August 19, 2005

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Costs and benefits in minor and major matters

In a recent hardware store advertising supplement, I read an item that compared the high cost of gasoline per gallon to other liquid products—if those other products were sold by the gallon. Without sharing the well-known brand names or the costs-to-the-penny, here are a few per-gallon examples:

• Cranberry juice: $10

• Mouthwash: $80

• Cough syrup: $170

• Bottled water: $20

• Stomach antacid: $120

Although these products cost less in the small amounts we normally buy them in, they are more expensive than gas. Reading about this gave me an appreciation for how fortunate—even pampered—we are to have such products at our fingertips. Do the costs outweigh the benefits? Could we save a little by using off-brands? Then what do we do with the savings?

Most of the time, don’t we take such items for granted? Most of us in city areas have almost anything available almost anytime. In some outlying areas, products like those above perhaps are not as easy to get; but in many countries, they are non-existent to the majority.

Extending the cost-benefit idea to another area of our lives: Parents work hard to give their children a good education, but how often do we tally the expense versus the results? In the case of Catholic schools—at least in my family’s experience—the benefits far outweigh the costs. In fact, I credit Catholic education as being at the core of whatever is good in us.

With the shortage of priests and ­others with religious vocations, we also must consider how can we best use our monetary tithing and other donations? What are the costs and what are the benefits? Some parishes in Indiana (and elsewhere) have closed, and many are sharing priests. If we treasure Catholic traditions and want them preserved for new generations then (as the old sayings go) perhaps we need to “put our money where our mouths are” and “tighten our belts and give more.” How else can we “cut corners”? (Tithing includes giving time and energy toward parish-related projects whenever possible.)

The prices shared at the beginning of this column should tell us we’re putting good money into some nonvaluable products, i.e., water with “a name” or too-expensive antacid. Such savings could also be put to better use while financing and fostering vocations.

Many parishes in our archdiocese are providing special times for their communities to come together and pray that God will inspire young men and women toward religious vocations. Unfortunately, some parishes must eliminate certain services or activities for lack of help. Let us consider how we can better save, tithe, and serve our Lord and our community.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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