Stewardship and the Annual Spring Cleaning

When spring rain lets up, and May brings long hours of brilliant sunshine,
something stirs within: the desire to tackle that dust we suddenly notice in
places we seldom look. And those windows smeared with winter’s muck? And
that disorganized closet? There’s a reason our grandmothers called it “spring
housecleaning.” The season brings an almost physical desire to get out the mop.
Surprisingly, for the Christian steward, this can actually be a spiritual
impulse. There’s something intrinsically renewing and revitalizing about
cleaning. Everything done with a prayerful heart can lead us closer to God, and
cleaning, often a solitary and contemplative task, can definitely include prayer.
You might plan to begin your cleaning with prayer, and play music that lifts your
spirit as you work.

Start with a closet. Open your heart to what it tells you about how blessed
you are materially. But observe the consumerism a closet can reveal. As you
examine each item of apparel, remember and thank God for the graces of the
occasion: a wedding, a graduation, a vacation. Enjoy “shopping” in your own
closet for items you’ve forgotten about. Pare down what you no longer need
or what you feel called to share. Wash, mend, iron and select a place where
your items may find a good home. Many cities have refugee closets, and many
nonprofits have thrift stores which support them. St. Vincent de Paul shops serve
the poor with inexpensive used items. Pray for those with whom you are about
to share.

Resolve to put your newly reorganized items to work for you and not rush
out to buy more.

And those windows? Does anything lift the spirit like a clean window after
a long winter? As you polish those panes of glass, pray about where your own
inner life could use a cleaning. Perhaps you don’t make it to the Sacrament of
Reconciliation as often as you’d like. Use your quiet window cleaning time
to examine the graces and challenges of your life. Thank God for the many
blessings and be honest about failings.

And that ubiquitous dust? It promises to return, afflicts the rich and the
poor. It’s a sign of our universal connection to the earth and the environment, a
reminder of our own mortality. Even the dust we clean can be lifted up to God
with a thank you from a steward’s grateful heart.

Fourth Sunday of Easter: Weekend of April 29/30, 2023

Saint Peter plays a prominent leadership role in the
first two readings, urging his listeners to be baptized
and accept the gift of the Holy Spirit; and encouraging
them to follow in the footsteps of Christ. We have just
renewed our baptismal promises at Easter and the
Holy Spirit dwells in us in a special way. Are we good
stewards of those baptismal vows? Have we renewed
our commitment to follow in Jesus’ footsteps? Have
we opened our hearts to discern the will of God in our
lives? Take some time to reflect on the importance of our
baptismal renewal and our lives as disciples of the Lord.

Stewardship Saint for April – Saint Peter Chanel

Peter Chanel was born in a small village near Lyons, France in 1803. Observing his simple piety and intelligence, his parish priest had him admitted to a church-sponsored school. Chanel eventually studied for the priesthood and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Belley in 1827. His mind was set on missionary work and after four years of parish ministry, he joined a recently formed religious community of missionary priests called the Society of Mary, the Marists. Father Chanel sought an assignment to a foreign mission, but instead was sent to teach in the local seminary where he soon became a spiritual director and the vice rector. In 1836, the Marist congregation was assigned a vast area in the South Pacific for its mission work. Very little was known of the New Hebrides, the colonial name for the island group that now forms the nation of Vanuatu. But a delighted Father Chanel was appointed superior of a small group of missionaries that travelled to the area. They split up and Father Chanel went to the Island of Futuna, between Fiji and French Samoa, accompanied by a lay brother and an English layman. They were received by the island inhabitants with much hospitality and soon earned a great deal of respect for their care of the sick. Once the missionaries learned the local language and began preaching directly to the people, the king of the islanders became disturbed that Christianity would pose a threat to his sovereignty. When his son asked to be baptized, the angered king sent warriors to assassinate Father Chanel. On April 28, 1841, Father Chanel was killed with an axe and his body cut up with knives. Two weeks after the killing, a passing American trading ship took Father Chanel’s companions and others to New Zealand and safety. The French landed the following year to make official inquiries and to take Father Chanel’s remains with them. By the time of their arrival, however, the entire island nation had converted to Christianity. Father Chanel was declared a martyr and was canonized in 1954. His relics were returned to Futuna in 1977. Saint Peter Chanel’s feast day is April 28.

