The life of Mother Teresa has been well-documented. In her interviews, she related the story of a man that she had found in the street drains. His body had been infested by maggots and his face had been almost half-eaten by these worms that plagued him. As she tended to his wounds and cleaned him up, picking out maggot after maggot by hand, he said to her, “I have lived like an animal in the streets, but I am going to die like an angel – loved and cared for,” (Semotiuk, 2015).

Mother Teresa’s, now St. Teresa of Calcutta’s life is the perfect example of what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 19: 16-17; 20-21:

“A young man came up to Jesus, saying, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.’…The young man said to him, ‘All these I have observed; what do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven and come, follow me.’”

The evangelical counsels – poverty, chastity, and obedience – are virtuous practices and dispositions that are an essential part of our call as disciples of Christ in our daily battles and climb up the hills of perfection as sons and daughters of God our loving Father.

In Luke 14: 12-14, these words resound: “He said also to the man who had invited him, ‘When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers, or your kinsmen, or rich neighbours, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

The Christian life is depended on how well we exercise stewardship over the resources given to us; how we minster to the poor, the least, the last; and how we walk humbly with our Lord and God, while subjecting our wild and natural inclinations to a rigorous and serious discipline. In short, how well we love GOD; how well we love our neighbour; and how well we tend and upkeep the Temple of the Holy Spirit – ourselves and our bodies.

The evangelical counsels thus form the foundational directives from Christ to His disciples, and as disciples, we are exhorted to keep with these practices in every state of our lives.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the purpose of the evangelical counsels is ordered so as to remove whatever that is obstructing the growth and development of charity, even if it is not in direct opposition to it. These counsels bring about the living wholeness and fullness of charity, and empower us by manifesting succinct, clear, and direct ways to practise the commandment to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves (cf. CCC 1973-1974).

Each of us is called to live out and practise the evangelical counsels in accordance to our different states of life as Priest, Religious, or Laity. The practice of Poverty is predicated upon a detachment from material goods and worldly riches, a perfect trust in the providence of the Lord, and living within our means to contribute to the needs of the poor. Chastity has to do with the constant practising of temperance, self-control, prudence, and a mastery over our tumultuous passions, in particular to the proper respect for the gift of human sexuality – married couples are called to remain faithful in their matrimonial vows to each other, while those in single life, and those who have professed vows of chastity, must remain faithful to practise in their everyday, the celibate life. Last but not least in the trifecta, is Obedience, which entails a docility to proper and legitimate authority, and utmost to Christ and His Church, as an obligation and duty of all who are baptised (cf. CCC 2341, 2348-2349, 2544).

It is one thing to speak about these evangelical counsels, but it is another to walk the talk. Have we as Christians met the mark or have we fallen short? Have our words been hypocritical and Pharisee-like?

I recall an incident that happened some time back. I was standing outside a Catholic church located in the central civic district and by coincidence, there was a poor man who had lost his job recently, and was looking for help at this church, as he had been told that he would receive help there. The security guard refused him entry into the church grounds – he had wanted to seek help from the rector, and when this desperate poor man kicked up a fuss, because he had travelled so far to arrive at this church where he bore great hope that he would receive aid or direction, the security guard sought the help of someone who was organising at that time an event, a penitential service (rather ironic if you think about it) in the main church hall, and this person came storming out, and began scolding this poor man rather harshly, shouting at him, pointing the finger at him, and screaming things like, “This is private property. If you don’t leave now, we will call the police and put you in jail.”

So this poor man, chest-fallen, and mightily disappointed was turned away and unwelcomed in the church that he had come to seek help from. As he walked away, it was clear that he was angry and rightly so. His dignity had been completely trampled by the organisation he had depended upon to restore it.

By coincidence, he turned to walk in my direction, and I managed to speak quietly with him for a few moments. In that short interaction, by the grace of the Lord, I heard his story and managed to write on a spare, unused medical mask that I had on my person, the address of the Catholic Welfare Services just a stone’s throw away down.

The Grace of God was truly at work, for through that simple act of listening, being present, and providing a re-direction to proper intervention to the proper channels, he managed to find a job and obtained the necessary help he needed to get his life back on track. This was revealed, because coincidentally, a week after the incident, I met him at that same exact location where I was standing when I first met him and he shared the good news that he had now managed to find employment.

Discipleship has to do with following Christ unconditionally. The prompt responding to His call wholeheartedly, must take priority over all other concerns. The evangelical counsels provide guiding principles that we can live by so as to attain to the perfection of Christ’s call. At the same time, the practice or the non-practice of these evangelical counsels should be a wake-up call to us who profess to be Christian, but who are living double lives that celebrate the appearance of holiness, but in reality is scornful of the teachings of the Church, or by our actions are downright despicable to our neighbours.

Simply put, the evangelical counsels are roadmaps that help us to arrive at the place where Christ is to be found.

Christ is found in the poor and our ministering of the poor. Christ is found in obedience. Christ is found in humility and humble circumstances. Christ is found in charity and love, for as 1 John 4: 8 says “Whoever fails to love does not know God, because God is love.”

By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan


Catechism of the Catholic Church. (n.d.). Evangelical Counsels. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Vatican Publishing House.

Semotiuk, A. (2015). My Brush With A Saint – Mother Teresa. Forbes Media LLC. Retrieved August 9, 2022 from