Simple Living

Have you ever wondered how someone like Francis of Assisi found meaning in his life by stripping himself, not only of clothing, but of riches that could have supplied him a better shirt, or slacks, or shoes? What did he find as he walked through Gubbio? He found the sun, the moon, the rain and even a wolf that needed comfort from a thorn in its paw!

Or how could St. Paul find meaning and even joy in prison? And love enough to keep on writing some of his best letters to the Christian communities around the Mediterranean?

Mother Teresa as well! How did she manage to be faithful to the dying poor in spite of questions about the limited value of her long hours of serving them?

These are but three examples of stripped-down servants who found their lives meaningful, in large part, because of the small amount of luggage they had to lug around! Rather, they found their treasure in those they served, not in what they owned!

Some among us literally suffocate from too much stuff! Too many distractions, an overload of noise and ceaseless activity. We become overwhelmed, distraught, yes, suffocate!

Why do we consume so much? Buy so much? Go so much? Where is our lodestone? Our soul? Our inspiration?

Huge, attractive, orange storage buildings, across our cities and country, await our extra knick-knacks, furniture, bicycles, suitcases, toys that we may need—we tell ourselves—sometime in the future.

Can we even imagine St. Francis of Assisi, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta or St. Paul doing what they did and lugging all this stuff from one place of ministry to another? I, for one, cannot!

To live simply, to serve, to seek peace and pursue it, as St. Benedict advised his followers, seems to demand sandals, perhaps a staff with readiness to walk toward and within a call, willingness to leave all things behind in following that call!

“We’ll give away our stuff tomorrow,” we say to ourselves, while turning another calendar year and storing yet one more box of stuff  in our rented storage spaces! Being 75, 85 or 95 doesn’t change our perceived “need” to amass or store “stuff” nor can we imagine that the relinquishment of such might be the requirement for finding peace, sanity and the joy of breathing freely, of appreciating what is simple, beautiful and what is truly needed—one another, God, ourselves, what is right next to us, and even within us!

Renée Domeier, OSB