Three Minutes a Day
Prayer and Defiance
The practice of Catholic prayers and rituals became another way for Father Kapaun to defy the enemy in the POW camp. Roy Wenzl, co-author of the book The Miracle of Father Kapaun, said during an interview on Christopher Closeup, “The guards banned any sort of religious services, so Father would sneak around at night, go into the huts and say the rosary. The Protestants and the Jews and the agnostics would pray the rosary because it was a way to support him. He was also trying to keep them alive by creating a spirit of defiance and purpose.”
The camp’s communist commanders saw Father Kapaun as a threat, so they put him in a place dubbed “the Death House” when he grew weak and sick. Wenzl said, “The Allied soldiers volunteered to carry him, as sort of an honor guard, to his own death. And on the way into the Death House, Father’s hand came up off of the stretcher and he blessed the Chinese guards who were participating in his murder and he asked their forgiveness, and then said, ‘Father, forgive them.’” He died soon after.
The conclusion of Father Kapaun’s story tomorrow.
I will pray to the Lord for you. (1 Samuel 7:5)
Replace hatred with forgiveness in my heart, Redeemer.
No Act of Service Was Beneath Him
Life in the North Korean POW camp was brutal for Father Kapaun and the Allied soldiers, but once again the chaplain provided material relief and moral leadership. For instance, the Chinese and North Koreans only gave their captives a handful of birdseed to eat daily. Despite starving himself, Father Kapaun often gave his seeds away to set an example of sharing.
The Allies also didn’t receive any water to drink, so they scraped snow and ice off the ground to hydrate themselves. As a result of ingesting unclean water, they often got dysentery.
Because of his youth working on a farm, Father Kapaun took roofing tin from bombed-out buildings and formed them into bowls that they could use as little cooking pots. That saved lives because it allowed them to boil water before drinking it. And for the soldiers who did suffer from dysentery, Father Kapaun would hand-wash their underwear, demonstrating that absolutely no act of service was beneath him.
The spiritual guidance Father Kapaun gave his fellow POWs was also invaluable. That part of his story tomorrow.
Those who are generous are blessed. (Proverbs 22:9)
Help me endure sacrifice to help others in need, Lord.
A Fearless and Holy Leader
By the time his battalion was captured during the Korean War, U.S. Army chaplain Father Emil Kapaun already had a reputation as a fearless and holy leader because of the way he braved enemy fire to rescue the wounded during battle. As he and his fellow soldiers were being marched to their prisoner of war camp by their Chinese and North Korean captors, the priest engaged in another remarkable act of courage.
Roy Wenzl—co-author of the Christopher Award-winning book The Miracle of Father Kapaun—explained that Father Kapaun saw a Chinese soldier with a rifle pointed at the head of Sgt. Herb Miller, who was lying in a ditch with a broken ankle. It was routine for the Chinese to execute wounded enemy soldiers.
Wenzl said, “Father Kapaun breaks away from his captors, strides over, brushes the Chinese soldier’s rifle up in the air, then leans down right in front of him, picks the sergeant up and carries him away. And the sergeant’s still alive today.”
Father Kapaun continued to be a lifesaver in the POW camp as well. More of his story tomorrow.
His heart was courageous. (2 Chronicles 17:6)
Grant me courage in the face of strife, Prince of Peace.
Why Jim Caviezel Jumped Off Stage
During a panel discussion at San Diego Comic-Con featuring the cast of the action-adventure TV series Person of Interest, a nervous young girl from the audience asked star Jim Caviezel, “Which was more fun to work on? Person of Interest or The Passion of the Christ?” (in which Caviezel played Jesus).
The room erupted in laughter. Considering that Caviezel endured a lightning strike and other injuries on The Passion, he jokingly answered, “Person of Interest is a little more funner.”
With a sense of parental curiosity, Caviezel—a father of three—then asked the girl, “How old are you, sweetheart?” She responded, “I’m 11 years old.” Caviezel smiled, “You’re the same age as my daughter and you’re beautiful.”
The girl approached the stage in the hopes of shaking Caviezel’s hand. Co-star Sarah Shahi said, “Give her a hug”—so Caviezel followed his TV partner’s advice. Using some action-hero moves, he climbed over the table, jumped off the stage, and embraced the obviously-thrilled girl. It was a simple gesture of kindness, but it meant the world to one young fan.
The fruit of the Spirit is…kindness. (Galatians 5:22)
Remind me that no act of kindness is too small, Father.
Retirement—Not a Door Marked Exit
The good news: American life spans are extending. As a result, we need to rethink our attitudes about retirement.
Jane Pauley, broadcaster and writer, is a baby boomer who isn’t ready to retire in any traditional sense of the word. She has a lot of company.
Many people with the health, resources, desire, physical and/or emotional ability to work beyond typical retirement years stay on the job; others tackle new challenges.
Pauley, author of Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life, says the meaning of retirement is changing. She writes, “Retirement is not a door marked Exit. Think instead of a door leading us to something new…Unlike previous generations, who retired from something, we can imagine retiring to something.”
As you prepare for the future, nurture your health and wellbeing and maintain social support.
I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not see the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. (Psalm 37:25)
May Jesus be our guide through unfamiliar territory.
Come On Up to the House
“The world is not my home. I’m just a’ passin’ through.”
Those lyrics from the Tom Waits song “Come on Up to the House” hold special meaning for author and catechist Jonathan F. Sullivan. Due to a long battle with alcoholism and depression, Sullivan’s father could never find peace in this world despite being a man with a strong sense of faith.
After he died, Jonathan found comfort in this song that was both “mournful” and “hopeful” —in the idea that God had invited his father to “come on up to” His house.
As Jonathan wrote in a blog post, “That suffering can be transformed for the salvation of the world is the mystery of the cross. God calls us all to pass through this world to his home—a lavish home of grace and abundance where we can surrender our hardships. ‘Come On Up to the House’ will always remind me of my father’s pain and how it has been transformed, and I hope one day we will meet in that house and sing together in praise of God’s wondrous love.”
I have seen the suffering of My people. (1 Samuel 9:16)
Holy Spirit, bring peace to those struggling with addiction and depression.
A Motivated Runner
In the late 1960s, while her fellow students at Brooklyn’s Erasmus High School studied international problems in textbooks, Cheryl Toussaint got a first-hand glimpse of Russia and West Germany.
Toussaint, who would go on to become a silver medalist in the 1972 Olympics, was the youngest member of a group of 30 U.S. track and field athletes who flew overseas for an international competition. How did she earn this distinction?
She said, “To be good, you have to sacrifice. I can’t remember the last time I went to a party.”
Her coach added, “Cheryl has worked hard for this trip. She deserves it. But there are hundreds of other youngsters who could have the same chance if they only put their minds on running toward a goal instead of away from it.”
There is no substitute for hard work in achieving anything worthwhile. In God’s world, as in athletic competition, those who work the hardest often achieve the most.
Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)
Lord, help me persevere when giving up would be easier.
Can you relax without feeling guilty? Although not everyone can, there are good reasons to try.
In their book, Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life, editors Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat devote a section to Leisure.
They note that leisure activities run the gamut and can include cooking and sharing meals, exercise and sports. Hobbies might “offer us opportunities to express ourselves and to nurture our growth through silence, attention, imagination, and wonder”.
Leisure activities can also help us find meaning and discover spiritual truths—good reasons to take a break.
As William Penn (quoted by the Brussats) once said, “In the rush and noise of life, as you have intervals, step within yourselves and be still. Wait upon God and feel his good presence; this will carry you through your day’s business.”
He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place… and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. (Mark 6:31)
Increase our ability to relax and appreciate Your goodness, Father.
Adopting a War Orphan
A Dutch couple found a dramatic way to be instruments of God’s peace shortly after World War II. At a time when anti-German feelings ran high in the Netherlands, Dr. and Mrs. Jan Tinbergen opened their home to a seven-year-old German war orphan.
This incident was reported in the world’s press the day after Dr. Tinbergen was nominated to share the first Nobel Prize in Economic Science. An American friend explained his motives:
“Adopting that little girl instead of just sitting around hating the Germans was typical of the way Tinbergen thinks. It sounds corny, but he really seems to be one of those people who live their Christianity.”
What is accomplished by those who just sit around and hate or complain? If more of us risked seeming a little “corny” in living the Gospel Christ preached, we’d make a significant step toward bringing about the reign of the Prince of Peace.
Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. (Philippians 1:27)
Holy Spirit, show me where in my life I can become a peacemaker.
Letter Carrier’s Vigilance Saves a Life
Michael “Mickey” Wheeley has worked as a letter carrier in Graham, North Carolina for more than 20 years, and knows all his patrons like family. So when Wheeley noticed one of his client’s mailboxes overflowing with at least a few days’ worth of medicine packages, he knew that something must be wrong. He knocked on the door and heard a voice tell him to come in.
As it turns out, Wheeley’s patron, both a veteran and recent stroke victim, had been put on bed rest. His caretaker had quit earlier that week, and the man had had nothing to eat or drink for three days. Immediately, Wheeley called his postal supervisor, Carole Eckstrom, who phoned 911. The mailman waited with his patron until an ambulance arrived to take the latter to the Durham VA Hospital.
“Mickey very well could have saved that man’s life,” Eckstrom told WFMY News 2. “I told our carriers, ‘This is what we do, we are the contact for most people we serve.’”
“He needed some help,” Wheeley concluded, humbly deflecting any praise. “We all need some help.”
Love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:12)
Master, open our eyes and hearts to those in need.
Guardians of Rescue
Like many other veterans of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, former Marine Jarrett Gimbl wondered where help would be coming from. Honorably discharged in 2009, he suffers periodically from irritability, aggravation and headaches, all classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Then help arrived—in the form of Gunny, a yellow Labrador-hound mix provided by Guardians of Rescue, a Long Island (New York) organization that supplies service dogs to veterans in need. Gimbl depends on Gunny for just about everything. “If I’m losing my balance,” he said, “he leans on that leg. He knows everything.”
The founder of Guardians of Rescue, Robert Misseri, had an easy explanation of the organization’s mission. “This is my opportunity to serve those who have served,” he told the Daily News. And the dogs “give the veterans a trust level that they don’t have with people anymore.”
As for Gimbl, he knows what his dog has done for him. “If it wasn’t for Gunny,” he said, “I wouldn’t be here.”
May He rescue me from all tribulation. (1 Samuel 26:24)
Give veterans the healing they need, Prince of Peace.
How Will the World be Converted?
As recorded in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells His disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” prior to His ascension into heaven. When He did ascend, the book of Acts notes that the apostles stood staring intently into the sky.
Reflecting on these passages for Ascension Thursday, Patheos.com blogger Deacon Greg Kandra offered this interpretation of the story’s meaning:
“It is tempting on this feast of the Ascension to experience it the way the apostles did, to gaze into the heavens and to ponder the clouds and to pray over the miracle of this great moment. But Christ’s words to his apostles are words to us all. Go. The world will not be converted on a mountaintop. The message will not be spread in the clouds. It will happen in the streets and the synagogues, in public squares and private homes, in books and newspapers and media of all kinds. It needs to be lived in the world.”
And remember, I am with you always, until the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)
Jesus, instill me with the courage and wisdom to share Your life and message with the people around me.
A Homecoming Queen’s Compassionate Gesture
Mary Urtuzuastegui was a bright 11-year-old at Most Holy Redeemer School in Montgomery, Minnesota. She loved playing volleyball, and she dreamed of competing for—and winning—the title of Homecoming Queen at Tri-City United High School.
That dream was crushed in 2013 when a car accident took Mary’s life. But the crown would be hers nonetheless. The actual winner, Kayla Treka, who had known Mary as coach of her volleyball team, presented the tiara to her family in a gesture of sympathy. “Mary was always her Dad’s little princess,” said Mary’s mother. “He’ll really appreciate this.”
Kayla, a member of her parish’s youth group, decided to give up the crown as a symbol of her faith after talking over the matter with her parents. The gift moved many people, including Mindy Reeder, principal of Most Holy Redeemer School. “We call Mary our angel now,” she said. “She’s crowned in heaven with Jesus, and we have that crown here to be symbolic of that.”
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15)
Teach young people to reflect compassion, Jesus.
