Cloistered Dominican Nuns Corpus Christi Monastery

The Bride’s Poverty: Poverty and Humility

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Part Four of the Portrait of a Cloistered Dominican Nun Series

A Dominican nun not only accepts a life of poverty, but embraces it with love.  In his Last Will and Testament, our Holy Father Dominic exhorted: “Behold, my Children, the heritage I leave you: have charity one for another, guard humility, make your treasure out of voluntary poverty.”

The daughter of St. Dominic bears joyfully for the sake of her Beloved Jesus the privations, inconveniences and burdens of being poor.  She does not complain when faced with the inseparable companions of poverty nor seek to avoid them: hunger, thirst, cold in winter and heat in the summer, abjection and contempt from others.  She is content with a simple and frugal diet and plain clothing and shoes.  And even these necessities she readily offers to share with those even more poor than she.

Through her poverty, she joins her Beloved.  After all, what true spouse seeks to live better than their beloved?  As Jesus was born poor in a stable, lived a poor, simple life as a carpenter, had no place to rest His head during his years of public ministry, and died in even greater poverty, the Dominican nun embraces a life of poverty and with her spouse.  Through poverty, she is detached from the good things of the world, even sacrificing her freedom of movement by staying within the cloister.  Through the practice of poverty, she is freed from the vices of avarice and envy and is prepared to receive the greatest treasure which she will possess for all eternity – an eternity of happiness with her Beloved.

A Dominican nun also guards humility and thus follows the example of our Blessed Mother, for humility was Mary’s most fundamental virtue.  The Dominican nun does not deny the graces, gifts and talents bestowed upon her by God.  Rather, true humility recognizes what they are: gifts from God.  She knows that in and of herself, she is nothing, a mere creature.  Before her conception, she did not exist and she had no part in bringing about her existence.  And, as a creature, she is ultimately dependent upon God and His providence for her wellbeing and continued existence.  She knows God has no need for her and her being is a pure act of love on His part.  In this knowledge, she is simple and generous.  Her aim is to return God’s love in the time and manner He asks of her.  Her deep humility makes her receptive to all the good things God desires to give her and makes her capable of the great things He would ask of her.

We see this in the life of Mary.  For she was the most humble, most simple, most magnanimous of all God’s creation.  And she became the mother of our Savior.  After the Annunciation, Mary went with haste to visit Elizabeth and exclaims in her Magnificat:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.

The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.

His mercy is from age to age
to those who fear him.

He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.

The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.

He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.

A Dominican nun joyfully intones Mary’s canticle every evening at Vespers, making this song of praise her own.

Want to learn more about how to discover the gifts God has given you and about cloistered, contemplative life as a Dominican nun?  Contact Sister Joseph Marie to register for our upcoming “Come-and-See” Day.  The deadline to register is fast-approaching!

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