By Richard Rosario
It was about a month after Lent. After Resurrection Sunday. We probably were celebrating, breaking our fasts, eating foods we gave up and enjoying activities we put on hold during Lent. However, some of us had gone overboard and not yet come back from the celebration.
I had made my Lenten sacrifice Stewardship related. I had decided after reflecting on my life as a young adult that I needed to make some lifestyle changes. This included financial, spiritual and personal changes. Lent seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to reflect on what could make me a better Catholic and bring me closer to God.
It started in February – I became stricter in my spending, I incorporated prayer into more of my daily routine, and I decided to eat healthier and exercise.
Around mid-March, I noticed the positive changes. My bank account had more money because I wasn’t buying unnecessary (and unhealthy) snacks, I was bringing my own (healthier) lunch, and I was looking for cheaper alternatives for weekend activities.
I was praying more often and had a more positive outlook on things. I also realized that prayer was becoming a more normal part of my day, as opposed to something extra before meals or after an event.
My body was starting to tone up. I lost eight pounds and I could fit into my jeans a lot easier. I was considering healthier options when going out to eat or preparing food at home. I had a lot more energy during the day.
All three of these things were helping me be a better Steward – a good Steward of my finances, a good Steward of my spiritual life, a good Steward of my body.
Then Easter happened…
I can honestly say, I haven’t come back from the celebration of the Resurrection. It didn’t help that I had several friends with birthdays in April. I didn’t continue to follow through with what I did during Lent.
I have again been spending money on food, concerts and out-of-town celebrations almost every weekend. I’ve not continued praying throughout my day as I was before. I haven’t been exercising the full week. My diet now includes a lot more tacos and fast food. The salads and healthy options are missing.
When speaking to some of my friends, I learned they haven’t been as successful in keeping up their Lenten sacrifices either.
The thing is, 40 days doesn’t always fix what we’ve been doing for years. As friends, we were supporting each other in maintaining our Lenten sacrifices. Now that Lent was over, we’re supporting each other in breaking them. We have lost a support system that helped us maintain the good habits.
Lent isn’t a fix for our years-long habits. But Lent did make me realize what I needed to change in my life. It also prepared me for the Resurrection.
The rest is now up to me.
I can continue to live my life as I did before Lent, which would cause my healthy and spiritual life to collapse. Or, I can choose to continue the good habits I developed during Lent and recreate the support system between my friends and me.
It might be time to take a hiatus from some of the celebrations, based on the positive results we saw during Lent.
Humble or ungrateful?
By Richard Rosario
Humility is often appreciated and viewed as a desirable trait. Those who possess it seem levelheaded and approachable. One of the aspects of humility that is especially useful in ministry and evangelization is understanding that we are not the most important person in the room.
But, at what point does humility become a bad thing? When does humility become denial or neglect?
Thinking that you’re the most important person in the room can be damaging when it comes to relationship building. People tend to respect humility. It’s a way to remind us of our humanity, that we are all children of God. The issue arises when we start thinking of ourselves as the least important person in the room, when we think of ourselves as worthless. If we think we are not important in our own way, we are denying a part of ourselves.
Everything we are, and everything we have, comes from God. That’s Stewardship. If we have a talent we’re good at, but decline to acknowledge it, we are essentially declining a gift from God. A child that receives a great gift, yet declines, refuses or ignores it, is viewed as ungrateful. We may be acting in a similar way when we refuse the gifts God gave us.
Sometimes we may think we are being humble by not acknowledging our gift; however, everyone has a place in the church because God gifts everyone. As His children, we are mandated through baptism to be active in the life of our Church.
This is true with time, talent and treasure. Having a presence in church life does not exempt someone from their financial responsibilities to the parish, just as generous giving does not exempt someone from being involved in ministry. Even if what we give is not a significant amount compared to how much others give, as long as we give from what we have and not what we have left, we are being good stewards of God’s gifts. Perhaps all you can give is $5, but if that $5 come from a place of prayer, intent and sacrifice, then that $5 is significant.
Feelings of uncertainty in your talents is a very human emotion often experienced, but feelings of inadequacy are extreme. If one is open to serve God, he or she will find a calling somewhere within the ministries of the church. It may not be obvious, but the calling is there nonetheless.
Humility can be a good thing, but thinking too little of yourself can be a bad thing. God specifically created each one of us in His likeness and image with a purpose and calling that we fulfill with the gifts He gave us. Accepting our gifts with humility to serve is the best way to show God how grateful we are for them.
Value in others
By Richard Rosario
“He’s so old and out of touch with reality, how is he still here?” “She’s too strict to be a catechist, have they not let her go yet?” “Those parents can’t control their children, why would they let them cry during Mass?”
How many times have we heard this at church?
These are things we normally hear about other people, and sometimes stay quiet about it. Whether we prefer to avoid confrontation, or actually agree with what people say, we don’t really take a stand against these things that are said. What we especially don’t do is see the bigger picture.
Everyone was made in the likeness and image of God. Stewardship tells us that we each receive certain gifts. These gifts may be talents, time or treasure. Each person is different and each person receives different gifts. But this is exactly why those who criticize are wrong.
Someone who has lots of years obviously was blessed plentifully with the gift of time. For those of us who have lost loved ones, we know that not everyone has the same amount of time. But with that time, probably comes knowledge, wisdom and experience. Those three things are of extreme value. So if that “old person” is so valuable, why do we ignore his gifts by solely focusing on his age as a negative?
A good catechist is difficult to come by mainly because of all of the gifts required for it. So if we finally find a good catechist, is it fair to insult her or him for sticking to the rules more than usual? We forget that catechists require the gift of patience when dealing with children. Also, this formation is a foundation that the children will have with them for the rest of their lives.
Children cry when they’re hungry, sleepy, tired, bored, sensitive, hurting, growing, and basically everything else. So why be upset when the children cry during Mass? The children are a gift to the Church. They are the future, those who will ensure its continuity. They may even be future priests, deacons or religious sisters or brothers. Is it fair to shame their parents?
All of these examples show how we are not seeing the gifts of others. In some cases, we may see the gifts but are choosing to ignore them because they put us at an inconvenience. But to deny someone else’s gifts is to deny God who gifted them.
We have to go above the gossip and criticism and see the gifts in everyone. Granted, some people make it difficult to see their gifts, but they are there nonetheless. With new perspectives, we may look at that crying child and think: “I’m going to have some funny stories for him when he becomes a priest.”
By Richard Rosario
I have a sister 15 years younger than I. Growing up, she was more of a responsibility than someone I shared and played with. After having her spit up on my nice shirts, changing her putrid-smelling diapers and stressing to keep all small objects out of her reach, any chance of developing baby fever died inside of me. However, what did develop was a set of gifts that I would not notice until I was older.
My “baby” sister is now 10 years old, even though I keep referring to her as baby sister. It also helps because I have a sister that is about a year younger than I who I refer to as my younger sister. I differentiate them by calling one younger sister, and the other baby sister.
Baby sister is pretty mature for her age. Growing up with almost all adults at home, she acts more like an adult in some situations yet remains a child in others. For example, she can actually hold her own in a political discussion, but she also takes time to play with her dolls. She asks for a chemistry set as gift, but she uses it to make slime. We are constantly reminded that she is both a maturing young lady and a playful, innocent child.
A couple of weeks ago, my mom had some strong stomach pains that turned out to be appendicitis. This happened on a Sunday morning, meaning mom would have to stay at the hospital until Monday evening. It also meant that dad had to stay with her. That left the older siblings, ages 25, 24 and 21, in charge of “baby sister.”
