Stewards of Our Neighbors and Neighborhood

I was talking to someone last week who is new to the area. She said she was wondering why it wasn’t sunny in Southern California. I explained that we were experiencing “May Gray”. Oh, she said, so next week it’ll be sunny? No, I said, then we’ll be in “June Gloom”! Such is the reality of coastal living. But, to quote Jackie Gleason on the Honeymooners (for all you old-timers—me included) “How Sweet It is!”

We all know that summer doesn’t start officially for another few weeks, but with the kids getting out of school, it sure feels like it all the same.

Summer brings with it a sea of change in our neighborhoods. Suddenly, the streets are alive with joggers and baby strollers, the smells of backyard barbe¬cue, and the drone of lawn mowers.

As a Christian steward, have you given thought to your responsibility to your neighborhood? We take seriously the scriptural query, “Who is my neigh¬bor?” but do we ever ask, “But what of my neighborhood?” In our grandpar¬ents’ era, when many people lived in small towns and escaped the summer heat by sitting on porches in the muggy evenings, neighborliness came with the territory.

Everybody knew who was having a baby, which family was suffering through illness, who had just experienced a death or a wedding. Problems in the neighborhood were shared concerns. Today, in the era of two-parent wage-earners and automatic garage door openers, it’s easy to come home after a long day, hit a button and watch the neighborhood disappear as we enter the cocoon of our home.

June offers us the opportunity to change that. Do you have a “back fence neighbor”? Maybe now, when he’s out in the yard, is the time to get to know him better. Host a barbecue, or a neighborhood potluck. Invite someone over for an evening iced tea on the patio. If there’s a community picnic, be sure to go and introduce yourself around.

Invite your pastor over for burgers. Go for a long stroll in the early evening and look at your neighborhood with fresh eyes. Stop to visit with people working on their lawns or in their flower beds.

There’s a famous quote: “All politics is local.” Do you know who represents your neighborhood on the city council and on the school board? Are you ac¬quainted with your parish council members? The quote could very well have added that most religion is local as well, alive in our parish. The church, and the community, lives and breathes in the neighborhood. Is there a pressing lo¬cal issue, a speed bump needed or a stop sign missing? Is there a neighborhood clean-up day? Get involved. For the Christian steward, opening our eyes to the people next door or to the folks sitting next to us in the pew can be a great proj¬ect for a sunny summer.

I was meeting with a new parishioner recently and he was talking about neighborhoods not being friendly like “when we were kids”. I boasted that I live on a cul-de-sac and we have a very close-knit neighborhood. Later in the conversation he told me that St. Mary’s feels like a “cul-de-sac church”, friendly and welcoming. I hope you feel that way too.

Ten Tips on How to Confess Well

St. Mary, Star of the Sea parish offers the opportunity to confess your sins and pray for God’s Graces every Saturday morning beginning at 8 a.m. I am offering the following tips to help you make a good confession (taken from an article on Mercy and Confession by Fr. Ed Broom, OMV.)

IMPROVEMENT/UPGRADING THE RECEPTION: As Catholics, two of the most important actions we can accomplish are to go to Confession and to receive Holy Communion. In these Sacraments, we have a direct contact with Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This being the case, we should make a concerted effort to improve our encounters with Jesus in these Sacraments. In other words, we should never take these Sacraments for granted. Also, be keenly aware of the concept of dispositive grace. The abundance of graces are received in direct proportion to the disposition of the recipient. On the walls in the sacristies of the Missionaries of Charity is written: “Say this Mass as if it were your first Mass, last Mass and only Mass.” We can apply the same principle: “Confess as if it were your first, last and only time.”

PRAYERS BEFORE: All is grace! A source of abundant grace is the Communion of saints. Why not pray to the holy Confessors to help you to make a good confession. Pray to them to help you to confess well—that each confession you make is better than your prior confession.

PREPARE THE NIGHT BEFORE: Have a good examination of conscience booklet. Find a quiet and contemplative place to examine your conscience. Utilize the crucifix and Divine Mercy image to elicit sorrow and trust. Write down the sins so that you will not forget them once in the confessional. Also, pray for your confessor—to his guardian angel—before you enter the confessional!

SELF-KNOWLEDGE: One of the classical steps to make a good confessional is contrition but also firm purpose of amendment. This entails rewinding the film of your life and seeing the various falls into sin. But also to capture what were the preceeding causes that led to the sin. You will notice often a pattern that is to know oneself and even supply for the necessary knowledge to avoid the near occasion of sin.

