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The eleventh month is now upon us, drawing us closer to the end of the calendar year. It is a transition month, a month between autumn and winter, when the leaves get raked, and the crops have been harvested. We “fall back” from Daylight Savings Time and revert to Standard Time. Most of us prepare for rain, snow and winter storms. It is also a month that reminds us to be grateful which is so fundamental to Christian stewardship.

During the month of November we express our gratitude for the saints, witnesses to the Gospel who challenge us to find our own path to holiness. We are grateful for the lives of all who have gone before us to meet the Lord, especially those we know and hold dear. We thank our veterans who have offered their lives on our behalf. And of course, in the United States, there is Thanksgiving Day, a holiday that is all about gratitude.

The month of November is an ideal time of the year to focus our spiritual lives more intently on being grateful for the blessings of the Lord. Sacred scripture is a good place to start because it is filled with the themes of thanksgiving and gratitude. The psalmist sings: “Give thanks to God, bless his name” (Psalm 100:4). We can become more aware, too, of gratitude as it is expressed in the rhythm of the Eucharistic celebration. Other spiritual exercises, too, may help us to grow to be more grateful stewards of God’s love.

The month of November is an ideal time of the year to focus our spiritual lives more intently on being grateful for the blessings of the Lord.

Pray with gratitude. Set aside some time for prayer each day. If you are new to the habit of daily prayer, find 10 minutes in your daily schedule. Pray as a family as well. And begin with a prayer of gratitude.

Put gratitude into action. Do something in your parish or neighborhood to share your material blessings with those who might otherwise go hungry. Contribute to a food bank or help deliver food baskets.

Make gratitude a habit. Find ways to thank others for their generosity and kindness toward you every day. The late Catholic spiritual writer, Thomas Merton, once wrote that to be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything. Let us use the month of November as an opportunity to grow in stewardship which, simply put, means living a life of gratitude. And as the psalmist encourages us to do: “O give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1).

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St. Frances Cabrini, better known as Mother Cabrini, was the first American citizen to be elevated to sainthood by the Catholic Church. Born in 1850, near Milan in northern Italy, she was the youngest of 13 children. As a young girl she was fascinated by the stories of missionaries and made up her mind to join a religious order. She tried twice to enter religious communities but was turned down both times because of poor health.

Having earned a teaching certificate, she became a school-teacher in a girls’ school, and eventually became headmistress of an orphanage where she drew a small community of women together to live a religious way of life.

Gaining the attention of the local bishop for their way of life and their care of poor children in schools and hospitals, Cabrini and six other women took religious vows and in 1880, their community, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was officially approved.

Sister Frances Cabrini dreamt of being a missionary in China, but Pope Leo XIII had other plans for her. He asked her to travel to the United States and minister to the Italian immigrant community in New York. She made that journey in 1889 with the six members of her community.

Said to have possessed remarkable administrative abilities, Frances Cabrini was responsible for the establishment of nearly seventy orphanages, schools and hospitals, scattered over eight countries in Europe, North America and in parts of Latin America.

There is much that can be learned first-hand about Mother Cabrini because of the letters and diaries she left behind. A very prayerful person, she was able to accomplish in her work what others said could not be done. And even as she was maintaining schools and hospitals and in charge of hundreds of nuns, she was ever mindful to care for the poor, the homeless and immigrants who were without jobs.

Frances Cabrini’s legacy continues today through the Missionary Sisters, their lay collaborators and in the innumerable religious institutions that bear her name. Her charism continues to inspire thousands who serve the poor in schools, hospitals and other ministries around the world.

St. Frances Cabrini died in Chicago in 1917 at the age of 67 and was proclaimed a saint in 1946. She is the patron saint of immigrants and hospital administrators. Her feast day is celebrated on November 13.

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Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus, or Theresa of Lisieux, is a model stewardship saint because of her simple and practical way of life. Better known as the “Little Flower,” Theresa was an extremely popular saint in the first half of the twentieth century. Born in France in 1873 to a very pious family, Marie Francoise Therese Martin became a Carmelite nun at Lisieux, France, at the age of fifteen. She dedicated her life to growing in holiness in a very simple and straightforward way. She meditated on the Sacred Scriptures as well as the writings of famous saints such as Teresa of Avila, Francis de Sales and John of the Cross. She was faithful to the Carmelite Rule and the rhythm of daily life and worship in her religious community. Theresa believed that authentic holiness could be grasped by anyone. It was not just a pious ideal available only to clergy and religious.

