Three Minutes a Day
The Prison Angel
A woman who gave up her life just to live with prisoners? It sounds a little unreal, but that’s just what happened to Mary Clarke, who grew up in a comfortable home in Beverly Hills, California, and raised a family there. She died (in 2013) at the age of 86 as Mother Antonia Brenner (a.k.a. The Prison Angel) in Tijuana, Mexico—where she had lived among and ministered to prisoners at La Mesa Penitentiary.
She began her prison ministry in 1965 when she accompanied a priest as he delivered medicine and other supplies to the prison’s infirmary. In 1977, with her children grown, she moved into the prison, sleeping in a cell in the women’s wing—and spent the rest of her life there. Eventually she established a religious order, the Eudist Sisters of the 11th Hour, for older women, which was approved by the bishop of Tijuana.
“In 30 years there,” Mother Antonia said a few years ago, “I haven’t met anyone that wasn’t worth everything I could give to them—even my life. I see the image and likeness of God in each and every one of them.”
When he was in prison she did not leave him. (Wisdom 10:14)
May I see Your image in all people, Divine Creator.
Beyond Left and Right
Pope Francis has had a remarkable impact on everyone in the world, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, with his frugal style of living, his humility and his strong emphasis on the teachings of Jesus. How best to understand him? Greg Burke, the U.S.-born Vatican media adviser, has some tips in that direction via Catholic News Service, and here are a few of them:
“Pope Francis is not a politically correct pope,” Burke said, but rather “a loyal son of the church” who presents the hard truths with a heavy dose of mercy. He added that the pope “wants to get beyond left and right” by getting people to focus on the Gospels, on God and His truth and mercy.
Further, he said, the pope is not advocating a “feel good” religion, but talks about the truth of the Gospels—a truth “that will walk with them to the Lord.”
“The pope’s picture should have one of those warning labels,” he concluded—one that says “Danger: This man could change your life.”
You are righteous, O Lord…All Your ways are mercy and truth. (Tobit 3:2)
Help me follow Your ways, Lord, not the world’s ways.
Like Feathers in the Wind
A Jewish man known for spreading gossip had ruined the reputation of many in his town. He went to see a rabbi because he felt guilty about his actions, but wasn’t sure he could stop his deep-seated habit.
The rabbi told the man to get a pillow full of feathers, take it to the top of a high building, cut it open, and let the feathers fly. The man did as asked, then returned to the rabbi for more instructions. The rabbi told him to gather all the feathers, which represented all the rumors he had spread about others. Horrified at the impossible nature of this task, the man returned home determined not to gossip anymore.
Reflecting on this story for the website IgnatianSpirituality.com, Marina McCoy offers feather-free advice on avoiding the temptation to gossip. First, she suggests meditating on our own shortcomings before we put down other people. Also, focus on a “good character trait of the person we are tempted to malign. Gratitude for others’ good gifts is a natural antidote to criticism and gossip.”
Let no evil come out of your mouths. (Ephesians 4:29)
May I always speak well of others, Eternal Word.
‘Can I Trust You?’
Forty-five-year-old Merrie Harris put her faith and American Express Platinum card into the hands of Jay Valentine, an unemployed homeless man in Manhattan. “I asked her for change and told her I wasn’t working,” Valentine told the New York Post. “She said she only had a card. She said, ‘Can I trust you?’ I said, ‘I’m honest, yes.’”
Harris said she had no reservations about letting Jay borrow her card to buy some essentials. Valentine himself added that it never occurred to him to betray Harris’s trust. “I wasn’t tempted at all,” added the 32-year-old former real estate agent. “She trusted me, and I didn’t want to violate that trust.”
Valentine’s purchases totaled approximately $25, and included deodorant and Vitamin Water. He is also dependent on the kindness of strangers for his sleeping situation: the staff of a New York City internet café allows him to spend nights in their establishment. “It sets a good example that people in need—like I am or worse—can and should be trusted,” Valentine concluded.
Happy are those who make the Lord their trust. (Psalm 40:4)
Jesus, may we always give others the benefit of the doubt.
Family Makes Victory Sweeter
At the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy, Noelle Pikus-Pace was ready to compete in the women’s skeleton competition (a sledding event) when a four-man bobsled team ran into her, breaking her leg. At the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, she would have earned a bronze medal if not for one maneuver that took her two inches too far to the right, earning her only fourth place.
