Giving and discipleship journey hand-in-hand

“Remember the poor,” was the only condition given to St. Paul by Sts. Peter, James and John before leaving to minister to the Gentiles (Gal 2: 10). By “the poor” they meant the church of Jerusalem. And Paul was “eager” to do it.

In his journey, Paul received various responses from the different communities asking them to give each according to their means, but none as great as the one from the Church of Macedonia, which he praised.

“Their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of liberality on their part,” he writes. “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Cor 8:2-4).

The Macedonian community gave generously “beyond their needs” out of “abundance of joy.”

Christians are called to give “according to their needs” but “cheerfully” and “generously” (2 Cor 9:7, 11).

The Church recognizes that giving is part of the stewardship of our time, talents and goods, and that stewardship is a key part of being true disciples of Christ.

When giving becomes hard, the Church understands that it is a journey, for it is part of being a follower of Christ.

“Following Jesus is the work of a lifetime. At every step forward, one is challenged to go further in accepting and loving God’s will,” says the Pastoral Letter on Stewardship by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Stewardship involves a lifelong process of study, reflection, prayer, and action… This conversion of mind and heart will not happen overnight, but, as always, the Holy Spirit is at work in the Church today.”

To be more open to the call to give generously, Jack and Judy Pottle, parishioners at Queen of Peace Parish and long-time supporters of Denver’s Catholic Charities and Catholic schools, say that it’s important for the Christian to find something they are passionate about.

“Find something that resonates with you. For us, it became education,” Judy said. “Also find something where you can provide not only financial support but a skill. Time, talent and treasure are all needed to support a cause. It takes team work to make it happen.”

Giving means a lot to the person or organization receiving the gift, she affirmed: “When giving, we want them to feel that we have faith in them and their cause.”

To do so, Jack and Judy choose to give through the Catholic Foundation. Although people can give directly to different causes, giving through the Foundation has the advantage of providing staff expertise, faith-based priorities and a morally-responsible investment policy.

Moreover, it accepts current and deferred gifts to provide financial resources for categories in caring for the community, education, evangelization, parishes, seminarians, etc.

By being a public charity, a public juridical person of the Catholic Church and a separate legal entity from the Archdiocese of Denver, it is able to safeguard the gifts of the faithful for the charitable purpose they specify.

“Truly, to whom much has been given, much is expected,” Jack said. “We feel humbled by other’s generosity and called to continue to share our blessings. Ultimately, we want to share Christ.”

For more information about the Catholic Foundation, visit thecatholicfoundation.com.

COMING UP: Nothing about us without us

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The slogan “Nothing about us without us” was used by Solidarity in the 1980s in Poland, borrowing a royal motto from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the mid-second millennium. Then, it was expressed in Latin: Nihil de nobis sine nobis. Later, it appeared in Polish on the banners of 19th-century Poles fighting their country’s partition by Russia, Prussia, and Austria: Nic o Nas bez Nas. Today, it’s often used by disability activists asserting their claim to be fully participant in society.

“Nothing about us without us” also applies to the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region, which will meet in Rome in October.

That Synod will involve seven bishops’ conferences from nine Latin American countries who will consider their pastoral situation under the theme, “Amazonia: new paths for the Church and for an integral ecology.” As is usually the case in these meetings, the bishops at the Synod will work with materials drafted in Rome. Early indicators from the Synod’s preparatory document suggest that the Amazonian Synod will be longer on environmentalism than on theology. International media attention will doubtless focus on the Synod’s discussion of climate change and its relationship to Amazonian deforestation.

Recent synodal history suggests, however, that more will be afoot at the Amazonian Synod than what its announced theme suggests.

The 2014 and 2015 Synods were called to consider the crisis of marriage and the family throughout the world. Yet they became the occasion for powerful churchmen to try to deconstruct Catholic moral theology and sacramental discipline, according to the tried-and-failed theologies and pastoral practices of the 1970s. The 2018 Synod, summoned to discuss youth ministry and vocational discernment, began with an effort by the Synod general secretariat to enshrine the world’s language of sexual plasticity (and the lame understandings of happiness that underwrite that language) into an official Church document. When that failed, Synod-2018 became the occasion for the Synod general secretariat to promote an ill-defined notion of “synodality” that struck more than a few bishops present as a prescription for local-option, choose-your-own-doctrine Catholicism on the model of the (imploding) Anglican Communion.

This pattern seems likely to continue at the Amazonian Synod. There, the deeper agenda will be the ordination of mature married men — viri probati — to the priesthood. Proponents will argue that this dramatic change in the Church’s longstanding tradition of a celibate priesthood (which, contrary to much misinformation, antedates the early Middle Ages by hundreds of years) is necessary because Amazonia is a Catholic area deprived of the Eucharist by a lack of priests. One hopes that the counterclaims — that Amazonia is mission territory requiring wholesale evangelization, and that Amazonia’s lack of priests reflects racial and class divisions in Latin American Catholicism that discourage priests of European pedigree from working with indigenous peoples — get a serious hearing.

Proponents of ordaining viri probati in Amazonia, including retired Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, OFM, have insisted that any such concession there would have no implications for the universal Church. That cannot be, however. Should the Amazonian Synod request the Pope to grant a dispensation from the discipline of celibacy for that region, and should he grant it, it will be just a matter of time before bishops conferences elsewhere — Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Austria come immediately to mind — make similar requests, citing pressing pastoral needs. On what ground would those requests be denied?

In a year-end interview with Vatican News, the Synod’s general secretary, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, insisted that the Amazonian Synod would not discuss environmental issues only, but would also confront “ecclesial themes” — and would do so in a way that Amazonia could be “a model for the whole world.”

We can be grateful to the cardinal for his candor in, however unintentionally, letting the celibacy cat out of the synodal bag. Any decision to ordain viri probati in Amazonia would inevitably have major consequences for the entire Church. A decision of this magnitude cannot be taken by an unrepresentative segment of the Church and then turned into a “model” for everyone else.

That is why the principle of “Nothing about us without us” must apply here. Whatever else “synodality” may mean, it surely must mean that decisions bearing on everyone should involve as broad a consultation and as global a reflection as possible. Bishops who agree should make their concerns known now, not after the Amazonian synod meets.

Featured image by Vatican Media | CNA