This morning, I decided I would go visit my friend at the seminary library. I packed my things and walked to the bus stop. I stood there for half an hour freezing, but then I turned around and went to Adoration at my home parish instead.
As I stood at the bus stop watching the endless procession of trucks and cars, I thought about why I wanted to go to the seminary. I wasn’t just going there to visit my friend, but because I wanted to see those Dominican breviaries I had picked out for myself last week. Not only that, but I had lied that morning by telling my parents that I was going Christmas shopping. The thoughts crowded in on me. I decided there and then that I would go to Adoration instead.
The truth of it is that I wanted those Dominican breviaries out of selfishness than out of any sincere desire. To tell you the truth, I have too many breviaries and prayer books at home. If you go into my room, you will see piles and piles of prayer books that I have acquired over the years? Do I use them? Some, yes, but others just sit there gathering dust. Was it really worth it for me to have another two volume set to add to the pile? Would it help anything? No. It would just be another set that would sit on the shelf with the rest.
I also realized, too, that I should be contented with my own lot in life. I think that’s one of the major reasons why I’m so focused on buying things is because I’m not happy. I figure that if I get that thing, whatever it is, then I will be satisfied and things will be better. The truth is that those material things are only material things. They don’t make life better or more bearable. They are merely more things that we add to the trash heaps of our lives. Things that are not really necessary and for which we don’t have any use.
Since we live in a consumer driven culture, however, we don’t realize this. Most of us have been told from early childhood that he who has the most toys wins, but is that really true? Those people who have the most are usually the ones who are really unhappy. If you’ve watched shows like “Gossip Girl” or “90210,” you will realize the truth of what I’m saying. Money does not buy happiness, contentedness, or anything else.
In religious Orders, most of the members make a vow of poverty where they deny themselves absolutely everything. St. Francis taught his brothers that they could easily live off the donations coming from the kindness of people’s hearts. Indeed, most members of these Orders don’t even have their own bank accounts. Rather, everything is pooled together into one large pot. Whatever a member needs, he or she asks for. It’s a system that works very well.
For those of us living in the world, however, life is not that simple. Many of us have checkbooks to balance, bills to pay, and students loans that won’t pay themselves off. So what is it, then, that we are supposed to do with our salaries if we don’t want the latest toys and gadgets? Then the solution is really simple: living within our means.
This is one of the lessons I learned today. The other is to test my desires and find out where they are coming from. If the motive behind them is good, then it is coming from God. If the desire is evil, it comes from the devil. It is those latter desires that must be done away with and thrown away because it is from these that the devil sows tempations in our hearts. But that is a post for another day.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!