We were in an awkward position because she was our sibling, but now we are having to make parent-like decisions. For example, getting ready for church on Sunday meant making sure she was ready too. This included picking out an appropriate outfit, making sure she had a good breakfast and making sure she was groomed appropriately. The last part makes her sound like a puppy, but this just meant her hair was brushed and she brushed her teeth correctly.
Afterwards, we each took turns looking after her. I made her brunch at home. Younger sister took baby sister to the movies. Younger brother played video games with her after the movies. We then bought her dinner, got her ready for school Monday, and put her to bed. We helped her get ready for school Monday morning, dropped her off and made sure we picked her up.
Baby sister showed both her mature and child sides during that ordeal. She was mature in how well she handled her mom being in the hospital, but also child-like in her dependency on someone else to go about her day. Baby sister has the gift of maturity that other 10 year olds don’t possess. But she also has the gift of innocence. She more than likely has no idea she possesses both.
On the other hand, her older siblings had some gifts they probably didn’t know about either. For one, baby sister asks a lot of questions and likes to sing while dancing. If we didn’t know before, now we know that we have the gift of patience. We also had other gifts we didn’t know we had. Consoling and making sure younger siblings are handling a difficult situation well is not something most older siblings know they can do. Then again, most siblings are not 15 years older than their younger siblings.
I learned that sometimes we are put into situations where some gifts become apparent – gifts we never realized we had. Some through instinct, others through necessity. So perhaps I have some hidden gifts that would complement fatherhood. It still doesn’t mean I’m willing to try that anytime soon.
A glimpse of utopia
By Richard Rosario
Neighbor helping neighbor. Not “insert label” neighbor helping “insert same label” neighbor, but neighbor helping neighbor in the sense of the Gospel. This utopian scene was present against the apocalyptic post-Harvey wreckage.
Southeast Texas got help from neighboring areas as soon as the storm hit. Random people from random places in big trucks and boats were out in the storm helping random people stranded in the floods. At the end of the day, there were people in need, and there were those using their resources to help fulfill that need.
Everyone was affected in some way by the storm. Even if people’s homes were safe from the flooding, there were still some traumatic experiences. This could have been a lack of drinking water, a shortage of food, an unwanted break from pay, and even psychological traumas that could lead to anxiety and depression.
But for every problem, there seemed to be someone with a solution. People were out helping to distribute water. People were donating food or using their resources to prepare meals. People were offering to help pay bills for those without an income due to Harvey. Some were just there for anyone needing someone to talk to.
This was perfect stewardship – people giving of their gifts knowing they could not get anything in return.
Everyone who had gifts to offer was doing so in any capacity that they could. Even a big truck or a boat, things seen as excessive to some, were pivotal in saving people from the floods. What we might have not seen as gifts from people all of a sudden became important resources that we are now thankful for.
Even though there are still many damaged and affected areas in the diocese, the cycle of normalcy has begun for some. Unfortunately, so has the constant bickering and tension that was there before the storm. Differences in politics seem to be one of the leading factors in what’s causing the tension.
These differences intensified as elected officials were questioned on how such disaster could have been avoided. Some argued about the response of the current presidential administration was insufficient not just for Harvey, but for all other hurricanes that have hit the U.S., especially Maria which hit Puerto Rico. Recently, another record-breaking mass shooting has thrown gun control into the spotlight again.
The neighbor helping neighbor culture present during the storm is diminishing. What happened?
Stewardship can be defined as an expression of discipleship. Pretty much everyone who helped someone during the storm saw the humanity in their neighbor and responded as a steward. But after we started going back to our normal routines, we began expressing our prejudice, our biases and our opinions instead of discipleship.
Expressing our beliefs and opinions is not a bad thing. We all have issues that we hold dearly. Some issues address our humanity so we shouldn’t stop advocating for them. However, this does not mean that we should also forget that we are neighbors. We should not stop seeing the face of Jesus in others.
Jesus gave us two rules in the Gospel: 1) Love God above all things 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. We loved our neighbor as ourselves during the storm. This was our glimpse of utopia. Now we just have to remember to keep loving our neighbors as we start to rebuild our normal lives.
This is our reality
By Richard Rosario
The Church seems to be facing a growth issue. There seems to be fewer seminarians. There seems to be fewer people in the pews. There seems to be fewer young people. This seems to be our reality.
But how do we as both Church and community react to these issues that seem to be going on around us?
At our baptism, we receive the Holy Spirit. One of those gifts of the Holy Spirit is the gift of Understanding. I think this gift is sometimes overlooked. This gift helps us understand the truths of our faith, as well as our place with God.
So is this gift really underused? Do we not know the truths of our faith or our place with God? Well we might, but do we put this into practice?
The answers to the growth issues inside the Church might be found outside the Church walls. For example, why are there fewer people in the pews? I don’t know. Have we tried asking the people who left?
These people are obviously not inside the Church, so we are going to have to do some evangelization outside of our church buildings.
Nevertheless, we need the gift of Understanding to know not just the truths of our faith, but also be able to empathize with our brothers and sisters who left the Church. We have to see why they left. What were they missing? Why was the parish not fulfilling their spiritual needs? And probably the most difficult to understand – what can we change to bring them back?
The reason this is difficult is that some things cannot change. Truth cannot change, and we have to use our gift of Understanding to know that the truths of our faith do not change. On the other hand, what can change has to, especially if we want to welcome others back to the Church, and even welcome new people into the Church.
We can change our hospitality ministry to be more welcoming. We can change our ministry leadership to have different ideas. We can change liturgical music that can be more joyful. We can even create new ministries to attract new families or retain families that would traditionally shy away from the Church.
The gift of Understanding can also help us to see why young adults are leaving the Church. Statistics show that young adults are not getting married, not buying homes or cars, not starting families or identifying with any organized religion.
This can be confusing for some because previous generations might have had a full-time job, spouse, family, home, car and registered parish all by the age of 25. A 25-year-old in 2017 might not have any of that, or they could have that and more. We have to look at the current economy, housing market and even student loan crisis. This is their reality.
As Stewards, we not only receive gifts from God, we have a responsibility to cultivate them and put them at the service of others. The gift of Understanding helps us to realize this. Growth is never easy and can be uncomfortable. But we have a responsibility to fulfill that which was bestowed on us at our baptism and use it to respond in our Church. This is our reality.
Prayer in action
By Richard Rosario
The world seems like it’s becoming darker and more violent. Shootings seem to be getting more frequent, both locally and nationally. Animosity among people who would normally get along also appears to be growing. And there seems to be a divide between government and the governed.
As Christians, we are inclined to pray during these difficult times. We pray for peace. We pray for love. We pray for understanding. We pray for healing. But other than pray, what can we do?
The U.S. Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on Stewardship states, “Stewardship is an expression of discipleship, with the power to change how we understand and live out our lives.”
I think now is a good time to reflect on this statement. If we are Stewards, we have the power to change how we understand and live out our lives. So while we are praying for peace, we also have the power to bring it about. We are gifted by God to do so, and we can act as agents of peace if we use our gifts to better our homes, parishes and our communities.
Now there are some things that will be out of our control, such as the rhetoric of our elected officials and media. But what we can control is how we can react to it. Again, we have that power as Christian stewards to change how we understand our lives. So if the narrative on a topic is negative, we are gifted by God to approach it with positivity.
However, just because we are gifted does not mean this is easy. On the contrary, this will probably be difficult. But being empowered and gifted by God does not mean that our Stewardship journey will be without obstacles but rather that we will be equipped to endure and overcome those obstacles.
We are human and perhaps with everything that has been going on we might react in a defensive manner. If someone says something negative toward us, we might react aggressively. This is common now in conversations regardless whether they happen in person or on social media. But we shouldn’t forget that we are empowered through God to do better.
