Be a Good Steward of the Advent and Christmas Seasons

 

December is such a busy time of year, and a month that tempts us to lose sight of the profound spiritual importance of the Advent and Christmas seasons. The best way to stay focused on the coming of Jesus Christ is to be good stewards of his presence in our daily lives. Here are simple ways to exercise good stewardship of this sacred time of year.

GIVE GOD A VERY SPECIAL GIFT THIS YEAR:  Let this gift be something personal that no one else needs to know about, and let it be a sacrifice. Perhaps your gift will be to commit to spending more time with God daily. Perhaps there is a habit you know you should give up. Why wait for a New Year’s resolution? Start now.

CELEBRATE THE SEASON OF ADVENT:  Light the Advent wreath candles each night before dinner. If you have children, let them offer their own prayers to the Christ child for whom we are waiting.

SET ASIDE A SPECIAL TIME TO READ THE CHRISTMAS STORY in the Gospel of Saint Luke 1:5-56 through 2:1-20: Consider reading this account with your family and discussing it together.

PUT UP A CRECHE IN YOUR HOME AT THE BEGINNING OF ADVENT:   Consider having one set that is “kid-proof” which your children are allowed to handle. Kids love to make the Nativity story their own, and they especially love the angels!

PLAN A PROJECT TO HELP SOMEONE THIS CHRISTMAS: Identify someone with a genuine need, involve your whole family and see how happy you can make someone this Christmas. Participate in your parish Adopt-a-Family program or call Catholic Charities or another charity and find a family through their programs. Make sure your children take part in shopping for a family who needs extra help and make them aware of the needs in your community.

TAKE A GROUP CHRISTMAS CAROLING TO A NURSING HOME OR CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL: Get people together. Make it festive. Bring the gifts of your joyful smiles and voices to those who may need these gifts.

GIVE A SURPRISE GIFT OF SERVICE TO EACH MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY:  The idea of giving an unexpected gift of service to members of your family reveals your own love and concern for them.

You might consider giving your spouse a day away, running an errand for your brother, or cleaning out a closet for your mother. Make it personal and meaningful.

SEND CHRISTMAS CARDS AND THANK YOU NOTES THAT CONVEY A SPIRITUAL MESSAGE:  This is an easy way to share your faith during the Advent season. Don’t just sign your name! Include a personal message with each card. Set aside some time after Christmas Day to write thank you notes and help your children to write thank you notes for the gifts they receive. This is a wonderful habit for a lifetime.

WRITE A CHRISTMAS LETTER TO SOMEONE FAR AWAY SUCH AS SOMEONE IN THE SERVICE, or perhaps someone working or ministering in a foreign country: It has been said that receiving a letter when you are far away from home is like opening a priceless gift on Christmas morning, no matter what day of the year. Many people are unable to travel home for the holidays, so it can be a very lonely time for them.

ATTEND CHRISTMAS MASS TOGETHER WITH YOUR FAMILY:  If you are alone this Christmas or don’t have family living near you, invite a friend or a neighbor to join you.

Thank God for the Power of Prayer

I want to share a personal story.  Maybe even a little more personal than I usually do.  It involves my son.

First, I want to say that I have conversations with so many people who say that their adult children no longer practice their Catholic Faith.  And what a heartache that can be to a parent who did everything in their power to instill the love of God and Church in their children.

So, to start this story I want to say that we all know that everything happens in GOD’S TIME.   He is not encumbered with clocks and calendars like we are.  It is all eternal time.  So it may seem like a long time to have a prayer answered, but to God the time is just right!

Two months ago, I sat with my son all day as he prepared (waited) to be shipped off to the Naval Training Center on Lake Michigan.   In conversation, I asked him if a sailor wears a dog tag.  (My only frame of reference is the Marine Corps in which my daddy served.)  He said yes, they do…funny you should ask.  They had just asked him about his religious preference and he told them NONE.  My heart sank.  He’s a cradle Catholic, attended Catholic school, and has always seen religion being practiced around him.

He has always continued to identify as a Catholic but, as an adult, has not practiced his faith regularly. He said he didn’t want to be a hypocrite and say that he was a Catholic when he wasn’t holding up his end of the bargain.

