“Blessed are the poor in spirit…”

Luca Giordano [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Luca Giordano [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). Today is St. Francis of Assisi’s feast day. So much could be said of this extraordinary saint whose life echoes in eternity. But today I am thinking particularly about how he sought out poverty on this earth. He came from a wealthy family,  but in his early 20s he gave up his inheritance and embraced a life of poverty and prayer.

Choosing poverty may be one of the most counter-cultural things a person could do in the 21st century, particularly in America. Giving up material possessions and joining a religious order in the service of God would seem crazy to a lot of people. Even the people who think it noble and admire others for doing so, may secretly cringe at the thought of living with very few material possessions.

But we need to pray for more and more of these vocations, because those who live these lives of detachment are the ones who are pointing the rest of us to the kingdom of heaven. Most of us, in our daily consumption of material goods, are cemented in the kingdom of earth. We are fearful of losing the comforts of life or having to deprive ourselves of little luxuries, and so we become attached to here — this world. We need societies full of religious vocations, those who have embraced lives of poverty, to keep the rest of us focused on living with a healthy detachment on this side of eternity.

St. Francis, pray for us!