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A simpler lifestyle beckons
Spiritual focus ought to lead Christians to abandon excessive consumerism
CHRIS MILLER | WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Credit card debt escalates. Closets clutter with junk. The items purchased today end up in the landfill tomorrow. These are the serious implications of keeping up with the Joneses.
Maria Kruszewski is a stay-at-home mom concerned about the state of our planet and the future her children will have as a result of excessive consumerism. She hosts workshops on the value of escaping the rat race and living a simpler life.
"At my workshops I give my views of voluntary simplicity, living more simple lives and avoiding consumer excess," said Kruszewski, a conscientious consumer who explored this issue of buying less stuff in her musical You Tube video, "Do I need it?" www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuJn7pRvuj8.
Her underlying message is that today's society focuses on unnecessary overabundance. She wants to raise awareness that Canadians, while blessed, face an all-time high consumer debt, and she is alarmed that families continue sinking deeper in the hole because of impulse purchases and buying frivolities.
"We have been brainwashed by television and different kinds of media that we need the coolest plasma TV, cellphone, MP3 and iPod. These things don't fulfill us or make us happy. We need to accept that the less we own, the less we are owned by stuff," she said.
HAPPINESS OR WEALTH?
Those attending Kruszewski's workshops learn that in order to turn the spiritual corner, they need to integrate whom they are with what they buy, and that life is about the pursuit of happiness, not about the pursuit of material wealth.
"I make an effort to get people to think about the happiest moments of their lives and learn that it's nothing to do with the new car or whatever else they thought might make them happy," she said. For people who already have a functioning TV set, she questioned why they buy a brand new one. In fact, watching TV fell out of habit for her family altogether more than five years ago, which frees time for more worthwhile activities such as spending time with her husband and children.
"If we just sit and make quiet space for God, that's all we need," said Kruszewski.
Many people are stunned by the collapse of the world economy and their own personal finances.
But Mark Burch, an educator at the University of Winnipeg and author of four books on the subject of voluntary simplicity, said that the economic crisis should come as no surprise. He encourages a lifestyle shift from consumerism, which offers very limited rewards, to that of embracing activities more nutritious for the soul.
"Living in a consumer culture, one that pushes high levels of consumption, and if you don't have the money, it will extend you credit so you can keep on over consuming, is what we have all around us.
'Evangelization is an active task for Catholics'
Published : March 19 2009 | By Nirmala Carvalho
MUMBAI: "For Christians, engagement in interreligious encounters is a way of ?being? in pluralistic society." Felix Machado, the Archbishop of Nasik, invites Indian Catholics never to forget that "faith must be lived in its integrity" in a world that has become a "map of religions."
The former undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, speaking to more than 650 bishops and priests of the Conference of Catholic Bishps of India, on the occasion of the national meeting on "The Church?s Social Doctrine on the Civilization of Peace," recalled that for Christians, "interreligious encounters are intrinsically linked to their faith." Without faith, "encounters cannot be genuine," and a believer will not be "credible" if he is not capable of providing reasons for that in which he believes. "It is not a matter of losing one?s own identity, but of taking the form and likeness of the other," Machado emphasized. "It is a humble love that fosters dialogue."
For Machado, interreligious dialogue is not motivated by simple sociological reasons, but above all has theological roots, "because we come from God and we return to God." In the plurality of faiths and beliefs spread all over India, the archbishop of Nasik sees a great opportunity for Christians to be enriched.
"In our encounter with Hindus," Machado says, "we may be struck by such spiritual values as that of their sense of the sacred and of the divine. In meeting Buddhists, we may discover their efforts for the search for final liberation in an apophatic Absolute, called sunyata (void), and the development of inner life through the many forms of meditation. The basis for a dialogue with Confucianism may stem from the importance attributed to interpersonal relations and social cohesion. In the dialogue with Islam, Christians may be attracted by the faith in one only God, the creator and judge of all."
Christians must "nourish" interreligious dialogue "with solid spiritual food." "God can never become a negotiable item or a marginal thought in our interreligious encounters," the bishop says. "He is at the centre or like a foundation of all interreligious encounters." Archbishop Machado reiterated that evangelization is always an active task for Catholics, and this is not a matter of "adding some decoration or applying a coat of colour, but in depth, going to the very centre and roots of life."
"The Gospel must impregnate the culture and the whole way of life of man," asserts the bishop of Nasik. "This work must always take the human person as its starting point, coming back to the interrelationships between persons and their relation with God."
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