Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Today is Sunday, June 27, and I’d like to talk about a topic that I was reflecting on today at Mass that I realize is really the the thread that runs through everything that I, that I say and do. Certainly everything that I say in these talks. Certainly everything that I teach, as, as a classical liberal arts teacher, certainly everything that guides my decisions. And I can certainly say that times in my life where I was not thinking, rightly, on this one topic, were the times when I made decisions that I regret. And times when I did make decisions, when I had this topic rightly, in mind, were times when I made decisions that changed my life, for good. It’s funny to see the responses that come in, because of these talks, because some of the topics are controversial, especially in our society. And I, I either get notes of appreciation, thanking me for saying this or explaining that. And then on the opposite extreme, I get these emotional rants and personal attacks from people who disagree with me. And what’s what’s troublesome about modern society, and public discussion, is that social media because it’s free to use anyone with anyone with us with a mobile phone and internet access, is able to create a social media account on Facebook or Twitter. And without any knowledge of their actual life, and behavior, or relationships, previous studies, actual personal achievements, character, all of the things that would be required for someone to get a job. None of those things are required or checked, before a person can begin posting on social media, criticizing everyone and everything. disagreeing with others, calling others names, and asserting their opinions as if all are equal in these discussions, there’s a reason that they do this social media makes this worse online discussions make this really terrible, this false sense of equality of opinion, as if there’s no consequences to different people’s opinions. One of the reasons why people have this attitude that their opinion is just as valuable as anyone elses is because in modern society, if we look at different groups of people, we rarely find any actual practical differences. We hear all different beliefs. We hear all different opinions, ideas, but when we look at the actual By way of life or behavior of different people who have all these different opinions, whether they’re college professors, doctors, lawyers, politicians, craftsmen, homemakers no matter who we talk to, with all of their different opinions and ideas, when we look at their lives, we rarely find that anyone is doing anything different. They’re seeking the same things. They’re troubled by the same things. They have the same problems. The only difference we can usually find in this society, just as was found in ancient society, is that fortune deals differently with different individuals, some enjoy material prosperity, and some don’t. Those who do are able to enjoy the use of material things, regardless of their opinions, regardless of their behavior. And that’s why it was always said in the ancient world that fortune is blind, that she gives her rewards to the good and the wicked, just the same. She doesn’t make any distinction. And this is one of the one of the mysteries of life in this world is that fools and wise men, at times may both prosper. lazy people may prosper. ignorant people may prosper. Wise men may struggle materially or physically, holy people may be riddled with diseases, while wicked people live at full strength. Fortune makes no distinction as she pours out her gifts upon men. And this is one of the things that causes people sometimes to appear different. Men in our society will admire the prosperous, ignoring the reality that their prosperity is not due to any work of their own hands. But too many opportunities or lucky turns of events that really are not in their control. And usually, this prosperity that they enjoy lasts only for a while, before fortune takes it back, and gives it to someone else. And so men are distinguished by varying fortunes, but these things are not in their control. We don’t possess those things which we obtained in our prosperity. They come and they go, and we can’t control them. And the attempt to control them, often drives people crazy and destroys their lives. And this is what’s wrong with public discourse with public arguments in modern society is that everyone is talking. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone imagines that their opinion is just as valuable as everyone else’s. And yet, when we look to the lives of those with these opinions, we find that there’s no equality among these different people. They don’t all have different opinions that lead to different conditions in life. Most of the people that we see arguing, arguing their opinion, back and forth, opposite sides of every argument. When we look at their lives, we find the same problems, marking them both. The first problem, as I’ve already said is that we judge things foolishly and we judge men according to their temporary prosperity. ignoring the fact that it comes and goes. We’re distracted by Fortune. We pay attention to who’s watching See, who’s struggling financially who’s healthy, who’s sick. As if that’s some sign of distinction between the good people and the bad people or the wise people and the foolish people. We let fortune blind us and judge people according to their prosperity as if it was the result of their own wisdom, or good works. When it very rarely is because we can always find people who are poor or sick, who have done just as much good as those who are healthy, and wealthy. Fortune is not a good guide, if we’re seeking to find out who we should follow and listen to in life. And yet, that’s the most common factor that people look at. If we look through the ancient world, if we look back through all of human history, we can make a list of the men who are known to be wise. We can list names like Moses, to sagaris, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Cicero. We can look at our Lord, the prophets of ancient Israel, the apostles, the church fathers and saints, we can make a list of the men who are truly wise. And we can imagine these men creating social media accounts in 2021. And we can imagine them just being ridiculed and mocked, disagreed with by people who have nothing at all, to suggest to us, that they have the answers to life’s problems. And social media, being a platform for discussion, where trees don’t have to show their