Good Stewards Learn to Develop God’s Gifts

By Rev. Joseph D. Creedon, pastor emeritus, Christ the King Parish, Providence, Rhode Island. This excerpt is seventh in a series based on his current book.

Good Stewards Learn to Develop God’s Gifts God has blessed each of us with many gifts and our task is to discover, acknowledge and develop those gifts. Some of our gifts we discover ourselves; other gifts have to be pointed out by others. One of life’s greatest challenges involves discovering and developing all of our God-given gifts. Parents, siblings, teachers, coaches, scout leaders and friends play an important role in this journey. Once we know we have a gift, we have to believe in the gift and commit ourselves to developing it. We have to work on our gifts and have the discipline to hone them to perfection.

Blessed John Cardinal Newman once said, “Nothing would be done at all if one waited until one could do it so well that no one could find fault with it.” Many people are afraid to test their gifts. Fear of failure, it seems, is pervasive. We are not born with a fear of failure. Fear grows on us. Fear wears many disguises – fear of failure, fear of success, fear of ridicule, fear of not belonging, fear of looking foolish – to name but a few of fear’s disguises. All of fear’s disguises lead to stagnant energy. Fear always brings with it inertia and inertia always leads to stagnation. No one develops their gifts responsibly without risk-taking, hard work and overcoming fear.

Allow me to offer an example. Do you remember what it was like to learn how to ride a bicycle? We start off with a tricycle and for a while that is enough but soon we want more. We want a bicycle and the day comes when we get our first bicycle but our joy quickly fades when we realize that the bicycle comes with training wheels. So instead of going from three wheels to two wheels we go backwards to four wheels. Finally the fateful day comes when the training wheels are taken off. A person we thought loved us, usually a mother or a father, puts us on the bicycle, puts one hand on the back of the seat and the other on the handlebar, tells us we can do it and pushes us off to fend for ourselves. The result is always the same – we fall to the ground. Then the person we thought loved us picks us up and repeats the process. Eventually we get the hang of it but not before we have fallen and picked ourselves up more often than we choose to remember. The gift of balance is key to being able to ride a bicycle; the process of discovering that gift is repeated many times in our lives.

Life is a series of failures that morph into successes sometimes without our realizing it or knowing how it happens but it does. We had to learn how to be brothers and sisters, we had to learn how to be husbands and wives, and we had to learn how to be friends and neighbors. We need to learn how to be good stewards of the many gifts God has given us; to discover them, cherish them and not be afraid to develop them.

Stewardship Saint of the Month: Saint Joseph

Next to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph is the most honored saint in the Catholic Church for being the foster father of Jesus and the husband of Mary. His traditional feast day is March 19. Joseph’s life is depicted in the gospels, particularly in Matthew and Luke. He was born in Bethlehem and is described as being a descendant of King David. Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but was pregnant with the Christ child before Joseph took her into his home. According to Jewish law at the time, Mary could have been stoned to death if she was believed to have been unfaithful to her betrothed. An angel of the Lord told Joseph to take Mary into his home, that the child was conceived through the Holy Spirit, and that his name would be Jesus. After Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem, in yet another dream, Joseph was told to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt and remain there until Herod’s slaughter of newborns had come to an end with Herod’s own death. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to the region of Galilee and settled in Nazareth where Joseph taught his craft of carpentry to Jesus. Joseph is last mentioned in the Gospels when, on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, he and Mary frantically searched for the lost Jesus in Jerusalem, and found him in the Temple (Luke 2:42–52).

Saint Joseph was declared patron saint and protector of the universal Church by Pope Pius IX at the close of the First Vatican Council in 1870. He is also considered a spiritual model for families and Christian teaching frequently stresses his patience, persistence, and hard work as admirable qualities Christians should reflect upon and embrace.

He is the patron saint of fathers, foster fathers, husbands, the unborn, working people in general and social justice. Saint Joseph is the patron saint of several countries including Canada, China, Korea, Mexico and Peru. Many cities, towns, and other locations are named after Saint Joseph as well; and it has been noted that the Spanish form of Saint Joseph, San Jose, is the most common place name in the world.

PRAYER TO ST. JOSEPH FOR WORKERS

Joseph, by the work of your hands and the sweat of your brow,
you supported Jesus and Mary,
and had the Son of God as your fellow worker.

Teach me to work as you did, with patience and perseverance,

for God and for those whom God has given me to support.
Teach me to see in my fellow workers the Christ who desires to be in them,
that I may always be charitable and forbearing towards all.

