Tag Archives: charity

The most important non-profit in our household

November 27, 2017

0 Comments

By Fr. Paul Jarvis

When we Jarvis kids grew up as exiled Minnesotans in early-60s Hartford City, Indiana – 3M exiled my father to Indiana, and the deal was we had to go with him – we discovered that Hoosiers in that part of Indiana celebrated holidays a little differently than Minnesotans then. And today.

Instead of going trick or treating once on Halloween, we went twice – including the day after. Ahem, we also soaped people’s window screens if we got Bible tracts from them.

Good Friday represented time off from school, public or parochial school. But it wasn’t exactly the kind of time off we kids wanted. We spent much of the day in church just sitting in silence.

4th of July wasn’t simply a time for fireworks. I remember going downtown the Blackford County Sourthouse to sit and be bored by a bewigged orator pretending to be Thomas Jefferson or another revolutionary. The worst, or the best, part of the event was guessing how long it would take the guy with the scratchy white wig, powdered cheeks, in layers of wool clothing in Indiana’s 90-something degree 100% humidity weather to pass out while reading the Declaration of Independence. While effecting an English accent in a Hoosier twang.

In pre-Beatles Indiana, Easter was just how a kid imagined Jesus celebrating it … with not just one hunt for treasure. But two. Like Mary and Joseph hiding around the house baskets of chocolate eggs, peeps, jellybeans, my parents hid the baskets in places a second grader could get his hands to.

Following the basket hunt was the one we Jarvis kids really looked forward to: an Easter egg hunt with real money taped to the candy eggs. Just like Jesus must’ve gone on.

Since I was the younger and dumber Jarvis brother, I would mindlessly follow after older brothers … surprisingly not finding any eggs. But just as Mary must’ve dropped an egg or two in front of Jesus so he could actually have some eggs to count afterwards, my mom surreptitiously dropped eggs around me. And like Jesus, I got the eggs with more valuable shekels.

We in Indiana also celebrated Christmas twice. On Christmas Eve, we – I mean my dad – would cut down our Christmas tree at the tree farm. And with “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Special” and “The Little Drummer Boy” playing, we’d all gleefully decorate it. Then we went off to eat at the only restaurant open in Hartford City … I believe it was a Chinese restaurant … where our dad would try to blind us with movie camera lights possessing the power of the sun. Christmas home movies only show us squinting.

Gorged and antsy, we returned home and opened the gifts we had given each other. Then came midnight Mass, where I pretended to be praying, with sleeping head held in my hands.

The following Christmas morning, we celebrated Christmas a second time. With Baby Jesus now safely in His crib, we kids scrambled to tear into gifts that St. Nicolas had brought us. The nuns at school always insisted on us calling the gift-giving Saint by his proper name. Not his nickname, “Santa Claus.” Sr. Mary Joseph Marie would rhetorically ask, “You wouldn’t call me “Sis” would you?” “No, Sister Mary Joseph Marie,” the class robotically responded. Of course, “Sis” is exactly what we would whisper when outside of wimple-range.

During Kennedy’s presidency, we Minnesota exiles did something that would seem very weird to today’s younger Minnesotans. We waited to go Christmas shopping until we saw the Christmas decorations and lights go up around town. And they wouldn’t go up until about a week or two before Jesus’ birthday. This was perhaps late for our Protestant friends, but way too soon for our Catholic nuns. It being still penitential Advent and all.

Looking around today, two weeks before Christmas is way, way, way too late. Holiday decorations start prompting Christmas buying aright around Halloween.

There was something wonderful in celebrating the holidays the Hoosier way though … besides getting twice as much candy on Halloween. For us kids, the shorter build up to Christmas helped intensify the excitement around Christmas gift-giving and gift-receiving.

The shorter period would also dramatically cut down the amount of junk mail Hartford City, Indiana households would receive at Thanksgiving and Christmasgiving time.

Then, as now, every household would receive heartfelt appeals to help this or that non-profit. The Jarvises certainly received a lot, but not two months’ worth …

… requests from the March of Dimes, Jerry Lewis’s MD effort, UNICEF, St. Jude’s, the Heart Association, the Red Cross, missions that allowed the give to name a pagan baby, the USO, Salvation Army, ad infinitum. But today, if you give to even just one charity, your address is sold to a baker’s dozen of other non-profits.

I have a friend today who gets roughly 10 requests a day to be generous. Multiply that times roughly 60 days … and that’s a lot of letters to recycle.

One day, Sr. Mary Joseph Marie called all of her classroom’s impressionable students into church, and brought out our patron saint’s statue, St. John. She silently handed out a simple holy card – this was back in the day when we Catholic kids collected them like our Protestant friends collected baseball cards.

Dramatically, she held up a huge stack of donation non-profit donation requests, and fanned herself as if weary from holding up so many.

With her other hand, she raised the holy card of St. John. She remained silent for a while, looking at us. One by one.

