Define the Vow of Poverty


So I am considering both the Franciscan and Jesuit priesthoods as a vocation, and I had a few questions.:confused: One is the following: how far does the vow of poverty extend? Is life secluded in a stone room with the only sound being Gregorian Chant ringing in the halls like in movies? :shrug: Or have the Orders moved more into the modern age with some internet and television, while still maintaining the vow of poverty?

Please answer for both the Jesuit lifestyle and the Franciscan lifestyle.:slight_smile:


The vows of poverty are various and diverse by order and whether they are simple or solemn, and so the vocations director for each institute would likely be the best to answer how it applies within their institute. Some generalities may be noted however.

In general, a vow of poverty is a renunciation of worldly goods in order to follow Christ all the better. Basically, one vowed to poverty may not acquire, possess, use, or dispose of personal property except as his superior dictates. Therefore, when we think of evangelical poverty, we are thinking of something quite different from the destitution or pauperism we often think of when we think of poverty.

While the religious himself can possess little to nothing, though, often the order or monastery itself has a significant holding. For example, all the monasteries and convents I’ve visited have been country estates set on a large plot of land. The books are aplenty, the rooms, both private and common, are simply yet tastefully furnished and warm in winter, the food of good quality and well-prepared, the health of the religious well cared for, a small fleet of cars present for necessary transport. Except in certain orders, the life is not so austere as one would think.

Certainly many orders use computers for business, communications, and research purposes, but I would likely not think that many would allow a brother a computer just for the purposes of recreation. Likewise television, which is likely completely unnecessary. I’d think that such passive entertainment is likely contrary not simply to evangelical poverty, but much that a religious would stand for.

God bless.


Franciscans are a bit of a abnormality, in the sense that they don’t own anything. Literally.

For the Jesuits, their vow of poverty is understood that everything is owned by the community, not by the individual.


(Monks do not, either–at least if they are following the Rule of St Benedict)


Many religious orders (except probably the strictly cloistered ones) give their members a personal allowance to cover basic, day-to-day spending. Members are also allocated goods (anything from a phone to a car to an iPad) for their own personal use however this lasts only as long as its needed. Similarly, if a religious is given a gift it is up to their superior to decide whether or not they can keep it based again on their needs at the time as well as those of the community.


While the vow of poverty, in its most obvious and lawful sense, is about physical possessions and money, it extends much further into the life of the religious. The nature and character of the religious institute determines much of the practical living of the vow of poverty. An apostolic community would most likely “have” more possessions. For instance, a sister who is a teacher will have things that are absolute necessities to do her work. Many of these things would be ridiculous for a contemplative sister to have though. Each follow the vow equally, assuming they are faithful to the Rule of life of the community, even though they are different.

Poverty’s influence extends much deeper than physical goods in the life of a religious. Poverty is the attitude of knowing that nothing belongs to me - all is gift from God - and by my own merit, I deserve nothing. This is not to say that as children of God we don’t deserve good. We do by virtue of our dignity but if we don’t get it - it is no loss to us because our stance is that of gratitude and openness to whatever God chooses to give, allow, withhold, or will. My reputation, my work, the fulfillment of my desires, my wants, even my body, do not and never did belong to me. They have always belonged to God but in religious poverty I live that detachment knowing that what I receive in the form of gift I also allow to leave me without a useless struggle to hold onto it. None of this means that I do not wish for good or that I do not mourn what is sometimes lost - it means that my fundamental stance before God is the gratitude and acceptance that allows me to be truly free.


This is a wonderful post. Thank you very much sister.


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