How to exercise real Poverty, although actually Rich

August 7, 2010

Taken from chapter 15 of Introduction of Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales.

THE painter Parrhasius drew an ingenious and imaginative representation of the 189Athenians, ascribing sundry opposite qualities to them, calling them at once capricious, irascible, unjust, inconstant, courteous, merciful, compassionate, haughty, vain-glorious, humble, boastful, and cowardly;—and for my part, dear daughter, I would fain see united in your heart both riches and poverty, a great care and a great contempt for temporal things.

Do you take much greater pains than is the wont of worldly men to make your riches useful and fruitful? Are not the gardeners of a prince more diligent in cultivating and beautifying the royal gardens than if they were their own? Wherefore? Surely because these gardens are the king’s, to whom his gardeners would fain render an acceptable service. My child, our possessions are not ours,—God has given them to us to cultivate, that we may make them fruitful and profitable in His Service, and so doing we shall please Him. And this we must do more earnestly than worldly men, for they look carefully after their property out of self-love, and we must work for the love of God. Now self-love is a restless, anxious, over-eager love, and so the work done on its behalf is troubled, vexatious, and unsatisfactory;—whereas the love of God is calm, peaceful, and tranquil, and so the work done for its sake, even in worldly things, is gentle, trustful, and quiet. Let us take such 190a quiet care to preserve, and even when practicable to increase, our temporal goods, according to the duties of our position,—this is acceptable to God for His Love’s Sake.

But beware that you be not deceived by self-love, for sometimes it counterfeits the Love of God so cleverly that you may mistake one for the other. To avoid this, and to prevent a due care for your temporal interests from degenerating into avarice, it is needful often to practise a real poverty amid the riches with which God has endowed you.

To this end always dispose of a part of your means by giving them heartily to the poor; you impoverish yourself by whatever you give away. It is true that God will restore it to you, not only in the next world, but in this, for nothing brings so much temporal prosperity as free almsgiving, but meanwhile, you are sensibly poorer for what you give. Truly that is a holy and rich poverty which results from almsgiving.

Love the poor and poverty,—this love will make you truly poor, since, as Holy Scripture says, we become like to that we love. 100100 “Their abominations were according as they loved.” Hosea ix. 10. Love makes lovers equal. “Who is weak and I am not weak?” 101101 2 Cor. xi. 29. says St. Paul? He might have said, Who is poor and I am not poor? for it was 191love which made him like to those he loved; and so, if you love the poor, you will indeed share their poverty, and be poor like them.

And if you love the poor, seek them out, take pleasure in bringing them to your home, and in going to theirs, talk freely with them, and be ready to meet them, whether in Church or elsewhere. Let your tongue be poor with them in converse, but let your hands be rich to distribute out of your abundance. Are you prepared to go yet further, my child? not to stop at being poor like the poor, but even poorer still? The servant is not so great as his lord; do you be the servant of the poor, tend their sickbed with your own hands, be their cook, their needlewoman. O my daughter, such servitude is more glorious than royalty! How touchingly S. Louis, one of the greatest of kings, fulfilled this duty; serving the poor in their own houses, and daily causing three to eat at his own table, often himself eating the remains of their food in his loving humility. In his frequent visits to the hospitals he would select those afflicted with the most loathsome diseases, ulcers, cancer, and the like; and these he would tend, kneeling down and bare-headed, beholding the Saviour of the world in them, and cherishing them with all the tenderness of a mother’s love. Saint Elizabeth of Hungary 192used to mix freely with the poor, and liked to dress in their homely garments amid her gay ladies. Surely these royal personages were poor amid their riches and rich in poverty.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. In the Day of Judgment the King of prince and peasant will say to them, “I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat, I was naked, and ye clothed Me; come, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” 102102 S. Matt. xxv. 34-36.

Everybody finds themselves sometimes deficient in what they need, and put to inconvenience. A guest whom we would fain receive honorably arrives, and we cannot entertain him as we would; we want our costly apparel in one place, and it all happens to be somewhere else: all the wine in our cellar suddenly turns sour: we find ourselves accidentally in some country place where everything is wanting, room, bed, food, attendance: in short, the richest people may easily be without something they want, and that is practically to suffer poverty. Accept such occurrences cheerfully, rejoice in them, bear them willingly.