fruits, before they can start sharing their ideas and criticizing anyone they please. Whether it’s a monk or a pope, they can criticize someone who has demonstrated expertise in a subject, as if he’s an ignorant fool. They can criticize someone who has accomplished something that requires great virtue, as if anyone could do it. While it is true, as I said that fortune can often distribute her gifts at random. There are many achievements that we still have to acknowledge, would not have been possible, without the will or effort of the person involved. And these true achievements in life, distinguish great men from those who merely prosper by the luck or chance of fortune. And we have to train ourselves to judge things justly and not think that everything is equal. Now when we look at the wise men through history, and we ask what is it that really distinguishes the wise men from everyone else? What is it that sets them apart? Jesus, for example, told us that a tree is known by its fruits. Some would have us think that those fruits are healthy children. Some would think that those fruits are luxurious living conditions, great possessions, opportunities to travel or go on vacations, to own a great house or multiple houses, to be famous, to have political power to have great material riches. But none of these things distinguished the wise men of world history from other men, some of the wise men were wealthy. Some of the wise men were extremely poor. Some of the wise men were married with children, some of the wise men were single their entire lives. Some of the wise men were healthy and physically strong. Some of the wise men were sickly, and struggled to stay alive. No physical conditions, distinguished the wise men, from the fools. None of these things should be looked at, by us to distinguish the wise from the foolish. What distinguishes the wise men from fools, is happiness. I’ll say this again. What distinguishes wise men from fools, is happiness. Now happiness. When I speak of happiness, I’m speaking of true, lasting human happiness. And this true and lasting human happiness has certain characteristics that distinguish it from counterfeit forms of what men commonly call happiness, which is not true happiness. Much of what men referred to as happiness is mere Good luck, temporary prosperity, fortunate turning of events in their lives. And the difference between true happiness and this fake happiness is true happiness is in a man’s control. It’s something a man can choose to possess. Something that is not dependent on anyone else. And something that no one can take away from a man, something he cannot lose, unless he gives it away. Counterfeit ideas of happiness all have this in common. They are not in a man’s control. A man can lose them, they’re dependent on others. They can be taken away from him. They’re not lasting. They’re not permanent. They’re not in a man’s control. All counterfeit forms of happiness, share these common characteristics, most importantly, that they’re not in a man’s control. He can’t wake up in the morning, and choose to possess these counterfeit forms of happiness. He can’t go out and get them. And if he does get them, he can’t hold on to them. They can be taken away from him. Aristotle explains this in his nicomachean ethics, that the end of human life is happiness. And there are false forms of happiness or false ideas of happiness, but only one true human happiness. And the characteristic mark of true human happiness is that it is within the reach of every human being. Any human being can choose to have it and if a man chooses to have it, and does what having it requires of him, no one can ever take it away from him. This is the nature of true human happiness. And the wise men through history possessed this true happiness. This is the difference between the wise men and the fools in the world. Now, when there’s a disagreement between a wise man and a fool, or just the common person who’s not aware Men verbally the two sides can say whatever they want. The question is whether they can prove which of the two opinions is superior. And there are objective ways to prove whose opinions are superior. All opinions are not equal. We can judge the trees by their fruits because there’s a true objective in human life, there is a true goal or end in human life, and we can judge whether or not a man possesses that end. on social media, this is very different because on social media, many people won’t even share their true name. They won’t put a picture of themselves on their profile. They won’t show pictures of their family or their life. They won’t provide any personal information. They put a fake name and a fake picture. And they get on and start sharing their opinions all over the place. But we don’t even know who they are. And this is part of the game, the ability to have opinions and pretend that all things are equal. while hiding one’s identity, we can’t see the fruits. And therefore we can’t judge the tree. And that’s how many people like it. But as I said, we wouldn’t judge by health or prosperity. We wouldn’t judge by the apparent prosperity or health of one’s family members. Were the decisions of one’s family members because those things are outside of a man’s control, and therefore do not pertain to true happiness. We wouldn’t judge a man by his natural appearance, which is out of his control, we wouldn’t judge a man by his material, prosperity, which is often not in his control. We would judge a man by whether or not he possessed true happiness. In order to judge whether a person possesses true happiness, we have to get to know them, we have to see how they react to different circumstances. We have to see how they behave day by day. We have to watch and see their emotions as they are tried and provoked by the behavior of others around them. We have to see when they’re given freedom to do what they wish, what they choose to do, how they choose to use their time, how they choose to use their material resources. And what happens most importantly, when they’re wrong when they suffer evil, because this is where we learn whether a man is truly happy or not. It’s very difficult to know. If a man is happy, without knowing him intimately, and seeing how he lives day by day. We can know whether the people around us are happy, because we see them and interact with them. We see them on good days and bad days. We see their daily behavior. We see how they handle changes in fortune. We see how they handle mistreatment. We see how they respond to the