A Poor Man

One day when [St.] Francis met a poor man, he said to his companion: “This man’s poverty brings great shame on us; it passes judgment on our poverty.”

“How so, brother?” his companion replied. “I am greatly ashamed,” he answered, “when I find someone poorer than myself. I chose holy poverty as my Lady, my delight, and my riches of spirit and body. And the whole world has heard this news, that I professed poverty before God and people. Therefore I ought to be ashamed when I come upon someone poorer than myself.”

from A Mirror of the Perfection
-Early Documents, Volume III, page 249

Despite my external appearance of affluence, I am a poor man, a blind beggar. After spending more than four years writing a book on St. Francis, I knew in the recesses of my heart that I did not really understand the saint’s love of poverty. In the Fall of 1999, after delivering the manuscript for The Sun and Moon Over Assisi to the publisher, I set out on a quest that would take me deeply into the bloated belly of poverty. For more than two years, I documented the plight of the poor in some of the most horrific slums on earth for a photo/essay book on the Christian response to global poverty titled When Did I See You Hungry? At the dawn of the Spring of 2002, I delivered that book to the publisher…and I was still in the dark about poverty, its causes and remedies.

Even after making more than a dozen films on poverty around the world, I’m still in the dark. But, I have come to a much clearer understanding of my own poverty. My own weakness. My own sinfulness. My own need for forgiveness and mercy. The poor have taught me to see that the real stuff of life is found in relationships. A Franciscan friar who lives among the poor in the slums of Philadelphia once said to me, “In the end, the only thing that matters is the Lord…and each other.” Amen.

I am truly poor. I need God. And I need you. We need each other…and we need God. I am learning how vitally important it is to spend time deepening my relationship with God, first and foremost. And as that relationship grows stronger, I have the strength to embrace you and your weaknesses and failures more fully, sharing with you the love, forgiveness and mercy I have received from God.

We are all poor, blind beggars who need to stretch out open hands to God every day.


2 Responses to “A Poor Man”

  1. 1 krebsjoan October 5, 2015 at 5:57 am

    Thank you, Gerry. As we used to say as kids, “,,, and right back at you!”

  2. 2 aliceny October 5, 2015 at 9:01 am

    Excellent, Gerry. Your inclusion of the important ‘You’ is a lovely touch.
    Unique and thoughtful.

    Would like you sometime to touch upon the other forms of poverty. I think
    that most people think of ‘poverty’ only in economic terms. I believe that the
    other forms of poverty are just as crushing and impede our true union with

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