World Marriage Week

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 12,
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.

Many parishes celebrate World Marriage Day by the renewal of vows, the
celebration of special anniversaries, or even candlelit dinners in the parish hall.
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.

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time Weekend of February 4 & 5

In this weekend’s readings and psalm, the prevailing theme
is that of light: We are the light of the world; our light
breaks forth like the dawn; our light shines in the darkness;
our light reflects generosity and justice. Good stewards
know they are the lamp, and Christ is the flame that,
through them, illuminates the earth. They know that they
carry Christ’s light in their hearts, and let it shine through
their words and deeds. What are we doing to shine Christ’s
light on the hungry, the homeless and others most in need
of God’s mercy? How do we exercise good stewardship
over the light of Christ that burns within each of us?

Stewardship of God’s Word: Reading the Bible

February is a transitional month,
especially with Ordinary Time ending
on the 21st at the doorstep of Ash
Wednesday, February 22, and the
season of Lent. Many of us also begin
to hope that spring will be around the
next corner. The first seed catalog we
find in the mail reminds us this must
be true, yet we know it’s not time to
turn the soil. We wait in the quiet of
late winter.

What better time than February,
before Lent and the advent of
spring, to settle in for some reading
and praying with sacred scripture?
February can be a quiet time of patient
reflection for the Christian steward.
The psalms, like so many biblical
passages, remind us of the benefits of
reading God’s word: “Your word is a
lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my
path” (Ps 119:105).

Our liturgical year offers us a
wonderful pathway to the Bible by
providing Lectionary readings for each
day. Our Sunday Gospel readings this
year come to us mainly from Saint
Matthew. In the month of February
we have an opportunity to reflect on
Christ’s teachings in his Sermon on the
Mount with its hope-filled Beatitudes.
This Gospel is ideal for spending time
with the Lord in quiet meditation.
Stewardship of God’s Word: Reading the Bible
In the Gospel of Saint Matthew
Jesus gives us a guide to Christian
living. If you choose to read this great
book of the Bible, consider just one
episode in the Gospel each time you
read it. Put yourself into the scene.
See what words strike a chord in you.
Ask the Lord to help you know him
through the Gospel reading.
One of the hallmarks of Saint
Matthew’s Gospel is his emphasis
on discipleship and what it means to
follow Jesus. Christian stewards look
to this Gospel to gain new insights
into their journey of faith; and much
like the desires of gardeners, long for
the seeds of the Gospel, especially the
Beatitudes, to be planted in their own
hearts. Find some quiet time. Pick up
your Bible. And use God’s gift of these
quiet February days to deepen your
knowledge of Christ through sacred
scripture.

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Weekend of January 28 & 29

In today’s Gospel, Jesus begins his Sermon on the Mount
with a series of blessings, the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes
are a summary of the fundamental attitude of a Christian
steward. This speech sets the themes and tone for Christ’s
public ministry. He calls for a radical change in how we
respond to the human condition. Good stewards understand
that conversion is a lifelong process and trying to live the
Beatitudes is fundamental to this process. Make it a point
to reflect on this Gospel reading during the week. Identify
the blessing you relate to the most. Which one is the most
challenging for you?

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: Weekend of January 21 & 22

In today’s gospel we hear Jesus calling Peter, Andrew, James
and John to follow him. Following Jesus was a difficult
journey for these first disciples. It is difficult for us today.
Jesus wants to teach us his way of thinking, acting and
encountering the world. But it is not easy for us to embrace
his teaching. Good stewards of Jesus’ teachings realize
they are on a spiritual journey, and must learn from their
experiences of being open and resistant to the gospel. They
realize the need to be liberated from those actions that keep
them from enjoy¬ing a closer friendship with Jesus. What is
it in our lives that we need to reform? What keeps us from
revealing God’s glory to others?

Following Jesus

We follow all sorts of people and organizations on social media. Friends.
Celebrities. A favorite author, athlete, charity, or business. At times, we
may think before following: do we want the additional postings or emails?
Typically, following a business or celebrity does not require much of a
commitment. We may or may not read every post that comes through
on our feed. We might respond, or we may not. Even when we do, our
response is often as simple as hitting the “like” button. Following Jesus is a
very different sort of thing.

To follow Jesus means to enter into a relationship with him and to
exercise good stewardship over that relationship. When Jesus asks us to
follow him, we know that doing so is to have an impact in our lives. As
with any friendship, if our relationship with Jesus is to grow, we will have to
spend time with and pay attention to him. At first, this might mean taking a
few moments at the beginning or end of each day for prayer.

We may be more attentive during Mass; we may pause in the midst of
our day’s activities to notice the beauty of creation, the blessing of family
and friends, the gift of kindness and patience shared among co-workers.
The best of friends also influence each other, for the better. Growing in
relationship with Jesus will change us, leading us to think of others as well
as ourselves, often putting the needs of others first. We learn to be mindful
of those who need to know God’s love through our actions, serving them,
sharing forgiveness, mercy, compassion, and faith.

