Articles by Fr. Alan Phillip

Over the years I have done a lot of writing. Some of my better articles are now available on this website. Just click on the "articles" link at the top of this page. These articles cover a wide variety of subjects including:

Abortion
A Department of Peace
How to Handle Criticism
Money
Listening
 

Love
Marriage
Fear
Priesthood
Worship

These articles are copyrighted, but you are free to duplicate them, email them, etc., for non-commercial purposes.  Some are suitable for classroom use.  Others are more appropriate for spiritual reading.  You may wish to discuss some of them around the dinner table.  The article, How to Handle Criticism, I recommend for everyone who is engaged in ministry in their parish.  I wish the Peace Interview would be acted out on national TV.  And as a Passionist, I hope everyone reads the first article, A Story About Us

 

 
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"Money talks, I'll not deny.
My money spoke. It said 'Goodbye'!"

     Has this ever happened to you?  You are watching a basketball game on TV.  The score is tied.  Your team has the ball.  There are ten seconds left to play.  You are on the edge of your seat and.there is a break for a commercial!  #@%!&!

     It's not only upsetting that commercials come at the most inconvenient time.  It's also upsetting because what they communicate to us is a lie.  I don't mean that they are lying to us about a specific product.  This may happen.  It's the big lie I'm talking about.  Commercials tell us over and over again that, "To be happy, you've got to have stuff."  "To be happy you've got to have beer, cars, perfume, clothes, soap, cereal."

     It is estimated that by the time a child enters first grade, he or she has seen over 30,000 commercials.  Thirty thousand times they have heard the message that, "To be happy, you've got to have stuff."

     After hearing the message so many times, some people are actually dumb enough to believe it.  So they go off and buy lots of stuff.  This stuff doesn't seem to make them happy, so they work harder, get more money, and go off and buy more stuff.  Still no happiness.  So they work even harder, get more money, and buy even more stuff.  Still no happiness.  Guess what?  It's not working.  So they get depressed.  Could it be they are looking for life in all the wrong places?

     I remember attending a lecture about capitalism.  The speaker noted that many Europeans refer to American capitalism as, "Savage Capitalism".  Savage capitalism comes from our inability speak the words, "Enough."  We don't need any more."  Not being able to say "enough" leads to brutal competition, overwork, and disregard for the common good.  In a word: greed.  Many Americans never ask the question, "What's the economy for?"  So, rather than working to live, they live to work.  Is it any wonder that stress, burnout, high blood pressure and depression are among our serious health problems?

     I saw the opposite attitude a few years ago when I was visiting Greece.  I went to a shopping area around four in the afternoon and noticed that many of the stores were closed.  I asked someone at the hotel where I was staying if today was a holiday, or if there was a strike going on.  He replied, "No. The shop owners probably made enough money for the day, closed up and went home."  In other words, the shop owners said, "Enough."  A lot of stores in Greece closed early on Saturday, and hardly any stores were open on Sunday.  (Ah, remember those days?)  Instead of seeing people working, I saw families having fun together.  I saw old men on benches playing chess.  I saw couples leisurely strolling hand in hand. I saw people sitting at restaurants, conversing, listening to music, and taking their time dining.  The pace was certainly different than was I was used to.  It had a spirit of calm and balance, not frenzy and greed.

     I suggest we take some advice from (of all places!) a commercial.  One popular commercial gives this advice: "Know when to say, 'Enough'."  The product of this commercial is beer.  But we can apply those words to all material things.  It has been said that no one actually owns a fortune; at times the fortune may own him.  To say, "Enough" assures us ownership of our soul, and a feeling of inner freedom.  We set limits.  We are in control.  We possess things.  They don't possess us.

     A second step is to achieve a balance.  Making a living is important.  But nobody on their deathbed moans, "Gee, I wish I had spent more time at the office."  When people look back on their lives, they often regret not spending more time with family and friends, not spending more time at their hobbies, not spending more time reading or enjoying nature, not spending more time nourishing their souls.  Imagine you had only six months to live.  How would you balance out your time and energy for these last six months?  Why not start today, no matter how long you may live?

     A third step is to look around and notice who is genuinely happy.  I find it is the people who have compassion for the poor, people with a spirit of hospitality, people who reach out to those who mourn people who forgive, people who have courage in the midst of trials, people who work for peace and people who share their possessions.  They are rich in the things that money can't buy. 

     One of my favorite Broadway musicals is Annie.  It's about an orphan who had no material things.

     At one point of the play, the words of a song ring out that, with Annie in this home, everyday is Christmas. Annie was rich in things that money couldn't buy - personality, charm, wit, enthusiasm, a sense of wonder, and love.  She was the true millionaire in the story.

      Fourthly, it has been said, "He is not poor who has no penny.  He is poor who has no dream."  If lack of money is getting you down, reflect upon your aspirations and goals.  Maybe you are richer that you thought.  
   
     Finally, this story.  There was a tourist who was passing through an ancient historical town.  In this ancient town lived a peaceful old wise man that the tourist once read about.  So he thought he would stop by and visit him. When he entered the wise man's house, the tourist noticed that there was hardly anything in it, just a chair, a bed, some food - the basics.  When the tourist asked the wise man where were all his clothes, books, TV, etc., the wise man asked the tourist, "Where are yours?" 

     "Mine?" The tourist thought.  "I don't have any right now.  I'm just passing through."

     "Just passing through?" reflected back the wise old man.  "So am I," he said, "so am I."

 

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