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Lives of the Saints
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Living Today Using Insights from the Life of
St. Francis of Assisi

God Owns It All!

 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it (Psalm 24:1).

Part of St. Francis of Assisi’s notion of poverty was that he owned nothing because God owned it all. God created the heavens and the earth and all that dwell in it. We are the caretakers; we are stewards of God’s creation. As St. Francis gave up all his earthly possessions at the foot of the Bishop of Assisi (during his confrontation with his father), he witnessed to all as to what it means to be a steward-disciple or a grateful caretaker. When the U.S. Bishops wrote their Pastoral Letter, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, they certainly might have had St. Francis of Assisi personally in mind when they chose the words:

Who is a Christian disciple? One who responds to Christ’s call, follows Jesus, and shapes his or her life in imitation of Christ’s. Who is a Christian steward? One who receives God’s gifts gratefully, cherishes and tends them in a responsible and accountable manner, shares them in justice and love with others, and returns them with increase to the Lord. Let us begin with being a disciple—a follower of our Lord Jesus Christ. As members of the Church, Jesus calls us to be disciples. This has astonishing implications: Mature disciples make a conscious decision to follow Jesus, no matter what the cost. Christian disciples experience conversion—life shaping changes of mind and heart—and commit their very selves to the Lord. Christian stewards respond in a particular way to the call to be a disciple. Stewardship has the power to shape and mold our understanding of our lives and the way in which we live.

Isn’t the similarity remarkable with the life of St. Francis! St. Francis was indeed a great steward and that should not come as a surprise to us because stewardship is the natural response of a committed disciple (hence, the title of the pastoral letter:  Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response). After all, that is essentially what all the saints were, great models of stewardship. They each felt called by God to use all the gifts, talents, and skills they had to serve God and neighbor. They did not keep the gifts they had for themselves; rather, out of tremendous love and gratitude they shared their gifts of time, talent and treasure for the work of God and the Church. They gave their very lives for others, just as Jesus gave His life for us on the cross. They never counted the cost. They just kept giving and yet the well never ran dry. Any “normal person” would be deeply afraid to give and keep giving so generously, but history is our witness that God continued to give these holy men and women everything they needed to fulfill their callings. As scripture says, "God has called you, He will not fail you" (1 Thes). We must together learn to trust in God's love and protection just as the saints did. In a certain way, the saints were not poorer when they gave so generously of themselves and their possessions, but richer and more joyous, since it is not material things that bring us happiness, but an ever closer relationship with God.

Steward-disciples recognize God as the origin of life, the giver of freedom and the source of all they have and all they are. They see themselves as caretakers of God’s many gifts. They are grateful for what they have received and are eager to cultivate their gifts out of love for God and one another. Like St. Francis, it is important that we recognize that God owns it all and we are the joyful caretakers of everything around us.

St. Francis of Assisi, as patron saint of the environment (one of the many things he’s been named patron of), is often associated with taking care of all God’s creatures. As we recognize that God owns it all, the imagery of a garden comes to mind. Bishop Robert Morneau of Green Bay speaks of caretaking for the gardens in our life. These gardens consist of 12 aspects (or plots) of stewardship to be applied in every area of our lives.  Adapted from the stewardship curriculum of the Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Seattle, we offer some ideas associated with these twelve gardens of stewardship for your reflection:

The Stewardship Garden of the Body
We need proper rest, nutrition and exercise. Our physical bodies are gifts from God and temples of the Holy Spirit -- to be respected and cared for.
For Adults:  Do you set a good example for nutrition and physical activity? Home is the strongest influence for young children. When adults make healthful choices, everyone benefits!
For Children: Do you sometimes choose to eat too much candy or junk food? Choosing to eat more healthful food instead will make you a better steward of the body that God gave you and you’ll feel better, too!
Families Together: Enjoy physical activity together. Talk about the good and bad ways that different foods affect our bodies. Consider also how we respect our bodies by dressing with appropriate modesty.

The Stewardship Garden of the Planet
What is the relationship I/we have, want to have with the earth? We hear much in our secular world about taking care of earth’s environment. But being good stewards of the earth and God’s creatures on it has always been humanity’s particular duty. God gave us dominion over creation – the authority and the responsibility to take good care of the physical world that He gave us.
For Adults:  Talk to your kids about some of the ways conditions of the environment have improved recently. The air and water is cleaner in many places than they were a generation ago. Some animals have come off the endangered species list. It’s important for children to realize that we can make a positive difference in the garden of creation.
For Children: Take care of your neighborhood and school and remember to not litter. You can make a project of going around your neighborhood with a friend and picking up any trash you see.
Families Together:  Take some time as a family to talk about ways to be more ‘green’ in your home – such as using cold water in the laundry, running only full loads in the dryer and the dishwasher, turning the computer off or placing it on standby when not being used, recycling waste, etc.

