I was born poor and am resolved to die in poverty and penance.
St. Paschal Baylon
First, a disclaimer: I am not poor. I am privileged. I receive Social Security (being almost 67 years young.) I have money set aside in retirement accounts. I am building a house here in Honduras (which I will leave to the church.)
But the stories of the saints who lived in poverty always challenges me to try to live a simpler life and to find ways to practice a holy austerity.
Today is the feast of the Franciscan lay brother Paschal Baylon who lived in Spain from 1540 to 1592. Because of his devotion to the Eucharist he is the patron saint of Eucharistic devotions.
But what strikes me is his poverty.
Born of poor shepherds, he guarded sheep as a young man. He entered the strict Observant Franciscans founded by St. Peter Alcantara. In his friary they avoided meat and wine, lived in seven foot long cells, and walked barefoot. They spent three hours a day in mental prayer and lived on alms.
According to the Saint of the Day website:
Paschal was careful to observe the vow of poverty. He would never waste any food or anything given for the use of the friars. When he was porter and took care of the poor coming to the door, he developed a reputation for great generosity. The friars sometimes tried to moderate his liberality!
For him poverty was a way to Christ – a way that accompanied his devotion to Christ in the Eucharist.
How ought I to respond to the challenge of saints like Paschal Baylon?
I can choose to live more poorly, more austerely – not because poverty is a value in itself, but out of solidarity with the poor.
I can choose to live in ways that I really share who I am and what I have with those in need.
And I can choose to pray more often to Christ, our Lord, who became poor for our sake and reveals Himself to us in a special way, in the poverty of bread and wine – His body and blood which he offers for us.