Pleas for Poverty, First plea

1940-1942 Talks all over France1940-1942 Talks all over France

Submitted to Pius XII through the intermediary of Archbishop Montini, in Rome, on 23 December 1944.

1. Our ideal of poverty

That of Jesus at Nazareth.

Why should He have been born in a manger? Why should He, God Almighty, have take on the humanity of a poor workman, toiling hard for His living from one day to the next, if we religious His intimate friends, do not have the right to imitate Him?

This is what we are asking for. We want to live in the poverty of poor working people, who have their house, their garden and their trade, but possess no dowries or investments.

2. Our resources

In those days no Congregation could be founded without guarantees of sufficient resources to support the life of the Sisters.

- The work of our hands: gardening, craft (weaving, pottery).

- Alms.

- Giving talks.

- Help contributed by the families of Little Sisters until their Final Profession, if they are able.

- To provide for those who leave us or whom we ask to leave, a sum of money deposited with a Pontifical Organisation.

- And first and foremost an unlimited trust in Providence which has marvellously ratified us in our poverty.

3. Our Experience of Poverty

Boghari, 1936-1938: Creation of a dispensry, a sewing workshop and a soup kitchen without ever a day when there was not enough medicine, milk or bread.

Touggourt, 1939-1942: Construction of our house without ever a day when we did not have enough building materials or money.

Le Tubet-Aix, 1942-44: Construction of our Noviciate, in the middle of the war, without interruption despite the scarcity of building material. Monday: empty cashbox. Saturday: full enough to pay the builders.

September-December 1944: Unbelievable journey to the Sahara and to Rome, when with millions of francs not even the richest people on earth had the right to travel.

Such travel was not yet being authorised so soon after the war.

Departure from Marseilles with 2,800 old francs in our pockets, all we possessed. Arrival in Rome, after two and a half months of incredible travel, involving four flights and covering five thousand kilometres on the roads in the Sahara, with still 2,800 old francs in our pocket.

Does this show that God blesses our poverty and consecrates it?

Why look to human means when the Lord Jesus is so generous? He will not hold back His bounties until we hold back our trust in the efficacy of His words;

'Do not worry about tomorrow. Think of the flowers growing in the fields. Solomon in all his regalia was not robed like one of them.'

This is not poetry, it is a deep reality. Think of Don Bosco, Cottolengo, Saint Clare, Saint Francis.

4. The underlying reasons for our poverty

Each religious family has a mission to fulfil, which was bequeathed to them by their founder, and they must be extremely careful not to betray their founder's vision as they carry on his work.

Little Sisters of Father de Foucauld may not have dowries or investments without seriously deviating from his spirit. How could we have the right to bear his name and be called his daughters if we refused this poverty?

Every religious family has its characteristic works to which its members must adapt themselves not with a purely formalistic adaptation, but one that is deep and real. How could we understand the nomads, how could we love them, if we did not share a little of their harsh life, a little of their poverty? How could we lack for nothing in the midst of those who lack everything, without their destitution becoming a living reproach to our well-being and comfort?

All of us without exception would prefer to abandon our official religious life rather than not to have the right to follow the real poverty of Christ. It was for this that we were drawn to Him. And all of us want to follow this rule of Father de Foucauld.

‘They will have ever before their eyes the Sole Model, the Carpenter, son of Mary, remembering that anything more they have in the way of material possessions than He would have had onlyshows; how different they are from Him.’(Directory p 34)

We make this passage our own:

‘To be rich, at my ease, living pleasantly on my means, when You were poor, burdened, eking out a living from hard work? For my part, I cannot do it, my God. I cannot love that way.' (Spiritual writings, p 106)

Far be it from me to judge anyone. If other Congregations do not have these rules, it is because they have other aspects of the life of Christ to embody. But for us, we beg you, leave us our poverty. If not it would prove right the spiritual directors in France today who dissuade young people from entering religious life and tell them that it is in obstacle to being really poor, as religious are obliged to plan for the future and to be sure of lacking nothing.

We beg you, let the souls the Lord calls to total poverty have the joy of finding it literally in religious life. The world needs such souls to compensate and atone for money's sinful dominance today.

I am writing this plea at Rome in a spirit of total submission to the Church, but I am writing it just before Christmas. In the name of the infant Jesus of the Manger, who became so poor out of love for us, I implore you humbly but ardently to grant us what to us is the greatest of all goods, the poverty of the One whom we, in the footsteps of Father Charles de Foucauld, love to call our Beloved Brother and Lord Jesus.