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Three Minutes a Day

December 27 
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.


December 26 
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.


December 25 
Reviving Christmas

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.


December 24 
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.



December 23 
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.


December 22
Like the Face of God

In May 2012, singer-songwriter Brooke White gave birth to her and her husband Dave’s first child: a daughter named London.  Becoming a mom has added a richness and joy to White’s life that she’d never experienced before.

During an interview on Christopher Closeup about her album White Christmas, she said, “I had just gotten home from New York and performing at the Rockefeller Center tree lighting.  I laid London down to take a nap and she locked eyes with me…I was stressed out and a little overwhelmed—and she looked at me and, truly, it was like the face of God.  It’s like she was telling me, ‘This is what’s important, and it’s okay.’”

White continued, “That was such a blessing.  I needed it in that moment.  Since she was born, everything shifted in my mind.  I know most every parent goes through some sort of transformation, but for me it was instant with London.  She came out not crying; her eyes were open, and she was this alert little person ready to live.  I can’t wait to see this little person blossom and grow.  I love her.  She’s perfect.  She is love.” 

Their children become a blessing. (Psalm 37:26)

Bring joy to all mothers, Lord.


December 21
Charlie’s Promise

When he was a seventh-grader in Cleveland, Sean Patrick remembers a new arrival to the neighborhood: Charlie Carroll from the mining area of West Virginia.  Charlie had a perpetual smile on his face, and was quickly welcomed into Sean’s circle of friends.

Prior to Christmas, Charlie revealed that he needed to find someone for whom he could perform a good deed.  The reason?  After his father escaped a mine collapse a few years earlier, Charlie made a promise to God to help someone every Christmas season as a sign of gratitude.  That year, he chose to paint the apartment walls of Mr. Stolarski, a wheelchair-bound senior. 

Sean and his friends were so taken by the idea that they adopted Charlie’s promise as well, performing good deeds that Christmas—and every one since then. 

Writing in Catholic Digest, Sean notes that Charlie went on to become the Father Charles Carroll, “a Holy Cross priest and missionary in the wilds of Bangladesh.”  He hopes the good deeds that Charlie inspired are making the Holy Family smile.

Clothe yourselves with compassion. (Colossians 3:12)

To honor Your birth, Jesus, I choose to share my blessings.


December 20
Nice Running Into You

In his column in The Catholic Review of Baltimore, Father Joe Breighner recently told one of those hard-to-get-out-of-your-mind stories that’s well, hard to get out of your mind! He was stopped at a traffic light years ago when another driver—a young man, stoned on drugs—plowed into him. The young man was arrested, Father Breighner was unhurt, and that was that.

Until recently that is, when the remorseful man reappeared at a retreat and asked to speak to the priest. You don’t know the full story behind that incident, Father Breighner was told by this figure from his past. The young man that day intended to drive to the cemetery, overdose on all the drugs he had with him, and die on his mother’s grave. The accident saved him, and, according to the penitent, he’s remained off drugs and alcohol for 30 years.

“It’s easy to forget that our God is a God of surprises,” the priest wrote. “Our job in life is not to work ‘for’ God; our job is to allow God to work through us.  And when someone says, ‘It was nice running into you,’ it will have a whole new meaning.”

The Lord has made everything for its purpose. (Proverbs 16:11)

Lord, remind us that everything happens for a reason.


December 19 
Fortunate Fall

“I've been meditating on the poverty and the wealth of being human for some time now.  The poverty of need—our desperate need for redemption, salvation, and mercy—and the wealth of knowing Christ as Redeemer through those needs.”

That’s the motivation for singer/songwriter Audrey Assad’s latest album, entitled Fortunate Fall.  Her goal is to create a work of art that fits into the Church’s tradition of beauty.