Canceled Wedding Turns Into Homeless Feast
When Willie and Carol Fowler’s daughter cancelled her wedding 40 days before the event, they were left facing not only great emotional pain but steep financial loss as well. The Fowlers had already booked a wedding reception at the prestigious Villa Christina in Atlanta. They wisely turned to prayer for guidance on what to do next, and instantly found their answer.
“I was in the process of cancelling out the venue,” Carol Fowler told ABC News’s Christina Ng, “and he [Willie] said, ‘No, what we’ll do is donate it to Hosea Feed the Hungry.’…It was a vision. He said he had prayed on it during the night and that’s what we were going to do.”
Talk about every cloud having a silver lining! Hosea Feed the Hungry, a nonprofit that supplies the homeless with necessary goods and services every year, was overwhelmed by the Fowlers’ generous donation. The intended wedding feast was transformed into a sumptuous banquet for 200 grateful individuals, 50 of them children. “It was a wonderful event,” said Quisa Foster of Hosea. “It brought tears to my eyes.”
And all ate and were filled. (Matthew 14:20)
Abba, may we seek to turn every negative into a positive.
Because You Gave Me Life
With Rita Respass-Brown’s kidney function at only six percent, she would need either dialysis or a transplant in order to stay alive. When her 24-year-old son Tony heard the news, he secretly went to get tested to see if his kidney would be a match for his mom. It turned out to be a perfect match, so he told her that he would be her donor.
Rita felt reluctant at first because she didn’t want Tony to make such a big sacrifice for her. But as she recalled on the TV series NY Med, he asked her, “Mom, what does it mean to you for someone to give you a kidney?”
Rita responded, “Life!”
Tony answered, “That’s why I’m going to give you my kidney. You gave me life—and you don’t have the right to deny me the ability to do for you what you did for me.”
Thankfully, the transplant went well, giving both mother and son a new appreciation for the precious gift of life.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.
(1 John 4:18)
Father, help me to serve my family fearlessly and selflessly. Also, bring healing to all those facing severe health issues.
Most Valuable Mom
It wasn’t Mother’s Day last year when the star of basketball’s Oklahoma City Thunder, Kevin Durant, accepted his league’s Most Valuable Player award. But no one could have paid a finer tribute to his mother than Durant did that day, with an acceptance speech that deserves to be ranked at the very top.
Durant started and finished by thanking God. Then, he voiced his gratitude to teammates, coaches and other staff members and the fans of Oklahoma City. Finally, tears flowing down his face, Durant turned to address his Mom:
“I don’t know how you did what you did. You were a single parent with two boys by the time you were 21. We moved from one apartment to another by ourselves. One of my best memories is when we moved into our first apartment...We hugged each other, and we thought we had made it.
“When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.”
Strength and dignity are her clothing…Her children rise up and call her blessed. (Proverbs 31:25,28)
Mother of God, bless and protect all the mothers of this world, strengthening them in wisdom and faith.
Balancing It All
Busy moms may find it difficult to make time for God in the course of their daily responsibilities. Candace Cameron Bure can relate. However, the actress and author of Balancing It All noted that experience has taught her that Scripture reading and prayer are crucial to maintaining a sense of balance in her life.
She said on Christopher Closeup, “I just read the Bible this morning with the kids. Before going to school, at 6:45, we all sit on the couch and read a chapter. We talk about it for 15 minutes, but it sets your day. That’s the only way that I’m able to balance the things that God has given me to balance.”
Though she wants to do everything that’s asked of her, Bure realizes that sometimes achieving balance requires saying “no.” It was a difficult lesson, but the 38-year-old laughingly admits that she’s finally getting there “in my old age.”
“You can get overwhelmed and then priorities that really need to be done are being put aside,” said Bure. “Just because things are good doesn’t mean that they need to be done by you—[or that] God wants you to do them.”
Do not busy yourself with many matters. (Sirach 11:10)
Holy Spirit, help me find the balance that eludes me.
When God Cheers
Five-year-old Jimmy stood nervously at home plate, waiting for his first-ever at bat in a baseball game. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age 15 months, Jimmy needed leg braces to walk, but he could take comfort in the fact that all the kids on the field were living with some physical disability. They were simply here today for love of the game.
As recounted by John Shaughnessy in his book When God Cheers, Jimmy got a hit and started running to first base, then second base. The crowd chanted, “Go Jimmy! Go Jimmy!” But running with leg braces had taken a toll by the time he neared third base, and he struggled to move forward.
That’s when the opposing team’s shortstop, who was playing his position from a motorized wheelchair, drove up to Jimmy and said, “Hop on back, I’ll take you home.” That’s exactly what he did. Jimmy and his new friend crossed home plate to cheers from the crowd, delivering a lesson that some things in life are more important than winning.
Two are better than one…For if they fall, one will lift up the other. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
Holy Spirit, inspire me to perform more acts of kindness.
Only God Can make a Tree
One of nature’s thirstiest forms of life is the tree. A large oak can drink 300 gallons of water in a day, yet it uses less han a quart for making wood.
Far from being wasteful, this enormous absorption is necessary to operate an air conditioning system of sorts to maintain the cool temperature needed for photosynthesis—the basic food-making process in plant life. Also, vast quantities of water are required to supply the minerals for the tree’s growth.
To fill these needs, the entire root system is designed to probe the soil with millions of microscopic root hairs, which slip between individual grains of earth to absorb moisture.
The intricate and purposeful workings of nature often bring us to a renewed appreciation for God’s marvelous design. Occasionally stop and look around. Find reasons to be thankful for the natural wonder in trees, plants, animals, and humanity itself.
Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these?
He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name. (Isaiah 40:26)
Help me better appreciate nature’s wonders, Lord.
The Berzins Bunch
Every day must feel like Mother’s Day to Eileen Berzins of Annapolis, Maryland, whose family is really large. You can’t accuse her of being superstitious, either. In 2014, she gave birth to her 13th child, Francis, and through it all, at 39 years of age, still manages to look just like a model.
The subject of a profile by Maria Wiering in the Catholic Review, newspaper of the Baltimore Archdiocese, Berzins had a ready answer on how to run a household with six girls, seven boys, and her husband, Tim.
“I do the same as everybody else does,” Eileen says. “Just a little bit more of it. It’s not like God gave us 13 at once.”
Her husband, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate now involved in defense contracting, summed up the family outlook. “When people say, ‘Does your wife work?’ I kind of laugh because there’s no tougher job.”
However, Mrs. Berzins doesn’t look at what she does as a “job.” A Georgetown graduate and a former teacher, she says of motherhood: “It’s all I ever wanted to be.”
Sons are indeed a heritage… a reward. (Psalm 127:3)
Abba, guide all families, keeping them grounded in love and faith.
The Relief of Forgiveness
When Kerry Weber, the managing editor of America magazine, traveled to Rwanda in 2013 as part of Catholic Relief Services’ Egan Journalism Fellowship, she witnessed an unfathomable level of mercy. The trip’s purpose was to report on the state of society 20 years after the government-sanctioned genocide, during which nearly a million people were killed—many by their own neighbors—over a period of 100 days.
Weber spoke with the genocide’s survivors and perpetrators, along with government and church officials who had worked to rebuild their country from the ashes. During one meeting, she learned that people whose family members had been murdered were living in the same village as their killers.
“Not only lived with them,” she said, “but in our group, sat next to each other and hugged each other. All the people who spoke to us about forgiveness said that it was a relief for them. They could not go through life with this anger. One woman even, while the man that killed her family was in prison, helped support his family. It was more mercy than I can imagine.”
Love your enemies. (Matthew 5:44)
Move me past anger toward forgiveness, Divine Savior.
A Prom Mitzvah
James Maslow has attracted a lot of fans as a singer with the band Big Time Rush. One of those fans, 23-year-old Hannah Wackernagle of Grove City, Ohio, who was born with Down syndrome, likes him so much that she made a video asking him to go to her high school prom with her.
After Hannah posted it online, the video went viral and came to Maslow’s attention. Since he was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars at the time her prom was taking place, he couldn’t oblige Hannah’s request, but he did the next best thing.
Maslow flew her and her family from Ohio out to Los Angeles, spent a day with them in Disneyland, had his dance partner Peta Murgatroyd teach Hannah some dance moves, then gave her a special mini-prom with him in the Dancing with the Stars ballroom.
Considering that Maslow was raised Jewish and “believes in religion wholeheartedly” despite not being able to practice it as much as he used to, this act of goodness and charity can definitely be considered a “mitzvah” (a blessing).
May Your blessing be on Your people. (Psalm 3:8)
May I always take time to bestow kindnesses, Father.
Happy Flower Day!
Trisha Gallagher turned her desire to brighten the days of nursing home residents into a ministry that’s touching thousands.
In May 2013, the 62-year-old Philadelphia resident discovered that her local Trader Joe’s supermarket was willing to donate day-old flower bouquets to charity. As someone who already worked with the elderly, she asked the store manager if she could distribute some of them.
Gallagher told Woman Alive magazine that she received 60 colorful bouquets her first day and took them to a nearby nursing home, where she handed them out with the greeting, “Happy Flower Day!” Residents were overjoyed by the unexpected gift.
Since then, Gallagher has distributed over 17,000 bouquets to lonely seniors, people on the street, hospital patients, recovery houses and more. And she’s done it 355 days out of the last 365 because she loves the thrill of making people happy. How does Gallagher know to whom she should give flowers on any particular day? She says, “Every day, I ask for the knowledge of God’s will and the ability to carry it out.”
Let no flower of spring pass us by. (Wisdom 2:7)
May a spirit of giving bloom in my heart, Holy Spirit.
A Parent’s Prayer
Many years ago, Father James Meana wrote a special prayer for parents. Here is an excerpt:
“O Heavenly Father, make me a better parent. Teach me to understand my children, to listen patiently to what they have to say, and to answer all their questions kindly…Let me not tempt my children to lie or steal. And guide me hour by hour that I may demonstrate by all that I say and do that honesty produces happiness.
“When I’m out of sorts, help me, O Lord, to hold my tongue. May I ever be mindful that my children are children and I should not expect of them the judgment of adults. Let me not rob them of the opportunity to wait on themselves and to make decisions.
“Bless me with the bigness to grant them all their reasonable requests and the courage to deny them privileges I know will do them harm. Make me fair and just and kind—and fit me, O Lord, to be loved and respected and imitated by my children. Amen.”
The glory of children is their parents. (Proverbs 17:6)
Give parents wisdom, patience, and compassion, Father.
Amputation Brings Opportunity
Franciscan Sister Pat Taube, age 75, couldn’t believe it when the doctors told her they would have to amputate her hands and feet following a life-threatening bout with septic shock. After all, she had spent her life ministering to people enduring illness or disease. She was supposed to be the caretaker, not the care recipient. Yet, Sister Taube is approaching her problem with an impressive level of hope and faith.
The Sylvania, Ohio nun believes that her suffering will make her more relatable to the sick when she resumes her ministry in the future. She told the Catholic Chronicle, “When this happened, I thought, ‘Well, this is a new opportunity.’ I feel that God has something in store for me to do and I need to follow through on that.”
Currently at the Rosary Care Center on her motherhouse’s grounds, Sister Taube received prostheses for her arms and legs and is undergoing rehabilitation. She said, “I don’t have hands or feet—but there’s so much more to life. And it’s still me. I’m still the person that I always was.”
No purpose of Yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)
Use me to achieve Your will, Heavenly Father.
The Optimist and the Pessimist
Our happiness is often determined by how we look at things. Consider this amusing story which was featured in Father Brian Cavanaugh’s book The Sower’s Seeds:
“There were two identical twins. One was an eternal optimist. The other twin was a sad and hopeless pessimist.
“The worried parents of the boys brought them to a local psychologist. He suggested to the parents a plan to balance their personalities, saying, ‘On their next birthday, put them in separate rooms to open their gifts. Give the pessimist the best toys you can afford and give the optimist a box of manure.’
“The parents followed these instructions and observed the results. When they peeked in on the pessimist, they heard him complaining, ‘I don’t like the color of this computer. I don’t like this game. I know someone who’s got a bigger toy car.’
“Tiptoeing across the corridor, the parents peeked in and saw their little optimist gleefully throwing the manure up in the air. He exclaimed, ‘You can’t fool me! Where there’s this much manure, there’s gotta be a pony!!!’”
