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LIVING BY THE GOSPEL.
So also the Lord ordained that they who preach the gospel should live by the gospel.-1 Cor.: ix, 14.
Wealth is the Conjurer's Devil,
-George Herbert. Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one. If it satisfies one want, it doubles and trebles that want another way. That was a true proverb of the wise man, rely upon it: “Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure, and trouble therewith.''-Benjamin Franklin.
more root," said big Father Mealey with a whimsical smile, as he helped himself to a second cigar and cast a sidelong glance at Father O’Callaghan, who had just been inveighing against what he termed an altogether too common practice among priests, that of continually nagging the people about the coin of the realm.
“Your quotation's not straight, Mealey,” remarked Dean Morrison, in whose study the trio were sitting; “ 'tis the desire, or love, of money, not money itself, that St. Paul characterizes as the root of all evil; and history as well as our personal observation seems to bear him out in his assertion.”
“Yes; I know it,” rejoined the first speaker; "but if Paul ever had a debt of forty thousand dollars hanging over him, as I have on my new St. Bernard's, he would probably have been of the same mind concerning money as was lago concerning wine, that it is ‘a good familiar creature, if it be well used.'”
“That's rather begging the question we've been discussing, Father Mealey,” said Father O’Callaghan. “In the first place no one claims that money in itself is an evil, and, in the second, it won't do to assume that all pastors whose Sunday sermons are one-sixth Gospel and five-sixths money have so legitimate a reason for desiring it as you have.”
We have no intention of reporting the dialogue at further length, but the portion of it already given may serve as an introduction to a commonsense discussion of a subject that is not infrequently treated at priests' retreats and is all too often a topic of conversation among some priests' parishioners. There are certain truths connected with the matter that are called in question by nobody. Even the most censorious critic of the “money-grabbing” priest does not deny, at least in theory, that the scriptural doctrine, “the laborer is worthy of his reward,” is applicable to his pastor, or that the fulfilment of the fifth commandment of the Church requires the faithful to contribute to the pastor's support. No one takes issue with the doctrine which St. Paul taught to the Corinthians, that "those who preach the gospel should live by the gospel,” although a good many commentators, clerical as well as lay, probably differ one from another in their interpretation of the word "live" in the oft-quoted text.
Preachers of the gospel have an undoubted right to live by it; but live how? In decent poverty, in well-to-do comfort, or in quasi-luxury? And just what constitutes each of these three states? Obviously, there is ample room for difference of opinion among those who undertake to answer such questions, especially as to the constituents of poverty, comfort, and luxury. If one man's meat may be another man's poison, one man's competency may be another man's indigence. What a city pastor considers the bare necessities of life may readily appear the luxuries of opulence to a foreign missionary, or, for that matter, to many a home missionary in the poorer dioceses of our own country. Wealth and poverty are relative terms; and the curate whose salary is only two hundred a year may for all practical purposes be richer than his pastor who annually draws five or six times that amount. In a general way, however, the three states that we have mentioned poverty, comfort and luxury—are sufficiently differentiated to be recognizable by all; and it would be interesting to learn what are the real sentiments of our best Catholics—that is, our most pious, fervent, conscientious Catholics, as to which of the three is the most congruous state or condition for the priest.
While recognizing no doubt that the ideal priest, the closest possible human imitator of the great high priest, Jesus Christ, would practice in dress and food and lodging that grade of poverty the example of which was set by our Lord and was followed by His Apostles, and while aware that
all down the centuries there have been, as there are still, apostolic priests who have held and hold that ideal up to the admiration or, it may be, the scoffing of the world, very few of even our most exemplary Catholics to-day would declare that such a degree of mortification is an essential condition in the life of a good priest. Still fewer, however, it is quite safe to assert, would admit that the very antithesis of such poverty is at all becoming to a professed follower of our Saviour, to one whose acquired powers and whose daily ministry have earned for him the not inapt appellation, "another Christ." The cleric whose dress is the twentieth-century equivalent of the “purple and fine linen” of Scripture, whose rectory is a mansion fitted up with all the modern appliances conducive to sensuous enjoyment, and whose table habitually displays "the fat of the land,” may possess a number of notable virtues and acquit himself worthily, on the whole, of his pastoral duties; but he is obviously a sadly inadequate representative of the poor Man of Galilee who had not where to lay His head; and even the least observant of his flock can hardly fail to note the contrast between the gospel he preaches and the life he lives.
The middle term between poverty and luxury, what we have styled well-to-do comfort, represents perhaps, if not the best possible, at least the best practicable, condition for the priest of to-day; and the cleric who is content therewith is not likely to be very severely criticized by his people, his ordinary, or a mentor more important than either, his own conscience. To live even in comfort, however, one must have money; and as comparatively few American priests have been ordained titulo patrimonii, it behooves the average pastor to secure a sufficiency of financial supplies from those upon whom the Church imposes the obligation of contributing to his support. It need hardly be said that much depends on the methods he adopts in inducing his people to fulfil that obligation.
It is a commonplace in clerical circles that, with congregations of equal resources and similar dispositions, one priest readily obtains all the funds he requires for the prosecution of his parish works and his own salary, although he mentions money but rarely from the altar, while his neighbor who is continually making appeals or having collections for this, that, and the other purpose never seems to secure the half of what he declares to be necessary. Possibly the frequency of his appeals is just the explanation of the latter's ill success, and perhaps if he would talk less about money he would get more of it. There is, no doubt, not a little exaggeration in the comments passed by some of the laity on the insistence with which their pastors dwell Sunday after Sunday on the perennial topic of financial needs; but it must be admitted on the other hand that occasional clerics do discuss the money question from the altar or the pulpit with a frequency suggestive of the Shakespearian phrase, "damnable
"damnable iteration." There was a substratum of truth in the reply of a cynical Catholic lawyer to the query, “What was Father Blank's text this morning ?”—“He didn't use a text; but, an appropriate one for the tirade he