International Catholic Stewardship Council
e-Bulletin • December 2012
Stewardship and Christmas:
Turning the World Upside Down
For women in the ancient world, motherhood was prized and desired above almost all else. Sacred scripture tells of many women who pleaded with God to let them conceive. From Sarah, the mother of Isaac, to Eliza- beth, the mother of John the Baptist, the Bible is replete with women who finally, in their old age, were granted the gift of motherhood for which they had begged God. How marvelously significant it is, then, that in the town of Nazareth those many years ago, a
young girl named Mary, unmarried and probably feeling altogether unready for motherhood, was visited by an angel who delivered God’s plea: would she give God a child? Mary’s response is a model par excellence for all those who aspire to be good stewards: “Behold, I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk. 1:38).
And so the real mystery and beauty of Christmas is delivered: God turns the world upside down. In the words of the Magnificat, Mary proclaims the hope of every good steward: “My soul magnifies the Lord” (Lk. 1:46). He has dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart, lifted up the lowly, filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. Here is a new understanding of the God who de- sires not our begging and our pleas, but our ‘yes’ to God’s invitation to be active stewards in his plan of salvation. For the Christian steward, the consumerism, the gaudiness, the excesses of our cultural Christmas can be overcome by answering the call to live simpler lives, to use less, to feed the poor, to quiet ourselves in still- ness rather than grow louder in frenzied activity.
In her book The Vigil: Keeping Watch in the Season of Christ’s Coming, Profes- sor Wendy Wright from Creighton University writes: “The ancient desert dwellers of our early Christian communities tell us that the surest way into the heart of God is to be still. In being still we learn to be attentive to the vast and hidden stillness that permeates all things.”
In a world which prizes and desires wealth above so many things, the Chris- tian steward finds in the stillness the true hope which lies at the heart of Christmas. Christ has come, and he comes again and again, and finally in the end, Christ comes. Once again, God implores us to receive this child in the stillness of our hearts, and respond to his call to transform the world’s values – to turn the world upside down.
A STEWARDSHIP PRAYER
We cannot imagine your majesty, power and wonder
But your kindness and mercy reach from the heavens,
to show us the fruits of your Incarnation.
You have come to us as a small child,
the gift of your eternal love.
Caress us with your tiny hands, embrace us with your tiny arms, and soften our hearts with your tender voice
so that we might respond as humble stewards
We pray this through Christ, your Son
Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.
Adapted from a prayer by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
STEWARDSHIP SAINT FOR DECEMBER
Saint Peter Canisius, Doctor of the Church
Saint Peter Canisius was a Jesuit priest at the height of the many Protestant reformations in 16th cen- tury Europe. He is known as a pro- lific Catholic theologian, preacher, teacher and evangelizer.
Canisius was born in 1521 in the city of Nijmegen, now in the Netherlands, son of the city’s burgermeister (mayor). At age 15, he studied at the University of Co- logne, earning a master’s degree in 1540. Following his stewardship desire to serve God in the Church
in Germany, he became the first Dutchman to join the newly formed Society of Jesus in 1543.
Canisius became one of the most influential Catholics of his time. Through his teaching, preaching and writing, he led an historic renewal of the Catholic faith in southern Germany and Austria. Canisius wrote a number of books, preached retreats, founded the first German-speaking Jesuit colleges, and cared for the sick, reputedly traveling more than twen- ty thousand miles on foot or horseback. Because of these frequent trav- els, tedious and dangerous at the time, he became known as the Second Apostle of Germany after Saint Boniface. Canisius declined an appoint- ment to become Archbishop of Vienna in order to continue his evangeliz- ing ministry.
Renowned as a popular preacher, Canisius packed churches and was said to have been so eloquent and convincing that he attracted hundreds of Protestants back to the Catholic faith.
Canisius produced a well-organized and easily accessible German- language catechism, followed by two abbreviated versions: one for mid- dle school students and one for young children.
Canisius was influential with Emperor Ferdinand I, and participated in the Council of Trent. Devoted to the Virgin Mary, he is credited with adding to the Hail Mary the sentence Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners. When asked if he felt overworked, the energetic Canisius replied with a stewardship quote: “If you have too much to do, with God’s help you will find time to do it all.”
