Wednesday, December 03, 2008

CHILL OUT



Jdimytai Damour, was 6 feet 5 and 270 pounds and died horribly on November when 2,000 shoppers literally trampled him to death. This mob was motivated by one purpose: GREED. While judges and juries can ascertain what legal negligence Walmart may incur, morally speaking, the primary culprits are the actual people who stormed the doors and WALKED ON A HUMAN BEING who died of asphyxiation. What were these crazed consumers seeking? Not food for the starving or clothes for the naked or shelter for the homeless, rather these folks wanted BARGAINS such as a Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV for $798; a Bissel Compact Upright Vacuum for $28; a Samsung 10.2 megapixel digital camera for $69 and DVDs such as "The Incredible Hulk" for $9.

Since the ends never justifies the means, it is never morally permissable to hurt let alone kill someone even if it is done by a starving or homeless person desperate for relief. Worse yet is the fact that these people were not an unruly mob as sometimes is depicted in the news when showing disaster victims trying to get very limited and scarce necessities (such as food, water and clothing). No, this was a purely CONSUMER driven incident where getting the best deal overrided common decency and even the Natural Moral Law. While no one deliberately or premeditatively killed this innocent man, unless they were sleepwalking, I find it incredulous that none of the 2,000 shoppers NOTICED they were walking on top of another human being? When police arrived with emergency techs, some of the crowd boohed as the store needed to be closed.

This pathetic behavior is of course the worst case scenario for abusing the real meaning of Christmas. A Savior is born in abject poverty, having His mother give birth in a manger (stable) rather than at home. Our Blessed Lord entered this world with nothing and He left this world with nothing (in terms of earthly possessions). Yet, our modern society has perverted the birthday of the Savior into an annual SHOPPING event. I heard recently from several Christians that they prefer Thanksgiving to Christmas and Easter because the former is more 'spiritual' whereas the latter two are much more commercialized. We Christians are the ones who allowed our holydays to degenerate into consumer holidays.

Jdimytai Damour need not die in vain. In addition to praying for his soul and for his surviving family and relatives, I suggest we VOLUNTARILY boycott all further Christmas shopping. Cook something instead of buying something. Give the gift of time instead of money. If necessary, purchase online or just essentials at local stores where you normally frequent. Avoid these crazy sales events. Most of all, if we Christians spent as much if not more time PRAYING and DOING VIRTUOUS DEEDS (like the corporal and spiritual works of mercy) as we did SHOPPING (including the time wasted getting to the stores, finding parking spaces, waiting in lines, then wrapping the gifts we purchased), Christmas might be restored as a RELIGIOUS holiday.

I know there are jobs dependent on what people buy at this time of year, but we cannot allow imprudent decisions to dictate morality. Salaries should be based on ANNUAL work not just a seasonal activity. Stores do not HAVE to have cut-throat sales at bizarre times of the day. If consumers avoided these insane events, merchants would stop having them. Merchants can be successful on their regular customers when they behave prudently and fairly. When I was growing up, my father took me and three brothers to the Boston Store every year a week or two before Christmas and we bought something for Mom (and while alive, our grandparents). Back then, Pennsylvania had Blue Laws, so ALL STORES WERE CLOSED ON SUNDAYS. There were crowds but they behaved civilly. Good manners were not absent, they were accentuated during the Christmas holidays. Everyone, from clerk to customer said MERRY CHRISTMAS. People were not pushing each other nor were they shoving others. People acted like human beings and not like cattle or a herd of animals.

Speaking with my colleagues, we noticed a continuing decline in church donations during the holidays. While many say the economy is forcing them to cut back, it is their parish where they cut first and most. If it were just a matter of my own salary, I would not be bothered. The reality is that the electric and heat bills, the salaries and benefits of our staff, and the mainenance and upkeep of the church building are totally dependent on the weekly offering made by our parishioners. The gas, electric and water bills come month after month regardless of how many people come to church or how much they donate. People get upset when their parish is threatened with closing but sometimes you wonder where are these same people when the collection plate does not increase in proportion to inflation and the cost of living as everything else does? When people plop in spare pocket change, that is not fulfillng the precept of the church to support your parish. The local waitresses and waiters at the dinor often get more in tips than the average weekly offering at Mass. Catholics have been reported to be the lowest givers (1% of income) yet when some of them become disgruntled and leave the Church, they will often join an independent, non-denominational Protestant church and give 10% or more each week. With that kind of financing, full time youth ministers and several assistant pastors can be hired. Many programs and facilities can be realized when there is consistent and generous giving. Former Catholics tend to give more in their new non-Catholic congregation. Sadly, they have turned their back, however, on the Real Presence as there is no valid Holy Eucharist and no valid Holy Orders in their new religion. Music might be nicer or livelier and the sermons might be more enthusiastic, but the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not about US it is about GOD. It is the supreme act of WORSHIP where you and I GIVE back to the Lord the ADORATION He justly DESERVES. We do not go to Mass to GET anything. We go to show our love FOR SOMEONE, i.e., for God. We RECEIVE more than we deserve insofar as someone in the state of grace is allowed to receive Holy Communion.

