Three Minutes a Day

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Three Minutes a Day

 

Three Minutes a Day


April 29
Breaking Bad vs. Choosing Good

Best-selling novelist and Catholic convert Dean Koontz tends to write about people who choose evil after bad things have happened in their past. At the same time, some people deal with adversity and emerge more compassionate. Why does he think some people break bad, while others get better?

During a Christopher Closeup interview, Koontz said, “I think that it comes back to believing in something bigger than us. If you find that very difficult, then you fall into nihilism. You think it doesn’t matter what you do because the world is just a chaotic place and nothing has any meaning. But if you’re aware that things do have meaning, the evidence is everywhere.

“I don’t think you have to be religious in the sense of a churchgoer and be a member of a particular creed. You can look around the world without having been raised that way and with your eyes wide open and you will see almost daily so many strangenesses and mysteries…That’s something that’s been with me since I was a kid: this sense of wonder about the world—and it only grows richer for me the older I get.”

 The heavens are telling the glory of God. (Psalm 19:1)

 Open my eyes, mind and heart to Your wonders, Creator.

 


April 28
Wired for Kindness

A recent series of studies from the University of British Columbia suggests “we come into this world wired to prefer kindness,” reports Daniel Goleman in the Washington Post.

The studies involve showing infants and toddlers a puppet show that includes a kind character and a mean one.  Between 80 to 100 percent of the children express a liking for the kind one.

Though “research shows that as they enter school around age five or so, children shift away from their innate altruism toward selfishness,” that inclination can be neutralized by re-enforcing the benefits of kindness. That supports the opinion of the Dalai Lama, who Goleman interviewed for his book A Force for Good.  “Compassion, he says—and science agrees—is innate, and can be strengthened like a muscle.”

Since we are all made in the image and likeness of God, we all inherently share in a measure of God’s love and kindness. By building up those natural qualities in ourselves, we can grow to be even more like Him.

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

Guide me toward choosing kindness every day, Father.

 


April 27 
Lonely Seeker of Comfort

A woman from Halifax, Nova Scotia, described her experience when she went to a local church for the first time. A widow, she moved to a smaller house in a new town where she found herself overwhelmed by loneliness.

She hadn’t been to church since she was a little girl, but hoped she might find solace. There wasn’t a crowd at the service and everyone seemed to know and talk to everyone else.

Because the newcomer didn’t know the liturgy, she kept glancing at others to see if she was standing or kneeling at the right times. At the end, she walked slowly back down the aisle, hoping someone would say hello. They didn’t. Even “the Vicar was shaking hands with people…but somehow I seemed to get missed.”

Don’t let someone “get missed.” Reach out. It can be as simple as a smile and a word of welcome. We need one another.

What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness. (Micah 6:8)

You’ve never ignored me, Lord. May I never ignore anyone.

 


April 26
Clearing Clutter

If you’ve been putting off clearing out the clutter in your home, here are some ideas from a time management expert.

Get some big cardboard boxes and label them:

■ Trash: for those things of no use to you or anybody else.

■ Charity: for items useful to others.

■ Posterity: for sentimental items.

■ Transition: for things that need to be sorted through carefully.

Then go to work, one room at a time, or even one drawer at a time. Approaching any goal just one step at a time rather than worrying about doing everything completely and perfectly is a sound idea.

Add persistence to a well-thought-out plan and you may accomplish more than you thought possible.

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it. (Proverbs 15:16)

Jesus, enable me to simplify my life, not just my home, so that reverence for You may be my chief treasure.

 


April 25
The Wright Response to a City’s Loss

David Wright comes through again for the New York Mets! The slugging third baseman, son of a Virginia police officer, took the lead in arranging a special day for the families of two slain New York policemen last year.

Patrolmen Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were killed as they sat in their squad car in December of 2014. The Daily News established a fund which raised $700,000, and the presentation of that check was part of the ceremonies as the Mets hosted some 20 of the policemen’s family and friends. But the emphasis was on the day itself, a day the families enjoyed. That was particularly true for Justin and Jaden Ramos, sons of one of the police officers—and dedicated Mets fans.

         “This has been an awesome experience,” said Justin, a sophomore at Bowdoin College in Maine. Wright was lavish in his praise, too. “For me it was more important just to express my condolences,” he said. “To let them know that their father was a hero, and they have an open invitation to come down here whenever they’d like to.”

Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you. (Psalm 55:22)

Bring healing to the families of fallen police officers, Jesus.

 


April 24
Forever and Ever, Amen

Christina Capecchi, whose syndicated column graces the pages of many Catholic newspapers, tells the story of Joseph and Helen Auer of Cincinnati, married for an incredible 73 years. When Helen died in the fall of 2014, Joe kissed her and whispered, “Mama, call me home.”  She answered his request almost at once. Joe passed away 28 hours later, at the age of 100.

         Capecchi said their Catholic faith undergirded their union. “It was like oatmeal,” she wrote, “giving them sustenance. It was like a full daily planner, lending them purpose. It was like stardust, offering them hope.”

Joe missed the birth of his second child while fighting in World War II, but there were more kids to come—10 in all. The Auers endured hardships—“a night job, farm chores, miscarriages, Catholic-school tuition”—by attending Mass, going to confession weekly and praying a nightly rosary. 

         One daughter said, “They always put God first,” and a grandson—one of 16 grandchildren—recalls the mandates with which he grew up: “work hard, finish your meal, say please, go to church.” As legacies go, they don’t come much better.

Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:8)

Give married couples the grace to thrive, Father.


April 23
The Matheny Manifesto

As the father of five children who were active in sports, St. Louis Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny had seen his share of out-of-control parents at his kids’ games. After being asked to coach his young son’s baseball team, he wrote a letter to parents spelling out his expectations. It soon became known as The Matheny Manifesto. Here are a few points:

■ “I believe that the biggest role of the parent [at games] is to be a silent source of encouragement...It’s hard not to coach from the stands and yell things, but trust me: Coaching and yelling works against their development and enjoyment.”

■ “A large part of how your child improves is your responsibility... You can help out tremendously [at home] by playing catch, throwing batting practice, hitting ground balls.” 

■ “The boys will be required to show up ready to play every time they come to the field. Shirts tucked in, hats on straight, and pants not drooping down to their knees. There is not an excuse for lack of hustle on a baseball field...Players that do not hustle and run out balls will not play.”

Athletes exercise self-control in all things. (1 Corinthians 9:25)

Help coaches teach children good, lifelong values, Father.

 


 April 22
Flowers Outside the Box

         Although Jim McCann’s initial career direction was uncertain, he encountered people who planted seeds in his mind which ultimately blossomed into a very successful career.

         McCann hadn’t been a serious student until he met an inspirational teacher at CUNY/John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who encouraged him to think “outside the box.”

         “I met this teacher named Blanche Cook who stormed into our class with knee-high boots and a lot of in-your-face attitude and made you rethink the way you thought about the world,” he told Denis Hamill of New York’s Daily News.

         At the same time that he was a student, McCann met a florist who wanted to sell his shop.  After a trial period, McCann decided to buy the business and an under-utilized 800 number. He transformed it into 1-800-Flowers. Now company CEO, McCann invited Cook to be his guest at John Jay College’s 50th anniversary dinner because of the difference she made in his life. 

All of us can plant seeds today to bear fruit in the future.

         I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go. (Psalm 32:8)

         Remind us, Lord, of our ability to change lives.

 


April 21
The Kindness of Fellow Flyers

Credit frequent flyer Jim O’Connell of Ridgewood, New Jersey, with a sensitivity that should endear him to countless friends of The Christophers. In a regular weekly feature in The New York Times, travelers such as O’Connell are asked, among other things, to name their favorite airports and why they like them. To things like frequent flights or ease of maneuverability, O’Connell added a surprising reason for appreciating just about any airport he’s come across: the kindness of fellow flyers.
         “One of the most gracious, kind acts I saw,” he wrote, “was a woman who actually gave up her seat on a sold-out flight after hearing a man pleading with the gate attendant. He needed to get home because of a family emergency.” O’Connell also told of a “kindly, older man” who came to the aid of another passenger: an overwhelmed father, without his wife, with three crying children in tow. The man helped settle the children down by offering a few kind words.
         “It was a great moment,” O’Connell concludes, “and proves that not everyone is miserable when flying. Some people still remember that kindness goes a long way.”

You showed kindness to Your people. (Wisdom 16:2)

Lord, may I always remember to practice kindness.

 


April 20
Why I’m Thankful

The inspirational newsletter Apple Seeds shared a prayer about gratitude that stemmed from Catholic Relief Services.  Here is an excerpt: “Lord of Life, They ask me why I stop to pray and begin my prayers with thanks in a world fraught with pain and loss, with cruelty and injustice. Sometimes I ask myself this too. And then I look again and gratitude fills my heart anew.

“Because when somebody is hungry, another is dividing their portion. When somebody is thirsty, another is digging a well...Because when disaster strikes and people flee, somebody else—against all sense—is running toward the danger...to reach out Your saving hand to an absolute stranger. And when somebody dies, somebody else stops to pray, and then makes a home for the orphan.

“It’s as confounding as it is beautiful. In this darkened world, where the face of God is veiled in the midst of calamities, when all instinct speaks of self-preservation, somebody still cares for the other and miracles of compassion abound. This is why I’m thankful. Amen.”

Give thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Strengthen my sense of gratitude, Prince of Peace.

  


April 18 
Father Damien’s Way

One of the country’s easternmost dioceses got together with one from the far, far west last year to honor a famed missionary saint. Patrick Downes of the Hawaii Catholic Herald reported that New York has renamed a section of East 33rd Street in Manhattan for Saint Damien, the Belgian-born priest who ministered to patients with Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy) on the island of Molokai in Hawaii.

“Father Damien Way” occupies the section of 33rd Street between First and Second avenues, home of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary parish. Saint Damien, a 19th-century missionary who was canonized in 2009, was a member of the congregation of the Sacred Hearts.

         Two residents of Kalaupapa, site of the original hospital established by Saint Damien for treatment of those with Hansen’s disease, led the delegation from Hawaii who attended the ceremony. Saint Damien, who eventually contacted the disease, died as a result of its complications on April 15, 1889. 

Cure the sick...cleanse the lepers. (Matthew 10:8)

Divine Healer, open our hearts to caring for society’s outcasts with Christ-like compassion.


April 17
Good Mental Health in a Stressful World

         In today’s increasingly stressful world, it’s important to maintain a peaceful body and spirit. In a recent issue of The Beacon, former Christophers’ Director Father John Catoir offered some useful mental health tips:

■ You are not your thoughts.  Don’t let dark thoughts define you. Remember, God is stronger than any evil, real or imagined.

■ Work to control your temper. Anger is like a poisonous acid, doing far more damage to its container than on what is poured.

■ Be grateful for every blessing, however small. 

■ Work is good for the body. Whether it’s at school or work, always put your best foot forward.

■ Choose joy over sorrow. Happiness is a conscious decision we need to make every day, for the good of ourselves and others.

■ Cheerfulness is a key ingredient of good health. You’d be surprised at how helping others can lift your own spirits.

■ Stop and think. We cannot control the circumstances in our lives, only our reactions to those circumstances. 

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give...you. 

(John 14:27)

Divine Savior, heal us of our infirmities.

 


April 16
Nobody’s Perfect

Rabbi Harold Kushner visited a dying man and asked if he was angry at God for what was happening to him. “No,” the man replied, “There have been many times when I felt God had given up on me. But lying here in the hospital, I’ve felt God’s presence.”

“When I was young,” the man continued, “I thought I had to be perfect for people to love me. So every time I did something wrong, I would make excuses. I would try to find someone else to blame. I didn’t realize what an unpleasant person I became when I acted that way.

“I thought it was my imperfection, not my defensiveness, that turned people off. But I’ve finally learned that you don’t have to be perfect to be worth loving. I only wish I had learned that sooner.”

The words of a man at the end of his life give each of us a lesson for every day of life.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. (Jeremiah 31:3)

You alone, Lord, are perfect. Stay by my side as I travel life’s rough road.

 


April 15
Retiring...Sort Of

Life may not begin at 90 for Sister Ann Michele Jadlowski, but it’s sure time to keep going. She’s still taking care of people in St. Paul, Minnesota, at St. Joseph Hospital, founded by her order, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. “Our mission here,” she explained, “is to continue the mission of our sisters, which was compassion to anyone who comes to our doors.”

         Sister Ann Michele “sort of” retired from the spirituality department at the hospital when she turned 85, but as she told Jessica Trygstad of The Catholic Spirit, she felt good enough to keep at it. She is the only sister left at the hospital, now part of the HealthEast Care System.

         “I think about the people I’ve met and the people I know, and it’s very enriching,” Sister Ann Michele said. “I know I have been given the gift of being able to listen and being compassionate. So, what keeps me here is knowing where I came from, knowing the experience I’ve had, and knowing about what I need to try to help to keep that going.”

Many years teach wisdom. (Job 32:7)

Christ, guide our society toward valuing the gift of seniors still willing and able to share their gifts with the world.

 

 


April 14
Resuscitating a Life

Talk about being in the right place at the right time! That’s the story of Fernando Frias, 32, a rookie member of the New York Fire Department’s emergency medical technician team. He was about to wind up one of his first shifts when a man flagged down his ambulance. Frias said, “He’s telling me to come to this restaurant; there’s a man there who needs help.”

The man sure did. He was Gabriel Hernandez, 54, a radio host in the Dominican Republic. One minute has was chatting with friends and the next he was collapsed on the floor. “I’m thinking, I’m brand new; I don’t know what’s going on,” Frias said. “I’ve got to stay calm. I had to go back to my training.”

It took a half-hour of resuscitation, the Daily News reported, but then Hernandez revived—and now he’s fine. He thanked Frias in person at a ceremony that reunited EMT workers with the people they saved—and the New Yorker was sure that he never had a warmer word of thanks.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

May my presence be a saving grace for someone in trouble,  Divine Healer.

