As you must have realized from last week’s bulletin, I just returned from almost two weeks away. I spent most of the time in the mountains of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico.
Along the way, we stopped at the Zuni Pueblo. We had visited the Pueblo about ten years ago. My boyfriend had purchased matching bear fetishes for us. For years, he carried his in his pocket and I carried mine in my purse. Mine was finally lost and his broke in half. Oddly, he had kept the artisan’s business card and had joked that we could go back and purchase another set if “we were ever in the neighborhood”. Well, we did find ourselves in the vicinity, and drove to the Old Mission Church in the center of town. When we asked for him, someone ran to his house and brought him to us. He had two fetishes that were carved but not engraved. We bought them unfinished because the engraving eventually wore off anyway! The strangest thing is that no one thought it was the least bit odd that we’d show up to see the same artisan again…
When we first arrived, we were having a little trouble finding the church. We came upon a young woman who graciously told us the way. She then met us at the church, helped us find our artisan friend, and then offered to show us around. Romelia had been born and raised in the Zuni Pueblo. She had inherited her father’s artisan tools and was carrying on his craft out of love and respect for him. During our conversation, we asked about their tradition of offering food to their ancestors. She explained that, at every meal, before the family can eat, a portion is set aside as an offering to the family’s deceased members. At the end of each day, the offering is burned in a special ceremonial fire.
The people living in the Pueblo are very poor. They exist on the money they receive from their art. They try to sell direct to visitors, but as a last resort they sell to the stores and make a portion of its value.
Because they are so poor, food is precious. It is very significant that they set aside a portion—off the top—to honor their ancestors.
Later in the day, I was reflecting on what I had learned from Romelia. It occurred to me that it was very much an act of tithing. When we tithe, we give the first and the best to God with no concern that we will not be blessed.
Every culture, every religion has a slightly different view of tithing. The Mormons believe you should give 10% of your gross income to the church.
The Catholic model is to give 5% to your parish church and another 5% to the church at-large (your Diocese, Catholic charities, Pro-Life organizations, etc.)
However you look at tithing, the essence of it remains that same. Give the best fruits of your labor off the top and you will be richly blessed.
I hope you’ve had an opportunity to read the financial reports that were sent to your home at Easter. They contained information on our income, expenses, and use of designated gifts. Our parish is funded exclusively by your generosity. We are grateful and responsible stewards of your treasure. If you have any questions, please feel free to meet with me.