Albert & Thomas: Selected Writings

By St. Thomas Aquinas; Albert the Great et al. | Go to book overview

Poverty
Summa Theologiae II. II
Question 188 a.7

Does it detract from the perfection of religious
life to possess anything in common?

Surely it does detract from the perfection of religious life to possess something in common: 1.
1. The Lord says, "If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give to the poor," 2. which makes it clear that it is part of the perfection of the Christian life to do without worldly wealth. But if you possess something in common you are not doing without worldly wealth. Therefore you will evidently not fully attain the perfection of the Christian life.
2. It is part of the perfection envisaged by the counsels that we should be without worldly cares. That is why the apostle, in his advice about virginity, says, "I want you to be free from care." 3. But keeping something in reserve for the future is an aspect of worrying about this present life. And the Lord forbids his disciples this kind of worry: "Do not be anxious for tomorrow." 4. So, on the face of it, possessing something in common does detract from the perfection of the Christian life.
3. Common wealth belongs in a sort of way to the individuals in the community. That is why Jerome says about some such people, "They are richer as monks than they were in the world, and under Christ in his poverty they possess resources they never had under the devil in his wealth. The church sighs to find people rich, who were beggars when they belonged to the world." 5.
____________________
1.
The Franciscans were arguing insistently that it did detract from the perfection of religious life to own anything in common: cf. John Pecham, Tractatus Pauperis 5, ed. A. van den Wyngaert (Paris, 1925), pp. 48-69 (written in 1270).
2.
Matt. 19.21.
3.
1 Cor. 7:32.
4.
Matt. 6:34.
5.
Jerome, Ep. 60.11 (PL 22:596).

-618-

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