Assad explained, “I have long believed that true Beauty can change a world where truth and goodness are no longer important to most people.  Beauty is still idolized in our society, and so it still has influence, however warped its role may have become.  But the remarkable thing about true Beauty is that, when it is real and when it is pure, it carries in itself Truth and Goodness.  The three are inseparable. And the best thing I can do as an artist who wants to serve the Church is to love all three, and to pursue them with prayer and humility, hoping to offer them to the Church and the world using the gifts I’ve been given.”

I was overjoyed to find some of your children walking in the truth.  (2 John 1:4)

Make me an outlet of your creative genius, Lord.


December 18
Defending “Merry Christmas”

For all those who fear the loss of Christ in Christmas, take heart. At least one person of another faith harbors no objection to a “Merry Christmas!” at this time of year.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Here’s how Ben Stein, the well-known commentator, expressed it (in part) recently on CBS: 

“I am a Jew...and it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful, lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees.  I don’t feel threatened.  I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are, Christmas trees.

“It doesn’t bother me…when people say ‘Merry Christmas’ to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto.  In fact, I kind of like it.  It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year...
     “I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period.”

Heartening words—at this or any other time.

         There is neither Jew nor Greek…for all of you are one in Jesus Christ. (Galatians 3:28)

       Father, let nothing separate us from Your divine love.

December 17
Finding the Familiar Far Away

A little girl from Israel fearfully entered her new first-grade classroom in New York City.  Everything looked different and sounded different.

Her father spoke to the teacher, explaining that they had just arrived in New York, and that his daughter was learning English, but slowly.  Overhearing the conversation, another first-grader—her own father from Israel, and her mother from New York—approached her new classmate.  

In perfect Hebrew, she said to the frightened child, “Welcome to our school!  I will be your friend!”

The two children hugged, smiling, while the father cried, joyfully relieved.

Love is a universal language—with the power to transform fear into hope, sadness into joy.

Come in, my daughter, and welcome. Blessed be your God who has brought you to us. (Tobit 11:17)

I reach out to You, Lord, in my darkest hour, seeking the  blessing of Your peace.


December 16
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.


 December 15 
Santa versus Sandy

After seeing news coverage of people whose homes were destroyed by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, a wealthy businessman from Kansas City, Missouri, traveled to Staten Island, New York to play Santa Claus for those in need. 

The anonymous Secret Santa arrived with $100 bills to distribute to whoever needed them.  He began at a Salvation Army thrift store, and also visited a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall where meals and cleaning supplies were being handed out.

A law enforcement official who traveled around the borough with Secret Santa told the New York Post, “His generosity was matched only by his ability to connect with people from all walks of life before he pulled out the $100 bills.”

Secret Santa felt good about his mission too.  He said, “It’s not about the gift of giving money.  It’s about the gift of joy you give yourself when you give to others…I want to recruit other executives and CEOs to act as Secret Santas in different cities.”

For to the one who pleases him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy.  (Ecclesiastes 2:26)

Father, may I reflect your holy, loving and giving nature to those around me.


December 14
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.


December 13
Best Friends

         Thanks to champion dog trainer Shannon Walker from Vancouver, Washington, military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are finding mental and emotional healing with a little help from the animal world. 

         Walker prepares canines to be companion animals for vets with PTSD.  For instance, former Army gunner Kevin Williams, 26, would “wake from nightmares, grab my gun and search the room in fear. Now I open my eyes, see Sammy [his Labrador] sleeping soundly and I know I’m safe.”  Randy Guillory, a Vietnam vet, holds the paw of his pit bull Leia at night.  If he trembles, she licks his face in comfort.

          “Having a dog can totally change a person’s outlook,” says Walker, who runs Northwest Battle Buddies, the nonprofit which provides veterans with their service animals.  “When I hand over an animal to a veteran, I know that both the dog and the owner will respect, protect and love each other.  It’s an awesome moment—and the beginning of an incredible relationship.” 

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear  no evil; for You are with me. (Psalm 23:4)

         May we appreciate the value of companionship, Jesus.


December 12
Catching the Bus

Jackie had been insanely busy at work. Early morning arrivals at the office each day were matched to early evening departures.  And then there was answering e-mails almost through the night. 

