Christ Driving the Money Changers out of the Temple c. 1618, a painting by Jean de Boulogne Valentin.
THERE seems to be ongoing confusion among some of my readers as to why the webcasts I am producing carry a price tag. I am going to address this one last time since I have received several letters, such as the one below:
Why isn’t it good enough to have a wonderful web site inspiring people, why does everything have to be about paying for admission? Seems to me that if it is good, the money to support your family will come. Charging admission for people to hear what is supposed to be inspired by God is a real turn off, especially to young people. I have six children and have struggled over the years with trust in finances. Your story seems to have been based on trust. Charging admission turns your ministry into countless others that devolve into materialistic enterprises. You need to support your family, but let the products music, books etc. be a link. Continue offering your message for free and if you need money to do your work, ask for it. In my opinion it is a turn off to HAVE to pay for His message. I have found your messages to be timely, and I appreciate your work.
Thank you for your letter, which raises the question of ministry and providence, and how it all happens in the modern world. But there may be some misunderstanding. First of all, I have not stopped writing. My writings are free, and will continue to be so! The webcast is simply another way to reach people with the same message. That is, my message is free and continues to be so. My CD’s also cost money, and always have. My book coming out next month will also cost money. That’s just reality. Again, the message is free, but some of the mediums of the message are not. I am still writing, and will continue to do so as the Lord asks. And I’m not asking you or anyone to pay me for the thousands of hours I have put into this writing ministry and will continue to do so, if the Lord asks this of me.
As my readers know, over the course of three years, I recall only explicitly sending out a request for donations on two or three occasions. Other ministries ask on nearly a weekly basis. I just haven’t wanted my messages to be lost in a sea of begging (though God knows our family of ten depends upon it.)
The webcast is different, however. I pay several thousand dollars to another company for just one hundred subscribers with a yearly subscription. Since there are dozens of subscribers rolling in now daily, we could quickly be stuck with a bill in the tens of thousands. To do so would lack prudence. Our ministry simply doesn’t have that money. It is painful, because I would give everything away to you if I could! As it is, I can only give you my heart and prayers, and the words Our Lord puts there from time to time in my writings.
As many of you know, up until recently, I traveled throughout North America quite extensively. Through those missions, I was able to provide at least in part for my ministry and children. But now, the writings and webcast are a full-time job. That is, aside from the occasional CD sales dripping in, we have absolutely no income. And please, in no way take this to be a guilt-trip. Many of my readers are suffering right now from unemployment, uncertainty, and a question as to where the next paycheck will come from. Others–and you know who you are–have given what they can to help when they can, and for that Lea and I are so very grateful.
As I said in the Welcome message on www.embracinghope.tv, the reason we use a private firm to transmit these webcasts is three fold:
- We are able to transmit the messages in whole; YouTube, for example, requires videos to be 10 minutes in length maximum. That means more work for us breaking them apart, and more interruption for you when viewing the episodes.
- Other video websites often carry pornographic or inappropriate material. The last thing I want to do is draw my viewers to a website that is distracting or leads them into temptation. EmbracingHope.tv is a safe website.
- The above services cost our ministry a significant sum, the higher the volume of users. Through your subscriptions, we can pay for those fees, as well as cover the costs of producing the webcasts themselves (and have some money left over for food). And I am doing most everything myself right now because we cannot afford to hire staff.
The truth is, I have agonized over the fact that I cannot make the webcasts freely available. This message needs to be shouted across the world through as many means and methods as possible. And the writings are doing that in part. What is certain is not every one of my readers shares your level of cynicism. Wrote one,
I was relieved to see that you were charging for a subscription. We’ve all been riding on the coat tails of your Blog long enough. Now it’s time for your audience to help out.
The Catholic Church is dreadfully impoverished when it comes to full time lay ministries. Our Catholic people tend to expect everything free, while our Evangelical brothers and sisters tithe—and provide a plethora of resources and personnel to meet the needs of evangelization, not just in their community, but to the ends of the earth. And how many of us don’t think twice about buying a meal at a restaurant when the urge hits us, or spending money on a night at the movies? I’ve had to examine my own spending habits in the past, and had to admit that sometimes I’ve slipped into a double standard.
That said, most of us never think twice paying a registration fee to hear the Gospel at a conference; we don’t hesitate to buy a CD of the talk we just heard, or the book, DVD, or whatever it may be. The Church’s top evangelists, apologists, and priests are charging for their talks and webcasts online. The reason? Because they are greedy moneychangers? It’s because they are not preaching in town squares anymore but on cyber street corners. These mediums are costly. That’s the reality we face today as evangelists in the modern Church. But the benefit is that we are able to reach a global audience now. (Think of my webcasts as an online retreat; the internet as the conference room; the "registration fee" as a way to rent the room, the sound system, and the power point screen.)
St. Paul demanded of the churches that they always give, and give generously. He said "the Lord ordered that those who preach the gospel should live by the gospel" (1 Cor 9:14). Our own parishes ask that we give, that we pay for the hosts we consume, for the pastor’s living, and to keep the lights on. Again, St. Paul said, "Presbyters who preside well deserve double honor, especially those who toil in preaching and teaching. For the scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it is threshing,’ and, ‘A worker deserves his pay’" (1 Timothy 5:17-18).
I am not, and will not hold the Word hostage for a fee. I will say it again: my online writings always have been and always will be free. But I will also be practical. I am not the Savior of the world. I will do what I can without harming my central mission: to bring eight children and my wife into the Kingdom while prudently providing for their physical needs. It’s either I charge for the webcasts, or I drop them. And that makes no sense to me. The Holy Fathers have asked us to use the "digital world" and "new means and new methods to evangelize." Last time I checked, I had to pay for the Holy Father’s encyclical letters in book form; I had to pay for my Catechism; and I had to pay for my Bible. Yes, these things are available freely online—and so are my writings.
Know that I have every desire of seeing these webcasts become freely available. That means a benefactor will have to step forward to pay for the costs involved. I pray this happens with all my heart.
Nothing is impossible for God.