sins and abuses of others. And being able to see that we see and learn whether or not They’re truly happy. We don’t see this on social media, we don’t see this on television, we don’t discern this, on the radio, or in a podcast. we discern this only by observing a person in good times and bad times, in all different phases of life, and seeing whether or not the marks of true happiness are present in him. And when we see that a man does possess true happiness, we can know that this is something that fortune does not give to him. This is not something he has by good luck. This is something that he has as the reward of his virtuous life. This is something that’s owed to his wisdom, his true wisdom. This is something that certainly is his, with the help of God’s grace, but he possesses it not as a free gift. But as a reward for choosing to cooperate with God’s grace, which was given him Little by little, as he was tested over time. And when tested, he continually chose to seek more grace and to seek true happiness. The possession of it is the reward of the wise and virtuous man, no fool, can even pretend to possess it. No common person can pretend to possess it. It’s the mark of the wise men. It’s the mark of history’s great men. It’s what distinguishes the great men from all others. If you want to study this true happiness, philosophically, the place to do so as I said before, is in the study of Aristotle’s nicomachean ethics. But it’s also easy for us to learn about this true form of happiness by simply looking at the lives of history’s wisest and best men. And this Finally, 28 minutes in brings me to the topic of this talk. The topic of this talk is simplicity of life, simplicity of life, or what has been called in history, voluntary poverty. The Romans called it simple austerity. One of the principal marks of a wise man is that he is detached from all of the things that fortune controls. He’s detached from the desire for worldly riches, he’s desired. He’s detached from worldly possessions. He’s detached from financial prosperity, he’s detached from concerns about health. He’s detached from these things. He doesn’t talk about them. He doesn’t seek them. He doesn’t work for them, doesn’t think about them, doesn’t invest in them. He’s detached from them. He’s not worried about the opinions of other men because those things are outside of his control, and they do not pertain to true happiness. He’s not concerned with evils done to him by others because they’re not in his control. And he knows that they don’t pertain to true happiness. The things that he desires to possess, no man can take from I’m him. And therefore he feels threatened by no other men doesn’t have a defensive mentality isn’t concerned about his property being stolen, his house being broken into. He’s not concerned about these things because he doesn’t store them up, doesn’t purchase them doesn’t possess them. Because he’s not interested in them. If you pray the rosary and actually meditate on the mysteries of the rosary, as tradition teaches you to, you’ll know that when we meditate on the Nativity of Christ, the birth of our Lord, in the stable at Bethlehem, we pray for a specific grace. As we meditate on that mystery. we meditate on this mystery that the Lord Jesus Christ, King of the universe, Redeemer of the world when he came into the world, was not concerned in any way with any impressive birth or circumstances. But was content to be born in a way that no one would ever desire to be born, no mother, desires to bring her children into the world in such conditions. No father wishes for his wife to have to bear a child in such conditions. Most people when they’re awaiting a child prepare as if Prince was about to be born or princess. They decorate rooms, buy new furniture, invest in all kinds of expensive furnishings and decorations for the home. And the child is born and placed into this bed of luxury, as it were. That’s normal. That’s carnal, and human, and normal. But when we meditate on the mystery of the Nativity, we find that Joseph and Mary, in God’s providence were not given any opportunity to prepare a bed for their child. They were swept out of their town by a census ordered by the government to which they of course, complied or with which they complied. And they found themselves in a distant place with no provisions at the most inconvenient time, not even able to find a place to stay at a local in. But we’re forced to just find any shelter they could. And that turned out to be a stable in the country. And Jesus was born. It’s not even fair to say in a barn because in the modern sense of modern farming, a barn is nothing like the place where Jesus was actually born. It was really just a shelter out where the shepherds kept their sheep. And after he was born, he was wrapped in cloth and he was laid in what we call a manger. But all that is is a food tray for the animals. It was the only thing available the only way that they could put him down and not have him laying directly on the ground was to set him into the food trough of the animals. And this is how Christ came into the world. And when we look at that all of our worldly ambitions, all of our self flattery, our self adoration In our concern about the circumstances of our life about how we look what others think of us, how comfortable we are, all of those things are scoffed at, and despised by Christ’s contentment to come into the world, in the most unfortunate circumstances, and when we pray the rosary and meditate on the Nativity of Christ, and hopefully as we celebrate the Christmas season, we look at this event and its circumstances. And we’re taught to despise worldly, riches, comforts, honors, and so on. And that’s why, when we pray the rosary, we ask for this grace, that we would be detached from worldly possessions detached, this interested, free from any concern of worldly riches, and not just worldly riches. But an honor of a good reputation. Because a good reputation is not something that’s in our control. Others can destroy a reputation by false accusations. We’re to look at the at the infant Christ, we’re to look at the Blessed Virgin Mary and see them in this most humble set of circumstances. content to be so of course, Mary didn’t seek out those circumstances. But she also didn’t care about them. And as I said, we can tell a wise man by his behavior in adverse circumstances. And we see the Virgin Mary there we see St. Joseph there. We don’t find a single word of grumbling, or complaining, or self pity, or concern