In the brief time she was with her husband and daughter, she never felt present to them—or to herself.

One day on the way to work, she met a neighbor who mentioned taking the early bus that night back home. Jackie vowed to do the same.  She texted her daughter, and the two met and traveled home on that bus.  Then they went shopping.  

Her husband joined the pair later for dinner at their favorite neighborhood restaurant.  As they laughed and talked, Jackie realized how much she had been missing—and pledged to catch that early bus more often than not. 

Work’s responsibilities are important, but so are the chores of the heart—the task of engagement with family and friends.  

Love one another deeply from the heart. (1 Peter 1:22)

Be never far from me, Lord. 


December 11
The Unlikely Musical Genius

When Patrick Henry Hughes was born crippled and without eyes, his parents were devastated. They decided to persevere, though, and their patience was rewarded a year later when the baby was able to sit at a piano keyboard. He could hit any note on demand, and by his second birthday was taking requests for simple tunes like “You Are My Sunshine.”

As the years went on he could play standards and blues and classical pieces, and his Mother and Dad realized they had a musical genius on their hands. 

Now Patrick is a freshman at the University of Louisville, and, with his father’s help, is a member of the marching band. His Dad attends classes with him, too, a schedule made possible by working the graveyard shift at UPS from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

“So I was born crippled and without eyes,” Patrick says. “Big deal! I have musical gifts and a great opportunity to meet new people.”

“He’s my hero,” says his Dad. “He’s taught me I don’t have any complaints.”  

He…strengthens the powerless. (Isaiah 40:29)

Abba, may we never take our life’s blessings for granted.

December 10
Christmas Really Does Change Everything

         Christmas isn’t only the season for giving gifts and decorating trees—it’s also a time to curl up on the couch with a mug of hot cocoa and watch one of the many heartwarming holiday movies on TV.

         While these films are spiritually uplifting in their own ways, showing Christmas as a time when people renew their faith in themselves and each other, their source of belief often rests not in the Nativity but rather in the figure of Santa Claus.

           “These Christmas fantasy movies rarely mention the reason for the season,” Dale O’Leary observes in The Pilot.  “In one way, they represent a paganization of Christmas…without Christ—and yet there is a truth hidden in these fantasies: Christmas really does change everything.  We are called to believe not in a jolly, white-bearded man with flying reindeer, but in something far more wonderful—a virgin mother of God’s son—God come down from heaven as a helpless child.”

         Never forget the true meaning of Christmas—the birth of Christ, the source of salvation for us all.

For a child has been born for us. (Isaiah 9:6)

Jesus, may we remember Your humble entry into our world.


December 9
Steps for a Stronger Family

As Jesus was born into a good family, He desires His children to be part of strong families too.  Writer Lauren Gulde offers these suggestions to build the bonds between mothers, fathers and children. 

▪ Create a prayer intention list for the month: As a family, write a list of intentions, then remember them each night during prayer time.

▪ Learn about faith together: have a family Scripture study or watch videos like Father Robert Barron’s Christopher Award-winning Catholicism series.

▪ Family Fun Nights: play games; cook together; watch a movie; read together; play outside or go on a walk.

▪ Travel: go to local museums; plan a day trip.

▪ Family Service Projects: Volunteer together at Church ministries, community projects, or pregnancy centers.

▪ Family Meetings: Discuss projects, special events, prayer requests.

And in your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Acts 3:25)

Jesus, through the example of Your parents Mary and St. Joseph, help families be strong in love.


December 8
Theology Behind Bars

Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists and a Rastafarian sit in Father George Williams’ theology class.  But this isn’t an ordinary classroom; it’s California’s San Quentin State Prison.

The Jesuit priest who serves as the prison’s Catholic chaplain began the program in 2012 to help inmates interested in learning more about Catholicism.  Response has been positive.

Johnny, a student in Father Williams’ class who’s been behind bars for 16 years, was baptized Catholic in 2010.  He explained to America magazine’s Kerry Weber, “The Catholic Church [is] where I felt most comfortable.  Maybe that’s because of the family setting here, with the Father and with Virgin Mary as our mother and all the angels and saints.”

