17 October 2011


"The attitude of a servant is created by poverty. Anyone who is rich, a possessor, ipso facto, cannot be a servant. The possession of external things would intrinsically have little significance if it did not tend to create and develop a definite attitude, an absolute attitude as master and possessor, autonomous and self-sufficient. But the decisive factor in what we are now considering is whether we personally think of ourselves as rich or poor. A man can only be a servant if he is entirely his master's man and instrument, and this he cannot be unless he is poor in spirit, having withdrawn all personal seclusiveness and agreed not to be the master of his own life, retaining nothing as his own and inalienable, and devoting himself wholly to serve: St Paul exemplifies this when he begins his letters with the words: Paulus servus Jesu Christi: 'Paul the servant, Jesus Christ's labourer and his man'. Now, when the work in question is God's and particularly when that work consists in speaking about him, then the only possible way of taking part in it is as a servant, that is, primarily as a poor man. Only as a minister and for the work of service is one ever called to it. He who would try to manipulate the things of God as if they were his own -- whether in apostolic activity, contemplation, or the grace given for personal spiritual development -- refusing to remain poor and trying to become a possessor, immediately loses that personal poverty which is enriched by God (tantquam nihil habentes et omnia possidentes), and is stripped bare and left to that destitution which, under the deceptive glamour of outward success, is all that remains his own."

— Yves Congar, "St. Thomas, Servant of the Truth"