More Connected…but More Disconnected?
During formation for Franciscan Mission Service’s (FMS) long-term mission program, mission candidates traditionally participate in multiple simplicity workshops. Within these workshops, future missioners explore the diverse meanings of simplicity within the context of their lives, their culture and society, and their future identities as Catholic lay missioners living among the poor. In turn, this provides them with a better foundation both for embracing a simple, mission lifestyle and for becoming more present with others in their mission communities and ministries.
Within such a consumer-driven economy like the United States, simplicity (in the most general use of the term) can often signify a lack of “things” or “stuff.” Quoting St. Francis from the Northwest Earth Institute’s discussion course entitled Voluntary Simplicity, St. Francis states, “Riches prick us with a thousand troubles in getting them, as many cares in preserving them, and yet more anxiety in spending them, and with grief in losing them.” (Session 2, Page 1)
In today’s world, consumption applies not just to physical baggage but to technological information baggage, such as online social media and mobile phones. For example, one may see the futility and excess in upgrading to a new computer every year. Yet, the individual may fail to see how information technology (IT) may be a source of hidden complexities and disconnection from life while perpetuating myths of saving time, knowing what’s going on, being better connected, etc. Thus, perhaps this consumption-oriented definition of simplicity should be expanded to include IT gadgetry and consumption, too.
FMS lay mission candidates learn how to set boundaries in their lives. This enables them to most effectively care for themselves and to form nurturing, loving, and reciprocal relationships with those around them.
For Reflection: What is the role of setting boundaries in IT consumption? How can limiting or selectively using IT help one to create a more balanced, healthy, prayerful, and simple existence?
Written By: Matt Lorch