On a Lawnmower for Love

Posted on June 16, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

There once lived a man named Alvin Straight. He lived in Iowa and his brother Henry lived in Wisconsin. Alvin loved his brother.

In 1994, at the age of eighty, Henry had a stroke. Alvin, in his late seventies himself, could not imagine not being there for the brother he loved, but he had no driver’s license and he was uneasy about forms of public transportation. So Alvin climbed aboard his riding lawnmower and set out on a 240-mile journey that eventually led him to Henry. (more…)

Bring Your Bulletin To Life With Color

Posted on June 15, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, recently took advantage of the latest print technology offered by LPi and upgraded its entire bulletin to full color, transforming it into a beautiful, vibrant communications tool for the parish.

First, you need to know that LPi did not create this awesome bulletin transformation—the parish did. But you will never believe who on the parish staff created this engaging new design. It was Joe Kallenberger, Director of Administrative Services for the church. Joe started with a strong overall color palette and organized their content into different color blocks. With the use of such vibrant colors, the white space stands out in greater contrast and improves the visual flow for the reader.

We love that Our Lady of Lourdes uses its weekly bulletin less for dates and times and more for communicating the good news of Jesus Christ. To see the parish’s most recent color bulletins online visit its website at www.ololmke.org.

Here Are A Few Changes That Make This Bulletin Really Stand Out
Original Bulletin

The limited color palette makes it difficult to highlight the most important content, even with an effective use of white space.

 

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Where is the Happiest Place on Earth?

Posted on June 15, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

Have you ever been to Disneyland or Disney World? Disney is quite an amazing operation. What they do to make your visit as memorable as possible is perhaps the most amazing. The great sense of hospitality, the cleanliness of the park, and the attention to detail are ways they try to make you feel that you are at the “happiest place on earth.”

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A Lesson We Were Not Prepared For

Posted on June 14, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, June 19, 2016, 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Man carrying cross on his back.

It was my first day as a college student. Arriving at an Introduction to Education course, we found a chair placed in the middle of the room, facing the student desks. The professor asked one student to sit in the chair, facing the rest of us, and she was given a mirror. She was told to address the person in the mirror, to express whatever she wanted to say to herself, aloud, with the class watching and listening. Then, one by one, each of us were called forward. As a painfully shy seventeen-year-old, this was almost more than I could manage. I remember thinking to myself, “What is her point?” After all of us had gone through the exercise, the professor explained. “You cannot hope to teach anyone anything unless you know yourself, are comfortable in your own skin, are prepared to be yourself in the presence of others.” This was a lesson I had not expected to learn—I can admit now that I did not really want to learn the lesson then, but fully grasp the professor’s wisdom now. This was for me, and I imagine for many of the other students, the real beginning of education. We began to learn what it means to be a person.

The apostles in Sunday’s Gospel were presented with a lesson for which they were not prepared. They had followed Jesus from town to town; they had witnessed miraculous healings, heard his teaching, and had come to believe that he is the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah. Now, at the very moment in which Peter voiced their conviction about his identity, Jesus directed them not to tell anyone what they have come to understand. Not only this, he told them he will be rejected, suffer, die, and rise—what must they have thought? They might have wondered, “What is his point?” This is not the sort of life they had envisioned as disciples of the Messiah! There is more. Jesus told them, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Jesus understands the inner conversion of heart and spirit the apostles must embrace in order to be his disciples in the world. He has predicted his own suffering and death, which the apostles cannot possibly yet grasp. He is asking them to change their expectations—the Messiah is not a temporal king who will overturn Roman rule. The Messiah is the One who shows us how to abandon false notions of power and control, lose our lives to God’s will, and love beyond our limited human imagination.

We deny ourselves when we fall into negative behavioral patterns, denying our self-worth and failing to recognize the impact of such behavior on others. This is not the sort of self-denial Jesus commands. Jesus’ call to self-denial is the call to humbly give our lives to God, trusting that all will be well. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians underlines the change of mind and heart that results from this trusting faith. In Christ, there is no room for division or prejudice due to ethnic origin, social status, or gender. Those who are clothed with Christ are to be unified in mission as children of God. This is a lesson we may not be ready to learn, yet must. The lesson is twofold: First, we must pray for an open mind and heart, that we may be conformed to Christ’s way of humble fulfillment of the Father’s loving will. To “deny yourself” will require each of us to some specific movement of human and spiritual growth, which is in itself a lifelong process of ongoing conversion.

