A critical moment in the life of Saint Teresa of Avila was her contemplation of Christ Crucified. She later wrote on this encounter with the suffering, poor Christ:
“When I fell to prayer again and looked at Christ hanging poor and naked upon the Cross, I felt I could not bear to be rich. So I besought him with tears to bring it to pass that I might be as poor as he.”
In her reform of the Carmelites, poverty and begging were important. They were called “Dsicalced” because they wore hemp sandals, not fancy shoes.
She wanted to be poor like the poor Christ.
But this was not only a message for her sisters – and for her fellow Carmelite reformer, St. John of the Cross. It was a message that she saw as important for all believers, for the whole Body of Christ. As she wrote in Conceptions of the Love of God,
“Some people have all they need and a good sum of money shut up in their safe as well. Because they avoid serious sins, they think they have done their duty, They enjoy their riches and give an occasional alms, yet never consider that their property is not their own, but that God has entrusted it to them to share with the poor. . . . We have no concern with this except to ask God to enlighten such people. . . and to thank him for making us poor, which we should hold as a special favor on his part.”
This is quite a challenge for most of us, but reminds me of the call of Pope Francis to be a poor church, a church for the poor – or, as Pope Saint John XXIII hoped, a church of the poor.