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Saint Benedict, the father of Western monasticism, is considered a model of Christian stewardship. He authored the famous Rule of St. Benedict, a handbook of daily Christian living that emphasizes exercising stewardship over prayer, work, and community.

Born in central Italy in the town of Nursia around 480, Benedict studied in Rome as a young man. He was so distressed by the chaos and incivility he found there that he left the city and traveled to Subiaco, Italy to become a hermit. He soon attracted followers who wanted to join him in his simple way of living; imitating his style of prayer and work while respecting the rhythms of the day. Benedict stayed there for 25 years before taking a small group of his monks to Monte Cassino, near Naples, where he wrote the final version of his Rule.

The Rule of St. Benedict started a simple, spiritual tradition that exists to this day. It was meant to “…establish a school for the Lord’s service.” It is a set of Christian principles around which the members of the community were to organize their daily lives, focusing on the most important Christian values that would direct their daily actions and help them cultivate habits that would ensure good stewardship of their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

A hallmark of Christian stewardship is hospitality, making room for others. St. Benedict found this aspect of the Christian life especially important for his communities. In his Rule, St. Benedict writes:

“Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for he is going to say: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Mt. 25:35).’ ‘And to all let due honor be shown, especially to those who share our faith’ (Gal. 6:10) and to pilgrims…In welcoming the poor and pilgrims the greatest care and solicitude should be shown, because it is especially in them that Christ is received” (Rule of St. Benedict 53:1-2, 15).

The Rule of St. Benedict was meant to stand on the shoulders of the Gospels and many spiritual writers throughout the ages attest to its transforming power to change lives. It teaches the principles of stewardship, shows one how to live in a way that is uniquely countercultural and invites its adherents to enter into a deeper and more joyful relationship with the Lord.

St. Benedict died in approximately 550. He is the patron saint of monks and farm workers. In 1964 Pope Paul VI declared him to be the patron saint of Europe. His feast day is July 11.

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Saint Anthony of Padua is one the most beloved and admired saints in the Church. A Franciscan friar and a Doctor of the Church, he is considered one of the greatest preachers in the history of Christianity.

Anthony was born on the Feast of the Assumption in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1195 to a wealthy and educated family of the Portuguese nobility. He entered the Augustinian religious community at an early age where he devoted himself to the study of sacred scripture and Latin classics. He felt a call to missionary work, however, and was given permission to join the Franciscan Order when he was 26 years old.

Anthony traveled tirelessly to preach what it meant to live according to the Gospel. He is believed to have made as many as 400 trips to towns in both northern Italy and southern France where he attracted people by the thousands. He was so popular a preacher that he often had to speak in public squares and marketplaces rather than churches.

Anthony knew that preaching was not enough to help people understand how to follow Jesus Christ. He believed he had to give witness to the Gospel by the way he lived his personal life. So, he adopted and maintained a simple lifestyle consistent with what he believed the Gospel was calling him to. He became one of Francis of Assisi’s favorite disciples and closest friend.

The last months of Anthony’s life were lived in Padua, Italy, with preaching, hearing confessions, and assisting those in debt. He died there on June 13, 1231 at the age of 36 and was proclaimed a saint less than one year after his death. So simple, yet compelling and inspiring was Anthony’s teaching of the Catholic faith that he was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1946.

Anthony is best known as the saint to whom one prays to find a lost article. When a novice took his Psalter without permission, Anthony prayed for the book’s return. After the novice was visited by a ghost in a frightening nightmare, he rushed to give the book back to Anthony. Many people do not know, though, that St. Anthony is the patron of other causes. He is the patron saint of Brazil and Portugal, the poor, barren women, harvests and those who travel. His feast day is June 13.

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Stewardship Saint

Saint Ita, January 2018 Stewardship SaintIta of Killeedy, Ireland

Ita of Killeedy, Ireland, also known as Ida, is one of the two most famous women saints in Ireland, along with Brigid of Kildare. Born near present-day County Waterford, allegedly of a royal family, she was baptized as Deidre. She is said to have rejected a prestigious marriage for a life as a consecrated woman religious. She moved early in her life to Killeedy (in County Limerick), where she founded a small community of nuns and resided for the remainder of her life, in community with other consecrated women. She dedicated herself to prayer, fasting, a simplicity of life and cultivating a gift for spiritual discernment.

