Archive for the ‘poverty of spirit’ Category

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


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The two pillars of St. Teresa’s way of life are poverty and solitude. This should come as no surprise. St. Teresa perceived these to be essential to the reform she set out to undertake. Life in the Incarnation the years before the reform were much different. The monastery was large with a number of nuns, many visitors and lots of activity. Many of the nuns were wealthy and brought their servants with them. There was no strict enclosure, so the nuns could come and go as they pleased.

Given these conditions it is no wonder that St. Teresa focused her new foundation on these two things:



St. Teresa and her nuns of the reform loved poverty. They trusted in God to provide for the things they needed. They held all things in common. No one was to own anything. They were to renounce ownership even of particular offices which were exchanged by the prioress from time to time to keep anyone from becoming attached to any one position or job. They did not worry about having enough food either. “And if at times there wasn’t enough food for everyone and I said that what there was should go to those most in need, each one thought that she could do without, and so the food remained until God sent enough for everyone.” (The Foundations, 1,2).  The fruits yielded from this love were: detachment, charity, abandonment to God and contentment.

For those of us living in the world as seculars, material poverty would be imprudent, especially if we are supporting a family. But we can practice the spirit of poverty. Are we trying to accumulate masses of this or that? A lack of the spirit of poverty can be summed up in being attached to anything. How can you know if you are attached to something? Well, if it is taken away or gone and you become sad – you are attached! The spirit of poverty could also be called a “holy indifference”. It doesn’t matter if you have that new ______or not, or if that favorite ______ is now gone.

St. Teresa also saw that solitude was necessary to live a life of prayer.  To be alone with Christ so that an encounter with Christ can take place. This encounter is life-giving (love-giving) because Christ is the source of life, of love. However, solitude needs time and space. Therefore, we need to make the time and space in order to live this life of prayer. An assessment of our life, of the difficulties and impediments to this time and space needs to be examined and steps made in order to make way for this longed-for encounter with Christ.

Some of the difficulties to living solitude for those of us who live in the world include the business of our state in life. Our duties to family and work come first. Also, the state of our health can present an obstacle to this solitude, so can fatigue. Distractions are a big obstacle, especially – letting other things occupy our heart. A lack of a good time and space can also infringe on our prayer. At home we need to create a time and place to devote to prayer where this can be done regularly and without interruptions.

What is the best time of day for me to pray where it is quiet and I can be alone?

Where is the best place for me to spend in silence and devotion to God?

How can I make this space and time conductive to prayer?

Finally, we should ask -Why would I want to create this time and place for solitude? If the answer is because of a desire to live a life of prayer it must be remembered that a life of prayer needs to be nourished and expressed in love for others.

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The first condition of this solitary bird, this contemplative soul, is seeking the highest place; that is, to seek God. The contemplative soul lets God be the goal. Seek first the kingdom of God and to do this in everything. All works, words and prayers are to be done with and for God.

The contemplative soul rises above passing things; and ‘all things are passing’, to quote St. Teresa of Jesus’ bookmark. Paying no more heed to them than if they did not exist…here there is the need for detachment, poverty of spirit, keeping the heart surrendered to God alone.

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