Three Minutes a Day
The Condition of our Hearts
“Fear and faith have one thing in common: they both ask you to believe in something that hasn’t happened yet.” Singer-songwriter Danny Gokey lived those words after his wife Sophia died due to a congenital heart defect during their fourth year of marriage. Though raised in a Christian church, Gokey couldn’t move beyond his bitterness at God for allowing this to happen.
Eventually, Gokey realized that he had to make a choice: anger or hope. Hope, he realized, was an act of the will, not an emotion. During a Christopher Closeup interview, he said:
“The toxic emotions—the injustice, the bitterness, the questions of, ‘Why? I don’t understand, it’s not fair!’—those emotions just drained once that plug was pulled out. I started realizing how the condition of our hearts affects the way we see. If your heart is full of bitterness, anger and resentment, you’re going to look at this world as a very evil place. That’s exactly what I was doing. Once I let that go, I found this beautiful place. The sky was bluer, the grass was greener. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s powerful to have a pure heart.”
Put away from you all bitterness. (Ephesians 4:31)
When my world is dark, Lord, help me to choose Your light.
A Black Friday Challenge
When Brian Bagnall of Franklin Park, Illinois, saw the mobs of people on TV pushing and shoving each other to get bargains on Black Friday, he decided that he wanted to “encourage some human kindness.” Though he had planned on selling everything in his house before moving to a new furnished home in Virginia, he decided to give it all away for free instead.
Bagnall posted his initiative on Craigslist and noted some ground rules, which included no pushing, shoving, or acting rude. As reported by NBC Chicago, approximately 200 people showed up and calmly cleaned out his three-bedroom home of everything from couches and tools to ladders and shelves.
After it was all over, Bagnall observed, “There were a lot of smiles today. People need happiness more than ever right now and Black Friday shows it.”
This year, try to avoid getting too wrapped up in the materialistic aspect of the holiday season. Instead, pursue the type of happiness that money can’t buy.
Strive first for the kingdom of God. (Matthew 6:33)
As I buy gifts for my family and friends this year, Lord, remind me to respect the dignity of all Your children.
A Nation Says ‘Thank You’
In 1789, President George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving Proclamation. Here are some excerpts:
“Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country…”
“And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other trangressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually…to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.”
I will magnify Him with thanksgiving. (Psalm 69:30)
Today I ask for nothing, Lord. I simply say, “Thank You.”
Thanksgiving Day Prayer
The Catholic Times of the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, shared this heartfelt prayer of gratitude that you can say with your family and friends before eating Thanksgiving dinner:
“Father, all of Creation rightly owes You thanks and praise.
Your justice, love and mercy abound. We thank You this day for all that You have given us. For the Passion and Death of Your Divine Son, we thank You, Father. Through the Cross, He redeemed the world.
“For loving spouses, we thank You, Father. Together we seek You. For the gift of children, we thank You, Father. They are Your precious gifts to us and to the world. For the gift of our families, loved ones, and good friends, we thank You, Father. Through them we see the reflection of Your Son.
“For jobs, our homes, and all that we have, we thank You, Father. Give us only that which we need, as we seek Your kingdom. For the bounty we are about to eat, we thank You through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Every generous act of giving…is from above. (James 1:17)
Messiah, we always give You thanks for the miracle of life.
Grateful for a Smile
Nineteen-year-old Iraqi native Noor Khafaji was born with a facial deformity that kept one side of her face from developing correctly, thereby leaving her embarrassed and self-conscious. She said, “Always, I have been the girl who stays at home doing nothing.” That’s all changing, however, thanks to the Little Baby Face Foundation, which offers free reconstructive surgeries to those who can’t afford them.
The teen and her mother were flown to New York City where Dr. Thomas Romo—the director of Facial, Plastic, and Reconstructive Surgery at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital—will perform surgery free of charge. The Daily News reports, “The complex procedure will require rebuilding the teen’s nose, ear, jawbone and cheekbone.”
Noor is looking forward to her new life, while her mother, Shatha Hassan, expresses eternal gratitude. She said, “No one has ever cared like Dr. Romo. As long as I’m alive, I’m going to pray for him. I’m so thankful to him and to everyone who has helped us make [Noor] smile.”
I am grateful to God. (2 Timothy 1:3)
May I always show kindness to strangers, Father.
The Antidote to Anxiety
“The antidote to fear isn’t courage. The antidote to worry isn’t faith. The antidote to anxiety isn’t a devil-may-care attitude. Rather, the antidote, I believe, is gratitude. It’s thanksgiving.”
That idea might seem to defy conventional wisdom, but Patheos blogger David R. Henson makes a compelling case.
He continues, “Something profound and transformative happens when we give thanks and live our lives in gratitude to God and to one another. And if we make a lifelong practice of it, it fundamentally shifts the way we view the world. Worry and anxiety are rooted in fear, scarcity and isolation. Gratitude is rooted in love, abundance and connection.”
Henson then notes that the word Eucharist literally means “Thanksgiving,” and “Thanksgiving is a sacrament, an outward sign of an inward grace. Each week there is a table set and feast of love and thanksgiving which we share with each other…It is the ultimate reminder that we are not alone in this world or in our struggles. It is the ultimate reminder not to worry or to fear not. For God is with us—and with us through this community.”
Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving. (Psalm 147:7)
May I ground my life in gratitude, Divine Giver.
Time is Precious and Limited
When his high school friend Monique unexpectedly passed away from a rare immune disorder called HLH, Rocco Recce, age 18, felt devastated. The experience left him with an acute awareness of the fragility of life.
Recce wrote on Facebook, “In Our Town by Thornton Wilder, the main character, Emily, goes back in time after her own passing to relive one day in her life. That day was nothing special, but even still, she was heartbroken, because she realized how little she took the time to look at her family and friends before it was too late.”
Recce concludes, “In this life, we often fail to realize that our time here is precious and limited. So, make the most of it. Once you've finished reading this, find the people that you love and just enjoy being in their presence. Look at them. Take in every detail of their appearance and their persona. Tell them how much you care about them. You never know when the time will come that this will no longer be possible to do.”
This slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory. (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Open my eyes to the extraordinary in the ordinary, Lord.
Ten-Year-Old’s Hunch Saves Senior’s Life
It was a frigid January night in Howell, New Jersey, when ten-year-old Danny DiPietro and his father were driving home from a hockey game. As they passed a condominium with an open garage door, Danny thought he spotted a dog out of the corner of his eye. “It was late at night and super cold out and something just didn’t feel right,” he told WXYZ 7 Action News.
Even after he arrived home, Danny couldn’t shake his uneasiness and asked his mother, Dawn, to go check on the dwelling, which wasn’t far from their own. When she arrived, Dawn saw, not a dog, but a person on the ground frantically waving for help. It was 80-year-old Kathleen St. Onge, who had fallen down nearly two hours earlier. Unable to get back up, she had just about abandoned any hope of rescue.
Thanks to Danny’s uncanny instincts, St. Onge was soon transported to a hospital to receive the care she needed, and is expected to make a full recovery. Both St. Onge and her daughter, Sandy, call Danny their “hero.”
Do not be weary in doing what is right. (2 Thessalonians 3:13)
Christ, may we never hesitate to help someone in need.
Want to sharpen your ability to think creatively? Here’s a four-point program designed to help:
■ Be receptive to new ideas. Creative thinking requires an open mind, not one that freezes into a negative position when confronted by the unusual.
■ Keep your information reservoir full. A creative mind never stops acquiring facts, figures, and opinions.
■ Train yourself to capture stray thoughts. Too many people have good ideas, then forget them. Learn to jot down your ideas before they evaporate.
■ Think an idea through in concrete terms. This involves self-discipline. It means working out the implementation of an idea step-by-step in your head, on paper, or on a computer screen.
Surrounded by a world full of question marks, each of us needs creativity. By toning up our intelligence, which is why God gave it to us, we can take on some issues that need constructive action.
The mind of one who has understanding seeks knowledge. (Proverbs 15:14)
Father, help me to use the gift of intelligence well.
The Baby on the Highway
Can a man who served 10 years in prison for manufacturing cocaine turn his life around and become a hero? Based on Bryant Collins’ story, the answer is yes.
After getting out of prison five years ago, Collins gave up drugs and got a job as an auto repairman. On June 16, 2014, the Madison County, Georgia resident was driving on Highway 72 when he thought he saw a baby crawling on the side of the road. He stopped his car to check and, sure enough, it was a 15-month-old girl with a few bumps and bruises.
Collins called 911 and played the child gospel music on his cell phone to try and stop her crying. The police determined that the baby, who had been left unattended at her nearby home, crawled 300 yards through the woods, fell down an embankment, and wound up on the highway. The sheriff, who arrested the child’s father, said it was “almost a miracle” she wasn’t killed.
Collins felt grateful for the opportunity to save a life. He told WXIA TV, “It made me feel good, that I could be in society and do good.”
He shall save my people. (1 Samuel 9:16)
Save me from my sins so I can live a good life, Redeemer.
Harry Connick Jr. in Dad Mode
When 18-year-old contestant Emily Piriz sang a sexually suggestive song during the 2014 season of American Idol, judge Harry Connick Jr., who is the father of three daughters, kicked into dad mode. Prior to her performance, Piriz said she chose the song for its female empowerment feel, not because of the lyrics.
After she finished, Connick congratulated her on a good performance, then asked her to speak the song’s first two lines because he wanted to verify that she understood their sexual message. He then said, “I know you said you’re not interested in the storyline, but you’re a singer. This is your choice now. Is that really what you want to be singing about?” Flustered, Piriz repeated that she liked the song’s sense of female empowerment.
Some websites criticized Connick for “shaming” Piriz, but that’s not what happened. He just challenged her to consider who she wants to be because he knows young people can get lost in the lure of money and fame. That’s a testament to the fact that he cares about her. It’s something any good dad would do.
The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge. (Proverbs 15:2)
Help me choose my words wisely, Heavenly Father.
A Clutch Shooter Scores Big
In February 2014, 18-year-old Kevin Grow from Bensalem, Pennsylvania, became an Internet phenomenon when video of him scoring four three-pointers in the final two minutes of a high school basketball game went viral.
One month later, the sports-loving teen, who was born with Down syndrome, took his moment in the sun even farther when he was invited to play with the Harlem Globetrotters at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The team and crowd welcomed Grow with shouts of support and plenty of applause.
In addition, the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers signed Grow to a two-day contract in recognition of his efforts and had him practice with the team. Grow became the only person, other than Wilt Chamberlain, to ever play for both the Globetrotters and the 76ers. What does Grow’s mother say about all this? “Kids with special needs have a lot of abilities that you don’t even know. Don’t undersell them. Challenge them. Make sure they can reach their full potential.”
God will accomplish something through you, and my Lord will not fail to achieve His purposes. (Judith 11:6)
Help me use my talents and fulfill my potential, Creator.
The Baby Girl in the Rain
In 1955, 14-year-old Dave Hickman and his grandfather were hunting in the woods in Wayne County, Indiana, when the teen heard a strange cooing sound nearby. He went to investigate and found a cold, drenched-from-the-rain baby girl on the ground. The abandoned child was taken in by the local government, given the name Roseann Wayne, and eventually placed for adoption. Before beginning life with her new family, however, two nurses brought her to Dave for one last goodbye.
Though Hickman went on to marry and start a family of his own, he never forgot Baby Roseann and yearned to reconnect with her. With the investigative skills of retired Wayne County Sheriff John Catey, that dream came true.
In December 2013, Hickman learned that Baby Roseann had become Mary Ellen Suey and now lived in California. She was thrilled to hear from the man who had given her a second chance at life. Though Suey called him a hero, Hickman denied it, saying, “I’m just very fortunate I was there. I found her because God allowed me to save her life.”
You will hear and save. (2 Chronicles 20:9)
Lead me, Lord, to those who need my help.
Love in Motion
Every Thursday during her lunch break, Kasonja Holley heads to the local Subway sandwich shop near her downtown Chicago office. But she’s not getting lunch for herself. Instead, she’s buying sandwiches to distribute to hungry and homeless people on the street.
Holley believes that God originally put the idea in her heart, though she was also influenced by her love of feeding people and her grandmother’s work running a homeless shelter.
When Holley’s co-workers found out what she was doing, they joined in and found the experience life-changing because of the way recipients would respond to these acts of kindness.
Holley grew her mission even more by putting together bags of toiletries to hand out as well. Today, her outreach has an official name—Love in Motion—and accepts donations from the public so more hungry people can be fed. She hopes the concept spreads around the country, and says, “I don’t look for any reward. I just do it because it’s a good thing to do.”
Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. (Romans 12:13)
Holy Spirit, guide me in putting love into action.
It Comes Down to Human Connections
As a nurse in the emergency department of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, 29-year-old Diana Costine is used to taking care of patients. But during filming of season two of the documentary TV series NY Med, she became a patient herself.
Costine had long endured issues caused by an irregular heartbeat, but the situation was worsening to the point that she was now passing out. Doctors recommended she have surgery to implant a pacemaker, and she reluctantly agreed.
The NY Med cameraman assigned to Costine had always been Isaac, so she felt comforted to have him shooting as she waited to enter the operating room. Fear got the better of her, though, and she started crying. That’s when Isaac put the camera down and simply held Costine’s hand to offer comfort.
Recalling that moment, Costine said, “It always comes down to human connections. We want people to be there with us, and know that we are heard, especially during times where we feel out of control or lost.” Now healthy and fully recovered, she will always be grateful for Isaac’s ministry of presence that day.
He inclined His ear to me. (Psalm 116:2)
Lord, help me to comfort the fears of a troubled soul.
Things My Parents Taught Me
Julie Drawdy Bulloch wrote the following reflection expressing gratitude to her parents: “These are a few things I am thankful for. Parents that taught me: “…to say ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘no ma’am’ because it was expected; to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ because it was polite; to shake hands and make eye contact because it showed honesty; to give 110 percent and do it with a smile on your face because it showed character; to give the shirt off your back to someone in need because it showed grace; that giving my word was as good as a contract…and proved you could be trusted; that taking the garbage out, mowing the yard, and cleaning my room were chores done without an allowance because I had a roof over my head, food on the table and clothes on my back.
“I was taught that nothing in life was free, and anything worth having was worth working for. I am thankful for parents that loved the Lord and made sure I went to church. I hope and pray that when I reach my golden years, that I too can leave such a legacy.”
Train children in the right way. (Proverbs 22:6)
Father, bless all children with wise and loving parents.
Helping a Hero
While on patrol in Afghanistan searching for a terrorist bomb-making operation, Sgt. Drew Mullee saw the colored wires lying on the ground and knew an I.E.D. (Improvised Explosive Device) was nearby. Before he could find it with his metal detector, an explosion knocked him through the air, resulting in a traumatic brain injury, the loss of a leg, and other wounds.
Sgt. Mullee would have died if his determination to return to his wife Jennifer and their unborn child hadn’t prompted him to call for a medic. During a painful and challenging year-and-a-half long rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Sgt. Mullee learned how to walk, eat, and simply live again. Happily, he also witnessed the birth of his son, Easton.
To help Sgt. Mullee and his family adjust to their new situation, The Patriot Charities and HelpingAHero.org joined forces to build them a home in Kannapolis, North Carolina, specially designed for wheelchair access and mobility. The Mullees received the keys to the house on June 5, 2014, and are profoundly grateful for the love and support they’ve been given.
Many were wounded and fell. (1 Maccabees 9:40)
Bless and guide all wounded warriors, Prince of Peace.
Opening Your Heart to Adoption
Christina Beahan was born Maria Clara Mora in Medellin, Colombia, to a poor maid who was unable to raise her. As a result, her birth mother brought her to an orphanage run by nuns who cared for her for 14 months, until the Beahan family from Grand Rapids, Michigan, arranged to adopt her in 1983.
Knowing she was adopted never bothered Christina, who revealed on Christopher Closeup that she is grateful for the beautiful sacrifice her birth mother made in giving her the opportunity of life with a loving Catholic family.
Christina now gives talks on behalf of the Birthline Lifeline Ministry in the Diocese of Palm Beach, Florida, and advocates for adoption. Her message to anyone going through an unplanned pregnancy: “The child is a blessing, whether you planned it or not. It’s either a blessing for you, or it’s a blessing for somebody else. There’s always somebody out there who is looking to adopt, that wants children to love. Open your heart up for this child or open your heart enough to give the baby up for adoption.”
Whoever welcomes one such child in My name welcomes Me. (Mark 9:37)
Help our culture be more open to adoption, Father.
Career Advice: Be a People Person
Career expert Roberta Roesch suggests these pointers for developing a top job asset: consideration for others:
■ Go out of your way to extra things for people. Offer them a helping hand, even if you don’t have to.
■ Be attentive to people both on the phone and in the office. Listen to what they have to say.
■ Keep your cool instead of getting hot under the collar. Let people explain actions that ordinarily make you bristle.
■ Show people you care what happens to them and to their families. Offer support in every way possible.
Love for people is so basic that reminders would hardly seem necessary. Only, the theory doesn’t fit the facts. From Moses through the prophets to Jesus, the same message keeps ringing out: Love your neighbor as yourself. One day, enough of us will try it. Wouldn’t you like to be there when it happens?
The whole law is summed up in a single commandment,
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)
Keep after us, Father, until we begin to act on the twofold commandment: love of You and of others.
Since 1998, Chris Vogt has been serving a 48-year prison sentence in Colorado’s Sterling Correctional Facility for second-degree murder. He’s been using that time to make some kind of cosmic amends by taking part in a program called Colorado Cell Dogs, which trains abandoned canines to work with the blind and deaf. Vogt’s focus, however, is a little different.
As reported by ABC News, “Vogt read all he could about autism, and came up with unique training techniques for service dogs—aimed at helping autistic children overcome behavioral and emotional issues.” Zachary Tucker, age nine, used to have anxiety so bad that he often couldn’t function and he refused to be touched. Desperate for help, the Tucker family started traveling 200 miles to work with Vogt and his new dog, Clyde.
Clyde learned to “nudge” Zachary whenever he sensed the boy’s anxiety building, and so far the approach has worked wonders. It’s worked wonders for Vogt as well. He says, “When Zach and the other kids work with me, they don’t see the murderer. This has given me a chance to do something better.”
He sent redemption to His people. (Psalm 111:9)
Help those in prison pursue righteousness, Redeemer.
Kelsey Grammer Forgives His Sister’s Killer
Actor Kelsey Grammer is best-known for his comedic role as Frasier Crane on the TV series Cheers and Frasier. But the actor also has a troubled past including multiple marriages and drug abuse. In light of the tragedies in Grammer’s life (the murder of his sister, the shooting death of his father), perhaps it’s not surprising that he went off the rails at times. Yet a recent act of mercy displayed an enormous sense of character.
Via videoconference, the actor took part in a 2014 parole hearing for Freddie Glenn, who murdered Grammer’s sister Karen in 1975. Glenn repeatedly expressed remorse for his crime—and it struck Grammer as genuine.
He told Glenn, “You could not have come to a better person in the world than me to advocate for someone who has made some bad choices. I accept your apology. I forgive you.”
Though Grammer wouldn’t support parole, he chose to free himself from the burden of anger and hatred—and to spiritually free Glenn from his own past.
Then the Lord said, “I do forgive, just as you have asked.” (Numbers 14:20)
Help me forgive both small and large grievances, Lord.
Change Begins with a Whisper
When 15-year-old Nathalie Traller discovered that only four cents of every dollar given to the National Cancer Institute goes to children’s research, she felt “shocked and angry.”
That shortcoming hit home because Traller herself is suffering from ASPS, a rare cancer that doesn’t respond well to traditional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. Now the teen is trying to change the medical and pharmaceutical systems to give kids like her the chance of a brighter future.
On her blog, she reveals that she’s been denied use of a promising drug for her type of cancer because she’s not within the age range for which the clinical trial is being run. “When it comes to children’s lives,” Traller writes, “I believe they should be allowed access to the few treatments available to them.”
“We’re fighting against a faulty system of clinical trials that needs to be rethought and adjusted,” Traller concludes. And though she’s just one small voice, she’s determined to make a difference. “After all,” she says, “change begins with a whisper.”
Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
Lord, guide us toward being agents of positive change.