Ita was well known for having the gift of being able to guide people in holiness. She was much sought after as a spiritual director and confessor. During this period of Christianity, the Celtic Church was more advanced than other churches at the time in recognizing qualities of spiritual leadership in women and in encouraging women in this role. It is thought that Ita may have been abbess of a double monastery of men and women and that she was a confessor to both, giving difficult penances while maintaining a forgiving and compassionate spirit. Confessing one’s sins to a priest had not yet been established as the normal form for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and ordained priests were not yet regarded as the only members of the Church authorized to hear confessions, forgive sins, and impose penances.

She began a school for boys, some of whose graduates became saints in their own right, the most famous of whom was Saint Brendan. She was also known as the “foster mother of the saints of Erin.” The name “Ita” (“thirst for holiness”) was conferred on her because of her saintly qualities.

She believed that the three things God most detested were a scowling face, obstinacy in wrong-doing, and too great a confidence in the power of money. Three things she believed God especially loved included a pure heart, living a simple life and great generosity inspired by gratitude for God’s gifts.

Ita died sometime around 570 and was buried in the monastery she founded. It was destroyed by Viking invaders in the ninth century. A Romanesque church was later built over its ruins, but that too failed to survive. The site, however, remains a place of pilgrimage today.

Ita’s feast day is January 15. Although not on the Roman calendar of saints, her feast is celebrated as an optional memorial in Ireland.

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Saint Fabiola is the patron saint of difficult marriages, divorced persons, abused spouses and victims of unfaithful spouses. She was a Christian, born in Rome in the mid-4th century to a powerful and wealthy family. She was married off at a young age to an abusive and adulterous husband.

Saint Jerome, the most famous biblical scholar in the history of the Church, knew her personally, as he was her teacher and spiritual director. He wrote: “So terrible were the faults imputed to her former husband that not even a prostitute or a common slave could have put up with them.” Fabiola was able to secure a divorce from her husband under Roman civil law, and then she remarried, violating the ordinances of the Church.

While she was still young, Fabiola’s ex-husband died, followed shortly thereafter by her second husband. Upon the latter’s death, she appeared before the gates of Saint John Lateran Basilica, dressed in penitential garb and sought forgiveness for marrying outside the Church. Her public plea for reconciliation was said to have made a great impression upon the Christian population of Rome, and the pope received her formally again into full communion with the Church.

Fabiola devoted her immense wealth to the needs of the poor, the sick and the homeless of Rome. She became a physician and practiced medicine, treating patients with illnesses other physicians would avoid. She also supported the needs of the Church and parish communities throughout Italy.

In 395 Fabiola made a pilgrimage to Bethlehem, an experience which deepened her faith even more dramatically. She lived in a hospice for a time with a religious community, spent hours in prayer, performed menial tasks and cultivated a profound devotion to the simplicity and poverty of the Nativity.
When she returned to Rome, Fabiola sold all her belongings and co-founded what is known to be the first hospital in the Western world. Saint Jerome later wrote that this innovative institution became famous from Britain to Parthia (modern day Iran). And she continued to work tirelessly to treat patients that no one else would treat.

Fabiola died on December 27, 399, of natural causes, and her death was marked by an enormous procession befitting a state funeral. Roman citizens turned out by the thousands to express their gratitude for the life and ministry she had embraced in the city of Rome.

Her feast day is December 27th.
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Stewardship Saint

Saint Roque Gonzalez de Santa Cruz was born on November 17, 1576 in the city of Asunción, now the capital of Paraguay, South America. The son of wealthy Spanish colonists, he was well-educated and a devout Catholic. He was ordained a priest at age 22.

In 1609, attracted to the evangelizing activities of the Jesuits, Father Roque entered the order and began his own evangelizing ministry as a missionary in a vast region of South America where today the countries of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay intersect. He would spend the next two decades searching for indigenous peoples, gaining their trust and showing them how to improve their lives by settling them into organized communities protected from slave traders. He then converted them to Christianity. The written records of his extraordinary accomplishments as a missionary and explorer still exist.

At a time when Spanish conquistadors were brutalizing and enslaving natives, Father Roque helped them become self-sufficient and free. In 1613 he established his first native settlement, and spearheaded the Jesuit-movement to establish what came to be called “reductions,” independent Indian village communities that were off limits to slave traders.

The economy of these villages made the Indians self-supporting by combining communal agriculture with private property holding. And the villages had their own political structure that gave the natives a measure of freedom. Father Roque was an innovator who created the model for these unique communities.

