I have been meditating on the Vow of Poverty this morning after receiving a question about discerning a call to religious life and encountering the question of privilege. Here’s the question in part:
I am struggling mightily with a concern that 21st century American religious life may place many of its new or younger entrants (post-1990s, say, and I did just pull that out of my hat) in a tremendously privileged life and socioeconomic/cultural class in this society. That the matter of who legally owns the resources can be, in real terms, very much “semantics”, placing many religious and communities well and even deep within the ranks of the “non-poor” in terms of both concrete resources and the stew of privilege (or not) that is “class”, a powerful possibility in this society.
Poverty and the vow of poverty are not easy realities to get one’s head around! But it is good to tangle with them as you are considering your calling in life and exploring religious life. I pulled your comments to the fore because I know I thought about them when I was discerning religious life (still do!) and I know others are as well. So I think this conversation will be helpful to many. All are welcome (as always) to participate in the conversation.
Although not all sisters and nuns profess a vow of poverty, one of three evangelical counsels (the other 2 are chastity and obedience … Jesus’ advice to those who wish to dedicate their lives to God), all religious strive to live this virtue in their personal and communal life.
Here are a couple of my thoughts on the vow of poverty … one comes from my reading of Pope Benedict XVI’s book on Jesus of Nazareth and the other comes from a visitor’s question a while back about the different dimensions of poverty. It’s important to note that poverty in the sense of the vow, the evangelical counsel, is not the same as poverty in the sense of destitution or lack of subsistence or means of supporting oneself or one’s family.
I would like to hear more from you about the topic of living poverty as a religious. If you are a sister or nun, what does this mean for you? If you are discerning like Jean, what concerns do you have? And for all visitors, do you find echoes of the evangelical counsel of poverty in your own life?