Yesterday my family had the pleasure of visiting a local order of Sisters as my husband, as Grand Knight of the local Knights of Columbus council, had a donation to present to the Sisters on behalf of the council.
The Sisters showed us joyful hospitality. I have felt welcomed in homes, but this welcome truly felt different. We shared a snack and then a look around the convent as we made our way to the chapel for the official Donation Presentation Photo. Our children kept everyone entertained. On our way out, one of the Sisters offered to show us the hermitage where she is currently staying. We drove down a narrow gravel road to a cozy little cabin in the woods.
While we were there, something prompted my son to ask a question that was ringing in my ears as I woke up this morning. He asked the Sister what things in the little hermitage were hers. She explained that her clothes were hers, and her prayer book was hers, but everything else were things that she shared with everyone else in the Community.
And this morning, that exchange is reverberating in my head.
I noted while visiting the convent that everything looked simple, but it didn't look "poor", by which I guess I really mean junky. As the Superior made me a cup of tea, I admired the "always on" hotpot for water, thinking that that was the sort of thing I've really wanted to get for convenient tea. Things in the convent looked nice and newish. But what stood out to me most was that there wasn't a lot of STUFF everywhere. Everything that was there was for serving the needs of the Sisters and others.
A few hours later we gathered with some friends and neighbors for a reunion of sorts of a certain ministry we've been involved with in the past. Several couples talked about their need to get rid of all the STUFF they have accumulated, whether in two or 40 years of marriage. I myself have recently finally heeded what I've long felt as a call to sell some excess possessions and give the money to charity. I've launched into the world of ebay and in about two weeks have netted about $30 of profit.
So, somehow my son's question has helped me form a connection. The example of evangelical poverty is not about making oneself miserable because somehow it is reaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllly Catholic to do that. Evangelical poverty, as religious are called to, involves total donation to Christ within a certain vocation. Things held in common are for serving human needs of the religious, and the religious exist to serve the needs in those to whom they are sent. To serve as Christ would serve, and to serve as serving Christ. Stuff is to be used, not to be accumulated. I'm sure there are emotional needs that all people at one point use stuff to try to assuage. But that's not what use is supposed to be about, because we also have a most real human need to bring our emotional issues to the Lord. Anything less is less than human.
Families, of course, need different things than religious do, and my house looks quiet a bit different also because there are not 20+ adults who each take responsibility for cleanliness and order! But it has been good food for thought today.