The Stewardship Garden of Decisions
How do I/we make decisions - unilaterally or collaboratively? The opportunity to make decisions is a gift from God and a great responsibility. This is our gift of free will. The Old Testament shows a long history of God’s faith community being called to make decisions – to follow Him and His ways, or to neglect God’s ways, choose their own ways and suffer the consequences of those decisions. Similarly, we in the modern world are also called to make decisions that follow God and not those that turn us away from Him.
For Adults:  When you are at work or in the neighborhood, do you collaborate with people, especially if the decision will impact them? Share with the children in your home the ways your faith and your belief in God influences both large and mundane decisions you make – such as choosing which television shows or movies to watch, what purchases to make, how to spend vacation time, how to respond to people in difficult situations, etc.
For Children: Can you think of any decisions you made today that are pleasing to God? Did you decide to be kind to somebody today, or to help somebody? When you make a choice, every time you choose to do what you know God wants, you are being a good steward of your decisions.
Families Together:  Do you use a process to make big decisions as a family, such as praying together or having a family discussion? Do you consult resources such as Consumer Reports or the Church’s movie reviews? Consider ways to make big decisions as a family.

The Stewardship Garden of Emotional Life
Do I tend to my emotions and learn from them? Our feelings and emotions are an integral part of us as human beings. God calls us to deal with our emotions in ways that focus on healthy, positive thoughts and feelings, while avoiding the patterns of thought and behavior that may disrupt our happiness and well-being.
For Adults:  Talk to the children in your household about ways you make an effort to keep your emotions under control and to improve your outlook. They need to know that control over our emotions doesn’t always come easily, but that we have to stay aware and work diligently to not allow our emotions to control our actions.
For Children: Say hello and give a smile to everyone you meet. It helps you feel good and it helps others feel happy, too!
Families Together:  Laughing as a family is a great way to boost happiness! Consider an evening routine of sharing jokes or funny stories.

The Stewardship Garden of Relationships
Give proper time and attention to the relationships in your life. Being respectful to each other and caring toward one another is an integral part of our Christian faith. Jesus sums up the importance of our relationships with others with His simple and profound command that we “Do unto others as we would have them do unto us.”
For Adults:  Do you model good relationships with your friends, family members & neighbors? Avoiding gossip, making time for family intimacy, resolving problems through communication before they become difficult issues; these are some ways that we can be good examples to our children and witnesses of our faith.
For Children: Everyone wants to be treated with respect. Can you think of a way you’ve treated someone that was not kind or not respectful? If so, God would want you to tell them you feel sorry about how you treated them and that you want to do better.
Families Together:  Plan ways to keep meaningful contact with extended family members and close family friends you don’t often see. Consider family discussions to work out potential problems or legitimate disagreements. Even when compromise is not appropriate, it’s beneficial if all members of the family feel that their perspective is being acknowledged.

The Stewardship Garden of Citizenship
Do I make the time to be informed and take seriously my responsibilities as a citizen? Citizenship relates to how we strive to be good stewards of our communities -- both our religious faith communities as well as our secular communities, such as local and national governments. A community of good citizens helps enable its people to live as God intends.
For Adults:  Talk to the children in your home about the importance of voting. Let them see you reading the voter’s pamphlet. If you go to community or parish meetings, talk to them about being involved in the community and, if appropriate, perhaps bring them to the meetings with you.
For Children: Make it a point to read news articles or listen to some news on the radio or TV daily. Or ask your parents what is happening in our country and the world. Staying aware of current events is one of the best ways to prepare for being an adult steward of your citizenship. How might you volunteer in your church or neighborhood that would make it a better place for others?
Families Together:  When it comes time to vote, let your kids know why you choose to vote the way you do and ways your decisions are influenced by your faith. As a family, find a volunteer activity at the parish that you can participate together and help carry out God’s work through service to others.

The Stewardship Gardens of Technology and the Mind
Am I, are we, using technology to serve life? Do I make time to read, reflect and nurture my mind? We are created in the image of God. Our minds are extraordinary gifts that allow us to have fellowship with our Creator. We know from scripture that God has called us to have a spirit of ‘love, power and a sound mind.’ We should always be learning, questioning, and thirsting for knowledge, in both our spiritual and temporal worlds. When used responsibly, technology can be very useful toward this purpose.
For Adults:  Do you think of technology as a gift from God, to use for learning and expanding your mind? Consider your use of the internet, television, digital cameras, modern transportation and communication and all manner of machines. We have much to be grateful for with the technologies of modern life. Consider ways you can use technology to bless others and to help you live your life according to the will of God.
For Children: You can learn a lot from surfing the net or even watching television and playing some video games. But not everything on the internet, TV or video games is good. Part of becoming mature is learning to recognize the difference between using your time wisely and doing things that are a waste of time, or even harmful. It’s smarter to use technology in ways that do you good. Rather than focusing only on entertainment, use your mind for a variety of activities that require thinking. Think of it as being the master of technology, instead of technology being the master of you!
Families Together:  For younger children, explain the benefits and dangers of technology when you set parental controls. For older children, consider discussing your reasoning for TV guidelines or internet controls and listen to their input, as well. You may be surprised by what you learn. If there is disagreement over a popular TV show, consider watching a partial episode with them in order to point out why it is objectionable. Regarding films, helpful Catholic rating sources are available. The Florida Catholic newspaper and the USCCB website are informative and useful in their reviews of all types of films.

