Monday, September 19, 2011

Charity Mis-Represented

"The need is constant!   The gratification is instant!

The [local place] Blood Drive is coming!"

said the email I received this morning. Now, maybe I'm just being antagonistic but the second sentence of the tagline about instant gratification really bothers me. It makes me sad and a little upset to see personal gain trumpeted as a reason for being charitable. Yes, they mention the need, but fulfillment of the need is not the motivation they promote. It ought to be. If you're going to give blood the point is that you're doing it to help those that need blood not for some material gain of your own.

Why do I think this is important? Because promoting charity via material (or other worldly) gains for the giver cheapens the charity. To really prove this point would require a long moral-theological tangent but this isn't the place for that. This idea is something we understand implicitly but don't often thing about formally:

Giving for personal gain is lesser charity because it isn't selfless.

There are two other examples that illustrate this:

I was sitting in on a class once at a public university. A girl a few seats over kept going on about the event the previous night that raised a few hundred dollars for charity via a cover charge on a party where a sizable number of people got really drunk. I am of course a biased observer but by her telling it seemed to me a flimsy way to not feel so bad about drinking way too much. (it was 10:30am and by her own admission she was still drunk.)

This summer I saw many boys wearing "I [heart] B00BIES" bracelets/shirts etc... They idealogically abuse what their trying to save. Usually things worth saving are worth respect. Also, as someone else pointed out to me, 'Aren't we trying to save the whole person and not just the body part?' I know that purchase of those things helps fund research but it is fundraising tainted by an abuse of sexuality.

In all the examples I've given there are charitable ends in mind. I'm not denying that. But I am saying that their charity has been tainted, in various degrees, by the means and ways they go about that charity.

So, am I saying to not give blood? No. Give blood. It is a necessary thing. But do it for the right reason.

And let them keep their t-shirt. You're never going to wear that cheap thing anyways.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Return to Order

This summer was fun. I worked on the "Mission Team" at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic  Youth Camp in Oklahoma City. As a seminarian for the Archdiocese I was assigned there for the summer. It's not something I would have volunteered to do but that's only because I didn't really know about it. Once I got there and figured out my job it was a lot of fun. By the seventh week I was exhausted and ready to be done but that's the case with any summer job. I would definitely go back again but I know that Archdiocese will have need of me somewhere else next summmer.

Anyways, after camp was over on July 29th I had exactly one month before classes began at St. Meinrad in Indiana. What to do? What to do? At first I was plenty occupied with catching up on sleep, doing laundry, reading books etc., thing I just wasn't able to do over the summer due to the busy camp schedule. This recovery process however did not last four weeks. After the first week any delayed activities had been overcome and I was left to find useful things to do.

Maybe it's because I'm still relatively young and energetic or because I drink too much coffee but I have a hard time just sitting around. I have to be doing something useful. That can be reading, writing, drawing, exercising, spending time with family and friends, something I can look back and be glad that I did.

The point is that I need to be doing things and doing them regularly and so I was very much ready to be back in school. At the same time I didn't want to go away from friends and family but without a daily necessary activity (aside from mass, but that only lasts 30min) I was getting restless. I wish I was disciplined enough to stay really mentally engaged without classes and academic deadlines but I am not (yet).

While being back in seminary makes demands on my time that I might prefer to be on a little bit different schedule it is nice to once again have regular things that must happen at certain times. To some people this may sound a little harsh to have most of my daily activities dictated but really it works out better. Once one gets settled in it isn't so much a matter of "I must go to X event at Y time." but rather "I get to go X event at Y time." I am capable of planning my day and being somewhat motivated but when I have good leadership taking care of those big things I can focus on smaller scale things (that in the long run end up being the bigger things).

In summary, it is nice to return to the order of the seminary (run by monks of the Benedictine Order), to return to guided growth both mentally and spiritually.

Please pray for me as I begin my second year of seminary formation.