Father Roque’s creative evangelizing ministry not only made Christianity attractive to the natives of the region, it even got the attention of such European intellectuals as Voltaire who, singularly impressed with Father Roque’s ministry, wrote:

The Paraguayan missions reached the highest degree of civilization to which it is possible to lead a young people. In those missions, law was respected, morals were pure, a happy brotherliness bound men together, the useful arts and even some of the more graceful sciences flourished, and there was abundance everywhere.

Not everyone embraced his model of evangelizing though. In 1628, Father Roque, joined by two other Jesuits who would later become saints themselves, Saint Juan del Castillo, SJ and Saint Alonso Rodríguez, SJ, established a mission that roused the hostility of a local chieftain. In November 1628, Father Roque and his Jesuit companions were tortured and killed.

“All the Christians among my countrymen loved the Father and grieved for his death because he was the father of all our Indian communities along the Paraná River” so testified Chief Guarecupi after Father Roque’s assassination. The chief’s testimony revealed a deep affection by the indigenous people for Father Roque and their awareness of the great personal sacrifices he had made over two decades to improve their lives and bring them to Christ.

Father Roque was canonized by Saint John Paul II in 1988. His feast day is November 17.

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Alphonsus Rodriguez was a Spanish Jesuit lay brother whose assignment for 45 years was being a doorkeeper at one of its colleges. One observer noted that Alphonsus carried out this simple task with such loving hospitality that the act of opening the college door became a “sacramental gesture.”

 

Born in Segovia, Spain in 1533, Alphonsus was the child of a prosperous wool merchant. His father died when he was 14 and he left school to help his mother run the family business. He inherited the business when he was only 23 years old and at the age of 26 he married María Suarez, with whom he had three children. By the time he was 31, though, he found himself a widower who had not only lost his wife, but his mother and two of his children as well.

 

Alphonsus sold his business and began living a life of prayer and simplicity. When his third child died, his thoughts turned to living in a religious community. He wanted to become a Jesuit but was rejected for his lack of formal education. In 1571 he applied a second time and was accepted as a lay brother. At age 40 he was sent to the recently established college on Spain’s Mediterranean island of Majorca and was assigned the humble position of porter, a doorkeeper.

 

His daily responsibilities for the next 45 years included receiving visitors who came to the college, searching for the college staff or students who were wanted in the parlor, delivering messages, running errands and distributing alms to the needy. He would, however, transform this humble station into a ministry of hospitality and spiritual guidance.

 

Alphonsus exercised a marvelous influence not only on the members of the college community, but upon a great number of people who came to him for advice. His reputation for holiness grew and people began going to him for spiritual direction. Saint Peter Claver, while a student at the college, was one of them. It was Alphonsus who inspired Claver to become a missionary in the New World.

 

Alphonsus once wrote that each time the bell at the front door rang he looked at the door and envisioned that it was God who was standing outside seeking admittance. He died on October 31, 1617 and in 1633 local officials declared him patron saint of Majorca. In 1888 he was canonized a saint and the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins memorialized him in a sonnet. His feast day is October 31.

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Stewardship Saint

Every capital campaign requires initial donors, those major gifts in the quiet phase that ensure a strong foundational for the campaign’s future. Large gifts can stretch people’s pocketbooks, but can we imagine entirely emptying them? That’s the story of St. Katherine Drexel.

 

The daughter of a prominent investment banker in Philadelphia in1858, Katherine experienced all the trappings of high society. Still, her family was Catholic and she received a strong, faith-based upbringing. They traveled frequently, exposing young Katherine to the needs on the American frontier. After her father’s death, Katherine inherited a large sum of money.

 

Still, Katherine’s heart was not in becoming another socialite with the East Coast elite. She began parsing out her inheritance to charity work among the Native Americans. During a pilgrimage to Rome, she begged Pope Leo XIII to appeal for missionaries to the people she’d come to love. His response changed the course of Katherine’s life: “Why don’t you become a missionary?”

 

Four years later, Katherine had founded a religious order specifically to serve the Native American and African American population in the United States. Her order opened 145 missions and over 70 schools across the United States. During Katherine’s life, the cost of opening these schools was largely financed by her personal fortune of nearly $20 million – roughly $500 million today.

 

While most of us won’t be called to give away every penny to our name, Katherine’s example of total surrender can inspire us no matter our walk of life. Rather than use her money for selfish pursuits, Katherine saw a need and sought to fill it with everything she had. Where is the need in your community? How are you seeking to meet it?

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