Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales
6. HOW TO LIVE EVANGELICAL POVERTY?
/ Fr Gianni Ghiglione
Quite often I meet people
of a certain cultural level who smile when they hear "Blessed
are the Poor" and make comments that have the sole result of
highlighting their ignorance in the religious field.
Jesus is not one who praises poverty understood as destitution or
lack of the fundamental means for decent living. He is not an idealist
who makes poverty a flag to unite the desperate people of the earth
in a single party. The Gospel presents Jesus as a concrete person,
who knows and understands human problems including those related to
the lack of food, health or money in order to bring healing and relief
and to restore.
Let us listen to what Francis wrote on this subject (III, 14-16).
He begins by saying who the real poor in spirit are, according to
the Gospel beatitude: The poor in spirit are those who neither have
riches in their heart nor set their heart on riches. The rich in spirit,
on the other hand, are unhappy because they have riches in their heart
and a heart set on riches!
As we can see once again the Saint puts his finger on the true root
of good and evil - the heart! If you possess riches, do not put your
heart on them. The heart is a gift from heaven - do not drown it in
the goods of the earth. (14)
Then with a deep sense of balance he adds: You can possess riches
without being poisoned if you keep them in the house or in your wallet,
but not in your heart!
There are two dangers to be avoided and they require great vigilance:
" Greed: no one will ever admit to being greedy. Everyone disowns
this meanness and pettiness of heart. The greedy never have too much.
They always find the need to have more. Greed is a raging fever which
becomes all the more imperceptible, the more violent and burning it
" Wanting the things that belong to others: from desire we can
in fact move very soon to actions that are not always honest, as Ahab
did with Naboth's vineyard. I wish that you have the care to increase
your resources and wealth, provided that it is done not only with
justice but also with gentleness and charity.
Do not desire with a full
and earnest longing the wealth you do not have. Do not fix your heart
deeply on what you have. Do not be distressed at the losses sustained.
I would like to put into your heart both riches and poverty together,
a great care and a great indifference for temporal things. (15)
We should not forget that Francis was a nobleman who came from a "rich"
family: on this topic it seems that he is speaking from his personal
experience and he offers some advice on how to balance poverty and
" We must take care to make our assets useful and fruitful. This
is because they are not ours. It is God who entrusted them to us and
therefore we must work with a commitment that is serene, gentle and
" We must very often practice real and effective poverty, while
living surrounded by all the riches that God has given us. A sign
of this detachment of the heart is almsgiving: begin to get rid of
some of your assets by giving them with all your heart to the poor.
Nothing makes business as prosperous as alms. Love the poor and poverty;
it is this love that will sincerely make you poor.
" Do you want to do more? Do not be content to be poor with the
poor, but be poorer than poor. And how? Be a servant of the poor.
The examples of St. Louis of France and of Elizabeth of Hungary illustrate
" And when you lack something, be happy in these situations.
Accept calmly the loss of goods. Adapt patiently to having less. When
our heart is attached to goods, if hail, or thieves or crooks take
away a part of them, what shouting, what agitation, what torment we
Finally, if you are poor
in fact, Philothea, try to be so also in spirit. And how? (16)
A very simple piece of advice: do not complain about your poverty;
we only complain about what we are sorry for. Wanting to be poor and
not wanting to suffer inconvenience is an absurd pretence. It is claiming
the honour of poverty and the comforts of riches.
Our Lady is also a model in this: Often recall to mind the journey
our Lady made to Egypt, to carry there her dear child. How much contempt,
poverty and misery she had to endure! If you live like this you will
be very rich in your poverty.
I would like to offer you a rereading of poverty, keeping in mind
the circumstances of today. You will judge whether the operation was
successful or not. I propose, in a very synthetic form, a three-step
path, three simple and concrete steps, accessible to everyone.
If you want to live as
a poor person:
1. Focus on a simple lifestyle
In many families, bread is wasted bread, many foods are left to go
bad, clothes are thrown away at times because they are no longer in
fashion. How much money is wasted on things of no use: just for the
sake of spending!
