For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

I was recently asked if I was going on a trip that’s being advertised on the church bulletin board for this October. I said “No, I won’t be going because I already took a vacation in March in the form of a cruise.” Although I have four weeks of allotted vacation time each year, in addition to time off for a retreat (mandated by Church Law) and five days for study (nice life-huh! Why aren’t men beating down the doors?) I can only afford one major trip per year. Oh I suppose I could rack up credit card debt, and charge another major trip, but it wouldn’t be wise because like all credit extensions, eventually you have to pay back more than what you borrowed and besides, I have other financial commitments. For instance, this fall, four of my nieces and nephews will be attending college. That is two more than last fall, and as I have done with the others, I will do with the two newest ones, that is, send them a little spending money every month. One of my seminary professors was fond of saying, “Because priests don’t have lawns and children, we should be more generous, though wise, when it comes to spending our money”. I have always been on the generous side of things and for a while, it got me into trouble with credit cards. Now I have integrated well, in my own life, the virtues of patience and prudence—I only buy what I can pay for now—not five months or five years from now. By the way, that Toyota RAV4 parked in the “Reserved for Clergy” parking space is mine. It’s seven years-old, paid off, and although it has a few dings and dents, it only has 75,000 miles on the odometer. I plan on getting my money’s worth.

While diocesan priests do not take a vow of poverty, a wise and learned priest once said in this regard, “We should live as if we do.” I decided earlier this year to make a larger commitment to the Archdiocese of Boston annual Catholic Appeal than I have in the past. So I pledged $1,200 dollars. Because of other financial commitments, including funding my own future retirement (like I will ever see retirement), this pledge represents a financial challenge to me. I have also started contributing monthly to each parish offertory. I have come to the realization that if I am going to ask parishioners to give to the parish, then I too must give. Even though giving money to my four college-bound nieces and nephews is not a legally recognized charity thus making it tax deductible, I count it as part of my charitable giving. In addition to giving to them and to the Church, I also make annual donations to a few very select charities including one that I think every Catholic should support namely, Catholic Relief Services also known as CRS. If you want as they say the best bang for your buck, then CRS is the way to go. You may not know this, but because CRS was already on the ground in Haiti before the devastating earthquake struck in January 2010, the U.S. State Department called them to see what it could do to help the poverty-stricken nation. CRS has often been referred to as “Boots on the ground”. Unlike many other religious or faith-affiliated charities, they do not discriminate when it comes to helping people in need. For instance, CRS has missions in many Muslim countries helping the poorest of the poor! Why are they in Muslim countries? Because when Jesus said “Feed the hungry”, and “Give drink to the thirsty”, he didn’t distinguish between faith adherence or faith practice. Catholics are to feed the hungry whomever and wherever they are. I also make it a point to support local programs like HAWK (Healing Abuse Working for Change) a domestic violence advocacy group; the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights; Massachusetts Citizens for Life; and Saint Vincent de Paul. Local youth sports, and community based arts, round out my charitable giving. Almost everyone, even some priests, complain that they do not earn enough money for the work that they do, but no matter what we earn, and regardless of the living expenses we have, each one of us is called to give to others and to give with generous hearts. Charitable giving entails giving joyfully; so if we begrudgingly give to some person or cause, or if we attach strings with the expectation that a favor will be bought with the money we give; we are not giving with a generous heart. Our generosity towards good and holy things on earth will be generously rewarded in heaven. So be generous in your giving.

 

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