Do you have any religious sisters among your friends or family members? I have many of them; some I grew up with, others I saw grow up to adulthood or were my classmates. Some inspired me while I was still discerning my vocation. In Nigeria, they all (almost all) appear smiley with one “God is my husband face”. And no pun was intended there, for a sad religious is a sad religious.
It is, matter-of-factly, against religious vocation to be the bride of Christ (figuratively here) and go about with a long face. People should be able to see the goodness of the Lord in your face as a Christian. And don’t get me wrong, the author of Ecclesiastes 3:4 was not stupid. Permit to tell you that those daughters of Zion are also human with emotions and difficulties. It will not be a bad thing to be kind to them when you see them. And, of course, you know that we should also be kind to everybody.
So, no one will think that I am teaching a new doctrine. But a little amount you spare to give to them will never be in vain. Except if you think that Christ was not wise enough when he said in Mark 9: 41, “I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”
However, my message is addressed to those who are responsible for their well-being. You will be wondering why don’t I write directly to their congregations? The answer is simple, they will ask, “who is this small boy writing to them about how they should live in their congregations”. So, to avoid that, I bring it to the public. Let everyone know this. If your sister or friend is superior, ask her how she treats her younger sisters. This is between you and me as I do not want you to tell them that I am reporting them to you.
Every religious, sister, brother or father does take different vows according to the constitution and rules of their religious family. But among all of them, there is this one called the vow of poverty. According to Canon 600
This long grammar summarizes that a religious renounces riches and works to conform to the standard of his or her institute’s way of life and follow the pastoral work he or she exercises. If s/he is working in a pastoral area where his or her missionary work is done on foot, s/he walks it, and if flying is the exigency of the mission, s/he flies. But in all, he or she depends on his or her congregation for good and proper upkeeping.
In other words, when you give her money, she is expected to inform her community at least. This is because the vow of poverty is nothing but communal sharing. What belongs to Amaka belongs to Jennifer and Okechukwu belongs to Obi.
But unfortunately, many religious superiors forget that since a religious make a vow of poverty, her or his material needs should be taken care of by the religious community. But, I didn’t say you could just go and ask for red shoes. Remember, Canon 600 says, “The evangelical counsel of poverty … entails, … a life which is poor in fact and in spirit […] according to the norm of the proper law of each institute.” Yet, it is unfair for a religious to depend on their family and friends for what the community should provide. To get me well, it does not mean friends and family shouldn’t help. No, remember I started this by stating how important this is. I simply mean that the community should not shy away from its responsibility.
Many young religious, mainly sisters, have ended up being abused because of this abnegation. Our society is not the best in giving out things without expecting a return. And many of them are too innocent to understand the implications at the beginning. And before they discover what is going on, they have committed themselves. And, whose fault is that? Of course, they are not stupid, but remember that Jesus also said in Mat 18: 6,