St. Therese of Lisieux sheds new light onto the Vow of Poverty. Upon the occasion when the saint was deprived of her lamp that was much needed in her exterior darkness, St. Therese experienced joy rather than annoyance. She experienced happiness from this event when she learned that Poverty consists of being deprived of even the necessary things. Christ reveals to St. Therese the joy and nature of true Poverty:
“I understood that a sister, believing she was taking her lamp, picked up ours which I really needed. Instead of feeling annoyed at being thus deprived of it, I was really happy, feeling that Poverty consists in being deprived not only of agreeable things but of indispensable things too. And so in this exterior darkness, I was interiorly illumined!” (Story of a Soul, 3rd ed., tr. John Clarke, 159)
Through St. Therese’s example, Christ reveals to me that I pay a price in order to live true Poverty. The attitude I am asked to possess in paying whatever price is that of willingness and joy. I am stirred to imagine the poor widow who placed two coins into the treasury.
“[H]e noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.” (Lk 21: 2-4)
Jesus “notice[s]” the two coins the poor widow places into the treasury. Why does this image stir me to wonder? Out of her own need, the poor widow chooses to give all she has to live on. She emptied herself. What touches me the most is that her extraordinary action is coupled with an attitude of self-giving love and joy. The widow did not complain in giving her contribution, but desired to give herself in generosity. Out of her poverty and her desire to give, the value of the poor widow’s two coins was priceless. As Mother Teresa said:
“You must give what will cost you something. This, then, is giving not just what you can live without but what you can’t live without or don’t want to live without, something you really like. Then your gift becomes a sacrifice, which will have value before God. Any sacrifice is useful if it is done out of love” (A Simple Path).
I am asked to detach from my needs: my time and my plans. Loving Christ costs me the time I could be using to spend extra hours on hobbies I like or to complete the agenda I planned for the day. Because I usually have an entire agenda planned for the week, I make the excuse of having limited time to engage in intimate conversation with my Sisters or to be present in everyday events because my mind is preoccupied with the things I need to get done. However, the story of the poor widow stirs me to desire to give my “limited” time to Christ with Joy. The Spirit asks me to give out of my own poverty with a willing heart. He asks me to spare a few minutes to meet Christ in my Sisters and to gaze upon Christ in nature; I am called to engage in relationship with Christ in my surroundings. The little time that I do choose to offer is returned a hundred fold. I found that God transforms the finite minutes I choose to surrender into divine joy.