April 30, 2009

Obedience, Poverty, Chastity

Too often we accept from the world a sense of the vows that is negative in which they are only about renunciation and not having something. On the contrary, if they are to be lived well, either as values that animate any Christian life or as the public vows of religious consecration, obedience, poverty, and chastity need to be active forces in our daily spiritual practice. As one of the brothers likes to tell novices, "If something is a value for us, then we look for ways to put it into practice."

Here are some examples of looking for opportunity from my own reflection over the years:

Obedience. Today I will do my best to work honestly and diligently in what tasks the Holy Spirit puts before me through legitimate authority or religious duty, even if it isn't what I want to be doing or doesn't suit my idea of my vocation or "what I'm about." If my superiors seem irrational or unfair or worse, I will joyfully thank God for the grace of sharing one of the ordinary sufferings of poor people everywhere. I will notice the things in me which are idiosyncratic or peculiar, and I will take care not to impose these on others through whatever power I might have. I will remember what's going on in the lives of others and be sure to ask them how things are going. I will grasp opportunities to turn conversations away from myself and toward the concerns, trials, and joys of others. I will pray gratefully when I am given the grace of being mocked, excluded, or condemned for the unwillingness to accept the moral absurdities and tragedies of our world, like abortion, war, and same-sex "marriage." I will pray with even more gratitude when God gives me the grace of being labeled, excluded, and despised by my own brother and sister Christians for the unwillingness to accept liturgical abuses or disregard for the Rule.

Poverty. I will do little, symbolic things today to remind myself that I am a poor man. I will take the ugliest apple from the basket instead of the prettiest. I won't drive when I can take the bus or the subway, and I won't take the bus when I can walk. I will be grateful when someone asks to borrow something I don't want to give him. I will pray for the people who suffer in the manufacture of my clothing and my food. I will try to forever reduce my impact on the earth by ruthlessly examining my choices as a consumer.

Chastity. I will be forever vigilant against treating those who might be naturally attractive, charming, or interesting any better than those I find boring, shallow, or even repulsive. In fact, I will make an effort to treat everybody as if they were the most interesting and beautiful person in the world, because this is how God sees them. I will be grateful when my own little jealousies and internal acts of possessiveness are thwarted. I will keep my eyes from the desperate dullness of a pornographic culture. I will notice and take every opportunity to build up the self-esteem and confidence of children, especially girls. I will thank God for the natural affection that is in me as a revelation of the creative power of the loving God, but I will make good use of the traditional practices of custody of the eyes and guard of the heart, so that what is natural and good by creation is not turned selfish by concupiscence and deordination.


Jeanne said...

What a beautiful post. Whether one takes vows as a religious or as a married person, it's important to take them seriously. As a wife, I promised to love, honor and obey my husband - just like you made three vows too. And each of us must keep them daily to the best of our ability. Thanks for sharing your insights.

GrandmaK said...

Certainly a reflection worth pondering. In this we should all agree! Thank you! Cathy