Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Real Impact of Simple Living

The New Friars is an insipiring and historical look at people living Jesus' hard teachings, the ones about the poor and outcasts. The people profiled are not serving the poor from their comfortable homes; they are living with them, building relationships, and serving them as sisters and brothers.

Usually books like this make me feel bad that I am not doing enough, whatever that means. This book was different, though.

Bessenecker makes it very clear that this path is not for everyone, and that those of us not called to do this work do not have to wallow in helplessness. There is plenty we can do to support their work directly, as well as impact the communities in which we presently life. In addition to the Franciscan brothers and the sisters of Poor Clare, St. Francis established a third order "made up of men and women living sacrificially and simply in the work-a-day world while supporting and praying for the first two orders". From our lives of relative comfort, we can still live according to the underlying qualities embraced by these new friars. They are:

  • Incarnation—tearing down the insulation and becoming real to those in trouble
  • Devotion—making intimacy with Christ our all-consuming passion {I think this is perfectly applicable to people of all faiths.}
  • Community—intentionally creating interdependence with others
  • Mission—looking outside ourselves
  • Marginalization—being countercultural in a world that beckons us to assimilate at the cost of our conscience


Bessenecker also provides a list of ideas on simple living compiled by Daphne Eck. Here is an excerpt:


Cultivate a closeness with God.
Practice regular hospitality.
Help each other, emphasize service.
Always speak the truth. Develop a habit of plain, honest speech. If you consent to do a task, do it. Avoid flattery and half-truths. Make honesty and integrity the distinguishing characteristics of your speech.
Don't judge.
Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others.
Consciously seek to identify with the poor and forgotten. Start by visiting hospitals, prisons, and nursing homes.
Schedule "simple" dates with your spouse.
Teach your children.


Make your commitments simple.
Don't overwork.
Fast periodically from media, food, people.
Elevate reading, go to the library.
Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you. Cut down on the use of addictive, non-nutritional food and drinks such as alcohol, coffee, tea, soda, sugar, chocolate.
Simplify Christmas and other holidays. Develop the habit of homemade celebrations.


Slow down.
Do not exhaust your emotional bank account.
Lie fallow.
Say no.
Restrict/eliminate television watching. Turn off or mute advertisements.
Learn to enjoy solitude.


Cultivate contentment, desire less.
Resist covetousness and consumerism.
Buy things for their usefulness, not their status.
Learn to enjoy things without owning them. Benefit from places of "common ownership" (parks, museums, libraries, rivers, public beaches).
De-accumulate. Develop the habit of giving things away.
Offer others the use of your possessions.
Develop a network of exchange.
Avoid impulse buying.
Don't buy now, pay later.
Avoid credit cards if they are a problem.
De-emphasize respectability.
Simplify your wardrobe--give away excess.
Learn how to make do with a lower income instead of needing a higher one.


Be grateful for things large and small.
Emphasize a joyful life.
Appreciate creation.
Send cards of encouragement and appreciation when others are not expecting it.

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