Grant me to look upon work with the eyes of faith,
so that I shall recognize in it my share in God’s own creative activity
and in Christ’s work of our redemption, and so take pride in it.

When it is pleasant and productive, remind me to give thanks to God for it.
And when it is burdensome, teach me to offer it to God,
in reparation for my sins and the sins of the world. Amen.

 

 

Forty Days, Forty Ways to Exercise Good Stewardship of Lent and Easter

Are you looking for ideas to help you with your Lenten experience? Here are 40 ideas to fill the 40 days of Lent and the beginning of the Easter season.

  1. Attempt a more intentional prayer life – start a habit in the morning and before bedtime.
  2. Attend Mass on Ash Wednesday. Wear your ashes out into the world as a witness to our faith. Mass for Ash Wednesday will be celebrated at 8 a.m. and 12:10 p.m. in English.  A bilingual Mass will be offered at 5:30 p.m. and a service in Spanish will follow at 7 p.m.
  3. Make a prayer basket at home – slips of paper or construction paper hearts (invite kids to participate) writing names or intentions that each person around the table picks out before each meal.
  4. Attend a weekday Mass. Our parish celebrates Mass Monday through Friday at 8 a.m.
  5. Pray the rosary.
  6. Make a point of experiencing the sacrament of reconciliation at the beginning and end of Lent. Consider inviting someone who’s been away from the sacrament to join you. Our parish offers the Sacrament at 8 a.m. on Saturdays.  We will have a Communal Penance Service on Friday, April 5 at 7 p.m.
  7. Pray for someone with whom you are out of touch.  Reconcile with someone you’ve hurt or aren’t speaking to.
  8. Attend a Lenten Bible Study with Father Ceaser on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. in the Star of the Sea Center; invite others to join you.
  9. Give up meat on Fridays but don’t substitute lobster – make fasting something that is truly sacrificial.
  10. Resolve to stop engaging in rumors, gossip, and negative chatter that devalues others.
  11. Begin and end each week with an e-mail thanking someone for all that they do.
  12. Be sure to say grace at any restaurant you frequent (don’t dodge making the Sign of the Cross either).
  13. Buy a cup of coffee for someone living on the street but not until you learn their name and exchange in some conversation.
  14. Pray before the Blessed Sacrament. Our Blessed Sacrament Chapel is open M-F 8:30-5, and until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays.
  15. Pick up a brown grocery bag in the back of the church and contribute to our St. Mary’s Parish Pantry by providing basic food staples listed on the bag.
  16. Invite someone who’s been away from the church to attend Mass with you.
  17. Make a gift to a charitable cause – make it a sacrificial gift.
  18. Make a commitment to the “40 Days for Life” to support the unborn.
  19. Thank a bishop, priest or member of a religious congregation for their public witness – invite them out for coffee or a meal.
  20. Learn about the life of a saint, perhaps our parish saint.
  21. Visit someone who’s alone.
  22. Reflect on the most pressing challenges confronting our Church and pray for a Spirit-filled response.
  23. Pray for our Holy Father, Pope Francis.
  24. Attend the Stations of the Cross. We will pray the Stations of the Cross in English on Fridays after the 8 a.m. Mass (except on April 1) and at the School for families on Fridays at 6 p.m.
  25. Find out if there is a person participating in your parish’s RCIA program and send a note of encouragement.
  26. Find out how our diocese is involved in refugee resettlement and see how you can help.
  27. Attend our Good Friday Services. Good Friday Stations of the Cross at 12 noon, Seven Last Words of Christ at 2 p.m. and the Good Friday Liturgy at 3 p.m.
  28. Make time for family activities that are faith-related such as reading the Bible as a family.
  29. Keep a journal during Lent about your spiritual highs/lows.
  30. Make a playlist of spiritual music that you enjoy and share it with a friend.
  31. Embrace periods of silence in each day.
  32. Offer to be part of the church preparation crew or cleanup crew for the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday – Good Friday – Holy Saturday) liturgies.
  33. Commit to a parish ministry or try a different ministry than the one you in which you are currently engaged.
  34. Cut your media consumption to open time for prayer or scripture reading. Start and end each day free from the influence of the media.
  35. Attend a Friday fish fry at a local parish with friends or coworkers. It’s not the healthiest meal, but a fun Catholic tradition to join others and help you abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent. Or, you can attend Family Stations of the Cross at School on the Fridays in Lent and participate in a Meatless Pot Luck Dinner.
  36. Find a form of Lenten fast appropriate for your age and state of health.
  37. Buy a book of daily spiritual reflections, keep it by your bed and read it upon rising or retiring or both.
  38. Dedicate a portion of your time during Lent to serve others such as working at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
  39. Participate in Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) Rice Bowl collection. Visit crsricebowl.org to watch videos of the people and communities you support through your Lenten gifts to CRS Rice Bowl.
  40. Invite someone you know who will be alone to Easter Sunday dinner.

