One must be grateful for the graces that serve to humiliate us by dismantling our pious illusions about ourselves. Humility is impossible without honesty about our spiritual condition.
This morning has been a fine example for me. Among the most challenging chores of my current transition are figuring out my health coverage, finding a new physician, and figuring out how I will get the prescriptions I need. I have asthma, and have had it for a long time. Over the years I have seen the drugs improve tremendously; at this point I hardly ever experience symptoms, but I know I need my daily doses of medicine. I am grateful to have had some kind of health coverage throughout my adult life thus far, but it has always been in some sketchy or incomplete way. I have always been able to see doctors, eventually, and to get what I need, but not without a lot of struggle and torturous explanations. This has been so both in and out of religious life. For the last few years I have had it pretty easy, both because my community has made some great improvements in how us younger brothers are covered, and because I live next to our retirement residence and thus have easy contact with doctors. But things change in the itinerant life, and now I have to figure out how things will work in my return to student life. Various people tell me entirely different things, and of course I get anxious about how I will be able to make sure I can keep breathing.
So I find myself this morning, already having lost an hour on account of trying to puzzle some of this out and fretting about it. That's a good hour of a Thursday morning, the time I usually try to use to draft my Sunday homily. But then, thanks be to God, I'm able to surrender to the grace of confessing my arrogance. Is this not one of the standard anxieties of the poor? This is what poverty is in this world; to have difficult access to those who control the resources that are life's necessities, or to be excluded from them altogether. I will never really know such poverty, but if I claim to be a poor man by my vows, should I not be grateful for this little taste?
Whatever part of me feels annoyed by all this, as if I--in my being a North American male from one of the privileged classes--resent having to deal with such things at all, it reveals that I am not entirely converted to the life of evangelical poverty. But I'm grateful for the grace this morning of being invited to surrender to this taste of the anxiety of the poor; may it make me compassionate and drive me to bring the good news of the Kingdom of God to the real poor of my neighborhood and world.
Our Capuchin Constitutions have a wonderful line on all this, which I think is derived from St. Bernard: "Let us not wish to be numbered among those who go by the fictitious name of 'poor' who love to be poor in such a way as to lack nothing." Amen.