quiet and good, and giving people things, and being patient, and working and living on little food. But being, first, nobody: this peasant, obscure and dark, and silent, and not knowing much how to talk: of such were Christ’s Apostles.
~ Thomas Merton, Run to the Mountain: The Story of a Vocation
He said: “If we had any possessions, we should need weapons and laws to defend them.” That sentence is the clue to the whole policy that he pursued.
~G.K. Chesterton, Saint Francis of Assisi