Protect and Heal / Proteger y Sanar

After receiving numerous suggestions during the recent Listening Sessions, Bishop McElroy has asked all parishes to share the following information with their parishioners.  Click here to read the document Protect and Heal in English and in Spanish.

Stewardship Saint for October: Saint Luke

Luke is the author of the third Gospel and was a companion of Saint Paul. According to reliable tradition, he was a Syrian physician from Antioch who wrote his Gospel in Achaea (Greece). Both the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles are attributed to Luke, because he appears to be the person intended by the first-person reference in Acts. The opening of Acts refers to the Gospel and is dedicated to the same person, Theophilus. The basic point of Luke’s New Testament writings is to emphasize the love and compassion of Jesus Christ.

Luke also has an interest in the reality of poverty and reveals a deep concern for the poor, the outcast, and the underprivileged throughout the Gospel.

Stewardship is a major theme in Luke’s Gospel. As a matter of fact, what emerges from Luke’s writings is a sophisticated theology of stewardship that is unique to his Gospel and not addressed so profoundly by other New Testament writers. Luke defines the duty and role of a steward as a unique sort of servant who is entrusted with material possessions by a master, takes charge of them and is required to use them prudently. Luke envisions the steward as not having any possessions or property of his own, but as taking care of his master’s property and wealth until the master summons him to turn in an account of his stewardship. There is a finiteness to stewardship. According to Luke, a steward carries out his responsibilities with alertness, knowing that the master’s return may come at any time. And depending on the quality of his stewardship, there is the anticipation of a reward as a result of his stewardship. Luke believes stewards are not just a chosen or appointed few. Stewardship is the responsibility of all Christian disciples. Luke takes his basic ideas of stewardship and applies them to the motif of material possessions as well, instructing his readers on the right use of wealth and the wrong use of wealth. Finally, Luke’s concept of almsgiving, based on his theology of stewardship, was unique and radical at the time of his writing. Almsgiving was considered an obligation of Christian disciples; imperative inside and outside the community. Luke enjoined his readers to look upon the poor with genuine sympathy and urged those with material resources to remember their identity as stewards, to distribute their wealth to the poor as alms, and to give up ownership of their own material possessions. Luke is the patron saint of physicians, artists and butchers. His feast day is October 18.

Everything We Have is a Gift from God 

This excerpt is fifth in a series based on the forthcoming book by Rev. Joseph D. Creedon, pastor emeritus, Christ the King Parish, Providence, Rhode Island.  

Everything we have is a gift from God. That is a foundational principle in the spirituality of Christian stewardship. It is not easy to embrace the reality that everything we have is a gift from God. Many of us, at a subliminal level, believe that everything we have is a result of our own efforts.

The following story points out how persistent this false belief can be. The setting for the story is the Irish countryside; the focus is an abandoned farmhouse. A stranger buys the dilapidated farmhouse and immediately begins to make improvements. The stone walls are rebuilt, the house gets a new coat of whitewash, the fields are plowed and planted and the thatched roof is repaired. The people in the nearby village watch all this work with curiosity and wonder. One thing they know for certain is that whoever the new owner is he never goes to church. A group of the villagers goes to the parish priest and convince him to discover who the new owner is and to invite him to church. Soon thereafter the parish priest goes out to the newly restored farmhouse and knocks on the door. The door is opened, the priest is greeted and he soon finds himself seated at the kitchen table enjoying a cup of tea and homemade scones. After the obligatory small talk, the priest zeroes in on the purpose of his visit. He says to the new owner, “I love what you and God have done with this place.” The new owner pauses, takes a sip of tea and says, “Father, do you remember what the place looked like when God had it all to Himself?”

The story is both humorous and tragic. Humorous because it invites us to laugh at ourselves. Tragic because it lays bare the fact that we are inclined to take too much credit for our successes and too little blame for our failures. The new owner’s heart is not filled with gratitude because his heart is too full of pride in his own accomplishments. Needless to say, he is not alone in this attitude. If we are to embrace fully the spirituality of stewardship, we must embrace the belief that “everything we have is a gift from God.” We must develop what stewards call “the attitude of gratitude.” Prayerfully consider what will help you realize more fully that everything we have is a gift from God.

We Stewards Are A Testimony to Hope

This is a heart-wrenching time for our Church. We are numbed by the recent reports of past sexual abuses and the failure of some Church leaders to protect the most vulnerable among us. These reports reveal a crisis in our midst and the anger and dismay are natural. But how do we, as Christian stewards, respond? How do we participate in the healing and guiding work of the Holy Spirit? How do we stewards become a testimony to hope?

First, we can re-think how we work within the Church to protect the most vulnerable among us. How might we become better stewards of those entrusted to us? Christian stewards do not stand idly by, helpless or disengaged. They open their hearts to conversion, draw closer to those who suffer and seek ways to respond to injustice even if it is within their own family of faith.

Second, let’s make an honest assessment of our own life in Christ, beginning with the stewardship of our prayer lives. We pray for the victims and their families; for the innocents who continue to suffer; for a new resolve to reform the structures that have abetted wrongdoing; and even for those who have sinned. But let’s be honest about our conversations with God and the way we reveal our own weakness and frailty. It is here that we come to know the power of the Holy Spirit within us. It is here that Christ declares, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

Third, let us embrace a new awareness of our stewardship of the Church. Our Church is found in our parish at the Eucharistic celebration, at faith formation gatherings, at our dinner table, in giving of our time at the soup kitchen, senior citizens’ home or the religious education of our young people. It is found in the many ways we give witness to the loving presence of Christ in a suffering world and offer hope.

Let’s ask ourselves: “How am I stewarding our Church?”  One of the profoundly prophetic voices of the 20th century, Karl Rahner, insisted: Quite enough terrible and base things have happened in the history of the church … Where would we go if we left the church? Would we then be more faithful to the liberating spirit of Jesus if, egotistical sinners that we are, we distanced ourselves as the “pure” from this poor church?

We can do our part to remove its meanness only if we try to live in the church as Christians and help bear the responsibility of constantly changing it from inside (The Practice of Faith, New York: Crossroad, 1983, p. 15). As we persevere through the current crisis, let us remain mindful that Jesus taught us how not only to overcome evil, but to redeem it. Christian stewards, as active instruments of God’s mercy, understand the redemptive quality of being stewards of the Gospel. It is in fidelity to this stewardship, made manifest in prayer, word and deed, that our testimony of hope emerges to reveal the healing power of Christ’s presence.