It’s something of a dilemma. On the one hand, Jesuits take a vow of poverty. On the other, as Nathan O’Halloran, SJ, wrote, “Jesuits in the United States usually dress like middle-class white men. We wear North Face and Patagonia and Keens and Chacos. We wear suits and ties and sometimes drive quite nice cars. We have flat screen TV’s and drink middle shelf scotch to relax.” But . . . Jesuits work in “the world.” Ignatius wanted Jesuits to live like the people they worked with.
O’Halloran’s blog post on the subject touched off a lively discussion about lifestyle. Some excerpts:
It seems to me that what is important is that religious do not acquire “stuff” or accolades for their own sake. If they come as a result of their work, accept it, say “thank you” and move on.
It’s also a challenge to us who live and work in poor countries. The house where I live is nice; my car usually works (and I have enough money to fix it); I can eat out; I have internet access; and so on. I feel all too comfortable.
The perception of authenticity is important, and unless you get to know Jesuits and spend time learning how they can live comfortably while keeping a vow of poverty, it is easy to scoff. I don’t think that Jesuit poverty has been evangelically effective for anyone I know.