The Frugal Catholic grew up in the 1950s and '60s in West Virginia in a very frugal yet anti-Catholic home. As they say, it's not what people know about Catholicism that they dislike; it's what they think they know that they dislike.
My Mother, for whatever reason, didn't want me around Catholics. I never knew why, except she generally followed my Grandfather's opinions, and he was a strong Southern Baptist and a Mason. One of my first crushes was on some fella named Steve, whom I'd pass as I walked home from our public high school. He went to Saint Joe's, the Catholic High School in my town. I'd find Steve perched on his front porch when I'd walk by carrying my books, and we'd chat--every day, that is, till Mom got wind of it.
In college, my mother also squashed a crush I had on my sorority's busboy, Jeff, who was quite handsome, but who also turned out to be Catholic. The bottom line is that I had no understanding of Catholicism. Thus I veered towards finding a Protestant man.
And a good Protestant man, God gave me. After baby number one came at age 34 (we ended up with five little King's), I didn't want birth control pills in my system because I knew they weren't "natural." So I asked my wonderful Catholic neighbor, Virginia Soter, a mother of five from Newport News, Virginia, what she had used? She introduced me to "Natural Family Planning" through a newsletter she sent me from The Couple to Couple League in Cincinnati, Ohio. That publication gave me knowledge of the Catholic Church, and I knew then that I wanted to become a part.
A few years later, I met a strong Catholic woman, Linda Di Muzzio, who loaned me some tapes on the Mass. From those, I learned that, unlike my Protestant tradition, Catholics believe that the sacrament of Holy Communion or the Eucharist is the consecrated body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. The Real Thing. On the other hand, Protestants practice Communion as a symbol of Christ’s body and blood. The way you can tell whether a denomination believes it is a “symbol” versus "the real thing" is how Communion is treated after it has occurred. Protestants throw the wine down the drain and the bread into the trash; whereas, Catholics consume all of the consecrated wine and worship the consecrated host (the bread) in Adoration. I wanted the REAL THING.
So after sixty years in the Protestant church, including thirteen years of "Communion Clean- Up," one Sunday in January 2009, while dumping the wine down the sewer, I told God, "I can't do this anymore." And while driving home, the idea hit me. I could go to the early Catholic service at 8:00 A.M. (if they had one ?) then to the 10:30 P.M. Protestant service with my husband if he'd let me. He did.
I called St. Cecilia Catholic Church on Bainbridge Island, WA that next Monday and was told that I could not only attend the early service but could start RCIA classes immediately. It all happened so fast, but I was hungry for the Eucharist.
This past Easter, I became a confirmed Catholic, although until my annulment goes through (I was married before from 1971 to 1974), I can only be blessed during Communion. Still, I can be near and adore the BODY AND BLOOD of my Lord Jesus versus a mere symbol. My husband of twenty-nine years has also decided to start RCIA classes to worship together.
So how does all of this journey into my Catholic faith have any connection with being a “Frugal Catholic?” It was my quest for frugality because of how I was raised that shaped my mothering, and my mothering pulled me into Catholicism. Thus to be frugal and a Catholic, for me, go together. And in truth, if we look to our Lord for the answers, He owned nothing. He wrote nothing, yet He gave us His all. We have nothing to worry about if we trust in His providence. As was written in Hebrews 13:5-6, “Let your life be free from love of money but be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never forsake you or abandon you.' Thus we may say with confidence: 'The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?' "
Frugality is characterized by thriftiness and avoidance of waste. It is meager and involves little expense. Catholicism is living my faith through the Church which Jesus Christ founded. So what better way to live my Catholic faith than to live frugally so we can give generously.
Martha Wild King, M. Ed., Author
The Frugal Catholic: Learn to live on less to give and save more.