Stewardship Demands a Personal Relationship with God

The following article was taken from the July 2015 issue of our Diocesan newspaper, The Southern Cross and was written by Denis Grasska.

If you’re trying to promote stewardship [in your life] but don’t have a personal relationship with God, good luck!

That was the message that retired Bishop Robert H. Brom delivered June 10 at Sacred Heart Parish in Ocean Beach during the monthly meeting of parishes of San Diego Stewardship Network.

Composed of clergy, parish staff members and other lay Catholics, the Stewardship Network represents parishes throughout the diocese and exists to share best practices regarding stewardship.

“Stewardship is all about discipleship, it’s about encountering Jesus, it’s about conversion of mind and heart, and it’s about communion with Jesus in a loving relationship that might be called—and best called—friendship,” Bishop Brom said. “Stewardship will never work…without an intimate, personal knowledge of God, with an ever deeper discipleship.”

Because of Original Sin, the bishop explained, humanity was estranged from God and desperately needed the assistance of a higher power.

“What’s the good news?” Bishop Brom asked. “That, in the condition of sin, there is help available. And help has a name; His name is Jesus. He comes with the mission of drawing us into communion with God as intended from the beginning.”

“In the mystery of the Incarnation,” the bishop continued, “God…entered into the context of all flesh, in every living situation until the end of time. And that’s our gift.”

Stewardship is about how we respond to that gift: by giving in gratitude for what we first received, he explained. It is a loving response to God’s merciful love.

The first step is simply to recognize “the magnitude of the gift,” Bishop Brom said. Otherwise, “we’ll probably be very stingy” in our own giving.

“We should be fostering a deep awareness of our giftedness,” he said. “Every good gift comes to us from God, and the greatest of these gifts is God’s gift of Himself to us in Jesus?”

“Can you think of a greater gift?” he asked.

Bishop Brom stressed that stewardship will be unsuccessful unless those attempting to promote it actually know Jesus personally, rather than just having knowledge about him.

Stewards must know the real “Christ in the flesh”, not a “plastic Jesus” or the inanimate version found on a church crucifix or rosary, Bishop Brom said.

“Don’t sterilize the context of the gift and the price of the gift,” he said. “When people say, ‘How much should I give in return,” the answer is…everything you can in response to the God who gave everything of Himself to us.”

He concluded by reiterating that stewardship will be unsuccessful unless those attempting to promote it actually know Jesus personally, rather than just having knowledge about him.

Last September, we each made a personal Covenant with God, detailing the steps we would take on our Faith Journey to develop a deeper relationship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

In the next week or so, you will receive the covenant that you filled out last year. Please review it and access your progress. No one needs to see it but you. If you made a promise that you didn’t keep, don’t beat yourself up over it. The time wasn’t right. Maybe you put your energy into something that wasn’t even marked originally, but the Holy Spirit put it in your heart!

Feeding Our People

With today’s two accounts of feeding miracles and the psalm response about the Lord’s hand feeding us, it is easy to gloss over the marvelous hymn in Ephesians. It is built around the most potent biblical numbers: one, three, and seven. The core of it is the word “one” expressed seven times. Three of these describe the church: one body, one Spirit, one hope; the next three are the foundations of the church: one Lord [Jesus], one faith, one baptism. All of these are bound up together in the one Father of all.

While we might feel daunted by the prospect of duplicating the wonders worked by Elisha and Jesus in the feeding of multitudes, Ephesians gives us a more realistic way to live and “feed” others as the church: by living in humility and gentleness, by acting with patience, bearing with each other in love, and always seeking and striving to preserve unity through peace.

Who among us cannot increase the way we “feed” the church and the world by living this way? We are always called upon to “feed” the world in the literal sense; but our mission as church tells us that others are also fed by the way we live and act each moment of each day.

So, are you doing what it takes to “feed” others around you? Are you taking time with someone when it’s easier to be impatient? Is there someone in your life (or with whom you have casual contact) that causes you to step back and take a moment before reacting? Do you know someone who is elderly, hard of hearing, slow on their feet who—literally—needs you to slow down and be patient with them?

Every year when my birthday nears (still a few months off), I start looking at myself. Am I a better person than I was a year ago? What can I do to improve who I am? I used to look at what I had accomplished and what I wanted to do/accomplish for the coming year. I finally had an epiphany and realized that if I was could become who I wanted myself to be, I would be able to accomplish great things. It’s been quite a work in progress, and there’s a lot of road ahead of me.

