It is almost impossible to write, speak or think about stewardship without the phrase “Time, talent, and treasure” coming into our minds. So connected are we to that phrase that it becomes akin to saying “hippopotamus” twenty times, wherein it loses its meaning altogether. Part of my work is to help recapture the meaning of the three Ts so that they don’t just roll aimlessly out of our mouths like the twentieth hippopotamus.
Let’s look at T1 – Time. A priest friend of mine suggested that we think of “time” as prayer. When we look at it that way, time – prayer – is a priceless gift from God that we are expected to return with increase. We receive the gift of communicating with God through our prayer, then offer it back to him with more prayer carrying not only our pleas for help, but for those others in our lives whose sufferings and struggles cause them to reach out for help.
For the past four months I have been following the story of the CEO of the Catholic Leadership Institute, Daniel Celluci. I met Daniel at a stewardship conference, but to say I had a close personal relationship with him would be, well, not the truth.
Daniel has achieved a high level of professional success in his life and now leads a great firm. Each Monday, he sends out an email entitled “Discerning Insights about Leadership.” I read them and generally get some good food for thought.
One Monday last December I received my regular email from him that had an urgent prayer request. Daniel’s seven-year-old son Peter had just been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. What I noticed in Daniel’s message that day was rather than wallowing in sorrow about the devastating news of his son, he turned to God for help, asking for prayer from all those who knew him and knew of him.
Since that time, Peter has undergone several surgeries, six weeks of daily radiation treatments, and is about to undergo a year’s worth of chemotherapy. Peter has shown that he is a brave little boy and he and his family face a very, very difficult road ahead.
But this isn’t a column about either Peter or about Daniel. Rather, it is about suffering, prayer, and stewardship.
When we are faced with the struggles and sufferings of someone we love, the natural reaction is to want that suffering to end. It is not uncommon for us to think “If I could take on your suffering for you, I would do it right now.” In effect, that is what happens when we pray for someone.
A number of years ago I had some serious health issues. Rather than keep it to myself, I asked everyone I knew to pray for me. I was humbled beyond belief that so many people would pray on my behalf, taking my suffering from me and offering it to God.
Stewardship so often focuses on the Treasure part of the three Ts. Treasure is essential to the work of the Church, yet it is temporal, bound to earth and time. Prayer, on the other hand, is the quintessence of stewardship in that it is a direct line to God, superseding the boundaries of our world. Prayer is a great gift from God, as though he had given us a phone with a direct line to him when we were born. Just like the other gifts he gives us, we can return this gift of prayer to him with increase by using it frequently and offering it back to him for all those who ask for our prayers, and especially for those who don’t.