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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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