Vows of Poverty

Quick question: when someone in a religious order makes the vows of poverty, is he cutting himself off from the rest of his family? I have heard someone mention that they have had to miss marriages, funerals, Christmases, ect. because they were a Franciscan. I feel that I may be called to religious life, but the thought that I may not be able to attend my parent’s funeral or my brother’s wedding troubles me. Does it depend on what religious order you are in?

From my experience with talking with cloistered nuns (Francisican) at our local monastery as well as discerning Holy Cross, the vow works differently.

The cloister was allowed one on site visit per year and was allowed to leave for deaths of family. Christmas was to be spent in community. That is the life they chose.

With Holy Cross The poverty works as all money belongs to the Order and you request a modest budget for your parish/mission and are given so much. How you spend is more your decision (with in reason)

There are members of religious orders on here who will be able to answer better than I can but it is to a large dependent on the community. A religious in cloistered community would face more restrictions than one in an apostolic (or community based) community.

The idea behind the vow of poverty is that all material possessions are held in common for the benefit of the community as a whole rather than any one member. Individuals can be allocated things for their own use (anything from an iPad to a car) as long as they have a need them (and only for as long as they need them). Most communities give their members a small allowance to buy personal items (such as a toothbrush). This also enables the members to be free from the distraction of material possessions which too often end up possessing us.

There is the ‘negative’ aspect of a vow of poverty. But there is the postive spiritual aspect as objectinve also, and the ‘negative’ aspect an aid to that goal and spritually positive quest.

The short answer is yes it depends not only on what order but what community you join.

The longer answer is…
It really depends on what order and or community you are in. Whether you are in an active order or not. I would suggest if you are in the discernment process that you inquire with that particular group.

Just a few examples from my own experience:

Poor Clares- (OSC) We do not cut ourselves off from our family and are allowed contact with them via various means depending on if we are in formation or not. We are cloisterd however our family is encouraged to visit and if family need arises we might be allowed to visit them… communities differ however on the visiting part… it is taken on an individual basis and need… Each family becomes an extended family of sorts, so the families visit and call and sometimes we do go visit but only occasionally… again case by case.

Our Friars on the west coast (OFM) make provision on individual basis to take care of parents if the need arises on a case by case basis… you would have to speak to them on specifics but I know a few friars who take some time every year or two for a short visit home again this is just by way of example

When I was an active Franciscan many years ago I was allowed a visit with family members at there expense… again it really depends on the community… some don’t allow that some do… some do if the family pays…

Basically it really does depend on the order, community or customs, active or cloistered, Priest, brother or sister… again I would say if you are discerning continue and ask these specific questions of the community you might be investigating

Hopefully this helps a bit?

Blessings… Sr Debbie OSC

Almost all religious would be with their community at Christmas, even diocesan priests need to be.

Another factor affecting how much you can see your family is how far away you are. (This would be both for cloistered and apostolic religious life although differently.) If you get sent to the other side of the world, you can probably only see your folks every few years. My community has general norms on visiting your family which give longer stretches further apart if you are in a foreign land.

Ave Maria!

As was mentioned, it depends on the community. The Franciscans of the Immaculate, for example (and in general), make an official visit home during their first year, can have visitors once a month, attend a marriage in the immediate family, attend funerals in the immediate family, etc. Distance from home can also be a factor. Now this applies to the contemplative-active friars and sisters, whereas the contemplative friars and sisters who are called to even greater detachment from the world have stricter regulations.

St. Alphonsus Liguori, priest and Doctor of the Church, wrote several volumes on religious life, one of which is The True Spouse of Jesus Christ. Keep in mind this book was directed at the cloistered nun, so a diocesan priest would not be called to practice these word for word, but the points are nevertheless very insightful and helpful. Here are some words about detachment from family,

the more tender the
affection of a religious for her kindred, the greater her
impiety towards God. " Great piety towards relatives
is impiety towards God." 1 And what greater impiety
than that a nun should, for the service of her family,
give up the service of God, neglect mental prayer, the
sacraments, and expose herself to all the distractions
that necessarily arise from the care of worldly affairs.
St. Bernard exhorts his religious " to fly from such cares,
as being diabolical."" St. Ignatius of Loyola refused
to interfere in the marriage of one of his nieces, though
she was the heiress of the family. St. Francis Borgia
would not ask the Pope for a dispensation (which he
would have easily obtained) to have his son married to a
relative, although the acquisition of a large estate de-
pended upon the marriage. No man, said the Redeemer,
put ling his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the
kingdom of God. 3

Let us tremble, for God himself has declared that he
who has begun to serve the Lord, and looks back to the
things of the world, is unfit for paradise. When, then,
relatives seek to implicate you in worldly affairs, with-
draw at once from them. Attend to the advice of the
Redeemer to the young man who, when asked to follow
Jesus, answered, that he wished first to bury his father:
Let the dead, says Jesus, bury the dead.* Leave, then,
dear sister, worldlings (who are said to be dead) to
attend to their worldly business, and let it be your sole
care and concern to love God and to become a saint.

Should your relatives complain of your
unwillingness to serve them, should they even charge
you with disaffection, with ingratitude, and even call
you the enemy of your family, answer them with firm-
ness that you are dead to the world, and that it is your
duty to attend only to the service of God and of the
monastery. I conclude this chapter with the words of
St. Joseph Calasanctius: “A religious who is attached
to her relatives has not yet left the world.”

If you don’t understand and can’t accept these sentiments now, don’t worry. “Do not be afraid!” Try to go to daily Mass, frequent confession, pray the Rosary daily, and read the lives of the saints. Consecrate yourself to Our Blessed Mother Mary, and place your vocation in the hands of the most tender and loving Mother of Vocations. She, who with Jesus and St. Joseph, practiced poverty more perfectly than anyone who ever lived or who will ever live, will teach you all you need to know about poverty and how to become a saint.

Mary, Mother of Vocations, pray for us!

In the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary,

Friar John Paul

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