Choosing Your Coffee Cup
A group of successful alumni got together to visit one of their favorite university professors. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life. Offering his guests coffee, the professor put out a large pot and an assortment of cups—some plain looking, some expensive. He told them to help themselves. When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said:
“If you noticed, all the expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it’s normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive.”
The professor continued, “Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have doesn’t define, nor change the quality of life we live. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us.”
Be content with what you have. (Hebrews 13:5)
Help me to look past life’s superficial elements, Creator.
The 99-Year-Old Altar Boy
You could say that Melvin Harris became an altar boy a little late in life. Actually, he was 97, which makes it a “lot late” in life. Still, it wasn’t too late because he is now a vital part of three parish communities in the Columbus, Ohio area.
Harris was raised Baptist, but found himself impressed by the masses he saw when he worked his childhood job of delivering newspapers at St. Anthony Hospital. With the influence of a Catholic neighbor, he converted at age 12.
As reported by The Columbus Dispatch, Harris only became an altar server two years ago when his elderly sister couldn’t handle it anymore. Rev. Joshua Wagner, pastor of three local parishes, relies on the 99-year-old to serve his weekday and weekend masses. He said, “[Melvin] is one of the happiest people I have ever met. We’ve talked about some of the crises in his life, and I know it’s his faith that has gotten him through.”
Harris himself remains grounded in God’s love. He said, “I believe if God made me, God has to love me because I’m part of His making.”
Gray hair is a crown of glory. (Proverbs 16:31)
May I always have opportunities to serve You, Father.
A Prayer for All Souls Day
Father Jonathan Morris of The Christophers shared the following All Souls Day prayer on his Facebook page:
“Lord God, You established creation and said, ‘It is good.’ And while we know death is a part of our reality and a part of our lives, we know that Christ has conquered death through His suffering, death and glorious resurrection.
“We pause this day to remember those who have passed on.
Grant them, Lord, Your rest and Your presence. Please remember (name). May this person be counted as one of Your saints and be raised to a new life when Jesus comes again.
“We also remember those in mourning, especially those who have recently lost a friend, family member or loved one.
Grant these Your peace and comfort that can only come from the loving and holy hand of Jesus.
“Finally, we pray that, at the hour of our own death, that You, Lord, will be with us and take us home to be with You, so that we may dwell in Your glory forever. Amen.”
I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in Me, even though they die, will live. (John 11:25)
May my loved ones rest in Your peace, Merciful Savior.
The Lights of Nightfever
On All Saints Day 2013, volunteers stood outside New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral holding unlit candles and asking passersby, “Would you like to light a candle in the cathedral?” Some 1,500 people took them up on their offer.
As reported by Juliann DosSantos in Catholic New York, the event, called Nightfever, originated in Germany. Mario Bruschi, director of St. Patrick’s Cathedral’s young adult group, said, “We are doing all this for that one soul to come back to God.” Father Bob Bubel, the young adult group’s spiritual director, added, “Everyone has a desire to worship God, to love God, but in most cases they don’t know how or what to do. We provided them a way to satisfy that longing within their heart.”
Eva Greitemann, a volunteer who traveled from Germany to Manhattan for Nightfever, wants to help others discover God’s love. She notes that people left the cathedral looking more peaceful and happy than when they entered. “I know that it’s not from a materialistic thing,” she observed, “but because they have been in the divine presence of God.”
My soul is consumed with longing. (Psalm 119:20)
May I seek You when I feel lost, Savior.
Flood the Path with Light
All of us go through times of hardship and suffering, times when God is difficult to see. Even the saints endured those kinds of experiences. In response, St. Augustine composed a timeless prayer that can also help you find light in times of darkness.
He wrote, “God of our life, there are days when the burdens we carry chafe our shoulders and weigh us down; when the road seems dreary and endless, the skies gray and threatening; when our lives have no music in them, and our hearts are lonely, and our souls have lost their courage.
“Flood the path with light, run our eyes to where the skies are full of promise; tune our hearts to brave music; give us the sense of comradeship with heroes and saints of every age; and so quicken our spirits that we may be able to encourage the souls of all who journey with us on the road of life, to Your honor and glory.”
Let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
Give us the strength, wisdom and grace, Divine Comforter, to face life’s challenges and remain focused on You.
Who Will be the First to Love?
As a member of the Focolare movement, which tries to create unity among people of different nations and religions, Lenny Szczesniak often put love into action in his work as an advertising executive at Good Housekeeping magazine—and also at home with his wife and nine children.
At Szczesniak’s funeral, his children recalled what they learned from his approach to life. They said, “In our house, ‘love’ had nothing to do with fairy-tale princesses. Love was something you did. We fought and bickered like most siblings would, but our dad did not scold or punish us. Instead, he would challenge us: ‘Who will be the first to love?’ This tactic sometimes led to a battle of wills, but in the end we understood the message: in our house, loving one another was our primary responsibility. It came before anything else.
“In our father’s life, it always did. As he would tell us, ‘You don’t have to like everyone, but you do have to love them.’ This lesson, that love is an action, was one of Dad’s greatest gifts to us.”
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet. (Psalm 85:10)
Help me to love all people, Lord—even those I don’t like.
Respect is something we gain for ourselves the more we give it to other people. The word comes from the Latin root “respicere,” which means “to look upon.” And we define respect as “to consider worthy of esteem; to value.”
If we look at others as persons created in God’s holy image, we are more likely to treat them with the consideration to which all human beings have a right.
This, of course, is a large order. It implies a refusal to lump people together in an unfavorable stereotype. And it requires that we make solid efforts to see through appearances to the real person beneath.
A resurgence of respect—both for ourselves and for other people—could work wonders in transforming many problems in our troubled world into opportunities. Take some time today to really look at each man, woman, and child you meet. See them as coming from the hand of God: honor them for what they are or can be. Respect their freedom as God respects yours.
He endowed them with strength like His own, and made them in His own image. (Sirach 17:3)
Increase my sensitivity to my fellow man, Creator.
Band of Mercy
We don’t want your kind here. That was the examiner’s message to Angieleca Hayahay, who was taking a test that would allow her to work at a call center in her homeland of the Philippines. What was the problem?
Hayahay was born with a cleft lip and palate, which she had surgically repaired as a child through the Philippine Band of Mercy program. Her facial deformity remained slightly noticeable, though, so she faced discrimination growing up—and now again as she neared adulthood. The call center had a policy which barred anyone with cleft from being hired.
Despite the roadblocks, Hayahay would not be denied a bright future. She became a registered nurse in 2009, and now works with Philippine Band of Mercy (which has become affiliated with the nonprofit Smile Train), offering hope and help to children suffering with cleft—and providing witness that life can get better.
For we are what He has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
May I never reject anyone based on their appearance, Lord.
The Weight of a Glass of Water
A psychologist walked around a room while teaching Stress Management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half-empty or half-full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired, “How heavy is this glass of water?”
Answers called out ranged from 8 ounces to 20 ounces. She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn't change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.
She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. Think about them all day long, and you will feel paralyzed and incapable of doing anything. Remember to put the glass down.”
My yolk is easy, and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:30)
Thank You for helping me bear my burdens, Jesus.
You Should Think About Being a Doctor
Sometimes, an unexpected word of encouragement or gesture of kindness can have a major impact on someone’s life. That was the case with Dr. Kevin Hunt from Chicago, who wouldn’t have even entered the medical field if not for the advice and support of other people.
During an interview on Christopher Closeup, he recalled with heartfelt emotion a formative experience from his youth: “I started working as a nurse’s aide many years ago and, at that time, I wasn’t considering going into the medical field. I was just working a side job while going to school. I used to work the night shift in the cancer ward, so I talked to the patients. They’d always say to me, ‘You should think about being a doctor.’”
Dr. Hunt continued, “Then one patient told me, ‘If you get into medical school, I’ll pay for a semester of school.’ She was a terminal, dying patient. I got into medical school right before she died. And she actually sent me the check for my first semester. So it was really inspiring to me.”
You guide me with Your counsel. (Psalm 73:24)
Holy Spirit, guide me in being a light to those I meet, to help them fulfill their God-given potential.
‘Your Life Will Not Go Unnoticed’
“Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness.” Writing in Venture magazine,Katie Marchetti recalls that line from an unnamed movie because it reflects the human desire to know that our lives are meaningful in someone else’s eyes.
Marchetti writes, “To hold the knowledge that someone is watching your life, that you are not below their notice, that the littlest details of your existence have not escaped them…this fills a part of you, which happily overflows into your whole being.”
As good as it feels when we find someone who affirms us, Marchetti concludes that we also need the comfort of knowing a higher power is watching over us too: “We upturn our faces to soak up the sunshine pouring out from the heavens, and we feel seen. We feel loved. We have the knowledge that God is watching our lives, that we are not below His notice. That the littlest details of our existence have not escaped Him. That He has mulled over our hearts when we were not looking.”
When he sees you his heart will be glad. (Exodus 4:14)
Holy Spirit, help me to know that I’m loved and I matter.
A 24-Carrot Ring
During some heavy duty pre-Christmas baking in 1995, Lena Pahlsson put her wedding ring on the kitchen counter, only to discover later that it had disappeared. She and her husband Ola searched everywhere around their house and property in central Sweden, but they never found it—until 2011, that is.
While Lena was collecting carrots from the family vegetable patch in October, she pulled up a tiny carrot that she was going to throw away because it was so small. Then she noticed something unusual that seemed to be growing at the bottom of the carrot. Yes, it was her wedding ring, made of white gold and seven small diamonds, looking very good after all those years in the dirt. So how did it get there? Theories abound.
The Pahlssons told the newspaper The Local that it might have fallen into their compost bin, been spread over the vegetable patch, and just taken all these years to finally latch on to a sprouting seed. Regardless, they’re happy the ring is safe.
Life is full of mysteries. Accept them and trust in God.
Your God is…a revealer of mysteries. (Daniel 2:47)
Help me to appreciate—and sometimes laugh at—life’s unexpected joys, Divine Creator.
We Care Bears
When Bob and Kathleen Carscadden of San Diego adopted their daughter Jessica at age five, they showered her with lots of love—and even some stuffed animals. The child, who had been abandoned at birth because of facial deformities, found comfort in her teddy bears and cherished their presence in her life.
Now age 11, Jessica is paying forward the kindness she received. As reported by USA Weekend, she was cleaning her room one day and decided to donate some of her stuffed animals to kids in need. That idea became the We Care Bears Project, which invites other kids (and adults) to donate as well.
On October 23rd, 2013—the 23rd Make a Difference Day—Jessica “oversaw donations of about 3,000 stuffed bears for police and firefighters to give to injured or frightened children while on emergency calls.” Sixty volunteers [most of them children] filled about 580 bags with bears, providing every police car in San Diego with stuffed animals to offer comfort to children during scary times.
Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:4)
Guide the hearts of children in acts of service, Holy Spirit.
From Beauty to Joy
“On Easter Sunday, April 4, 1999, Pope John Paul II wrote an open letter to all artists—both Christian and secular—reminding them of their vocation to Beauty. He urged them not to waste their artistic talent but to develop it, and to put it at the service of humanity as an authentic vehicle of culture.”
Those words were written by the students of John Paul the Great University in Escondido, California, who are pursuing careers in media and the arts. To celebrate the canonization of their school’s patron, they created a three-minute video that summarizes the late pope’s 6,000-word letter to artists.
Not every line is a direct quote, but the students highlight the heart of his message: “Society needs you artists. The world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair. Beauty, like truth, brings joy to the human heart.”
For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator. (Wisdom 13:5)
Holy Spirit, inspire our culture’s influencers to create stories that remind us of beauty and truth.
How Long Does It Take to Be Successful?
We may think of composers like Mozart or painters like Picasso as being masters of their craft—and they are! But they weren’t born that way; it took a lot of hard work. How much exactly? That’s what John Hayes, a cognitive psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University, set out to discover.
He researched the lives and work of 76 composers and how long it took them to produce their most enduring works.
In summing up Hayes’ research, entrepreneur James Clear wrote on his blog, “Not a single person produced incredible work without putting in a decade of practice first. Even a genius like Mozart had to work for at least 10 years before he produced something that became popular. Professor Hayes began to refer to this period, which was filled with hard work and little recognition, as the ‘ten years of silence.’” In addition, Hayes found that practice-time alone doesn’t make you the best, but rather, “deliberate practice” focused on specific goals is key.
Is there a craft or art form that you want to master? If so, start chipping away at those “ten years of silence.”
Do not hate hard labor. (Sirach 7:15)
Instill me with perseverance and determination, Creator.
As someone who achieved business success in the grocery industry—and philanthropic success through support of Catholic Charities, Wounded Warriors, and his own education foundation—Gary Chartrand wanted to share the lessons he’d learned in his life and career with others. That’s why he wrote a book called Unreasonable Leadership. Why that title?
During an interview on Christopher Closeup, he explained, “It’s based on the quote from George Bernard Shaw that all progress is made from unreasonable people because reasonable people adjust to their surroundings. Unreasonable people rebel against those surroundings and produce progress.”
How can the average person apply this concept to his or her life? Chartrand said, “My advice is—get out of your comfort zone. Happiness is found when you pierce through all those things that try to keep you in that reasonable, comfortable, safe place. If you move beyond your fear zone, you’ll discover things about yourself that you just didn’t think were possible.”
Receive a wreath for your excellent leadership. (Sirach 32:2)
Give me courage and wisdom to achieve progress, Lord.
The Fruit of His Love
“Let’s ask God to make us free from revenge and hatred, to give us freedom, which is the fruit of His love,” said Father Jerzy Popieluszko in one of his homilies. That message became especially relevant when Poland’s communist government had the beloved 37-year-old priest murdered in 1984 because he spoke out on behalf of freedom.
Father Jerzy’s call to action had always involved nonviolent resistance. Though his parishioners and Poland’s citizens felt enraged about his murder, they honored Father Jerzy’s life by refusing to engage in violence. A million people came to his funeral and remained peaceful.
Furthermore, says Paul Hensler, the filmmaker behind the Christopher Award-winning documentary Jerzy Popieluszko: Messenger of the Truth, the priest’s death galvanized the people of Poland in their resistance to communism, eventually leading to its downfall. Today, Father Jerzy’s legacy lives on. His tomb remains a sacred place for both citizens and tourists—and he is likely to be declared a saint within the next few years.
For freedom Christ has set us free. (Galatians 5:1)
Free my heart from hatred, Holy Spirit.
Messenger of the Truth
When Pope John Paul II visited Poland in 1979, he prayed to God, “Let Your Holy Spirit descend and renew the face of the earth and this land.” Those in the audience, including Father Jerzy Popieluszko, took that message to mean that it was time for the people of Poland to nonviolently resist their communist oppressors who controlled every aspect of their lives.
Thousands of workers in steel mills and shipyards went on strike demanding more freedom and better treatment. Father Jerzy even entered the steel mill, which had been considered a communist fortress, and celebrated Mass for the striking workers. Eventually, the Polish government relented and gave its citizens what they wanted.
Father Jerzy’s masses at Warsaw’s St. Stanislaus Kostka Church attracted thousands. His homilies included messages like, “Justice and the right to know the truth require us, from this pulpit, to repeatedly demand a limit on the tyranny of censorship.” Those homilies angered the communists, and they soon took action against the brave priest. More tomorrow.
Send out Your light and Your truth. (Psalm 43:3)
Grant us the grace to accept Your truth in our hearts, Lord.
A Priest Defiant
No praying out loud, no Mass, no rosaries, no group prayers. Those were the Polish Army’s rules under the communist regime in the 1970s when a young Catholic seminarian named Jerzy Popieluszko was forced to complete his military service. Though the government tried to break the spirits of these future priests so they would give up their vocations and their faith, the atheist indoctrination didn’t work on Father Jerzy.
When his sergeant ordered him to stop praying the rosary while doing calisthenics, he refused and was punished by being made to stand outside in the rain and snow, sometimes barefoot, thereby damaging his health for the rest of his life.
“They couldn’t dent his faith. That’s the most remarkable thing about him,” said Paul Hensler, who wrote and produced the Christopher Award-winning documentary Jerzy Popieluszko: Messenger of the Truth. In fact, Father Jerzy went on to become a Polish human rights hero. More of his story tomorrow.
With their mouths the godless would destroy their neighbors, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered. (Proverbs 11:9)
Grant me the courage and wisdom to defend my faith, Lord.
Actor Sees Coach as Model of Christ
Early in his career, Jim Caviezel met veteran actor Jimmy Stewart, who gave him a piece of advice: “Young man, whatever you do, make good movies.” And what qualifies as a good movie to Caviezel? During a Christopher Closeup interview, he said, “A story that has redemption to it, a story that has real love.”
Those qualities are the reasons that Caviezel chose to play high school football coach Bob Ladouceur in the film When the Game Stands Tall. Ladouceur led his team—Concord, California’s De La Salle Spartans—on a 151 game winning streak. But he didn’t do it by obsessing about winning. Instead, he was intent on building young men of character and virtue— and on modeling those traits himself.
Caviezel explained, “Why aren’t more coaches like that? It’s the worst three-letter word ever: Ego. Edge God Out. When you look at the Christian life, many people go out and claim one thing, but they do another. So authenticity is very important because there was no one more authentic than Christ. Ladouceur takes that seriously. He really follows the Savior.”
Strive first for the kingdom of God. (Matthew 6:33)
Help me to model the principles I preach, Savior.
A Gift of Time
In 1999, halfway through their third pregnancy, Amy Kuebelbeck and her husband learned that their unborn son, who they named Gabriel, had an incurable heart condition and wouldn’t live long if he was carried to term.
Committed to their son’s life from conception to natural death, they didn’t find much support except from one nurse who told them they could still love and parent Gabriel, even if it was just for a brief period. Kuebelbeck took that advice to heart.
Though Gabriel lived for only two-and-a-half hours, his family found moments of beauty and peace in the otherwise heartbreaking experience. Since then, Kuebelbeck has reached out to others facing similar diagnoses through the books Waiting with Gabriel and A Gift of Time. She also edits the website PerinatalHospice.org, which offers locations of hospice and palliative care programs in every state that has one. She says, “It’s wonderful that caregivers are responding to this need and stepping up to light a candle in the darkness for these families.”
My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to Your word. (Psalm 119:28)
Comfort the hearts of those who’ve lost children, Creator.
Appreciating Our Elders
“Make sure that what you do elevates or encourages, and doesn’t tear down.” Martha Williamson was given that advice by her father when she told him she wanted to become a TV producer and writer. She took those words to heart when working on her shows Touched by an Angel and her new Hallmark Channel series Signed, Sealed, Delivered about postal workers who track down the recipients of long-lost mail.
Williamson incorporates her father’s virtues into her stories whenever possible. She notes that he was born in 1901, always remained a gentleman, and conveyed a lot of wisdom to her. She thought of him when writing a recent storyline about a young postal worker who befriends a lonely, elderly woman at a retirement home. The goal was to share a message about how we as a society treat our elders.
Williamson said on Christopher Closeup, “Because my father was so much older, I not only spent time with him as an elderly person, but with his friends. The greatest mistake we can make is to discount the power of what those folks have to offer.”
Do not ignore the discourse of the aged. (Sirach 8:9)
Inspire us to learn from our elders, Divine Teacher.
A Brother’s Love
Eight-year-old Noah Aldrich is crazy about his six-year-old brother, Lucas. “I like everything about him, he’s perfect,” Noah says. “He’s just like every other kid out there.”
In one respect, however, Lucas is different from other children; he was born with a rare genetic condition called lissencephaly. “They said he’d be non-verbal…not be able to eat, and have a shortened life span,” his mother Alissa told KTVB. “He’s doing way better than we ever expected.”
Lucas’s overall health is in no small part due to the unfailing love of his older brother. Thanks to Noah, Lucas was even able to take part in a mini-triathlon in their Boise, Idaho, community, sponsored by the YMCA. It included a one-mile run, a three-mile bike ride and a 200-meter swim. Noah tirelessly pushed or pulled his wheelchair-bound brother in all three races. The two boys finished the triathlon in just under 54 minutes.
“They definitely have a special bond, the two of them,” their father Brian concluded. “It just brings a smile to your face.”