After that, Pikus-Pace decided to retire because she and her husband wanted to start a family and her training wasn’t conducive to that. They had a son and a daughter and then conceived a third child. But that pregnancy ended in an emotionally devastating miscarriage. With the desire to focus on something positive, Pikus-Pace turned to the Olympics again.
Her husband Janson quit his job and, with their kids in tow, accompanied his wife through all her training, and finally, to the 2014 Sochi Olympics where she won a silver medal. As much as she wanted to win in the past, this victory felt sweeter because her whole family was there. As she told Today.com, “It’s never been only me crossing the finish line. It’s always been us.”
May we shout for joy over your victory. (Psalm 20:5)
Give me loved ones with whom I can share my joys, Father.
Light Up Life
Molly Anne Dutton wasn’t supposed to be born.
Twenty-two years ago, her mother was raped and became pregnant. Resisting pressure to have an abortion, she found support at the Birmingham, Alabama-based adoption agency Lifeline Children’s Services, so she could have the baby. Peggy Dutton and her husband, who served on Lifeline’s board of directors, decided to adopt the child themselves.
That baby was Molly who, 22 years later as a college student at Auburn University, decided to run for homecoming queen on the platform “Light Up Life,” which was dedicated to sharing her personal story and promoting the light that adoption can bring into a dark situation.
Molly’s story resonated with her fellow students—and even spread around the world. She was elected Auburn’s 2013 Homecoming Queen. Said her adoptive mom Peggy, “Her joy spreads wherever she is, and this could only be the Lord.”
You have delivered my soul from death…so that I may walk before God in the light of life. (Psalm 56:13)
May we believe in the potential of all human life, Lord.
On snowy days in the Chicago neighborhood of Humboldt Park, residents who shovel out their cars put chairs in their parking spaces as a way of calling “dibs” on the spot when they return home. That leads to arguing over minimal parking spaces, so Jamie Lynn Ferguson decided to do something about it.
After a January 2014 snowstorm, the 29-year-old took the day off from her job at Breakthrough Urban Ministries and after-school program to dig out every car on her block. She told the Chicago Sun Times, “Forget about dibs, and I’ll just do it for you. I think it’s a better way for us to live as a community: as people who look out for each other instead of fighting for spots.”
Ferguson started at 9 a.m., sharing her progress on Twitter. Elderly ladies came out to thank her, while others said she deserved a medal and wished that God would bless her. By 5 p.m., she completed her exhausting task, but felt it was worth it.
She said, “To me, it’s a simple thing to do for your neighbors, but the look of awe on their faces is so rewarding.”
Assist your neighbor to the best of your ability. (Sirach 29:20)
When the world is cold, Father, create in me a warm heart.
Father William Byrne, a gifted speaker, is pastor of St. Peter’s Parish on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. He also livens the pages of the Catholic Standard, the archdiocesan newspaper, with his regular column—as he did with his thoughts on Five Things We Shouldn’t Forget to Do.
■ Call An Old Friend. “An e-mail, a note or a call is not as awkward as it may seem. If they don’t write back, it’s good that you tried.”
■ Lie on the Ground and Look at the Clouds. “God is an amazing artist. Not only can he paint the sky, he can change it constantly.”
■ Be Quiet. “This is the hardest of all because we have such noise in our worlds...The quietest place of all is a church in the middle of the day. Pay a visit. No need to say anything; God knows it already.”
■ Do a Divine Two-Step. “Pray to be free enough to please God and to not worry about what others think.”
■ Smell the Roses. “No, literally stop and smell some roses.”
Be careful not to forget the covenant that the Lord your God made with you. (Deuteronomy 4:23)
Keep me mindful of life’s beauty, Divine Creator.
A Carousel’s Place in History
A small marker has been mounted on a carousel that now stands on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., a merry-go-round with an unbreakable connection to Dr. Martin Luther King’s memorable “I Have a Dream” speech of Aug. 28, 1963. For it was on that same day that the carousel, then located in Baltimore, was first opened to white and black children. In Baltimore at that time, it was a truly historic event.
A civil rights protest, complete with counter-protests from a mob of segregationists, led to the decision—that the carousel, previously open to only whites, would instead be open to all. It set off an uproar, but the decision stood...and for years, both black children and white children rode its silent steeds.
Eventually the carousel found its way to Washington—near the site where Dr. King delivered his stirring speech. That’s more than fitting. Not only did both events share the same day, but the opening of the carousel to all caused one of Dr. King’s dreams—that black and white children would some day play side by side—to come true.
Have unity of spirit. (1 Peter 3:8)
Move us past superficial divisions, Lord.
