DE PERE — Norbertine Deacon Johnathan Turba said that he received a gift from God at a young age: the enjoyment of organizing and cleaning.
Currently, he uses his gift at the Holy Spirit House of Studies where he resides in Chicago. Deacon Turba is in his fourth year of studies at Catholic Theological Union in the Windy City.
He also enjoys cooking and baking from time to time. “In Chicago, we take turns cooking for one another at the house,” he said. “In doing that, I find a creative outlet as a gift to share with our community members, but, at the same time, I find that I really enjoy cleaning up afterward. Cleaning the chaos I’ve made brings order from that. I enjoy that feeling of things going back to their place.”
While he understands that many people don’t share his passion for cleanliness and order, he said he believes there is commonality in “the desire for simplicity.” Deacon Turba explored this topic in his presentation “Spirituality of Simplicity” on Oct. 19 at the Norbertine Center for Spirituality at St. Norbert Abbey. His talk marked the first evening program at the center since before its shutdown due to COVID-19.
How does organizing and cleaning relate to simplicity in life?
“I’ve wondered what is at the heart of this,” said Deacon Turba, who was ordained a deacon by Bishop David Ricken on Sept. 4 at St. Norbert Abbey. “Why do I have this desire? Yes, I love the organization. The order brings me peace, but there is something deeper going on. The need for order that I love is actually a deep desire for simplicity.”
People often think about simplicity in terms of “physical stuff,” said Deacon Turba, but his presentation focused on the need to “come back to God to better know ourselves. To properly approach simplicity, we do this through God,” he said.
The true path to simplicity is surrender, he added. Making a retreat is an example of surrender, Deacon Turba explained.
“That’s the gift of a retreat. It forces us to take things out of our lives, to unplug,” he said.
Before Deacon Turba joined the order, he taught music for six years in the Iola-Scandinavia School District. When discernment called him to religious life, he needed to unplug from his previous connections.
“Not just telling my school, (but) letting others know of this life change,” he said. “Day after day, I had to make more calls, send more emails. We don’t realize how much we are plugged into so many things. When we are forced to unplug, we get a little glimpse of that feeling of simplicity.”
Deacon Turba offered examples from Scripture about simplicity — Mk 10:17-27 (the Rich Young Man), Dt 6:4-7, Mk 12:30-31 and Mt 6:34. He also recommended reading resources including “Abandonment to Divine Providence” by Jesuit Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade and “The Mindful Catholic” by Dr. Gregory Bottora.
Simplicity is also supported by the “Five Norbertine Pillars of Communio,” he said. The pillars are Praise of God in Choir, Zeal for Souls, Spirit of Habitual Penance, Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and Devotion to Our Lady. The first pillar, “Praise of God in Choir,” centers on prayer.
“As Norbertines, when we gather to pray the Divine Office, when we gather for Mass as well, we sing these prayers, we sing our Divine Office,” he said. “The repetition of prayer brings simplicity to our lives. At 7:30 (a.m.), I will pray morning prayer and, at 5 (p.m.), I will have vespers. This rhythm of life brings simplicity.”
Deacon Turba encourages all the faithful to find simplicity in a prayer routine. He said that the Holy Spirit will guide the prayerful to avoid monotony.
“When prayer has become so monotonous and I’m not being present to the prayer, that’s a great time to say, ‘I need to change this prayer,’” he said. “The monotony is me just saying the words. The time will be consistent. Find a prayer that speaks to the state of your life at the time. The Lord will let you know in your heart when it’s time to find a new prayer, find a new energy.”
In addition to his studies, Deacon Turba, who is scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood in June 2022, serves at Immaculate Conception Parish in Chicago. He has preached in English and looks forward to celebrating Mass in Spanish. The parish also offers liturgies in Polish and Lithuanian.
More practical advice from Deacon Turba: In order to find simplicity in life, don’t fall into the “trap of completion.” People will often “add more in an attempt to simplify,” he said.
“Once I finish this project, then I can simplify. Once this date passes, then I can relax. Once I get these things all figured out, then things will be simpler. Days, months and years pass and I still find myself trying to simplify. It’s an elusive thing that keeps happening,” he said.
“I believe the fastest and best road to simplicity is through, with and in God, by listening to that soft voice of God. By seeking the heart of Jesus Christ and by letting the Holy Spirit break open our hearts,” he said. “I offer you an invitation to let God speak to your heart about where he is calling you to simplify your life. Breathe a little.”
For more information about events at the Norbertine Center for Spirituality, visit norbertines.org/upcoming-events.