Summary: Poverty of soul is a way of entering in prayer, especially at the outset of when we begin to pray.
Poverty of soul is a way of entering in prayer, especially at the outset.
Poverty of soul cannot be sought as an item of self-knowledge. It retains always an unknown, elusive quality. It cannot be simply a thought of our unworthiness before God. Much less can it be a mood of despondency about self. We must forget ourselves in prayer if we are to turn our desire more fully toward God. We do not leave the self behind by dwelling on our wretchedness. An absence of thought for self suggests a better response. But this cannot be sought in itself as the goal of prayer. Simply emptying our mind of thoughts does not mean we turn ourselves to God. If we forget self in prayer, it is because we want God and nothing but him. Only in desiring God more intently do we become more silent toward ourselves, more insignificant, poorer before God.
Poverty of soul cannot be a matter for labored reflection. We do not need to investigate or analyze our poverty.... Rather, our internal poverty of soul hinges on our absolute dependency on God...we are not freed from ourselves unless released by another hand...[But this will happen]....Our nothingness attracts God’s love in the way a poor child’s smile draws our own emotion.
It is impossible that poverty of spirit is learned in fast and easy lessons. No natural disposition exists for it. Only providentially, often by events that unmask a deeper loneliness in a soul, can impoverishment ever be welcomed and even become attractive. Perhaps it does so only then because God is recognized in a new manner, gentle in his touch, incapable of crushing what is poor”—page 116
The anxious thought of a day to come, with its hypothetical possibilities, can always return to trouble a time of prayer. And then we may find ourselves glancing down at waters into which we seemed to step shortly before with fearless abandon. This hesitation too, must be passed through on the way to greater interior poverty.—page 117
....We do well to seek the company of a tabernacle. Those who know God more deeply come to know a recurring attraction for him in the Eucharist. They come to know as well their own poverty while praying before the Eucharist. His disguised appearance in the Sacrament lifts the cover of poverty from their own soul. In the presence of his poverty, their own poverty no longer intimidates. They sense intuitively that it draws and even seduces his love.
Poverty may first enter our lives only by accepting our insignificance in the setting in which we live. We ought to observe the workings of divine providence in this regard. Any experience of being left alone, disregarded, forgotten—if it does not isolate the soul and make it retreat inwardly—invites a recognition. Our unimportance to others can combine with a fruitful realization. The more we disappear from the attention of others, the more we are watched by God in a different manner.—page. 119
“The diminishment of sensitivity to ourselves outside of prayer is a fruit of deeper prayer. When silent prayer is finished and we keep our eyes away from self, it is a sign we realize better we are never alone, a truth discovered first in silent prayer.’—page 192
“The yearning to disappear from our own thoughts in prayer is always to some degree in proportion to our soul’s deeper longing for God...
...”Who am I that you should come to me?....” (Luke 1:43). This question of Saint Elizabeth to Mary ought to rise up within our heart whenever we experience a hunger for silent prayer.”—page. 193
“Father, I abandon myself in your hands. Do with me as you will....I am ready for all, I accept all.” A prayer of abandonment to God, as in the prayer composed by Charles de Foucauld, cannot be prayed except from a deeper poverty of soul. A spirit of abandonment is to relinquish autonomy, to sacrifice a right of determination over our future, to mortify the impulse to forecast or predict. It is to offer our subsequent days blindly to God, to leave what is to come entirely to God’s choice. In short, it is to become poor. This divestment of ourselves is surely a necessary condition for surrender to God that does not fall back on a confidence in our own power to give our lives to him. It cannot take place without an implicit promise not to question God at a later day in order that he might reconsider his will. In the absence of any knowledge of what God may do with such an open permission, this prayer repeated over a lifetime can be a form of slow dying, which in God’s plan is no doubt what it is meant to accomplish. It is made easier if we realize that giving up control over the remaining days of our life can only lead to happiness.—page. 122
Source: Contemplative Provocations by the Rev. Donald Haggerty, Ignatius Press, 2013.