Three Minutes a Day
Enough is Enough
It wasn’t all that long ago—51 years, to be exact. That was when Baltimore’s Cardinal Lawrence Shehan decided that he’d had enough of the de facto segregation that existed between blacks and whites, and issued an uncompromising pastoral letter on racial justice in March, 1963. It would set a national standard.
“Our Christian faith imposes upon us all a special duty of both justice and charity toward all men, no matter what may be their racial and social origin,” he wrote. “It must guide us in our personal relationships...within our block, our neighborhood, our community, in our social and fraternal organizations; in the business we may conduct; in the labor unions to which we may belong; at work and at play; in all the circumstances of everyday life.”
Racially, things were very different then, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. All people have the example of Cardinal Shehan to help them chart a course of action. His secret? He simply decided that enough was enough—and took it from there.
Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. (Proverbs 31:8)
Father, bless our efforts, big and small, to promote justice.
Homeless Man’s Helping Hand
On the surface, Curtis Jackson was a typical homeless man who walked up and down Chicago’s streets, begging for money. What made Jackson so extraordinary was that the money he collected wasn’t for him. It was for his jobless friend, a 39-year-old woman who remains anonymous.
She had been employed at a bank, and would often provide Jackson with food at her home. But in 2011, she lost both her job and her home.
When the Department of Children and Family Services threatened to take away her 10-year-old son if she couldn’t find them a place to live, Jackson knew it was time to act. “I’m out here for a purpose to help someone,” he told reporter Daniel Bates about his charitable work. “And once she doesn’t need help anymore, I’ll move on to someone else.”
In five months, Jackson raised $9,000 for his friend. Words could not adequately express her gratitude. “Thank God that we did have an angel waiting for us,” she declared.
Comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work. (2 Thessalonians 2:17)
Father, help us to always give generously of our time.
Band of Angels
They called them the “Band of Angels,” and few titles hit the mark as much as that one. They were the military nurses—66 from the Army and 11 from the Navy—who were stationed in the Philippines in the early days of World War II and served out their time in harsh detainment camps after they were taken prisoner. There they continued to nurse wounded, dying and disease-ridden troops, earning their release only when they were liberated by Allied forces in 1945.
When Mildred Manning died last March at the age of 98, she was the lone survivor of the Band of Angels. She joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1939 to see the world, but as she was later to remark, “And what I saw was a prison camp.”
The prison experience would mark her life, but she said, “Our internment was nothing compared to the Bataan Death March and imprisonment our soldiers went through. They were tortured and starved.” Still she viewed her detainment as something positive. “If I could survive that,” she said, “I could survive anything.”
You…have stood by me in my trials. (Luke 22:28)
Paraclete, help us to endure trials with resilience.
An Earthquake’s Lesson
The major earthquake that shook San Francisco on April 18, 1906 was also felt in nearby Oakland where eight-year-old Dorothy Day had recently moved with her parents and siblings. When the ground finally stopped shaking, a frightened Day emerged from her home to see examples of both chaos and community: buildings swayed, small fires burned, and adults calmed down scared children.
In her autobiography The Long Loneliness, Day—who would go on to found The Catholic Worker movement—admits she felt comforted by the sight of people helping one another. She wrote, “While the crisis lasted, people loved each other. It was as though they were united in Christian solidarity. It makes one think of how people could, if they would, care for each other in times of stress, unjudgingly in pity and love.”
Don’t let times of tragedy and stress be the only occasions when you feel united with loved ones and strangers. Open yourself to that kind of love and caring on a daily basis.
I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love. (1 Colossians 2:2)
Jesus, unite all people in Christian solidarity.
The Purpose of Lent
With its emphasis on penance and sacrifice, the season of Lent can seem disruptive to our lives. According to writer Kerry Weber, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
She said, “Lent itself can sometimes seem to be little more than a checklist of things to do or not do…I find myself wondering: How am I supposed to live a normal life while doing all of these ‘extra’ things for Lent? The short answer is: I’m not.
“Lent is meant to…push us outside of our comfort zones. Lent is a time of preparation, of purification. But while all my lists are well-intended, it’s all too easy to lose sight of their larger purpose, and to forget what, exactly, I’m trying to prepare for.
“Lent is meant to help us recognize and identify with the suffering of others, to consider others’ needs before our own—and one doesn’t do that simply by crossing items off a list. [Taking part] in the Lenten traditions of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are not meant to distract from, but be enhancements to our everyday life. They open us up to be more loving, more giving.”
Grow in the grace and knowledge of our…Savior. (2 Peter 3:18)
Increase my ability to imitate Your love, Lord.