The consumer mentality which spawned a mob to crush a man to death just to get a bargain at a ridiculous pre-Christmas post-Thanksgiving sale has also infected many people's spirituality. People want spiritual bargains, from God and from His Church. Couples demand to be allowed to get married OUTSIDE instead of the House of God where it belongs. Parents don't like the regulations that require a PRACTICING CATHOLIC IN GOOD STANDING to be a godparent of their child at baptism. Ironically, these same parents are more picky and circumspect on who is their son or daughter's coach or pre-school teacher. Catholics can be tempted to reduce their weekly offering if they dislike the new pastor or have problems with the local bishop. If there is a family quarrell, does the father or mother stop paying the proprty taxes? Do they stop paying the phone, electric and other utlities? Entitlement is not just a sense that someone OWES me, it also produces a sense of CONTROL, as if the donor is now a stockholder or investor. Transparency is essential, by all means, to prevent abuse, but I have seen a few select BIG donors taking advantage of their generosity and pressuring the pastor or bishop to see things their way. Is that not a type of lobbying? No strings attached is what real giving is about. And giving (generosity) is the best remedy for GREED and AVARICE. If a local parish is not teaching and preaching orthodoxy and/or if the sacred liturgy is not reverent, licit and valid, then I urge people to ask their pastor to fulfill their legitimate needs and if they are not met, find a parish where these essentials are provided. The mediocre and bad parishes cannot survive if good Catholics stop doing and saying nothing. Parishes and dioceses which are faithful to the Magisterium and have a demonstrable love and reverence for the Blessed Sacrament and for the Mass and a deep filial devotion to Our Lady, then these places FLOURISH. Cafeteria Catholicism is not Catholicism and it is not even Christian. It is religious consumerism and like moral relativism, it is bankrupt.


12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Padre, I'm way ahead of you. After hearing this on the news and being totally sickened by it (I think what did me in was the comment from a young observer that "it was the big-screen TVs" -- and contemplating the grim physics required for the press of a crowd to kill a healthy 34-year-old man), I officially stopped shopping before I even started. A couple of books bought online, some baked goods from my kitchen, and Mass cards will do just fine this year. And next. And the one after that. Et cetera. I will peruse the ads only to make specific charitable offerings in lieu of the amounts I would have spent. I repent of many years' worth of seeking out the holiday ads instead of seeking first the Kingdom of God.

Kristen J said...

Father, I completely agree with your points on consumerism and Church-related consumerism, with one caveat.

You mention that it is inappropriate to reduce one's parish contribution because of a disagreement with the pastor or bishop. But, there are disagreements (family squabbles, if you will) and then there are moral quandaries!

In my diocese (as in many others, sadly), our bishop invests in many questionable and, in some cases, morally wrong enterprises. Those of us who do not want to be complicit with this mismanagement and even sin (!) contribute to specific parish funds that are not assessed by the diocese and to charities that are not tied to the bishop. This is not ideal, especially as we have a very good pastor and parish, deserving of better! Yet, because of the assessments and poor leadership in general, we have no real choice.

So, bottom line, if bishops and priests expect us to follow them as sheep follow a shepherd (and give accordingly), they need to shepherd us properly and stop treating us as business managers treat unproductive departments of their company (if you don't give us the profits we demand, we'll cut jobs or benefits in your department!). Then, we will be glad to make our generous donations directly to the parish fund and bishops' appeals!

Kazimer said...

Amen!

Tara said...

"Most of all, if we Christians spent as much if not more time PRAYING and DOING VIRTUOUS DEEDS (like the corporal and spiritual works of mercy) as we did SHOPPING (including the time wasted getting to the stores, finding parking spaces, waiting in lines, then wrapping the gifts we purchased), Christmas might be restored as a RELIGIOUS holiday."

Oh, Father this is going to be so hard--but I'm going try--my family and friends might just kill me--but I think it's a very good idea--thanks.

Anne Marie Marinelli said...

Greed! That's exactly right; that's what I told my children when we heard the sad news of the man trampled by crazed consumers. May he rest in peace, Jdimytai Damour.

I'm praying that people will start choosing Love of God and Neighbor over Love of stuff.

In our family we say "Mary Christmas". We choose to celebrate the birth of Jesus by way of His mother Mary's humble acceptance of God's holy will. We mention Santa Claus as St. Nicholas. Small choices made by us as parents effect many choices made by our children. We adults should be cognizant of this reality.

Yes, everyone has a choice about many things, everyday. Wouldn't it be lovely if people stopped to consider their choices while in a place of silence? Perhaps they would be able to hear the small voice inside that knows the difference between right and wrong. I BELIEVE that it exists for the majority of the people. Let's all keep praying for an awakening and enlightening of the American conscience.