What has he gotten out of Father Williams’ classes? “The more I meditate on things I’m doing in the church program, the better I am at learning more about who I used to be, how I’m different now and what caused me to do what I did to get here.”

Study the rich history and wisdom of your faith—and get to know yourself and God on a deeper level.

Give me…wisdom and knowledge. (2 Chronicles 1:10)

Increase my understanding of Your teachings, Jesus.

December 7
A Spiritually Fruitful Advent

We generally think of Lent as the time to take on extra tasks out of love for God, but Advent can be just as spiritually fruitful. It may even be more vital because the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can leave us frazzled and distracted.  A conscious effort on our part to remember the coming Christ-child can keep us grounded in the true meaning of the season.

God’s love for us will never go away, regardless of whether we engage in a relationship with Him or not. He’s good that way, much more patient and understanding than we are. But if we never take the time to express gratitude to the Creator for all our blessings, how good a relationship can we expect to have? 

If your relationship with God is feeling lackluster lately, take the opportunity to return His love on a more regular basis. Offer words of praise, not just petition.  And take time out to just “be” with each other. You may come to experience God’s love in a new, more satisfying way.

I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and  heard my cry. (Psalm 40:1)

Holy Spirit, open my heart to the grace that the Christ-Child will bring.


December 6
Christmas Love for a Crabby Grump

Some people have co-workers that are mean, but Jen McKinney describes a former colleague as “really mean.”  Though she dreaded crossing paths with this crabby grump, she had no choice.  

When the joy-filled season of Christmas approached, McKinney didn’t want her good mood ruined, so she decided to try a new approach with this woman: kindness.

As McKinney told Catholic Digest’s Rachel Balducci, “I gave her a simple present—a sweater—with a note about the season from St. Nicholas on his feast day.  I didn’t sign it, but she was so excited, and she wore that sweater until it came apart, never knowing who it came from.”

McKinney’s lesson fit the spirit of the season: “It was wonderful for me to show love to someone not easy to love.  I saw her as a child of God instead of a brute.”

It may take a lot of effort and prayer, but try treating the unlovable people in your life as lovable children of God.  

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss. (Psalm 85:10)

Give me the grace to deal with negativity, Jesus.


December 5
Operation Mend

Army Sgt. Jason March had always liked being in photographs, but the Iraqi sniper’s bullet that shattered his face stole that pleasure from his life.  Though surgeons reconstructed his face and head, March was no longer able to smile because of a severed nerve.  That’s where Operation Mend came in.

Based at UCLA, Operation Mend consists of a group of cosmetic surgeons who perform advanced facial and hand surgeries for severely scarred veterans.  As reported by the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, 88 vets have come through the program so far, some requiring up to 50 corrective surgeries.  

Many veterans don’t take advantage of the program because they’re sick of having surgeries or because they feel worthless.  Sgt. March, however, was willing to make the effort.  

By taking a nerve from his calf muscle and attaching it to his face, doctors gave him the ability to smile again.  March, who underwent a total of 80 surgeries after his injury, said, “Operation Mend gave me back my morale…This organization started a whole new world for soldiers.”

He restores my soul. (Psalm 23:3)

Mend the wounds of our bodies and souls, Divine Healer.


December 4
How to Lose and Find $5,000

Don’t you hate it when you accidentally throw away $5,000?  Magda Castillo of Queens, New York, sure wasn’t happy with herself when she did that exact thing.

Castillo had gotten rid of her old refrigerator, forgetting that she had hidden $5,000 in one of its doors.  Panicked, she headed to the recycling center that had picked up the fridge and told the worker in charge what happened.  As reported by the Daily News, he couldn’t find it so Castillo made the sign of the cross and left, assuming the money was gone forever.