I reminded him of the story of the Prodigal Son and assured him that there would be much rejoining when he came back.

I gave him a Soldier’s rosary (woven thread with no metal) and he said he would carry it in his pocket.

I got my first letter from him after a few weeks and he said that he had attended Mass and that “it felt really good”.  He shared that the homily had really made him think about some things in his life and he was quite moved by it.

And then, the pièce de résistance, is that the chaplain handed out bibles as they left the chapel.  As a recruit, he’s not allowed any reading material other than religious.  So, he’s reading the bible now.

I shared my opinion that the bible can be rather daunting if you just start at the first page and try to plow through it.  I encouraged him to let the Spirit direct him and feel free to just open to a random page.

(Of course, the beauty of it is that it may seem random to us, but we are certainly being directed to a passage that will be very meaningful at that given moment.)

I haven’t received another letter from him.  He’s tried to call several times, but I was on vacation and out of cell phone range.  I believe in my heart that he is continuing this path.    And really, even if today isn’t the day, this experience has made a positive impact on his journey.  Tomorrow I’ll fly to Chicago to watch him graduate from Boot Camp!  I couldn’t be more proud of him!

As a side note, I have often talked about the little things that can make a big impact on someone.  While I was on vacation, I sent my son at least one, and sometime up to five postcards every day for 14 days.  I started each one with the day number (DAY 1…).  I knew he would want to put them in chronological order.  I just shared the usual postcard drivel, told him I loved him and was praying for him.  The cost the minimal.    I knew it would make him happy and that he would feel very loved and not forgotten.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to do Random Acts of Kindness.  Try every day.  And thank God for answering your prayers.

 

FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP

Testimonial Continued…

 FEEL THE FEAR

And pull back a little. Do what takes you just up to that fear. Be gentle with yourself. Why would you deliberately want to put yourself into fear mode? Does that serve you? Will that serve the world? Giving 10% of my gross income, when I have received a decent pay check puts me into fear mode. Website reviews on money & credit repair, showed me how to manage debt, like prestige financial  — and assuage my fears and figure out ways to improve my credit.

So, right off the bat, I felt like I could not tithe 10% every single time. I seem to have a limit. While I am exploring this idea, I give what I can. If I have no fear of tithing 10%, when I receive $100 or $200, I give the 10%. When I feel fear, I tithe at 1%. Lately I’m at about 3%. I’m ‘stretching the spiritual muscles’ and I have confidence in myself that I will be capable of tithing the full 10% of ALL my gross income, in the future.

DO IT RIGHT AWAY

When you receive income, calculate how much money you ‘get’ to give back. Even when the amount seems huge to me, I delight in being able to easily give in the future. It builds your ‘generosity muscles’.

“I received $1,000 this week! I ‘get’ to give my spiritual center $100!” Try it on for awhile if you’re not there yet.

I’m certainly not, but I delight in the feelings of being there.

I imagine how great it feels to give that $100 in tithe. I imagine all the goodness that $100 provides for others. I practice this visualization until it becomes a reality. Everything begins with imagination.

PRACTICE CONSISTENCY

If all you can give without freaking out is 1%, give 1% regularly for awhile. Avoid the roller coaster of giving 1% one week, because that’s all you feel comfortable with, and 3% or 5% next week because THAT feels okay at the time. You want to aim for consistency. You want to be gentle with yourself. When you feel capable of giving 5% one week, but nothing the next week, how does that make you feel? You don’t need to create this kind of drama for yourself. It’s much better to spread your contributions out, at a consistent level.

You want to aim to be able to freely and joyfully give, without fear. Aim to freely and joyfully give 1% each week, for a month.  Then try (consistently) to freely and joyfully give 3% for the next month. Even if one week you feel you can give 10%, resist doing so. Consistency is important.

Another way to ensure consistency, is by taking stock of your finances to see if you can manage or minimize debts.Website information on how to do this can be found on credit repair or personal finance forums.

