Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
June 4, 2007
Stewardship – give more than you take
Christians should strive to be stewards rather than consumers, Archbishop Thomas Collins wrote in his December 2004 pastoral letter on stewardship.
That is our choice in early 21st century North America - whether to give to life or to take from it, whether to be active or passive. There is so much that can lure us into indifference to those outside our own small world - prosperity, entertainment, our own sorrows, cynicism.
But indifference is no life. Archbishop Collins constantly challenged us to go outwards, to be rooted in Christ and then strive to be part of his evangelizing, redeeming mission. Stewardship is one code word for that. It is the alternative to a world that is a sad mixture of indifference and a relentless steeplechase after nothing.
Collins' fervent dedication to stewardship is an important piece of his legacy to the Edmonton Archdiocese. On June 15-16, the Western Canadian Stewardship Conference will be held in Edmonton. Those who attend the conference no doubt will be filled with greater zeal for promoting stewardship. The WCR will later present coverage of the conference.
Stewardship is more than any one conference or ongoing activity. It calls us as laity not only to transform our parishes, but also to transform our world.
Being the Church is something the laity are called to do not only on Sunday mornings or at Church-sponsored events. We are the Church in every venue of life. That should be in family life, at work and at recreation.
Some fields of endeavour - including the arts, education, the media, and leadership in business and politics - have a profound effect on the overall culture.
Catholic laity cannot withdraw from those fields, leaving them to those with a more constricted set of values.
This engagement of the laity as people of faith and values in the wider world is a crucial part of the vision of the Second Vatican Council.
Pope John Paul II devoted his 1988 letter, Christifideles Laici (The Lay Members of Christ's Faithful People), to calling lay people to stewardship for society and creation.
The late pope said there was "particular urgency" to providing a Christian response to lives lived as if God did not exist. That was in 1988. The urgency is greater today.
Pope John Paul's call is summarized in his words that the responsibility of the laity "is to testify how the Christian faith constitutes the only fully valid response . . . to the problems and hopes that life poses to every person and society" (no. 34).
Non-Christians would object to this formula. But Christians and non-Christians inspired by humanitarian motives can work together on many issues even if, in the end, the basis of their thinking is quite different.
John Paul's biographer, George Weigel, wrote that Christifideles Laici is "a document well in advance of current Catholic thinking." Clergy and laity are unprepared for the outward-looking Church the pope envisioned. "Christifideles Laici laid out a dramatic, even radical, vision of a laity fully living its mission to society and culture as an expression of its full membership in the Body of Christ," Weigel wrote.
This is stewardship brought to full fruition. Archbishop Collins promoted that view too in his 2004 pastoral letter:
"What a benefit it would be for our whole society if more and more of the generous energy of all of the members of our archdiocese were activated, to bring the life of the Gospel to a world so desperately in need of it. Stewardship is a conscious and careful effort to activate that energy to focus it effectively in the service of God and neighbour."
This remains the challenge to laity - give more to society than you take from it; be active, not passive, in the great events of the day.
- Glen Argan
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