A Catholic Approach to Minimalism

With an expected publication the end of September, The Little Way of Living with Less: Learning to Let Go with the Little Flower by Laraine Bennett leads readers to live a simpler and more devout life by downsizing one’s home and decluttering one’s soul. “This book is meant for those who seek the peace and tranquility that comes with letting go of stuff that encumbers us and makes us weary and sad,” she writes.

Her inspiration? St. Thérèse of Lisieux, also known as St. Teresa of the Little Flower, who said, “happiness has nothing to do with the material things that surround us; it dwells in the very depths of the soul.”

Laraine launched her pilgrimage to a simpler life by detailing how this all started when her family moved to Frankfurt, Germany from California. Loaded down with household goods and personal belongings, the Bennett family first lived in army barracks and struggled to find a house and a neighborhood where they could fit in.

They then moved into a rustic farmhouse with its own issues, but she summarized what they learned: “Though we really didn’t realize what hidden growth God was working in us on our own journey, as strangers and sojourners in Europe we slowly began to detach from possessions, habits, and old ways of thinking.” She adds “We did not, of course, immediately enter the promised land, nor did we leave behind our albatross of attachments.”

She also realized that focusing on material goods can have power over people’s souls. She notes that “Jesus tells us that to attain eternal life we must love God with our whole hearts, our minds, our souls, and all our strength.” And in Chapter 4, “Interior Freedom”, she writes, “Inner freedom is not a matter of physical space, but rather it is an interior disposition. This interior freedom depends on the Holy Spirit.”

Laraine, of course, cites the words and works of St. Thérèse at the end of each chapter, praising her throughout the book for the simplicity of her soul and her worship of God, doing all in her life to embrace the love of the Holy Spirit. “She understood the ephemeral nature of the pleasures, attractions, and many good and beautiful things of this world,” she writes. “Thérèse knew that the allure of these gifts might distract her from her ultimate goal and hope.”

Laraine also refers to how St. Thérèse “echoed Ecclesiastes when she grasped the fleeting nature of earthly pleasures and goods, even as she acknowledged her fondness for these things,” she writes. “Yet she remained singularly focused on her goal. What lessons we can learn from this saint and young doctor of the Church!”

After the Introduction, Laraine arranges eleven chapters, from “Strangers and Sojourners” to the final “True Home,” and at the end of each chapter gives three different sections: Wisdom of St. Thérèse; a Tip from The Organizer— Jacquelyn Dupuy, who gives sensible advice on clearing out one’s home— and a final section that summarizes the chapter and may include questions to challenge the reader.

This layout takes readers step by step through uncluttering a family home from unnecessary goods to uncluttering one’s soul from desiring and pursuing earthly—hence transitory—possessions. Yes, families can retain furniture, clothing, children’s sports equipment, kitchen tools and canned goods, so long as none of these are excessive. “Keeping our home orderly helps our children learn to be orderly,” she writes, “to use their things properly, and to prepare their minds for learning .….. When we let go of possessions (perhaps some of those possessions that are not truly essential for our daily living), do we notice a sense of liberation, of freedom?”

The final chapter, “True Home”, summarizes the heart and soul of her message‑—we all can grow closer to God with this quote by St. Basil: “Free yourself entirely from the desire for any kind of earthly riches or from the esteem to be gained from possessing worldly goods.

Ownership of these things is not under your control. . . . Virtue is within our power.”

“Do all in your power to detach your heart from earthly cares, especially from creatures; then be assured Our Lord will do the rest.”

— St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul, “Counsels and Reminiscences”

The Little Way of Living with Less: Learning to Let Go with the Little Flower is available for pre-order and will be released on September 27 by Sophia Institute Press.

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A convert to Catholicism, Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, restaurant critic, and cookbook author, who is passionate about every aspect of the food world — from interviewing chefs to supporting local farmers and to making the connection between food and faith. Her latest work is Cooking with the Saints.

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