about what the neighbors will think. We see perfect humility, perfect contentment. Because we find perfect happiness. In St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary, they’re happy. They’re not happy, because their circumstances are good. They’re happy. And their circumstances are irrelevant, because they’re happy. So there’s a good example of true happiness in the life of the Holy Family, which is presented to us in the mystery of the Nativity, and should be the focus of our celebration at Christmas time, which is, in most homes, the biggest celebration of the year, not because it’s more important than Easter, but just because of in our society, how schedules and different institutions operate. And when people are available to be together for celebrations, Christmas tends to be the biggest celebration. But the focus of the Christmas season should be on true happiness and the nature of true happiness, which is evident in the image of the manger. That should be on display in our home reminding us to detach ourselves from worldly possessions. Instead, we turn Christmas into quite the opposite experience because we’re foolish, and we’re not happy. So we have in the Holy Family a model of voluntary, willing, poverty, contentment. They seek nothing but to please God. And if they have God, they have everything. And they don’t just say that to sound Cute. They actually mean it. And we can see that they mean it by the choices they make every day. Even when times are good, they still choose to be detached from worldly possessions even when they have the money in their hand to go and get them. They choose to remain detached. St. Paul talks about this. In his epistles, he says that we should be content with food and clothing. You can search up diverse on the internet. He says we should be content with food and clothing. If we have the opportunity to enjoy a simple meal, we should enjoy that meal, whether business is booming, or whether business is struggling. We should be content with simple things when we’re going through misfortunes, or difficult times. But we should also remain detached from material things. And prefer simplicity. When it’s in our power, to obtain luxurious things. We should be content with food and clothing. Because this is a mark of a person who is happy. What marks the wise men of history, what separates them from other men, is this detachment from physical things, from material possessions. And from all things that pertain to the temporary life in this world, so it extends beyond just possessions. But it also reaches to other things like honors. Honors are in the power of others, and they’re not necessarily distributed justly, according to true merit. And therefore, they should never be of concern to us. If in God’s providence, we obtained some honor, were to attribute it to that Providence and remain detached from it. It’s not important, we didn’t need it, before we had it. And we don’t need it now that we do have it. We can be thankful that in God’s providence, we enjoyed that good fortune. But that’s that. It’s not something that our happiness depends on, not something that’s necessarily in our control, and therefore not something that concerns a wise man. If we look at the life of Christ, we see a man who is marked by this detachment from all worldly concerns. He doesn’t care about what anyone says about him. He doesn’t care about anyone else’s opinions. He doesn’t care about his living conditions. We find him often living as a homeless man sleeping out in the world. We read about him sleeping in the mountains, we read about him going out into the deserts. We read about him walking in the streets, he has no possessions, no home of his own. He’s content with whatever God provides him with as he focuses on his life’s work and commits himself to that work unconditionally. He doesn’t agree to do a certain job, if there will be a certain salary or if certain benefits will be in place. The job is accepted as a matter of duty. And the circumstances that come with that job are accepted as the cross that he will offer to the Father and for which he’ll be rewarded. When Jesus says to us take up your cross. What he means is be content with the costs have the duty that God calls you to perform and perform it. regardless of the circumstances, that it brings upon you, unconditional commitment, true loyalty, commitment, not to circumstances or conditions, or to a person. This simplicity of life is what distinguishes the wise man from the fool, or the common person. This true happiness is what distinguishes one opinion from another. And when we see people sharing different opinions, we shouldn’t judge those opinions based on which of the two people arguing is more physically attractive, which is wealthier, which is healthier. We shouldn’t judge these two people based on anything that can be obtained by Fortune, which isn’t actually in their control that they can use to present an appearance of some kind of superiority, which is, in fact not true. We should look instead, to see who possesses that happiness, which can only be possessed by one who is truly wise, truly virtuous. And we should give extra attention to the opinions and answers of those people. Because they live that life. They know what’s possible, and not possible. They know what’s realistic, and what’s not realistic. They know what’s in our power and what’s not in our power. And they advise what agrees with true happiness, and they discourage things that will lead us away from true happiness, things which are of interest to those who fall away from true happiness. The danger of arguing with a wise man who is truly happy, is when you show yourself to be arrogant and unreasonable. The wise man is not going to get upset. He’s not going to lose sleep. He’s not going to argue back. He’s not going to continue talking to you. Once he realizes that you’re not honest, that you’re not sincere. That you’re not seeking to know how to be happy. But you’re simply seeking to justify your own choices, or to try and gain approval from others. Or that you are holding up tokens of fortune, and pretending that they are tokens of blessing and happiness. Once a wise man sees you doing that he’s going to withdraw from the debate because it’s not a debate. A debate seeks to know the truth. When a person is merely seeking to justify himself, or gain applause from ignorant bystanders who like his posts, and comment with memes or with sarcastic remarks or personal attacks. Once a wise man sees that he can withdraw