“Star Wars” and Ash Wednesday
In the movie Star Wars: A New Hope, heroes Luke Skywalker and Han Solo escape from the Death Star in their spaceship, the Millennium Falcon, only to be pursued by the evil Empire.
When Luke shoots down his first enemy ship, he gets excited and yells, “I got him!” Han, a veteran of space battles, responds, “Great, kid! Don’t get cocky.” In a nutshell, that’s also the message of Ash Wednesday.
When the priest puts ashes on our foreheads, he cites Genesis 3:19: “Remember, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” In other words: no matter what we accomplish on this earth, no matter how powerful we are, no matter how much cash we have in the bank, our physical bodies will eventually all meet the same end. Therefore, we need to live the best life possible in the knowledge that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
That’s great news! But don’t get cocky.
The arrogant do not endure. (Habakkuk 2:5)
Jesus, help me give up all that separates me from You.
The Shirt Off Your Back
Californian Darlene Stewart sent the following note into the Bakersfield Observed blog about an incident she witnessed in her hometown.
She wrote, “On a recent trip to the Oildale Post Office, I observed a man with no shirt (possibly homeless) asking directions to the morgue, because his brother had just died. He asked a couple driving out of the post office parking lot about directions to the morgue. They in turn asked me, and I directed them next door to Mish Funeral Home.
“The gentleman in the car, not wanting him to have to go into the funeral home without a shirt, took his shirt off and offered it to him but he did not want to accept it. The gentleman wouldn’t take no for an answer and just slipped it over his head. This is the only time I have ever witnessed someone literally ‘giving the shirt off his back.’”
Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness. (Colossians 3:12)
Make me sensitive to the immediate needs of the less fortunate, Compassionate Father.
Planting Seeds in Your Soul
In the book New Seeds of Contemplation, Trappist monk and author Thomas Merton offers the following thoughts about the seeds God plants in each of our lives:
“Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men. Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost, because men are not prepared to receive them: for such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere except in the good soil of freedom, spontaneity, and love…We must learn to realize that the love of God seeks us in every situation, and seeks our good. His inscrutable love seeks our awakening.
“If these seeds would take root in my liberty, and if His will would grow from my freedom, I would become the love that He is, and my harvest would be His glory and my own joy.”
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17)
Make me aware, Holy Spirit, of opportunities for spiritual growth.
The Way To Heaven
“I hear music,” murmured the patient as he was awaking from anesthesia after a serious operation.
“Oh, don’t let that bother you,” said his nurse. “That’s just St. Peter’s band.”
“St. Peter’s band?” sighed the sick man. “That means I made it! I made it!”
Realizing that her patient thought he had arrived at the pearly gates, the nurse quickly replied, “I’m so sorry, but that’s just the band practicing at St. Peter’s school across the street.”
It would be a relief for any of us to feel that somewhere during our pilgrimage through life we could feel sure we had “made it,” that we had come through the battle of life with flying colors and merited heaven’s everlasting peace. But God has the final say about our entrances and exits on the stage of life.
Each of us must first complete the particular job He sent us here to do before we can report back to Him and say, “Mission accomplished.”
Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)
Thank You, Lord, for allowing me to play a part in sanctifying the world.
The Belgium-Hawaii Connection
One long-time link closed with the death of a priest in Hawaii last year—but another chapter opened at the same time, promising the continuation of a glorious mission tradition.
Father Stephen Van den Eynde passed away in February, 2012 at the age of 90, the last in a chain of Belgian-born members of the Congregation of the Fathers and Brothers of the Sacred Hearts to serve as missionaries in Hawaii. Their number includes the legendary St. Damien—Father Damien de Vuester, the “leper priest” of Molokai.
The Belgium-Hawaii connection came about in the mid-1800s when the French and Belgian groups of the Sacred Hearts Fathers divided their responsibilities; France sent its missioners to Tahiti and other islands, while the Belgians brought Hawaii under their wing. Most of the hundreds who went toiled in relative anonymity, helping to build the church in Hawaii.
At the same time, though, the Belgian priests worked to encourage local vocations. That part of their tradition goes forward, pointing to a new trend that will live on in the future.
Go into all the world and proclaim the Good News. (Mark 16:15)
Christ, enrich the legacies of goodwill in our world.
Adults try various strategies to encourage children to eat right and exercise often. Some methods work better than others.
Helen Butleroff-Leahy has a tactic that really sings…and dances. The former Rockette turned registered dietician engages New York City school kids and drama professionals in a production called My Plate: The New Food Guide Musical. She’d like to take her popular show national, according to the New York Times.
