Franciscan Poverty Today

by Conchitina S. Bernardo

In a parish like Santuario de San Antonio, envisioning poverty seems far removed. However, it has been told to us in countless talks and lectures, that the poverty we seek, need not translate to a lack of material and pecuniary possessions. Instead we are asked to be detached from such needs. Detachment, equates to poverty in spirit.

Our patron saint, Francis of Assisi, stripped himself of all material trappings. He lived poorly, begged in the streets, mingled with lepers, and worked among the least in what was then an affluent Italian society. He founded an order of Friars Minors. He is one of the Catholic Church’s greatest saints. Francis truly practiced poverty and lived it. We are not expected to do what he did. However we must look deeper into exactly what he meant. As parishioners, we are invited to do that.

In Centering Prayer, in the silence that surrounds us, we start by letting go of all thoughts. Thoughts are laden with wants, needs, feeling, desires. As we go deeper into the prayer and into that space where we let go of our thoughts, all peripheral yearnings start floating away and dissipating. We go into a “place,” where inner peace leads one to encounter a presence filled with love, and suddenly you feel you understand. You want nothing more. Your journey will then begin.

It is only through prayer, that your intentions can be purified. There is so much of our false self imbedded in our desires, even our good deeds. Specifically, the daily practice of Centering Prayer, almost always, invariably leads to service. The daily reading of scripture, through Lectio Divina, points one towards a direction. Suddenly you will feel detached, because your focus now changes from what you want, to what God wants. No more self. Poverty takes on a new perspective. You are poor, due to the absence of desires. The prayer, “may I decrease, and may You increase” is now your prayer. You develop an attitude geared away from you, towards the others. A path is formed. As the path clears, you know in your heart the beatitude that affirms you is the one that says … “Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the

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As published in the January 22 issue of the Parish Bulletin.