Following Jesus is the work of a lifetime. At every step forward, one
is challenged to go further in accepting and loving God’s will. Being a
disciple is not just something else to do, alongside many other things
suitable for Christians; it is a total way of life and requires continuing
conversion (Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, p. 15).

How will you follow Jesus now and into the future? How will you
learn from and invite him to have an impact in your life? How will your
stewardship of this relationship impact the way you live?

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time: Weekend of January 14 & 15

As the prophet Isaiah proclaims in the first reading, the Lord
continues to remind us that we are his servants. Imagine the
Lord speaking these words to you personally: “You are my
servant. Through you I show my glory. I formed you as my
servant from your mother’s womb. I will make you a light so
that you may shine the light of my salvation everywhere you
go, and reveal my glory to everyone you encounter. I will
give you the strength to do this. I will give you confidence.
Heed my words, for I have spoken to you.” What would
your response be to the Lord? Would it be different from the
response you give the Lord now?

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord: Weekend of January 7 & 8

In today’s second reading we hear the teachings of Saint Paul
to the members of the Church at Ephesus. He proclaims that
he, and they, are stewards of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and
therefore stewards of God’s loving, unifying and inclusive
grace. He also proclaims that the Holy Spirit is at work
within each of them, if only they would be open to the
Spirit. Today, our world races by with intolerance, violence,
desperate poverty, fear and division. At the beginning of this
New Year, perhaps it is appropriate to reflect on Saint Paul’s
words and ask ourselves how we can be good stewards of
the gospel today. How will we allow the Holy Spirit to work
within us? How can we be better stewards of Christ’s justice
and peace?

Stewardship Saint of the Month: Saint André Bessette, C.S.C.

Saint Andre Bessette was born in 1845 in the village of Saint-Grẻgoire
d’Iberville, in what is now the Archdiocese of Montreal, Canada.
Baptized as Alfred, by the time he was 12 he had to work because
both of his parents had died.

At age 22 he moved to the United States, where he labored alternately in mills and on
farms in New England. He returned to Montreal where
he joined the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1870 with
the encouragement of Father André Provençal, who had
observed Alfred spending whole nights in prayer and sent
a note with Alfred that read, “I am sending you a saint.”
Alfred made his final vows in 1874 and was given
the religious name of André. For some forty years Brother
Andre served as janitor, porter, infirmarian, gardener,
baker of the altar bread and in other capacities at the
College of Our Lady of the Snows near Montreal. In
1905, at age 60, Brother Andre was transferred to
Montreal.

From his childhood Brother Andre had a strong
devotion to Saint Joseph and spent his life promoting
devotion to the foster-father of Jesus. He founded
and helped to build the Oratory of St. Joseph. The
popularity of the oratory grew as it became a place of
pilgrimage because of the many healings attributed to
the intercession of Brother André and Saint Joseph. It was
referred to as the “Lourdes of Canada,” and became one
of the most popular shrines in North America drawing
millions of pilgrims to Montreal.

Much attention centered on Brother André himself
because of the number of cures that were attributed to
him, so many, in fact, that he was called the “Miracle
Man of Montreal.” Brother Andre died on January 6,
1937, at age 91. Over a million mourners processed past
his casket. He was beatified by Saint John Paul II in 1982
and he was canonized a saint in 2010 by Pope Benedict
XVI. His feast is on January 6.

A New Year, New Beginnings for the Christian Steward

The practice of making New Year’s resolutions goes back over 3000 years. The start of a New 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 ideas for your New Year’s resolutions, here are a few 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.

Be present to others – There is much celebration and mourning, joy and sorrow in peoples’ lives. What a blessing it is to be able to share those times and not let others experience them alone. The gift of your presence to others is much more valuable than you realize.

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 a 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.

Consider living more simply – We cannot find fulfillment in possessions. They add nothing to our self-worth. Jesus blessed the “poor in spirit” in his Sermon on the Mount; and Saint Francis of Assisi urged us to live with only what was necessary, for that is how we begin to find God.

Get healthy – Studies show that most people in North America are accelerating their own decline into premature old age, owing to poor diet and lack of physical activity. Be a good steward of your body. If necessary, plan a complete overhaul of your diet and exercise habits.

Don’t give up – People give up their New Year’s resolutions because of perfectionism and unrealistic expectations. So take it slow, be kind to yourself and keep trying. Resist the urge to throw your hands up and quit. You succeed through small, manageable changes over time.

Turn to the Lord – Ask the Lord for guidance, strength and perseverance in achieving your resolutions. In his letter to the Philippians, Saint Paul writes: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13). If God is the center of our New Year’s resolutions, they have a better chance for success.