Encourage…and build up each other. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Abba, strengthen the bonds between families.
Paying Respects to a Hero
Members of a college basketball team from Wisconsin were so amazed at the heroism of a nine-year-old boy who lost his life in a fire in upstate New York that they undertook an eight-hour bus trip to attend his funeral—and moved the boy’s family to tears. Tyler Doohan, a fourth-grader, was asleep when fire broke out in his grandfather’s home near Rochester, New York. After saving six people he went back into the blaze to attempt to rescue two others, and succumbed to the flames.
The team at Silver Lake College in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, (sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity), inspired by Tyler’s heroism, attended the funeral with the family’s approval, and met the boy’s mother and father.
“How did it make you feel to put a smile for a few minutes on the faces of a family going through the worst day of their lives?” asked Coach Phil Budervik on the ride back. “One of the players said, ‘It was the best feeling in the world to do that.’ That’s when I knew we had done the absolute right thing. We helped a family and paid our respects to a true hero.”
When will you comfort me? (Psalm 119:82)
Heal the hearts of the suffering, Divine Savior.
The Most Beautiful People
Psychiatrist and author Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was known for her book On Death and Dying and for developing the five stages of grief. But she also offered many insights about living, not just dying. Here are just a few:
■ “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
■ “There is within each one of us a potential for goodness beyond our imagining; for giving which seeks no reward; for listening without judgment; for loving unconditionally.”
■ “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”
It is You who light my lamp; the Lord, my God, lights up my darkness. (Psalm 18:28)
Father, take my struggles and brokenness, and make me a more compassionate, holy person.
Help, Teach, Love
The third-place winner in The Christophers’ 24th Annual Poster Contest for High School Students was Payton Hale, a senior at Briar Woods High School in Ashburn, Virginia. The poster presented three different snapshots featuring Hale herself using American Sign Language (ASL) to teach a child how to sign three different words: help, teach, and love.
We also received a letter from Hale’s proud grandmother telling us the backstory of her interest in ASL. She wrote, “Payton has been studying ASL since she was a third-grader, and has decided to study this as her college major so that she can help others to come out of the silence. When Payton’s dad was transferred to Virginia while she was in middle school, her first friend was a young lady whose mother was deaf. Payton was the only one of this friend’s friends who could converse with her mom. This summer she will be helping a deaf student with Down syndrome from another high school in Virginia.”
We applaud Payton Hale not just for her winning poster, but for her compassionate and loving heart.
A friend loves at all times. (Proverbs 17:17)
Guide me in being a friend to the lonely, Divine Healer.
Salvation from the Storm
Hurricane Sandy is long gone from the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, but the aftereffects of the storm linger on and many of its victims are still far from a normal life, a fact reinforced by a message from the Salvation Army.
That venerable organization not only provided immediate care to victims with feeding, warming and changing stations, but followed it up with casework and Emergency Assistance Centers. In the summer and fall of 2013, as the first anniversary of Sandy approached, the Salvation Army moved into a new phase of the recovery effort, stationing case managers across New Jersey to those hardest hit by the October storm.
Brenda Beavers, director of human services, pointed to the importance of personal counseling, opportunities to socialize, and respite camp sessions that are all part of the continuing effort to help the victims of Sandy—and let them know they’re not forgotten. “These special events show that The Salvation Army is what communities need it to be,” she said.
In the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by. (Psalm 57:1)
Heal those hurt by life’s storms, Compassionate God.
Enjoy the Noise
“Hurry!” Matt Archbold told his wife and five kids. “We’ve got to get on the road so we can sit in traffic.”
And sit in traffic they did during the family’s road trip to Boston. To test Archbold’s patience even more, the kids spent most of the ride noisily arguing, laughing, and yelling at each other while playing a game called Robot Apocalypse.
After finally arriving in Boston, the family did some sightseeing and Archbold found himself engaged in conversation with an elderly man who saw his abundance of kids. “My wife and I had seven,” he told Archbold. “Enjoy them. Treasure every moment. It used to be I couldn’t wait until I had some quiet in the house. And now quiet’s all I got. I miss the noise.”
That observation left an impression on Archbold. He wrote, “The next day the kids, my wife, and I got back into the van to go home. We took our time, sang, giggled, and snorted the whole way…It was a great long trip. When I parked the van in our driveway, I sat a moment and thanked God for the noise.”
O that I were as in the months of old…when my children were around me. (Job 29:2,5)
Help me appreciate the blessings of family, Father.
Tim Conway Finds a Friend in Jesus
During his high school years, comedian Tim Conway suffered a back injury during a football game that left him unable to talk or move. When he couldn’t stand up, his team members carried him off the field. A doctor took an X-ray, found nothing broken, and put him in a neck brace for a few weeks.
Many years later, Conway visited a doctor due to back spasms. As he writes in his memoir What’s So Funny, he was shocked when the doctor told him his “spasms were a residual effect stemming from a broken vertebra.” Conway insisted he’d never broken a vertebra, then recalled the football incident.
The doctor explained that he’d likely broken his vertebra, but when his teammates picked him up, his back got stretched out and the vertebra went back into place. If Conway hadn’t been moved, he may have been permanently disabled.
That was a watershed moment for Conway, spiritually speaking. He writes, “Ever since that incident on the football field, which might have altered the course of my life, Jesus and I have stayed in constant touch. I never stop saying thank you.”
Give thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Thank You for the times You’ve helped me, Lord, without me knowing it.
Why Did Lincoln Grow a Beard?
A letter from an 11-year-old girl may have inspired Abraham Lincoln to grow a beard as a help to his presidential campaign efforts.
Grace Bedell of Westfield, New York, wrote to candidate Lincoln suggesting that “all the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.” She added, “You would look a great deal better for your face is so thin.”
Often, hidden motives can influence our choice for those we elect to lead us. The nation was fortunate in having chosen Lincoln to steer it through the dark years of the Civil War—however much his beard may have influenced the voting.
A better way to select a President or other candidates for public office is to weigh carefully their records, their stands on issues confronting the nation, and their plans to address those issues.
Choose for each of your tribes individuals who are wise, discerning, and reputable to be your leaders. (Deuteronomy 1:13)
Help my actions, Holy Spirit, to flow from a deep concern for the nation and the world.
A Few Special Needs Sprinkled Here and There
Sarah, a stay-at-home mom and blogger at Wifeytini.com, wants to change the way our culture discusses disability. The reason? An ultrasound during her pregnancy revealed that her son Henry had the birth defect spina bifida, which results in physical challenges like clubbed feet and mobility issues.
Sarah writes, “We were advised to terminate, by more than one person, seemingly because a life with spina bifida is so terrible that it’s better to not live it at all. Can you comprehend that? There is such a disconnect between the beautiful children I see who happen to have a disability, and the sorry, deformed, faceless nobodies that our culture makes them out to be. And the disconnect didn’t hit me until right after Henry was born.”
Though Henry has lots of doctor appointments, Sarah describes the 14-month-old as an “absolute joy” with “a few special needs sprinkled here and there.” She concludes, “People with disabilities…are endowed by our Creator with human dignity. Yes, we should keep them. We should cherish them. We should change the way we think and talk about them.”
My life was precious in your sight. (1 Samuel 26:21)
Help us to see the dignity of all Your children, Father.
Shine Through Me
If you want God’s light to shine through you, consider saying the following prayer by Cardinal John Henry Newman:
“Dear Lord, help me to spread Your fragrance wherever I go. Flood my soul with Your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Yours. Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul.
“Let them look up and see no longer me, but only You, O Lord! Stay with me, then I shall begin to shine as you; so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Lord, will be all from You; none of it will be mine; it will be You shining on others through me.
“Let me thus praise You in the way You love best, by shining on those around me. Let me preach You without preaching, not by words but by my example, by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You. Amen.”
Restore us, O God of hosts; let Your face shine, that we may be saved. (Psalm 80:7)
Holy Spirit, make me a reflection of God’s goodness.
The Most Challenging Job
Patheos.com blogger Billy Kangas spent one summer several years ago working as a hospital chaplain. He called it one of the most challenging jobs of his life because “chaplains are asked to escort people through death, and failure, and sorrow beyond words.”
Kangas notes that the two things he did most frequently were hold people’s hands and recite the Lord’s prayer. Why did those two actions bring comfort?
He explains, “Holding someone’s hand is like a little sacrament. It is an act of incarnational communion, filled with the mystery that each person is an icon of God. The Lord’s prayer is the liturgy of the word in miniature…It is the invitation and the commission into the Kingdom of God. It joins our words with Christ and his body. It is powerful.”
If you’re ever called on to help a troubled soul, consider those two simple actions—holding a hand and saying the Our Father. They will make you a vessel of God’s love.
Give us this day our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11)
Lord of Hope, may I give witness to Your love to all those around me.
Doing It All for Love
Sometimes the most profound wisdom is the simplest. Consider these quotes by St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
■ “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”
■ “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”
■ “I know now that true charity consists in bearing all our neighbors’ defects—not being surprised at their weakness, but edified at their smallest virtues.”
■ “If I did not simply live from one moment to another, it would be impossible for me to be patient, but I only look at the present, I forget the past, and I take good care not to forestall the future.”
■ “Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing.”
■ “A word or a smile is often enough to put fresh life in a despondent soul.”
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace. (Galatians 5:22)
May my faith in You inspire loving actions, Lord.
And Justice for All
“Catholic Social Teaching” is a term often used in conversation, but few people know the ins and outs of what it entails. Here are the basics, as summed up into seven themes by The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis:
■ Life and dignity of the human person...because every human person is created in the image and likeness of God.
■ Call to family, community and participation...because every human is not only sacred, but social.
■ Solidarity...because we are one human family.
■ Dignity of work...because the economy must serve people, not the other way around.
■ Rights and responsibilities...because we have a fundamental right to life with decency, and with regard for others’ rights.
■ Option for the poor and vulnerable...because we follow the teaching of Scripture.
■ Care for God’s creation...because the world that God made has been entrusted to all of us.
Be careful then how you live. (Ephesians 5:15)
I pray to treat others with a loving heart, Father.
The Komosa Phenomenon
In 1999, 17-year-old Rob Komosa was running practice drills on his high school football field in Rolling Springs, Illinois, when he broke his neck.
Though he’d always believed that God had a plan for every person, that concept now seemed empty and incomprehensible in light of his lifelong paralysis and reliance on a ventilator to breathe. But as documented by Dr. Don Grossnickle in the book Unbreakable Resilience, the love of his family and community started moving Komosa past his understandable self-pity.
First, a wheelchair accessible van was donated by a local businessman. Then, the Komosa family was able to buy a home retrofitted for someone in Rob’s condition with money raised by volunteers through car washes, collection jars, and dinners. Dr. Grossnickle writes, “The Chicago media [called] the fruitful community-wide rally the ‘Komosa Phenomenon.’”
Komosa now counsels other paralyzed athletes and relies on role models, friends and optimism to move forward in life.
We are God’s servants, working together. (1 Corinthians 3:9)
Nurture the spirits of people struggling with disability, Lord.
Worry is Like Sand in a Machine
“There are very few things as destructive to our mental health as worry. Worry is like sand in a machine. It not only hinders the working of the machine, but damages it as well.”
So writes Msgr. Charles Pope from the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. He believes we can find an antidote to worry in St. Paul’s words from Philippians 4: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition … present your requests to God.”
Msgr. Pope believes that St. Paul is reminding us “that the power of God is only a prayer away…He may not always come when you want, or handle things exactly the way you want, but when I look back over my life and think things over I can truly say that God has made a way for me. And whatever my struggles and disappointments, none of them has ever destroyed me. If anything, they have strengthened me.”
Along with prayer, Msgr. Pope recommends cultivating a sense of God’s presence in your life: “Ponder deeply how He has delivered you in the past, how He has made a way out of no way, and how He has drawn straight with crooked lines.”
Rejoice in the Lord always. (Philippians 4:4)
When worry overwhelms me, Lord, send me Your peace.
A Higher Call
In December 1943, Second Lieutenant Charlie Brown of the U.S. Air Force flew a badly damaged bomber over the war-torn skies of World War II Germany. With half his crew either dead or wounded and the heavily fortified German coastline ahead, Brown guided his plane toward England rather than ordering a parachute drop because he knew that one of his injured men couldn’t make the jump.
Suddenly, fighter pilot Franz Stigler of the German Luftwaffe pulled up alongside them. Brown and his crew were certain they would be shot down. But Stigler, a Catholic who opposed Hitler, adhered to the code of chivalry common among German flyers before the Fuhrer’s rule. He saw the plane was crippled, and flew in formation on its wing to protect it from being fired upon as it passed over the coastline.
Years later, Brown tracked down Stigler and gathered with other surviving crew members from that mission. They wept in gratitude over the families that now exist because Franz Stigler chose honor and mercy that day.
Love your enemies. (Matthew 5:44)
Lord, help us to practice mercy in difficult situations.
The Lawyer Who Might Have Been
When a 29-year-old Florida bandit went on trial for a bank robbery, he told his lawyer to sit down because he wanted to conduct his own defense. It didn’t work out too well, so the defendant was sentenced to prison. But the U.S. District Judge who presided over the case told him:
“You know as much as most of these lawyers. You make a pretty good closing argument, and you cross-examined witnesses very well. You should have studied law. You might have made a real good lawyer instead of a robber.”
Most, if not all, lawbreakers have potential for good that could make them assets to society instead of liabilities. What we may fail to realize is that all of us, each time we act against the best interests of others, could have used our abilities in a constructive way. Instead of pointing a finger at others, we should ask God to help us see ourselves as we really are so we can become the individuals that He created us to be.
Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
Grant us the wisdom and courage to know ourselves, Lord, and to act upon that knowledge.
Writing to Your Congressman
A lesson on how to write to a congressman was given by a member of the House of Representatives. Here are some of his recommendations:
■ Address the letter correctly.
■ Make it clear which of the thousands of bills introduced each year that you’re referring to. At least describe it if you don’t know its official number.
■ Be brief, even about complex subjects.
■ Give your own views; specify what prompts your stand on a specific piece of legislation.
■ Avoid threats.
Elected leaders depend on feedback from their constituents to guide their votes on crucial issues. Exercise your God-given right to let the person who represents you hear your voice about the running of our country.
The mind of the wise makes their speech judicious, and adds persuasiveness to their lips. (Proverbs 16:23)
Father, never let me forget that good government is my responsibility as much as it is anybody’s.
If Albert Einstein were on the chess team at Brooklyn’s I.S. 318 junior high, he would only be the fourth best player, outranked by several 11-to-13 year olds. That’s because the students there defy society’s low expectations for children who come from below-the-poverty-line families.
The Christopher Award-winning TV documentary POV: Brooklyn Castle takes us inside the school’s remarkable chess program run by a teacher and administrator with an infectious passion for the game. We also meet the young people who pursue chess mastery and academic excellence while struggling with anxiety, peer pressure, and even budget cuts that threaten their beloved program.
By depicting public education at its best—along with young people determined to build a brighter future for themselves and their families—POV: Brooklyn Castle demonstrates that extracurricular programs can be at the heart of students’ future success.
O simple ones, learn prudence; acquire intelligence, you who lack it. (Proverbs 8:5)
Help us appreciate the gift of education, Divine Teacher.
An Anti-Semite’s Shocking Revelation
Notorious for his fierce and outspoken anti-Semitism, Hungarian politician Csanad Szegedi served in the European Parliament beginning in 2009 and accused Jews of trying to take over Hungary. However, in 2012, he resigned his post after his maternal grandmother revealed a shocking fact: she was both Jewish and a Holocaust survivor.
Szegedi claims the news upended his life and worldview. He told NPR, “For 30 years I lived a harmful, aggressive and radical life with extreme views. Now I’m taking the time to reconsider my life and my expectations and where to go next.”
Szegedi soon contacted a Hungarian rabbi to help guide him in becoming an observant Jew. NPR reports that he now “calls himself Dovid, wears a black skull cap, regularly attends synagogues, studies Hebrew and the Torah and keeps kosher.”
Remember, it’s never too late to turn your back on prejudice and hatred.
If the wicked turn away from all their sins…they shall surely live. (Ezekiel 18:21)
Lord, send Your redeeming grace to change the hearts of those mired in hatred.
Giving Hope to the Nation
The young girls who fled to St. Monica’s school in Gulu, Uganda, during that country’s civil war found a guardian angel in Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe. She and her fellow sisters welcomed these children, who had been victims of kidnapping, violence, and rape.
As reported by U.S. Catholic, the war ended in 2006, but Sister Rosemary knew career options for women were limited in Uganda. To deter the girls from choosing lives of begging or prostitution in order to support themselves and, in many cases, their babies, she taught them “sewing, cooking, catering, and other skills.” That training led many to jobs in Uganda’s top hotels. The girls at the school also earn money by making purses out of aluminum can pop tops, which sell well in the U.S.
Sister Rosemary says, “These girls need support, need education. That is why I took up the skills training, to let society [know] that these women are the greatest contributing factor to the economy of the country. They are giving hope to the nation.”
Let me not be put to shame in my hope. (Psalm 119:116)
Bring victims of war into Your loving embrace, Savior.
The death of her son Matthew, while he was serving as a Marine in Afghanistan in 2009, made Lisa Freeman especially sensitive to the needs of military families who have lost loved ones in war. While preserving memories can be comforting, she thought it would be helpful if they could hold onto something more tangible as well.
That’s why the Georgia mom created Matthew Bears. The Daily News reported, “Families of fallen service members send Freeman their loved ones’ uniforms and she uses the material to hand sew teddy bears.” It’s a labor of love for Freeman, who said, “I kind of pray over the uniforms while I’m going.”
Matthew Bears are an extension of The Matthew Freeman Project which Lisa founded to collect school supplies for children in war-torn countries, and to provide college scholarships to siblings of fallen soldiers. Lisa believes that Matthew would be proud of her work, saying, “He’s loving that something good is happening out of something so tragic.”
He has sent me…to bind up the brokenhearted. (Isaiah 61:1)
Savior, help us to endure the loss of loved ones.
Andy Griffith Finds Grace in Hardship
In 1983, actor Andy Griffith thought his life might be over. He couldn’t find work because of his age (he was in his 50s), and he was diagnosed with an inflammatory nerve disease called Guillain-Barré syndrome. With no cure or treatment, Griffith’s pain and partial paralysis became debilitating—until an old friend, psychiatrist Dr. Leonard Rosengarten, led him to California’s Northridge Hospital Medical Center.
Griffith wrote in Guideposts that everything changed when a doctor acknowledged the severity of his condition and promised to help him through it. Simply hearing those words brought the actor hope. With medication and mental imagery techniques, his life soon improved. He even went on to shoot a pilot for the TV series Matlock, which then ran for nine years.
And what did Griffith learn from all this? He said, “Each of us faces pain. But I firmly believe that in every situation, no matter how difficult, God extends grace greater than the hardship, and strength and peace of mind that can lead us to a place higher than where we were before.”
My grace is sufficient for you. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
When pain overwhelms me, Lord, send me Your grace.
Prepare to Win
Tom Coughlin, the coach who led the NFLs New York Giants to two Super Bowl wins, learned at an early age that preparation is the key to success. In his book Earn the Right to Win, he recalled a lesson that his father John taught him after young Tom gave a poor effort in a game.
Coughlin wrote, “During my sophomore year in high school, I played varsity football. When I came home on Saturday afternoon after we’d been beaten, he was waiting at the front door for me. It looked like he’d been standing there a while. All he said to me was, ‘If that’s the effort you’re going to give, you probably ought to find something else to do with your time.’ That was devastating for me to hear. His message was clear: If you’re going to do something, do it to the best of your ability—or don’t waste your time. It never happened again.”
Giving your best effort doesn’t guarantee success, but lack of effort usually guarantees failure. Give your best in all you do.
You must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge. (2 Peter 1:5)
Lord, make me untiring in developing my full potential.
When You Let the Pope Drive…
The website CatholicHumor.org recently shared the following joke. The pope flew to Chicago, and was picked up at the airport by a limousine. He admired the car and asked the driver, “I never get to drive anymore. Would you please let me?” The driver responded, “Okay, I can’t say no to the pope.”