The point I am trying to make is that we can always improve ourselves and thinking about how we can “feed the church” will always lead to us to being a better version of ourselves.

But besides the figurative feeding of our church, I want to remind you that the church is in need of being fed literally as well. Through the efforts of some very good and faithful stewards, our parish has a new ministry that cares for those in need in our parish. It is called “FEED MY PEOPLE Pantry Ministry”. With so many generous parishioners participating in this ministry, we are able to provide daily sack lunches for over 20 of our neighbors who might not have a nice meal any other time of the day. We also provide a periodic (about every 3 weeks) grocery distribution to about two dozen families. And we work alongside our St. Vincent de Paul Society who makes home visits to families in need.

We find ourselves most in need of $25 gift cards to any grocery store, loaves of bread, tortillas, bags of apples or cuties, and reusable grocery bags.

You can find grocery bags in the vestibule with a printed list attached. Please be sure to refer to the list, as it changes periodically. There is a drop-off container in the vestibule, or you can bring donations to the office Monday through Friday from 10-5.

Volunteers are also needed. Depending on the task you are given, you may be asked to complete a Food Handlers Certification.

Without your participation, this ministry would not be able to continue its good works with God’s hungry people. Thank you for your generosity.

Christian Stewardship and the Need for Recreation

Is there such a thing as a stewardship of recreation? Some people might dismiss the thought. But they’d be wrong.

In his book, The Gift of the Jews, author Thomas Cahill observes that, in receiving the Ten Commandments, the ancient Hebrews did something no other ancient society had ever done: they established a day of rest. “The God who made the universe and rested bids us to do the same, calling us to a weekly restoration of prayer, study, and recreation (or re-creation).”

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere at least, probably no other month bids us to relax as the month of July does. Backyard barbecues, days at the pool or the beach, a recreational outing or simply the lazy idleness of a mid-year Sunday afternoon invite us to slow down. And this invitation should be heeded. Sometimes, our society induces in us a sense of guilt if we’re not “doing.”

But turning off the computer and the phone and spending quality time with those around us, or finding time for our own interior lives, is stewardship of our time which leads to the place where God dwells.

It’s a good example for our kids as well: the summer presents a wonderful time to “rest” from all the electronic screens and busyness that dominate their young lives.

July is the month when U.S. citizens celebrate the proclamation of their freedom. When the Hebrew people first received the Ten Commandments, they too had just received their freedom from the Egyptians after a sojourn in the wilderness. Cahill thinks it’s no coincidence that a people recently liberated were in need of a directive to rest and reflect. “Leisure,” he writes, “is the necessary ground of creativity, and a free people are free to imitate the creativity of God.”

So, the next time you feel guilty about a quiet, reflective time of doing “nothing” remember that recreation also means “re-creation” and that to be a truly creative person, a steward of our interior resources, we must honor our need to rest, relax, be with others, read and play.

STEWARDSHIP PRAYER
FOR SUMMER

Lord and Creator,
You are the source of wisdom and grace,
the author of human freedom and creativity.

We thank you for these gifts, and ask that you teach us
to be good stewards of our creative spirits.

Show us how to quiet ourselves, and to learn the art of re-creation,
reflection and relaxation so that we might recharge
and refill ourselves for the work you have planned for us.

Help us never to be too busy to pause and
realize your gracious presence all around us:
in nature, in other people, in ourselves.
Slow us down, Lord,
and teach us to be stewards of our time of recreation.
Amen.

Being Good Stewards of Our Common Home

Seldom has a papal encyclical been anticipated with so much noise and discussion and even premature criticism and fear as our Holy Father, Pope Francis’ Laudato si (“Praise Be to You”); with a beautiful subtitle “On Care for Our Common Home.” This is the pope’s encyclical on the environment—easily found on Google—but most of us will admit encyclicals aren’t as engrossing as our favorite summer reading. Nevertheless, it deserves our prayerful attention; not just the commentary that journalists, pundits, radio hosts and television analysts provide.

Each of us, as Christian stewards, will find something that inspires and challenges us from Pope Francis’ prescription for a healthy planet. For many readers, the challenge might come particularly in the pope’s warnings about “extreme and selective consumerism.” In our culture, we’re taught that more is better – more production, more growth, more profits, more spending. But can the earth sustain this kind of economic dogma? Pope Francis echoes the Catholic teaching tradition that we should “replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing.”

