Spirit of Poverty

The following is an excerpt from the Marian Press book 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle:

“Today, penetrate into the spirit of My poverty and arrange everything in such a way that the most destitute will have no reason to envy you.”
— Jesus to St. Faustina (Diary, 532)

Saint John the Baptist proclaimed, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). The spirit of poverty is essential to our spiritual growth. Every other virtue springs forth from humility. In this week’s spiritual exercise, we will learn about the spirit of poverty, how we might acquire it, and why it is absolutely necessary for spiritual survival. Let’s get to it!

WEEK 36 

Jesus told us, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Mt 6:24). Let’s take a quick look at the sentiments of a couple of saints with regard to poverty and riches. Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said that the only thing she feared was the love of money because Jesus was sold for 30 pieces of silver. Money itself is not an evil, but the love of it is, as we learn from Scripture: “[T]he love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Tim 6:10). Mother Teresa and the saints prayed frequently for the grace to keep a spirit of poverty in all matters. The saints knew they shouldn’t be attached to worldly things. Consider St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscans, who bore the stigmata. He stripped himself of riches in order to wholeheartedly embrace a life of poverty, which he pursued most of his life. He called this way of living, “Lady Poverty.” Saint Francis renounced all rights to his inheritance to go on to find perfect joy in poverty and service, caring for lepers and the poor. He would exclaim, “Poverty is the way to salvation, the nurse of humility, and the root of perfection. Its fruits are hidden, but they multiply themselves in infinite ways.”

Mother Teresa has said, “The more you have, the more you are occupied, the less you give. But the less you have the more free you are. Poverty for us is a freedom. It is not mortification, a penance. It is joyful freedom. There is no television here, no this, no that. But we are perfectly happy.” That spirit of poverty then protected them from becoming distracted by the allurements of the world. Now, again, owning things does not mean we are far from God. However, becoming overly attached to material things or wealth is not of God.

Scripture teaches, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world — the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches — comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 Jn 2:15-16). And we know well that the evil one tirelessly entices the faithful to fall in love with the world and all its allurements so he can distract us from God and the narrow and difficult path to Heaven. We live in this world, but we are not of this world. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3).

We discussed humility and pride in the last chapter about spiritual warfare. Pride is the complete opposite of the virtue of humility. Satan’s pride cast him into hell. Jesus told Sr. Faustina, “The torrents of grace inundate humble souls. The proud remain always in poverty and misery, because my grace turns away from them to humble souls” (Diary, 1602). Kind of paradoxical, isn’t it, that we become rich right within our spiritual poverty? This is important food for thought! “The proud always “remain in poverty and misery.” Humility is most pleasing to God. Sincere humility allows us to acknowledge our complete dependence on God. Truly, without Him, we are nothing.

A humble soul will keep their sights on Heaven and its rewards, and work hard to detach him or herself from worldly things. So, yes, we can be in the world but not a part of it. Also, our holy example can be a healing balm and bright light to those who are struggling to find God in a darkened world.

We Cannot Please God without Humility

The Blessed Mother told Sr. Faustina, “I desire, My dearly beloved daughter, that you practice the three virtues that are dearest to me — and most pleasing to God. The first is humility, humility, and once again humility; the second virtue, purity; the third virtue, love of God. As My daughter, you must especially radiate with these virtues” (Diary, 1415). Mary mentioned humility three times. Humility is that important!

We touched upon this earlier, but it bears repeating. We cannot please God without true humility. That’s what Sr. Faustina’s confessor Fr. Sopoćko rightly said: “Without humility, we cannot be pleasing to God.” He told her to “practice the third degree of humility; that is, not only must one refrain from explaining and defending oneself when reproached with something, but one should rejoice at the humiliation” (Diary, 270). It is very difficult to not defend ourselves and to even rejoice in those humiliations. But there are times when remaining silent in the face of accusations helps us to grow in the virtue of humility. God’s grace strengthens us and gives us courage to remain silent when appropriate, as well as to speak up when necessary; as, for instance, when our doing so can help to prevent others from suffering at the hands of someone who might have injured us. We must move our wills to respond appropriately to what unfolds in our lives.