The Stewardship Garden of History
Do I appreciate and learn from the gift of history and tradition? God calls us to understand our past and to use that knowledge for a better future. The history of God’s people in scripture shows us the consequences of disobeying God, as well as the rewards of living according to His will. This history, along with all of humanity’s known history, is meant to be used for our benefit, as a guide.
For Adults:  Give your children an awareness of the past through stories about their family and books about historical figures. Reading the newspaper, listening to the news on the TV or radio, or visiting news pages on the internet is also a good way to set an example for our children that we should pay attention to current events and “history in the making.”
For Children: Ask your parents or older relatives about things they remember from when they were kids. You will be surprised how interesting their stories are!
Families Together: Visit a local history museum together. If your family goes on a trip, take the time to learn some history of the area before you leave. Knowing true stories of the places you’ll see adds value to the experience, as well as fun!

The Stewardship Garden of the Arts
Do I appreciate and make time for the arts and culture? Creativity is a gift from God and is manifest in every form of art. Stewardship of the arts includes recognizing that we have each been given a measure of this gift, and are called to nurture and use our creativity, as well as value the creativity of others.
For Adults: Do you make art a regular part of your life? Consider how you value the various forms of art; visual arts, performance arts, etc. In what ways are your children exposed to the arts? Recite a favorite poem to your spouse.
For Children: Choose a favorite painting, poem or musical piece to share with your parents and tell them why you like it and why it makes you happier.
Families Together: Choose a time to go together to a musical performance, the theater, an art museum or gallery. (Free concerts are often available in the Orlando area year-round, as well as occasional free gallery evenings.) Discuss how experiencing the arts can make us better appreciate God’s gifts of inspiration and creativity.

The Stewardship Garden of the Money
What is my relationship with money? What are my spending patterns? A central insight of stewardship is that the material ‘possessions’ we have are not really ours. They belong to God, who has entrusted them to us so we can nurture, tend, and share them. Even the money we earn from our own hard work (and our God-given talents and strengths) is a gift from God. Consider the ways God want us to use these gifts.
For Adults:  Show your kids how you budget and how you make decisions about what to save or spend your money on. They need to know that good stewardship of money requires deliberate and planned decisions. It’s especially important for our children to see us plan finances in the spirit that God & our faith has called us to. Each November you are asked to make a decision as to how much you plan to use your money to support the work of the Church – God’s work during the next year. As you consider this, remember that your gift should be planned, proportionate and sacrificial.
For Children:  Do you want to help people who don’t have a place to live or enough food to eat? If you earn money or an allowance, you can choose to help others by giving some of your money to a charity or mission. The use of the youth stewardship envelopes each week accomplishes this as you are helping the parish help the poor and needy in our area.
Families Together:  Consider a system to help your kids keep track of their money, such as separate jars or envelopes marked for saving, spending, charity, and perhaps even investing. This will help children to control their money and to visualize making good decisions about their finances.

The Stewardship Garden of the Soul
Do I make time to tend to my spiritual life? As people of faith, it’s important for us to take time to care for our souls through prayer, worship, and actively maintaining our relationship with God. Nurturing ourselves by tending to our souls helps promote our inner peace and ultimately be more effective in every area of our lives.
For Adults: Thank God and praise Him in the presence of your children. Talk to them about your faith in God and let them see you acknowledge His gifts and goodness. Talk to them about your faith in God’s will when you’re challenged with difficulties, as well.
For Children:  When you pray, concentrate on what you are saying to God. It helps to close your eyes and imagine God listening to you, caring very much about you and being with you – because He is!
Families Together:   Having a prayer ‘plan’ makes it more likely that the family will make time to pray together ��� in the car on the way to school, in the morning or bedtime, during meals. What starts as a prayer plan will eventually become a valuable family ritual.

After looking these gardens over, one of the gardens I/we need to give more time and attention to is _________________________________________________________.

Morneau, Robert.   "Tending the Soul: Twelve Gardens of Stewardship.”  Spiritual Day of Reflection, St. Michael Parish, Olympia, Florida, March 2, 2002

"Twelve Gardens of Stewardship for Catholic Schools Curriculum.”  Archdiocese of Seattle Catholic Schools.  www.SeattleArchdiocese.org/Stewardship/PS/12Gardens.aspx  (accessed July 11, 2012).

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.   Stewardship: A Disciple's Response.  Washington, D.C.:  United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2002.