 

 


April 12
The Wife Who Wouldn’t Give Up 

         Matt Davis of Savannah, Georgia, was in a motorcycle accident in July 2011 that left him with such severe brain damage that doctors advised his wife, Danielle, to take him off life support. They had been married for only seven months.

         Danielle said of her 22-year-old husband, “I wanted to give him more time to see if he improved. We didn’t really have a chance to start our life together. I wasn’t going to give up.” 

                     Danielle brought Matt home, where she and her mother cared for him. They noticed he was trying to talk, and one day Danielle held his hat out and told him to grab it. After multiple tries, he finally gasped, “I’m trying!” Recalling that moment, she exclaimed, “It was the greatest thing I’ve ever heard!”

                     In 2015, ABC News reported on Matt’s progress. He is working on walking, can drive a stick shift, crack jokes and play Scrabble. One of the lasting effects of his brain injury is memory loss, so he doesn’t remember Danielle from before the accident. But, he says, “I’m sure glad I married her.”  

         Love...endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7)

         Lord, may married couples be true to each other in sickness and health.

 


April 11
Everyone’s Contributions Are Needed

         “Human suffering and despair are present in all corners of the globe,” notes Rev. Dr. Lisa W. Davison on the Sojourners magazine blog. So how do we deal with all of this pain? The story of Jean Vanier provides an answer.

Vanier started a movement called L’Arche “by simply inviting mentally disabled friends to share his home,” writes Rev. Davison. “Vanier was recently awarded the 2015 Templeton Prize…given to a living individual who has made an important contribution toward the spiritual dimension of life.”

         She continued, “As the founder of L’Arche, a network of 147 communities around the world in which persons of differing intellectual abilities live and work together, Vanier has made his life work about creating inclusive communities that honor the divine in each person.”

         Imagine if we all took a little initiative to honor the divine in each person. On second thought, don’t just imagine it. Do it.

         I will...gather the outcast. (Zephaniah 3:19)

         Help us, Lord, to appreciate and value how our contributions can make the world a better place.


April 10
Keys to Longevity?

         Many people are living to age 100 and beyond—hopefully with health, happiness and a positive outlook. Dora Gianniello is one such senior, who was thrilled to reach her 100th birthday on Tax Day, April 15th.  According to the Staten Island Advance, “she hails from a fun-loving family, who always loved bringing smiles to others.”

         On the West coast, the local newspaper in Victoria, California, featured Ovie Corrington in a story titled “Centenarian Shares Her Recipe for Longevity.” She is known for her strong heart, deep faith and contagious joy.

         Naturally, she has endured struggles, but “Corrington said she attributes her ability to continue on and reach 100 years to three basic ingredients: her love for Jesus, laughter, and ‘simply enjoying what you had to do for your family and for others.’”

         Not everyone is blessed with a caring family, strong psychological constitution or good genes. So let’s pitch in and offer support when we notice unmet needs.    

By Me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life. (Proverbs 9:11)

            May I choose the right ingredients for a happy life, Lord.

 

 


April 9 
Zach’s Shack

         When Zach Francom was eight years old, he opened up his own lemonade and cookie stand, called Zach’s Shack. While he isn’t the first boy to have a lemonade stand, he does stand out because he gives his proceeds to those who cannot afford to buy a wheelchair. The child got the idea when his class raised $86 to donate to LDS Philanthropies, a charity that provides wheelchairs for people in developing countries who need them.

         What started out as a simple gesture of altruism on Zach’s part has evolved into an annual philanthropic event for the past four years.  Every April, hundreds of people line up in front of Zach’s Shack in Provo, Utah, to donate to his cause. He only charges 50 cents for a glass of lemonade, and a dollar per cookie, but it all adds up. In April 2015, Zach raised $5,300, enough to purchase 37 wheelchairs. The youngster hopes his organization will keep growing.

         “Imagine if there were hundreds of Zach’s Shacks,” Zach told People magazine. “Nobody who needs a wheelchair should have to go without one just because they can’t afford it.”

Whoever gives…will lack nothing. (Proverbs 28:27) 

Lord, may we learn from the selfless giving of our children.

 


April 8
Escaping a War Zone

“How long shall it be till the end of these troubles?”  That’s a quote from the Book of Daniel that’s spoken by a refugee from the Sudanese Civil War in the movie The Good Lie—and it accurately reflects the violence and hardship endured by boys and girls there throughout those horrific times.

During the mid-1980s, more than 100,000 children in Sudan were displaced or orphaned because of the civil war that raged for political and religious reasons. Many of them found their way to refugee camps and, eventually, the United States.

Screenwriter Margaret Nagle not only talked with refugees, but also interviewed volunteers, pastors, and church leaders who helped these young people. And producer Brian Grazer said, “Around the time we were making the movie, I brought my kids to an orphanage in Kenya because I wanted them to understand and appreciate the freedoms and privileges they have in their lives. I think that’s one of the things our film speaks to: being grateful and thanking God for what we have. And perhaps to ignite something in us to help where we can, however we can.”

  He fled away and escaped. (1 Samuel 19:12)

 Guide those fleeing violence to safety, Divine Wisdom.

 


April 6
Prayer and Cattle

At the foot of the Colorado Rockies rests the Abbey of St. Walburga, which houses a cloistered group of Benedictine nuns.  In addition to a life of prayer, they also run a self-sustaining farm on their 250 acres of land.  That farm has grown to include an increasingly-thriving natural beef business.

NBC News’s Erica Hill reported that the nuns hadn’t planned on selling beef, but people kept asking about it because their cattle were raised in a healthy way. Hill said, “Last year, St. Walburga produced 13,000 pounds of naturally-raised beef for 80 local families—and that still doesn’t meet the demand.”

Sister Maria-Walburga Schortemeyer says the farm work complements their spirituality: “Having an agrarian part of our life keeps us rooted to the earth...We try hard to run it in a reverent way. The animals are treated with care.”  However, she never loses sight of their real goal: “We’re not blind, even in our enclosure, to the great sorrows that many people experience. I believe...that through prayer we can have an impact.”

 You cause the grass to grow for the cattle. (Psalm 104:14)

 Bless farmers and all efforts to feed the hungry, Lord.

 


April 5
Be a Better Listener

Being a good listener can benefit your home life, your career, and your relationships, so professional counselor Julia Hogan offered some tips in Verily magazine:

■ Limit your distractions. Silence or put away your cell phone for the duration of your conversation or meeting.

■ Adjust your body language. “Face the person speaking while leaning slightly forward. Make frequent eye contact. Nod your head to signal understanding, and maintain an open posture (that means no crossed arms!).”

■ Do a double-check. “Ask clarifying questions and paraphrase what the speaker just communicated to you. [And] be sure to ask open-ended questions...These types of questions help deepen conversation and elicit key details.”

■ Avoid being solution-focused. “Sometimes, people just want a chance to talk through an issue instead of identifying a solution right away. It’s important to validate your friend’s feelings. Try, ‘That must have been so frustrating!’ Then you’ll have a better idea of what solutions you can offer if necessary.”

Speak, Lord...Your servant is listening. (1 Samuel 3:9)

Holy Spirit, teach me to be a better listener.

 


April 4 
Beauty Appreciated and Ignored

One April morning, New Yorkers passing a small park were stopped by its beauty. Two cherry trees were in full bloom. The wind was sending their pink petals swirling through the air like pink snow, covering the sidewalks. In the background, a waterfall sparkled in the sun.

Many workers on their way to offices paused to enjoy the sight. But not the park attendant. Armed with a broom and dustpan, he frantically tried to sweep up petals as they floated down. The expression on his face made it clear that he saw the delicate beauty only as litter that would have to be tossed out with the trash. He completely missed the fleeting, fragile moment of beauty the petals provided.

Undue concern about finishing our “to do” lists can often blind us to the beauty in front of us right now. Yes, we all have obligations. But we also have moments to appreciate. They are just as real and just as important.

Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:34)

Help me enjoy the present rather than worry about the next hour, day, week, month or year, Lord, to whom belongs all time and all the seasons.

 


April 3
The Quality of Mercy

The works of William Shakespeare are quoted on an amazing variety of subjects because of their wisdom and beauty. 

These are his most famous words on mercy:

“The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.         

“It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. ‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest. Mercy is an attribute of God Himself…Earthly power does show like God’s when mercy seasons justice.”

That’s from Portia’s speech in The Merchant of Venice. You may benefit from contemplating those words. You know Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.” Is there anyone who needs your mercy today?

The Lord is merciful…abounding in steadfast love.   (Psalm I03:8)

May I be as merciful as You are, Lover of Souls.


April 2
Joy in the Rain

The downpour began just as Sirius-XM radio host Leah Darrow and her children got home from their walk, so they rushed for cover in the garage. After taking her daughter Agnes out of her stroller, the little girl walked into the rain and started smiling and dancing around.

Darrow’s initial inclination was to bring Agnes back into the garage, but as she wrote on the social media website Instagram, she found the girl’s smile “mesmerizing” and didn’t want to end her moment of happiness.

Darrow continued, “This made me think of our relationship with God. Sometimes His immense and infinite love and mercy is alarming. Can He really love me that much? Will He forgive me? Yet at times, it seems when we need His mercy the most, fear takes over and we run for cover­ away from Him.
         “But Agnes made me think that maybe we should run to God’s love and mercy like she runs into the rain. To let ourselves be free in Him and allow His love and mercy to shower us—to replenish and renew our souls.”

He will renew you in His love. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Father, open my heart to life’s simple joys.

 


April 1
Christmas in April

For some people, Santa Claus arrives in early Spring. He exchanges his red suit and sleigh for a hammer and nails—and rather than sliding down the chimney, he’s busy fixing it. 

These industrious Santas are members of Christmas in April, a national volunteer organization that helps low income homeowners fix their houses. If the owners meet federal poverty guidelines and organizational criteria, 20 to 25 volunteers launch a one day mission of repair. 

The program is a joint effort of private citizens and corporate sponsors. While volunteers perform all the actual repairs, local building-supply companies provide the materials and nearby restaurants provide workers with food. Houses that were unsafe and in disrepair are transformed into welcoming homes, but the real achievements are the bonds that form when neighbors work together for a common cause. 

Money is not always the answer. We can give of our hearts, heads and hands too. 

A generous person will be enriched. (Proverbs 11:25)

Carpenter of Nazareth, teach me to build with the gifts You have given me.

 


March 31 
Mini’s Mission

Virginia native Timmy Tyrell turns 10 this year. But the highlight of his birthday isn’t the number of presents he receives. Rather, he’s more interested in the number of donations made to his charity, Mini’s Mission. Timmy’s nonprofit, which to date has raised a quarter of a million dollars, was founded three years ago, when the six-year-old discovered his friend Ella was diagnosed with cancer. Any funds from Mini’s Mission helped Ella’s family pay for her exorbitant medical bills.

Timmy’s fledgling charity has since grown to include the financial aid of professional NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon, who heads his own foundation for children with cancer. Both Timmy and his father, also named Timmy, hold racing records as well. In fact, at the ripe age of eight, Timmy, nicknamed Mini, became the youngest winner in Arena Car Race history. 

         “Never in our wildest imagination, could we have predicted what Mini would accomplish in just three years,” Timmy’s mother, Tina, told NBC Nightly News. “He’s not only inspiring adults. He’s also inspiring young kids.”

Train children in the right way. (Proverbs 22:6)

God, protect and guide all children, life’s greatest legacy.

 


March 30
Taking the High Road

Remember Mo’ne Davis? She’s the young lady from Philadelphia who stole America’s heart by hurling a no-hitter in the 2014 Little League World Series. She was in the news again last year when a collegian from Pennsylvania wrote some very unladylike things about her on his Twitter post, and was bounced from the Bloomsburg University baseball team as a result.

         At first, Mo’ne tried to laugh off the comments in the student’s tweet, but when she saw the attention it was getting, “it kind of hurt.”  So what did she do? She wrote to Bloomsburg and asked that he be reinstated—“because he shouldn’t have his life ruined because of one lapse in judgment.”

         As Mo’ne told Wayne Coffey of New York’s Daily News, “Even though what he did was really hurtful, I thought about how hard he probably worked to get to be a college player. It was a really big mistake, but we all make mistakes.”

         The head of Mo’ne’s school saw it coming. “It doesn’t surprise me that Mo’ne would take the high road,” said Priscilla Sands. “It’s who she is.”   

You have dealt with us according to your great mercy. (Tobit 8:16)

Free our hearts from bitterness, Prince of Peace.

 


March 29
My Uncle’s a Saint...Really        

Everyone has a “sainted” aunt or uncle; an unusually good person, perhaps, who always managed to do the right thing. “Aunt Edna was a saint,” someone will declare, and heads will nod in agreement as a pious relative is recalled. And that’s that.

Father Luigi Esposito, on the other hand, is something else. When he refers to “my uncle, the saint,” he’s not kidding. His great-great uncle, St. Ludovico of Casoria (1814-1885), was canonized in 2014 and was known for his dedication to the poor, to orphans and the elderly.

Father Esposito, pastor of Our Lady of Pompei in Highlandtown, Maryland, recalls attending the 1993 beatification with a relative. “When they uncovered the picture of St. Ludovico,” he said, “both my cousin and myself started crying, because we recognized the family features.” The saint and his own uncle, Father Esposito recalled, “could have been twins.”

And there was something else. “He was a handsome man, apparently,” he joked to Erik Zygmont of the Catholic Review. “He would have to be, being part of the family.”

 You are a people holy to the Lord. (Deuteronomy 7:6)

 You call all people to sainthood, Lord. Show us the way.

 


March 28
The Rock’s Tender Side

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is known as a successful wrestler and actor with a “tough guy” image.  But on Easter Sunday 2015, his tender side was on display after meeting a fan.

On his Facebook page, he recalled leaving a workout session and driving away when he noticed several kids screaming and running after him.  He stopped and got out of his truck to see what they wanted.  

A young man named Nick Miller ran up to him, hugged him, and told him how much he’d inspired him to fight cancer.  Miller revealed he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma and was enduring chemotherapy along with stem cell transplant treatments.  

Johnson wrote, “[Nick] was a little teary-eyed and said for months all he’s wanted to do was find me and say this face-to-face. I told him what it meant to me to hear this story.”

