Summertime Should Be Mindful Time

Posted on May 31, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

tracyCan you believe that Summer is here? If you are reading this outside of the US, Summer might not be as near, but here in the United States we just celebrated the unofficial start to Summer – Memorial Day weekend.

Pools are open, grills are cleaned, and school is coming to a close. We just spent a day remembering those who gave their lives in service to our country. Today, we must not forget them, but live in the freedom their sacrifice helped provide. But, thinking about those have passed away made me think about how important it is to be mindful of those who are with us today since they will not be with us forever.

In fact, summer is an important time to be mindful of our relationships and make time to be with those who mean something to us. Being good stewards of our time means we make the time to connect with each other.

Quality time is not just time filled with activities, but also time filled with conversation and resting in each other’s presence. We can too easily become comfortable giving little or no real attention to others in our lives. We become engrossed in our cell phones, video games, Netflix, etc.

Mindfulness helps us not take others for granted. We try to always stay aware of where we are and who is near us. We are able to more easily see opportunities to connect in a meaningful way with those we care about.

We realize that the time presented to us each day will not come again, so we really try to seize the day.

It is so important to remember those who have passed from this life. Their earthly existence help to shape the meaning for our lives. However, it is tragic if we disregard those who are still with us. If only our love prevented us from wasting time. But we are human.

We must choose to share our love for in cannot share itself. We need to use our time wisely, for time is a precious gift we have in limited supply.

Jesus is the Melody

Posted on May 26, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

EucharistWhen I was younger, for many years I helped lead the music for our parish liturgies. The “more grand” liturgies stand out to me: First Communion, Confirmation, Christmas, etc. It was at one of those First Communion Masses where I learned an important lesson.

As musicians at liturgy, you really play a key role in providing a sense of movement to the entire experience. Between moments of spoken prayer and petition, you provide a way for all assembled to pray with song. Sometimes, you make decisions at the moment for the sake of keeping the liturgy “moving.”

When it was time for Communion, we played throughout the entire time, and I did not allow a time for us as musicians to receive ourselves. I had hoped that this would be noticed and after our playing had concluded, someone would offer us the Eucharist. They didn’t. At first I thought, “Unfortunately, that’s just the way it goes.” One of our musicians did not see it that way and was upset. He said to me, “What am I here for anyway?”

My assumption without thinking much about it that day was that our presence was to lead music. However, I had missed it. Even though we played an important role at the liturgy, the reason we were there was Jesus. No matter how beautiful our music could be or how well the congregation sang, our primary purpose of being there was just like everyone else’s: Jesus.

Our stewardship is very important, but at no time does it become the main thing. Our generosity and commitment of ourselves points to that which matters the most. When we lose sight of why we are doing something and whom we are doing it for, our actions can become hollow. The music of our efforts offers praise to the One who makes that melody even possible in the first place.

A Bit of God in All of Us

Posted on May 17, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

I remember being in first grade and making my mother a coffee mug for Mother’s Day at school. It was made of plastic, but I made a drawing on paper that would then be placed on the outside of the mug. I was so excited about making it because in it there was a little bit of myself. I didn’t always believe my mother when she said that the best gifts I could give her were things I made myself, especially since even as a little kid I knew some of the things I created were not so wonderful. But this mug was different. It just seemed so cool, and of course, my mother loved it.

Now she is long gone from this world, but the mug still remains. It is mine now, resting on a high shelf in our kitchen cabinet. No one uses it, but I know it is there. It reminds me of her, but at the same time, it was always a part of me. I gave her a part of me, she cared for it and loved it, and then it was returned back to me. Now it is a part of me, and a part of her also.

We are each fearfully and wonderfully made by God, and like a child giving a part of himself to his mother in his creation, there is a little bit of the Divine in all of us. We are made in God’s image, and when he looks out at His creation, he knows us as His own. But you and I will not walk this earthly creation forever. For just like the mug that came back to me, we will return to our Creator. We will join with God in an eternal relationship where we are made perfect so that we may be in union with Him forever. Rejoice, for He has created you as special, has found great delight in you, and you are His own.

Breathe Through Me

Posted on May 13, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

My youngest son has occasional bouts with asthma. When it hits him, he feels like he is almost drowning, gasping for air. It is a terrible thing to think about, suffocating with no option for air.

Luckily, an inhaler opens up that which was closed and air comes rushing back inside his lungs.

