I would like you to meet the dogs we own, Lexie and London.
They are golden doodles and best friends to each other. They are not related, but have been together a long time. Lexie is the white dog and London the black. I call them my clergy dogs. Their tongues are hanging out because it was unbelievably hot and humid on the day I took this photo. I know that I was wilting behind the camera.
These two are great friends to us, too. They rarely leave our sides and provide us with a dose of affection whenever we need it.
They are definitely inside dogs. Some might call them spoiled, but I just call them family.
Yes, family. We have conversations with them and tell them our secrets and troubles. They listen attentively and make us believe we are the most important people in the world. They never judge us and they miss us when we are gone. I know this because they are so excited when we come home.
When they are sick we worry. Since they can’t tell us what hurts, we look at their symptoms and try to figure out what is wrong. A trip to the vet is sometimes required to get them feeling better, and often that comes with prescription meds, and bills, as well.
We feed them, provide comfortable places in the house for them to sleep, and a place for them to do their business outside. We then go outside to clean up what they leave.
We are responsible for their actions. If they bite someone, they and I will get in trouble.
But I would argue that we don’t own them at all. Rather, they have been given to us to care for during their relatively short lives. We accepted this responsibility when we brought them home and now work to give them good lives for the 10 years or so that they are with us. We love them, feed them, care for them, and spend a lot of money on them.
Why do we do this? That’s easy. Like I said a little while ago, Lexie and London are family. We would do most anything for them that we could, like we would for our children or grandchildren, or for our brothers and sisters, unhesitatingly. We would help to the limit of our resources without regard to our personal comfort or sacrifice. We would do that because we love them and they are family.
Our relationship to the Church is like that. Church is family, not a casual acquaintance. We would do anything we could, sometimes beyond our resources, to help. We don’t do this for notoriety, but because it is the right thing to do and because God wants us to.
I suggest that we get rid of volunteers in the Church. Not the people, just the term. We don’t have volunteers wipe the noses of our grandchildren or clean up dog poop in the backyard. We don’t ask how much time it will take if our husband or wife is sick and needs us because we have a meeting at 7:00. We won’t shy away from taking a brother to a doctor’s appointment. We do this because they are family.
When we are asked to help at the parish, we do so because they are family. There is no “us” and “them.” It’s “we.”
God graces us with the people and pets in our lives. He expects us to care for them. God graces us with His Church. He expects us to take care of it.
There aren’t volunteers in a family; there is just family. As Catholic stewards, we understand that and embrace it.
We don’t own Lexie and London, but we are entrusted with their care. We don’t own the Church, either. Rather, it is the Church of Jesus Christ, who is still its head. We are, however, given the monumental task of caring for it. Which we do because, well, we’re all family.
As always, thanks for reading. I would love to hear from you. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.