As Johnson drove away, he realized how appropriate this encounter was for Easter Sunday.  It left him realizing how fragile life truly is and reminded him to count his blessings. 

Health and fitness are better than any gold. (Sirach 30:15)

Bring hope and healing to cancer victims, Divine Healer.

 


March 27
An Easter Testimony

It was Easter 2015 when singer-songwriter Brooke White decided to write about Jesus in a social media post.  It wasn’t something she had done much previously because she didn’t want anyone to feel alienated if they believed differently than she does.  Her faith, she hoped, would subtly shine through in her words.  But because it was a special day, White decided, “Sometimes subtly isn’t enough.”

She went on to state, “I believe in Christ.  For me, He’s more than a regular guy, and the majority of who I am and the decisions I make are influenced by Him. His perfect understanding of the human condition helps me to overcome it. 

“While my testimony has its fractures, it has survived natural disasters, attacks and the deepest of doubts.  It amazes me how it still manages to function and thrive, because of the specific experiences where He’s been there and made Himself known to me in indescribable and undeniable ways.  For that, I’m massively grateful and loyal...Happy Easter!”

I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in Me, even though they die, will live. (John 11:25)

Give me the courage to share my faith in You, Jesus.

 


March 26
God Loves Us Back from the Edge

Kerry Weber received the call she had been dreading.  Her sister’s baby daughter had died only a few hours after being born due to developmental and health problems.  Weber had prayed that the suffering of the baby and her sister could be transferred to herself, but she realized that’s not how God works.

Writing in America magazine, Weber reflected, “We cannot always take away someone’s suffering, but we can walk beside them, help them carry their burdens and in that way be able to walk farther together...Perhaps I can at least find a way to see the moments of joy in the pain, the grace and kindness of the doctors who treated my sister, the priest who slept in the hospital waiting room in order to baptize the baby at a moment’s notice...  

“During times of suffering, no matter how many times we are told that a resurrection is coming, it is tough to believe that we will emerge from the darkness...And so, instead of wondering why, we simply persevere, we try to find that joy, to let it transform us and to simply love our way through it all. Because even in our worst moments, this is what God does for us. God loves us back from the edge.”

Your pain will turn into joy. (John 16:20)

Comfort those grieving the loss of a child, Father.

 


March 25
How Death Led to Faith

“If You save her life, I promise to dedicate my life to You.”

At age 19, Nicole Lataif made that promise to God while riding the elevator at Boston Children’s Hospital where her 12-year-old sister was a few hours away from succumbing to cancer. 

Then, an instant later, Lataif changed her mind.  Speaking out loud, she said, “Even if You don’t save her life, I promise to dedicate my life to You.”  In a situation that might have driven some people away from believing in a loving God, Lataif’s humility and faith grew stronger. They would grow even more when she and her parents sat with her sister on her deathbed, and her heartbroken mother said, “It’s okay, go be with Jesus.”

During a Christopher Closeup interview, Lataif recalled, “I felt like I was watching the Virgin Mary when she had to sacrifice her son in the same way…That defining moment was when I realized this life is not about me. It never was. And so, [my sister's] death led me to faith.”

You are the one who lifts me up from the gates of death. (Psalm 9:13)

In times of suffering, Lord, protect my mind from despair and direct my soul toward Your healing comfort.

 

 


March 24
From Anzio to Dodge City

In 1944, the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division stormed the beach in Anzio, Italy, and were met with fierce resistance from the German Army. Private James Aurness, a 20-year-old from Minneapolis, dodged oncoming bullets the best he could, but his six-foot-seven-inch frame made him an easy target. He suffered a serious wound in his knee and lower leg, earning a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for courage under fire.

Recovery and rehabilitation took 18 months, but Aurness would walk with a slight limp for the rest of his life. However, it didn’t prevent him from changing his name to Arness, hitchhiking to Hollywood, and pursuing an acting career. 

After landing roles in TV and film, he befriended actor John Wayne, who recommended him for the role of Marshall Matt Dillon in the TV series Gunsmoke. The show ran for 20 years, making Arness a star. But the humble actor never grew too big for his britches or forgot his past. Every year until his death in 2011, he and his wife Janet would visit California’s Westwood military cemetery to pay their respects to the fallen. 

Many are the afflictions of the righteous. (Psalm 34:19)

Guide the paths of all wounded warriors, Prince of Peace.

 


March 23
Taking the Long View

Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, is hailed as a champion of the oppressed Salvadoran people. In fact, his opposition to injustice led to his assassination in 1980.

He understood the need—and the difficulty—of working for the future. But Archbishop Romero believed this: “It helps now, and then, to step back and take the long view…We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is the Lord’s work.

“We plant the seeds that will one day grow, we water the seeds already planted knowing they hold future promises….We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very, very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.”

A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. (Ecclesiastes 1:4)

Sometimes I need to be reminded that I may never see the end results of my efforts. Holy God, You are the Master Builder. I am Your worker, to labor as You ask.

 


March 22
‘We Need to Get Back Our Humanity’

In order to escape the brutality of ISIS terrorists, thousands of Iraqi men, women, and children fled their homes and headed to the northern Iraqi city of Erbil.  Joining the refugees were the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, of which Sister Diana Momeka is a member. 

The petite nun with a world-changing mission visited the New York office of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) in 2015 to share her story.  “People,” she told Deacon Greg Kandra, “are living in slums.  These people are human beings with great love, great faith.  But when you lose your home, your heritage, your culture, you lose your dignity.”

The Dominican Sisters are aiding the refugees by providing opportunities for medical care and education.  Funds collected by CNEWA have helped tremendously.  Sister Diana said, “This is how you care for the Body of Christ that has been hurting.”

There is still much work to be done, however, in a situation that is far from safe.  “We need to get back our humanity,” said Sister Diana, “our human dignity.”

 I am persecuted without cause. (Psalm 119:86)

 Protect the innocent victims of war from the evil that surrounds them, Father.

 


March 21
Turning Hatred into Forgiveness

Jacob DeShazer may have given his life to God while in a Japanese POW camp during World War II, but could he go the extra mile and forgive his torturers? Daniel Fazzina, author of Divine Intervention, notes that DeShazer was especially struck by parts of the Bible where God calls us to love our enemies. His hatred for the Japanese eventually turned into forgiveness.

After the war ended and the prisoners were released, DeShazer returned home and promised God, “I’ll go wherever You send me.” He and his wife went back to Japan as missionaries, spending over 30 years there. His testimony was put on a tract in Japanese, and distributed throughout the country.

One of the people who read it was Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, who initiated the attack on Pearl Harbor. He bought a Bible out of curiosity, and eventually gave his life to Jesus.  DeShazer and Fuchida actually became friends, ministering together in Japan, Hawaii, and elsewhere.  Concludes Fazzina, “It’s amazing how God can…bring two enemies together like that in the unity of the Holy Spirit.”

Forgive the sin of your people. (1 Kings 8:34)

Turn my resentments into forgiveness, Holy Spirit.

 


March 20
Finding Jesus in a POW Camp

Jacob DeShazer, a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, was one of the Doolittle raiders who got captured by the Japanese after bombing their mainland. 

DeShazer spent 40 months in a Japanese prisoner of war camp enduring horrific treatment, which included starvation, torture, lice, bedbugs, and rats. In addition, many of his fellow soldiers were executed or died from these deplorable conditions. The whole experience left DeShazer burning with hatred toward the Japanese, explained Daniel Fazzina in his book Divine Intervention: 50 True Stories of God’s Miracles Today.

Somehow, a Bible made it into DeShazer’s hands, so he read it constantly in his jail cell. Fazzina said, “He read that if you trust in the Lord, if you call upon the Lord, you shall be saved.  He believed, and he gave his life to Jesus.”

But could DeShazer take his conversion a step further and actually forgive the captors who were torturing him?  We’ll share the rest of the story tomorrow.

 Your faith has saved you; go in peace. (Luke 7:50)

 When suffering and loneliness are crushing my spirit, help me trust in You and renew my faith, Jesus.

  

 


March 19
The Other Papal City                  

A group of 12 seminarians from New York had the next best thing to a personal meeting with Pope Francis—a visit to Buenos Aires and an encounter with the city he knew so well, the people he served, and the priests with whom he worked. 

For some, it was the experience of a lifetime. “I was so moved by all the people’s stories about how the pope had in so many ways touched their lives,” said seminarian, Steven Gonzalez. “We could, in almost a tangible way, feel the pope’s enormous impact and presence in a neighborhood.”

While they were there, the seminarians helped to build a chapel—on what had formerly been a garbage dump. They were impressed with the parish priests they met, following the example of the Jesuit priest who had once been their archbishop—before he was called to Rome. “Working with the local people we were in some way able to meet the pope,” seminarian Brian Muldoon recalled. “He walked the streets, knocked on doors. They knew him very personally.”

 Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise. (Proverbs 13:20)

 May our actions bring us closer to Your divine love, Lord.

 


March 18 
Finding Security in Soybeans

It doesn’t take much—sometimes just a simple soybean. That’s what a farmer in Tanzania named Gertruda Domayo—who used to struggle to provide for her three grandchildren—found out. She joined a Catholic Relief Services project called Soya ni Pesa (which means “soybeans are money”), and her life changed. It turns out that soybeans really are money, and they paid her big benefits. 

         The Wooden Bell, CRS’ magazine, reported not only that Domayo got lessons in crop spacing and fertilizer, which in turn doubled her harvests, but that membership in the farmers’ group got her good prices at market. “And the soybeans themselves add nutrients to the soil,” the story noted, “fueling future harvests.”

         By combining her crops with those of other farmers, Domayo now sells her soybeans in bulk. “Domayo’s new way of selling,” the magazine reported, “increased her income sixfold over the last year, when she sold her beans alone. Now she can afford to buy healthy food for her family.”

She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household. (Proverbs 31:15)

Bless farmers with abundant crops, Creator.

 


March 17
The Real Patrick

The kidnapping of a teenage boy—the son of a deacon and grandson of a priest—1,600 years ago from what is now England, resulted in the Christianization of Ireland. That young man, Patricius, believed he was picked by God to return to the land of his enslavement.

Patricius became Patrick, and thanks to Thomas Cahill, author of How the Irish Saved Civilization, we know that Patrick is far more interesting than the legends about him. No, he didn’t chase snakes out of Ireland.

What emerges from Patrick’s own writing is humility and strength. “The Patrick who came back to Ireland with the gospel was tough…Only a very tough man could have hoped to survive those people,” Cahill writes.

From St. Patrick we learn that saints are ordinary human beings with extraordinary toughness, vision and humility; that all life is worthy and precious; and that God has plans for us all.

 My God, I seek You, my soul thirsts for You; my flesh faints for You. (Psalm 63:1)

 Dear Lord, may my inner light and courage burn brightly.

 


March 16
They Want to Live in Peace

“A Hindu, a Catholic, a Protestant, and a Jew all formed this committee [in Bahrain in the Middle East] and wanted me to come do a concert of peace,” recalled singer-songwriter Michael W. Smith about the most surprising invitation of his life.

Bahrain is a predominantly Muslim country with many citizens of other faiths who want to build bridges of peace.

During an interview on Christopher Closeup, he said, “It was very, very shocking when I got the request that I’d been invited to Bahrain and been cleared by the king. It was one of the most memorable shows of my entire career. I met everybody on that committee and they genuinely, I think, really love each other, and they want to live in peace, and they don’t want any blood shed on their streets, and they’ve learned how to live together. They can agree to disagree. We believe this, you believe that. They don’t become radical about it to the point of taking somebody else’s blood. Somehow they’ve figured out a way to live peacefully together.”

May the rest of the world learn that lesson as well.

Let each one go home in peace. (2 Chronicles 18:16)

Bless the efforts of all peacemakers, Creator.

 


March 15
A Coach’s Tips for Success

Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once offered these suggestions for achieving success in any endeavor.

■ Fear no opponent.

■ Remember, it’s the perfection of the smallest detail that makes big things happen.

■ Keep in mind that hustle makes up for many a mistake.

■ Be more interested in character than reputation.

■ Be quick, but don’t hurry.

■ Understand that the harder you work, the more luck you will have.

■ Remember that there is no substitute for hard work and careful planning. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

 Success means different things to different people. But we all have some particular desire, some goal we want to attain. Whether or not we are willing to work for it is up to us.

 The Lord’s…favor brings lasting success. (Sirach 11:17)

 Give us success, Lord our God, and remind me to do my part in achieving it.

 


March 14
Bomb Technicians Make Easter Eggs

         Every year for the past decade, visually impaired children have had the chance to hunt for Easter eggs, and they do it all on their own. It began when David Hyche, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, discovered that his four-month-old daughter was blind. “With my daughter, one of her first phrases was, ‘I do it myself,’” Hyche told Fox News at a 2015 egg hunt held in Birmingham, Alabama.  

         Hyche convinced the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators to provide the funds to make beeping Easter eggs. And that was all it took for visually impaired kids to be able to engage in their own hunt.

         Tamara Harrison of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind said, “We love to give the opportunity for our children with disabilities and their families to come out and have the same opportunity as everyone else.” 

         For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 

(Isaiah 55:12)

         Lord, may the joy of children at play praise You always.


March 13
Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

Off-duty Detective Patrick Blanc not only came through; he did so in the finest tradition of the New York Police Department. And he did so in the midst of tragedy, adding luster to the feat.
         Detective Blanc came across a house fire in the St. Albans neighborhood of Queens, New York, in time to see the bodies of brothers John, 11, and Andrew, 6, being pulled from the blaze. They were the only sons of Marie Policard, 42, who was working at the time and was devastated by her loss.
         Blanc returned to the scene the next day and, with the permission of his superior officer, succeeded in raising funds for the boys’ funeral and burial. But something was still missing: Policard’s mother, Aurose Louis, grieving for her grandsons miles away in Haiti.
         Again with his superior’s okay, helped by his girlfriend and community leaders, Blanc got inexpensive air tickets, boarded a flight to Port-au-Prince, and escorted the elderly woman to New York. “I didn’t expect anything like this,” she said later. “I really appreciate all that was done for me.” And Marie Policard had the comfort of her mother in her hour of deepest need.     

