Let’s be honest right off the bat: who am I to talk about poverty? I am the product of a lower middle class household that has always made ends meet, I attended an expensive university that lacked diversity of social class as much as it lacked diversity of race, and now I am a part of a province known for its affluence within the comfort of one of the Church’s largest institutions. My house has a cook, all of my basic expenses are paid for, and on top of that, I’m given a modest stipend to spend on “extra” things each month. I have had the horrifying and humiliating experience on more than one occasion of showing friends and family around one of our houses and receiving the response, “Wow. So this is how the friars live.” For many, myself included, we as friars do not always appear to be the people we say we are and want to be.
And yet, I continue to write despite the apparent lack of credentials on the matter. I write in this case not to give answers, but to allow others into my life and to share in my struggle.
I have not had an authentic experience of poverty in my life but I choose to live poorly, I want to live poorly. My attraction to this life as a friar was to be like the poor, with the poor, and for the poor. For both good and bad reasons, with personal and structural factors, I have not yet lived the ideals I hold. That does not mean that I don’t have them, nor does it mean that I am not working to live them more fully. This is what I would like to share.
With a topic as controversial and sensitive as this one, it is important to remember the words of our brother Francis: “I warn and exhort them, not to despise or judge men, whom they see clothed with soft and colored clothes, using dainty food and drink, but rather let each one judge and despise his very self.” The fact that my brothers and I do not live up to my ideals, that the institution may at times be a hindrance to poverty by its very nature, is a fact of life. To point out ways in which we fall short, then, is is not intended to be a judgement, but rather an encouraging exhortation. As a brotherhood of friars and a community of Christians, I believe that it is our right, dare I say responsibility, to invite our neighbors to a more authentic example of Gospel living.
If you agree, and believe that a desire to live Gospel poverty is credibility enough to speak about it, I invite you to join me over the next few posts in a discussion about living Gospel poverty in a more authentic way. The topics I wish to discuss will focus primarily on my struggles so far as a friar, but will no doubt be universal enough for any Christian wishing to follow Jesus more closely in the 21st century.
In the meantime, I offer you the following articles previously posted related to poverty as a further introduction: