DECEMBER 2020 RECOLLECTION: We Choose to Follow the Poor Christ
Translated by Fray Dunstan Huberto Decena, OAR
For a second consecutive month, our recollection drinks from the document “To live Poverty: A Grace and a Challenge” that Fray Miguel Miro Miro, our Prior General, has directed to the religious of the Augustinian Recollect family. Let us remember that this was a decision of the General Chapter celebrated in Rome on the year 2016, specifically the G1, which says: “Let the Prior General elaborate a document on the evangelical counsel of Poverty and the manner to live it today…”.
This month of December we focus on the second chapter of the document that is entitled: “We choose to follow the Poor Christ.” In a way similar to the preceding recollection, we choose some texts of the document that seem useful to our recollection. We choose eight texts with the number at the beginning of each one.
Come, Divine Spirit.
We dispose our heart for a conscious, affective and fascinated encounter with the God of the poor. And, poor that we are, we manifest our trust in God and in his providence that provides us with wisdom, love and strength for the journey. As beggars of God we beg the Holy Spirit the gift of prayer:
“Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul who believes in Christ is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and lift us up to God” (s. 128, 4).
It is suggested that we listen to the hymn “Ven Espiritu Divino” (Sequence) by Pablo Coloma, which is found in You Tube.
We choose to follow the poor Christ.
As followers of Christ on foot, we want to live with authentic faith, hope, love and joy the path that Jesus followed. We who are called to the religious life want to follow Christ in authentic chastity, poverty and obedience.
In prayerful mood, St. Augustine tells us: You who are poor, make effort to hold interior riches, to have hearts full of virtues, to possess justice, piety, charity, faith, hope. These are the true riches that you cannot lose even in a shipwreck. “Grant us, O Lord, to possess our heart full of faith, hope and charity, to be poor and to possess true riches” (s. 25A,3 = s. Morin 12,3).
The Way of the Beatitudes.
The path of the Beatitudes is a gift from God and a challenge that ask of us sincere commitment. “If your justice is not greater than that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:20). He who follows the adventure of the Beatitudes leans on Christ, the model for living out the evangelical counsel of poverty.
(1) In following Christ, we learn and practice the Beatitudes of the Kingdom, the lifestyle of Christ himself: his love and filial obedience to the Father, his affectionate compassion for human pain, his nearness to the poor and the little ones, his faithfulness to the mission entrusted, his helpful love up to the gift of his life. Today we contemplate Jesus Christ just the way the Gospels transmit him to us in order to know what he did and to discern that which we ought to do in the actual circumstances (Aparecida , 139 [2.1].
We are Prophets of the Kingdom.
The prophet of the Kingdom follows Jesus Christ in a humble attitude of self-effacement and of making oneself poor, he accepts Jesus as Lord and the treasure of his life, he is passionate for God, his absolute value. The Apostle Paul exhorts us: “Have among yourselves the same sentiments as Christ: Though he was in the form of God, he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men. He was known to be of human estate, and it was thus that he humbled himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8)
The prophet of the Kingdom is a person passionate for mankind, he chooses to love and serve the poorest, he shares out of charity, he is in solidarity with the needy, he seeks justice, he goes against the current, he listens to the cry of the poor, he is capable of renouncing his own family and even his own life, he listens every day to the Word, is nourished with the Eucharist, he has wisdom to discern, and bears witness to the Beatitudes.
The prophet of the Kingdom is free of the wealth of this world, he lives in simplicity and sobriety, in continuous detachment from the goods of this world, he subordinates temporal goods.
(2) The religious are called to be the prophetic sign of holiness in the Church. Living their own Charism, they make present “the kind of life that the Son of God took when he came into this world to fulfill the will of the Father, and which he proposed to the disciples who followed him” (LG 44). By means of his consecration through the profession of the evangelical counsels, the religious desire to possess the same sentiments that Christ had, who “emptied himself taking the form of a slave… becoming obedient unto death” (Phil 2:7-8), and for us “he became poor though he was rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). With humility and moved by the Spirit, “They follow more closely the emptying of the Savior and they give more evident witness of him by embracing poverty in the freedom of the sons of God” (LG 42) (2.2).
(3) Nothing and no one can occupy the center position that should be given only to adherence to the Person of Christ. From this reality others take their meaning: renouncing the family, one’s own life and everything else, “Sell all your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Lk 12:33) (2.2).
(4) Today, as always, the prophet is a man passionate for Christ and for Mankind, he is a free person who takes on to go against the current, he is disposed to give his life, spend time in prayer filling his heart with grace and love. He knows to discern what comes from God and what is the fruit of human egoism, he knows the reality of this world, he speaks of God fearless of what others may say. The prophet feels poor, he hears the cry of the poor and denounces injustice. He does not remain in vagueness and abstractions, but knows how to be concrete and realistic in life. His style is neither diplomacy, nor partisanship, because he sees things with the eyes of faith. Finally, the prophet is one who has the wisdom to discern and does not remain in egocentric spiritualism or in mere social activism (2,2).
The Economy at the service of the Charism.
The material resources that we possess have triple objective: that we the religious live with dignity without forgetting that we profess poverty; that our installations for evangelization be dignified; and finally to help the poor in our society, especially through our social works.
