Friday, December 13, 2019


Blessed are the poor in spirit, 
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Years ago I was going on retreat.  I was late in arriving and the first conference was already taking place and I was ushered right in to the talk to sit in the back and the speaker, who was really quite good, said the only thing that really sticks with me to this day, “Poverty is not holiness but a pathway to holiness.”  Simply being poor does not make a person holy.  It may be easier for a poor person to be holy, but there are poor people who are every bit as ornery as a sinful rich person.

“Where your treasure is, there is your heart.”  To this I would add that where your heart is, that is where outside (of yourself) forces can control you.  Here is a random example: Let’s say there is a man.  One of things he loves most in the world is his car.  His child gets sick and throws up in the back seat - a very annoying thing to have happen.  If the car looms too heavily in his heart, this event will threaten and shape the relationships he has with his family.  He will become angry with his little child, perhaps yell at his wife who is trying to defend the child, it will put him in a foul mood and the the repercussions will spread out from there.  The love of his car controlled him.

If you want to know that which you love the most, see what is at the top of the, “I Will Sacrifice for This” list.  Sometimes love of a clean house will trump the love of family, with others the love of family will trump the perfect house.  What do you value most?

A man may want to travel the world, drink every night with his friends, take risky jobs, buy himself innumerable toys and have nobody to boss him around except himself.  Then he falls in love.  And if it is true love he says, “All these things that I thought I loved I sacrifice for the love of this woman,” and so he gets down on one knee and asks her, “Will you let me love you for the rest of my life?”  We are asked to do the same for heaven.

This type of poverty that has heaven as its premier possession will right order all other desires.  It will make of you a healthier, happier person able to give and love more and more fully enabling a person  to enjoy prosperity but not becoming crushed should fortune turn.  If such things as money, reputation or power are too high on the lost, then all that you need is someone who can exploit these lesser things and a person can be manipulated to do things that go against their otherwise held beliefs.  They are slaves to their desires.

A proper sense poverty of spirit makes a person powerful, uncontrollable, un-manipulatable, capable of greater and more easily sustained happiness and right orders all loves and desires.  Love of heaven on earth makes the taking possession of heaven in the next and for eternity most attainable.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” is not a consolation and a pat on the head, it is a prescription for being a powerful force in the world.  Who could control St. Francis of Assisi?  Nobody.  Who changed the world more than he?  Very, very few.  Of those who did, whose changes remain as intact to this very day?  Again, very, very few.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This article *really* made me think, Father. Just as simply being rich will not keep us out of heaven, simply being poor will not gain us entrance.

You are right about my good St. Francis. While spending a year as a prisoner of war in a squalid dungeon, St. Francis had a lot of time to think about his life, his afterlife, and God. He slowly began to realize that the wealth and position he would receive as a Knight (which was his goal in participating in a war with Perugia) was worth nothing to God - it only glorified himself. And the very comfortable life he had lived to that point as the son of a upper middle class fabric merchant, with servants, fine clothes, and plenty of friends with whom he partied every night, eating the very best food, singing, and flirting with pretty girls, was not furthering his spiritual life, nor was it necessarily pleasing to God.

When St. Francis's father finally obtained his release, Francis determined to reform his life, a little at a time. He gave up his fine clothes and comfy, privileged life with his parents, and became poor, but more importantly, he became poor in spirit - he developed humility. But he did not change his personality - he used his gifts to complement his passionate love of God.

He never lost his joy - living his way was not a punishment or a sacrifice - it was something to be envied. He was one of those people (like Our Lady, I suspect), who made the sunshine come out when he entered the room with his warm smile. It was not his poverty that made Francis a saint - it was his joyful Faith and service to God!

God bless you, Fr. Simone, Mr. Kelly, and all our beloved cluster neighbors at St. Sebastian - Sue, OFS