Whenever I hear the word “poverty,” I think of people who have absolutely nothing — nothing to eat and nowhere to live. I also think of those who willingly choose to give up all of their possessions, in order to live a simple and humble lifestyle, completely reliant on God. St. Francis of Assisi was one of those people and also just so happens to be my favorite saint.
I recently heard a priest give a homily about St. Francis. He said that the reason Francis loved poverty so much was because he understood that it is precisely in our poverty that Jesus comes to meet us. The priest then challenged us to grow in our love for poverty. I thought, “That makes sense… I can imagine how tenderly the Father must look upon the homeless!” And I felt more convicted to serve the poor.
But that wasn’t all the Lord had for me that day. I prayed, “Okay God, I know I should love the poor more, but what does this all mean for me?” I felt called to think about my own poverty. “What is my ‘poverty’?” I asked. “I have everything I need — food, shelter, a great job, family and friends who love me…” Then it hit me. There is only one thing that I constantly find myself in want of — romantic love. My poverty? Singlehood.
Now, you might think, “What does that even mean? I thought poverty had to do with material things…”
Well, in the Beatitudes, Jesus says “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 5:3). And when talking about this Beatitude, the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to spiritual poverty as “voluntary humility,” (CCC 2546). We are called to voluntarily offer everything we have to and for God, whether it be our wealth, material possessions, talents, relationships, desires, etc. We not only become poor when we lack these things, but also when we recognize our dependence on God and His timing in all areas of life. It’s so hard, but we must offer the Lord all we have, and when we have nothing, let us offer ourselves. That’s all He really wants, after all!
When I identified singlehood as “my poverty,” Francis’ love of poverty itself suddenly made sense in my own heart. Jesus had been with me in this all along! In fact, singlehood is exactly what drew me to Him years ago. After a devastating high school breakup, I ran to Jesus. I knew He would never stop loving me. He healed me. In every letdown and heartbreak since, Christ has consoled me, gotten me through. Even now as I am tempted to think, “Anytime now, Jesus…” He is in the ache, in the waiting. I am not alone. I am not forgotten. I am loved!
I now not only tolerate my poverty, but love it. For it is in my singlehood that Christ is meeting me and that the Father is looking tenderly upon me. What love! My singlehood is a gift.
Thanks to this poverty God has allowed in my life, I have grown so much. I know myself far better than I used to, and have been healed of countless insecurities and sinful habits. I am completely free to serve the Lord; I can offer myself. I have all the time in the world to be dedicated to my job, to volunteer, to invest in my friends and family, and to do the things I love, like bake and travel. I have even discovered new talents (like drawing– who knew?). My relationship with Jesus is more alive than ever, because my poverty has brought me to my knees, many a time, and I see Christ’s love for me in the little, everyday things.
My whole life belongs to God, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am being sanctified and prepared, not only for Heaven, but also for the joys of life the Father wants me to experience here on earth. For, “I believe I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living,” (Psalm 27:13).
So…What’s your poverty? Where is Christ reaching out to meet you?
Singlehood or not, join me in offering it to God. Let us be like the poor widow, who didn’t have much to give, but gave all she had. Because, I don’t know about you, but I want Jesus to be able to look at me and say, “…but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood,” (Luke 21:4).
Peace, my friends. Take heart. St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!