Don’t forget to support your priests this Christmas

A priest holds the bambino in procession during Midnight Mass at St Peter's Basilica (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

One group of people who never ever dream of a white Christmas are the clergy. In fact Christmas snow would be their worst nightmare. Adverse weather might keep people away from Christmas Mass, and that would mean a fall off in the collection – and the collection, in case you didn’t know, is the one of two in the year (the other is at Easter) that goes to the priest personally.

This at least is the rule in most dioceses of the world, apart from those where funds are pooled and priests are paid a diocesan salary. What this means in practice is that priests in large parishes are well remunerated, relatively speaking, and priests in small parishes not so much. So, this Christmas, if you have not considered this before, think of your priest.

There is a good summary on how clergy are paid at the Valle Adurni blog, which sums the whole thing up beautifully. The Easter and Christmas collections are of course taxed; but if you give a priest a birthday present, that does not have to be declared for tax.

One mentions all this because there is a general misapprehension, thanks to certain media stories, that the clergy are rolling in money. Some might be – the former ‘Bishop of Bling’ was certainly in funds as is the rest of the German hierarchy – but most British clergy would have an annual income close to what a German Cardinal gets in a month. Unfortunately, when financial scandal hits the Church, people can decide to give less, but the part of the Church that usually suffers is not those who are being scandalous, but the poorly remunerated mere clergy.

This year Christmas is complicated by the fact that it falls on a Monday, which means all Catholics are obligated to go to Mass twice, once on the Sunday and once on the eve or day of Christmas. But this obligation should not be seen as a burden, but a joy. After all, we do like going to Mass, don’t we?

That at least was the thought that struck me the other day when discussing the shortage of vocations. If we want to encourage young men to enter seminaries to train for the priesthood and the pastoral life – to dedicate themselves to the celebration of the Sacraments – we cannot really expect them to show enthusiasm for the task unless we do so ourselves. Enthusiasm is catching. So, sadly, is its opposite.

So, go to Mass twice this Christmas, and be enthusiastic about it. You never know, something might change. And throw in Boxing Day, the feast of Saint Stephen, for good measure. Happy Christmas!