January 25, 2017: A Poverty of Loveliness

~by Louis Templeman


A poverty of loveliness dwells in the minds of the proud individual. This poverty can be ignored, or denied, for only so long. His closets are many and filled with the finest clothing, clothing for all occasions – ceremonies, celebrations, vacations, business, leisure- but as to mercy, he stands naked; as to love, because of his undisclosed inner fears and failures, he stands bereft; and, as to joy, which shines in silence, he is deaf.

Mother Theresa knew this poverty. It made her great. She wrote, “I am absolutely small and empty. Only Jesus can stoop so low as to be in love with such a one as me.” Then she adds for her reader’s encouragement: “Not only does Jesus love you, even more – he longs for you.” God’s love does not measure. It just gives. He loves when we think he hates us. He desires us when we are full of self-loathing. When we feel cast out he is there receiving us.

If I could see myself as Christ sees me I would blush and recoil in embarrassment. I am not foremost or exceptional yet, I am indispensable. Love cannot bear to dispense with anything it finds precious. Through any eyes but the eyes of his love I am insignificant. His love and his mercy allows me to wake and see a special day as if it were made just for me. His mercy allows me to feel as if I am the center of the world, rich in love; awash in mercy. This is a sweet magical thinking that he allows, even as a parent encourages laughter and fun and self-absorbed delight in her child during a moment of intimate bonding. I am unable to claim that I am indispensable, but love will never dispense with me. I know this because I know that if truth and justice ruled without mercy, I’d be forgotten. I’d be history. Toast. However, truth cannot rule without mercy because the truth is: mercy rejoices against judgement.

If we have many closets we should reserve at least one for mercy – we should resist filling the whole of our home with stuff, pride, self-satisfaction, pleasure, etc. If we only have one closet then at least one shelf should be free for love, hope and faith.

With just one shelf filled with mercy we need not be afraid to be alone. To be enclosed in silence. Or, be exposed. Or, to have empty hands reaching in the darkness. Love abides with us, speaks to us in the darkness, knows us in the silence. Stands beside us against aggressive shouts for justice.

In love’s house each of us has a designated place on a special shelf. There may be many shelves and many spaces on them. However, if I am absent there will be a place on one special shelf that will be empty. Every such empty space in the house of love speaks of the spirit of Christ missing someone – someone insignificant but indispensable. As John Bradford once said, “We are all unreplaceable individuals.”

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Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D. Louis has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is fighting the good fight. Much of what he writes these days he is sharing his journey with us. Please keep Louis and his wife Joy in your prayers.

CLICK HERE to visit Louis’ Catholic Journeyman Archive

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