After almost two years of quiet “pandemic worthy” Christmases, we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and (knock on wood) it’s not a train.

Even Pope Francis is getting into the Christmas spirit with a contest that inspires young people to create new songs inspired by Christmas and its values. When asked what he hoped to achieve, the Pope said that music is “not alienating; it is neither superficial nor escapist. It broadens the heart, opens it to gratuitousness…” 

Fifty-six years ago, Pope St. Paul VI offered a similar message:

“This world in which we live needs beauty so as not to fall into despair.”

This Christmas, we wish you the beauty of giving back. We encourage ourselves, our families, our friends, colleagues and clients to set your sights on social causes that are in tune your own values, and to encourage others to do so as well.

A great way to give back is through philanthropy. If you think philanthropy is only for the rich and powerful, you’d be wrong. Philanthropy is something that anyone can do. All it takes is having the desire to promote the welfare of others and then achieving it by generously donating money to a good cause. 

There’s a difference between philanthropy and charity. For example, an act of charity is when you spot a homeless person on the street and give him five dollars. Philanthropy focuses on helping that homeless person solve the problems that required them to ask for a handout in the first place. Both are good. 

Philanthropy is long-term and strategic; it often involves making multiple gifts to help people over a number of years. As someone once said:

Delivering bottled water to a drought-stricken village in East Africa is charity, but philanthropy is building a well.

Our job at the Stewardship Foundation is to be good stewards with our donors’ money, and our skills as charitable gift consultants in a public foundation is proven. Please pass this along to a friend that may be interested in our services, and have a beautiful, quiet, spirit-filled, rich-in-spirit Christmas!

Amoris Laetitia Cliff Notes

Pope FrancisThe long-awaited-for document from Pope Francis finally arrived in my inbox. Reading Amoris Laetitia is mesmerizing, relaxing actually. It’s almost as though the man in white is sitting next to you, sipping peppermint tea on the porch, and asking us to meet people where they are, to consider that our moral compass is not the only one in the boat, and that other people’s moral decisions are theirs as much as ours are ours.

It’s meant to encourage us to love more and judge less; to make good decisions, to guide the Church’s pastors to a deeper level of understanding and mercy. It reminds all of us about the things in modern life concerning family and marriage that we so often get wrong, and helps us to discern what is morally right. It helps inform our conscience and is an excellent read.

I promised the cliff notes, so with a little help from America magazine, here they are:

  1. Judge not. We are not to judge others using rigid rules that leave no room for personal or pastoral discernment. Welcome all into church and treat all with mercy. Avoid thinking that everything is black and white. (305)
  2. Pray, then decide. Pastors are being asked to help people made good moral decisions about family and married life, not to simply and blindly follow rules, but to practice prayerful decision-making and follow an informed conscience. (304)
  3. Keep the door open. Pastors should never close the church door to the divorced or remarried, but encourage counseling to seek a degree of participation in the church. Dispel the old misunderstanding of excommunication of the divorced and remarried and help them to feel as being part of the church. (243)
  4. Love is valuable. Married couples, children, siblings, and relatives are not perfect and everyone has to put up with one another’s imperfections. Love doesn’t have to be perfect to be valued. (122, 113)
  5. Put down the rocks. Forget the phrase “living in sin” and all the moral judgements that we carelessly sling around. People living in “irregular situations” (like single moms and gay persons) need understanding, comfort and acceptance (49) not stones thrown at them.
  6. We are not all alike. Pastors need to be sensitive to someone’s ethnic culture and traditions because what makes sense in one country, doesn’t in another. It’s why every question can’t be settled by the magisterium, the church’s teaching office. (3)
  7. “No” on same-sex marriage. Marriage between one man and one woman is indissoluble; and same-sex marriage is not considered marriage. But what the pope wants is for seminarians and priests to be better trained to understand the real-world complexities of married life and to do better at counseling married couples. (36, 122, 202)
  8. Talk to kids about sex. Children must be educated about sex and sexuality. The world cheapens sexual expression and presents the body as “an object to be used.” (153)
  9. Respect gays. While same-sex marriage is not permitted, the pope wants us to respect the dignity of gay people and not discriminate against them unjustly. Families with LGBT members are to seek respectful pastor guidance from the church so gays and lesbians can “carry out God’s will in their lives.” (250)
  10. Have mercy. In this Year of Mercy the pope encourages all people to experience the “joy of love” and holds up the family as an essential part of the church, calling it the “family of families.” (80)

Thank you America magazine, Top Ten Takeaways from “Amoris Laetitia”, April 8, 2016, for helping us define the top ten issues facing Christian families.

Religious Freedom Is Not an Option

The Stewardship Foundation has, as a founding principle, support of religious freedom. If so, why should you care? What does it mean? You may recall how the earliest Christians, Peter and Paul, refused to compromise. When they were ordered to stop preaching their answer was, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19)

For us, Freedom of Religion means that no person should be compelled to embrace any religion against his will, nor should persons of faith be forbidden to worship God according to the dictates of conscience, or to express freely and publicly their deeply held religious convictions. Neither should anyone be compelled to invest in morally irresponsible corporations, nor live in fear of being mocked and vilified because they conduct their business or personal affairs in accordance with the dictates of their conscience.

For all of us, religious freedom is supported by the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment gives Americans the right to practice their own religion, or no religion at all. Religious freedom is exercised when we teach, practice our faith, worship God, or observe religious holidays – or when we freely choose not to believe in any religion at all! The Catholic bishops in the U.S. adopted religious freedom as a signature issue in response to the objections to contraception provisions in the Affordable Care Act.

Pope St. John Paul II said, “Religious freedom, an essential requirement of the dignity of every person, is a cornerstone of the structure of human rights, and for this reason, an irreplaceable factor in the good of individuals and of the whole society as well as of the personal fulfillment of each individual.”

During his visit to Philadelphia this past summer, Pope Francis said ”the right to religious freedom is a fundamental right which shapes the way we interact socially and personally with our neighbors whose religious views differ from our own.”

Last year in Rome, Iraqi Patriarch of the Chaldeans, Archbishop Louis Raphael Sako, said “If they kill us all, will you do something then?” Do we not have a responsibility to that man, and to the others of Iraq and Syria—Christian, Yazidi, and Muslim alike—who are fending for, or fleeing for, their lives?

Do you detect a theme here? As we march bravely into another year, our thoughts are focused as always on servicing our donor clients and our nonprofit partners according to the tenets of our Foundation – and that includes the defense of religious liberty as well as life, marriage, and family value issues. As always, if we can help you or someone you know to better understand the tools of morally responsible investing, or if we can help your nonprofit to attract major donors, please reach out. We, by the grace of God, are here to serve.