Enthusiastic kids (some dressed as vegetables) perform gymnastics, dance, and “proclaim the virtues of ‘eating for the health of it.’” Audiences include parents and teachers, some struggling with their own poor eating habits. Many attendees absorb the intended message that good eating includes foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits and nuts.
Changing a bad habit to a good one takes willpower and determined effort, but isn’t your health—be it physical or spiritual—worth it?
Health and fitness are better than any gold, and a robust body than countless riches. (Sirach 30:15)
Help us, Lord, to set realistic and achievable goals.
The World’s Friendliest Restaurant
If you’re looking for the world’s friendliest restaurant, look no further than Tim’s Place in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As 27-year-old owner Tim Harris told one reporter, they serve “breakfast, lunch and hugs, but hugs are the best part.”
Harris is thought to be the United States’ first restaurant owner with Down Syndrome. His parents always encouraged him to be independent, and didn’t treat him any differently than they did his three brothers.
Harris worked at local restaurants as a teenager, becoming popular with patrons for his friendly and upbeat attitude. His mother told radio station KRQE, “He has this unique quality where he is happy literally every day.”
After Harris finished food service and office skills programs at Eastern New Mexico University, his parents decided to buy him a restaurant so he could become financially self-sufficient. He now gets up at 5:30 every morning to work at a job he loves, and greet each diner with a smile—and a hug.
You are the salt of the earth. (Matthew 5:13)
Remind me that Your light is reflected in all people, Lord, regardless of ability or disability.
In some circles, fathers get a bad rap, writes Carolina Pichardo in the Manhattan Times. Often it’s men in urban areas who are viewed as poor role models.
Pichardo agrees there are serious issues to consider concerning absent fathers—for instance, socioeconomic status and educational attainment. But she focuses on the positive.
“We turn to many local fathers who defy such conventions and instead serve as great examples of the kind of parent whose focus is on the well-being of the children….”
One Bronx dad was heartbroken and shocked when his son was diagnosed with autism. Nevertheless, says his wife, “he is a dedicated husband and father who really enjoys spending time with his family.”
Another dad says, “Whenever I make a decision…I have a little voice reminding me, ‘My daughter might see this; is it something she’ll be proud of?’”
Celebrate fathers who are great role models.
Know the God of your father, and serve him with single mind and willing heart. (1 Chronicles 28:9)
Father in heaven, watch over fathers everywhere.
The Tweeting Nun
“A lightning bolt experience.” That’s how Sister Helena Burns described the calling to become a nun that she felt at age 15. She entered the convent at age 17, choosing the Daughters of St. Paul because of their focus on media.
Sister Helena told Chicago Catholic News, “I looked at a lot of communities, but I thought what better way to bring God into peoples’ lives than through a book or song or magazine or film? You can very directly reach people on a deep level. It’s an art—we are using these arts to communicate with people.”
Not only is Sister Helena a regular presence on Facebook and Twitter, she is also working on a documentary about Father James Alberione, the founder of the Daughters of St. Paul.
She said, “We want [people] to know the life of this amazing media saint…to let them know that it is possible to have sanctity go together with the latest technology—not just for holy uses and pondering the word of God, but in our everyday lives.”
Remember to include God in every aspect of your life.
Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.
(1 Corinthians 10:31)
Inspire us to use technology wisely, Creator.
No Good Deed Goes Unrewarded
What would you do if you found $20,000 in cash? Bismark Mensah, a Walmart employee and Ghanaian immigrant in Seattle, Washington, was faced with this moral quandary when he found an envelope stuffed with $20,000 in an empty shopping cart. He had seen the customer using that cart, so he immediately ran after her to return the hefty amount of cash.
The couple the envelope belonged to, Leona Wisdom and Gary Elton, were planning to use the money for a down payment on a house. Wisdom had asked the bank for the money in bills because they didn’t want to have to wait for the check to clear. Eyes filled with tears of joy and relief, Wisdom offered the conscientious Mensah a reward for his selfless act, an offer which he firmly but politely refused.
Mensah was, however, honored with an “Integrity in Action” award by his Walmart employers. According to the Daily Mail, he was also given a plaque for his “heroic actions.” Mensah came to America to obtain a better education and job, as well as the means to send financial support to his struggling family in Africa. His integrity sets an example for everyone.
For we are…created…for good works. (Ephesians 2:10)
Abba, guide us to the performance of unselfish deeds.