Then she asked – rhetorically – “Which of these non-profits (she probably said charity, now that I think about it) are organizations that help out a lot of folks outside our parish, and probably pay their presidents tens of thousands of dollars a year (remember, this is early 60s Indiana)? And which non-profit helps your family members from the moment they were born and baptized to the moment they have their funerals? With First Communions, with Confirmations, with Weddings, with Ordinations, with Sick Calls and weekly Sunday Masses in between? Which helps your school and catechism classes tuition?” To make a finer point of it, “And which non-profit is always there for your family – I mean, really there for your family? In fact, it IS your family?”

To not make too fine of a point, the good Sister helped us out by looking sideways at the holy card. The answer was obvious even to us second graders.

And the implication was just as obvious – we kids were to make the case for “our parish” at home during a time of giving and giving thanks.

She didn’t pick on any raised hands responding to her rhetorical question. But just to make sure the point got through, she had us kneel and pray before our parish’s patron saint’s statue. And if you looked closely, you could see a different set of Thanksgiving and Christmas contribution envelopes fanning out from a parish patron’s base.

As we left church, the class’s eraser-clapping, nerdy brown-noser asked Sister Mary Joseph Marie whether we could take an envelope home to mom and dad. Just like Ingrid Bergman in the “Bells of St. Mary,” she knowingly smiled at me and said, “No need to, Popo, I am very, very sure your parents already have some.”

We Indiana parishioners always considered our parish to be the most important non-profit in our household. It was there for us, like no other. Better still, we were simultaneously its charitable recipients.

The Salvation Army red kettle was nice for our – now remember these are pre-ecumenical days – fine for our Protestant friends. I’d even pray that they responded with St. Nick-level generosity to all the non-profit requests they no doubt got. But our Catholic parish was not only “our parish.” It was our non-profit.

Sister Mary Joseph Marie didn’t need to say it explicitly, but we understood that focusing our giving on our parish was the best use of the golden talents God had given us. (Matthew 25:14-30)

Early 1960s Indiana ways may seem very strange to us today. But as I see Catholics increasingly indebted by Happy Holidays commercialism, Halloween costumes become decidedly creepier and costlier than bedsheets with two holes cut out of them, and many a Catholic sending numerous checks to non-profits they know barely anything about and headed by million-dollar execs … they really, really, really make sense to this repatriated Minnesotan.

~ Fr. Paul Jarvis, Senior Associate Pastor of St. Bridget Parish Community, Minneapolis.

Continue reading...

Where you send your “ice bucket challenge” donation DOES make a difference

August 30, 2014

0 Comments

If you’ve already gotten in on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge or are planning to, congratulations on your generosity of spirit.

Before you donate, consider the concerns being expressed that the ALS Foundation supports research that uses fetal embryonic tissue from abortions.

Father John Floeder, who teaches bioethics at the St. Paul Seminary and who chairs the Archbishop’s Commission on Bio/Medical Ethics in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, offered the following statement to help people gain a better understanding of the moral and ethical issues involved:

Many human sufferings call out to us for help, and Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) is certainly among them.  Jesus Christ and the demands of love must lead us, as Catholics, to give our time, energy, and resources to those who suffer.  The awareness and contributions that have been raised because of the “bucket challenge” are a testament to that love in so many.  That said, authentic Christ-like love never can accept the deliberate taking of one life for the sake of another, which the use of embryonic stem cells does.  To really help the suffering of ALS in a loving way, Catholics should not only support only those organizations that do not use embryonic stem cells, but also express to organizations the need to cease support and funding of practices that use embryonic stem cells that destroys human life.

The U.S. Catholic Conference suggests donating to ALS research at several alternative organizations, including the John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa City, Iowa, which is doing research in several areas including ALS, and does not support embryonic stem cell research. To donate, use the button for “Donate Now” on the institute’s main web page.

Continue reading...

Spiritual lessons learned from a wet basement

June 25, 2014

0 Comments

There are a lot of wet basements out there right now. While water seeps into my basement, sin keeps coming back into my heart. Photo/littlegreenfroggy. Licensed under Creative Commons

There are a lot of wet basements out there right now. As water seeps into my basement, sin keeps coming back into my heart. Photo/littlegreenfroggy. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Like other places in the country, Minnesota has been pretty wet this spring and early summer. With each major rainfall, I’ve had streams of water coming into my basement.

My house is 106 years old and when it rains hard, water seeps in from the four corners. In one spot, there had been some kind of a pump which was later removed (I have no idea why.) and a concrete patch was placed over the spot.

Water comes in through the patch and pools there, so that I frequently have to sweep the water down to the drain. (I am going somewhere with this.)

A stream through the basement

Five minutes after I sweep, as much or more water collects in that spot so that I have to keep pushing it down to the drain. After an especially heavy rainfall last week, water continued to come up through that patch for a few days after the rain stopped.

It has mostly dried up but more rain is forecast this week.

I am looking for a permanent solution but for now I can be thankful that there has only been a couple inches of water in the deepest spots.  Compared to what many others are dealing with, that’s not so bad.

This stream running through my basement (apparently there are actual underground streams throughout the neighborhood) made me think of a particular area of sin I struggle with.