Secondly, we take up our own crosses, the daily deaths, burdens, and struggles that we bear, while standing in solidarity with those whose crosses are greater than our own. This weekend, we learned again a lesson that none of us wants to learn. Violence and terror are again on our minds; images of grieving families again fill media; our hearts hurt for the victims and their families, and wonder what our Christian response must be. We take up the cross with all who are hurting through the senseless violence and terror, knowing this is one act among many. The statements of Pope Francis and Archbishop Kurtz (president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) voice our solidarity with all who suffer in Orlando. Archbishop Cupich of Chicago calls us to act as Christ’s people in the world, seeking the end to such senseless violence. Whether in the relatively mundane aspects of daily life, or in the larger moments of challenge in acting faithfully as a person in the world, we must be true to our master teacher, Jesus, the Christ of God. And what is Jesus’ “point” for our lives? “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

Leisa Anslinger

PRAYER

O Lord,
give us a mind
that is humble, quiet, peaceable,
patient, and charitable,
and a taste of your Holy Spirit
in all our thoughts, words, and deeds.

O Lord,
give us a lively faith, a firm hope,
a fervent charity, a love of you.

Take from us all lukewarmness in meditation
and all dullness in prayer.
Give us fervor and delight in thinking of you,
your grace, and your tender compassion toward us.

Give us, good Lord,
the grace to work for
the things we pray for.

—St. Thomas More

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No Longer I

Posted on June 9, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

It is interesting the number of high school juniors and seniors that start getting involved in many school clubs, civic organizations, and even church activities. Don’t get me wrong. The work they do is often greatly needed in the communities in which they spend their time and give of their talent.

And I get it, since I have encouraged my own children to get more involved. However, many of these teens were missing in action during the first years of high school. There is one major motivator that gets them going and parents like me pushing: college applications.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if more people, regardless of their age, gave of themselves on a more regular and consistent basis? Too many of us need college applications or job resumes as motivation to get involved. (more…)

Tears of Sorrow, Tears of Joy

Posted on June 7, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, June 12, 2016, 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Eye

In October 2009, Abby Johnson worked as the manager of a Planned Parenthood facility in Texas. Witnessing an abortion on ultrasound convinced her of the brutality and immorality of the procedure. From that time, she has worked to uncover what goes on behind the walls of abortion facilities throughout the country. She founded the pro-life ministry And Then There Were None to reach out to those who work in the abortion industry, to help them to transition out, and to find healing and forgiveness. Her first book, Unplanned, tells the dramatic story of her decision to leave Planned Parenthood and how God has used her to bring hope and healing to women like her who have been the victims of abortion.

In her latest book, The Walls Are Talking, she, along with several other former abortion workers, tell the story of their experiences in the industry. One of the heart-rending stories is that of a woman she calls Angie. Coming into the clinic for her ninth abortion, she appeared to be calm, joking with the staff, and conversing easily with them up to and even during the procedure. While in the recovery room, she asked if she could see the fetus. Typically the staff would not have allowed it, but because Angie appeared to be so calm and had already gone through so many abortions, the supervisor allowed it.

Upon looking at the twelve-week fetus, however, she became hysterical and wailed uncontrollably. Up to that time, she imagined that her unborn child was just a gelatin blob of tissue. Now she was confronted with the reality of the lives she ended. Because the customers waiting in the lobby were becoming agitated with her screaming, the staff got her boyfriend to go into the bathroom, pick her up off the floor where she continued sobbing, and take her out into the parking lot.

The scene is somewhat similar to the story in this Sunday’s first reading from Second Samuel. To take Bathsheba as his own wife, King David has Uriah the Hittite killed. However, he is not convinced of the evil he has committed until the prophet Nathan shows it to him through the parable of the lamb. Seeing his actions for what they are, he is able to experience true sorrow for his sins. Though he must suffer the consequences of his actions, he can now find forgiveness.

To find forgiveness, we must first be convinced of our sinfulness. Mercy ultimately has no value if we are unaware that we have done wrong. Sometimes it takes a dramatic event, like Angie’s experience of seeing her unborn child, or the words of a wise friend, like Nathan’s words to King David, to shake us out of our denial and fully accept responsibility for our wrongdoing. Whatever the means and whoever the messenger, coming to conversion is the first step to forgiveness and healing.

The story of the penitent woman in Luke’s Gospel drives this point home even further. This woman, known to all as a sinful woman, lavishes ointment and tears on Jesus’ feet and dries them with her hair. Grieving over her sins, she turns to the One who has shown her mercy and finds forgiveness. The experience of God’s mercy in Jesus then produces love.

Simon the Pharisee, in contrast, is convinced of his righteousness. Therefore, he cannot overlook his judgement of the woman as a sinner. At the same time, he cannot see mercy flowing from Jesus’ heart and judges him unworthy of being a prophet. If Simon could be convinced of his own sinfulness, then he would be able to experience Jesus’ mercy for himself and then, be capable of loving. However, he remains locked within his own smug self-assurance in denial of his need for a savior.

Like the penitent woman, our tears of sorrow can become tears of joy when we accept forgiveness from Jesus. And that joy then radiates out in love that compels us to tell our story to others so that they too can experience healing and forgiveness in Jesus. We do not know if Angie ever found forgiveness, healing, and peace after her ninth abortion. We do know, however, that it is possible. It is our job, now, not to sit in condemnation of others but to bring them to the mercy of Jesus because we have experienced his love firsthand.

