By Dave Baranowski | Director of Stewardship Education, Archdiocese of St. Louis
Back in the spring, my wife and I took a two week vacation to London, Paris and Bayeux, France. As we completed a week in London, visiting all the sites and learning about the city’s struggles and courage during WWII and having just completing a day-long tour of the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, I was awe-struck with the gratitude and hospitality that we have received.
As we visited the Churchill War Room in London and all the WWII memorials that fill the Normandy countryside, we received many “thank yous” for our support – the United States’ support – of England in the war and in liberating France. I typically responded with “I had nothing to do with it” and they would typically respond with “neither did we.”
These exchanges reminded me of the stewardship concept of being grateful for the generosity of our previous generations in building the Church and that it is our generation’s turn to continue that generosity. As we visited all the WWII historical sites, that’s exactly what we experienced. The English and French ancestors of those who actually fought in the war were grateful for what their forefathers and our forefathers had done for them and they were passing it on.
This experience further solidified for me the need to be living examples of stewardship for our children and grandchildren, and to teach them the stewardship way of life. It also highlights the multiplying effect of stewardship. The formula of Gratitude leads to Generosity is not a straight line that stops at Generosity, rather it’s a circle. My Gratitude leads to my Generosity which leads to my neighbor’s Gratitude which leads to his Generosity and so on and so on…
Several other stewardship thoughts struck me while in Europe:
- Americans take too many things for granted. Our country has been blessed with many resources, yet we continually cry out for more. We have more than enough to share with each other and the rest of the world. Why is it that those who seem to have so little are often the most generous and happy?
- When it comes to respecting the earth’s resources, Europe seems to be way ahead of us in re-using and recycling resources. They are much more economical in their use of resources. Also, they don’t super-size meals!
- Europe has buildings that are 1,000 years old and everything still works! A good example of proper use of resources and excellent maintenance (not to mention beautiful architecture).
All these ideas, and more, were going through my head during the trip, so I actually wrote some of these very comments on the train ride from Bayeux to Paris while the thoughts were still fresh in my mind. When we left for Europe, I had no idea this would be a “working” vacation!
Finally, like many of you, I read Matthew Kelly’s book “Rediscover Jesus” during this past Lent. The opening prayer in chapter 22 reads:
Loving Father, here I am.
I trust that you have an incredible plan for me.
Transform me. Transform my life.
Everything is on the table.
Take what you want to take and give what you want to give.
Transform me into the person you created me to be
so I can live the life you envision for me.
I hold nothing back; I am 100 percent available.
How can I help?
“How can I help?”
Perhaps that is the most fundamental lesson I learned from seeing Normandy and understanding the sacrifices previous generations have made for our freedom: To be willing to help, to hold nothing back. It’s a lesson we all need a reminder of from time to time.
This article originally appeared in the April 2016 “Stewardship Alive!” email newsletter from the Office of Stewardship and the Annual Catholic Appeal