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Q. Is it true that most members of religious Orders make the vow of poverty?Return to Table of Contents
A. Yes it is. Most members of religious Orders take the three vows of chastity, obedience and poverty.
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Q. Does the Holy Bible support the vow of poverty?
A. Yes, there are two Bible passages that refer to embracing a life of poverty. The first is found in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus teaches that those who wish to follow Him should dispose of their personal property. The second is found in the Acts of the Apostles where it is revealed that the early Christians did not claim private ownership of any possessions, but rather, shared everything in common.
"A certain ruler asked him, 'Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' Jesus said to him, 'Why doyou call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: 'You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.' He replied, 'I have kept all these since my youth.' When Jesus heard this, he said to him, 'There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me. Jesus looked at him and said, 'How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!'" [Lk. 18:18-23]
"Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need." [Acts 4:32-5]
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Q. Since many priests, brothers and sisters make the vow of poverty, why is it that many of them drive newer cars or even live in good homes?
A. As is explained in Acts 4:32-5 above, the vow of poverty is not related to being poor, but rather to sharing everything in common. Those who embrace the vow of poverty do not claim private ownership of any possessions. Everything they have is used for the common good of the religious Order.
By being free of owning private possessions, those who embrace a religious life are free to testisfy regarding the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In view of the facts that the priests are expected to be on time to celebrate the Holy Mass or to administer the Last Rite to the sick, this sometime requiring that they travel a great distance, the religious Order that owns the vehicle(s), provides its priests with vehicles that are believed to be reliable to ensure continuity in their ministry of evangelization. The same can be said for the brothers or sisters who are required to teach at local schools or attend to other spiritual work as part of their callings.
Equally, the religious Orders provide their members with proper housing to ensure that they will be able to evangelization effectively. In communities where it is cold, they have furnaces to warm up their houses. Also, it is acceptable to have a television in the common room so the members of the religious Order can watch the local and international news so they are aware of the world situation.
While it is admirable to read of the Saints who had no television, no cars and who lived in poor houses that had no windows, at the same time, it must be recognized that in their days, there were no television or cards and the condition of their houses often met the standard of most houses where they lived. Many of them did not live in countries that had snow on the ground for months.