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.

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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:

St. Chiara:

  • 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?

St. Faustina:

  • 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?

St. Jean:

  • How much do your accomplishments in the eyes of the world affect your wellbeing?
  • Do you trust that God values you, no matter what?

St. Germaine:

  • 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:

LisaMladinich_headshotLisa 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.

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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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38 Responses to “Blessed Are You Book Club: Spiritual Poverty, Chapter 1”
  1. Chris says:

    Thank you for opening discussions this morning. When we are disliked for our looks, our work is taken away and given to another or discarded are we willing to trust in God’s will for our life. When Jesus calls are we willing to give up everything and follow Him. P1 regarding Jesus: ‘his hometown thought him to be nothing remarkable. If we trust in God we can do remarkable things right where we find ourselves today. This is a lot to think about. This bookclub is so good! The Mass, Rosary and Devine Mercy chaplet help us find and love God — so happy to see them in chapter one.

  2. Colleen says:

    Emptying oneself – really hard! I believe as we become intimately familiar with these women there are roadmaps that can lead us out of our hedonism! St. Faustina got discouraged but found the courage to stay focused on what God was asking of her despite the hurts she felt. The formula was faithfulness to Him! Melanie gives us such an opportunity to look into these women – open for our benefit! The distractions in our day are greater than ever – as Lisa has so poignantly pointed out. My prayer this week has been to turn inward – away from social media and other inhuman ways of communicating with others – and be present to God and to another! This chapter gave me good examples of how to exemplify “poor in spirit!” Who has been your focus this week?

    • Connie Gray says:

      “The formula was faithfulness to him.” That is a good statement! In being faithful to Him we can lessen the focus on ourselves and be able to reach out to one another.

    • Sarah Damm says:

      I have had the desire to turn inward this summer, too! I deleted Twitter, because it never made sense to me anyway, and I took a break from Facebook (except for moderating this summer book club Facebook group). I love the freedom I have found in emptying my life of these things. God’s promises are so much more fulfilling than the world’s! But since it is so counter-cultural, it can be hard … “Jesus, I trust in You!”

  3. Mary Jo voegele says:

    In reading the first chapter, I was struck by what it really means to be poor in spirit. I never really understood that it simply means to live simply, trusting in God for all our needs. At the end of the chapter, I was really struck by the idea that we should not worry about the slights or injustices we experience, for the Lord sees all, and that is enough.

  4. Linda Hahn says:

    One thing I learned from the first chapter, and which has been driven home to me by this reflection is how far I am from living this beatitude. But, I’m trying! I often resolve to live more simply, but find myself drawn to new clothes and doodads I could easily live without. In spite of my best efforts, trying to empty myself in prayer, I too often have to pull myself back in because my mind wanders off to some other place. Through God’s grace, I will hopefully overcome all of these things and truly live poor in spirit.

    • Connie Gray says:

      I agree it is hard to live simply, and to not be drawn to material things. It helps me sometimes to put myself in places, of people, with more need. Then I am able to put things in perspective a bit, and think about helping others.

  5. Connie Gray says:

    I was drawn to the story of St. Chiara. I had never heard of her before and it was fascinating to me see she was so young (almost 19 when she died) and she was a relatively current saint. (died in 1990 and beatified in 2010). It is proof that we are called to be saints at all ages and even in current times. I have been reading lately about purgatory lately. Yes! As I have found, it is still a belief of the Catholic faith. I and have been trying to pray for the souls in purgatory and offer up little prayers and sacrifices for those souls there. As St. Chiara exemplified it is also good to do little things for those around us. I do not know if I could be in such pain and live without pain medication as I take aspirin for the slightest headache. I try to remember the examples of the saints as I am picking up the house, doing laundry, dishes, errands, bills and all of the mundane chores of motherhood. I certainly do not always do these activities with a good attitude, but I am trying to change… The saints are an inspiration!

  6. Pam Pert says:

    The story of St. Jean resonates so strongly with me. While I have not created anything on the same scale as St. Jean, I have worked for the same employer for 30 years, am highly respected in the organization and take pride in my accomplishments there. Too much pride, on many occasions when I find myself seeking attention, awards or recognition. It is my greatest struggle and challenge to humble myself at work and to lift up others in that environment. The competition, the desire for self promotion and the corporate culture all conspire against living Christin values at work. My eyes have been opened to the truth of Jesus’ love for me in all circumstances, not just “after hours” when I have historically been able to let go with greater success. Surrendering is not easy and, every day, I am grateful to our Blessed Mother for giving us that lasting example of trust and surrender. This is the first I have learned St. Jean’s story and I find it inspiring and a model of humility.

