I have been speaking to many young people recently. Some know more than others about the religious life. They know about the vows: "You can't get married," but one most thoughtful question was: "This vow of poverty. God created the world and all that is in it good. So why is it good to make a vow not to have these things - to use moderately, I mean?"
Why indeed? The question fills me with great hope for the future of the Church. If our teens are asking such questions, the future is bright indeed.
It has to do with freedom and with love - all the vows do.
I want to go directly to God; to give everything to him. It is not a devaluing of the good things of creation, or a rejection of things most helpful, but it is a question of relative value. He is more important to me than "stuff" ... and I want to show him that.
Our culture is all about freedom. Unfortunately, it is, in so many ways, the "freedom" to bind myself so tightly that I cannot move. This freedom is the freedom to move, the freedom to serve.
The exercise was simple: Close your eyes and think of your "stuff." Now, open your eyes. If I asked you to pack all your stuff in a box - how big a box would you need? If you received a phone call that you needed to move permanently to Florida this afternoon (pick any place far away - we were standing in western Wisconsin), could you pack everything and go?
Or pick one thing you have that is nice. If someone took that away from you (permanently), would you be upset? Would it be hard to love that person?
Since they were all normal people in our culture, my point was made.
Freedom. The freedom to move. The freedom to love. The freedom not to be attached to "stuff."
That's "why" the vow of poverty.