BIBLICAL PASSAGES TO PREPARE: The Church highly recommends the use of Sacred Scripture as a means to prepare us for a better reception of the Sacraments. Two excellent passages that are recommended: Lk. 15 and Psalm 51. Luke 15 presents the Parables of God’s Mercy, and the greatest is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. By praying Psalm 51, you have one of the best “Acts of Contrition” ever composed, by none other than King David after having committed adultery with Bathsheba and killing an innocent man. Praying the Word of God adds extra power to one’s prayer!

FREQUENT CONFESSION: The saints highly recommend frequent confession as a most efficient means of growing in sanctifying grace. Confession either restores sanctifying grace or augments it. Of course, this presupposes a thorough preparation!

SACRAMENTAL GRACE: Each sacrament communicates grace. However, every sacrament communicates a specific grace pertinent to that sacrament. For example, the grace communicated in the Eucharist is that of Nourishment. The Sacramental grace in Confession is HEALING! Jesus came to feed us with His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Time and time again in the Gospels we see Jesus healing.

QUALITIES OF A GOOD CONFESSION: In the Diary of St. Faustina, the most important qualities of a good confession are complete sincerity and openness, humility, and obedience. Adhering to the qualities, one cannot go wrong!

AVOID DISCOURAGEMENT: Even though one might fall frequently, never give in to discouragement. Some badhabits have possibly clung to use for decades. Change is often tedious, laborious, and painful. The key is to keep praying, working, fighting as a true soldier of Christ to be liberated from the shackles of sin.

MARY AND MERCY: Never forget to invite Mary to be present in your remote preparation for Confession, your immediate preparation for Confession. Even ask Mary to enter with you into the Confessional so that you can make the best confession in your life. Among the many beautiful titles of Mary are the following: Mother of Mercy, Mother of Good Counsel, Health of the Sick. Behind many powerful conversations is of course the grace of God but also the maternal intercession of Mary!

Pentecost: A Stewardship Feast to Celebrate

A challenge for the Christian steward is accepting, and even rejoicing in, the fact that our commitment to faith is often a counter-cultural one. Perhaps this is nowhere more striking than in the quick cultural “end” of the Easter season, and our own belief that Easter is leading us through May to the great feast of Pentecost on May 24.

We see this discordance in many Christian celebrations adapted by the popular, commercial culture. While we are still enjoying the season of Christmas and looking forward to Epiphany, most American homes have taken the Christ¬mas tree to the recycling center and moved on to thoughts of Valentine’s Day. During the sacrificial early days of Lent, there’s something jarring – yes, just wrong – about all those pastel Easter eggs and bunnies appearing in stores. And all that chocolate!

So, as Christian stewards, we feel no surprise that as we break our Easter fast and begin our meditation on the Resurrection, we find that the stores have tucked those chocolate bunnies away on discount shelves, and we’re off to the next commercially competitive venture. And as the great feast of Pentecost beckons us, we realize that the society around us gives

this occasion hardly a passing nod. Apparently, there’s no money to be made from Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit came among the apostles and imbued in them the courage to be true followers of Christ. Cour¬age, strength, faith, the Spirit – these are hard to market in the public square, aren’t they? The willingness to live and ultimately to die as martyrs for Christ, as the apostles did, these are things that are hard to package in bright pa¬per. They don’t fit well in the greeting card aisle.

Perhaps during these days of May when we as Catholic stewards continue to celebrate the season of Easter and look forward to Pentecost, we might examine our own willingness to step outside the culture in our celebration of great Christian feast days. Keep the reminders of the Resurrection around you. Let your family prayer reflect the marvels of the season. Help your children to be aware of the liturgical cal¬endar. Explain to them the meaning of the changing colors of the priests’ vestments. Dress up in red for Pentecost Sunday. But most importantly, educate yourself and your family on how powerful it is to understand and celebrate the great markers and mysteries of our shared faith experience.

Feed My People

The Church calls on us to care for our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Church has named these acts of charity the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. Part of being a good Christian Steward is sharing our abundance with others, which some call “paying it forward”.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy:
• Correct the Sinner
• Instruct the Ignorant
• Counsel the Doubting
• Comfort the Sorrowful
• Be Patient with Those in Error
• Forgive Offenses
• Pray for the Living and the Dead

The Corporal Works of Mercy:
• Feed the Hungry
• Give Drink to the Thirsty
• Shelter the Homeless
• Clothe the Naked
• Visit the Sick
• Visit the Imprisoned
• Bury the Dead

I was approached very recently by Kim Mikulka and Marlyn Delo, parishioners who are part of our Stewardship Team and also involved in other groups and ministries. They asked if they could revitalize our Parish Food Program. Of course, I answered immediately with a resounding “YES!”

