By a Leonie’s Longing Contributor.
Most of my life I have had a certain disdain for wealth and luxury. I would catch myself looking down on those with big houses, nice cars and name brand clothes. I grew up poor the majority of my childhood and I was proud of where I came from and the challenges I had to overcome. When I converted to Catholicism and eventually entered the religious life, the value placed on poverty and shunning luxury fueled my belief that pursuing wealth was diametrically opposed to a holy life. After leaving religious life, I worked in jobs that I was underpaid and overqualified for. Pursuing a secular career that paid well with opportunities for upward mobility seemed too worldly a pursuit and an obstacle to my vocation. Alongside me, I had friends, who, like myself, graduated from expensive Catholic colleges with massive student loan debt, follow a similar path. It seemed working for the Church in some capacity was the goal, regardless of the low pay, and secular well-paying careers were avoided. As the years went by, I started to question these choices. Why do devout Catholics (particularly women) pursue low paying jobs they are overqualified for? What was influencing this and is it healthy? Is this what God wants?
In the Catholic tradition, we are taught the virtues of poverty and detachment from earthly goods. This especially becomes prominent in religious life in the Vow of Poverty. As we detach from earthly things, we are taught that this allows us to attach to God and “store up treasures in heaven”. The benefits of wealth, such as luxury, convenience, and comfort, are looked down upon and seen as obstacles to our walk with Christ. The concept of the Prosperity Gospel that we hear of from some of our Protestant brothers and sisters is close to the exact opposite of how we view our faith in relationship to money. In fact, our tradition holds that suffering (including financial hardships) are opportunities to rely on the Providence of God and sometimes are directly given to us to grow on our paths to becoming saints. And this skepticism of wealth and success, especially if we have come from religious life, can guide our decisions in career paths, financial choices, and lifestyle.
Yet, with all this being said, the million dollar question is (no pun intended), have we swung the pendulum a little too far? Are we taking something neutral or even good, and shaming it? To be clear, I am not saying working a fulfilling but low paying job is wrong. Or that the teaching on detachment is erroneous. This is more a challenge to evaluate our views on wealth and career success. Negotiating pay, investing to build wealth for the future, purchasing a home (yes, even as a single man or woman), pursuing a promotion or career change for better pay – these are not bad things. And so, I challenge anyone reading this, if you find yourself in a job that you are overqualified, underpaid, and living paycheck to paycheck, I encourage you to reflect on your approach to your career, to success, and to wealth. Do you find distorted thinking, shame, guilt, or scrupulosity at its foundation? If you can move up in your job, why aren’t you? If you can get better pay, why not?
If this message strikes a chord with you, I recommend researching professional development learning opportunities to develop and upgrade your skills, learning from inspirational figures such as Dave Ramsey, Tony Robbins and Matthew Kelly, and finding a career counselor to address what’s been holding you back (National Career Development Association is a good place to start). LinkedIn is also a fantastic resource for networking, workshops and keeping up to date on trends in the workforce. Remember that as lay Catholics, we are not barred from success, nor are we forbidden to become wealthy and enjoy our success. Poverty or wealth does not determine attachment to goods – our love, generosity, and pursuit of God determines this. It is up to you how you decide to live that out.
I’m about to head off on pilgrimage to England for a month (please pray for me!), so I’ve been trying to think of a quick and simple blog post I could write before I go. It struck me that we haven’t had a recipe post for ages – not since The Magic Fruit back in 2013, as far as I can tell – so I decided to share something that’s helped give me a bit of extra energy for this last month or so. If you’re like me, and find lack of energy a real problem, I hope this will help!
For many years, my favourite breakfast was muesli stirred through with Greek yoghurt. Alas, about six months ago I realised that the cultures in the yoghurt weren’t doing me any good, and soon after that I worked out that I was also having trouble digesting the muesli, hence a lot of the fatigue I was experiencing. This is the breakfast recipe I came up with instead, which makes a good substantial porridge.
You will need:
1 and a half cups of brown rice. (You could also use white rice, but the brown has more nutritional value.) I like to scatter in some white rice among the brown to add stickiness to the mixture.
1 medium-sized saucepan.
1 sachet of chai latte powder – the kind you pour into a mug of hot water and stir to make one serving. You could also use hot chocolate, mocha, or even coffee powder, according to your taste. These do contain gluten, but there will be less of it to digest than in a bowl of wheat-based cereal. (If you have a wheat allergy, of course, please use your own preferred flavourings instead of the sachet.)
Ginger and cinnamon/nutmeg to taste.
Sultanas or raisins and maple syrup/honey to serve. Airtight container to store.
Boil water on stove, and add the rice.
Add a couple of teaspoons’ worth of the chai latte powder, and stir.
(Sorry for the shaky photo!)
Allow to boil for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
Gradually add more powder until you’ve used up about half the sachet. This will froth, but if you lay a wooden spoon over the top, it should keep the water from boiling over.
Top up the water when it gets low, and allow to boil until the rice softens.
Once rice is soft enough to eat and the water starts to get low again, turn it down to a simmer.
Add the rest of the sachet of powder plus the spices, and stir through. Once you have something that’s the consistency of thick porridge, take it off the heat. One and a half cups of brown rice = three to four servings.
Serve hot with sultanas and maple syrup/honey or brown sugar for sweetness. Extra can be stored in the fridge and eaten over several days. It’s gritty and unpleasant if you try to eat it cold, but warmed up, it’s a tasty, inexpensive and healthy breakfast!