The first step in adopting the beatitude-virtue of poverty is gradually
getting used to a simple life, doing without many useless things.
This first step towards poverty aims at:
- acquiring a sober lifestyle, doing without many useless things;
- using things without becoming enslaved by them;
- unmasking the mentality of the world which regards luxury and wealth
as synonymous with happiness.
2. Become a welcoming
and helpful person
Now we direct our attention to people, in their deepest reality, in
their heart. By heart I mean the inner life, that area of the soul
where important decisions are made and where the most evil and dangerous
feelings are often hidden.
This is the level that Jesus points to when he speaks on the topic
of wealth and poverty. Read the parable of the rich fool: Luke 12:
15-21. This is the situation of those who accumulate wealth only for
themselves and do not bother becoming rich in the eyes of God. Here
lies the difference between folly and wisdom: to become rich only
for oneself and to become rich before God.
Think of Don Bosco: in his life he managed astronomical sums of money
but he used money to enrich himself before God. He asked for alms
for "our poor young people". He built houses and churches.
He founded works in Europe and America to save young people at risk.
Not even a penny remained in his hands and this is why we call him
Father and Teacher of the young. Not only did he build houses for
them, but he opened his heart to welcome them. He was open to true
friendship, to peaceful dialogue to help them become honest citizens
and good Christians.
Wealth and money are not negative or sinful realities in themselves.
They are instruments or means which are good or evil according to
the purpose for which they are used. "Provide yourselves with
purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does
not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys, for where
your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Luke 12, 33-34)
Open your heart to welcome the other, sharing with him who you are
and what you have. Here is the point: let others share what you own,
be it material things, or other goods. Nowadays it is difficult to
share the gift of time, of listening, of serenity and comfort. Being
poor of heart means being open at the depths of our being. It is easier
to give money for the Missions than to take an interest in the problems
of poor neighbours, who are seen as a nuisance.
3. Acknowledge with humility that you are a person with limits and
in need of God.
In the biblical vision every human person is marked by a profound
fragility. "As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes
like a flower of the field."
The poor person is therefore
the one who has matured the awareness of his own radical state as
a creature and his total dependence on God. This dependence, however,
is not lived in a master-slave relationship, but in that of a son
towards his father.
Humility and joy are the criteria of the authenticity and depth with
which a person lives or tries to live poverty as an evangelical virtue.
We find humility and joy together in the Magnificat, the song of the
poor handmaid of the Lord; "He looks on his servant in her lowliness"
and therefore "my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour".
" Like humility, poverty is not only the awareness of one's radical
dependence on God, in whose hands is the life of every living being,
but also the clear and felt recognition of one's own sin.
" Joy: if on the one hand the gifts received free of charge from
God prevent us from claiming them as our own and boasting about them,
on the other hand they fill our hearts with joyful gratitude. "I
exult with joy at the work of your hands!"
In recent months, several departmental meetings have been held in
the cities of Santa Cruz and Portachuelo with the groups from Yapacaní,
La Floresta, El Carmen and Okynawa. Later the groups of the Sucre
area also came. The same programme was adhered to in the various meetings:
a moment of prayer and presentation, revision and evaluation of the
commitments made in the National Congress (2017) and the election
of local councils. It was noted that we are on a journey and we need
to continue. A few things were emphasized: human, spiritual and missionary
formation need to be improved; experience shows that Youth ADMA is
born and grows where there is acceptance and collaboration in Pastoral
Ministry; the way to promote the ADMA Family is by involving the families
of ADMA members, so that the whole family can share their experiences
of life (Fr Severino Laredo, Spiritual Animator).
