SIMPSONVILLE — Father Roger Arnsparger told around 200 people at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church that through God’s divine love and mercy all are given the gift of stewardship.
Father Arnsparger, who is vicar of education for the Diocese of Charlotte and pastor at St. Michael’s in Gastonia, N.C., led a three-day retreat at the Simpsonville church on the spirituality of stewardship.
He said God’s blessing of stewardship dates back to the Garden of Eden.
“While Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, at that very moment, God promises to send the redeemer — the new Adam and Eve in Christ and the Blessed Mother,” Father Arnsparger said.
But, he said, many Catholics today have not embraced God’s gift of stewardship. They have not embraced the promise God spelled out in Genesis 3:15, where his divine and merciful love allows Christians to participate fully in the church.
“They may call themselves Catholics,” Father Arnsparger said, but they are not what he calls original Catholics.
“They may be cultural Catholics, but they never darken the doorstep of the church,” he said. “They’re never supportive of the church in their time or their talents.”
Father Arnsparger said people have rejected trust in God’s divine plan for what he calls the teaching church, and that by doing that they reject Christ.
“The image of the church has become, for many people, an image of restraint,” he said.
Father Arnsparger was invited to speak at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton after meeting its pastor, Father Patrick Cooper, last year at a priest retreat in North Carolina. Father Arnsparger gave a similar talk at that event. He has also given presentations on stewardship at gatherings in Charleston.
Father Arnsparger said it is from within God’s church where people learn of his divine and merciful love, but realizing that gift takes commitment.
Christianity is about courage, he said.
“It takes courage to respond to God. Our holiness doesn’t just happen,” he said. “We must have a plan. A good marriage doesn’t just fall from the sky.”
He said good stewards are good subjects for God because they desire that deeper discipleship, a deeper friendship with God in the church, not outside of it.
“Here in the church, Christ has allowed the church to lead us from sin to miraculous friendship with him,” Father Arnsparger said. “Here in the church, Christ wants us to listen to his word, and we do that through prayer, through conversations with God, and that happens in the medium of the church.”
Father Arnsparger said one way Catholics can build stewardship with the church is by simply restoring Sundays as the Lord’s day, a day when Catholics do more than attend Mass for an hour.
“The Lord’s day is important to us: to pray and to spend time in contemplation, to visit the sick, to bring families together,” he said. “Those devotions to Sunday are very important.”
The priest said those Catholics can return to what he calls being an intentional Catholic and a good steward of the church by embracing its traditions, history, and God’s divine love and mercy.
“The more I practice my faith, the better I become at my faith,” Father Arnsparger said. “Stewardship is a natural product of a virtue-driven life.”