Father Jacques Hamel, Pray for Us

Posted on July 27, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

Father Jacques HamelThe recent murder of Father Jacques Hamel is too horrible to imagine. How it happened is contained in an article from the UK’s Mirror. Let us pray for our world and ask for Fr. Hamel’s intercession, for he is a martyr who now is with God.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

2473 Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death. The martyr bears witness to Christ who died and rose, to whom he is united by charity. He bears witness to the truth of the faith and of Christian doctrine. He endures death through an act of fortitude. “Let me become the food of the beasts, through whom it will be given me to reach God.”

Are You Rich?

Posted on July 26, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, July 31, 2016, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 31Are you rich? Most of us, if asked, would think immediately of material possessions when considering whether or not we are rich. Wealth, as it is commonly considered, is about what we own—money, cars, houses, and the like. Yet in Sunday’s narrative from the Gospel of Luke (12:13-21), Jesus points to a different sort of wealth: “Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”

What matters to God? We can point to the whole of sacred Scripture and our faith tradition to point to the things we should treasure, and these could be summed up very succinctly: life, faith, right relationship with God and others. In fact, the encounter between Jesus and the scholar of the law, which we heard on July 10 might still be ringing in our minds and hearts: “‘Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘What is written in the law? How do you read it?’ He said in reply, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’” And, remember, Jesus continued to teach by sharing the parable of the Good Samaritan. What matters to God? Mercy, love, forgiveness, compassion: the very qualities we know and are taught through Jesus.

All of the readings this Sunday, the first reading from the Book of Ecclesiastes, the second reading from the Letter to the Colossians, alongside the Gospel narrative, may ring particularly true for those who find their days and weeks focused on the pursuit of material wealth and the social status that results from being “rich” in the eyes of others. It is good for us to take stock of our lives from time to time, and Sunday’s readings call us to do so. In the second reading from the Letter to the Colossians, we are directed to “seek what is above” and to “put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly.” This is not to pit temporal matters against those of heaven, but rather to focus our lives, attitudes, and actions through the lens of faith. The “earthly” things that are listed in the reading are to be avoided because they are sinful: “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.” Notice that Jesus does not condemn possessions but rather the reliance on them and also instructs us to avoid the greed that often accompanies the desire for earthly wealth: “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” We need readings such as these to call us to pause and consider our lives in light of the call of Christ, to love the least and to lay down our lives for the sake of others.

Yet, how often do we describe others by what they do, own, and have, rather than their qualities and the ways in which they embody Gospel values? The reality is that for many of us, our possessions do sometimes possess us; the desire for more results in our having less of what truly matters. Greed takes hold; the endless pursuit of objects becomes idolatrous. We look at others in light of what they own, and we measure our lives in similar terms. Especially in this moment in the US, we are also called to consider these questions as a nation: in what ways does our country and its policies embody Christ’s way of caring for the least among us, showing compassion, mercy, and love?

In Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, the late Archbishop Thomas Murphy shared an experience in which he was confronted with the need for serious surgery. As he prepared for surgery, he found himself reflecting on his life and wondering, “What do I own, and what owns me?” (p. 39). We might ask ourselves the same question today.

Leisa Anslinger

PRAYER

I beg of you, my Lord,
to remove anything which separates
me from you, and you from me.

Remove anything that makes me unworthy
of your sight, your control, your reprehension;
of your speech and conversation,
of your benevolence and love.

Cast from me every evil
that stands in the way of my seeing you,
hearing, tasting, savoring, and touching you;
fearing and being mindful of you;
knowing, trusting, loving, and possessing you;
being conscious of your presence

and, as far as may be, enjoying you.
This is what I ask for myself
and earnestly desire from you.
Amen.

Prayer for Detachment, St. Peter Faber

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To Serve or Be Served

Posted on July 25, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

Called to ServeLet’s be real. It’s awesome to be at an all-inclusive resort, a five star hotel, or a top restaurant, and be catered to like you were royalty, people bending over backwards to make sure you are happy.

No matter who you are and no matter the simplicity you have been able to create in your life, being pampered is a wonderful experience.

But Jesus taught us, “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be the servant, (Mark 10:43).”

Can you and I bring that pampering experience and service mentality into our daily lives when interacting with others? Imagine a world where everyone desired to serve one another with the same vigor of those in a great hotel.

