All Saints Day

All Saints Day Weekend of October 31/November 1, 2020

In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches his followers about “blessedness,” a word not used much in American culture. The Beatitudes Jesus evokes in this Gospel reading are not promises of happiness, but promises of a new life with God; blessedness is key to a new way of living through the human experiences of mourning, meekness, peacemaking, persecution, and poverty of spirit. For Christian stewards, “blessedness” does not depend on wealth or health or status. Rather, Christian stewards recognize that blessedness is God’s gift. In the kingdom of God, life is not governed by honor and fame, but by the promise of abundant life. Embracing a poverty of spirit and meekness reveal God’s abundant life “breaking into” our world. Reflect on the Beatitudes this week. How might they help us improve our relationship with the Lord?

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

There is one command that summarizes this weekend’s Gospel: to love. For Jesus there is no distinction between these two commands of loving God and neighbor. One naturally flows from the other. In fact, for Jesus, these commands constitute a way of life for Christian stewards; a unique approach to life and to their relationship with others. Our neighbors include everyone with whom we come into contact: family members, friends, people we don’t like, strangers and particularly those most in need of our love and compassion. Love calls us to open our hearts and do more to help others grow closer to the Lord. How might we follow Christ’s love command more fervently?

Stewardship Saint of the Month: Saint Maria Bertilla Boscardin

Maria Bertilla gave witness to Christian stewardship through her simple living and caring for others as a nurse and consecrated religious. She was born in 1888 in a village near Vicenza, in northern Italy, to a poor farming family headed by a violently abusive and alcoholic father. She lacked a normal education and was ridiculed for her seeming lack of intelligence. She worked as a house servant in her youth.

At age 16, Maria joined the Sisters of St. Dorothy in Vicenza and was assigned to work in the kitchen, laundry and bakery. Eventually she was given permission to be trained as a nurse and displayed a special gift for working with children suffering from diphtheria.

During World War I, the hospital was taken over by the Italian army to care for its wounded. Sister Bertilla became well-known to military authorities and others for her compassion, dedication and unwavering care of those who could not be moved, even in times of terror, when the hospital was under fire and subject to bombing and artillery barrages. She wrote in her diary: “Here I am, Lord, to do your will whatever comes.” When she and her patients were finally transferred to a safer area Sister Bertilla’s religious superior transferred her back to the laundry. Soon thereafter, however, the mother general of the religious community countermanded that order and Sister Bertilla was reassigned to the hospital to take charge of a children’s ward. Her reputation for simplicity and hard work left a deep impression on those who knew her. Sister Bertilla had suffered for a number of years with a painful tumor, and in 1922 her health declined rapidly. After an unsuccessful surgery to remove the tumor she died on October 20, 1922. Thousands of people attended her funeral in Vicenza, Italy, and her tomb became a pilgrimage site. A plaque remains at the hospital in her honor, describing her as a “chosen soul of heroic goodness…an angelic alleviator of human suffering …” Family members and many former patients attended Maria Bertilla’s canonization in 1961 by Saint Pope John XXIII. Her feast day is October 20.

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus offers us a profound teaching on stewardship in this weekend’s reading: What belongs to Caesar? What belongs to God? Christian stewards recognize that everything they have belongs to God. God created them, and God has claims on every part of their existence. They also realize that the sovereign is an institution whose nature and purpose is to promote the common good and protect the welfare of its citizenry. As long as it accomplishes this mission while treating every single person with deep respect, justice and compassion, it merits the steward’s support and cooperation. Christian stewards know what belongs to the Lord, and they are better citizens when they live their lives according to his Gospel.

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

There are a number of Bible verses Christians have memorized. One of them is in Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians found in this weekend’s second reading: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (4:13). Most people define themselves either by their problems or their possibilities. Fearful people wake up each morning ensnared by their problems. Christian stewards wake up reflecting on their possibilities with confidence and hope. Some stewardship reflection questions for the week: What challenges do you back away from because you doubt that you are up to them? What would you attempt tomorrow if you were sure God would help you?

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.

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: 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. It focuses on helping Catholics form their consciences so they can make sound moral judgments about public choices. (See 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.

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

This weekend’s Gospel reading poses some challenging stewardship questions, particularly at a time when so many people are becoming disengaged from their faith communities. When Christ returns, will we be found working diligently in the Lord’s “vineyard;” converting our own hearts into a rich harvest of love and compassion? Calling those outside our vineyard to enter into the joy of the Lord? Or will we just be living off of what the Lord has given us, but not sharing God’s love with others? Jesus’ parable suggests that if we are not good stewards of the gifts we’ve been given then the gifts will be taken away, and we will be called to give an account for our failures. We have all we need for a bountiful harvest, even during these disquieting times. What will our Lord find when He returns and asks us to give an account?

Stewardship of Our Parish: Continue to Give Generously

As COVID-19 continues to change the way the world interacts, parishes across North America are responding creatively and finding new ways to minister.

As parishioners who are charged with exercising good stewardship of our parishes, how are we supporting the ministries of our parish communities? More succinctly, how are we responding to our parishes with our giving practices? We have a need to give, a need that is expressed through our love for Christ and his Church. Jesus sets the standard. His life is our greatest lesson about love. He identified love as the path to salvation. Love goes beyond well-wishing to action. He laid down his life for his community of disciples. Jesus saved us through giving. He gave us himself.

