I wish everyone who is Irish, and all those who become Irish on this day, a happy and festive St. Patrick’s Day! On this day many of us celebrate with family and friends, enjoying parties in the company of loved ones. How wonderful and important it is for us to enjoy life through our celebrations! Celebrations seem to be embedded in our DNA as we tend to celebrate important events and moments in our lives. Celebrations allow us to spend time with loved ones and to get out of our normal routines; for a moment, forgetting about the issues in our “normal” lives. But, as I reflect on celebrations in relation to the routine of our lives, I begin to recognize how complicated our lives have become.
It seems to me that in our modern culture with all our technological advances (of which I am a fan), we live very complicated and overburdened lives. Sit for a moment and reflect on the complications in your life. Where do they come from? For each of us the answer is different, but I think for most of us we can honestly acknowledge that our lives are complicated. Have you ever looked at a bird in flight, or watched your dog or cat and thought to yourself “look how easy and simple their life is.” What makes their existence seem simpler than ours?
Humility. The word itself has its roots in Latin, translated as “grounded” or “from the earth”. It addresses an intrinsic self-worth. In other words, viewing oneself as we truly are; the positive and not so positive; our true sense of self. Humility allows us to keep our relationship to this world in perspective. A reminder that we ourselves are but creatures, animals ourselves, living in this world alongside other creatures such as birds, dogs, cats, etc.
The degree to which we are able to support a sense of humility is proportional to the degree of simplicity we experience in our life. The more we understand ourselves as we truly are, not attempting to be whom we are not, our perspective on life changes such that we gain an understanding about what is and is not important. This differentiation aids in the setting of our priorities. If I can keep focus on my priorities, my life will become simpler.
How can I do this? What does this, concretely, mean for me in my life? One of the best examples of humility that I have found is that of St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226). He was a wealthy son of a powerful merchant father, giving up everything to live in poverty and to serve the poor in the spirit of Jesus. But it wasn’t simply his giving up of everything that made him humble; it was his attitude and way of living. In the book “The Way of St. Francis: the Challenge of Franciscan Spirituality for Everyone“, author Murray Bodo, OFM writes:
“The radicalness of St. Francis is not in his poverty, but in his response to the Gospel of Jesus. He lives it. And that is what is so astounding to the people of his time. They don’t think it can be done. Nor do we today. … Francis’ whole life is a proclamation that the love of neighbor can only be secured when the Gospel is lived sincerely…”
In other words, living our lives focused on our values, and in a true sense of a love of neighbor, will keep us grounded (humble) and focused on our priorities (simplicity). How can we do this?
1. Spend 10 minutes each day in quiet, focusing your thoughts on simple phrases.
2. Spend time watching and reflecting on the nature around you. Do you see the ant, flower, bird, leaf, dog, cat, etc. What are they doing?
3. Make a list of your life’s priorities. Those items at the top of your list need your full attention. The rest, well, decide what is necessary and what is merely clutter in your life.
4. Help others. Love your neighbor.