Our Toronto ADMA group had another year filled with grace and blessings
under the guidance and protection of Mary, Help of Christians. On
January 23rd we renewed our commitment to our Blessed Mother and her
Association by reciting our solemn promise during the celebration
of mass in honour of St. Francis de Sales. We celebrated afterwards
with a reception and socializing. We continue to meet on a monthly
basis and hold three retreats each year under the guidance of our
new spiritual director, Fr. Frank Kelly, SDB, who joined our group
in September 2017. Our previous spiritual director, Fr. John Puntino,
SDB was reassigned last August. As well, we are very grateful for
the time we had with Fr. John and all his loving support. We pray
that our Blessed Mother will grant him many graces to continue his
work elsewhere. Truly our group has been blessed with wonderful spiritual
directors who share their maturity and insight with us and guide us
in our faith formation. This year we continued our journey of greater
self-awareness and understanding of God's love and mercy by studying
Scott Hahn's book, Understanding "Our Father". It enriched
our understanding of our Father's unlimited love for us and provided
us with a greater understanding of His relationship with each of us
through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. As we grow in deeper understanding,
and acceptance of God's love for us, we will be able to more readily
share His love and mercy with others. And, of course, we do all this
through the intercession and guidance of our Blessed Mother, under
her title of Mary, Help of Christians. May we continue to grow in
love for God and one another and may Our Blessed Mother direct and
sanctify us as we continue on our journey here on earth.
We remain united in Christ (Margaret Pupulin President - Toronto).
CROATIA - COMMITMENT OF
THE FIRST MEMBERS OF ADMA
Zagreb, Croatia - January 2018 - On the occasion of the feast of St.
Francis de Sales, ten women made their commitment as members of the
Association of Mary Help of Christians (ADMA). They had been prepared
by Sr. Jelena Kolar, FMA. The Mass was presided over by Fr Pejo Orki?,
Superior of the Salesian Province of Croatia, in the presence of numerous
members of the Salesian Family. ADMA is the fifth group of the Salesian
Family present in Croatia after Salesians, FMA, Salesian Cooperators
and Past Pupils.
VALDOCCO, TURIN Primi
passi in Famiglia
On Saturday, 27th January 2018, at the Don Bosco International Institute
of Crocetta, Turin, the second stage of Primi Passi in Famiglia (First
steps in Family) began. This is a cycle of four meetings promoted
by the Primary ADMA in Turin. They are intended for married couples
in the first years of marriage and engaged couples close to marriage.
This first meeting was attended by 21 young couples, accompanied by
married people who are already following the ADMA Families programme.
Fr Andrea Bozzolo, SDB, gave a catechesis entitled "A Covenant
in the Light of God" starting from the text of Genesis 2:18-25.
This helped us to rediscover the greatness of the vocation to marriage,
seen as an alliance based on the most profound identity of man and
woman, and as a relationship marked by the presence of God. Fr Andrea's
words encouraged us to rediscover that each spouse with his or her
irreplaceable singularity is a gift to the other, and to remember
that God is not added to the marriage as a reality that enriches it,
but constitutes its founding mystery! After a time of silence for
reflection alone and as a couple, we had a nice moment of sharing
and exchanging in small groups, followed by Mass. We want to say thank
you to Mary Help of Christians for this precious opportunity and we
entrust the next steps of the journey to her! (Gianluca and Mariangela
SEVILLE - FIRST FORUM
ON ADMA IDENTITY
The Salesian House of Santissima Trinità in Seville, hosted
the first Identity Forum of the Association of Mary Help of Christians,
as a response to the needs that emerged in local councils. About 60
representatives from the ADMA groups of the Seville area met on 27
January to discuss the most popular topics in the various zonal meetings:
formation, Youth ADMA, and funding.
The meeting began with prayer, led by Carmen and Salvador who represented
ADMA at the Spirituality Days of the Salesian Family held this year
in Turin. They shared their experience with all the participants and
encouraged them to visit the Salesian holy places and to participate
in the next Spirituality Days.
Subsequently, Fr Alejandro Guevara SDB, Provincial Delegate of the
Salesian Family, offered some guidelines on how to run the Forum.
This was an enriching forum, in which the associations had time to
talk, listen, share and make known the different situations they experience
in their environments.
CALCUTTA (INDIA) - FIRST
ADMA GROUP IN THE FMA PROVINCE OF MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS
30 January 2018 was a glorious day in the annals of the FMA province
of Calcutta, as 17 candidates made their commitment as members of
ADMA during the Eucharistic celebration at Auxilium, Dum Dum, Provincial
House. Mass was presided over by Fr. John Puthiyedathuchalil SDB,
Provincial Spiritual Animator of Calcutta. Mother Yvonne Reungoat,
Superior General of the FMA, presented the Regulations, the badge
and the card.