    • Ann says:

      As a career woman in a leadership position, it is very difficult for me to stay humble. I try each day to remember that all my gifts, talents and accomplishments come from God- they are not mine to claim. The Blessed Mother has assisted me in understanding humility and the love her son Jesus has for all of us. St. Jean was an inspiration for me as well. Pam put it beautifully when she said that the corporate culture conspires against living Christian values. Simply living in today’s world is hard enough- I too struggle with simplifying my life. Linda mentioned being drawn to new clothes and doodads , why do I feel I need to add another blouse to my closet when I already have many I do not wear? I struggle with this as well, beautiful example.
      What is lacking in my soul? Shouldn’t I be filling it with a better relationship with Jesus?
      Spiritual Poverty…a lot to ponder. Thank you saints Jeanne, Chiara, Faustina and Germaine.
      And thanks to Melanie and Lisa for moving us closer to a relationship with these saints.

    • Theresa says:

      I’m chiming in a little late, but I’m in the same corporate boat. The culture is to talk yourself up, get promoted, climb the ladder. Not humility. That’s weakness, and today’s woman is supposed to be strong and assertive! Right? No. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow’s woman is supposed to be the Blessed Mother. Complete surrender. Each of these saints hit a cord of “ah-ha!” or “uh-oh” with me. Every day I have to try again; all for Jesus. Every evening – mea culpa.

      • Connie Gray says:

        “Mea culpa” new phrase for me but one I also should use daily. Thank you.

  7. Carla Martin says:

    It truly has been humbling as I read about the lives of Sts. Chiara, Faustina, Jean & Germaine. I just experienced a painful encounter verbally with my father in law, while reading this chapter. And I am ashamed to say that I did not offer the anger, confusion and hurt feelings up, knowing that my father in law is coming from a weaker position due to his background. Please pray for me!🙏🏽

    • Connie Gray says:

      Sometimes our daily interaction to those we are close to are hard. Praying for you Carla…

    • Kathy says:

      This chapter is so pertinent to my life right now and it took this comment section for me to realize it! I thank and appreciate the ladies who are also dealing with aging parents and the hard feelings and misunderstandings that ensue. Thank you for helping me remember to stay calm and loving instead of being “right!”

  8. Cathy says:

    I always thought I had a pretty good grasp of ‘poor in spirit’. Not perfect, but I really thought I could communicate this idea and love through it. A couple of years ago, I was in an accident that left me temporarily (praise God!) unable to walk. During recovery, I also lost my job. I found myself so surprised to discover how quickly I felt ‘less than’ without those things to identify myself. Who was I without physical abilities and a job? Through grace I was able to experience and feel what it is like to totally empty oneself and let God fill the places that were once filled with something else. These Saints are a beautiful example and wonderful inspiration. Since my recovery, I sometimes long for the days when allowing God to fill me seemed easy because it was, literally, all I could do. Now days get busy and it is much easier to stray and keep places filled with things other than God. Thank you for this discussion and reminder of ‘poor in spirit’ and what it means to truly identify ourselves in light of God and not of the world.

    • These comments are incredibly moving to me. I’m so grateful to be connected with so many beautiful women. This book club is such a work of God. Thank you all for sharing your hearts. Your humility is a powerful gateway to grace for yourselves and others.

  9. Debbie Miller says:

    Reflecting on the question regarding cultivating simplicity and detachment in my daily life…I guess, I struggle with this a lot. Finding balance or any semblance of it, well proportioned to what is important and nourishing to the mind and spirit.
    The more I let go, the simpler life becomes and with this simplicity I feel better honed to what really matters.
    This book, or at least it’s first chapter, has shifted my focus in a more introspective way…how to improve, how to be more compassionate and caring and how to live in the example of this remarkable women.
    How to live each day with mercy.

  10. Deidra says:

    I recently had to retire from teaching preschoolers, which I really loved. I feel that I have lost some of my identity. Through prayer, I have come to terms with it and really believe this is what God wanted for me. Some days it is hard. But, now I attend daily mass and say the rosary and Chaplet of Divine Mercy daily. I know that God is not finished with me yet. I am trying to let him lead me. This also is difficult, but I’m trying. These saints are great examples.

