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.

Stewardship in the Gospel of Matthew (by Rev. Joe Creedon)

In last month’s reflection, we looked at stewardship parables of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. For our final Gospel parables we will go to Matthew, chapter 25.

The first is the parable of the three servants (stewards). One is given five talents, one is given two talents and the last servant is given one talent. The one with five talents makes five more, the one with two gains two more but the one who is given one talent does nothing with what was given to him. The two servants who use their talents wisely are praised by the master; the one who is fearful of the gift he has been given is stripped of what he was given. I have always wished there was a fourth servant who tried to use what he was given as gift and failed because if there were a fourth servant I am sure that the master would have said to him, “Here are three more try again.”

This parable is not about success but about remembering our need to give thanks to God for the gifts he has placed in our lives. This parable comes right before Matthew’s beautiful and chilling parable of the Last Judgment where we are reminded that when our life is over God will judge us on how we shared our gifts with others. The time will come when we get to ask, as did the folks in Matthew 25: 31-46: “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?” Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to the least of these, you neglected to do it to me. And they will go away to eternal punishment and the virtuous to eternal life.”

God has given each and every one of us the gift of faith in Baptism. At Baptism, we are given both a mission and a ministry. The mission: to become disciples of Jesus and stewards of God’s gifts; the ministry is to use our unique gifts and talents in a way that gives glory to God. Stewardship then is a spirituality rooted in the Bible and based on the principle that everything we have is a gift from God.

September: New Beginnings In Our Parish

New Year’s resolutions are famously made on January 1, and infamously broken by the end of that month. But for many stewards, the real time of renewal and recommitment comes as we turn the calendar page into September, and the resolutions have a longer and greater impact. Why? Because good Catholic stewards realize that the parish is often-times the place where people encounter Christ’s presence in their lives, and in the fall, everything kicks into high gear at the parish.

Opportunities abound for growth, for giving, for community. It’s now that we ponder and make our decisions for how we will make a disciple’s response during the coming year through our commitment to the life of our parishes.

Here are a few tips for maximizing a grace-filled year: • Make Mass your top weekend priority, ahead of sports, school activities, or other temptations. • Consider how best to use your talents in the service of the parish. Pray over the ministry which calls to you the most. • Make an appointment to introduce yourself to the pastor or any new clergy if you do not know them, visit with them, or invite them to dinner. • Serve the poor through activities in your parish, in the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul. Our Feed My People Ministry is always in need of more helpers. • Visit our parish Ministry Faire next Sunday. Fun and informative, the Faire is a community builder, and a great way to get involved. • Visit your child’s faith formation class and introduce yourself to the teacher. Let your children know religious education is a priority to you, and be sure to thank in some way the parishioners who give of their time and talent to this ministry. • Review your financial giving. Were you a faithful giver during the summer? Think about signing up for on-line giving so your year-round support helps provide a stable parish income.

Our Ministry Faire will be held next Sunday, September 9 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Parish Center parking lot.  Please stop by to talk with the members of our ministries and then prayerfully discern where your gifts and talents can best be used.

Stewardship and Missionary Discipleship: Tending Our Faith Responsibly

Saint John Paul II wrote “Life is entrusted to man as a treasure which must not be squandered, as a talent which must be used well” (Evangelium Vitae, 52).

Our late pontiff also wrote: It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal (Prayer Vigil, World Youth Day, August 19, 2000).

Another year of learning begins soon. Teachers everywhere will assemble students, engaging and encouraging them to discover their talents, recognize and focus on their potential, and understand more about life, faith, and the world.

Likewise, “Missionary Discipleship” calls each of us to commit ourselves to learning more about our faith. The need for ongoing formation and catechesis is not just for the young. It’s vital for everyone, throughout our lives. We respond to the call to be Missionary Disciples and gratefully receive the gift of our faith and cherish it. However, before we can share our faith with others in justice and love, we must tend to it, in a responsible and accountable manner.

What are some ways we could tend to our faith? Here are a few ideas: • Join, or lead, a parish Bible study group. • Start a book club reading religious books about saints, liturgy and Catholic practices. • Subscribe to or download an app for a daily devotional with reflection and commentary. • Participate in a diocesan faith-formation course. • Check a nearby seminary or Franciscan School for Theology (located at Mission San Luis Rey) for courses available to laity. • Read religious pamphlets and the diocesan Southern Cross newspaper  • Look for Catholic educational resources online or on DVD. • Search for and read online the documents and summaries from the Second Vatican Council. •  Pray every day, often. As regards to prayer, it would be a good idea to set aside time routinely for complete silence in order to listen for God’s still, small voice, like Elijah waiting in the cave. He too was humbly and patiently waiting to improve himself and society. The Lord called Elijah with a whisper, sending him on a mission to Damascus (1 Kings 19:12-16). We, too, are summoned to fulfill a role only we can play using the gift of faith entrusted to us. What is God pressing on your heart to do with your faith? How will you respond?