So the next time we see the news or social media and see darkness and violence, what can we do? We can continue praying. Prayer is always a good place to start and should act as a foundation. But we can also take it a step further and discern how we can best use our gifts to bring about what it is we are praying for.
“What gifts has God given me that I can use to promote peace, love and understanding?”
The answer might come easily and quickly for some. For others, it might take a friend or mentor to help figure it out. But in the end, everyone is gifted and everyone has something to contribute toward making the world a better place.
Ending a stigma through presence
By Richard Rosario
We tend to fear what we don’t know. We could also ignore or even stigmatize something out of a lack of understanding as well. As Stewards, we are to refrain from judgment. But as humans, we have a tendency toward it.
Mental health was a topic we avoided growing up. I don’t remember ever having a conversation either at home, school or even church that involved mental health. We did not discuss how to maintain it, how to detect issues or even that there was such a thing.
But if mental health is important, why did we not discuss this growing up? Because we probably didn’t know it was important.
Schools would tell us that eating healthy and exercising would help us avoid certain diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. At home, we were taught to take notice in symptoms that could mean we were ill, such as fever, headache, chills or cough. But in neither home nor school do I remember learning how to maintain good mental health or how to notice any symptoms or issues.
Again, perhaps the schools did not think it was as important as physical health. Perhaps my parents did not know what to look for when it came to noticing mental health issues. But because of the lack of information, growing up I did not know how to address or deal with mental health.
For example, in school my classmates and I might have viewed ADHD as a handicap or that the student was just naturally prone to be disruptive in class. If someone in church had a mental health issue, we avoided talking about it to the person or asking them what they were going through.
A word we use is probably the worst thing someone can say of someone who is mentally ill – crazy. People fear being judged as “crazy.” If people decide to seek help for mental health issues, this could be seen as a weakness or even a flaw, rather than an important step toward good health.
Growing up, I would hear people say that someone is depressed because they are ungrateful for all the good things they have. I also heard that people are anxious because they just don’t want to calm down. Neither of these are true. They harm people by perpetuating the negative stereotypes that keep people from seeking help or even talking about issues in the open.
Now, how do we respond as Stewards to the mentally ill?
We could start by being informed. Mental health is equally as important as physical health. Mental illness is a disease, just like the flu. It’s due to a chemical imbalance in our brains, not personal choice. No one chooses to be mentally ill.
We can also look at websites dedicated to informing people on mental health. This way, we know the truth about mental health, and even learn to watch for symptoms in our friends, our family and ourselves.
One of the best ways we can respond as Stewards is by being present for those that seek our help. Whether they need someone to take them to get help, or they just need someone to talk to, being present can be a big help.
Detecting and talking about mental illness might be new to us. It might scare us or it might even make us nervous. But we have a responsibility as Stewards to be present in the lives of others, and that includes those who are struggling with mental health issues. Hopefully by being informed and being open to talk about mental illness, we can be better Stewards and eventually end the stigma.
Seeing light in the shadows
By Richard Rosario
Working in groups can be difficult regardless of the setting. Whether it’s at work, church or school, groups don’t always have compatible members that will facilitate tasks. We may even lose our hair from the stress. Nonetheless, they are a necessary component needed in all of those settings. So, what do we do?
One option is to “tough it out.” As agonizing and energy consuming as a group situation may seem, you arduously continue until the task is finished. This is probably what most people do. They realize that the task is important and that it has to be done.
Another option would be to quit. Whether it’s quitting your job, leaving the ministry or asking to do the group work at school by yourself, quitting may sometimes be a viable option. After quitting, you may no longer experience previous stress that came with the defunct group efforts and could even have benefits, such as new opportunities or better mental health.
Now a third option may be the more difficult, but it reflects leadership and good judgement. This option involves finding someone else’s skills and abilities and applying them where they are a more effective fit. This may be difficult because first you need to figure out the other people’s gifts. Then, you figure out where those skills would best fit the group project. Finally, you persuade the person that their skill set would be better for a different part of the group project than the one that person is currently at.
These three things can be difficult. For one, it’s difficult to notice strengths when all you see is the negatives coming from that person who is holding down the group project. That person frustrates you beyond belief. You may even have nightmares about that person. So seeing the nice things in someone you loathe could be difficult.
Even after you get past the negatives to see the person’s skills, you have to know the project well enough to see where the newly noticed skillset fits. The reason this could be difficult is that you might have gotten accustomed to the inefficiencies of the group project. So creating a new, different vision for the project will take some work.
Finally, even if you are able to find positive skills in a negative person AND you find where those skills fit the best, the negative person might not think that they are dragging the group down. Moreover, proving that person wrong may make them even more hesitant to switch their roles within the group project.
This is why working in groups is so difficult, obstacles and barriers will always present themselves that will impede any progress. What is worse is that those barriers and obstacles can even damage relationships if the tension persists. However, as faithful stewards it is our duty to overcome these challenges.
Learning to find the positives in negative situations can be just as difficult as the group work itself. But doing so pushes us to go from lay people to lay leaders, while acknowledging that God gives each of us gifts. And yes, even the difficult people are gifted.
So for whatever group work we have in the future, let’s push ourselves to become more than just group members and aim to be group leaders. If we learn to see the light in a group of shadows we do not have to tough it out or even quit. And we’ll only lose a couple of strands of hair.
Bless your heart, not my pocket
By Richard Rosario
Prayer. Being in Texas, there seems to be a lot of it around us in both private and public spaces. “I’ll be praying for you.” “Keep me in your prayers.” “Bless your heart.” (Normally said if you encounter someone unattractive or lacking certain intelligence) “Don’t eat until you pray.”
Prayer being everywhere can be a good thing, especially during Lent. Prayer, along with almsgiving and fasting, is one of the pillars of Lent. Therefore, to be able to be surrounded by prayer during this time can be a blessing. Right?
Well, depends. When we see someone that is hungry on the side of the road, we say a prayer for him or her. If we are witnessing abuse, we say a prayer for the victim. If we are going through some difficulties, we will sometimes ask others to pray for us.
All of this prayer is a good thing. It shows our compassion for others, as well as reinforces our communication with God. But, what if everyone just prayed, and only prayed as a way to solve what we see as problems?
If someone on the side of the road is in need and all everyone does is pray, who will help them? The answer would be God. But He is not a fairy godmother that will magically wave His hand and food will appear for the person in need. God works through us by giving us each gifts that we can use to help others.
So if we see someone that is actually in need, if we have the resources to help, then that is what we are called to do. If we see someone being abused, we might know of places that offer resources and help for the victims of abuse. We should continue praying not just that the person in need is helped, but also to thank God for allowing us to serve others with the gifts He has given us. Prayers are not just for difficult times, they can also be for the good times as well.
And if we are going through problems, then we have to realize that the solution will not fall out of the sky, but would more than likely come from someone else. So we should pray that God opens our eyes to whatever help he sends. Because if you’re having financial problems and are expecting cash, but God sends someone who can help you be a better steward of your resources, then you might still be waiting for God to answer a prayer He has already answered.
If we continue to pray and understand that everything we have and everything we are is because of God, then the other two pillars of Lent – almsgiving and fasting – become easier to fulfill because we know what is expected of us by God.
In scripture, we read, “If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?” (James 2:16)
Prayer is extremely important and the foundation of our faith. But prayer is just that, our foundation from which we pull strength in order to do the work of God using the gifts that He has given us. We cannot hide behind prayer to avoid our responsibilities as Stewards.
Prayer everywhere is good, but having good Stewards serving others is the answer to our prayers. That way there is more action as a result of prayer instead of the occasional “Bless Your Heart.”
