The five characteristics of Marist Education described in the 1998 text In the Footsteps are now well accepted and understood. A recent call from some staff in Marist schools has sought the opportunity to reflect together on a subject being called 'Deepening the Characteristics'. You might ask, what does such a 'deepening' process involve. Gail Coates from Marcellin College and I have begun to develop such a process. We are leading five two hour sessions delving more deeply into each of these characteristics sociologically, scripturally and from a Marist perspective. Recently I led the session on Marist Simplicity. There, seven of us gathered to reflect on the following questions: How do I define simplicity? How can I live simply? Where is simplicity mentioned in Scripture? When does simplicity become Marist Simplicity? and How do I teach simply?
One definition that appealed to us was that given us by theologian Elizabeth Johnson in her 2011 book Abundant Simplicity. Here she describes simplicity as an 'inward reality of single-hearted focus upon God and [God's] kingdom, which results in an outward lifestyle of modesty, openness and unpretentiousness and which disciplines our hunger for status, glamour and luxury' (pp8-9). This 'single-hearted focus' seemed a relevant call for us in our busy world when we can be tempted to take on more than we can handle.
This idea led us further to consider Daniel O'Leary's recent article in The Tablet titled 'Divine evolution' where he invites us to reflect on St Thomas Aquinas' reminder that God is revealed in both the book of nature and the Scriptures. O'Leary continues: for 'too long the two stories have collided with each
other. But both the love story revealed in the orthodox theology of Creation, and the emerging stories about our evolving world, reveal a fundamental interconnectedness and integration.' At this point we began to see a unifying effect of simplicity. Daniel O'Leary's website can be found at www.djoleary.com
In considering simplicity in the Scriptures we focused particularly on the Gospels of Matthew and John. 'For where your treasure is there your heart will be also' (Matt 6:21) and 'If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free' (John 8:31-32). These passages led us to ask ourselves three questions: What truths do I accept about myself? What is my treasure? and In what ways am I transparent with others? These elements seemed to lead us to the core of simplicity.