Written by: Barb Spies, OFS, Director of Mission Services and Pastoral Care

I was reading a book called Franciscans and Their Finances: Economics in a Disenchanted World by a Capuchin Franciscan Friar, David Couturier, OFM Cap. The chapter on “The Seven Sorrowful Mysteries of Stuff” kept me nodding my head in agreement throughout. At my house, we are in the process of purging a lot of stuff! With four kids and the tendency to keep almost everything just in case someone someday might want it, it’s been quite a process that I’m sure will continue for months to come. My husband took as his Lenten discipline, which turned into a path to Pentecost, and keeps on going, to purge a box of stuff a day.    

Couturier says that this chapter is “about stuff – what we buy and sell, what we collect and store, what we pitch and toss away. It’s about what piles up in our closets, what pokes out from under our beds and hides in our basements, what gets stored in our garages and what gets buried and made invisible in our landfills.” Then he gets to his main point: “Our obsession with stuff makes it easy to treat people like stuff and to traffic people like stuff.” That jumped off the page at me. I hadn’t thought about the things in my house as contributing to a view of people as objects. It makes sense though, when I consider the stories in the news about how people treat each other, how customers treat people serving them, and  how neighbors don’t act very neighborly.

Consumer culture creates competitive pressure to have more and newer stuff. We don’t consider sustainability, effects on the environment, and the impact on workers creating these items for purchase. Couturier says that stuff complicates and dominates our lives. He mourns the trafficking that results in our ability to purchase more things and treat people like commodities.

St. Francis guided his brothers to live sine proprio, without anything of their own. He was known to give away his cloak on a regular basis. Blessed Angela, as a Franciscan, also took this vow of poverty. While most of us don’t have these same vows, we can look to some of the recommendations Couterier makes using Franciscan ideals:

Return to your deeper and truer desires.

Divest yourself of all that obscures your lear view and ready access to God, yourself, your world and everything in it.

Treat the world and everything in it gently.

Blessed Angela: “Desire more and more to grow in the love of God; holy desires are like wings which transport the soul to heaven.”

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