Virtue of the Month of July: Simplicity

 07 - 06 - 18
Holy Cross of Davao College News

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

Exemplary life of Simplicity

St. Therese is the originator of “The Little Way”, which is the way of those who are not rich and famous, and who want to serve God their loving Father through their littleness and simplicity and love.  In other words, St. Therese knew that she was not capable of great sacrifices, or of performing great and mighty works.  Rather, she chose to remain as a child in the eyes of God, performing all of her duties with love and obedience, no matter how small and insignificant they were.

St. Therese, the Little Flower, was a French Carmelite nun in Lisieux who died of tuberculosis at the young age of 24.  She was born in 1873, died in 1897, and was proclaimed to be the 33rd doctor of the Catholic Church in 1997.    Her mother died when she was only 4 years old, and she suffered mightily from intestinal problems, headaches, and an undiagnosed illness.  It wasn’t until the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to her while she was sick that she got completely well. When she was 15 and too young to enter the Carmelite Monastery, she pleaded her case before Pope Leo XII himself, who told her that if God willed it, she would indeed enter the monastery at such a young age. God did will it, as enter it she did.  While there, she wrote and directed plays, did menial household chores, as well as performed duties taking care of the sacristy.

So what is so amazing about this beautiful young girl? It is her attitude of simplicity which was exemplified in her life. In her well celebrated autobiography entitled, “The Story of a Soul”, she wrote:

“I know well that it is not my great desires that please God in my little soul, what He likes to see is the way I love my littleness and my poverty; it is my blind hope in His mercy, this is my only treasure…. The weaker one is, without desires or virtues the more ready one is for the operations of this consuming and transforming love…. God rejoices more in what He can do in a soul humbly resigned to its poverty than in the creation of millions of suns and the vast stretch of the heavens.

I tell you that it is enough to recognize one’s nothingness and to abandon one’s self like a child in the arms of God. Merit is not to be found in doing much or in giving much, but rather in receiving and in loving much. It is said that it is far sweeter to give than to receive, and this is true. But when Jesus wants for Himself the sweetness of giving, it would not be gracious to refuse. Let Him take and give whatever He wants.” 

SIMPLICITY IN THE SCRIPTURE

Childlike Trust 

The test of our accepting Jesus as truth is measured by what the Eastern Fathers called parrhesia (childlike trust). It is grounded through the Spirit of Jesus’ revelation – in faith, hope and love – of God’s emet, or His everlasting fidelity to be always love in action toward His children; that God the Father truly loves us, actively and tenderly. This requires that we become “poor in spirit” and this is the first condition for entering into the Kingdom of God (Mt. 5:3). It is our condition of realizing, through Jesus’ Spirit, that we are held in the Heavenly Father’s hands. We can do nothing of ourselves. Yet we rejoice in our weakness and our total dependence upon God our Father.

A Child of God 

United in love with the risen Jesus, we have His Spirit to witness within our “hearts” at the deepest level of our consciousness, that we really are children of God (Romans 8:15; Gal. 4:6, 1 Jn 3:1). The Spirit reveals that we live in Jesus Christ, only begotten Son of the Father. His Spirit empowers us to call the Father of Jesus Abba, since we form one body with Jesus before the Father.   

Kenotic attitude

St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, described the attitude of Jesus that speaks clearly on simplicity, that, which is equated with ‘poverty of spirit’. Another word for such poverty of spirit is humility. “Christ Jesus, who, ‘though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God, as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking form of a slave, humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8).

Joyful trust in the Father

Because the Spirit witnesses within us each moment that we have a loving Father, we experience His perfect love for us in each circumstances of our lives. Words like “pleasant” unpleasant” “success” or “failure” have little meaning now for the Christian who has been converted. God is our Father. He will care for us. We are to become like a little child (Mt. 18:3-4).

Boldness and courage

The apostles after Pentecost are described in Acts as possessing parrhesia, a childlike frankness and directness coupled with certain knowledge and no more parables or inferences, to preach the message of Jesus fearlessly and “boldly” and now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant to your servants courage to speak your message with complete and firm assurance while you exercise your power to effect cures, signs, and wonders to be wrought by the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29-30). In other words, the simplicity of the apostles moved them to assume a childlike trust (parrhesia) before their Heavenly Father to proclaim with courage the good news of peace and reconciliation among the people of God.

Docility of Spirit 

It means the willingness and readiness to be taught, or guided. This is the desire to learn from God and to be formed and molded by his hands. It involves being open to the workings of God in one’s life, and the willingness to cooperate with his grace and be malleable to the activities of the Holy Spirit. This means being flexible and willing to put aside one’s will, plans and desires, and to accept and do whatever is God’s will. It involves taking action as one becomes aware of God’s desires in order to carry out his will.

Three phases of spiritual docility or openness:

  1. Listening to the Word of life, being teachable, open to the new inspiration.
  2. Assimilating the Word, accepting the truths proposed, internalizing values, tradition.
  3. Obedience to the Word, letting myself be transformed in attitude and behavior, paying attention to details, cooperation.

More readings: Psalm 46:10; 63:2-5; Mark 1:35; Luke 12:13-21, 22-34; 1 Timothy 6:6-10

SIMPLICITY AS A VIRTUE

Simplicity becomes the soul of the spiri­tual life, since it consists precisely in purity of intention. It consists in keeping before yourself, in all your thoughts, words, and acts, one and the same end, one and the same object — namely, the pleasing of God, or, more accurately, the doing of His will. Thus understood, simplicity appears to us as a virtue at once essential and far-reaching. Though the world tells us we must be, do, and have more, God calls us to be content. It involves unburdening one’s life and living lightly with fewer distractions. It is learning how to take care of oneself knowing that whatever tomorrow brings, one will handle it with grace and humility. It means that one can live on less and remain happy about it.

