Two weeks ago, I wrote about why a parish will spend money to purchase beautiful gold eucharistic vessels, or a well-crafted statue or a finely-textured vestment. It is important to note that the money for these kinds of purchases seldom comes from the weekly parish budget. Rather, they are made possible through generous donations people give or money received in a bequest after one’s death.
One may wonder, “What then, is the envelope from my treasury, which I prayerfully place into the collection basket, used for?” Every parish budget is stretched to include not only the obvious such as the hosts and wine, but also the mundane such as paper towels and tissue for the restroom.
We all realize that “in the beginning” a huge sum of money, raised by a capital campaign, was needed to build our parish church and additional buildings. Another large sum was used to equip the church with liturgical artifacts, pews and other furniture, an organ, perhaps a piano and a sound system.
Consider however everything else you see in your church. Items that are there for us every time we come to church. We so take them for granted that we seldom think that “someone” needed money in order to purchase the items.
Let’s focus for a moment on just those things purchased which contribute to our celebration of the Mass and the sacraments.
When you arrive at church, you will park in a lot. During the summer the grass around it needs to be cut and in winter the lot needs to be plowed and the sidewalks shoveled.
You enter into the church to find lights on and the interior temperature comfortable.
As you settle into your pew you notice vessels being laid out for Mass, the bread and hosts being prepared, the altar assistants putting on robes and the liturgical musicians rehearing and preparing with music books. You reach for a hymnal or in some cases, a worship aid, made just for your parish, with its accompanying copyright license that had to be purchased.
You catch the slight scent of incense in the air and see the flickering candles on the altar and in the devotional areas. Looking toward the baptismal font, you see that it is set up for a baptism. The holy oils set there are special sacramental oils that are purchased each year. The nearby paschal candle is also purchased new each Easter; this is a church directive.
As Mass begins you turn your thoughts to holy thoughts, prayers and gestures. Then the moment of collection comes. As you drop in your envelope remember that you are also providing for the good and charitable works carried out by your parish, the salaries of parish staff members, the development of parish education programs, the maintenance and upkeep of parish buildings and the insurance on those building and their contents. Consider all the office supplies, record books, housekeeping items even the coffee and doughnuts that you look forward to after Mass.
We offer bread and wine, knowing that through God’s mighty grace, it is transformed into Christ, intimately present to us. Offer then humbly and generously as well whatever you can from your financial treasure, knowing that God transforms that as well into a holy purpose for your parish.
Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.