If I'd answer that big question going back in time, "Should Catholics Remain Poor?", I'd answer a big YES. Or I'd say "Well, we should not strive to be rich". At least in the way I initially understood the teachings I received so far from the catholic church.
First, I've seldom (or never?) heard a priest sharing a Godly preaching related to money or wealth. More so, money is always tainted as something evil whenever it is mentioned in a homily. It seemed like it's very difficult to obey the Lord when you have money in your hands. "You cannot serve two masters" as they say. I was so marinated in that kind of teaching that it had very powerful impacts in the decisions I made, most of which I was not even aware of. Like during after my graduation, I had an illogical crazy fear of making money from my first employment. [related post here]
That's why when I was once invited to a Sunday service of a non-Catholic Christian group one time back during my freshman year in UP (year 2005), I was totally caught in shock when I heard the pastor asking the people who wanted to be wealthy.
"What?! Why is this guy talking about being wealthy here on earth?", I told myself.
You see I've never heard the same question in all Sunday masses I attended before! All I was hearing were really nice things about forgiveness, giving, generosity, loving, dying on your own cross, sacrifice, selflessness and all sorts of topics like that. Wonderful timeless topics applicable for everyone. But never the guts to ask for any material possession.
I thank the Lord that along the way, He helped me understand how to handle my financial life, and that it should really be, along with other aspects of my life, under His lordship.That the ability to create wealth is a gift from God Himself, and that I should be a faithful steward of the talents He's given me. It's a long journey for me, and is ongoing until now. I guess my initial experience only highlights the fact that the catholic church is more interested in lasting things for its people than those that "moth eats and rust destroys".
I remember an instance last year when the parish priest of my parish, together with its youth group, had a little dinner at KFC after doing the preparatory work for celebrating the Easter Sunday. At one point, I saw the priest, after reading a text message in his phone, asked the person beside him if he could do a pasaload of two pesos just so he could respond to the message.
I couldn't believe it! The very person who has the biggest role in spiritually building a community is lacking a cellphone load!
Now I thought maybe that's how some priest value their vow of poverty. But for the rest of the catholic population who are not priests and alike, I learned that we're called to a vow of generosity. And that we should make all means to facilitate the proclamation of the good news by supporting it at the least financially as much as we can. Obviously, that ability will be limited by how we personally handle our individual finances. This balance is a constant learning topic for me.
So why did I remain to be catholic?
This has been a long great personal journey for me. Especially when I see the catholic church being the subject of all kinds of attacks it could get.
But at the heart of all those reasons, I believe it's a place where I see the kind of love that I realize can only spring from God. It's the church that remains in its core teachings for the longest time, and one that will keep on doing so and standing up amidst the loud criticisms . It's where I see people with a degree of faith I envy, and level of trust and surrender I wish to see in my life. More importantly, it's a place that welcomes anybody, the worst sinners, the church that's never forgetting of the poorest and the untaken care of, and the voice of the unheard, from womb to tomb.
My first pamangkin is celebrating his 4th year birthday today and people thank the Lord for his grace for it. Just imagine how much grace God must have poured in to a body that's lasting for thousand years and is strongly standing until now.
But with all those said, I love how Pope Francis is being perceived now as an example of Jesus’ love for the world. He is a walking reminder that how you love and what you do is way more important than what you believe, that for people with different beliefs, sames can be bigger than differences if it's all for love. Examples like these bring me back to the old times when Jesus had decided to show mercy instead of judgment, compassion instead of division.
Share your thoughts. Should devout catholics not strive to be wealthy?
Hope you had a meaningful break.
Have fun investing (for more than a lifetime!)
- oMeng :)
PS: It's a long journey for me, but it all started with this book – The 8 Secrets of the Truly Rich by Bo Sanchez.