Perfectae Caritatis 13

The second of the evangelical counsels, poverty, receives attention in Perfectae Caritatis 13.

Religious should diligently practice and if need be express also in new forms that voluntary poverty which is recognized and highly esteemed especially today as an expression of the following of Christ. By it they share in the poverty of Christ who for our sakes became poor, even though He was rich, so that by His poverty we might become rich (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9; Matt. 8:20).

Poverty may be expressed in “new forms.” What do you think such novelties would look like?

With regard to religious poverty it is not enough to use goods in a way subject to the superior’s will, but members must be poor both in fact and in spirit, their treasures being in heaven (cf. Matt. 6:20).

Religious should consider themselves in their own assignments to be bound by the common law of labor, and while they procure what is required for their sustenance and works, they should banish all undue solicitude and trust themselves to the provident care of their Father in heaven (cf. Matt. 6:25).

I’ve been struck by the decision of the brothers of this monastery to forego medical insurance as part of this expression.

Religious congregations by their constitutions can permit their members to renounce inheritances, both those which have been acquired or may be acquired.

Due regard being had for local conditions, religious communities should readily offer a quasi-collective witness to poverty and gladly use their own goods for other needs of the Church and the support of the poor whom all religious should love after the example of Christ (cf. Matt. 19:21, 25:34-46 James 2:15-16; 1 John 3:17). The several provinces and houses of each community should share their temporal goods with one another, so that those who have more help the others who are in need.

Poverty itself is not enough; there must be a sense of charity springing from this expression.

Religious communities have the right to possess whatever is required for their temporal life and work, unless this is forbidden by their rules and constitutions. Nevertheless, they should avoid every appearance of luxury, excessive wealth and the accumulation of goods.

Any comments on poverty as expressed in Roman Catholic religious life?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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One Response to Perfectae Caritatis 13

  1. Fred says:

    The reinvention of poverty was of deep concern to Balthasar. Some forms he mentioned: resisting the temptation to amass great libraries, limitations on mass media and other technologies (tv also impacts the integrity of the cloister), limits on means of entertainment. Mother Theresa was also concerned about the pursuit of degrees and the ethic of professionalism being put above the first concern of charity.

    He also asked tough questions of the Counsels in today’s life, for example: “Does anything really change when one enters an order, other than the fact that the Christian who earns his living in a (secular) order will find himself financially better off because of his celibacy and his being supported by a community than a poor devil with a wife and children? In this manner, the gesture of ‘forsaking all things,’ seen in a sober light, changes into its opposite, into a leap from uncertainty into a greater earthly security” (Explorations in Theology, vol II, p 425).

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