10 October 2015

TSSF Principles, Day 10

The Third Aim
To live simply.
(10) The first Christians surrendered completely to our Lord and recklessly gave all that they had, offering the world a new vision of a society in which a fresh attitude was taken towards material possessions. This vision was renewed by Saint Francis when he chose Lady Poverty as his bride, desiring that all barriers set up by privilege based on wealth should be overcome by love. This is the inspiration for the third aim of the Society, to live simply.
Simplicity plays a significant role in the life of Franciscans, but it is underpinned by the more fundamental concept of poverty. This refers not merely to the (usually involuntary) lack of the material goods necessary for human well-being, but to the fact that as human beings we are not self-sufficient; we depend for our very existence on others and ultimately on God.

The Franciscan way is radically opposed to all forms of wealth because at root the accumulation of wealth is about the creation of a (false) sense of security that denies our radical dependence on others. And, of course, to ensure our security we need barriers (existential or material) to separate us from those who threaten us.

Very early in his pilgrimage Francis became aware of the barriers that protected his relatively privileged lifestyle from the minores, the have-nots of medieval Italian society. And he dedicated himself to breaking down those barriers by going downwards through them and meeting the people on the other side not as recipients of charity but as equals.

Franciscans today seek to do likewise and simplicity comes into the equation because many of the barriers that divide people are created by how we spend our money: where we choose to live, the clothes we wear, the places we shop, where we go when we eat out, how we entertain ourselves, whether and where we go on holiday, even whether we have decent broadband. So a basic question as we try to live as Franciscans will always be: will this action tend to build up or break down barriers between me and others?

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