I’ll be back at the end of September: I will try to check my emails while I’m away, but please be aware that if you write, it may be a while before you hear back from me! God bless!
By Sackcloth Dreams.
Recently, I was part of a discussion about theology students wearing the roman collar. One side said that seminarians shouldn’t wear the collar because it confuses people and they think a guy is a priest when he is not. But the former seminarian at the table explained how wearing the collar helped him feel more committed in his studies and the path he had embarked upon. It was interesting to hear.
The fact is, our bodies and our clothes matter, whether we like it or not. The outside reflects the interior, but our interior can also be shaped by our exterior. When I feel yucky in the morning, my initial reaction is to put on something comfortable and well-worn. I don’t want to put forth the energy to look nice. I want easy. But yet, if I stop myself and make the effort to look nice on the outside, it makes a difference in my attitude. There have been many days where I felt down but my usual clothes were in the laundry. As a result, I had to “dress up” because that was all I had. And it made a difference.
The day I entered the convent and changed into my postulant outfit was intense and most of it is a blur. But I do remember wanting to stand up tall and have proper posture to almost show respect to my new life and community, represented by my clothes. This feeling continued during my time there. My attire almost commanded me to carry myself a certain way.
When I returned to lay life, clothes were hard to come by. I don’t have sisters and I didn’t have any friends of the
same size/body type. As a result, I was given some ill-fitting clothes by people in order to get through and I used them for a long time (too long). I hate shopping with a passion and I didn’t have the money to get a new wardrobe. But I also didn’t feel like making the effort because I thought I wasn’t worth it. This created a cycle which I am still battling.
In “Searching for and Maintaining Peace” Fr. Jacques Philippe demonstrates the importance of the body and our actions. He says, “I should begin to strive to this peace in the easier situations of everyday life… to avoid excessive hurry in my gestures and the way I climb the stairs! The soul is often reeducated by the body!” (pg 82).
Haven’t we all experienced this? Don’t you pray differently when you are kneeling as opposed to sitting or lying down, for example? We have many times throughout our day when we sit, stand, lean, lie down, etc. But in Western culture we very rarely kneel or prostrate ourselves. This makes these postures meaningful. In regards to my surroundings, when I am in a beautiful church it is much easier to raise my mind to God. Furthermore, when I used to work in the Capitol I was often tempted to genuflect in the legislative chambers because the architecture was beautiful!
I had noticed this when thinking of postures in prayer, the beauty of a church and other more obviously “spiritual
matters” but I hadn’t ever thought about it in regards to my appearance. I am blessed to have a spiritual director who has been helping me grow and pray through my struggles with my exterior. He has constantly encouraged me to pray with these difficulties and be open and honest with the Lord. It is humbling to realize how much of our identity is wrapped up in our exterior. I tried to deny this reality for so long and now I am forced to surrender. It does matter.
So how about you? How did you feel about clothes? Was it hard to give up religious garb because it saved you from clothing decisions? Or did you immediately go to the trendiest store after returning and run up a big bill?
When I was in the convent as a postulant we were in charge of cooking. The kitchen sister would tell us the menu for the day and then we had to execute it. As a result, I learned many new recipes that I hadn’t ever encountered before. Some sounded strange initially but ended up being surprisingly delicious. We also had many special desserts for feast days and holidays that were truly amazing. And then of course kitchen accidents or sisters trying to make due with limited resources resulted in some interesting creations. I though it might be fun to share recipes that we experienced in the convent. Here are a few of mine to get us started:
Sr. Katie’s Saltine Dessert
We needed dessert and the baking cupboards were bare. An industrious classmate of mine pulled this together using what was available and everyone enjoyed it! Lay out saltines on a cookie tray, (over wax paper makes it easier to get dessert out and to clean.) Pour homemade caramel, (1 cup butter and 1 cup brown sugar, boiled until thick and bubbly,) on top of saltines. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and melt in the oven. Spread the chocolate evenly over the top and then harden in the freezer. Break into little squares.
Please share your favorite recipes and cooking stories below!
From The Rule of Saint Clare, Chapter VI:
After the most high heavenly Father saw fit by His grace to enlighten my heart to do penance according to the example and teaching of our most blessed Father, Saint Francis, I, together with my sisters, willingly promised him obedience shortly after his own conversion.
When the blessed Father saw we had no fear of poverty, hard work, trial, shame, or contempt of the world, but, instead, regarded such things as great delights, moved by compassion he wrote a form of life for us as follows:
“Because by divine inspiration you have made yourselves daughters and servants of the Most High King, the heavenly Father and have espoused yourselves to the Holy Spirit, choosing to live a life according to the perfection of the holy Gospel, I resolve and promise for myself and for my brothers to always have that same loving care and solicitude for you as I have for them.”
As long as he lived he diligently fulfilled this and wished that it always be fulfilled by his brothers.
Shortly before his death he once more wrote his last will for us that we or those, as well, who would come after us would never turn aside from the holy poverty we had embraced. He said:
“I , little brother Francis, wish to follow the life and poverty of our most high Lord Jesus Christ and of His Holy Mother and to persevere in this until the end; and I ask and counsel you , my ladies, to live always in this most holy life and poverty. And keep most careful watch that you never depart from this by reason of the teaching or advice of anyone.”
Saint Clare, pray for us!