Canisius died on December 21, 1597 at age 76. Canonized and de- clared a Doctor of the Church in 1925, he is the patron saint of Germany. His feast day is December 21.
2012–2013 Essay Contest
Essays on Christian Stewardship in the Catholic Tradition
In the belief that young Catholics have much to say about the stewardship they exercise over their life of faith, the Inter- national Catholic Stewardship Council (ICSC) has, in this, its 50th anniversary year, established an Essay Contest on Christian Stewardship in the Catholic Tradition in order to hear and share the inspiring thoughts of young Catholic students.
Nine Prizes Awarded – three in each category:
Category 1 – Grades 9 to 12 Category 2 – Grades 7 to 8 Category 3 – Grades 5 to 6
Open to all Catholic Students in Grades 5 to 12.
We encourage students of all back- grounds and abilities to participate in the essay contest.
Submission deadline is March 15, 2013.
Complete contest rules and applica- tions are available online at www.catholicstewardship.org
Keeping Christ in Christmas by Feeding the Littlest Ones
The wonderful joy we feel in December as we await the coming of the Christ child is not so joyful for the millions of children in the United States who will go hungry this Christmas.
In every community in the United States where a county elec- tion commission announced the results of last month’s historic elections, children woke up hungry. They spent the day hungry. They went to bed hungry. In fact, more than 8 million children go to bed hungry every night (see “America’s Report Card 2012: Chil- dren in the U.S.” by First Focus and Save the Children).
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”
As many as 17 million children nationwide are affected by food insecurity, a phenomenon defined by experts as inconsistent access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life (see
“Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity 2011” conducted by Feeding America).
The consequences and costs of child hunger are severe. Research shows that lack of nutrition can permanently alter a
child’s brain architecture, stunting intellectual capacity and a child’s ability to learn and interact with others. With hunger comes more frequent sickness and higher healthcare costs; not to mention the resulting societal costs later on.
Many children will not enjoy a bountiful meal on Christmas day, or any day, and for many, there may be no festivities, no tree, no gifts. Christian stewards understand the obvious paradox as they celebrate the Incarnation of Christ as an in- nocent child.
Finding comprehensive remedies to hunger in the United States and worldwide is complex, subject to debate, and transcends politics and ideologies. But what is not subject to debate in Catholic social teaching is that Catholics don’t let children go hungry. Good stewards are motivated by the words of Blessed Mother Teresa: “Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”
Like the Good Samaritan, good stewards do not avert their eyes from the needs of the littlest ones who suffer in our own communities and neighborhoods. They know they are called to reach out. Blessed Mother Teresa also said: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” One way to keep Christ in Christmas is to Be Christ to a hungry child.
Sent to serve.
Dallas, Texas • September 22-25
hoLic Stewardship Council
Feast of Our Lady
On December 9, 1531 a poor Mexi- can Indian, Juan Diego, was walk- ing by a hill near his village when he heard beautiful music. Suddenly there appeared a radiant cloud and within it a young Indian maiden dressed as an Aztec princess. The young maiden spoke to the 57-year- old widower in his native language and directed him to visit the Arch- bishop of Mexico with a request that a chapel be built where she stood.
The archbishop demanded a sign of authenticity, and the maiden instructed Juan Diego to gather flow- ers from the top of the hill where they met. Even though December was too late in the growing season for flowers to bloom, Juan Diego was surprised to find Castilian roses, not native to Mexico.
On December 12, Juan Diego opened his cloak before the arch- bishop, the roses fell to the floor, and in their place the image of the young virgin was miraculously im- printed on the fabric. News spread quickly, and shortly thereafter an estimated nine million Indians con- verted to Catholicism.
Our Lady’s appearance to a poor, humble man is a compelling reminder that God’s loving em- brace is all-inclusive; and that our Church’s preferential option for the poor is a Gospel imperative.
10 Things You Can Do for the
Poor at Christmas
There are many things you can do during the Advent and Christmas sea- sons to assist efforts to alleviate hunger in your community. Whether you volunteer individually, as a family or as part of a group or parish, the pos- sibilities for serving the poor are almost limitless. Consider doing one or more of the 10 suggestions below:
1. Pray for the poor, and ask God to transform your own attitudes about those in need, realizing that all of us are poor in some way before God’s grace.
2. Suggest that a petition be added to the Prayers of the Faithful asking that the members of the parish community open their hearts to the poor.
