Service is the hardest calling for me because it requires going out of my way. I can’t serve others much by sitting at home watching TV. I have to put time into service, time that could be used for leisure. Getting into service can be hard because there is no single formula to good service. Everyone has a unique set of skills based on their genes, upbringing, and God’s blessings, and so, everyone has a different set of service opportunities they are most compatible with.
Any form of helping others is service, but the most pure form of service is selfless service. This is service for which you get nothing in return other than a good feeling in your heart for doing a good deed. That is a very good reward, by the way. It is a small taste of what heaven will be like, but most people don’t appreciate it. Many saints became obsessed with that feeling, leading them to always serve others even to the detriment of their own well-being. This is what Jesus did. Selfless service is the only kind of service I am concerned with here.
Time, Talent and Treasure
No matter what service I do, it involves some amount of time, talent, and treasure. They are all interrelated. Donating treasure requires me to combine time with my talents to make money or buy objects for which to donate. Donating talent requires putting time in to help out in some task and, at least, paying some money for gas or public transportation to get to the place where my talents can be used. Consequently, donating time also requires donating talent or treasure or both.
In other words, doing service means more than just time and talent but also giving money to those in need. Buying a Christmas present for a poor person is service in the form of giving treasure. Likewise, donation is not just giving money but also giving time and talent. Helping cook for a school event is a donation of time and talent.
Ideal 4.1: I should address the greatest need with my donations.
Say I would really like to volunteer for cleanup at a parish event but find out there is a shortage of waiters for that event. Since there is a greater need in food service than in cleanup, it would probably be best to sign up to be waiter. The only exception would be if I am a horrible waiter. So my personal skills will play into my decision. There might be a great need for health care in the community, but I’m not a nurse or doctor. I probably can’t help in that way, but maybe I can donate to a charity that coordinates discount health care with nurses or doctors. I might not always be able to help the need directly through my talents, but my treasure may be able to help.
By far, preserving life is the most important need. No matter how bad a person is or what mistakes they’ve made, if they live longer there is a chance they will come to believe in the Catholic faith, repent, and change their ways. And if they are a good person, then even more the reason to preserve their life. The basic needs are food, water, shelter, clothing, health care, and faith. All other needs are secondary.
Ideal: 4.2: I should donate to charities that are in line with Catholic teaching.
There are countless charities out there, but some are not acceptable for a Catholic to volunteer at or donate money to. Good charities are in line with Catholic teachings. The Catholic Church itself is a charity, so any donations to it are acceptable by default. Catholic organizations are also acceptable. These charities may be started by the Catholic Church and partially funded by them but still need money to do the bulk of their work. Private charities can also be acceptable, but I need to do research. A charity that supposedly helps poor African families might actually be giving out contraceptives or recommending abortions. The end doesn’t justify the means. The good of giving food and other necessities does not outweigh the evil of giving contraceptives.
A special kind of charity can occur during the random events of life. I don’t plan for these. They just come up in my life. A sudden need arises in my church or community, and I am in a unique position to help. Maybe the parish offices were robbed, and they need money to replace equipment. Another example could be a friend needs help for his or her children’s school books or supplies. Each one is a special opportunity to see firsthand how my money does good in the world. With other charities, a lot of times I won’t know exactly how my money helped, but in these special circumstances I can really see my money make a difference. I should use my knowledge of the faith from my studying to decide whether the donation is acceptable or not.
Ideal 4.3: I should give a 10% tithe per month to the Church and other charities.
Giving a tenth was mentioned several times in the Bible. While the Catholic Church no longer imposes a specific number these days, the standard tithe is still a good rule of thumb to follow. God is, above all, the most important in your life, so I should give His church, the Catholic Church, a 5% donation of my income per month. This can be done through my local parish. Some of the money gets sent to the diocese which distributes it to the Church as a whole as needed.
The remaining 5% donation should be split between other charities. I should follow Ideals 4.1 and 4.2 to decide which charities to donate my money to. I don’t have to split up that 5% donation between several charities every month. Each month I should pick just one charity to give 5% of my income to. The next month I should give 5% to a different charity.
I should count the first month for those special random events that can occur. I will have a month’s worth money sitting in the bank account ready for those emergency needs. I should be very generous with these donations. I don’t want to have any of that extra money sitting around at the end of the year. Rarely some money will be left over due to circumstances beyond my control. I should roll it over to the next year’s special donation fund. I will have a little more money for special donations that next year.
Ideal 4.4: I should serve at least 6 hours per week.
This may seem like too much at first thought, but giving a tithe is service. If 10% of my income goes to charity, then 10% of my work time goes to charity. That means if I work a typical 40 hour workweek, a 10% donation is 4 hours worth of service. I only need to do 2 additional hours of service per week. Attending Mass does not count for this. I do serve God by going to church, but I need to serve others more directly. The same way I donate money to both the Church and other charities, I should donate my talents to both the Church and other charities. I should do 1 hour of service per week for the Church and another 1 hour of service per week for another charity.
I should remember that this calculation depends on working 40 hours per week. If for some reason I am not working full-time, I should do more service to make up the difference. For example, if I work 20 hours per week, I am only giving 2 hours per week of service through my work. I need to give 2 more hours per week to make up the difference. In summary, that would mean giving 2 hours per week of service through my work, 2 hours per week of service to the Church, and 2 hours per week of service to another charity. Note that you don’t have to equally split your service between the Church and another charity. It should be based on the needs in the community.
Ideal 4.5: At least one week per year, I should participate in a special service opportunity that uses a lot more time.
Most parishes have a big fundraiser or other major event yearly. I should sign up for this and put in a lot of hours. The ideal number of hours should be all of my free time during weekdays and 75% of my free time during weekends. For example, if I have 2 hours of free time per weekday and 4 hours of free time on weekend days, I should sign up for 2 hours of service per weekday and 3 hours of service per weekend day. This is hard but manageable. I would get burned out if I put in this much of my free time year round, but I can manage for one week.