Choosing Poverty: Setting the Stage

Talking about my life as a Capuchin would be incomplete without a serious look at the vow of poverty. Moreso than most other orders, the life of poverty is closely identified with the founder: Francis of Assisi. It is not only our way of life, it is an expectation others have of us as friars.

Yet for almost 800 years people have struggled with this life, trying to concretly define Francis' intentions while making them applicable to the modern day. Even here in Novitiate we sometimes disagree on what it is to live poverty - whether it's about buying things (like my Under Armor shirt, which was an excellent investment by the way), the use of funds and things we have access to, or the caretaking of current holdings (applicances, vehicles, musical instruments).

The understanding of poverty is an integral part of my Novitiate year. I highly doubt I'll have figured out poverty by next July, yet I realize there are several goals that should be achieved by then (along with the other vows):
  • To learn the history of poverty as defined by Francis' Rule and our Constitutions and to understand how it has changed since the 13th Century.
  • To develop a personal understanding of a life of poverty.
  • To live poverty as a way to "enter the experience of the poor." 
  • To synthesize all this and seriously ask myself if I am able to live this life.
Thankfully I'm not left to my own devices here. The novitiate formators have already started encouraging dialogue, assigned readings, and had us present material in these areas. 

Throughout the rest of this Novitiate year, I will have a series entitled: Choosing Poverty. These will be reflections on how we learn to live a life of poverty as Capuchin friars, in the context of Christology formed by Francis, passed down to his brothers, and lived through the history of the Friars Minor.

My hope is to cover such topics as:

Through Francis' Eyes-A look at the poor and humble Christ through the lens of St. Francis and how it shaped his Rule and our Capuchin Constitutions.

Worlds Collide-A reflection on my first day of Postulancy, my meeting of a homeless person on the side of the highway, and how it shaped my understanding of poverty, much like Francis' experience with the leper.

The Order Struggles-Looking at the history of the Frairs Minor and the divisions caused by defining poverty...eventually leading to several splits.

Poor By Living Poverty-Coming from a poor, single-parent family receiving government aid, I have a unique look at how poverty is lived as a Capuchin, and how it sometimes separates me from others in the community.

Walk With Me-Reflections on working with the homeless in Milwaukee. I talk about entering their experience, overcoming fear, and developing a "preferential love for the poor."

I hope, Dear Readers, you will be encouraged to follow my journey.

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2 Response to Choosing Poverty: Setting the Stage

November 3, 2009 at 7:13 AM

I think understanding poverty is difficult. I don't see how the wealth of the Vatican is justified. Knowing how Jesus came into the world, do you think when He comes again He'll go to the Vatican?

November 3, 2009 at 1:50 PM

A financier for the Vatican was quoted as saying: "We can't run the Church on Hail Mary's."

For as bad as that quote sounds, it's a question Franciscans have had to look at over and over. "Do we strictly observe the Rule, even if it takes away from our mission and minsitry to others?" I'll talk about it in another article, but even Gregory IX's decision to make room for wealth inside the Franciscan Order assured it's livelihood.

So part of me agrees with you, and part of me wonders how we would fund the missions, poor parishes, etc. without the holdings.

Lol you are is a difficult topic. But one we should always be willing to engage in.