After the Mass, Mother Yvonne addressed the new members of the Association,
exhorting them as follows: "To Jesus through Mary, this is what
happened at the wedding at Cana. Don Bosco took every decision under
the guidance of Mary. Bring people to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
Mary, our Mother, is there to hear all our needs. Be devoted to Mary
Help of Christians, be close to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, have
deep faith because Mary is there close to you ".
EAST TIMOR: MEETING OF
THE RECTOR MAJOR WITH ADMA
On 2 February 2018, at the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians
in Fatumaca, the Rector Major, Fr Ángel Fernández Artime,
met about 500 members of the ADMA groups of East Timor.
"I am deeply impressed by the faith and affection of all of you.
We are meeting in the Holy Spirit. Yes, ADMA is not an association
of women. It is a group of the Salesian Family, made up of committed
men and women. I am very happy to see that the great things of God
are growing from simple and humble roots. If something is not of God,
it will soon perish, if it comes from God, He will sustain it, make
it grow and bear fruit. We live in communion with other lay groups
existing in the local Church, to offer our best gift - to share our
devotion to Mary, Help of Christians.
Some of us know the great Basilica of Mary Help of Christians of Valdocco.
It's really beautiful, but for Don Bosco it meant suffering, having
to build it without much money. But Our Lady was clear with Don Bosco:
this is my home, from here my glory will spread throughout the world.
And today, when we are in 135 countries around the world, we see the
fruits. Even Don Bosco would not have dreamed of so many devotees
of Mary Help of Christians as there are here in East Timor. And he
was convinced that Mary was touching the hearts of many good people.
And we have many places, where Mary Help of Christians is calling
her sons and daughters.
I would like to say that the great Salesian Family needs you! Yes,
we SDBs need you and the Salesian Family needs you. All of you are
called to help the entire Salesian Family to have a very profound
devotion to Mary Help of Christians. With your initiative, witness
and devotion we are growing together. At the same time, it is not
enough to say: we must pray to Our Lady. It is very Salesian to cultivate
a great sensitivity to help those who have great needs. Even if you
are poor here, you have an open heart. Yes, Pope Francis is inviting
all of us to build a Church with open doors, not with doors closed.
And we also need a Salesian Family with a heart open to action: I
would like to help those in need! These are the things that we cannot
neglect as a Salesian Family. As ADMA:
1. We must continue our devotion to Mary Help of Christians, who will
always bring us to her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Then we are called
to grow in faith. When we entrust ourselves to her, she always leads
us to her Son.
2. How can we help others in need? You can object: we are poor! I'm
just asking you to live with an open heart to help those in need around
you! All of us as a Salesian Family and as ADMA should be known not
as people of power, but people of service to the needy. People should
say: God is with ADMA, with the Salesian Family - they will listen
to you, they will help you!
3. Mary Help of Christians also calls our young people to become members
of ADMA and of the Salesian Family. The first group of ADMA is in
Turin and has Don Bosco himself as its founder. He founded the first
four groups of the Salesian Family: his first sons, the SDB; his first
daughters, the FMA; the Salesian Cooperators and ADMA. It is very
important that all those who bring the devotion to Mary Help of Christians
all over the world were born from the heart of Don Bosco. Now we have
31 groups of the Salesian Family with about a million members. We
give thanks to God and we take responsibility for this gift in order
to serve the whole Church, families and society. And we have good
news -Youth ADMA was started recently at the Primary ADMA in Valdocco.
The members have a very deep devotion and a generous heart - most
of them are of university age, young people preparing to form their
families according to the call of God. And this is very important:
the first mission of ADMA in fact begins in their families. A mother
with a loving and devoted heart brings her family to God; a father
with the same heart also becomes a luminous model for his children.
Thanks for the chance to meet you! I am very happy to see the Salesian
Family here in East Timor growing in number and in Christian and Salesian