In college, I learned I had been stealing. Not shoplifting. Not downloading music illegally (that wasn’t even really possible with our dial-up internet.) Not even neglecting to claim my tips as a waitress (the computer made us to it.) My senior year of college, I realized I was stealing from the poor.
What comes to mind when you hear the term 'roughing it'? Do you envision a camping trip without electricity? Perhaps you think of a hotel room without room service or wireless Internet? Maybe your idea of roughing it means that there's no charge left on your cell phone or, worse yet, you forgot your cell at home and had to go the entire day without the eternal blessing of text messaging. Whatever the case, odds are that your life looks very little like that of an obscure Lebanese monk now known as Saint Charbel.
Ìâ‰âÂÌâÅÒHold on,' you're asking me, 'Are you telling me I shouldn't own anything fun?' Of course not. Music and movies help us relax, clothes help us express beauty, and smartphones keep us connected and informed (and yes, entertained). These are all good things.
My challenge is this: to look at the things that we're spending money on and ask ourselves, 'Do I really need this thing?' Do I need a new pair of shoes, or are the ones I have okay? Do I have to buy these songs or can I just listen to the radio?
As the new year began, I was still jobless and doubting that it was God's plan for me to make such a big move in just a few months. However, I went to daily Mass one day and found myself begging God to help me understand what He had planned for me. I remember praying over and over, 'Lord, give me the grace to follow you, even unto death.'
This summer at all of the Life Teen Summer Camps, the hosts have been walking through the Beatitudes.ÌâåÊThe first Life Teen week, I was able to sit in on all of the sessions and was deeply challenged by the truths that the host was sharing as he talked about poverty, justice and what we are really called to as Christians. (Thanks Gomer!)ÌâåÊThe Spirit began stirring in me and in Erik, and we decided that we needed to really examine our lives, our lifestyle, and our understanding of our call as Christians to live in solidarity with the poor.ÌâåÊ
Read that verse again. It doesn't say lay down part of our lives. It says lay down our lives, and that means everything, including our money. For us this hasn't been easy. As we currently seek to purchase our first home, it would be nice to have that extra money to put toward our down payment. But God doesn't promise this life to be easy. He asks us to trust, and that's what we do.
St. Paul says in Ephesians 4:4, 'Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.' The reality is that for a lot of us the calling we have received requires us to have 'things' in order to carry out what God wants us to do and be who God has made us to be. It's different for everyone, because everyone has a different calling.
Ìâ‰âÂÌâÅÒBlessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.' (Matthew 5:3)
This is one of those Scripture passages that many people 'know' (meaning, they've heard it before) but countless people fail to understand. My own parochial school teacher taught us that it simply meant God loves poor people 'more.'
Ummm, to put it as charitably and bluntly as possible . . . no, that's not what it means . . .
We observed workers moving rocks barefoot because they only had one pair of shoes and needed them to last. Families who lived in a landfill without electricity or running water, hoping to make a dollar a day sorting trash. As the mission director, Julia, told us, 'I know that you think that you have problems in the U.S., but compared to what we have here, you live in heaven.' While we had grown up hearing about those in need, our first hand encounter was sobering.