Wednesday, February 24, 2010


As I mentioned in my last post, Father Dubay says that our main objects in this life are to know and to love. ....ultimately, God, as that from which everything else springs and in Whom everything has its being.

So our necessities will focus around those things. Since there are different ways of carrying out this vocation there are legitimately different necessities. He gives four categories:

  1. Survival. No one can survive long without food, drink and shelter, so there is no question that these things are necessities. Destitution is lack of these basic goods, which is why destitution is something all those who claim to love God ought to be concerned with.
  2. Health. In addition to survival, people are to maintain a basic level of well-being. This category overlaps with survival and involves clean water, nutritious and sufficient food, adequate recreation, rest and exercise. I suppose medical and dental care would fall into this category, and probably a certain amount of spare clothing and a way to wash it. And a decent temperature control.
  3. Spiritual. He says we need a Church to guide and nurture us, and the materials and place for public and private worship, as well as other things like formal instruction and personal guidance and counsel. It's interesting to note the missionaries so often worked at healing and hygiene education along with catechesis and fellowship (not quite the right word, but thinking of that supportiveness so important for a new convert).
  4. Functional. We all have our work to do and for that we generally need means. ... materials. My husband needs a computer and some software for his programming. I need educational resources like books, paper, pencils plus a few household appliances and kitchen tools.
Now, Father Dubay doesn't mention it in this list but I am thinking that since "to know and to love" are our main endeavours we may need items that help us continue our education (not necessarily vocational education, because that would fit under #4, but liberal education). And whatever would help us keep in touch with those to whom we owe responsibilities as relatives or friends or neighbors would also not be a superfluity.

He does say later that one saint kept a fine library not just for his own use, but in order to collect and pass on works that might otherwise have been lost. This kind of thing isn't a "necessity" in the sense that you couldn't flourish without it but it might have a sort of value related to your vocation. However, it's important to keep clear-eyed about it and not load yourself down with all kinds of "not really needs" that are actually indulgences. In Screwtape Letters CS Lewis talks about an elderly lady who thinks she is being austere when she asks for "only a little toast, very crisp, and some weak tea". In fact, she is being gluttonous because she cares immensely about it being just exactly right and she puts people to a great deal of trouble to get what she wants.

Father Dubay points out that if a neighbor is lacking even these necessities it is possible to dip into our own necessities to help them. After all, Our Lord and the Christian martyrs handed over their very lives, so we could potentially deprive ourselves of something important in order to serve, like the widow with her two mites did. This is not recklessness but heroic virtue.

In the next section he talks about the harms that come from focusing on superfluities rather than keeping to honest necessities. I am going to close here though for now.

This is working out to be good timing because at the rate I am going I will probably be studying this book all during Lent. I think these posts are probably a bit boring to read ;-) so that is good too, because it will do you good to skip this blog or read something sort of non-entertaining if you are interested enough to pursue it, and it will be good for me not to worry too much about being even more boring than I usually am. I am learning a lot from taking this book slowly. One interesting side effect is that I never noticed before that almost every spiritual book one picks up mentions one's duty to those poorer than oneself. It's remarkable. I had a blind spot I never recognized before. I will probably give examples as quotes on days when I don't have the time to write a whole post like this one.

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