February 14, 2011

Stability and Poverty

This morning was one of the first in a while on which it was actually warm enough to walk to the Poor Clare monastery for Mass (as opposed to me pretending it's warm enough because I would rather walk.) It's also light now at six in the morning when I set out. He must increase, said John of the Light of the world. It is one of our great privileges here in the northern hemisphere that astronomy imitates revelation.

Sister Sacristan had two announcements for me this morning. The first was a liturgical direction, delivered conveniently between the opening prayer and the first reading: "There's no chalice for the sisters, Father. They have colds."

The second was some news from their community: they had been joined by a new postulant. And there she was, as I noticed myself when I gave the greeting at the beginning of Mass. Surely it's a great joy for the sisters; they are an aging community and have not had many vocations in recent years. When I was last in Boston studying for ordination, they had two novices at one point, one of whom I used to run into on the subway sometimes (what she was doing out, I have no idea). To the other riders of the Orange Line, we must have looked like a funny couple indeed.

I was thinking what a tremendous thing it must be to enter such a community, to propose to oneself and to God the plan of living the rest of one's life within one set of walls and with one set of sisters. I realize that sometimes we mendicant Franciscans put such an emphasis on our homelessness and itinerancy as partly constitutive of our evangelical poverty, but it is also a holy poverty to profess stability and the renunciation of 'going out' into the world in search of material support. Clare knew this, of course, that stability and enclosure assure a very intense poverty indeed.

In you charity offer a prayer for the new postulant.


Sarah said...

I love the idea of stability within poverty. I have often thought it a real attraction to religious life. As a married couple, my husband and I strive to live gospel poverty (I've read Happy are you Poor by Fr. Thomas Dubay several times) and it's challenging! Yet I find such peace in stripping away all the "stuff".
Thanks for this.

Suzanne said...

So good of you to post this. Please tell the sisters this would be a perfect time to reinstitute the newsletter and would make a perfect feature story and call for prayerful support. What a cause for celebration and gathering of God’s abundance. I am with them in prayer – hope to have the chance to visit some day.

4narnia said...

of course i will offer prayers for the new Postulant to the Poor Clares.
i can relate personally to how you describe what it is like to live as a Poor Clare. first, because i try to live with only the necessary material things and, second, i had the honor of seeing a first Profession of a Poor Clare nun is Assisi. it was so beautiful and inspired me even more to try all the more harder to live simply and humbly.
and, yes, Fr. C, i think it's a "great privilege that here in the northern hemisphere that astronomy imitates revelation," as you mention in your post.
~tara t~

Paul A. Zalonski said...

the walls ensure an intense poverty, both materially and spiritually...those walls remind us we are not orphans.

the witness of the enclosed nuns aids the Church in so many beautiful ways.

may the postulant give of herself totally to the Lord.

this is a sign that God hears and answers our prayers.