Holy Simplicity During Lent – Lent 2024


Whenever we pursue things outside of God’s plan, it always leads to pain and misery. Imitating Jesus requires us to learn what our attachments are, abstain from them, and give of ourselves.

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Reflective Study Guide Questions

“If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?”

Mt. 6:30

1. The need for holy simplicity is as old as salvation history. Just as Adam and Eve experienced, pursuing things outside of God’s will always yields pain and misery. When have you witnessed this truth in your own life or in the world around you?

2. We can look to the lives of saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Benedict for examples of holy poverty and simplicity. Which saints are you most drawn to imitate as you think about holy simplicity?

3. We are called to offer God not just all that we have but all that we do as well. What things in your life feel most laborious to you? How can you work on offering those things to God?

4.  Lent is a good time for us to learn what our attachments are, abstain from them, and then give of ourselves for the sake of imitating Christ. What attachments might God be calling you to detach from this Lent?

Text: Holy Simplicity During Lent

Hey, I am Katie Sciba.  I’m glad you’re continuing to pray during Lent  and receive the grace of the desert. 

The Start of Holy Simplicity

Today I’m going to talk to you about simplicity.  It’s a topic that lights a holy fire in my soul.  I absolutely love it. In addition to being a speaker,  I’m a minimalist consultant.  So I enter my clients’ homes and their lives,  and I guide them in a very Catholic approach in  what gets to stay in their lives and what must go.  Those things that do not coincide with  what the Lord is asking them, we proceed in a very prayerful  and deliberate pursuit of our respective vocations.  That is the foundation of my approach.

A long time ago, I read several books.  I read a lot of blogs,  I listened to podcasts about minimalism or simplicity,  and I was encouraged by them, but found something lacking  and that was holiness.  So for our purposes, I’ll call it holy simplicity,  and the whole point of holy simplicity  is making sure that we’re keeping what we need both  materially and temporarily in order to support  what God asks of us.  And that means within our vocations.  It also means within the gifts  and charisms that He’s given us.  So we keep what supports those things  and what distracts us from God’s call.  We eliminate, we part with, we detach from,  and it’s incredibly freeing our  vocations, gifts, and charisms,  that is the reference point  that I use when helping people simplify their lives. 

And what’s remarkable is that holy simplicity is as unique  as our own souls.  How simple your life looks is going  to look very different from mine, from your neighbors,  because the Lord has particular callings for us.  Some of them are in common, you know, marriage  or religious life, and that’s fine.  But there are unique aspects to each of us, which means  I will need something that you don’t,  and you will need something I don’t, spiritually speaking,  materially temporarily. 

As Old as Salvation History

Simplicity is, it’s not new, right?  It’s, it’s a little trendy. Minimalism is trendy.  There are documentaries about it.  They’re fun, they’re encouraging.  There are all sorts of approaches  to pairing down our possessions.  But the whole concept is as old  as salvation history.  And what we learned through looking at salvation history is  that the pursuit of things,  or a life outside of the Lord’s will for us  consistently yields frustration and misery and sorrow. 

So think of how the Lord called Jonah to go to Nineveh  and Jonah’s like, oh, Nineveh’s that way.  I’m going to go this way. And what was that life for him?  He was trying to outrun God’s call for his life.  God’s very direct call.  I want you to go to Nineveh and talk to these people.  And because he was anxious  and afraid of that particular  calling, he went the other way.  And that only ended up in him  being thrown over a boat, swallowed by a whale,  or a fish washed up on shore.  And then what happened? He still went to Nineveh. 

Think of Adam and Eve partaking of fruit  explicitly not meant for them.  God gave them everything they were living in  paradise, happy with each other, happy with their connection  with the Lord, their union with the Lord.  It’s called original harmony. Everything was good.  Everything was peaceful and fulfilling.  And then they deviated, oh, this,  you know, God gave us everything.  Well, sure we can. We’ll have this.  God gave us all this, but we’ll take this.  And what did that mean for them?  Exile, pain, and toil. 

And now we’ll think of Matthew,  the tax collector turned disciple  who deviated from his faithful Jewish upbringing  to participate in a career so socially contrary  to his own people.  So harmful not only to his sense of community,  but to his own soul.  And what’s beautiful about this is  that all those situations are redeemed.  The history of humanity’s relationship with God is  that pattern of joyful obedience  and union, then humanity running after things  and relationships that fail to satisfy our yearning for God,  and then his persistent beckoning for us to return.  And it is, it is this cycle of wash, rinse, repeat.  But what’s so hopeful about it is  the Lord’s persistence with us.  Come back to me.  Come back to me.

The Lord allows Us to Enter Deprivation

In Hosea  chapter two 14 , verse 14 . It says, “I will draw her into the desert  and speak tenderly to her,  or I will allure her into the wild  and speak tenderly to her.”  Now, the desert, the wild that is a place of  being without That is a place of solitude  and loneliness, even desperation.  But the Lord allows us to enter into some deprivations,  oftentimes, oftentimes self imposed, right?  If we’re chasing after things that are contrary to His will,  or most definitely not coinciding with His will,  but he allows these deprivations so He can show us,  I satisfy you.  Now during Lent, we’re called to a holy simplicity. 