A cheerful heart is a good medicine. (Proverbs 17:22)
Help me to find the silver lining in dark clouds, Redeemer.
A Wing and a Prayer
It was 1968 when Canadian bush pilot Brian Steed severed his right arm at the elbow, but still managed to fly his plane 15 miles for help. “God definitely had a part in this,” the 28-year-old said of his rescue after a propeller sliced off his arm. He had slipped from a pontoon into the whirling blades after landing on a wilderness lake.
“I said a simple prayer,” he related. Dragging himself from the water into his cockpit, he looped a rough rope-tourniquet around his arm, then managed a shaky take-off with one hand. “Blood was squirting all over,” he recounted. “I was having a conversation with God all the time.”
At the forest station, an employee completed the dramatic rescue by flying the craft on to Port Arthur, Ontario, where the pilot was hospitalized.
Divine help is available to all who call upon it. But God ordinarily assists those who use common sense and uncommon courage in carrying out their duties to self and others.
I have filled him with divine spirit, with ability, intelligence. (Exodus 31:3)
I pray for Your aid in difficult situations, Savior.
Critics Are People Too
Nancy Banks-Smith writes TV reviews in the British newspaper The Guardian, but not everyone agrees with her opinions. One reader once wrote her a stinging letter complaining, “For months I’ve had to read the tripe you write.”
Unruffled by the attack, Banks-Smith responded: “I don’t know what you have to complain about. You’ve only had to read it for months. I’ve had to write it for years.”
That story provides an important lesson about feedback. It’s usually valued by those engaged in any form of public work, such as writers, producers, broadcasters, and elected officials. But to be effective, such criticism should refrain from merely negative carping.
When airing a grievance, point out specific flaws gently but firmly—and try to include specific suggestions for improvement. God is the cause of our integrity and dignity. We must strive to recognize these qualities in others.
Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up. (Ephesians 4:29)
Holy Spirit, never let me lose sight of the power of gentle persuasion.
Why I Care
Whether by talent, luck or hard work, people who “make it” can help create a better world by caring about others who are less fortunate. Some successful and caring people lend their names and efforts to important causes.
For instance, Nick Lachey—a noted writer, singer, and producer—contributes by working with the Autism Speaks campaign. He helps raise awareness about the challenges faced by people with Asperger’s, a syndrome that his younger brother Zac was diagnosed with at age seven. “It’s a great way to contribute,” he says, “to raise money and improve the quality of life for those on the autism spectrum and their families.”
Lachey adds that his brother is a high-functioning young man talented in math and technology. But Zac “thinks in a way we don’t” and struggles socially.
Special-needs people need to be loved and respected just like anyone else. Learn more about their condition so you can help them live the best lives they possibly can.
Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10)
Encourage us, Jesus, to share our abundance with others.
Millionaire Gerald Chertavian built a successful career on Wall Street, but it was his friendship with 10-year-old David Heredia that became his most life-defining experience. During the 1980s, Chertavian spent every Saturday with David as part of a Big Brother program. Though the youngster lived in one of New York City’s most crime-infested housing projects, he still dreamed of a better future.
In 2000, Chertavian thought of a way to help kids like David and founded Year Up. As he told the website Nation Swell, “Year Up works with low-income 18-to-24 year olds, and in one year moves them from poverty to a professional career [through] intensive training and development for six months, and then an internship with a Fortune 1000 company.”
The program has helped thousands, but over six million young adults are still without jobs in the U.S. Chertavian remains optimistic, though: “What fuels me the most is seeing a young person that has taken control of their life…[That’s] one of the most inspirational and spiritual experiences one could have.”
Prosper for us the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:17)
Direct young people to good jobs, Heavenly Father.
Building a Budget
“If the prospect of your credit-card bill arriving puts you in a cold sweat, you, my friend, need a budget.” So writes Kara Eschbach in Verily magazine, noting that you need to analyze your spending and break it into five categories.
First, there are Fixed Expenses, like “rent/mortgage, student-loan payments, car payments, insurance, and utilities.” Next come Living Expenses, including groceries, eating out, movies or gas. Third is your Rainy-Day Fund, “in the case of an unforeseen event, like getting into a car accident or being laid off.” Fourth comes your Retirement Fund, in which you should invest, even if the prospect of retiring seems far off. Finally, there’s Fun Savings, like a down payment on a house.
Eschbach advises you to be completely honest about every penny you spend so you can “visualize how your current lifestyle will need to change so you can shift money into different categories. Remember, a budget isn’t so much a constraint as an empowering tool to help you take control of your financial life.”
The borrower is the slave of the lender. (Proverbs 22:7)
Guide me in spending money responsibly, Lord, and may I always contribute to those in need.
Trusting Your Future to God
As a college student at the University of Southern California, DeVon Franklin chose to interview Tracey Edmonds, the CEO and President of her own entertainment company, for a school project. Several years later, she gave Franklin his first junior executive job because he had made such a good impression when they met.
Franklin, now a successful film executive himself, is grateful to both Edmonds and God for his big break. Why God?
He writes, “When I met with Tracey as a student, I knew that was part of God’s process. I had no notion of how it would play out, but because I trust the Lord I made sure I conducted myself appropriately. If I hadn’t made an impression as someone of passion, desire, and principles, I doubt Tracey would have remembered me four years later.”
Franklin concludes, “What matters is not where you are today, but what kind of person God is shaping you to become in preparation for the time when He brings His vision for your life to fruition.”
I trusted in Your steadfast love. (Psalm 13:5)
May prayer, preparation, and trust guide me to success, Lord.
A Washington Monument
Our Lady of Mercy Church in Potomac, Maryland, was filled for the funeral of Maurice “Mac” McGarry, a beloved Washington-area broadcaster who had died at the age of 87.
Before his retirement in 2011, he was host for 50 years of the popular televised It’s Academic, which quizzed thousands of high schoolers on general knowledge questions. “Mac” had a huge following, and worked in dozens of charity events in addition to his quiz-show duties.
“He was indeed a Washington monument,” said Msgr. Joseph Ranieri, the celebrant of the funeral Mass.
Msgr. Ranieri brought a touch of humor to his homily when he recalled McGarry’s favorite moment among all his programs.
The host had asked who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, and a student calmly replied, “Duke Ellington.” (Never mind that the correct answer was the Duke of Wellington; let’s hope that the creative-minded student received an “A” for coming pretty darn close.)
Give me now wisdom and knowledge. (2 Chronicles 1:10)
Send us good and humble teachers, Divine King.
Bronze is as Good as Gold
When an ice skater falls down three times during an Olympic performance, it can feel impossible to move forward. That was the case for Italy’s Carolina Kostner after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where she was expected to win a medal. Her failure to do so led her to retire from the sport, deciding she needed time away from the constant pressure of competition. That time gave her new perspective on her ice-skating career.
With a newfound maturity, the 27-year-old entered the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, focused on her love of skating, not thoughts of winning a medal. Ironically, that’s when she finally won a medal.
After the beautiful artistry she exhibited during her skates to “Ave Maria” and “Bolero,” Kostner earned a bronze medal, making her the first Italian to ever win an Olympic figure skating singles medal. She told ESPN, “This medal is absolutely worth gold. I will cherish it in my heart. It feels so great that patience and sacrifice and hard work and faith are paid at the end.”
Endurance produces character, and character produces hope. (Romans 5:4)
Grant me a new perspective after difficult times, Lord.
The Promise of Retirement
One man put it well when he said, “Retirement is a time for rebirth.” It’s important for people to retire to something, not just from a job. Retirement can be:
■ a time to do some well-deserved relaxing;
■ an opportunity to seek emotional tranquility and engage in constructive leisure;
■ a release from the burdens of responsibility before they become too hard to deal with;
■ a chance to reintegrate one’s life and even to embark on a second career.
Age, like youth, has problems—and promise—of its own. We can too easily overlook the promise. The deep-seated yearning by people of every age to be purposeful is rooted in the creative activity of God Himself.
Anything you can do to stir up your own willingness to serve, and encourage such desire in others, is a step toward bringing out the best in humanity.
Teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart. (Psalm 90:12)
Whatever our age, Jesus, enable us to use our full potential.
The Need to Be Right
An Iowa man was so right that he was wrong.
His wife returned home complaining that a traffic radar unit had erred in ticketing her for doing 38 miles per hour in a 25-mile zone. It was impossible, she claimed, to accelerate that fast in that area. Her husband disagreed and said he would prove it.
With him at the wheel, they returned to the scene of the infraction. He succeeded in reaching 38 miles per hour at the point where his wife had been stopped by the police. However, he couldn’t enjoy his “I told you so” moment very long because the radar was still operating. The police gave him a speeding ticket as well. (Unfortunately, there was no family discount.)
Most of us have to resist the tendency to prove that we are right at another’s expense. Instead of using someone’s shortcomings to build up our ego, we ought to be more concerned about ways to assist that person. That’s closer to God’s way of dealing with us, so we should model that behavior ourselves.
Agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)
Jesus, make me quick to be understanding toward others.
Touched by Words of Encouragement
The Christopher Award-winning TV series Touched by an Angel ran on CBS for nine seasons (1994 to 2003), after which the show’s writer and executive producer Martha Williamson felt exhausted. She decided to take a break from TV and focus on her husband and two daughters. A few years into her sabbatical, she started to wonder if the work she had done really mattered. Around the same time, she was going through a storage room and discovered fan letters she had never seen.
Not only did these letters—many of them handwritten—praise Touched by an Angel, they revealed stories about ways in which the show had changed viewers’ lives. For instance, said Williamson on Christopher Closeup, “We got a letter from a man who was in prison and said that he and his fellow inmates would watch the show every Sunday night because it was the only time all week they heard the words, ‘You are loved.’”
Those letters became a source of encouragement for Williamson. She felt grateful that they arrived in her life just when she needed them most.
How sweet are Your words to my taste. (Psalm 119:103)
May my words convey encouragement, Holy Spirit.
Making Peace at the End of the Day
Heaven knows there’s no shortage of advice for a man and woman who decide to get married, but this time they might listen a bit more closely. It comes right from the top, from Pope Francis himself, who had the answer for the troubles that couples often encounter in their journey through life.
“There are problems in marriage: different points of view, jealousies, arguments, but tell young couples to never let the day end without making peace,” the pope said. “The sacrament of matrimony is renewed in this act of peace.”
Not surprisingly, the pope spoke in his usual straight-from-the-shoulder style to the Pontifical Council for the Family, as Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service reported. He departed from his text to say that he always asks young married people how many children they have, and then is likely to challenge them: “Do you play with your children? The free gift of a parent’s time is so important.”
The Catholic Church realizes that marriage isn’t always easy, But as Pope Francis said, “It is so beautiful!”
Peace be to you. (Judges 6:23)
Strengthen the bonds of love between couples, Lord.
Amy Adams’ First-Class Heart
Spotting a celebrity at the airport can be an unexpected treat. But seeing that same celebrity perform a good deed makes it a truly memorable moment.
In June 2014, ESPN host Jemele Hill observed actress Amy Adams sitting in first class after boarding a flight from Detroit to Los Angeles. Later, she saw a soldier in uniform being escorted to Adams’ seat—but Adams was no longer there. The actress, whose father was a member of the U.S. military, had quietly arranged to give the soldier her seat, while she took his reservation in coach.
Hill shared what she saw on her Twitter account, making the story national news even though Adams had deliberately avoided attracting attention for her charitable act. Still, Adams’ first-class heart can serve as an example for all of us to model kindness and humility when the opportunity arises.
When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:3-4)
Encourage me, Lord, to perform random acts of kindness.
Is God Giving Me the Cold Shoulder?
Sometimes prayer can be frustrating because it seems like God doesn’t hear us. So should we keep praying anyway? An answer can be found in the Christopher Award-winning film Gravity, which stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as two astronauts stranded in outer space after their ship is destroyed.
Their communication lines to earth appear to be severed, so they can’t hear mission control in Houston. Clooney, however, keeps talking to mission control, and Bullock doesn’t understand why. He tells her that the two of them may not be able to hear what’s happening on earth, but it’s possible that Houston can hear them. No response doesn’t mean you’re not being heard, so it’s always best to keep communicating just in case.
