When you start meditating on the Cross, you start feeling the poor and needy. His Suffering-not ours (Thomas Merton taught), brings us to care for what He cares for. It makes sense that the monks then wanted to look humble, normal, simple in order to identify with the poor, hungry, needy. They wanted to be identified with His Suffering. I think Merton is right, in that, this area can get invaded by religious spirit, and become about our own suffering rather than His. But when you enter HIS Suffering Heart, you start caring for those who are suffering–homeless, those mentally suffering, those born into poverty etc. Those who are serving the poor in HIM, are living close to His Cross. It’s a central aspect of His Nature. It takes discernment to divide what is our suffering versus what is His. But if we are “identified” with His Suffering-ie if we are in Him, and this area of His Heart-then it makes sense that we would be serving the poor and desire to help the oppressed. When we are serving FROM Him, we bless those we serve, and we are moving in the power of His Cross.