Our Hearts are Restless Until they Rest in You

August 28 is the memorial to St. Augustine of Hippo, a Doctor of the Catholic Church.

St. Augustine is famous for his tremendous intellect and his gift as a great rhetorician.  His books such as Confessions and The City of God are wonderful testaments to the faith, and even though they were written many centuries in the past, are as relevant today as the day they were published.

St. Augustine is also famous for the fact that he was a bit of a rapscallion as a young man, chasing earthly pleasures and forgoing the Lord.  Living a life of excess, he was the object the fervent prayer of his mother, St. Monica.   Her hopes were in the conversion of her wayward son, that he would soon discover the love and joy of Jesus Christ.

Her prayers were like many of ours in that we ask for something to happen.  In her case it was for Augustine’s salvation.  Our prayer might be for the health of family and friends, a new job, or to sell a house. 

St. Augustine wrote about this kind of prayer in his letter to Proba, “a widow, rich and noble, and the mother of an illustrious family …” who had asked him for a discourse on prayer.  His response to her request is quite thorough, as one might expect. 

What he wrote in chapter nine of his letter, however, changed my view of prayer in a way I never thought possible.

“Therefore, when the Apostle says: Let your petitions become known before God, this should not be taken in the sense that they are in fact becoming known to God who certainly knew them before they were made, but that they are becoming known to us before God through submission and not before men through boasting.’”

God already knows our prayers before we pray them.  He knows both the background and the answer to our request.  Our prayers won’t change his mind, pleading as we might our case in the courts of heaven.  Rather, our prayers make us able to receive their answers.

In his book Confessions, St. Augustine tells us “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” In a great act of stewardship, we give the whole of our lives to God.  When we do that, then rest ourselves in the Lord, we find contentment. 

Finding peace and contentment in the Lord is available to us today, just as it was St. Augustine was preaching about it 1,600 years ago.

Kentucky

I know this is a blog about the Diocese of Evansville, yet here I am calling this entry “Kentucky.” Let me tell you why.

When I was attending St. Johns Catholic School in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin, we were given an assignment to find out about state other than Wisconsin. I chose Kentucky, as I was fascinated with Daniel Boone and wilderness of all sorts. For me, in my sheltered world, Kentucky was wilderness.

Those were the days before Google was a word. Our search engine was a book that had “Encylopedia Britannica” written on the cover. I discovered Frankfort was the capitol of Kentucky and sent a self addressed stamped envelope to some bureaucrat there and asked for help in preparing my paper.

They sent back some tourist information, a map, and other interesting things. I read every word of the printed material and vowed to visit Kentucky some day.

Here we are in 2019, some 50+ years later, and I have been to Kentucky three times in the last three months!

Two of those times were to attend retreats at the Mt. St. Joseph retreat center near Owensboro, run by a group of Ursuline sisters. This is a lovely place with a long and fascinating history. On the grounds is a cemetery, the final resting spot for sisters and priests from many years past who called the place their home.

The Ursuline sisters are models of stewardship. They care for the grounds and buildings of the center as though they were gifts from God Himself, which of course they are. More so, the sisters have given their very lives in service to the Lord and the People of God. They are true disciples of Jesus Christ.

That’s what stewardship is.

If you get a chance to visit Mt. St. Joseph, you should do so. You can see for yourself the benefits of living a stewardship life.

Cemetery at Mt. St. Joseph

Hi there.

Good to be in Indiana

Greetings to you, the People of God in the Diocese of Evansville!

My name is Matt Potter, and I am the new Director of Stewardship for the Diocese of Evansville.  I am quite pleased to be here and grateful to Bishop Siegel for his confidence in me.

I come to you from the Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyoming, where I spent the last nine years as the Director of Development and Stewardship, as well as the Executive Director of the Wyoming Catholic Ministries Foundation.  Prior to that, I spent 23 years as an investment consultant in Cheyenne.  Overall, my wife and I have lived in Cheyenne since 1984, raising a family and building a business before going to work for the Church.

Speaking of the Church, the bishop in Cheyenne who hired me was (now Arch)bishop Paul Etienne.  We had a great run in Cheyenne before he was called to be the Archbishop of Anchorage, and recently the coadjutor Archbishop of Seattle. 

Sherry and I have two daughters, Brianna Wheeler and Chandra Kleinhans.  Both of them are married to good men, and both have beautiful children of their own.  Brianna and her husband Corey have Roman, 7, and Claire, 5.  Chandra and her husband Caleb have Oskar, 5, Cassius, 4, and Tallulah, 3.  They all live in Cheyenne, and we expect to return regularly to visit them.

Some of these posts can be found in issues of the Diocese of Evansville’s newspaper, The Message. Posts here can be a little more timely, focusing on current events. My objective is to create a dialog regarding that often-misunderstood term, stewardship.  So many people regard “stewardship” as another way of saying “paying my fair share,” which, I guarantee, is not the meaning of it at all.

Let’s start then, with a definition.  That’s easier said than done, however, as it takes some background to begin understanding what stewardship really means.

In 1992, The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a pastoral letter: Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response.  The simple fact that the Bishops spent the time and energy to write the letter tells us how important they believed understanding stewardship was, and still is. 

The title of the letter, equating stewardship with discipleship, is even more telling.  If a disciple is a follower of Jesus, then stewardship is what a disciple does when she follows the Lord.  That concept is a bit mind-boggling, and I will be expanding on this as we go along.

Father Andrew Kemberling, pastor of St. Vincent DePaul parish in Denver, is one of the most well-versed priests in the United States when it comes to stewardship.  He wrote a book with Mila Glodava, his longtime Communications Director and friend, called Making Stewardship a Way of Life (Our Sunday Visitor publishing, copyright 2009).  This extraordinary work is chock-full of very practical information regarding stewardship in a parish.  I highly recommend this book for everyone involved in parish life.

In his book, Father Andrew tells us that “Stewardship is a way of life…” and that he presents a “stewardship spirituality” rather than a theology.  He goes on to say that “theology is like an order of ideas that you can keep in your head but in spirituality there is a group of actions that are generated from your heart.” (p. 12)

What a beautiful way to describe the difference between theology and spirituality! 

Where, then, is the definition of stewardship that I promised?  It’s there, or at least part of it is there. 

First, stewardship is discipleship.  As stewards of the gifts given us by God, we are followers of Jesus Christ. If you practice stewardship, you follow the Lord.

Second, stewardship is a way of life, not a program. It is something we practice day in and day out. 

That should clear up things, don’t you think?  I’ll be working making it clearer as we travel down this road together.   

Now that I’m in Evansville, I’d love to chat with you.  Send me a message at mpotter@evdio.org.  Thanks for reading.

Hello, it’s me.

My name is Matt Potter, and I am the stewardship director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Evansville. 

This blog is about stewardship.  It is my intention to offer thoughts and ideas on stewardship, including:

  • It’s meaning in our world today;
  • Why we should embrace it in our lives;
  • How we can become better stewards of the many gifts given to us by God.

When we acknowledge that all our gifts come from God, that God demands it all back with increase, and that God can never be outdone in generosity, we move from a culture of scarcity to one of abundance.

This is not a blog about money.  Money is an essential part of stewardship, as we will discuss on these pages, but it is only a part.

This blog is about much, much more.

I invite you to follow along.  I welcome your comments, too.  Just be polite.

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