If burying the dead is so agonizing, why do we do it?

We live in a world where hunger is a daily reality for nearly 800 million people (World Food Programme). But how do I tangibly and prudently feed the hungry?

In her video about this work of mercy, Sarah Swafford introduced the “one level down” concept. It is a practical way to not only feed the hungry, but also live out other works of mercy.

The basic concept is this: Whenever you are going to purchase something, look at what you want, then buy “one level down” from that. You can put that into practice this Advent. Make it a point to purchase one level down from what you normally buy. Order a smaller meal, go for the off-brand, rent a movie instead of going out, etc. At the end of Advent, tally up the money you saved and make sure someone in your community has a meal this Christmas.


This exercise clearly is about living more generously and giving to the poor, but let’s dig a little deeper. In order to do that authentically, we need to focus on detachment from the things of this world. In the midst of the complexities of this modern era, we find ourselves enslaved and imprisoned by a thousand different whims, cravings, addictions, and attachments. We cannot live out the works of mercy if we are attached to our desire for things. By separating ourselves from a love of things, we can more fully love people.

To love is to give yourself freely and without reservation. Yet, to give yourself—to another person, to an endeavor, or to God—you must first possess yourself. The person who has little self-possession thinks only of himself and constantly places his desires before the needs of others. The very act of loving is an act of self-donation, of giving ourselves to another.

All the spiritual disciplines that make up the incredible landscape of Catholic spirituality are designed in one way or another to restore our lost self-possession so that we can once again love God and neighbor, and be loved the way we were created to be loved.

Living with a one-level-down mentality is just one way that we can practice this self-possession and free ourselves to love through the works of mercy.


In what way are you imprisoned by whims, cravings, addictions, or attachments?


Integrate a one-level-down mentality into your purchase decisions. Start today by doing it once.


I beg of you, my Lord, to remove anything which separates me from you, and you from me. (From Saint Peter Faber’s Prayer for Detachment)


How have you seen the power of prayer?