We abstain, right? A lot of us, um,  it’s within Catholic culture to go without dessert.  We maybe have dessert on just Sundays,  or we go without alcohol.  We detach from these sensory delights, right?  We abstain, and then we feel that need.  We feel hunger when we fast.  And what do we do? We reach for He who satisfies,  we reach for Him, who satisfies. 

It’s when our lives are barren of distraction  that really we can hear the Lord’s call for us.  Not just his call, but we can receive His comfort  and we can receive His grace,  and we can feel encouraged by it.  We feel restored by his grace  when we resume the life that he has planned  and let go of anything that draws us away from it. 

Simplicity Is Not Poverty

Now, when we think of simplicity, you might think  of poverty.  A lot of us think of poverty or extreme  or radical going without, when we think of minimalism.  You know, it’s kind of in the word what minimalism.  So what, what do I minimally need? 

And I like to look at the lives of the saints to  underscore the fact that there is variety  in holy simplicity.  So when I think of simplicity, I jump to saints, Francis  and Claire, both of whom forsake the world  and society in the most radical of ways.  And they completely disregard wealth  and possessions their previous lifestyles, to live  entirely on the Lord’s providence, completely  dependent on God for everything, everything.  And granted, we live the same way  the Lord tells us in the New Testament, apart from me,  you can do nothing apart from me.  You can do nothing. 

So though saints like St. Francis and St.  Claire lived entirely  dependent on God’s providence in a more visceral way,  we too are entirely dependent on God’s providence  for everything, every breath, every movement of a finger,  every one of these things happens because the Lord wills it.  He wants it for us out of love for us.  So these two, Francis  and Claire just did a 180. No. Here is one way to live according to society.  I’m going to do something entirely different.  And that’s remarkable.  That detachment from the world is inspiring  and encouraging. 

Ora et Labora

I’m especially drawn to Benedictine spirituality.  And the foundational phrase  in Benedictine spirituality is ” Ora et Labora”,  prayer, and work.  And St. Benedict lived his life,  established his community based on this very simple  principle, prayer and work.  And the work is also a  prayer in our lives.  No matter what our vocations are, if we’re married,  if we’re religious, if we are, if we’re parents,  and we have children, there is so much work that we do.  And a lot of it is spiritual.  A lot of it is emotional or mental.  And, and that work when given to the Lord,  when offered to the Lord, becomes a prayer.  It is an offering of our own souls,  and our struggles united with the cross.  And it, it becomes redemptive.  The Lord redeemed everything He did.  And so His work redeemed humanity’s work.  So what is it that you labor to do?  What is it that is so hard for you to experience?  Then say to the Lord, quite honestly, how hard it is,  how much you don’t want to do it,  how much of a struggle it is.  Tell the Lord and open your heart to receive His grace.  Because conveying the difficulty to Jesus  will open your heart to his grace.  It’s “Ora et Labora”  It’s a very simple, beautiful foundation  of living spiritually. 

The Story of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary

Another saint who is a wonderful example of  living simply is Saint Elizabeth of Hungary.  So a lot of people know her.  For her love of the poor, I first knew her by her love  of her husband, extremely devoted wife,  who when her husband was home, she would dress in her  most beautiful clothing.  She was brightly adorned.  And everything about her wardrobe was just joyful, right?  And this is how she dressed for her husband. 

But when he was away on business, he’s the king.  Or if he was away in a battle  and she dressed as a widow plainly in black, very simply  like mourning, she was so happily married  and she and King Lewis had several children.  And because she was the queen, and she was so devout  and so dedicated to her Catholic faith  and so dedicated to the Lord, she shared the wealth  of her majesty with the poor.  Anything that was within her home, she freely  and gladly gave to others.  And honestly, that’s the point.  Holy simplicity does not call for living in  a barren, monastic life.  It means that we receive the Lord’s gifts  with an open hand,  and then we maintain that open hand so we can give it  to others so we can share with others.  Focusing not on the gift itself, but on the giver. 

Reflecting on St. Monica’s Simplicity

A last one, I like to think of when I think  of holy simplicity is St.  Monica. And she  was focused.  Our vocations are  our points of reference.  If we return to our points of reference,  then it answers a lot of questions as to what should I do?  How do I love, how should I serve?  So she was married, she’s the mother of St. Augustine.  And in her marriage, many of us know  she was brokenhearted.  She was abused, her husband was unfaithful,  her son was a terrible sinner.  And hell, many prayers did she utter pleading  for the mercy of God,  for the two most precious men in her life, for their souls  that they would be restored to love. 

