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Book Club – Spiritual Combat – Walking the Line in a Material World

July 31, 2012 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

Walking the Line in a Material World


…we must remember that we can hardly offer ourselves to Heaven, if we are bound to earth by worldly attachments. Therefore, if we perceive ourselves to bound by the slightest earthly affection, let us have recourse to God, imploring Him to break asunder the bonds which chain us to earth that we may be His alone. This is of great importance. for if he who is a slave to creatures, pretends to give himself to God while bound to creatures, he gives what is not his, for he is the property of those creatures to whom he has given his will. To offer to God what has been given to creatures is to mock the Almighty. Thus it is that although we have offered ourselves as a holocaust to the Lord, yet we have not only failed to advance in the way of virtue, but have even contracted fresh imperfections, and increased the number of our sins. – Spiritual Combat, pg. 179-180 (TAN version, The corresponding quote from Sophia Press is found on page 158, from …consider well…defects and sins.)

My 13 year old was an official “employee” this summer, holding his first real job. He woke each morning at 4:20am and worked until 1 or 2pm every afternoon under some of the hottest conditions his detasseling crew had ever seen. He came home hot and filthy every day, eager to shower, but feeling like a “man.” This past Thursday was his last day of work, and in addition to his “minimum wage,” he even earned an extra $.50 per hour bonus for never missing a day. Quite a good living for a 13-year-old boy.

After putting the obligatory half of his first paycheck in the bank, he celebrated his new-found “wealth” today by purchasing two $14 pairs of socks. You read it right – apparently there are actually socks that cost $14 per pair – that’s $7 per sock, in case you have difficulty doing the math.

Immediately upon returning from the store, my son looked online to learn how to properly care for his precious stockings. Because of course, one can’t just throw $14 socks in with the general wash. One must have liquid fabric softener and cool water. And absolutely no dryer – they must be laid carefully out to dry in non-direct sunlight. Can you imagine?! Believe me, Mom will not be following all those instructions – he’ll be on his own in the high-end sock cleaning department.

Regardless, my intention in sharing this little experience is to ask – How do we teach our children not to have worldly attachments when there are $14 socks for them to purchase? Sometimes it feels like we as parents don’t have a chance. There is STUFF everywhere – luring our children through adolescence like the Pied Piper on overdrive!

In our grand plan of parenthood, we had hoped to avoid this problem. We home school our children partially to keep them from being so wrapped up in the material world. But believe me – materialism exists amongst home schooled teens too. My son “swears” he is the only one among his friends without a cell phone or i-Pod Touch. Yet not having them doesn’t keep him from being materialistic. If anything, it causes all those glimmering gadgets to be coveted even more!

I know….I was there once too. I wanted the nicest clothes and the best that money could buy whether I could afford it or not, because I was more concerned with status than with the state of my soul. Of course, I like to think I’ve moved beyond that phase in my life. That money and possessions have no hold over me. That I could give them up with a moment’s notice. That I realize it’s all just STUFF. I had been foolish enough to think that the example we were providing for our children was “anti”- materialistic. My kids are quick to remind us that our 12-year-old vehicles are the oldest in our subdivision. Although we do live in an upper middle-class neighborhood, we shop at the Good Will, keep a strict grocery budget and don’t buy STUFF except at Christmas. In fact, we often remind our children that we can’t take anything with us when we go, so what would be the use in ascribing importance to it all now?

However, discussing the danger of worldly attachments with my son yesterday made me start contemplating a few of my own. My incessant planning and my husband’s implementation of one home improvement project after another. My need to have a spotless first floor before I can feel at peace (I’m too realistic to think I could keep the entire house clean with six kids and two pets). Secret fears of repeating the job loss my husband suffered five years ago and the consequent financial difficulties that resulted.

I’m sure we’re not the only family to struggle in this area. It is very difficult to walk that line between living in this world, but not being of this world. I often find myself asking God how He can allow us to be up to our eyeballs in a materialistic world and not expect us to become materialistic? How can my husband and I teach our children to love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength when 99% of their time is spent hearing how this product or that will help them be better, faster, stronger, smarter, cooler, happier?

When my children were young, I surrounded them in beauty – the beauty of God, the stories of the saints, the simplicity of family life with no TV, few movies and little time spent eating out or buying things. But now, as they get older, their activities and relationships allow for more influence from “the world.” It gets more and more difficult to “fit Jesus in”when the world is so LOUD. It’s like asking them to focus on the song of a nightingale while they’re standing in the middle of a war zone.

It’s a difficult battle. But God has promised us that He is the only ammunition we need. I’m trusting that He will provide the grace necessary for them to hear that song. He will silence the noise just enough that they will hear it, and when they do, they’ll know that the clambering gong of worldly noise will never be able to satisfy them.. They will strain their ears and seek God’s grace to hear more and more of His lovely song. That’s what happened to me. By God’s grace, I heard the song. And I’ve yet to hear anything so lovely in the clanging and banging of the world. Yes, I get sidetracked, and I lose focus.  But that is why I must continue to pray for His grace for our family – grace that will allow each of us to detach ourselves from this world, in preference for the beautiful song of the next.


Discussion Questions: 1. Do you find it difficult to break from worldly attachments? What do you think is the key to freeing its grasp?


Schedule for This Week:

TAN:  pg. 205 – End of Book

Sophia Press: pg. 181 – End of Book


Next Book: Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence by Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure & Saint Claude de la Colombiere (NOTE: I'll be using the TAN version of this book and all quotes will refer to this version only; however, please remember that you are welcome to use whatever version you wish – I'm sure there are several other options available.)  Start Date: August 7

Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at

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  • Kathryn

    For me, when I worry about the things of life we do not have, I remind myself that God will provide, and then ask myself what am I honestly in need of—nothing. I have a roof over my head, enough to eat, enough to wear, a loving family and a good church home. The rest is just stuff.

