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Ask the Register: return gifts?

Q. I occasionally receive in the mail requests for charitable contributions. Along with the solicitation, the charities enclose “gifts” of prayer cards, religious medals, and other religious articles. I live on a fixed income and an unable to contribute to all of these charities. If I am unable to contribute to these organizations, am I bound to return these gifts? Also, am I to presume that these religious articles are blessed? I have no means to dispose of them, if they are.

A. You are not morally bound to return these items, nor are you bound to contribute to organizations who offer these gifts as a means to entice people to contribute.

The virtue of charity is the theological virtue by which we carry out the great commandment that Jesus gave us: that we love God above all things, and we love our neighbor as ourselves. Fundamentally, this means that Christian disciples are docile to the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, and allow that to overflow in their love of neighbor. This work of the Spirit is manifested in many ways.

Living out the virtue of charity is manifested according to our state in life. For example, religious sisters or brothers have fewer financial resources to assist those in need, but they have given God their very lives and this is a gift to the entire Church. Those of limited financial means, likewise, cannot give what they don’t have. If they do not have the money to assist others, then they, obviously, are unable to do so.

Other Christians are blessed with financial means. And they should be viewed as just that: as blessings. If, for instance, a person earns substantial wealth, or is blessed with exceptional business acumen, that is a gift from God. Recognizing that every gift that we receive is from God naturally moves us to humility and generosity.

As a point of caution, be wary of organizations that enclose “gifts” of dimes, nickels, and pennies in their mailings. It’s hard to read such solicitation other than as a means to pressure people into feeling guilty for not contributing to their charity.

You also may presume that any religious articles that you receive through such mailings have not been blessed, and you may dispose of them in a suitable way.

Write to Ask the Register using our online form, or write to 3700 Sheridan Blvd., Suite 10, Lincoln NE 68506-6100. All questions are subject to editing. Editors decide which questions to publish. Personal questions cannot be answered. People with such questions are urged to take them to their nearest Catholic priest.

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