July 23 – POVERTY


The manner in which some Brothers lived their poverty evokes a mixture of astonishment and admiration. Br. Ignacio and Br. Leon of Peruse for example. Both died on a July 23, and had spent the major part of their life at the service of the deaf in Toulouse. During the day they were their teachers and at night their supervisors of dormitories. The first only had a room of his own at age 67 at Marseilles. He always slept in the dormitories of the blind. The second, like his blood Brother Br. Joseph Veysset, was still supervising dormitories at age 75 years. He never had a room and did not complain about it.

There are others who left the comfort of a room to live poorer. In the XIXth century, at the Mother House, Br. Remi, famous for his good humour, slept in a garret on a bad straw mattress. In the 20th century in Canada, Br. Theodule-Marie crowned his life of poverty by living his last four years in a bare room in the basement of the Notre­ Dame de Lourdes church of Montreal, and often contenting himself with extremely frugal meals.

Others practised poverty while travelling. After the Second World War, Br. Leonide, recruiter in the centre of France, whenever he found no one to receive him, slept on hay in the barns or in the open and satisfied his hunger with some dandelions collected from the meadow and washed in a spring. In India, late Br. Ambrose, Regional Superior then Provincial (1971-1989), did all his long and numerous journeys by train, with minimum luggage and food. Br. Corentin who lived in Madras for twelve years never engaged a taxi (he was not the only one!) and contented himself with public transports.

The circulars of Superiors on poverty concluded with three different approaches. 1° In the 19th century the stress was on effective poverty: simple life and economising. Br. Eugene-Marie, wanting to react to the insensitivity of some Brothers, invited them to ask the question: “If I were to live on my work alone, what would I do?” (Circular of 18 January 1868 on the need to economise).

2° Br. Gabriel-Marie mystically situated religious poverty within the poverty of God and of Jesus, in two main texts: Beatitude of poverty (Letter 14, 8 September 1961) and Of our religious poverty in the mystery of the poverty of Jesus (Circular 23, 25 December 1964,- 106 pages).

3° Br. Jean Bulteau did not separate the poverty of religious from their preferential option for the poor. Cf. Poor by choice in the footsteps of Jesus (4 October 1978, 75 p.) and Serving the poor and promoting_justice (26 September 1979, 60 p).