In giving we receive


13 Mar 2015

So, why do we give things up for Lent? Obviously nothing we give up is going to amount to the sacrifice of Our Lord, so is it simply tokenistic? Giving up alcohol and chocolate more than pales in comparison to the sacrifice of a life for the sins of the world.

In the first weeks of Lent therefore, I was looking for some new reading material, to try and stop me Facebooking well into the night, and quite by accident came across a book called “Blessed by Less”, which has resulted for me in a far more successful Lenten sacrifice, that helps me to genuinely reflect on what is superfluous.

Blessed by Less is published by Loyola Press and written by an American author Susan Vogt, and it tells the story of throwing away or gifting something each day during the season of Lent, as a practice of “emptying out” or “decluttering”.

The story is told by a woman who had accumulated, with her husband and family lots of “stuff” over many years.
In her book, Vogt speaks about clearing out her life of clutter and living lightly, and the freedom that it has brought, both physically and spiritually. The book, using well-crafted prose, considers how we tread upon the earth, how we use our spaces and make room for God.

Last year during Lent, I was living in Nicaragua. The houses in the barrio where I worked were the size of my garage, and usually had entire families inhabiting them. This was just the mandate I needed to start thinking about how superfluous most of my stuff was.

This Lent, I am in a time of transition, and living in plentiful Australia. In many ways, I’m not sure where I will be in a month’s time, so I’ve had to take it up a notch. I can’t just throw away one thing, I need to get serious and really take stock of what is needed.

I am throwing/gifting/clearing my life of five items a day. These items include clothing, kitchenwares, books, CDs, things that were in the bag to go to Vinnies a year ago, but which mysteriously made their way back into my apartment, and even furniture.

My friends are loving it, because they are getting free stuff, and honestly, it is already making it easier for me to breathe.

Having just arrived back from living 10 months out of two suitcases, I have realised just how freeing it is to live with less.

Last week, at the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn’s event “Guinness and God”, our Archbishop Christopher Prowse spoke about the important value for Christians of being poor, but of not endorsing poverty. He spoke of evangelical poverty. What he was getting at was this: To those of us whom much has been given, much will be expected.

And it’s true. By giving of what we have, we really and truly receive, and we make space in our hearts to fill that hole that can only be satisfied by God.

Beth Doherty is the editor of PrayOnline and the author of the new book Tweet others as you would wish to be tweeted. The book can be ordered from or on
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