Day 17

Admonition 14: – Of Poverty of Spirit 1

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5. 3) Many apply themselves to prayers and offices, and practise much abstinence and bodily mortification, but because of a single word which seems to be hurtful to their bodies or because of something being taken from them, they are forthwith scandalized and troubled. These are not poor in spirit: for he who is truly poor in spirit, hates himself and loves those who strike him on the cheek. (See Matt. 5. 39)


“‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ‘”(Matt.5:3)

This verse marks the beginning of the Beatitudes, a passage Francis often made use of in his admonitions. In many instances we omit the ‘in spirit’ and only speak of the ‘poor’ as inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.

What does it mean to be poor in spirit?

I did a google search and found the paragraph below, referenced at the end, to be a fair explanation.

“To be poor in spirit is to recognize (y) our utter spiritual bankruptcy before God. It is understanding that (you) we have absolutely nothing of worth to offer God. Being poor in spirit is admitting that, because of (y)our sin, (you) we are completely destitute spiritually and can do nothing to deliver (y)oursel/ves from (y)our dire situation. Jesus is saying that, no matter (y)our status in life, (you)we must recognize (y)our spiritual poverty before (you)we can come to God in faith to receive the salvation He offers.”2 (brackets show original pronouns)

Francis begins by speaking of the Religious who keep the Rule, say the Offices, carry out their allotted tasks about the Friary – and if speaking of his own time apply themselves to fasting and bodily mortification,  designed to improve their spirituality and to reinforce the fact that they are poor in spirit, yet they do not understand that Works without Faith and masochism do not do one iota to improve the inner self.

When an ill word is said or something taken away from them “they are forthwith scandalized and troubled” These are not poor in spirit because they consider themselves ‘someone‘ not to be spoken ill of nor taken from.

As we see from above the truly poor in spirit are aware of their utter lowliness and emptiness, uselessness before God and so might offer their left cheek should one strike them on the right cheek. Might show a willingness to be thought ill of and yet show forgiveness when stricken. Would not take umbrage at name calling????

  • But because of a single word which seems to be hurtful to their bodies-

This little sentence has always bothered me, you must all know the rhyme

” Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”

As one who experienced name calling as a child and as a Psychologist I must say that name Calling is every bit fracturing as sticks and stones. Therefore in our modern religious situations we need to be very  sure that those we judge to be full of themselves and who are hurt and  are ‘forthwith scandalized and troubled’ by name calling and the like are actually as we say they are rather than poor in spirit and low in self-esteem.

Modern Spirituality in its application of Virtues and the determination of Spiritual Status has a far greater challenge ahead of it than Francis knew.

  • 1.The Writings of Saint Francis of Assisi – Online Library of Liberty. 2015. The Writings of Saint Francis of Assisi – Online Library of Liberty. [ONLINE] Available at: http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/1172. [Accessed 21 September 2015].
  • 2.What does it mean to be poor in spirit?. 2015. What does it mean to be poor in spirit?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.gotquestions.org/poor-in-spirit.html. [Accessed 21 September 2015].