Helping Internet Addicts
The Internet has grown into both an invaluable source of information and an excellent means of communication. However, surfing the web is a pastime best done in moderation because it can lead to Internet addiction.
According to a recent Stanford University study cited in The Catholic Moment, one in eight Americans suffers from it.
To help youngsters overcome this addiction, a weekly cyber-support group was created at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, located on the campus of Indiana’s Purdue University.
Parishioners Steve S. and Ken L. co-founded the ministry, which protects participants’ anonymity. “I think pornography is a more obvious abuse,” Ken L. observes, “but social media and gaming are abuse problems that many people are not aware of.”
Steve S. adds, “I think we have been able to create awareness that there is a problem. Will this have benefits in the future? That is up to God, not us.”
Admitting you have a problem, to yourself and to God, is the first step to finally solving it.
Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. (James 1:12)
God, grant us the humility to overcome our addictions.
The Angel Karly Foundation
Most parents think of each of their children as angels, gifts from God. But not many parents have babies born with “Angelman Syndrome,” named after the doctor who first discovered this neuro-genetic disease in 1965. Although these babies are unable to communicate with words and prone to epilepsy, their loving eyes and wriggling bodies convey their perpetual states of happiness.
Five-year-old Karly Ruiz of San Antonio, Texas, is one such “angel.” Although her initial diagnosis was tough on her parents, Rolando and Araceli, they decided to take positive action. In 2009, the Ruizes established the Angel Karly Foundation, a nonprofit organization intended to raise awareness and provide a sense of solidarity for families of children with Angelman’s Syndrome. Araceli credits the foundation’s success to her special daughter.
“She’s a huge gift from God and was given to us for a reason,” Araceli explained to Today’s Catholic reporter Carol Baass Sowa. “God wanted us to do this—the foundation.”
Every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights. (James 1:17)
Abba, protect children, the purest of Your angels on Earth.
Father Dollar Bill
They used to call him Father Dollar Bill. That wasn’t his real name, of course, which was Father Maurice Chase. Once a proficient fund-raiser in the Los Angeles Archdiocese, he earned his unusual nickname by giving out—you guessed it—dollar bills. He was in his nineties when he died a few years ago, and he brushed aside critics who said his charity might be laudable but that it had no “long-term impact.”
“I’m just trying to give them hope,” Father Dollar Bill would reply. “To give them a sense of dignity.”
The “them” he referred to were his Skid Row recipients, and how they missed him when he was gone. “He was just a glorious man,” said one woman. “He was always there.” Another said: “He will be missed, not because of the dollar. Because of what he gave me spiritually.”
Father Dollar Bill loved the poor, and he looked forward to his weekly trips to give them a boost. “I love it,” he said. “God has given me the happiest part of my life at the end.”
For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has.
(2 Corinthians 8:12)
God, may we never undervalue small acts of generosity.
A Poem as Lovely as a Tree
There was a time when every student could have recited at least the opening lines of “Trees”— “I think that I shall never see/A poem lovely as a tree...”
Time was, too, when schoolchildren could have told you that the poem was written by Joyce Kilmer, a New Jerseyan and convert to the Catholic faith, killed in action in World War I.
“Trees” and Kilmer were back in the news last year on the 100th anniversary of the poem—February 2, 2013—when Mahwah, New Jersey, declared that the poem was written in the township. Mahwah has plenty of proof for its claim. Not only did Kilmer reside there; he was in his Mahwah home the day the poem was written. However, there are also But while Mahwah has this evidence on its side, it also has an equal amount of contradictory opinions. Several towns claim the honor of inspiring the poem, as do at least two well-known universities: Rutgers and Notre Dame.
Whatever its origin, “Trees” endures to inspire new generations. As its closing lines declare: “Poems are made by fools like me/But only God can make a tree.”
Long ago You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. (Psalm 102:25)
Glory to Your everlasting works, O Savior of all mankind.
A Modern Form of Slavery
Though thousands of football fans came to New Orleans prior to the 2013 Super Bowl between the Ravens and 49ers, government, church and civic groups were also there for a different reason: to combat the victimization of girls and women forced into prostitution.
As reported by America magazine, experts estimated that 10,000 prostitutes descended on Miami when the Super Bowl was held there in 2010. Many were sex trafficking victims. John Krentel, a New Orleans attorney who serves on the board for Eden House, which helps women escaping prostitution, said, “Human trafficking is basically a form of slavery…I want to emphasize, these are American citizens we are talking about.”
Laura J. Lederer, president of the advocacy group Global Centurion Foundation, adds, “We need to reach young men and boys…and help them understand that human beings should never be bought and sold. We’re trying to reach people from a values-based, faith-based and human rights-based approach about the sacredness, worth and dignity of every human being.”