Contentment is the lifeblood of simplicity. Without it, the journey towards simplicity is short-lived.
It gives to the life of the spirit all its depth and value. The simple soul is ever pleasing to God, because it ever looks toward Him, and seeks for Him always, having no ambition other than to do His will in order to procure His glory. “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

Another aspect of simplicity as a virtue is obedience. This is compliance and submission to God’s commands, requests or preferences. It is the desire to seek and conform oneself to the will of God at all times. Obedience to our parents is part of the Commandment to honor thy father and mother.

To be simple is to see, love, and desire God in all crea­tures and in all things; it is to unify one’s life with God.

Practical Ways to grow in a truly Simple Life (especially for Millennials)

1) Be childlike, not childish, in your attitude.

That “Little Way” of St. Therese consists of simplicity in life, prayer from the heart to Jesus, total trust in God as our Loving Father (not a stern judge), being a true child of God our Father rather than doing our own thing, seeking God’s will in our everyday activities, doing everything for the love of Jesus with humility, being kind to people we can’t stand, and a sincere desire to be with Jesus forever rather than to be in this world.  It does NOT consist of trying to be a millionaire, watching dirty movies, gossiping about people, cheating at work to get the promotion or in the classroom at exam time to be an honor student.

2) Focus on relationships that give you life (and lose the ones that are poisonous). 

Sometimes friendships with unhealthy people can be fruitful, but we need to say no to those that only hurt both parties involved. Your value is not determined by your valuables, and God says the most valuable things in life are not things! Nothing matters more than knowing God’s purposes for your life, and nothing can compensate for knowing them – not success, wealth, fame, or pleasure.

3) Eat well, sleep enough, and stay active.   

Basically, our body is the temple of the Triune God. We need to be prudent in choosing the right food needed to nourish and strengthen our body. Don’t stay late at night out of unhealthy habits, like getting hooked with facebook, twitter, Instagram or other social media.

4) Remove yourself from promotional email lists that make you buy things you don’t need.

Why let companies constantly whisper in your proverbial ear about what you don’t have?

5) Serve your community regularly and offer your resources to those in need.

You and I are rich. We can be generous on a budget.

6) Keep a gratitude journal.

Giving thanks everyday helps us remember that we already have enough.

7) Spend within your means and cancel unused credit cards.

Rescue yourself from this vicious cycle before debt becomes a (bigger) problem. Simple living won’t change the world; people who live simply, however, will.

8) Shrink your wardrobe.

Let your actions, thoughts and words speak for you; not your clothes and accessories.

9) Do an occasional social media detox. Unfollow anyone who doesn’t inspire you to live well.

Let your unplugging be fruitful, and let your time on social media be productive.

10) Evaluate and review your priorities regularly. Then build your life around them.

When we live simply, we see more of the unseen. We think with greater clarity about our   dreams, our communities, and what the others might need from us.

Conclusion

The virtue of Simplicity is connected with the practice of humility; of child-like attitude trusting in the Father’s unconditional love and care. Ponder the comparable words of C.S. Lewis: “Humility is not thinking less of oneself; it is thinking of oneself less.”  St. Therese links humility and charity in this quote.  She is saying that, when charity enters our hearts, we naturally begin to forget ourselves.  We wallow in self-pity less and less.  We aren’t always focused on our needs and wants or comforts.  Instead, our thoughts turn more and more to the Lord and the needs of others.  In this way, the self becomes the servant of grace, so that God may fill us with Himself – love. She said, “I have not the courage to force myself to seek beautiful prayers in books; not knowing which to choose I act as children do who cannot read; I say quite simply to the good God what I want to tell Him, and He always understands me.”

St. Therese’s simplicity and purity of heart are evident in this quote.  So many of us complicate our lives.  We see this in the media as people constantly analyze and overcompensate.  Science is secular society’s religion, and the world of academia has become our god.  But St. Therese says we don’t need fancy words or even beautiful, complex analyses of theories in order to reach God.  In fact, it’s quite the contrary.  What we need is the heart of a child – ever-available to God’s presence, speaking plainly and from the heart.  It’s the heart language that speaks to God above all other complex conversation.

Prayer for Simplicity (by St. Therese of the Child Jesus) 

Lord, give me the open heart of a child.

Let me come trustingly to you.

Not afraid to ask for your love.

Deliver me from the belief that I am self-sufficient.

Show me my need of you.

 Give me the grace to reach out to you.

Lord, give me a child’s simplicity and a sense of wonder.

May my enthusiasm for you never dim.

Let me hasten to converse with you in the intimacy of prayer. 

Give me the discernment to realize there is no detail of my life too tiny for your concern.

Help me to perceive your glory in the helplessness of the cross. 

Son of God, who for my sake,

Took on the dependency of childhood,

Help me to accept the readiness of the Father’s grace. Amen.

Prayer for the Intercession of St. Therese of the Little Flower

O God who open your Kingdom to those who are humble and to little ones,

Lead us to follow trustingly in the Little Way of Saint Therese,

So that trough her intercession, we may see your eternal glory revealed.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you

In the Holy Spirit one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Appeared on Holy Cross of Davao College

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