    • fritz_bolivar

      As a ‘Empty Nest’ parent and wanting our two daughters to have a better life than our lives we did get caught up in the materialistic world. Yet now our oldest is married to a career Air Force Officer has four children ages 11 to 3. Their life style is caught up in this materialistic lifestyle. When we visit, my wife and I are now trying to live the simple life style and answer questions,”Why we don’t have fancy gadgets and newer clothes”. We pray the Rosary together with our grandchildren, even though they are
      no longer attending a Catholic Parish and all were baptized Catholics,
      but are involved in a non-denominational Church. And our youngest daughter is a R. N. and truly lives a simplistic lifestyle. As ‘Empty Nest’ Parents our spirituality has taken a turn that we’d never expected with me now Retired from an ‘at home accident’ and my wife’s health has deteriorated yet still working with the county Fire Department. Yet finding how unnecessary it is to be caught in the worldly lifestyle, and claiming God’s graces to glorify each day.

      • Becky Ward

        I can relate! It gives us LOTS of time to pray for our kids…….and trust in the fact that God loves them more than we do…..He will take care of them!

  • Alexandra Campbell

    I know exactly how you feel, I think. I raised 4 stepdaughters in a very sheltered Christian family environment: homeschooling (each one year apart!), no TV for seven years, more control over their socializing and none of the girls had a laptop or a phone! Then, 3 years after my second son was born, I went back to work. (I was horrible at homeschooling and a pretty rotten step mother with all my insecurities and controllingness.)
    After my husband left it became really hard to figure out how to keep a reasonable handle on materialism with my sons. Without a Mom and a Dad in church, it became harder and harder to get them to keep coming to Mass even…I did not want to be as controlling as I was with the girls, but I’ve gone too far the other way, pretty much letting them watch what they want, play the video games that they want, and they each have a laptop and a smart phone!! We don’t have TV but we watch a lot of Netflix. I guess I have made the non-decision to allow more worldliness and materialism creep in with them because I refuse to be hated, like I was with the girls. I pray that they will be drawn to God and I still constantly invite them to reconciliation and Mass (both made their first communion at least). They almost always say “no” but the 12 year old seems more willing. I am despairing that they will get to Confirmation as teenagers, but I guess there is hope that they will want God eventually? I hope prayer is the key.

    • Cecilia

      Alexandra, don’t give up hope for its never too late to make changes that will affect the lives of your children. Everyone is wounded in some way or another & hopefully we learn to respond to the graces God gives to us and we move on. I have worked for years w/children from birth thru High School aged in programs in our parish. (Early Childhood Sunday program, Edge for Junior High, Life Teen for high school) Parents are drawn in to help in these programs which eventually teach and support these same parents. We have been blessed with parishioners who are very concerned with our youth and have sacrificed, studied and prayed to offer good foundations to our families. You may be called to join or to start a program that is needed for your children. I believe that one’s faith community is very instrumental in keeping our youth on the right track and to help parents in families to grow in God’s love.

      • Vicki

        What a great testimony – to the help that is out there for parents! Thanks for sharing!

  • Cecilia

    Vicki, the struggle to keep the children and our family “in the world but not of the world” had been a constant battle during the years our children were growing. In our area, unless one purchased cable, we had no TV. Our children grew up listening to faith-based audio tapes and stories we read to them. We didn’t buy the latest toys, encouraged sport activities and participated with them in BSA camping and family activities. My husband eventually installed an antenna to pick up football games & a new world opened up for the kids! We tried to teach them that this was only a form of entertainment which now gave us an opportunity to “give it up” as a Lenten and Friday penance only to find them going to the neighbors watch TV with their friends! The TV was, of course, only one area of this struggle. We felt that our words were falling and being caught by the thorns of the world and not getting into the good soil.
    Our children are now in their 30’s with children of their own. They have grown into good adults and some of the teachings
    we planted did stick. We all still struggle and this battle with the world has not diminished but seems to have increased. I believe we must always keep the teachings of Our Lord as a firm foundation to stand upon along with tons of prayers of petitions and thanksgivings sent heavenward. In the end, the example we live will speak louder than any words we may say.

    • LizEst

      Amen! “Preach the Gospel and sometimes use words.” (attributed to St. Francis of Assisi)

      • Key word – “Attributed”

        • Becky Ward

          Oh yea? Don’t leave us in suspense here…total legend…or did someone else actually say this?

  • My law school is in the upper-class part of the Metro… Across the road, from a mall of fancy boutiques and a “foodcourt” which has more restaurants than fast food and home-cooked meals. Especially since I finally got a credit card, it’s so tempting to splurge on fancy food than eat simply. And really there aren’t many choices for eating simply…
    But I think my biggest worldly attachment is what other people might think about me. Sometimes, I don’t do a good deed because of what others might say.
    I guess the best way to fight it is to purposefully act against what we attached to. That’s what I try do, though I don’t always succeed.

