This past week, one of my classes watched a movie about the life of Mother Teresa. At one point, right after Mother Teresa had left the Loreto convent, she was shown clearing out her room at a host family’s house. The owner told her they had a lot of spare furniture she was welcomed to use during her time with them. She responded by saying that she needed simplicity so that nothing would distract her from her work with the poor.
I don’t know if that scene happened exactly like that in real life, but her words struck me. Even if she didn’t say that, her life showed that she lived that reality. Perhaps even more impressive, though, was the idea that simplicity gives freedom. It wasn’t a new concept to me, but it was a new concept when I considered it in light of the saint of the slums. Mother Teresa needed poverty in order to be committed to caring for the poor. That may not seem profound to you, but hearing those words evoked a question within me: what makes me think I have more discipline than Mother Teresa?
Her God-given mission was to help the poor. Knowing her own humanity, she knew she had to give up creature comforts in order to remain focused on her mission. Her life of poverty provided the freedom to be generous and sacrificial with her life and time. Material items distract. Compelled by the love and thirst of God, Mother Teresa knew she could not afford to be distracted by lesser things. She created space in her life that could be filled by the presence of God. Fewer possessions crowding her heart yielded greater room to the concerns of the Lord.
So often I become distracted and supplant primary concerns with matters of far less importance. Yet somehow I fail to understand that simplicity will help solve many of my self-imposed problems. Or maybe the problem isn’t that I fail to understand that truth, but rather that I lack the discipline to implement boundaries that will permit me to live out that truth.
For the past few days, I’ve been living with friends who have no internet. While it complicates matter a bit when trying to enter grades or prep lessons that are stored on my Google Drive account, I find a beautiful peace found in being unable to check email, social media, or random websites. When I stretch out in my bed at night, I set my alarms and go to sleep. In the morning, I turn off my alarm and get ready for work. After school and supper, we chat in the companionable quiet of the living room before retiring to our rooms. There is a peace found in no access to a TV or the vast online world.
What is the solution? I’m not quite certain. In my new home, we will have internet, but I am wondering if there is a way to impose restrictions so as to grant greater freedom. What should those restrictions be? What would grant the most freedom? Once again, I’m not quite certain. But there is something breathtakingly quiet about evenings with no connections beyond the home. Mother Teresa knew that she couldn’t endure the endless distractions that material items would cause. While not called to her life of poverty, I am called to a life of simplicity. Oftentimes we must make personal sacrifices in order to give ourselves what we truly want and need.
If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
What is the mission God is calling me to fulfill? What is distracting me from that mission? How can I cut off that distraction and leave myself more open to the will of God?
St. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.