When employee Mike Downer arrived for work and heard the story from his co-worker, he remembered the refrigerator, found it on-site, and took out the money so he could return it.  Castillo didn’t leave her number so they alerted the media, hoping she would hear the story on the news.  Sure enough, she did.  

A grateful Castillo insisted Downer accept a $300 reward for his initiative and honesty.  Then she opened a bank account to ensure this kind of incident never happens again.

Honesty comes home to those who practice it.  (Sirach 27:9)

May I always choose honesty, Heavenly Father.


December 2 
A Positive Christmas

This season, try something positive. Instead of getting angry at the increasing avoidance of “Christmas” in favor of “Happy Holidays,” skip the confrontation and pretend this message comes from Jesus:

If you want to celebrate My birthday, don’t bother writing letters of protest.  Send letters of love and hope instead.
         Visit someone in a nursing home. (They’ll appreciate it!)  Pick someone who has hurt you in the past, and forgive him or her.

Don’t nitpick about what the local retailer calls Christmas, and be patient with the people who work there.  Give them a warm smile and a kind word.  Even if they can’t wish you a merry Christmas, you can wish them one.

Support a missionary—someone who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.
         Finally, if you really want to make a statement, behave like a Christian.  Let your actions show that you are one of Mine!

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. (Romans 8:14)

Abba, may the meaning of Christmas reside in our hearts all year.


December 1
Man of Science, Man of Faith

Though he cares for disabled children and adults who are malformed or crippled, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky sees the image and likeness of God in each of them.

 During an interview on the PBS show Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, this modern man of science, who works at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and an upstate clinic, revealed that his work is grounded in his Catholic faith.  He said, “People don’t need for me to preach at them. They need for me to care…to walk in with the love of God and to try and share it in any way that I can.”  

Sometimes, that approach simply requires listening.  Patient Chris Rosa said, “A lot of doctors don’t listen.  They want to do what they gotta do and go away.  Just because we may look funny doesn’t mean you should talk over us.”  

That won’t happen with Dr. Dutkowsky, who said, “Even if I can’t cure the condition, if they’re being overburdened with that cross [and] I can just hold up a corner, it might make it light enough for them to be able to carry it and move on.”

Bear one another’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2)

Give me the strength to help carry someone’s cross, Jesus.


 April 29
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.


February 24
Celebrating Dads

         In some circles, fathers get a bad rap, writes Carolina Pichardo in the Manhattan Times.  Often it’s men in urban areas who are viewed as poor role models.

         Pichardo agrees there are serious issues to consider concerning absent fathers—for instance, socioeconomic status and educational attainment.  But she focuses on the positive.

         “We turn to many local fathers who defy such conventions and instead serve as great examples of the kind of parent whose focus is on the well-being of the children….”   

         One Bronx dad was heartbroken and shocked when his son was diagnosed with autism.  Nevertheless, says his wife, “he is a dedicated husband and father who really enjoys spending time with his family.”

         Another dad says, “Whenever I make a decision…I have a little voice reminding me, ‘My daughter might see this; is it something she’ll be proud of?’”

          Celebrate fathers who are great role models.

Know the God of your father, and serve him with single mind and willing heart. (1 Chronicles 28:9)

Father in heaven, watch over fathers everywhere.

February 23
The Tweeting Nun

“A lightning bolt experience.”  That’s how Sister Helena Burns described the calling to become a nun that she felt at age 15.   She entered the convent at age 17, choosing the Daughters of St. Paul because of their focus on media.

Sister Helena told Chicago Catholic News, “I looked at a lot of communities, but I thought what better way to bring God into peoples’ lives than through a book or song or magazine or film?  You can very directly reach people on a deep level.  It’s an art—we are using these arts to communicate with people.”

Not only is Sister Helena a regular presence on Facebook and Twitter, she is also working on a documentary about Father James Alberione, the founder of the Daughters of St. Paul.

 She said, “We want [people] to know the life of this amazing media saint…to let them know that it is possible to have sanctity go together with the latest technology—not just for holy uses and pondering the word of God, but in our everyday lives.”

