Father Dubay says that Scripture nowhere advises us to be careless of our health. Of course, neither are we to pamper ourselves -- but our health is a gift from God, and we are to treat it properly by getting nourishing food and sufficient rest.
It's also not a mark of poverty to be indifferent to beauty. Many Psalms speak of how we are to glory in God's handiwork. St Francis of Assisi, in love with Lady Poverty as he was, was very sensitive to the beauties and wonders of the natural world.
Gospel Poverty is not respectful use of creation.
Using God's gifts in a sober, respectful manner -- being good stewards of creation -- is a good thing, but without sufficiently recognizing the misery of the 3rd and 4th world, "respect" doesn't mean much. The most selfish people, he says, can justify their use of creation as "sober" and "respectful".
Gospel Poverty is not amorphous sentimentalism
This seems related to the last one. Father Dubay says that people who live "comfortably, even elegantly" -- with extensive wardrobes, regular and costly recreations and vacations, and good things to eat and drink -- can call for "consciousness raising" in regard to poor folk. He thinks that feelings entertained in luxury mean very little, and that no one really puts much stock in such opinions when they aren't backed up by any kind of action.
I put these last three all together because they all seem to involve stewardship or care for creation in some way. From what he says, respectful use of creation involves:
- Care for one's own life and health (obviously not excessive care -- there are times when the importance of a situation outweighs the normal regard for one's health -- for example, when Father Damien acquired leprosy by heroically caring for lepers in Hawaii).
- Care for the earth (remembering that it is our task to conserve resources for future generations, but that God made all things for the sake of humans, but made humans dignified in their own right, so humans come first). Also, care and loving appreciation for beauty.
- Care and ACTION on behalf of the poor on a global scale. Which means at least partly, in his view, accepting a lower standard of living for oneself in order to help those who are less fortunate.
What am I saying here? I think it's the difficulty of charity towards a huge group of people very far away. It's easy to think that my little sacrifices and things won't make a huge difference in the lives of people halfway across the world. I'm just mentioning it as an ongoing question in my mind whenever I read what Father Dubay writes about the Third World. I suppose it's somewhat similar to my puny efforts to recycle/re-use. When Aidan was in the hospital I would see the hospital throw away as much stuff in a day as I would throw away in a year. It gets discouraging to think of Al Gore or someone basically blowing away more natural resources in a year as my family of nine would go through in a lifetime. Yet, still, I realize that my family probably lives a life that would look incredibly wealthy to most people in the Third or Fourth World.
So that is something I hope to figure out as I keep going through the book. Right now it's a puzzle to me. There's an interesting thread in regard to this at Real Learning.
St Augustine writes in On Christian Doctrine (chapter 28):
Further, all men are to be loved equally. But since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special regard to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstance, are brought into closer connection with you. For, suppose that you had a great deal of some commodity, and felt bound to give it away to somebody who had none, and that it could not be given to more than one person; if two persons presented themselves, neither of whom had either from need or relationship a greater claim upon you than the other, you could do nothing fairer than choose by lot to which you would give what could not be given to both. Just so among men: since you cannot consult for the good of them all, you must take the matter as decided for you by a sort of lot, according as each man happens for the time being to be more closely connected with you.