Stewardship in the Public Square

Discussing civility in the public square, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., reminds American Catholics that they are “citizens of two worlds,” the kingdom of God and of a great nation. The incivility displayed in this year’s presidential campaign season sometimes makes it hard to reconcile these two citizenships. But it’s precisely at this time that good stewards of God’s love and mercy must be­come engaged politically.

Our Holy Father urges us to be ambassadors of Christ in the public square. Pope Francis has said, “We need to par­ticipate for the common good. Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics.

This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves.”  (Daily homily, 9/16/13).

How can we “offer the best of ourselves” in this politi­cal season? There are many ways. Christian stewards have a starting point: They recognize Jesus’ admonition that nations will be judged by how they treat the poor, the sick, the weak, and most vulnerable in society (Matt 25:31-46), as well as how they respond to their neighbors (Luke 10:25-37).

They understand that political differences are expected, even among Christians, but their convictions are expressed with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

When we express our views through social media, we can raise the bar and interact with mercy, re­spect and dignity, as Jesus did. We avoid name-calling, mockery and in­sulting remarks, even in the privacy of our homes and especially in front of our children.

We become involved in organiza­tions that focus on issues and advo­cate for causes that promote mercy, compassion and justice. We write to elected officials with well-expressed convictions to affirm or hold them accountable for their stewardship of the public trust. We speak truth bold­ly in the public square, not to force our faith and beliefs on others but as Christ’s ambassadors, bearing the fruit of His Spirit (Gal. 5:22–26). We never forget to vote, and to pray for our public leaders.

Pope Francis challenges us to “immerse” ourselves in politics. As citizens of two worlds, we commit to promoting and supporting the com­mon good. Our convictions on how best to nurture the common good may differ, but we must keep the pon­tiff’s exhortation in mind: in politics, just as in life, Catholics must offer the best of themselves, and seek to find and pray for political leaders who do the same.

 

April – A Most Joyous Month

In his famous poem, “The Waste Land,” T.S. Eliot wrote, “April is the cruelest month.” At the time, he was reflecting on the social disillusionment and de­spondency in the wake of the First World War. It was a fearful world, yearning desperately for any sign of redemption. It is considered by many to be the most influential poem of the twentieth century. Eliot’s despair, however, was short-lived. A few years later, he embraced the Christian faith with joy.

For those who exercise good stewardship of their Christian faith, this April is the happiest, most joyful of months, for it ushers in the great liturgical season of our hope and joy.

During the Easter season, which extends 50 days, from March 27 to Pentecost Sunday, May 15, Christian stewards are exhorted to celebrate and be joyful, for our Savior lives.

At the Easter Vigil, all the great symbols are there: darkness, light, fire, water. The Vigil be­gins in darkness; not a darkness to be ignored, but a darkness in which we realize where we would be without the light of Christ, a darkness that reveals much about our world, our own sinfulness, the darkness that sometimes envelopes our own lives and even shrouds our own hearts.

But then, the great fire of the Vigil is lit, a fire which consumes the darkness, and the procession into the church reminds us of the light and strength provided by the community of the faithful and the saving light of Christ.

 Indeed, Saint Paul maintains that we are stewards of this great light. We remember the waters of baptism during the Vigil as we renew our baptismal vows. The Vigil brings into our community those newly baptized who proceed joyfully with us into April.

 As Christian stewards, we now leave behind the penitential preparation of Lent. We may feel strengthened by our Lenten commitments, or we may feel disappointment in our efforts. Leave that behind. Come instead into the glory of this April, come into the garden with Mary, and wait in eagerness and confusion and fear until you hear the wonderful sound of the Risen Lord pro­nouncing your name. He may ask you, as he asked Mary, “Why do you weep?” Indeed, the time of sorrow is ended. This April is the most glorious of months. Christ is risen! Alleluia!

WHY ST MARY’S?

Three years ago, on Pentecost Sunday, our parish starting living the message of Stewardship which is to believe that all that we are (personally and as a parish) and all that we have is a gift from God.  Motivated by this belief, we choose to live our lives in gratitude to God for all the blessing we have received.

One of the most consequential ways to live in gratitude is to use the gifts you have received.   This applies to who you are and what you have.