Remember to include God in every aspect of your life.

Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.

(1 Corinthians 10:31)

Inspire us to use technology wisely, Creator.



February 20
The Angel Karly Foundation

         Most parents think of each of their children as angels, gifts from God. But not many parents have babies born with “Angelman Syndrome,” named after the doctor who first discovered this neuro-genetic disease in 1965.  Although these babies are unable to communicate with words and prone to epilepsy, their loving eyes and wriggling bodies convey their perpetual states of happiness.

         Five-year-old Karly Ruiz of San Antonio, Texas, is one such “angel.”  Although her initial diagnosis was tough on her parents, Rolando and Araceli, they decided to take positive action.  In 2009, the Ruizes established the Angel Karly Foundation, a nonprofit organization intended to raise awareness and provide a sense of solidarity for families of children with Angelman’s Syndrome. Araceli credits the foundation’s success to her special daughter.

         “She’s a huge gift from God and was given to us for a reason,” Araceli explained to Today’s Catholic reporter Carol Baass Sowa.  “God wanted us to do this—the foundation.”

Every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights. (James 1:17)

Abba, protect children, the purest of Your angels on Earth.

February 18
A Poem as Lovely as a Tree

        There was a time when every student could have recited at least the opening lines of “Trees”— “I think that I shall never see/A poem lovely as a tree...” 

Time was, too, when schoolchildren could have told you that the poem was written by Joyce Kilmer, a New Jerseyan and convert to the Catholic faith, killed in action in World War I.

“Trees” and Kilmer were back in the news last year on the 100th anniversary of the poem—February 2, 2013—when Mahwah, New Jersey, declared that the poem was written in the township.  Mahwah has plenty of proof for its claim. Not only did Kilmer reside there; he was in his Mahwah home the day the poem was written. However, there are also But while Mahwah has this evidence on its side, it also has an equal amount of contradictory opinions. Several towns claim the honor of inspiring the poem, as do at least two well-known universities: Rutgers and Notre Dame.

Whatever its origin, “Trees” endures to inspire new generations. As its closing lines declare: “Poems are made by fools like me/But only God can make a tree.”

Long ago You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. (Psalm 102:25)

         Glory to Your everlasting works, O Savior of all mankind.


February 16
Medal Quest

            Since 1948, the Paralympics have brought together the world’s top athletes with physical disabilities in thrilling, high-level competitions.  Today, the games are held every two years in coordination with the Olympics and at Olympic stadiums.  Yet, the Paralympics are often called “the Olympics no one knows.”

            PBS/WGBH’s online project Medal Quest aimed to change that oversight by highlighting the American athletes who trained for and competed in London’s 2012 Paralympic Games.  Executive Producer Judith Vecchione explained, “One of our goals…was to encourage audiences to reconsider their ideas about ability and disability.  As they witnessed the [competitors’] intense training, commitment and skill…viewers also learned about athletes giving back to their communities…and becoming role models.”

            The Christophers honored Medal Quest with our 2013 Christopher Spirit Award for highlighting the heart, spirit and potential inside a group of athletes whose abilities are far greater than their disabilities.

Run with perseverance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Lord, turn my challenges into stepping stones to greatness.


February 15
How to Get Good at Something

Though Jerry Seinfeld rose to fame as the star of his own TV show, he worked for years as a stand-up comedian learning his craft.  During an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he recalled his early days hoping that some veteran comedian could offer him guidance.  In retrospect, he realizes there was no adequate advice that would have made telling jokes in front of an audience any easier.

Seinfeld said, “There’s no training, there were no classes, there was no getting ready—it was sink or swim.  You had to learn how to do it well to survive.  And that, in my opinion, is the only healthy path to becoming a comedian.  If you grow up in a family where you have lots of privileges and there’s money around…you’re never going to get good at anything.”

Seinfeld’s insight can be applied to anyone, not just comedians.  If we want to excel at something, it will only happen through determined and persistent practice.  Having everything come easy is actually a deterrent to quality.  Trial, error, failure and struggle will make you a master of your craft.