In 1895 she suffered the initial stages of tuberculosis, the disease that eventually caused her death. And in the last two years of her life she remained at Lisieux and wrote a spiritual autobiography, The Story of a Soul, which became immensely popular and was translated into several languages after her death. She made a well-known promise to spend her life in heaven continuing to do good works on earth, “as long as there were souls to be saved.” She said she would let fall a “shower of roses” from heaven.

St. Theresa died in 1897 at the age of 24. She was canonized in 1925, an amazingly short length of time since her death. She was declared a Doctor of the Church by Saint John Paul II in 1997. Theresa of Lisieux is the patron saint of the missions, florists, aviators, and the countries France and Russia. Her feast day is October 1.

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During the 1997 World Youth Day celebrations in Paris, Saint John Paul II beatified Antoine Frederic Ozanam in Notre Dame Cathedral and proclaimed him to be a model for all Catholic laity. “No better model could be given to the youth of the world than this young man … ‘Show us your works!’”

Blessed Antoine Frédéric Ozanam was a French Catholic scholar and defender of the Catholic faith at a time when it underwent severe challenges in early 19th century France. He also founded the Catholic association of laity dedicated to serving the poor, which came to be known as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Frederic was born in Milan, Italy, in 1813, the fifth of 14 children. Showing academic promise at an early age, his parents encouraged him to study. He was interested in law, languages and philosophy, and in 1831 went to the renowned Parisian university, the Sorbonne, to study law. It was here that he encountered hostility to Catholicism. He published a short work responding to this hostility that attracted the attention of French Catholic writers and politicians.

Frederic’s writings emphasized the important social contributions of the Church, but a conversation with another student disturbed him: “Frederic, I accept that the Church may have done things for people in the past but what are you doing now? Show us your works!” Those words stung the young Frederic so much that he decided to work with the poor. In 1833, with seven university companions, he laid the foundations of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul honoring the great saint who in another time had also ministered to the poor of the city of Paris. He was 20 years old.

Frederic earned a doctor of laws in 1836 and a doctorate in letters in 1839. He became a professor at the university and, in time, chair of foreign languages. His lectures at the Sorbonne were among the most popular as students flocked to hear this young, vibrant speaker.

In 1841 Frederic married, had one daughter, and is said to have embraced a youthful enthusiasm for his marriage and his parenting. Each month he would observe the anniversary of his wedding with a thoughtfully chosen gift, however small. Frederic brought that same domestic love and attention to the growing Society which spread throughout France and other countries within a relatively short time.

He gained a reputation as the leading historical and literary critic in the “new” Catholic movement in France, and his popular writings in the late 1840s won him a number of French writing awards. He was hailed as a brilliant promoter of the Catholic faith. Frederic died of tuberculosis at age 40 on September 8, 1853. Today the Society numbers nearly a million members in 142 countries. Frederic’s feast day is September 9.

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Saint Augustine of Hippo was one of the most distinguished theologians in the history of the Church and may have exercised more influence on the shape and direction of doctrines of faith than any other theologian including Saint Thomas Aquinas.

He was born in 354 to Saint Monica, a Christian, and Patricius, a pa­gan until just before his death. He was registered as a catechumen but not baptized since Baptism at the time was delayed until adulthood. His formal education as a lawyer and rhetorician took place in the North African city of Carthage, a major metropolitan city of the Roman Empire. He entered into a relationship with a woman who bore him a son, and at age 22, started his own school of rhetoric and grammar. At age 29, he and his companion and their son travelled to Rome so he could further his career. He was appointed professor of rhetoric in Milan, the seat of the imperial court.

While in Milan, Augustine became captivated by the eloquent sermons of Saint Ambrose, and after a long interior conflict, vividly described in his Con­fessions, he was baptized at the Easter Vigil. Augustine was 33 years old.

