Perhaps the most sensitive and most deeply rooted spiritual challenge faced by affluent North Americans who wish to claim Francis as a spiritual guide is the question of private property. There is no “mine” from Francis’s perspective. That Francis divested himself of all his property and all his belongings was the bedrock of his spirituality. His total divestment, in turn, invites total detachment for those of us who seek genuinely to emulate Francis. What property and assets we own we do not own. We hold them in trust, for the sake of the poor. What’s mine, in a word, is not mine. I hold it not for the sake of status and worldly security, but in trust, in the spirit of Francis, for the sake of the poor.
If we choose to make the commitment to let go of the power that goes with our wealth, that commitment will mean at least four things. First, we who aspire to claim Francis as our spiritual guide must also claim the practice of philanthropy as our most important fiscal priority. The first thing we do when a check comes in will be to set aside some generous percentage of that amount to be donated directly or, probably better, indirectly, through agencies that do these things effectively, to minister to the poor of this world.
From "The Spirituality of Nature and the Poor: Revisiting the Historic Vision of St. Francis" by H. Paul Santmire, in Tending the Holy: Spiritual Direction Across Traditions, edited by Norvene Vest. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing.