In Sunday’s edition of The New York Times Review an article appeared titled “For the Love of Money.” It is an article written by a former Wall Street trader who had given come to see his desire from more money as an addition, a wealth addiction. After millions of dollars in salary and bonuses he wasn’t fulfilled, the money didn’t complete him. Ultimately he gave it all up, the bonuses and the high paying job to do something more with his life.
Dozens of different types of 12-step support groups — including Clutterers Anonymous and On-Line Gamers Anonymous — exist to help addicts of various types, yet there is no Wealth Addicts Anonymous. Why not? Because our culture supports and even lauds the addiction. Look at the magazine covers in any newsstand, plastered with the faces of celebrities and C.E.O.’s; the superrich are our cultural gods. I hope we all confront our part in enabling wealth addicts to exert so much influence over our country.
I generally think that if one is rich and believes they have “enough,” they are not a wealth addict. On Wall Street, in my experience, that sense of “enough” is rare. The money guy doing a job he complains about for yet another year so he can add $2 million to his $20 million bank account seems like an addict.
The whole article is a call for each of us to examine our own consciences. The entire piece is a must read.
I wonder how many others are suffering with this same addiction, even if it goes unnamed. It is understandable for some one with responsibilities for a family to be concerned about money and making ends meet. Please God it would be a little easier for everyone. But when is enough, enough? When will we be comfortable? How much time and effort do we put into making sure we have enough money. Time and effort that would be better spent paying attention to our loved ones, to our God.
Even as a priest I find myself worried about money. One day as a pastor I’ll have the responsibility to balance the parish budget. I’ll have the responsibility to ask for financial assistance from the parishioners. Already now, I have been tasked with spearheading my parish’s annual diocesan Catholic Ministries Appeal. One of the top complaints of Catholics is that priests all too often ask for money. Too often it seems like thats all we do sometimes. How do we strike the balance between appropriate fundraising and not burdening our people with more demands. As numbers decline fewer people are giving more, and we as a church are tasked with doing more with less. Even with the responsibility for the financial health of a parish we must never come across as obsessed with money, as a wealth addict.
Even for me personally, I have ends to meet. As a secular (diocesan/parish) priest I did not make a vow or promise of poverty as religious order priests do. I have a bank account, I make a small salary that is complemented by stipends. My room and board is covered by my parish. It is not a lot, but certainly it is enough. And yet, I find myself worried about paying college loans, about having enough to be comfortable. But I am comfortable. I am happy. I don’t want for much. Society tells me I should want more. I should need more. In order to be happy I need to take nice vacations, and go to nice dinners and see good plays. Too often I fall for what society tells me. All too often, enough is just not enough.
I certainly didn’t become a priest to get rich. But am I happy to have just enough. Am I happy to be comfortable. Should I comfortable at all? How do I live gospel simplicity, if at all? Thats a matter for my daily examination of conscience. Lord help me to be simple. Lord, help me to be charitable. Lord help me to see that You alone are enough for me. Lord, help me to see that you alone are the source of fulfillment and joy.