The next time you get one of those little crosses or coins or prayer books, don’t feel it’s just a ploy to cash in on your Catholic guilt. Read the letter, understand the need, and then decide for yourself whether it’s a charity you want to support with a monetary gift. And even when we can’t send back a financial gift, we can send up our prayers for all those missionaries at home and abroad who makes sacrifices beyond what any of us can imagine. No postage required.
At first I became annoyed that I was receiving so many of these trinkets, mass cards, calendars, etc. I even wondered why these groups wold waste the money on direct mail when it could be used for their mission. Upon further thought, however, I concluded that both of these sentiments were misplaced and contrary to idea of Christian Charity.
As with many charitable organizations, Catholic mission groups and religious orders are often strapped for cash. Some bear the burden of high operational costs directly related to the area and location of their mission, for example consider a Catholic mission in the Sudan or some other part of the world where there is constant violence or threat of disease. I am certain that in addition to the equipment and goods required to operate in this areas, missions such as these need insurance. This is surely what eats up some of their costs.
Next consider religious orders. Many of the more orthodox and traditional order are actually experiencing substantial growth in their numbers and this means expanded costs. Money in these areas would probably be used mainly for the room and board of the members of that particular order. Some orders, many cloistered in fact, do produce items that they sell to help support their needs such as coffee, cheese, beer, vestments and other goods. But this is not always sufficient as I suspect that the manner in which these items are produced are usually labor intensive. Keep in mind that similar to those missions that provide for the needs of the poor, etc., many religious orders provide for the wellbeing of our souls through constant prayer.
All of these groups, the true and good ones anyway, always put God first and operate in keeping with His Will, which is articulated through the Church. Yet, they reach out to their fellow brothers and sisters in the world for assistance. they do this not through coercion, pity or even guilt but rather by making their presence known and their needs expressed. They ask for us to intercede with our prayers first and our wallets second – God will always provide.
As such, the ball always remains in our court as those of us who live in work in the world, yet remain set apart as a result of our baptism, are often those who have been blessed with the means to aid them in their support. And in this it is our responsibility to the Church to aid her in her overall mission to spread the Gospel by many of the means offered through these various groups. This responsiblity is something that we must exercise in accordance with the will of God Who certainly desires that we care for our duties in a just manner: dependents, parish, other Church-related, etc.
So as the quote above states, the next time you receive a request in the mail, consider your response prayerfully and as the Holy Spirit to guide you to a proper decision:
In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Saint Paul the Ephesian Elders, Acts (RSV) 20:35)