When tacos tell you to vacation
By Richard Rosario
I love to cook. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do it as much as I’d like because of school. However, one Saturday morning, I woke up early to help my mom make homemade breakfast tacos.
She was going to make homemade tortillas and salsa. I would make the “papas con huevo” or the potatoes with egg. First, I had to cut the potatoes. The knife I pulled from the drawer was dull, but I tried cutting the potatoes anyway. It was extremely difficult and a little dangerous. People are more prone to cut themselves with dull knives than sharp ones.
Before I got through one out of the 10 potatoes, I knew that I could not continue. I had to take care of the knife before I took care of the potatoes.
That knife became a metaphor for my life.
Ever since I can remember, I always try to be involved with as many things as possible in the community. I always try to help with as many things as I can. Sometimes I even get a Messiah complex – I feel that I am the only one who knows how to help. Not healthy.
Adding my community involvement to a full-time job, school, family, social life and spiritual life, I end up with an overbooked schedule. In fact, this schedule affects my sleep and focus.
But, I still keep going. My anxiety tells me that if I drop one of those things I’m a failure or I’m letting someone down.
While cutting the potatoes that morning, I started to see my life was like that dull knife.
Just as the dull and uncared-for knife could not effectively cut the potatoes, I can’t expect to help anyone if I’m not caring for myself. Regardless of how hard I work, I could never expect to function efficiently if I am not keeping myself sharp like the knife.
I have to stop and relax to stay sharp.
It sometimes seems like there’s too much work, too many people to help, too many people to please to actually take a break from it all. Being a good Steward means helping others. But if we are so involved in helping others or even so involved in a ministry that we’re losing sleep, we are not being good stewards of our bodies because of the potential health risks. And as we should know, our bodies and their healthy function is a gift from God.
Before you can cut potatoes, you make sure your knife is sharp and cared for. And you need to keep yourself sharp if you want to help others. Basically, if you’re overworked and tired, take a break and go on vacation. You’re not being selfish, you’re just being a good Steward.
Gifts for my First Job
By Richard Rosario
Thinking back on my first job, I believe it was special. I love ice cream and I was privileged enough to work at an ice cream shop. At the time, I did not think so since scooping and making ice cream was harder than I thought. Nevertheless, looking back I see that scooping was an ideal “first job.”
Perhaps at the time, I thought that “I” got my first job. However, the reality was that so many things had to come into play in order for that to happen.
I must have applied to 20 different places. At the time, I did not have my own car so my mom or dad would drive me from business to business to drop off applications. It was not until I heard from my friend Sierra that the ice cream shop she was working at was hiring that I finally found a good lead on a job. After submitting an application and interviewing, the owner decided to give me my first employment opportunity.
After starting, I realized scooping ice cream required a lot more work than what I had originally imagined. First, my hands were extremely sore the first week. Then, I never sat down so I was on my feet the entire shift. Lastly, my mind had to measure the ingredients when making the ice cream, or measuring the amount each customer was to receive.
The feeling of saving enough for a used car and having my own money was something that a teenager in high school could not get over. I thought I was a “big boy” and did something all on my own. But I was wrong.
Why was I wrong? I scooped that ice cream. I worked those late night shifts. (What ice cream store stays open until midnight?) I was the employee making that (minimum wage) earning. But did I really not do all of this on my own?
Well no. First, my parents were the ones driving me around the entire city until I finally found a job. My friend Sierra did not just tell me about the job, she also told the owner about me before we even met. Then, the owner was the one who extended the offer. So technically my first job was not because of me, but because of those who helped me.
Similarly, if God had not given me certain gifts that we normally take for granted, I would not have been able to work there. The hands I used to scoop the ice cream were gifts from God. The feet I used to get around the store were gifts from God. The mental capacity to function in that job was a gift from God. Unfortunately, not everyone has these gifts.
As much as I thought myself as the “big boy” who got his first job, I was really experiencing Stewardship through others. I did not do this by myself, and God did not come down from heaven and hand me a job application. I received gifts from God through the people around me.
That paycheck I used, that also was thanks to God and those around me. Because of that, I now have the responsibility – a baptismal duty – to appreciate that gift and return to the Lord. Now that does not mean stick my whole check in the offertory. But it does mean that I have to make a prayerful, intentional and proportional offering every Sunday along with making a pledge (and fulfilling it) to our diocesan annual appeal.
Who knew my first job was so spiritual? In the end, I didn’t become a “big boy” because I got my first job, but because I acknowledged the gifts that helped me get it and showed my appreciation by responsibly tithing for the first time in my parish and diocese.
The Real Cost of Grey Thursday
By Richard Rosario
With Christmas drawing closer, companies are finding new ways to drain our pockets. From having earlier Black Friday sales, to having more incentives to shop more, such as free shipping on online purchases, we have entered a new phase of shopping frenzy. But how much of this is ethical?
Responsible people start making their Christmas lists in early November. That list may include spouses, parents, siblings, children, friends, neighbors and even coworkers. Once the list is finished, the challenge becomes finding ways to get a gift for everyone on the list, while staying within a budget.
Most of the big corporations know this. That’s why you’ll start seeing Christmas advertisements as soon as Halloween is over. That’s also why Black Friday no longer starts on Friday, more like Black Thursday Afternoon. And that’s also why Cyber Monday deals go on for almost all of December. We are not exactly cheating the system; the system is cheating us. And in a way, we are cheating ourselves and others.
Stewardship of treasure is not just how we spend money at church, but also how we spend our money everywhere else. So if we are spending money in places that exploit their employees or do not have good ethics when it comes to the production of their products, we are not being good Stewards of the money God gave us to administer responsibly.
Yes, we all want to get something nice for our loved ones. It is not out of greed, but rather out of the love that we have for them. But we shouldn’t let that love keep us from seeing the harm we cause if we carelessly shop for the best “deals” or the “perfect” gift.
Going to a sale on Thanksgiving Day instead of waiting until Friday enables companies to continue to exploit their employees during a time when they should be with their families. This is now known as Grey Thursday. What good is it to gain a good deal on a gift if we’re keeping retail employees from being with their families?
But it’s not just the time we go to the store, but the stores and products we purchase. If deals seem too good to be true, then they just might be. A cheap phone, television or tablet might seem like a perfect gift for a great deal. However, would you still buy it if it was made by child slave labor?
As good Stewards, we should avoid purchasing any products made through unethical means. This could be a product made from slave labor, child labor, unjustly paid employees or even how the material for those products is obtained or where the discarded product ends up. If purchasing a product requires something that harms the environment, endangers a community of people or a species of animal, then is it worth the “deal?” Furthermore, if the product ends up polluting land or water systems after it’s used, then should they even be bought in the first place?
Seems like a lot to keep up with for what seemed like regular Christmas shopping. But guess what? This is part of the “deal” we made with God when we decided to live as faithful Christians and convert to a Stewardship way of life. But the plus side of this “deal” is that no one is exploited in fulfilling it. It only spreads more joy and love this Christmas season.
The Other 90 percent
By Richard Rosario
We often associate tithing in the Church with the 10 percent figure. Ten percent of what we have or what we make is what we’re supposed to give to the Church.
The 10 percent that the Church talks about includes our parish offertory, gifts to the diocesan campaign (the Bishop’s Faith Appeal in our diocese), and any gifts to special second collections and charities. The amount in the 10 percent can change depending on our financial situation.
But does Stewardship of treasure only cover that 10 percent?
Not at all. Stewardship of treasure is not just what we do with the 10 percent we allocate to the Church, but also the 90 percent we allocate to ourselves. Most people work hard for the money they earn, but what is all that hard work really worth if that money is wasted or spent frivolously?