Infinitely Loved by God
Priest, professor, and author Henri Nouwen once wrote the following words about the power of God’s unconditional love:
“How do we know that we are infinitely loved by God when our immediate surroundings keep telling us that we’d better prove our right to exist?
“The knowledge of being loved in an unconditional way, before the world presents us with its conditions, cannot come from books, lectures, television programs, or workshops. This spiritual knowledge comes from people who witness to God’s love for us through their words and deeds. These people can be close to us but they can also live far away or may even have lived long ago. Their witness announces the truth of God’s love and calls us to act in accordance with it.”
Are you living in accordance with the truth of God’s love? He’s offering it to you. All you have to do is accept.
God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He loved us…made us alive together with Christ. (Ephesians 2:4-5)
Father, there are times when I feel alone and unloved. Remind me that Your unconditional love is ever-present.
Dude, Your House is on Fire!
Ben Carroll is used to delivering The Columbus Dispatch newspaper to the community of Hilltop, Ohio, every morning at 5 a.m. But in 2013, he added an extra duty to his usual routine: saving lives.
The 28-year-old smelled smoke and saw flames coming from the side of a two-story house on Midland Avenue. He immediately called the fire department and started banging on the door. When no one answered, he peered through the window and saw a child, so he frantically banged even more.
A resident finally came to the door, but thought he was being pranked. Carroll insisted, “Dude, your house is on fire!” When the resident saw the flames himself, he rushed to wake up the other four adults and six children in the house, who all ran to safety and thanked their conscientious newspaper carrier.
Though Carroll downplayed his actions, his girlfriend noted, “He’s a hero whether he wants to believe it or not.”
In other words—Dude, you’re a hero!
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me. (Psalm 71:2)
Savior, help me to think and act fast in times of trouble.
Keith Urban Takes Strength in Faith
“As an observer, I would say his faith is his strength.” That’s how Father Ed Steiner from Nashville’s Cathedral of the Incarnation described his parishioner, Grammy Award-winning singer Keith Urban.
During an interview with the website Celebuzz in 2013, Father Steiner discussed the role that faith plays in the lives of Urban—who has struggled with drug and alcohol addiction in his past—and his wife, actress Nicole Kidman. Though the couple travel a lot, they attend church when they’re home in Nashville. The priest said, “They both take their faith very seriously.”
In addition, Father Steiner describes Urban as an attentive father to his two daughters with Kidman: “When they’ve had to take their daughter to the church nursery, Keith is not the type of father who just drops his daughter off. He visits with all our sitters, he visits with the Religious Ed teachers. He interacts with other people’s children in a very positive way. What I’ve really experienced from him is what a loving father he is.”
Be open to the love of your Father in heaven.
See what love the Father has given us. (1 John 3:1)
May my faith in Your love be my rock, Father.
The Fastest Nun in the West
Billy the Kid was a notorious Old West outlaw who normally wouldn’t shy away from a fight. Unless it was with a nun—or at least, with Sister Blandina Segale, the Italian-born Sister of Charity of Cincinnati whose life is being investigated by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe for possible sainthood.
The Associated Press reported that she came to the U.S. in 1877, “co-founded public and Catholic schools…and worked with the poor, the sick, and immigrants.” So many stories spread about her encounters with outlaws that the TV series Death Valley Days did an episode about her: The Fastest Nun in the West. Even more legendary were her run-ins with Billy the Kid.
In one story, Segale nursed Billy’s friend back to health after a gunshot wound because four doctors refused to treat him. Billy came to town to thank Sister Segale, but also to kill the doctors. She asked him to abandon his murderous plans—and he agreed. In another story, Billy was going to rob a covered wagon until he looked inside and saw Segale. Then, he simply tipped his hat and left. The lesson: even outlaws don’t mess with nuns.
You are citizens with the saints. (Ephesians 2:19)
Help me to follow the saintly example of good people, Lord.
Nine-year-old Ella Frech hasn’t had an easy life. For two years, she’s endured painful injections to treat juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. While that is now under control, she’s been burdened with a mysterious new ailment that has weakened her legs so much that she needs a wheelchair.
Despite all this, the little girl who used to take ballet classes hasn’t let her struggles overcome her. As family friend Calah Alexander noted on her Patheos.com blog, Ella has faced her challenges with so much “grace and courage” that she decided to channel her energies into a new activity she could do while seated: drawing.