The call to Feed the Hungry takes on many forms. It can be writing a check to feed orphans in Nepal. (I remember raising money as a child for the “pagan babies” in India.)

Or it can be more hands-on and pastoral. We hope you want to be involved in our own parish’s efforts to fulfill the call of Christ to care for those less fortunate.

The program is being reorganized to act as the parish’s food coordinators, assisting any ministry that currently feeds the hungry. This includes but is not limited to St. Vincent de Paul Society, our funeral and bereavement ministry, Faith Formation programs, daily sack lunches for the homeless.

To be as efficient as possible, the team would like to start by accepting specific items only. As time progresses, more items will likely be added.

For now, you will find grocery bags in the vestibule with a shopping list attached. Cash and grocery store gift cards are also gratefully accepted.

• Reusable flat-bottom grocery bags with handles
• Dry pinto beans
• Rice
• Peanut Butter
• Canned tomato sauce, vegetables, chili, fruit, pasta, tuna, soups
• Tortillas

• Brown paper lunch sacks
• Peanut Butter
• Jelly
• Bread
• Water
• Fruit
• Baked Goodies
• Wet Ones
• Cheese Slices
• Cracker packs

If you would like to help in this ministry, you can send your information to me at Barbie-stmarys@hotmail.com and I will see that Kim and Marlyn get your contact information.

(FYI: The monies that you have been donating monthly to “Feed the Hungry” are being used in this program as well.)

Mothers

From a very early age, I knew I wanted to be a wife and a mother. I always thought I wanted six children, but reality set in when the time finally came!

I was blessed with two children. My son, Jens (named after my Daddy) is 29 and my daughter, Rachel is 30. They are the joy of my life. We have a very close relationship which was a result of very hard work and a lot of prayer. I thank God every day for “my babies”.

I remember once when my parents invited me to go with them to Laughlin for a few days. Of course I went. They took me to dinner at their favorite steak house inside Harrah’s. (Maybe you’ve eaten there?) The waiter (who had come to know my parents) came over and Daddy beamed with pride as he introduced his daughter. He and Mom started telling him about all that I had accomplished. I didn’t understand why they were so excited about introducing me. Now I know. I’m the same way with my children.

As a child, I never gave any real thought to how it would feel to be a parent, to love another human being unconditionally. Without question. Without reservation.

I saw a story on the news not long ago about a man who was being executed. A mother’s love is so deep and so unconditional, that she loves her child even under those circumstances. She will never stop loving him even if she believes he is guilty as charged.

How many mothers have a child who has made a few bad choices in their lives? (You can put your hands down now. Too many to count.) I can remember when my daughter was making some poor life choices. All I could do was hold her closer, pray harder, and love her even more unconditionally (if there is such a thing). She asked me years later if it had been hard to love her through those difficult years. Without hesitation I said “No. It was never difficult. I never stopped loving you. But…it was a huge challenge to like you.”

I’ve mentioned on several occasions that I was Daddy’s Little Girl. Through and through. I obviously loved my mom, but didn’t have the same kind of close relationship with her. My Daddy died just before my 50th birthday. I promised Daddy that I would take care of Mom in his absence. She suffered a stress-induced heart attack the night he died, and there was a lot of care that followed. For seven years. I thank God that

I was given the opportunity to get to know my mom so much more personally before she died. I got to know her as a beautiful human being, not just my mom.

God doesn’t make mistakes. He knew it would be a gift to me in the end. Mom died five years ago, and I still find myself picking up the phone to call her.

I really find it interesting how life meanders along and how the scenery along the way changes when you’re not really paying attention.

One day you’re a little girl, playing with dolls, daydreaming about being a Mommy. The next you are that Mommy, raising the children about whom you’ve dreamed. And later, you are the daughter, caring for your own mother in her twilight years.

I want to remind you that time passes so very quickly. We blink and our children are grown. Cherish every day, every moment you have with them. They are a miraculous gift from God. We blink and our parents are gone. Cherish every day. Visit or call them often while you have the chance. Thank God every day for your family and friends. You are truly blessed to have them.

Celebrating the Year of Consecrated Life

The following is a story written by Mary Ann Otto, Stewardship Director for the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

A Model Stewardship Teacher: Sister Esther Joy

I remember her vividly. As I look through the eyes of a Christian steward, I could see why my teacher, Sister Esther Joy perfectly inspired the young students in her care. Second grade was her specialty and there were about fifty of us.