It’s Never Too Late to Say “Thanks”

I love my job.  Sure, it’s not all that exciting to write checks, do bookkeeping, meet with vendors.  But what IS exciting are THE PEOPLE.  St. Mary’s is blessed with wonderful parishioners who give themselves wholeheartedly to the service of the Lord.  I have come to know many on a personal level and have found them to be beautiful people of God.  Even when a parishioner complains, I accept it gratefully because it means that they care and want things to be better for everyone.

 

It’s not just the parishioners that I enjoy, but the visitors as well.  Over the years, we have had many visitors come in and tell me that their parents were married here.  Usually the story goes that their dad was stationed at Camp Pendleton and came into town to get married before being shipped out to the war (World War II).  I always take them into the church and then bring them back to the office where I look up the marriage record.  It always fills them with joy.  That is why, when we renovated the vestibule years ago, I created the display that shows the active-duty service men and women who were married here during WWII.  It also showcases our on-going association with the military.

 

Last week, a family was visiting from the East Coast and asked to see the inside of the church.  The wife (we’ll call her “MARY”) and teenage son (“JAMES”) walked out of the office and the husband (“JOHN”) stayed behind.  He said he wanted me to know why they came here to see the church.

 

He said that his dad (“DAD”) had completed boot camp in San Diego and was then moved to Camp Pendleton to wait to be shipped out to the Korean War.  The year was 1950.

 

FAST FORWARD TO 1997.  John and Mary were living in Southern California and had just had their first child.  Dad came to visit to see the grandchild.  He tells John that, while he was at Camp Pendleton, he and his buddies would go into Laguna Beach and he wanted to see it again because he enjoyed it so much.  So, off they go to Laguna.  Then Dad asks John to drive him down to Oceanside.  “Why?  What’s in Oceanside?”, John asks him.  “Please just take me there.”  When they drive into town, Dad remarks that everything looks very different, but if John would just drive around the downtown area, he will find his bearings.  They drive down Hill Street (now Coast Highway) and Dad tells him to turn onto Third Street (now Pier View Way).  That’s when he spots the church!  He instructs John to wait for him in the car and he disappears into the church for about an hour.

 

By the time Dad returns, John can’t stand it any longer and asks “What was that all about?”  Dad tells him that he was, understandably, very worried about going into the War.  The night before he was to be shipped out, he snuck off base, and came to our church.  He prostrated himself on the floor and begged God to let him come home alive.  He promised that, if he came home alive, he would come back here and “thank Him in person”.  It took 47 years, but his promise was kept!

 

FAST FORWARD TO 2018.  John and Mary and their family now live on the East Coast again (where John grew up).  Over the years, Dad’s story became almost a legend in the family.  So, while they were in Southern California on a family vacation, they went out of their way to bring James to see the church where God and Dad had their meeting that night.  Dad’s folklore now becomes a reality to James who will pass down the story to his future children.

 

I am certain that Dad thanked God profusely when he came home and probably every day thereafter for sparing his life and allowing him to have a wife, children, and grandchildren.  But he clearly held in his heart that he had a specific promise to keep and it brought him back here.

 

When moments like this occur, I am humbled.  I am reminded that we have a very special gift here and that we are caretakers of the past and guardians of the future.

ST. BENEDICT – STEWARDSHIP SAINT FOR JULY

Saint Benedict, the father of Western monasticism, is considered a model of Christian stewardship. He authored the famous Rule of St. Benedict, a handbook of daily Christian living that emphasizes exercising stewardship over prayer, work, and community. Born in central Italy in the town of Nursia around 480, Benedict studied in Rome as a young man. He was so distressed by the chaos and incivility he found there that he left the city and traveled to Subiaco, Italy to become a hermit.

He soon attracted followers who wanted to join him in his simple way of living; imitating his style of prayer and work while respecting the rhythms of the day. Benedict stayed there for 25 years before taking a small group of his monks to Monte Cassino, near Naples, where he wrote the final version of his Rule. The Rule of St. Benedict started a simple, spiritual tradition that exists to this day. It was meant to “…establish a school for the Lord’s service.” It is a set of Christian principles around which the members of the community were to organize their daily lives, focusing on the most important Christian values that would direct their daily actions and help them cultivate habits that would ensure good stewardship of their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

A hallmark of Christian stewardship is hospitality, making room for others. St. Benedict found this aspect of the Christian life especially important for his communities. In his Rule, St. Benedict writes: “Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for he is going to say: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Mt. 25:35).’ ‘And to all let due honor be shown, especially to those who share our faith’ (Gal. 6:10) and to pilgrims… In welcoming the poor and pilgrims the greatest care and solicitude should be shown, because it is especially in them that Christ is received” (Rule of St. Benedict 53:1-2, 15). The Rule of St. Benedict was meant to stand on the shoulders of the Gospels and many spiritual writers throughout the ages attest to its transforming power to change lives. It teaches the principles of stewardship, shows one how to live in a way that is uniquely countercultural and invites its adherents to enter into a deeper and more joyful relationship with the Lord.

St. Benedict died in approximately 550. He is the patron saint of monks and farm workers. In 1964 Pope Paul VI declared him to be the patron saint of Europe. His feast day is July 11.