Augustine’s mother, Monica, had followed him to Rome and then to Milan while his companion, after having lived with him for fifteen years, returned to Af­rica. Augustine’s mother died in 387 and his son passed away in 390 at age 17.

During a visit to the African port city of Hippo in 391, Augustine was rec­ognized and acclaimed by the local Christian community and was practically compelled to accept ordination. In 395 he became their bishop and remained bishop of Hippo for the rest of his life, preaching, writing, administering the sacraments and engaging in a broad range of other pastoral activities. He was especially devoted to the care and relief of the poor. He presided over synods and councils, and adjudicated civil as well as ecclesiastical cases.

A prolific writer, Saint Augustine produced a number of major works. They include not only the Confessions, arguably one of the greatest books in West­ern literature, but also his sermons on the Gospels, Epistles, and Psalms, the De Trinitate (“On the Trinity”), and the De Civitate Dei (“On the City of God”). His writings were especially influential in the development of the doctrines of creation, grace, the sacraments and the Church. On Christian stewardship, he insisted: “Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the rest is needed by others.”

Augustine died on August 29, 430. He is one of the four original West­ern Doctors of the Church along with Saints Ambrose, Jerome and Gregory the Great.

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Saint Mary Magdalene is one of the most revered saints in the history of the Church and her discipleship emphasizes the complementary roles of women, Saint Peter and the other disciples as witnesses to the Risen Christ.

From the New Testament, one can conclude that Mary came from Magdala, a village on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. She was a friend of Jesus of Nazareth and a leading figure among those who were his disciples. She was one of the women who accompanied and financially supported Jesus and the twelve apostles which suggests that the women were respectable, well-to-do members of the community.

At the time Jesus was executed on Golgotha, when the men in his company had already run away and abandoned him, Mary Magdalene is specifically identified in the Gospels as one of the women who refused to leave him. She was present at the Crucifixion and burial.

What is by far the most important affirmation about Mary Magdalene, however, is that she is mentioned in all five of the Resurrection narratives of the Gospel tradition (Mark 16:1-8, Matthew 28:1-10, Luke 23:55-24:12, John 20:1-18, and Mark 16:9-20). In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John, she is the primary witness to Christ’s Resurrection. All four Gospels explicitly name her as being present at the tomb and she was the first person to preach the “Good News” of that miracle. From other texts of the early Christian era, Mary Magdalene’s status as a disciple in the years after Jesus’ death is as prominent as the twelve apostles.

For many centuries Mary Magdalene was the symbol of Christian devotion, especially that of repentance. However, Christian traditions that came after the New Testament era erroneously equated Mary Magdalene with both the sinful woman in Luke 7 who anointed Jesus and with Mary of Bethany in John 11 and Luke 10 who also anointed Jesus. The tradition that Mary Magdalene was a repentant prostitute has been dismissed by modern biblical scholarship as almost certainly untrue.

Saint Mary Magdalene has been celebrated throughout Christian history in art and literature. There are many famous depictions of her in art such as Rembrandt’s Christ and St. Mary Magdalene at the Tomb and Titian’s Noli Me Tangere (Latin: “Do not touch me”). Her feast day is July 22.

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María Guadalupe García Zavala was born in 1878 in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico. As a child she made frequent visits to the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan, located next to her father’s religious goods shop. Her acquaintances said Maria treated everyone with equal respect and kindness.

At age 23, Maria was engaged to be married, but broke it off because of a growing sense that the Lord was calling her to life in religious community and of service to the sick and the poor. When she confided this change of heart to her spiritual director, he revealed his own desire to establish a religious community to work with those who were hospitalized. He invited María to join him.

The new congregation, which officially began in 1901, was known as the “Handmaids of St. Margaret Mary (Alacoque) and the Poor.” María worked as a nurse in the hospital. Compassion and care for the physical and spiritual well-being of the sick were the primary concerns. María worked tirelessly.

Sister María was soon named head of the quickly-growing community of sisters. She taught the community, mostly by her example, the importance of living the Gospel’s spirit of poverty. This included living a life of humility and exhibiting joy and a loving demeanor each day to each person they encountered.

