|My husband Paul and I with Deacon Paul Schneider|
In today's Gospel we find Jesus seated in the temple watching people give their donation for the upkeep of the synagogue. Usually thirteen trumpet-shaped containers were set up to collect donations. People in the time of Jesus did not use paper money as we do today but rather they used coins. Some of these coins were small and very light while the more valuable ones were heavier and larger. You can imagine the noise that was being made when people dropped their donations into the collection box: some people were very humble when they put in their donations trying not to make too much noise and not draw attention to themselves; some put their donations in grudgingly, kind of throwing it in; while others made a big deal of it and created quite a noise as they put their coins into the container. They wanted to make sure everyone heard how much they were giving and wanted everyone to notice who was making all the noise. For these people it is more about the honor they received from others, it is all about me and what I am getting out of the deal, than it was about giving out of generosity to the synagogue.
But then a poor widow came forward and put in two small coins. A widow during the time of Jesus was considered very vulnerable and helpless, especially if she didn't have any children. Many times she had to depend upon the generosity of friends and family just to have the basics of food because a woman during this time was not able to inherit any of her husband's wealth or property. So the money that this widow gave did not come from her surplus wealth. More than likely, the money she gave was money she needed to buy food or other necessities of life. Each coin that she gave represented a day's wage for an unskilled worker, probably the only work that she was able to find for that week. It is interesting that Jesus did not evaluate the amount of her contribution compared to those who were rich. Rather he spoke of the source of her offering. The wealth donated from their surplus; they gave what they did not need. While the woman donated what little she had; she gave from what she needed. By giving from her need she implied an absolute trust in God.
As I was thinking about this reading, my own mother came to mind. She is a widow and while she is not poor, if she watches her pennies she is able to live a relatively comfortable life. I was thinking about all of the sacrifices that she had to make throughout her life when I realized that probably one of the biggest sacrifices she had to make involved my own vocation. Usually when we talk about vocations, we focus upon the aspect that a vocation is a call from God. Sometimes that call involves having to give up things that at one time we considered important in our lives. Especially if you are an older vocation, it might mean having to give up a job you really like, selling your house that you worked so hard to buy, or moving to a different part of the country away from your family and friends. But we do it because we believe that it is God who is calling us to the religious life or to the priesthood. We are willing to give up what at one time seemed so important to us and we trust that God will provide everything that we need for our vocation.
We forget that every vocation not only affects the person called, but it also affects our family and friends. By my saying yes to God, my mom also had to say yes to my call. I don't think I spend enough time thanking her for her yes and for what she had to give to God in order for me to be where I am today. While most of our families consider it a great honor to have a son or a daughter who has answered the call of a vocation, it does involve a great sacrifice for them. By my mom saying yes, she had to offer to God the distance of her son moving 800 miles away from her. I am not able to just jump in the car to go for a quick visit. Even though we talk on the phone, it is not the same as a personal visit. She had to offer up the notion that I would have children and carry on the family name.
To me, she and all mothers, and fathers for that matter, of men and women who are following a call to religious life or to the priesthood are like the widow in today's reading. They have contributed all they have to the Church. They have absolute trust in God that he will supply what they need. That is the reason why the mother of a priest is held in such high esteem, because of the sacrifice she made when she gave her son to the Church. In my own mother's case, even though our lives aren't the same as it used to be, she has gained 41 new sons. Every time my mom visits me, she is treated like a queen. Each friar in my province considers her as their own mother, even if they are meeting her for the first time.
We entrust our mothers to the care of the Heavenly Mother. Who else would know better the joy of having a son as a priest and at the same time knowing the heartache that goes along with it?
I believe it is a fantastic thing you are doing by gathering each month to pray for vocations. I am sure that is a big part of the reason why vocations to the priesthood in the Archdiocese are increasing each year. But I also ask you to keep the mothers and fathers of perspective vocations in your prayers. You don't know how many people I talk to who pray for vocations on a daily basis, but when asked if their own son might have a vocation to the priesthood they quickly answer no. They want their son to get married and have a family or want their son to have a good job so that he could help support his parents in their old age. They pray for vocations, just as long as it is not their own son. I remember when I was a freshman in college just after graduating from high school when I told my dad that I was thinking of entering the seminary to become a priest. He didn't know what to make of it and didn't speak to me for six weeks. But he later became one of my biggest supporters and was the one who was the most disappointed when I left the seminary a couple of years later.
Prayers for vocations are so important. I attribute my vocation to people like you praying for vocations. Continue to pray for vocations and pray that families may have the strength and trust to be able to give their son to the Church, that they, too, might say yes. It makes our yes a little easier.
|Deacon Paul and his mom with Bishop Hying|