Let us love…in truth and action. (1 John 3:18)

May I be a comfort to those who grieve, Divine Consoler.

 


March 12
Keeping Your Heart Healthy

Since heart disease is the leading killer of both men and women, Verily magazine’s Kirsten Nunez offered several suggestions for keeping your heart healthy:

■ Know your genetics. “The best baseline for cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention is educating yourself on your family’s history of heart health.” 

■ De-stress. “With so much to do in so little time, relaxing can be hard. But slowing down will help your heart tremendously. Stress doesn’t just lead to hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure) and insomnia. It also can trigger unhealthy behaviors, such as excessive drinking, smoking, and overeating.” 

■ Stay active. “Exercise drastically decreases your risk by reducing hypertension and keeping your heart in tip-top shape.” Dr. Martha Gulati of Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center said, “The heart is a muscle and needs to be used. Exercise for 30 minutes daily, or even in three separate 10-minute intervals.”

I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health. (3 John 1:2)

Heal my heart both physically and spiritually, Creator.

 


March 11
The Homer and the Handshake

         When George Shuba of Youngstown, Ohio, died at 89 in September of 2014, he rated a long obituary in The New York Times. True, he had played baseball with the old Brooklyn Dodgers, but his career batting average was only .259 and he hit a grand total of just 24 home runs.
         So what did he do that rated that big an obit in the Times? The headline says it all: “George Shuba Dies at 89: Offered Tolerant Gesture.” That was it, but the gesture was important.
         It happened in 1946, when Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Montreal Royals of the International League, the first black player in the history of organized baseball. He hit a homer that day, and when he’d run the bases George Shuba was there to greet him—with a warm handshake. Not many ballplayers were willing to shake the hand of a black man then, and it meant a lot.
         A cameraman recorded the event, and Shuba, his son recalls, often used his copy to make a point. “I want you to remember what that stands for,” he’d say. “You treat all people equally.” End of lesson.

If you have come to me in friendship…my heart will be knit to you. (1 Chronicles 12:17)

Help me be a friend to the outcast, Lord.

 


March 10
When Loyalty Trumps Dollars

They say that money talks, but apparently it’s not loud enough for Alan Rosen to hear.
         Rosen, owner of the Brooklyn, New York landmark Junior’s restaurant, world-famous for its iconic cheesecake, turned down a cool $45 million from a developer who wanted to build a high-rise residential development on the restaurant’s Flatbush Avenue site. The decision was made partly to ensure continued employment for the men and women who worked at Junior’s, a point made by Rosen’s father, Walter, 81.
         “I felt bad for the help we’ve had for years,” the elder Rosen said. “I really didn’t want them to lose their jobs.”
         Alan Rosen said he weighed the future without the family business at its familiar location and couldn’t go through with it. “Obviously it was not a financial decision,” he said. “It was emotional.” His father approved. “You did the right thing,” Walter Rosen said—and just about everyone in Brooklyn and beyond agreed.

Keep your lives free from the love of money. (Hebrews 13:5)

May we treasure people over profits, Divine Giver.

 


March 9
A Mid-Lent Review

How’s your Lent going? If you find that you need to stay focused on your spiritual goals, here are five suggestions courtesy of columnist Mary DeTurris Poust—published in Catholic New York, newspaper of the New York Archdiocese:

■ Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Try to stretch beyond what you normally do, but don’t aim for the impossible.

■ If you’re not spending time with God in prayer, you’ll have a hard time getting out of the starting gate.

■ Don’t see backsliding as failure, but as an opportunity to figure out what your Lenten discipline should really be about.

■ Don’t use Lent as a way to achieve other goals. When Lent goes off course, it’s because we want transformation on our own terms.

■ When all else fails, just be kinder today than you were yesterday. If we can do that, even if we haven’t followed through on our other plans, then we’ll pass Lent with flying colors.          

 Is not this the fast that I choose...to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house? (Isaiah 58:6-7)

 May my heart grow closer to You this Lent, Jesus.

 


March 8
Clean Cut, Clean Start

Nasir Sobhani was a heavy drug addict, with a particular weakness for cocaine. Born in Japan, he later moved to Canada, where he underwent most of his rehab.

“Luckily I had a home to always go to, my mum loved me too much to kick me out,” the now sober 26-year-old told Daily Mail Australia. “I wasn’t homeless, but…some of the people I was spending time with were...March 23rd, 2012…I became sober. Right after rehab, I decided I wanted to start cutting hair.”

Sobhani soon obtained a job as a barber in Melbourne, Australia, where he moved shortly after his recovery. For over a year now, he has provided free haircuts to the homeless on his day off as part of his “Clean Cut, Clean Start” initiative.

Sobhani understands where these people are coming from, and how one kind gesture can make all the difference. In fact, he has been witness to many positive transformations in his clientele. “I love cutting hair,” Sobhani concludes, “that service to humanity is service to God. I finally got my life back and I just want to give to others in the way that I know how to.”

Like good stewards…serve one another. (1 Peter 4:10)

Abba, may we use our talents for the greater good.


March 6
Growing Up, Growing Good

Talk to a child about growing up and they probably think in terms of an age like 18 or 21—or an event like getting a driver’s license or going off to college. But real maturity does not come so easily.

Saint Pope John XXIII offered some thoughts on growing up—within: “In a world of spiritual endeavor, as in the world of athletic competition, we must learn never to be content with the level we have reached but, with the help of God and with our own determined efforts, we must aim at ever greater heights, at continual improvement, so that we may in the end reach maturity, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

Complacency can interfere with the development of talent or ability. Certainly it can stunt a soul. Don’t stop trying to be more than you are today. And grow well.

 Go to the ant, you lazybones; consider its ways, and be wise…. How long will you lie there, O lazybones? 

When will you rise from your sleep? (Proverbs 6:6,9)

 Nourish me, Lord. Nurture me, so I may grow straight and true.

 


March 5
The Name Game 

Author Lisa Hendey sits in her usual pew whenever she attends Mass at her California church. She recognizes the other parishioners around her who have their favorite “pew spots” too. But Hendey recently realized that while she recognizes these people’s faces, she doesn’t know their names.

Writing on her Patheos blog, she noted, “We feel like ‘family,’ these pewmates and I. We’re there together enough that I know when one couple’s daughter is visiting or when a particular husband has to work the Sunday shift at his job.  So does it matter if I don’t know their names? Yes, I think it does.”

Hendey believes that knowing people’s names is a great way to build a spirit of community in her church—and she’s determined to do a better job of it in the future.

 Are there people you see all the time in church or elsewhere whose names you don’t know? Consider introducing yourself. It could plant the seeds of a new friendship.

 I was a stranger and you welcomed Me. (Matthew 25:35)

 Getting to know new people can feel awkward, Father.  Help me do it anyway.

 


March 4
Instruments of Joy

Joshua McLeod has been to poverty-stricken and war-torn countries around the world in his role as executive director of Watermelon Ministries, a Christian non-profit that uses media to spread the Gospel. It was a trip to an orphanage in Malawi, however, that left him overwhelmed with hopelessness. Then, an older boy entered the room and completely changed the mood.

The child was carrying a makeshift guitar made of a gas can and a block of wood. He started playing, and all the children’s faces and attitudes became joyful. This set McLeod on a new mission. He founded Instruments of Joy.

The group’s mission “is to equip orphans and aspiring musicians in the developing world with quality musical instruments in Jesus’s name.” New or used instruments are collected and given to volunteers making mission trips overseas to distribute.

McLeod said, “There are a lot of ways to fight poverty. We fight poverty by bringing beauty into areas of devastation and bringing joy through music.”

 Let us sing to the Lord. (Psalm 95:1) 

Bring beauty and music to the world’s dark places, Jesus.

 


March 3 
A Family Doctor

The old-fashioned family doctor, seems a quaint notion in these times of health plans and managed care. Dr. Matthew Warpick, one of the last of the breed, passed away at age 95—yet he served his patients right up until the end, seeing his last one the day before he died.

An urban version of the country doctor, Dr. Warpick worked six days a week from 6 a.m. to early afternoon in his Harlem, New York office. He often charged his mostly poor and working class clientele only what they thought they could pay.

Even though some considered the neighborhood dangerous, he stayed put. “I’ve got to take care of the people who have been loyal to me. I can’t leave them alone,” he said.

His patients taught him the values of honesty, good relations and loyalty, all of which meant more to him than money.

There may come a time when recovery lies in the hands of physicians, for they too pray to the Lord that He grant them success in diagnosis and in healing, for the sake of preserving life. (Sirach 38:13-14)

May I value human connections over money, Divine Giver.

 


March 2
The Work of His Hands

Here’s some good advice from a second century bishop, 

Irenaeus of Lyon, about our relationship with our Creator:

            “You are the work of God,

            await the hand of the Artist

            who does all things in due season.

            Offer Him your heart, soft and

            tractable and keep the form in

            which the Artist has fashioned you.

            Let the clay (of your being) be moist,

            lest you grow hard

            And lose the imprint of His fingers.”

Centuries before Irenaeus, the prophet Jeremiah wrote that we are like clay in the potter’s hand—God’s hand. We need only be willing to be shaped by our Maker to fulfill His plans for us.

“Can I not do with you…as this potter has done?” says the Lord. “Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so you are in My hand.” (Jeremiah 18:6)

Master Potter, form me, fashion me, into a fit vessel for Your Spirit.

 


 March 1 
An Actor’s Promise to God

Eduardo Verastegui had found success as an actor, model, and singer in his native Mexico, so he moved to Los Angeles in 2002 to pursue a career in Hollywood as well.  That’s when he realized how much media influences the way people think, and how the work he was choosing wasn’t contributing anything positive to the world.

During a Christopher Closeup interview about his faith-based World War II movie Little Boy, he recalled, “[That changed after] a conversation I had with my English teacher. She asked me, ‘Why are you an actor? How are you using your talent? Does every project you’re involved with have the power to make a difference and elevate human dignity?’ Little by little, she opened my eyes. One day, I made a promise to God and to my parents that I would never use my talents to do anything that would offend my faith, my family, and my Latino culture.”

Verastegui wound up not working for four years. Ultimately, he started his own production company so he could create the types of films that he promised God he would make. 

Fulfill what you vow. (Ecclesiastes 5:4)

May my actions elevate human dignity, Creator.

 


February 29
The Law of the Fallow Field

In his newsletter Apple Seeds, Father Brian Cavanaugh, TOR, shared a personal lesson he learned from living in rural Pennsylvania about the “Law of the Fallow Field.” He wrote: “In faming there is a principle of crop rotation: a field is sectioned off by threes. In the first section, corn is grown; in the second section, potatoes or soybeans are planted; and the third section is left fallow, nothing is planted to give the soil a season of rest. In the following years, each section is rotated through the cycle.

“If you drive past a field with this type of planting, check out the section left fallow. Intentionally, nothing was planted in it. Yet you’ll notice this section is filled with an abundance of weeds. Weeds, just like sin, vices, negative attitudes [are] everywhere. You don’t need to plant them; they just grow.

“However, to grow something positive like corn, potatoes, virtue, or teamwork, that has to be intentional, and you have to repeat it every growing season. Just because you grew something last year doesn’t mean you can skip this year. Otherwise, those weeds/vices will sprout up in your fallow field.”

Sow for yourselves righteousness. (Hosea 10:12)

Help my virtues and positive qualities blossom, Jesus.

 


February 27
Motivations for Meatless Fridays

If your idea of fasting during Lent means skipping meat on Fridays but splurging on seafood, you’ve missed something big. That’s the word from none other than Pope Francis himself, who devoted one of his daily homilies last year to the subject.

         A report in Catholic News Service, which covered the homily, pointed out that real fasting goes way beyond restricting your food choices for a day or so. It means cleansing your heart of all selfishness, and making room for those in need—in need of food or clothing, or of spiritual healing.

         The pope asked that during Lent people think about what they can do for others who are in difficult situations—children and the elderly, for example.

         “Love toward God and love to your neighbor are one,” the pope said. “If you want to practice real penance, you have to do it before God and also with your brother and sister, your neighbor…What will you do for these people? What will your Lent be like?”

Give up your faults and direct your hands rightly, and cleanse your heart from all sin. (Sirach 38:10)

Turn my selfishness into selflessness, Holy Spirit.


February 26 
Wired For Connections/Mentor Up!

Young people have learned a lot from the wisdom of their elders over the years, and no doubt they will continue to do so. But today, in terms of technology, the students have become the teachers. The organization Wired For Connections/Mentor Up is a perfect example of such a role reversal.

Founded two years ago by California teens Sean Butler and Carly Rudiger, this club matches up 15 high school students with an elderly man or woman.  Once a week, usually on a Saturday, these youngsters from Carmel High School help their older companions navigate the daunting technological worlds of their laptops, smart phones, i-Pads, etc.

According to Butler, the volunteers benefit as much from these sessions as their pupils. “I can honestly say I’ve learned more during these sessions than I’ve taught,” Rudiger recalled to Dennis Taylor of truthAtlas. “For me, just talking with them and learning their stories is what draws me back every time.”

 Like good stewards…serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. (1 Peter 4:10)

 God, may we learn to utilize our talents for the greater good.

 


February 25 
The Repentant Thief

         About 12 years ago, the InterAsian Market and Deli in Nashville, Tennessee, was robbed at gunpoint. In September 2013, a man came into the deli and handed Somboon Wu, the owner’s son, a note he insisted must be read. Although reluctant, Wu was astonished when he opened it. Inside the envelope was $400 and a handwritten letter that read exactly as follows:

“I am a drug addict. About 11 or 12 years ago I robber this store with a gun. I do not use drugs anymore and I feal I must make amends...I came in you’re store...and I got a 6 pack of beer and ask for cigaretts, when the registar opened to give change I pulled out a gun and took about $300 from the register then drove away…I hope you will accept this money and find forgiveness. – Anonymous”

         Wu told Nashville’s WSMV Channel 4, “We get cynical, but this just slaps you in the face. There are good people out there, and they deserve a second chance…We just want to let him [the ex-drug addict] know…we forgive you.”