Ella had never shown a particular aptitude for art, but six months into her new hobby, she has sketched and colored beautiful pictures of her favorite Disney characters and even some religious drawings of St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary. Her mother posts her drawings on EllasDoodles.blogspot.com to share her work with others—and hopefully to attract a few prayers for a little girl who could use a break from her suffering.
O Lord, heal me. (Psalm 6:2)
Relieve the burdens of suffering children, Divine Healer.
The $90,125 Pay Cut
Raymond Burse, the interim president at Kentucky State University, remembers the minimum-wage jobs he held during his high school and college years—and he empathizes with workers in similar jobs who struggle to make ends meet today.
Actually, he does more than empathize with them. He has taken a step to make their lives a little bit easier, by taking a 25 percent cut in his own salary—equaling $90,125—in order to boost their wages.
As reported by the Washington Post, the 24 employees at KSU (“including custodial staff, groundskeepers and lower end clerical workers”) who make below $10.25 an hour will now be bumped up to that baseline. Burse says he believes in raising wages, but didn’t want to put the financial burden on the school, so he lived up to his own principles in a unique way.
He said, “I didn’t have any examples of it having been done out there and I didn’t do it to be an example to anyone else. I did it to do right by the employees here.”
The laborer deserves to be paid. (Leviticus 19:14)
Bless those struggling financially, Lord, with bosses who are willing and able to improve their lives.
A Prayer to the Holy Family
Every family can use a little spiritual guidance from above. Who better to ask than the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph? Catholic Digest offers this prayer for intercession:
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph, like you we are members of the Father’s family. We pray that our family love may reflect His love in its openness to all people. May we forgive even when not forgiven, and be patient with others’ weaknesses.
“Jesus, give us peace, unity and strength to meet the difficulties of daily living. May we use our family resources to improve the quality of life for ourselves and all people. Let us show joy in serving, for whatever we do for others, we do for You.
“Mary, inspire us, that our love may be strong but not possessive. Let our willingness to give depend on the needs of others rather than on the cost of giving.
“Joseph, help us to be attentive to the Father’s will. Let us be ready, as you were, to act whenever He calls us. Amen.”
The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds, and it will not rest until it reaches its goal. (Sirach 35:21)
Guide and bless the members of my family, Holy Trinity.
Moving On and Letting Go
Today, a few more ideas from writer Tim Hoch on ways that you can make your life easier and happier.
■ “Do you need to forgive someone, turn your back on a failed relationship, or come to terms with the death of a loved one?
Closure is a word for people who have never really suffered. There’s no such thing. Just try to ‘manage’ your loss. Put it in perspective. You will always have some regret and doubt about your loss. You’re not alone. Find someone who understands and talk to that person. Reach out for support.”
■ “One way to deal with loss is to immerse yourself in doing good. Volunteer. Get involved in life. It doesn’t even have to be a big, structured thing. Say a kind word. Encourage someone. Pay a visit to someone who is alone. Get away from your self-absorption. When it comes down to it, there are two types of people in this world. There are givers and there are takers. Givers are happy. Takers are miserable. What are you?”
The measure you give will be the measure you get back. (Luke 6:38)
Guide me in moving beyond behaviors that stand in the way of my own happiness, Divine Redeemer.
Making Life Harder than It Has to Be
Writer Tim Hoch believes that many of us are making life harder than it has to be. He points outs some ways in which we do this—and how we can move past them to find happiness.
- “Another driver cut you off. Your friend never texted you back. Your co-worker went to lunch without you. Everyone can find a reason to be offended on a steady basis. So what caused you to be offended? You assigned bad intent to these otherwise innocuous actions. You took it as a personal affront. Happy people don’t ascribe intent to the unintentional actions of others.”
- “I have a bad habit of fast forwarding everything to its worst possible outcome and being pleasantly surprised when the result is marginally better than utter disaster. My mind unnecessarily wrestles with events that aren’t remotely likely, [such as] my lost driver’s license fell into the hands of an al-Qaeda operative who will wipe out my savings account. Negativity only breeds more negativity. It is a happiness riptide. It will carry you away from shore and if you don’t swim away from it, will pull you under.”
Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? (Luke 12:25)
Help me to nurture a positive outlook on life, Creator.
A Brain Surgeon’s Snowy Trek
When a major snowstorm paralyzed Birmingham, Alabama, in 2014, most residents just stayed inside. But not 62-year-old neurosurgeon Dr. Zenko Hrynkiw.
