Good Hospitality

Posted on July 14, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

Good hospitalityWhen we realize we are going to have company, my family and I swing into motion with a frenzy.

  • No dust shall be present for our guests.
  • The bathrooms shall be spotless and toilets worthy of the name “throne.”
  • We must run at top speed to the store for an endless supply of refreshments and snacks to greet our distinguished guests.

We never want to be seen as bad hosts and, of course the real reason for all the commotion, we never want to be seen in our natural habitat of messy rooms and barren kitchens.

But what is real hospitality that encourages good stewardship and helps people feel a sense of belonging?

In the Gospel of Luke, Mary knew. Martha was so busy preparing and serving, while Mary simply sat with Jesus and listened to him. This is not to say that she did not prepare for her guest by making a proper place for gathering. But when a guest is already received, true hospitality begins with being present to them and engaging them.

Part of the message of this story is that we all need to pause and listen to the Good News that Jesus preaches, but we can also learn a lesson about good hospitality.

How many times have we been more concerned with appearances and outward things than what we have inside each of us to share?

  • Christian hospitality calls for the Jesus in me to meet with the Jesus in you.
  • We are called to be fully present to one another, with no distractions of technology or the world standing in our way.

This is choosing “the better part.” For what does it profit a man if he has a spotless home with the best technology available to man, but loses a conversation with his brother or sister to the game on television?

You, Me, or Us?

Posted on July 13, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

God is My Co-Pilot license plateI was reading about all the speculation occurring over Presidential running mates and a vision of a license plate entered into my mind: “God is My Co-Pilot.” I am sure you have seen these, although I have to admit they do not seem to be as prevalent today as they were twenty years ago.

The plate is an interesting statement, kind of tongue-in-cheek to some. I don’t believe that Donald or Hillary will be choosing God as their running mate, but I would like to believe that whoever leads our country at least has some reliance on God.

But some days, I’m not sure.

From a Christian point-of-view, “God is My Co-Pilotsimply doesn’t say enough about our experience as sons and daughters of God living in community. It does, however, speak to the reality that we work hand-in-hand with God in this world.

The words of St. Teresa of Avila echo this idea—“Christ has no body now but yours.” But “God is My Co-Pilot” speaks only about a relationship of twoyou and God. The true Body of Christ is not made up of you and God, it is made up of us and God.

This is a point that is more important than many seem to realize. We live in a time where excessive cults of personality and extreme individualism have led us to where we think ONE PERSON will save the day or make all the difference. Unfortunately, this will never be true in our world or in our Church.

Our world needs Jesus more than ever. Our world needs healing. And no single man or woman will be enough to make all the difference. No candidate will really be able to save the day. No individual follower of Jesus, even with God by their side, will change the tide.

Our hope can only rest in a people who work together as one, with the claim that GOD IS OUR CO-PILOT.

A Hospitality of Presence

Posted on July 12, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, July 17, 2016, 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Painting of Christ with Martha & Mary by H. Siemiradzki
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, “Speak tenderly to them. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don’t give your care, but give your heart as well.” Living the Gospel is not simply about providing a service to people in need but about a quality of being. Hospitality is not just about opening our doors but opening our very souls.

All too often we fall into the trap of thinking that our mission as Christians is convincing people that they need to adopt our agenda. We welcome them to a point but then when they do not completely fit with the specs of our program, the wall goes up. Rather, the mission of the Gospel, which is a mission of hospitality, is about welcoming others where they are and with their particular needs and desires; it is more about listening than it is about doing.

The Gospel this weekend portrays Martha and Mary, the doer and the listener. Practical sense tells us that both are necessary. Yet, we struggle with both in our lives. We can identify with Mary but we are really more attracted to Martha. Martha’s the objective one, her script is specified. She can make the grocery list, plan the day, mix the ingredients, set the table, and do all of the stuff that is required of a perfect hospitable host! Mary is the subjective one whose script is not specified. She is the one who is comfortable with spontaneity. She brings a quality of presence to a situation rather than making sure that the china is free of cracks. Having not really encountered Jesus before, she needs to be ready to think on her feet, set her agenda aside, and desire a relationship. Mary is the one who takes the art of hospitality to the Gospel level by truly welcoming and not only serving.

The first reading from Genesis underscores this same theme. Abraham’s hospitality to three strangers demonstrates the need to open oneself to the stranger, to hear what he or she has to say. The better part of hospitality is being attentive to the guest, to what he has to say, what he has to offer, and what he truly needs. This is the core of biblical righteousness and justice.

When a person is open to another and is disposed to authentic listening, he or she can begin to understand what our psalmist exhorts: “One who walks blamelessly and does justice; who thinks the truth in his heart and slanders not with his tongue.” “He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.” Jesus went into people’s homes, sat down, and listened. He didn’t go in with an agenda, insist that they comply with a particular set of teachings in order to enter the kingdom of God, or chide them for living a life unworthy of God’s calling. Jesus just sat there. By a quality of presence miracles happened, lives changed.

There is something very attractive about rules, rituals, and proper prayers. In the journey of coming to know and develop a relationship with God, they are necessary and serve a vital purpose. Martha serves a vital purpose. Beyond task orientation however lies the depth of contemplation. This happens at that point in our relationship with God when we begin to move beyond that which is required and tangible and learn how to see, hear, listen, and connect differently. Contemplation happens when we begin to change and our souls are engaged in dialogue with all of creation and all of God’s children.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta fell in love with Jesus and was then able to fall in love with all of those individuals who needed her care. The relationship she had with Jesus changed her inwardly and made her a temple of hospitality in a most authentic way. She was able to place herself at the feet of the people she served and truly minister to their needs and desires. And we can do the same if we risk allowing the Spirit to move us out of our comfort zones to a different, less predictable place.