 Let us run with perseverance. (Hebrews 12:1)

Help me endure failure on the road to success, Father.

February 8
A Good Samaritan Doctor

One of the people NBC News correspondent Bob Dotson highlights in his book American Story is Jack McConnell, a doctor who retired to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

While talking to one of the island’s 6,000 working poor, Dr. McConnell discovered that most of them couldn’t afford medical care, so they would go to the emergency room when they were sick. The physician knew that was fine if you broke a leg, but inefficient if you needed a check-up or preventive care.

Dr. McConnell asked his fellow retired doctors, “Why don’t we open up a clinic and volunteer?”  Their initial response was that they had gotten out from under burdensome insurance costs and didn’t want to open themselves up to lawsuits.

Dr. McConnell appealed to South Carolina’s legislature to let him operate a clinic under the state’s Good Samaritan law, which states that you can’t sue a doctor who stops to help you in an emergency situation.  The law passed and the clinic opened.  Today, 44 states have similar free clinics because of Dr. Jack McConnell’s efforts. 

Honor physicians for their services.  (Sirach 38:1)

Bless and guide caring physicians, Divine Healer.

February 7
Date the Unexpected One

When seeking a relationship, it’s only natural to imagine the perfect looking person over the perfect person for you.  But what about your compatibility in areas like finances and lifestyle?  Do you both see child-rearing in your future, or spending time together in excitement and boredom?

Writer J.R. Baldwin suggests that if you want true love and romance, you have to prepare for it.  How?

▪ Close your eyes, and don’t just judge by looks.  Are you interested in this person because of their availability and their ambitions? Their sense of humor and their smile?

▪ Don’t worry whether he or she is “the one.”  First, genuinely enjoy getting to know the other person and pray about the relationship.  Keep an open mind to a future, and discuss things that matter.

▪ Pray for God to guide your mind and heart.

Remember, the first step toward love comes from being open to a person as God sees them, not as you want to see them.

Seek Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

Lord, protect my heart and give me the courage to seek and give love.



February 6
The Angry Driver’s Surprise

On Facebook, a man named Garry shared the following story about his encounter with an impatient driver:

“I bought a very irritated women a latte this morning.  I was on my way to a client meeting in Farmington Hills, and as I made a lane change, she sped up to keep me out of the lane.  We were coming up to a red light, and my nose was already in the lane when she tried to cut me off, but she had a good time honking at me.”

         “I pulled into the Starbucks drive-thru for a double tall mocha…and she pulled in right behind me.  When I came to the window I paid for her drink as well as mine, and then for several miles down the highway, I was still smiling.  It was a better choice than road rage :-)”

         It isn’t easy to answer rudeness with kindness, but it can be the best, most peaceful option.  It may also leave you smiling.

Wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; prudence will watch over you; and understanding will guard you. (Proverbs 2:10-11)

Help me to control my temper, Father, so that I may be a loving example to others..

February 5
How This Teen Might Save Your Life

         Having lost both an uncle and a family friend to pancreatic cancer, 15-year-old Jack Andraka from Crownsville, Maryland knew that the disease was often fatal because of a lack of early detection.  While sitting in his North County High School biology class one day, the scientifically-inclined teen came upon the idea to develop a test involving antibodies and “carbon nanotubes.” 

Following extensive research, he sent a letter explaining his theory to 200 professors at Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health, asking for lab assistance.  All the professors but one rejected him.  With support from Dr. Anirban Maitra, Andraka devised a specially designed paper sensor that checks blood and urine for a biomarker that indicates pancreatic cancer.  The test takes five minutes to run, costs three cents, and is 400 times more sensitive than current tests.

If pancreatic cancer patients in the future get life-saving treatment, they can be grateful for Jack Andraka’s intelligence, initiative and refusal to take no for an answer. 

Give me now wisdom and knowledge. (2 Chronicles 1:10)

         Bring comfort and healing to all cancer patients, Lord.


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