Again, if you are impoverished much or little by unforeseen events, such as storm, flood, fire, drought, theft, or lawsuit; then is the real time 193to practise poverty, accepting the loss quietly, and adapting yourself patiently to your altered circumstances. Esau and Jacob both came to their father with hairy hands, 103103 Gen. xxvii. but the hair on Jacob’s hands did not grow from his skin, and could be torn off without pain; while that on Esau’s hands being the natural growth of his skin, he would have cried out and resisted if any one had torn it off. So if our possessions are very close to our heart, and storm or thief tear them away, we shall break forth in impatient murmurs and lamentations. But if we only cleave to them with that solicitude which God wills us to have, and not with our whole heart, we shall see them rent away without losing our sense of calmness. This is just the difference between the clothing of men and beasts; the beast’s clothing grows on its flesh, and man’s is only laid on so that it may be laid aside at will.

Advertisements

On Poverty of Spirit amid Riches

August 7, 2010

Taken from chapter 14 of Introduction to Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales.

“BLESSED are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God;” 9797 S. Matt. v. 3. and if so, woe be to the rich in spirit, for theirs must be the bitterness of hell. By rich in spirit I mean him whose riches engross his mind, or whose mind is buried in his riches. He is poor in spirit whose heart is not filled with the love of riches, whose mind is not set upon them. The halcyon builds its nest like a ball, and leaving but one little aperture in the upper part, launches it on the sea, so secure and impenetrable, that the waves carry it along without any water getting in, and it floats on the sea, superior, so to say, to the waves. And this, my child, is what your heart should be—open only to heaven, impenetrable to riches and earthly treasures. If you have them, keep your heart from attaching itself to them; let it maintain a higher level, and amidst riches be as though you had none,—superior to them. Do not let that mind which is the likeness of God cleave to mere earthly goods; let it always be raised above them, not sunk in them.

There is a wide difference between having poison and being poisoned. All apothecaries 186have poisons ready for special uses, but they are not consequently poisoned, because the poison is only in their shop, not in themselves; and so you may possess riches without being poisoned by them, so long as they are in your house or purse only, and not in your heart. It is the Christian’s privilege to be rich in material things, and poor in attachment to them, thereby having the use of riches in this world and the merit of poverty in the next.

Of a truth, my daughter, no one will ever own themselves to be avaricious;—every one denies this contemptible vice:—men excuse themselves on the plea of providing for their children, or plead the duty of prudent forethought:—they never have too much, there is always some good reason for accumulating more; and even the most avaricious of men not only do not own to being such, but sincerely believe that they are not; and that because avarice is as a strong fever which is all the less felt as it rages most fiercely. Moses saw that sacred fire which burnt the bush without consuming it, 9898 Exod. iii. 2. but the profane fire of avarice acts precisely the other way,—it consumes the miser, but without burning, for, amid its most intense heat, he believes himself to be deliciously cool, and imagines his insatiable thirst to be merely natural and right.187

If you long earnestly, anxiously, and persistently after what you do not possess, it is all very well to say that you do not wish to get it unfairly, but you are all the time guilty of avarice. He who longs eagerly and anxiously to drink, though it may be water only, thereby indicates that he is feverish. I hardly think we can say that it is lawful to wish lawfully to possess that which is another’s:—so doing we surely wish our own gain at the expense of that other? and he who possesses anything lawfully, surely has more right to possess it, than we to obtain it? Why should we desire that which is his? Even were the wish lawful, it is not charitable, for we should not like other men to desire what we possess, however lawfully. This was Ahab’s sin when he sought to acquire Naboth’s vineyard by lawful purchase, when Naboth lawfully desired to keep it himself;—he coveted it eagerly, continually, and anxiously, and so doing he displeased God. 9999 I Kings xxi.

Do not allow yourself to wish for that which is your neighbour’s until he wishes to part with it,—then his wish will altogether justify yours,—and I am quite willing that you should add to your means and possessions, provided it be not merely with strict justice, but kindly and charitably done. 188If you cleave closely to your possessions, and are cumbered with them, setting your heart and thoughts upon them, and restlessly anxious lest you should suffer loss, then, believe me, you are still somewhat feverish;—for fever patients drink the water we give them with an eagerness and satisfaction not common to those who are well.

It is not possible to take great pleasure in anything without becoming attached to it. If you lose property, and find yourself grievously afflicted at the loss, you may be sure that you were warmly attached to it;—there is no surer proof of affection for the thing lost than our sorrow at its loss.

Therefore, do not fix your longings on anything which you do not possess; do not let your heart rest in that which you have; do not grieve overmuch at the losses which may happen to you;—and then you may reasonably believe that although rich in fact, you are not so in affection, but that you are poor in spirit, and therefore blessed, for the Kingdom of Heaven is yours.