Listing Our God-given Gifts Inspires an “Attitude of Gratitude”

By Rev. Joseph D. Creedon, pastor emeritus, Christ the King Parish, Providence, Rhode Island.  This excerpt is sixth in a series based on his current book.

Stewardship requires an “attitude of gratitude.” Many times we are inclined to take too much credit for our successes in life and too little blame for our failures. The best antidote I have discovered for the hubris of our sense of self-importance is to set aside time to compile a list of the gifts we have received from God.

The Gift of Life: Life is a gift from God. None of us did anything to deserve being born. Spend a few moments being thankful for still being alive. My younger brother, Mike, died at the age of 56. He was a delightful human being, a loving husband, father, teacher, coach and friend. He died too young. His family and my brothers and I could focus on what was taken from us or focus on the gift of having him in our lives for whatever part of his 56 years we shared. Life is a gift and we need to live each day thanking God for it.

The Gift of Family: Just as we did nothing to deserve being born, we did nothing to deserve the parents and siblings we were given. Sometimes it takes time to fully appreciate the gift of family. There were times when I would have traded in my parents for another set that would have met my perceived needs of the moment. Fortunately, I have lived long enough to realize that they were the best parents for me. My older brother has expressed it this way, “Our father demanded perfection and our mother convinced us that we could live up to his expectation.” Once we embrace family as gift, it is amazing how the things that could drive us apart lose their power.

The Gift of Education: I have never met anyone who did not have a story about a teacher who changed her or his life. I have my list of such teachers; I’m sure you have yours. Education has changed our worldview and our self-understanding. We have learned from coaches, scout leaders, neighbors, relatives and friends. All learning is a gift from God. We need to be more thankful for the gift of our education.

The Gift of Vocation: Nothing in life is as important as discovering what God wants us to do with our lives. I truly believe that God wanted me to be a priest. Many people seem to get lost in their search to discover who and what God wants them to be but the happiest and most fulfilled people I know are those who are doing what they love and love what they are doing. The Gift of Friends: Let us say together, “We do not deserve the friends we have!”

The gift of friendship is so precious. Our friends love us not in spite of our faults but because of them. Friends encourage us to grow and take risks. Friends teach us that time is a gift when they chose to share time with us. Most important of all, our friends see our gifts and talents before we do and they lovingly encourage us to recognize and develop our hidden gifts.

The above list of gifts is not meant to be exhaustive; it is offered as an outline. I hope you will use it to create your own list of gifts. Unless we make ourselves aware of the many gifts God has sown in our lives we will never develop the “attitude of gratitude” that is essential for the spirituality of stewardship to take root in our lives.

Christian Stewards: “Blessed, Grateful, Giving”

By Leisa Anslinger, Associate Department Director for Pastoral Life, Archdiocese of Cincinnati

Many years ago, I was given a handcrafted wall plaque that reads, “thankful, grateful, blessed.” It has been hanging in my kitchen ever since, and has accompanied my husband and myself through multiple moves, to multiple kitchens. I have seen other wall hangings and greeting cards with the same three words, in the same order: thankful, grateful, blessed.

While I am often drawn to reflect on these three words and their deep spiritual meaning, it has always seemed to me that the words are “misplaced,” in reverse order. First, we are blessed. The initiative is always on the part of God. In fact, we are and will always be more richly blessed than we can begin to comprehend. God loves us first. The more deeply we come to know our blessedness, and grasp that our blessed state is an outpouring of the grace of God, the greater must be our growth in gratitude, in thankfulness. The life and growth of the steward is of recognizing the blessings and growing in gratitude for them, which leads to our grateful response.

The plaque on the wall should read, I believe, “blessed, grateful, thankful.” Or better yet, “blessed, grateful, giving.” On our best days, we are keenly aware of the blessings of life: faith, relationships, talents, gifts, and resources. We are awake to and aware of the world around us and see God’s hand in all of creation. Yet in our human frailty, we lose sight. We fail to perceive and become blind to the blessings within and around us. We even go so far as to take it all for granted, and sometimes yearn for more, searching for more earthly wealth and material riches rather than seeking and finding what is always there — the presence of God in our very midst.

