Madonna House

Shopkeeping for God

by Catherine Doherty

Our gift shop is not only a vehicle for raising money for the poor, but it is also an apostolate in itself through our contacts with those who come as customers.

In these times, many people lack reverence for things and people, for they usually go together. We are apostles, so we try to teach silent lessons by showing them great reverence and by handling everything we sell with great reverence. Example is the greatest teacher.

We are personally interested in each customer. Our best “items” are politeness, charity, and personal interest in the customer.

Our goal is apostolic, to bring Christ to the marketplace—not to be greedy for wealth of any kind.

The world may call this “selling” and so it is. But it is so much more. For the money we receive in exchange for our goods is not money “for profit.”

We offer the treasures that have been donated, and we offer, too, the work of our hands into which we put prayer and joy. This is our prayer for the poor, the customer, and the unity of the world.

This is an apostolic shop, because all things we are and do, we do for Christ.

But the children of the light must be as wise as the children of the darkness (cf. Lk 16:8). So it is well for us to use, in the service and glory of the Father, the good methods of the children of darkness.

Among these are efficiency, intelligence, ingenuity, and imagination. We apply them to crying the Gospel with our lives.

So for example, we need to know our stock, because our knowledge is the wedge that brings us deeper into the minds of people. Our knowledge will catch their interest and enable us to slowly foster an acquaintanceship into a friendship through which we can eventually show them the face of God.

Into our midst come those who have made their collections their gods and others who use their possessions as status symbols. We pray to God to open their eyes. We never, never close ourselves to anyone.

Can anyone imagine a greater field for our apostolate than our gift shop? Through it, God brings us people who would never know of our existence, people whom we would otherwise never touch. Some of them just come once or twice; some come again and again.

Our work is not so much receiving as giving. We do not seek to be enriched but to enrich. We do not seek to be understood but to understand. We do not seek to be loved but to love.

—Excerpted and adapted from The People of the Towel and the Water, (2010), pp. 177-178, available from MH Publications