May 27, 2011
Submitted by Guest Writer, Anonymous Catholic Housewife

A number of years ago, my husband and I read Fr. Thomas Dubay’s challenging book, Happy Are You, Poor. It addresses not only our obligation to the poor, but also how we ought to live Gospel poverty in our different vocations.

It has been one of the most influential books in my life. I’ve read it three times, bought multiple copies to inflict upon family and friends, cleared out all the extra junk in my house because of it, and since the first reading, I’ve spent some part of every week thinking about whether I’m truly striving to live Gospel poverty. (I know I’m not and I feel suitably guilty.)

One thing that really hit home for me was Fr. Dubay’s question: If your own biological brother or sister were starving or suffering on the other side of the world, would you not do everything possible to help? This is paraphrased, but captures the essence. His point is that the poor ARE our brothers and sisters.

What has this to do with women, specifically?

Well, we gals are called to be the heart of the home. Typically, we think of this as creating a loving home environment for husbands (if we’re married) or friends (if we’re single). It means caring for the house, raising the children well, giving of our time, not allowing our moods to dominate, and being models of compassion.

I would suggest, though, that it also means having an awareness of personal finances so that we use our resources responsibly and ensure that we give what we can to the poor. And I think there are three traps that lie in wait for us regarding this.

The first is a tendency to let our husbands (or anyone else) take care of the “all that money stuff”. Admittedly, that’s what I did the first five years of marriage. My husband is amazing with numbers and mental calculations. I didn’t feel a need or a desire to educate myself on our banking. Inspired by a sister-in-law, in the last year, I’ve created a simple budget and keep track of all receipts. I find that I actually like having a handle on our money.

The second is to be totally oblivious to our spending. Many of us may not take careful note of what our grocery shopping trips cost. We neglect to compare prices on items, and may never look at flyers. Perhaps we always buy new clothes, or if we frequent the used-clothing stores, we tend to buy too much because, "It’s such a great price!" Or we buy what we don’t need.

The third is a temptation to think, “I can buy this. I’m worth it!” I would guess that most North Americans think this way – hence the enormous financial fiasco we’re in.

A good wife, according to Proverbs 31, “…opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.” (31:20)

How can we encourage our husbands to give to charities if we have no clue what our finances are? It is well and good to say, “Darling, I think we ought to sponsor a child.” It is much better and more concrete if we can say, “Dearest, I’ve calculated that if I stop buying ice cream and chips every week, and if I shop at Goodwill instead of the GAP, we’ll have an extra $30 a month which we can use to sponsor a child.”

How can we have extra to give if we don’t examine our spending? It is very simple to save as much as $25/week (for a family of four) if we do our grocery shopping at discount stores and buy no-name products. That’s $100 a month that can be donated to charity.

If we give into the belief that we’ve earned our purchases or that we’re worth it, then we are not keeping in mind the incredible suffering of those who have nothing. It may be true that we’ve earned those new shoes or we’re worth that trip to the salon. But what we’ve earned and what we’re worth are not comparable to what others need.

God has given women the special gift of compassion. Let us put it into practice by examining our finances in light of how we can best use them to relieve the plight of the poor. I know it can be overwhelming to think about the poor because there are so many of them. Mother Teresa, though, was once asked if she got discouraged because there were ten people dying all alone for every one person she picked up out of the gutter. She replied, “God doesn’t call me to be successful, but to be faithful.”

Anonymous Catholic Housewife


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