In a movie with several spiritual overtones, that’s a relevant point. There are times when we feel as if God doesn’t hear our prayers. But a silent response doesn’t mean He doesn’t hear us. We have to continue with the belief that we are being heard—and ask for the patience and humility to wait for God to respond in His own way and time.
Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Hear and answer my prayers, Lord. I need Your help.
Yankees Celebrate HOPE
Every year, the New York Yankees celebrate HOPE week—but it’s got nothing to do with where they want to be in the baseball standings. Instead, HOPE stands for “Helping Others Persevere and Excel,” and it celebrates individuals who model giving and selflessness.
One of the 2014 honorees was Quai Jefferson, a senior at St. Joseph’s Regional High School in Montvale, New Jersey. As reported by WCBS, Jefferson has served as the primary caregiver for his mom Vaida, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. He also kept up his grades, became a “two-sport star athlete” at St. Joe’s, and earned a scholarship to the University of Delaware.
When Jefferson arrived at the picnic at which the Yankees honored him, he walked in literally carrying his mother, thinking he was getting an award for athletic achievements. He was happily surprised to find Bronx Bombers like CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira praising his goodness and spirit. Even then, the humble Jefferson deflected attention from himself by telling his mom, “I love you. You’re my shining light.”
Your care has preserved my spirit. (Job 10:12)
Help me balance all my responsibilities, Loving Father.
The Mourners Were Surprised
People who attend funerals are seldom asked for their names and addresses, but that’s what happened at the funeral of James Wilkie on the Isle of Man. The hundred or so people who supplied the information had their curiosity satisfied a few days later.
Wilkie, a lifelong bachelor who sometimes found himself lonely, had set aside 30 percent of his estate to be divided among the people who showed up for his funeral. It was his small way of thanking them for taking the time to pay their respects.
Those who respond with kindness and love to the lonely can seldom expect financial reward for their thoughtfulness. They should be content with having relieved the isolation of another human being. Remember: in the beginning, when God decreed that it was not good for man to be alone, each of us received a commission to reach out to others in love.
The Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” (Genesis 2:18)
Help me, Jesus, to find a way to make at least one life a little bit less lonely.
Coping With Tragedies
As adults we’ve heard about and experienced far too many tragedies; some of us might have become inured to them. Not so for innocent children who may be faced with new and bewildering situations.
Parents and other responsible adults can do a lot to help youngsters cope with and learn from difficult experiences.
Writing in the Manhattan Times, Carolina Pichardo says she’s constantly looking for the right balance between shielding her daughter, and sharing age-appropriate information with her, whether the destructive event is a violent gun attack or a violent act of nature.
Pichardo advises adults to assess their own reactions and then devise a plan of how and when to introduce the tragic news to their children. Be prepared to answer questions and to help them face any strong emotions. But remind children that “there is also a lot of kindness and happiness in the world.”
In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world! (John 16:33)
Merciful Father, protect our children and help us guide them as they face life’s adversities.
A Triathlon to Remember
Air Force Major John Berger endured a broken pelvis and other injuries when he became the victim of a hit-and-run accident in St. Louis. On the bright side, he soon became fast friends with his ER doctor, Scott Farber.
One day, Berger suggested to Dr. Farber the possibility of them racing in the Ironman Triathlon, held every June in France, to raise money for The Wounded Warrior Project. After some deliberation, Dr. Farber agreed, and he and Berger began training in January, 2012. They worked out up to 20 hours a week in preparation for the event, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run.
Although Major Berger finished the triathlon in less than 13 hours, Dr. Farber was unable to complete it. However, they raised $10,000 for wounded warriors, and Farber and Berger both look forward to participating again next year.
“One of the big reasons I did this was to say thank you to all the people who helped me along the way,” Berger told the Catholic Globe. “Everybody had a big role in helping me.”
Two are better than one…if they fall, one lift up the other. (Ecclesiastes 4:9)
Messiah, bless our friends, and all who encourage us.
Homeless is My Address, Not My Name
What exactly do we see when we look at a homeless person on the street? The traveling Minnesota exhibit entitled “Homeless is My Address, Not My Name” shows we should look beyond their current living situation to the people inside.
Sponsored by St. Stephen’s Human Services in conjunction with Family Housing Fund, this display features black-and-white portraits of the homeless. A telephone number printed underneath each picture connects to a personalized recording by the photographed man or woman relating their story.
“We don’t ever want to think about being homeless,” Carol Gregg, director of Care and Share Shelter in Crookston, tells Our Northland Diocese. “But the fact is these pictures could be of you or me, our neighbors, anyone…. Many of us are just one paycheck from homelessness.”
Jesus saw the goodness in everyone, no matter how dire their present predicament. May we be inspired to show similar compassion towards those in need of a helping hand.
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid. (Proverbs 19:17)
Jesus, open our hearts to the possibility of giving.
Tips for a Better World
Father Joseph Breighner of the Baltimore Archdiocese once had a popular radio program called Ask Father Joe. He still dispenses advice through his highly readable column in the Catholic Review—including this favorite, headed “Five tips for a better world.”
■ Smile. “The smile you give may be the only smile someone else receives that day. It’s impossible to smile and not feel better yourself.”
■ Be happy. “There’s an old saying: ‘Two men looked out through prison bars. One saw mud. The other stars.’ What we focus on we get to keep.”
■ Listen to others. “Just listen, and you give one of life’s greatest gifts.”
■ Speak kindness. “Don’t say the mean or hurtful thing. Praise others. Tell them how good they look or how helpful they were. Kindness costs nothing and can mean everything.”
■ Be happy with what you have. “Don’t go chasing after all the stuff that others do, Jesus reminded us, but ‘seek first the kingdom of God.’”
Their children become a blessing. (Psalm 37:26)
Help me become a better, more selfless person, Father.
Between a Laugh and a Tear
Tom Leopold has been making people laugh for decades as a writer on TV series like Cheers and Seinfeld. But he and his wife Barbara experienced an intense period of darkness when their 12-year-old daughter began struggling with a life-threatening eating disorder. He wrote, “It’s a whole lot easier to hold your heart together when it’s you who does the suffering, but when it’s your child and nobody can fix her…Well, it would take more than a comedy writer to say how it feels.”
Two years later, with progress still hard to come by, Leopold prayed to God for help, saying, “I just can’t make it alone.” That simple prayer set him on a spiritual journey that eventually led him to convert to Catholicism.
The Christophers honored Tom Leopold with our 2014 Christopher Spirit Award for bringing laughter into people’s lives and for being a candle in the darkness to families struggling with eating disorders. As he says, “Does my daughter still suffer? She does, we all still do, but now I feel the Lord’s grace. We are not alone.”
The Lord alone guided him. (Deuteronomy 32:12)
Walk with me through my sufferings, Lord.
A Christopher Prayer for Easter
Lord, instill us with the hope we celebrate this Easter,
the hope that’s difficult to believe in when we live in a world with much pain and suffering. Good people suffer hardship and we wonder why a loving God would allow these things to happen. But then we remember that Jesus, too, experienced intense suffering: Betrayal, persecution, crucifixion.
He didn’t exempt Himself from human hardships.
Instead, He humbled Himself in order to identify with those of us who live in this broken, yet beautiful world, thereby allowing us to identify with Him, and reminding us that God does not cause suffering, but rather that He walks through it with us.
By believing in Jesus as “the way, the truth and the life,” our defeats can be turned into victories just like His death led to the greatest victory of all. Through His resurrection, Jesus brought light to the world in a new way that offers us all the opportunity to receive mercy and redemption.
This Easter, we choose hope in You, O Lord, and offer our humble gratitude for the priceless gift of Your Son. Amen.
He sent redemption to His people. (Psalm 111:9)
Thank You, Jesus, for the gift of eternal life with You!
A Reunion for the Ages
He was saved by a miracle—and it took another miracle to meet his savior. That’s the story of Leon Gersten, a Holocaust survivor and now a psychologist in Long Island, New York—and Czeslaw Polziec of Poland, a member of the Catholic family that saved Gersten’s life. As reported by the New York Post, they were reunited for the first time in nearly 70 years at JFK Airport.
“We never forget the fact that you and your parents are the ones who saved our lives,” said Gersten, 79. “The only reason we are alive is because of you and your family.”
Polziec, 81, said through an interpreter that he could hardly believe the meeting was taking place. “We lived in terrible circumstances,” he said. “Poland was occupied by the Nazis, and they were killing the Jews.”
Gersten spent two years of his childhood, with his Jewish family, living in hiding with the Polziecs. “This is why our gratitude is so great, because of them,” Gersten said. “The Germans did not succeed, and this was our triumph.”
When the righteous triumph, there is great glory. (Proverbs 28:12)
Instill me with the courage to defend the defenseless, Lord.
‘I’m Supposed to Show You How to Die’
Devastated when his father John was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Christopher Award-winning author Jim Ziolkowski started interviewing him on videotape as a way to keep his memory alive after his death.
Jim once asked his dad if he was afraid of dying. As recounted in Jim’s book Walk In Their Shoes, John, a lifelong Catholic, responded, “Sometimes I am sad, but never afraid. It makes me sad because I would like to live longer. I would like to be a part of your life. I don’t look at this as hardship or adversity, though. I look at it as God’s will. It has drawn our family together and helped us to understand our own mortality. I think this is all God’s will, and with my remaining time I am supposed to show you how to die. Every living creature eventually dies. This is part of life.”
Reflecting on his father’s subsequent passing, Jim wrote, “I came to see that [Dad’s] faith, far from being unapproachable, was a model for us all…I pray for him each day.”
The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:26)
Comfort those grieving the deaths of loved ones, Savior.
A Lesson in Friendship
On the night of His betrayal, Jesus ate the ritual meal of the Passover with His 12 closest friends. Later, He asked them to keep Him company as He prayed to the Father to strengthen Him for the ordeal He would face the following day.
Jesus was realistic about His friends and their capabilities. He told them that one of them would betray Him, that they would all abandon Him, and that Peter—the man He had named as leader of the apostles—would even deny knowing Him three times before the cock crowed.
But St. John tells us that in spite of their weaknesses, Jesus loved His friends to the end.
When friends disappoint us or fall short of our expectations, our first inclination may be to turn our backs and have nothing more to do with them. In such moments, consider the example of Jesus who forgave His friends even though they bitterly disappointed Him.
If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly
Father will also forgive you. (Matthew 6:14)
Jesus, help us to pattern our lives on Your example of unlimited forgiveness.
‘He Was Not a Faceless Monster’
On June 5, 2014, a mentally-disturbed gunman killed one teen and injured two others on the grounds of Seattle Pacific University in Washington. The death toll would have been higher if student security guard Jon Meis hadn’t tackled and pepper-sprayed the shooter while he was reloading.
Meis was hailed as a hero, but felt uncomfortable with the attention. He said, “What I find most difficult about this situation is the devastating reality that a hero cannot come without tragedy. We cannot ignore that a life was taken from us. Others were badly injured…Nonetheless, I would encourage that hate be met with love. When I came face to face with the attacker, God gave me the eyes to see that he was not a faceless monster, but a very sad and troubled young man. While I cannot at this time find it within me to forgive his crime, I desire that he find the grace of God and the forgiveness of our community.”
Weis concluded, “We serve a truly awesome God and I firmly believe that it is through Him alone that we will find the strength to heal from this tragedy.”
I am the Lord who heals you. (Exodus 15:26)
Grant healing to victims of violence, Prince of Peace.
Choosing Fatherhood Over Baseball
At the start of the 2014 baseball season, New York Met second baseman Daniel Murphy found himself in the middle of an unexpected controversy because he took a few days off to be with his wife when she gave birth to their first child, Noah. Some commentators berated him for missing Opening Day and not prioritizing the game over his personal life.
Ever a class act, Murphy didn’t get angry or defensive in response. He simply explained that his wife was physically drained by the birthing experience and he wanted to be there for her—especially since his travel schedule during the season would sometimes keep them apart. He also told the Daily News, “Long after they tell me I am not good enough to play baseball anymore, I’ll be a husband, and I’ll be a father.”
Murphy’s faith played a role in his decision as well. At a White House forum on fatherhood, he said, “We try to take Jesus Christ and put Him in the center of everything. So instead of thinking, ‘I’m a father; I’m a husband; I’m a baseball player,’ I just try to take Jesus, put Him right in the middle.”
