The Prior General proposes in ‘Witnessing to Poverty: A Blessing and A Challenge’ to experience personal and community poverty, being in solidarity with the most needy and committing oneself to the care of Creation.
Poverty is one of the fundamental points of religious life and a proper dimension of the Augustinian Recollect charism. It was one of the reasons that motivated the Augustinian religious to live their vocation more radically in 1588 and that today is an attractive way of life for many young people. For this reason, the Prior General of the Order of Augustinian Recollects, Miguel Miró, has written an extensive document entitled ‘Witnessing to Poverty: A Blessing and A Challenge. “Happy are you poor, the Kingdom of God is yours! “(Lk 6:30)’, and which is published on the occasion of the feast of Saint Thomas of Villanova. The objective of the writing is to point out some criteria that will guide the religious to live their poverty and to be close to the poor of today.
The document consists of six chapters in which it proposes evangelical poverty as a way of life according to the Augustinian Recollect charism, taking as a reference the magisterium and teachings of Pope Francis, among other things. ‘Witnessing to Poverty: A Blessing and A Challenge’ is a response to the mandate given to the Prior General by the 55th General Chapter in 2016: “To prepare a document on the evangelical counsel of poverty and the way to live it today”.
In the exposition he starts from the first of the Beatitudes: “Happy the poor! In the second place, he proposes to live with coherence and joy the option of poverty that the religious have professed. The third chapter presents a brief reference to St. Augustine, to the history of the Order and to the Constitutions. In the fourth chapter he suggests some dispositions for living poverty, the preferential option for the poor, rethinking the economy and the relationship of poverty with ecology. In the fifth chapter he offers some concrete guidelines for living personal and institutional poverty today. I conclude with an invitation to gratitude and hope.
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A path of happiness and authenticity
Miguel Miró indicates in the document that poverty is not for the Augustinian Recollects a mere social question or simply a matter of an economic nature. For the Augustinian Recollect religious, poverty is rooted in their very being, motivated by charity, and raises the hope of the Kingdom of God in their hearts. “Poverty is a dimension of our way of being that marks our life and mission”.
With his writing, the Prior General intends that the religious find in poverty a path of happiness and authenticity. Living according to this option brings happiness in giving oneself for others and frees us from greed, consumerism, and indifference. Living evangelical poverty “allows us to meet the Lord and helps us to be in solidarity with the poor”.
In this sense, he affirms that living poverty with joy is the touchstone of Augustinian Recollect spirituality and of the Order’s own evangelizing mission. To live this vow of religious life requires prayer and discernment, sobriety and sacrifice, simplicity and humility of heart, closeness and solidarity with the poor.
Miró invites that the communion of goods, the simplicity of life, the co-responsibility, the solidarity and the commitment to have a common project help the religious to grow humanly and spiritually. Likewise, he links, following Pope Francis, poverty with ecology. As he says, the degradation of the Earth has irreparable consequences, especially for the poorest. That is why he asks to take care of the Common House in order to be in solidarity and to help the most needy. For all these reasons, the Prior General assures us that living poverty is a challenge that requires a change of mentality and attitude, for which an integral conversion is needed.