As we learn how to listen and begin allowing God to change how we see and understand, it may seem at first that we are wasting time. Over time, however, our relationships will change dramatically and we will realize that we too have chosen the better part.

Rev. Mark S. Suslenko


St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection
against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the divine power of God,
cast into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who wander through the world
seeking the ruin of souls.

—Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel

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A Novena for Peace

Posted on July 11, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

Novena for PeaceIn light of the events of last week, I wanted to share with you a call by the Knights of Columbus for a novena for peace starting this Thursday. You certainly do not need to be a Knight to pray and I believe there is always great power in the combined prayer of many. The text of their request is as follows: (more…)

Bring Your Bulletin to Life with Color

Posted on July 7, 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.

Here are a few changes that make this bulletin really stand out:


True Stewardship

Posted on July 7, 2016 by - Everyday Stewardship

Samaritan Stained Glass Window

What does it mean to give of yourself completely, without reservation, without fear, and without a concern for the cost? Should it matter if the person who needs us is unlike us in skin color, religion, or nationality?

What does real mercy look like?

Jesus answered these questions beautifully in perhaps the greatest of the stewardship parables, the story of the Good Samaritan. Here a Judean traveler has been attacked, beaten, and left for dead on the side of the road. Others see him, but the cost to them to stop and help is too great. It is a Samaritan, one who is despised by most in the area, that stops and he gives of his time, talent, and treasure to help the poor victim. (more…)

Just How Good Was the Good Samaritan?

Posted on July 5, 2016 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, July 10, 2016, 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Parable of the Good Samaritan painting by Jan Wijnants, 1670.

Go ahead and perform a Google search for news stories about Good Samaritans. You will find a wide range of stories about people doing all sorts of kind acts:

The term is so widely and commonly used, it is at the point where a person performing any act of kindness whatsoever is labeled a Good Samaritan. I love reading and hearing all these stories about good deeds, but most don’t really tell the story of a Good Samaritan. When Jesus told the parable, he was talking about more than just a good deed.

In fact, the parable was intended to provoke and cause discomfort and was not intended to be a feel-good story. He told the story about a traveler who suffered through great violence, to the point it was obvious to anyone passing by how badly he needed assistance. It was then the very people who spoke of holiness and devoted themselves to God that chose to pass by the beaten man without stopping. Would they be attacked also? If the man were to die, would they then be made unclean? Was this man worthy of their time and effort?

It was a Samaritan, despised by those listening to the parable, who risked his life and made himself vulnerable in order to stop and do the right thing. Unlike the nice guy who may get your cat out of the tree or the young lady who may return a found wallet to police, most listening to this tale did not think about Jesus’ Good Samaritan, “What a wonderful man!” Instead, they got the message loud and clear: It isn’t the one that speaks about love of thy neighbor that is righteous, but the one who actually acts out of love of that neighbor.

I am not saying the good deeds reported in the news are not worthy of mention. I think these good people serve as great examples to us all. But these are not stories of enemies suddenly becoming friends, and honestly, shouldn’t we all be able to perform many of these acts at any time without much thought? It is more about being decent human beings than being disciples of Jesus Christ.

The parable Jesus told also has more to it than just a single act. In terms of stewardship catechesis, the Samaritan does something that is above and beyond the call. After taking the attacked man to an inn, he offers to pay any expense for the man’s stay when he passes through again. The Samaritan has risked much already, has gone to the trouble of not only stopping but carrying the man to an inn, and now he states that whatever the cost, he will pay it. Imagine him walking into the inn, a place where perhaps his kind was not welcome. Here he could be taken advantage off, or much worse. Who is to say that the innkeeper would not then double the price due to the Samaritan’s generosity?

The first conviction of the US Bishops’ pastoral letter, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, is labeled The Challenge, and it says we are called to be mature disciples that answer the call of Jesus Christ, regardless of the cost. To be a true disciple of Jesus means that there are no limits to our generosity. Yes, many days the call of Jesus will require a little bit of you and me. We won’t have to dig deep and give that which hurts. But some days, it will require seemingly everything we have been given. We will be asked to risk it all, to maybe even put ourselves in danger. But maturity in faith means that we will have the courage to say yes to the call.

Yes, life is made so much better when more and more people decide to do random acts of kindness or good deeds for their fellow brothers and sisters. But these things may also be seen as dress rehearsals for when the real call comes to lay it all on the line. Will it be to give your life for another or for your country? Will it be to give the gift of life in some way? Will it be to give of your finances until sacrifice becomes a daily reality? When that time comes, call to mind the Good Samaritan in the parable. He was more than a nice guy. It is going to take more than a kind demeanor for you to respond positively. It is going to take an awesome faith and trust in a power much greater than yourself.

Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS


O my God,
I love you above all things with my whole heart and soul,
because you are all good and worthy of all my love.
I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you.
I forgive all who have injured me
and I ask pardon of those whom I have injured.

Act of Love, traditional

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Making Second Collections Easier

Posted on July 1, 2016 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Sometimes it’s the Diocese. Sometimes it’s a mission parish that you support in another country. Sometimes it’s a local ministry.

Whatever the cause happens to be, Catholic churches have a variety of second collections where the basket comes around again. And your parishioners often need to write two checks and bring two envelopes that week.

Not the easiest way to handle second collections.

Image 2When LPi created our online giving tool WeShare, we made a commitment to our parish customers to build the easiest, most robust, and best online giving program available for the Catholic Church.