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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Stewardship Part One

One of my responsibilities at St. Joan is to encourage and deepen the idea of Catholic, Christian Stewardship in the parish. Because I'm the "Business Manager", everyone assumes I'm interested only in the money.

Well, I am.

No, not really.

I AM interested in the fact that a parish of this size is reaching only 30-40% of its "tithing potential" and it does interest me to hear the reasons people give for that. As someone who grew up in a faith tradition that encouraged and expected the Biblical Tithe to be a pretty good guiding point, it is difficult to comprehend the difference in social/cultural perspective on this issue.

I am also interested, though, in the other two "arms" of the Stewardship triangle: talent, and time. As I said during a lunch discussion recently, someone who only gives lots of money and thinks, "well, I give a lot of cash to make up for not being there for anything other than weekly Mass" is missing out as much as someone who says, "I give of my time every day, volunteering and helping out, to make up for the fact I don't want to give away my money."

So, I'm trying to draw that idea out in a series of articles for the parish newsletter. Below is the first, published at the end of May, and will be followed by the second, published at the end of June. There are at least three more in this series, upcoming.

******* Stewardship as a Means of Conversion ***********

There is a brochure available in the bookrack under the bulletin board located near the elevator. It bears the title, Stewardship, Tithing, and Sacrificial Giving: Our Response to the Gifts God Has Given Us. It is ambitious to believe all of those topics could be covered adequately in one brochure, but hopefully you will find the information there to be a useful introduction to those issues.

Over the next few months, I would like to touch on those same ideas here in Voices, starting with the often heard – but sometimes elusive – concept of Stewardship.

The basic premise of Catholic Stewardship is simple: God is the giver of everything we have. He is the source of our abilities, our possessions, and our very life. We are responsible, then, for safeguarding and utilizing those gifts in a way that is pleasing to God. When we do this, we are being stewards of our resources.

The common premise in Stewardship materials is reflected in the phrase, “Talent, Time, and Treasure.” These are the things we have been given by God to manage, and the areas where we are encouraged to give back to the Lord a portion of what he has blessed us with.

But on a deeper level, the “Talent, Time, and Treasure” mantra is specifically focused to address those areas of our lives which subtly and slyly become roadblocks in our Christian development; the areas where we begin to forget our total dependence on God in favor of relying on our own abilities, our own wealth, our own freedom. It is easy to forget – or at least ignore – God’s role in providing us with these things. By giving back from what we have been given, we not only are reminded of the source from which our blessings come, but we demonstrate our respect the Giver.

The call to stewardship, then, is a call to conversion: conversion of our hearts to recognize and honor the gifts of our Creator. As Catholics, we attend Mass at least weekly, pray on a regular basis, and perform works of charity in an effort to tune our individual will to the Divine Will. In a similar manner, stewardship should be a means of Grace through which we strive to be in tune with the Divine Will in the areas which we often find to be barriers to a deeper communion with God: our pride, our possessions, and our personal freedom.

Stewardship is our continual effort to put God first in every area of our life.


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