The Latin words spiritus and spirare mean “breath’ and “to breathe.” It is how we get the word spirit and the name, Holy Spirit, for it is the Spirit in us that gives us breath. Some describe the Spirit as that which provides life and animation to all living things, a life force of sorts.

In essence, we live and breathe the Spirit all around us.

I have to admit, that is not as concrete an explanation of the Holy Spirit as I would like. But what I do know is that when the Spirit came upon the apostles at Pentecost, they were undeniably changed and a force came through them that they recorded like a “strong driving wind.” This enabled them to proclaim the Good News in a way that was previously impossible.

When I see my son trying so hard to breath, it is like someone or something has robbed him of his spirit, or the Spirit, and he has to struggle. When his ability to breathe is returned to him, he is well again and able to accomplish anything he sets his mind to do.

If we were more mindful of our breathing as the Holy Spirit moving through us, I think we would act much differently than we do sometimes. We would be better stewards and just better people.

On this Pentecost, may the Spirit that you breathe in each and every day fill your heart and soul with the desire to do great things and do them well!

“I was scared when you touched my lips
And the breath I took was the breath
That shook me with a shock,
Like a flame as eternal as the song and the song is you

I will let you breathe through me.
I will let you be with me.”

-Excerpt of lyrics from Breathe, sung by Maria McKee. © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

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Loving Presence

Posted on May 12, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

In my experience, the most common phrase used to express sympathy to someone who has lost a loved one is “I’m sorry for your loss.” It’s a very nice sentiment and I believe everyone who uses it means it.

But like any oft-used expression, its overuse can minimize the impact. We use phrases like this because they do express how we feel and we are often at a loss for words during times of great grief, be it death or any other life devastation.

But it would be inaccurate to think that the sixth Spiritual Work of Mercy – comforting the afflicted – is merely about the words we use. Certainly words are important, but during times of affliction and grief it’s our actions not our words that bring the greatest comfort and what will be remembered most by those who are suffering.

There are many things we can do to help alleviate the suffering of someone, depending on the circumstances, but one thing that is most always helpful is presence.

The word compassion literally means “to suffer with” – and presence is that indeed. To sit with someone when they are hurting, even in silence, is an act of compassion and mercy.

Christianity is a religion of presence and ‘suffering with.’ The Gospel of John says “the Word became flesh and dwelt with us.”  God came to be with us and to suffer with and for us. He came to comfort the afflicted by both his words and deeds:  “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

So if you’ve ever worried about what to say to someone when they are struggling, remember that words often fail at those times and your loving presence will mean so much more.

A Vote for Freedom

Posted on May 9, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

I cannot stay silent. This year in American politics has been anything but ordinary. You may certainly find aspects of any or all current candidates for President of the United States not to your liking or even down-right scandalous.

You may be thinking you are in a quandary morally speaking because you cannot decide on a candidate that fully deserves your vote.

But to suggest that in a democracy, which many men and women over many years fought to preserve, the prudent thing to do is abstain from voting and stay home on election day is DEAD WRONG. It is poor stewardship and a rejection of one’s responsibility to be a faithful citizen.

My oldest son just turned twenty. It will be his first chance to vote in an US Presidential election. I cannot believe he is hearing former and current national leaders, as well as some voices in the Church, say they plan to abstain from voting.

Yes, you can write-in someone’s name for an office and that is a perfectly legitimate way of exercising one’s right to vote. But some of the voices out there are not even advocating that.

I continue to urge my son to see that it is his duty to vote and tell him that no one ever promised that each election there will be someone who is a clear choice for him.

My father was in the Navy during WWII. The American flag from his funeral hangs in a case by my front door. I am reminded each day of what it takes to assure liberty and freedom. Yes, my conscience is troubled because as a Catholic and a Christian I do not see a named candidate that fully supports my values.

But I will not tell those risking their lives in places like Iraq and Afghanistan that I will abstain from voting. I will not tell the families I know that miss their loved ones serving in far away places that I will abstain from voting.

And I will not face that American flag each day I walk through my front door and abstain from voting.

