What is Franciscan Simplicity?
Franciscan simplicity of life is what some might term as minimalistic – although it’s not a trend or current fad or fashion of living. It’s more than that. It is a complete way of life that looks at the belongings we own and the ego we are.
To us simplicity involves a life where our belongings, thoughts, time, emotions, relationships, bodies, and finances are not caught-up by today’s consumer culture. For us simplicity is a desire to follow the Assisi Spirit of Francis and Clare in their imitation of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. We believe that simplicity is about poverty from possessions we don’t need. Poverty of the self helps us to feel more of God’s Holy Spirit within us. Franciscan poverty or simplicity encourages us to see with Christ-like eyes and focus on the needs of others.
God created us to share, to love, to play, to laugh and to contribute; not to consume or to over-value belongings. Living in simplicity of the self enables us to contribute to the happiness of a friend with words of fun or arms of love – that’s something beyond financial value.
Franciscan simplicity frees us from the trappings we’ve built our lives around. We carefully consider “needs” versus “wants” and make our decisions more consciously, more deliberately.
The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order explains simplicity and poverty of the self as follows:
OFS Rule 11
Trusting the Father, Christ chose for Himself and His mother a poor and humble life, even though He valued created things attentively and lovingly. Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs. Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God’s children.
Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as pilgrims and strangers on their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power.
We seek a “proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods” to avoid the mistake of assigning too much meaning to the things we own, or want to own. Sometimes we place such value on achieving ownership that we forsake our health. We believe that more is better. We stand in queues over-night to buy the latest iPhone or video game. To buy belongings we borrow money forgetting that we have just purchased debt. We work longer hours to buy bigger houses and faster cars but become poor in time for relationships and life. And the thought of contributing beyond ourselves is inconceivable.
Simplifying material needs makes more space in our lives, hearts and souls for God. If we have “Poverty of the Self’, if we become less ego-centric – and that’s when God has more freedom to move within us. Kenosis allows us to better feel His Holy Spirit dwelling within us. We feel this on a day-to-day basis – allowing his love to touch us. This is want Francis came to know after his conversion. He renounced family wealth and personal glory to follow the life of Jesus. With poverty of possessions and poverty of self Francis became the Lesser Brother, and yet he became so rich spiritually, so wealthy in love and free to share with others.
Above all the grace and gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self. Sanctify yourself, and you will sanctify society, remembering that a single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows ~ Francis of Assisi
Franciscan Simplicity is both a grace and a discipline:
Poverty of possessions and poverty of the self is a grace we receive from God. It is a charism. A way of living that enriches us spirituality. Simplicity guides us away from compulsive extravagance, it declutters the mind and gives us peace.
Living a life of detachment and simplicity calls us to action. It is a discipline. We have to make conscious decisions and choices to follow the example Francis gave us.
Become the lesser One
The discipline of simplicity and humility places us before God enabling him to work through us and to touch the lives of others. This is why Francis called his first followers Lesser Brothers – Friars Minor. Not because they had less importance or a lower value, but because of humility, kenosis and simplicity they were able to become more Christ-Like, less of themselves but so much more of Jesus. This is what Franciscans are called to do … to change inwardly and to see outwardly with with the eyes of Christ. This is something we need to practice daily. Daily penance and daily conversion helps us to show the love of God to others. And that is something so important and wonderful. Let’s show God to others simply by the example of who we are – Let’s be the only sermon someone may be today!
Philippians 4 : 11-13
11 Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
How to Live in the Freedom of Simplicity:
- Buy things for their usefulness, not for status. Own-brands vs Designer Labels
- Buy things for their necessity, not because you want them.
- Reject anything that is addictive in nature.
- Use time wisely, enjoy the moment. It’s not a commodity. It’s sacred.
- Develop a habit of giving things away. Sharing belongings.
- Avoid buying gadgets. They only bring temporary pleasures.
- Learn to enjoy things without owning or possessing them.
- Enjoy God’s Creation. Talk a walk outside. Look at God’s artistry.
- Avoid the “buy now, pay later” schemes. Don’t buy debt.
- Let your “Yes” mean yes and your “No” mean no. [Simplicity of Speech – reduce buts and maybes].
- Reject anything that oppresses others. Buy Fair Trade and ecologically sound products.
- Shun anything that distracts you from seeking God’s Kingdom.
Simplicity of Living – Simplifying material needs help us to:
- Eliminate our discontent
- Reclaim our time
- Live in the moment
- Pursue our passions
- Discover our missions
- Experience real freedom
- Create more, consume less
- Focus on our health
- Grow as individuals
- Contribute beyond ourselves
- Rid ourselves of excess stuff
- Discover purpose in our lives
- Speak with truth
- Lose the lust for status and position
“The call to simplicity and freedom for Christians is the call to move from achievement oriented spirituality to a life centred on a shared vision of relatedness to people and things, a relatedness of gentleness, of compassion, of belonging to one another.”
Richard Bower : Simpler Living, Compassionate Life: A Christian Perspective edited by Michael Schut, p18