    • I, too, am learning much from reading about these saints. I can understand how you hated leaving your preschoolers. I taught Sunday School ever since I was in my early 20’s, but when we left MT to return to MS to care for our Mothers, our church here had no children. An older friend invited me to attend a meeting of the Hospital Auxiliary, that and the fact that I weekly visited a former HS teach who was a resident of the hospital Extended Care convinced me that I could do as much good for the elderly as I hoped I did for the children.

      My daughter from Seattle and her husband to be are visiting and I was able to talk them into giving a concert for my elderly friends yesterday. It was truly wonderful. Some residents who hardly ever come out of their room were entranced by the music and wandered down. When God closes a door, He opens a window. Be watching

  11. Rachael Martinez says:

    Sometimes I felt like I would fight too much if these things were to happen to me. I do not think I would be humble enough to just trust and let it happen. Today I did let some things slide at work and try to see Jesus in others. I didn’t fight and today was better for me:) God sees what we do 🙂

  12. In 1997 we, my husband and I were going through a rough time. Not as a couple, but in our business. Mike had been an insurance agent for years when things started not being quite kosher in the company. He was depressed about this and didn’t seem to know what to do. We had coffee one Saturday with a young man whom we had known from a computer business who had recently lost his job when his employer skipped town overnight with all the money and computers. He remarked that he would like to open a computer business and do it right. At that moment I heard a little voice in my head saying, “This is it”. Mike and I could scrape up the funds to begin again and Mike knew a lot about computers, but it seemed wrong to take D.J.’s idea without giving him a chance to go in with us. –And this is where we should have gotten to know him better before we leapt.

    At first everything seemed to be working fine. I had a job at a school and thought it was secure. I was offered a better job at a middle school, but according to the school system rules, I first had to resign my present job before applying for the new one. I was assured there was no risk. Wrong. At the last night someone with more seniority than I, applied. So, I was out of a job. The only logical thing to do was to go to work at the computer store.
    D.J. and I had gotten along just fine until then. I came to find out he liked women, but not those that had a sense and he seemed to take great pleasure into making me feel small. I worked without a salary their first year doing every menial task that he assigned me to do. Finally, I assured my authority. Mike and I were the principal investors and I demanded a sufficient salary. I still did the filing and small tasks D.J. frequently assigned me to do without protest.

    We found out that he was not as he told us almost a college graduate with an accounting degree. He had taken 1 accounting course in the first (and his last) semester. He was also helping himself to money from the till. We bought him out at too high a price, but it was worth it to be rid of him.

    I was having hard time understand why this all was happening to us when we were only trying to help a fellowman and being generous to him. I went home early one day. I had an appointment for a physical and was eager to get that done and have the house to myself for a few hours before Mike and the kids got home. I saw my doctor, got my mammogram, and went home to just the cats. I was totally relaxed when the phone rang. It was my doctor. He told me, “I saw something I don’t like in your mammogram and I want you to see a surgeon- tomorrow”.
    I saw the surgeon, got the biopsy, and then heard the words “malignancy”. I was terrified. In my talks with God and had often whined that I wanted all these bad times to be over. Now I wondered if He had taken me literally. I called a woman in my prayer group. She told me, “I’m not the one to call, you must call Rose”. That was a bit disturbing as it took courage that I didn’t feel I had at the moment to make the first call, but I called anyway and was again rebuffed. So, I went to see the pastor the next day. I told him that I had breast cancer and he said, “Sorry” and practically ran out of the office. (I understood that his only sister had recently died of breast cancer and my admission probably brought back some sadness, but I really needed someone then.)

    So, I went home and had a real talk with God. I told him all my fears and he said to me, “Do you really believe what you profess to believe”? -And I told him I did. A great weight was lifted immediately and I got through the surgery and treatments just fine. In fact all sorts of people, many I didn’t even know begin praying for me and doing small acts of kindness. What could have been a miserable experience changed into a really good one. So, as soon as I could be accepted, I began working with Reach to Recovery which I continued for many years.

    • Connie Gray says:

      Wow… you have been through a lot! I hope that your health and finances have begun to recover. It is so hard to understand when thing after thing in your life does not seem to be going right….I said a prayer for you. May you feel God’s love surround you.

