Recollection Material for January 2021: POVERTY IN ST. AUGUSTINE AND IN THE RECOLLECTION
The third chapter of Fr. General’s document “Living out Poverty: a grace and a challenge,” discusses the theme from the Augustinian Doctrine, passing through the historical practice of poverty among the Augustinian Recollects and ending with an exposition of the more salient elements in our Constitutions.
The themes are not exhausted, but it will be fundamental during this recollection that we re-read this chapter of the document and apply some lines of reflection that may serve to help us obtain the desired fruit of this day’s effort.
Invoking the Holy Spirit.
We dispose ourselves for this day of recollection, begging that our spiritual tradition on poverty may serve as fertilizer for our life, and that we encounter the elements that may lead us to conversion and renewal.
Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we learn to live the challenge
and the grace of poverty, to recognize that our only treasure is God
and his kingdom, because you enrich the true poor and you impoverish the false rich (en. Ps.39:28). We ask you this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
The Firmament of the Scriptures.
We begin our spiritual exercise with the Word of God.
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me. He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Then he told them a parable, “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do; I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink and be merry!” But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you, and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasures for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” (Lk. 12:13-21).
After reading or listening to this word of God, let us pray in silence. Do I accumulate treasures for myself or for the Kingdom of God?
Lines for reflection.
We will proceed following the sections of the third chapter of the document. Let us take note of the abundance and the wealth of the material for work.
3.1. AUGUSTINIAN DOCTRINE
a. Poverty is a spiritual condition. In the use of material goods our Father distinguishes between Uti (to use), and Frui (to enjoy) of the things. We are not to be attached to them.
b. Poverty, more than privation of goods, is a process of interior liberation in order to elevate oneself to God.
c. Poverty makes us recognize that we are beggars of God, because we possess nothing except our sins.
d. Nothing belongs to us and we should be grateful, disposed to share with others. This is the social dimension of poverty.
e. Poverty is manifested in work: manual, spiritual-pastoral, or intellectual. No one in the community should cease to work. It is important to prioritize the things in common than one’s own.
f. The Augustinian Xenodochium is the proof of how poverty becomes the reception of other poor people. This is the challenge for us “today”.
g. The greatest treasure of an Augustinian Gentleman is God. The consequence is to leave behind the goods of the world in order to ascend to God.
3.2. AMONG THE AUGUSTINIAN RECOLLECTS.
The blossoming of the mendicant orders in the 12th and 13th centuries is produced as a response of the Holy Spirit to a concrete historical situation. It is a prophetic response in face of the profound social differences of the epoch. In the 16th century, rooted in the desire for greater perfection, there arose a movement of reform in the Order of St. Augustine. We know what happened in the Chapter of Toledo in the year 1588. Some elements of poverty among the first Recollects are the following:
a. No one can dispose of anything. Everything is identical for everyone.
b. The convents are poor. Only ownership of the building and the orchard is admitted. Rents and inheritances are rejected.
From the 17th century the fervor lessens and some lenient practices arise. Among them is the personal allowance.
In the 20th century the Order enters into the education apostolate, makes a profound reflection on how to live out poverty in the field of education and in parochial apostolic work.
The Vatican Council II offers a life of poverty in the modern times. The world and society become more demanding in matters of administration and economics, especially when the sense of poverty fades away. Reflection on poverty is more profound and is realized in a renewed evangelical sense.
3.3. POVERTY IN THE CONSTITUTIONS.
In the General Chapter of 2016, the Order reflects in the text its ideal living out of poverty in our time.
a. Augustinian poverty in the communion of goods (46-47).
b. Consecrated poverty and its intimate relationship with humility (48).
c. Personal and communitarian sobriety (51).
d. The value of work as a sign of poverty (53).
e. Common life, avoiding all occasions of private property (54).
f. The signs of the times and the preferential option for the poor (282).
g. The correct administration of goods (474-476).
h. The destiny of communitarian goods (473).
Keys for Reflection.
We propose some texts that can help us in the reflection. After reading it, we can hold a reflective dialogue on how to actualize their spirit.
Those who are not proud are poor in God, who incline their ear towards the poor, the indigent and the needy. They have understood that their hope should not be founded in neither the gold nor the silver, nor in things that seem to abound temporarily. Let them be content that the riches do not ruin them; let it suffice that the riches do not harm them, since they can profit them in nothing. What am I saying? Surely they can be of profit as works of mercy for the rich as for the poor: for the rich in desire and in work; for the poor only in desire (en. Ps. 85:3).
Where there is love, work is not rejected, since you know well that he who loves does not feel the work, and any work is heavy for someone who does not love. If avarice supports so much work for the avaricious, cannot charity support them in us? (Io. eu. tr. 48, 1).
To enjoy (Frui) is to cling to a thing for love of it. To use (Uti) is to employ what is being used (quod usum venerit) to obtain what is loved, if it should be loved. Illicit use should better be called abuse or corruption (…) since we are pilgrims directed towards God in this mortal life; if we want to return to the fatherland where we want to be blessed, we must use this world rather than enjoy it, so that by means of the created things we may obtain the spiritual and the eternal (doctr. chr. I,4,4).
The temporal goods of the Order are in a certain sense sacred. They must be used in such a way that the objectives that, in accord with the doctrine of Christ the Lord and the precepts of the Church, make their possession licit: for liturgical worship, for the maintenance of formation houses, for the dignified sustenance of the community, for the apostolic works and to help those most in need (Const. 473).
Oh Lord our God! that we may arrive at you, make us happy with your happiness. We do not want that which comes from gold, nor from silver, nor from land holdings; we do not want what proceeds from these earthly things, that are vain and temporary, proper to this passing life. Let not our lips speak of vanities. Make us blessed for not losing you. If we possess you, we are not lost nor do we perish. Make us blessed with the blessedness that comes from you, because blessed is the people whose God is the Lord (s. 113,6).