 JUST GIVE

Avoid thinking about – or tracking – what you get in return for tithing. Doing so is a mentality of lack and will not serve you. The aim is to freely and joyfully give, knowing that the Universe is abundant. Have faith and confidence that what you give is multiplied, and returned to you in abundance. Learn to graciously give and learn to graciously receive.  If you are still not sure about tithing, I encourage you to do some research into this practice. In meditation or prayer, ask the Spirit to provide you with resources to deepen your understanding. The practice of tithing has helped me shift my perspective on finances, significantly. And it still IS practice – I am not yet capable of freely and joyfully giving a full 10% of my income.

I do aim to be capable of doing this, because my spiritual center matters a great deal to me. It’s important that I not give up on this. To NOT give indicates that I believe there is limited resources from which to draw upon. I believe Spirit is everything, therefore, Spirit is my one and only source. I choose to give, knowing the Universe/Spirit provides abundantly and I am open to receive it.

 

 

FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP

When we tithe joyfully (with gratitude for all we have), we acknowledge that we will always have everything we need, then our tithe brings back a multiplied returns. The rule of thumb is a 10 fold return. It is important to not ‘expect’ a return – in other words don’t sit there and wonder where your return is. You simply tithe and know that sometime, somewhere…your tithe will be returned back to you.

Tithing from a place of ‘knowing’ that all your needs will be met, releases you from the place of ‘expecting’ or ‘needing’ a return. If you have unlimited resources, would you spend your time looking for a return? Probably not. If you can tithe from a place of feeling like you had unlimited resources, and are grateful that you can share – your tithe will be returned to you.

Here’s one’s testimonial on how they took steps towards easier tithing:

START SMALL

If tithing is new to you, it may take some time to get used to simply giving money back to where you are spiritually fed. This is not the case for everyone, but it has been a huge step for me. I was completely new (and initially suspicious) to the concept of tithing. Giving money away, when I could barely make ends meet, did not make sense to me.

At first. I needed to gently release money. I had to learn to let go. Yes, I had to learn to give. I started by giving whatever I ‘felt’ I could give, back to my spiritual center. I understood, at the time, that in order to keep the center going, we all needed to pitch in and help pay the bills. It cost money to rent the hall. Our spiritual director was giving of her time and energy.

She deserved to receive an income. These were reasons I gave myself for tithing, in the beginning.  It was hard to give when I believed I did not have enough. So called ‘logic’ and conditioning said I was insane to do such a thing. After awhile, instead of just giving whatever I ‘felt’, I chose to be more conscious of where I spend my money. To start small, I chose to consciously give 1% of my gross income, then 3%. Sometimes, depending upon the amount I receive that week, I am able to give 10%.

This will be concluded next week.

 

 

FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP

Tithing is the spiritual practice of graciously giving 10% to where we are spiritually fed. Its purpose is to create an awareness of Spirit as our One Source, and demonstrates our understanding of abundance. If this is a new concept to you or if you are struggling financially at the moment, this may trigger a lot of trepidation. Rather than face those fears and deal with them, it is common to just reject the idea of tithing as ‘stupid’ or ‘unreasonable’.

Be aware if these thoughts occur to you. Many successful, spiritually-grounded people use this practice as a way to continue the flow of abundance in their lives. While it is true, there are people who are financially successful who do not tithe – time and again, tithing creates a flow and sense of security in our lives that cannot be ignored.

Here are some ideas to help ease you into the spiritual practice of tithing.

When you operate out of abundance, you are recognizing that the universe is unlimited in its supply of anything, and everything you want (or desire) is ready and willing to be provided to you.

There is no lack in our world. The only place that lack or poverty exists in, is in your mind. The Universe lacks nothing. Everything is available in a never-ending, inexhaustible supply. This includes money and riches.

One of the most powerful ways to show the Universe that you are abundant, is by tithing. Tithing allows the energy of money to continuing flowing, and it helps release resistance around the feeling of ‘not having enough’ money. You can’t be a ‘taker’, if you are a giver. Our Universe is designed around the concept of contribution and giving.

As you GIVE so shall you RECEIVE. You must become a giver. Most of the richest and ultra-successful people (throughout all time) have been big givers. It’s the whole idea of sowing and reaping. And in many cases, it’s not just a matter of tithing, but also a matter of relaying knowledge – namely, financial knowledge. Searching online for wesite information oriented around church charity, debt and credit   matters – like negotiating with debt collectors—can show you how to minimize your debt and maximize your wealth. Go online to learn more.

