Thursday, March 4, 2010

Poverty, Common Life and Simplicity of life - Sanjay Aind

Poverty, Common life and Simplicity of Life
Sch. Sanjay D. Aind S.J.
Through official letters and reports of Fr. General Pedro Arrupe, it has come to light that, at present, there seems to be a serious problem with regard to the vow of poverty in the Society of Jesus. This is a matter of serious consideration.
There have been various things coming in the way of the practice of poverty – lack of faith, confidence and trust in the divine power, poor spiritual life, and scattered promises of poverty.
In spite of all that, though, in several places there are some Jesuits who have been living the vow of poverty with great generosity, thus giving us good example. On the other hand, there are those too, who have been giving various reasons or excuses as to why they cannot practice poverty in a fuller sense. Yet, that is not the real face of the simplicity and poverty of the Society of Jesus.
Relating the significance of simplicity of life in poverty, Ignatius of Loyola wrote to his men in Padua, “Whoever loves poverty should be glad to be poor; glad to go hungry, to be badly clothed, and to lie on a hard bed. For if someone loves poverty but avoids penury, following poverty only from afar, is that not to be comfortably poor? Surely that is to love the reputation rather than the reality of poverty; to love poverty in words but not in deed.”
It means to say that simplicity of life is the language of poverty in the Society of Jesus. For that matter, everyone in the community should come out as an inspiration and help for one another. Our vows are not just words to be kept, but a style of religious life. Consequently, simplicity of life is the measurement of poverty as well as a help to keep and strengthen the spirit within oneself and the communities.
There seems to occur a problem in the simplicity of our life due to personal inclinations, selfish motives, and to some extent, the present consumerism society. The trap is that we are working in such a society where there are lots of facilities that our mind desperately longs for. In this critical situation we must ask ourselves that “how many and which things are the ones that I need and the ones that I do not need or wish?”
Indeed, the root of the simplicity of our life is hidden in its spiritual dimension. In this way we can strengthen ourselves in our personal life as well as mission entitled to us. Desire for worldly pleasures, facilities, attachment to various things, respect, honour, a respectable position in the society and so on have to be curbed, or rather, to detach ourselves from all these things. This is a very important task for all of us to do constantly.
To make our simplicity of life more effective, besides sharing thoughts and experiences in the community, we need to share material things as well, defining fraternal charity. Since we desire to share our life with the poor, it is quite fitting to say that we must share our life with our own companions in our respective communities.
The secret of faith and experience of life in poverty is entitled in Jesus Christ. The best example of a complete faith experience is Jesus Christ himself. He not only sacrificed his whole self, but he lived a real life of a poor man.
Poverty, indeed, is a Gospel Mystery. To understand this we need to love our Lord Jesus Christ with our whole heart. Faith is the inspirational power to love Christ and follow him. Therefore, keep faith. The Holy Spirit himself teaches us everything that the heavenly delight is hidden in the imitation of Christ’s poverty. This is one of the essentials of the Ignatian Charism, that is, ‘to be placed with the Son’. In other words, if we desire to follow and imitate Christ we need to be poor like him, poor in spirit as well as in material sense.
The secret of the true experience of life in poverty is a matter of experiential knowledge. To understand this we need to have a deep personal experience of poverty. Fr. Pedro Arrupe writes, “I have never seen more union and happiness in any other community or experience a deeper liberty of Spirit and joy. In these periods of my life – Expulsion, Suspected spy, Hiroshima Bombing – I learnt for myself how little man needs to lead a joyful life.”
Witness of the first Fathers in the Formula of the Institute ‘Life moved to evangelical poverty’ is more gratifying, undefiled and suitable for edification. Every Jesuit is supposed to lead the life of poverty with whole mind and heart, in poverty but not in destitution. He needs to have and use only what is strictly necessary for life and work, renouncing superfluities.
The advantages of the Life of simplicity and poverty are in abundance. Interior liberty which is quite unique in itself, listening to the voice of the conscience at instant, inner readiness for anything, that is, availability and mobility Spirituality, which is joyful, vigorous, and virile, apostolic efficacy and Credibility give a push to the life of simplicity and poverty.
Therefore, have a preference for the poor, as Christ had. Be active among the poor, share your life with them, and help them to help themselves. For that matter, first learn from them what poverty really means. In the day-to-day life, experience at least some of the effects of poverty. Have the aim of bringing about a change in the unjust social structures. That is the Solidarity with the poor – the union with the divine and Supreme God – based on Christ’s love. Thus, our personal, inner faith experience, the experience of Christ’s love, is the answer to the rising questions and difficulties in our life of poverty. We need to feel and acquire that spiritual liberty which brings us closer to the Master.

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