Bob McKeon says Pope Francis is calling us to live what we pray.


Bob McKeon says Pope Francis is calling us to live what we pray.

February 22, 2016

Living simply, according to Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si', does not mean giving up candy for 40 days or using Lent as a good time to lose a few pounds.

Stopping to give thanks to God before and after meals; admiring nature on a walk through the river valley; using less heating and wearing warmer clothes even if you could afford to consume more; or spending time with people, and really encountering them as people, are all practical ways of living out the principles of the encyclical.

Those were some practical suggestions for implementing the papal encyclical that were discussed at Living Within Limits: Living Well, a Lenten workshop with Bob McKeon at the Edmonton Pastoral and Administration office building Feb. 13.

Development and Peace held the workshop to reflect on the pope's call to live simply with joy during Lent, a time of conversion.

"It's a different view of letting go in a consumerist culture but clearly the emphasis is saying 'yes' to grounding ourselves in a spiritual reality with the world, 'yes' to being present to family members, to our community, to being open to creation, and to God speaking to us in creation," said McKeon.

Citing Isaiah 58, which is used in the liturgy on the Friday and Saturday after Ash Wednesday, McKeon linked the scripture to "walking the talk" on the environment.


The passage was addressed to a community that felt its prayers were not being heard; it was in crisis because the people were not living the way they were called to live in their daily lives.

"By putting that passage in the first week of Lent, the Church is telling us as we go through Lent, this is a new beginning: Walk the talk; live what you pray," said McKeon.

Conversion is a long path of renewal, said McKeon. "It's not just electing a certain government or getting more blue bags in our homes. It's ongoing and touches us at the most basic part of our life."


Focusing on the spiritual aspect of Laudato Si', the workshop explored a Christian spirituality marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little. That approach can help overcome the unhealthy anxiety which makes us superficial, aggressive and compulsive consumers.

"It is a return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us, to be spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack," the pope says.


A sober and satisfying life can only be cultivated with inner peace, which is closely related to care for ecology and the common good. It is an attitude taught by Jesus, who was completely present to everyone and everything.

"He always says to us, don't be without joy when you're fasting," said Anupama Ranawana, regional animator of Development and Peace. "The idea of taking on humility and poverty is not to be grim, but to take on Christ in that humility."

About 15 people attended the workshop from different communities, including Anglicans, youth leaders, teachers, parish assistants and associats, and theology students.