Ultimately, giving is the cornerstone of any good plan for success and wealth. Just as with giving, many of the richest most successful people throughout time have understood the power of tithing

Many are of the personally belief that tithing is the single greatest secret to success & personal fortune, one will ever uncover!

A tithe is simply the first 10% of all your income, given to the source of your spiritual support or instruction. Tithing is not a charity and it’s not about giving to a good cause – that’s giving. Tithing should go to the source of your spiritual support. This is a very important distinction to make. Your tithe belongs to the true source of all abundance – the Universe. Where ever you receive spiritual enlightenment is where you should tithe.

Many people were taught that we must tithe to our church, and that we must tithe 10% of our income. However, many disagree with that. Not everyone who goes to church receives spiritual enlightenment from the church, and not everyone goes to church. Many also do not agree with the 10% rule – unless you can afford it. Tithing any amount shows the Universe that you are abundant, and will It will respond by giving you more abundance. ..10% or more, can be applied at a later date.

 

 

LIVING AS DISCIPLES AND STEWARDS WHO EVANGELIZE

This stewardship reflection is by Leisa Anslinger, an author and co-founder of Catholic Strengths and Engagement Community (CSEC).   Leisa wrote this for Stewardship leaders, but I think it is helpful to all of us.

I have been greatly influenced by the wisdom of Bishop Sylvester Ryan, bishop emeritus of Monterey, California, who often reminds us that stewardship and evangelization are two sides of the same coin. That coin is discipleship. Forming people who are aware of their call to grow as disciples is a dynamic and life-giving process. It can also be challenging, as is the call itself. Jesus’ way is one that places demands upon us, and yet, as the United States bishops’ pastoral letter on stewardship notes, it is also a way of joy and a life filled with meaning.   Let us briefly explore these three interrelated calls.

Stewardship: We are Christian stewards because we are followers of Jesus Christ.  As the bishops’ pastoral indicates clearly, “Stewardship is an expression of discipleship with the power to change how we understand and live out our lives.” Through our lives as stewards, we embrace Christ’s self-giving, sacrificial way of life.

Discipleship: While we are drawn into Christ’s Body through the waters of baptism, many of us grow into a living relationship with Christ over many years. Once that relationship has been ignited, or re-ignited, people’s lives are shaped by their faith and desire to grow in love of God and all that we believe as Christians.   This process of ongoing conversion takes place within the community of faith. As leaders, we have the opportunity to create an environment in which those who are already on the journey of discipleship recognize their call to reach out to others, building bridges to living faith.

Evangelization: When we are in love, we cannot help but share that love with others. That is the essence of evangelization. We share the love of God as good stewards of our faith, and our sharing has the potential to draw others into a new or deeper relationship with God in Jesus Christ, as disciples and stewards. Keeping this interrelationship in mind as we develop stewardship processes and initiatives helps us lead the people we serve to a joy-filled, meaningful way of life.

 

 

 

DON’T MISS THE MASS AT THE BEACH

 

Our much-anticipated Mass at the Beach will take place next Sunday, October 16 at the Junior Seau Beach Amphitheatre (Band Shell) on The Strand at the foot of the pier.

The venue will open at 9:30 a.m.  There will be seating on the floor of the amphitheater for 1,000 people and the bleachers will be available for anyone who wishes to sit there.

A concert with Santiago Fernandez will start at 10;30 a.m. and last approximately one hour.  Please see the back page of this bulletin for more information about Santiago.

Our Bilingual Mass will begin at 12:00 noon.  We will have a liturgy aid available rather than a missal and hymnal.

We are providing a nice selection of food trucks (no-host) if you wish to stay at the beach for lunch.  We specifically have chosen a variety of menus that are family friendly and affordable.

You are also most welcome to bring a picnic basket with you as well if that better suits your  needs.

If you are unable to attend our Mass at the Beach, there will be an abbreviated schedule of Masses at the church next weekend.

Saturday in English at 5 p.m. and in Spanish at 6:30 p.m.

