"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

The Love Of Poverty: "Having It All"

Ignatian Discernment

ast September 27, 2021, Jesuit Superior General Arturo Sosa SJ has written a letter to invite the whole Society—every Jesuit, every community, every Province or Region—to examine how we live our vow of poverty.

Threefold reflection on poverty, first, it is simple living. Pope Francis is quoted as saying “Simple is better.” But what is at the heart of simple living? This is the first thing that Fr Sosa tells us in his letter on poverty. He says, “It is not in the lack of material goods…” Living simply is not self-deprivation. It is about making choices. Discerned choices. The practice of poverty in the mind and heart of St Ignatius has so much to do with choosing what is truly important for the living out of our Jesuit life. Fr General tells us to undergo discernment based on the circumstances of persons, times, and places because not everyone's simple living will look the same. Hence, it is not a one-size-fits-all kind of simple living. What's important to one community will be different from another. There is a stress on communal discernment on those "dimensions of our life that unsettle and shake us internally." This way of proceeding is borne out of the experience of St Ignatius during the early years of his conversion. He needed to choose either to beg for alms or to study. He felt consoled by his ascetic lifestyle, but he also realized that a very strict asceticism posed more harm than good at certain stages in his journey. The Jesuit jargon commonly used to summarize this Ignatian practice of poverty is the Latin dictum "tantum quantum" which means “inasmuch as” it helps or guides you to praise, reverence, and serve God (Spiritual Exercises 23 First Principle and Foundation). And that is always the better choice. Only after we have become aware of this ultimate purpose of human life that we can start talking about “simplicity.”

What or, better yet, who is the model of simple living? This brings me to the second point of our reflection. It is not a “what,” it is a “who” as one Jesuit used to constantly emphasize. Fr Sosa has indicated at the outset of his letter that our poverty is to recognize Jesus as poor and humble. “Jesus became poor in order to enrich us with his poverty” (2 Cor 8:9-15). We turn to the Gospel and listen to Jesus's concise and to the point instructions to his disciples, “Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way” (Lk 10:3-4). This is the simple living that is always better because it is the simple life of our Lord Jesus himself—the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14). God chose to be incarnated poor among the poor and to preach in poverty like what he taught his disciples and which the founders of the different Religious Orders followed, and all those who intend to announce the Good News hic et nunc. To preach in poverty is the better way because the disciple is more credible and believable to many precisely because of the witnessing aspect. We simply walk our talk and by doing this we become effective ministers. Why so? We do not only preach, but we embody our Lord’s simple living who is the message of our preaching. This is captured by the phrase "The medium is the message" which was coined by Canadian communication theorist Marshall McLuhan. Similarly, Fr Sosa talks about this when he says, “The vow of poverty is one of the most effective means for identifying ourselves with Jesus, the way to the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Living it in the 21st century requires us to deepen the spiritual experience that we are called to incarnate in today's world in keeping with the charism received by Ignatius and the first companions. Therefore, to begin this examination, I invite you to return to the fundamental elements of our experience of consecrated poverty.”

The third aspect of poverty tells us not just to choose poverty, it is not just following and observing strictly drawn out vow statutes as if it is an end in itself. In Fr Sosa’s letter, he quotes Pope Francis in his dialogue with the members of the 36th General Congregation. The Pope said,
“I think that on this point of poverty St Ignatius has gone far beyond us. When one reads how he thought about poverty, and about that vow that requires us not to change poverty unless to make it more strict, we have to reflect. The view of St Ignatius is not just an ascetic attitude, as if to pinch me so that it pains me more, but it is a love of poverty as a way of life, as a way of salvation, an ecclesial way. Because for Ignatius, and these are two key words that he uses, poverty is both mother and bulwark.”
When we reflect on the image of all mothers on earth, they are all poor, this is not just about material poverty though. No. Mothers are by nature selfless. For them to choose to give birth to us they are to be, in a way, ascetic especially during the nine tender months when we were inside their womb. When I was growing up and I know I have a selfless mother, I feel "rich"—rich in terms of having someone to provide for me the needed care and provisions. I have a deep trust towards my mother, whom I know will not give me something that will endanger me—hence, the term bulwark. This is Ignatius’s take on poverty, like a mother and bulwark, and this mother is no less than God. I personally feel that I am not yet that loving enough, though towards poverty each time I cling to earthly securities—physical or social. Each time I find my security in my possessions and relationships, there is the risk of moving away from God, of being orphaned. Instead of identifying myself with Jesus, poor and humble, I find myself choosing others that are far less than God. Jesus, when he was hanging on his cross, had nothing. But because his mother was there, he had it all!

I would like to end with the last paragraph of Fr Sosa’s letter: "Mary of Nazareth shared a poor and humble life with her son Jesus and her husband Joseph. To her, we entrust ourselves so that she may accompany us in this examen of our vow of poverty and we may become better followers of her Son." Amen. Fr JM Manzano SJ


  1. It is nice to know how different Religious Congregations are living their vows...
    Thank you po Fr. Jomari for sharing your way of life..

    In that question you posed, "who is the model of simple living?" I remembered a particular movie... And I'm sharing with you a short clip of it... It's cute...



    1. Thanks so much! Very evocative... so real! That was indeed a tear-jerker both for the poor and simple man Jesus and me! GBU!

    2. :')

      Jesus loves to be with the little ones because they are but simple, spontaneous, and sincere... Without pretensions...

      That's why being poor is not only having nothing but moreso being humble (meek and poor in spirit)... Just like St. Therese of Lisieux... in her own little way, and her deepest desire to be the love in the heart of the church...

      May we be like little children... With smile, accepting what he wills for us in every step of the way...

      Medyo napapahaba ang reflection ko... Pasensiya na po.. :')

      Salamat po uli, Fr. Jomari...
      Ingat po palagi.. GBU!

    3. Thank you for your sharing, very well appreciated especially our St for today the little Thérèse! Who, through God's grace rewarded her with the Church's greatest appreciation of her simplicity! GBU!

    4. Thanks much po for your kind words, Fr. Jomari...

      You are writing so well... That made me re-think and reflect upon reading your posts...

      Salamat po uli... TC



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