Everywhere we turn, it seems someone, or some organization, is having money problems. Our parishes are no exception. Or are they? Do our parishes really have money problems? Maybe what we’re actually suffering from is a heart problem.
Jesus said that a man cannot have two masters, God and money. Scripture goes on to say that those who are taught the word “must share in all good things with their teacher” (Galatians 6:6). The Bible is full of promises such as “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:5-15) and “God is not unfair. He will not forget the help you gave” (Hebrews 6:10). In looking at the Catechism, the Church takes a somewhat softer stance – “The faithful have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities” (CCC #2034). The problem with that is many Catholics apparently suffer from a collective low self esteem. In other words, we have little to no faith in our abilities.
At a recent ministry leaders meeting, our parish was discussing how to raise a significant amount of money in a short period of time in order to put an offer in on a much-needed piece of property to expand our worship space. We’re talking about several million dollars. Audible gasps were followed by pin drop silence, which was then followed by the shaking, not nodding, of heads. “It can’t be done,” one said. “Absolutely not,” said another. Father Vincent, of Your Car Has a Voice fame, was undaunted.
He told the story of his previous parish in Texas, where almost every family lived at or below the poverty line. Even with their limited funds, each family pledged $6,000 to the building campaign. Together, this tiny parish with even tinier financial means built a multi-million dollar church they all can be proud of. Looking around the room, he spoke softly, “we don’t have a money problem. We have a heart problem.”
Considering the median household income of our parish community is approximately $80,000, he may be right.
There is a story about a trapeze artist, trying to learn the art of working without a net. This trapeze artist was terrified of falling. He finally went to his teacher and asked, with all sincerity, how does one do it, how does one have the courage to let go of the bar. The teacher answered, “Throw your heart over the bar and your body will follow.”
Commitment. Belief. Faith. All are part of the decision to trust God to provide for your needs while you help provide for someone else’s. It takes heart to commit to God. It takes heart to believe for big things. It takes heart to have faith in a dream you can’t see.
I don’t know what is going to happen with our building campaign. But I do know that when we look at our parish finances again, instead of calling in an accountant, maybe we should invite a cardiologist.