Normally when we think of voluntary poverty, we think of religious brothers or sisters. Indeed, the catechism tells us, “The life consecrated to God is characterized by the public profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.” (CCC 944) However, it also tells us, “Christ proposes the evangelical counsels, in their great variety, to every disciple.” (CCC 915) Really? Yup. We hear it this weekend: “Whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
Of course, we can’t all be mendicants, but the evangelical counsels have proven for two thousand years to be the surest way to perfection. Since we’re all called to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48), we’re also all called to some form of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
I’ve sought to do so in my own vocation through my priestly association, the Companions of Christ. For example, we pursue poverty by having a $200 spending limit. This means, if I’m going to make a purchase over $200, I know I’m going to have to run it by my fellow Companions. Sometimes that’s all it takes to discourage me from being so quick to spend money on myself!
This trifecta of holiness directly combats the three major temptations. Chastity fights the lust of the flesh, calling us to the selfpossession that frees us to make a gift of ourselves. Poverty fights the lust of the eyes (greed), calling us to the healthy detachment that frees us to store up our treasure in heaven. Obedience fights the pride of life, calling us to the humility that frees us to serve God rather than our ego.
For us, practicing obedience may simply mean a humble submission to the circumstances of life, trusting that “all things work together for good for those who love God.” (Rom 8:28) Chastity may mean googling for the “parents’ guide” before beginning a new TV show or movie. Poverty may mean setting aside a percentage of our income for OLM, the Diocese, and our favorite charities like Hesed House or Waterleaf. Each disciple’s circumstances are unique, but every disciple is called to the perfection
of heaven. Let’s ask God this weekend how He is asking us to live
out poverty, chastity, and obedience.