    Sorry if this is long but I wanted to add this…
    Last last weekend, there was a special event at my University and Archbishop Tagle of Manila gave the homily. He talked about being a young priest and have an emergency which entailed taking a 6-hour bus ride across the country. Given the choice between an air-conditioned bus and an unairconditioned bus he chose the airconditioned bus. But when he told his spiritual director about it, his director asked him, “What would Jesus do?” A year later, a similar emergency occurred. With his director’s words ringing in his head, he chose the unairconditioned bus. At first he felt irritable about his choice. But then an old lady beside asked if he wanted to join her in praying the rosary. And so they prayed the rosary together. Something which would never happen on an air-conditioned bus where people keep to themselves! 🙂

  • LizEst

    Hi Vicki,

    1. This is a hard question to answer without coming off sounding self-righteous. That is not my intent here. I know I am far, far, far from perfect. That said, I do make use of things that are available in this world. I certainly benefit from and enjoy when my life is made easier by such. By the grace of God, if deprived of them, life goes on and what is most important is eternal happiness with God, doing His will and drawing others to Him. So, in general, it’s not so difficult for me to break free of things, although no doubt I am attached to people and things in ways I am not aware of. It’s always enlightening to discover more of that stuff and make it a project to detach from it. For me, emotional attachment is probably the hardest attachment to break, with paperwork being a close second. Detachment is ultimately the freedom to choose for Christ. It’s the freedom and happiness He wants for all of us because only God can satisfy the longing of the human heart.

    2. I don’t know what the key is to break this grasp. My parents’ attitude (they were children of the Great Depression) toward material things in general, what they said and what they did, was the foremost and best instruction. Age and experience are also great teachers. So, also, is seeing others under the grasp of materialism (dangerous if we think ourselves superior to others, like the Pharisee and the Sinner in the temple praying to God). One thing that has helped me is remembering my roots (I lived in a quonset hut as an infant). Another factor has been clearing out my parents’ home, filled with many memories and all the things they did save over the years. Internalizing certain phrases is useful, as well: “You can’t take it with you;” “The clothes of the poor are in your closet” (applies to other things besides clothes); and “It is better to give than to receive” are some of my favorites. Woven through all this has been Gospel values. One exercise I like is that, if I purchase something extra or better, one or two of the same thing or similar has to leave the house. It has to be given away and only thrown away in the garbage as a last resort.

    By far, this is one of the biggest issues we have in our spiritual journey. Although it is at the forefront of our lives in the modern world, it has always been present throughout history. Even when we are poor and have nothing, we can be attached to people and/or situations rather than God, we can be greedy for things we don’t have rather than desirous of the riches of God.

    It is hard, almost impossible, to shut out the world unless one is living a cloistered life. We are, as you wrote, Vicki, in the world, although we are not of it. The Lord wants us to be His leaven for the salvation of the world. With children, I believe one has to continue to reinforce values. When push comes to shove, this training will get them through a lot of the muck and the mire of materialism, although it’s not a guarantee. It’s also important to mirror those values. If we say one thing but do another, our children, our spouses and those closest to us, are the first to see the hypocritical nature of what we preach. Generosity of spirit, time, and attention fill gaps that acquisition and attachment to things and people cannot. It takes adults a long time to learn these things. Children have a certain learning curve, too.

    God bless you Vicki. This was a wonderful write-up.

    • LizEst,
      you are certainly not self-righteous. Your response is superb and captures the Truth and the Reality of those who live in the world and are called to live as if they are not in the world very, very well. And you are so right : “Generosity of spirit, time, and attention fill gaps that acquisition and attachment to things and people cannot”.

      And we have certainly learned this wisdom with age. Here is the sphere where we are called to direct our Spiritual Warfare against our disordered and sinful predispositions which lead us to fall into sin again and again; self-love, selfishness, self-centredness, self-rightousness, judgemental and self-judgement, self-doubt, self-justification, inability to bear incoming health conditions with serenity and offering our sufferings to God; being defensive and resentful when contradicted and rationalization of our failings and inadequacies instead of accepting our sinful human nature and the reality that we are wretched sinners, wounded and broken vessels who need inner healing and must pray for God’s Grace to conquer our puny ego which is the “parent” of all these sinful tendencies.

      • LizEst

        Thank you for your most kind words, Mary.

        For Vicki–My comment about generosity was not aimed at you or your child-raising skills. You certainly have provided your children with plenty of time and attention. It was just a general comment about things in this world.

        One of the hard truths of rearing a child is that, no matter how careful a parent is, kids are going to make their own mistakes. And, it’s very difficult for a parent to watch that unfold even though we rejoice when they learn lessons. We especially don’t want them to repeat our mistakes…because now we know better. I like the idea, elsewhere in this column, to tithe the money earned or to set aside some for the poor. That instills the idea of responsibility for taking care of the poor. This really brings that concept home to a working child in that, because it is their money now, they themselves now have to account to God for it. One caution, though, if the parents themselves aren’t doing what they ask their child to do, it will look very much like hypocrisy and will almost assuredly backfire. Your child does not have to know all the details of your financial situation, but they do have to have a sense of how you are being responsible to God for His blessings.

  • Carla

    The key is just what you wrote in your last paragraph…God’s grace and your (our) constant prayers…
    God Bless You and your family,

  • littlelamb4him

    In 1995 I was part of a prayer team that went into Kabul, Afghanistan. It changed my “materialistic” life forever. I had to deal with anger at our wasteful and complaining society when I came back to the U.S.
    1999 we sold our home and gave away or sold most of our things. Franciscan simplicity was the call. We lived in a 5th wheel for 2 years in a poor and forgotten area of the city. The call was to be a prayerful presence and love people. We purchased a used mobile home in the same area and lived there another 8 years.
    Currently, we have a small home (873 sq ft) in the general vicinity.
    After all this – I still find materialism and greed trying to creep back in. Just owning a home and land – truly gifts, but so easy for their improvement and beautification to become the focus, rather than the people we are meant to reach with Christ’s Love.
    So I cry, “Lord, deliver me from myself!”

    • LizEst

      Yes, littlelamb, when one actually is exposed to crushing poverty, it does change one’s perspective. You are blessed to have had that experience.