In this extended moment of Ordinary Time before Lent, let us be mindful that nothing in this life is “ordinary.” All is extraordinarily and abundantly filled with the life and grace of God, which we are called to steward well.

The Sermon on the Plain: A Call to Conversion

The message Jesus delivers in the Gospel reading on the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (February 17) is a difficult one for many to swallow. It is one of those Bible teachings meant to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” The Gospel reading is Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plain” and in it we can see how skillfully the writer, Saint Luke, brings us to a place where we must take the words of Jesus with the utmost seriousness (Luke 6:17, 20-26).

While Saint Matthew, in his Gospel, begins the “Sermon on the Mount” with eight beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), Luke’s Jesus begins the Sermon on the Plain with just four beatitudes, “blessings,” and four woes. Jesus suggests that there exists a divide between the “blessed” and the “woeful.” It is, however, not the divide that our world would create between winners and losers or the successful and unsuccessful. The blessed may be poor or hungry or weeping or hated. But they are blessed by their faith and trust in God’s mercy and justice and future for them in the kingdom of heaven. To be “blessed” does not mean an absence of struggle. Indeed, to be in a Eucharistic community that lives the Gospel invites exclusion, defamation and even hatred. To be blessed is to live through such opposition aware that the struggle is temporary and that “your reward is great in heaven.”

 

The woeful, on the other hand, are those who have grown comfortable and smug. They may not experience discomfort during this life. But their relative abundance, plentiful tables and good times now will place their future in jeopardy. To live under the verdict of “woe” means condemnation. Notably, Jesus does not ask his listeners to become destitute in order to join the “blessed,” but given the options he presents, it is undeniable that he expects a response that reaches out to others and involves sacrifice. Later in Luke’s Gospel we will meet characters such as Zacchaeus and the Good Samaritan, individuals who were depicted by Luke as willing to put ample material resources at the service of others. The Sermon on the Plain is challenging. It means to take us out of our “comfort zone” and into a conversion of heart, a change of attitude, a change of vision, and a change in behavior. It is a call for courageous acts of discipleship, a call to use the gifts we have been given to serve others, even strangers. It is a call urging us to take action now so the world will feel the presence of Christ. The Sermon on the Plain is the Lord Jesus calling us: “Come. Follow me.”

World Marriage Day – A Day to Celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage

A sage once wrote that a good marriage is like a fire around which others come to warm themselves. So, as we celebrate World Marriage Day on February 10, we realize that no matter our station in life – married, single or religious – we have benefited from this sacred covenant relationship whether through the example of our parents, grandparents, and other role models, or through our own stewardship of the marriage covenant. For the Catholic steward, marriage goes far beyond the legal or societal agreement that our culture might define. For the Catholic steward, marriage is a sacrament that fosters a sacred covenant; establishing family and nurturing the domestic church which we understand is fundamental to our spiritual development. Marriage brings us countless blessings, but is met with many obstacles. Busy schedules, the challenges of parenthood, the strains of finances, mortgages, issues of health and aging – all of these test the bonds of even the finest unions.

World Marriage Day, observed on the second Sunday of each February, is sponsored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter, associated with Catholic Marriage Encounter. Many Catholics have participated in a Marriage Encounter weekend, but no matter how we have endeavored to grow in and to support our marriages, or the marriages of those close to us, we know that marriage does take effort, continuing commitment, deep prayer, great communication, a good sense of humor and faithful love.

This year, the observances of National Marriage Week, February 7 to 14, and World Marriage Day, are an opportunity to focus on building a culture of life and love that begins with supporting and promoting marriage and the family. Take time this February to celebrate marriage, whether by setting aside a special time to devote to your own spouse, or by honoring the marriages that have warmed you and nurtured you throughout your life.

Stewardship Saint of the Month – Saint Cornelius the Centurion

According to the Acts of the Apostles (10:45) the first pagan converted to Christ was an officer of the imperial Roman army. Cornelius the Centurion is described by the scriptures as a devout man who feared God, gave alms generously, and prayed constantly to God (10:1-2). Cornelius and the Apostle Peter had simultaneous visions that eventually brought them together (10:5; 10:15) at Cornelius’ house and in the presence of Cornelius’ whole household. Peter assured Cornelius that God shows no partiality and briefly related the history of Jesus’ preaching and death. At this, the Holy Spirit was poured out on all who were listening, Jew and Gentile alike. Peter was so astounded that the Spirit was given to the pagans as well as the Jews that he readily acceded to Cornelius’ request for baptism for himself and his entire household. When some of the Jewish Christians back in Jerusalem learned of what had happened, they criticized Peter severely. Later a Council had to be convened, headed by James to settle the dispute (Acts 15). Peter was vindicated, and a new missionary outreach to the Gentiles was inaugurated. Cornelius’ feast day is February 4.