We’ve all experienced the joy of giving, the excitement of presenting an unsolicited gift or a particularly generous one. We enjoy witnessing the joy our gift brings. Parents experience this when they give to young children. We all experience it when we give to a friend, a neighbor, a charity, a stranger. However, the warm feeling that accompanies giving is the least important part of the experience. The truth is we need to give because we grow in Christ by giving.

The world would have us believe that we grow by getting: the more I have, the more I am. In this view, persons are defined by things. Personal possessions count more than personal qualities, like character and virtue. But a fast car or expensive clothes are a poor means of self-expression. In order to express ourselves, we need to share our uniqueness with others, to create and to give.

Giving also affords us the opportunity to grow socially. We need relationships and relationships are enriched by giving. We sometimes hold back our giving because of fear. If I volunteer my time and give my money, will I have enough left for me? Am I willing to risk sacrifice?

Giving and sacrifice strengthen relationships. We all have a need to continue giving faithfully to our parish community. Our gift continues to enrich the people who gather around the Eucharistic table, even if virtually. Our need is rooted in our commitment to the Gospel and our love for Christ, our community and our neighbor.

When we give, we obey the first commandment, we practice the greatest virtue, and we reveal ourselves as Christian stewards.

Stewarding the Senior Members of Our Parishes

We are told that one of the COVID-19 high-risk groups are people who are 60 years old and older. The members of this group are constantly being warned to take the appropriate precautions to protect themselves.

Now that we are adjusting to new “social distancing” guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we can all think more creatively about keeping our older parishioners engaged in the parish. The COVID-19 pandemic makes ministry to our older parishioners challenging and many parishes are investing in technology to stay connected with parishioners. For seniors with internet access, for example, helping them set up what they need to view livestreamed Masses and other parish services is ideal for staying connected.

But while technology can make it easier to connect in some ways, it is not always easier for everyone. Consider those members of our parish who might not have the technical ability to watch a livestreamed Mass. The simplicity of a handwritten note or phone call for the senior members of our community can be an important ministry. A short call or note can go a long way and make a lasting memory. Offering a helping hand to our senior parishioners is an important service ministry as well. Go to the grocery store or pharmacy for them. Take out their trash and recycle for them. Make it a family project to do yard work or wash their car. Many retirees have time on their hands and giving them some creative opportunity to serve would be very beneficial for them and for the parish.

In this time of anxiety and uncertainty about the future, let’s keep thinking about how we can serve the older members of our parish, stay in contact with them and keep them engaged. Your ideas don’t have to be complex or overly-produced. Just let seniors know that the parish is there for them, wants to reach out to them and show them what it means to be an integral part of the Body of Christ.

If you do not know a senior member of our parish, reach out to an older neighbor or friend.  Just waving and saying hello goes so far in the day of someone who is not regularly seeing others.

Stewardship Saint of the Month

Saint Teresa of Calcutta gave us an extraordinary example of Christian discipleship and stewardship by her faith, simplicity and service to women and men without considering their race, religion or nationality.

She was born Agnes Bojaxhiu in Albania on August 26, 1910, and at age 18 went to Ireland to join the Sisters of Loreto following what she discerned to be a call to become a missionary. She was sent to India in 1929, and began her novitiate in Darjeeling near the Himalayan mountains. Eight years later she made her solemn vows and took the name Teresa after Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries. From there she taught at the Loreto convent school in Calcutta for almost twenty years. Though a dedicated educator, she was increasingly disturbed by the desperate poverty in Calcutta.

On September 10, 1946, Sister Teresa had an extraordinary conversion experience, what she later described as “the call within the call.” While traveling by train from Calcutta to the Loreto convent in Darjeeling she experienced interior visions that led her to the conviction that Christ was calling her to serve “the poorest of the poor.”

In 1948 after a few months of medical training, Sister Teresa ventured out into the slums to tend to the needs of the destitute and starving. Her first year was very difficult. She had no income and had to resort to begging for food and supplies. She experienced loneliness, doubt and the temptation to return to the comfort of convent life. But at the beginning of 1949 she was joined by a group of young women who wished to be a part of her ministry. In 1950 “Mother” Teresa’s community was formally recognized by the Vatican. Its mission was to care for, in her own words, “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.” In 1952, she opened a hospice for the poor. Then she established several leprosy clinics throughout Calcutta, providing medication, bandages and food. In 1955, she created a home for orphans and homeless youth.

The Missionaries of Charity soon began to attract both recruits and charitable donations, and by the 1960s had opened hospices, orphanages and leper homes all over India. Mother Teresa then went global. Her first mission outside of India was in Venezuela in 1965, then in Rome, Tanzania and Austria. During the 1970s the congregation started missions in dozens of countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and the United States. In 1979, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mother Teresa died on September 5, 1997, departing a religious community with over 4,000 sisters operating 610 missions in 123 countries and aided by more than one million co-workers. Former U.N. SecretaryGeneral, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, said of Saint Teresa: “She is the United Nations. She is peace in the world.” Saint Teresa of Calcutta was canonized on September 4, 2016 by Pope Francis. Her feast day is September 5.