3. Collect food items for a food pantry in your community.
4. Volunteer to assist a pantry for a day of sorting, bagging or distributing.
5. Buy fast food gift certificates to give out to people you see who need a meal or to those who request your aid on our downtown streets.
6. Ask your pastor or church staff if you could collect fast food and other gift certificates to be handed out to those in need who stop by the parish.
7. Volunteer at your parish or neighborhood soup kitchen.
8. Get your parish involved in observing World Hunger Sunday every year.
9. Make your own generous financial gift to an organization that serves the poor.
10. Think about ways to use your professional skills in a volunteer capacity at your chosen anti-hunger organization. There are many programs, in- cluding Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) screening and application assistance centers, food banks, and other anti-hunger organizations, that can use your help to make sure that all eligible people have access to nutrition assistance and anti-hunger programs.
You will find rich rewards in fulfilling these stewardships tasks. For Jesus said that whatever we do for one of the least of his brothers and sisters, we do it for him (see Matthew 25:40).
First Sunday of Advent • December 1/2, 2012
On this first Sunday of Advent, Jesus warns about the end- time; be vigilant, spiritually awake, pray, avoid self indul- gence, spiritual malaise, and a preoccupation with anxiety. Jesus advises against a lifestyle of earthly pleasures and worry. These will not matter when the Lord asks for an account of our stewardship. Stewards realize their lives are not just about the here and now. They know themselves to be reflections of God’s active presence in the world and witnesses of the Lord’s promises. As we begin this season of hope, let us reflect on the practical effect of having every waking moment in our lives dedicated to the Lord.
Second Sunday of Advent • December 8/9, 2012
In today’s second reading, Saint Paul prays with joy and con- fidence for his friends in the Christian community at Philippi. He is encouraged that the community has partnered with him to proclaim the Gospel. He sees Christ’s active presence and plan of salvation at work in the community.
God’s overarching plan is unclear to us. But when we see evidence of God working through others, doesn’t it give us reason to hope that Christ is alive among us? Does the wit- ness of others help our own prayer lives? Does it inspire us to be partners with others in promoting the Gospel? Food for thought in this second week of Advent.
Third Sunday of Advent • December 15/16, 2012
In today’s Gospel we hear the prophet John the Baptist be- ing asked a profound stewardship question: “What should we do?” Each group wants to know the appropriate response to John’s call; each reply points to how they should treat others. John does not simply say, “Be baptized.” Rather, he points
them to their jobs and personal relationships. John’s message is simple: judgment is near, and repentance includes treating others well. We should be willing to share what we have with those in need. To listen to John the Baptist is to be called to account. Do I give only of my excess, or am I the good stew- ard who is willing to sacrifice in order to help others?
Fourth Sunday of Advent • December 22/23, 2012
As we draw close to the Feast of the Nativity, we hear the great stewardship proclamation twice in today’s second read- ing from the Letter to the Hebrews: “Behold, I come to do your will, O God!” Who is this Jesus? Who are we that we should follow him? Many want him as a friend, a guide, a king, an advocate. We long to see the face of God. Jesus re- veals the nature of God, the servant sent to give us new life in Him.Take time to ponder: Do we have the courage to follow Jesus? To show others the face of God? To say to the Lord: “Behold, I come to do your will?”
Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph Weekend of December 29/30, 2012
The ultimate aim of Saint Paul’s Letter to the Colossians is to teach the community how to deepen its relationship with Christ Jesus. His list of virtues summarizes the ideals of com- munal stewardship: compassion, kindness, humility, gentle- ness and patience. For Paul, practicing these virtues opens our hearts to Christ as individuals and as a worshipping com- munity. This is how the Christian community ought to live. This is how its members should behave in their dealings with others, particularly with fellow believers. As we approach the new year, how might we embrace one of these virtues more fully in order to deepen our relationship with Jesus?
A STEWARDSHIP MOMENT
International Catholic Stewardship Council
1275 K Street, NW, Suite 880 Washington, DC 20005-4077 T: (800) 352-3452
We encourage you to check out the ICSC Forum at www.catholicstewardship.org under ‘members’ where members can share ideas and questions. The Parish Stewardship section is reviewed every day by members of the Parish Stewardship Education and Services Committee.
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