A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘giving

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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Halloween candy haul

My son on Halloween 2006. My grandfather would not have known what to make of this candy haul…

My paternal grandfather was not known for being a generous man.

To give an example, he handed out candy for us one Halloween so that my mother could take us trick-or-treating while my father was out of town. Judging by the amount of candy left in the bowls, Mom realized he gave each child just one piece of candy. He figured that the trick-or-treaters shouldn’t get something for nothing.

Not surprisingly, our front door was egged.

We need to learn how to strike a balance between not depriving ourselves and not being stingy toward others. Read these words from Sirach 14:3-8*:

Riches are not seemly for a stingy man; and of what use is property to an envious man?

Whoever accumulates by depriving himself, accumulates for others; and others will live in luxury on his goods.

If a man is mean to himself, to whom will he be generous? He will not enjoy his own riches.

No one is meaner than the man who is grudging to himself, and this is the retribution for his baseness;

even if he does good, he does it unintentionally, and betrays his baseness in the end.

Evil is the man with a grudging eye; he averts his face and disregards people.

We don’t need to have everything our hearts desire, but if we’re unwilling to take care of our own needs, will we find it in ourselves to be generous toward others with our time, talents and money? Do we want to do good only in an unintentional way?

If we don’t have a family budget, now may be the time to sit down and create one. Having a better idea of our income and expenses can show us where we have room to be generous with gifts and with donations to causes that matter to us, such as parish outreach programs, community foundations, or health-related or environmental causes.

And if we find that funds are tight, we can still be generous with our time and talents in ways such as these:

  • helping children learn to read through an afterschool program
  • sharing our craft, technological, culinary or other skills with a school or youth group
  • walking dogs or fostering a cat for the local animal shelter
  • fostering a future guide dog
  • distributing groceries at the community or parish food bank
  • preparing food at a soup kitchen with a parish group
  • visiting residents in nursing homes
  • selling poppies for Remembrance Day
  • serving as a lector, greeter, or children’s liturgy leader in our parish

I pray that God would help us learn to better share, with an open and generous heart, the blessings he has given each of us.

Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.

~ 2 Corinithians 9:7-8

In December, our society promotes excess and charity all at once.

On the one hand, we have all forms of advertising encouraging us to “Buy! Buy! Buy!” all the wonderful items stores have in stock for the holiday season, ranging from food and décor items to gifts for others to things we should treat ourselves to.

On the other hand, in this season of giving, we’re encouraged to give to those less fortunate—to contribute to food banks and food hampers, to charities that support families or the homeless or that target a particular disease, or to international aid organizations, for example. In short, we’re asked to give in a way that shows love not only for our family and friends but also for our neighbours, wherever they may be.

Giving to others gives us the chance to show generosity, thoughtfulness and creativity. I love giving people just what they wanted and surprising them with thoughtful gifts, homemade or not. But that giving should not put us into credit-card debt or mean we’re knee-deep in wrapping paper on Christmas morning.

And we can bring together giving to others and giving to charity: we can give someone the opportunity to provide a microloan or the gift of livestock, school supplies, medical care, and so on, to someone in another country through an international aid organization. Or we can make a donation to a charity in honour of that person.

As we plan our family and charitable giving, we need to remember—as our priest reminded us during his homily yesterday—that we should not become so caught up in our material preparations for Christmas that we forget about our spiritual preparations. So we read in The Confirmed Catholic’s Companion: A Guide to Abundant Living by Mary Kathleen Glavich, SND:

It’s hard to live the four weeks of Advent as they are intended—as a season of quiet joy and anticipation. During Advent we ponder the comings of Jesus in history (Bethlehem), in mystery (everyday in the Eucharist), and in majesty (at the end of time).

As we journey through Advent, I pray that, more than giving and receiving gifts, we would anticipate celebrating Jesus’ coming to us as an infant born to take away our sins and spend time seeking God, who reminds us in Jeremiah 29:13-14*, “You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, says the LORD. . .”

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

Last year, Ash Wednesday fell shortly before the Rite of Election, where my husband and I were to be received as candidates. Our parish priest asked us to help with the imposition of the ashes. We had to mark people’s foreheads with the sign of the cross and say, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

And so began my first full Lent in the Church.

Before that, the closest I’d come to observing Lent was giving up coffee for those forty days—and although I don’t drink a lot of coffee, it wasn’t pretty. (Just ask my family.)

I wasn’t used to fasting…or abstaining from meat on Fridays…or adding spiritual disciplines to my life during Lent. But I took on these challenges and participated in a Lenten Bible study in our parish. By the Easter Vigil, I felt more prepared to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

And isn’t that what Lent is all about—preparing our hearts by sweeping out the cobwebs through fasting, doing penance, and giving to charity?

How are you preparing for Easter? Read the rest of this entry »


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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