Sunday in English at 7:30 & 9:00 a.m.   (There will be no 10:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m. or 5:00 p.m. Masses at the church on October 16.)

As you know, especially with our downtown development, parking can be a bit challenging.

For transportation, you are encouraged to “think outside the box”.  Why not ride in on the Sprinter (along Oceanside Blvd.) or the Coaster (along the coast).  The ride is very affordable and would add another bit of adventure to the day.

We will have a shuttle available from our Parish Center parking lot that will allow transportation for those who are not able to walk the six blocks to the beach.  Please call the office this week to put your name on a list so we can plan for the number of people who will use the service. 

 We will have parish tee-shirts available for sale ($8/each or $15 for two).

The 2016 Honda FIT will be available for you to see.  You can buy a few more raffle tickets or turn in the ones you have.  The drawing will take place after Mass.

STEWARDSHIP AND PUBLIC LIFE: Bringing the Good News to All Creation

 

With the presidential election upon us, it is more important than ever for mature Catholics to be mindful of their responsibilities to exercise good stewardship over their neighborhoods, communities and society by participation in the public life of our country. Jesus said that we, his disciples, are the light of the world. We must not hide that light under a bushel basket (see Matthew 5:16) or in the privacy of our homes or in a church building. We must let it shine so that all men and women can see it. Stewards understand that living out their faith in public life is part of their responsibility to go into the world and proclaim the Gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15); and that their relationship with Jesus Christ and their desire to please him should inform all of their moral decisions, including how they participate in public life and how they vote.

A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States. Developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, this document continues a tradition by the bishops of encouraging Catholics to use the values of their faith to shape their participation in political life.

How should stewards exercise their responsibilities as citizens? One way of course, is to inform themselves of the political issues of the day and to vote. Voting is literally the least one can do to promote Gospel values in our communities, state and nation. Stewards are not found wanting in this vital area of their stewardship. The teachings of the church help us understand our responsibility to make informed choices about issues that concern our society and world, especially as it relates to peace and justice and the most vulnerable of our sisters and brothers. The bishops of the United States have again provided important guidance through their statement: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship:

It focuses on helping Catholics form their consciences so they can make sound moral judgments about public choices. Visit www.faithfulcitizenship.org.

Stewards commit to prayer, reflection and discussion among others in their community of faith about how to bring the Gospel to public life. They believe in continued conscience formation and conversion, take the teachings of the Church seriously, and keep themselves informed on the political issues of the day. Stewards also strive to make prudent choices, vote and encourage others to vote. These are just a few of the ways stewards can help bring the Good News to all creation.

Remember, that whatever your political affiliation,  you need to make a decision based on research and PRAYER!

 

CALLED TO MERCY

I am not “into” dream interpretation, but I do believe that our subconscious thoughts manifest themselves in our dreams.  With that being said…  I had the strangest dream the other night.

I dreamed that I was attending a college class (in person, not on-line) and had an assignment due.   WAIT!  Was this a dream or a nightmare?

Of course, the assignment wasn’t ready for submission.  I had spent a lot of time on research, et cetera, but had not written THE PAPER.  I’ll be honest with you.  I am a true Virgo and I procrastinate (which literally means “for tomorrow”).  So my dream was pretty believable so far.

I decided to go to class anyway and Face The Music.  It was in one of those big lecture halls.  After everyone was seated, the professor asked the students to bring forward their assignments.  I raised my hand and, with shame on my face, admitted that I did not have the assignment.  I was prepared to be further shamed and humiliated in front of the class.  His response took me off guard.  Rather than pointing out my shortcomings, he gently asked if I had done any work on the project.  I explained to him that I had done all the background work and just didn’t write the actual paper.  He said “I understand that we all get distracted sometimes and I will forgive this.  Go home now, complete the paper, submit it tomorrow, and do better next time.”

When I wakened and thought about the dream, I remembered the Gospel I heard just a few weeks ago about the Prodigal Son.

Remember I keep saying that there are certain lessons we must learn and they’ll keep coming around for us?   The lessons are plain as day—we just need to be cognizant of the signs.