Bear with one another…forgive each other. (Colossians 3:13)

 Jesus, may we remember it is never too late for redemption.

 


February 24 
How Can I Care for the Sick?
 

Father Joe Krupp writes an advice column of sorts in New Jersey Catholic magazine, and recently received a question from a person who wanted to know how to minister to the sick in his parish.  Father Joe’s first suggestion was, “Pray for those who are sick and ask God to restore them.  This binds us to their fate and allows the power of the Holy Spirit to unite us in God’s heart and mind.”

Next, he said, consider visiting the homebound and hospitalized.  “Often, these folks could use a friend, and God may very well be calling you to be that friend.  Bring over cards or checkers or a book.  Bring pictures of your family and ask to hear about theirs.”  In addition, bring a parish bulletin and news of what’s happening in the church so they still feel connected.

Finally, “See if your parish needs volunteers to take Communion to the homebound or those in the hospital.  Ask to be trained and get on that list!  You can and will find a special joy in bringing the presence of Christ through the gift of the Eucharist into the lives of those who are ill.”   

 I will bind up the injured. (Ezekiel 34:16)

 Inspire me to bring healing and comfort to the sick, Lord.

 


February 23 
Finding Light in the Darkness

In February 2015, American humanitarian worker Kayla Mueller, who had been held hostage by the terrorist group ISIS, was confirmed as having been killed. Following her death, her last letter to her parents was released to the public, revealing how much she had relied on God throughout her ordeal. She wrote:

“I remember Mom always telling me that in the end, the only one you really have is God. I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator b/c literally there was no [one] else….by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall.

“I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it. I pray each day that if nothing else, you have felt a certain closeness + surrender to God as well + have formed a bond of love + support amongst one another.”

If the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God...eternal in the heavens.  (2 Corinthians 5:1)

Welcome my deceased loved ones into Your kingdom, Lord.

 


 February 22 
The Way of Serenity, Part 3

Serenity also involves being humble and not judging others. That lesson was brought home to Father Jonathan Morris when his parents visited him from Ohio. They were in Manhattan when his father spotted a shirtless, pony-tailed, gray-haired man wearing cowboy boots, jean shorts, and all sorts of chains around his neck. The elder Morris said, “Now I’ve seen it all.”

The next day, said Father Morris, “I was in the church doing my morning prayer, and that same gentleman was over to the right praying on his knees in front of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I saw him as he was walking out of the church, and I said, ‘Is there anything I can pray for you for?’ He said, ‘No, I do this every day. I just go and I thank God and the Mother of Jesus for all the blessings that they have allowed in my life.’”

Father Jonathan told his father what happened. It left him feeling humbled at having been wrongfully judgmental.  Said Father Jonathan, “When you’re grateful, you’re humble, and the humble soul is the soul open to God and, essentially, peaceful.”

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5)

Grant me the grace to be humble, Lord.

 


February 21
The Way of Serenity, Part 2

Following his encounter with the nonbeliever who appreciated the Serenity Prayer, Father Jonathan Morris realized that serenity is a common human longing in a world filled with violence, broken relationships, health problems, etc. 

During an interview on Christopher Closeup about his book The Way of Serenity, Father Morris said that most people don’t just want “the serenity of the one who puts everything aside and says, ‘I’m not gonna pay attention to this bad world. I’m gonna live in my own little world.’ It’s a serenity that’s much deeper than that. In the midst of difficulties, there’s a peace of soul.”

That peace of soul rests largely in our ability to follow the first piece of advice in the prayer: “What I think we’re asking is, ‘Lord, allow me to let go of the things that I should let go of.’ That’s hard to do. But deep down, we know that there are some things we need to let go of, feelings like anger and resentment.”

Some concluding insights about serenity and humility tomorrow.

 Those who counsel peace have joy. (Proverbs 12:20)

 Move me past anger toward serenity, Divine Savior.

 


 February 20 
The Way of Serenity

A stranger stopped Father Jonathan Morris on the street one day because he recognized him from TV. “I want you to know I don’t believe in God, but I’m still trying to be a good person,” said the stranger. Father Jonathan engaged the man in friendly conversation, before giving his usual parting words: “Would you say a prayer for me and I’ll say a prayer for you?”

As soon as he said it, he laughed and said, “Well, I’ll say a prayer for you.”  The man smiled and walked away, but then turned back to say, “I don’t believe in prayer, because I don’t know if anyone is listening, but I do like that Serenity Prayer.” 

That response was an eye-opener for Father Jonathan. He knew the Serenity Prayer: “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”  Now, he wondered, “Why [does] this gentleman who doesn’t believe in God recognize the goodness or truth or beauty of this prayer?”

 More of the story tomorrow.

Let them seek peace and pursue it. (1 Peter 3:11)

Lead those who doubt You to experience the divine presence that exists within us all, Creator.

 


February 19
When God Hits You Over the Head

PJ Anderson worked as a youth minister in Chicago for several years while performing music on the side. When doors started closing in his ministry work, he felt betrayed by God and wondered why He would allow these things to happen. 

That period led Anderson to move to Nashville to pursue a full-time music career—and it also taught him to move through dark times in a positive way. During a Christopher Closeup interview about his album Rise, he said, “There are times when you [think], ‘I’m praying and trying to do things for You, God, but I don’t know what You’re doing for me.’ That’s when the red flag needs to go up. It’s not about what God’s doing for us; it’s about what we continue to give every day and how we allow Him to work through us. And He is. 

“God is working through us and giving us grace…It took God hitting me over the head to realize that doors were closing in youth ministry [because] He wanted me to do something different, and that was writing [and playing] music for Him.”

He will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:6)

When I have difficulty seeing Your plan for my life, Lord, strengthen my trust in Your ways.

 


 February 18 
Lent Leads to Human Connections

In 2014, Kerry Weber, the Christopher Award-winning author of Mercy in the City, shared her thoughts on Lent with Catholic Relief Services. She said:

“It’s sometimes easy to think that Lent is all about us [and] what am I giving up for Lent...While Lent is a time of personal spiritual growth, we have to remember also that it’s more than just the Catholic version of some self-help program...

“The season of Lent is a little like riding a bus...It’s tempting to put on our headphones, hunker down into our seats, ignore everybody else, and keep to ourselves.  Something is lost when we do that. We lose that chance for connection...

“The 40 days of Lent give us time...to pray and fast and give alms not to just check these things off our Lenten to-do list, but to be more conscious of the people around us...We really are on this ride together. Your Lenten journey and my Lenten journey are intertwined in the messiness of our everyday lives. So this Lent, I challenge you to reach out, to acknowledge the dignity of the people around you, and to enjoy the ride.”

All of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Deepen my bonds with You and others this Lent, Father.

 


 February 17 
Ashes and the Human Condition

There is something inside us that makes us yearn for some supernatural assurance in our physical world. We still use the ordinary things in our lives to indicate and remind us of hidden mysteries. 

That is why Ash Wednesday continues to mean something special. At the beginning of Lent, we are marked with ashes as a reminder of our union with Jesus and His Passion. They also speak of our need to do penance, to prepare ourselves for the central mystery of our faith. 

Annually, we are brought back to our relationship with God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It highlights our human condition. 

We are marked as someone who tries to be better, to be good, to be more than we thought we were capable of being. And always, we are reminded of our mortality and of God’s plan for our eternity. 

Give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning. (Isaiah 61:3)

Mark me as Yours, O Lord, and forgive my failings.

 


February 16 
Moving Through the Midwinter Blues

Cold weather, snow, and ice can sometimes lead us to experience the midwinter blues. Despite the season’s trials, however, Cincinnati-based writer Matt Litton shared his reasons for embracing winter on BustedHalo.com:

■ “Nothing reminds me of my childhood like peering through a frosted window in the early morning hours to discover a pristine coat of snow unmarred by footprints or tire tracks...Winter can help us remember that we are at our best when we approach the world with a childlike faith and wonder.”

■ “While the earth is nestled under white blankets, all is still, and we should value these moments to listen and to rest because we know that God ultimately resides in stillness.”

■ “We endure winter’s long residency precisely because the coming warmth of new life is inevitable. Winter teaches us that spring eventually arrives in its own time and there is nothing we can do about it except walk willingly in the cold and allow it to run its course.”

Bless the Lord, winter cold and summer heat; sing praise to Him. (Daniel 3:67)

Teach me to appreciate every season of life, Lord.

 


February 15 
Enduring Criticism

Criticism. It’s a word with a lot of negative connotations. Listening to criticism and putting it into perspective is hard for most of us.

Here’s a quote that just might help you: “I do the very best I can, I mean to keep going. If the end brings me out all right, then what is said against me won’t matter. If I’m wrong, ten angels swearing I was right won’t make a difference.”

That piece of wisdom was framed on the office wall of British statesman Winston Churchill. The words were said by President Abraham Lincoln. 

Somehow it seems fitting that a leader who guided his bitterly divided country through the turmoil of a civil war could inspire another leader through the bleak days of a world war.

Follow their example. Do your best. That’s all anyone can ask of you. Even yourself.

If the humble person slips, they even criticize him; he talks sense, but is not given a hearing. (Sirach 13:22)

When subject to criticism, Lord, remind me of Lincoln’s example of courage under criticism.

 

 


February 14 
Papa Giovanni’s Relationship Advice

It’s unlikely that many romances have started near the glass sarcophagus of St. Pius X’s remains in St. Peter’s Basilica, but that’s where Luigi and Fernanda Bistacco’s 55-year relationship began in 1960. The 18-year-old Fernanda, from New Jersey, was kneeling there in prayer when Luigi, a Vatican gendarme (guard), initiated a conversation and offered to show the teen and her mother around Rome. They agreed and spent several days together, during which Luigi and Francesca fell in love.

He proposed; she accepted.  She would return to Rome in three years for the wedding and to live there.  But as the wedding date neared, Fernanda’s mother put the kibosh on her move.  If Luigi wanted to marry her, he would have to come to America.

Recalling their story in New Jersey Catholic magazine, Luigi said he consulted with Papa Giovanni (a.k.a Pope John XXIII) about what to do.  The pontiff told him, “Follow your heart.” Luigi did. The couple’s civil marriage took place in Rome while the church wedding happened in New Jersey. When they visited the pope’s summer residence, he blessed Francesca and told her, “You will be happy.” His prediction was correct.

Rejoice in the wife of your youth. (Proverbs 5:18)

Bless all married couples with an enduring love, Father.

 


 February 13 
What Makes a Great Dad?

Verily magazine’s Nell O’Leary has been happily married for five years and now has three children. She realizes that when young women are dating, they might not wonder what kind of father their boyfriend will be someday, but she thinks they should. And she offers several qualities for them to look out for: 

■ He listens. “When something is really on your heart, does he set aside his own thoughts...and tune in to just you? Good dads are great listeners.”

■ He is patient. “How is your boyfriend’s patience in general?...Good dads are profoundly patient: first in welcoming the child, and later in coping with the lack of sleep, free time, and autonomy that parenthood brings.”

■ He is sacrificial. “Good dads are ready to sacrifice...If he’s not ready to sacrifice when you are dating, it’s unlikely the pattern will change when the ante is upped.”

■ He has a sense of humor. “The man who can laugh at himself has the best sense of humor in life. Good dads appreciate life—and that’s a sense of humor in itself.” 

Let love be genuine. (Romans 12:9)

Guide those looking for a spouse to choose wisely, Lord.

 


 February 12  
A Giant’s Heart

Last Valentine’s Day, Steve Weatherford dressed up as Cupid. He wore a white tunic, and on his back were strapped a pair of tiny red wings. He held a little bow and arrow in his hands. What’s wrong with this picture? Plenty, as it turns out. 

Steve Weatherford is a grown man, and what’s more he’s a punter for the New York Football Giants. But there’s also plenty right with the picture, as Ebenezer Samuel pointed out in his report on the incident for New York’s Daily News. The scene took place at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery, and Weatherford was there to visit sick children—as he often does.

         “It’s not uncommon for NFL players to get involved in charitable efforts,” said Samuel in his story, “but few are more involved in the community than Weatherford.” 

The punter explained: “These kids, they’re going through things that a lot of them don’t deserve to go through. For me to come out here and spend 45 minutes…It’s a small investment of time for me, but they’ll remember it forever.”

The integrity of the upright guides them. (Proverbs 11:3)

Help me bring small joys to others, Father.

 


February 11
Humble Heroes Save a Life

         Four New York City transit workers were honored last year for saving the life of a fellow employee.

         The chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Thomas Prendergast, presented “Hometown Hero” awards to track workers Clyde Ferguson, Louis Albino, Stewart Azzato and David Soto for coming to the rescue of Hoi-Shan Leung, who was in danger of falling 60 feet—and, in all probability, to his death. Leung had tripped during a track replacement job and was knocked unconscious. New York’s Daily News, which was a partner in this third annual award ceremony, reported on the men’s story.

         “They saved my life,” said Leung. “It’s good to be alive. I’m alive because of them.”

         Albino, speaking for his co-rescuers, shrugged off all references to the heroics they had demonstrated. “I was just helping my buddy,” he said. “This is just great. He was able to see his granddaughter’s first birthday. That’s awesome!”

[We] cry to you in our distress, and You will hear and save. (2 Chronicles 20:9) 

Imbue me with courage in all aspects of my life , Lord.

 


February 10 
An Overlooked Trait in a Spouse

Kevin A. Thompson, pastor of Christ Community Church in Fort Smith, Arkansas, knows that young people hoping to get married often look for qualities like a good sense of humor or common interests in a spouse. But he advises considering a different characteristic: “Find someone who suffers well.”

Pastor Thompson wrote on his blog, “The older a person gets, the more we realize that suffering is not a rare occurrence, but is a common aspect of our lives...Some live in denial—unable to confront the deep realities of life. Some live in despair —unable to recognize the convergence of laughter and tears...

