He is a beloved priest. He has a larger than life personality and a charismatic personality that was magnetic, especially young people. He had just finished up his homily and goes to sit down to prepare for the offertory. In an instant he jumps up, just as soon as the baskets started to be passed around, and he said, “Oh no, I am so sorry! I completely forgot something to tell you all. Thank you. Thank you so much for all your give to the Notre Dame family and this community. I know it is hard to be a student here and particularly a graduate student, but I want you to know I am glad you are here. And, if you need something, if you are having a hard time financially, when that basket goes around…go ahead and take from it.”
I heard this story from an old colleague. To my colleagues surprise and awe, she was embarrassed to say she considered it! She was finding the financial burden of graduate school hard to bear. Many of the graduates students in the Theology program at Notre Dame will go on to careers of service in the church, which as I am sure you can imagine is not a lucrative career choice! However, here is my colleague, who had never imagined taking from the church, doing exactly that, taking from the church.
The church, the people of God, make up that basket. Yes, if she were to take something from the basket it would be like taking it directly from another’s wallet. However, knowing that she was in need, would that donor had given it to her anyway? Probably. How about from the perspective of the donor? If you had placed a monetary gift in the basket, would you be fine with someone taking it out?
Here is the truth: at one point or another in your life you will need to take form the offertory. See, the offertory is NOT a fundraiser for the church. The offertory is part of the Mass. It is our invitation to say, “Yes! I am holding nothing back- my time, talent, or treasure…I give it all with no care for any return.” This time of the Mass is commonly looked upon uncomfortably. We wrestle around in the pew, sometimes embarrassingly, for some spare cash from the previous week. We pass along on placing something in the basket because we contribute online, however feel the “Catholic guilt” because we don’t have an envelope. We reach to the bottom of our purse for spare change because our children want to place something in the basket. However, the offertory is not about what’s left or spare.
Stewardship is a spiritual practice. It is an invitation to be counter-cultural, focusing on giving rather than receiving. It is time for each of us to reflect:
- Who can I pray for this week or how can I grow closer in my relationship with Jesus?
- How can I serve those in need this week with my talents?
- How can I live detached from “things” by sharing my gifts?
At one of the darkest times of my life, I took from the offertory. I know, gasp in horror! But, no, I didn’t actually reach in a basket and take cash, instead I took prayers, comfort, service, and gifts from my home Parish. When my dad died, I remember an outpouring of the “basket.” We had prayers, we had meals delivered, we had donations made in honor of my dads favorite organization, the Boy Scouts.
When I arrived home the afternoon of my dads passing, I sat in the driveway for at least an hour. I couldn’t go into my house. The place where my dad had passed and the place he would never return. I pulled myself together and entered…I was met with hugs of strength and comfort from our Parish family. There is NO amount of money that I, or my family, ever placed in the offertory basket that could repay the stewardship of my parish family. Each one of us will take from the offertory…I just hope we will return the favor.
Katie Price is the Stewardship Coordinator for the Cathedral and the Director of Discipleship and Stewardship for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.