      By we, do you mean that you did this as a married couple? You are truly blessed. It often happens that one hears the call, but the other doesn’t. How wonderful to hear it together!

      Thank you for your witness.

      ps. Would you please explain what a “5th wheel” is? Thanks. I suspect it may have something to do with that Franciscan simplicity you spoke about but I really have no clue other than that.

      • J

        I understood from the testimony that someone just sold the property and give away money and started to live in mobile home and deliberately put their family and possibly children into poverty. I think it is some misundertanding of Catholic morals. We are obliged to share the spare wealth with those in need but not on the expense of our own children, spouses etc. We are to live according to our means, because it is God’s providence for those who use their ability and health to earn honest living and not to be burden to anyone. But, as lay people we do not make vows of poverty as religious do. I do not see a clear point in this action, sorry.

        • LizEst

          You are 100% correct. However, I never believed littlelamb had minor children of his/her own. My thought was that their children were adults now on their own and/or with families of their own. Perhaps littlelamb never had any children to begin with. I took it that littlelamb and spouse were and are free of these responsibilities. That would make the choice to live in poverty a free choice and very commendable and not against Catholic morals. I seriously doubt littlelamb would have impoverished his/her own family. We’ll have to see what littlelamb says.

          Littlelamb, would you please clarify this for us? Thanks.

        • LizEst

          Hey J, littlelamb has clarified our questions elsewhere in this column. No children were involved! Read it to learn more…and may God bless you.

  • Robert Kraus

    This is a hard one, breaking attachments. In my experience I usually only experience success, however fleeting, when I try ‘cold turkey’ or gradualism (implementing little changes and adding on each week).
    If I can develop a momentum of keeping away from attachments that suck up my money and time (eating out, computer games, etc)., I can usually sustain it for a month or two. But then I inevitably get back into the wordly habits. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m not supporting myself with enough prayer and spiritual time with God, or because my pride lets me think I can handle a little more of what I’ve been trying to avoid.

    • LizEst


      When we think we can handle a little bit more of what we’ve been trying to avoid–that’s the trap! In addition to cold turkey or gradualism, try moderation and perhaps switching to a different type of that activity (substitution).

      So, for example, computer games are a legitimate form of entertainment, if not abused or not immoral types of game. Try a different type of computer game instead, one that does not “entrance” or “hook” you.

      Same thing with eating out and other such things! Mix it up without going back to what has a hold of you. After a while, you will find that it has less and less of a grip, unless, of course, you fall into the trap of thinking you have mastered it.

      You must be absolutely resolved to fight the attachment. If you can’t stop, or if you keep going back to it, bring it to the sacrament of reconciliation. Sometimes, that’s the only way to break free. The grace of the sacrament works wonders, even if you have to keep confessing it over and over! Sins and inordinate attachments have deep, deep roots. Eventually, with your firm resolve and your cooperation, the Lord will clear the difficulty away.

      “Be patient in suffering, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12). You are right. Through it all you must be both attentive to your prayer life and sincere in that prayer. You are not alone. Attachments are just that–clingy and hard to get rid of. No surprise there.

      God bless you Robert. Resolve to persevere and persevere in your resolve!

    • Robert, do not despair. Remember Saint Paul. To try and paraphrase him, he says something like this: “I know the good I need to do but then I find myself doing the bad I do not want to do….who will free me from this miserable body? …”. God will win this one for you, Robert. Be blessed.

  • I don’t know what I love more; the Post or your beautiful responses. Your experiences and advice is so encouraging. My detachment with materialistic world was first shaped by my parents. My father, being a Church Elder, a Teacher, a Catechist, and Community Leader and Adviser taught us to accept what God had given us and be satisfied. I received my Catholic Faith formation first from him. The Angel husband whom God gave me was of the same outlook about life. He believed and knew God would provide what his family needed. We both worked hard to educate our four children in Catholic School for our only son and the Loreto Convent for the girls who mentored them on the right priorities one needs in life. By God’s Grace, we were able to educate them up to University level through our modest incomes. As years went by, God blessed us with a humble home of our own – a 3-bedroomed Miasonette – a small piece of land in our Rural Home, where I have buried my husband and my son. Since He knew one day He would take my beloved husband to Himself and I would be left alone, He blessed us with another house, which now gives me a modest livelihood.

    Our girls are now grown up and independent. Our eldest daughter decided not to get married and has the same principles and priorities about life and the material world as her father and I. She takes her Spiritual Life very seriously and lives a very simple life, even though she has a Masters Degree in Law. Our second daughter who is married with 3 children aged 20, 18 and 16, has inculcated to them what needs to be their priorities in life. Even though they are what you could call a middle-class Family, they aspire to what is essential for them and their children. Their children are still learning how to emulate what their parents teach them amid all the temptations from their peers and the bombardment of the material world. They still have a long way to go but my prayers are that the good example and the lifestyle of their parents will eventually win and they will turn out O.K. But for now it is not easy, especially for my two grand-daughters. The pressure from the world around them is strong…..they must have the latest mobile phone like their friends, a laptop (for I know not what!!) and all the modern attires and accessories.

    My last daughter lost her husband two years ago and has a 15 year-old son who is also facing the same challenges his cousins are facing, though at a lesser degree since he lost his father. His mother has a good job and, again, following the example of their father, she is satisfied that she is earning enough to be able to put her son through Secondary School and, by God’s Grace, through College four years down the line.