Imagine politicians that truly sought to be servants. Imagine a world where neighbors were always genuinely concerned about the needs of those who lived around them.

We are called to this stewardship way of life because we truly are our brother and sister’s keeper. We have been given gifts by God to enrich the lives of those around us for His greater glory. If we seek to transform our world into the one we are imagining, we must begin somewhere. We must begin with ourselves. The world will be transformed, one servant at a time.

Stewards of Our Strengths at the 54th Annual ICSC Conference

Posted on July 25, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

When my parish first began its stewardship journey, it was not uncommon to have conversations that began like this: “I understand the need to be a good steward of my time. Each of us only has so many hours in a day, and we never know when our life will end. I ‘get’ that we need to be stewards of our treasure.

StewardshipEven though I always feel I need more money, I can learn to separate my wants from my needs. But stewards of our talents? What are our talents? What does it mean to be a steward of talent?” For many years, we searched for ways to help people become aware of and grow as stewards of their talents. That is one of the many reasons why we were so excited when we discovered StrengthsFinder .

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5 Ways to Create a More Welcoming Parish

Posted on July 22, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

 

My wife and I have an area of our church where we like to sit with our two boys. We are not the people who have our “pew” but do have our section. Sound familiar?

For the past few months, our pastor’s homilies have centered on the theme of welcoming. One that stuck with me was called “pew hospitality” and the idea that parishioners should move to the center of their pews so others didn’t have to climb over them to get to their seats.

Since that Sunday, I have always moved the middle of the pew. It’s a simple idea, but can have a real impact on how visitors view your church.

 Create a More Welcoming Parish

 

 

 

 

 

NumberOneLeave the first few rows of parking open for guests

Ask parishioners to arrive a little early and park further away.

If someone hasn’t attended church for a while, they are more likely to leave if they can’t find somewhere to park.

 

NumberTwoRemove the doorstops
Ask a few parishioners on your hospitality committee to welcome your guests and hold the door for them when they enter the church. This creates a more personal, inviting experience for everyone.

For more tips on building a vibrant church greeter ministry, click here.

 

NumberThreeAsk families to be greeters

A parent and child can be a terrific greeting team, keeping it fun and lighthearted, while serving in a ministry together.

 

 

NumberFourInclude a note about welcoming children and babies into Mass
Let visitors and parishioners know that their babies and children are welcome at Mass. Last weekend, there were two babies in our pew and it brought smiles to people’s faces as they made sounds during Mass.

 

 

NumberFiveAsk people for feedback

Once you’ve taken some initial steps to become a more welcoming parish, ask some members of your family or friends who don’t attend your church to visit and give you their honest feedback. Take it to heart and make improvements when necessary.

 

God’s Generosity

Posted on July 21, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

God's GenerosityMy father would always say to me when I was growing up, “Whatever is mine is yours.” He was always very generous toward me, and if I am being truthful, probably spoiled me. We were not a rich family by any measure, but I never really wanted for anything. If I asked, I received.

In Luke 11, Jesus tells us our heavenly Father is similar to my father, but God is profoundly more generous. However, I am not sure many of us really believe that.

When growing up we ask our earthly parents for all sorts of things, some requests being large but many being small. My own three children ask me for things all the time. If God is more generous with me than I am with my own three children, how come I find myself mostly asking God for things when all my other options have run out or my back is against the wall? We make deals with God in our moment of despair or fear, but when things were great we asked for little or sometimes nothing at all.

We need God and his generosity 365 days a year. Better than that, God wants us to ask for things and learn to rely on him. There is no strength in walking in this world alone.

God wants to be the source of all our strength. That is one reason why at every hour of the day, somewhere in the world, Mass is being celebrated and his children are receiving him in the Holy Eucharist. If God can become Man, die and rise again, and then humble himself in the elements of bread and wine to be close to you, do you not think he will respond to your everyday simple requests?

May God’s generosity flow to you in great abundance for His love knows no limits.

Sowing for a Full Harvest

Posted on July 20, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

Parable of the SowerToday’s Gospel has Jesus telling us the parable of the sower. This story has so many implications and important themes for a modern world. It would seem that too many have uncultivated hearts where the seed of the Good News falls on rocky soil and bears no growth. Also, too often we spend our lives planting seeds where little or no growth is possible.