While assisting another brain surgeon at Brookwood Medical Center, he received the CT scans of a patient at Trinity Medical Center on his phone. Dr. Hrynkiw believed the patient had a 90 percent chance of dying, so he decided to walk six miles in his scrubs to Trinity to perform emergency surgery.
As reported by the Alabama Media Group, Dr. Hrynkiw’s journey “included stops to help push stranded motorists stuck in the roadway due to the snowstorm—and a stop to sit in an ambulance to warm up from the below 20-degree weather.”
Dr. Hrynkiw insisted, “I walk a lot so it wasn’t that big a deal.” But in light of the patient’s good prognosis, Trinity CEO Keith Granger disagreed with the humble physician, saying, “It’s a remarkable physical and mental feat. We have an individual alive today who wouldn’t be here if not for his efforts.”
The Lord has made my journey successful. (Genesis 24:56)
Guide my steps during difficult journeys, Divine Savior.
A Millionaire’s Dream Job
When Jon Kitna hung up his cleats in 2011 after 15 years as an NFL quarterback, he not only went back to school but he went there to teach—at Lincoln High School, the same one he’d attended while growing up in Tacoma, Washington. Lincoln is in a high-poverty area these days, and many of the students are potential dropouts. That didn’t trouble Kitna. “Give me your toughest students,” he said. And he got them.
Kitna didn’t turn to teaching because he needed the money. His football career brought him over $20 million, $2.3 million of it in his final year with the Dallas Cowboys. He did it for love of the profession, a feeling he doesn’t attempt to hide.
“This is my dream job,” he says.
His “dream job” includes teaching three algebra classes, and he loves seeing students go from outright failure straight to the honor roll.
“To see lives changed,” he said. “That’s something!”
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor.” (Matthew 19:21)
Lord, bless teachers who bring wisdom to young people.
Addicts Challenge Atheist’s Unbelief
When photographer Chris Arnade started taking pictures of homeless drug addicts in New York’s South Bronx, he expected to find a group of people who, like himself, were atheists. After all, how could individuals living desperate lives on the streets believe there was a loving God who cares for everyone?
Arnade was shocked that the exact opposite view prevailed. Michael, a crack addict, always carries a rosary with him. Heroin addicts Sonya and Eric count a picture of the Last Supper as their most valued possession. Takeesha, a prostitute, describes herself as “a child of God.”
Arnade’s hard shell of disbelief cracked. He wrote in The Guardian, “In Biblical terms, we are all sinners. On the streets the addicts, with their daily battles and proximity to death, have come to understand this viscerally. Many successful people don’t. Their sense of entitlement and emotional distance has numbed their understanding of our fallibility.”
Arnade now sees his own fallibility, and admires the addicts whose faith offers them a source of hope.
He instructs sinners in the way. (Psalm 25:8)
Lord, guide all people who search for You to a better life.
‘What Is Needed Is Trust’
After graduating college, Michigan resident Jim Ziolkowski hitchhiked around the world, spending time in developing countries like India and Nepal, where he felt overwhelmed by the poverty he witnessed. One day, he passed through a village where they were celebrating the opening of a school. Ziolkowski realized how powerful education can be.
When he returned to the U.S. in 1990, he got a job in corporate finance at GE. But after 15 months, he quit that job to start the nonprofit buildOn. Their initial mission was to build three schools in poor areas of three different continents, using inner-city youth from America to help do it.
Beyond good intentions, though, Ziolkowski had no idea how to accomplish that task. He felt paralyzed by fear, until one night he opened his Bible and read Jesus’s words from Mark’s gospel: “Fear is useless. What is needed is trust.” Ziolkowski got the courage to call up the CFO of GE Capital, and ask for financial help. His pitch worked, and the project came together. Today, buildOn has built 618 schools in developing countries.
My heart shall not fear. (Psalm 27:3)
Strengthen my belief in Your loving providence, Lord.
A Labor of Love and Faith
Twenty-nine-year-old Daniel Andrade suffers from a severe type of cerebral palsy, rendering him unable to walk, talk, or move since birth. Yet thanks to the singular efforts of his loving mother, Irma, he is able to attend Mass once a week.
Every Sunday, 56-year-old Irma Gomes-Andrade washes, dresses and carries her son down the stairs of their second-floor apartment to his wheelchair waiting in the driveway below. The pair then walk the three blocks to St. John the Baptist Church, located in their hometown of Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Irma has gone through some especially rough periods in her life. Daniel’s birth father left her after learning their son was disabled, and it took years to get Daniel to hold up his own head. Even today, he still requires constant everyday care. But Irma is grateful to God for the gift of Daniel’s life—and her own.