    Because of the environment I grew up in and the attitude of my beloved husband, we were really never attracted to the glitter of material possessions. All our married life, we never bothered to be what is called “keeping up with the Johnies”. At my age now, I need just the bare minimum to live on. I used to be very up to date with the political life of our country since I got married in 1956. Those were the very difficult times when our country was under the State of Emergency. We all looked forward to when our country would be independent. Consequently, I was the one in the Family who was always very up to date and in touch with the political pulse of our country due to the Corporate world I was working in. My husband, being in the Civil Service, had no interest whatsoever with the political goings on but permitted me to follow my passion without hindrance.

    I then one day saw just how I was filling my mind with unnecessary rubbish since the Destiny of our Country was in God’s hands anyway. I stopped watching Television, reading the Newspapers and turned my whole life into “building the Kingdom of God” as an Eucharistic Apostle of the Divine Mercy; serving my Holy Family Minor Basilica Parish and my Rural Home Parish as a Member of the Parish Development Committee at my Parish and a Member of the Parish Development Committee/Parish Pastoral Council in my Rural Parish. Since my late husband was the only friend, buddy and everything that mattered in my life and the only one who owned my emotional heart, after he “went Home” I have no other emotional attachments in my life, apart from loving my children and grand-children; my nephews and nieces as God desires I should. Where I fail miserably, and I pray every day for God’s Grace, is in acquiring the Virtue of loving God through others as He loves them. It is a great struggle, but I know, with Prayers, God will grant me that Grace. Please pray for me so that God can have Mercy on this old miserable sinner.

    • IhearttheRCC

      Mary@42 While reading this I am reminded about my own life in politics. My husband ran for office and won. We are very involved in the political life, but always our Catholic faith comes first with us. I, too, have felt a tug from God to let go, knowing that He has everything in His Holy Hands. This gives me much to think about, though, I feel that I am doing my part for the future of my children and our country. I guess a sort of patriotism and love for God and country. You have given me a confirmation and I am discerning it.

  • littlelamb4him

    Some clarification is in order. Sorry it took me so long to get back to you.
    No children were involved. All were grown. My husband and I came to the decision at the same time, but for totally different reasons. However, as I have always found, if the Lord is leading me to do things for spiritual reasons, it is His responsibility to bring my husband on board, even if for different reasons. If that had not been the case, then I would have never pursued such a drastic life-style change. It was the Lord’s directive to my heart to be a prayerful presence and love people, but my husband also felt the call to love and value those the Lord brought into our lives due to this move.
    I believe that the Lord gives great value to the poor and to live among them is a gift. But it was also very difficult at times. I certainly learned more about the Lord’s love and also the value of each individual soul – no matter where whey are in life, and I am still learning!
    A 5th wheel is a recreational vehicle (34 ft x 8 ft, in our case) with one slide-out extension. On one end it fits into a receptacle in the back of a pickup truck. We never pulled it around as we didn’t have a truck, but it was purchased used and set in place for us. It was very nice inside, although small. We even had a closet with a stack washer & dryer.
    We felt more freedom while living in that for the two years and even had a sense of sadness when we left it. There was no need to buy things as there was no place to put them.
    The used trailer we moved into was 14 ft x 70 ft. We lived in the same trailer park for another 8 years. When we moved in there it was like moving into a mansion. It had a lot to say to me about what we get used to and then act as if its our “right” to have.
    Hope that clears some things up.

    • LizEst

      Thank you, so much, littlelamb for clarifying all this for us. It’s just as I suspected. You were free to make these choices. Good for you.

      The only thing I didn’t guess right was what a 5th wheel was. Thank you for that. You learn something new every day! Isn’t this site an education in more ways than one?!!

      God bless you…and thanks again.

    • I hope I can live as simply as you do when I finish with my studies. I really admire you that you chose to live amongst the poor. I know of a few people who did that despite coming from wealthy families. But it can be difficult to reconcile wanting to live such a life when you come from that background.

      • hammar

        Mary the Defender….what is more important than living among the poor but to be simply alive in living within Christ. the narrow way is very hard.

      • LizEst

        Not all are called to it. Yet, by God’s grace, many saints have lived this way despite their family’s wealth. But, it must be prayed over and discerned, hopefully with a spiritual director providing insight and guidance. It’s certainly a lofty calling. Blessed are those who hear this word, this call, of God and keep it!

  • cindy

    When my daughter was 17 years old, we began taking her to college campuses to “finalize” her choices as to where she would like to apply for college. At each campus, her main concern was, How close is this campus to shopping? How far away is the nearest shoe store? Would I be able to walk to it from my dorm room? etc. I was so stricken in my spirit that, after 17 years of trying to teach her that material things do not matter and all that matters is our relationship to God, and after sending her to Catholic schools and praying every day to gether as a family, she still was so materialistic and so far away from God and His values. I felt like a failure of a mother. So, I cried all of this out to God. And, do you know what I heard in the depth of my soul? His voice, saying to me, “She is searching for my eternal city.” I was so shocked at hearing His voice, and then so comforted by His reply, that I was filled with joy and hope. He was telling me, as far as I can figure it out, that all of this was normal for her, it is her walk of holiness towards Him, and that He uses all these things to attract our children to Him. I was at peace with her, and Him, after that revelation. Her search for the perfect campus is part of her search for her eternal home. It is the same drive and spirit in them both. She will not be satisfied till she finds the perfect home and city, heaven.

    • Vicki

      Thanks so much for sharing this – it gives me hope:-)

    • LizEst

      …and didn’t the Lord say, “Seek and ye shall find?”

      God bless you Cindy!

    • Cindy, that is beautiful and comforting to hear the Voice of God calming your anxiety, and, as He told you, quite unfounded even if they are genuine fears of a mother.

