About this blogger:
Ronda Chervin received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Fordham University and an MA in Religious Studies from Notre Dame Apostolic Institute. A widow, mother, and grandmother, she currently teaches philosophy at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. Write to her at chervinronda@gmail.com.
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We sternly urge adherence to the established norms by those who raise an uproar or a challenge in the name of a misunderstood creative freedom, and thus inflict so much harm on the Church with their rash innovations, so vulgar, so frivolous—and sometimes even lamentably profane. Otherwise the essence of dogma and obviously of ecclesiastical discipline will be weakened, in line with the famous axiom: "lex orandi, lex credendi." We therefore call for absolute loyalty so that the rule of faith may remain safe.
— Pope Paul VI (27 June 1977)

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Day 71 Observing Myself and Others concerning Simplicity of Life
published 8 March 2012 by Dr. Ronda Chervin

What you will read now is part of a series of 100 spiritual challenges. Each blog can be viewed separately, but for maximum benefit a reader needs to start with the introductory blog of November 18, 2011, and then continue step by step. Day One begins on Sunday, November 20, 2011.    
[ Click here for 100 STEPS ]

Theme 11 The Challenge of Simplicity of Life with more Room for Love

(As usual, at the beginning of a new week with a new theme I offer a little teaching.)

“Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has
none, and ….”
John 3: 11

Many things are tolerated in the Church even though they are by no means part of the “way of love.” Think, in the past, of slavery or killing people in duels just to avenge an insult! The Church never taught that slavery was a good but it was so interwoven with the culture that it was only gradually that it was condemned starting with slave trade. I consider this to be analogous to the fact that the Church teaches that “our luxuries belong to the poor,” but we don’t specify an exact amount of excess that is allowable. This would be too complicated. Some preachers tolerate the luxurious living of their parishioners. They prefer to invite them to give more to the poor and to the Church, rather than scold them for self-indulgence. The lack of preaching on the subject in some places doesn’t mean that luxury is good.

By luxury is meant having things we don’t need either to survive or for our vocation. (A computer is not a luxury of the programmer or a writer. A piano is not a luxury for a pianist).

Being middle-class or upper-class is not, itself, a sin. We are to give as much away as we can in aid to the poor, choosing ways that we judge to be effective. I have personal friends who are millionnaires and who live so simply that few would look at them in public and think they were rich. These people give large amounts of money for Church building, founding and pro-life organizations. I like the fact that they dress down, especially because poor people in a parish can become envious if they see the pastor and other Church leaders driving an expensive looking car, even if it was a gift. Of course, as mentioned earlier in The Way of Love, volunteering time to help others is even more important than giving money.

A fascinating book on simplicity of life is Happy Are Your Poor: The Simple Life and Spiritual Freedom by Thomas Dubay. In this definitive study he proves that the way many people live in our so-called affluent society is totally contrary to the Gospel. It cannot be excused on the basis that “poor in Spirit” means detached from material goods and not literal simplicity of life. Poverty does not mean destitution, but it certainly doesn’t mean giving small donations to the poor while hoarding.

But many middle-class and upper-class Catholics in our culture indulge not only in luxurious spending (such as having so much in our closets we cannot find the garment we are looking for) but also in waste. It is said that the garbage we throw out could feed the world. A simple practice for those following the Way of Love: Step by Step would be only buying the food we will eat each week vs. more than we can eat out of a desire to avoid ever wanting one bite more or to feel successful by buying more than enough, and then throwing out 1/3 or more of it when we feel full. It is said that a large percentage of Americans are overweight. In the past when more women were at home, it was customary to turn left-overs into stir-fries, omelets, soups, etc. It is understandable that ordering take-out vs. cooking is easier for tired people who work long hours and often, also, commute. Another wasteful practice contrary to simplicity of life is being too lazy to go through ones possessions and so buying items one already has without even keeping track.

Many readers will say, but that food we waste couldn’t actually be mailed to 3rd world countries to give to the poor. My reply is that by spending less on unneeded food, clothing, gadgets, etc., we could give that money to groups that not only feed the starving but help the poor to earn money-learning trades. Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, for one, use the money they get to supply village women in India with sewing machines to start making and selling clothing.

Day 71: Observing Myself and Others concerning Simplicity of Life

“Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

Dr. Ronda’s examples: In the past, when I was cooking for a family, instead of using left-overs, I used to throw out quite a lot. I was very glad when I started to live simply because if you have less there is less to keep clean! I know of people who work at some occupation that is ethically marginal because they are afraid if they left the job they might have to live poorer. I love to see parish people working at soup-kitchens feeding the poor. In one Church where they give out vouchers for breakfast at MacDonalds I was happy to see that they allowed the poor to use the bathroom next to the chapel area to wash up. I thought Jesus was happy that while the Gospel was being read about helping the poor, our poor were actually being visibly helped since we could see them waiting for the bathroom out the glass door between us and them. I also rejoiced when in another parish we took turns watching out for the homeless staying in the basement of our Church. This went on for many winter months. The priest was the default, throughout the night, if the volunteers didn’t come.

Your examples:

Prayer: Holy Spirit, thank you for inspiring me in the area of simplicity of life. Thank you that I have never been unemployed so that I have so much I can give. For the sake of having more room to love through giving, help all who read this theme in The Way of Love: Step by Step to rejoice to live more simply.

Read more blog entries by Dr. Ronda Chervin by visiting RondaView. Dr. Ronda Chervin has many free e-books and audios on her website, rondachervin.com. If you go to her website and read or listen and then want to correspond with her she will be available. Her schedule does not permit, however, responding to comments on the Blog, though she enjoys reading them. Dr. Ronda’s newest project is spiritualityrunningtogod.com.

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