You may have as many asses and mules as you need, however, and may keep a certain amount of livestock or poultry.
– Rule of St. Albert, No. 13
When Jesus sent his disciples out to preach the kingdom of God, he reminded them that they should not bring any extras, not money for their food or any bag for that matter (Matthew 10:5-15 and Luke 10:1-12).
He stripped his disciples of their comforts and taught them to rely solely on God, as he said in Matthew 6:25-26:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
This is poverty.
Sometimes we tend to look at life based on our perceived needs and out inability to provide such needs. We then panic and resort to a lot of complaining, or at times even express our anger and frustration through harmful ways. We tend to forget that, come to think of it, we have enough of what we really need.
When Pope Innocent IV revised the Rule of Life of the Carmelites in 1247, he made sure that this would be suited to their new lifestyle, which at the time was beginning to be influenced by the Mendicant Orders, the Franciscans and the Dominicans.
Their migration from Mt. Carmel back to Europe, made it impossible for them to live a hermit’s life, and for their survival they needed animals for them to produce their own food. However, they were to have all these based on their need and not for any other reason.
When we start to accumulate things even if we don’t need them, we start to also lose sight of our being Christians. We start to go on a “possessing” frenzy and instead of focusing on doing our Christian duties, we become more concerned on how we could increase our yields or profit. And we make reasons like, “We need it for us to be more effective in our ministries,” or such other similar reasons.
There is a reason why Jesus did not want his disciples to bring extra stuffs when he sent them out to preach the Good News, and there is a reason why he forbade them to take payment for their services. For Jesus, it is enough that they be satisfied with having food to eat and a shelter for the night, other than that, its excess.
This is poverty. The absence of excess.
Pope Innocent IV may have permitted us to do something about our livelihood, but he gave this permission with caution. It should be based on our actual need, not our perceived need, which, most of time, are but our wants disguised.
How do I live my poverty?
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.
Lord, please grant me a heart that desires only that which you desire for me. Allow me to be grateful for the little that I have and to appreciate your goodness for providing all that I need. Amen.