    • Cecilia

      Cindy, thank you for sharing that. I, too, felt as you did in the choices my children were making after all the “training up” we gave them. Also in prayer I received a similar understanding & words that each child must find their own path to the Father & that our teachings were not in vain. The Father allowed me to make my mistakes & those teachings which ultimately led me back to the path that was not dead ended. As parents we want to help our children avoid the pain we may have experienced but many times its not possible. Each of us must freely find God even though He is not hiding in the garden but walking beside us the entire time.

    • mary

      Cindy ~ THANK you for sharing what Our Good God said to your heart…O, how we need our brothers and sisters in the Lord! As a chronically ill and largely home-bound grandmother of 3 and mother of 4 grown children, the enemy all too often has a field day with me as to my “failure” in raising my children. Clearly, He is with us. And with St. Monica as intercessor I know we have all of heaven on our side, cheering us on to continue in our most blessed of vocations as mothers ~ for as it was said to her “…the child of those tears shall never perish,” so it is with ours!

      • LizEst

        Besides the enemy tormenting you with issues of raising the children, you have a heavy cross being chronically ill and largely home-bound. The old saying applies here: out of site, out of mind. Many (even in Church circles) do not realize how difficult it is to be home all the time, especially if you have few or no visitors. Many home-bound are among the most forgotten of people because no one sees them. And, those that do see them account them for nothing because they have nothing “new” to talk about and are not actively in the world. God bless you, Mary. It takes a special person to go through what you are going through. Keep your eyes firmly fixed on the Lord.



  • Carol V.

    What seems like a long time ago my husband inherited what, at the time, we considered a small fortune. That money nearly ended our marriage.

    I don’t know if I posted on this site before how we at one time (for about three years) had five boats. Yes, you read that right–five. At first it was fun, but then the reality of maintaining, storing, insuring all this STUFF hit home. Life was getting more insane by the day, it seemed. When my husband started talking about buying a small AIRPLANE, I nearly fainted. All I could manage to stammer out was, “Well, I hope I don’t have to schlepp grocery bags around it in the driveway,” and immediately went to bed for a nap.

    All that was going through my head when things got really crazy was Jesus’ words: “what doth it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?” Jesus could have easily added “and his mind” to those words! All those toys were doing really strange things to my husband, and by extension, to me. He had a wild-eyed look to him when he thought about acquiring something else, and would brook no objection, becoming incredibly angry and explosive when challenged. I began to live in fear. I couldn’t take it anymore. I was contemplating moving back in with my parents until the craziness settled down, but the recession (in which, believe it or not, I see the loving Hand of God,) intervened, and the stuff started to get sold off. The money got squandered through a series of bad financial decisions, and today, we’re no better off financially than before the inheritance.

    But the beauty of this is that we are much better off spiritually and emotionally. There is more balance in our lives. Stuff no longer rules us. We have learned to take a more responsible view of money, which we have discovered as a means to exchange love and service with the rest of the world. We discuss necessary purchases, and even though most of the toys are long gone, what few we have left are a means of recreation with friends and family instead of enslaving masters.

    I can only eat one chicken a day, drive one car at a time, etc, etc. This whole experience underscored to me the meaning of the word “sufficient.” I don’t do “lifestyles of the rich and famous” well, and am far more content with just having an adequate supply of God’s temporal blessings, and being able to share those things with others.

    Living through this lesson, and I have come to view every circumstance of life as either a gratuitous blessing or a lesson plus a blessing from the Lord, has helped me live lighter, and ultimately, more spiritually free than ever before.

    • Carol – yours is a powerful testimony. I have friends who actually won a lottery. Their testimony is the same – it almost ruined their marriage. The last time we talked they were both working fairly low paying jobs, had a small savings account and a small home. They are very happy. As for me, I grew up in a wealthy environment. I always had my basic needs met and more, the rest was a tragic mess.

      • LizEst

        Dan – God makes all things new and has used your circumstances, and the events of your life, to bring you to where you are now. I, for one, am grateful. This terrific ministry of yours extends literally to the ends of the earth and is very much in concert with the Gospel. God bless you, Dan!

    • LizEst

      Wow! Carol, that’s a very powerful witness. God truly knows what He is about…even when He seems to be, in our eyes, giving away the store! What a tremendous lesson and blessing this became for you.

      Oh, and btw, I’m glad you wrote “yes, you read that right.” My eyes got wide as saucers when I read about the boats. Ha!

      • Carol V.

        @ Liz–I recall when we had to sell the first of the boats, waiting till my husband left for work and then turning a cartwheel in the living room and saying, “Yes!” We now live an average middle class lifestyle, we both have decent jobs, a decent home, and a few assets, plus still a couple of toys (a sailboat and a couple of motorcycles.) The bills get paid on time. It isn’t a conspicuous and opulent lifestyle, but it isn’t near-poverty, either. We’re a lot more balanced in our view of what temporal blessings we do have.

        I came to use the word “stuff” as an acronym for Silly Things Usurping the place of Family and Friends. “Stuff” can’t replace the things that are of durable value–dependence on God, a humble but healthy self-respect, the love of family and friends, and the responsibility to be good stewards of what we do have. I also learned that toys, and money, when they crowd out the more important things and values, themselves enslave us. Once my husband accused me of hating having the five boats when things got crazy, and I told him that I’d rather have five friends with boats! When you spend your vacation working on the five boats rather than enjoying one of them, it’s really time to rethink the whole enterprise!