Third Sunday of Easter Weekend of April 22/23, 2023

As today’s gospel reveals, the first meal shared with the
risen Lord happened in a place called Emmaus. Perhaps
there is no better time to reflect on this story than in those
prayerful moments at Mass when we return to our place
after receiving Holy Communion. Those few moments
give us an opportunity to reflect on our stewardship of
Christ’s presence within us. We have a chance to practice
hospitality by inviting Jesus into our hearts to walk and
talk with us about our own Emmaus journey. We can
relive once again the time when he broke bread for the
disciples. And just as they did, we too can recognize
Christ in this meal we have just shared with others.

Celebrate Earth Day – Stop Plastic Pollution

Plastic is choking the earth. The reason, partly, is that we are not doing a very good job of recycling plastic containers. Less than 14 percent of plastic packaging is recycled. Earth Day 2023 will be celebrated on Saturday, April 22. This year’s theme is “Invest in Our Planet.” One way we can invest in our planet is by recycling plastic. In his ground-breaking encyclical Laudato Si (“Praise be to You”), Pope Francis urged humankind to exercise better stewardship of the earth. Subtitled “On Care of Our Common Home,” the pontiff’s letter called for a radical “ecological conversion” on the part of people the world over, and especially disciples of Jesus Christ, to honor and save our earth from degradation. One way we can be better stewards of the earth is to fight plastic pollution. Cheap, capable of being made into any conceivable shape, strong and durable, plastic is the wonder product of the modern world. However, the victim of this technological success appears to be much of life on earth. Almost 80% of the plastic produced since the 1950s has been thrown away, either into landfill sites or into the general environment. Ending plastic pollution was the focus of Earth Day 2018, the annual event celebrated on April 22 world-wide to raise awareness of ecological dangers and demonstrate support for protection of the global environment. But the call to end plastic pollution does not seem to have been heeded. Items like plastic packaging, bags and bottles are thrown away every day, and end up in trash sites as well as in forests, creeks, rivers, seas, and oceans around the world. While some of these items are recycled, the growth of plastic consumption and its improper disposal currently outpace efforts to recycle and produce post-consumer plastic materials. But plastic is more than just litter. A petroleum product, plastic is nonbiodegradable. And in reality, most plastic does not ever disappear, but becomes long-lasting “plastic dust”. When items like plastic bags break down, they readily soak up (and release) toxins that then contaminate soil and water, as well as harming animals that ingest plastic fragments. The increasing presence of plastic in our oceans poisons and ensnares marine life. Check your refrigerator. How much stuff in there is stored in plastic? Hazardous chemicals, some of which can disrupt human hormones, leach from some plastics that are used for food and beverage storage. Plastic is the basic material of our consumer world. Without it we wouldn’t enjoy the same standard of living or convenience. But if we take the Holy Father’s urgent pleas seriously, we should take seriously the issue of plastic contaminating and damaging our environment. For Christian stewards, it is a moral responsibility to confront this pollution. And become better stewards of the earth. Celebrate Earth Day 2023 by helping to curb plastic pollution.

Second Sunday of Easter/Divine Mercy Sunday: Weekend of April 15/16, 2023

In today’s first reading, the four activities of the earliest
church are introduced to us as priorities of the church:
devotion to the teachings of the apostles, communal
fellowship, the Eucharist and prayer. The early members
of the church saw themselves as devoted stewards of
these activities. These were not options. They were the
fruits of a genuine conversion to a life in Christ. Sharing
in the Eucharist was the most intimate expression of
fellowship, while the most common expression of
fellowship in the New Testament was that of sharing
financial resources – giving. It was not a perfect
community, but one that gave evidence of God’s active
presence in its midst. This early community offers us an
excellent example of how to better exercise stewardship
in our own parish families.