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How to practice Richness of Spirit in real Poverty

4 min • Digitized on July 6, 2021

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 143
By St. Francis de Sales

Chapter XVI.

How to practise Richness of Spirit in real Poverty.

But if you are really poor, Philothea, be likewise, for God’s sake, actually poor in spirit; make a virtue of necessity, and value this precious jewel of poverty at the high rate it deserves; its lustre is not discovered in this world, and, nevertheless, it is exceedingly rich and beautiful.

Be patient; you are in good company; our Lord Himself, his Blessed Mother, the Apostles, and innumerable saints, both men and women, have been poor, and even when they might have been rich they have scorned to be so.

How many great personages have there been who, in spite of contradictions from the world, have gone to search after holy poverty in cloisters and hospitals, and who took indefatigable pains to find it! Witness St. Alexius, St. Paula, St. Paulinus, St. Angela, and so many others; and behold, Philothea, this holy poverty more gracious in your own lodging.

You have met her without being at the trouble of seeking her; embrace her, then, as the dear friend of Jesus Christ, who was born, who lived, and who died in poverty: poverty was his nurse during the whole course of his life.

Your poverty, Philothea, enjoys two great privileges, by means of which you may considerably enhance its merits.

The first is that it did not come to you by your choice, but by the will of God, who has made you poor without any concurrence of your own will. Now that which we receive entirely from the will of God is always very agreeable to Him, provided that we receive it with a good heart, and through love of his holy will: where there is least of our own, there is most of God’s; the simple and pure acceptance of God’s will makes our offerings extremely pure.

The second privilege of this kind of poverty is that it is truly poverty. That poverty which is praised, caressed, esteemed, succoured, and assisted, bears some resemblance to riches—at least, it is not altogether poverty; but that which is despised, rejected, reproached, and abandoned, is poverty indeed. Now such is ordinary poverty; for as the poor are not poor by their own choice, but from necessity, their poverty is not much esteemed, for which reason their poverty exceeds that of numbers of religious orders; although, otherwise, their poverty has a very great excellence, and is much more commendable, by reason of the vow and intention for which it is chosen.

Complain not, then, Philothea, of your poverty; for we never complain but of that which displeases us, and if poverty displeases you, you are no longer poor in spirit, but rich in affection.

Be not disconsolate for not being as well assisted as may appear necessary, for in this consists the excellence of poverty. To be willing to be poor and not to feel the hardships of poverty, is to desire the honour of poverty with the convenience of riches.

Be not ashamed to be poor, nor to ask alms in charity. Receive with humility what may be given to you, and bear refusals with meekness.

Frequently remember the journey Our Blessed Lady undertook into Egypt to preserve the life of her dear Son, and how much contempt, poverty, and misery she was obliged to suffer: provided you live thus, you shall be very rich in your poverty.

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