God has crafted each one of us with unique gifts, talents, and charisms.  If a person is in tune with the special creation they are, the path in life is often directed (consciously or not) by this as well.  You may be led to be a counselor, a manager, a teacher because you always felt called to it and somehow knew you would be good at it.

The other act of gratitude is giving back a portion of your tangible gifts.  The Catholic Church recommends that you return 5% of your earnings to your home church and another 5% to charities of your choice.  This can include (but not be limited to) the Diocese’s Annual Catholic Appeal, special collections such as Lenten Appeal, Mission

Sunday, Retirement for Religious.  It might also include Catholic programming (Immaculate Heart Radio, EWTN), Dynamic Catholic (Matthew Kelly’s ministry), Birth Choice, or any other charity that is a good cause and touches your heart.

When speaking one-on-one with parishioners, I find that many Catholics have never created the habit of giving.  If at this time you do not regularly support the parish, I encourage you to “take baby steps”.  The first step is to create the habit.  Give something in the collection basket every time you attend Mass.

Once this has been established, take the time to discern what amount you should be giving.  Start with 1%.  After awhile, look at it again.  Add another percent.  If you “can’t afford it”, maybe you can forego one latte at Starbucks each week.  Or don’t “supersize” an order at McDonalds.

An Old English Proverb says “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”.  Dr. Napoleon Hill restated it “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve”.   Either way, it’s up to you to believe that it’s the right thing to do and then find a way to make it happen.

I owe you an apology.  You’ve read 2/3 of this article with nothing about “Why St. Mary’s”.

What I wanted to say is that, in speaking with new parishioners, I have found that most people “Church Shop”.   So, of course, I then have to ask why they finally chose our parish to call Home.  The overwhelming answer is that we are welcoming.  It starts with the greeters at the door, the act of greeting those around you before Mass, Hospitality after Mass in the Parish Center, and random acts of kindness.

This reminds me that every thing we do makes a difference.  A pleasant greeting or a smile can change the course of someone’s day.  A grumpy response can do the same.

Each of us is a Parish Ambassador to those we see at Mass and an Ambassador for the Catholic Church as well.  Act accordingly.

I want to personally thank everyone who made our Holy Week and Easter celebrations so sacred and beautiful.  This begins with the “person in the pew” to the ministers, to the choirs, to the celebrants.  Everyone plays a part and every part is important.  God Bless you for all you do.

Christian Stewards: People of the Resurrection

For those immersed in the secular world, Easter is long over. The pas­tel bunnies, the chocolate eggs, the color-splashed jelly beans which ap­peared in the marketplace so tempt­ingly just as Christians were begin­ning the fasting of Lent, have long been swept from the store shelves to be replaced in anticipation of the next marketable holiday. For the Christian steward, how backward this all seems. Yes, we believe that the Paschal mys­tery and the life-changing events of Easter are not over. They are not an end but a triumphal beginning, and they have altered us in a quite radical way.

The mystery and miracle of Easter challenge us to live as different people, as people of the Resurrection. What does this mean? For those new Catholics who participated in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), a period of mystagogy helps to understand this mystery. Indeed, this ancient Greek word actually means “to lead through the mysteries.” During mystagogia, many par­ishes introduce their new members to service in a quite practical way. Here are the ministries of the parish; here are the charities we support; here are the needs of our community and our congregation. How do you choose to live out your faith in the Resurrection in a quite tangible and real way? How do your gifts fit into our needs? Essentially, however, this is a question that the Easter season calls forth in all Christian stewards not just our newest members.

We have lived through Lent and the Paschal mysteries, all the while try­ing to deepen a relationship with the person of Christ. It’s as simple, yet as amazing and complex as that. The deeper the relationship grows, the more we become rooted in it, the more this relationship with Christ comes to dominate our lives. We no longer compartmentalize Jesus, we hold him at our center. And the mysteries lead us to the fundamental question at the heart of all Chris­tian stewardship, the question that Easter compels us to ask: How do I steward my resources – my time, my money, my abilities and gifts, my very life – so that they are in service to the Kingdom of God? It’s not a part-time question. It’s not a seasonal question that’s swept off the shelf periodically. It’s the basic question which the Easter season demands of us: Jesus, how do you want me to serve you?