Pope Francis Explains "This is how the young Francis of Assisi, the son of a rich merchant...gave up wealth and comforts to become poor among the poor, witnessing this beatitude.." FULL TEXT



[3-4 October 2021, Casina Pío IV]


Dear brothers and sisters :

According to Saint Augustine, all the perfection of our life is contained in the “Sermon on the Mount” (cf. Mt 5s); This is demonstrated by the fact that Jesus Christ includes in them the end to which he leads us, that is, the promise of happiness. [1] Being happy is what human beings most want. Hence the Lord promises happiness to those who want to live according to his style and be recognized as blessed .

All happiness is included in these blessed words of Christ. Now, while all humans want happiness, they differ in their specific judgments about it: some want this, some want that. Today we come across a prevailing paradigm, widely spread by the “single thought”, which confuses utility with happiness, having a good time with living well and pretends to become the only valid criterion for discernment. A subtle form of ideological colonialism. It is about imposing the ideology according to which happiness would only consist of what is useful, in things and in goods, in the abundance of things, fame and money. Already the psalmist regrets this misrepresentation: "Happy the people who have all this!" Come out144.15). They take advantage of people's fear, fear of running out of what is necessary, because they know that it is terrifying to suffer deficiencies in the future. Any form of scarcity causes greed. Hence arises the immoderate desire to possess wealth, which is nothing other than what Saint Paul calls "greed." Such avarice can seize both individuals and families and nations, especially the richest, although the most deprived are not exempt either. It can also arouse in both a suffocating materialism and a general state of conflict that the only thing that achieves is to multiply poverty for the majority. This situation is the cause of enormous suffering and attacks at the same time the dignity of the people and that of the planet - our Common Home. All of it, in the interest of sustaining the tyranny of money that only guarantees privileges to a few. We can be very attached to money, possess many things, but in the end we will not take them with us. I always remember what my grandmother taught me: "The shroud has no pockets."

Today we see that the world has never been so rich, yet — despite such abundance — poverty and inequality persist and, what is worse, are growing. In these times of opulence, when it should be possible to put an end to poverty, the powers of single thought say nothing about the poor, the elderly, immigrants, the unborn, or the unborn. seriously ill. Invisible to most, they are treated as disposable. And when they are made visible, they are often presented as an unworthy burden to the public purse. It is a crime against humanity that, as a result of this prevailing greedy and selfish paradigm, our young people are exploited by the new growing slavery of human trafficking, especially in forced labor, prostitution and the sale of organs.

Given the enormous available resources of money, wealth and technology that we have, our greatest need is neither to continue accumulating, nor greater wealth, nor more technology, but to act the ever new and revolutionary paradigm of the beatitudes of Jesus, beginning for the first one that you are considering with such attention: "Blessed (μακάριοι) are the poor in spirit (οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι), because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them" ( Mt5.3). Paradoxically, the spirit of poverty is that turning point that opens the way to happiness through a complete paradigm shift. This, while it strips us of the worldly spirit, leads us to use our wealth and technologies, goods and talents in favor of integral human development, the common good, social justice and the care and protection of our common home. The paradox of poverty of spirit, to which we are called, consists in that being the key to happiness for all —individually and socially—, not everyone wants to hear it: «How difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! ! » Lc 18,24).

Poverty of spirit is, then, this surprising and unusual path, “narrow and narrow” ( Mt 7,14), but sure to reach the fullness to which as individuals and as a society we are called.

But be careful, Jesus does not say that “material” poverty is a blessing, understood as deprivation of what is necessary to live with dignity: food, work, housing, health, clothing, education, opportunities, etc. This poverty is caused most of the time by injustice and greed, and not so much by the forces of nature (global warming, calamities, pandemics, earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, etc.), it is more in some of the latter not Human manipulation is seldom noticed as well. Poverty as a deprivation of what is necessary - that is, misery - is socially, as L. Bloy and Péguy have clearly seen, a kind of hell, because it weakens human freedom and puts those who suffer it in a position to be victims of the new slavery (forced labor, prostitution, organ trafficking and others) in order to survive. They are criminal conditions that in strict justice must be denounced and fought without rest. Everyone, according to their own responsibility, and in particular by governments, multinational and national companies, civil society and religious communities, must do so. They are the worst degradations of human dignity and for a Christian, the open sores of the body of Christ that cries out from his cross: I am thirsty. "Happy you poor people, because the Kingdom of God belongs to you!" As Saint Luke affirms (cf. 6,20), it is a call to freedom that prioritizes the need to help the sick and the poor with food, health, shelter, clothing and other basic needs. What's more, Jesus proclaims that in the final judgment all people, families,Mt 25,40).

The poor in spirit are rich in this “instinct” of the Holy Spirit, they are rich in brotherhood and desirous of social friendship. This is how the young Francis of Assisi, the son of a rich merchant, at the dawn of the industrial age, capitalism and banking, gave up wealth and comforts to become poor among the poor, witnessing this beatitude with the so-called wedding with Lady povertyMoved by the spirit of poverty, he warns in the suffering of the leper that true wealth and joy are not things, having, the worldly paradigm, but love for Christ and solidarity service to others. In a completely serious and enthusiastic sense - Chesterton affirms - Saint Francis could say: "Blessed is he who has nothing or hopes for nothing because he will possess everything and will enjoy everything." [2]Likewise, touched by the suffering of the multitude of poor people of our time that she considered as her own, mercy has been for Mother Teresa of Calcutta the living water and living bread that gave beauty to each of her work, and the energy that satiated and nourished to those who had nothing but "hunger and thirst for justice." In the same way, many men and women of living faith - and not only - have received graces from the poor, because in each brother and sister in difficulty we embrace the flesh of the suffering Christ.

