I am surprised that Mrs Gallagher of Middlesbrough (March 2) has found it necessary to appeal through your columns for help in reconciling her spirituality with her possession of material goods. Surely her local clergy are able to answer her question?
Not everyone is called to renounce totally all worldly belongings in the religious vow of poverty. To the rest of the faithful, the Church has constantly taught that material goods are not bad in themselves, nor is private ownership of them necessarily an evil.
It is the use to which material possessions are put which determines whether they be instruments of good or evil. It is the value set upon such things which decides whether one has arrived at an understanding of the correct relationship between spiritual and material goods in the spirit of the Gospel. This great struggle between the spirit and the world exists for all men and women who hear the call of Christ, in whatever form it takes, and it goes far beyond the question of material belongings.
Poverty in itself will not resolve this. Even for those who are specifically called to embrace the life of holy poverty, there can be just as many temptations from the material world to come between them and Christ's call.
The answer to Mrs Gallagher's quest is not to be found externally but internally. Only she can know what value she places on the material goods she owns compared with the inestimable value of' having received through the faith the knowledge of the truth proclaimed in the Word. Let her remember that it is not the ownership of material goods but one's preoccupation with such things which becomes the stumbling-block to discipleship. God created the world, and set man in dominion over it, that he might use it. It is still the duty of mankind to use its possessions wisely and well. It is really a matter for the individual conscience to decide whether one owns more than one needs.
And remember: "necessities" may include certain aids to relaxation! By all means, Mrs Gallagher, dispose of those things which you genuinely do not need, if it will help others. Show restraint, too, in the use of anything which constantly fills your life with noise and activity to the detriment of those moments °I-quiet and reflection.
But do not sell up your house and home! Look upon the things which surround you, and ask yourself if you truly can say with St Paul: "Indeed I count all things as worthless because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."
St Paul, in writing that, was talking not of material things, but of the convictions and values he had held before his conversion on the Road to Damascus, and how those values were worthless compared to his new relationship with Christ.
But to those who share the love and enthusiasm of St Paul for Christ and his Message then similarly the only thing of value is our relationship to Christ.
That relationship is always under attack. Owing to our own weakness, and the temptations of the world about us. No one is going to overcome those temptations and find a purer spirituality simply by selling the furniture.
No, the call is to reject the empty values of this world (no easy thing to do for any man or woman) so as to perceive the truth of the Gospel, and enter into an ever deeper relationship with Christ. It is a question of achieving the necessary degree of detachment from the world in which we live and have our being. • That is our lifelong task. We all fail in it time and again, but Holy Mother Church is always ready and willing to help us on the way to salvation. .
Finally (I have not time to write more, but there is much more to say), any individual in difficulties over this or any other matter is strongly urged to discuss it with his or her priest. , It is not a matter which can be 'resolved in correspondence columns. Without a personal approach, no priest can give advice or direction which would be fully appropriate to the individual's needs.
Mrs Gallaher, I urge you, talk to your own meet. You'll find it more effective than writing to the newspaper!
Peter Hopwood-Wright North Shields
Durham The letter from Mrs E. Gallagher (March 2) interests us very much. She asks how parents living in an affluent society can follow the counsel of Christian poverty.
During the last year we have given some thought to this matter and benefited from the thought of others..
We belong to the Teams of our Lady, a movement of married couples who meet together in small groups. They aim to help one another to live fully Christian lives in today's world.
At the present time all members of the teams are considering Our Lord's advice, to his disciples: "Take nothing for the journey". This saying raises the issues that trouble Mrs Gallagher. Perhaps she will be consoled by the thought that throughout the world some 20,000 couples and their chaplains are confronting this difficulty.
We would like to offer more tangible help than this. If Mrs Gallagher will send us her address we will let her have copies of the "Letter to the Teams". This is a hi-monthly magazine published for our own use.
Many of the insights that have come to members of the movement from time to time appear in this letter. We feel sure Mrs Gallagher would find some of them helpful.
Tony and Morrie Callan Tyne and Wear