Since we work hard for the money we earn, it is only fair that we determine how that money will be spent. Now, we can’t forget that this is still a gift from God and that it is He who trusts us with this treasure. Being Stewards of this treasure, we have the responsibility to administer it wisely, and faithfully.
This is not a call to live a life of poverty and frugality. There is nothing wrong with treating ourselves to a nice outfit for a social event, a nice dinner at a nice restaurant or even a nice vacation for a couple of weeks. If we work hard, then we should be able to afford the expenses that may enrichen our lives.
The problem lies in going on a nice vacation, but not having the funds allocated for it, leading us into unnecessary debt. It could also be buying an expensive outfit for vanity purposes, when we could have purchased a similar, reasonably priced outfit. And another big problem would be buying expensive vehicles or houses, but barely having enough to cover the loans taken to purchase them.
These problems can lead to financial instability if done excessively. They can also start to take away from the 10 percent that we allocated to God. When you’re in need of more money to avoid having the house foreclosed or having a vehicle repossessed, that unnecessary need we created can outweigh the responsibility we have to tithe proportionately of our gifts.
If the costs of having a luxurious life on a not so luxurious salary become too high, we might get so used to this life that we may start to look for other ways to make income, including a second job. So in the end, we have nice vehicles, houses and outfits, but we don’t use them because we’re so busy working to maintain them. And those with families should prioritize the family first before making an excessive purchase.
Since Stewardship is a way of life, it involves all aspects of our life. This includes the “treasure” part as well. We should be responsible enough to manage our money well while still helping our parishes. We don’t have to be accountants and allocate expenses strategically. We just have to make sure our spending does not get out of control to the point where our responsibilities, such as Church and family, start to suffer from it.
8 to 5 Steward
By Richard Rosario
Stewardship is supposed to be a way of life. It’s not supposed to be a single event or a series of actions. At least that’s what I learned, and what I tell people when I go out to parishes and Stewardship committees.
Like most other things, this is something that is easier said than done. For me, it is easy to think of Stewardship at work, in church, or even at home. But I also spend time outside of those three places.
I am currently attending night classes after work to finish a master’s degree. Sometimes I am eager to go to class. Other times I’m ready to go home before I even pull up to the school. Either way, night classes have become a part of my routine now.
One day after work, I was experiencing one of those “ready to go home” type of days. And to add to that, I was not focused on the time before getting there, so I was running a bit late. I pulled up to school, put on my backpack, then sped toward my classroom.
On my way to class, someone started talking to me. What was odd to me was that he was talking to me as if he knew me. I, being in a hurry and not being in the best mood, kept trying to cut off the conversation with phrases like, “oh ok,” “oh wow,” “that’s cool” and “ha ha ha.”
He was really trying to start a conversation with me as we walked to class, but all I could think was that I was late and needed to hurry, and that I was tired. I was finally close enough to class where I could politely say “nice to meet you” and walk in as the professor was about to start the lecture.
It wasn’t until the International Catholic Stewardship Conference that I started to view the situation a little differently. One of the conference presenters spoke about being good stewards all the time, even at times when we normally wouldn’t think of doing so. This was fine, I kind of already knew this, but I just kept nodding.
It wasn’t until she started to give examples that I realized that I had messed up. She gave an example of being nice at a supermarket even if we were on a grocery-list mission and not in the best mood. That automatically took me back to that encounter at school.
Regardless of my mood and situation, someone was being kind to me. He was sharing his time with me and trying to figure out how my day was going, without even knowing who I was. He probably did so because my face said “tired and upset” but I couldn’t get past my own problems to see this stranger’s kindness.
Instead of being nice, I was trying to brush him off and get him to stop talking to me. I wanted to get to class and be done with my day. Unfortunately, I forgot that I am a disciple of Christ and should always spread joy wherever I go, even if I am tired, upset, late, hungry and lacking the energy to socialize. In the end, I was not being a good Steward of the relationships God was providing to me.
I realized how easy it is to say that Stewardship is a way of life, but how difficult it can be to implement it into our FULL lives. I could implement it at home, at work and at church. But could I also implement it at school, at a restaurant when going to lunch, or even the 15-minute grocery shopping trip to the store?
These small details are what will make the difference between Stewardship being an event, series, or empty routine, and making a full-hearted conversion to the Stewardship way of life.
Are your finances in good hands?
By Richard Rosario
For many, owning a home is considered the American Dream. Unfortunately, not everyone can realize that dream because either they are not prepared financially to handle the responsibility of owning a home or because they are not prepared to go through the process of buying a home.
Fortunately, Catholic Charities of Southeast Texas has the resources to help. Under the Asset Building Case Management program, several classes, workshops and other programs help low to moderate-income families and individuals with overall financial literacy as well as meet their housing security goals.
For those who dream of owning a house, ABC’s Fundamentals of Good Credit program is a 15-hour class for individuals to start preparing for the homebuyer’s process. Topics include developing a spending plan, how to read a credit report, dealing with identity theft, how to correct credit issues, basics of homeownership, shipping for a home and shopping for a mortgage.
For those who are more advanced in their homebuyer’s process, the Realizing the American Dream: Homebuyer’s Education Class is available. This class is meant for those who are ready to buy a home within 12 months. In order to see which of the two classes an individual or family would best fit in, Matt Hopson, director of ABC, schedules one-on-one meetings to go over financial information and determine their financial stability.
Hopson has 40 years of experience helping people achieve their financial goals. A native of Beaumont, Hopson has worked 21 years in the banking industry in San Antonio, and another 19 in the nonprofit sector at the Southeast Texas Community Development Center.
“I’ve seen broke people who make $20,000 a year, and I’ve seen broke people who make $100,000 a year. If people don’t have a spending plan and are not financially literate, they will be part of the 95 percent of the country that has less $300 when they hit 65 years old,” said Hopson.
ABC has helped more than 50 people get new homes and several more people regain their financial stability. Hopson sees success in the program when individuals start living on spending plans and reestablish good credit. There’s even for individuals in fear of a foreclosure. ABC offers a Foreclosure Prevention program to help individuals who need assistance in keeping their homes.
ABC also offers other programs aimed at helping people with financial literacy. These classes cover topics such as budgeting, banking services, how to reconcile and balance a checkbook and how to set up a debt pay-off plan. Another service is the Individual Development Account which sets up a savings account and matches the amount saved dollar per dollar, up to $1000, thanks to a partnership with Covenant Community Capital out of Houston.
The first Thursday of every month, individuals striving for the same financial goals meet for the ABC Team Meetings where they discuss a specific topic every month. Topics vary monthly and cover different aspects of financial literacy.
As tax season starts at the beginning of each year, ABC begins preparing for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, a free tax preparation service for low and moderate-income families and individuals. This service is offered in both English and Spanish and saves people preparations fees that can be several hundred dollars if they went to another place.
For people who feel like they may not benefit from ABC’s programs, Hopson says to “recognize it’s never too late to start taking control of your financial future. It’s never too late to start a spending plan. If your dreams are big enough, you can do it. And never be afraid to ask for help.”
For more information on ABC programs, or any other Catholic Charities programs, you can call (409) 924-4400 or you can visit www.catholiccharitiesbmt.org.
By Richard Rosario
Half a century. That’s how old the Diocese of Beaumont turns in September. That’s 50 years of history, struggles, progress and overcoming. But I have seen the future, and I know that we have the potential for another great 50.
I had the pleasure to present a workshop at this year’s Diocesan Youth Convention. I was a bit nervous because I was going to be speaking to teenagers. I probably shouldn’t be since I’m probably only about 7 or 8 years older than they are, but I still was.