Study: on why more money does not mean more happiness

July 23, 2010
hehehe,
yup, I like this controversial issue because I believe many of us are brought up with the wrong propaganda that being rich will make us happy. The sad thing is that some preachers began to talk like this also even in catholic circles 😦 We need to tell the truth, because the truth will set us free 🙂
Anyway, a friend of mine shared this article from some scientific study on why money and wealth does not make someone happy. It’s a psychology study, btw.  Interestingly our faith does not contradict science just as our late pope wrote in Fides et Ratio.
When you read the article, find clues at what actually makes people happy. You will be surprised that you might already have all those.
Read on:
Money is surprisingly bad at making us happy. Once we escape the trap of poverty, levels of wealth have an extremely modest impact on levels of happiness, especially in developed countries. Even worse, it appears that the richest nation in history – 21st century America – is slowly getting less pleased with life. (Or as the economists behind this recent analysis concluded: “In the United States, the [psychological] well-being of successive birth-cohorts has gradually fallen through time.”)
Needless to say, this data contradicts one of the central assumptions of modern society, which is that more money equals more pleasure. That’s why we work hard, fret about the stock market and save up for that expensive dinner/watch/phone/car/condo. We’ve been led to believe that dollars are delight in a fungible form.
full article at: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/07/happiness-and-money-2/

The politics of Happiness

May 3, 2010

There is an interesting news from Nature journal on a book written by a law professor Derek Bok, a former Harvard president.  The title of the book is “The Politics of Happiness”.

These are some excerpts from the Nature news:http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/4641268a

In The Politics of Happiness, law professor Derek Bok, a former Harvard president, argues that it is time to rethink the goal of politics: to promote well-being rather than wealth. His appeal that this is both necessary and timely rests on two key points: first, that there is an increasingly solid body of evidence about the causes of happiness and its individual, social and environmental benefits; and second, that most people are unaware of and need education about what will give them lasting satisfaction.

Happiness is a legitimate goal for government policy, Bok argues, because it is more than a private, transient feeling. Lasting happiness — well-being or ‘flourishing’ — depends on the ongoing process of how we live our lives. Well-being encompasses close relationships, utilizing our strengths, helping others, having a sense of purpose and believing that what we do makes a difference. Hence the pursuit of lasting happiness can lead to the development of more productive, cohesive, caring and sustainable societies.

Bok’s second contention is based on studies revealing that people do not understand what will make them happy, and thus fail to act accordingly. The solution, he asserts, requires a political response through mass education. Wealth, possessions, appearance or fame do not bring lasting happiness, despite the messages promulgated by advertisers and the media. Bok proposes transformative education such as coaching parents, instructing teachers and providing school children with the know-ledge of how to lead satisfying lives. Quality programmes that improve social and emotional skills in school children, or broader projects such as the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York — which supports families through parenting workshops, pre- and after-school programmes and child-oriented health schemes — have demonstrably improved personal development, relationships and academic achievement. Happiness is a skill that can be learned.

We may have been wrong to believe that economic prosperity would bring happiness, but the evidence suggests that happiness and social well-being are likely to bring economic prosperity. Moreover, where prosperity arises from post-materialist values, it has the potential to enhance well-being without costing the earth.


What About Bailout Money for Poor?

March 26, 2010

A nice exhortation by the Vatican to UN:

full article: http://www.zenit.org/article-28753?l=english

He concluded, “We should not forget that the same world that could find, within a few weeks, trillions of dollars to rescue banks and financial investment institutions, has not yet managed to find 1% of that amount for the needs of the hungry — starting with the $3 billion needed to provide meals to school children who are hungry or the $5 billion needed to support the emergency food fund of the World Food Program.”


A millionare chose to be set free from luxury

February 10, 2010

this is an interesting news I read just now. A millionare sold everything, donate them for charity, and chose to live a simple life because he felt his money enslave him. He is now living in a small hut.

“For a long time I believed that more wealth and luxury automatically meant more happiness,” he said. “I come from a very poor family where the rules were to work more to achieve more material things, and I applied this for many years,” said Mr Rabeder.

But over time, he had another, conflicting feeling.

“More and more I heard the words: ‘Stop what you are doing now – all this luxury and consumerism – and start your real life’,” he said. “I had the feeling I was working as a slave for things that I did not wish for or need.

Read on:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/austria/7190750/Millionaire-gives-away-fortune-which-made-him-miserable.html

http://www.straitstimes.com/BreakingNews/World/Story/STIStory_488889.html


Vatican economist suggest austerity

February 10, 2010

It is interesting to read the following article:
http://www.ewtn.com/vnews/getstory.asp?number=100340

the economist analyze and said that the real problem in todays economic crisis is not the bankers, they only aggravate what already there. The real problem is 0% birth rate. Why is that so? you may want to read the article to find out.

And economist also mentioned an interesting statement. “the only way to rebuild economic-financial balance is austerity”.