With all your heart honor your father. (Sirach 7:27)
Help me love my family the way You love us, Father.
For Easter and Beyond
Still not sure of how you might celebrate Easter? Here are some suggestions from Father William Byrne of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Washington (D.C.) Archdiocese:
■ Don’t lose ground. Lent might be over, but be sure you get to Mass.
■ Get out of the house. “Spring is a clear reminder of the Resurrection, so go out and enjoy some fresh air.”
■ Get out of church. Once you’ve gone to Mass, take part in the church’s evangelizing mission. Bring God’s message, by word and example, to those who aren’t there.
■ Learn about a new saint. “The saints are the ones who know most about heaven, so do a little research and see how they got there.”
■ Write or call someone you miss. Easter restores our relationship with God. To build on that, reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while. “God gave us eternal life. Why? Because He wants to be with us forever—so pass it on.”
My child, do not forget My teaching. (Proverbs 3:1)
May the disciplines I’ve practiced through Lent, Jesus, lead me closer to You throughout the year.
Driving Past the Church
Each day Brett Ramport drove to his workplace and each evening he drove home. Nothing unusual there. But on the way, coming and going, he passed St. Thomas Becket Church in Eagan, Minnesota, and even though he started off with not much in the way of faith, he found the church beckoning to him.
“I would drive by this church every day,” he told Dave Hrbacek of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese. “I kept on thinking, ‘Gosh, I have to go there.’” Ramport, 44, married and the father of three, was also listening to Relevant Radio as he drove, and even learned a few Catholic prayers, the Hail Mary among them.
And in time, of course, he actually did stop in the church—and eventually became a Catholic there at an Easter Vigil ceremony. Not only that, he still stops in to visit the church’s adoration chapel, not to mention the sanctuary for Mass.
It all began with a drive to work—and it’s Ramport’s faith that still drives him today.
You did not choose Me but I chose you. (John 15:16)
Holy Spirit, help me to be responsive to Your call and Your wisdom in my life.
We Need to Teach Our Daughters
Someone recently shared the following observation about parenting on Facebook.
“We need to teach our daughters to know the difference between:
“A man who flatters her and a man who compliments her;
“A man who spends money on her and a man who invests in her;
“A man who views her as property and a man who views her properly;
“A man who lusts after her and a man who loves her;
“A man who believes he’s a gift to women, and a man who believes she’s a gift to him.
“And then we need to teach our sons to be that kind of man.”
Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray. (Proverbs 22:6)
Heavenly Father, guide parents in teaching their children, through words and actions, how to live holy and loving lives.
The Weight of a Nation
“The last thought that I had was, I made peace with God.”
Marine Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter recalled that moment in Afghanistan in 2010 when he believed he was going to die.
During a firefight with the Taliban, Carpenter and Lance Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio were on a rooftop when an enemy grenade landed near them. Carpenter threw himself between the grenade and Eufrazio, absorbing most of the blast. His right eye and most of his face were destroyed, and his right arm shattered. Other Marines quickly jumped in to tend to Carpenter’s wounds.
After many surgeries and two-and-a-half years in the hospital, Carpenter was finally released in 2013. In 2014, he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor.
He said, “As the president put the Medal of Honor around my neck, I felt the history and the weight of a nation. I will wear it for those who have been wounded on distant lands who still continue to fight in battle, and through long and difficult days of recovery here at home. And for those who have given it all, I can never express in words what you mean for this nation.”
I will confer great honor on you. (1 Maccabees 11:42)
Inspire us to large and small acts of bravery, Holy Spirit.
Above Earth’s Lamentation
While working on her album Above Earth’s Lamentation, which was inspired by a period of intense grief, singer-songwriter Sarah Hart actually became comfortable with the idea of death—even her own, which she addresses in the song One Beautiful Day. Though the topic sounds depressing, the song is one of joy.
During an interview on Christopher Closeup, Hart revealed that she wrote those lyrics while thinking of the day her cancer-stricken grandmother died. She said:
“I was with her, my mother and two aunts, and we sat around my grandma, prayed the rosary, told stories, and laughed. When it was over, I remember thinking, ‘Please, Lord, let me go like that.’ It was sad and there were a lot of tears, but it was also a celebration. That’s what I was clinging to in that song. I was thinking, ‘When I go, you’ll be sad, but I want you to celebrate too because we will see each other again and this is not a scary thing. This is a beautiful thing that we as Christians have been hoping for and longing for.’”
Today you will be with Me in Paradise. (Luke 23:43)
Embrace my deceased loved ones in Your care, Messiah.
Tragedy and Prayers
This year marks the 25th anniversary of one of the worst fires in New York City history, but a vigil and Mass at a nearby church will ensure that the 87 victims of the Happy Land Social Club blaze will never be forgotten.
On March 25, 1990, flames engulfed the Bronx social club in a fire set by a young man after a fight with his girlfriend. No fire exits or sprinkler system were provided, and an evening filled with laughter and dancing turned to tragedy. The victims have been remembered each year at a Mass and candlelight vigil at St. Thomas Aquinas R.C. Church.
The fire led to a crackdown on social clubs and fire code violations, and last year’s observance included this remembrance by Ivine Galarza, district manager of the local Community Board: “Happy Land reminds us of the importance of ensuring that our neighborhood nightspots are in strict compliance with all relevant licensing and safety requirements.”
It also reminds us that life is fragile and precious. May my life be precious in the sight of the Lord. (1 Samuel 26:24)
Help us to create safe communities, Heavenly Father.
The Patron Saint of Beer?
“From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world.” Legend has it these words were written by St. Arnulf of Metz, who is considered a patron saint of beer brewers.
As related by Sam Guzman at The Catholic Gentleman blog, Arnulf was a seventh-century bishop and advisor to King Theudebert II of Austrasia (which combined parts of modern-day France, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands). Following Arnulf’s death, his former parishioners from the diocese of Metz, who already considered him a saint, set out to recover his body.
“The journey was during a particularly hot part of the year,” Guzman notes about the legend, “and the travelers were ready to faint of thirst. One of the parishioners, by the name of Duc Notto, cried out, ‘By his powerful intercession the Blessed Arnulf will bring us what we lack!’ Miraculously, their supply of beer was replenished and lasted until they returned home.”
The next time you enjoy a glass of beer, remember to toast St. Arnulf—and say a little prayer while you’re at it!
The Son of Man has come eating and drinking. (Luke 7:34)
Help me to enjoy food and drink in moderation, Lord.
A ‘Hero of the 500’
Arnold Harvey—an Army vet, father of five, and truck driver for a waste management company—was shocked when he saw people sleeping on the streets near the garbage cans on his waste pick-up route in Washington, D.C. He told People magazine that he was heartbroken that so much need existed.
Harvey and his wife, Theresa, decided to help out by starting an organization called God’s Connection Transition. It provides donated food to thousands of families each month. One young mother was appreciative of the help. “Our income is barely enough to get by,” she said. “This is a godsend.”
As a result of his philanthropy, Harvey is one of more than 50 employees of Fortune 500 companies being honored as part of Fortune’s “Heroes of the 500.”
So many people not only need someone to care, but they truly appreciate the help they receive. Remember, you don’t need a fortune to be a hero.
We must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for He Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
Encourage me, Lord, to help when I see a need.
Generosity from Beyond the Grave
Someone taught Edwin “Bud” Skalla how to keep a secret. The 92-year-old Iowa farmer, a bachelor, hinted at it in a deathbed conversation with the executor of his will, a long-time friend. But he didn’t give it away until he died. And then? Boy, did he give it away!
With no descendants to provide for, Skalla left his assets and property to 13 Iowa churches to the tune of $10 million, which means their total receipts will add up to about $700,000 each. And on top of that, he willed his own $3 million farm to his home parish, St. Mary’s of Portsmouth. Years of hard work and wise investments in farm properties accounted for the size of the estate, which left its beneficiaries nearly speechless.
Father John Dorton, who presided at Skalla’s funeral Mass, said the gift came from a man with a very generous heart.
“His heart never really wandered very far from here,” he said. “I think he wanted to make an impact that would benefit the churches and the community.”
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)
Father, keep our minds and hearts open to those in need.
Gotta Have Sole!
Five-year-old Nicholas Lowinger was going to visit a homeless shelter in Cranston, Rhode Island, with his mother. He felt excited for the chance to display his brand-new light-up sneakers, but his mother gently warned him against doing so, since many of the children there were lucky to have shoes at all, let alone the light-up kind.
Something about seeing the kids that day touched Nicholas’s young heart. When he went home, he gathered up all his old shoes to donate to homeless shelters in and around Cranston. Yet his generosity didn’t end there.
Seven years later, with the help of his parents, Nicholas co-founded the Gotta Have Sole Foundation. Since 2010, it has raised enough funds to provide shoes for more than 10,000 children in 21 states. It also boasts over 1,000 volunteers, including Nicholas himself, who puts 15 hours each week into his organization. “New shoes can make a child feel good about him or herself,” Nicholas, now 15, explained to CNN. “They gain confidence…Something that seems so simple, a pair of shoes, made the difference.”
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:31)
God, may we always work to make a difference.
The Homeless Man at the Bistro
Cara Callbeck was relaxing in a Paris bistro during her vacation when a homeless man started wandering between the tables and talking to himself while drinking from a flask. The restaurant staff called the police to complain that his antics were disrupting their business. When the police arrived, they responded that the man wasn’t actually doing anything wrong. The restaurant staff protested, but the officers departed.
“It was then that I found God in the police,” wrote Callbeck on IgnatianSpirituality.com, “as they approached the fellow and began chatting with him. They didn’t yell at him or speak down to him; they just engaged him in normal, idle chit chat. After some time, they left the area together, all the while joking and talking with the man as though they were old friends.
“The police officers treated the homeless man with respect and dignity just as our Lord would want. In this little scene on vacation in Paris, God reminded me of just how important it is to look beyond my own comforts to see the dignity and value of every person around me. There is no taking vacation from that.”
All of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
Help me to see Your presence in everyone, Holy Creator.
From Wall Street to the ER
In 2003, Wall Street analyst and consultant Debbie Yi was enjoying a vacation in Mexico when she got the phone call that changed her life. Her sister Christine had her leg ripped off by a New York City subway car after falling into the gap between the train and platform. Yi told the New York Post that she slept in a reclining chair by Christine’s bed in Bellevue Hospital for a month, and observed the doctors, nurses, and interns at work.
She said, “I saw how much compassion they had—my sister wasn’t just a patient, they truly cared about her. Seeing the difference the staff at Bellevue made in my sister’s life—my whole family’s lives—made me realize I couldn’t go back to my consulting job…I wanted to be hands-on, saving people’s lives. I would never feel complete until I was a doctor.”
Yi soon began her studies at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. Her work in New York Presbyterian hospital’s ER went on to be profiled in the Christopher Award-winning documentary series NY Med, on which she displayed a compassion for patients that was grounded in her own past.
Honor physicians for their services. (Sirach 38:1)
Give doctors and nurses compassionate hearts, Lord.
The Irish Cornerstones
Music and parades mark St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s also a time to reflect on the role faith played in Irish history. Father Matthew Malone, S.J., commented on that history in his 2014 St. Patrick’s Day homily at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“The Irish experience,” he said, “began in a crucible of hardship, starvation and war. For centuries…Ireland placed her desperate faith in the crucified one, the stone that the builders rejected, who had become the cornerstone. Thus with their eyes firmly fixed on the hope of heaven, a long suffering people came to believe in the promise of a new Earth.
“They then set sail for this city, which they would transform into a daring center of unprecedented apostolic activity. From here, the Church would advance across the continent; and everywhere that the Church advanced, the Irish followed, founding parishes and schools, hospitals and orphanages, colleges and sodalities. Here in the land of the free, the stones that the earthly builders had rejected, became the cornerstones of a new church.”
We have hope in God. (2 Maccabees 2:18)
Thank You for the gift of faith, Holy Spirit.
The Future of Time
As someone whose life has been focused on time, Terry Irby developed a vision for the future that would benefit the next generation. For more than 40 years, Irby has worked as a watchmaker, and now serves as technical director of watch repair for Tourneau. But he and his fellow “artisans” are aging, reports Harry Smith for NBC News, and their highly skilled profession isn’t drawing a lot of young people in this digital age.
