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Jeanne Hunt for April: A generous “YES”

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The vocation prayer that we say in our parishes has a very curious plea: “Help us… to respond with a generous “yes.”

Every time I say the prayer, that phrase haunts me. It seems that the root of our problem in fostering holy vocations is that no one wants to be generous anymore. Our secular culture encourages people to put our own needs first. So, before we can encourage our children to become priests and religious (or even good husbands, wives and singles), we need to learn how to be generous.

Without realizing it, we have bought into the secular culture’s message of “me first.” The corporate world puts the bottom line as the priority: “How much profit will we gain if we do this?” “What’s in it for me?” Children encounter this message everywhere. Personal pleasure outranks the collective good. Athletes are taught to win at all costs. Scholars compete for the top ranks with little regard for the deeper meaning of what their knowledge implies. Even contributions to the poor and needy suffer. We are simply in it for ourselves. Generosity is an antiquated virtue. I remember a Sunday mass with my college age son sitting next to me. I handed him a $20 bill for the collection. As he saw the basket enter our pew, he said to me, ” Do you want change?” I was dumbfounded, yet, he honestly could not fathom giving all that money away.

I believe that it is in the second half of life that we changed our course toward generosity. We spend the first half of our lives acquiring things. We build up our investments, we buy houses, cars and furnishings. We learn how to hoard for a rainy day. After all, we reason, we might need this someday. Somewhere in midlife, we feel burdened by all our stuff and begin to divest. The freedom of not having so much is a strange grace. We are no longer caretakers of what we own. Less becomes more for the soul. When this happens, we start to desire to give to others who need what we have. Deep within our hearts we take on the compassion and mercy of Christ and sharing our wealth seems “good, right and perfect.” We finally see that material possession cannot make us happy. Happiness is found living in the heart of God.

So, how can we begin to be more generous and raise children who are generous? I offer a few suggestions that can lead our families toward this allusive virtue of generosity: Model generosity by prioritizing charitable giving in your household budget. Give children a weekly allowance for doing chores and have them put the money in labeled jars that are marked “save, spend, give.” The children can join you as they give money in the parish collection at Sunday Mass.

Decide as a family to support a charities or missionaries. You can sponsor a needy family at Christmas time. Involve the children by sharing the missionary newsletter or an update on the family you sponsored. Go to fundraiser together as a family. Reach out as a family to work in a soup kitchen, do a service project or even go on a mission trip. Traveling to a third world country is life changing experience. If travel won’t work, you can sponsor a third world child through a mission support organization.
Periodically, purge the house of your excess and give it to St. Vincent de Paul. This means everyone from toddlers to parents. The witness of one another give to the poor is priceless. Then, have the kids go with you to drop off your donations to the charity.

Talk about generosity. Explain to your children why we give and be sure to point out acts of generosity when you see them. When someone does a kindness, it is easy to simply say, “How generous of her.” Help them to see every vocation as a choice to be generous with our lives. Finally, do not force others to be generous. Making our children give can backfire. They may resent your direction. Just do what you are teaching and an awareness of choosing generosity will gradually develop.
Living generous lives is contagious. Once someone gives to you ” full measure, spilling over,” you remember and cannot resist paying forward. Generosity is a strange, paradoxical grace. We learned it from Jesus Christ.

Archdiocese of Cincinnati Vocations Prayer

Almighty Father,
You have created us for some definite purpose.
Grant us the grace to know the path
You have planned for us in this life
and to respond with a generous “Yes.”
Make our archdiocese, parishes, homes and hearts
fruitful ground for Your gift of vocations.
May our young people respond to Your call
with courage and zeal.
Stir among our men a desire and the strength
to be good and holy priests.
Bless us with consecrated religious and those called to a
chaste single life, permanent deacons,
and faithful husbands and wives,
who are a sign of Christ’s love for His Church.
We commend our prayer for vocations to You, Father,
through the intercession of Mary our Mother,
in the Holy Spirit,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
– Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr

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