For some people, "stewardship" is the term the Church uses when she tries to get money — isn't "stewardship" the Catholic code word for fundraising sprinkled with holy water?
Unfortunately, the word has been misused and misunderstood for so long, many people tune out when they hear the word.
Stewardship, quite simply, is recognizing that everything we have and everything we are is a gift from God and being grateful and generous with those gifts. We aren't "owners" of anything, we are merely "stewards" of the gifts that God has given each of us. All He's asking is that we return a portion, in gratitude, for all that He has given us.
The whole point of stewardship is to strengthen our faith, strengthen our relationship with the Holy Trinity and help each other get to heaven.
If you remember nothing else about stewardship, just keep these words in mind — grateful and generous. For people whose lives are based in gratitude, generosity is the natural byproduct. When someone is grateful, they typically want to share, they are generous with others. This becomes a cycle, as a person is grateful, they become generous. The person receiving the generosity becomes grateful and is generous to the next person and so on.
So, how does one live a life of gratitude? Let's go back to the definition of stewardship. We have to first recognize that everything we have and are is a gift from God. Unfortunately, this is where we lose some people. They don't recognize that the talents, skills and abilities that God gave them are gifts. They don't recognize that the money and possessions they earned from the talents, skills and abilities that God gave them are gifts. They don't recognize that the people God has put in their lives are gifts. Instead, some people think that they do this all on their own, without God's help.
When we recognize the gifts we have been given, we live a more "God-centered" life. When we don't, we live a more "self-centered" life. Remember what it says in the Gospel of John, "He must increase; I must decrease."
Baranowski is the Director of Stewardship Education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He and his wife are parishioners at St. Francis of Assisi in Oakville. He can be reached at (314) 792-7215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.