Carmelite Family – Bulletin of Lay Carmel
Number 19, Autumn 2003.
· In the Spirit and Strength of Elijah – Lecture by Titus Brandsma
· Carmelite Spirituality
The Night Prayer Psalm – Compline
Interpreting St Teresa of Avila – Three Living Virtues (XV)
Triumph in Adversity – St Teresa Benedicta a Cruce
Mary in the Annunciation
Carmelite News Items
Poverty – A Gospel Value
Poverty is a way of living, a way of relating, especially to the goods of
the earth, that allows us to be free and creative, accepting all that God
has created as gift for us and for others. It thus allows everything God has
created to lead us to closer union with God. Poverty can also describe our
way of relating to God, especially when the model of our poverty is the
poverty of Jesus Christ. It can also remind us and the transient world in
which we exist that there is a world to come in which we will possess all
because Christ will be all in all.
Different Ways of Being Poor
hard to imagine that anyone would want to be poor. The real poor have to
struggle each day just to survive. If they get sick they may not be able to
pay for medical care. They will leave school early, or perhaps never get to
school at all. Their limbs will be smaller and their skin pale and dry. Born
into deprivation some people have always been poor. Despite efforts to help,
they have lived so long in poverty it is almost impossible to see how they
will ever be free of it. Other people might not have been poor in the
beginning, but circumstances changed and they found themselves with nothing.
people become poor by choice, in order to follow a religious ideal, or in
order to share the lot of the poor and work with them until they rise above
their poverty. Some people live by the Gospel virtue of the poor in spirit.
These are the people who recognise their total dependence on God, who
welcome the gifts of God, and seek ways to share the gifts of God they have
received, rather than holding them for themselves.
are those who feel they are lost, despite having many of the gifts of the
earth. People may have all that they could ever want in terms of position
and possessions and choices but they are not happy. This is the lot of those
who are spiritually poor rather than poor in spirit as the Gospel
Finally, there is the poverty of those who are very conscious of their
fragility and inadequacies: poor in personality, poor in intelligence, poor
in their ability to relate to others, poor in skills and poor in health. St.
Paul recognised some of this poverty in himself. It led him to the statement
that he accepted this poverty because when he was weak it was then that the
power of God shone out in him. It was then that he was strong.
of this tells us that there is a kind of poverty that is desired by God, and
another kind of poverty that is an offense to God and his creation. The life
of evangelical poverty, taken on by consecrated people in the Church, looks
in both directions. Those who take on this life accept it as a gift and a
calling, they seek to live a life of poverty and simplicity, doing what they
can to help overcome the poverty that makes the poor suffer, or holds them
The Evangelical Counsel of Poverty
evangelical counsel is a value that the Gospel puts before us and recommends
for our life as followers of Jesus Christ. The evangelical counsel of
poverty is for all the baptised. As we read the Gospel we can sense the call
to some kind of poverty, a constant urging not to place our trust in riches,
and to be close to the poor. The poverty recommended by the Gospel is the
poverty that helps us to be sensitive to God, to the goods of the earth, and
to others, particularly the poor, in a way that is more human, more freeing
and more salvific.
Jesus, The Poor Man
model for the life of evangelical poverty is Jesus. Born in Bethlehem, the
child of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth, He grew up in Galilee, walked among
the poor and lowly (fishermen, shepherds, farmers, prostitutes, publicans),
pointed out the errors of the rich, and defended the powerless. After a life
of serving others He died, stripped of everything, on the cross. The Gospels
show us His powerlessness before the Father and in the face of the
authorities that condemned Him. They tell of the time He spent walking among
the poor. If we do not come close to the poor, we will never love them in
the way Jesus did.
The Believers Shared their Goods
further model for our life of poverty is the early Christian community.
Those who followed Jesus shared their goods, so that no one was left in
need. The life of poverty is very practical. Inspired by the description of
the first Christian community in the Acts of the Apostles, the followers of
Christ see themselves as belonging to a community, in which the members
share all their goods so that no one is left in need. The idea of sharing
goods offers a great challenge to the world of today. It is said that the
system of taxes in modern society is an attempt to put this idea into
practice. Yet how many of us relish the idea of paying these taxes? All that
we have is gift, to be put at the service of others.
mentality of this kind of poverty is the mentality of wanting to use all the
good things of the earth in order to make life better for everybody and to
honour the Creator and giver of all of these gifts. This poverty also helps
us to recognise the gifts that God has given us. If we hold these gifts for
ourselves, if we do our best to accumulate more and more of them so that
others are left short, it is very clear that we have distorted God’s plan of
providing for the needs of everyone on the earth.
A Sign of the World that is to Come
mentality of poverty is an expression of our acceptance that this world is a
passing world and that we are destined for a world in which Christ will be
all in all and we will not have to look any longer for possessions, honours,
privileges or security. Because we believe that this world that is to come
is already present, the person who lives by the evangelical counsel of
poverty lives already in that security and confidence that is offered by the
kingdom. Their lives in poverty, simplicity and solidarity is a way of
reminding others that the kingdom of God is already present and that there
is in each one of us a desire to see the fulfilment of that kingdom in the
life to come.