Thursday, March 27, 2008

Generous Poverty, Part I

by
Saint Leo the Great

It cannot be doubted that the poor can more easily attain the blessing of humility than those who are rich. In the case of the poor, the lack of worldly goods is often accompanied by a quiet gentleness, whereas the rich are more prone to arrogance. Nevertheless, many wealthy people are disposed to use their abundance not to swell their own pride but to perform works of benevolence. They consider their greatest gain what they spend to alleviate the distress of others.

This virtue is open to all men, no matter what their class or condition because all can be equal in their willingness to give, however unequal they may be in earthly fortune. Indeed, their inequality in regard to worldly means is unimportant, provided they are found equal in spiritual possessions. Blessed, therefore, is that poverty which is not trapped by the love of temporal things and does not seek to be enriched by worldly wealth, but desires rather to grow rich in heavenly goods.

The apostles were the first after the Lord himself to provide us with an example of this generous poverty, when they all equally left their belongings at the call of the heavenly master. By an immediate conversion they were turned from the catching of fish to become fishers of men, and by their own example they won many others to the imitation of their own faith. In these first sons of the Church there was but one heart and one soul among all who believed. Abandoning all their worldly property and possessions in their dedicated poverty, they were enriched with eternal goods, and in accordance with the apostolic preaching, they rejoiced to have nothing of this world and to possess all things with Christ.

To be continued tomorrow …

Saint Leo the Great (+ 461) was born in Rome of Tuscan parents and served as deacon under Popes Celestine I and Sixtus III. He served as a peacemaker between the imperial generals whose quarrels left Gaul open to attacks by the barbarians. He was elected Pope in 440, succeeding Sixtus III.
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