A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘charity

Homemade Christmas scene

Part of a Christmas scene created by my great-grandparents during World War II.

Every year, I read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, partly because I enjoy reading about Christmases past, but mainly because I enjoy seeing how the miserly, crusty Ebeneezer Scrooge is transformed by his experience.

When Scrooge pointed out to the Ghost of Jacob Marley that Jacob was “always a good man of business,” the Ghost had this to say:

‘Business!’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!’

Maybe we need to look at business in the way Marley’s Ghost described. Kindness, mercy and charity take up more room in our thoughts as Christmas approaches, but are they something we think about once a year, just in time to earn those charitable tax credits, or do we even think about these virtues at all?

It’s wonderful when people donate food hampers at Christmastime or make donations to soup kitchens so that people can enjoy a holiday meal, but people are hungry all year long.

It’s great when we donate gently used and new winter gear for charities to give out to those in need, but we could donate clothing and household items at any season as our children grow out of their clothes or we find we no longer wear or use items.

It’s a blessing to charities when we select presents from their gift catalogues, but we could support their efforts to provide clean water, care for expectant mothers, or educate girls and women all year long.

Our giving could have more of an impact if, instead of giving into charitable impulses or looking late in the year to earn receipts at tax time, we thought about what touched our hearts and gave in a planned way, whether in the form of money, time, or skills. We can learn more about the charities we’re considering giving to through the Canadian Council of Christian Charities’ certified charities website and Canada Revenue Agency’s Charities Listings.

May we not be so caught up in our day-to-day routine that we, like Marley’s Ghost, could ask ourselves this:

‘Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!’

While my husband and son have time off work and school, I’ll be taking a break from this blog to spend time with them, and I’ll post again the first week of January. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas, green though it may be, and all the best for the new year. 

 

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I haven’t started baking fruitcake or cookies from family recipes just yet, but I’m looking forward to it. I enjoy making (and eating) these once-a-year treats, even though it means buying special ingredients like white pepper for my pebernødder cookies and stocking up on basics like sugar, butter and flour.

MinPin Caesar

Caesar, who was my cooking buddy, covered in flour

I speak from experience when I say that working with flour can be like working with glitter: it can get everywhere, even on pets passing through the kitchen, as you can see from the photo of my late miniature pinscher Caesar. (Not that he was passing through; he was actively looking for baking fallout.)

That being said, using the right kind of flour makes a difference in the texture of baked goods.

The Israelites knew about the importance of fine flour, especially in preparing offerings to the Lord. For example, in Leviticus 2:4*, we read God’s instructions to Moses: “When you bring a cereal offering baked in the oven as an offering, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, or unleavened wafers spread with oil.”

I was reminded of this recently when I came across this verse, Sirach 35:2:

He who returns a kindness offers fine flour,

and he who gives alms sacrifices a thank offering.

In December, we’re called on to give generously to charity—more so than at any other time of year “because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices,” as the gentleman collecting for charity in Stave I of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol points out.

As Christians, we know we’re called to show love for our neighbour. I like the idea of looking at our gifts and donations to charity and our acts of kindness as thank offerings to God—for having good health, recovering from illness, finding a job, welcoming a child or a son- or daughter-in-law into the family, gathering with family and friends for the holidays, or whatever blessings we may want to thank God for.

I pray that our giving this Advent and Christmas would be an offering of thanks to God.

With every gift show a cheerful face,

and dedicate your tithe with gladness.

~ Sirach 35:9

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

By charity, we love God above all things and our neighbour as ourselves for love of God. Charity, the form of all the virtues, ‘binds everything together in perfect harmony’ (Col 3:14).

– s. 1844 of the Catechism

This morning, the wonderful aroma of banana muffins filled my kitchen. I whipped up a couple of batches for a bake sale at my son’s school to raise funds for Typhoon Haiyan relief.

As well as supporting fundraising efforts by purchasing treats at the bake sale, students could earn admission to a Friday afternoon movie in the gym by donating to the cause. And one teacher promised to grow out his hair if donations reached a certain level, while another vowed to match donations up to a set amount.

Sure, all this is good for school spirit, which suffered during last year’s contract negotiations. But above all, it’s a good example of what the Spirit can do.

We’re approaching the Christmas shopping season, and the reminders are everywhere: flyers featuring seasonal items and “perfect” gifts, holiday songs on the radio and holiday movies on TV, Christmas decorations gradually appearing in stores. Even young people past the age of belief in Santa might begin thinking about their wish lists now.

And yet students and teachers took time out to put together this week’s activities to benefit others. If I could judge by the groaning bake sale tables (and apparently there were more on the second floor of the school), the school community strongly supported their efforts with their time, treasure and talents.

As much as I struggle with the 24/7 news world, I’m thrilled to see this kind of involvement and caring by the young people our society so often describes as uncaring or indifferent, and I’m thankful for the way the staff are modelling how to love our neighbours as ourselves—even if these neighbours are half a world away—and living out the truth expressed in s. 1917 of the Catechism:

It is incumbent on those who exercise authority to strengthen the values that inspire the confidence of the members of the group and encourage them to put themselves at the service of others. . . . ‘One is entitled to think that the future of humanity is in the hands of those who are capable of providing the generations to come with reasons for life and optimism.’

I pray that we would encourage our children and youth as they try to serve others and that we would thank those who model for them how to serve.

Now that the Church has selected a new pope, media attention has turned to the public’s opinion on the choice of Pope Francis and on what his priorities should be.

I’ve read a number of articles stating that many people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, would like to see the Church allow female priests, end celibacy for priests, expand the role of the laity, and so on. In short, they’d like to “modernize” the Church.

I think these articles miss an important point: as Christians, we’re not called to adapt to the ways of the world but to transform ourselves according to God’s will, as the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:2*:

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

To learn God’s will for our lives, we need to spend time talking and, even more importantly, listening to God in times of prayer, following the example Jesus gave us during his earthly ministry. We also need to spend time reading God’s word to learn what he expects of us. In Micah 6:8, we are told this:

He has showed you, O man, what is good;

and what does the LORD require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?

In the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5-7), Jesus tells us about God’s will on such topics as charitable giving, prayer, and forgiveness. And in Mark 12:29-31, he tells us what the most important commandments are:

Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Scripture tells us that we need to transform our lives by loving God, by acting in more loving ways toward our family members and our neighbours (in the broadest sense of the word), by giving to those in need at home and abroad, by modelling true forgiveness, and by working for social justice. These are areas where our society is often sadly lacking.

And if we do these things, the Church can teach “modern” society so much through the way we its members live.

*Quotes from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition


Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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