The pandemic COVID 19 has submerged us in a global economic crisis. Thousands of persons lost their jobs or have their monthly income reduced. Consequently many lost their house or they lost sufficient means to eat, to buy clothes or medicines. Together with the poor of yesterday, the actual economic crisis has generated the new poor. Caritas, the most consistent social organization of our Catholic Church to look after the poorer ones, has been overwhelmed and is unable to attend to thousands of persons left without roof, without work and without access to resources to meet their basic necessities. The governments are overcome beyond capacity to help their own citizens. The Objectives of Sustainable Development, among which the first place is to put an end to poverty, seem unattainable. Solidarity with the poor is today the first priority. Jesus, the Good Samaritan, invites us to have compassion on thousands of persons that suffer, through concrete acts of help.
We are called to live just as Christ lived poverty, putting at the center the primacy of the Kingdom of love. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:3).
(5) The change of epoch in which we find ourselves clamor for a renewal: human, social, cultural and religious. The historical moment that we live oblige the Church and the Consecrated Life to confront the global economic crisis with realism and hope. From this perspective, the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life (CIVCSVA), following the magisterium of Pope Francis and with his approval, published in 2018 the document “Economy at the service of Charism and Mission. Good dispensers of the varied graces if God. Orientations.” This document is a call that, while remaining faithful to one’s own charism, the Religious Institutes restate the economy from the ecclesial meaning of their possessions and the management of the same (CIVCSVA, Economy at the service of the charism and the mission 3-4)… I consider this document of special importance for us in the Order to restate our living out of poverty, rethink the economy and administer our possessions with responsibility and transparency (2.3).
(6) The consecrated persons are called not only to personal poverty, but also to communitarian poverty; not only the religious, but also the institutions. Consequently, the religious community as such must have solidarity with the poor, and discern creatively how to collaborate in a social transformation that permits it to live with dignity (2.3.1).
(7) For the orderly and provident management of possessions, it is asked –with the duty indicated in Canon Law- that the stable patrimony of each Institute be established. The stable patrimony, composed of movable or immovable goods, guarantees the subsistence of the Institute, of the Provinces and the houses legitimately erected and its members, and assures the realization of its mission (2.3.3).
(8) Operative indications: three horizons and six criteria of discernment.
In the administration of goods and the management of the works of the Religious Institutes, the CIVCSVA proposes three horizons, while establishing six criteria for discernment. The great horizons into which economic activities are inserted are: an economy that counts on the human being, the totality of the person and, in particular, the poor; the reading of the economy as an instrument of the missionary action of the Church, and, lastly, an evangelical economy of exchange and communion.
These horizons are specified in several fundamental criteria:
1. Fidelity to God and to the Gospel. Every consecrated life gives primacy to God, in the sequela Christi. Every consecrated person must first of all focus on Him, contemplate Him, learn from Him, imitate Him, follow Him, the chaste, poor and obedient in order to become faithful proclaimers of the Good News. “This is why, the gift of listening: to listen to God, that with him we may hear the cry of the people; listen to the people, until breathing in it the will to which God calls us, is so indispensable.”
2. Fidelity to the charism. Every charism “is always a living reality” called to “develop in creative fidelity.” Fidelity to the charism is, therefore, the harmony between the real choices in a given situation and the core identity of the Institute.
3. Poverty. A “responsible austerity”, a “healthy humility and a happy sobriety” favor distancing from the concept of ‘ownership of goods’ and generates a particular disposition to listen to “the cry of the poor, the poor of all times, and the new poor.”
4. Respect for the ecclesiastical nature of goods. The assets of the Institutes of Consecrated Life are ecclesiastical goods (c. 635,1), destined to achieve the Church’s own objectives (c. 1254). The Institutes, in the use of these assets, are called to safeguard their nature and observe the respective canonical discipline.
5. The sustainability of the apostolates. The works of the Institutes are by nature situated in social and economic systems.
6. The need for accountability. Accounting is an attitude that is consistent with sharing the options, the actions and the achievements (CIVCSVA, Economy at the service of Charism and Mission 51 & 54) (2.3.4).
Questions for personal reflection and community dialogue.
1. The prophet of the Kingdom accepts Christ as his Lord and the treasure of his life and he has the same sentiments as he. Does Jesus Christ continue being the Lord of my life? Have I grown in the value of humility, holding as my model the humble Jesus Christ? How do I live the evangelical counsel of poverty?
2. The prophet of the Kingdom is a person passionate for mankind, and chooses to love and to serve the poorest. What am I called to do for the poor in the actual circumstances provoked by the pandemic COVID 19? How do I get involved in the social works of the Order?
3. The prophet of the Kingdom is free of the goods of this earth, he lives in simplicity and sobriety. Do I grow in detachment from the goods of this earth or do I accumulate more possessions and attachments? Am I capable of renouncing my life and with my words the idolatry of money?
The rich praise themselves, the poor praise the Lord. Why are they poor? Because they praise and seek the Lord. The Lord is the wealth of the poor; that is why the house is empty, to fill the heart with riches. Grant, O Lord, that we always put our heart in you, who are our true treasure, and free us of attachment to the riches of this world (en. Ps. 21:2, 7).