She remained faithful in her vocation as a wife.  And she was incredibly faithful in her calling as a mother.  And she was made holy by obeying God’s will for her life.  And so that’s where the simplicity is.  If she had allowed distraction, severe distraction  to enter her life, then it may have called her to  deviating from God’s will.  She could have easily said, well, you know,  you’re not faithful to me.  You’re not even Christian.  So I’m going to find somebody else who is,  or this son of mine, this, I raised you better.  No, talk to me when you have your act cleaned up.  But she didn’t do that. She faithfully served her husband  and her son remained obedient  to these vocations.  And God blessed her abundantly  and blessed her husband and her son.  Her son becomes a saint.  Her husband converts before his death. How miraculous. 

We live simply to further our own imitation  of Christ In this way,  if we’re eliminating the distractions, material, temporal,  spiritual, for eliminating these distractions from  how we are living in pursuit of God’s will  and an imitation of Christ, then we become more  like Jesus and we’re made in the image and likeness of God.  And, our call to imitate does not stop.  Lent is the ultimate time for simplicity.  We’re ca we’re called to pray.  We’re called to abstain and to give.  And that is the best process for simplicity.  First praying and drawing close to the Lord  and saying, who am I?  Who did you make me to be?  What are the gifts you’ve given me?  What are the charisms I have? What is my vocation?  Clearly identifying that through prayer  and drawing close to Christ, we learn  what our attachments are, the things that are  not in line with the Lord’s will. 

And then in learning what our attachments  are, then we abstain from them.  We let go trusting in divine providence  for our heart’s desires, which is, it’s hard.  It is so hard because sometimes the Lord will lure us  to the desert, call us to the wilderness,  and we’re there for a long time.  We are without the comforts  of our own souls for a long time.  It’s hard to trust in those cases when we are so  attached to what makes us comfortable  or what makes us happy.

Calling Our Lady for Trust

I learned a long time ago that you, we can ask  Our Lady for her trust.  When we’re struggling ourselves, we can say, I,  “I am having difficulty trusting in God’s will  for life, for my life.  Mary, give me your trust.” And she will,  Because She wants us to be in union with her son.  So through prayer and drawing close to Jesus, we learn  what our attachments are.  Then we abstain from those attachments.  And then we give, we give of ourselves for the sake  of imitating Christ and drawing so much closer to him,  we become stronger conduits of his love  and his ready mercy going without comforts  to our bodies and souls.  It’s, it’s hard. It’s challenging,  but it opens us up to receiving God with more clarity  because the Lord will speak tenderly to our hearts.  When we consider our vocations, that puts the aspects  of our lives in their proper perspective.  Things are meant to be used  and people are meant to be loved. 

Sharing Our Material Possessions

And I’ll close with one anecdote.  This is maybe a little basic,  but at the beginning of really simplifying my life,  my family’s life, and our possessions.  We had this really small kitchen,  this tiny kitchen, a galley.  So our counter space was, I don’t know, four feet,  but we had this great big microwave, this huge thing  that sat on top of our counter.  It was a great microwave, but it took up so much space.  And finally I realized like, gosh,  this thing’s getting in the way.  Talked to my husband and he said, well, instead of just  getting rid of it immediately, let’s put it away.  Let’s put it away so it’s out of sight, out of mind,  and if we end up missing it, then we’ll bring it back out.  Or if we don’t, then in about a month  or so, we’ll get rid of it, we’ll donate it. 

And weeks and weeks went by and we didn’t miss it.  We found other ways to reheat food, to cook food.  And it was completely fine.  And on the day that I was going to throw it in the back  of my vehicle and drive to St.  Vincent de Paul and donate it, I saw,  a post on Facebook.  A friend of mine who lived just a block away said,  I’m in the market for a microwave.  What are your brand recommendations? And I was so pumped.  I messaged her and I was like,  don’t buy a new microwave here, take mine.  because I knew that mine was good, it was decent,  and it would more than satisfy what somebody else needed.  And it, and I tell you, it was such a joy  to give that to her, to simplify our  space and free it up a little.  And then to give  and say, oh my goodness, somebody can use this. 

And when we repeat that process over  and over of looking at a material possession as a tool,  like this is something I can use to enjoy life  and then give to somebody else to bless somebody else.  How many times have you been the recipient  of the Lord’s generosity through other people  because they donated something  or they gave something to you freely  without counting any kind of cost?  Receive that grace, receive that gift, and then pass it on.  Give that to someone else. 

I hope and pray by the intercessions of St. Francis, St.  Claire, St. Monica Saint Elizabeth of Hungary  and Saint Benedict and all the angels  and saints that your Lent is simple,  most certainly in your soul,  and perhaps in your home as well.  Thank you so much. God bless.

About Katie Sciba

Katie Sciba is an international speaker, retreat writer, and nine-time Catholic Press Award-winning columnist. She has a degree in theology from Benedictine College, and her work on Catholic minimalism, spiritual intimacy with Jesus, as well as the domestic church has impacted audiences across the map. Katie writes for The Catholic Telegraph in Cincinnati and co-hosts Two Coins Culture, a faith-based podcast on living simply. Her humor and honesty enable her to connect well with a crowd. Katie and her family live in Omaha, Nebraska.