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Talking About Strengths

Posted on July 19, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

Talking About StrengthsI am attending the Gallup Strengths Summit in Omaha for the next couple days. It is the first gathering of trained Gallup Strengths coaches, with coaches coming from all around the world. To spend time with people who have a similar passion for helping others unlock the potential of the gifts and talents that God has given them is truly a blessing.

Years ago, when I began working with the StrengthsFinder assessment in my parish, the primary goal was never to get more people to do more stuff for the church. It was always to help people uncover the unique and wonderful person that God created, or as Matthew Kelly might say, to become the best version of themselves.

I believe that the Church has a responsibility to help people realize their gifts and talents, and then subsequently, their God-given potential. A fruit of these efforts is that a parish can easily become more vibrant with more people sharing the load and giving off themselves freely. But at the end of the day, understanding your giftedness is a pathway to a stronger relationship with your Creator, and that really is the MAIN THING.

In your parish, church, or house of worship, do you have a process by which people can uncover their gifts? So many people want to give of themselves, but they are not always aware of what they have to give. If those in your communities and congregations can’t find out about their unique gifts and talents in your hands, where else can they go? Why should they go anywhere else?

If you need advice or help starting a strengths ministry in your faith community, feel free to contact me. I would love to help.

Taking Responsibility for Each Other

Posted on July 18, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, July 24, 2016, 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mother Teresa quote and image taken from QuoteHD.com.

The turmoil of the past few weeks—another terrorist attack in France , police shootings, and the violent protests that followed—call to mind the words of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta:

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

Our society has fractured into numerous factions.  Republican and Democrat, black and white, progressive and conservative are unable to talk to each other and quick to blame one another for whatever tragedies we suffer. In fact, we much sooner blame conservatives for gun violence and liberals for terrorist attacks than we do those who actually commit the atrocities.

Listening to all the rancor vulgarly displayed in the media makes one wonder if we should bring back the Old Testament practice of mourning in sackcloth and ashes. Perhaps as a country what we need more than anything else is a time of silence to grieve for all the lives lost and all the families affected by the violence of the past year. Maybe by closing our mouths and simply shedding tears together, we might be reminded that, despite our differences, we really do belong to each other.

In this Sunday’s first reading, we witness a beautiful example of one man showing mercy and love to others. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah were not Abraham’s kin. In fact, there can be little doubt that their reputed violence, inhospitality, and debauchery deeply offended him. It would be understandable for him to take pleasure in seeing God’s justice done. Yet Abraham begged God to have mercy on them. Though they were not his people, Abraham had a sense that he belonged to them and that they belonged to him. For that reason, he felt compelled to intercede for them and bargain for their lives.

In his recent encyclical on care for God’s creation, Laudato Si, Pope Francis remarks about Noah, “All it takes is one good person to restore hope!” (LS 71). In Sodom and Gomorrah, as few as ten good people would have prevented the destruction of those cities. In our society today, it would not take many of us to turn the tide of destruction and avert further violence. All we need to do is put aside our agendas, drop whatever label we have chosen to hang around our neck, and listen to one another. No matter what our backgrounds, we have something to learn from each other. If we can stop calling each other names and raising suspicions about each other’s motives, we might actually come to understand that what unites us is so much greater than what divides us.

Once we understand that we belong to each other, we will not need political parties, social agendas, or race to define our identity. Seeing ourselves as children of God, we will come to understand that we are all brothers and sisters. Just as all the violence of the past year has begun with one person inflicting harm on another, just so this revolution of compassion can be initiated simply by one person deciding to listen to her neighbor without judging or condemning. Then we might experience healing, peace, and, finally, justice.

And, in case you are not convinced of the power of one simple gesture of love and compassion, consider the example of one young Portuguese soccer fan who consoled a crying French fan after his team lost the Euro 2016 championship. All of us should consider doing the same to someone who is hurting today.

Douglas Sousa, STL

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,
we are all your children.
How quick we are to choose lesser identities.
How slow we are to see each other
as brothers and sisters.
How quick we are to speak
and how slow we are to listen.
How quick we are to judge
and how slow we are to understand.
Give us the spirit of Abraham to work for mercy
rather than for ruthless justice.
Give us a spirit of intercession
rather than of condemnation.
and give us peace.

We ask this in the name of the Prince of Peace,
Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Amen.

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