“Yet, when our spouse knows how to suffer, when they don’t live in denial, but confront the sorrows of life; when they don’t live in despair but know how to laugh and cry at the same time; when they offer support and hope in all of life’s challenges; when they can see the big picture of life, every sorrow is matched with love and every hurt paired with healing.”

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed. (2 Corinthians 4:8)

May husbands and wives be a comfort to each other during sickness and health, Father.

 


February 9
A Lit Candle, An Act of Hope

Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI, once shared the following reflection on the power of lighting a candle: “In the days of apartheid in South Africa, Christians there used to light candles and place them in windows as a sign to themselves and to others that they believed that some day this injustice would end.

“A candle burning in a window was a sign of hope and a political statement. The government didn’t miss the message. It passed a law making it illegal to place a lit candle in a window, the offense being equal to owning a firearm, both considered equally dangerous.

“Lit candles, more than firearms, overthrew apartheid. Hope, not guns, is what ultimately transforms things. To light a candle as an act of hope is to say to yourself and others that, despite anything that might be happening in the world, you are still nursing a vision of peace and unity based upon something beyond the present state of things. And this hope is based upon deeper realities and powers than the world admits.”

 You are the God of the lowly...protector of the forsaken, savior of those without hope. (Judith 9:11)

 Help me to choose hope every day, King of Kings.

 


February 8 
The Homeless Guardian Angel

When six-year-old Sergio Zepeda wandered off from his San Jose, California home, his parents weren’t just panicked because of his age; they feared for his life because he has autism and has trouble communicating.

KTVU-TV reported that the boy was missing for 17 hours before police finally found him in an unusual place: a homeless encampment near a local highway. A resident of the camp, Jose Salmeron, had found Sergio wandering through the area and offered him food, water and a blanket. Meanwhile, another homeless person at the camp called 911.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, Salmeron said, “We’re not heroes. It was the only right thing to do. When you see a helpless kid like that, you are supposed to do the right thing and just call the cops right away.”

Remember, guardian angels come in various forms.

 Whoever welcomes one such child in My name welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me welcomes not Me but the one who sent Me. (Mark 9:37)

 Guide the lost and suffering, Jesus, to peace and security with You.

 


 February 7
Brake that Fall into Anger

The elevator is not a modern invention. Lifts have been used in construction from the time the pyramids were built. But they were too dangerous for passengers. Cables could break with disastrous results.

Then, in 1854, Elisha Otis of Vermont found a way to make elevators safe. His invention used a large compressed spring. If the elevator cable went slack, this spring automatically snapped out, pushing two iron bars into notched guide rails in the elevator shaft. This locked the elevator in place, protecting passengers.

When tempers snap and anger gets out of control, the results can also be disastrous. Obviously, we can’t help feeling angry at times because anger is a normal emotion. But we can put a “safety lock” on what we say or do. Then, while keeping our anger in check, we can explore the cause of the anger and see what can be done about it.

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret—it leads only to evil. (Psalm 37:8)

Help us keep our anger in check, patient Jesus who knew anger, but so often checked it.

 


February 6 
Pulling People Out of Their Own Pain

Volunteering to help others doesn’t just have a benefit for them; it has a positive effect on you as well. 

Peter J. Economou is a cognitive and behavioral psychologist in Bloomfield, New Jersey, who notes the health benefits of volunteering. While it’s good for people of all ages, he told Costco Connection magazine’s Malia Jacobson that it’s especially “beneficial to adults over 65, or individuals with health woes.” The reason? “My theory is that it pulls people out of their own pain.”

Jacobson adds, “Those experiencing symptoms of disease or illness also can experience significant gains; research shows that patients with chronic pain have lower levels of depression and fewer painful symptoms while volunteering.”

If you’re dealing with illness but are still able to reach out to others in some way with your time or talent, consider opportunities to do so in your community or church. It could be an effective painkiller with no side effects.

 We are what He has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works. (Ephesians 2:10)

 In bringing healing to others, may I find it myself, Lord.

 


February 5 
Call Your Parents

At the 2015 Academy Awards ceremony, actor J.K. Simmons earned the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.  His acceptance speech could have won him another award: Best Son.

Simmons appropriately started off by thanking his wife and children for their support of him and his career.  Then, he encouraged the crowd with an important message. 

He said, “Call your mom.  Everybody, call your dad…If you’re lucky to have a parent or two alive on this planet, call them.  Don’t text.  Don’t email.  Call them on the phone, tell them you love them and thank them and listen to them for as long as they want to talk to you.”  He concluded his speech by saying, “Thank you, Mom and Dad.”

It was refreshing to see an actor on one of the most-watched broadcasts of the year celebrate not himself, but the mother and father whose love and sacrifices shaped him as a person.  It was also a reminder for millions of viewers—and each of us—to do the same. 

So what are you waiting for?  Go call your mom or dad.

 The glory of children is their parents. (Proverbs 17:6)

 Inspire children to better appreciate their parents, Father.

 


February 4 
They Welcomed Everyone

In the 1840s and 50s, want ads still ran in New York newspapers stating, “Neither Irish nor Catholic need apply.” Members of the anti-Catholic Know-Nothing party were elected to office throughout the country, and there were anti-Catholic riots in Brooklyn. So how did Catholics finally become accepted in the land to which they’d fled to find religious freedom?

During a Christopher Closeup interview, Pat McNamara, author of New York Catholics, explained, “The Catholics just wore them down. They kept coming and building churches and schools…and the hospital system and old age homes…and they started these orphanages, where they welcomed children of all denomination or none, of all races, of all backgrounds...

“One of the great pioneers of Catholic childcare was a priest named John Drumgoole, who said, ‘I’ll take any kid from any religion, background, race; I don’t care.’ And he did. He created Mount Loretto in Staten Island, which at the time was the largest childcare institution in the United States.”

There is no longer Jew or Greek...for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Guide us in bridging divisions by welcoming strangers, Holy Spirit.

 


February 3
Spiritually Able

David and Mercedes Rizzo didn’t know how they would raise their autistic daughter Danielle in the Catholic faith because they couldn’t find any material to help them. So, they paved new ground themselves and are sharing what they learned in the book Spiritually Able: A Parent’s Guide to Teaching the Faith to Children with Special Needs.

During a Christopher Closeup interview, the Rizzos admitted that the odds sometimes seemed “insurmountable,” but their parish church was “very welcoming and willing to help us.”

When asked what priests and parishioners can do to enhance that spirit of welcome, David said, “[We] want them to know that we’re not being bad parents when our children [misbehave]. That’s part of the disability; it’s not a sign of their irreverence. That gives us the opportunity for the child to learn the expected behaviors. And they will, because children with disabilities do learn. It is possible for them to learn to attend Mass, participate, and become an active participant in the faith.”

Let the little children come to Me. (Mark 10:14)

Help me be welcoming to special needs children and their families, Jesus.

 


February 1
The Courage of Her Convictions

The Civil Rights movement owes much to the courage of one woman; Rosa Parks. In 1955, she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. The event sparked protests and boycotts which led to the Supreme Court ruling that racial segregation is unconstitutional.

“I have learned over the years that knowing what must be done does away with fear,” she said later.

“When I sat down on the bus that day, I had no idea history was being made – I was only thinking of getting home. But I had made up my mind…I did not feel any fear sitting there. I felt the Lord would give me the strength to endure whatever I had to face. It was time for someone to stand up—or in my case, sit down. So I refused to move.”

Let God guide you in living a life filled with courage.

I am continually with You; You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will receive me with honor. (Psalm 73:23-24)

Help us live according to Your values, Lord.

 


January 30
The Kindness Diaries, Part Four

The Kindness Diaries is filled with Leon Logothetis’s adventures in the United States, Europe, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Canada, but things don’t always go his way—at least not initially. He admits that pain and struggle and asking people for help are humbling experiences.  

However, he engaged in this “social experiment to take myself out of my comfort zone and to connect myself with the rest of humanity. The magic is the power of human connection.” 

Logothetis also hopes that readers take another lesson from his book: “Kindness doesn’t have to be a grand expedition, like traveling around the world. That’s just one form of kindness. Kindness can simply be saying, ‘Have a happy day!’ to a barista at Starbucks. It’s a spectrum. You have the small acts and you have the big acts. But it’s a way of life. It’s a smile when you check into a hotel, it’s a ‘good day’ to someone you see on the street. Little things like that go a long way.”

 The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness. (Galatians 5:22)

 Guide me in making more human connections grounded in kindness, Father.


 January 29
The Kindness Diaries, Part Three

Another example of selfless goodness that Leon Logothetis encountered came on the streets of Pittsburgh. He approached a man in a park, told him what he was doing, and asked if he could provide him with a place to stay. The man, named Tony, said that he was homeless and living on the streets. 

At first, Logothetis was ashamed at having imposed upon someone in such a dire situation. But as he explained during a Christopher Closeup interview about his book The Kindness Diaries, “[Tony] offered to put me up for the night, which was basically to sleep next to him. He protected me, he fed me, he gave me some of his clothes. I was sleeping on the streets next to this man who had nothing, and gave me everything! 

“The next morning, I felt that I needed to help this man, so I set him up in an apartment and sent him back to school because he wanted to become a chef...Tony says to me, ‘Leon, you changed my life.’ But what he doesn’t realize is that he changed my life. Tony changed my life.”

Tomorrow, Logothetis sums up his travels.

Let us love...in truth and action. (1 John 3:18)

May we learn from those who have little but give much, Messiah.

 


January 28
The Kindness Diaries, Part Two

During his travels, Leon Logothetis met Willy, a man from Scotland who had moved to Colorado and dedicated his life to helping others after hearing Billy Graham speak in 1984. He and his wife Cheri were working at a retirement home where they planned to celebrate the 96th birthday of a resident named Kay.  

In The Kindness Diaries, Logothetis quotes Willy as saying, “If we don’t bring [Kay] cake, no one else will.” When Logothetis met Kay, she said, “[Willy] makes me feel like I’m part of the human race and not just some old leftover luggage.”

Logothetis realized that this was the perfect opportunity to show kindness to a man who was helping others. When he discovered that Willy and Cheri were going to miss their son’s wedding in Scotland because they couldn’t afford the plane fare, he paid for their trip himself. Willy shed tears of gratitude.

Regarding Willy, Logothetis recalled, “We turn on the news and it’s all bad. Willy was someone who showed me how much goodness there really is out there.”

More kindnesses tomorrow.

Let us work for the good of all. (Galatians 6:10)

Remind us to care for lonely seniors, Divine Savior.

 


January 27
The Kindness Diaries, Part One

Leon Logothetis originally moved to the United States from England where he worked as a successful broker. Despite earning excellent money, he felt miserable and, at times, suicidal until he abandoned his comfortable life to walk across America with only $5 in his pocket.  That journey became the basis for a book and television show, during which Logothetis encountered a lot of good people who showed him kindness. 

When he returned to Los Angeles, he still believed he wasn’t living the life he really wanted to pursue. Then he saw a homeless man holding a sign that read, “Kindness is the best medicine” and it triggered a new goal.

Logothetis decided to travel around the world and literally live off the kindness of strangers. He wouldn’t spend any money on food, gas, or shelter himself. Everything would have to be provided by the people he met along the way. In turn, he would respond to people’s generosity with kindnesses of his own—and chronicle his adventures in a book called The Kindness Diaries. 

So what happened?  More of the story tomorrow.

Kindness is like a garden of blessings. (Sirach 40:17)

May kindness become second nature to me, Divine Savior.

 


January 26 
Here’s to Somebody

Here’s a story you may have heard before. It’s about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. 

There was an important job to do in the organization to which they all belonged. Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. 

In reality, Anybody could have done it. But Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.

Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up with Everybody blaming Somebody. That meant that Nobody could really blame Anybody.

Sound familiar? You can give it a different ending. All you have to do is decide that you want to be Somebody. If you do not do your job, who will?

The people did the work faithfully. (2 Chronicles 34:12)

Carpenter from Nazareth, help me to work with care.

 


 January 25
The Purge

Matt Archbold asked his five kids to clean the front room of their house because “it looked like a tornado teamed up with a rabid chimpanzee in a toy factory.” Reluctantly, the kids did as he asked, but then his wife made the task even more of a challenge. She told them they needed to give away some of the old toys they no longer played with. 

Heartbroken at having to give away their old memories, they complied anyway. But then Mrs. Archbold made a final request: pick a few more toys to give away to poor children.

Archbold saw rebellion in his children’s eyes until his wife dropped a loaded question on them. “Doesn’t Jesus want you to share?” she asked. Writing in Catholic Digest, Archbold recalled, “This disconcerted them. They looked around at each other, unsure. They were all set to go up against their mother, but not Jesus. It was a clever strategy, I’ll admit. If you’re going to tag team, having Jesus on your side is a pretty good partner.”

And so, the Archbold kids once again complied. But that day in their home will forever be known as “The Purge.”

Share what you have. (Hebrews 13:16)

Help me appreciate the humor of family life, Jesus.

  


January 24
Don’t Be Too Hard on the Weather Forecasters

In late January 2015, weather forecasters predicted that a paralyzing blizzard would hit the New York/New Jersey area.  Major roadways as well as public transportation were closed down as a result.

The snowstorm, however, wasn’t as bad as expected. The three feet of anticipated snow turned out to be only one foot.  While most people were grateful to be spared, there were others who complained that the meteorologists had gotten it so wrong.

Well, here’s some perspective. Meteorology is a science, but not always an exact one. Weather patterns can change quickly and deviate from the path they were supposed to follow.  It’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.

And here’s another scenario to consider. Let’s say you were in a car accident. Your vehicle sustained minor damage, but you escaped unscathed. Would you complain, “Darn it, that wasn’t as bad as I expected!”—or would you say, “Thank God, it wasn’t that bad.” Chances are you’d pick the latter, so if the weather this winter isn’t as bad as expected, be grateful.

An intelligent person will not complain. (Sirach 10:25)

Help me maintain a positive outlook, Lord.

 


 January 22
From the Crack House to West Point

When Leah Chavez discovered she was pregnant, abortion or adoption were the only two options she was given by her family.  When she refused both, she was thrown out of her home.  After giving birth to her son, Dion, the hardships continued.

