Over the course of this year our diocesan Department for Catechtical Services has been journeying with a parish and offering monthly workshops on different aspects of discipleship and holiness. It’s a pilot project that, I’m hoping, will eventually yield fruit across our diocese.
Last month Deacon Patrick O’Toole, our associate director for marriage and family life, offered a presentation on living a simple and sacrificial lifestyle. His talk centered on three of God’s commandments: to be fruitful and multiply, to keep holy the Sabbath, and to make a suitable offering of the first fruits of our labors.
On the last of these commandments Deacon O’Toole spoke of tithing and the difference it had made in his and his family’s life by freeing them to give more generously and to shake off the shackles of materialism and consumerism. He and his family have even attempted to pare down their individual belongings to about 100 items per family member.
Inspired by this radical witness I’ve decided to begin paring down my own material possessions, beginning with what will be the most painful: my books. In the spirit of the biblical tithe I’ve committed to reducing my book collection by 10% (about 70 books), selling them at a used book store, and donating the proceeds to Catholic Relief Services. I’ve also invited my colleagues in the department to join me. To date we’ve amassed a not inconsiderable pile of books on my office table which, next week, I’ll pile into my truck to take to the bookstore.
This is, I think, a useful twist on the biblical tithe through which the view the things in our lives: where can we eliminate 10% of the “stuff” that is cluttering our homes, offices, mental space, and lives?