August 16, 2015
“Praise be to you, my Lord.”
Dear Friends in Christ,
Peace and joy to you. As the days of summer begin to wane, and as we begin a new academic year at Marmion Academy, I would like to take a moment to reflect upon the matter of “stewardship.” In his latest encyclical letter, Laudato Si (Praise be to you), Pope Francis develops the rich Catholic tradition on social justice. He does so by focusing on the care of our planet, our “common home,” and on the care we owe to one another, especially to the poor and the least among us. It is a rather lengthy document, much too long to discuss in depth here. However, a theme running through the entire encyclical, which happens also to be an important theme in Benedictine spirituality, is that of stewardship.
In his rule for monks, St. Benedict specifically takes up this theme of stewardship in chapter 32 where he discusses the tools and goods of the monastery. Benedict wants a trustworthy monk to be in charge of the material goods of the monastery, someone who will be a good steward. At the end of this chapter, Benedict says: “Whoever fails to keep the things belonging to the monastery clean or treats them carelessly should be reproved.” (Ch. 32:4). St. Benedict wants to instill in the monks an attitude of caring for the material goods of the monastery. However, even more so, he wants the monks to care for one another in their needs. For example, in talking about the kitchen servers for each week, he says: “The brothers should serve one another.” (Ch. 35:1) And with regard to the sick monks he says: “Care of the sick must rank above and before all else….” (Ch. 36,1)
In his new encyclical, Pope Francis speaks eloquently of the responsibility of all human beings to be good stewards, to care for our planet and to care for one another. The two are intimately linked. We might ask ourselves: how are we good stewards of God’s gifts to us – of the world around us, of the material blessings that we have, and how do we care for one another?
I close with the following prayer of Pope Francis at the end of his encyclical letter. I think it sums up well the spirit of his thought.
A prayer for our earth.
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace. Amen.
Sincerely in Christ,
Abbot John Brahill, O.S.B.