St. Joseph and poverty

From The Book of Her Life: Chapter 35

Continues on the same subject: the foundation of this house of our glorious father St. Joseph. Tells of the means the Lord provided by which holy poverty would be observed in it, the reason why she left the lady she was staying with and returned, and of some other things that happened to her.

His Majesty had already given me great desires for poverty. Thus I didn’t doubt that poverty was the best thing for me, because for a long time I had been desiring that it would be possible for me to go begging for love of God and not have a house or anything. But I feared that if the Lord didn’t give the others these desires, their lives would be unhappy. I also feared that poverty would be the cause of some distraction since I observed certain poor monasteries in which there wasn’t much recollection. I failed to reflect that this lack of recollection was the cause of their being poor and that it was not the practice of poverty that caused their distraction. For distraction won’t make monasteries richer; nor does God ever fail anyone who serves Him. In sum, I had weak faith, which was not true of this servant of God.

I had weak faith

Since I consulted in all things with so many, I nonetheless found almost no one with this opinion, neither my confessor nor the learned men with whom I dealt. They brought out so many reasons against poverty that I didn’t know what to do. Since I knew it was in the rule and saw that observing poverty would be more perfect, I couldn’t persuade myself that the monastery should have an income. And if sometimes they had me convinced, when I returned to prayer and contemplating Christ on the cross, so poor and so naked, I couldn’t patiently accept the idea of being rich. I tearfully begged Him to ordain things so that I would see myself poor, as He was.

I couldn’t persuade myself that the monastery should have an income

At this time, since this lady hadn’t seen the holy Friar Peter of Alcántara, the Lord was pleased through my entreaties that he come to her house. Because he was a true lover of poverty and had practiced it for so many years, he knew well the riches that lay within it; so he helped me a great deal and ordered that I should by no means fail to go through with my plan. With this favorable opinion from one who could give the best opinion since he had known about poverty through wide experience, I made up my mind not to go looking for other opinions.

Excerpt from The Book of Her Life, Chapter 35; The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila 
Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. (unless otherwise noted)
Published by ICS Publications, Washington DC 
Copyright © 1976 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.

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