The pope took the wheel, hit the gas, and started going 100 miles per hour. A policeman noticed, pulled him over, and asked the Pope to roll down the window. Startled and surprised at who was driving, the officer went back to his patrol car and called headquarters. “Chief,” he said, “I’ve got a problem. I pulled over this guy for driving way over the speed limit, but it's someone really important.”
“Important like the mayor or the governor?” the chief asked. The officer responded, “No, more important than that.”
“Important like the president?” asked the chief. “More important,” said the cop.
“Who's more important than the president?” wondered the chief. The officer answered, “I don’t know, but he’s got the pope driving for him!”
Abraham fell on his face and laughed. (Genesis 17:17)
Holy Spirit, instill me with a good sense of humor.
What All Teens Want
As she travels around the country performing at churches and teen events, Christian singer Tori Harris relishes her encounters with teens and the way they respond to her music both in person and through emails and Facebook posts.
During an interview on Christopher Closeup, she recalled a girl coming up to her after a performance and saying, “I was here for a guy because I thought he was cute, but I experienced something here that was real and powerful and I want to know more of what that is.”
In an age when more and more young people describe themselves as “nones,” as following no particular religion, getting them interested in Christianity is vital.
For Harris, there’s one common denominator: “What’s universal to all [teens] is the desire to be accepted and feel loved. When they have those two things, then they desire to search for what is true and what is right and what is wrong when it comes to their faith and when it comes to God.”
Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:11)
Help teens experience Your love, Divine Savior.
Low Expectations Lead to Determination
At Newark, New Jersey’s University Hospital, ER doctor Hugo Razo deals with traumas, gunshot wounds, and horrific injuries on a regular basis. Throughout everything, he remains calm and compassionate. Yet few people would have predicted that Dr. Razo would pursue this life-altering responsibility.
During an interview on the documentary TV series NY Med, he explained, “I was always told I’m not going to amount to anything. Just look at the town where I came from. Like pretty much every other Latin teenager, no one expected much. The most people expected of me was to work at McDonald’s or something of that nature. It’s almost like I wanted to show all those people that they were wrong.”
Dr. Razo relishes his ability to make a genuine difference in patients’ lives, and could easily be a role model for inner city youth who want to better themselves. His example teaches us that our struggles can become redemptive when we use them to build a life of service to others in need.
I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans…to give you a future with hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Don’t let other people’s negativity burden my heart, Lord.
The Boy on the Wooden Box
One of the books for young people honored at the 2014 Christopher Awards was the autobiography The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson.
Ten-year-old Leon’s life changed forever when the Nazis invaded his homeland of Poland in 1939, bringing deprivation, persecution and evil with them. Yet this powerful memoir is actually a story of hope thanks to Leon’s relationship with the man he describes as a “hero disguised as a monster.”
That hero was Oskar Schindler, the industrialist and member of the Nazi party who saved over 1,000 Jews by putting them to work in his enamel factory. Leon was so short, he had to stand on a wooden box to get his job done. But that job allowed him and several members of his family to survive the war and begin new lives in America.
Though Leon passed away in 2013, this book remains as a testament to the courage of an unlikely hero—and also to Leon’s own spirit, which never allowed the world’s darkness to overcome its light.
I am saved from my enemies. (2 Samuel 22:4)
May I be a help to those who are persecuted, Lord.
Geo the Hero
Carly Riley was walking with her three young sons and eight-month old German shepherd/collie mix, Geo, in their British hometown of Clacton-On-Sea, Essex.
While waiting to cross the street, a truck careened onto the sidewalk, heading straight towards them. Geo immediately pushed ten-year-old Charlie out of harm’s way, taking the brunt of the vehicle’s hit himself.
The truck driver drove off, so Riley called the police. But the family’s main concern was for their courageous dog. Geo sustained a broken leg, a fractured spine and numerous bruises as a result of the impact. His veterinary bills total 8,000 pounds, a sum the Rileys fully intend to pay. To this end, they even set up a Facebook page for him called “Geo the Hero,” where every donation given will go towards the healing of their heroic pet.
“[The truck] could have wiped us all out,” Riley told the Daily Mail. “If it wasn’t for Geo, I am 100 percent sure it would’ve been Charlie…We want him fixed no matter what it costs. He’s family.”
But ask the animals…they will teach you. (Job 12:7)
Abba, bless all pets, guardians of our families and friends.
More Than ‘Just’ a Taxi Driver
In conversation during a ride to the airport, a rabbi learned that his young driver had stopped being religious. “So, Rabbi, what do you say to a Jew like me who hasn’t been in a synagogue since his bar mitzvah ceremony?”
The rabbi took advantage of their few minutes together to encourage the cabbie to see the honor in his labor. The rabbi said that an attentive and caring driver could facilitate many human connections.
For instance, he said, the next fare might be a woman being discharged home from the hospital. “You could be a small part of her healing process, an agent in her re-entry into the world of health,” he added.
Or, the rabbi said, “You might drive someone just back from seeing a dying parent. You’re one of the unseen people who make the world work as well as it does. That is holy work.”
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. (Proverbs 16:3)
Every person is a part of the entire fabric of life. May we always keep that in mind, Lord.
Death is Nothing
With inspiration from St. Augustine, Henry Scott Holland—the late Canon of Christ Church, Oxford—once wrote this reflection on death to bring comfort to those who grieve.
“Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room. Whatsoever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used to. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effort.
“Life means all that it has ever meant. It is the same as it ever was, there is unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of your mind because I am out of your sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well. Nothing is past, nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before, only better, infinitely happier and forever—we will be one together with Christ.”
Today you will be with Me in Paradise. (Luke 23:43)
Bless me with the comfort of knowing my lost loved ones have been embraced by You, Jesus.
The Things We Often Take for Granted
On Good Morning America, Lisa Beamer—the widow of 9/11 hero Todd Beamer, who helped stop a hijacked plane from reaching Washington, D.C.—recalled a high school teacher who taught her a valuable lesson about appreciating life.
This teacher lost her husband to a sudden heart attack. Soon after, she told the class, “Each of us is put here on earth to learn, share, love, appreciate and give of ourselves. None of us knows when this fantastic experience will end…From now on, on your way to school, or on your way home, find something beautiful to notice. It doesn’t have to be something you see; it could be a scent, perhaps of freshly baked bread wafting out of someone’s house, or it could be the sound of the breeze slightly rustling the leaves in the trees…Although it may sound trite to some, these things are the ‘stuff of life.’ The little things we are put here on earth to enjoy. The things we often take for granted.”
Beamer said, “Every once in a while, I think of that teacher and remember what an impression she made on all of us, and I try to appreciate those things that sometimes we all overlook.”
In the end you will appreciate my words. (Sirach 31:22)
Open my eyes to the beauty around me, Father.
Breaking Out of an Insulated World
A mother from Youngstown, Ohio, described her years of raising a child with Down syndrome as “something very different than what we ever imagined or hoped it could be. My standards, my values, my sense of what is beautiful, my acceptance of reality today, now have meaning.”
She continued, “These years have been fruitful. Our child took us out of our insulated world and opened many closed dorrs to our hearts. We broke out of those walls and saw the need of other human beings. As a result, we became actively involved in social justice in the world around us.”
When we meet challenges in life, we can often take refuge in self-pity. But this mother reminds us that facing our struggles creatively can open us up to a whole new world, one that is far richer than we ever dreamed.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)
Father, in a world full of suffering, give me the wisdom and grace to be an instrument of Your compassion.
Prayer for My Children
The following prayer was posted on the website Catholic-Christian.Tumblr.com:
“Dear Lord, I ask a special blessing upon my children. Fill them with Your grace and bless them with every gift they need to live their lives in faithful obedience to You. Touch their hearts and minds and fill them with wisdom, knowledge, hope, and understanding. Help them to be loving, kind, and compassionate. Be their protector and send holy angels to lead them and guide them as they go through their day.
“Bless their lives with peace, joy, and true happiness. Send loving friends into their lives who will be blessings to them. Keep them healthy and whole spiritually, relationally, emotionally, and physically. Let Your light shine brightly in them…Bless them with healthy self-images and may they always know how precious they are to You and me. May they grow to be responsible, generous, humble people of integrity and good sense. Lord, I place them in Your loving care and trust that You will always guide them, and love them. Amen.”
Train children in the right way. (Proverbs 22:6)
Guide children down the right paths, Loving Father.
Looking for the Perfect Career?
Mike Rowe, former host of the TV show Dirty Jobs and advocate for careers in the skilled trades, shared a letter on his Facebook page from a fan named Parker.
Parker wanted advice on finding a career that would provide him with excitement, adventure, and good money while always leaving him happy. Rowe responded honestly and bluntly:
“Stop looking for the ‘right’ career, and start looking for a job. Any job. Forget about what you like. Focus on what’s available. Get yourself hired. Show up early. Stay late. Volunteer for the scut work. Become indispensable. You can always quit later, and be no worse off than you are today. But don’t waste another year looking for a career that doesn’t exist. And most of all, stop worrying about your happiness. Happiness does not come from a job. It comes from knowing what you truly value, and behaving in a way that’s consistent with those beliefs.”
You have an abundance of workers: stonecutters, masons, carpenters…Now begin the work, and the Lord be with you. (1 Chronicles 22:15-16)
Holy Spirit, lead all the unemployed toward good jobs.
You Can’t Take It with You
On the Greek island of Crete 3,500 years ago, some people lived in lavish luxury. Archaeologists dug up a 250-room palace built 16 centuries before Christ. Partially destroyed by a volcanic earthquake, the palace still held artifacts of an advanced culture.
Kitchens and pantries held cooking pots and hundreds of terra-cotta wine cups. The ruler’s private apartments included a gymnasium and a 17-foot spring-fed swimming pool. Other rooms included elaborate reception and banquet halls, waiting rooms, archives, and a treasury.
In every age of history, human beings have desired the comforts and refinements of gracious living for themselves. Yet we must remember that all these vestiges of power and wealth may eventually be lost and forgotten—or even buried in the ground. Like the old saying goes, “You can’t take it with you.”
What you can take into the next life is the love you showed for God and others. Now that’s an eternal treasure.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume…but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. (Matthew 6:19-20)
May I never be consumed by greed, Divine Giver.
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who dedicated her life to serving Christ by ministering to the poorest of the poor, shared the following advice in her book No Greater Love:
“One thing will always secure heaven for us: the acts of charity and kindness with which we have filled our lives. We will never know how much good just a simple smile can do. We tell people how kind, forgiving, and understanding God is, but are we the living proof? Can they really see this kindness, this forgiveness, this understanding alive in us?
“Let us be very sincere in our dealings with each other and have the courage to accept each other as we are. Do not be surprised or become preoccupied at each other’s failure; rather see and find the good in each other, for each one of us is created in the image of God. Keep in mind that our community is not composed of those who are already saints, but of those trying to become saints. Therefore, let us be extremely patient with each other’s faults and failures.”
Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3)
May I always remain humble enough to be forgiving, Jesus.
Are You Really Listening?
Most people spend more time and effort trying to become effective speakers and writers than they do in learning how to listen, according to communications expert Edwin Johnson.
Listening is not a passive function, he points out. It is an active process involving thought and the expenditure of energy. Neither is listening simply a way to absorb information about things, processes, and technical data. It is the key to effective human relations, the key to understanding other people.
A good listener seeks first to understand, then to judge, Johnson emphasized. Many people judge first, then feel there is no need to listen. To get the other person’s point of view, you have to listen creatively, uncritically, sympathetically, and attentively.
God sends some of His knowledge and wisdom to each of us through other people. The more we realize this, the more inclined we’ll be to listen to others—and really hear Him.
If you love to listen you will gain knowledge, and if you pay attention you will become wise. (Sirach 6:33)
Teach me, Holy Spirit, to be an attentive listener.
God Helps Those Who Help Themselves
Harry Houdini died in 1926, but his fame as one of the greatest escape artists and magicians of all time lives on.
Houdini came from a family that struggled constantly with poverty. His father, a rabbi of great faith, reassured his wife and children that “God would provide.”
One day, the cupboards were bare, so ten-year-old Harry took his tricks to the sidewalks of his Appleton, Wisconsin hometown. People stopped, applauded—and filled his hat with coins. Then he ran home and gave money to his astonished parents, saying, “It’s true. God does provide. But it’s also true that God helps those who help themselves.”
There’s a huge difference between trusting God and just waiting for Him to do our work for us. We can’t escape the fact that God depends on us to do our share for ourselves and our world.
Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord. (Colossians 3:23)
There’s work to be done, Holy Spirit. Grant me the stamina and understanding to do it well.
A Broken Leg Changes a Life
A broken leg changed Dan Moran’s life. So writes Dave Hrbacek in the Catholic Spirit of St. Paul-Minneapolis. It happened in March, 1981, and it seemed at the time to be utter tragedy. Moran had made his high-school hockey team, which had qualified for the all-important state tourney. Then came the break—on the ice, in his hockey uniform—and despair set in.
Moran was fitted with a cast, and in keeping with tradition, all his friends signed it. One of them wrote “Romans 8:28” on the cast, and Moran looked it up in the Bible. “All things work together for good for those who love God,” he read, “and have been called according to His purpose.” Moran decided to live by that maxim, and simply put, it changed his life.
Now an investment counselor with a family, he devotes himself to faith and prayer. “Prayer has significantly helped me in my life,” he says. “It’s helped me grow in my relationship with God and with Jesus, helped me to be a better husband, helped me to be a better father.”
And to think it all started with a broken leg!
To set the mind on the spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6)
I place my trust in You, Divine Savior.
A Link in the Chain of Rebuilding Lives
“Maybe this is how we recover,” said Bill Lavin, a firefighter still grieving the loss of buddies who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. During that time, Lavin received a bundle of letters from compassionate grammar-school children in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Those notes gave him hope.
Amazingly, four years later, Hurricane Katrina destroyed the same kids’ school. This time Lavin helped them by mobilizing assistance from firefighter colleagues, who constructed new playgrounds. But that wasn’t the end of Lavin’s “paying it forward.”
As noted in People magazine, twin tragedies struck the East in 2012: Superstorm Sandy, and the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. “I was as depressed as I’ve ever been,” the father of three said. He determined to rebuild 26 playgrounds ruined during the hurricane and to dedicate each to a Sandy Hook victim. Donations are pouring in and the project is underway.
Helping others is helping Lavin—and he reminds us that the same approach can help us as well.
Give, and it will be given to you. (Luke 6:38)
May we remember the ripple effect of good deeds, Lord.
Turning Down a Raise?
Blogger Matthew Warner thinks you should tell your boss that you “don’t want a raise.” Before you call him crazy, hear out his argument.
Warner points out that despite advancements in technology and efficiency that are supposed to make our lives easier, “we work more so we can consume more, which requires us to work more.” He suggests that if your boss offers you a higher salary, you should say, “No, thank you. But I would like a shorter work week instead. I’d like to keep my salary the same, actually, but I’d like to work fewer hours.”
Why? Warner concludes, “We have the chance here to be spending more time and energy with loved ones, nurturing our souls, pursuing God and truth and helping others more than ever before…At the end of your life, are you going to wish you had twice the salary? Or twice the time spent with loved ones helping each other become the people we were made to be? That seems like an easy answer to me.”
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. (Proverbs 11:4)
May I always value people over possessions, Lord.
Never Forget to Remember
Profound truths can often be expressed in simple ways. This Irish poem by an anonymous writer, reprinted in the newsletter Apple Seeds, offers a perfect example:
“Always remember to forget
The things that made you sad.
But never forget to remember
The things that made you glad.
Always remember to forget
The friends that proved untrue.
But never forget to remember
Those that have stuck by you.
Always remember to forget
The troubles that passed away.
But never forget to remember
The blessings that come each day.”
Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually. Remember the wonderful works He has done, His miracles, and the judgments He has uttered. (Psalm 105:4-5)
Help me focus on my blessings, Heavenly Redeemer.
Something Other Than God
During her early 20s, Jennifer Fulwiler was living a comfortable life in material terms. She had a good job, just got married to a successful man, drove a Jaguar, and enjoyed the finer things in life in her 21st floor condo in Austin, Texas. But having been raised an atheist, she’d been plagued by a spiritual emptiness for years—a fear that life was ultimately meaningless.
After investigating Christianity—and Catholicism in particular—Fulwiler found the fulfillment she’d always been seeking. That led her and her husband Joe to a simpler, more self-sacrificial life, which now includes six children.
During a Christopher Closeup interview about her book Something Other Than God, she explained, “When we first left the fancy lifestyle, we suddenly had all of these problems and crosses that we didn’t have before…To this day, we struggle so much more than we did when we were living our worldly, secular lives. And yet, our lives are bursting with life and with love and with joy. God is very real in our lives and we are trying to follow Him the best we can.”
Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering. (Romans 12:12)
Help me to find Your peace and joy amidst hardship, Jesus.
When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking
Mary Rita Schilke Korzan wrote a poem of appreciation to her mother 30 years ago. Its words about the influence of adults on children still ring true today. Here’s an excerpt:
“When you thought I wasn’t looking, you hung my first painting on the refrigerator and I wanted to paint another…When you thought I wasn’t looking, you baked a birthday cake just for me and I knew that little things were special things.
“When you thought I wasn’t looking, you said a prayer and I believed there was a God that I could always talk to. When you thought I wasn’t looking, you kissed me good-night and I felt loved. When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw tears come from your eyes and I learned that sometimes things hurt—
but that it’s alright to cry.
“When you thought I wasn’t looking, you smiled and it made me want to look that pretty too…When you thought I wasn’t looking—I looked…and wanted to say thanks for all those things you did when you thought I wasn’t looking.”
The righteous walk in integrity—happy are the children who follow them! (Proverbs 20:7)
May I always act uprightly in Your eyes, Lord.
‘That Woman Would Have Been Dead’
Many years ago, a four-year-old boy saved his mother’s life by trudging miles through the snow to get help.
After their car skidded out of control on a remote Colorado road, mother and son set out on foot. When the woman slipped and hit her head against a rock, the youngster went on alone. After a four-mile hike, he reached a Denver policeman’s cabin and announced, “My mother is sick and in the snow.”
The officer and boy returned to the still-unconscious mother. She was taken to Denver’s Lutheran Hospital and treated for frostbite and a head injury.
“If it hadn’t been for that little boy walking out,” remarked one sheriff’s deputy, “that woman would have been dead this morning.”
Achievement knows no size limit or age. Young or old, big or small, we are all capable of efforts that may surprise even ourselves. When capability is joined to good will, God can accomplish much good through us.
Let Your work be manifest to Your servants, and Your glorious power to their children. (Psalm 90:16)
Jesus, guide us in accomplishing Your saving work.
Bikers Against Child Abuse
It’s not surprising to hear that bikers decked out in leather and chains can be intimidating to some people, but there’s a particular group that is intimidating for a good cause.
They’re called Bikers Against Child Abuse International, and the motto they wear on their leather vests and t-shirts reads, “No child deserves to live in fear.”
The Arizona chapter recently visited a young girl, who was abused by a relative, to introduce themselves and let them know they’re watching out for her. When the case against the abuser proceeds, the bikers will accompany the girl to the trial, walk her to the witness stand, then walk her out when she’s done.
All the bikers are volunteers who receive training from a licensed mental health professional. They also undergo criminal background checks. At heart, they’re just good souls who want to help. As reported by the website ViralNova, “These bikers aren’t looking for trouble. The only thing they want is to make sure innocent children don’t feel alone or powerless.”
Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones. (Matthew 18:10)
Bring healing to the victims of child abuse, Divine Savior.
The Banana Solution
Many years ago, an enterprising factory foreman discovered a new use for bananas—and solved a problem that had everyone else stymied.
When an aluminum plant in Sheffield, Alabama, had to move a 100-ton piece of delicate machinery 25 feet, no one could figure out how to do it. Then, foreman Robert McDonald got his brainstorm.
He spread 100 pounds of bananas and their peels on the floor around the machine. Workmen then slid the equipment to its new position without trouble. For his efforts, the foreman was promptly dubbed “Slippery McDonald.”
Pleasant surprises can occur when we move beyond our usual ways of thinking. Pray for the guidance and wisdom to find creative solutions to difficult problems.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. (Proverbs 3:5)
Father, make us willing to break new ground in bringing help to a troubled world.