My workshop was something important: Stewardship. I had about 45 minutes to present Stewardship to a room full of teenagers – a topic that’s touchy and difficult for some people – while making sure that I had their attention and that they actually left having an idea of what Stewardship was.
Best and easiest way to describe it, Stewardship is how we share our stuff. It’s our time, our talents, our treasure. I had candy to keep them happy and energized, threw Frisbees to keep them alert, and even raffled a Pope Francis doll to keep them until the end. I felt it went well.
But I was really impressed with the Diocesan Youth Leadership Team members assigned to my room. They were able to get others into my workshop, they helped me to transition topics, and even controlled the noise level in the room for me. Their leadership and their potential was great.
It was interesting to see the seminarians and think that right now, they’re talking to youth convention attendees. In about 10 years, those youth convention attendees will be parishioners and lay leaders in ministry. I was not at the full convention, but the time I was there I felt the youth’s spirituality and their commitment to their faith.
I was not around 50 years ago to know how this new diocese started, but I am here today. When our diocese turns a century old, I’ll be 74 years old. These young people will be in their 60s. If the leadership I saw from the youth leaders in my workshop continues as they become lay leaders in their parish through their adult lives, our Catholic faith has the potential to grow in Southeast Texas.
Why is this so important? Well, because statistics are showing that more young people, Millennials, are no longer affiliating with a religion. If our older Catholics die off, and we do not have new ones to replace them, we have the potential to shrink.
The youth at convention have gifts that could change that. But they need the adults to help mentor them and develop those gifts.
As Christian stewards, we are interdependent on one another. Yes, we need the young people for the next 50 years, but we also need the adults who were here the first 50 years to guide and explain to them what took place during the first 50 so that the next 50 can even be better. You can’t have much of a future if you don’t know your past.
50 years is a huge milestone for a mission diocese. This really is a historic moment for the Diocese of Beaumont. But this is an opportunity to look at the past, and look toward the future as well. We don’t have to be psychic to see into the future, we just have to look at youth leaders like those that helped me and know that we will celebrate 50 more.
The Press Club of Southeast Texas awarded second place in the “Faith-based/Inspirational” category to director of Stewardship and Communications Ministry, Letty Lanza for her column, “Varied Graces: Times and Always,” and awarded third place in the “General Column” category to the assistant director of community development Richard Rosario for his column, “One Steward’s Response: Blessed Memories.” The ETC is rerunning those columns
By Richard Rosario
Time is precious. It is so precious that it can’t be bought, sold, traded or even returned. It is God who gives each of us the gift of time. What we do with this time is our choice, but as in every other situation, choices have consequences.
We can look at time from so many perspectives. We could view time as how we spend each hour of our day. We could also view time as the amount of memories we make, good and bad. Either way, as a gift from God time is a gift that should not be wasted or mismanaged.
In a typical 24-hour weekday, 8 of those hours are normally spent working, and another 8 hours are spent sleeping (or at least should according to healthcare professionals). Already we are down to 8 hours that are left in our day, not including commute time or lunch hour. After deducting the time of eating, bath or showers and daily routines such as getting dressed and personal hygiene, how much time are we down to?
Perhaps this is why time is so precious. Supply and demand says that when supply is down, the demand goes up, and vice versa. A single individual who leads a not-so-hectic life might have extra time so the demand for his or her time might not be as high. A working parent that has a family might have short supply of time that is not already committed, so will have a high demand for extra time.
So, for a parent, small sacrifices in time can make a big difference. For example, a kindergarten graduation might seem like just another event, almost like a waste of precious time that can be spent working for a wage or salary. Looked at that way time is measured in hours of each day. That kindergartener, on the other hand, is measuring time through memories.
Regardless if a parent is present in the kindergartener’s event, the kindergartener will remember that moment for life. They may either remember that their parent was there to support their early educational accomplishments, or they’ll remember seeing all of their friend’s parents there while their own was absent.
By making a simple choice of not attending one event, a parent or guardian has affected the child’s perception of not just time, but of education as well. The kindergartener might stop seeing school as important since those they look up to don’t seem to take education seriously. That might be a perception on the child’s part, but it could easily be a perception that they take with them for life.
As we grow older, and start to realize that time is finite, we start to look at it as a child, in terms of memories. These memories stay with us forever and can let us know if we’re truly being good stewards of the gift of time.
If we do not have that many good memories with friends or family, we should probably change that.
Unfortunately some memories are no longer possible to create. If we do not have very good memories of a loved one, and they pass away, we can no longer recreate memories of that loved one.
When my grandfather passed away, I sort of felt as if I should have had more time with him. However, once I started to look back at all of the good memories I had with him, I no longer felt that way. Rather, I felt like I had made good use of my time with him. Even though I didn’t know it at the time, I was being a good steward.
Almost everyone would like to have one more moment with a deceased loved one, but we also have to think about the loved ones who are still alive. The hours of a day come and go, but memories are forever.
So if a friend, sibling, grandparent or child requires a bit of our time, I like to think that those couple of hours will eventually turn into a memory that both people can carry with them for the rest of their lives.
After all, the time that God gives us with our loved ones is both a gift and a blessing.
By Richard Rosario
The days are longer. The weather is warmer. School is out. Summer is near.
With summer comes summer vacations, weekend trips to the beach, summer jobs for teenagers and generally a more joyful attitude. As the song says “summertime, and the living is easy.” But even if we’re taking a break through a vacation or accepting a challenge such as a summer job, we still have the responsibility to be Christian stewards.
Vacations can help us to reduce stress and focus on ourselves and our family’s needs for a short period of time, if done correctly of course. If we’re still checking emails or still attached to our daily routines, the vacation loses its purpose. But if done correctly, it can be a fun and relaxing experience.
However, just because a vacation can take us away from our routines, does not mean we need to lose our Stewardship way of life. For example, we still have an obligation to attend Mass every Sunday, even on vacation. If anything, we should also focus on our spiritual needs as well as our personal ones while on vacation.
Also, it’s not very smart to rack up credit card charges on vacations, without having any plan to pay them back responsibly. This is from both a Stewardship and financial perspective. Vacation should be about relieving stress to be more efficient in your personal, family and work life. It shouldn’t create bigger problems for the future.
Vacations should be budgeted for beforehand. And if credit cards or loans are taken for a vacation, responsible spending limits should be considered. God did not send us gifts for us to act irresponsibly with them. And yes, this also includes funds for vacation.
Teenagers start jobs during the summer now that school is over. This is good because they can learn the importance of earning and spending responsibly. I started scooping ice cream as a teenager. After that, I saw my spending in terms of hours. For instance, a $25 shirt would require about 5 hours of work since I was making $6.75 an hour at that time.
I started to gain an appreciation for the work my parents did and also started to prioritize what expenses were important and which were either irrelevant or did not matter as much. I had to also start thinking about how much I gave at Church. Before then, it didn’t matter because I did not have an income. But now not only did I have an income, but also a responsibility to give proportionately and make sure God was getting the first fruits.
This was difficult for a 16-year-old because at the time, $20 for a new dress shirt took precedence over giving in the collection basket. But on the plus side, a $20 dress shirt seemed more appropriate than a $50 one from the newest store at the mall. So I was half-way responsible, but this was still unacceptable.
Teaching us when we are young is the best thing to do, even if we as teenagers think that we know everything. In learning early, I was able to carry that into adulthood. Responsibility became something natural, not something I struggled with.
Eventually I learned that maybe giving to the collection basket instead of buying a new dress shirt was more responsible. Maybe.
Summer is my favorite season because the weather is nice (not including heat waves or killer mosquitos) and there seems to be more time for family.
If we’ve been working hard all year, why not take a break. There’s nothing wrong with sipping a margarita at a beach on a sunny Saturday afternoon, just as long as we’re in Church the next morning with our responsible offering.