“I opened my arms and I trusted God that He would give me the strength to raise him the best I can,” Irma told the Rhode Island Catholic. “I thank God for everything He has given me.”
God, the Lord, is my strength. (Isaiah 40:31)
Christ, may we always lean upon Your ineffable strength.
Listen to Your Mother…Usually
You should always follow your mother’s advice. Well, almost always. Consider this story that actor and comedian Tim Conway shared as a guest on Christopher Closeup while promoting his memoir What’s So Funny?
During his third year starring in the 1960’s hit sitcom McHale’s Navy, Tim got a call from his mother Sophia in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. She told him, “Ken Shutts down at the hardware store is taking on new help. You know him rather well, so you should apply.”
A little surprised, Tim responded, “Ma, have you been watching television in the last couple of years?”
Sophia answered, “I saw it, but that junk isn’t going to last. You got a chance to get a good steady job. You should take it.”
Thankfully, Tim didn’t pursue the hardware store job, which freed him up to eventually make it onto The Carol Burnett Show, where he cemented his legacy as a comedy great. But the down-to-earth attitudes he learned from his parents stay with him to this day. And he’s a better (and funnier) man for it.
A cheerful heart is a good medicine. (Proverbs 17:22)
May laughter lift my spirits, Heavenly Father.
Thank You for Listening, Young Lady
While working as a Spanish translator for a meditation class at Mercy Center in the Bronx, New York, Angelica Perez encountered a woman in her late fifties who opened up about her lifetime of physical and emotional pain. Though Perez realized this woman needed professional treatment for depression, she listened sympathetically as she talked for over an hour.
Before leaving to see a social worker to get the help she needed, the woman hugged Perez and said, “Thank you for listening to my story… No one has ever sat with me and listened for such a long time. Thank you, young lady.”
Recalling that experience on the Mercy Volunteer Corps blog, Perez wrote, “Did I really say the magical words to get this lady to feel better and cure her depression? Not quite; all I did was listen with compassion and respond gently. I was reminded on this day that the simplest acts of kindness can make a big difference; even when we think we’re not making a difference, we may be doing more than we give ourselves credit for.”
Speak, for Your servant is listening. (1 Samuel 3:10)
Give me the patience and compassion to listen to the lost and lonely, Savior.
‘I’m Not a Victim’
When TV host Mike Rowe met retired Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills at the Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., he was astonished at the condition of the man standing in front of him. It wasn’t just the fact that Mills was a quadruple amputee with two prosthetic arms and two prosthetic legs, but also that his spirit was shockingly upbeat.
When Rowe inquired what happened to him, Mills said an IED in Afghanistan had destroyed his limbs. Despite that, Mills said, “I’m not a victim, Mike, and I refused to be portrayed that way.” Instead, Mills focuses on his wife, his child, and on helping wounded veterans adjust to life with their injuries.
On Facebook, Rowe wrote, “Travis is missing more than a few original parts; he’s missing all traces of self-pity. And that presents a challenge for mortals like me…[to] listen to a guy with no arms or legs tell me how lucky he is, and how much he appreciates all my hard work. That’s called a gut-check, and I could use one from time to time.”
Be strong, and let us be courageous. (2 Samuel 10:12)
Instead of dwelling on misfortune, Father, inspire me to be a blessing to others.
Prepare for New Possibilities
Patheos.com blogger Deacon Greg Kandra and his wife spent one New Year’s Eve in a Times Square hotel, overlooking the revelry and confetti below. The next morning, they were amazed at how well the streets had been cleaned up.
Deacon Greg then saw those clean streets as a symbol for New Year’s Day—and a symbol of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
He wrote, “New Year’s Day is…the moment when everything is possible. Every page of the calendar is blank. Every diet is successful…Here and now we begin anew. How appropriate, then, that the Church…has dedicated this particular moment in time to Our Lady, as we mark the feast of Mary the Mother of God. In Mary, we see the ultimate vessel of possibility. In her, the world was given a new start.
“This January 1st, I would challenge you to…resolve to learn something from the woman we honor. Resolve to dwell in possibility. Resolve to see every day, not just this one, as a fresh beginning…Trust that God will see you through it—and then reflect on it in your heart. Just like Mary did.”
My soul magnifies the Lord. (Luke 1:46)
Help me focus on new possibilities, Lord.
How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions
How many times do we make our New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions, but then end up breaking them?