The solution? Irby created a watchmaking program for at-risk high school students in Queens, New York. He teaches them how to take apart the hundreds of tiny pieces that make up a watch, diagnose the problem, fix it, then reassemble it.
The teens have found the work rewarding. Ayushi Pant, age 18, says watch repair has taught her patience and given her insights on how to “solve life’s problems.” Nineteen-year-old Edwin Larregui goes even further, saying the class helped save his life: “It kept me away from a lot of things. I’m here and learning, I feel good.”
There is…a time for every matter under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
I pray that I use my time on this earth wisely, Jesus.
An Unexpected Daddy
Shanell Mouland felt nervous about who would wind up sitting next to her three-year-old daughter Kate during their flight from Orlando, Florida, back home to Canada. The reason? Kate has autism and could have meltdowns.
When a businessman carrying papers sat down and Kate started rubbing his arm, Shanell feared he would give her the look that says, “Manage your child please.” Instead, Eric Kunkel engaged Kate in conversation and asked her about her toy turtles. Kate felt such a connection that she started calling him “daddy,” not because she thought he was her actual father, but because he gave her a sense of security.
Towards the end of the flight, Kate had a meltdown, but even then, Kunkel tried to help. Shanell felt grateful. As she wrote in an open letter on her blog, “Thank you for not making me repeat those awful apologetic sentences that I so often say in public. Thank you for entertaining Kate so much that she had her most successful plane ride, yet. And, thank you for putting your papers away and playing turtles with our girl.”
Blessed are you because you had compassion. (Tobit 8:17)
Help me show kindness to those with special needs, Father.
The Marriage Couldn’t Possibly Last
The bride’s father wanted his daughter to marry someone else, but the young woman had made up her mind. And so the couple eloped. Friends of the family told the father not to worry, because the marriage couldn’t possibly last. How wrong they were.
John Betar, 102, and his wife Ann, 98, chuckled as they recalled it all—on their 81st wedding anniversary! At the time, Worldwide Marriage Encounter listed the Betars as “the longest-married living couple in the United States” and Our Sunday Visitor, which ran their story, said the answer to their long-lasting love wasn’t chocolate, roses, jewelry or romantic dinners. Instead it was old-fashioned compromise.
“Marriage isn’t just a lovey-dovey thing,” said Mrs. Betar. “You learn to accept another’s way of life. Agreements. Disagreements.”
In short, you have to accept your spouse, warts and all. If anyone wants to argue, they have a right to do so. But they’ll have to take it up with the Betars.
Let marriage be held in honor by all. (Hebrews 13:4)
Bless spouses with the willingness to compromise, Jesus.
A Fall Before the Finish Line
It all happened a few years ago, but what Holland Christian did that day will remain with her forever. She was a high-school junior then, a star runner for her school’s cross-country team, taking part in a key state meet. Her coach, Jim Tracy, was there too, but not all was well. The inroads of Lou Gehrig’s disease were debilitating him, and the cheer she led for him had an extra-special quality. “I think that made the team really want to win it for Jim,” she said later.
Christian was in third place near the end of the 3.1-mile course, ready to make her move, when her legs just gave out. She slowed down as other runners passed her, and right at the end she collapsed. The finish line was only two or three yards away.
She gathered all her strength and crawled her way to the finish, with the encouragement—but not the help—of a race official. Without that crawl she would have been disqualified; with it, even though she finished 37th, her team won the championship. And her coach, ailing but happy, would have nothing but sweet memories of the day.
I have finished the race. (2 Timothy 4:7)
When all seems lost, Lord, give me the strength to endure.
Catherine Woodiwiss, Associate Web Editor at Sojourners in Washington, D.C., managed to “skate by” without experiencing any traumas in her life for a long time. But after being hit by a car and enduring a long, painful recovery, she learned, “Trauma upends everything we took for granted.”
She shared other lessons in Sojourners magazine:
■ Presence is better than distance. Unless someone really wants “space”, be with them.
■ Healing can take a long time.
■ Surviving trauma takes “firefighters” and “builders;” friends who drop everything and help put out the fire of the immediate crisis and steady, calm people to build you back up over time.
■ Grieving is social; so is healing.
■ Don’t offer platitudes or comparisons like, “At least it’s not as bad as….”
■ Allow those suffering to tell their own stories.
■ Appreciate love, however unexpected its expression.
They cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. (Psalm 107:13)
Jesus, give us strength in times of trauma.
Owen and Haatchi: Friends for Life
There is nothing like the love between a boy and his dog. Consider seven-year-old Owen Howkins and his three-legged Anatolian shepherd, Haatchi. Owen was born with a rare muscle disorder, which leaves his muscles in a constant state of tension. Haatchi, a two-time rescue dog, was found tied to a train track in North London. He was first rescued by the RSPCA (Royal Service for the Prevention of Animal Cruelty), and later by Ross McCarthy, who offered him to Owen’s stepmother, Colleen.
“There was an immediate bond [between Owen and Haatchi],” Colleen explained in a 10-minute documentary entitled A Boy and His Dog. “It was like they both knew each other was different, and there was an instant acceptance of those differences, and that they were going to work as a team.”
Owen and Haatchi also won the Crufts dog show 2013 Friends for Life award, given to a dog whose companionship to his or her owner is exemplary. Owen says Haatchi changed his life for the better. “He does look after me, and he’s special,” Owen concludes.
A friend loves at all times. (Proverbs 17:7)
Father, bless all pets, companions and healers of us all.
A TV Show Changes Lives
If you think watching TV is a waste of time, consider the story of Wisconsin pharmacists Jeanine Krueger and Nicole Schreiner. They saw Dr. Kevin Hunt and Father Sam Okori (featured in yesterday’s entry) talking about their Medical Aid to Northern Uganda project on The Bonnie Hunt Show (Bonnie is Dr. Hunt’s sister). The two of them felt inspired by the idea of helping and took the leap of faith to get involved, eventually becoming board members and traveling to Africa.
For Schreiner, that choice stemmed from a long habit of selflessness. She said on Christopher Closeup, “I did a lot of things locally here: teaching religion class at my church, playing Bingo with elderly folks in the area, making meals for people in need. It’s always been something that brings me great joy and something that I wanted to teach my children…After being able to travel to Uganda, it fired up something more inside of me.”
Consider taking the initiative to help someone in need. It may fire something up inside of you that will lead you down an unexpected yet fulfilling road.
Faith…if it has no works, is dead. (James 2:17)
Inspire me, Holy Spirit, to act with courage.
From Chicago to Uganda
Six pregnant women about to give birth lay on a cold cement floor, shivering due to fever and malaria. That was the sight that greeted Chicago doctor Kevin Hunt during his first-ever trip to Northern Uganda in 2007. He had traveled there at the request of Father Sam Okori, an African priest working in his parish while in the United States taking pre-med classes.
The big-hearted doctor found a poverty-stricken population that desperately needed help. During an interview on Christopher Closeup, he recalled the pivotal moment of seeing those pregnant women on the floor. Filled with compassion, he drove 50 miles to get them beds and mattresses, then returned the next morning. “Everybody was so happy that they could at least have some comfort,” he said. “That’s when I decided to do something about it when I got back home.”
Dr. Hunt and Father Sam started a foundation called Medical Aid to Northern Uganda to provide financial aid for improved medical facilities, equipment, and medicines—along with mission trips. Their ongoing work is saving lives.
Be doers of the word. (James 1:22)
Convert my compassion into action, Divine Savior.
What’s It Like to be Pope?
What’s it like to be pope? Members of a Rome parish got an unexpected chance to check it firsthand when Pope Francis paid a visit and opened the meeting to questions from the floor. As expected, the first question was about whether he ever thought he’d be the pope. Not at all, he replied—not even when he arrived for the conclave that would elect him the pontiff.
Following his election, did he feel stage fright when he addressed the throng? “Was I anxious? A little, yes, but everyone was nice,” Pope Francis answered. “But it’s true; having a lot of people in front of you is a bit scary!”
How do you serve as a good example to others? “Pray all the time, don’t speak badly of others because gossip destroys friendships, and always greet people nicely, always with a smile.”
The pope even managed to work in some humor as he said he decided to become a priest after going to confession with a priest he’d never met. They’re the best confessors, he added with a smile—priests you don’t know, and those who are deaf.
Humility goes before honor. (Proverbs 15:33)
Help me deal with the unexpected, God of surprises.
Faith and Free Lemonade
For many children, a lemonade stand serves as the ideal business prototype, where they can literally see the profits of their hard work grow before their eyes. For the children of St. Peter’s Parish in Plymouth, Massachusetts, however, setting up a lemonade stand had a deeper purpose. They didn’t charge for drinks, but instead informed passersby that voluntary donations would be given to the Missionary Childhood Association.
In exchange for their customers’ generosity, the children told them about the tenets and importance of their Catholic faith. The kids of St. Peter’s were motivated to lead this type of fundraising effort by a recent visit from a representative of the Pontifical Mission Society.
“The greatest commandment is to ‘love on another,’ and [the children] took it literally,” said Kathy Liolios, director of religious education at St. Peter’s, to The Pilot, Boston’s Archdiocesan newspaper. “They wanted to put their faith in action.”
Go into all nations and proclaim the good news. (Mark 16:15)
Abba, may we always be proud messengers of our faith.
It’s Time to Leave the Pity Party
Julie and Rusty Bulloch make sure that the troubled teens and young adults they’ve been welcoming into their Lakeland, Florida home for the last 15 years don’t fall into the trap of feeling sorry for themselves and having a pity party.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Rusty explained his approach to helping these young people move past hardships: “We make sure they understand what’s done is done. You can tell me about it and we’ll pray through it and figure things out. But if you want to use bad things in your past to be a crutch for you not being a success, I’ll say, ‘Get real!’”
Julie added, “He’s the tough one; I’m the tender one. I will sit there and cry along with them. Through all that, my response is, ‘I can’t explain why this happened to you. Did God make this happen? No. Was it allowed? Yes. Now, what are you going to do with it? Are you going to let it destroy you—or are you going to let it make you stronger? Life is a choice every day. And at the end of the day, it’s on your shoulders.’”
He encourages those who are losing hope. (Sirach 17:24)
With Your help, Lord, I will move toward a brighter future.
Life Lessons at Sunflower Bakery
The Sunflower Bakery in Gaithersburg, Maryland, doesn’t just provide sweets to its customers; it’s made life sweeter for some of its bakers as well. That’s because the non-profit kosher Jewish bakery’s staff includes adults with intellectual disabilities, such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Founded in the kitchen of Beth Sholom synagogue, Sunflower not only teaches its students how to bake, but also instructs them about basic life skills like being on time for work and speaking up for themselves. As reported by Religion News Service, 24 students to date have graduated and found work “at area restaurants, bakeries, and supermarkets.”
Thirty-nine-year-old Zeke Koster, who is unable to read, learned to make hamentaschen for Purim celebrations in 2014. His mother Marilyn feels elated at what he’s been able to accomplish: “He’s always had menial jobs, so he’s never had a positive feeling about what he’s doing. At Sunflower, he feels so good about himself and what the potential down the road is. He’s like a flower opening up.”
Bake what you want to bake. (Exodus 16:23)
Lead all people to discover their talents, Divine Creator.
Loving the Pursuit of Truth
For 25-year-old singer-songwriter Tori Harris, attending a Baptist University was the best thing that ever happened to her Catholic faith.
Though she grew up attending Catholic schools and seeing her parents as models of the faith, Harris acknowledged on Christopher Closeup that she embraced Catholicism more intentionally in college because of the challenging questions posed by her professors. She confronted the rationality of her belief in God, and found that the worldview presented by Christianity—and Catholicism in particular—seemed the most truthful and consistent.
Reflecting on her college years, Harris said, “It was a boon to my friends, too. The discussions that we had were really fruitful, though we don’t all agree theologically on which expression of Christianity that we identify with. My closest friends are Southern Baptists, so there’s definitely disagreement there. But we’ve never had more respect for each other. There’s a great love and devotion on both sides for the pursuit of truth.”
All Your ways are mercy and truth. (Tobit 3:2)
Help me respect those whose beliefs differ from mine, Lord.
