Taken from chapter 16 of Introduction to Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales.
BUT if you are really poor, my daughter, for God’s Sake be so in spirit; make a virtue of necessity, and turn that precious stone poverty194to its true value. The brilliancy thereof is not perceived in this world, but nevertheless it is very great.
Patience then! you are in good company. Our Dear Lord, Our Lady, the Apostles, numberless Saints, both men and women, were poor, and although they might have been rich, disdained to be so. How many great ones of this world have gone through many difficulties to seek holy poverty amid hospitals and cloisters! What pains they took to find it, let S. Alexis, S. Paula, S. Paulinus, S. Angela, and many another witness; whereas to you, my child, it has come unasked—you have met poverty without seeking it—do you then embrace it as the beloved friend of Jesus Christ, Who was born, lived and died in poverty, and cherished it all His Life.
There are two great privileges connected with your poverty, through which you may acquire great merit. First, it is not your own choice, but God’s Will alone, which has made you poor. Now, whatever we accept simply because it is God’s Will is acceptable in His Sight, so long as we accept it heartily and out of love:—the less of self the more of God,—and a singlehearted acceptance of God’s Will purifies any suffering very greatly.
The second privilege is, that this poverty is 195so very poor. There is a be-praised, caressed poverty, so petted and cared for, that it can hardly be called poor like the despised, contemned, neglected poverty which also exists. Now, most secular poverty is of this last kind, for those who are involuntarily poor, and cannot help themselves, are not much thought of, and for that very reason their poverty is poorer than that of religious, although religious poverty has a very special and excellent grace, through the intention and the vow by which it is accepted.
Do not complain then of your poverty, my daughter,—we only complain of that which is unwelcome, and if poverty is unwelcome to you, you are no longer poor in spirit. Do not fret under such assistance as is needful; therein lies one great grace of poverty. It were overambitious to aim at being poor without suffering any inconvenience, in other words, to have the credit of poverty and the convenience of riches.
Do not be ashamed of being poor, or of asking alms. Receive what is given you with humility, and accept a refusal meekly. Frequently call to mind Our Lady’s journey into Egypt with her Holy Child, and of all the poverty, contempt and suffering they endured. If you follow their example you will indeed be rich amid your poverty.