Father Pat Toner, pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Plain City, Ohio, offers some useful tips for sticking to your resolutions in The Catholic Times:
▪ Limit your number of resolutions to one or two. Trying to keep one resolution is hard enough without having to juggle too many at once.
▪ Replace your bad habit with a new, more beneficial task.For example, if you find yourself taking God’s name in vain, turn your cursing into a prayer to Him.
▪ Make it a daily intention. Try to include this new habit as a part of your everyday ritual.
▪ Develop strategies to ingrain the habit. For instance, if you have trouble praying in the evening, like Father Pat, putting your hymnal on your bedside table might help.
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
Jesus, may our faith be at the center of every New Year’s resolution.
A Good Samaritan Needs Help Himself
When Hurricane Sandy whipped through the East Coast in October 2012, Pete Vadola’s home in Staten Island, New York, was one of the few left standing in his neighborhood of Midland Beach. Vadola came through for his stricken neighbors, though, evacuating no less than 200 of them with a motorboat.
Now Vadola—who lives with his wife Melissa and their two young sons—knows how the others feel. His own home was destroyed by fire in July of 2013, and Vadola’s family had to take up lodging in his parents’ house nearby.
“When a friend who was marooned in his attic with his wife and kid called for help the day after Sandy, I was feeling blessed that my home was spared,” he told Denis Hamill of the Daily News. “Now I know how all of my neighbors felt.”
He’s keeping everything in perspective, though. “Thank God no one was hurt. I have insurance; I have a job. I’m okay. But I am deeply touched by my neighbors, who care so much about us. That’s why, like everybody else around here, I will rebuild.”
I will be with them in trouble. (Psalm 91:15)
Redeemer, make us remember those who reached out to us in our need so that we may be a help to them.
Rain to the Rescue!
Man’s best friend can also prove to be a wonderful spiritual healer. Just ask Father Bert Woolson, who has a five-year-old female King Shepherd dog named Rain. A member of the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addictions’ K-9 Assisted Crisis Response Team, Rain was originally trained to be a wheelchair assistance dog. Father Bert, a State Police Chaplain, adopted her, making her a part of his “special ministry.”
The chaplain’s main task is to comfort people at the scene of accidents and, if necessary, help them find the proper spiritual and mental care in the aftermath of these disasters. According to Father Bert, Rain is a superbly instinctive canine caregiver.
“She was in Henryville (following a tornado in March) for two days…we also responded to a fire,” the priest recalls. “When a fireman injured his arm, somehow that dog gave him the courage to go on. I have no idea how she did it.”
Animal behaviorists tell us that just touching a dog can greatly lower a person’s stress level. How fortunate we are that God has blessed us with such uncannily perceptive companions!
But ask the animals, and they will teach you. (Job 12:7)
Abba, bless and protect faithful pets, our unsung healers.
A Healing Presence
“All through our lives, we need the healing presence of others; perhaps a grandmother, perhaps a therapist; someone when the going gets rough, with whom to share tears and smiles.”
Judith Schmidt, Ph.D., learned that significant life lesson as a little girl, while spending many Sunday afternoons at her grandmother’s home. She describes the atmosphere as “a warming world away from the warring one at home.”
That early example taught Dr. Schmidt what children need in order to become adults capable of love. She herself grew up to become a clinical psychologist who wants to help people.
All these years later, Dr. Schmidt still returns to that place of comfort in her memory. She says, “I know that there will be a moment when my grandmother will call my name. In the kitchen, we will sit quietly together….She will put her hand to my face, smile and touch me with love.”
Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)
Jesus, may we fully appreciate the healing power of love.
Though many of us consider reading or watching Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as an annual tradition, the story was written at a time when the opposite was true.
As recounted by Jamie Lutton in The Capitol Hill Times, “When Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1842, the holiday was nearly dead in modern England. Christmas was celebrated by the rural and poor, but frowned upon by employers.”
It was only after reading author Washington Irving’s lament that people were losing the “goodwill and cheerfulness” of the holiday that Dickens felt inspired to write a story about it.
As he walked the streets of London seeing poor, starving children, Dickens grew angry that many of the city’s wealthy citizens saw them as “surplus population,” as unnecessary human beings instead of as children of God. He incorporated that theme into his story, reminding his readers that the birth of Jesus is a time of celebration and appreciation of all human life.
Do not despise one of these little ones…Their angels continually see the face of My Father. (Matthew 18:10)
Jesus, help children to experience love.