Douglas Sousa, STL

PRAYER

Dear Lord,
your word tells us
that we have all sinned
and fallen short of your glory.
Give us perfect and true sorrow for our sins.
May that conviction not lead us to despair,
but to reach out to you with tears of sorrow
and, receiving your forgiveness,
may we reach out to others with love,
never condemning but always welcoming,
for you have welcomed us
in the person of Jesus, our Lord.
Amen.

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Embodied Mercy

Posted on June 7, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

In Matthew chapters 5-7 Jesus delivers the greatest sermon the world has ever known. Christians should read these three chapters frequently.  In fact, we would do well to memorize them.

But these chapters (also known as The Sermon on the Mount) can make us squirm a bit. Jesus says counter-cultural things like, “[I]f anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well.” Jesus didn’t really mean that did he?

Some try to wiggle around these very challenging statements of Jesus by saying that The Sermon on the Mount is an ideal rather than a directive.

I’m just not sure about that. Is there any place in the gospels where Jesus referred to his teaching as an ideal rather than a command? I can’t imagine Jesus ever saying “You aren’t really expected to pull this off, but it’s nice to think about and a good goal to shoot for.”

So what is the Sermon on the Mount saying to us?

Practice mercy – gratuitous mercy.

Go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you…Living out The Sermon on the Mount is embodied mercy.

Will we practice these perfectly? Of course not. They are hard teachings. But we keep these mandates before us and we keep at it.

This is why we follow Jesus. He is radical mercy in the flesh. His words and actions, by the world’s standards, can be uncomfortable and at times seem foolish and difficult to agree with. But as my former theology professor used to say, “Why should the Teacher be crucified for reinforcing what everyone else already knows and believes?”

Chuck Frost, Pastoral Associate at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Roanoke, Virginia.

Stewardship: Not a Passing Trend

Posted on June 2, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

There have been many times in the Church where we as Catholics latch on to trends and movements, attracted by a new concept or idea of how we should practice our faith. I think back to the 1970’s, where art and environment seemed to explode into so many different directions.

We were trying out new liturgical music forms, new ways of setting the tone of a worship space, and new prayer experiences we often labeled at para-liturgical.

Even though some will look back with nostalgia or even fondness, a lot of it wasn’t very good for it distracted some from the source and summit of our faith: the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Mass.

I mean, how many burlap and felt banners are too many? Some might say, “One!”

Regardless of how one might look back at those days, the reality is that most of it has passed away. It originated from humans and their experiences of the time. It was not some Divine revelation of how things should be.

Skeptics will say talk of stewardship in the Church today is really just a trend and it will pass away. In fact, I have been at conferences where presenters have suggested that it is time to leave the term stewardship behind. They think this spirituality has a human origin.

But stewardship is a spirituality that comes out of the parables and the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Stewardship is more than the simple slogans we have used: The 3 T’s, an Attitude of Gratitude, and Sharing is Caring. It is about seeing all things as gifts from God, and the use of those gifts for His glory.

Stewardship is about total surrender to God, a complete lack of attachment to things of this world, and the giving of it all for eternal life in the next. It is about being a mature disciple.

And you can put that on a banner!

Mama Irene

Posted on June 1, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

My wife is always posting on social media about children who have been adopted or children who are seeking to be adopted. My wife was adopted. This fuels her desire for every child to have a family to call their own.

We have friends that have welcomed new members into their family by adoption. It’s a wonderful thing, and certainly a reflection of the love of God. But can you imagine adopting over 10 children? How about 20? 30? Surely over 40 would seem too unbelievable. But a few weeks ago a woman died who adopted 58 children in her life!

Do you want to be inspired? If you did not know of her already, I introduce you to Irene Bertoni, otherwise known as Mama Irene.

Mama Irene died on the feast of Pentecost this year at the age of 93. Her journey began when she was only eighteen years of age when she left home in a war-torn Italy to adopt two abandoned children. She met up with Fr. Zeno Saltini, who was also taking in orphans of World War II, and they formed the genesis of a community that became known as the “Little Apostles” and then Nomadelfia in 1948, which is Greek for the “law of brotherhood.”

Many more young women over the years would join Irene as “mothers of vocation.” Today, fifty families make up the Nomadelfia community in Tuscany, Italy. Over the years since WWII, over 5,000 children have been adopted by women in the community.

Mama Irene and Fr. Zeno had a vision of a world where love was the primary rule and the right to be loved belonged to everyone. As a result, they have left behind a tremendous legacy.

Perhaps you, like me, did not wake up this morning with an agenda to change the world. Adopting fifty-eight children seems like too much for most of us. But what can you do that is equally impactful?

What might God be calling you to do? You don’t think you can do anything that profound? Then you should spend some time reading scripture. There is a mountain out there with your name it, just waiting to be moved.