Monday, June 6, 2016

Being Truly Poor

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. 
He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied. Mt 5

To be poor is to have no choice or more pointedly no choices. So it is that Dorothy Day insisted that following the poor Christ meant really experiencing the grind of poverty. It could not simply entail being detached from possessions. Dorothy Day was certain that poverty meant precarity. Precarity is defined as living “without predictability or security and is applied to the condition of intermittent or under-employment" and the resulting precarious consequences. 

How then can we as monks possibly be truly poor? Perhaps we cannot according to Day, for we are fortunate to have a roof and meals and healthcare assured. Still it seems a kind of poverty must be possible for us. And for that we must go down to the place of our personal precarity, a place where we know our desperate need for Christ’s mercy, the place where we experience our vulnerability and precariousness. 

We recall that the words precarity and precarious are derived from the Latin prex, precis meaning prayer. Indeed being poor ultimately means that we only have a prayer; we must depend on each other and on God.