TheFountainOfElias Blog has a photo of the house of St Bernadette of Lourdes...
" In St. Bernadette's time it was described thus:
The room was dark ... In the backyard was the privy which overflowed and made the place stink. We kept the dung–heap there ... The Soubirous were destitute: two poor beds, one on the right as you entered, and the other on the same side nearer to the fireplace ... They had only a little trunk to put all their linen in ... My wife lent them some chemises: they were full of vermin ... She often gave them a bit of bread made of millet. Yet the little ones never asked for anything. They would rather have starved. ~André Sajous, owner of Cachot, 1875
Sigh. I guess I've worked with too many poor people, because I am not shocked at all.
Yes, outdoor privy...but even in the US, many poor sections of town had them until the 1940's...yes, cold and damp, but so were most homes until central heating became common.
One room with two beds and a fireplace...uh, they had beds?
Compare and contrast with where I worked in Africa, where there was a fire in the center of the hut and mats on the floor to sleep on. Heck, a lot of poor Filipinos still sleep on mats, where the floor is raised to keep dry (and has slats on the floor so dirt can drop under the house) and if they live in slums, they might have a house of cardboard and tin, not to mention the folks living beneath the underpasses.
Poverty is relative you know. Bernadette's family was middle class until they lost their business, so had to rely on charity from relatives and odd jobs for her father to live.
But because they were proud, and because they had family, they weren't homeless refugees in the slums of Paris where the girls were pressed into prostitution so the family could eat.
I know: I'm rich. But I'm just pointing out these things, because although I'm rich, I did work with those less rich.
Which brings us to poverty.
Once I went to a retreat sponsored by an order of hermits who had a charism of hospitality (e.g. retreats). But when I visited the main house (for visitors), it had thick rugs. It made me literally sick, knowing the price of such rugs.
Yes, the hermits lived on the grounds of the house, and the house, a mansion no one had wanted and one that had been neglected before being sold for a pittance, had been refurbished by the hermits and the local Catholics.
But still: the hermitage was a jewel in the midst of a nice neighborhood. A wonderful place to visit to see beauty and refresh one's soul.
Nearly every convent/ monastery etc. similarly is well built. Most don't have the opulent furniture for guests, but they are well built and sturdy.
And, alas, many are now being sold elsewhere because there are no vocations.
Is there a link?
When we visited Italy, we saw where Clare and her sisters lived. Still standing after all these years, and still a lousy and poor place to live. In contrast, we visited the Poor Clare monastery, again well built and beautiful, where her relics were kept. Again, the sisters made a living renting rooms to pilgrims (and hid Jews during the war) but still, they lived in a well built house.
Compare and contrast with the cheap housing of the average American, and you see what I'm getting at. Maybe in the past, well built was the only way to build, but to build that way now costs a fortune...and these people have a vow of poverty.
And this doesn't count all those modern nuns who live in apartments on their own and "do their own thing" which no lay Catholic can figure out what exactly they are doing, except maybe teaching our kids leftism in catechism class...
So, tell me: Where are the nuns and monks living in mobile homes? or bamboo houses? Or who buy an old house in a slum and turn it back from apartments into a house with many rooms?
I am reminded of the story of some Poor Clares in Africa who went begging, and many people thought it was absurd since they lived on a much better level than many of the locals.
Now, I should point out that most of the nuns are doing a good job, and often come from middle class families (one African nun was sent as a missionary to another country, and was horrified to find a house without beds, electricity or plumbing, all of which she had grown up with).
So aside from Mother Teresa, how many nuns and monks actually live the vow of poverty?
As I sit here in my luxourious air conditioned room, I wonder...