The letter urges us to examine our lifestyles and invites us to prayerfully consider a significant shift in our own practices and habits. For example, one question we should ask ourselves: Can we live with less?

A visit to our closets is a good place to start, and while commit¬ting to buy less, we might ruminate on the mistaken values of our consumer economy and culture. Our pontiff points out that one-third of food that is produced is discarded. Again, our own kitchens present evidence of our complicity in this wastefulness.

The poor suffer the most from changes in the earth’s complex ecosystem, and that is readily evidenced by their struggle simply to find clean water. The pope also reminds us as Christians called to exercise good stewardship of the planet to consider what in our own life comprises “need” and what is “greed.”

Pope Francis urgently calls us to a renewed commitment to the Eucharist as well – something many commentators fail to mention – and asks us to re¬discover our common bond within this “act of cosmic love.”

For the Christian steward, improving the environment must be a topic of prayer, a chance to call our politicians to action, and a time to renew our commitment to that wonderful Catholic principle of the common good.

If you would like to download a copy of the encyclical, you can go to our website “stmarystars.org”, “News”, and then “Vatican”. We are offering study groups on the encyclical on Sunday nights at 6 p.m. and Thursday afternoons at 1 p.m.

A PRAYER FOR OUR EARTH
By Pope Francis

All-powerful God,
you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one.

O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth.

Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.
Amen

Nostalgia Brings Clarity

The Fourth of July always makes me feel nostalgic. My daddy was a career Marine and we moved to Oceanside in 1959 when he was transferred to Camp Pendleton. I remember sitting on the curb on Hill Street (now Coast Highway) waiting for the 4th of July Parade to start. There were horses, clowns throwing candy, floats, important people waving from fancy cars. And then the Color Guard! I would jump to my feet, put a hand over my heart, get tears in my eyes, and watch the passing of Old Glory. Somehow, even at a young age, I understood all that it represented.

Those were the days that we would walk from South Oceanside (before it became South O) to Geil Motors (corner of Hill & Wisconsin—now the U-Haul) to look at cars. The car daddy wanted but knew he could never afford was very expensive—$3,000!

Just behind Geil Motors was St. Mary’s School, where I was taught by the Adrian Dominican Sisters with up to 50 children in a classroom. No one dared act up! That is where I learned about my faith (in addition to my parents, of course). MANY years later I was able to send my own two children through the school (K-8) to receive a firm foundation.

Junior High and High School were spent at San Luis Rey Academy (now home to Mission Montessori School). My faith life was deepened under the tutelage of the Sisters of the Precious Blood. I remember that my parents spent $30/month for myself and my sister to attend to an all-girls Catholic high school. (THANK YOU, Mom and Dad!)

Shortly after graduation in 1971, Msgr. Clavin asked me to answer the phones in the church office in the afternoons. Later I was asked to sub for the secretary when she took ill. That was in the summer of 1972. I was asked to take on a full time position in June 1973, just a few months before I got married (at St. Mary’s, of course).

I never had aspirations to be “The Church Lady”. But now, as I enter my 44th year, I guess that’s what I am and I consider myself to be blessed beyond measure.

I have worked with seven different men who dedicated their lives to the service of God and were chosen to shepherd the flock at St. Mary Star of the Sea. Each brought his own personality and vision to the parish and I treasure the opportunity to work side by side with each of them.

It seems that, as we age, we enjoy looking back at our childhood memories, especially those that truly shaped us into the adults we became.

Most of my “faith” memories were created right here at St. Mary’s. I remember receiving my First Holy Communion at our altar rail (oops, it’s missing!) And sitting in the pews that you occupy this moment making my mom Shh! at me. (I wasn’t always perfect.) I remember exchanging my marriage vows at our altar and baptizing my babies at our baptismal font.

So this weekend, when you are having BBQs, watching fireworks, just hanging out with family and friends, think about that little girl sitting on the curb watching the Color Guard pass by.

I ask you to BELIEVE that we are lucky to live in a military town so the idea is never far from our minds; to BELIEVE that we are lucky to hear the “sounds of freedom” booming in the late hours as the military practices for combat readiness. I ask you to PRAY for each member of the armed forces (who are someone’s spouse, child, sibling) that put themselves in harms way to keep us safe.

God Bless America!