Stewardship Saint for January

Saint John Nepomucene Neumann, fourth bishop of Philadelphia John Nepomucene Neumann was born in Bohemia in 1811 and named by his parents after the patron saint of Bohemia. Neumann was known to be an exceptionally gifted seminarian, intellectually and spiritually. He studied at the University of Prague and traveled to the United States to be a missionary after his bishop decided to postpone ordinations due to an oversupply of priests in the diocese. Neumann, a small individual at 5’2”, arrived in Manhattan in June 1836 and was ordained three weeks later for the Diocese of New York. His first assignment was to provide pastoral care for a German-speaking immigrant community whose members were clearing forests for a settlement near Niagara Falls. After four years of working alone, Neumann joined the Redemptorists (Congregation for the Most Holy Redeemer, C.SS.R.), and took permanent vows in January 1842. Neumann spoke eight languages and became a popular preacher for many different immigrant communities in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York and New Jersey. Eventually, he was elected to head the Redemptorists in the United States. In 1852 Neumann was appointed the fourth bishop of Philadelphia, a diocese that spanned the eastern half of Pennsylvania and the state of Delaware. As soon as he was ordained he embarked on an ambitious diocesan building campaign and was responsible for building over 100 parishes and 80 Catholic schools. He completed an unfinished cathedral and founded a new congregation of women, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, to help staff the increasingly crowded schools. Neumann also wrote two German catechisms that were approved by the First Plenary Council of Baltimore, the first of three national meetings of United States Catholic bishops held in 1852 in Baltimore, Maryland. His Baltimore catechisms were translated into other languages and widely used in the United States for the remainder of the 19th century. On January 5, 1862, Bishop Neumann collapsed on a Philadelphia street and died. He was 48 years old. Philadelphia’s historical annals reveal that half the city’s population attended his funeral, including the mayor, police and fire brigades, military battalions and a number of civic and Catholic societies and benevolent organizations. He was buried under the altar of the lower church of the Redemptorist parish, St. Peter. His burial site quickly became a shrine, attracting thousands of pilgrims. Saint John Nepomucene Neumann was canonized on June 17, 1977. His feast day is January 5.

A New Year, New Beginnings for the Christian Steward

Turning the page to a new calendar year gives us the feeling of a fresh start, a new beginning, and new opportunities. It is a time when people feel that they can begin anew with their lives. Common New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight, exercise more and eat healthier; or to spend more time with family. Still others include managing money better and being more organized. Although there is nothing in the Bible or notable in Christian tradition about New Year’s resolutions, many good stewards take advantage of this time of year to become closer to the Lord. They may re-commit themselves to pray more, to read the Bible, or to attend Mass more regularly. If you are looking for some helps in your New Year’s resolutions, here are a few ideas to get you started: Practice gratitude – Cultivating a grateful heart is the hallmark of a Christian steward. Every day, express thankfulness to the Lord and to others. Encounter the Lord each day – Find time to be with the Lord each day, whether it be for an hour or ten minutes. Have a conversation with the Lord. Give your joys and worries to Him as well. Allow God’s love to transform them. Our encounters will keep our eyes and ears open to the presence of Christ in our midst. Resist overwork – There is a pressure to produce, meet goals, be successful. But activities that lead us to overwork, constant fatigue and worry do not give glory to God. What God calls us to do we can do well. Be mindful that life requires balance, down time and letting go of unrealistic goals. Nurture friendships – Our friends are those we choose to be with, those with whom we spend our evenings, with whom we vacation, to whom we go to for advice. Friends are gifts from God who give us a greater appreciation of God’s love for us. Friends need our time and love. Give more – Good stewards realize that everything they have is entrusted to them as gift to be shared. There is no better place to begin than sharing with the community that gathers around the Lord’s table at Mass. Consider what you are giving to your parish and local diocese and commit to an even greater contribution as circumstances allow. Make a difference in your parish community – Believe it or not, your parish community can use your talents. Offering your talents to your faith community is one of the most effective ways to feel useful and connected to others, and it is a potentially life-changing New Year’s resolution.