If you can be poor, you will always be rich.

It really doesn't take all that much to make kids happy. A lot of stories about memorable shinny hockey games have been circulating this past week as Hockey Day in Canada reaches its climax in Whitehorse this Saturday.

It really doesn’t take all that much to make kids happy. A lot of stories about memorable shinny hockey games have been circulating this past week as Hockey Day in Canada reaches its climax in Whitehorse this Saturday.

Given a local pond or flooded back yard patch of almost any dimension of skatable ice, makeshift equipment like rolled up magazines for padding and a few buddies meant endless hours of fun for a lot of folk.

How many other times like these can you recall where it didn’t take much to truly enjoy life? Spending many hours over a jigsaw puzzle or a game of cards with family and friends certainly make it into my personal mental memory album. All of us surely have our own favourite recollections of simply appreciating the company of others over a game of some sort, or just a cup of tea.

These experiences offer us a glimmer of an understanding of the profound insights people from the Christian ascetics to Gandhi and Henry David Thoreau to Tibetan Buddhist monks have had for literally millennia.

Voluntary simplicity, simple living, voluntary poverty or whatever you wish to call it offers what many have believed to be a path towards connecting more deeply with the core and substance of what it means to be human. At the same time it provided a way to be more positively present to one another and the Earth.

The rampant, accelerating consumerism of the last half century has threatened to push this idea to the fringe of our society. It certainly wasn’t always this way.

Growing up I was educated by religious women and men who took vows of poverty. I saw Amish farmers and their families in their plain, utilitarian garb when they came to the city. Later I would get to know a wide variety of practitioners of voluntary poverty from ‘back-to-the-land’ movement to urban gleaners. They all seemed to understand the basic truism; if you can be poor, you will always be rich.

The conscious choice of voluntary simplicity often has spiritual roots but could stem as well from a wide variety of sources from environmentalism to the pursuit of health and emotional well-being. Social Justice concerns motivated others to attempt to disengage as much as possible from a destructive global system and bring their egalitarian values into line with their lifestyles. From whatever perspective it strongly suggests that another world is possible.

In Whitehorse we have been privileged to have a very visible witness to this alternative among us. Maryhouse has been here since 1954 at the corner of 6th and Cook Street. This longtime community resource is a branch of the Madonna House Apostolate headquartered in Combermere, Ontario. This community of Christian lay men, women, and priests (www.madonnahouse.org) take a vow of poverty along with vows of chastity and obedience.

When asked what Madonna House was, Catherine Doherty, who founded the apostolate in 1947, said that it “is a very simple thing. It is an open door. It is a cup of tea or coffee, good and hot. It is an invitation to work for the common good. Madonna House is a house of hospitality. It is a place where people are received, not on their education, not on how wonderful they are as painters, or whatever they have to do; they are received simply as people. They are loved.”

A farewell tea for Kate O’Donnell will take place on Sunday, February 13th from 2 to 5 p.m. at Maryhouse at the corner of 6th and Cook Street. After 11 years of service to our community she is being transferred back to Madonna House in Combermere.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact pazypan@yukon.net.

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