The Catholic Blogosphere has been on fire since Pope Francis promulgated his second encyclical, Laudato Si. The best thing that you can do is read it for yourself. When it comes to Church documents, it is much better to read the document yourself, rather than relying on the analysis of someone else. The worst thing a Catholic can do is rely on the analysis of a secular media organization. Temperance and stewardship are nothing new to an authentically Catholic way of life and go all the way back to Genesis. Here are 17 practical and easy ways to incorporate temperance and stewardship into your daily life.
1. Buy things used
I know that recycling has become more and more popular over the years. Why not establish a self-imposed recycling system in your house? Buy cars, clothes, furniture, lawn items, etc. used. My husband and I have been doing this for years. It saves us money and it gives things a longer life. Consider how much money you lose the minute you drive a brand new car off the lot?! Buying used is also fiscally smart.
2. Grow a garden
I am not saying that you have to get crazy like my husband and I are about gardening. Our garden is literally bigger than our house. Our goal is to really offset our produce needs through fresh veggies and canning. There is nothing like a tomato ripe off the vine in your own backyard. It tastes amazing! It is a taste you cannot find at the grocery store. Pick up a couple of 5 gallon buckets and plant some tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, kale (this is a great producer for months!!!!), or any other veggie you like. Your garden can be big or small, low maintenance or high maintenance. Not only is gardening good for your body, it helps us connect with God through His creation.
We save a ton of money by supplementing almost all of our red meat with venison. It takes a little getting use to if you are die hard beef fan, but it is leaner and highly versatile. You can save even more money if you learn to butcher the deer yourself. It also reminds us of what a blessing the meat is that God provides for us. If you don’t like to hunt, then find a friend who does and offer to offset the cost. We hunt for many of our friends.
4. Shut off the electronics every now and then
In our highly connected world, this can be a difficult request. I struggle with this one, but in actuality, my struggle points to my addiction to my iPhone or laptop. We need to step away from the virtual world in order to pray and serve the people around us. Shutting off electronics not only cuts down on electricity, it cuts down on the ways we block one another out through a focus on the virtual rather than the actual.
5. Take a walk or a hike
Nature is one of the ways that God reveals Himself to us. The Church has a long appreciation for natural theology, which is that God can be known through reason. When we go for walks or hikes we are open to the beauty and wonder around us. God shares important aspects about Himself with us through His Creation. It is even clearer through the Incarnate Son.
6. Shut off the air-conditioner every now and then
I have seen a ton of articles written about this one aspect of Laudato Si. My husband and I do not currently have air-conditioning in our house and we live in an area that gets hot in July and August. Yes, there are people who need it all of the time because they are elderly or infants. When it is 75-80 degrees, however, it might be a good day to give the good old A/C a rest. I know this is shocking to our American sensibilities, but it is not the end of the world. Offer it up for the persecuted or the poor souls in Purgatory.
7. Use a Crock-Pot
On those days you take a break from you A/C, haul out the Crock-Pot for dinner. They are one of the wonders of modern cooking that allow a full meal to be made without turning the oven or stove-top on. Make it a chili night, or even a venison roast night!
8. Go through your clothes and donate them regularly
We Americans and Westerners own way too much stuff. Let me say it again. We own way too much stuff. Clothes can be one of those areas where we compile outfits for decades. We do not need 25 t-shirts. If it doesn’t fit, it’s time to donate it. I go through our clothes at a minimum of twice a year. There is a saying that “one shirt belongs to me and the other to the poor”. If I have enough, then I should be giving the rest to those who do not.
9. De-clutter and have a garage sale
It’s time to go through the house and the garage and get rid of all the stuff we don’t need. It is taking up space and clutter isn’t good for anyone. Have a garage sale and donate the proceeds to the poor. I promise you will feel a weight lift when all of that extra stuff is gone.
10. Share meals when you go out to eat
There is little doubt that the portion sizes offered at most American restaurants are insanely large. I had a salad the other day that could have literally fed four people. We are living like kings and queens while many in the world starve. No, we cannot pack up our leftovers and ship them to Africa, but by sharing meals, we can cut down on the waste and the gluttony. It also helps you save money on the check. If you have leftovers, share them with your brother or sister begging on the corner.
11. Work on wasting food at home
I will admit that I still struggle with this one. We didn’t eat many leftovers in my family. My husband comes from a family of 9 siblings and leftovers were an absolute necessity. For me it means that I end up wasting food. We have been given food in abundance and we should not squander it. We all need to work on using and eating what we have been given.
12. Drink coffee at home
I am a big mocha and pumpkin spice fan. This is one of the biggest areas that I have been wasteful with money and calories. I have an obligation to take care of my body and my wallet. Instead of a latte out every single day, drop down to a couple a week and give the extra money to the poor. Better yet, make them a treat and drink coffee at home. This is an area where I have been working hard.
13. Buy a Kindle/Nook/iPad
Didn’t she just say cut back on electronics?! Yes I did. This is also something that will be quite shocking coming from me. I love books. I am a Theology grad student, so books are just a given for me. I have four bookshelves. The reality is, however, that books take up a lot of space and a lot of trees. I am not saying we shouldn’t own books. Never! But, an electronic reader can allow us to enjoy all of the those books and Church documents without the paper, clutter, and cost. I just downloaded three papal documents onto my Kindle for school and I loved how easy it was. I didn’t have to print out hundreds of pages or try to find the book version. In the long run, you will save money too. Notice how temperance also means saving money?!
14. Adopt a pet
Domesticated animals are a great gift to us for companionship. We just adopted a Border Collie mix puppy that needed a home. Being good stewards also means taking care of those animals that need a home. Consider adopting a pet in your area.
15. Feed the poor
There is a great need in all of our communities to feed the poor. Volunteer at a local shelter or other program. We have Family Promise in our area, so our parish keeps homeless families for one week every 12 weeks. We are responsible for their food and well-being while they are with us. Look for opportunities to serve in your area!
Fasting is a wonderful spiritual practice that Our Lord employed and that has a long history in the Church. Fasting roots out deeply imbedded sins and can impact the world. There is not one of us out there who does not need to work on discipline. Fast on Fridays and offer it up for the suffering, persecuted, and souls in Purgatory. You will slowly see changes within yourself and you could be making changes in the world without even knowing it.
17. Learn to barter
My husband is the master of bartering. He is a very talented wood-turner and carpenter, so if he needs something, whether it is an item or help on a project, he offers to barter. Bartering allows us to help one another through our talents and gifts. It also allows someone who may not be able to afford a particular project to have that project done without paying money. My husband is willing to help people for free, but most people would rather pay or do something in exchange for his time and work. Bartering allows people to not be ashamed for their lack of funds. It also has a very long history. Let’s make use of the talents and gifts of others!