Speaking of Simpler Lifestyles: Wisdom from Sr. Jose Hobday

We are meditating on alternative economics that will serve all people and all the creatures of Mother Earth.  Yesterday, Serge Latouche emphasized simplifying our lifestyles including resisting a societal addiction to growing a greater “Gross National Product” every year.

Sister Jose Hobday (1929-2009), from the Sister Jose Women’s Center website

Sister Jose Hobday , author of Simple Living: The Path to Joy and Freedom, was a Seneca woman who grew up on a reservation in Colorado, the only sister of eight brothers.  Raised in modest circumstances, she was chosen by her tribe at the age of seven to be a storyteller, and shared bountiful stories of wisdom derived from her father and mother.  As a teenager she was a rodeo queen on a golden palomino horse, but eventually she became a Franciscan sister who understood her vow of poverty as a vow of simple lifestyle.  

It was my privilege to work with Jose for years at the ICCS program in Oakland and at the University of Creation Spirituality.  Her deep teachings from her native tradition were eye openers to many students—as were the many rituals she conducted among us.

In her book on Simple Living she calls for fasting:

it is good for us physically and spiritually.  Take the chance.  It’s a biological expression of your willingness to expose yourself to deprivation. 

She tells the story of geese who flew long distances over open water and ended in a barnyard.  No longer having to search for food, they ate very well. When the time came for the return migration, however, the fat ones were so heavy they couldn’t clear the barnyard fence. She writes:

Only the less glutted ones were able to make the flight home.  The meaning is clear for us.  We just can’t fly in life if we are too encumbered….We need a slimming down in the spirit so we can move with generosity and grace and sometimes speed.

Frugality, she insists, is not about

...not spending.  Frugality means a thoughtful economy.  We’re frugal if we use our time well.  We’re frugal if we cook with healthy materials.  Frugality and simplicity or poverty of spirit all say limit, don’t waste.  Stinginess is just greed and usually clutters our lives.  Frugality is a careful examination of the complexities of buying and selling and deciding how to remain free in this complex transaction.

Jose met rich people who inherited their wealth but never earned it and were fearful, “How do I know people aren’t trying to take advantage of me?”  

She replied:

Sister José Hobday talks about living life “to the hilt,” identifying with Life and all its ups and downs. Then you celebrate by dancing – prayerful dancing! This clip is posted to YouTube courtesy of the National Council of Churches from their film “Search for Spirituality.”

You don’t.  So get rid of it all.  Then go earn a little yourself and feel what it’s like to earn a living instead of guarding money…

  She tried to get them “to see their money was mostly a burden” making them walk

…in fear and suspicion of everyone and they were not at all happy.   I told them they had no right to the money….It wasn’t good for them and it was controlling their lives.

See Jose Hobday, Simple Living: The Path to Joy and Freedom, pp. 76, 72f.

See also: Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Postdenominational Priest, pp. 135, 143f, 153, 157, 313, 331f., 382.

Banner Image: The Shepherdess (after Millet)” by Vincent van Gogh 1889; Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France. From the collection of Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Israel; on WikiArt.org. Public Domain.

Do Latouche and Sister Jose Hobday speak to you and to your vision of the future when they speak of living simply?  What might follow from that?

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8 thoughts on “Speaking of Simpler Lifestyles: Wisdom from Sr. Jose Hobday”

  1. Avatar

    Love it…Sr. Jose!
    I had a trunk sale of stuff, just yesterday. Made a few dollars for charity and gave the rest away. Unencumbered, it’s a great feeling!
    Thank you,
    Margaret N.

  2. Avatar

    I basically agree with the generalization about wealth that Sr. Jose expounds. We need to realize that religious orders support people like her. The orders feed them and they share a dependency with the order. The person who was Peace Pilgrim is another story. Peace Pilgrim was an independent traveler like Jesus who depended on the generosity of well enough to do women and men. The order is the one with the inherited money although the order works for the money it receives. Money can be willed to people for their development. If the receiver develops and helps others the will of the grantor is realized. The inheritance is then equalized and the receiver of the inheritance is then in the position the same as a religious order who needs to protect their money for their survival.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      You make a good point Gary, however I think the point of the meditation is that whatever our circumstances in life, our life will be better if we simplify it…

  3. Pingback: From the Archives: "Jose Hobday Loves the Church, Tiptoes Around" - Today's American Catholic

    1. Carol Kilby

      Thanks for expanding the conversation on Voluntary Simplicity. Would you agree it is the spiritual practice demanded by these times? Carol Kilby. MDiv DMin in CS.

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