How many of you read Mark Shea's blog daily, or near daily? I do. It's a tremendous resource for news and information of pertinence to the Catholic reader, in addition to containing many of Mark's own writings on subjects that range from the moral questions of the day to "sneak previews" of his soon-to-be published work on Mary, which promises to be quite beautiful and insightful. All in all, I find it to be one of my daily must-reads, and so, I suspect, do many other Catholic bloggers and readers.
It would be a shame and a pity if Mark had to stop blogging, wouldn't it? But it's a possibility.
You see, being an apologist/writer/speaker is hardly the lucrative and glamorous career some might think. Far from jetting off to the Catholic version of red-carpet affairs, Mark is dealing with this sort of thing. Many of the rest of us also deal from time to time with the same sort of thing, but few of us are trying to support our families on a regular income of about $500/month, plus whatever additional sum can be earned through writing or speaking, as Mark reported during the last CAEI fundraising drive he held on his blog a few months ago. And as Mark also mentioned then, his family has grown accustomed to such wild luxuries as eating and getting necessary dental care, so if he ever reaches the point where he has to supplement his earnings in some way, the blog will be the first thing to go--it takes a lot of time to maintain considering the few dollars it ever generates as income.
Now, most of us tiny insignificant Catholic bloggers blog for fun. A few people may earn money directly or indirectly through blogging, but for the most part we're just using blogs as a way of communication and interaction, a place to record our thoughts or our kids' cute pictures and cuter sayings, a sort of live interactive online diary that may or may not be of interest to anyone else. And that's all good, of course.
Mark's blog, and his writings elsewhere, have led people to the Catholic Church. He has participated in God's work of bringing new converts into the fold, and also of strengthening those of us already there. Cradle "reverts" have written to thank him for his influence in their lives; Protestant readers have seen their own doubts and fears addressed in Mark's conversion story, and some of them have had their feet set upon the same journey by something Mark has written or talked about, by his witness to the truths of the Catholic faith. It would be a shame if the most public, most easily accessible presence Mark has on the Internet had to go away so that he could spend more time on the sort of writing that will generate immediate income, wouldn't it?
In a few days Mark will begin the June "Quarterly CAEI Tin Cup Rattle," one of only a few times a year when he points to the PayPal donation button in the upper left hand corner of the blog and asks whether we, his regular readers, can see fit to help out a little with those family dental bills or the car repairs. He also points to this page, where we can purchase his books or audio tapes, as another way that we can help. Each day for one week he puts up one post mentioning these things, and then goes quietly back to the work of keen, insightful, Chestertonian writing he's famous for.
But last time he had to mention that a tiny fraction of his weekly readers had actually participated in the Tin Cup Rattle; and he had to mention it only because of the possibility that the blog would have to be abandoned in favor of work that actually earned money should this trend continue. I'm sure he hated to do that. Who wouldn't?
Here's the thing: times are tough all over. People have lost jobs, or had to take lesser employment following downsizing. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and some families are finding that the commute to work is swallowing up more and more of the family budget. The rise in gas prices is affecting all the other things we buy, too; food prices in particular have seen a jump much greater than anything we've seen in the recent past. It gets harder and harder to open up our wallets to help someone else, when we feel as though we're all in the same leaky boat, struggling to stay afloat.
But in my section of the boat, the leaks are still manageable. Sure, the Cardigan family is far from wealthy, but we can cut out some unnecessary spending, pay for the home repairs necessitated by the hailstorm a while back, and work a little harder on living within our means--because our "means" aren't $500/month for a whole homeschooling family. So I was able to join in the "early" CAEI Tin Cup Rattle, even if the amount was about a tenth of what I wish I could send.
How about you? If you're one of Mark's daily readers, is there any way you could hit the PayPal donation button, even for $5 or $10? Could you buy one of his books or tape sets? Would your dad (or your father-in-law, or grandfather etc.) like a terrific book about a former Evangelical's journey to Catholicism for Father's Day? Are there any graduates on your June shopping list who might benefit from one of Mark's books or talks about Holy Scripture or the Blessed Mother?
I may be a tiny insignificant Catholic blogger, but I'd like to invite all the Catholic bloggers (tiny or not) who may read this blog to join me in declaring June, 2008 to be "Mark Shea Appreciation Month," and to encourage our readers (as I just have) to consider making some small token donation to show how much we appreciate the gifts and writings of this wonderful Catholic thinker. Let's take this opportunity, if it is financially possible for us, to exemplify the sort of Catholic solidarity that the early Christians were able to show to the world, as they shared what they had and took care of the needs of the whole community. The value of the sort of work Mark does isn't measured in dollars, but in souls--surely those of us whose work is of a different sort can appreciate the worth of this, and do what we can to support it.