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LOST: gray Bic pen. If found…:Weekly Message for 10-26-2021
Dear Friends in Christ,
In 2019 I watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix, and this year, during my vacation, I listened to her book on tidying up at work (which she co-authored with organizational psychologist Scott Sonenshein), Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life.
In Marie’s method (also known as the KonMari method), decluttering at home is a process of sorting everything you own into a few categories, then going through each item, one by one, and seeing if it “sparks joy,” giving away or throwing away the items that don’t.
That brings me to my lost Bic pen. It’s a plastic gray pen. I lost it on a flight, so if you find it, send it to me if it has any more ink. Or don’t, since I already replaced it. My first weekend as a novice, the first year of being a Legionary, a brother asked me if I had seen his pen. I quipped that he was too attached to that pen, and he simply told me living poverty meant finding that pen if he could. The vow of poverty for a religious is that you ask for what you need, and treat what you have well.
The flight on which I lost my pen was to my annual, eight-day silent retreat. Right at the start of the retreat, the preacher brought in a little metal bucket, full of pens found and gathered over the years in the retreat center and returned to service for people without a pen. Some were wacky, many had no cap, and the one I selected, I realized soon after, had probably been chewed on (judging from the bite marks), so I returned it to the bucket (and washed my hands…for twenty seconds, at least). “After, all,” I thought to myself, “I have pens at home, and I am taking my retreat notes and journaling on my tablet anyway. All digital. No sweat.”
I always keep a single pen in my pocket until it runs out of ink or I lose it (usually the former). Another Legionary priest warned me about loaning him pens, because he was notorious for keeping the pen or losing it (aware of this, I reminded him to return my pen, and he did…after trying to keep it). Before I was a Legionary I never used a pen until it ran dry; I would pick up a pen that ended up being empty, from a carousel full of pens, but never had a pen that I used from beginning to end.
I went without the pen for two weeks during my retreat and visit with my family, and on multiple occasions I needed it, reaching into my pocket, and remembering that I was waiting to return home and replace it with the pens already in my desk (most were already in the desk when I moved into the room). When I was visiting my Mom, I had to sign something, and I mentioned I’d lost my pen on the airplane, and my niece started giggling because she thought that losing a pen was silly (as a budding artist she had many pens). I realize in retrospect that I was applying a semi-Marie Kondo method to my pen dilemma without the resourcefulness espoused by Sonenshein. I didn’t replace the pen from the bucket, because that pen was gross, and it didn’t “spark joy.” None of the other pens in the bucket sparked joy, either, being either strange, capless, or damaged. But I needed a pen, at least for two weeks, and I didn’t have one.
I’m back home now, and I’ve replaced my pen. It doesn’t spark joy, but I need a pen, as experience has shown. The Lord, when he sent out his disciples, told them to travel light: “Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff…” (Matthew 10:9-10; cf. Mark 6:9, Luke 9:3). He taught us to take what we truly need but to rely on Providence too.
Things can bring us joy, but how many things bring us only a little joy that quickly fades? That Christmas toy when we were young? The latest smartphone, car, fashion? The Gospel teaches us that we will experience joy when we have what we need, which is not necessarily what we want. Try sorting out your possessions this week and see what you truly need. Give the rest to a charity that can use it to bring someone else joy by giving them something they truly need.
May the Lord bless you with whatever you truly need.
Father Nikola Derpich, L.C.
Maximizing the Mass