        Nowadays, life is considerably simpler, much less hectic, and a lot more satisfying. During the first part of our vacation, we took a group of children from our parish out on the sailboat every day, and taught them to sail. These kids weren’t going to summer camp, because their parents couldn’t afford it, giving them a Catholic school education was rightly more of a priority for them. But we gave them “sailing camp” (they were with us each day, but went home to their folks in the evening.) Cost to us: About two hundred bucks for lunches, more kid-sized life jackets, and a lot of sunscreen. Value to us as we watched them learn to handle a sailboat and enjoy the water (as the old Mastercard commercial used to say:) Priceless!

        • Love the acronym for STUFF – worth repeating – Silly Things Usurping the place of Family and Friends.

        • LizEst

          I second Dan’s comment on STUFF. I loved it as soon as I read it.

          What a beautiful sailboat ministry you have, Carol. I picture you and the kids, the apostles and Jesus all out on the water together…and Jesus is smiling! ; ) You’ve made a big impact on the kids’ lives.

          God bless you, Carol.

    • Some of the wealthy families I know are the most messed. My Dad’s family started with humble beginnings but as their business succeeded their family fell apart. You were lucky that you lost your wealth… Sometimes wish we did…

      • LizEst

        Mary – So true! But, it’s not wealth that is the issue here. Money is neither good nor bad. Instead, “the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:10).

        So, the capital sin here is greed. And, one doesn’t have to be rich to be greedy. Some of the poor are also very greedy. And, some of the rich are very generous and holy people. It’s just more difficult to follow Christ from a position of wealth.

        First of all, Christ himself had nothing except his tunic and sandals and had no place to lay his head. Secondly, it seems that the more wealth and comfort a person has, the more likely he/she is to become accustomed to it. And, the more one becomes accustomed to wealth and its trappings, and what it can do for you in this world, the more a person wants to be even more comfortable and more immune from the slings and arrows of the common life. They thirst for more toys, more power, etc, which is quite different from the thirst for souls that Jesus has. Sacrifice becomes anathema; and, they will do anything to avoid it and avoid taking a penetrating look at their souls. It can become a very vicious circle that is most difficult to break away from.

        To be sure, people who have more money than others have a moral obligation to help those of lesser means. And, there are people of great wealth who have become great saints. I’m thinking specifically of a number of kings and queens through the ages. In these cases, one often reads of them using their wealth to clothe, house and feed the poor, to build hospitals and do great works of mercy that only someone with the large amounts of cash can do, all the while undergoing hidden mortification and intense prayer. They used their wealth but were not tainted by it. Their treasure and their hearts were in heaven and in the things of the Lord.

        We see this in Scripture, too. A famous example from the Old Testament was Queen Esther who prayed to God, “You know that I am under constraint, that I abhor the sign of grandeur which rests on my head when I appear in public; abhor it like a polluted rag, and do not wear it in private” (Esther 4, C: 27). In the New Testament, it mentions several women by name “and many others who provided for [Jesus and the Twelve] out of their resources” (Luke 8:3). And, of course, we have Zaccheus the tax collector and Joseph of Arimethea, as well as those mentioned in St. Paul’s letters and the like.

        So, it all boils down to where your treasure is. If our treasure is in heaven, our hearts will also be there. And, we will make that faith visible by how we serve others with the goods we are entrusted with…just as Christ did with the gift of his life, death and resurrection, in which he purchased for us, at a price, eternal life and happiness in that Kingdom where God Himself is the greatest treasure, greater by far than any measure!

        • Thank you! You’re right it’s not necessarily money. And one’s resources can do a lot of good in helping others. But when I also see what it can do to people… Let’s just say I know of people who fit your description of those accustomed to wealth… and it’s not pretty…

          • LizEst

            So true, Mary. I know people like that as well–not very pretty at all. They definitely need our prayers.

        • You’re right that it’s not about money but where our treasure lies. And there are many good deeds I couldn’t have done without these blessings God has given me. Thank you for that humbling guidance.

  • bltpm

    Yes. The key for me is to give away something that I really want to keep. The more I want it the more I should give it away (literally). This works for anything (money, clothes, time, energy, even my own desire/will). God has yet to leave me naked, hungry and unsheltered. Everytime I give away something I want to keep, God blesses me much more than the “thing” I tried to keep to myself. …. sort of like the story of the loaves and fishes… I give a little that is very precious to me, God gives me back much more than I could have dreamed! He does this all the time.

    • LizEst

      Wonderful testimony, ad maiorem dei gloriam! By giving what you really want to keep, you give of your emotional/intellectual “first fruits” as it were! God bless you!

    • Becky Ward


  • Peg

    As a single, lay woman [at least for now] I have a slightly different take on this topic.

    I have never been married, and I’ve been self-supporting since I was a teenager.

    Up to this point in my life, I’ve been focused on being responsible, which in my definition means being self-supporting. My father [who raised me] ingrained this into my psyche at a very early age. He was opposed to asking anyone for charity, and demanded that we stand on our own at all times. As far as he was concerned, admitting a shortcoming and/or receiving support or charity from anyone outside of the family is a disgrace. The problem now is that most of my family has passed and or is not willing to help when the “chips are down,” so to speak AND I’m sometimes too proud to ask for help.

    This has caused me great distress over the years. I’ve always been a prayerful person; my prayer time has greatly increased over the past three years. Yet, my obsession with being completely self-reliant creates a disconnect between what I believe to be honorable and right (based on my upbringing) and what is actually part of a humble, Christian lifestyle.

    While I enjoy nice things, I am not materialistic and can do without quite easily even when I have the means to splurge on unnecessary items. However, I obsess over maintaining a “normal” standard of living. My definition of this is keeping the mortgage, utilities, and standard monthly bills paid on time and in full at all times.

