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25 March 2013


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Melanie B

To be poor in spirit. Yes, I keep coming back to that beatitude. Perhaps we might also look to the Litany of Humility?

I keep coming back to this too: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/duffy/2013/03/kinds-of-sinners/#comments

I think there's something there to pull out about spiritual poverty and reaching out to those around us, but you'll have to do your own pulling.


In the sense that literal poverty, that is willingly chosen literal poverty can be a path to being poor in spirit as in the case of Jesus words to the Rich Young Ruler --mentioned on my post of yesterday on this topic-- I would say, yes there is a definite connect in what Fr. Longenecker notes.

Melanie, that Litany is one I have been praying now, almost daily for months. I only wish I had by now fully attained the spirit of poverty in it.


I know others have made this point, but family life is very Benedictine: we have scheduled activities in common, and almost everything is owned communally -- indeed, it's very difficult to have personal property, as every parent has lamented at one point. Also, the emphasis on stability seems so vitally important for children: not always the stability of place, but emotional and spiritual stability fostered by the parents.

As I've been reading your series about spiritual poverty, I keep thinking that though we can embrace literal poverty ourselves, spiritual poverty (of the sort suffered by John of the Cross or Mother Teresa; as distinct from spiritual bankruptcy) is often something sent by God for the purification of the soul. It seems a bit dangerous to go searching for spiritual poverty, because we aren't always strong enough to know how much deprivation our souls can endure.

But then, "poor in spirit" has different connotations to me than "spiritual poverty" -- the latter sounds like a dangerously impoverished, stunted spiritual state; the former like a humble, contented one.


Giving the emphasis and distinction of meaning as you do yours is a solid observation MrsDarwin.

Melanie B

Thinking more about "spiritual poverty". This weekend it struck me that a kind of spiritual poverty open to parents in a specific way is going to Mass with small children. I often see parents complaining about being to distracted to pay attention, not getting much from Mass or using that as an excuse to leave the kids at home, to put them in the nursery, or to split shifts. Now all those things are sometime necessary and I don't want to condemn those who avail themselves of help so they can get to Mass on their own sometimes. But it seems to me there is a certain spiritual poverty to going to Mass and not fretting about the distractions of the little ones. Go knowing you will probably be distracted and not feel very refreshed, not very comforted. And accepting that as the way it is, offering it up, doing it because you think there is value to just being at Mass even if you spend it in the vestibule with a sobbing or screaming kid, even if you miss communion.

What do you think is that a sort of spiritual poverty such as you were thinking of?


Yeah, I think so. What I'm trying to do is explore whether analogies can be drawn here. And I think they can. So, for instance, where Father Longenecker says,

"...The Christian is called to be detached from material things in order to be properly attached to all things..."

...one thing we know we do have to be somewhat detached from are spiritual consolations of all kinds. This is something that we're still being taught (Bl. "Mother" Teresa of Calcutta's writings were a good recent example of this -- of persistence in the face of spiritual dryness), because we can't make ourselves "feel" a certain way, because feelings of spiritual certainty, or of joy or contrition or whatever, are all gifts.

So we have to be detached from consolations -- (1) can't let ourselves get too discouraged when we don't have them, (2) can't demand them or feel that we "deserve" them (because we deserve NOTHING) or that we "ought" to get them, or decide that God isn't really there because if He would we would "feel" him, etc.

And even when we DO have consolations we have to distance ourselves from them, not think that we got them because we were so wonderful or because we did all the right things. Gifts. GIFTS. Having lots of spiritual consolations can be a temptation to pride just as can having lots of material good things.

All this being said, a peaceful hour at Mass by yourself or with all your children calm and/or sleeping -- when those things happen they are also GIFTS... We always have to be detached from the idea of Mass as a place where nothing distracting can ever happen, because then we are not properly attached to the essential qualities of the Mass.

Melanie B

Yes. As I suspected, you articulated the connections much better than I could.

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