Be The Rainbow

For much of the summer, wild fires raged in the Northwest, consuming much of Montana and Washington.

Just last month, the Southeastern portion of the U.S. and the islands were devastated by hurricanes.

Close on the heels of the hurricanes was a massive earthquake in Mexico.

Two weeks ago, a lone shooter gunned down over 50 innocent people at a country music festival in Las Vegas.

As I write this, California is on fire. Populated areas are being threatened, including homes and businesses.

Close to home, the Anaheim Hills Fire is ravaging through Orange County.  Farther north, several counties in Northern California are being consumed by fire.

Even though some of these events took place thousands of miles away, I would guess that you know someone who was personally affected.

My best friend knows a young man that was gunned down in Las Vegas.  She will attend his funeral this weekend.

I had a short trip planned to visit my sister in Santa Rosa this last few days (Oct 11-14).  Her city is being leveled by a fire that is not only minimally confined.   Hotels, restaurants, department stores, expensive homes, mobile homes, a fire station, vineyards…nothing is safe.

Businesses that are not threatened cannot open because their employees are unable to get to work.  Roads are closed, some employees have lost everything, some have been evacuated from their homes and don’t have the essentials to be ready for work.

I have been visiting my sister in Santa Rosa for the last 45 years, and am very familiar with the city and the area.  You might have read that an Applebee’s burned to the ground.  I ate there during my last visit.  It becomes real when it’s more than a headline.

 

SO WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN TO US AS PEOPLE OF FAITH?

God does not stop bad things from happening.  Don’t get mad, don’t blame God.

It is up to each of us to be the light in someone else’s life and the light in our own.  We are called to be the Good Samaritan.

Think of the heroes in Las Vegas who stayed by a stranger’s side while they took their last breath.  They were able to offer nothing by themselves.

I think about the emergency instruction on the airlines.  Put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others.

You are not physically able to hold someone’s hand in Florida, or Mexico, or Las Vegas, or Santa Rosa.  But you are able to spiritually wrap your arms around them.  Pray for those who have lost their homes, everything they own, even their lives.  Even those who are waiting out a tragedy, now knowing the outcome, are mentally tortured.  Pray for them to be strong.  Pray for the heroes—first responders and the common man.

Be the rainbow in the storm.

 

 

 

 

 

How Do our Catholic Values & Principles Relate to Stewardship?

How do our Catholic values and principles relate to stewardship?  Perhaps it would be easier to see how we live our faith through stewardship by imagining stewardship as a pyramid composed of several basic building blocks, each representing one of several key aspects.  This month’s let’s reflect on two of them: the principles of human dignity and respect for human life.

Every human being is created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ, and therefore is invaluable and worthy of respect.  This is the bedrock of Catholic Social Teaching.  What does this mean for each of us?  How do we treat ourselves and others, including people who look different from us?  How does this principle influence our interactions in both the real world and on social media?

The Catholic Church proclaims that human life, from conception to natural death, is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.  Yet, in our society, human life is under direct attack from abortion and euthanasia, and the value of human life is threatened by cloning, embyonic stem cell research, and the death penalty.  Catholic teaching also calls on us to work to avoid war, seeking ways to resolve problems through peaceful means.  The intentional targeting of civilians in war or through terrorist attack is always wrong.

What can we do to demonstrate our respect for human life?

It all begins with self-respect.  If we do not respect ourselves, it will be more difficult for us to respect anyone else.   Respecting ourselves means recognizing our own worth and value as a human being.

How do I go about respecting myself?  Here are some ways:  Be honest with  yourself and others, and show respect for others’ views.  Value education, recognizing that knowledge is a key component of self-respect.  Don’t neglect exercise or nutrition; in order to be our best, we must feel our best.  Never forget that financial responsibility is a cornerstone of independence.  Demonstrate good manners; your proper conduct will make you feel good about yourself and earn you the respect of others.  Accept responsibility for your own actions; this includes formally apologizing for wrongdoing and striving to make amends.  Learn to distinguish between family members and friends who are good influences and others who are not; emulate the good.  Set important goals and make plans for reaching them; through each one, you will gain strength to challenge yourself a little more, and your self-respect will grow.

So, what does this have to do with being a disciple of Jesus Christ?  As members of the Church, Jesus calls us to be disciples, and this call has astonishing implications for us.  Mature disciples make a conscious decision to follow Jesus, no matter what the cost.

This most definitely includes recognizing the dignity and sanctity of every human life, from our own to those most different from us.  Christian disciples experience conversion—life-shaping changes of mind and heart—and commit their very selves to the Lord, striving to more fully life out these principles every day.

Christian stewards respond in a particular way to the call to be a disciple. Stewardship has the power to shape and mold our understanding of our lives and the way in which we live.  Jesus’ disciples and Christian stewards recognize God as the origin of life, giver of freedom, and source of all things.  We are grateful for the gifts we have received and are eager to use them to show our love for God and for one another.  We look to the life and teaching of Jesus for guidance in living as Christian Stewards.

 Thank you to Manny Aguilar, Diocesan Director for Stewardship for this article that was published in the recent edition of the Southern Cross.