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Poor and Free with Jack Jezreel: “The Simple Math of Voluntary Simplicity”


Franciscan Mission Service presents: 

“Poor and Free: A Spiritual Yes to Less” every Friday in Lent

Series contributions: 

Our series contributors focus on the joyful freedom of spiritual poverty. The Good News is that detachment of ownership leads us to greater reliance on God which makes us more available to love and serve the poor.

    In today’s post, Jack Jezreel, originator of the JustFaith program, reflects on the joys of voluntary simplicity.

    The Christian call to voluntary simplicity, something I was introduced to over thirty years ago as a young member of a Catholic Worker community, should be understood as one of the colors in the rainbow of human integrity. That is, voluntary simplicity is one of the many commitments that comprise a full-hearted response to the good news that we are all connected to God and to one another.

    My observation and experience is that a commitment to voluntary simplicity comes naturally with a larger commitment of compassion – if we love our sisters and brothers and hold the lives of all as precious, then how the world is shared presses upon us the responsibility to live with little. It’s the simple math of dividing this earthly pie into fair shares.

    Jack Jezreel is being honored with the Anselm Moons Award at Franciscan Mission Service’s World Care Annual Benefit & Celebration on April 11: “Profoundly Changed: New Disciples for Peace, Justice and Hope

    But it’s more than that. One critical insight of the Gospel is that it is all too easy to get attached, no matter how little or how much we have. The task is not just to take only what I need, but to have a light grip on whatever I hold in my possession. This constitutes freedom – freedom to respond to God’s call, freedom to share with those in need, freedom from the compulsive grasping and protecting that is so ubiquitous in a culture of “I own, therefore I am.”

    With little tying us down, the possibility of living a creative, liberated, and adventuresome life—think, for example, “mission service”—becomes more likely.

    It seems to me that ultimately simplicity is the fruit of spiritually rich life. Simplicity is, at its best, a kind of disinterest: “stuff” just doesn’t much interest us as much as friendship, neighbors, affection, the common good, compassion, and love.

    Dorothy Day helped establish the Catholic Worker movement along with fellow activist Peter Maurin

    Simplicity so often characterizes the lives of the saints, the great-hearted people – people whose lives are so filled with purpose and commitments that they can not be bothered with shopping, hoarding, protecting, or even caring about what they own. Simplicity is the offspring of a great love that is undistracted and focused.

    My experience with voluntary simplicity as a member of a Catholic Worker community would later influence my understanding of Christian formation and certainly colored the curriculum of the JustFaith process.

    Over the years, we have introduced JustFaith participants to books like “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger,” “Following Christ in a Consumer Society,” “Simpler Living, Compassionate Life,” and “How Much is Enough?” and speakers who addressed their practice of living simply.

    What I find interesting is that when we give each other the chance to consider, study, discuss and explore the option of simplicity, we find it compelling and life-giving, not a sacrifice. Parishes would be doing their members a great service by giving greater emphasis to the topic.

    Would you like to hear Jack speak at our World Care Annual Benefit and Celebration? 

    Jack Jezreel is originator of the JustFaith program and founder of JustFaith Ministries. He holds an undergraduate degree in Philosophy and Religion from Furman University and a Master of Divinity degree from the University of Notre Dame. A popular national speaker, Jack previously spent six years in a Catholic Worker Community and twelve years in parish ministry.

    We prepare and support lay Catholics for two-year international, one-year domestic and 1-2 week short-term mission service opportunities in solidarity with impoverished and marginalized communities across the globe.

    The blog is maintained by the communications staff.