In the middle of September, I was
able to participate in the International Catholic Stewardship Council
Conference. At the conference, Ron Schatz, the Director of the Office
Stewardship and Resource Development for the diocese of Bismarck was awarded
the Bishop William G Connare Award. When receiving this award, he told this
beautiful story “Did You Put Anything
I would like to preface this story
through the lens of The Widow’s Offering
in Mark 12:41-44. Jesus is sitting across from the treasury watching people
putting their offering in the treasury, the rich and the poor alike. However,
he notices that a poor widow has put in from her very livelihood, while the
rich have put in from their abundance. St. Paul teaches us in First Corinthians
11:1, “you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.”
As you read this stewardship story be mindful that we can
learn a lot from a three-year-old who, not only imitates what he sees his own father
doing Sunday after Sunday, but ultimately imitating who calls all of us to do
more than put in from our “surplus wealth”.
A Stewardship Story: Did You Put Anything In?
Each Sunday morning
when we would go into church, our three children, ages 7, 5 and 3 would take
turns picking the pew that we would sit in.
It was our 3-year old son’s turn.
As we entered the back entry way of the Cathedral, I noticed he was off
to a fast start down the center aisle. I
had a good idea of where he was heading to.
I tried to hurry to catch up to him because I could see that there was
already two other people sitting in the front, left pew – way at the end.
That first pew is
a shorter pew to give parishioners with a wheel chair a place to sit next to
their family members who are taking care of them. Sure enough, that is where my son was
going. When he made it down to that
first pew and looked in, he noticed those two ladies at the end and he froze in
his tracks. I was able to catch up to
him and I entered the pew first, followed by the children and then my
At the offertory
collection time, our priest comes to the front of the church and invites all of
the children to come forward with their offering. Our children went up and put their children’s
envelope in the offering basket and were back in our pew quickly. My son crawled on my lap. Eventually, the ushers came down the middle
isle and handed the offering basket to my wife, who handed down to the next
child, and the basket eventually made it to my son and me. He put our adult envelope into the basket and
handed the basket to the lady next to us.
She immediately took it from him and reached it to the people in the 2nd
My son was watching this and speaking loudly
enough for everyone in the church to hear, says to that lady, “Did you put
Wow, was I a
proud parent. My 3-year old son was
teaching this lady about stewardship.
The lady whispers quietly, “No.”
My son then loudly says to her, again loud enough for everyone to hear,
“You should put something in every time!”
Now I was really, really proud of my son. This lady was beet red in the face and she
quietly whispers, “I will next time.”
As the Director
of the Stewardship Office, the smile on my face was from ear to ear and I had
everything I could do to not start laughing.
So, I looked away from that lady, down to the other end and noticed my
wife – giving me that look! Guys, you know what that look is!! As I gave my
son a big hug, I whispered into his ear, “I am very proud of you and I love
you. I think your mom wants to give you
a hug too!” So he crawled over our other
two children and was able to sit on Michele’s lap for the rest of Mass.
Last week I spent four
days backpacking in the Big Horns with Fr. Adam Hofer and 10 young adults from our
diocese. The Big Horns radiate with the majestic power and glory of God’s
creation. The lakes, the switchbacks of
the mountains, and the wildflowers carpeting the landscape of the steep and
rugged terrain that often took my breath away.
It is much easier easy to
see the beauty of God’s creation backpacking in the Big Horns, than to see
God’s same beauty in my family, in my brothers and sisters, in my neighbors and
the stranger in my midst. Why is that?
In my reflection since I returned,
I was drawn to revisit the Bishops Pastoral letter on Stewardship, in
particular chapter 3 “Living as a Steward.”
There are several lines in this chapter that reminded me of my Big Horns
“God wishes human beings to be his
collaborators in the work of creation, redemption, and sanctification; and such
collaboration involves stewardship in its most profound sense. We exercise
stewardship, furthermore, not merely by our own power but by the power of the
Spirit of truth, whom Jesus promises to his followers.”(cf. John 14:16-17)
“Everyone has some
natural responsibilities for a portion of the world and an obligation in caring
for it to acknowledge God’s dominion.”
To be faithful stewards
we must become more aware of God’s deepest desire for us, to be His
collaborators in the work of creation, redemption and sanctification, which
takes great responsibility on our parts.
It’s interesting as we were
backpacking out I reminded everyone that we needed to carry out our human waste,
in which began to hear the low murmuring of voices among the troops such as: “Sorry,
my backpack is already full. No room in back either. I didn’t use the poop bags while was up here.”
The challenge to be a
faithful steward is a willingness to collaborate in God’s creation which calls
for a sacrifice on our part to look beyond ourselves and to see the beauty of
everything God has made including our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and
even the stranger in our midst.
Fr. Mark’s Musings