Monday, May 17, 2010


As I recall from my early days’ of studying Catechism, required by the church before confirmation, the vows of poverty are one of the fundamental vows of the Catholic clergy. Priests take these vows before ordination, and nuns also live a life of poverty. The definition of poverty is different according to who writes the definition. When I was growing up we were poor; poverty would probably also be an accepted description.

After high school, I joined the Air Force for four years during the Korean conflict. Because of the largess of the government the World War II GI bill was reinstated and I went on to college.

Money was scarce and I attended the local center of the University and lived at home. My brother loaned me his car when it was my week to drive the car pool and after two years, I moved to the main campus.

I was from a large family and one of my sisters had a child when I was attending college. She asked me to be the God Father for the child, which I readily agreed to.
Baptisms are one of the sacraments of the church and performed by a priest as one of his duties. On the appointed day, a pleasant Saturday, we all went to church along with several other families who were also baptizing a child. The priest arrived only after all of the families had gathered. It is permissible for the priest to be discreetly late.

During the baptism, I took a vow that I would aid in bringing up the child in the ways of the Church should it be needed. As the God Father, I was the designated person to go to the church office to get the baptism certificate.

My sister mentioned that as a gesture of kindness, a small donation to the priest would be appropriate. Priests are allowed to accept a monetary gift for performing the baptism. She suggested a dollar or two would be appropriate. I waited in line along with the other God Fathers, two one dollar bills held firmly in my hand. When it was my turn I mentioned the name and the priest dutifully signed the papers and putting them into an envelope, handed it to me with the admonition that the usual donation was five dollars. Five dollars was at that time a fairly large sum of money for me. I fumbled around and finally retrieved a five dollar bill and put it on the desk. The priest did not even say thank you or look up at me. ‘Next’ was all he said. Afterward, I casually asked the other God Fathers and they all had given at least five dollars. That was a long time ago and I did not have to help in the upbringing of my god child, except for an occasional birthday gift. My vow was never tested. I still regret my decision of going along with the crowd. At such a wonderful occasion, a vow of poverty, like all vows, should have been honored.

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