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Monday, July 13, 2009

Good St. Vincent, Pray for Us

There was a story in the Onion way back that ran as follows.
St. Vincent To World's Catholics: Stop Donating All This Crap To Me

November 4, 1997 | Issue 32•14

VATICAN CITY—Frustrated by the ever-mounting piles of used clothing, old magazines and rusting appliances accumulating in his name in thrift shops around the globe, St. Vincent made a plea to the world’s Catholics Monday to “stop donating all this crap to me.” “If one more paint-covered sweatshirt, dented crock pot, or any other piece of thrift-store garbage is dropped into one of my bins, I am going to snap,” said St. Vincent, named patron of works of charity in 1855. “Please, keep your worthless trash—I don’t want it.”
O good Saint, how I empathize with thee! I am similarly afflicted. Neither my Catholic friends nor my catechists warned me upon embracing the full faith and my name entered into the Archdiocese of New York's database, I would not only be besieged with heart rending appeals and tacky trinkets from seemingly numberless charities tied to Holy Mother Church but that their volume would steadily increase (which suggests the selling or leasing of mailing lists--simony, anyone?). It has reached the point where rarely a day goes by where I do not find an envelope from one of these outfits putting the touch on me.

Worse than the seeming urgency of most of the requests (one outfit's monthly mailings, for as long as I've getting them, are always pseudo-stamped, in bold red capital letters, "EMERGENCY APPEAL") are those trinkets, which include wee bookies, bookmarks, authentic gold-toned guardian angel medallions and similar detritus. Perhaps the most annoying, however, are the rosaries. I believe all the ones I have been getting are from the same source, the Society of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of the Little Flower (or something like that).

The SOLSHLF at least every other month sends me a cardboard box containing a form letter from a priest extolling his mother who prays the rosary five times a day and hoping I will do same with the enclosed plastic rosary, attached medallion with my first name printed on it and little plastic pouch with zipper to hold the whole business in, that his organization is most pleased to present to me. Also enclosed is a card, to be returned apparently, with a thank-you note already written out that expresses my gratitude for the gift of the "beautiful rosary and...personalized case in which to keep it safe" (from what, I wonder--pickpockets?) and various dollar amounts I may check off in order to more practically express my gratitude. Uh Father? If it's a gift, why are you asking me to pay for it?

I don't pay for it but do confess to some pangs of (Catholic?) guilt for not doing so. I recently consulted a older priest friend of mine what I should do about all this stuff--should I be guilted into donating or ignore it? My friend told me he was similarly plagued and suggested I keep whatever trinkets I liked, throw away the rest and concentrate my giving to the collection basket on Sunday (something I have noticed many Catholics are terrible at); if I feel like giving more, I should give to organizations devoted to the restoration of the Tridentine Mass to Catholic worship. That seems like good advice to me.

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