“Yes! We’re done! It’s over,” you may be saying to yourself. Yes, you’ve survived the bulk of the holidays! Well done, you! No, I won’t remind you that it’s still technically the holiday season. Now you can sit back and relax as things slowly go back to normal. Hello, routine! Bliss, isn’t it? Although most people think about how life is mercifully slowing down for them, there is one group that worked hard and still continue to work selflessly for us all year round: the members of our own Church. More specifically, those who’ve said “Yes!” to God’s calling to the specific vocations of diocesan and religious life.
Think about it. Advent into Christmastide is one of the busiest times of the year for priests and religious. All those beautiful Masses celebrated, all the parish activities planned (with help from the faithful, of course), and other countless things they’ve done often get overlooked because it’s “part of their job.” And, yes, many of us say “Thank you” to our parish priests or religious communities when we see them but maybe we can do a little something extra to show our appreciation for all their hard work this past liturgical season (Advent) into our current one (Christmastide). After all, charity begins at home and there’s still time for giving since Epiphany is yet another great gift-giving holiday in many parts of the world.
Are you on-board with this idea but need some ideas? Here are 5 ways you can show your gratitude to these selfless members of our Church family.
Volunteer at homes for the retired religious
You’d be surprised at how many retired religious still do what they can do make the holidays special for their communities and parishes. While some of us have experience volunteering at convalescent homes, most of us don’t consider doing the same with retired religious. I’ve often been given the opportunity to serve the retired nuns of two different orders; one at my alma mater and at another retirement home a little further away. There is something wonderfully fulfilling about spending time with and serving those who’ve given up their lives to serve the Church. If you have the chance, I highly recommend taking this route. You may even get some great stories hanging out with older religious members that you wouldn’t otherwise hear.
Sponsor a future (or current) seminarian or religious novice
With skyrocketing student loans that need to be paid off before a young man or woman can enter the priesthood or religious life, it’s no surprise that many need financial help getting there. If you know of someone who feels called to the religious life but can’t financially afford to enter quite yet, consider donating to the cause. Sometimes, they also need to purchase books and other things during their studies and/or their formation. You can help with that as well. Even if it’s sacrificing that $5 you’d normally spend at a coffee shop, every little bit helps throughout the year… especially after a big consumer holiday like Christmas when most returned home to see their loved ones.
Donate to your favorite religious order
Many Catholics are a little wary about donating to their dioceses, or even parishes, in the wake of all sexual abuse scandals. It’s sad that we’ve reached this point but it’s also completely understandable. If you’re in this boat, let me offer an alternative: donating to your favorite religious order. There are some religious orders that are growing at a rapid pace and need help, financially.
This is especially true of more traditional orders. Monasteries and convents are running out of space and need to expand their housing. There are also monasteries, like the Benedictine monastery in Norcia, Italy, that are still trying to rebuild their community following a natural disaster, years after it happened. Whether you can contribute financially, volunteering with manual labor, or helping with any God-given talent you may have, you won’t be sorry you did.
Consider purchasing “homemade” goods from monasteries and convents throughout the year
This suggestion goes along with the previous one. Many of these monasteries and convents rely on what they themselves produce in order to bring in income they need to keep their communities running. Some of these places specialize in baked goods. Others make religious goods such as rosaries or crucifixes and statues by hand. Whatever items you may need during the year and for every occasion, you can find a monastery or convert that makes what you are looking for. You can even find great beer made by them! If you’re unsure where to look, feel free to ask around, especially on social media. You’ll get a ton of suggestions that you can then choose from.
“Those are all great suggestions, but I can barely make ends meet” or “I live too far to volunteer!” you may be saying right now. There is one final thing you can do: consider spiritual adoption. If you’re Catholic or interested in becoming one, odds are you know someone who is a priest or nun. This is especially true if you’re active on social media. Whether it’s a diocesan priest, a religious brother or sister, an aspiring priest or nun, or even a consecrated virgin (yes, they also count!), there is no shortage of people to pray for.
With the state of the Church right now, they need our prayers more than ever. You can adopt a single person, a whole community, or rotate several people in different orders. Want to go one up? Pray for the clergy member you disagree the most with. You can even pray for the pope! You can pray for their vocations every day using your favorite prayer or adopting a Heavenly buddy to help intercede for them.
As you can see, the options and possibilities to give back to these wonderful members of our Church family. After this crazy and hectic holiday season, consider giving back to those who have answered God’s call to their special vocations. You won’t be sorry that you did.