Sister Esther was able to use her God-given talents as a teacher. Her joy and faith were passed on to us. It seemed like we each had a place and school was an experience of Jesus as well as a place for learning.

I believe that Sister Esther was an expert at time management because we accomplished so much that year. We honed our skills in the three “R’s” (Reading, writing and arithmetic), were perfectly prepared for First Penance and First Communion and played games to remember the answers to the questions in the Catechism. We also prayed the rosary in Latin every day and filled our rice bowls during Lent.

She was with us at Mass each day and encouraged Saturday participation where she would have her classroom open and we could work on crafts after Mass.

Sister Esther was also a woman who loved music and literature. She would encourage us to finish our projects and had us all singing as she played the violin. At the end of the day she would read aloud a chapter from a book. I remember “Heidi” as being one of my favorites.

This lovely woman was fifty-three years old when I encountered her as a second grade student.

It was the sparkle in her eye, her love and her many gifts that touched me so deeply. She died on February 22, 1989. She was 79 years old, taught for 40 years and had just celebrated her 60th anniversary as a Racine Dominican. Amazing!

I would invite everyone to celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life by going to the website of your favorite religious community. Find out how you could tell one of your own stories and thank them for how they have impacted your life. No doubt, they deserve our gratitude and we deserve the joy of remembering.

The Prayer Process

In The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, Matthew Kelly addresses how a dynamic Catholic is identified. The dominant qualities are:
• PRAYER
• STUDY
• GENEROSITY
• EVANGELIZATION

The most dominant quality among Dynamic Catholics is a daily routine of prayer. He notes that when we are spiritually healthy, nothing bother us.

A daily routine refers to a specific time and a place to prayer. Dynamic Catholics have a routine within their routine. When they sit down to pray each day, they don’t just see what happens. They tend to begin their time in very specific ways: by reading the Bible, praying the morning prayers of the Church, reading from a favorite spiritual book, etc. Dynamic Catholics universally begin their day with some type of prayer, even if the main time they set aside for prayer is later in the day.

God speaks to us in the silence. Spending time in the classroom of silence is indispensable in our quest for spiritual growth. Most Catholics have never been taught how to develop a daily routine of prayer.

A Dynamic Catholic sees a connection between the joy and fulfillment in their lives and their efforts to walk with God and grow spiritually. At some point, Dynamic Catholics have become convinced that a life with prayer is better than a life without prayer.

If you want to start a regular prayer routine, you are encouraged to start with The Prayer Process:

GRATITUDE: Begin by thanking God in a personal dialogue for whatever you are most grateful today.

AWARENESS: Revisit the times in the past twenty-four hours when you were and were not the best-version-of-yourself. Talk to God about these situations and what you learned from them.

SIGNIFICANT MOMENTS: Identify something you experienced today and explore what God might be trying to say to you through that event (or person).

PEACE: Ask God to forgive you for any wrong you have committed (against yourself, another person, or him) and to fill you with a deep and abiding peace.

FREEDOM: Speak with God about how he is inviting you to change your life, so that you can experience the freedom to be the-best-version-of-yourself.

OTHERS: Lift up to God anyone you feel called to pray for today, asking God to bless and guide them.

FINISH by praying the Our Father.

Stewards Find Hope in the Cross

Do you ever think about how you experience the cross of Jesus Christ? Do you ever think about the power of that cross in your daily life? Is the cross even relevant to your life? It is to stewards of the Lord, who recognize the hope Christ brings through the gift of his cross. They acknowledge that for them, the cross is their only hope.

Being good stewards of our life in Christ is not easy, but to embrace the cross is not only countercultural, it seems absurd. Then again, we cannot avoid what Jesus said to his disciples: “If you wish to come after me you must deny yourself and take up your cross daily and follow me. For if you wish to save your life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake you will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).

The cross is more readily embraced by people of faith who suffer, are poor, broken, or are the victims of such things as violence, oppression or natural disasters. They see the cross as the hope that no matter what has happened to them, God will see them through. The Father did it for Jesus who hung on the cross, so surely their sufferings will be redeemed by Jesus’ sufferings.

Where people possess much material abundance, comfort and leisure, how¬ever, there is a tendency to de-emphasize the cross, to draw away from it. They can’t touch it or feel it so they wish to “save” their lives by looking to other things: power, wealth, fame, relevance, being the center of attention. What is preached about the cross from the pulpit sounds good, but in reality something more tan-gible is desired.