Begin Again and Again
Who was the guest speaker at the graduation of the Catholic University of America’s Class of 2014? Why, none other than Phil Rivers, the quarterback for the San Diego Chargers of the National Football League. What’s more, the 32-year-old, a Catholic husband and father of seven, did a great job challenging the new graduates to begin again—and again.
“Whether I have a bad play or a good play, whether I throw a touchdown or an interception, I must begin again,” Rivers said. “It certainly applies to you graduates who now are beginning the next chapter in your lives.”
Along with these challenges, he also offered some personal insights. “I knew as long as I stayed focused on my priorities, I would be ready for life’s ups and downs,” he concluded. “What are your priorities? What is the foundation on which you will build your future? Mine are very simple: faith, family and football, in that order.”
If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Lord, may I never fear the future, for You are always present.
Lessons from a Root Canal
When leadership expert Michael Hyatt was told that he needed an emergency root canal, he imagined “unspeakable pain.” Yet his experience with endodontist Dr. Daniel Price left him feeling great and admiring the doctor’s leadership skills.
■ Dr. Price demonstrated empathy by listening to Hyatt’s concerns and making him feel safe.
■ He clarified expectations by explaining that technology had made the procedure less intrusive than in the past.
■ He under-promised by saying his goal was a “pain free experience,” but that Hyatt would occasionally feel some pressure or a pinch.
■ He provided updates, explaining what he was doing so Hyatt wouldn’t feel “out of the loop.”
■ He over-delivered, by finishing in less time than expected—and with “zero pain” on top of that.
Hyatt concluded that empathy, clear expectations, providing updates, under-promising and over-delivering are the marks of a good leader. Pretty insightful for a root canal.
All who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12)
Open my eyes to see life lessons in unusual places, Lord.
When is the Right Time?
When Kara Eschbach worked on Wall Street, a mentor cautioned her about the inclination to always wait for “the right time” to do something.
Eschbach recalled, “So often we’re told to hold off marriage until that next promotion; postpone kids until you find a larger house; wait until you have the perfect set of credentials before striking out on your own. You can certainly do this, but who’s to say those times will be any better? Life will always bring struggles and joy in unpredictable ways, so why wait to do the things you want most?”
As a result of that advice, Eschbach chose to start her own women’s magazine and website called Verily in 2012. Though the effort has been full of challenges, she’s happy she embarked on this new adventure when she did, saying, “I had a growing realization that today would be just as scary as tomorrow.”
Sometimes moving forward in life requires us to take a leap of faith. Pray for God to guide you down the right path.
Only fear the Lord, and serve Him faithfully with all your heart. (1 Samuel 12:24)
Move me beyond fear to faith and hope, Father.
Holding Civilization Together
In a scene from author Dean Koontz’s novel The City, which takes place in the 1960s, 10-year-old Jonah Kirk is watching the news on television. The images he sees consist of nothing but riots, looting, and violence, leading him to wonder if the world is falling apart.
Jonah’s mother Sylvia then offers him a different perspective, one that’s just as valid for those of us surrounded by bad news today. She says, “There’s something you need to understand, Jonah. For every person who’s stealing and setting fires and turning over police cars, there are three or four others in the same neighborhood who want no part of it.”
“The news isn’t all the news, Jonah,” she concludes. “Not by a long shot. It’s just what reporters want to tell you about. Riots come and go, wars come and go, but under the tumult, day after day, century after century, millions of people are doing nice things for one another, making sacrifices, mostly small things, but it’s all those little kindnesses that hold civilization together, all those people who live quiet lives and never make the news.”
Kindness is like a garden of blessings. (Sirach 40:17)
May small acts of kindness build up the world, Father.
Sandra Bullock’s Life Lessons
After Hurricane Katrina severely damaged New Orleans’ Warren Easton Charter High School in 2005, Academy Award-winning actress Sandra Bullock financially supported its restoration. In 2014, she personally attended the school’s graduation ceremony to share some life lessons with the students.
One of those lessons was, “Stop being scared of the unknown, because anything I worried about didn’t happen. Other stuff happened, but not what I worried about. The unknown we can’t do anything about, and I don’t remember any of the moments in my life where I worried. So that’s a lot of time I couldn’t get back.”
Along those lines, Bullock also advised, “Go find your joy. Are you going to have a good day or are you going to have a great day, because it’s completely up to you. It’s what you’re going to remember in the end. You’re not going to remember how you worried. You’re not going to remember the ‘what ifs’ or the whys or who wronged you. It’s the joy that stays with you.”
I have said these things to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11)
When worries plague me, Lord, send me Your peace.
Traveling 4,200 Miles for Puppy Love
When Christine Davies was deployed in Kuwait as a member of the U.S. National Guard, her young daughter Lylia understandably missed her absent mom. One thing that lessened the loneliness was an abandoned dog named Nigel that they found online through Greg Mahle’s Rescue Road Trips website.
As profiled by Christopher Award-winning author Bob Dotson on his American Story segment for the Today Show, Mahle rescues thousands of dogs every year who are abandoned by their breeders, tries to find them loving homes, then delivers them to their adoptive families.
Every other week, Mahle travels 4,200 miles for just that purpose. He leaves his Zanesville, Ohio home in his tractor trailer to pick up dogs that have been abandoned in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Pennsylvania. Then he heads north to New England, where an abundance of people are willing to adopt rescued dogs. Why does he do it? Because his work brings others a lot of joy. The site of Lylia exclaiming, “He loves me!” while Nigel licks her face is proof enough of that.
The Lord of heaven grant you joy. (Tobit 7:16)
Create in me, O Lord, a heart of compassion.
Lessons from a Homeless Man
Among the features in The New York Times is Metropolitan Diary, a weekly potpourri of items sent in by readers that illustrate, for better or worse, life in New York. One issue included a submission by Barbara Nahmias about a homeless man named Joe that she sees as she exits her subway car.
“He gives me a big smile as he sees me approach,” she wrote. “I give him his breakfast, as I have every day for five months.”
Joe is known for helping people, and for finding temporary work wherever he can. Barbara worried when she didn’t see him for a few days, then discovered he’d heroically saved a woman who nearly fell off the subway platform. She wrote:
“Joe says he feels so lucky that so many kind people like me help him. What he doesn’t know is that he is my teacher, my inspiration—and that when my sweetheart asks me every evening, ‘How was your day?’ I tell him that the best part of it was my time with Joe.”
The rich and the poor have this in common: the Lord is the maker of them all. (Proverbs 22:2)
God, may we learn from people from all walks of life.
The Sower of Love
Pope Francis continues to fascinate the world, and among the reasons he does so are the talks he gives each day. Catholic News Service reported on this one, which asked pilgrims gathered for his Angelus blessing to consider what really is their heart’s desire.
“All of us have a desire,” the pope said to thousands in St. Peter’s Square. “Pity the person who doesn’t have a desire. Desire moves us forward, toward the horizon, and for us Christians that horizon is an encounter with Jesus.”
Pope Francis told his listeners to reflect on what Jesus had taught: “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”
Many people would respond that their family is the most important thing, he said, and that’s good. But, he added: “What is the force that holds your family together? It’s love, and the one who sows love in our hearts is God.”
Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you. (Hosea 10:12)
Guide me in sowing seeds of Your love, Father.
Our Spiritual Mother in Heaven
While celebrating mass at Indiana State Prison on the Feast of the Assumption several years ago, prison chaplain Father David T. Link told the inmates that they’ve got a spiritual mother in heaven who could relate to their troubles. Mary, he pointed out, came from a poor village. She faced many other hardships in her life, including the crucifixion of her beloved Son. But why do Catholics believe that Mary was assumed into heaven?
As recounted in the biography Camerado, I Give You My Hand, Father Link explained, “Maybe God wanted to save Mary from the power of death. It may have been to reward Mary for having endured great sorrow. But most likely God assumed Mary into heaven because He wants us to know for sure that our spiritual mother is in heaven, where she is caring for us. Be assured that right now Mary is looking down on this chapel with pride and love for all who have come to honor her Son.”
That message resonated with these men, who may not have received much love during their lives. It gave them an ever-present mother to whom they could always turn for comfort.
Mary…you have found favor with God. (Luke 1:30)
Help me to be as loving and compassionate as Mary, Lord.
Sons to the Rescue
It was the day after Father’s Day. Fifty-one-year-old Michael Meigh of Garnerville, New York, reentered his home, complaining of heat exhaustion after doing cement work outside. When Sean, 19, saw his father sweating profusely, he asked his 11-year-old brother Connor to keep an eye on him while he went to take a shower. Soon after, Michael passed out in front of his youngest son. Connor ran to get his brother, and called 911.
While Connor waited outside for the ambulance to arrive, Sean performed CPR on his father, which he later found out had a life-saving effect, as Michael had suffered a heart attack due to a blocked artery.
“I cannot express how proud I am of them,” says Marian Meigh of her two sons, as quoted in Catholic New York. “They were willing and able to jump into an emergency situation and take action immediately.”
For their bravery and courage, Sean and Connor will receive the Heartsaver Hero Award from the American Heart Association of Hudson Valley.
Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord. (Psalm 127:3)
May we lean upon You, Father, for love and strength.
Blind and Autistic Performer Speaks Through Music
Tony DeBlois was born blind and weighing a little over one pound. He also had autism, which was not a condition understood by the American medical community in 1974.
DeBlois could not speak until age 17, and still cannot read or write. But long before he found his voice, he was able to speak through his music. Perhaps that’s why he not only attended the Perkins School for the Blind, but also graduated with honors from the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Today, at 40, he plays 23 instruments and can sing in 11 languages. His nationwide concerts are enjoyable and inspiring. “Tony has a real gift and I just love his personality,” 12-year-old Cody Dauby, a parishioner of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in West Lafayette, Indiana, told The Catholic Moment reporter Caroline B. Mooney.
“We are here to tell you that it is okay to be different,” DeBlois told his St. Thomas audience. “Believe in yourself. Don’t give up on your dreams—and have high hopes.”
My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Abba, may we utilize our gifts for Your glorification.
“You really couldn’t ask for anything better as a young kid. It was awesome,” said Chase Elliott, 18. Quoted in USA Today, Elliott spoke admiringly about his father Bill, a NASCAR icon who won many races during his nearly 40-year career. “It was the coolest thing ever,” said the younger man. “Getting to watch your dad race on weekends was a dream come true.”
Although the racetrack was significant for this family, what’s most important for kids is time with parents. If you can be together that’s great but it’s key for children to know their dads care about them. For Chase, now a racer himself, Bill modeled a solid work ethic, shared his accumulated knowledge, and taught his son practical skills.
Dads don’t have to win the Daytona 500 to be special. Youngsters thrive when their fathers are emotionally present in their lives and when they feel love and support.
As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear Him. (Psalm 103:13)
Father, help dads appreciate their importance in the lives of their children.
Composing a Life
Beethoven frequently got his outstanding musical ideas while he walked alone through the countryside and listened to nature, according to author Colton Waugh.
Upon returning home, he would immediately go to his piano and struggle to work out in notes what he had heard in his mind.
Composers write their music in different ways, according to their individual temperaments. The brilliant Mozart, for instance, seemed to develop his compositions almost effortlessly. He might write down some of the notes while chatting with a group of friends.
The musical writings of the great composers express a wide range of human feeling—sadness, longing, hope, and joy.
Few people have either the inspiration or the ability to compose a musical masterpiece. But each of us without exception can play a creative role in bringing some of God’s love and harmony into the lives of the people around us.
Clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:14)
Enable me, Lord, to be an instrument of Your truth and joy.
Roving Preacher Unmasks Thief
Lorenzo Dow romed Burlington, New Jersey, in the 19th century, preaching the gospel and helping folks solve their problems, sometimes in offbeat ways.
Once, the preacher was asked to determine who had stolen a farmer’s wallet. He asked for a rooster and a blackened, dirty pot. Then, he put the rooster in the pot, and covered it. “When I darken the room,” he said, “each man is to press his hands firmly on the pot. When the thief touches it, the rooster will crow.”
Everyone did as instructed, but the rooster didn’t make a sound. Then, Parson Dow examined everyone’s hands. All were blackened except one man’s. He confessed his guilt and admitted that he hadn’t touched the pot because he was afraid the rooster would crow.
Within each of us, there is a conscience. It can be ignored, stifled, or twisted, but never wholly stilled. This faculty of moral judgment is our surest point of contact with the inner workings of God’s grace and the call of His word.
By rejecting conscience, certain persons have suffered shipwreck in the faith. (1 Timothy 1:19)
Father, instill me with the courage to be honest.
The Broken and the Holy
Many of the people Pastor Matthew Barnett has encountered have pasts that would shock most of us. There was one 14-year-old, for instance, whose mother got him hooked on the drug crystal meth. Though that teen managed to turn his life around, not all do. Not being able to save everyone took a toll on Pastor Barnett for a while, and left him wondering why a good God allows such horrific things to happen.
Time and experience have given him a new perspective, though. He said, “I began to find that you can’t let your heart be destroyed by the ones that fall on the wayside. You have to build upon something, and that’s the success of the ones who make it.”
Pastor Barnett concluded, “Sixty percent of my staff are graduates of our Drug and Alcohol Rehab program. In our church, we’ve got ex-pimps, ex-murderers. And that’s just the pastoral staff. When I started to see what God can do with these people, then I began to realize that some of the finest people I’ve ever met are some of the most broken people I’ve ever met.”
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)
May my brokenness lead me closer to You, Lord.
A Not-So-Impossible Dream
As Pastor Matthew Barnett’s dream of helping others grew, he noticed that Queen of Angels Hospital in Echo Park, was shut down. Though entertainment companies wanted to buy the property, the Los Angeles Archdiocese sold it to his church at a discount because he promised to make it a place of spiritual healing.
Now named the Dream Center, it serves and houses the homeless and addicted, victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence, troubled youth, and more. Pastor Barnett says that he modeled the Dream Center’s inclusive approach of offering material and spiritual support after Jesus’s approach:
“Jesus didn’t say, ‘When you believe, then we’ll let you belong.’ He allowed people to belong first in order that they might believe. Compassion opens up the door where people begin to understand that we’re gonna love them unconditionally, whether they receive the message of Christ and His compelling love for them, or not. But it gets hard not to believe when people have loved you so long and been so consistent in your life.”
The conclusion of Barnett’s story tomorrow.
See what love the Father has given us. (1 John 3:1)
Teach me to love others as You love us, Jesus.
A Murder Leads to a Mission
Matthew Barnett’s ministry as the pastor of Bethel Temple in Los Angeles’ Skid Row began 19 years ago with an incident that would have scared most people away. On his first day, a teenage boy was shot and murdered outside the church door.
Though he wasn’t sure he could handle this type of environment, Pastor Barnett got to work doing what needed to be done. During a Christopher Closeup interview, he said, “What kept me going, I believe, was ministering to the family [of the boy that was killed]. We paid for the funeral, and we walked into their house and said, ‘We’re gonna make sure that we’re there for you.’ It was one of the most meaningful experiences in my life. After that day, there was no way I could ever quit.”
That commitment eventually led Pastor Barnett to take in someone suffering from drug addiction. Then he took in a homeless family. As the dream of helping others grew, he knew he’d need a bigger facility to accommodate everyone. He found it in an unexpected place. That part of the story tomorrow.
Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)
Instill me with trust in You, Lord, whenever fear threatens.
The Columbo Technique
Want to make a lasting impression on your boss or a potential employer? Try emulating Lieutenant Columbo.
That’s blogger Greg Lhamon’s advice, but he doesn’t mean that you should dress in a rumpled raincoat like the shrewd TV detective played by Peter Falk. Instead, it’s about a technique Columbo used as he finished interviewing a suspect.
Lhamon writes, “He’d thank the suspect profusely, step toward the door, and then turn back, and say, ‘Oh, just one more thing.’ Then he’d ask one last question, a particularly damning question that let the suspect know he was onto him.”
How can this apply in business situations? Lhamon says, “Hold back a critical piece of information and reserve it for the end of the meeting; right before you part company, share the information or ask a question…Sincerity is critical. The goal is simply to make a strong, memorable point.”
Remember, the right words at the right time can make you stand out from the crowd.
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold. (Proverbs 25:11)
Just one more thing, Lord. Thank You for my blessings.
Stumbling Blocks to Faith
Faith, doubt, and trust in God. For singer-songwriter Audrey Assad, addressing those topics on her album Fortunate Fall served as a way to find the good after struggles such as her parents’ divorce and her husband’s bout with cancer.
As she explained during an interview on Christopher Closeup, “When it comes to faith, I tend to write about the things that are stumbling blocks for me. So because I spend time writing songs to wrestle out those ideas and points of confusion, I sometimes find resolution and peace where I didn’t have it.”
Assad learned the necessity of dealing with problems head on through experience. She said, “I’ve never gotten anywhere in life by denying I’m struggling with something. So for me to take a step forward into the path of healing or renewal or joy or gratitude has always come through a darker period. Not everyone may function that way, but I know that I do, so I have become willing to embrace those seasons [of life] because I know that they hold something [good] on the other side.”
We call blessed those who showed endurance. (James 5:11)
Lead me out of the darkness into the light, Divine Savior.
Year of the Jungle
Author Suzanne Collins is best-known for writing The Hunger Games trilogy, but in 2013 she and illustrator James Proimos published a book for children called Year of the Jungle. It was inspired by Collins’ childhood, and we were happy to recognize it with a Christopher Award.
The main character is a girl named Suzy, who loves the Ogden Nash poem her dad always reads to her about a dragon who acts bravely despite feeling afraid. That poem becomes more relevant when her father is sent to fight in Viet Nam.
At first, Suzy imagines him in a jungle like her favorite cartoon character. But as time passes and his postcards ask for prayers, her worries grow. When he finally returns home, Suzy’s dad seems haunted by his wartime experiences. Ultimately, father and daughter find comfort and healing in their relationship with each other—and in a poem about a scared-but-brave dragon.
This autobiographical story offers a timeless reflection on the anxieties of children when their parents are at war.
Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
Give children the strength to deal with anxieties, Father.
Threads for Teens
Sixteen-year-old Californian Allyson Ahlstrom knows how important new school clothes are to young girls. Teens, ages 13 to 17 in particular, feel prettier and more confident in clothing that is made to fit them. Why should young women who can’t afford brand-new outfits every year be deprived of this simple joy? Thus, Allyson’s idea for a clothing store for teens in need was born. Her boutique, Threads for Teens, provides two new outfits, free of charge, to every visiting customer.
Allyson is helped by 30 volunteers, and has been awarded almost $20,000 in cash prizes for her altruism. As of 2012, Alyson herself raised $140,000 in cash and clothing for her store. Keeping with her back-to-school theme, she has also collected over 70 backpacks of school supplies for her annual Back-to-School Backpack Event.
Alyson Ahlstrom’s Threads for Teens is now an official 501 (c-3) charity, guided by an inspirational quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “For it is in giving that we receive.”
That’s a good rule for all of us to follow, no matter our age.
A generous person will be enriched. (Proverbs 11:25)
Lord, may we remember it is better to give than to receive.
The Rabbi’s Advice for His Son
As his son prepares to start college, Rabbi Matt Cutler shared some words of wisdom for him—and all students—on the website of Albany, New York’s Times Union.
■ Learning is not just about acquiring knowledge; it is about engaging in material and making it a part of you. The real results of learning learn cannot be marked on a multiple-choice exam; they are found when you are away from class and you find yourself thinking about the material.
■ Push the limits of what you think you can do. Take a couple of classes that will truly challenge your intellectual abilities.
■ The key to your education is sharing it with others by leaving your community better than you found it. Remember, at your Jewish core, you value Tikun Olam [repairing the world]. Sharing what you learn by turning it into action is essential. But it is not your job to save the world. In the Pirke Avot it is written, “It is not incumbent for you to complete the task, but neither are you at liberty from doing your fair share.”
Let the wise also hear and gain in learning, and the discerning acquire skill. (Proverbs 1:5)
Bless young people with both knowledge and wisdom, Lord.
The Ghostbuster Miracle
After actor, writer and director Harold Ramis’s death in 2014, Laura Keeney revealed in the Denver Post that he gave her one of the most joyful experiences of her life.
