Embracing The Power Of Spiritual Poverty
I have recently begun correspondence with a Franciscan Friar from Cochrane, Alberta at Mt. St. Francis Retreat Centre, Brother Gerry Clyne. He serves as the Vocations Director for Western Canada and has kindly agreed to correspond about Franciscan spirituality and life in this amazing mendicant order. Lately we have been discussing the vows of poverty. It has been wonderfully enlightening. The following thoughts are entirely thanks to Br. Gerry.
One of the things that has moved me deeply is better understanding St. Francis’ motivation in his vow of poverty. Unlike many ascetics, Francis did not embrace poverty out of a sense of self-denial or out of a desire to distance himself from the temptations of the world (at least not primarily). Rather, he saw in the Incarnation Christ’s willing divestment of power out of love. Francis took the vow of poverty out of identification with Jesus.
This reliquishment of wealth (both material and metaphorical) allows for a liberty where the friars are free to focus their time and energy entirely on Christ and neighbour. Inevitably, it draws them into proximity, relationship and solidarity with the marginalized, especially the poor. While in the world’s eyes, these vows would seem to disempower them from effecting change, like Christ their true power comes from reliquishing it.
What better lesson can the Church today learn than to collectively divest ourselves of that which the world burdens us into into pursuing? If we truly want to reach people with the reality of the Gospel and impact the world with God’s Kingdom, we have to resist the impulse to mimic the worlds use of power and learn to be truly poor in spirit (and even materially). When we do this, it will birth a creativity of the Spirit that will produce movements that will transform the world around us.
In what ways can we be intentional about embracing this poverty of spirit? What “wealth” is hardest for you to reliquish?