Reports have emerged of a Florida-bassed Catholic priest winning €500,000 in a lottery draw whilst visiting family members in Ireland over Christmas.
Father John Delaney said he took a last-minute decision to purchase the ticket, and that it was by complete chance that he walked past a shop in at which he could pick his favorite lottery numbers.
“I was walking along and enjoying the sounds and the Christmas lights of town and city when I decided to wander into the Donnybrook Fair shop in Malahide. I got the usual set of numbers plus a quick pick,” he explained to local Irish newspaper, the Mayo News.
“My niece Carol in California was celebrating her birthday on December 22 so I decided to get an extra ticket with the lotto plus as well. My late mother’s anniversary was on the January 4, I was baptized on the 4th, so I purchased four tickets in the shop.”
Delaney continued with his extraordinary story:
“I paid no attention to the draw until my niece Deirdre called me on the Saturday morning to say that a ticket bought in Malahide had landed a half million win. “Maybe it’s you?” she joked.
I told her it was unlikely and that I was just getting things ready for Christmas and that I would check it later. So I headed back to the shop that evening and handed the tickets to the girl on the check-out.
One of the first showed I had won six or eight euros but when she put the third one in, the machine kicked out “lottery winner” with a print-out saying “Please call lottery office at this number”. It created some excitement in the shop.”
Delaney eventually got through to officials at the lottery office, who confirmed that he had won big. He recalled the surreal experience of picking up his prize. The priest explained how the lottery office even offered financial advice in the form of a short video that staff made him watch.
“The staff had a warm welcome for us and it was like entering Fort Knox going through the security and up the lifts before entering the big room,” he said of collecting his winnings. “We were asked to watch a video of around five minutes explaining advice they give to all winners.”
Despite regular warnings over the addictive nature of gambling, it appears Delaney is quite the regular. He previously picked up £16,908 on the Irish Sweepstakes, now known as the National Lottery. Back home in Florida, he has also managed to bag some $5,000 when the numbers 1, 2, 4 and 9 saw him claim the prize a few years ago.
“I suppose you can say I am lucky. But I have always had a policy of sharing my luck around,” he said as reported by Dublin Live. ‘That is something that my late mother taught me, and something that was also drummed into me when I was a young priest by a bishop.”
Delaney insists that his makes a habit of tithing ten percent of his winnings. “I am a great believer in the 10 percent tithe which is very much part of biblical tradition,” he said, but refused to disclose what he would spend the rest of the money on.
Fr Delaney was good friends with the Kennedy Family of Boston in the late 1960s and became a close confidante of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, mother of President John Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy, both of whom were assassinated in the 1960s.
There is no doubt that the lottery is big business. Americans spend around $70 billion dollars annually on tickets.
The elephant in the room, however, is the question of should a priest really be gambling to this extent? Is it a good example to set to his congregation?
Pastor John Piper labels such habits “spiritually suicidal,” citing the warning of 1 Timothy 6:9-10 which says that “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”
Plus, the house always wins. In other words, lotteries function on the premise that most people will lose their money. Huge numbers of Americans are going beyond their financial means to give themselves about a one in 175 million chance of winning big – some would could call that foolishness, others would deem it to be utterly reckless.
As the International Business Times pointed out:
The lottery is “just another form of gambling (without any of the glamour and glitz of Las Vegas, of course). The ‘house’ controls the action, the players will all eventually lose.”
Despite the slim overwhelming likelihood that you won’t pick up as much as a dime, a survey by Opinion Research Corporation for the Consumer Federation of America and the Financial Planning Association revealed that a staggering one-fifth (21 percent) of people surveyed thought the lottery was a practical way to accumulate wealth. “We are teaching people to be fools,” wrote John Piper at Desiring God.
Piper presents a better way for people to use that lottery ticket money:
“If the $500 a year that on average all American households throw away on the lottery were invested in an index fund each year for 20 years, each family would have $24,000. Not maybe. Really. And the taxes on these earnings would not only support government services, but would be built on sound and sustainable habits of economic life.”
“Christ does not build his church on the backs of the poor,” Piper added.
Apart from this, perhaps we should look to become so overwhelmed with gratefulness for the lavish grace and goodness the Lord has bestowed upon our lives that the love of a lottery ticket and the allure of a whimsical financial promise will begin to grow ever more dim.