Keep Practicing Until You Get It Right
When someone asked Grammy award-winning singer Harry Connick Jr. if he was a practicing Catholic, he responded, “Yeah, and I’m gonna keep practicing until I get it right!”
Connick grew up in New Orleans with a Jewish mother and Catholic father who let him choose his own religious path. At age 14, he decided to become Catholic. He told Christianity Today, “The church manifests itself in my life through the people who have set the best examples for me, like my dad. My mother knew more about the Catholic Church than 99 percent of the Catholics I know. And her actions were Christian actions.”
Connick also notes that his faith and family keep him grounded when he’s traveling the world as an entertainer. He said on the Busted Halo radio show, “Somebody famous asked me one time, ‘Don’t you ever get tempted to cheat on your wife because there’s a lot of beautiful women out there?’ For me, [because of] my faith and my family, I know where my home is. It’s the people that don’t have that who may have a harder time separating those two worlds. They’re clearly separated for me.”
The house of the righteous will stand. (Proverbs 12:7)
Help me grow stronger in my faith, Divine Savior.
House Calls to the Homeless
“Pittsburgh’s Dr. Jim Withers operates his practice with a simple idea: the best way to care for the homeless is to treat them where they live. Nightly, he takes to the streets with a man who once was homeless, to care for those no one else cares for.”
So writes Deacon Greg Kandra on his Patheos blog about a physician living out the corporal works of mercy.
Dr. Withers began his ministry, called Operation Safety Net, 22 years ago after meeting Mike Sallows, a man who’d been homeless for seven years and was now giving out blankets and food to those who needed them. Withers offered to go along to provide free basic medical care. As stated in a video by the digital media company NationSwell, “Withers estimates he’s treated over 1,200 homeless a year since 1992.”
His influence extends beyond his Pennsylvania hometown as well. Dr. Withers said, “We have helped create organizations like ours—street medicine programs—in over 85 communities throughout the world. I’d love to see it become a point of pride, a jewel in the crown, for communities everywhere.”
Honor physicians for their services. (Sirach 38:1)
Teach me to care for society’s outcasts, Father.
A Divine Mercy
The last words that 17-year-old Claire Davis spoke were “Oh my gosh, Karl, what are you doing?” Then Karl Pierson, 18, pulled the trigger and a shotgun blast ended up costing her life. She was the only murder victim that day in Arapahoe High School in Colorado, which came to a close when Pierson killed himself. And yet Claire’s parents, through their tears, found the strength to forgive her killer.
Michael and Desiree Davis, speaking at a memorial service for their daughter that thousands of people attended, said that Pierson “was so blinded by his emotions he didn’t know what he was doing.” Pierson had walked into the school that day intending to shoot the debate coach he thought cost him the chance to join the Air Force, yet shot Davis—who succumbed to her wounds eight days later.
“My wife and I forgive Karl Pierson for what he did,” Michael Davis said during the service. “We would ask all of you here and all of you watching to forgive Karl Pierson.”
Then the Lord said, “I do forgive, just as you have asked.” (Numbers 14:20)
Free our hearts from revenge and hatred, Prince of Peace.
Finding God at the Oscars
The annual Academy Awards ceremony may not be a show where you expect to hear winners talk about God, but that was the case in 2014. The first reference came from singer Darlene Love, who was profiled in the Best Documentary Feature winner 20 Feet from Stardom.
After the producers finished talking, Love came to the microphone to say, “Lord God, I praise You,” then sang the last few lines of the Christian hymn “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” bringing the audience to their feet.
The other God reference came from Best Actor winner Matthew McConaughey, whose reputation as a wild man seems to have mellowed now that he is a husband and father. He began his acceptance speech by saying, “I want to thank God because that’s who I look up to. He has graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand.”
You don’t have to stand in front of a microphone to thank God for your blessings. Just tell Him every day in your heart.
With gratitude in your hearts, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. (Colossians 3:16)
Thank You, Lord, for the blessings in my life.
A Goalie’s Good Heart
What could a high school soccer goalie do to help send sick children to Disney World? He could make his saves in goal count for something extra, that’s what. And Joseph Pigot, of Park Ridge High School in New Jersey, decided to do just that.
Captain of the school’s varsity soccer team, Pigot launched Joey’s Saves, which collected donations for each save he made and in turn saw to it that the proceeds went to Baking Memories 4 Kids, a local charity which sends ailing children and their families on all-expense-paid trips to Florida.
“It motivates me in tough games when I’m tired and I want to give up,” he said. “You don’t give up because you’re fighting for something bigger than yourself.”
Mary Diduch told Pigot’s story in The Record, a leading northern New Jersey newspaper, alerting readers as to how they could join the project. As for Pigot, he envisions a lasting impact, hoping that future Park Ridge goalies follow in his footsteps.
Do not hesitate to visit the sick, because for such deeds you will be loved. (Sirach 7:35)
Help me set a selfless example for others, Father of Light.
Blondes Didn’t Have More Fun
Many years ago, a Maryland junior high school taught its students a lesson about discrimination by conducting a unique experiment. Though black students had endured segregation for many years in the school system, this effort—held during Brotherhood Week—singled out blonde young people.
They voluntarily agreed to use different rest rooms, stairways, and water fountains; endure snubs from brunettes; and sit at separate cafeteria and library tables. “You would be astounded at how many of these kids didn’t know what prejudice and discrimination were,” commented one faculty member.
Protests from parents, which forced the school to discontinue the program, received little sympathy from the student volunteers. They regretted that the experiment had ended just as it was “beginning to mean something.”
Our rights are often accepted light-heartedly until we are deprived of them. If we are helped by education or experience to cherish freedom, we are in a better position to take a stand for others. God plays no favorites—and neither should we.
Live in harmony with one another. (Romans 15:5)
Help me, Father, to respect the rights of all people.
Gaining By Losing
“I struggled mightily,” said Bob Groves, shocked at losing his job and the sense of identity it had fostered. “Suddenly, I was no longer ‘The Man’ I had been at work, the one people came to, and I had to figure out how to fulfill myself.”
Then, the 66-year-old former executive set out to find a new path and discovered his calling as a teacher at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Temple University in Philadelphia.
Groves now instructs a class of older adults in a human-rights course; he teaches English to a woman from Nepal; and he finds time each week to be with his toddler granddaughter.
People draw strength from the oft-expressed sentiment that when God closes a door He opens a window. If you’re dealing with a loss of some kind, use creativity and courage to help you cope. And remember that a new reality might require stepping outside of your comfort zone and setting new goals.
The Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
God, may we find the window of opportunity You have opened for us.
More Core Behaviors for Positive Leaders
Today, we share more of success coach Kathy Caprino’s “core behaviors of people who positively impact the world:”
■ They embrace critique. “The most powerful positive influencers don’t need or want to be ‘right’—they want to grow and be more effective…They know how to integrate constructive feedback to strengthen their work and ideas.”
■ They uplift others as they ascend. “These positive influencers want others to grow. They walk away from ‘success-building’ opportunities that will be hurtful and damaging to others. They know that those unethical, demeaning or destructive approaches go against the very meaning and purpose they’re committed to.”
■ They use their power and influence well. “Those who impact the world for the better are careful and judicious with their words, actions, and behaviors. They take [leadership] seriously, as a special honor and responsibility not to be flaunted or misused. They understand their special role, and accept it with grace, compassion, and care.”
Leaders of the congregation, pay heed! (Sirach 33:19)
Help me follow Your example of leadership, Jesus.
Core Behaviors for Positive Leaders
Success coach Kathy Caprino has met people from all walks of life and circumstances who love their work and use their influence to “change the world for the better.” She noted in Forbes magazine that there are several “core behaviors” these types of people share:
■ They dedicate themselves to what gives their life meaning and purpose. “They have found that there is a purpose to their life, and that purpose usually involves some aspect of turning their ‘mess into a message,’ or using what they’ve learned as a means of being of service to others.”
■ They commit to continually bettering themselves. “Innovators who positively shape the world [have] an openness to see, learn, and experience new things.”
■ They invest time and energy not in what is, but what can be. “When they see something that agitates and disturbs them, they strive to know more, get to the root of the issue…and arrive at new solutions.”
We’ll share more “core behaviors” tomorrow.
The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me. (Psalm 138:8)
Instill me with purpose and possibility, Father.
The Church as Field Hospital
In an interview with America magazine, Pope Francis shared his view of the best way to evangelize a culture that’s often hostile to faith: “I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else.”
The pope is basically saying that Christians need to meet people where they are. He’s not saying to leave them where they are—or, using his own example, to ignore their high cholesterol and blood sugar. Rather, there’s an order to follow. Treat the sucking chest wound before you encourage a low-fat diet.
In the same way, you can’t expect to reach people who are unchurched or who have been poorly evangelized and catechized to understand where the Church is coming from if they don’t have a solid foundation of experience and understanding. It’s really about doing your best to become a personal example of holiness, and seeing that example bear fruit in relation to others.
Let us set an example for our kindred. (Judith 8:24)
Lord, help me to be a messenger of strength, truth, and love for others, especially those who don’t believe in You.
Gary Sinise Puts Soldiers First
Actor Gary Sinise’s dedication to helping members of the U.S. military was sparked at age 25 when he saw a play called Tracers. It was written by Vietnam veterans about their experiences during and after the war, experiences which often involved them being hated here in the U.S. Sinise felt bad that these men were being abused by their fellow citizens, so he befriended many of them and advocated on their behalf.
After the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, Sinise started visiting troops in hospitals. Though he felt awkward at first, he gained new perspective at Germany’s Landstuhl Medical Center.
Sinise said, “I met a lot of folks that had been blown up, shot up and burned up. That was a difficult day. But when I left, I knew that my being there had helped some people, so you forget about your own reaction to what you’re seeing, and it becomes about them. It’s not about you. From that point on, I knew that even though it’s difficult to see some of these injuries, my presence there helps them and their families.”
Humble yourselves before the Lord. (James 4:10)
Make me humble enough to put the needs of others ahead of my own discomfort, Lord.
Mercy in the City
Lent’s focus on giving something up or adopting a new spiritual practice is one of the reasons Kerry Weber is fond of the season. She’s grateful it lacks commercial aspects so she doesn’t have to ask herself, “What do I get everyone for Lent?”
One Lent a few years ago, Weber decided to live out each of the Corporal Works of Mercy (feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead), an experience which became the basis for her book Mercy in the City. It led her from the St. Francis Breadline in New York City to San Quentin State Prison in California.Why did she set her sights so high?
Weber said, “I think that being Catholic [involves] trying to deal with people in the margins and include them in the body of Christ and the larger Christian community. Going to places where I’ve never been before are ways to bring them in…The Gospel calls us to be a little bit uncomfortable sometimes, so we have to challenge ourselves to move beyond our comfort zones.”
Reach out and give to them as much as you can. (Sirach 14:13)
Holy Spirit, help me choose my Lenten disciplines wisely.
Hero Nanny Saves Boy from House Fire
Live-in nanny Alyson Myatt, 22, awoke in her bedroom in Louisville, Kentucky, at 6 a.m. to a loud boom. A faulty ventilation fan had fallen down in the bathroom, setting fire to the door and the entire hallway outside the bedroom of her five-year-old charge, Aden Hawes.
Heedless of the roaring flames before her, Alyson charged barefoot through the fire to retrieve the frightened Aden. She sustained third-degree burns on both her feet and one of her hands. But she wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“I didn’t even think about me getting hurt,” Myatt told Today show correspondent Ann Curry. “I was just yelling for Aden.”
Single parent J.B. Hawes, Aden’s father, was away on business and as soon as he rushed home that same day, he went to the Louisville Hospital, where Alyson was recovering. “There’s no words to put how grateful I am to have Alyson in our world,” an emotional Hawes concluded. “God brought her into our world, that’s for sure.”
Let us love…in truth and action. (1 John 3:18)
Father, grant us the courage to protect our loved ones.
Notes from George Washington’s Childhood
School boys in George Washington’s day copied inspirational sentences into their notebooks. Here are a few found in one of our first president’s exercise books:
■ “Speak not when you should hold your peace.”
■ “Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another though he were your enemy.”
■ “Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive.”
■ Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of Celestial fire called conscience.”
■ “When you speak of God and His attributes, let it be seriously and with reverence.”
