The spirit of detachment thus leads us to a stronger desire for the goods of heaven and to reliance on the help of God to reach the end of the journey. Voluntary poverty and confidence in God go hand in hand; the more detached man is from earthly goods, the more he desires those of heaven; and the less he relies on human helps, the more he places his confidence in God's help. Thus confidence in God is the soul of holy poverty. All Christians should have the spirit of this counsel.Share
Since we are considering the effective practice of voluntary poverty, let us recall the answer our Lord gave to the rich young man who wished to know the surest road to perfection. Christ answered him: "Go, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor; and thou shalt have treasure in heaven. And come, follow Me. Who being struck sad at that saying, went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions." (12) He preferred to keep them rather than to follow our Lord and win souls, rather than to become a "fisher of men" like the apostles.
The effective practice of voluntary poverty is of counsel; it is not obligatory; but to be perfect one must have at least the spirit of the counsel, the spirit of detachment in the midst even of riches, if one keeps them.
St. Francis de Sales (13) develops this teaching, saying that voluntary poverty is a great good, but one which is little known; that it is a principle of happiness; that it must be observed in the midst of wealth and also in real poverty, if we should happen to lose everything.
Now if you love the poor, be often in their company, be glad to see them in your house, and to visit them in theirs. Converse willingly with them, be pleased to have them near you in the church, in the streets, and elsewhere. . . . Make yourself then a servant of the poor: go and serve them in their beds when they are sick. . . at your own expense. . . . This service is more glorious than a kingdom.. . . St. Louis frequently served at table the poor whom he supported, and caused three poor men to dine with him almost every day, and many times ate the remainder of their food with an incomparable love. When he visited the hospitals, . . . he commonly served. . . such as had the most loathsome diseases, kneeling on the ground, respecting in their persons the Savior of the world. . . . St. Elizabeth, daughter of the King of Hungary, often visited the poor. . . . But should you meet with losses which impoverish you. . . as in the case of tempests, fires, inundations, . . . lawsuits, then is the proper season to practice poverty. . . with meekness. . . and patience.(14)(Read more.)