Reading a little from Gury’s Doctrine of the Jesuits, I was impressed by this story about a hypothetical disobedient nun. It occurred to me that most people today, upon reading this, would probably not understand that this nun actually did something very wrong, in the context of her own spiritual well-being, or would not understand precisely what it was that she did wrong. There is also confusion in the world about what “poverty” actually is, and what our duties are in charity and mercy. Further, we often neglect the importance of good spiritual direction, and obedience to such. “Florine,” a hypothetical nun, may or may not eventually become a saint, but she certainly has some work to do on herself before she reaches that state of perfection that Jesus calls all of us to. Becoming a saint is a long and difficult journey, but when it is all done for the love of Jesus Christ, the load is light and full of joy.
Excerpt from Gury’s Doctrine of the Jesuits:
Vow of Poverty.
Florine, a nun, earnestly keeping to her vow of poverty, but not losing any opportunity to do acts of charity and mercy, by living too parsimoniously, often deprives herself of food, or other things supplied to her for her own use, in order to give them to the poor, or to young girls educated in the convent. One day, being obliged to go on the road, she makes the whole trip on foot, without stopping at any hotels, and uses the money she had so economized for pious purposes. She hurries up her duties, in order to have some time to spare, when she can work for her nieces educated in the convent. Florine rejoices because she may occupy herself in some pious work without any prejudice to her vow of poverty, and without being obliged always to depend on her Superior.
Ques. 1. What are we to think of Florine’s conscience, generally?
Ques. 2. And in each special case?
Ans. Question 1. Florine’s conscience is mistaken. It is false that a nun may, without prejudice to her vows of poverty and obedience, occupy herself so easily with works of charity. But is Florine placed in a vincible or invincible ignorance? This cannot be determined in general. That depends on various circumstances, if she has been well instructed on her vow of poverty. Why does she not question her confessor, if she is capable; or any other person well skilled in religious affairs? She seems not only to be inclined to acts of charity and mercy, but also desirous of following her own fancies, while she rejoices so much, being able, so she thinks, to act independently of her Superior’s authority.
Ans. Question 2. Florine acts contrary to her vow of poverty in each of the following cases: 1. When she distributes to the poor, or to young girls educated in the convent, what she deprives herself of by living parsimoniously; because these things are given to her for her own use, and not for another purpose. 2. It is the same regarding the money she economized in the course of her trip, reserving it for the same purpose. 3. Neither can she keep what she gains by working quickly, or by attending to her nieces during the time she has to spare. This may be said in general; but there may be some exceptions in some monastic orders, where the vow of poverty is not so strictly interpreted.
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Image: Friendly nun sign outside the souvenir shop, The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon, Philippines. The church, along with a convent, was founded by the Jesuits.