Recollection Materials for March 2021: ORIENTATIONS TO LIVE OUT POVERTY
Invoking the Holy Spirit
Come, Divine Spirit,
send your light from heaven.
Loving Father of the poor;
gift, splendid in your gifts;
light that penetrates the souls;
fountain of the greatest comfort.
Distribute your seven gifts,
according to the faith of your servants;
by your goodness and grace,
give merit to our efforts;
save whoever seeks to be saved,
and grant us your eternal happiness.
The Document, a diagnosis
The fifth section of the Prior General’s document is a kind of diagnosis of the reality of the Order as regards the theme of “Living Out the Vow of Poverty,” and at the same time an exhortation and an exposition to redirect the personal, communitarian, and institutional path towards a more evangelical and realistic living out of this vow, that is so essential to our religious consecration.
We are exposed to society (cf. 1 Cor. 4:9). This looks at us to see if we do what we say we profess. They want to see if we comply being poor, in our personal life as well as in our works and institutions. Only by a coherent life can we be credible in this moment of history.
The religious in concrete.
This is the point of departure. The projects, ideals and structures of the Order, will be reformed only at the measure that each religious agrees to be summoned and appropriates the ideal of evangelical poverty.
Poverty is gift of the Holy Spirit, that invites us to discern and to risk, to go out of ourselves, out of our securities and personal projects; to come out of our personal wellbeing and be in solidarity with humanity, as Jesus did: Being rich, he became poor to share in our poverty (2 Cor. 8:9). Poverty is a disposition, an attitude with which the consecration is lived.
This disposition enables us to confront the reality that surround us: our society, the culture, our origin and personal history. It is also a way of living the apostolate and the mission.
In the spiritual level, poverty is, above all, a gift from God that must be asked for, be cultivated and cared for if it is to produce real fruit. To be poor in spirit implies humility, simplicity, esteem of others and living in poverty. In this sense: the poor is someone available; not someone who simply renounces his wealth, but someone capable of giving oneself, of letting go of what not essential and necessary, to go to the encounter and the service of another. Poverty is also an ascesis: to renounce the desire to possess and thus be able to share with another.
Monthly allowances, vacations, administration of goods and resources all that has meaning in our consecrated life: the need and the service. Our vow prevents us from accumulating private savings, to have personal accounts, living in luxurious and costly style of life. The temptation is always there: to accumulate seeking security, thinking that the community will not be able to attend to my needs and desires. The search for a certain economic autonomy can alienate us from the sense of communion and fall into the shadow of indifference and of a life parallel to the brothers.
That is why it is also necessary that there be transparency among all of us: clear and justified accounting. This implies that he who exercises the office of procurator or administrator be conscious of the communitarian responsibility he exercises; conscious that the resources are not his, but of the community. Being in a rich ministry does not exclude from living out poverty, but that it must be a motive for greater commitment and collaboration with those brothers who are in difficult situation.
Poverty is associated with work. It is important to bear in mind that the religious works in the name of the community, not for the self. The work that he accomplishes is for all and for the common good. When some personal or family situations of serious necessity arise, dialogue with the superior is necessary to avoid abuses, misunderstandings, or actions at the margin of the community.
It is important to review how the use of gadgets and services is infiltrating into our life: electronic devices, telephones, cars, internet, credit cards, on line shopping. Do I need everything I possess? Or do I simply have them in order not to feel behind others or out of fashion? Does this possession help in my apostolic work? Let us not forget that our way of life affects the faithful especially the lay persons who work in the parishes and in members of the RAY, and the SARF.
Communitarian Procedure and Commitment.
It is not enough to be poor.
Unfortunately, it is perceived that in the Order there is no equality in living out the vow of poverty: there are different levels of poverty. While some suffer for lack of resources, others live it only in name. There is need for a true communion of goods in all levels of the Order. Pope Francis asked the General Chapter three principal things: to be creators of communion, to reflect the ideal of the first Christians and to be living prophecy of communion. All these challenges defy the communitarian and institutional living out of poverty. We are not being creators of communion. It is true that each community has its own challenges, yet not because of that is it separated from communion with the rest of the Order.
A communitarian response is necessary; a response that must part from fidelity to the charism, the living out of evangelical poverty, a solidifying charity, the option for the poor and the care for creation. The greater communion there is among the religious, the greater will be the strength to work in the communitarian projects. This means that it is necessary to be in network, not only as community, but also as Order and as Augustinian-Recollect Family.
Process of Revitalization.
Making an internal criticism, it can be said that the process of Revitalization and Restructuration has been paralyzed especially in the theme of communitarian and institutional poverty: there is no stopping to choose projects in places of mission or in places where poverty is experienced, rather there is continuous investing for comfortable and remunerative places and ministries. It is necessary to carry out projects that touch the heart and the wallet, as well as get involved more in the social works of the Order.
We have to share our own goods. Let us remember that money is to serve not to govern. The properties of the community are ecclesiastical goods (ver c. 635,1) and, therefore, are destined for the objectives of the Church, and one of these is charity for the most needy. For this reason, whatever may be the ministry, never must be it chosen for the revenue if procures, but by the criteria of fidelity to the charism, mission and solidarity with the poor. It is necessary to make a discernment, for which some indications can serve:
– Let each community be poor and live soberly, without luxuries.
