‘I Think I Am Greedy’
Father Richard Kunst
I am no Father Mike Schmitz, but I do have a fair amount of notoriety in some small circles. I have been referred to as the Warren Buffet of papal artifact collectors. (I told you it was small circles.)
Thanks to the website, papalartifacts.com, and The Vatican Unveiled, as well as a series done on EWTN a few years back, the collection is pretty well known throughout the country. As a result of this, I get requests nearly every week from all over the U.S. asking me to bring a portion of the collection to some parish or Catholic group. Unfortunately, I pretty much turn them all down, because it just is not practical for me to travel with the collection, besides which I do have a day job.
Though this be the case, I have given countless presentations about the collection over the past 25 years, whether that be at local parishes and groups or in semi-private tours, and like clockwork, I always get the same question: “What will happen to the collection when you die?” I always respond, “I don’t know, what’s going to happen to all your stuff when you die?”
I say that to get a laugh, and it always works. But it is a valid question that weighs on me. The collection is massive and should be used to evangelize and educate long after I have left the planet, so that is my goal. How that is going to happen has yet to be revealed to me.
Because of the size and scope of this collection, there is a parable of Jesus’ that always stings when I hear it. It is the one about the rich man who built bigger barns to hold all of his belongings only to die that night. In the passage, the farmer says to himself, “What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?” And he said, “This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones” (Luke 12:16-18). In the end, God calls the rich man a fool for hoarding his riches.
Though the whole parable is pertinent here, there is one line in particular that affects me. Right before telling the parable, Jesus says, “Take care to guard against ALL greed” (emphasis is mine), the point being that greed is not only about money, it can factor in all sorts of things. The very definition of greed does not necessitate money. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, greed is “a selfish desire for more than one needs or deserves.” Let’s just say that I have more papal autographs than what I actually need!
There is a prayer that I pray regularly to St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, and this prayer addresses the same thing when it comes to greed. Here is the line: “Free us from attachment to money and all deceptive riches.” Deceptive riches are more than just money. I remember many years ago while I was on retreat in the seminary, the retreat master told us future priests to never own a car that is nicer than half of our parishioners’ cars. That is good advice for priests, as we have to be particularly cautious of working for monetary gain, but it applies to all of us.
Greed can come in many forms, from how many dresses, shirts, jackets and shoes are in our closets to greed with certain relationships: “I need to be with this person every day.” It can be in how much time we spend on the computer or how much time we think we need to spend in sports. Remember the definition, “A selfish desire for more than one needs or deserves.”
One day we will all die, and at the risk of sounding morbid, in our dying thoughts I bet we won’t regret having not spent more time surfing the web or watching our favorite sports team. I suspect that our dying thoughts might be more in line with the end of the parable when Jesus gives the moral: “Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God” (Luke 12:21).
Christianity is not “pie in the sky,” as many critics like to claim. Rather, it is the clear realization that we are not created to stay here, we are only passing through. Does what we own, or what we do with our time, align with “what matters to God”? That is an important question for all of us.
Some of the artifacts of St. Jean Vianney in this Collection
The Curator’s Prayer to St. Jean Vianney
Holy Cure of Ars, your whole life was a single-minded offering of yourself to God for the service of men. Through your intercession, may the Holy Spirit lead us now to respond without faltering in our daily lives to the call which you have given to each one of us.
You were steadfast in adoring Christ in the tabernacle. Teach us to draw close, in faith and reverence, to the Eucharist, to relish the silent presence of God in the Blessed Sacrament.
You were the friend of sinners, to whom you said: “Your sins are as a grain of sand by comparison with the huge mountain of God’s mercy.” Free us from the bonds of fear which sometimes keep us far from God’s forgiveness: increase in us repentance for our sins. Give us a true understanding of the way the Father looks upon us, tirelessly waiting for the return of the prodigal son.
You were the sustainer of the poor: “My secret is quite simple: to part with everything and keep nothing.” Teach us to give up our comfort so that we may share with those in need: free us from attachments to money and to all deceptive riches.
You were a loving son of the Virgin Mary, “your most long-standing affection.” Teach us to turn to her with the trust and simplicity of a child.
You have become an outstanding model for the parish priests of the whole world. May your pastoral charity lead those who care for souls to aspire to closeness to them all, wherever they may be. Give pastors a love for the Church, apostolic zeal, and steadfastness in trials.
Awaken in the hearts of young people an awareness of the splendour of the priestly ministry and the joy of responding to the call of the Good Shepherd.
Holy Cure’ of Ars, intercede for us to God. Through you, humble and tranquil pastor, tireless in the service of God and man, may we be granted what we ask.