Christ emptied himself completely in humble obedience, allowing himself to suffer and die out of compassion for the world (Philippians 2:6-11).

Good stewards follow his example and work day-to-day to empty themselves and live com-passionately; most noticeably by sharing their lives with others.

Just last week we experienced the Easter triduum, the climax of our liturgical year. As we continue in this Easter Season, let us ask the Holy Spirit for an even deeper awareness of the cross in our lives.

Let us find hope in the cross and pray that as we embrace it, we too will experience in a special way the joy of new life in the risen Lord.

The Experience of Easter

We are an Easter people. The joy of Easter is celebrated not only during the liturgical season we call Easter. It is celebrated every day of the year. The Mass is the Paschal Mystery, and every time it is celebrated, we participate in the sacrifice, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. As St. Paul teaches, we die with Christ and rise with Him in the Holy Spirit. We are transformed into new creations. We are renewed.

Stewards of God’s abundant gifts hold dear the promise of renewal and pledge themselves to the work of reconciliation, healing and proclamation of the risen Lord. For Christian stewards, each day is a new dawn for living in the light of Christ. There is much about dying and rising with Christ that we do not know; much about the Paschal Mystery we do not understand. But stewards of God’s love are always open to learning more; to being called out of their ignorance and into the light of faith which comes with an ever-deeper understanding of its peace and joy.

Easter is a good time to reflect on how we experience the joy of Christ’s peace. It is also a time to ask ourselves how we can experience the gift of Easter each day of our lives.

On a personal note, I want to thank everyone who has been praying for my sister and brother-in-law, Sally & David Frey. They have been on the Prayer List, the intention of Masses, and on personal prayer lists as well.

Dave had been sick for 15 years, and critically ill for the last year. Two weeks ago my sister told me that they were bringing him home to die and she needed me with her. [I was gone from the office for 10 days, and I truly appreciate your patience and understanding.]

We prayed for God to be merciful and accept David into his loving care as quickly as possible. He passed away surrounded by his loving family just two hours after returning home.

I was so grateful that I was able to be there as a support for my sister and the extended family, but most of all for Dave.

I kept reminding myself and saying to the family that death is what we as Christians live for. It is through dying that we are born to eternal life. Dave is the lucky one. He has achieved his goal and now he is one of the angels in God’s presence.

It is fitting that this happened just before I had to prepare this Easter bulletin. I am reminded on this day that Jesus lived that he would die. During his time on earth he was fully present to those around him as he continues to be every day and especially when we celebrate the Eucharist.

I pray that each and every one of us keep this in our minds each and every day. We are born with unique gifts and talents that are intended to be shared with abundance as we prepare ourselves for Eternal Life.

Have a Blessed Easter!

Stewardship: Jesus Sets the Example

As we move through Lent and approach Holy Week, we might think about the Lord’s Passion as a goodbye story, almost as if it were a closure. It begins with a Passover meal, where there is a discussion of what might happen in the future for the disciples.

However, listening to Jesus must have been very uncomfortable for some of those gathered. One of the disciples learned that he would betray Jesus; Peter heard that he would deny him. These predictions might remind us of what it is to be human – that we make mistakes and that we are limited

This meal is followed by Jesus’ rejection at the hands of the authorities – and his humiliation as he is whipped and mocked. He then dies on the cross.

Jesus is at the mercy of the worst kind of humiliation. How does he respond? With anger or indignation? No. He is humble until the end.

He shows great respect for authority but also remains true to himself. We see this when he goes off to pray on his own: he ‘withdraws’. He needs to be rooted in that relationship with his Father.

What kind of a saviour is Jesus? How does it feel to have a saviour who was mocked and abused and humbled himself to death on a cross? How counter-cultural is Jesus, and how is he still counter-cultural for Christian stewards today?

As we continue through our Lenten journey, let us think about how we live as Jesus’ followers, as stewards of his Gospel message. How often do I empty myself, even a small amount for others?

Jesus sets us an example of how to live. Even at his death he was living his ministry by reaching out to the women at the foot of the cross. We are all called to live that ministry too – we are accountable for how we live our lives.

Our faith has been passed to us and faith is a huge gift. How we live in response to that gift is left to each of us, but we are called to reflect God’s love.

Mother Teresa once commented that each of the people we meet is Jesus in disguise. Try to see Jesus in just one person each day this month. At the end of each day, try and reflect on how that was. Was the person in whom you saw Jesus someone you find easy to love?

This article was written by Teresa Keogh from the Diocese of Portsmouth, U.K. Other great dynamic articles can be found at CatholicStewardship.com.