  13. Beth Bickel says:

    The life of St. Chiara really spoke to me. I’ve been home from work for a year after working with high school special education students and I miss them. My health hasn’t been the greatest since my early 40’s, and I felt that God was urging me to take care of myself first for the first time in my adult life. I too know that God isn’t finished with me and that he hasn’t abandoned me. Even though I’m still active, I’m no longer so frantically busy and now have time for a deeper prayer life! What a blessing that I didn’t see coming my way! I’ve also started helping a woman who is completely homebound because of a rare disease. Being able to focus on the needs of others despite my own discomforts has brought me additional spiritual rewards. We just have to keep believing in God’s love and mercy no matter what trials we face; it’s that simple. I live with daily pain and hearing loss, yet I know God loves me intimately and walks with me always.

  14. Jo Ann says:

    Reading about these great saints made me examine how I am living this beatitude. My husband has Parkinsons and my 94 year old mother in law just moved in with us. Both need a lot of help and there are times when I just feel so overwhelmed by it all. I learned from these holy women that I should never lose trust in Jesus. And know that God does have a plan in all of this and I just need to trust.

    • Connie Gray says:

      That sounds like a challenge. I said a prayer for you that people may come into your life to help you…

  15. Michele Toulouse says:

    I too did not really understand the concept of being poor in spirit. This first chapter really helped me to realize that I have a lot of work to do in this area of my spiritual life. I was reminded of what our Lord told St. Gertrude the Great, ” All I require of you is that you come to Me empty, so that I may fill you.” It seems so simple but so difficult especially in our American culture where performance and self sufficiency are so valued. I am also reminded of Our Lord’s revelation to St Faustina, “I do not reward for good results but for the patience and hardship undergone for My sake.” (86) Praise God for the blessings He showers on us by giving us Saints! Thank you for all your insightful comments and honest sharing. Have a great week following the examples of our Sister Saints living out poverty in spirit. That in all things God may be glorified!

  16. Maureen says:

    The question regarding living a life of detachment and simplicity is one I need to focus my attention. I do practice these paths of spirituality during the Lenten season, but abandon them after Easter. I’m not sure why I do this as the practice of detaching and choosing to live more simply give me such a sense of peace. Perhaps it is easier to choose detachment and simplicity when I view them as temporary inconveniences rather than as a spiritual grace.

    I’m going to spend time this week in Adoration and with praying the Chaplet.

    • My husband and I began going to RCIA shortly before we moved to MS. He came down first as I stayed behind to sell our home and help care for our grandson. Shortly before my first Lent here, I discovered that our church, which is very small, offered a Communion Service each morning. So, I decided not to give up something for Lent, but to add something. I attended Communion each morning, and I was often the only one besides Brother Senan. I decided it was such a blessing that I would continue after Lent and do so to this day. Starting my day with the Lord grounds me in ways I could not imagine.

  17. The discussion here is so deep and rich. I love this about the women saints, about how they help us dig deeper into ourselves as we strive to become the women the Lord desires us to be. Chiara’s “For you, Jesus,” and Faustina’s “Jesus, I trust in you” are so simple, so challenging, so beautiful, all at the same time. Blessings and hugs to all. –Melanie

  18. Kathy Pichler says:

    It humbled me to read about these amazing women. St. Chiara I had not heard of before and her story touched me. It takes a lot of strength and tremendous faith to live a life poor in spirit. At times I think OK I might have this figured out and then the Holy Spirit starts nudging me again so I know I have a long way to go.

  19. Kate says:

    I was most struck by one of the reflection questions for Faustina’s section- the one that asks if there is a ministry you’ve put aside because you thought it wouldn’t work, etc. That is EXACTLY where I am right now with trying to start a Moms’ group at my church, I’m feeling such a strong call to begin, but have so any doubts about doing so. What if no one wants to to join? What if people do, but they’re not who I imagined? What if it’s too much work on top of my already crazy life as a mom to infant twins? But, after reading about Maria Faustina’s determination and devotion, I can reflect on these fears and move past them. As Melanie suggests, I need to just “pick up” my plan and allow God’s will for my call to manifest itself.

    • Hi Kate, I started a mom’s group at my parish, many years ago. I used to go up to any moms I saw with babies, after Mass, and tell them about my idea. They were all just as lonely as I was, with young children to care for all day. I had to teach some of them to pray the Rosary (they were embarrassed, at first), and then we put together a Rosary playgroup and we’d rotate homes. At that time, I lived in a small apartment, but we’d just cram everyone in together and make sure the littles had toys and snacks, and then we’d pray the Rosary. It was chaotic, but everyone loved it and it gave us a beautiful little community. I can’t help thinking it produced a lovely shower of graces on the children’s lives, as well.