Peace in Poverty
In college I used to worry about losing the people I loved. My family—the most important people in my life—seemed so far away, living their own lives back at home, and I would look around and think, “What am I doing here?” I would wonder why I was wasting time on homework and meetings and things that I didn’t care about as much as my sister Rose, who I only have a finite amount of time with on this earth, and who, like everyone in my life, could be called home to the Lord any day.
At the beginning of FrancisCorps, my worries about the finite nature of my human relationships seemed even more pressing. Not only am I 14 hours away from my family in Illinois, but now I also have a FrancisCorps family, who I will live with until July. Once this year ends, these beautiful people who I have come to love so deeply will scatter across the northern hemisphere. I will see them occasionally and we will keep in touch as we live our lives, but our time as a community will be ended.
The Lord and St. Francis gave me an answer to my worries this year, when I was recruiting at my alma mater in Indianapolis with Johanna, the Associate Director of FrancisCorps. I was talking to Johanna about how strange it felt to see people who I was friends with in college and tell them about FrancisCorps, and know that I might never see them again. Recruiting that day was very bittersweet, and when I told Johanna that, she said, “Isn’t it beautiful that Franciscan poverty, where everything in life is a gift from God, allows us to be grateful for these relationships, as the gift they are, instead of being sad that they are over?”
Johanna was talking about my college friends, but the implications of seeing relationships as a gift from God are still sinking in and permeating the rest of my life. I always thought of poverty as just not having money or material things, until the Franciscan charism of gratitude helped me see that a spirituality of poverty is much deeper; my brothers, Rose, my parents, and my FrancisCorps community are not mine at all, but the Lord’s, and remembering that frees me to thank God for these relationships, these abundant gifts that fill my cup to overflowing and teach me how to love the One who is not finite.
Now, as I consider (and attempt to live out) Franciscan poverty, I don’t worry as much about losing the people I love. I am beginning to realize that true poverty is the most peaceful way to live—I find joy in my relationships instead of fear as I thank the Lord for giving me these wonderful people each day. And I begin to understand why St. Francis was so fond of saying, “Pace e bene!”
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