So far our exploration of the 1818 Rule has looked at the first part, which was the “why” of the Missionaries. We have seen how in this section Eugene explained their mission and ministry in detail. The next section, entitled “The Particular Obligations of the Missionaries” could be summed up as dealing with the question of “how to BE” in order “to DO.”

In 1818 they introduced the commitment to religious life through the profession of three vows: chastity, obedience and perseverance. The vow of poverty was only introduced a few years later; nevertheless, Eugene began this section on the vows with a presentation on the “spirit of poverty.”

Voluntary poverty has been regarded by the founders of religious orders as the foundation and support of all perfection, as the impregnable fortification of religion, and as the virtue that disposes us to acquire more easily the other virtues and to devote ourselves to good works.

1818 Rule, Part Two, The Particular Obligations of the Missionaries.
Chapter One. §1. The Spirit of Poverty. Missions, 78 (1951) p. 44.

 To appreciate Eugene’s insistence we need to go back to his conversion. Experiencing the love of God, the only response possible for him was that of oblation: to live “all for God.” The spirit of poverty was that of emptying himself in order to “BE” fully the instrument/co-operator of the Savior. No half-measures for him!

All who were called to follow in Eugene’s ideal of oblation were asked to do likewise. Today this spirit continues to be expressed in our Rule of Life:

Our mission requires that, in a radical way, we follow Jesus who was chaste and poor and who redeemed mankind by his obedience. That is why, through a gift of the Father, we choose the way of the evangelical counsels.

CC&RR, Constitution 12


“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”   Lao Tzu

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6 Responses to VOWS: THE WAY TO “BE” IN ORDER TO “DO”

  1. John Mouck says:

    “we follow Jesus who was chaste and poor”

    In no way questioning the admiralty and wisdom of the Oblate vow of poverty because wealth can be a distraction in mission, what makes you think Jesus was poor?

    I think Jesus lived simply, not because he was poor, but because he was strategic. He had few possessions because he needed to travel light. He had no place to lay his head, because of his itinerant preaching schedule.
    Jesus was likely a carpenter. He probably followed his dad’s footsteps as was normal in those days. Young men grew up watching their fathers work and typically learned their dad’s trade.
    Carpenters likely made good money. Like today, a good carpenter can make a fine living for his family. Depending on his talents, a carpenter’s income would fit somewhere between the lower middle to upper middle class of his day. Since the Roman empire was thriving in Jesus’ day, it’s fair to say that the construction business was booming in Israel.
    Jesus was likely a busy carpenter.
    Think about this: Jesus probably started earning money when he was in his teens. Let’s be conservative and say that he made a living doing carpentry work for 12 years. From the age of 18 until he went public with his ministry at the age of 30, Jesus had a steady paycheck.
    He knew that a “career change” was coming when he turned 30. I’m sure he planned for it. He could have tucked some money away during his earning years for his season of ministry. He knew what was coming, after all.
    And what about his disciples? They didn’t abandon everything they had. They left them to follow Jesus but they didn’t get rid of them.
    • Simon and Andrew kept their home (Mark 1:29).
    • All of the boating that Jesus and the disciples did on the Sea of Galilee was done in one of their boats.
    • Peter told Jesus, “We’ve left everything for you,” not “We’ve sold everything for you” (Mark 10:28).
    • John maintained a home during his three years with Jesus. When Jesus was dying on the cross, he entrusted John to take care of Mary. From that time on, Mary lived with John in his home (John 19:27).
    • Levi (a.k.a., Matthew) had a large home. He had Jesus, his disciples, many of his fellow tax collectors, and a bunch of sinners over once (Mark 2:15). Levi’s house must have been pretty big to have that kind of crowd.
    Jesus lived simply and strategically. He didn’t accumulate a lot of stuff because he knew that stuff slows you down. He didn’t make his disciples get rid of their stuff. In fact, he used their stuff for ministry. They kept their stuff but they were willing to leave it for a greater cause.
    I think Jesus was strategic with his time, energy, and money. I think he knew what the last three years of his life would be like. I think he intentionally kept his possessions to a minimum so that he could move quickly from one place to another. I think he stored money away during his earning years to use during his ministry.
    I think he always had ministry in mind over material things.

