Voluntary Poverty

Seculars Carmelites promise to strive towards evangelical perfection. Regarding these counsels the Secular Discalced Carmelites Constitutions states:


“Following Jesus as members of the Secular Order is expressed by the promise to strive for evangelical perfection in the spirit of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience and through the beatitudes.”

To strive toward evangelical poverty is not poverty for poverty’s sake, but for the sake of the Gospel. Voluntary poverty is something lay Carmelites can do for the love of God. This in not the strict poverty like those in religious orders where their Constitutions require them to relinquish ownership of material goods.

Through voluntary poverty those of us living in the world can live in solidarity with the poor. Poverty in clothes, for example, would look like a closet limited to just a few outfits. Each day could be lived like the poor by economizing the day’s spending habits. This could include not wasting food or other things, and repairing items or repurposing them, if possible, rather than throwing them away. Doing without some comforts and forgoing some conveniences would also be some ways to practice voluntary poverty. Working hard to achieve the day’s necessities, renouncing superfluous things and denying yourself the desire to acquire more things would allow more freedom and resources to help others, especially those closest to you. Doing without so that you could help others in your own family, your children and even friends would be the happy result of voluntary poverty.  You could make contributions financially to the Church, missions and the poor of the world with the money and resources that you deny yourself. This spirit of poverty will also allow you to contribute to other good works, institutions and noble causes.

Not letting material things distract you from God and your relationship with him will come from giving up the less essential things in your life. Not only that, but you will find more freedom from the occupation with things that will allow more time and energy to be given to serving God and to prayer.

Other ways to practice voluntary poverty are to not complain when deprived of something, when something is demanded of you or when confronted with some hardship. Accept your situation serenely and with patience in the spirit of voluntary poverty.

Practice voluntary poverty so that you won’t become a slave to things and develop a divided heart between loving God and loving things. Embracing voluntary poverty will allow you to be more generous with the poor and help you to draw closer to God.

For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. ~ Mt 6:21

Redeeming Time

“To love is to give all and to give oneself.” ~ St. Therese of the Child Jesus

prayer 2

I want to be more generous at prayer and to pray with greater devotion. This has long been my desire because I love God. I want to serve Him in this way, which is why I am a Secular Carmelite. I love to pray and want to put more love into the time that I spend in prayer. Often times though, I race through it just to get it done. It seems at other times I am just going through the motions. Sometimes the goal is just to fit in more quantity rather than quality, so I will fill up my time at prayer with various devotions without any real sentiment attached to them.

 To give myself completely and generously to prayer I need to be attentive to the task at hand. What holds me back from being generous with God at prayer?

 One thing for sure is selfishness. I need to make generous efforts to pray, which would greatly help in conquering “self”. I am often preoccupied when I begin to pray and these preoccupation encroach upon my prayer and carry me away from actually praying. I need to give these preoccupations to God first before beginning to pray. Attention to a short period of preparation before praying will aide in overcoming this obstacle to generosity. Sometimes I am just lazy; therefore, I need to arouse zeal within me by recalling the goal and to stir up within me the desire to rise higher. Additionally, prayer is a sacrifice and in this I am most wanting. It requires the sacrifice of time. It takes time to pray and this means to take away time from doing something else. But what else can be more important to do with the time I have? Sometimes I lack a generous spirit in praying because of discouraging results. Prayer is not always pleasant or rewarding. But then this is not the reason I pray. All these obstacles keep me from raising my heart and mind to God.

 Prayer needs to be approached not as a duty or obligation, but as the means of striving for union with God. Prayer is, after all, a gift. That I can commune with God is His gift, underserved by me worm of the earth! Therefore, I should approach prayer with great humility and trust.

 God is generous in His distribution of gifts, so I should be generous in my efforts, seeking to pray with the right dispositions and making a complete gift of myself to Him when I pray. I should never shrink from prayer, hesitate, avoid doing it, or waste away the time when I could be praying. Praying is a way to redeem time.

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