Keeney’s step-brother Bill had autism and though he possessed a creative talent that would allow him to masterfully recreate the paintings of famous artists, he didn’t speak as a small child. One day, the family watched the movie Ghostbusters together, which Ramis co-wrote and starred in.
Keeney wrote, “[Bill] giggled and laughed and cried from laughing and it was magnificent.” In fact, it was the first time she ever heard him laugh. Bill went on to memorize every line of dialogue in the film and recite it along with the actors.
“Each viewing was a new and delightful gift created just for him,” Kenney recalled. “Each laugh was like the first—full of mirth and glee, sometimes completely gut-busting, but always genuine…It might seem small, but it was the closest thing to a miracle I’ve ever witnessed.”
God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me. (Genesis 21:6)
Help me to always keep a sense of humor, Savior
When the Baby Stopped Breathing
Pamela Rauseo was driving her baby nephew, Sebastian de la Cruz, to a doctor’s appointment when the unthinkable happened. While they were stuck in traffic on Miami’s Dolphin Expressway, Sebastian stopped breathing.
Frantic, Rauseo jumped out of the car, screamed for help, and started administering CPR. Miami Herald news photographer Al Diaz happened to be in the car behind Rauseo, so he ran to alert a police officer. When he returned to the scene, he captured a picture of Rauseo and Officer Amauris Bastidas performing CPR on Sebastian and resuscitating him.
At Jackson Memorial Hospital, doctors removed three previously-undiscovered cysts in Sebastian’s trachea that were making it impossible for him to breathe. The boy’s parents were grateful that Rauseo still remembered the CPR techniques she had learned seven years earlier after her own children were born.
One of the hospital’s doctors concluded, “The big take-home message is that CPR does save lives.”
Wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. (Proverbs 2:10)
Guide us toward knowledge that can help others, Savior.
Is Religion Good or Bad?
Author Melissa Kuch set her debut young adult fantasy novel The Hypothesis of Giants: Book One—The Assumption in a fictional version of our country called the United States for the Common. In this land, freedom of speech and religion have been outlawed. Why? Because the government believes that religion is destructive to society.
With religious freedom issues in the news, Kuch uses her book to reflect the fact that faith has inspired many more unheralded acts of virtue in our world than acts of evil.
Her views on this topic are inspired by her own experiences: “The main thing about religion, I feel, is hope. It brings hope to people in times of loss, depression and despair—and it [adds a] sense of community, having people be together and look for this higher cause, this higher meaning of life. Growing up Catholic, and also having attended St. John’s University, which is a Vincentian university, doing those types of good deeds and being able to give back to the community is a wonderful thing that people all across the world are doing.”
For freedom, Christ has set us free. (Galatians 5:1)
Strengthen our commitment to freedom of religion, Savior.
The Power of Mary Poppins
Phil Rosenthal created the popular TV series Everybody Loves Raymond, which often combined humor with moments of truth and poignancy. In his memoir You’re Lucky You’re Funny, he reveals that he learned how to tell entertaining-but-meaningful stories at age four from watching the movie Mary Poppins.
He writes, “If you’ve had the pleasure of watching it with your kids recently, you’ll appreciate that this film, unlike almost everything else out there now, is about something. There’s a point to the magic and the fun—there’s something underneath—and it’s something that stays with you when the two hours are over, that you can integrate into your life.”
Rosenthal concludes, “You don’t get it consciously when you’re four, but the reason you have to see it six times is because this deceptively simple entertainment has been sophisticatedly designed to impart its themes: Kindness. Love your family. Feed the birds. Enjoy your life. Find a wife like Mary. It’s not a lesson, just a strong point of view that comes through while you’re enjoying yourself.”
The teaching of kindness is on her tongue. (Proverbs 31:26)
Guide storytellers toward sharing truth, Divine Creator.
Respite Renews Hope
When Lon and Brenda Solomon’s daughter Jill was born with a seizure disorder and brain damage, her constant need for care drained the couple physically and even spiritually.
As reported by Christianity Today, a friend of theirs “organized a group of caregivers to care for Jill and give her parents a break.” Those regular intervals of “respite” renewed the Solomons’ sense of hope. That’s why the Vienna, Virginia couple opened a facility called Jill’s House in 2010. Children with special needs spend a weeknight or weekend there, enjoying good meals, a playground, an art room and more. A specially-trained staff and nursing team provide 24-hour supervision.
Jill’s House president Cameron Doolittle notes the difference respite care can make: “Katie, another child we serve, sleeps less than five hours per night. Her parents were exhausted and ready to give up on their marriage. Now, during Katie’s weekly visits to Jill’s House, her parents have time to rest and reconnect with each other and their other daughter. Katie’s mom recently told us, ‘Jill’s House saved our lives.’”
I will give you rest. (Exodus 33:14)
Guide me in offering rest to the weary, Divine Savior.
Elderly Doesn’t Mean Worthless
“Old age should not be a withdrawal from the mainstream of society,” but rather a time to pursue a more relaxed but still meaningful life. So says retired doctor Ken Johnson in Johann Christoph Arnold’s book Rich in Years.
Johnson notes that every community includes disabled, lonely seniors who don’t have a lot of “family, social, or financial support.” As a result, he “envisioned a multitude of the nation’s churches, temples, and mosques forming local interfaith coalitions to recruit and train volunteers, many of them elderly themselves, to serve the needs” of this group.
In addition to restoring a sense of dignity to care recipients who had felt abandoned and worthless, this mission added meaning to the lives of volunteers by having them perform simple tasks like changing a light bulb for someone, or driving them to a doctor’s office. One volunteer explained that he now feels “special” because “someone really depends on me.”
A lack of purpose can be debilitating to someone of any age. See where you’re needed—and get to work.
Walk according to the purpose of God. (Wisdom 6:4)
May we treat the elderly with dignity, God of all Ages.
Dignity in Death
His job is to ensure that no one from Staten Island dies without a proper burial, and to date, he’s batting 1,000 percent. No one told Gary Gotlin he had to do that, but as his borough’s public administrator, he decided to take this task on himself.
“Everybody deserves the dignity of a proper burial,” he said. “So my policy is, I won’t let anyone under my jurisdiction go to potter’s field.”
As administrator for Staten Island, one of the five boroughs that comprise New York City, he’s responsible for handling the estates of Staten Islanders who die without a will or people listed as next of kin. Without Gotlin, these people would be buried in a mass grave on Hart Island, a bleak piece of land off the Bronx.
The subject of a profile by Corey Kilgannon in The New York Times, Gotlin, 66, relies on cemeteries, funeral directors, religious leaders and others to help with burials. “Staten Island is like a small town,” Gotlin concludes. “It’s got a lot of heart.”
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones. (Psalm 116:15)
Messiah, may we give the deceased the respect they deserve.
The Day You Became a Missionary Disciple
Do you know the date on which you were baptized? Few of us do, and according to syndicated columnist George Weigel that’s not a good thing. In fact, it can be a great tool when it comes to evangelizing, and that comes from none other than Pope Francis himself. In one of his homilies at daily Mass, the Holy Father suggested that his listeners not only learn when they were baptized, but celebrate the day as a reminder of their becoming commissioned as missionary disciples.
Weigel himself concedes that the idea came to him while he was working with evangelical Protestants on a number of issues. They invariably introduced themselves by name and then added, “I was born again on such-and-such a date.” For Weigel, and most “cradle Catholics,” it’s a relatively easy assignment—a few days or weeks, usually, after their actual birth.
Weigel doesn’t expect an onrush of seekers looking to determine the date of their baptism right away, but, he says, the idea might just catch on. After all, now it has the encouragement of the pope himself!
Repent, and be baptized. (Acts 2:38)
May I always stay true to my baptismal vows, Jesus.
Moving Beyond the Superficial
A lot of young girls aren’t sure about the way they look, and Elisha Maldonado of the New York Post thinks she knows what’s to blame. It’s “a culture obsessed with the superficial,” she writes, one that’s only grown worse with the Internet and the rise of social media. Citing the increase in girls from 9 to 14 who send videos to YouTube to get opinions as to whether or not they’re pretty, Maldonado writes:
“What’s particularly disconcerting about these inquiries by young girls, who barely know who they are as individuals, is that the focus on looks at such a young age comes from insecurity.”
Further, she has some advice to give.
“What these girls should be asking is not how they look to the rest of the world, but how they can give, out of their own unique abilities, to the world. Physical beauty,” she concludes, “changes none of that.”
Let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:4)
Guide me in developing my inner beauty, Heavenly Father.
Five Tips for a Great Wedding
Father William Byrne is at it again. The popular pastor of St. Peter’s in Washington, D.C., is known for his listings of five ways to do this or that (and having them printed in the Catholic Standard, the archdiocesan paper). Here he is with “Five Tips for a Great Wedding,” good at this or any other time of year.
■ Expect something to go wrong. Perfection only happens in heaven. If Jesus is invited, you can always work things out.
■ Invite Mary. Ever since “that wedding,” Mary has been interceding for couples who turn to her.
■ Fill the jars. Budget for a gift to the poor when you plan your wedding. In addition to a fun party, why not spend part of the day in the soup kitchen?
■ Fill the jars again. Letting Jesus Christ into our empty jars or yearning hearts results in a superabundance of joy.
■ Best wine for last. “Good things are worth waiting for, especially honeymoons. ’Nuff said.”
With merriment they celebrated Tobias’s wedding feast for seven days, and many gifts were given to him. (Tobit 11:18)
Guide couples toward happy, holy marriages, Father.
The Only Way to Heal
In 2003, while driving in Tallahassee, Florida, with his blood alcohol content twice the legal limit, Eric Smallridge hit a car carrying Meagan Napier and Lisa Dickson, both age 20. The young women were killed on impact. At the time of Smallridge’s sentencing, Meagan’s mother, Renee, stated that she forgave her daughter’s killer—though she later admitted that her expression of mercy was not sincere. Three years later, her attitude changed.
“I could hate him [Smallridge] forever and the world would tell me I have a right to do that,” Renee told CBS News reporter Steve Hartman. “It’s not going to do me any good…In my opinion, forgiveness is the only way to heal.”
Renee’s compassion did not stop there. She also asked the judge to cut Smallridge’s 22-year prison sentence in half—a plea which was granted. The penitent Smallridge, moved by Renee’s actions, gave her his first genuine apology. He also agreed to travel with her to local high schools, preaching the consequences of drunk driving. “I’m going to go wherever we need to go to spread this message,” he concluded.
For freedom Christ has set us free. (Galatians 5:1)
Messiah, release us from self-made prisons of resentment.
Guardian Dog Changes a Life
On Shoreditch High Street in East London, a Staffordshire terrier named George sits while his owner, John Dolan, draws a picture. This pair has been a familiar sight to East Londoners for the past three years.
Dolan, a 43-year-old former heroin addict who did 30 stints in prison by the year 2009, was given an unexpected second chance at life with a “guardian dog.” Given to him by a homeless couple that were about to move into their own flat, George was just the inspiration Dolan needed to clean up his act.
“It was only because I had the animal and he’s a responsibility,” John told London’s The Guardian. “He’s like my child in a sense.” After a couple of years selling his portraits off the street, Dolan was discovered by a gallery director named Richard Howard-Griffin, who offered the artist an opportunity to display his pictures publicly.
Today, John Dolan’s art is well-known in East London. He has also written a memoir about “the dog who changed my life.”
The righteous know the needs of their animals. (Proverbs 12:10)
God, may we never underestimate the power of love.
A Janitor’s Education
Gabe Sonnier’s parents had taught him the value of getting an education. Unfortunately, his parents split up when he was a college freshman, and he was forced to leave school and go to work. Subsequently, his jobs included working at construction sites and at a supermarket. He eventually became a school janitor, just like his father.
“It was my intention to stay five, maybe 10 years,” says Sonnier of his work at Port Barre Elementary in Louisiana. But 33 years later he was still at the school: this time, as its principal.
Sonnier saw his own children through college before attending night school himself, earning Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. As his education increased, he was promoted through the ranks until he advanced to become principal. Along the way, he also became a role model to others. He now reminds students, “Don’t let the situation you’re in define you.”
If you don’t get all the breaks you hoped for in life, try not to limit yourself. Your goals may take longer to reach, but you can still achieve them—or find new ones that are even better.
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance. (Proverbs 21:5)
Lord, may we remember that we are never too old to stop learning.
Get in the Middle of This
Brayden Banner, age eight, met Josh Jones, age 12, when they were both being treated at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Though Banner’s cancer was found to be benign, Jones was fighting a six-year battle with the disease.
Things weren’t much better for Josh at home 600 miles away in Canyon. His grandmother Peggy was raising him because his mom was killed in a car crash. And as reported by Amarillo Globe-News, “Medical bills had them way behind on mortgage payments and in danger of losing their car.”
That’s when Brayden stepped in. Despite the fact that he and Josh lived hundreds of miles apart, he organized a benefit pancake breakfast to raise funds for his new friend. Locals, who wanted to support Brayden’s initiative, turned out in larger numbers than expected, collecting $6,500. In addition, a local used-car dealer donated a vehicle to the Jones family.
Brayden said, “I learned that it’s important to help people when you see [a need], and not say, ‘I don’t want to get in the middle of this.’”
A little child shall lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)
Holy Spirit, instill me with the initiative to help others.
A Growth Opportunity
Veteran farmer Michael O’Gorman, 65, started a nonprofit organization to help war veterans become farmers. Why?
Several years ago O’Gorman noticed that the average age of American farmers was rising—and the unemployment rate of returning military personnel was unacceptably high.
O’Gorman, an organic farmer from California, started the Farmer Veteran Coalition. “You go back to the Bible and you see the verse about turning swords into plowshares,” he said. “There’s a power in the transition between those two things.”
The Farmer Veteran Coalition matches seasoned farmers with returning military vets and helps them transition from warrior to farmer. The nonprofit includes a job-placement feature and a fellowship fund which offers financial grants.
One 31-year-old Army reservist and Iraq veteran, who now grows vegetables, points out that both the military and farming are tough but meaningful pursuits.
There will always be growth opportunities waiting for someone who sees needs and determines to meet them.
Our land will yield its increase. (Psalm 85:12)
Encourage us, Jesus, to work for meaningful causes.
One theologian’s statement of faith was a response to the idea that “God is dead.” Dr. Norman Pittenger of Cambridge University explained his concept of God in Christian Century magazine. The god who is dead, he claimed, never existed anyway—the moral dictator, the deity who reinforces our prejudices. This is what is dead.
The real God, Dr. Pittenger believes, is “the active and loving God…the dynamic, personal Love Who is ever at work to establish in the world more love and goodness.” He can be discerned in history through “an increasing purpose forcing us to live together in justice and charity.”
“I for one,” he summarized, “am prepared to risk everything I am and everything I have on that faith.”
When we question God’s existence, we are more likely examining our concept of Him, which is often limited and incomplete. Seek knowledge of God in the Scriptures, as well as in books by writers like C.S. Lewis who have explored these questions themselves.
My thoughts are not your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8)
Lead us to better appreciate Your compassion, Lord.
Gratitude is a Free Hot Dog
It was 1968 when 200 children threw a farewell party for their favorite hot dog vendor who was retiring.
Isodoros “Pop” Pantelaros had sold hot dogs in New York’s East harlem for years. He often gave away franks to hungry youngsters without much money.
His generosity reached overseas as well. In 1965, he bought and shipped a bus to his native village of Pyrgy, Greece, so that 72 children could more easily get to their school six miles away.
Recalling two narrow escapes from death in his early life, Pantelaros said, “God has given me back my life twice, so I always have a debt to Him and I try to say ‘thank You’ every way I can.”
“Pops” Pantelaros knew the power of offering cheerful, efficient, and selfless service to his customers and community. His willingness to respond generously to people’s needs were an expression of the joy that God had put in his heart.
The one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. (2 Corinthians 9:6)
Father, instill me with the love to give generously to others.
The Unnoticed Flower
In his book The Sower’s Seeds, Father Brian Cavanaugh, T.O.R. shares this story by an anonymous author.
Once a wise old botany teacher was speaking to a group of young and eager students. He told them to go out by the side of some lonely road and find a small, unnoticed flower.
“Get a magnifying glass and study the delicate veins in the leaves, and notice the nuances and shades of color,” the teacher said. “Turn the leaf slowly and observe its symmetry. And remember: this flower might have gone unnoticed and unappreciated if you had not found and admired it.”
When the class returned after carrying out the assignment, the teacher observed: “People are just like that unnoticed flower, too. Each one is different, carefully crafted, uniquely endowed. But you have to spend time with a person to realize this. So many people go unnoticed and unappreciated because no one has ever taken time with them and admired their uniqueness.”
I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)
Instead of overlooking those who don’t conform to modern standards of beauty, Lord, open my eyes to their uniqueness and worth as Your children.
One Church, One Child
Chicago’s Father George Clements gained national attention in 1981 when he became the first Catholic priest to adopt a child. After realizing that black children had a difficult time getting adopted by black parents, the African-American cleric decided to set an example himself. He earned the support of Pope John Paul II and wound up adopting a total of four sons.
That decision led him to start the One Church, One Child program, which facilitates adoptions for church members, and has resulted in more than 100,000 adoptions nationwide.
In addition, Father Clements went on to minister to troubled people through two other projects: 1) One Church, One Addict, which supports churches that reach out to drug addicts through counseling and treatment, and 2) One Church, One Inmate, which assists those making the transition from inmate to law-abiding citizen.
How did he accomplish all that? One admirer told the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s Catholic Herald, “It’s based on the Gospel and it’s based on faith.”
The Lord preserves the faithful. (Psalm 31:23)
Guide me in being a problem solver, Holy Spirit.
‘Erling, Got Any ‘Matoes?’
Three-year-old Emmett Rychner loves spending time with his best friend, Erling Kindem. What makes their relationship unusual is that Kindem is 89 years old.
Bryan and Anika, Emmett’s parents, didn’t really know their Farmington, Minnesota neighbor well until their tomato-loving toddler noticed the tomatoes Kindem was growing in his garden. The youngster started visiting regularly and asking, “Erling, got any ‘matoes?”
Charmed by Emmett’s personality, the World War II veteran started looking for ways the two of them could have fun together. As reported by KARE-TV, “Soon Erling and Emmett were racing lawn mowers, Erling on his John Deere garden tractor and Emmett on his battery-operated toy riding tractor.”
Erling and Emmett’s relationship will be facing a challenge soon. The Rychners are moving to a larger house, while Kindem and his ailing wife are relocating to a senior apartment. But in light of the strong bond the two have formed, this might be a friendship that can survive a few extra miles.
Come over, friend; sit down here. (Ruth 4:1)
Lord, let children look to seniors for friendship.
Doris Day Still Feels Young at 90
“I’m positive,” Doris Day recently told People magazine. “I just am. And I still feel like the best is yet to come.”
Day, a noted actress and singer, gave the interview during a rare public appearance to benefit her foundation on behalf of animals. “I don’t feel like I’m aging or anything like that,” the 90-year-old said. “I feel young!”
Doris Day was a big box-office star known for such romantic comedies as Pillow Talk and That Touch of Mink—as well as for songs such as Que Sera, Sera. She reminisced, “I couldn’t wait to get to work. I was just thrilled to be there.”
Day left the movie business when she felt it was time to pursue other interests—but she never gave up her sense of purpose. She also continues to maintain a sunny, upbeat attitude. While it won’t stop the changes and challenges of extreme hardship or aging, it does help her appreciate the blessings she’s been given.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing. (Romans 15:13)
Infuse us, Holy Spirit, with the ability to find and value “the sunny side of the street.”
‘The Voice’ of Italy
Contestants who win the televised singing competition The Voice would ordinarily say their priority moving forward is building a music career. Sister Cristina Scuccia, who won Italy’s version of the show, gave a different answer. She named her priorities as “Jesus and prayer.”
The 25-year-old Ursuline Sister of the Holy Family gained worldwide attention for her performances on the show. In June 2014, she earned 62 percent of the final vote by the public, thereby winning. She went on to lead the crowd in reciting the Lord’s Prayer, explaining, “I want Jesus to enter here.”