On Saturday, Sept. 9, I attended the presentation on MERCY given by Bishop Emeritus Robert Brom.  He was so inspiring.  He is a very learned man, but is quite charming and told some wonderful stories! During his presentation, he talked about The Prodigal Son.

Then, because it was Covenant Weekend, I attended all five of the English-Speaking Masses on Saturday and Sunday.  Do you remember the Gospel reading?  It was The Prodigal Son!

Clearly, this is an important lesson for all of us.  MERCY.  God, our loving and merciful Father, gives us chance after chance to get our act together.  And when we come to Him day after day “with our assignment incomplete”, He gives us another chance and reminds that He loves us and believes in us.

I remember when my children were young and Rachel was studying to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time.  I had an epiphany and from that time on I was willing to admit that, even as a parent, I could be wrong sometimes.  It usually had to do with overreacting about something they did.  I would apologize for the overreaction, ask them for their mercy and understanding,  and  then continue to address the incident.

In the one version of the Act of Contrition, we say “I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance,  sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to make wrong choices”.

God wants us to succeed.  He doesn’t care how much money we make, or what car we drive, or how many people we supervise at our jobs.

He wants us to succeed in our lives as good and faithful servants; good people with pure hearts; good people with pure hearts who are merciful to those around them and themselves.  (Sometimes we can be very hard on ourselves.)  Look at the signs all around you.  You are being called to be merciful.  Beginning today.

The Circuitous Path

When my son, Jens, was a little guy, he spent a lot of time with my Daddy—”Papa”.  Papa was a gentle soul.  He taught his grandson how to be a real man but how to maintain his caring demeanor at the same time.

Even though Daddy had retired from a career in the Marine Corps long before Jens was born,  he was a proud Marine the rest of his life.

Jens emulated quite a lot of what he saw in Papa’s example of living.  He considered the ROTC in high school but was snatched up by the track team instead.   BTW, he lettered in the long jump in his sophomore year!  (No, I’m not at all embarrassed to be a proud Mama…)

He graduated from high school and attended a trade school to become an auto mechanic. Even though he’s really intelligent, he knew he wasn’t the academic type but wanted a skill with which he could support a family.

Over the years, he has several times revisited the idea of joining the Armed Services.  Each time, for one reason or another, he has chosen a different path.  Remember I said recently that if you don’t learn the lesson you keep repeating it?

Two years ago, Jens and his then-fiancé moved to the East Coast to live with her parents while she earned a BA.  Well, that was their plan.  She couldn’t get into the college, and the housing arrangement fell apart.  And…

And God had a different plan for them.  They only stayed there for five months.  But during that time, Jens shared a very meaningful relationship with his future father-in-law.  Joe is a career Marine and stationed at the Pentagon.  Joe mentored him in much the same way that Papa did when he was young.

Jens came back to California resolved to join the military.  Because he is now 30, the Marines were not an option, so my boy will be a proud Sailor.  He tested very high on the entrance test and will be trained to be an Advanced IT Specialist.  I’m quite certain that he wouldn’t have done so well if he had joined earlier.

Last weekend, we all had the opportunity to renew our Covenant with God.  This is our time to reassess our commitment to our Faith Journey.  “What do I want out of my relationship with God?”  “Do I HAVE a relationship with God?”  “How can I share my faith, my gifts and talents, with those around me?”

I look at my son’s life journey.  What I see is that he knew all along what he wanted.  He allowed himself to be taken here and there on other paths.  Don’t get me wrong, I truly believe that the circuitous route we take is often God’s plan exactly.  There are lessons to be learned along the way that have led us to this exact place and time.

Don’t be afraid to surrender yourself to God’s will.  I tell people all the time that I don’t have the answers.  But I do know this one: God knows what’s best for us.  Listen. Heed the signs.  They’re there right in front of you.   We so often are sure that we have it all figured out for ourselves and we overlook the obvious prompting of the Holy Spirit.

If you didn’t complete a Covenant last weekend, I encourage you to consider taking the time to do it now.  No one with ever see it except you.  It will be mailed back to you next summer and you will be able to review your commitments.   In two weeks, the Covenant chest will be moved under the back altar where it will remain in the sanctuary all year as a reminder to you of your promises to God.