Along with the massive increase in poverty, the other consequence of the predominant materialist paradigm is the growing increase in the gap of inequalities, which causes social unrest and generalizes conflict, not only endangering democracy, but also weakening the necessary social good. This tragic and systemic increase in inequalities between social groups within the same country and between the populations of different countries also has a negative economic, political, cultural and even spiritual impact. And this is due to the progressive wear and tear of the set of relationships of fraternity, social friendship, harmony, trust, reliability and respect, which are the soul of all civil coexistence. Naturally, the greed that drives the system has long since set aside the main economic-social and political consequence of the “spirit of poverty”, that which demands social justice and co-responsibility in the management of the goods and the fruits of human beings' work. "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gn 4.9). The Catechism of the Catholic Church recalls that: “The right to private property, acquired or received in a fair way, does not nullify the original donation of the earth to the whole of humanity. The universal destination of goods continues to be paramount, although the promotion of the common good requires respect for private property, its right and its exercise. [3] And shortly after, he added: "Production assets - tangible or intangible - such as land or factories, professions or arts, require the care of their owners so that their fertility benefits the greatest number of people." [4]So that the possessors of goods must use them in a spirit of poverty, reserving the best part for the guest, the sick, the poor, the old, the helpless, the excluded; who are the face, so often forgotten, of Jesus, who is who we look for when we seek the common good. The development of a society is measured by the ability to urgently help the sufferer.

Already in 1967, Saint Paul VI wrote in the encyclical Populorum Progressio : «It is known with what firmness the Fathers of the Church have specified what should be the attitude of those who have towards those who are in need: 'It is not part of your goods - so says Saint Ambrose - what you give to the poor; what you give belongs to him. Because what has been given for the use of all, you appropriate it. The land has been given to the whole world and not just to the rich. ' [5] A new important step, in 1987, was taken by Saint John Paul II , who for the first time introduced the notion of "structures of sin" to indicate one of the main causes of social inequality in the capitalist system, which produces slaves. .[6]

The good news is that, created in the image of God, the human being is called to collaborate freely with the Creator and to sustainably develop the earth and, in turn, to shape society with the fraternal spiritual character that he himself received in the program of the beatitudes. Although the globalization of indifference seems to be the prevailing voice, during all this time of pandemic we saw how the globalization of solidarity could be imposed with its characteristic discretion in the different corners of our cities. We must, therefore, put off worldliness so that the spirit of the Beatitudes and, in our case, poverty of spirit, takes shape among us and among peoples. However, all our speeches will be words, as the saying goes, that the wind blows away, if they do not succeed in taking root and incarnating themselves in the lives of young people. This requires us to work with emphasis and hope on educational models capable of promoting the spirit of the Beatitudes in the younger generations.

I want to end with the echo that the spirit of poverty taught by Christ has in Saint Paul. It cannot be doubted that Paul finds it legitimate to want what is necessary and, consequently, working to achieve it is a duty: "He who does not want to work, let him not eat" ( 2 Thes 3,10). But at the same time he warns his disciple Timothy about greed as the source of many personal and social ills: «Those who wish to be rich expose themselves to temptation, fall into the trap of innumerable ambitions, and commit dire follies that precipitate them to death. ruin and perdition »( 1 Tm  6,9). "Because greed (φιλαργυρία) is the root of all evils, and by letting themselves be carried away by it, some lost faith and innumerable sufferings were caused" ( 1 Tim. 6.10). To many this text will seem of religious or ascetic value, but not economic. What's more, it will seem like a destroyer of the economy. However, it is an eminently socio-economic and political text, as are the beatitudes of Christ and especially that of the spirit of poverty in which it is inspired. Because Pablo identifies with extreme lucidity: "innumerable sufferings were caused," that is, greed did not provide them with the economic and social well-being they sought, nor did it provide the freedom and happiness they desired. On the contrary, greed enslaves the current power ruthlessly and without justice in the ruthless struggle for the golden calf and dominance, as modern economics shows. Therefore, the very well-being of each person, of the economy and of the local and global society requires the spirit of poverty,Ga  5, 22s).

To overcome this greed, we are called to carry out a global movement against indifference that creates or recreates social institutions inspired by the Beatitudes and impels us to seek the civilization of love. A movement that limits all those activities and institutions that by their own inclination tend only to profit, especially those that Saint John Paul II called "structures of sin." Among them, what I defined as “globalization of indifference”. Let us ask the Lord to give us his “spirit of poverty”. Let's search and it will help us find it. Let us knock so that the door to the path of beatitudes and authentic happiness may be opened to us.

Rome, Saint John Lateran, October 2, 2021





[1] "If someone piously and soberly considers the sermon that our Lord Jesus Christ delivered on the mountain, as we read it in the Gospel according to Matthew, I believe that he will find in it, as regards the highest morals, a perfect standard of the Christian life »(SAINT AUGUSTINE, On the Sermon on the Mount , I, 1).

[2]  GK CHESTERTON, Saint Francis of Assisi , ch. 5, The minstrel of God.

[3]   Catechism of the Catholic Church , n. 2403.

[4]   Ibid .  n. 2405.

[5]  Cf. n. 23 .

[6]  Cf. Letter enc. Sollecitudo Rei Socialis , 36-40.

FULL TEXT + Image Screenshot from Vatican.va