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting,” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Thinking isn’t agreeing or disagreeing. That’s voting,” – Robert Frost

The US Bishops Statement on Faithful Citizenship: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship

Don’t Throw Stones – Build Something Instead

Posted on May 6, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for Seventh Sunday of Easter 2016

bullyingI am currently dealing with my third and youngest child going through middle school. I am convinced that the middle school years are a time of real purgatory on earth. It is also a time that tests your faith in humanity, because you wonder at times, “Can people really be that mean to one another?”

It doesn’t matter what crowd you are in. If you are cool or nerd, tall or short, male or female, all will, at some time in middle school, be made to feel horrible.

Didn’t wear the right shoes today? Laughed too much at the joke? Made the mistake of telling the wrong person about a crush? For these and many more transgressions, you must be persecuted.

Most of us will not be persecuted and killed for our belief like Stephen in Acts 7. But what we choose to say and do to others can sometimes feel like being struck with hard stones, especially when we are young.

StonesAt times in our lives we find ourselves being hit hard by someone’s lack of kindness or even hatred, and unfortunately, we sometimes find ourselves holding a stone.

I can’t change those years of adolescence to make them easier, either for my own children or anyone else’s. And I also know that ignorance and hateful behavior does not always stop when one gets older. People are mean at all ages. But only you and I have control of what we say and do.

As good stewards, may we always be using stones to build bridges and shelter. May we never be found ready to hurl something at someone for any reason. And when we find ourselves on the receiving end of hate, may we have the strength to echo the words of Stephen, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

All the Time in the World?

Posted on May 5, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

TimeNowadays I travel a good bit, which means I am away from my wife and children for periods of time, some short but some long.

But what makes it easier for me, besides being able to share the Good News of Jesus with people all over the country, is that I know I will not be gone forever. I will return and then all will be well again.

I have been called by God to be away from them at times, but God always brings me back.

Each liturgical year we celebrate Jesus’ ascension into heaven. The feast speaks much to who Jesus is theologically, but in a very practical way, we also acknowledge that He has gone to be with the Father, but will return someday.

Just as I return after a conference or visit with a parish to those God has entrusted to me and I love, Jesus will return to those entrusted to Him and whom He loves.

But just like when I am away, there are things to be done. Life goes on for my wife and children with school, work, activities, and the basic responsibilities of family. In good stewardship, they are called to give generously to each other and devout themselves to God.

Without them tending to things, upon my return I would find everything in turmoil and disarray. Then when I return, we become one again, and we are about the Lord’s work together.

The Lord ascended into heaven but we are not to sit by quietly awaiting His return. Much needs to be done.

He has entrusted much to us expecting us to be good stewards. If you think that you have all the time in the world to complete the tasks at hand, think again. His return will be when we least expect it. It is time to be about our Father’s work.

Teaching Stewardship

Posted on May 3, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

Today is National Teacher Appreciation Day and I was thinking about my many teachers through the years. I went through sixteen years of Catholic School and two years of graduate work, so that is a lot of teachers.

Most were female, until I got into my college years when they became mostly male. Of course, they were mostly men and women of faith. Some were priests and religious. Most were middle-aged, with a few either being much younger or much older.

Overall, a great diversity of people.

Did they all love teaching? I wish I could say for sure the answer is yes, but probably at least a couple of them wished they were doing something else. Most seemed happy, but a few seemed pretty angry with the world.

Teacher 1There were those who seemed to love everything about their students. They would hang up creations of their students just like proud parents.

You always felt closest to the teachers that seemed to relish in your work, even if it was more about giving encouragement than it was about actual love for your efforts.

All of these teachers only really had one thing in common: me. They all taught me.

Each one of them touched my life in some way. Even though my interaction with them probably didn’t change them at all, it molded and formed me into the person I am today.

They all taught me, yet little of me remains with them. Yet, they all have deposited a part of themselves in me.

To be able to share yourself with another so as to leave behind a part of yourself behind with that person is a profound. No teacher has the capacity to remember every student they ever had, but many of us can remember every teacher we ever had. That is because, for better or worse, they made an impact on us.

In exchange for that profound impact, most of them work for low wages, long hours, and little support. They give and give, sometimes not only their time but also their treasure.

The good teachers give so much of themselves but never count the cost. They knew what they were getting into but they decided it was worth it. They wanted to help students like me become people who could make a difference in the world. The hope of what their students could become is enough.

Do you want to understand good stewardship? Chances are you can look no further than your favorite teacher. Thanks to all mine that through the years showed me that to give of oneself freely and without counting the cost was a path worth walking.