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22 March 2013

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mandamum

As I read this, I kept thinking of Mother Teresa and the writing done since her death about her profound lack of consolation once she received and followed her "call within a call". It has been suggested that, in this feeling of isolation from God, she was offering spiritually a bit of the sufferings of those she served who were cut off from their fellow men.

So perhaps this would be a type of holy spiritual poverty? Not to be spiritually poor in the "rotten at the core" way, but still to be without the consolations of the King of Kings residing with a person?

Another effect of poverty-by-choice is that it forces a person to lean radically on God, because he is left with no illusion that his own goods will sustain him. Could one look at a "holy" spiritual poverty from this angle? In that case, it would seem we are all called to that kind of spiritual poverty; without God, we can do nothing. But maybe we aren't all called to be acutely aware of it....

One other thought I had: it seems to me that one of the ways to treat spiritual poverty is with an "assault" of beauty. True beauty, not the "eye of the beholder" iffy stuff. So then... is stepping away from external beauty (liturgical, otherwise) a choosing of spiritual poverty? Or is it a failure to engage with spiritual poverty?

Lastly, in the quote you have, he links spiritual poverty with the tyranny of relativism, which "makes everyone his own criterion, and endangers the coexistence of peoples." Perhaps an attempt at "holy" spiritual poverty here would be: to be willing to be one voice among many, tirelessly "proposing" (as Bl JPII would say) but never ever speaking in the vein of "Error has no rights!" So instead of standing outside the relativism maelstrom and saying, "you people are all idiots!" one would be willing to enter into it, be little and, while not confused oneself, understanding of the confusion, and then offer one's own beliefs on their merits, as one seeker to another.

OK, post-last :) Material radical poverty is a particular call, not the "way to be" of the Church - not everyone is called, and it's not sinful not to live that way if you aren't called to it. If there is a way of holy spiritual poverty, the same would apply, I would think. And there you'd find the care about whether one is not constituted to stand up to the strains placed on his own salvation. Someone in great need of every little consolation would not have been given Mother Teresa's extraordinary call/grace/suffering. In like manner, one who might succumb to the rotten spiritual poverty around him would not be called to enter into holy spiritual poverty.

Thanks for getting me thinking this morning :) I look forward to reading others' thoughts.

bearing

Mandamum, you make some good points. I like the mention of Mother Teresa's lack of consolations. I like the conundrum of whether embracing spiritual poverty has anything to do with stepping away from beauty. I especially love the idea of "being willing to be one voice among many, tirelessly proposing." And I like the reminder that, if spiritual poverty is a calling, it is going to be a *particular* call for *particular* persons (or maybe, to modify that, for many people but only at particular times) and not a general duty for everyone.

Let me think a bit.

If there is such a thing as "embracing spiritual poverty" it would mean -- I think --

-- refusing to look down on, or denigrate, people who are spiritually impoverished. People who are ignorant of the truth, even willfully; people who perpetuate a cycle of abuse in part because of their own impoverished pasts; people who see others as means to an end. If you are "embracing spiritual poverty" then you don't get to snark at such people, however awful they may seem. You would see their humanity, attempt to connect, put yourself at risk of being hurt.

-- One way we can be spiritually rich, so to speak, is to have a multitude of devotions and prayers and shrines and places to go to seek God. Those of us who live in big cities with lots of Catholics, for example, have our choice of many different parishes to attend -- we can find one that suits our aesthetic sensibilities, our liturgical preferences, even find the one whose pastor preaches just the way we like. And we can jump around, doing one thing one day and another thing another day. It strikes me that simply staying put, mining deep down into a single place, actually getting to know the people around you is one way to embrace a spiritual poverty. Sticking "religiously" to a single devotion instead of dabbling in a dozen.

Just some thoughts.

Barbara C.

Of course, physical poverty and spiritual poverty are not mutually exclusive, either. I'd say the majority of people in modern American society, "rich" and "poor", are spiritually impoverished no matter how "spiritual but not religious" they want to claim to be.

I would probably describe myself as "spiritually middle class". LOL

mandamum

Thank you for your comment about choice of many parishes. As I struggle with whether staying in the parish in which we reside is actually harming my children's faith formation and keeping my husband from considering conversion.... I guess I could consider whether this is a spiritual poverty I am called to. And being in a family, we should be discerning together. Because I can't choose spiritual poverty for all of us, by myself. Perhaps in union with my husband as head of family, but not alone. Funny how that little example helped give clarity on a tangential issue.

bearing

Re: the parishes, mind you, our family doesn't attend Mass in our geographical parish. (After a bad experience at our *previous* geographical parish, before we moved, we started going to a different parish -- chose it because it had perpetual adoration and we figured that would make it liturgically and doctrinally "safe" -- and we're still there. Currently we live in a geographical parish that as far as we know is fine, but we've remained where we are.)

I think you can think of your whole diocese as your "local" church.

I just wanted to walk back from the idea that one *must* stay in their own geographical parish. I was really talking about jumping around a lot, never becoming members and putting down roots, rather than picking one and setting down roots in it, investing in it, etc. If your geographical parish is objectively dangerous to your family's faith, I think you have to put the family first.

Melanie B

Mother Teresa's lack of spiritual consolations also jumped to my mind as I read.

I like the suggestion about "refusing to look down on, or denigrate, people who are spiritually impoverished. People who are ignorant of the truth, even willfully; people who perpetuate a cycle of abuse in part because of their own impoverished pasts; people who see others as means to an end. If you are "embracing spiritual poverty" then you don't get to snark at such people, however awful they may seem. You would see their humanity, attempt to connect, put yourself at risk of being hurt."

Especially in the online world it can be so hard to see others' humanity, to risk being flamed at by approaching what seems like a scoff as if it were an invitation to a dialogue, to risk seeming like a fool for enagaging a "troll" instead of dismissing him with scornful words. And of course you also risk being chided by your fellow Catholics for engaging with such angry hurtful people. "Don't feed the trolls," they warn you. But perhaps that's exactly what we are called to do? To feed them? Couldn't it be that the troll who regularly hangs out at Catholic sites someone who is hungering for the truth but afraid of rejection so is preemptively rejecting those who he feels have already shut him out?

It occurs to me too that spiritual poverty may be turning one's back on the consumerist mindset which appears just as much in religion as in everything else. Instead of approaching liturgy or prayer with an attitude of asking, "how is this feeding me?" we could instead ask, "how can I feed someone else?" It's not about, "What do I get out of it?" but "What do I have to give?" Then I suspect it will quickly become apparent how little I do have to give, how all I can do is beg God for a daily crust of bread which I can pass on to those even hungrier than I am.

We do stay at our geographical parish despite the fact that the music seriously grates on our nerves and so do many of the liturgical practices. I'd love to go somewhere where the liturgy is deep and beautiful, but I don't think that's what we're called to do. To recognize that Jesus is there too in the plain church and the banal music and all the other annoyances.... is that spiritual poverty too?


mandamum

Thanks Erin and Melanie - that helps.

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