from that discussion. Because he sees that the people involved are not actually seeking happiness, they’re arguing is actually a part of their unhappiness. They’re seeking to justify decisions that are tormenting them. They seek to justify a way of life that’s making them unhappy. They seek to make excuses for behavior that they regret, but are not willing to change. They’re seeking to persuade themselves that it’s okay to go on in the course that’s already shown itself to be unhappy. And the reason why they get so emotional. The reason why wise men are scoffed at and ridiculed and attacked personally, is because behind the facade of words, and jokes, of posts and comments and means, behind the facade of all that the people with whom the wise man discuss these topics know that the wise men are right. And once in their own souls, they’re aware of the reality that they’re speaking with a wise man who tells them the truth and possesses true happiness, himself. Their true character is revealed, because this proves to be the test that distinguishes the wise from the foolish a wise person, maybe ignorant, maybe immature. But when a wise person who is ignorant, hears wisdom, he recognizes it. And he responds rightly to it. A fool on the other hand, is ignorant, but is willfully ignorant. And even if he’s instructed, even if his position is destroyed and proven to be impossible, he’ll cling to it, even if his soul testifies to him, and tells him that what the other man is speaking is the truth. He’ll rejected willfully. And then what’s even more evil, is he’ll work to suppress the truth by all kinds of false arguments, distractions, personal attacks, and so on, so that not only he can continue in his error, but all of those around him will go with him. And imagine that the wise man is being humiliated and defeated by the nonsense of some softest, who is personally miserable, unhappy, discontent, full of regrets and vexations but is so stubborn, and so zealous for the pleasures of this life, for honors from other men, that he would rather remain in that miserable state. Then be converted. Proverbs says, as a dog returns to its vomit, so the fool to his folly. And this is what we see. In modern society, we see fools scoffing at the wise. And when I say the wise, I mean, the ancients, the philosophers, the saints, scoffed at by modern society, anyone who holds their ideas, teaches their ideas or lives, according to their teaching, is scoffed at ridiculed, personally attacked, and so on. That ridicule and scoffing the material consequences of the rejection of the world, leads many to refuse to walk with the wise. But those who are truly wise and virtuous, they’re going to walk with the wise regardless of what it costs because to them, those costs are negligible. They’re not going to be concerned about threats of losing this or that. For example, if I if I make a point post about a certain moral issue of which I’m completely certain that what I’m explaining is what wise men have taught on the subject. It’ll be ridiculed by others, usually by a crowd of others. They always come in crowds. And they always support each other. They don’t respond to the actual arguments. They just crowd in and start with insults, personal attacks, threats, and so on. They all like each other’s posts, and mock together as if they’re proving something as if they’re actually showing themselves to be right. Rather than just agreeing to continue in error together. But what’s happened to me all throughout the years that I’ve run the classical Liberal Arts Academy is that I’ve had Catholic people threatened my business, threatened my business that a certain view of mine, a certain post of mine, a certain article of mine, would be used by them to destroy my business. And this is what’s so comical. What’s comical about the, the irrational responses of people in our society, when you choose to do something good, you can provide all the evidence that shows that you’re following the teaching of Christ or the teaching of the Fathers of the Church or the apostles or the wise men of the ancient world, you can demonstrate that you can show them the rule of Saint Benedict, for example, the principles that he teaches as a wise and Holy Father of the church. You can show these things and show that their lives and the things that they say contradict the things that holy men have taught. And they’ll scoff, and mock, and occasionally threaten. But what’s funny is they threaten you with things that are important to them. They threaten you with things that are important to them, they threaten you, with the loss of money, with the loss of praise. They threatened that they’re going to unfriend you on Facebook, they threatened that they’re going to withdraw their children from your school and take their money back. They cannot comprehend. Because they’re miserable. They cannot comprehend that you don’t care about their money, that you never begged for their money. You never asked for them to enroll in your school. You’re never told them that they need to enroll in your school. You never called them on the phone and asked them to please support your work. You were simply working according to your principles to do your duty. And they came along on their own and they can just as freely go away. A wise man is not living with a house built on sand that someone else can pull out from under him. He’s not concerned about the ups and downs of everyday life. He’s not concerned with threats of money for a bad review. These things are of no concern to a wise man. They’re the very things that wise men detach themselves from and yet it’s all that foolish people can threaten with. They threaten the man with all of the things that he has chosen not to care about. And this is what makes persecution so ridiculous and pathetic. Is that a miserable person who can’t imagine living without certain material possessions or a certain quality of life or praise and High reviews from other men and is unhappy, dependent on all of these things that are not in his or her control, and cannot comprehend that someone else is free from them and doesn’t care isn’t worried, is voluntarily detached from them and lives in a content simple state of life for this very reason, for this very reason that these threats will never affect him that fortune, no matter how she threatens, we’ll never put a drop of fear or anxiety into his soul. That like job. Wise Man will say, even if God were to slay me, still, I would trust him. Man’s devotion to God is unconditional. free