Simplicity Is about Freedom

Sister José Hobday (1929–2009) was a modern Franciscan whose life exemplified her faith commitment to activism and contemplation. Editor Mary Ford-Grabowsky described Hobday as:

A Seneca elder, a prominent Roman Catholic leader, and a Franciscan sister who adheres fully to St. Francis’s radical ideal of holy poverty. . . . She is also a mystic and contemplative; she is an earth warrior and elder guide on the wisdom path; and above all, she is an impassioned servant of the poor, especially poor Native Americans.

Sister José lives in the maximum simplicity of voluntary poverty in a tiny house in Gallup, New Mexico, surrounded on all sides by Indian reservations and pueblos. As people once flocked to Julian of Norwich’s cell or to Dorothy Day’s Hospitality House, so people today come to Sister José’s warm hearth for spiritual guidance and material help, and no one leaves without assistance. [1]

Hobday took her Franciscan vow of poverty seriously; she did not view it as a burden to be endured but as a pathway to simplicity and freedom:

Simple living is not about elegant frugality. It is not really about deprivation of whatever is useful and helpful for our life. It is not about harsh rules and stringent regulations. To live simply, one has to consider all of these and they may be included to some degree, but simple living is about freedom. It’s about a freedom to choose space rather than clutter, to choose open and generous living rather than a secure and sheltered way.

Freedom is about choices: Freedom to choose less rather than more. It’s about choosing time for people and ideas and self-growth rather than for maintenance and guarding and possessing and cleaning. Simple living is about moving through life rather lightly, delighting in the plain and the subtle. It is about poetry and dance, song and art, music and grace. It is about optimism and humor, gratitude and appreciation. It is about embracing life with wide-open arms. It’s about living and giving with no strings attached. . . .

Simple living is as close as the land on which we stand. It is as far-reaching as the universe that makes us gasp. Simple living is a relaxed grasp on money, things, and even friends. Simplicity cherishes ideas and relationships. They are treasured more because simplicity doesn’t cling nor try to possess things or people or relationships. Simplicity frees us within, but it frees others, too. . . . Simple living is a statement of presence. The real me. This simplicity makes us welcome among the wealthy and the poor alike. . . .

We will not be happy living selfishly in a small world. We must live in awareness and in association with the whole real world. Our universe. Our cosmos. Our environment. Our earth. Our air. Our water supply. Our country. Our neighbor. Our car. Our homes. All are part of simple living. [2]

[1] Mary Ford-Grabowsky, ed., Sacred Voices: Essential Women’s Wisdom through the Ages (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2002), 209–210.

[2] José Hobday, Simple Living: The Path to Joy and Freedom (New York: Continuum, 2006), 1–2, 10.

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