As reported by Wayne Coffey in New York’s Daily News, Chavez “wound up living with her baby in a crack house and other sorry outposts in the poorest precincts in Phoenix. She wound up being forced into prostitution, getting by with food stamps and public assistance.” Through it all, she remained devoted to giving her son the best life possible.

Twenty-two years later, Dion graduated from West Point as an accomplished swimmer “with an economics degree and a commission as a first lieutenant.” He told Coffey, “My mother dropped everything to support me.  She was the one to teach me that if you want something you have to be the one to make it happen. I wake up every morning with the intent to work towards achieving my goals because I know it will reinforce the fact that my mother was the best mother I could have ever asked for.”

Love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:12)

Bless all mothers who make sacrifices for their children, Lord.

 


January 20
Everyone Wins with Finnegans

Let’s hear it for Finnegans Beer! People in Minnesota can hardly be blamed for repeating the slogan, since all the profits from the beer that’s sold—every penny of it—goes to feed the hungry. That’s a great record, and Finnegans means to make sure it keeps going for a long time to come.

Here’s the way the arrangement works: all the profits from the beer sold to restaurants, bars and liquor stores go into the Finnegans Community Fund, which in turn buys produce from local farms and donates it to food banks in the area. Since the firm was founded in 2000, it’s donated more than half a million dollars to the anti-hunger campaign.

Jessica Trygstad wrote about the company in The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese, pointing out that next to Newman’s Own brand, Finnegans is the second longest-running company in the U.S. with a 100 percent profit business model. “The most important thing for me,”  said Jacquie Berglund, Finnegans’ founder, “is creating wealth—and then giving it back.”

 It is better to give alms than to lay up gold. (Tobit 12:8)

 Inspire businesses to help the less fortunate, Jesus.

 


January 19
I Wish You Could See What I See

Ellen Stumbo acknowledges that life with her special-needs daughters can sometimes be difficult. They deal with Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, poor speech, and more. But their life together can also be glorious, which is a message she shared on her blog recently. Here are some excerpts:

“My kids are so much more than what your eyes perceive...I wish you could see how typical our lives are. Sibling fights, trips to the park, grilling burgers in the backyard...I wish you could recognize the sweet sound of those labored words, and how hearing, ‘I love you’ even with missing sounds, is beautiful. I wish you could see that we love our life, and we love our family, and we love how well we fit together, all of us flawed in our own way, all of us loved for exactly who we are.

“Yes, I wish you could see the love. And I wish you could feel it too. Because it’s the type of love that surprises you, because you never thought you could love this way. Love changes things, even perspectives. I know it changed mine.”

Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:4)

 Messiah, remind us that love is the most powerful grace.


January 18
The Friendship Nine

 The crime was clear-cut, and it turned out to be punishable by working on a chain gang for one month. What did the nine men do to bring on such a penalty? They were all black, and they had the effrontery to sit down at an all-white lunch counter, that’s what.

 That all took place 55 years ago, at a McCrory’s 5 & 10 in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and it stood on the books for all that time. But finally last year the eight surviving members of the “Friendship Nine”—all students at Friendship Junior College—heard a judge wipe the slate clean.

“We cannot rewrite history,” said Judge Mark Hayes last January, “but we can right history.” He signed an order vacating the mens’ convictions. Spectators cheered, and one member of the group, Clarence Graham, spoke for them all when he said:

 “It’s been a long wait. We are sure now that we made the right decision for the right reason. Being nonviolent was the best thing that we could have done.”

 His soul hates the lover of violence. (Psalm 11:5)

 Guide me in creating change in this world through peaceable means, Prince of Peace.

 


 January 17
The $10,000 Thank You

         In January of 2015, Marilyn Mecham got a call from Kevin Perz, a former student in her cooking class at Parkway Central High School in Chesterfield, Missouri. Perz graduated in 1977 and just wanted to express his appreciation to her for being such a great teacher. Two days later, Mecham received a handwritten note from him in the mail with a check for $10,000. 

Perz had done this sort of thing before. In 1992, he sent $5,000 to his calculus teacher, and two decades later, he sent $10,000 to his business teacher. “Everybody can always think back to someone in their life who had an impact,” Perz told ABC News, “if it’s a teacher or a Boy Scout leader or anyone.” 

         In his note, Perz wrote, “The enclosed Christmas gift is intended to be 100% used on you and your personal life.”    

         Mecham cried over the gratitude shown to her and shared her thoughts on Facebook. “Gratitude is something in this society today that we just don’t do enough of,” she said. “It’s made me stop and think: Who do I want to thank?” 

         You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity. (2 Corinthians 9:11)

Lord, may we strive to live in a state of perfect gratitude.

 


January 16 
Hope is Sweaty

When Father Jeff Putthoff arrived in Camden, New Jersey, in the late 1990s, he discovered that the high school graduation rate there was below 50 percent. That statistic didn’t bode well for the city’s younger generation. The Jesuit priest then turned this problem into an opportunity to serve his new community.

Father Putthoff founded Hopeworks ‘N Camden, a nonprofit that teaches technology and entrepreneurial skills to teens and young adults. As reported by Jesuits.org, nearly 3,000 youths have earned the equivalent of a high school diploma from their in-house tutoring program. Two hundred young people have gone on to college, while others have found jobs at companies like Google. “And about 30 percent of Hopeworks’ annual operating budget comes from businesses that students have created and run within the organization.”

All that accomplishment took a lot of hard work combined with hope. But as Father Putthoff told the Philly Voice, “We’re about claiming hope. Hope is sweaty. The people of Camden taught me that.”

 My hope is from Him. (Psalm 62:5)

 Inspire me to do the hard work that hope requires, Lord.

 


January 15
Simon Says Give

At age seven, Mandi Simon wanted to make life a little more enjoyable for children in need, so she came up with the idea to host birthday parties for them. With help from her mother, Dina, the Minnesota girl established the aptly named nonprofit Simon Says Give, which to date “has thrown birthday parties for 500 kids…who are growing up in poverty.”

“I think it is really important for every kid to have one day, or at least a few hours, when it’s all about them,” the now 11-year-old Simon told Good News Network writer Helaina Hovitz. “It’s important for kids to go to a different environment and be able to have fun with their friends.”

         Recently, Mandi received the prestigious GlobeChanger Award, courtesy of the Jefferson Awards Foundation. The publicity from this honor garnered Simon Says Give worldwide acclaim, which Simon hopes will only continue to grow. Mandi’s goal for her organization is to impact “two million kids by the year 2022.”  This just goes to show you’re never too young (or too old) to make a difference.

         Show yourself…a model of good works. (Titus 2:7) 

Jesus, may we remember actions speak louder than words.

 


January 14
Words That Work Wonders

         May I? Thank you. Forgive me. 

         Three simple phrases, all familiar. Yet we don’t hear them as often as we used to, and that’s not as it should be. Pope Francis himself urged their frequent use. 

         Speaking at one of his general audiences last year, he said, “Sometimes it seems that we are becoming a civilization of bad manners and dirty words, as if they were a sign of emancipation. We hear them so often, even publicly. Kindness and an ability to say ‘thank you’ are almost seen as a sign of weakness.”

         Gratitude, the pope said, is at the heart of faith. “A Christian who does not know how to give thanks,” he said, “is one who has forgotten God’s language.”

         Family ties are at the heart of his thinking on this. The Holy Father said, “So many wounds in the family begin with the loss of those precious words, ‘forgive me.’” Even when “plates fly” in the heat of the moment, apologies and forgiveness can work wonders, he concluded.

            Be kind to one another...forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)

Messiah, may I choose my words wisely and humbly.

 


January 15
Simon Says Give

At age seven, Mandi Simon wanted to make life a little more enjoyable for children in need, so she came up with the idea to host birthday parties for them. With help from her mother, Dina, the Minnesota girl established the aptly named nonprofit Simon Says Give, which to date “has thrown birthday parties for 500 kids…who are growing up in poverty.”

“I think it is really important for every kid to have one day, or at least a few hours, when it’s all about them,” the now 11-year-old Simon told Good News Network writer Helaina Hovitz. “It’s important for kids to go to a different environment and be able to have fun with their friends.”

         Recently, Mandi received the prestigious GlobeChanger Award, courtesy of the Jefferson Awards Foundation. The publicity from this honor garnered Simon Says Give worldwide acclaim, which Simon hopes will only continue to grow. Mandi’s goal for her organization is to impact “two million kids by the year 2022.”  This just goes to show you’re never too young (or too old) to make a difference.

         Show yourself…a model of good works. (Titus 2:7) 

Jesus, may we remember actions speak louder than words.

 


 January 12
A Nighttime Prayer

Lutheran pastor and German native Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was imprisoned and killed for his anti-Nazi efforts during World War II, wrote a number of prayers over the course of his life. Here is one to be said at the end of the day:

“O Lord my God, thank You for bringing this day to a close; Thank You for giving me rest in body and soul. Your hand has been over me and has guarded and preserved me. 

“Forgive my lack of faith and any wrong that I have done today, and help me to forgive all who have wronged me.

“Let me sleep in peace under your protection, and keep me from all the temptations of darkness.

“Into Your hands I commend my loved ones and all who dwell in this house; I commend to You my body and soul.

“O God, Your holy name be praised. Amen.”

When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden panic, or of the storm that strikes the wicked; for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught. (Proverbs 3:24-26)

Grant me a peaceful and restful sleep, Lord, so that I can better serve You and my loved ones tomorrow.

 


January 11
Joy That Makes You Believe in Heaven

The sound of his eight-month-old daughter crying jolted Jake Frost out of a sound sleep in the middle of the night. He groggily made his way to her crib and brought her into the living room where he sat in a rocking chair to feed her. When the infant finished her bottle, she snuggled up against her father and returned to sleep.

Writing in Catholic Digest, Frost recalled, “I looked down at her lovely little face nestled in the crook of my arm. Her eyes closed, a smile dimpling her chubby apple-dumpling cheeks, an expression of contentment and serenity across her brow...It was beautiful. I was surprised by the moment of joy.

“It wasn’t the frothy kind of jocularity that goes with party hats and off-key singing, but the quiet, seeping all the way down into your bones kind of joy that’s almost too much to bear. The kind of joy that makes you believe in heaven....Maybe when we find ourselves ambushed unexpectedly by joy and beauty, it’s because God has sent them out on a search-and-rescue mission to track us down and remind us that good things are still out there.”

 Let all who take refuge in you rejoice. (Psalm 5:11)

 Sustain my spirit with moments of joy, Divine Savior.

 


January 10
It’s Not Over for You

After spending several years studying to be a screenwriter, Joan Bauer signed with a big talent agency in New York City. Two days later, she endured a debilitating car accident that left her in a great deal of pain and requiring neurosurgery. 

Angry and scared, she imagined that she saw her dream of being a writer flying out a window. Then, she heard a voice inside giving her ideas for a story about a girl with a big dream. The voice said, “You can write this. It’s not over for you.”

Considering she had trouble even sitting at a desk, Bauer believed this to be impossible. But as she said during a Christopher Closeup interview, “Paragraph by paragraph, I wrote my first young adult novel and it ended up winning a big award.”  That novel was Squashed and it was the first of 12 novels geared toward young adults that Joan has now authored.  

She concluded, “When we open ourselves up to that power that is beyond who we are and we let God have His way, let Him have our disappointments yet still believe that there’s something good, that’s what [life] has been for me again and again.”

Cast your burdens on the Lord. (Psalm 55:22)

When disappointments crush me, Lord, guide me in a new direction.

 


 January 9
Can I Pray with Your Daughter?

Patheos blogger Rebecca Frech was loading groceries into her trunk while her 10-year-old daughter Ella, who is confined to a wheelchair, sat in the car. Frech then heard a woman nervously ask, “Excuse me, can I pray with your daughter?” 

The woman identified herself as part of her church’s ministry for the sick. She had seen Ella in the wheelchair and wanted to know if she could pray for her healing. 

Frech looked at Ella, who gave her a sign that it was okay. “The stranger walked over to Ella,” Frech wrote, “and asked, ‘Is it okay if I hold your hands while I pray?’ She held out her shaking hands, and, to my surprise, I watched my shy girl reach out in return.”

On the ride home, Frech asked Ella what she thought about the stranger. Ella responded, “At first I thought it was weird, but then I thought ‘This is what we’re supposed to be doing, praying for people who need it.’ You know, Mom?” 

Frech realized that she and her daughter had experienced a moment of grace that day.

The prayer of faith will save the sick. (James 5:15)

Grant me the courage to pray with the sick, Lord.

 


January 8
Is Anything Really Missing?

Shel Silverstein tells a story called The Missing Piece. A circle was missing a wedge and felt it had to find it in order to be happy. The circle rolled around the countryside in search of its missing piece. Along the way it stopped to talk to the flowers and animals and warmed itself in sunshine.

Finally, the circle found its missing wedge and excitedly attached the piece to itself. Now the circle could be happy. It started to roll along so much faster that it didn’t stop to talk to the friends it had made when it was incomplete. The circle grew unhappy being whole, removed the wedge and slowly rolled away.

How many times do we human beings say, “I would be happy if only I had…..?” Yet we often find that life does not suddenly become perfect if we get that something. Each want is almost always immediately replaced by another. True happiness is being grateful for what we have, as well as with what we haven’t got.

Bless your Maker, who fills you with His good gifts. (Sirach 32:13)

            Lord, teach me that I am made whole by Your love.

 


January 7
A Groom’s Unusual Vows

A husband reciting vows to his bride on their wedding day isn’t unusual.  But NASCAR driver Brian Scott also professed vows to his four-year-old stepdaughter Brielle.

Scott married Whitney Kay in 2014 and wanted Brielle to know that she would always be a vital part of their new life together.  He therefore wrote and read the following vows:

“I promise to always hold your hand and skip with you down the street, to bring comfort to your life.  I vow to make you say your prayers before you eat.  I promise to read you stories at night, to always tuck you in real tight.  I vow to show you how a man should treat a woman in my relationship with your mother.