In an interview with the website TGcom24, Sister Cristina revealed why she auditioned for The Voice in the first place: “The Lord has given me a gift and, honestly, it would have been easy for me to stay hidden in a corner at home. I wanted to also show that God has not taken anything away from my life, but rather He has given me so much more.”
No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. (Matthew 5:15)
Help me to use my talents, not hide them, Creator.
Thanks for the Ticket, Trooper!
Tana Baumler was in a hurry. Way too much of a hurry. In fact, she was driving 95 miles per hour in a 75 mile per hour zone in Boise, Idaho, when Trooper Mike Nelson pulled her over. Not only was she nervous for herself but she feared her two granddaughters, who were with her in the car, might get scared.
In that respect, Baumler had nothing to worry about. She told KBOI TV, “[Trooper Nelson] was giving the kids stickers and little sheriff badges. He was just really nice to them.”
Trooper Nelson explained his approach: “I usually just talk to the kids. Kids are always really inquisitive when the guy with the big hat walks up to their car on the side of the highway so sometimes they are a little nervous.”
The trooper left such a good impression on Baumler that she sent a thank-you note to the Idaho State Police praising his “great attitude.” And whereas the kids got stickers and badges, Baumler also received a gift: a $150 ticket. She admitted she deserved it and felt grateful that the whole experience taught her an important lesson about kindness—and slowing down.
Only acknowledge your guilt. (Jeremiah 3:13)
Holy Spirit, help me to acknowledge and confess my sins.
Hit Like a Girl
If the Toms River, New Jersey, Little League team reaches the 2014 Little League World Series, “girl power” will be partially responsible. That’s because their best pitcher and hitter is 12-year-old Kayla Roncin.
Kayla grew up watching Yankee games with her dad, and soon developed a love for baseball. More importantly, she demonstrated a talent for the game that surpassed many of the local boys.
When Toms River manager Pete Avallone first brought her onto the team, the boys were skeptical. Kayla’s power at the plate and on the mound, however, made their skepticism short-lived. And when an opposing team laughed at her after seeing she would be pitching to them, Kayla simply struck out the side and quieted everyone down.
Kayla hopes that her team will bring home a championship. Regardless, she’s already a champion to many.
The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
Holy Spirit, help me resist the urge to be judgmental.
Out of the Darkness
As the movie Gimme Shelter reflects, some of the young women who come to Kathy DiFiore’s shelter have endured some horrific experiences. She explained on Christopher Closeup, “If a young lady seems like she has a dark side, it’s because she was physically abused or mentally tormented. We have professional staff that work with them so, over time, through God’s love and an understanding of the Holy Scriptures, they heal.”
Filmmaker Ronald Krauss added that he came to see the shelter as “holy ground” because of DiFiore’s successful approach to lifting these young women out of darkness.
He said, “She shows them that not everybody is bad. The number one word I’d say that she develops with them is ‘trust.’ Because that’s the thing that was broken the most; that somebody would actually be willing to help them is something that they can’t believe when they’ve been kicked down so many times in their lives and told that they’re no good and worthless…When they trust, they give you their heart.”
The conclusion of DiFiore’s efforts tomorrow.
I trusted in Your steadfast love. (Psalm 13:5)
Send Your hope to those who have been abused, Jesus.
One day, someone asked filmmaker Ronald Krauss, “Have you heard about this shelter that’s helping young women get off the streets?” The facility in question was Several Sources Shelters in New Jersey, founded by Kathy DiFiore. Her ministry has supported homeless, pregnant young women for over 30 years, and saved the lives of thousands of babies.
Though Krauss hadn’t heard of DiFiore, he visited the shelter while staying at his brother’s house for the holidays. As he explained during a Christopher Closeup interview, “One of the girls that I met had walked 25 miles to get there, and I helped her into the shelter. That was transformative! It reached into my heart that I had helped somebody…I approached Kathy one day and said, ‘I think more people need to find out about this place because this [story] could spread kindness and compassion.’”
And that was the origin of the Christopher Award-winning film Gimme Shelter. More about DiFiore’s work tomorrow.
He will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble. (Psalm 27:5)
Inspire me to spread kindness and compassion to everyone I meet, Holy Spirit.
Regenerating Our National Character
Anyone disturbed about signs of moral breakdown in our country and world might reflect on these words of historian James Truslow Adams (1878–1949):
“If there is to be a regeneration of the national character, it can come about only by the regeneration of each of us as individuals. It is not a matter of committees, machinery, and organization. It can only come about from subtle change in the heart of the individual man and woman.”
The structures of our civilization are in constant need of renewal and reform. Denunciation and name-calling won’t do the job. Neither will a flight from reality or a complacent “business as usual” attitude.
Only people—intelligent, dedicated, compassionate people—with God’s help, can bring about the improvements our world so sorely needs. Will you do your part?
We are what He has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works. (Ephesians 2:10)
Instead of complaining about what’s wrong with the world, Father, give me the grace to work to improve it.
Joy and the Grit of Service
At age 24, Brandon Vogt—the author of Saints and Social Justice—was looking for a saint that seemed relatable to him as a young Catholic man interested in living his faith. He found one in Pier Giorgio Frassati, who died at age 24 in 1925.
What was it about St. Pier Giorgio that appealed to Vogt? He told interviewer Elizabeth Scalia, “He was an adventurous young man who scaled mountains throughout Italy. He was also politically active, championing social causes…Yet he was also an extremely devout Catholic. He attended Mass every day and wouldn’t go on a mountain climb unless there was a church nearby. He prayed the Rosary daily, sometimes five times per day, and often had deep, mystical experiences in prayer.”
In addition, St. Pier Giorgio served the poor daily, giving them “food, money, and even the clothes off his own back.”
Vogt sees him as a model for anyone who seeks to model Catholic social teaching: “He fuses all its elements: faith with charity, contemplation with activism, personal care with institutional reform, and boundless joy with the grit of service.”
He loves righteousness and justice. (Psalm 33:5)
Help me look to the saints as role models for life, Savior.
The power of people working together saved the leg of a commuter in Perth, Australia.
In August 2014, an unidentified man was rushing to get on his morning train to work. He slipped and his leg became wedged into the two inch space between the train car and platform. Another commuter saw what happened and called for help immediately.
Soon after, passengers were asked to get off the train. About 50 of them then lined up in a row, pushed on the train car simultaneously, and tilted it just enough for the man to remove his leg. He was treated by paramedics and deemed well enough to go to work
Claire Krol—a spokeswoman for Transperth, Australia’s public transportation system—said, “It is the first time we’ve seen something like this happen. This is a real case of passengers working together, and ‘people power’ are the perfect words to describe it.”
Woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. (Ecclesiastes 4:10)
When troubles arise, Lord, help us to work as one.
A Sign of the Times
How can a waiter or waitress take your order if they can’t hear you? Signs Restaurant in Toronto has the answer.
When owner Anjan Manikumar worked as a server years ago, he had a deaf customer who needed to point to the menu to order his food. Manikumar wondered how the hearing impaired could be provided a more interactive and personal dining experience, so he came up with Signs.
It’s a first-of-its-kind business in Canada in which all the servers are deaf—and customers order food and drinks via sign language which is incorporated into the menu. As reported by CBC News, “The restaurant wants to become the meeting place for the deaf community and any hearing customers interested in learning and practicing sign language in a casual atmosphere.”
Signs’ manager Rachel Shemuel says, “We want to create awareness for the hearing community that the deaf community has the ability to do anything and everything.”
Manikumar adds, “I hope this encourages people in other sectors to hire deaf people as well.”
You shall not revile the deaf. (Leviticus 19:14)
Guide us all in reaching our potential, Holy Spirit.
How Elder Mediation Work
There are a small but growing number of mediators who specialize in elder affairs. Their job is to “help resolve disputes, typically outside a courtroom,” according to Glenn Ruffenach, an editor with The Wall Street Journal, writing in Smart Money.
These mediators “help families work through concerns and fights involving caregiving, inheritance, living arrangements, estate planning and related issues.”
Elder mediation is hard work, but it can help families learn to work together to solve problems. “Success usually depends on a seemingly simple, yet frequently difficult, task: hearing out and weighing others’ viewpoints,” notes Barbara Sunderland Manousso, founder of a mediation network in Houston.
Calmly hearing out and weighing other people’s viewpoints is good advice for creating peaceful relationships at any age.
One who forgives an affront fosters friendship, but one who dwells on disputes will alienate a friend. (Proverbs 7:19)
Lord, help us to resolve family disputes in a respectful and caring manner.
Peace Begins With You
Here is a bit of ancient Chinese wisdom that’s worth a little reflection: “If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character; if there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home; if there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation; when there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.”
It’s difficult to realize that peace in the world actually begins with each of us. Yes, it is within the power of one individual to do something, however slight, to make the world a trifle better. God Himself planned it this way. He assigned a special role for every human being to play as His instrument in supplying the goodness, truth and beauty which He intended for mankind.
Each of us can be a Christopher or Christ-bearer, and actually be a co-partner with God in helping not only our own little corner, but the entire world.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. (John 14:27)
Thank You, Redeemer, for allowing me to be an instrument of Your peace.
There are certain things we know to do to stay healthy—exercise, eat more fruits and vegetables. And there are the things we know to avoid—smoking, stress.
But one cardiologist suggests that when it comes to overall health, your friends can save the day. “Friendship is a powerful healing force,” says Dr. Joel Kahn.
Studies have shown, in fact, that peer support is a positive force in making healthy lifestyle changes.
Says Dr. Kahn: “There is an African proverb that states, ‘If you walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.’ Grabbing someone’s hand and walking together through challenges may be the most powerful health tool.”
So what are you waiting for? Find a friend and start walking!
I take pleasure in three things, and they are beautiful in the sight of God and of mortals: agreement among brothers and sisters, friendship among neighbors, and a wife and a husband who live in harmony. (Sirach 25:1)
In all times, I count on Your abiding love, Master.
Your Guarantee of Heaven
Author Dan Lord used to see joy as a feeling you experience when doing something pleasurable. But through a lot of trial, error and soul-searching, he’s come to see joy as a choice.
During an interview on Christopher Closeup about his book Choosing Joy: The Secret to Living a Fully Christian Life, Lord explained that an adult re-conversion experience to the Catholic faith of his childhood taught him that joy can be found through building a relationship with Jesus and following His whole “seamless garment of commandments” with an open heart. That’s how even grumpy people, which Lord admits to being sometimes, can find joy despite their natural dispositions.
Lord explains, “Giving ourselves to the people God puts into our lives actually frees you…But the salvation that Jesus gives us isn’t just a golden ticket to heaven like Willy Wonka. He’s handing you a responsibility. He’s saying, ‘This is your guarantee of heaven if you choose it every day.’ That’s the responsibility that we have. But in doing that, joy blossoms.”
Shout for joy, all you upright in heart. (Psalm 32:11)
Help me reflect the joy of loving You, Father.
There were “alohas” a-plenty one June day last year for Father Stephen Macedo, who returned to active ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu, Hawaii, after an absence of 10 years. The sentiment shared by his bishop, his fellow priests and his parishioners was unanimous: “Nice to have you back!”
As reported by Patrick Downes in the Hawaii Catholic Herald, Father Macedo, 51, was ordained for the Hawaii diocese in 1993 and served in several parishes before leaving the active ministry 10 years later. He had lost to transfers the fellow priests who had been his friends and support group, and was feeling “pretty demoralized” over the clergy sex abuse scandal.
A full-time firefighter-EMT during his absence, he never stopped going to Sunday Mass and never married. As he told Downes, he enjoyed the work but felt something was missing: “I missed preaching, being part of sharing the Good News. I missed celebrating the Eucharist and sacraments. I missed most of all being part of a parish community.”
Father Macedo never lost touch with his faith. And he was welcomed back last year, with open arms.
Let us return to the Lord…He will heal us. (Hosea 6:1)
Christ, may we always return to Your loving embrace.
Say Y.E.S. to Helping Others!
In June 2013, Fulton Street was teeming with Y.E.S. (Youth Encounter Service) volunteers rolling up their sleeves and working to improve this three-block area of Saginaw, Michigan. Their collective labor was focused on repairing three houses, their voluntary duties ranging from painting rooms to reconstructing wiring or plumbing. Whether first-time participants or seasoned veterans, volunteers are always happy they opted to say “Y.E.S.”
“I have definitely learned to be more grateful for what I have,” said high school student Erin Dwan of Blessed Trinity Parish to Catholic Weekly’s Mark Haney. There is more to Y.E.S. than physical labor, though.
“Each year, young people are shown how difficult it can be just to get something to eat in a lower-income neighborhood,” adds Mark Graveline, youth ministry director for the Diocese of Saginaw. “Ultimately, we want these young people to experience and to practice Catholic social teaching, which involves reaching out to the less fortunate as an act of love.”
Give to everyone who begs from you. (Matthew 5:42)
Messiah, keep our minds and hearts open to those in need.
An Inner City’s Home Run
In October 2009, Washington, D.C. police officer Jason Medina heard gunshots while on patrol in Ward 7 near the Clay Terrace housing projects. When he arrived at the scene, he drew his weapon on the shooter: a 15-year-old boy, who surrendered.
That incident brought Medina back to his own troubled youth in Harlem, New York, where a program called Harlem RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) provided him with the confidence, work ethic, and opportunity to build a better future. It’s time to bring youth baseball to Ward 7, Medina thought.
He recruited coaches and mentors, and cleaned up a local field filled with beer bottles and hypodermic needles. Local youth became intrigued by the possibility of playing baseball.
Ward 7 Baseball has no budget other than what Medina and the coaches contribute out of their own pockets. But they’re happy with the program’s success at keeping kids out of trouble. As Medina told the Washington Post, “Even if 10 years from now we’re still on a nothing budget, we’ll still be here, as long as we can keep paying it forward.”
Love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:12)
Guide me in paying forward old kindnesses, Jesus.
What’s That Summer Vacation About?
Summer vacation started because of work—farm work, in fact. In early U.S. history, schools educated mostly the children of farmers. And so the school year had to end in time to have those young people free to help their familieson the farm, roughly May to October.
And while that may be true, the real reason the students’ summer break stayed around—long after most U.S. families were farming—was to standardize school schedules across the country. If all students had more or less the same schedules, testing and textbooks could be more easily administered and utilized.
Whether still in school or long ago graduated, each of us needs to schedule down time—time off from our labors to nurture our relationships with others and to deepen our relationship with the Lord.
So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that He had done in creation. (Genesis 2:3)
I find my peace in You, Father; slow me down.
Art’s Healing Power
The Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan is filled with 120,000 refugees from Syria’s civil war, many of them children who are haunted by the extreme violence and death they’ve witnessed.
Enter Samantha Robison, a Washington, D.C.-area artist who travels to war-torn parts of the world on behalf of an organization she founded called AptART. As stated on the group’s website, they “empower marginalized children to express themselves through art, as well as build awareness and promote prevention of issues affecting their lives.”
Robison told the Associated Press, “There’s a lot of violent tendencies and negative energy [here], so if you bring in art and give [kids] a positive activity, it helps a lot.”
Children paint pictures and murals on walls using bright colors to raise spirits. Says 12-year-old Habeer, “I am happy when I am painting…I want to be a teacher.”
That happiness can be a vital resource in building a better tomorrow for these young people who’ve lost everything. It’s also a tribute to the power of art and artists.
The eye desires grace and beauty. (Sirach 40:22)
Creator, help us to inspire others through works of beauty.
Does This Make Me Look Fat?
Girls and young women often compare their bodies to those of the celebrities and models they see in magazines. As a result, many feel ugly and even come to doubt their self-worth.
Author Mary DeTurris Poust realized this problem when her 10-year-old daughter put on a coat and asked, “Does this make me look fat?” It was especially shocking because the girl only weighed about 60 pounds at the time.
DeTurris Poust told her daughter that all those glamorous, thin women she sees in magazines tend to be airbrushed to make them look more perfect than they really are. Then, DeTurris Poust’s husband reminded her of another possible problem.
During an interview on Christopher Closeup, she said, “My husband reminded me [that] if she hears me saying ‘I don’t like the way I look in something’ or ‘do I look fat in this,’ that’s going to be really powerful. Sometimes I forget that. Magazines are bad, but mothers also have to be careful of the messages we’re giving our daughters by the way we live.”
Do not judge by appearances. (John 7:24)
Help us to recognize and appreciate our inherent dignity as Your children, Father.
A Bride-To-Be and a Drowning Child
It was a hot June day when Becki Salmon and Matt Werner posed for their engagement photos on the shore of Wissahickon Creek near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The creek is a popular place to cool off, so two kids were playing in the water nearby.
Suddenly, a friend of Salmon and Werner’s who was with them noticed that the five-year-old boy who had been visible in the water could no longer be seen. Salmon, a paramedic and lifeguard, told ABC News, “I turned to look [and saw] his little head bobbing under the water. According to my friend and photographer, I pushed my fiancé out of the way and ran.”
Concerned that the creek’s undercurrents would suck the boy beneath the murky-looking water and carry him away, she quickly dove in, followed by the boy’s mother. Salmon pulled him to shore and along with Werner, an EMT, and photographer Ken Beerger, a paramedic, cleared his lungs of water. What had started as a day to commemorate a couple’s future life together became one in which they gave a child a second chance at his own future.
Be strong and courageous. (Joshua 1:6)
Guide my steps when others are in danger, Savior.
Suffering with Another
When you or someone you love is suffering, it can feel like you’re in a boat, being tossed and turned by the raucous waves. It’s hard to handle the powerless feelings and emotions that arise. Praying seems one-sided: Where are you, God?
It is in these times that we must visit the Lord in adoration, and see Him on the crucifix. Jesus knows firsthand what it means to suffer: thrown out of towns, rejected by friends, falsely accused and not defended in the face of lies, scourged and tortured.
Jesus carried His heavy cross up to Calvary, where He was nailed to it, and still offered up His own suffering for the sake of the whole world’s sins. He was fully human and fully divine, sinless and blameless, and His free will decision to put Himself through such suffering for our sake is of much consequence.
You are never alone in your suffering—I am here, and I know your pain, says the Lord. Jesus helps transform pain into a love-generating catalyst so that we all may be reunited with Him in Paradise.
Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:3)
Lord, sanctify my soul and be with us in our pain.
Nancy Perry Graham, editor in chief of AARP magazine, felt “grumpy” because of pressures at work and home. She decided to ask three of her favorite “fun folks” what makes them feel happy and content.
News director John Curran, 59, recently diagnosed with a terminal illness, felt grateful for his loving wife and family as well as his faith. He says he has “an abiding feeling of optimism that my being does not end when the heart finally stops.”
Dianne Belli, 60, is passionate about healthy aging and works with Asian-American elders. She says, “I have the experience to know that life goes on in the face of extreme challenges.” Additionally, she and her husband try new things such as “dancing the Argentine tango!”
Bonnie Perry, 70, says the happiest time of her life started in her 40s. She got a master’s degree, became a librarian and found work at her grandkids’ school.
Don’t let age keep you from loving, learning, and growing.
Let the wise also hear and gain in learning, and the discerning acquire skill. (Proverbs 1:5)
Open our eyes, Father, so we appreciate sources of joy
‘Little Hands, Big Hearts’
“Mom, they need our help,” five-year-old Iowa native Connor Andres told his mother after seeing the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Sandy along the East Coast.
Touched by her son’s desire to help others, Terri Andres contacted Shelley Tegels, the director of his preschool, Our Lady’s Little Learners. Together, the two women established the “Little Hands, Big Hearts” foundation, which collected money from the preschool. Their efforts amounted to a check totaling $4,636, which was sent to hard-hit Resurrection School and parish in Jersey City.
Natural disasters, though devastating, bring out the best in people, especially children. Sister Eleanor Uhl, principal of Resurrection School, told The Catholic Advocate that “her students are still talking about what took place in Iowa…It touched their hearts. It made those who took part realize how blessed they are.”
In times of tragedy, what matters the most is to know that people care, that you are not alone.
Defend the rights of the poor. (Proverbs 31:9)
Abba, bless our children, our generous models of faith.
Push Across America
Ryan Chalmers’ 3,300-mile trip began in Los Angeles and ended in New York. Only he didn’t make the journey on a plane or train; he completed it in his wheelchair.