At times, Mother María and others in the community would take to the streets begging in order to collect money for the hospital. The sisters also worked in parishes to assist the priests and to serve as catechists.

From 1911 until 1936, the Catholic Church in Mexico underwent severe persecution. Mother María put her own life at risk to help the clergy of Guadalajara, and even the archbishop, go into hiding in the community’s hospital. The humble and generous treatment she extended even to their persecutors when they needed food or medical care did not go unnoticed. It was not long before they, too, began defending the hospital run by the sisters.

During her lifetime, 11 foundations were established in Mexico. Today, the religious community has 22 foundations and is active in Mexico, Peru, Iceland, Greece and Italy.

Mother María died on June 24, 1963, at the age of 85. Her feast day is June 24.

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Saint Damien de Veuster is better known as Saint Damien of Molokai, “apostle to lepers.” When he was born in 1840, few people had any firsthand knowledge of leprosy, Hansen’s disease. But by the time he died at age 49, people all over the world knew about this disease because of him.

Joseph de Veuster grew up in a small village in Belgium. He joined the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in 1859, taking the religious name Damien. When his brother, who was also a member of the congregation, was taken ill and unable to embark on his assignment in the Hawaiian Islands, Damien went in his place. He was ordained a priest there in 1864.

In 1873 Father Damien responded to the local bishop’s call for volunteers to work on Molokai, an island used in part as a leper colony. At the time there was no cure for leprosy and those who contracted the disease were shunned.

There were about eight hundred lepers on the island when Father Damien arrived and the number continued to grow. Living conditions were so terrible that Damien referred to the place as a “living cemetery.” He visited the lepers in their huts and brought them the sacraments. He also made efforts to improve the roads, harbor, and water supply and to expand the hospital. His multiple responsibilities were said to have included those of a pastor, physician, counselor, builder, sheriff, and undertaker. In one of his letters home, he wrote: “I make myself a leper with the lepers, to bring all to Jesus Christ.”

Father Damien returned to Honolulu to beg for money, clothing and medicine and as news of his ministry spread, donations began to pour in from all over the world. But in 1885, he himself contracted leprosy and was forbidden to leave the island. Volunteers and visitors stopped coming.

When Father Damien spent a week in a Honolulu hospital, his ministry gained even more recognition. He was visited by the king and the prime minister, and money and offers of prayers continued to pour in from Europe and the United States. As his condition worsened, Damien accepted it as God’s will and described himself as the “happiest missionary in the world.” He died on April 15, 1889. When Hawaii became a state in 1959, it selected Damien as one of its two representatives in the Statuary Hall at the United States Capitol. Damien was canonized in 2009.

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  • Join or start a summer bible study group.
  • Plan an outing with your family.
  • Introduce yourself to a fellow parishioner with whom you are unfamiliar.
  • Pray for peace on Memorial Day.
  • Help a neighbor who is physically unable to clean their yard.
  • Invite someone to attend a weekend liturgy with you.
  • Make a blood donation.
  • Show genuine hospitality to visitors at your church.
  • Don’t text when you drive.
  • Reduce your stress by getting outside and getting some exercise.
  • Drive courteously.
  • Make contact with a relative you haven’t seen in a long time.
  • Take time to pray each day.
  • Treat your family or loved one to a day at the museum.
  • Volunteer to participate in a community cleanup effort.
  • Make a gift to your diocesan annual appeal.
  • Plant flowers, shrubs or trees in a park or other location.
  • Collect stuffed animals from friends and neighbors write messages to tie or clip onto the animals and give them to a local police department to use in comforting children.
  • Don’t drive while impaired by alcohol.
  • Donate gently used clothing.
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Christ Our Lord,

risen Lord,

light of the world,

to you be all praise and glory!

Shine your light on us

this Easter season

so that we may reflect brilliantly

the glory of your resurrection.

Make us a blessing

for those who suffer,

live in fear or

who are overwhelmed by life.

And let the Spirit fill our hearts

with your loving presence

so that we may become

good stewards of your Gospel

out of love for you

who, for our sakes,

lived, died and rose from the dead;

you who live and reign with your

Father,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

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