from any external circumstances. A devotion a love, a loyalty that can never be taken away. Possessing that freedom is the goal of a wise man’s life. That Freedom, freedom from care of worldly possessions, freedom from care for human opinions, or praise or good reviews, or votes, or purchases. Freedom from all those things is the freedom that a wise man seeks. It’s what the liberal arts are for. The liberal arts are the comforts of a wise man. They’re the council’s of free men. They’re not means of obtaining worldly things. And this is why no one in modern society is interested in classical liberal arts education, because it can’t be converted into some kind of get rich scheme that promises them a healthier body, a better sex life, more money, more popularity or praise from others. It can’t be turned into some machine that allows them to serve ma’am and more successfully. The liberal arts, true philosophy and Catholic theology. Serve men who want to enjoy this true freedom, freedom not of body, for the freedom of our bodies is not in our control, not political freedom. political freedom is not in our control, but spiritual. personal freedom. This is the freedom that Wiseman sought and seek. This is the freedom that’s learned through the study of the classical liberal arts and classical philosophy. This is the freedom that Christ taught his disciples when he called them to go and sell all their possessions and give them away to the poor and come follow him. The way of this freedom is very simple. It’s in every person’s control. Anyone can choose it. And once they’ve chosen it, they can keep it forever. This is the freedom of true philosophy. This is why classical Catholic education is despised in our foolish, miserable modern society. This is why there are no religious vocations because there are no happy people. We don’t see people content to live without sexual pleasure because they’re already happy. Like Saint Francis who considered himself to be married to Lady poverty as his beautiful wife He loved and was content with. These men were detached from the pursuit of the world’s things. They scoffed at these things. They ridiculed all that the world could offer when Jesus was tempted by the devil, the devil offered him all of the worldly things that he can offer. And Jesus had no interest in any of them. Jesus wasn’t a man praying, that God would give him worldly success. Give him a successful career, give him good health, give him lots of money, give him favor with the world. Jesus wasn’t praying for political success or business success. Jesus was there to obey God’s commands, and to do so content, regardless of what the costs of that obedience would be. And for this reason, St. Paul tells us, God highly exalted Him, and gave him the name which is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, and every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Lord. Because of the wise and happy life, he modeled for us, called us to be perfect, and showed us what the perfect life looks like. It’s the same life that the ancient philosophers talked about, but couldn’t fully understand. They knew it in a shadowy way. Their philosophy and their experience led them to know to despise the world, to despise riches to despise fame, and human praise. But there were elements of that life that they couldn’t comprehend. Because without the doctrine, and truth of the resurrection, judgment, and eternal life. This life doesn’t make sense. But once the Christian faith was revealed in its fullness, the way of the ancient philosophers suddenly became crystal clear. And it enabled men to go even further, then, virtuous and wise men like the stoics were able to go. The stoics had it all figured out. They knew that life was just endless vexation, self inflicted on happiness. Men desiring things not in their control, just to torment themselves every day of their lives. And the stoics through their philosophy, detach themselves from the world, and became wise and virtuous men quickly converted to Christianity, when the gospel went out, after the ascension of Christ quickly responded to the gospel because they saw in the Gospel, the perfection of their stoic doctrine, the answer to the questions that remained that their philosophy wasn’t able to solve. When the gospel came, the true and greatest philosopher had spoken. When they heard the words of Christ, they knew that they were listening to the words of the great philosopher, the one and only true teacher, the Lord of heaven and earth, who is a Saint Paul says, wisdom himself. The life of Jesus, symbolized by the crucifix is the symbol and the goal of true philosophy. It’s the fulfillment, it’s the perfection of all human philosophy. It’s what the ancients were just scratching at the surface of as they reasoned and argued, and sought to live in harmony with nature, and with the lessons learned from their own experience. The reason why the gospel took over the Greco Roman world was because true philosophy had prepared them for it. In our society, the reason why the gospel is disappearing is because not even the Christians are interested in that life. And the gospel has nothing to offer them that they’re interested in. They come looking for better health, they come looking for a better job, a good education that will help them to get a higher LSAT score that might help them to get into a better college that might help them to get a scholarship that allows them to save some money. They hope for they hope that God would give them a promotion at work, they hope that God would bring them a spouse to marry, even though marriage is not necessary for happiness. To them, God is just a source of the things that God calls them away from that God tells them our distractions, and hindrances to their true happiness. Even among modern Christians, we find eagerness for the things that the pre Christian philosophers had already known. Were not to be desired. This is why there are no monks, no nuns, no priests. There’s no sincere desire, in the benefits that true religion and Christian philosophy offers. And not just religious vocations. This is why families are not interested in providing their children with philosophical education, but they’re anxious about jobs, about money about college about what other people will think about them. They’re slaves of the world. Slaves miserable, not free to make a single decision on their own, without considering what someone else is going to say, or what the consequences in this material life might