Thursday, May 31, 2012

No Money, No Problem

Let us suppose that you are a married person with children. If you are relatively happy with your life, if you enjoy spending time with your children, playing with them and talking to them; if you like nature, if you enjoy sitting in your yard on your front steps, if your sexual life is relatively happy, if you have a peaceful sense of who you are and are stabilized in your relationships, if you like to pray in solitude, if you just like talking to people, visiting them, spending time in conversation with them, if you enjoy living simply, if you sense no need to compete with your friends or neighbors--what good are you economically in terms of our system? You haven't spent a nickel yet....

For there is an economics of intimacy and happiness: covenanted love is not very profitable. There is an economics of the vows: poverty, chastity, and obedience are not very helpful to economic growth. There is an economics to prayer and solitude: they are financially worthless.

John F. Kavanaugh, Following Christ in a Consumer Society

The Capuchin interprovincial postulancy program is the right challenge for the brothers at the right time. It is the right challenge for me, right now. It is so hard to treat persons like persons, and things like things, each according to their nature, raising neither kind above or below its nature. How hard for young religious to break off the idolatries of a capitalist consumerism worldview -- to strive to live humanly, to live like persons, not to live according to the ways of a world centered in things, not in God.

Thank goodness we have this program, and the novitiate program to follow, to set us free from unhealthy, mindless material preoccupations. With trust in the generosity of our provinces, we rely on the use of common resources to obtain our daily bread. With no material or financial concerns to speak of, and nothing to want, we are left with few anxieties and fewer distractions from fraternal interactions. Indeed, what can keep us from learning to love persons above all things?

Money? Why would we need it now? Granted, each brother gets a little petty cash for personal material and social needs. But what do we really need money for now?

We may not use personal money. We may not draw from our personal bank accounts, assets, or investments. We may not possess personal credit cards. We may not possess personal checkbooks. Amen and alleluia. What a relief not to have to manage these things or be worried by them.

The divestment goes beyond means of exchange. We may not possess cell phones, personal computers, personal music players, or personal electronic devices. Fine by me. No one has a personal vehicle for transportation. So what? Welcome to the fraternal economy.

Indeed, welcome to the economy of grace, the economy of abundance, the economy of gratitude. There is no profit motive here, only prophetic enterprise. We value free persons, not a free market. We trade in compassion, not commodities. We do not compete; we cooperate. With God's help, we grow in strength and wisdom and favor among people. We do not concern ourselves with growth in employment and production and consumption. We do not look for magical help from an illusive hidden hand.

Pray for me and my brothers that we strive always to put persons above things and never to revere things as persons. Let us settle our "account" before God alone, through Jesus Christ, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, guided by the example of Francis and Clare.

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