THE SECRET TO MAKE US RICH IN A SHORT TIME AND AT LITTLE EXPENSE, IS TO MODERATE OUR DESIRES…
“‘Blessed be the poor in spirit – the divine Teacher tells us – because theirs is the Kingdom of God,’ and St Francis de Sales adds: ‘Therefore the rich in spirit are unhappy because the misery of hell is reserved for them. He is rich in spirit who has his riches in the spirit and his spirit in riches. He is poor in spirit who has no wealth in his spirit, nor his spirit in wealth.’
HOW TO LEARN TO BE CONTENT WITH LITTLE
Between being well off and being poor, there is an intermediate degree, which the Apostle considers as true riches and it is poverty, but with sufficient means to live, or with that sobriety of spirit which is satisfied with food and clothing… St Francis de Sales said: ‘We must live in this world as if our spirit was in Heaven and our body in the tomb. The true beatitude upon this earth consists of being content with what is enough.
Who would not love the poverty which Our Lord has so loved and which He made His faithful companion throughout His life? In order to learn to be content with little, it is necessary to consider those who are poorer than us, because we are only poor in relation to others. If we want only that which is necessary, we will hardly ever be poor; if we want all that our passions demand, we will never be rich. The secret to make us rich in a short time and at little expense, is to moderate our desires, in imitating the sculptors who do their work by removing something, and not painters who do theirs by adding something.
PRACTISING HOLY ABANDONMENT
It is necessary, therefore, to practise holy abandonment, because on the one hand in order to avoid poverty and become wealthy, work, the spirit of order and of economy, and virtue itself would not be sufficient: God remains the master of his goods; He gives or refuses them at His own good pleasure. On the other hand, do we know how to sanctify poverty or make good use of wealth? We know nothing about this. God alone could say this. Therefore the best thing will be to place ourselves in His hands, saying the prayer of the Sage: Lord, give me neither extreme poverty nor wealth; grant me only that which is necessary for me to live, for fear that being sated I may be tempted not to acknowledge thee and to say: Who is the Lord? or that necessity would urge me to commit an injustice.’
AVOID PLACING ONE’S FAITH IN UNSTABLE RICHES
Whether God grants us to be wealthy, quite well off, or poor, his good pleasure will always be united with His signified will and, consequently, we are to unite our obedience to abandonment.
If He has been lavish with His gifts, we should observe the precept of the Apostle to the rich of this world, that is to ‘avoid becoming proud and placing our faith in unstable riches; be willing to give alms, share willingly our goods, amass the treasure of good works; and in such way establish a solid foundation for the future, in order to gain eternal life.’
Blessed Mary Magdalene Postel, reduced to living in a stable with her small Community, was filled with joy: ‘Yes, my daughters, I am content, she said; because in this way we more closely resemble Our Lord Who at His birth was not received into a royal palace, nor an inn, but in the manger in Bethlehem.’
THE POVERTY OF ST JOSEPH
St Joseph is a wonderful example of abandonment to Divine Providence when in need. ‘God wished him always to be poor’ – writes St Francis de Sales – and that is one of the greatest trial that can happen to us. He submitted himself lovingly to this for his whole life. And it was a poverty that was scorned, despised and needy. Voluntary poverty of which religious make profession is very pleasing because it does not impede one from receiving the things which are necessary and deprives only of that which is superfluous. But the poverty of St Joseph, just as that of Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary, was not like this, because though it was voluntary and loved very much, he did not cease, on this account, to be thought of as contemptible, to be rejected and despised.
Everyone considered this great Saint to be a poor carpenter, which did not prevent the lack of many things which were necessary, although he laboured much and with an unequalled love, for the upkeep of his little family. He humbly submitted himself to the will of God, in the continuation of his poverty and abjection, without allowing himself in any way to be overcome or cast down by interior trials, which certainly made many assaults upon him.’
In order to imitate these great examples, St Francis de Sales says in his Filotea: ‘complain not about your poverty; because we complain only about what displeases us; and if poverty displeases you, you are not poor in spirit, but rich in affection. Do not be desolate if you are not assisted as is necessary; because to desire to be poor and not feel its inconveniences, is to desire the honour of poverty and the convenience of riches.’
– This article by Dom Vital Lehodey was published in “De Vita Contemplativa”, issue June 2013. If you feel called to religious life with the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org