And above all else, I vow to protect you, care for you and love you forever.”

The Scotts were surprised that the video of the vows went viral a full year after their wedding.  Still, Whitney hopes it will “bring hope to anyone who feels hopeless” and remind them that “God has a beautiful plan for everyone.”

Set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

Strengthen the hands and hearts of all fathers, Creator.


 January 6 
A Smile is an Act of Mercy

Tara and her one-year-old daughter went to visit her great-grandparents at their nursing home.  She could see on the faces of the elderly couple the joy that her visit brought them.  

 On her way home, Tara listened to The Jennifer Fulwiler Show on Sirius-XM’s Catholic Channel radio station and heard Christopher Award-winning author Kerry Weber being interviewed about her book Mercy in the City. The conversation prompted Tara to reflect on the idea of mercy, so she shared the following thoughts on her Instagram page:

“Sometimes the corporal works of mercy don't look like we expect. Visiting the imprisoned doesn't always mean visiting those in jail. Sometimes the imprisoned are those imprisoned by their bodies, unable to make them do the things they want them to do. Sometimes the imprisoned are those who receive no visitors from the outside world. Sometimes your daughter offering a smile to the elderly and the infirm can teach you more about love and mercy than years of theology. Opportunities for mercy abound in our lives, if only we take the time to see them.”

He makes room for every act of mercy. (Sirach 16:14)

May I be a source of joy to the elderly and infirm, Lord.

 


 January 5 
The Shoplifter’s Second Chance

In September 2013, unemployed mother of three Jessica Robles attempted to steal $300 worth of groceries from a Publix Super Market in Miami, but was caught before she could get away. Police Officer Vicki Thomas arrived at the scene and asked Robles her reason for shoplifting.  

She responded that she did it to feed her three kids. Instead of taking her to jail, the kindhearted cop gave her a notice to appear in court on a misdemeanor charge. Officer Thomas then used $100 of her own money to buy groceries for Robles’s family. She delivered them herself and witnessed the joy on the children’s faces that they actually had something to eat. 

When the story spread, another $700 was donated for the Robles’s food expenses. And, as reported by TV station WSVN, a local business owner soon hired Robles for a job.  Through tears, Robles expressed her gratitude for Officer Thomas’s actions, which gave her a new chance at life.

A generous person will be enriched. (Proverbs 11:25)

Sometimes people make poor decisions, Lord. Help them realize their error and give them a chance to do right.

 


January 4
When We Forgive...

Forgiving those who have hurt us is one of the most challenging but necessary decisions we can make in this life. The late priest and author Henri Nouwen offered the following reflection to make choosing forgiveness just a little bit easier:

“Forgiving does not mean forgetting. When we forgive a person, the memory of the wound might stay with us for a long time, even throughout our lives. Sometimes we carry the memory in our bodies as a visible sign. But forgiveness changes the way we remember. It converts the curse into a blessing.

“When we forgive our parents for their divorce, our children for their lack of attention, our friends for their unfaithfulness in crisis, our doctors for their ill advice, we no longer have to experience ourselves as the victims of events we had no control over.  Forgiveness allows us to claim our own power and not let these events destroy us; it enables them to become events that deepen the wisdom of our hearts. Forgiveness indeed heals memories.”

Forgive the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your steadfast love. (Numbers 14:19)

Help me cast off the burden of old resentments, Father.

 


January 3
When a Star-Lord Prays

Actor Chris Pratt may have played the Marvel comic book hero Star-Lord in the blockbuster movie Guardians of the Galaxy, but his personal life is centered around a different Lord.

In 2012, Pratt’s wife, actress Anna Faris, gave birth to their first child, Jack, nine weeks early. Jack was required to stay in the intensive care unit, and doctors said he might wind up suffering from various health problems.

Pratt cherished every second he spent with his son because they weren’t sure he would even survive. “We were scared for a long time,” he told People magazine. “We prayed a lot.”

Thankfully, Jack improved and is now a healthy three-year-old. The whole experience, said Pratt, “restored my faith in God, not that it needed to be restored, but it really redefined it. The baby was so beautiful to us, and I look back at the photos of him and it must have been jarring for other people to come in and see him, but to us he was so beautiful and perfect.”

My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

When my faith in You wavers, Lord, help me redefine it and make my way back to You.

 


January 2
The Empowerment Plan

When Veronika Scott was a student at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, a teacher gave her class the assignment to create a product that fulfills a social need. With an interest in helping the homeless, Scott regularly visited a local shelter to determine what that could be.

As reported by PBS Newshour, “The final design was a coat that transformed into a sleeping bag,” made with fabrics that would keep people warm and dry. Though it took some trial and error, the product was a success and led Scott to launch her own non-profit business called The Empowerment Plan.

She now employs 10 formerly homeless women, who have made more than 1,000 coats that have been distributed to the homeless nationwide. Elisha Carpenter, a mother of three whose wages from working with Scott allowed her to pay for housing, said, “What I really like most about the job is the sincerity of Ms. Scott because she reaches into the cesspool of homelessness and transitional housing, and she’s steadily pulling people out.”

 Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid in full. (Proverbs 19:17)

 How can I use my initiative to help others in need, Lord?

 


January 16 
Hope is Sweaty

When Father Jeff Putthoff arrived in Camden, New Jersey, in the late 1990s, he discovered that the high school graduation rate there was below 50 percent. That statistic didn’t bode well for the city’s younger generation. The Jesuit priest then turned this problem into an opportunity to serve his new community.

Father Putthoff founded Hopeworks ‘N Camden, a nonprofit that teaches technology and entrepreneurial skills to teens and young adults. As reported by Jesuits.org, nearly 3,000 youths have earned the equivalent of a high school diploma from their in-house tutoring program. Two hundred young people have gone on to college, while others have found jobs at companies like Google. “And about 30 percent of Hopeworks’ annual operating budget comes from businesses that students have created and run within the organization.”

All that accomplishment took a lot of hard work combined with hope. But as Father Putthoff told the Philly Voice, “We’re about claiming hope. Hope is sweaty. The people of Camden taught me that.”

 My hope is from Him. (Psalm 62:5)

 Inspire me to do the hard work that hope requires, Lord.

 


January 1 
I Am the New Year

Bible Illustrator magazine once published a reflection about the potential for change that a new year brings.

It read, “I am the new year. I am an unspoiled page in your book of time. I am your next chance at the art of living. I am your opportunity to practice what you have learned about life during the last twelve months.

“All that you sought and didn’t find is hidden in me, waiting for you to search it but with more determination.

“All the good that you tried for and didn’t achieve is mine to grant when you have fewer conflicting desires. All that you dreamed but didn’t dare to do, all that you hoped for but did not will, all the faith that you claimed but did not have—these slumber lightly, waiting to be awakened by the touch of a strong purpose.

“I am your opportunity to renew your allegiance to Him who said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’”

If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Guide me in making wise choices this new year, Father.

 


December 31 
New Year’s Eve Reflections

For many people, New Year’s Eve means a party.  But author Bill Vaughan’s take on the holiday also rings true.  

He once wrote, “Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late on New Year’s Eve. Middle age is when you’re forced to.”

For a more traditional New Year’s wish, consider the words of the late advice columnist Ann Landers, who wrote:

         “Let this coming year be better than all the others. Vow to do some of the things you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t find the time. Call up a forgotten friend. Drop an old grudge, and replace it with some pleasant memories. Vow not to make a promise you don’t think you can keep.  Walk tall, and smile more. You’ll look ten years younger. Don't be afraid to say, ‘I love you.’ Say it again. They are the sweetest words in the world.”

Finally, consider these words from author Vern McLellan: “What the New Year brings to you will depend a great deal on what you bring to the New Year.”

Now begin the work, and the Lord be with you. (1 Chronicles 22:16)

Lord, guide me through the year ahead.

 


December 30 
The Origins of a Bottle of Bubbly

If you plan on buying champagne for New Year’s Eve, you know you’ve got Benedictine monks to thank for it, right? 

As Frank Weathers documented on his Patheos blog, the first ever sparkling wine, called Blanquette de Limoux, was invented by Benedictine monks in France’s Abbey of Saint Hilaire in 1531.  According to Wikipedia, “They achieved this by bottling the wine before the initial fermentation had ended.”

They’re not the ones who perfected the process, however.  That honor goes to a different Benedictine monk: Dom Pierre Pérignon.  He spent 47 years at the Abbey of Saint Pierre d’Hautvillers, near the Champagne region of France, working to get the creation of sparkling wine just right.  He achieved his goal in 1670, and his legacy lives on today.

Whenever you pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly, remember that you’re not just drinking something that tastes good.  It’s also a testament to the years of hard work it can take to make something great that will stand the test of time.

 In all toil there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. (Proverbs 14:23)

 May I not lose patience when hard work is called for, Lord.

 


December 29
Distressed? You Can Still Help Others

         When you’re feeling overwhelmed by problems, you might conclude you have nothing to offer since your energy and emotional strength are limited. But facing struggles adds to your humanity and need not stop you from sharing another’s burdens.

         When you’ve known pain, your insight can help you to become more selfless and better able to rally to the aid of someone with troubles worse than your own.

         “We may be sitting alone, lost in self-doubt or self-pity when the phone rings with a call from a friend who’s really depressed. Instinctively, we come out of ourselves, just to be there with her and say a few reassuring words,” write Ram Dass and Paul Gorman in How Can I Help?

         “When we’re done, and a little comfort’s been shared, we put down the phone and feel a little more at home with ourselves. We’re reminded of who we really are and what we have to offer one another.”

          Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)

          Holy Spirit, inspire us to be generous even if we feel we have nothing more to give.

 


December 28 
Diapers and Good Deeds

Katie Kanefke went to her local Walmart in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, because she needed to buy four large boxes of diapers for her son Marcus.  They were more expensive than she had expected, so she asked the cashier if they would match the lower price of the diapers at a different store.  When Walmart would only price match one box, Kanefke prepared to return the other boxes…until a stranger, Carol Flynn, got involved.

Flynn told Kanefke that she would pay for the extra diapers.  All she asked in return was that Kanefke perform a random act of kindness for somebody else someday.  The grateful mom happily agreed.

Unbeknownst to both women, another shopper, Jason Yoshino, saw the whole exchange and recorded it with his phone.  After posting the video on Facebook, it gained national media attention.  Kanefke told local TV station KSFY, “If you ever needed a sign that God’s there for you in the hardships and the struggles, this is it.  It’s pretty awesome.”

You will be enriched…for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:11)

Increase my willingness to show kindness to others, Savior.

 


December 27
Too Many Choices

In today’s world, we’re faced with a wide array of choices when it comes to what products to buy, what websites to visit, or how to spend our free time.  But an overabundance of choices can actually be a bad thing because it results in what entrepreneur James Clear calls “decision fatigue.”

“Making decisions over and over again will drain your willpower,” writes Clear, thereby making it hard to maintain good habits.  “When we place a constraint on ourselves, it can become much easier to get something done. This is especially true if it is a constraint that forces us to start small.”

If you want to start exercising, for instance, Clear recommends limiting yourself to five minutes a day initially because it’s a small enough amount of time that you’ll stick with it.  You can always increase slowly after several weeks.  

Clear concludes, “We often think that we want an open road and the ability to choose any direction for ourselves.  But sometimes, what we need is a tunnel that can reduce our choices and send us in a focused direction.”

Choose this day whom you will serve. (Joshua 24:15)

Holy Spirit, guide me in making wise choices.

 


December 26
What Awaits You in the New Year?

The start of any new year is a great time for making predictions, and here’s a list of a few that are bound to come true. This came our way via the Internet, and we thought enough of it to pass it along to our readers.
■ The Bible will still have all the answers.
■ Prayer will still be the most powerful thing on earth.
■ God will still pour out blessings upon His people.
■ Jesus will still save the lost when they come to Him.
■ Jesus will still love you.
     The listing concludes with these words:
     Isn’t it great to remember who is really in control?  Remember also that “the Word of the Lord endures forever.”

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on Him that God the Father has set His seal. (John 6:27)

As we move into a new year, Father, help me to move beyond needless worry and instead rest secure in the knowledge of Your love.

 


 December 25 
Peace on Earth

The inspirational newsletter Apple Seeds reprinted the following prayer, written by Pope John XXIII in his encyclical letter Pacem in Terris, which means “Peace on Earth:”

“May [Jesus] banish from the hearts of all men and women whatever might endanger peace.  May He transform them into witnesses of truth, justice and love.

“May He enkindle the rulers of peoples so that in addition to their solicitude for the proper welfare of their citizens, they may guarantee and defend the great gift of peace.

“May He enkindle the wills of all so that they may overcome the barriers that divide, cherish the bonds of mutual charity, understand others, and pardon those who have done them wrong.

“May all peoples of the earth become as brothers and sisters, and may the most longed-for peace blossom forth and reign always among men and women.”

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for He will speak peace to His people, to His faithful, to those who turn to Him in their hearts. (Psalm 85:8)

May peace in our hearts lead to peace in the world, Jesus.

 


December 24
When the Spirit of Christmas Prevailed

It involved only one house and a few soldiers, but there was a Christmas truce in 1944, at the height of World War II.  

The Week magazine told the little-known story, which began when a German woman named Elisabeth Vincken opened the door of her cabin on the Belgian-German border to find three lost American soldiers. Moved with pity, she invited them in to join her in a Christmas dinner. Soon after, four German soldiers knocked on the same door. Aware of the severe penalty for harboring the enemy, she took a deep breath and told them that three Americans were inside. She invited the Germans to join them, but then laid down the law: “It is the Holy Night and there will be no shooting here.”
         The atmosphere was tense at first, but gradually, aided by dinner and wine, tensions eased, and before everyone left a German soldier gave the GIs directions back to their lines. Soon all involved were fighting again, and it would be another several months before a permanent peace took hold. But in that one cabin, for a few hours, the Spirit of Christmas prevailed.

I will grant peace in the land. (Leviticus 26:6)

May we honor Your Son’s birth with peace, Father.

 


November 23 
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.

 


September 11 
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.

 

 

 

 


August 12 
Awesome Dad

 “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.