The first Beatitude is “Blessed is the poor in spirit.” Christ was born poor, lived poor and died poor. Throughout the ages, the saints imitated Christ in his poverty. St. Jacinta of Fatima said, “Fly from riches and luxury; love poverty and silence.” Pope St. Pius X wrote in his last will: “I was born poor, I have lived poor, I wish to die poor.”
Christ repeatedly warned against the danger of wealth. Material goods can easily create a false sense of security in our heart. However, our security should be rooted in God. St. Catherine of Siena pointed out that material things are not reliable. We might lose them during our lifetime, and when we die we certainly cannot take them with us.
The pursue and the care for material things can easily occupy our heart and distract us from the pursue of eternal life. Life is a journey and our distinction is heaven.
St. Ignatius of Loyola’s first principle and foundation helps us to have the right attitudes toward created things:
“God created human beings to praise, reverence, and serve God, and by doing this, to save their souls. God created all other things on the face of the earth to help fulfill this purpose. From this it follows that we are to use the things of this world only to the extent that they help us to this end, and we ought to rid ourselves of the things of this world to the extent that they get in the way of this end. For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things as much as we are able, so that we do not necessarily want health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honour rather than dishonour, a long rather than a short life, and so in all the rest, so that we ultimately desire and choose only what is most conducive for us to the end for which God created us.”
The opposite of “poor in spirit” is “rich in spirit.” St. Francis de Sales wrote: “By rich in spirit I mean him whose riches engross his mind, or whose mind is buried in his riches. He is poor in spirit whose heart is not filled with the love of riches, whose mind is not set upon them.”
St. John of the Cross wrote, “It is not the things of this world that occupy and harm the soul, because they do not penetrate it, but rather the desire for them which resides within it.”
Hence the spirit of detachment is key to practise the beatitude of “poor in spirit.”
The saints remind us that we are not the owners of material things but stewards. St. Francis de Sales wrote, “My child, our possessions are not ours; God has given them to us to cultivate, that we may make them fruitful and profitable in His Service, and so doing we shall please Him.”
St. Francis of Assisi inspired countless people to embrace the life of poverty. As a young man, he experienced a year as a hostage and a serious sickness. At 25 he began to care for the sick. Francis was not afraid to take the Gospel literally, and he contemplated Christ Crucified.
Francis and his followers imitated the Apostles by going out to preach in poverty. Free from disordered attachment to creatures, Francis loved all creatures in Christ, and not apart from him. A biographer pointed out that Francis’ spirit of poverty stemmed from his utter reliance on and love for God.
St. Francis prayed: “May the power of your love, O Lord, fiery and sweet as honey, wean my heart from all that is under heaven so that I may die for love of your love. You who were so good as to die for love of my love.”