  2. Jack Lau, OMI says:

    Poverty: That being empty, so be filled. Letting go so to be able to receive.
    Recently I meet with a person who was sent by a local Naturopathic Doctor. The person has had major medical procedures yet has chosen to let the body heal itself and not to get pumped up with drugs. So part of the healing process is a Juice Fast once a week which will both cleanse and give the system a rest while uniting this with a spiritual practice of “emptiness and purification”. The body and soul are ONE.
    We all know Phil. 2 and the power of kenosis. In Hindu traditions the image of the human heart as the hollow flute in which God is able to play or in the Sufi tradition the music box that is stuffed with rags that stifle the beauty of sound. The deep truth remains the same. As we enter the journey, letting go/emptying out as the challenges or health concerns abound around we allow through “poverty” (for the, foundation and support of all perfection, the impregnable fortification of religion, and the virtue that disposes us to acquire more easily the other virtues and to devote ourselves to good works.)

  3. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    Wonderful how you tied in all four of the vows with the greatest treasures according to Lao Tzu; chastity, obedience, perseverance and poverty, somehow they all come together and work as simplicity, patience and compassion. With one we have the other.

    Although I hear what John is saying I think the “poverty”, the “spirit of poverty” and Eugene is about much much more than physical wealth. Now I am not sure of the full theology of what is to follow but it’s how I can put it into words. Eugene’s “all for God” meant literally that – but it wasn’t that he gave away ALL of his belongings and became a beggar – it seems to me he gave up everything of himself – the “inside” stuff. That emptying of everything that made him who he “was” – he gave it all to God. He was not tied down by old wounds and weaknesses (although he had them) – there was that awesome sense of forgiveness! And in doing this he was also not tied down by all the complications and focus on worldly riches – he had enough to live on but it was not his focus (the same as I believe it was not the focus of Jesus). Amazing how our NEEDS change in this whole process! Anyways this spirit of poverty that came with his “all for God”, the “emptying of himself” for God in order to “BE” – that poverty actually made him rich. It is all inside stuff. To BE full the instrument/co-operator of the Savior – means literally giving everything, your ALL somehow. The paradox is to give all to God and become poor – the riches that come are unspeakable.

    Hopefully I was able to explain my understanding of it all. Hard to put into words when you not used to bringing it “outside”.

    • John Mouck says:

      Well said, Eleanor. I think you did a great job of putting into words and clarifying things for me…thanks.

  4. Bradley Clark, Pre-Novice says:

    As Christians, we follow Jesus. We come to know Jesus through the gospels. So I don’t think we can separate the teachings of Jesus with how he lived his life. So when Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor” and “woe to those who are rich” (Luke 6:20, 24), I believe that he must have lived what he said. Or when he praises the widow who gave her last penny, because she gave not what she had in excess, but she gave all that she had. And again when Jesus says, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” which I understand to mean that he had no money to stay at an inn. Also, I wouldn’t be so quick to say that carpenters could afford to save money. Even today, when there is a recession, unemployment is highest in the trades sector. During Jesus’ time, farmers would be more “middle class” because the land owners would make sure their workers would not starve. The carpenters only lived on the little bit of money that was left over after people took care of their basic necessities. So I do believe that Jesus does call us not only to a spiritual understanding of poverty, but also a financial poverty.

  5. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associates says:

    Bradley – good to hear from you! And thank you. I find myself agreeing with you with hesitation. It is, I believe, the both – the inside (spiritual) and the outside (physical) and we move back and forth, up and down, from one to the other. It is both and in living the both at we move in and from the vows and come to the simplicity, patience and compassion.

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