    This brings me to my current struggle as I am between jobs, and don’t have any solid prospects for employment at this moment. My financial status is worrisome and makes it difficult to put my trust in the Lord, even though I know that’s what I must do. I’m ashamed to admit that I frequently fall to worry and despair because of these circumstances. My one ray of light in all this is that [so far] I’ve been able to look beyond my fear and realize that even though I am afraid and sometimes terrified, I know that God has a plan to make all this work towards a greater good. Still, I regress back to stress and anxiety with the fear that I’m not up to the challenge to see things through to the end.

    I desperately want to get through this period of trial gracefully, but I believe my distress has caused me to lose blessings and graces that could be mine that I could be mine if only I were strong enough to simply trust in the Lord. Why is this so hard? I know it’s what I need to do, but I keep losing the courage to do it. It’s so frustrating to face my failures! Intellectually I know that the Lord is aware of my situation and is with me at all times, yet I still fall prey to fear.

    What’s even sadder is that I can see how freeing it would be to lose everything. If I did, there wouldn’t be anything to fear. The question I keep asking myself, is why do I struggle so much with this? Especially, when I believe it would deflate the fear that I have and would probably make finding the path to my purpose in life much easier. I know pride is part of it, but more so I believe it’s the fear caused by my lack of trust that I won’t be able to bear my cross.

    I keep asking myself, am I too shallow, immature, and selfish, to take up my cross regardless of where it leads …OR… is my reaction just part of the human condition? For all my efforts (job search, networking, holding to a positive attitude, etc.) I can’t seem to accept my failures. My pride keeps me from being able to accept the shame of my current situation. I want to be meek in heart and trust totally in the Lord; I just can’t seem to figure out how. Right now, I am taking things moment by moment and I’m doing my best to trust that the God is guiding me and that I will SOON see the light at the end of the tunnel.
    In a nutshell, this is how I’m experiencing materialism.

    • LizEst

      Peg – I commend you for being responsible and mature. Your father was right in teaching you those very valuable life skills. That said, it is really difficult to lose a job, no matter what the cause. A little piece of us dies when that happens. We suffer because we’ve put ourselves into that job, giving it the best we can (and we can’t get that piece of ourselves back). If we had not done so, it wouldn’t hurt so much. So, what you are feeling is entirely normal.

      Being unemployed is scary and depressing. And, when employment isn’t right around the corner, one faces an unknown future of unknown duration. You’re on the right track in desiring to trust in God and have a better outlook on all this. So, the first thing I want to recommend to you is to seek a spiritual director, if you don’t already have one. You are absolutely right in discerning the spiritual dimension in all this. The fact that you seem to have good self-awareness will be very beneficial to your progress in spiritual direction.

      That said, if you haven’t had a real heart-to-heart chat with the Lord, you need to have one. Don’t be afraid that you are going to say the wrong things (saying these things out loud can be helpful). God already knows what is in your heart. Jesus is our friend. And, sometimes, friends need to have a talk to clear the air. Tell Him why you are fearful. Tell Him all the things you have written here…and those that you have not! Tell Him why you are having a hard time trusting Him. Ask Him to help you. He wants us to be honest with Him. You can use strong words with the Lord. Just be sure you do NOT curse God. Do not vent your anger on Him, i.e. don’t make Him the villain here. He knows what’s going on better than we do…and He has our eternal happiness ever in mind.

      Suggestion number three is, if you haven’t been to confession for a while, go! Let God remove any sins you may have. Let His grace work on your soul thereby making it more open to His plan for you. This sacrament can do wonders in making things right between you and the Lord.

      Fourth, the fact that you are praying is a good sign. If you are praying more but have difficulty praying or experience no consolation from prayer, this may be a sign that, in addition to the lack of employment, you may be experiencing some aridity and/or a bit of a dark night of the soul. Bring this information to the spiritual director.

      Fifth, while you are looking for a spiritual director, you may want to keep a journal. It can help in discerning God’s movement in your life. Take that with you when you see the director as a bit of a guide for you to maybe read from, or to make general observations from, when you talk to the director.

      Sixth, no matter what, keep your eyes focused on Christ and stay the course.

      St. Francis de Sales’ Prayer:

      “Be at Peace. Do not look forward in fear to the changes of life; rather look to them with full hope as they arise. God, whose very own you are, will deliver you from out of them. He has kept you hitherto, and He will lead you safely through all things; and when you cannot stand it, God will bury you in his arms.

      Do not fear what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and everyday. He will either shield you from suffering, or will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imagination.”


  • This is tough. And, I think, it is a constant trial. It is not something that you conquer and not have to defeat again. It comes in so many forms that we must be vigilant to its various deceptions. But for the grace of God go I. And, we must always remember that deprivation, though highly laudable in many cases, may not be at all laudable for others. Our prayers must always be to do the will of God, so that no matter how good the work I do for others is, if I am doing it for any reason other than the delight of the Lord, then it has no worth in the eyes of the Lord.
    On a personal level, I know I have recently been tempted to envy and covet. This is something I have been particularly ware of in the last couple months, and I have prayed for forgiveness and reconciliation many times. I perceive that this is not a quick fix temptation for me at this time in my life, because it keeps recurring. As I have read through these comments, I have recalled a practice I used to do daily, but have let go for a few years now. Now, I believe is a good time to return to the practice of keeping a gratitude journal. At the end of the day I must write down five things that I am grateful for from the day. By focusing on the things that I have to be grateful for (which are many, I am truly blessed), I am able to satisfy that longing for things which drives the temptation to envy and covet.
    Finally, I am reminded of St. Paul. “And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecution, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10

    • LizEst

      Happy Lord’s Day, Jeanie! God has given you the gift of self-awareness. A wonderful blessing to you and an assist to progress in the spiritual life. God bless you!

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