The King of Kings Is Always With You
In his book A Simple Guide to Happiness, former Director of The Christophers Father John Catoir tells the following story:
“In 1953, I was walking guard duty at midnight on Christmas Eve. There I was, a lonely Army draftee serving at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas…I could hear the choir singing at the post chapel, where Midnight Mass was being held, and I felt terribly lonely.
“It never dawned on me that I was giving in to self-pity, and thereby was missing a wonderful opportunity to come closer to God. It would have been so much better had I united spiritually with the choir and thought of God as a friend who was closer to me than my own heartbeat.
“I didn’t realize that joy never comes to those who are caught up in their own brooding…The thoughts you think soon become the emotions you feel. If you think you’re alone in the world, your feelings of loneliness will intensify. But you are never alone. Your best friend, the King of kings, is always with you.”
In Your presence there is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11)
Lord, help me to choose joy when I’m tempted by self-pity.
The Christmas Miracle
It was Christmas Eve in London; the year was 1940. A young German student, severely afflicted with pneumonia, begged English nurse Eve Gordon to keep him awake for the night, for if he fell asleep, he knew he would not survive.
Taking pity on the student, Eve spent the night regaling him with the beloved Christmas story and singing him holiday carols. The young man remained awake, and was released from the hospital days later, fully recovered.
Several years passed and Hitler’s terrifying Nazi regime swept across Europe. Gordon’s language skills earned her a position as a spy in Nazi-occupied Norway. When she and many other Norwegian citizens were caught one day, Eve feared the worst and prayed for a quick death, lest her mission be discovered.
Roughly pushed into a room for questioning, Eve was shocked to recognize her Nazi interrogator as the student she helped years ago. Knowing Gordon as well, the soldier pointed to the door: “Go. I give you back your Christmas.”
Love your enemies, do good. (Luke 6:35)
Lord, may we give as generously as we receive.
The Bar That Helps Santa
Every Christmas season, Kip’s Inn in Milwaukee, Wisconsin doesn’t just serve drinks; it serves the less fortunate in the community.
As reported in The Catholic Herald, owner Kim Engebregtsen grew up as one of five children in a poor family that was helped by the generosity of other people and the Catholic Church. As a means of repaying that kindness, she’s sponsored an annual toy collection for Catholic Charities at the bar for the last six years.
Each year, Catholic Charities gives Engebregtsen a list with wishes from needy families that she and her patrons go above and beyond to fulfill. They don’t just buy what’s asked for; they include a little extra. Sharon Brumer, communications manager of an appreciative Catholic Charities, said of Engebregtsen, “She embraces sharing and giving to others, and that always rubs off on the people that come to your establishment.”
It sounds like Engebregtsen exemplifies the joy of giving, the joy we’re all supposed to feel at the gift of God’s Son.
The righteous are generous. (Psalm 37:21)
Holy Spirit, inspire our generosity.
Rosaries for Newtown
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shootings in 2012, which killed 26 students and teachers, Newtown, Connecticut residents needed extra comfort and prayers. To that end, Sandy Hook alumna Jackie Hennessey came up with the idea of making rosaries, using her parish of Holy Family in Endwell, New York as a fundraising springboard for her project.
“Everyone wanted to help,” Hennessey told The Catholic Sun. “The thought of creating rosaries that would actually touch the kids who lost brothers, sisters, cousins and friends, well, that’s pretty powerful.”
Hennessey’s charitable act is also a family affair. Her mother, Pam Arsenault, is the director of parish education at St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown. She distributed over 1,800 rosaries to the Sandy Hook children on Good Friday.
“The gift of the rosaries will help the process of healing,” Arsenault said. “We say in Newtown that we choose love, not hate. This is a tremendous gift of love.”
Pray for one another, so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
Lord, comfort those who mourn the losses of loved ones.
Sleeping on the Right Side of the Bed
How many of us complain of lack of sleep because we simply can’t fall asleep? Maybe we’re too tired, not tired, worried or wired. Here are some ideas to make sure you start the night’s rest right:
▪ Give yourself a bedtime. Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin says to look to the time you have to get up, and count backwards for the seven hours of sleep you need.
▪ Slow down. Sending e-mails and playing games on your Smartphone are not pre-bedtime activities. Rubin notes: “Let your mind wind down.”
▪ Set a routine. Establishing certain tasks you do every night before bed become a calming ritual, Rubin explains.
Our hearts remain ever restless, content only as they find peace in knowing the Lord and trusting in His love.
I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and no one shall make you afraid. (Leviticus 26:6)
Lord, I am weary; give me rest.
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