be. Never free to just write their principles and beliefs on the wall and live according to them without apology, without any concern of the circumstances that will follow the opinions of others, the costs that will need to be paid, with their eyes focused on enjoying true happiness, now and forever. And as long as that remains the case, as long as the Christians themselves are not even free from these worldly desires. Our society is just going to get darker and darker, more and more miserable. More and more dishonest. Because no one can even have an honest conversation. You’re not going to see the boldness of a righteous person with a with a clear conscience. You’re going to find people are more and more reticent, dishonest. irrational, and I’m not talking about the political opponents of the Christians that they imagine are the people who are irrational while they themselves are the wise people. I’m talking about Christian people who you cannot have a conversation with, who will scoff at words taken straight from the Gospels straight from the writings of the doctors of the church or saints and scoff at them scoff at Pope’s scoff at bishops scoff and councils of the church. And imagine that in scoffing at the hierarchy of the church, they are the defenders of tradition. You’re going to find more and more irrational crazy Even violent behavior among Christians because they’re fist fighting with their neighbors over the stuff that they’re not even supposed to be interested in. When Jesus says you are the light of the world, what he means by that is that Christians are supposed to model for the world, true happiness, and the means to it. But in modern society, Christians are just as dark as the world outside the church, fighting for the same things anxious, about the same things, working for the same things, complaining about the same things. What we need is for Christians to choose simplicity of life. Like Jesus said, unloose, all of the things that distract you that make you anxious, unloose all the desires that make you miserable. And you know what I’m talking about, you can fake it with your friends, you can fake it, in some useless online discussion. You can fake it. But you know, those desires within you that are not godly, you’re not saintly, nothing that would ever be found in a wise man or a philosopher or a saint. Those desires that make your life miserable, that make you angry at people around you. If you’re not willing to put those desires to death, what are you seeking? What can religion possibly do for you? What can education possibly offer you if you’re not even willing to listen, because you’re already committed to being a slave who can help you if you don’t want to be helped? A wise man listens to instruction and is better for it. But a fool despises instruction. If you’re going to marry yourself to your sinful or foolish, or just worldly, carnal desires, and you’re going to commit to them, and continue telling yourself that even though they are the source of your daily unhappiness, and have probably been so for a long time, that somehow in the future, that’s going to change and they’re going to suddenly make you happy. How can you pretend to have any interest in truth? How can you pretend to want to discuss any controversial topic? When you know, you’ve already made your decision? And are only seeking to justify yourself or gain some applause? By participating in a discussion in the first place? How can you expect to be happy? You know how the saints lived? You know how Jesus lived, you know how the ancient philosophers lived, at least to some degree. You know how john the baptist lived. You know how the apostles lived. They didn’t live like wealthy men, luxurious, comfortable lives. They weren’t upset by the opinions of others or by the political events of the day. They weren’t concerned about what the gossip news headlines said and pretended that being upset and reacting to gossip is what marks a wise man. They were studying Sacred Scripture. They were studying true philosophy. They were living, tranquil and quiet lives. St. Paul says that he desires that men should pray for all of those in authority. And what they should pray for is Simply that they may be allowed to live quiet and peaceful lives. Because that’s all that a happy person desires. They simply want to be left to live in peace. And their life becomes a light in this world. The reason why Christianity conquered the world, why saints can never be resisted. And why they finally have to be put to death, by wicked society, is because there’s just no ability to refute them, their arguments, their message is irresistible. The only way to silence them is by violence, whether it’s by violent arguments, through fallacies, whether it’s by slander, by spreading false reports about them to try and destroy their reputation, which again, they don’t care about. By trying to take their money away from them, which again, they don’t care about, or even by trying to physically attack them. Or put them to death, threatening to destroy their body, which again, they don’t care about. If you’re not willing to learn that life that men have lived. And you’re going to pretend that the pursuit of Mammon is Christian culture, the decoration of your house, his Christian culture, the adornment of your body, his Christian culture, if you’re going to pretend that delicious food is Christian culture, if you’re going to pretend that with God, you can get that promotion. And finally, realize your true happiness and call that Christianity. You’re never going to be happy. You’re never going to have a peaceful, consistent Christian life, you’re always going to appear to be learning, but never come to a knowledge of the truth. Like St. Paul says, you’re going to profess to know God with your mouth, but by your actual deeds, you’re going to deny Him, you’re going to claim to be the light of the world. And yes, be pursuing the same things and living with the same vexation that’s found in the people around you. Who don’t know God. The solution to all of our problems, and I’m saying all of our problems in this life, the solution is voluntary poverty, simplicity of life. In your work, if God has provided you with honest work, that brings a profit without any immoral behavior, or any vicious activity, dishonest decisions, if you have honest work, that God allows to be profitable. The goal of that money is to buy your freedom from this world, pay off debts, pay off mortgages, eliminate obligations to the world. Not to take