Letter to Fr L – Wealth can also be a path to holiness

O Clarim News Desk (English)

Dear Father L.

I am a recent convert to Catholicism and the catechesis I have had may not be adequate enough to grasp everything about the faith. My problem is about affluence and wealth. I have noticed that even the Bible favors a lifestyle of poverty, especially in the Gospels.  May we call to mind the words of Jesus as he invited the young wealthy man to leave all his possessions and to follow him, as well as the parable about the camel having an easier time passing through the eye of a needle than the rich entering heaven.

Even the saints have been mainly happily poor. While the examples of extreme poverty from Christ and the saints are admired by all –– and followed literally by some –– there needs to be a proper understanding of what the purpose of money is for those of us who are blessed with wealth, and who are not called to be poor in material terms, yet want to strive for holiness.

Striving for Holiness

Dear Striving for Holiness,

I would admit that the instances you mentioned have always been difficult to reconcile. A Spanish saint, Josemaria Escriva, also wrestled with how one can be a saint while having some sort of wealth.  As he was ministering to Catholics in his time, he noticed that many were not trying to wholeheartedly practice virtue or their faith.  He discovered afterwards the popular belief that since many saints were poor, it must be impossible to achieve sainthood with money, so why try?  While all of us are called to live out chastity, obedience, and poverty in some manner, St. Josemaria recognized it was possible to achieve holiness as a lay person while having money, not only as a poor religious. Thus, he started Opus Dei, an organization founded on his conviction that sanctity may be accomplished through the everyday simple life by anyone. Today, many members in Opus Dei focus on holiness while properly utilizing their wealth and supporting those in need through works of charity.

Likewise, it is important to remember that there have been affluent saints, including Blessed Pier Gorgio Frasatti, St. Jane de Chantel, and St. Frances of Rome, as well as royal saints, such as St. Elizabeth of Portugal, St. Helena of Constantinople, and St. Stephen of Hungary. The common characteristic shared by each of these great men and women is that they worked diligently in their situation of life and strove to follow God within their means. These saints teach us that money is a tool to be used wisely in order to help those in need and accomplish our own callings. Their lives provide examples of the Christian’s appropriate treatment of wealth––namely, as a mean between idolizing money and ignoring it all together.

For many, their attitude toward wealth and money has been an end in itself. They have idolized money as the greatest good and primary source of happiness.  In opposition to caring only for wealth, there’s an attitude of not caring at all: being negligent about where one’s money goes, without any plan for the future.

The attitude we must take is the mean between these two extremes: stewardship.  Stewardship is taking care of something.  Just as we are called to be good stewards of the earth, we are likewise called to be good stewards of the resources available to us –– even the monetary fruit that comes from our work. Taking care of something means making sure not to neglect what we are asked to be stewards of.

Hence, since you are gifted by God with good financial means, you should develop a way to take care of your own financial situation to be of greater assistance to the Church and to others in need. I pray that you will continue to strive in your quest for holiness by reaching out to Jesus and at the same time find a way to touch his broken body, present in those in need.


Father L.

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