Poverty is a lovely thing. I live a comfortable life, after almost thirty years as a priest, but when I was first ordained I didn’t have two nickels to rub together. I can remember trying to fix my bike with a friend but couldn’t afford the part. “I don’t have any money!” I laughed. Just then the parish secretary handed me $50, the stipend for a funeral I did a few days before. “I have money!” I laughed again, and we knew it was a gift straight from the hand of God. Poverty is freedom and gratitude and trust. Poverty is a perpetual gift.
Today we call upon St. Joseph as “lover of poverty.” The angel told him to leave Bethlehem, that night, for Egypt, for “Herod seeks to kill the child.” It was a good thing the Wise Men had just visited and left them some money! Notice, Fr. Calloway writes, that Joseph was so poor that the wealthy Wise Men did not even acknowledge his presence. But Joseph took the money, and his wife and son, and went to Egypt. He worked with wood and stone all his life, but “never saw the results of his hard work and sacrifice.” That too is poverty: not taking credit for, or even seeing, the fruits of one’s labors. “Joseph,” St. Bonaventure writes, “lived content in his poverty.”