that money and use it to invest in new possessions to take out new loans, to build bigger houses. And to go deeper in debt. Some people take their wealth and use it to buy greater slavery to make themselves even more entangled in this world. The goal of our money is that we use it to buy our freedom. St. Paul says oh no man anything, but to love one another. Use your money to buy your freedom. If there’s no chance of doing that Jesus says sell what you have. And free yourself from those distractions and obstacles, seek freedom, true freedom. devote yourself to those things which are in your control. Simply simplicity of life, content with food and clothing, content with simple food that’s good for you’re actually healthier than most of the foods you normally eat, will actually allow your body to be healthier, because your body needs almost nothing. All of the talk of food and medicines and drinks has nothing to do with the needs of the body. God has given us bodies that are appropriate for men who are supposed to be wise, rational creatures, our bodies need almost nothing. Jesus showed us this by fasting for 40 days, the human body needs almost nothing. The simplest food is sufficient. And most of us would be healthier, if we ate less. And if the food we ate was simpler, we would be healthier. And so we can even make a reasonable justification for the way we eat. As for clothing, we should be content with simple clothing. We shouldn’t put on a shirt thinking of what others are going to think about our shirt. A wise man would never do that. A wise man would seek out clothing that serves its purpose doesn’t distract anyone else doesn’t draw any attention doesn’t tempt people to steal. There’s one story of monks who used to receive donations of clothing. And they would put the clothing out by the street. And people would come and take all the things that they wanted out of the donated clothing. And then the monks would keep for themselves what no one wanted because they said that’s appropriate clothing for us. In the history of the religious communities, when holy men like St. Benedict or St. Francis established their communities, the habits that they wore, were not some kind of costume, that they invested money and then had somebody custom make as some kind of symbol. They wore what they wore, because it was the cheapest thing that they could find the easiest thing to obtain. They usually took the cheapest fabric that they could find usually, course fabric, not the kind of stuff that real clothing was made out of. And they formed their habits out of these things, you can go on the internet and Google a picture of St. Francis’s habit. a habit of a modern Franciscan is actually custom made and costs hundreds of dollars, it’s more expensive than ordinary clothing. This this is unreasonable, this is not the purpose of the original habits. Our clothing should be simple, it should be sufficient to serve the needs of the body, to not draw attention, not be costly. And at the same time not to be not to draw attention in the opposite direction to be intentionally ugly or weird. Or contrary to normal customs. customs are what they are for reasons. For example, if you go to a store and buy ordinary modern clothing, it’s affordable. For all different reasons, because of the fabrics that are currently available because of the styles and how clothing is made and so on. The modern fashion is most affordable. to intentionally dress yourself differently, is to defeat the whole point. You don’t have to be weird. You don’t have to dress like an Amish person or have a custom made habit to make yourself appear different. If you live with true simplicity, and true wisdom, you’re going to be different. And it’s only that difference that you should seek in your life to be different because you’re wise to be different in that you’re happy to be different in that you respond to misfortunes, peacefully, without vexation that’s what should make you different from your neighbor, not what shoes you wear, or what kind of bow tie you have on or how you dress. For church. What should make you different is your actual life and behavior. The simple life is the only way to be happy. to free yourself from every desire that leads you to vexation that makes you dependent on things that are not in your control. That causes you to be angry at others to causes you to be impatient. That causes you to be greedy, that causes you to be unwilling to share something that causes you to be frustrated when someone wastes your time, or gets in the way of what you’re trying to do. Because you’ve got your selfish time, so carefully budgeted for your progress, that you can’t afford to be distracted by anyone. All of that vexation, all of that frustration, and anger, all of that unhappiness, all of the unhealthy habits that are produced by desires for more pleasure, that actually bring you more pain have to be destroyed, and abandoned, or you will never be happy. Again, to bring this talk to a close on social media, everyone’s voice is equal. But in real life, our voices are not equal. The voices of wise men, their answers to the questions, their councils are not equal. They’re talking from experience as wives and happy men. And we have to stop disobeying. And disregarding their counsels. We have to listen to them because their advice is not optional. It’s essential to our happiness. We have to return to simplicity of life. Because all of the Christian life depends on it. All of the Christian life, all of the teachings of the Christian faith, the works of mercy, the commandments, the Beatitudes, on and on all of these things assume simplicity of life. And if we don’t pursue simplicity of life, which is in our control, which anyone can choose at any time anyone can have, anytime they desire it. If we don’t choose simplicity of life, we have to maintain aversion, a counterfeit of Christianity, that really has nothing to do with the life or teaching of Christ or the saints or apostles will never have true happiness. And worst of all, well, no, it will, no, it will. No, we don’t have it. Because we know the choices that we’ve made, and the consequences that they bring. Let’s choose the simple life. And let’s let’s become a generation of Christians, that actually becomes the light of the world. Let’s make ourselves a people whose life and arguments are irresistible. It’ll bring us persecution. But we’ll know that we’re true wise men and will enjoy true happiness.
William C. Michael, Headmaster
Classical Liberal Arts Academy