– The coming General Chapter is being petitioned to make a revision of chapter 9 of the Constitutions. In it must be guaranteed, among other things, a renewed management of goods, with the creation of an Economic Directory, the strengthening of economic councils and the patrimony of the Order and of the Provinces, the redaction of Administrative By-laws, safeguard for the so-called Stable Patrimony of the Order and the Provinces, fix the ceiling for expenses in these latter, clarify the form of rendering accounts and finally make a reflection on the ministries and buildings that are economic liabilities.
– Those in charge of the economy, be they procurators, administrators or superiors, must be vigilant for the transparency and fulfilment of the norms.
– Communion of goods. The common fund is the work of everyone, those who are in rich ministries, as well as those who serve in schools or in mission territory or in economic difficulty. – The economy of a parish must fall on the Council of economic affairs that must be formed by religious and prepared laymen. The stipends for the sacraments or celebrations must not be something demanded, but something that the faithful freely give, having, furthermore, the possibility to verify that they are used in necessary works and projects. In all our social apostolate collaboration and co-responsibility with the laity is necessary, in such a way that the projects are also theirs.
– We must also evaluate our presence in territories of mission and of social poverty. It would seem that we vie more for rich ministries or schools making it clear that the option of the Restructuring has not sunk deep in a good part of the Order.
– Schools and the education apostolate in general should review their mode of living poverty. The principal criterion must not be to obtain resources, nor to maintain a building, although in the past this had been important. There are new needs. The Augustinian Recollect School should principally be a place of evangelization and Christian formation where one is educated from the Augustinian Recollect Charism. It is necessary to invest in formative platforms so that all the lay persons who work in our schools appropriate the Augustinian Recollect Spirituality. For this purpose the network EDUCAR was created.
– Ecological vision. Our commitment must also integrate the ecology, taking in more friendly and solidaristic attitudes: use of renewable energies, recycling, ecological formation in the schools. We must make our own the proposals of Laudato Si’.
ARCORES: our International Solidarity Network
The Spirit creates communion in the whole OAR family. This communion is based in the diversity of ministries and in the fidelity to the charism. To be creators of communion is the slogan: creators of communion not only within but also outside the Order. For this ARCORES was created, that pursues, among others, the following objectives:
– Motivation and promotion of social commitments and service to the poor.
– Greater coordination of projects, especially in the level of the Order.
– Animation and organization of works in those countries where the Order is present and creating for this some basic and common criteria.
– In communion with the EDUCAR Network, to empower the consciousness of Education for Development (EpD) of the Agenda of 2030 for the sustainable development of the UNO. – To coordinate programs of volunteer missionary.
– Transparency in the presentation, execution and evaluation of projects.
– Advice to the organisms that participate in the Network.
In every country where the Order is found, a national ARCORES must be
created, that shall be in-charge of social projects and of development that may arise. Its slogan is “Moving Hearts, Transforming Lives.” In order not to lose sight of it, let the Solidarity Heart Day be instituted, with the purpose of introducing it to the ministries and presenting its projects.
The Kingdom of God belongs to you
Without the poor, there is neither Gospel nor evangelization: this is the point of departure that we must not forget. Therefore, our lifestyle must reflect living out of poverty. One of the risks we must flee from, Pope Francis tells us, is worldliness, an attitude that makes us accommodate the message of Christ to our convenience. We religious are not immune to it; on the contrary we can be the first victims. Our style of life, sometimes comfortable, can impede to see the needs of others and accept the Word of God.
The Kingdom of Heaven is contrary to worldliness, the superficial and trivial. The vow of poverty and the option for the poor clashes with worldliness, which does not open to life. It is not going only for what is mine or what is ours (community, Province or Order), but for what is of God and of his Kingdom.
Worldliness makes us theorize poverty and justify a style of life that the vow does not ask of us. Poverty is to be lived, and to live it from joy. Not to ideologize or conceptualize, but to be simple, to live in the service of the brothers and of men, seeking the good of all.
Prophets of the Kingdom.
We are called to recuperate the prophetic dimension of poverty: The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head (Mt. 8:20). Have the same sentiments of Christ (Phil 2:5). Poverty forms part of our religious and charismatic life. Without poverty there is neither freedom nor availability for the mission. One must pray to ask for humility of heart and availability for the mission.
The poor is a man of prayer. One knows he is needy before God, and only in him does he find his wealth. From prayer and embracing the will of the Father man lives in freedom and happiness because he has his heart in God (cf. Mt. 25-34). This makes man a grateful soul, humble and in solidarity; attentive to the needs of his poor brothers and the surroundings wherein he lives.
Rejoice, the kingdom of God is yours. (cf. Lk. 6:20)
To live poverty is a grace and a challenge; availability to the Spirit and the process of conversion. This brings us to a change of attitude and requires decisions and concrete actions. Evangelical poverty unites us to Christ and with the grace of the Spirit disposes us for brotherly life in our communities, the evangelization and the pastoral charity, commitment to the environment and the care for creation.
Let us not resist the action of the Holy Spirit. We are invited to open the heart and discern motivations, desires and decisions to seek the happiness that Jesus has promised.
The Kingdom of God has already commenced: for us it is a grace and a mission. The Spirit of God is present among us. Through him Jesus shares with us the joy of his kingdom. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who have a restless heart!