Simplicity like St. Francis

I wonder how many of you are spending today much as I have before. Ah, yes, the simultaneously boring and thrilling adventures of Black Friday shopping. I would be lying if I said that I have only bought gifts for others. There I would be, rushing around the store, trying to find the best deal on the new (insert techie gadget here). It wasn’t until this past year that what I have been working on is being conscious of what I have and being humble about the things I bring into my home and life. Luckily, I have two great role models to look up to St. Francis of Assisi and my mother.

Just about everyone knows St. Francis of Assisi and his story. He talked to animals and chose to be poor, right? The son of a wealthy merchant, worldly pleasures, realization, conversion, preaching, and something about living in the woods. Call me a sorry Catholic, but that’s about all I knew about him until a year or two ago. It took me 22 years before deciding to actually want to learn about my faith. The deeper I dive, the more I am enthralled by St. Francis of Assisi’s simplistic, Catholic outlook on life and want to follow in his footsteps.  

On “holidays” like today, I focus on St. Francis and how he rejected worldly pleasures, something I am trying so hard to do in a materialistic society. We are being bombarded with as many as 5,000 advertisements a day so that it can be increasingly difficult. We not only have to fight the urge to buy everything, but we also have to come to terms with the fact that not having, or even wanting, the newest thing can brand us as a loser or poor, regardless of facts.

My mother is a successful businesswoman, yet it is rare that she ever buys something for herself. Other than food and necessary clothes, I can’t even remember the last time she bought something for herself. Most of her jewelry came from either my father or her children, her purses are Christmas gifts, and how does she do it?

She is happy with and proud of what she has. Her joy is placed in her faith, her family and her work. Her joy is not in the things she has bought and owned, but the things she has created out of love and time. (Yes, it’s okay to find love and joy in your work.) She does not care what others think of her because she knows that our belongings should not dictate if we are popular or rich, but should instead answer the question of where our priority lies.

So yes, society tells us that today should be about buying things, but are they things you truly need? In fact, ask God. God, how could my time be better spent with friends or family? God, how could my money be better spent? God, how could my money be better donated? God (and dare I say it) how could my money be better saved? Finally, God, help me be humble in my choices, charitable in my actions, and strong in my will.  

These are all mini-prayers we should be asking ourselves each time we go to buy something, not just today, but every day.

Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.