Pride like rainwater coming in

Like the rainwater, pride seeps in,  collects in my heart and swells my head. I sweep it out when I go to confession. I pray the Litany of Humility and I think things are drying out but then pride finds its way back in with each new rainstorm.

Confessing my pride and praying for greater humility are necessary steps in overcoming this sin. But just as sweeping out the water doesn’t keep more from coming in, I need to stop pride at its source.

In a sermon, St. Benedict said pursuing humility is like setting up a ladder. When we act humbly we go up and when we praise ourselves we go down. He identifies 12 steps going up the ladder toward heaven.  Near the top it gets a little monk-oriented but I think lay people can benefit from it, too.

Charity pumps out pride

Ultimately, the pump that will keep out the water of pride is charity, as Cardinal Giovanni Bona wrote in the 17th century:

Pride is the root of every evil; charity, that of all goods. But you cannot plant the latter unless you have completely uprooted the former. Charity will teach you how to extirpate it, since it alone knows how to withstand the spirit of pride. You will be able to resist its spirit if you hide your virtues and show your defects. Then give much attention and consideration to the following as the source of the vice of pride: not to tolerate that others say of you what you willingly confess of yourself.

Continue reading...

It’s not Lent–do we have to give up meat on Friday?

August 23, 2013

0 Comments

Photo/bitslammer. Licensed under Creative Commons

Photo/bitslammer. Licensed under Creative Commons.

It’s a warm summer evening and you’re sitting on your friend’s patio sipping a cold drink as he puts steaks on the grill. It’s Friday, finally, and steak is going to taste so good! You remember those meatless Friday dinners during Lent. Thank goodness Catholics don’t have to give up meat on the other Fridays of the year.

Or do they?

Contrary to what quite a few Catholics believe, Vatican II did not do away with most meatless Fridays. It’s no longer a sin to eat meat every Friday as it used to be, but the Church still asks us to abstain from meat or do some other form of penance each Friday because it’s a mini-Good Friday, an anniversary of Christ’s death.

We’re asked to do penance in order to suffer with Christ so that someday we will be glorified with Him. To remember our sins and those of the world and help expiate them in union with the Crucified Lord, according to the U.S. Bishops in their 1966 Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence:

Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year. For this reason we urge all to prepare for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday by freely making of every Friday a day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ.

Canon Law states: “All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church.” (§1250)

It is also a universal law of the Church to abstain from meat or another food, according to Canon Law which goes on to say, “It is for the conference of bishops to determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence and to substitute in whole or in part for fast and abstinence other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.” (§1251, 1253)

What do the U.S. bishops say about Friday penance?

They have given the option to abstain from other things instead of meat that might be more penitential for some. They recommend additional penitential works:

It would bring great glory to God and good to souls if Fridays found our people doing volunteer work in hospitals, visiting the sick, serving the needs of the aged and the lonely, instructing the young in the Faith, participating as Christians in community affairs, and meeting our obligations to our families, our friends, our neighbors, and our community, including our parishes, with a special zeal born of the desire to add the merit of penance to the other virtues exercised in good works born of living faith.

During the Year of Faith, the bishops have asked Catholics to join them on Fridays in praying and fasting for renewal of a culture of life and marriage, and for the protection of religious liberty. They send participants a weekly text reminder and post on their website an intention for prayer, as well as a call for fasting and abstinence from meat on Fridays. Visit their website for more details or text “FAST” to 99000.

The Catechism offers more ideas:

These “intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice … are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works). (CCC 1438)

Steak might be the right thing on a summer Friday evening but maybe not in the future. England’s episcopal conference of bishops recently revised their law to return more completely to the universal norm of abstinence. Comments from USCCB President Cardinal Timothy Dolan point to the possibility the U.S. may do the same. For now, we need to make sure some form of penance is on the day’s agenda.

Continue reading...

3 Simple Ways to Think About Sharing

September 22, 2011

0 Comments

Here are some good thoughts to help us get a handle on giving.

Having generous eyes allows us to focus on giving what we can, where we can. We begin seeing others the way God sees them: as people in need.

Dad was a great Little League baseball and grade school basketball coach. He taught a simple, 3-step way anyone could become a better player:

1. Practice.

2. Practice.

3. Practice.

The same goes for deciding to give to a church, a charity or a cause. That’s the advice from Pastor Craig Groeschel, who wrote a column in Relevant Magazine that really made me think about whether or not I’m rich. He says we all need to practice having generous eyes. And:

“The only way to cultivate generous eyes is to practice — to look for opportunities and then give in to them.”

We’ll be drawn closer to God, he suggests, we’ll start seeing life from God’s perspective, if we practice, practice, practice giving at three levels. They’re easy to remember, too, because they all begin with “S.”

1. Spontaneous. When you see a need you can meet, do it.

2. Strategic. Plan your giving. Calculate ways your generosity can achieve maximum impact.

3. Sacrificial. Live like you’re managing not your own resources but God’s. Give both spontaneously and strategically, but use only the minimum that you need and give the rest away.

Is two out of three bad? 🙂

Are there other folks you think would appreciate reading this? Feel free to share to any and all via e-mail and social media.

Continue reading...