“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
– Philippians 4:6
A stewardship parish strives to nourish the soul through prayer. “Prayer is as necessary to our souls as food is to our bodies.” (Characteristics of a Christian Steward). Prayer and the sacraments dispose a soul to receive God’s abundant graces, which are necessary to grow in holiness. It is through prayer that we nurture our personal relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
While parishioners find great fulfillment in giving themselves to parish life, prayer purifies and intensifies the intention of the steward. Prayer increases our yearning to receive the source and summit of our Catholic faith, the Eucharist. As a parish family, we gather together to worship and praise God in the Mass. Nourished by the Word of God and the Eucharist, we are strengthened as a parish family to go and to serve the Lord. Stewardship is a lived response of the disciple to follow this command.
There is a deep connection between the Eucharistic celebration and stewardship. In one of the prefaces of the Eucharistic prayers it says, “Lord, our thanksgiving is itself your gift.” The Third Eucharistic Prayer states, “All life, all holiness comes from you through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, by the working of the Holy Spirit… And so, Father, we bring you these gifts. We ask you to make them holy by the power of your Spirit, that they may become the body and blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at whose command we celebrate this Eucharist.”
All we are and seek to become is strengthened and becomes more perfect through the Eucharist. It is in the Eucharist where we again recognize our total dependence upon God for everything. All that is good is a gift from Him. It is not that we have loved Him, but that He first has loved us by giving His Son.
In both our personal and communal prayer, we turn toward God to discern properly our talents and gifts. In a steward’s response, we place those gifts at the service of God and one another. At the heart of the steward’s prayer is the petition, “Thy Will be done.”
Listed below are some of the “building blocks” a stewardship parish considers as it seeks to grow in prayer:
Pastor: The pastor is a man of prayer, who helps lead his parishioners to be a people of prayer. Spiritual exercises, which promote this prayer life, include: personal prayer daily, communal prayer and participation in the sacramental life of the Church. Through his leadership, prayer is the rock foundation of every parish direction and decision. Parishioners see and more readily trust pastoral decisions as they witness the Holy Spirit guiding and directing the parish vision and planning.
Pastoral Planning: Prayer is essential to the spiritual life of the individual, the family, the parish and the Universal Church. Prayer needs to precede the development of the parish pastoral plan as well as precede every step of the implementation of the plan. The parish organizations model this for all parishioners by beginning the meeting or activity with prayer, calling each person into a conscious presence with our Almighty God. As a seminary professor once taught, “Do not become so involved in the work of the Lord, that you forget the Lord of the work!”
Holiness: Holiness is the perfection of love – to be like Jesus. To grow in holiness is the ultimate desire of our prayer life. This gift and call to holiness is first given to us at our Baptism when we become children of God. Our journey of faith in this life is a spiritual journey to the Lord. If we do not recognize the end to which God calls us, then we are not following the Way, Truth and Life, who is Christ Himself.
Sacraments: Frequent reception of the Sacraments, especially Reconciliation and Holy Communion, strengthen us in our journey to holiness. The sacraments are visible signs of God’s love that make us grow in grace, in our participation in the life of our God.
Liturgy: The celebration of the Sunday Mass is the source and summit of our lives as faithful stewards. The liturgical prayers throughout the Mass flow from the heart of stewardship. The Eucharist not only feeds us, but challenges us to share the gifts we have received with others. We are sent “…to love and serve the Lord” at the conclusion of the Mass. A constant challenge exists to help parishioners make the correlation between their call to discipleship as stewards and the liturgies we celebrate in our prayer.
Gratitude: A deep sense of gratitude fills the heart of a steward. The steward understands that everything they are and have that is good comes from God. The recognition of the gifts received daily from God makes us consciously aware of God’s Presence among His People. Our desire to thank God is His gift. As disciples, we are called to respond by using these gifts of our time, talent and treasure. Gratitude in our hearts cultivates our prayer.
Conversion: Our journey towards holiness requires a lifetime of daily conversion. Prayer helps us to see ourselves as God sees us and to see who God calls us to become. Without the desire for conversion to become faithful stewards, our spiritual blindness leads to selfishness and pride.
Virtues: Through faithful lives of prayer, we grow in virtue. Our prayer takes deep root when we practice the theological virtues, (faith, hope and charity); the cardinal virtues, (prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude); and seek to live the fruits of the Holy Spirit, (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). We grow in virtue when we pray. A steward is a person of virtue.