Many persons pursue upwardly mobile lifestyles, that is, they try to move further and further from poverty by having more and more wealth and a higher and higher social status. But, we should strive to live a downwardly mobile lifestyle in order to be poor. Please let me explain these seemingly bizarre words.
The Earth does not have sufficient resources for everyone to live like many North Americans or their counterparts in other areas of the world. Since a first-world society of abundance cannot be universalized, it is not and cannot be moral. Read more...
Just consider that one fifth of the human community, which includes those of us who are middle class, live a “champagne” lifestyle when compared with the other four-fifths -- the vast majority of whom are children – who live in poverty lacking the minimal levels of life’s basic necessities. Approximately, one billion of those in poverty live in extreme poverty. More accurately, they live in misery. These children of God pass each day with little if anything to eat, nowhere to lay their heads, subject to the ravages of disease of every kind. Moreover, members of that top one-fifth of the human community pollute the environment, it is estimated, 15-70 times more than their poor counterparts. This is not the “blessed” poverty spoken of by Jesus.
The solution is a Civilization of Poverty, true poverty, wherein each person has what they need. Pope Paul VI said it another way: “No one is justified keeping for their exclusive use what they do not need, when others lack necessities.” Others have said, live simply so that your sisters and brothers may simply live.
This point of view totally turns our understanding of the world on its head. Whereas we are accustomed to speak of the wealthy, the middle class and the poor, we must now come to speak of the wealthy, the poor and those in misery. All persons must live a life of poverty, using only what they need. This poverty can enable all of us to have access to some material and cultural goods which would make for a truly human life. To live a life of wealth or misery is contrary to the Gospel, what it means to be human.
From this understanding, the words “blessed are you poor, the reign of God is yours” (Lk 6:20) are a very practical spirituality and way of life for all people. In fact, it is an absolute demand in today’s world.
In this Civilization of Poverty, we will come to realize it is better to live as poor people who are energized with creativity, celebration, community, faith and hope, while living in harmony with all of creation, rather than living a life of routine, individualism, selfishness, pure pragmatism, resignation and passivity. We will find meaning in who we are and how we share with one another rather than by seeking more and more possessions. We will come to know, as Pope John Paul II instructed us, that our daily labor, of whatever kind, is a partnership with God’s ongoing creative activity, not subservient to capital as it is today.
While few persons welcome the Civilization of Poverty, including those who take a vow of poverty, it is the solution and ideal for today’s world.
Or so it seems to me.
Source: The Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador: Celebrating the Anniversaries, pp. 103-5