On a lighter note, I’ll share a story about a young priest I know and a lesson he learned in humility. When he was in New York City, he parked his car, put money in the meter, and went on his way to his scheduled events. Later on, he discovered that his car was missing! He searched the neighboring streets and finally reported his vehicle to the police as stolen. After some time, several police officers were on the case, even searching tow-away parking lots. At day’s end, the car was finally found — right where he had left it! Red faced, he burned with humiliation after having told so many all day that his car was missing, when it was his recollection of his car’s whereabouts that was incorrect. He punctuated his story by telling our intimate gathering that the humiliation happened after he had been earnestly praying the Litany of Humility. We all smiled. When we pray to become more humble or to learn humility, we should expect that we might be humiliated or humbled. It’s good for our soul!

Humble Jesus and Sr. Faustina
In Scripture, we read, “And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Pet 5:5-6). After receiving Holy Communion one day, Sr. Faustina saw Jesus, who told her, “Today, penetrate into the spirit of My poverty and arrange everything in such a way that the most destitute will have no reason to envy you. I find pleasure, not in large buildings and magnificent structures, but in a pure and humble heart” (Diary, 532). Sister Faustina pondered deeply upon Jesus’ instructions.

She recalled, “I began to reflect on the spirit of poverty.” She clearly saw Jesus in His poverty. “[A]lthough He is the Lord of all things,” He “possessed nothing.” From the very beginning, this was true. “From a borrowed manger He went through life doing good to all, but himself having no place to lay His head.” Continuing, she wrote, “And on the Cross, I see the summit of His poverty, for He does not even have a garment on Himself.” Sister Faustina prayed, “O Jesus, through a solemn vow of poverty I desire to become like You; poverty will be my mother.” She explained, “As exteriorly we should possess nothing and have nothing to dispose of as our own; so interiorly we should desire nothing.” She went on. “And in the Most Blessed Sacrament, how great is Your poverty! Has there ever been a soul as abandoned as You were on the Cross, Jesus?” (Diary, 533). Every step of the way, as she strove to humbly serve her Lord; more and more the young mystic realized the meaning of humility.

Sister Faustina also wrote, “I must never judge anyone, but look at others with leniency and at myself with severity. I must refer everything to God” (Diary, 253). She did not want to place herself above others, especially knowing that the Lord Himself lived poverty. As she told Him in the words above, she desired to become like Him.

Perpetual Vows Around the Corner

On May 1, 1933, Sr. Faustina would profess her perpetual vows. But first, she made an eight-day retreat, as was mentioned earlier. Jesus told her to be at peace. He instructed her to “be like a child” toward Fr. Andrasz (Diary, 219).

Sister Faustina recounted everything to Fr. Andrasz. She had hoped that he would dispense her from the responsibility of having the Divine Mercy Image painted, since she was not believed by her superiors. She also doubted whether she should be listening to the inspirations she was receiving from the Lord. But she did not receive a dispensation. She recalled, “Father Andrasz gave me this answer: ‘I will dispense you from nothing, Sister; it is not right for you to turn away from these interior inspirations, but you must absolutely — and I say, absolutely — speak about them to your confessor; otherwise you will go astray despite the great graces you are receiving from God’” (Diary, 52).

Sister Faustina was taken aback. She was upset, as she reported in her Diary. Father continued, “For the present you are coming to me for confession, but understand, Sister, that you must have a permanent confessor; that is to say, a spiritual director” (Diary, 53). Sister Faustina had been praying for a permanent confessor. Jesus told her that she would have one. In fact, Jesus gave her two visions of Fr. Sopoćko. “This is the visible help for you on earth. He will help you carry out My will on earth” (Diary, 53). Sister Faustina would have to wait for him to come on the scene in God’s perfect timing. For now, she took in all of Fr. Andrasz’s instructions and prepared to profess her permanent vows.

Something to Ponder
Remember that, without humility, “we cannot be pleasing to God.” We learned above that Scripture instructs, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world — the desire of the  esh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches — comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 Jn 2:15-16). Jesus told Sr. Faustina, “Penetrate into the spirit of My poverty and arrange everything in such a way that the most destitute will have no reason to envy you.” Can you try that? Take time this week to ponder Sr. Faustina’s reflection on Jesus’ spirit of poverty, which you can see above. Ponder your own life and think about particular areas where you can make changes to better live a spirit of detachment from possessions and wealth. Also, read James 4:6-10 and prayerfully ponder the message.

You can order 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle here:

Image: Mother Teresa of Calcuta, portrait painting by Robert Pérez Palou 

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