We’ll never know how much these kinds of maxims influenced the Father of our country. But we do know that the early years are a critical period in personality development. Pray and work for homes and schools that encourage children to give the best that is in them.
I have said this to you, so that in Me you may have peace. (John 16:33)
Father, teach us to impart sound values to our children.
Gifted with Blindness
To 75-year-old Father Patrick Martin, blindness has been as much of a gift as his very life. At age nine, he survived a battle with meningitis, which left him mostly blind, though he could read by putting words together “letter by letter.” From the time he became an altar boy at age 10, he felt a persistent calling to the priesthood—yet his pastor told him it wouldn’t be possible due to his blindness.
Instead, Patrick joined the Brothers of Christian Instruction. He never gave up on his dream, however, so—with the Brothers’ blessing—he became a diocesan priest at age 35 while working in Norwich, Connecticut. In addition, Father Martin founded the ministry “People are Gifts” to help those with disabilities serve the church. He recently relocated to Texas to be closer to his sister.
Father Martin told Today’s Catholic, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, “When we die, if the world isn’t a better place because of our disabilities, then we’ve failed. Every one of us is here to make a difference.”
Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character. (Romans 5:3)
Abba, may our weaknesses serve to bring us closer to You.
Marriage is Bigger than a Wedding
On the occasion of her 10th wedding anniversary, singer-songwriter Brooke White recalled the day she married “Dave Ray, CPA” (as she jokingly calls her husband).
Though their wedding wasn’t as big and fancy as the ones she sees in magazines nowadays, White said on Facebook that she wouldn’t change a thing. Her dress was simple and the reception was held in her parents’ backyard, but a lot of love went into the event and, more importantly, the relationship.
“The truth is,” explained White, “that a wedding, as big and exciting and beautiful as it all is, is just one day. But marriage! That’s every day. It’s real life without DJs and chocolate fountains and fancy dresses. Nothing can truly prepare you; it’s a leap of faith. There are no guarantees, but if two people decide to keep choosing each other every day, I believe it can go on forever. Ten years is a good long time [with] a lot of learning, changing, forgiving, letting go, hanging on, growing, building, and loving. But it’s hardly a particle of dust in the scheme of eternity. It’s all so much more. It’s sacred.”
Let marriage be held in honor by all. (Hebrews 13:4)
Help married couples choose each other anew each day, Lord.
A Different Side of Lincoln
Compassion and gentleness dominate the popular image of Abraham Lincoln, but he could be firm when circumstances required. For instance, his stepbrother John D. Johnston—whom Lincoln described as “not lazy,” but an “idler”—often borrowed money from the lanky lawyer to tide him over rough spots. Finally, in December, 1848, he asked once too often.
“You are now in need of some ready money,” Lincoln wrote, “and what I propose is, that you shall go to work…You say if I furnish you the money you will deed me the land, and if you don’t pay the money back, you will deliver possession. Nonsense! If you can’t now live with the land, how will you then live without it?”
Lincoln also offered, however, to match dollar for dollar any money Johnston earned during the next five months.
There are moments when we all need compassion. But at other times, there is no substitute for hard-headed realism. Try, with God’s help, to maintain a healthy balance between the two.
We hear that some of you are living in idleness. (2 Thessalonians 3:11)
Lord, may I take advantage of good opportunities each day.
‘I Wish Everyone Had a Collette’
Steele Devitto can’t say enough about Collette, which is understandable. Collette is his older sister, and every night when he was in high school and college, she’d talk to him on the phone, encouraging him while he pursued a career in pro football. There’s something else about Collette. She also has Down syndrome, a fact which is perfectly fine with Steele.
“I wouldn’t trade her for the world,” he told Jeff Roberts of The Record, a New Jersey newspaper.
Steele Devitto has since gained all the credentials to make it into the pros. A linebacker, the Connecticut native played first for Don Bosco High School, a perennial New Jersey powerhouse, and then started for three years at Boston College. But talented as Devitto is, he knows he would never have gotten this far without Collette.
She attacks every day with a smile on her face, he says, and she’s selfless and unflinchingly honest. “I wish everyone had a Collette,” he declares, and when he says it, it’s every bit as honest as his big sister.
Therefore…build up each other. (1 Thessalonians 5:1)
Jesus, may we always seek to support our fellow man.
A Subway Hero
Tara Lewis couldn’t believe her eyes.
A conductor in the New York subway system, she’s used to seeing passengers either exit or board her train when it’s stopped in a station and the doors are open. But here was one man, standing on the platform as the train approached, as if to board when it stopped. Instead he waited while the doors were opened, and once the train had started up again he hurled himself between cars and disappeared from sight.
Horrified, Lewis pulled the emergency brake cord and the subway train ground to a halt. It was an action that probably saved the man’s life. Somehow he ended up on the landing between cars, opened the door and tried to blend in with regular passengers. Lewis would have none of it. She quickly contacted the police, who took the man to a hospital for evaluation.
“I believe he would have lost his life if I didn’t see him and pull the emergency cord,” she told Pete Donohue of the Daily News. Her supervisor agreed, putting her in for a “hero” award. And she went home, ready to start another day the next morning.
You save me from violence. (2 Samuel 22:3)
May I be a help to others when needed, Jesus.
Don’t Overcomplicate Kindness
During the semi-finals in cross-country skiing at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Russian skier Anton Gafarov fell and broke one of his skis. As he got up and attempted to finish the race on one ski, Team Canada’s cross-country coach Justin Wadsworth quickly brought him a new ski and even dropped to his knees to affix it to Gafarov’s boot.
Though the Russian finished last, news of this example of good sportsmanship spread around the world. It also led writer Cindy Keating to ask, “Can an Olympic moment change the way we’ve complicated kindness?” Keating notes that we sometimes hesitate when an impulse toward kindness strikes us. She says, “We don’t want to intrude. We don’t want to be rejected, or look silly. We end up talking ourselves out of something good.”
If Coach Wadsworth had reacted that way, Gafarov and the world would have been denied a beautiful moment. Keating concludes, “The world needs people who will respond…people not afraid to get down on their knees and serve. Why? Because we all need help to finish the race we were put on earth to ski.”
I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)
Instill me with the courage to act on kind impulses, Lord.
Becoming a Priest at Age 71
David Link was convinced he had the ideal job—until, at the age of 71, he was ordained a priest. He had finally found real happiness. Not that the job he used to have was insignificant.
For 24 years, until 1999, he was dean of Notre Dame’s law school, imparting a love for the law to more than 4,000 students. Then, as his career was winding down, he reluctantly followed the suggestion of his wife, Barbara, and began teaching prisoners the fine points of the law. To his amazement he loved the work, impressed by his students’ eagerness to learn.
When Barbara died in 2003, Link threw himself even more into his volunteer work with prisoners, catching the attention of many with his enthusiasm. Among those impressed was Bishop Dale J. Melczek of Gary, Indiana, who invited Link to become a priest. After seminary studies Father Link was ordained in 2008. In charge of the diocese’s prison ministry program, Father Link couldn’t be happier. “I need to bring my prisoners hope, and knowledge of eternal life,” he said. “And I love that.”
He chose blameless priests devoted to the law. (1 Maccabees 4:42)
Help me bring hope to those who need it, Jesus.
No TYME Like the Present
At 23 years old, Elaine Newkirk found herself a foster mother of five kids—her 14-year-old sister and two friends, and two infants given up for adoption by their young mother. Now, two years later, Newkirk is not only the proud mother of five teenagers, but she is also the head of TYME (Teach Youth, Motivate and Empower) Ministries, a program in rural Pennsylvania meant to inspire youth and help the less fortunate through volunteer services.
Their ministries have expanded to include a nonprofit thrift store, a bakery and a youth center. Newkirk has taken on a daunting load, but one of the most important lessons she has learned is that she does not need to carry it alone.
“I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned is that even though I have a ‘save the world’ mentality, I can’t save the world on my own,” Newkirk told Daily Good writer Audrey Lin. “It takes the help of a community.”
May we all be inspired by Newkirk’s example to make a difference one organization, one volunteer project at a time.
Bear one another’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2)
God, motivate communities to work together for the sake of the greater good.
What’s Next For You?
“In my mid-30s, I was 200 pounds,” said Betty Smith. She smoked, didn’t exercise, and couldn’t even play tag with her daughter. “I had to get off that path,” she realized.
Now a trim marathoner, Smith, 71, exemplifies how change is possible, according to AARP and its collaborators in the Life Re-imagined project, which offers signposts for your new path:
■ Reflect. What goals and values have motivated you? What future possibilities would you like to pursue?
■ Connect. By retirement age you may have lost some earlier friends due to changed circumstances. Create a new mutually helpful support system.
■ Explore. Leave your comfort zone. If you always read sports pages, try the food section. Or vice versa.
■ Narrow Choices. Focus in on a few new paths.
■ Repack. Scrap excess baggage. Summarize your life’s chapters to date. How would you like future ones to read?
■ Act. Take your first steps in a new direction.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:6)
Holy Spirit, guide our steps as we travel throughout life.
You Had Your Baby Where?
A 20-year-old sales associate had gotten used to seeing everything in New York City, but this was one for the books: a woman giving birth to a baby in broad daylight at 68th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan. Without thinking of the cold weather (this was in February of 2014), Isabel Williams turned into a Good Samaritan in a split second. She tore off her sweater and coat and used them to cover mother and young daughter as they awaited an ambulance.
Mom Polly McCourt explained that she’d been waiting for a taxi when the baby—named Ila Isabelle, in part after her Good Samaritan benefactor—decided the time had come. When they got to the hospital, both mother and daughter were doing fine. So was the father, Cian, who nearly missed all the excitement.
Williams was reunited with the whole McCourt family, including two more young children, a few days later. “I don’t know how to express how touched I am,” she said. Holding her little namesake, she said, “She’s absolutely perfect.”
Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31)
Lord, inspire me to help someone at a moment’s notice.
God Turns Gloom to Gratitude
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time—waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God—it changes me.”
Catholic New York reporter Juliann DosSantos recalled that quote one day when she was feeling particularly gloomy. She admits in her book, Footprints on the Journey, that no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t lift herself out of her “rotten mood.” Then she decided to let God do the lifting—and the results were far different.
DosSantos writes, “As soon as I opened my heart to say a little prayer to ask for help, I found I had resources right in front of me. I let God lead me—and He led me to the laughter, love, and kindness that come from friends and family. Before I knew it, my mood was starting to lift…There was a time in my life where I felt like I had to do everything on my own. But that is not a good way to live. I needed God and still do.”
She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord. (1 Samuel 1:10)
In my distress, hear my cry and heal me, Divine Redeemer.
The Roots of Black History Month
For those who don’t know much about the history of Black History Month, Professor Patricia Gloster-Coates of Pace University is instructive. During an amNewYork newspaper interview, Gloster-Coates, the history department chair, says the event was incorporated in 1976 but claims older roots.
“Carter G. Woodson, a historian who started the Journal of Negro History in 1916, later came up with the idea of celebrating Negro History Week on the Sunday closest to Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays,” she says.
Originally, the remembrance was meant to highlight the cultural achievements of African-Americans. But a fixed annual event continues to be important, Gloster-Coates says, so “people can get together, reminisce and share facts and history.”
Look into the history of your family or culture. It will help you celebrate accomplishments, learn from mistakes, honor ancestors, and better understand others.
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction. (Romans 15:4)
Help us, Lord, to appreciate the human bonds that link all of Your children.
A Prayer for Generosity
Here’s an excerpt from a prayer for generosity written by Father Jonathan Morris: “Heavenly Father, today I am reminded of Jesus’ parable of the rich landowner who, confident in his wealth, decides to build larger warehouses to store his earthly possessions. But God replies, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.
“Lord, at times, I have been like this man—holding onto my possessions and striving for more—instead of being mindful of others or of what matters to You. I haven’t always given You all that You deserve. Forgive me for this.
“Lord God, You have been so generous to me, in so many ways. Help me to heed the lesson in Jesus’s words. Grant me Your wisdom and perspective in dealing with not only the money I earn, but also my time, talents, and other possessions. All of these should be, and can be, used to help others and to glorify You. Amen.”
I treasure Your word in my heart. (Psalm 119:11)
Help me choose to be generous today, Jesus.
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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