This is a simple introductory reflection on the meaning of the three so-called evangelical counsels, not so much as they are expressed in the particular form of religious life, but as they pertain to the reality of sanctity to which God lovingly invited each of us. This poem is more or less a gesture. The following one will go into greater depth at unfolding the place of poverty, chastity, and obedience within God’s whole plan, and hopefully making it deeply relevant for each of us.

The gift of open, empty hands,
yet hands which are not truly empty,
but receptive to the pure and gratuitous gift
of your infinite, unconditional love, my God,
and, within this, to the entire world,
to the gift of every thing and every person,
wonderful, unique, unrepeatable.

Virginity of heart
and indeed of body too.
Abiding in the realm of sacredness,
yet not closed and isolated,
but expanding out to embrace all anew,
radiant and transfigured in the light of love,
the spousal love, my God,
that your bear for each and every person,
child, spouse, and image of your creative life.

Dear Father, only to be a little child,
knowing that all things are mine,
given to me freely by your generosity.
To receive them, in reverence, awe, and gratitude,
as they ever flow from your loving hands.
To allow your love, your light, your truth
to flow forth in and through me,
and, enfolding all within itself,
to draw all back again
into your embrace.

At their inmost heart, Father,
the three “evangelical counsels”
are one undivided reality,
the single truth of childhood within the heart:
openness in receiving the gift of love
and surrender in loving trust, reciprocally.
Abiding in the realm of pure, amazing love,
as you intended for us in the beginning,
all things else are contained in this.
Spousehood and paternity or maternity
are enfolded in the truth of sonship and daughterhood,
and there they are free, relaxed, spontaneous,
love responding to Love, love blossoming forth,
drawn by the Love that ever draws to all itself,
enfolding in its orbit, in its sheltering arms.

To draw us back from fragmentation,
from the place of exile, far from the inmost heart,
and to lead us to the inmost wilderness,
which is a place of encounter, love, and intimacy,
the place where the wellspring of childhood ever flows.
This is why you have given us, dear God,
the invitation to evangelical love,
nothing but an expression, a threefold refraction
of your own eternal, threefold, yet single light.
Gathered together into the sanctuary,
reconciled, Father, Son, Spirit, to you, above all things,
I am reconciled also to myself, within your love,
and opened out also to my brothers and sisters,
to be united to them within your own mystery,
welcoming, embracing, loving them
in the fire of your own ardent, tender charity.