Blessed Are You Book Club: Spiritual Poverty, Chapter 1
Welcome to WINE’s Summer Book Club! We are reading and discussing Blessed Are You: Finding Inspiration From Our Sisters in Faith by Melanie Rigney. We’re so happy you are joining us! We pray this book club will bless you and give you tangible ways to live the Beatitudes in your daily lives. We look forward to hearing from you in the comments section, throughout our time together.
By Lisa Mladinich
As I read the first chapter of Blessed Are You, I was immediately struck by the importance of Melanie’s meditation on what it is to truly empty ourselves, in order to make room for God’s grace—his powerful presence and help, his life-transforming action in our lives:
We find out own spiritual poverty in many different ways: in humbling ourselves and working and living simply; in stripping ourselves of all the titles and possessions that give us pride; in finding the faith to set aside all the fears and paranoia that give us anxiety. For God to fill us up, we must first empty ourselves of all the stuff that stands between him and us. (p. 2)
Understanding our place in God’s creation, as beloved daughters and sons of the King, shows us that all of our riches are found in God, not in ourselves. This infinite wealth, freely offered, is ours when we do something that seems paradoxical: simplify our lives, accept our own poverty and suffering, and let God fill us to overflowing with gifts of HIS choosing, not ours.
The saints bear witness:
St. Chiara’s astonishing courage made me wonder if I could refuse pain medication, should I ever be afflicted with cancer. Her passionate desire to share in the cross and find a radical intimacy with Christ drove her to this stunning act of selflessness. Our world praises self-obsession; but Chiara saw with eternal sight and ran straight to her crucified Jesus, instead.
Likewise, St. Faustina relied on God, no matter how long and hard the road stretched out before her. In that radical trust, Jesus found a soul available to receive and propagate the mystery of his Divine Mercy, so desperately needed in our world. How many times have I fallen into confusion because God seemed to have led me to a dead end? What sorrows are ahead, and will I accept the grace of perseverance? With St. Faustina’s help, Lord, make me constant in trust!
St. Jean humbly accepted the loss of her life’s work! She reminds me of Mother Angelica, the foundress of EWTN, who stepped down from her media empire the moment she sensed God calling her to a new battlefield: the cloister of her sick room. Having become so important to so many people, how did either of these women trust God to work out so many needs and problems without their direct involvement? How difficult was it, day by day, and what were their prayers like, when the credit went to the wrong person or someone else steered their life’s work in new directions? In the eyes of the world, they must have appeared weak and passive, but their courage was so off-the-charts, I can’t begin to image it in my own soul. I have to ask myself, how attached am I to my accomplishments? Do I really believe that it is what God sees in me that really matters? St. Jean and Mother Angelica, pray for us!
The radical poverty of St. Germaine was the most difficult for me. My maternal instinct was so outraged at the way she was mistreated by her stepmother that it was hard for me to let her into my heart, at first. How could she accept this treatment without complaint? And Melanie rightly asks, “Where was Germaine’s father in all this?” What was it about Germaine’s humanity that allowed her to keep one foot on earth and the other in heaven, to prefer poverty and pain to comfort and acceptance? St. Germaine, pray for us!
To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:
- What are some ways to minister to your loved ones when you are really suffering?
- When is the last time you offered your pain for the welfare of someone else?
- Have there been times when you felt that following God’s commands led you to a dead end?
- What are some ways that you cultivate the virtue of perseverance, in your life?
- How much do your accomplishments in the eyes of the world affect your wellbeing?
- Do you trust that God values you, no matter what?
- What are some ways you cultivate detachment and simplicity, in your life?
- Comment on St. Paul’s statement:
I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me. Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress (Philippians 4:12-14 NAB)
YOUR TURN: Below in the comments box, please share your thoughts, inspirations, and reflections on Chapter 1, and/or your responses to any of these questions.
About the Author:
Lisa Mladinich is a Catholic wife and homeschooling mom, catechist, workshop leader, and the author of True Radiance: Finding Grace in the Second Half of Life (Servant Books). Her children’s prayer book, Heads Bowed: Prayers for Catholic School Days (Liguori Publications), is due out this summer. She writes for CATECHIST Magazine and can be reached through her website, AmazingCatechists.com.
Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 2: Mourning. For the complete reading schedule and information about our online book club, visit the Read Between the WINEs Summer Book Club page.
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