The Gifts of a Simple Life
Posted on: Oct 22, 2020
I have struggled with how to approach preparing a Pastor’s Pen for November. By the time you read this, elections will have taken place but winners may not be known. Regardless of the outcome, many voters will celebrate; many will be unhappy — even angry. Many will be frightened.
The widely read and highly respected Richard Rohr came to my rescue. He is a Franciscan priest who, following Francis of Assisi, exemplifies and advocates for a Christian faith that integrates our inner, spiritual selves with how we live our faith in and for the world.
One can read Rohr’s words repeatedly and discover something rewarding each time. Please ponder these words (slightly edited) and consider their meaning for you—whether you are happy and celebrating or unhappy and angry or just plain scared. —Pastor Fogal
My brothers! My brothers! God has called me by the way of [humility], and showed me the way of simplicity . . . . The Lord told me what He wanted: He wanted me to be a new fool in the world. God did not wish to lead us by any way other than this knowledge. —Francis of Assisi
When we agree to live simply, we put ourselves outside of others’ ability to buy us off, reward us falsely, or control us by money, status, salary, punishment, and loss or gain of anything. This is the most radical level of freedom, but, of course, it is not easy to come by . . . .
When we agree to live simply, we have little to protect and no desire for acquisition, even for acquisition of any “moral capital.” When we imagine that we are better, holier, higher, more important to God than others, it is a very short step to “justified” arrogance or violence toward those others.
Arrogance and violence are almost inevitable, in fact, and we are witnessing today how it manifests itself at every level of our societies. If we could eliminate such manufactured and desired superiority, religion might finally become nonviolent in thought, word, and deed . . . .
When we agree to live simply we can understand what Francis meant when he said that “a man had not yet given up everything for God as long as he held on to the moneybag of his own opinions.” Most of us find out that this purse is far more dangerous and disguised than any wallet and we seldom let go of it.
When we agree to live simply, we no longer consider immigrants, refugees, people in poverty, or anyone else on the margins of society as a threat. When we choose to relinquish our privileges, whatever they are, we have freely and consciously chosen to become “visitors and pilgrims” in this world, as Francis puts it (quoting 1 Peter 2:11). A simple lifestyle is quite simply an act of solidarity with the way most people have had to live since the beginnings of humanity.
When we agree to live simply, we have time for spiritual and corporal works of mercy, like prayer, service, and justice work, because we have renegotiated in our minds and hearts our understanding of time and its purposes. Time is not money anymore, despite the common aphorism! Time is life itself and we want to give our lives away freely as Jesus did.
When we agree to live simply, we have little energy to defend or protect our group, our ethnicity, our country, our money, and our religion. Our circle is no longer defined by these external and accidental qualities, because we now find the joy and beauty of the real essentials and the actual center, which is God.