Discernment Question--Poverty

Hello, I am currently discerning a possible vocation (Franciscan/Capuchin, possible Brother). I have been having recurring thoughts in prayer of this vocation, and I have very little desire to date a girl (don't get me wrong-I would enjoy starting a traditional family but I don't know if this if the path God would like me to follow).

One of my goals while still in a secular life (college) is to adopt to the best of my ability the vows of the Order. I am chaste, that is not an issue. Obedience is also fine. But I have always wondered about poverty. I know that there are Orders who beg, and others who make their own living but obviously live with bare essentials.

So, how exactly do you go about living a life in poverty without material possessions? It may sound obvious, but as I give it thought, at least from living in a secular society, what is necessary. For instance, I have clothes. Could I really give them up and just have one set of clothes. Furthermore, I have a computer. I honestly would love to give up my computer, due to my dislike of technology and the internet; yet, I am required to have this for school. I have also acquired many texts, since I love to read and explore a variety of disciplines. These represent some of the primary material objects I posses, and I honestly need them to conform to some extent to what modernity expects of me. How do I go about trying to adopt the vow of poverty? At my house, I do have lots of "material" posessions mainly from traveling; for instance, different items I have acquired over the years from the various places I have explored in my life. Would all of these items be considered material posessions as in the story of the Rich Man in the Gospels (specifically Mark, although I know that it is in other Gospels).

I understand that I am not in an order, and if I were to join, then I would submit all of my possessions or donate everything. But can anyone give advice for giving up things while outside of the Order?

Thanks. May God bless you.

A number of things;

The first person to speak to about a Vocation would be your Priest; and then a Vocations Director; either Secular or within the Order you feel called too. It might be a good idea to spend some time at houses if you feel called to the Religious life. Generally speaking many orders like to be in touch with postulants for a year or so before admission.

Mendicant orders beg; these would be orders such as the Fransiscans or Dominicans; wheras Monastic orders tend to make their own money through production of things. A Monastic order would tend to be cloistered and have little or no going out into the world; wheras Mendicants often engage in Ministry; be it preaching; teaching; running hospitals and so forth.

Generally speaking some orders will allow you to keep your own books; however some will not; you will obviously have to speak to the particular order in question about that. It is standard if you join an order that all your needs are met and you are provided with clothing; food; and all your other needs and have no money of your own; and do not own any property for yourself (although practically speaking articles such as glasses are practically your own). If you joined a Religious Order who proffessed poverty; you would likely have to give up all your articles and possessions; this would include everything (although; as said earlier some orders may make exceptions for books etc.).

Now; as to living a good life outside of an Order; you should keep everything you *require * and try to avoid wasting time and / or money on articles that have no value or use. You might want to donate some things to charity; but only you can decide what you need - don't be too hard on yourself!

Lastly; there are often "Third Orders" of some Religious Orders; such as the Fransiscans; which you can join whilst living in the world outside of the community. These differ from group to group; but may be worth investigating; I am certain your Priest and/or Diocese will be able to put you in touch with any of these if you desire.

As a final note; most orders do not require that you give up everything until you are take vows; so whilst you are in the Noviciate you may be allowed to keep your possessions in case you come to the conclusion that you are not called to religious life (or called to a different Order; or secular Priesthood, or Diaconate etc.

I always tell men who are looking at us to keep everything they have until it’s time to make solemn vows. There is a practical reason for this. If you change your mind, you’re going to need much of that.

Every community has different degrees of poverty. The Brothers of Life come from the Capuchin tradition. We have nothing of our own. Nor do we own anything in common, not even the roof over our heads. The computer on which I’m typing belongs to the diocese. I happen to work with the diocese; therefore, I get to use their computer. When I move, it stays.

The way that we do it is that a new brother may bring certain things with him when he arrives: two sets of clothing, bible, breviary, notebook, pencil, pen, toiletries and two books. Everything that he owns should be put in the hands of someone who will care for it, because you do not make vows until much later. There is a one-year candidacy, one-year postulancy and one-year novitiate. Then you make simple vows for three years. After that you renew simple vows for three more years, then you make solemn vows.

When you make solemn vows, that’s when you give up ownership. Until that time, you have given up use, but you retain ownership. Let’s say that you own your home, it remains your property, until the night before you make solemn vows. Then you will visit a lawyer and assign ownership to anyone you want.

Since you’re looking at the Capuchins, the rule is simple. You can assign guardianship of your assets and posessions to anyone, except the Church. When the time comes to give everything away, you can give it to anyone, except the order. St. Francis wrote this into our rule to avoid conflicts of interests.

While you’re discerning, you may want to try to put some things away, little by little. See how you can fare without them. You can restrain the impulse to shop.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

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