A Stewardship Life Insurance Policy
By Richard Rosario
I received an offer from my credit union – $5,000 toward a life insurance policy. The offer also included an $8 a month policy with $100,000 coverage. I didn’t pay much attention to it. I’m in my 20s, have no spouse or children and have healthy check-ups at the doctor.
Sometime later, a close friend of mine revealed that she was diagnosed with cancer. She’s only a couple of years older than I. She seemed like a healthy person, so the diagnosis was shocking. All of a sudden, life insurance did not seem that bad of a deal.
Fortunately, my friend was diagnosed in the early stages so as of now her treatment does not include chemotherapy. But that is still a bit of a scare.
It also put my own life into perspective. Am I really being a good Steward of my life by being arrogant in regard to my mortality?
Stewardship: how we share our stuff. Simple. Stuff can be intangible like time or talent, or tangible like resources and money.
Now, how can you continue to be a good steward even after you die? Not so simple.
Most of us have probably heard the saying that “you can’t take it with you when you go.” But it usually comes with an anecdote or story about greed or neglecting more important things in life, such as family, friends and God. But this saying doesn’t necessarily need to be bad all the time.
True, when we die we cannot take our material possessions and money with us. We do take with us the things we did (or didn’t do) with our money. If we were good Stewards of our stuff, we get plus points. We just can’t take our stuff when we go.
Now, we can’t take time and talent either whenever we die, but we also can’t leave them behind. Time is up when we die, there is none to give. Talents also cannot be taken when we die, and they are not transferrable. A good singing voice cannot be transferred to a child.
But just because we can’t take our possessions and money with us when we die, does not mean we can’t steward it, unlike time and talent. We can make sure that our possessions and money benefit those we love after we’re gone. This will help us to be good stewards both when we are alive, and when we are gone.
We never know when our day will come. If anything, that would also be a reason to plan for the future. But that uncertainty can make us uncomfortable.
Why make a will or take out a life insurance policy if I don’t plan on dying anytime soon? Won’t I jinx myself and die sooner if I do? Well, most likely not. Death does not work that way. If anything, we are being responsible because we lose that arrogance that we are ultimately immortal.
Life is unpredictable. Some days we are with our loved ones. Other days they are gone and become good memories. But being prepared is important and can make us better stewards of our resources, as well as leaving our possessions and resources to benefit others whenever we too become good memories. After all, what’s $8 a month when you’re leaving a legacy for those you love?
Prosperity or Responsibility
By Richard Rosario
Could you imagine your parish, or even a diocese having an aviation ministry? Basically, a helicopter or private jet for evangelization purposes. Would you continue giving to your parish collection or diocesan campaign? What if your pastor told you that for every dollar you gave, God would give $100 back? Would you give then?
As far fetched as that seems, there are different churches of different denominations that actually have these so called aviation ministries. My question has always been, “how do you sustain a helicopter or a commercial jet?”
Well, after a little research, I realized that the church members were being told by their leaders that God would return their donations and offerings with a large interest. They were told that they would get back 10 or even 100 times of what they gave. Some were told that God would bless them with new cars, and others with new houses.
Now, I didn’t research the individuals who gave to see if they got their new cars or houses, but I’m pretty sure that God does not work that way. Nothing against the churches with aviation ministries, but Stewardship should not be spun that way.
As stewards, we do not give to the Church because God will give us back a certain amount or because He will send us material gifts. Rather, we give because we appreciate what God has given us, and because of our relationship with God, we share our gifts for Him and for our brothers and sisters.
In Spanish, the word for Stewardship translates to “co-responsibility.” This means that we are equally responsible with God to share our gifts. We know because of our faith that God will help us and will provide for us, but that shouldn’t translate to God will give me more if I give more.
Once we start talking about how God will give us more material gifts because we give to the offering, it stops being Stewardship and starts to become “prosperity Gospel.” Prosperity gospel is basically that if we remain faithful and give, God will increase our financial wealth. Unfortunately, this concept excludes the poor.
How do you tell someone that is struggling financially that their current economic status is due to their lack of faith and lack of giving? If someone is not financially stable or “well-off,” does that mean God does not like them or He is unhappy with their faith or giving pattern? These are questions that prosperity Gospel cannot answer.
However, Stewardship can. Stewardship states that God blesses us with different gifts, and that He loves all of us regardless of our financial status. He wants us to succeed so He sends us gifts through others. We just have to be willing to see these gifts and blessings, and be humble enough to accept that they come from someone else, even from someone we might not get along with.
The U.S. Bishop’s pastoral letter on Stewardship states that “sharing is not an option for Catholics who understand what membership in the Church involves.” Stewardship is a responsibility we have as Catholics. We have a responsibility to God and to our brothers and sisters.
We might not get a new car or a new house after we give, but we know that God still loves us. And God’s love is bigger than anything in the world, even more than a budget for an aviation ministry.
The destructive “isms”
By Richard Rosario
The American dream has always been that if you work hard, you’ll be successful regardless of your background. But, what does the successful part mean?
American secular culture is filled with “isms.” For example, materialism is prevalent in advertisement, whether in print or in media. Some commercials persuade you to think that owning a luxury vehicle sets you apart from everyone else. Printed ads meant to sell homes sometimes show that living in the biggest house will elevate you in status.
Individualism is another secular “ism” in mainstream culture. To an extent this “ism” is even celebrated – the idea everything we have and we are aspiring to be is in direct correlation to our own hard work and efforts. Yes, we have to be independent (to an extent) and we have to be self-sufficient (to an extent), but individual efforts should not rule out the possibility that something else is helping us achieve our goals (like God).
Another “ism” is hedonism, basically that pleasure is the highest aim of human life. This is probably more seen in the entertainment industry. Making money and spending it lavishly is not only portrayed as fun but also as a measure of success, sometimes pushing the idea that the end (being successful) justifies the means, regardless of the ethics involved.
Relativism leads us to believe that because something becomes the norm in the culture, morality shifts and these acts are now moral. We might have been led to believe that in America, morality is a grey area when we are fulfilling our American dream. For example, skipping Mass can be okay, so long as we made a good amount of money that day, using our individual or family’s “needs” for justification.
But we still have the original question to answer, what does being successful mean? Based on the secular “isms,” success means lots of material possessions, lots of pleasure through more material things, and making sure we did it all on our own.
This is not what God has in mind for us. Our ultimate purpose in life is not material possessions, pleasure or extreme independence. And our morality certainly does not shift because it gets in the way of our goals.
There is nothing wrong with working hard to move up in socioeconomic status. There is nothing wrong with wanting to buy a nice house or a nice car. There is nothing wrong with being independent or self-sufficient. But when these “isms” start to remove God from our lives, they start to become destructive.
We cannot become so independent and stuck on material things that we lose sight of God. These “isms” should not replace our humanity or our spirituality. In the eyes of God, what does success mean?
I don’t think there’s a concrete answer on what God calls success. As Stewards, we have to understand that God is always helping us through others so that we may attain our goals. So success could mean working hard, remaining faithful, and letting God work through you so that He can help others just as others helped you.
Having more material goods does not mean that God favors you more than those with less, nor does being poor mean that God has forsaken you. Climbing out of poverty is difficult and can even be more difficult for some people than others, but faith means that we are willing to deal with these difficulties, knowing we are not alone.
Success based on material possessions is not our end goal, but rather having a place in heaven after we leave earth. We still have a right to want to better ourselves financially and socially. We just need to make sure that attaining the American dream won’t keep us from attaining heaven.
