Earlier this week our Holy Father spoke to the bishops of northern Italy —the region called Lombardy—about two dangers to family life nowadays: consumerism and hedonism. Consumerism is the excessive desire to have and to use many material possessions. Hedonism is the excessive pursuit of pleasure. All the misery caused by the improper use of drugs, alcohol, and sex are part of the hedonistic lifestyle.
Isn’t it ironic? Half the world doesn’t have enough to eat or drink or enough medicine and medical care or any real educational advantages. The other is into consumerism and hedonism. The other day, I watched a program on the history channel of TV about the “beautiful people” nowadays with their yachts, which cost in the millions of dollars. I’m not exaggerating. One man paid $412,000 just to have his yacht hauled across the Atlantic and back from his home in Florida. He didn’t want the yacht to be subjected to the heavy weather in mid-ocean, so he had it loaded onto another ship and transported. That was for one season of fun and games on the French riviera. Of course, in addition to the original outlay of about 20 million dollars to purchase the yacht, he pays the regular salaries of a captain, six sailors, three housekeepers, and two chefs for his yacht. And as they sail around here and there, they pass many places where people don’t have enough to eat.
Years ago, the father of one of my classmates in the seminary was telling me of his philosophy of money. He said that he always prayed that God would allow him to have enough of this world’s goods to provide for his family in decent comfort, but never so much money that he would lose his sense of dependence upon God. Money in large quantities makes us feel that we don’t need ANYTHING, not even God. Our Lord has an answer for that mentality. He tells us the story of the extremely wealthy farmer who has bumper crops, and builds bigger barns and granaries to store them. Then he says to himself, “Now, take it easy. Sit back and enjoy yourself for many years to come!” And in Our Lord’s parable, God then says to the wealthy farmer, “You fool! This very night you must give up your soul. And then all this wealth—to whom shall it belong?”
The moral of the story: be moderate, be virtuous. Share what you have with those who have less. And ALWAYS remember that God is the source of all that we are, all that we have, all that we aspire to. To forget that is to forget the ground on which we stand. In this connection, let me remind you again of the beautiful little French fisherman’s prayer: Dear God, be good to me. The sea is so wide, and my boat is so small! Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.