The Association for Living Values Education International is a collective of organizations and individuals in more than 40 countries that provides professional development workshops and curriculum resources to educators. Its mission states that people around the world share basic human values and that constructive solutions to many of the challenges facing communities today will emerge more easily when there is an emphasis on a value-based approach to life. Simplicity is among these universal values, described at livingvalues.net.
Call to Prayer
God, You taught us that life is only worth living when we are being authentic. May your Holy Spirit guide us in our desire to live life simpler.
In preparing for this Solidarity Reflection, Sister Catherine Arata, SSND, came to my mind. I lived with Cathy at our Generalate for five years. From the first moment of my encounter with her, I experienced the simplicity and authenticity of her life. In every aspect of her life, there was honest and consistent witnessing to simple living—food, clothing, relationships, and ministry. I truly believe the simplicity of her life was the fruit of her personal relationship with her God: one and undivided—true simplicity. Cathy continues to be a challenging inspiration to me.
I remember coming back to Guam after three years in the USA and discovered my parents moved from our family home in the village to a place we called “the ranch”. I saw how my mom and dad worked so hard every day raising pigs, chickens and a cow, and growing fruits and vegetables. I wondered why? They enjoyed this lifestyle. How can one see this as “living a simple life”?
Mom and dad took time for things they enjoyed – their “ranch” and quality weekends with their children and grandchildren. Now as adults when we reminisce about work at the farm on weekends, we share about the fun times we had and how much we miss those quality times and wish our kids could experience the simple life of their grandparents and great-grandparents today.
Today’s world has many luxuries that are supposed to make life easier. At times they may, but other times, they make things more complicated. Time and money are two of the most valuable resources people have. My parents didn’t have a large amount of these two things; they enjoyed the benefit of a simpler life.
Simple living pertains to focus. A simple life is not filled with complications and distractions. It is a life that is lived focused on things that matter to the person. It can also have varying extremes. For some, it’s as simple as cutting their cable bills and getting rid of the TV, while others can go as far as living “off the grid”.
“Enjoy the little things. For one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”
You Are Sent, Constitution 15 affirms: “We endeavor to live simply in fact and in spirit.” “Such sobriety, when lived freely and consciously, is liberating. It is not a lesser life or one lived with less intensity. On the contrary, it is a way of living life to the full.” (Laudato Si’ 223)
- Gospel Poverty invites us to a countercultural mindset in a hyper-consumerist culture. What dominant values and behaviors in our society do you oppose?
- When has simplicity led to more clarity in your life? How did it have an impact on others?
- What aspects of simplicity listed here stand out and call your attention?
- Simplicity is using what we already have and not wasting the Earth’s resources.
- Simplicity is staying in the present and not making things complicated.
- Simplicity encourages generosity and sharing.
- Simplicity also recognizes that everything is gift. When we relax, stay present and appreciate the small things in life, we more clearly see and experience.
- How have you been integrating simplicity and authentic living into your life??
In order to live simply, Pope Francis draws upon the Christian tradition to show what living simply really means, and how it is a call to live a simpler but more meaningful life. The adoption of simple lifestyles is grounded in the idea of sufficiency, promoting sobriety in the use of resources and to overcome consumption. Here are some actions that could help us as we go forward:
- Question yourself before you buy things. Do not simply buy out of habit? This will help you buy less and better.
- Avoid single use items (e.g. plastic, etc.)
- Look after the environment, be more conscious of water usage and waste disposal.
- Garden more, plant more trees.
- Eat a vegan meal once a week.
- Examine your busyness and name how it affects your day-to-day experience. Some of us have fallen victim to “busyism”; being busy has become a habit and way of living.
- Consider what you can let go of to create a simpler life. A sacred “no” can lead to a sacred “yes” and more joyful living. Declutter—begin with one place/area.
- Reevaluate periodically your list of priorities and what is meaningful in life.
Lord God, help me to live simply,
to give my life and all I am into your hands.
Help me to unclutter my closet,
for I have too much stuff that takes me away from your presence.
Help me to unclutter my calendar,
for I am often too busy to focus my attention on you;
Help me to unclutter my mind,
for I have too many unguided thoughts that distract me from your instructions. Amen.
(Christine Sine, Godspacelight.com)
Prepared by Sister Francine Perez & Associate Connie Guerrero, Guam, Asia/Oceania Shalom Branch, for the
International Shalom Network. Graphic taken from the Directional Statement, 24th General Chapter.