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