What could a children’s book, the writings of Richard Rohr, and Benedictine simplicity have in common? Barb Abbott, oblate of Holy Wisdom Monastery, helped us weave these connections today at our final Women’s Lenten Lunch.
We gathered for midday prayer and a delicious meal created in part from local produce (including apples grown here at the monastery). In true Benedictine style, a meditative reading was offered during the meal, including excerpts like these from Radical Grace, by Richard Rohr:
“Soul knowledge sends you in the opposite direction from consumerism. It’s not addition that makes one holy but subtraction: gripping the illusions, letting go of the pretense, exploring the false self, breaking open the heart and the understanding, not taking my private self too seriously…. When the self takes itself that seriously, there’s no room left for God. All we can really do is get ourselves out of the way.”
“Get your own agenda, hurts, neediness and fears out of the way, so that you’ve offered God a blank sheet to write on when it’s time to write some words on your soul.”
After lunch Barb gently led us into reflections on the unwanted “clutter” that we are often captive to in our own lives. With a nod to simplicity, Barb read to us the children’s story by Leo Lionni about a young snail who wanted The Biggest House in the World. The story ends with these words of wisdom: “Keep your house light and easy to carry.”
Barb confessed to her own experiences of physical and mental clutter. She also described how she was drawn to Benedictine simplicity during her year as an oblate candidate. During that time she was inspired by Wisdom Distilled from the Daily, Joan Chittister’s book that has helped many to incorporate Benedictine spirituality into their daily lives.
Regarding clutter, Joan Chittister writes: “…once I begin to clutter my house with things that separate me from life, I have become unfree, a prisoner of consumption, a hoarder of artifacts…I have to surround myself with things that are not real and do not fill the inside of me or of anyone else. They own me now; I don’t own them.”
Finally, Barb provided time and space for silent meditation, but also encouraged us to seek wisdom from each other, as we formed “circles of simplicity” and shared our reflections on the following questions:
- What burdens do you carry like the cathedral house of the little snail?
- What would free you to follow your chief purpose in life?
- What are ways you can simplify your life?
How can you simplify your life? Share your thoughts with us!