I hope that you will continue to post frequently, Fr. Trigilio. Your Catholic voice is heard by even more people than you know.

Dymphna said...

There may be more to the story. It looks like an altercation broke out. The people in the front probably had no desire to stomp on a man, they were probably pushed by the people behind who just wanted to get away from what was happening in line. Never take media reports at face value until about a week later.

JM said...

I heard a woman also miscarried as a result of it all. =-(

I agree with the connections you make between that incident and other things. I also cannot think of anything else to say not already said.

Journey of Truth said...

D - I think it hardly matters, a man still died; a fight broke out because of what? It doesn't matter. A person died. Father, I agree with you 100%. Before this happened, we made the economical decision not to buy presents, but to make them (Sacrafice Beads, cards, food gifts - and a rosary for my mum). My kids are sickened by the throngs of people pushing and shoving to get get get. It's good to get back to the root of Christmas: Jesus. And, thank you for bringing up giving to the Church. Valid points. I'm in a military parish, and it's sad how few Catholics give in the plate. Yes, much of what we get is payed for by the gov't, but gov't funds are down ($6M for our fort), but giving generously feeds our teen programming as well as the women and men groups that keep us going. The Protestants/Gospels put our giving to SHAME. Money is tight for us, but I keep giving, because even in my poverty (money and otherwise) God has blessed me so richly: first by being born American, the Church and the Sacraments, my family, friends, I have no idea what it means to be starving or cold. I can see a doctor or dentist when I need to. These are blessings, indeed.

God bless your Advent.

Padre Giovanni Trigilio said...

Although there may have been an altercation which preceded the stampede, the fact that (1) human beings literally walked ON/OVER another human being and smothered him to death and (2) the motivation to endure such unruly crowds, i.e., the desire to GET something at a bargain price knowing there are limited supplies. I cannot fathom that the actual persons who walked over the victim had no consciousness of what was happening. Even if someone walks on a glass door laying on top of a man, you know something is not right.

This is no isolate incident insofar as the obsessive consumerism is concerned. Every time there is a new iPhone, look at the lines of people who wait long hours in long lines in all kinds of weather to be the first few to own something new. Look at the crowds to get tickets to the Superbowl or World Series or other athletic events. Look at the mobs waiting to get tickets to see Britney Spears and other pop stars.

IF these were lines to get jobs or get food for the starving, I could understand the large crowds. But these are lots of people enduring more than mere inconvenience to get UNNECESSARY and NON-ESSENTIAL things. Even a political crowd has some credence in that people gather for an idea whereas these shopping madness mobs often deteriorate into a primeval battle of one against the other.

Competition is GOOD but so is cooperation. Communism and Socialism immorally force cooperation whereas unrestricted consumerism and un-monitored capitalism can go the other way and deify competition to the demise of the weak and less fortunate. Christianity values BOTH and sees them as MEANS to an END, namely the common good.

radio45 said...

Interesting story in CT Today about Christian giving. Even among evangelicals, though a smaller percentage than others, one out of 10 give nothing at all.

I give 10% to the Church. What the bishop does with it is his business. I also voted for Obama. I wonder if there is a correlation?
Probably not.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/december/10.24.html

Anonymous said...

A little illustration of my frustration with the parishes I have lived in, and it seems to happen in every diocese. Years ago, my husband and I were raising our four children when the Bishop's annual appeal came around. We decided to forgo a vacation that year and donated $1000 to the appeal. We paid our commitment off in small amounts, and were surprised to find that we were invited to a special dinner with the Bishop the following year. Apparently, our gift put us in an upper echelon of donors who were invited, yearly to this dinner. I was very upset by this. Didn't Christ invite the poor to his table, and here we were, invited to rub elbows with the Bishop because of our donation? I think if the church put less emphasis on the money, so would the people. Mother Teresa left all up to God's providence.

gemoftheocean said...

Well said, Fr. I came to this blog late, but I was surprised more had not commented on it.

Large crowd dynamics can be very frightening. I was in Hawaii once, (on business, I might add) and I'd gone out in the evening to eat. All along the main thoroughfare early in the evening a street fair was being set up. Bands, food stands, that sort of thing. I'd lingered over dinner and by the time I came out, the crowd was huge is some places. Absolutely packed. And some in the crowd had drunk too much and were acting stupidly, pushing and yelling and trying to "dance" where there was no room to do so. I immediately sensed potential danger and tried to stay to the edge of the crowd and make my way back up to the hotel. Lucky I was at the edge because all of a sudden a few idiots started pushing and shoving and I and a few other yelled "stop it, someone is going to get crushed or trampled." I was really afraid someone WOULD get crushed to death, literally. I found an "eye of the storm" to wait it out in until people came to their senses. But it was really hairy. That said, if the man himself was running and tripped or was pushed, I also find it incredible that so many ran over him and didn't yell out to "STOP."

If stores really want to hold "events" like this, they should do so on line!

My Blog List

Blog Archive