Stewardship and Evangelization

I’ve been in Chicago, since Monday (flying in from Tampa), hence the lack of blogging. In Chicago I was attending the International Catholic Stewardship Council’s annual conference. The theme of the conference this year linked Saint Paul, evangelization with the idea of stewardship. It was in a conversation with a pastor of a large church that a new insight hit me that was connected with the overall theme of the conference.

We were talking about marriage preparation and this pastor’s frustration with mandates from his diocese that certian topics be taught before marriage–of great interest to me, since I have oversight of this area in the diocese where I am. Listening to the pastor, who I would have little agreement with on the topic we were discussing–a revelation of sorts came to me: When we have the opportunity to win people back to Christ–whose faith isn’t the strongest, what do we present them with at that moment when they are coming to the church requesting a sacrament? Namely is it Christ or a list of demands?

I also recalled at the moment that when I was critiquing a marriage program being proposed for a southern diocese (not mine), a few years ago, that my major criticism of the program is how it squandered the opportunity to invite the couple preparing for marriage to a deeper relationship with Christ (or to even consider a relationship with Christ). This program was strong in communication skills, strong in financial planning, but when it came to the Faith it became very abstract–using churchy language and not communicating the essential nature of faith to the success of marriage.

People are always saying we should teach this or we should demand this, but one hardly hears as the essential teaching or demand the necessity of Christ. That as Jean Pierre De Cuasade said, “Without God everything is nothing, but with God nothing is everything,” if we believe this and I do, then we have to act like it when we are preparing a progam in Christ’s Church.

I visited St. Peter’s Church in Chicago around 1:00 on Monday, during a break in the conference. Over three hundred people were on their knees praying before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar. In this church there are confessions heard everyday from early in the morning to late in the day, Mass is said almost every hour from early in the morning to midday–what a blessing to have a place in the midst of the city where people can come to renew their relationship with Christ, continue thier initiation into his Body, the Church (an insight of Pope Benedict’s in his apostolic letter), and adore him! This is the source of all our efforts at evanglization and a great example of what being a good steward of the gifts that God has given to the church to share with all.

Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque


From a book I authored entitled The Church’s Most Powerful Novenas:

Claude Alacoque and Philiberte Lamyn named the fifth of their seven children Margaret on the day of her birth, July 22, 1647. Margaret, born in Lauthecourt, France, would barely get to know her father before he would die of pneumonia when she was eight. A short time after his death, Margaret was sent away to a convent school where she excelled until, at the age of eleven, she contracted rheumatic fever and then spent the next four years bedridden.

Returning to the family home, Margaret found that her family had fallen on hard times since the death of her father. Claude’s relatives now ran the household and treated Philiberte and her children like servants. This sad situation lasted until the eldest of Philiberte’s sons finally became of legal age and control of the estate reverted back to Philiberte’s family.

Margaret had a deep love for Jesus throughout her childhood. Her strong love for Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament, led her, at age twenty-two, to enter the community of nuns founded by St. Francis de Sales called the Order of the Visitation at Paray-le-Monial. This community was founded on principles of humility and selflessness for which Margaret’s earlier experiences at the hands of her relatives had prepared her well. Upon her profession, she was given the name Mary, which was added to her given name, Margaret.

On December 27, 1673, the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, Margaret Mary had a unique experience while praying in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. It seemed to her that she no longer existed as a separate entity. In the midst of this experience, she felt as though Jesus wished for her to take the place of the Beloved Disciple at the Last Supper. She imagined laying her head against the Lord’s breast so that she might hear the beat of his heart and know how great was the love that Jesus had for the human race. Jesus shared with Margaret Mary his sadness at how indifferent people were to his love.

Her superior did not take Margaret Mary’s prayer experiences seriously. But when Margaret insisted on the validity of them, her superior appointed several theologians to listen to Margaret’s story. They concluded that Margaret Mary suffered from delusions. Thus Margaret suffered silently until Father Claude de La Colombière, a Jesuit, was appointed as her spiritual director; only then did she find someone who believed her experiences were indeed genuine.

Margaret Mary continued to experience visions of Jesus. He revealed his heart, pierced after the crucifixion, to Margaret and told her that it symbolized his love. The heart was aflame with love, and the Lord wanted Margaret Mary to make known this love to all the world.

Jesus told her that he wished for a feast celebrating his love on the Friday after the Solemnity of Corpus Christi (the Feast of the Body and Blood or Our Lord; literal translation from Latin: “Body of Christ”). He also made known his wish for a special devotion of the reception of Holy Communion on the first Friday of each month in reparation for the ingratitude of humanity. Margaret Mary relayed all this to her spiritual director, Father de La Colombière, who is largely responsible for the spread of the devotion. Margaret Mary died on October 17, 1690. After a vigorous scrutiny of her life and visions, she was beatified in 1864 and canonized in 1920.

The modern devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus spread from Paray-le-Monial in 1907 by Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey, SSCC. The movement urged people to enthrone an image of the Sacred Heart in their homes, to consecrate themselves to the love that Jesus had for them, and to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion for nine consecutive first Fridays as Jesus had instructed St. Margaret Mary. Jesus promised that those who did so would be blessed with the grace of final perseverance and would not die without the opportunity to receive the Last Sacraments of the Church. (The Last Sacraments, or Rites, are actually a number of sacramental rites, including the celebration of the Rite of Reconciliation, Viaticum [Holy Communion “for the journey”], and the Rite of the Anointing of the Sick.)

For more books by Michael Dubruiel about prayer and the Mass, go here. 

Noise

It started about ten years ago, I was with friends at a Jaguar-Bengal game in Cincinnati and I complained about the noise that blasts over the sound system. My friend said, “You’re getting old, man.”

This past week at the Panther-Buccaneer game really took the cake. Sound blasting at peak in the stadium, out at the concessions, in the bathrooms–all so loud that it was distorted. Why do pro-teams feel that their clientelle are deaf? College football games, at least the one’s I’ve been to don’t do this-and in professional sports one of the reasons I find Wrigley Field in Chicago so sacred is that the only sound you hear is the electricity of the crowd–no piped in noise, just the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd.

One noise that does make the Buccaneer games special though, is the firing of the canons from the pirate ship. When I think to attending games in the old stadium, those dreadful orange uniforms–there is nothing to be nostalgic about. But I wonder if the thousands of empty seats at the division leading Bucs game on Sunday aren’t empty because some fans have tired of noise that they can’t control with their remote…

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