Born with spina bifida and unable to fully use his legs, the 24-year-old wheelchair racer and Paralympian agreed to “Push Across America,” as his campaign was called, to raise awareness about what people with disabilities can accomplish. It took 71 grueling days in which Chalmers endured 13 flat tires and severe muscle pain from pushing his body beyond its usual limits. Yet, as he told Yahoo Sports when he arrived in New York City on June 16, 2013, “You see a little kid at the finish line who’s just smiling at you…it makes the injury and pain go away. For me, that’s what helped me push through.”
A film crew documented Chalmers’ trek and he plans to speak about it around the country. His message: “This isn’t supposed to be easy. Not something of this magnitude…But you just have to embrace the difficult moments and enjoy the really fun times as well.”
Suffering produces endurance. (Romans 5:3)
Give my body and spirit resilience, Divine Master.
A Christopher Prayer for Father’s Day
Heavenly Father, we ask You to bless our earthly fathers for the many times they reflected the love, strength, wisdom and mercy that You exemplify in Your relationship with us.
We honor our fathers for putting our needs above their own convenience and comfort; for teaching us to show courage and determination in the face of adversity; for modeling the qualities that would turn us into responsible, principled, caring adults.
Not all our fathers lived up to these ideals. Give them the grace to acknowledge and learn from their mistakes. Give us the grace to extend to them the forgiveness that You offer us all.
Help new and future fathers raise children grounded in a love for God and other people. Remind these fathers that treating their wives with dignity, compassion and respect is one of the greatest gifts they can give their children.
We pray that our fathers who have passed into the next life
have been welcomed into Your loving embrace, and that our family will one be day be reunited in Your heavenly kingdom.
Listen, children, to a father’s instruction. (Proverbs 4:1)
Strengthen the bonds between fathers and sons, O God.
Being a Better Dad
Let’s hear it for all that dads out there! Last year at this time Our Sunday Visitor offered some tips that fathers should keep in mind—not to become perfect simply by following them, but helpful steps that will aid anyone who wants to be a better parent.
▪ Make time for your kids. Your children know your time is valuable; taking a few hours to be with them will let them know how loved they are.
▪ Be a loving husband. A strong marriage leaves an equally strong impression on children.
▪ Don’t fear intimacy. It might not go with being macho, but it will help you become a better leader.
▪ Let your kids see you make mistakes. Children can learn a lot if they know their dads aren’t perfect.
▪ Ask for help. Seeking everyone’s input shows both strong leadership and a sense of humility.
For a father’s blessing strengthens the houses of the children. (Sirach 3:9)
Abba, may all fathers look to You as the epitome of parenthood.
Grace, Gold and Glory
One of the most impressive things about Olympic gymnast Gabrielle Douglas’ memoir Grace, Gold and Glory is that even though it’s her life story, she doesn’t make it all about herself. The teen readily acknowledges that if it weren’t for the sacrifices made by her mother, brother, and sisters, she would never have won two gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics.
Douglas’s Christian faith also plays a key role in her success. During an interview on Christopher Closeup, she said, “My mom has always taught me and my siblings the Word, and I don’t know what I would do without my strong beliefs. When I got hurt, I would meditate, ‘By His stripes, I am healed.’ And when I was having struggles in the gym, I kept quoting, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’…I was recently watching my gymnastics competition [on video] and I saw my lips moving. That’s me praying, something I do every competition and every time I’m about to go out there and compete.”
Follow Gabrielle Douglas’s winning ways by making prayer a regular part of your life. Pray always. (Luke 18:1)
I place all my trust and hope in You, Lord.
Making Your Daughter Squirm
“Sometimes love means you need to make someone squirm.” Verily magazine’s Monica Gabriel learned that lesson from her father, who raised eight kids and wasn’t bothered by his parenting style often making them uncomfortable.
She remembers her dad greeting her every morning with a big bear hug during her “angsty, grouchy” teenage years; telling her how beautiful she was when she felt insecure about her appearance; and joining her mother for the “sex talk” that many fathers would be happy to avoid.
Since research indicates that the quality of a woman’s relationship with her father influences her social and romantic relationships with men, that discomfort served a purpose. Gabriel writes, “My Dad’s bear hugs became an important assurance that this day—no matter how crummy—would turn out okay…And I began to have the clarity to look back on that sex talk …and see that my Dad did it because he loved me. My Dad was not going to let a little thing like discomfort stand between me and happiness, between me and love.”
I will be your father. (2 Corinthians 6:18)
Strengthen the bonds between fathers and daughters, Lord.
Take Care of the Minutes
“Do not squander time for that is the stuff that life is made of,” Benjamin Franklin warned over 200 years ago.
Most of us are likely to be somewhat casual about the value of time. It’s hard for us to realize that we get only one chance at life. Unlike shooting a movie, there are no re-takes.
Parents and teachers would add great meaning and purpose to the lives of young people if they helped them learn to use time instead of kill time.
In 1749, the British statesman Lord Chesterfield wrote to his son, “Know the value of time; snatch, seize and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination.” And in another letter he advised, “Take care of the minutes, for the hours will take care of themselves.”
Keep constantly in mind that “now” is the only time you can count on to fulfill the important role in life which God has assigned to you.
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! (2 Corinthians 6:2)
Keep me ever conscious, Lord, of the value of time.
How To Complain Successfully
Since life doesn’t always proceed according to plan, especially when you’re traveling, it pays to learn the art of complaining without coming across as too angry.
Writing in AARP Magazine, Peter Greenberg outlines several strategies travelers can use to get positive results when problems arise.
▪ Talk to the on-site boss. “Why argue with a gate agent who has no power to change your ticket or a front-desk clerk who can’t remove a charge? Keep your cool and insist on speaking to a manager or supervisor.”
▪ Be realistic. You won’t get the world, but you might get a food voucher or a discount to compensate for a bad experience.
▪ “If you don’t get results on site, follow up in writing.” Contact department directors with specific facts and documentation. If possible, join with other similarly aggrieved customers.
Complaining can be uncomfortable, but your efforts might fix a problem and improve the experience for others.
Draw near to the Lord, for He has heard your complaining. (Exodus 16:9)
Encourage us, Jesus, to fight the good fight.
A Baseball Star Larger Than Life
What’s a statue of a baseball star who was a standout for the Pittsburgh Pirates doing in New York?
Simple. The player is Roberto Clemente, arguably Puerto Rico’s greatest contribution to Major League Baseball, and New York is the center of Puerto Rican culture in the U.S. Beside that, there’s been no one like Clemente to appeal to Puerto Rican pride. He broke not only baseball records but racial barriers. Therefore, there’s a statue of Roberto Clemente in New York—in Roberto Clemente State Park, no less. But it wasn’t easy.
The city had long wondered why there was no statue of a prominent Puerto Rican within its boundaries, and more recently the focus zoomed in on commemorating Clemente, who was killed in 1972 during a mercy mission flight. The money needed seemed an insurmountable obstacle until a group of angels promised the funds—and provided them too.
Clemente’s statue was dedicated last summer. In the words of David Gonzalez, in The New York Times, the statue—like everything else about the star—is slightly larger than life.
The flower falls…the word of the Lord endures. (1 Peter 2:24)
Paraclete, may we pursue heavenly glory.
A Necessary Storm
The intense heat and humidity indicated to Patheos.com blogger Margaret Rose Realy that there was a storm on the way. Thankfully, it wasn’t a dangerous storm, but rather one that brought a refreshing rain. It even inspired her to write a prayer:
“Dear Lord, I thank You for the storms that move through life. Though there is darkness, there is assurance of its passing. You send the rain to cleanse, the thunder to make us attentive, and the wind to remind us that all things move according to Your plan.
“Although I do not like the darkness, I know Your storms draw me down and away from the often consuming blaze of this world. And for every storm that moves across my heart, I will embrace it as a time to patiently wait for Your return.
“I pray to be strong enough to hold fast when storms become intense. And if I grow weary, to know I am not alone and to call out to angels, saints, and friends to shore me up.
“I praise You Lord for dark nights and stormy days that deepen my desire for You. Amen.”
He commanded…the stormy wind. (Psalm 107:25)
Father, guide us through the storms of life.
No Need for a Younger Guy
Don’t tell Ben Jones he’s too old for what he does. From his post in Shelter Island, New York, he’s on call around the clock, has been working on ambulance duty since the days of World War II, and may be the oldest active paramedic in the country. And, oh yes—he was 90 when Corey Kilgannon wrote about him last summer in The New York Times.
Jones shows no signs of slowing down, which is good news for the people on Shelter Island. The community, located off Long Island, has no emergency medical center, so it relies on Jones and his squad of 10 EMTs. As the group’s only paramedic, which requires advanced training, it’s up to Jones to get a patient who needs hospital care to the ferry, and then to the mainland.
At times a patient will balk when he gets a look at Jones and asks, “Can’t you have one of the younger guys do this?” Jones is ready for that, usually with a quip. “Listen,” he says, “I was around when they invented the I.V., so relax!”
Don’t let age keep you from living your purpose.
The glory of youths is their strength, but the beauty of the aged is their gray hair. (Proverbs 20:29)
Lord, may we rejoice in life’s blessings, no matter our age.
A D-Day Hero’s Prayer
It was 70 years ago today—June 6, 1944—that would be forever remembered as D-Day. Sadly, the number of Americans who know about D-Day and its significance drops a bit each year, but those who lived through it will never forget. The Allied invasion of France that hellish day succeeded at a brutal cost, but it would pave the way for the eventual end of World War II.
There were many American heroes on D-Day. One of them was Joseph Vaghi Jr. of Bethesda, Maryland, who died at 92 a couple of years ago. A beachmaster, he guided other troops ashore through mine fields, mortar blasts and machine-gun fire. A eulogist recalled that Vaghi had his men kneel down in their small boat and pray the Our Father before they landed. At his death he still treasured the map he held that day on Omaha Beach—and prayed daily for the 23 men from his unit who lost their lives in the invasion.
Joseph Vaghi didn’t like the “hero” label, and he thought “the greatest generation” was used a bit too much. But both tags were more than appropriate. In fact, they fit him like a glove.
The prayer of the righteous is powerful. (James 5:16)
Messiah, may faith be our loyal companion until death.
The Lazarus Project
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, written in 1850, continues to resonate with readers today because it timelessly portrays the struggle of a former sinner seeking redemption from society.
“This scenario is being played out over and over again across this country,” Father Stephen Powley writes in The Orthodox Observer. “[Orthodox] men and women are coming out of prison, wanting to succeed in life, only to find rejection.”
Just as Jesus called upon the crowd to “unbind” the newly resurrected Lazarus after he emerged from his tomb, so must we as Christians help release these prisoners from the weight of their past sins. One such Orthodox organization, fittingly named The Lazarus Project, has already aided notably in this cause.
The Lazarus Project is a year-long holistic program in which each participant is matched with two or three mentors, whose goal it is to help the former criminal assimilate into society. Thus far, this program has succeeded in leading prisoners to new lives.
The oppressed shall speedily be released; they shall not die and go down into the Pit. (Isaiah 51:14)
Abba, may we forgive others as readily as You forgive us.
The Power of Deduction
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went camping. They pitched their tent under the stars and went to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night, Holmes woke his companion up and said, “Watson, look up at the sky, and tell me what you see.”
Watson replied, “I see millions and millions of stars.”
Holmes asked, “And what do you deduce from that?”
Watson replied, “Well, meteorologically, the blackness of the sky and the crispness of the stellar images tells me that there is low humidity and stable air and therefore we are most likely to enjoy a beautiful day tomorrow. It also means that space is vast and full of planets, stars, galaxies and many, many mysteries that human life hasn’t yet discovered. Theologically, it suggests that there is a powerful, intelligent God who created it all with some purpose in mind. What do you deduce from it, Holmes?”
Holmes replied, “Watson, you fool, it means that somebody stole our tent!”
It’s great to see life’s big picture, but don’t overlook the little details that surround you each day.
The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. (Psalm 146:8)
Clear my vision that I may always find You, Lord.
The Bride Gives Up Bridal Magazines
Most women start reading bridal magazines after they get engaged. Ironically, that’s the point when Tess Civantos stopped reading them.
She realized that some of the suggestions these magazines make are ridiculous (example: personalized, monogrammed pillows for the seats of all the guests at the reception), while others operated under the assumption that having your family involved in wedding planning is an unrealistic burden.
Writing in Verily magazine, Civantos says, “In their attempt to defend the bride’s self-expression and individuality, magazines may actually be engendering a culture of egotism and entitlement—and thus disappointment….As someone getting married, I submit that weddings are about much more than just us brides. They’re about more than just the bride and groom, even. Weddings are about a promise and a new beginning, a commitment to caring about someone other than yourself. Weddings are about two families coming together and a new family forming.
Come to the wedding banquet. (Matthew 22:4)
Holy Spirit, give engaged couples the right priorities.
A Rescuer Saves a Life
When a fire began inside the bedroom of eight-year-old Cody Ma, he ran into another room and shut the door. The fire soon spread through the Gresham, Oregon house, causing everyone else inside to evacuate.
Cody’s father Alex tried to get upstairs to rescue the boy, but was unsuccessful because the house was engulfed in flames. When neighbors Eduardo Ugarte and his son Marcos arrived to help, they saw soot coming out of Alex’s nose and mouth.
According to KATU-TV, Marcos quickly sprung into action. Marcos said, “I [grabbed a] ladder, and I propped it up on the window, and I crawled up the window and punched the screen out…and grabbed the boy and carried him down the ladder.”
Cody’s life was saved thanks to his quick-thinking neighbors. Alex said, “They’re my son’s heroes forever.”
Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
Grant us the wisdom and courage to help others in dangerous situations, Lord.
The Hardest Choice
By the time the Nazis took over Vienna, Jewish doctor Viktor Frankl was already an authority on helping patients fight depression by finding meaning in their lives. The chief of neurology at Rothschild Hospital, he was given a visa to travel to the United States, where he could escape the inevitable round-up of Jews by Hitler’s forces.
Dr. Frankl was faced with a dilemma, however. The Nazis were taking the elderly first, meaning his parents would soon become prisoners. Feeling responsible for their care, he sought an answer from God by visiting St. Stephen’s Cathedral and wondering if he should leave his parents to their fate.
Upon returning home, Dr. Frankl saw a piece of rubble that his father had found. It came from a synagogue the Nazis had demolished, and partially included the words from the Commandment, “Honor your father and mother.” Dr. Frankl took this as his sign to remain in Vienna. Though his parents and wife eventually died in the concentration camp, he helped many others survive by pointing them to their unique purpose in life.
The Lord will not forsake His people. (Psalm 94:14)
Lord, guide me to make the right choice, which isn’t always the easy choice.
Helping a Loved One Grieve
We all have friends and family who endure the deaths of loved ones. Here are some tips from Catholic Digest on how to help someone who is grieving.
■ Don’t fall back on clichés, such as “It all happens for a reason.” Just say, “I’m sorry for your loss,” and mean it.
■ Offer specific help like writing thank-you notes, cooking meals, or providing childcare. Vague offers of “call me if you need anything” will likely not be taken up.
■ Remember to pray for them, and let them know it. Have a Mass said, send a spiritual bouquet.
■ Don’t forget that grief remains after the funeral is over. Patience and compassion will be needed for a long time.
■ Talk about the person who is gone. Even if it brings on tears, it feels good to know a loved one is remembered.
■ Don’t be offended if phone calls or texts go unanswered. They can seem overwhelming to a bereaved person, so just keep in touch and know your concern is appreciated.
Blessed be he by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead! (Ruth 2:20)
Holy Spirit, bolster the spirits of the grieving.
Living with Attila the Teen
If you’re a parent living with “Attila the Teen”—a teen who constantly acts disgruntled—Marybeth Hicks has some advice for you. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Writing in Catholic Digest, she bemoans the fact that parents and other authority figures today often act as if it’s impossible for young people to exhibit manners and self-control. On the other hand, if you set high expectations for teens, like Hicks does with her kids, they may rise to the occasion.
She writes, “At our house, we all pitch in. Chores aren’t fun, but you don’t have to apologize because you can’t make emptying the dishwasher more fun. It’s fun when kids have a positive attitude, chat with family members, and work together. If you’re being manipulated into excusing your disgruntled teen without her doing her fair share of the work, the only thing you should be sorry about is allowing her to intimidate you.”
Hicks concludes, “Worry less about managing your daughter’s behavior, and more about building her character. If you focus on her good character, her good behavior will follow.”
Discipline your children while there is hope.
Help me raise kind and compassionate children, Lord.
Attention, Control Freaks!
The need to be in control. Many of us struggle with it, and Catholic writer Mary DeTurris Poust is no exception.
As she recalled on her blog Not Strictly Spiritual, she was meeting with her spiritual director, a Sister of Saint Joseph of Carondolet, a few years ago and told her, “I want to be in the spiritual groove. Sometimes I’ve got it going on in my spiritual life, and then I hit dark and dry patches and everything falls apart. I feel like I’ll never get back to where I was.”
The nun suggested that DeTurris Poust’s focus on “I” may be contributing to the problem—and that she needed to give up her “illusion of control” and instead tell God, “I know I can’t do this without You.”
DeTurris Poust acknowledged that she still struggles with this same issue and plans to reflect on the idea “that I cannot do anything without God, but with God all things are possible.”
Reflect on your life and see if your desire for control is impacting you in a negative way. Then pray for the grace to trust God—and be humble enough to let Him lead the way.
Trust in Him, and He will act. (Psalm 37:5)
Lord, increase my faith and my trust in You.
Love and Grand Gestures
Calah Alexander, a wife and mother of five in Florida, admits that she used to “buy into the cultural lie that love is measured in Grand Gestures,” like champagne and diamonds. And since her husband, a teacher, wasn’t good at grand gestures, she would often lapse into a “woe is me” attitude.
Then she started paying more attention to her husband’s actions on a day-to-day basis and discovered just how special their relationship was.
On her Patheos blog, Alexander wrote, “During the school year he works from 9 to 6, comes home for an hour for dinner, and then goes straight back to the writing center until 10:30 or 11. And in that hour, he never comes home and relaxes. He comes home and helps me feed the kids dinner, get them in bed, then cleans and sweeps the kitchen before going back to work.”
Alexander realized that she’s got a spouse who appreciates everything she does as a wife and mom, and does his best to selflessly support her. And that kind of love serves a much bigger purpose than champagne and diamonds.
He who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:28)
Help spouses love each other like You love us, Lord.
Bring on the Laughs
Never underestimate the power of laughter. That was the gist of actor and comedian Bob Newhart’s commencement address at the Catholic University of America in 1997.
Humor isn’t frivolous, Newhart reminded the graduates; it’s necessary. He said, “It allows us to step back from an event over which we have no control and deal with it and then move on with our lives…We had an earthquake a couple of years ago in Los Angeles, and it wasn’t more than three or four days later that I heard the first earthquake joke. Someone said, ‘The traffic is stopped, but the freeways are moving.’”
Newhart concluded, “People with a sense of humor tend to be less egocentric and more realistic in their view of the world, more humble in moments of success, and less defeated in times of travail. I certainly don’t delude myself that there aren’t more important things to do in life than make people laugh, but I can’t imagine anything that would bring me more joy.”
He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouts of joy. (Job 8:21)
Keep my eyes, heart, and spirit open to the funny things that go on around me every day, Divine Creator.
Christ Was His Model
The levels of selflessness and sacrifice displayed by Father Emil Kapaun throughout the Korean War were heroic and saintly, to say the least. Where did he get the strength and character to act that way? To his biographer Roy Wenzl, the answer is obvious: “Christ was his model.”
The surviving POWs who had been with Father Kapaun during his final months immediately tried to get him recognized posthumously with the Medal of Honor. For bureaucratic reasons, it took 50 years and finally happened in 2013.
In addition, the chaplain is also on the road to sainthood after several seemingly-incurable patients were healed following prayers for his intercession. Wenzl notes that many of the people supporting Father Kapaun’s cause for sainthood are Protestants who are “baffled about why this guy hasn’t been named a saint.” It seems that even in death, Father Kapaun is crossing denominational lines just as he did in life.
The hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life. (John 5:28-29)
May we all aspire to be saints in Your heavenly kingdom, Lord.
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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