The Stewardship 401K
By Richard Rosario
My financial management class may seem difficult at times, but almost everything I’m learning has a practical use. For example, learning about investments, interest rates and financial planning can help when it comes to planning out retirement.
The rule of thumb is that the sooner you start investing, the larger the return. Investing small amounts over a long period can yield higher returns than investing large amounts over short periods. Of course this is theoretical, since interest rates can change, and it neglects market risk.
But still, we trust that financial advisors will be good Stewards of our money and that they will make the best out of that money. You’re often not sure where it specifically goes, but you have faith that everything will turn out well for you in the end.
On the other hand, we often hear people give different excuses as to why they don’t give to their parish. Some say that they won’t give because they’re not sure where the money goes, others because they feel that their parish does not say specifically where it goes, or if money will be put to good use.
If we trust random financial planners with our money, why are we sometimes skeptical about giving to the Church?
Perhaps you might say that the two situations are different, but there are too many similarities to ignore. When we “invest” money, we’re expecting a good return. With retirement, the return is a large enough sum of money that will help in later years of life. But what is our return when we invest in the Church?
When we invest in our parish by either giving regularly, prayerfully and proportionally to the weekly collections, the return is knowing that our children and grandchildren will have adequate resources and functioning facilities that will meet their spiritual needs in the future. And making sure that our children and grandchildren’s spiritual needs are being met is a big deal in today’s world.
One of the challenges of the Church today is that a growing number of young adults now identify as non-affiliated to any religion. They stop going to Mass, no longer participate in ministry, and eventually leave the Church altogether. By the time they have children, they will have no intention of raising them in the Church.
How does your money avoid this possible apocalypse? Well, as I said earlier, smaller amounts over long periods is better than larger amounts over smaller periods. This means that a prayerful and proportional weekly offering yields better results than depending on large fundraisers.
Yes, fundraisers generate money, but the weekly offering generates a revenue stream that not only helps maintain your parish but also projects a budget for any large expenditures, such as parish expansions, fixing an uneven parking lot, or even new text books for religious education classes.
Being good stewards of our gifts is to help others, including our own families. By helping maintain our parish through the offering and helping the diocesan ministries do their work by making contributions to the Bishop’s Faith Appeal, you are helping to create ministries and build community that will engage parishioners and keep them in the Church.
This might be difficult to see since it’s so far ahead in the future, but the investment in our parish and our diocese is worth it. Another difference between retirement accounts and the Church, is that one will yield returns at the end of your life, while the other will yield returns in this life as well as the eternal life we were promised in scripture.
By Richard Rosario
As we enter the Lenten season, we begin to see people who start to post on social media what they’ll be “giving up” for Lent. Many will give up sweets, some even social media itself. But how will giving up something during Lent bring us closer to God?
Our physical bodies don’t exactly benefit from sweets. They cause us to gain weight, give us false energy and make our skin oily. So yes, giving up sweets can be good, for our physical bodies. Social media can distract us from things in our everyday lives, so avoiding it may also have some benefits.
But we also have spiritual needs that need to be met. If anything it is those spiritual needs that we need to take care of rather than the physical ones. So instead of “giving up” something for Lent, perhaps we can add something that will strengthen our spirituality.
For example, Pope Francis has declared this the Jubilee Year of Mercy. With that, he asks that we practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. From praying for others, to forgiving those who committed offenses against us, we grow closer to God and prepare ourselves for the resurrection of Jesus, essentially the point of Lent.
If we want to still “give something up,” maybe we can be good stewards of our time and feed the homeless or visit the sick, some of the corporal works of mercy. We must see the face of Jesus in the least of our brothers and sisters. So if we are good stewards and use our tangible and intangible resources for others, we are using them for Jesus. How much closer to Him can we get than that?
Of course there are obstacles and levels of difficulty that go with the acts of mercy. It’s easy to forgive a friend who did something minor, but how easy is it to forgive someone you now consider a stranger because of a grave offense he or she committed against you? In our fast-paced world, do we really have the time to feed the homeless or visit the sick?
Luckily, we have 40 days of Lent to reflect and think about how we will strengthen our spiritual life, along with our relationship with God. Through prayer, meditations and even practicing small acts of mercy, we can eventually tackle the bigger ones.
Also, there’s nothing wrong with saying you can’t do something alone, and asking a friend or mentor to help you. There is the option of making a contribution to the diocesan annual campaign, which carries out the works of mercy on a regular basis.
Now there isn’t anything wrong with “giving up” an unhealthy habit. Our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit and as good stewards we have to care for it as well. And if Facebook or Twitter are keeping us from being with friends and family then perhaps avoiding it for a while can also be a good thing. But we have to keep in mind what the purpose of Lent is.
The Jubilee Year of Mercy helps give us a different view on Lent and how we will prepare for the resurrection of our Lord. It gives us new options to grow closer to Him and new reasons to be merciful to our brothers and sisters.
And even though we might cut out sweets, the feeling we get from being closer to God by helping our brothers and sisters might actually be sweeter.
Encountering a Conversion
By Richard Rosario
We are told by Pope Francis to be good stewards and be merciful to our brothers and sisters. We are also supposed to exercise 30 minutes and drink eight glasses of water every day. All of these things sound very nice, but putting them into practice, not so much.
With the New Year starting, everyone is all into their proposed resolutions. Almost everyone focuses on improving their physical and spiritual health. Social media becomes flooded by posts about new gym memberships, new healthy eating lifestyles and meditation and reflection books. People look like they are really about to make a change for the better.
Then hits February. We gradually stop seeing the gym selfies, the motivational morning reflections and the milestone posts about the number of pounds lost. Life gets in the way, the 30 minutes of exercising become inconvenient, and the morning reflections are substituted for a few extra snooze button hits.
My fitness friends tell me that I should look at healthy eating as a lifestyle change instead of just a diet. It should replace my old eating habits and eventually become part of my new healthier life. If I look at it as separate events, I’ll eventually falter and not fulfill the resolution I committed to for the new year.
The same should be for acts of mercy. They should be integrated into our lives until they become new habits, replacing our old, selfish ones. This goes well with Pope Francis’s declaring this year the Year of Mercy. This new year would be the best time to start making lifestyle changes in regard to mercy.
Since Stewardship is a way of life and not random acts, we should be undergoing a lifestyle change. All that we would be doing this year is to make an emphasis on being good stewards of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
We could look at the corporal works of mercy, where we could share our gifts with the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless and the sick. An easy way to do this is to contribute to the Bishop’s Faith Appeal. It supports programs like the Hospitality Center that feed the hungry.
We could also look at the spiritual works of mercy and share our time and talents to counsel the doubtful and pray for the living and dead. The more difficult spiritual works of mercy would probably be to bear wrongs patiently and to forgive offenses willingly. Either way, we are told to do all, not just the ones we think are easy.
We were all given gifts by God and have a responsibility to manage them correctly. This is not just giving in the collection basket or being involved in a ministry at our parishes. Since it is how we live our lives, Stewardship should be a part of everything we do, such as personal decisions involving how we should care for the body that God gave us or not holding a grudge against someone.
Change is difficult because it is different and strange. It is not what we are accustomed to so we ourselves develop fear and resistance to it. When exercising, the first couple of days hurt, but if it becomes routine, it will go from being change to being the norm.
Mercy can work the same way. It might be difficult to patiently bear a wrong, when what you want to do might be to get back at that person. We might have to bite our tongue and pray for patience, but eventually being merciful in all aspects can also become our new norm.
So when going through with our New Year’s resolutions, let’s not forget that if they are good for our physical and spiritual health, we should continue with them until they become part of our new lifestyle. Even though Pope Francis declared a Year of Mercy, if we fully commit to being more merciful, it can become a lifetime of mercy, and not just a year.