Rescue the oppressed. (Isaiah 1:17)
Savior, lead victims of slavery to freedom.
Since 1948, the Paralympics have brought together the world’s top athletes with physical disabilities in thrilling, high-level competitions. Today, the games are held every two years in coordination with the Olympics and at Olympic stadiums. Yet, the Paralympics are often called “the Olympics no one knows.”
PBS/WGBH’s online project Medal Quest aimed to change that oversight by highlighting the American athletes who trained for and competed in London’s 2012 Paralympic Games. Executive Producer Judith Vecchione explained, “One of our goals…was to encourage audiences to reconsider their ideas about ability and disability. As they witnessed the [competitors’] intense training, commitment and skill…viewers also learned about athletes giving back to their communities…and becoming role models.”
The Christophers honored Medal Quest with our 2013 Christopher Spirit Award for highlighting the heart, spirit and potential inside a group of athletes whose abilities are far greater than their disabilities.
Run with perseverance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Lord, turn my challenges into stepping stones to greatness.
How to Get Good at Something
Though Jerry Seinfeld rose to fame as the star of his own TV show, he worked for years as a stand-up comedian learning his craft. During an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he recalled his early days hoping that some veteran comedian could offer him guidance. In retrospect, he realizes there was no adequate advice that would have made telling jokes in front of an audience any easier.
Seinfeld said, “There’s no training, there were no classes, there was no getting ready—it was sink or swim. You had to learn how to do it well to survive. And that, in my opinion, is the only healthy path to becoming a comedian. If you grow up in a family where you have lots of privileges and there’s money around…you’re never going to get good at anything.”
Seinfeld’s insight can be applied to anyone, not just comedians. If we want to excel at something, it will only happen through determined and persistent practice. Having everything come easy is actually a deterrent to quality. Trial, error, failure and struggle will make you a master of your craft.
Let us run with perseverance. (Hebrews 12:1)
Help me endure failure on the road to success, Father.
Where Forgiveness and Love Rule
Reflecting on her 12th wedding anniversary with her husband, Dan, blogger Hallie Lord offered these insights:
“In a sense, life has matured us to a far greater degree over the past decade than I ever could have imagined. Life poured six babies into our hearts; Life asked us to trust him (and each other) as we wrestled with a decade of financial hardship; Life asked us to travel from state to state as we sought the place in which the earth would invite us to put down roots; and Life said, ‘I know this is hard, love each other anyway.’ And we did.”
“Imperfectly, of course. I cringe when I think of the things I’ve said and the damage I’ve caused, but my sweet husband has remained emphatic that forgiveness and love rule our home. He has taught me how to leave the pain behind and march forward with him, hand in hand. There are moments in life when God lifts you up and gives you a moment of ecstatic clarity. These are the moments that give all those crosses meaning and reveal their goodness.”
Have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart and a humble mind. (1 Peter 3:8)
Help my spouse and I grow in love for each other, Savior.
Saving a Suicidal Man
Kevin Berthia felt such despair that he was ready to end it all. In March 2005, he climbed over the railing of the Golden Gate Bridge so he could jump to his death into San Francisco Bay.
Before making that final decision, however, Berthia heard the voice of California Highway Patrol Officer Kevin Briggs. The cop, who had talked hundreds of people out of committing suicide over the years, knew that Berthia needed someone to listen, really listen to him. They started an hour-long discussion, which resulted in Berthia choosing life.
In May 2013, Briggs and Berthia were reunited at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention public service ceremony. It was the first time they’d seen each other since that fateful day. Briggs was delighted to learn that Berthia was now happily married with two children.
He had taken a path to mental healing that never would have happened without the compassionate police officer, who years ago had told him, “You have to seek some help. [And then] you’re getting better. And you can have a life.”
Your help has made me great. (Psalm 18:35)
Send lifelines to those feeling despair, Savior.
A Personal Gift for Valentine’s Day
With Valentine’s Day approaching, you may want to consider writing a love letter to your spouse. That’s the suggestion of Patheos.com blogger Pat Gohn, who relishes the letters she received from her husband years ago.
The reason, Gohn writes, is “because all couples long for communion with one another, especially the kind that will last. That simply cannot happen without communication that starts off with words that come from the heart.”
Though Gohn offers tips for men to write love letters to women, her insights can also be applied the other way around:
▪ “What is the one memory of your loved one that stays with you and lifts you up when you think of him/her?”
▪ “How does his/her love make you a better person?”
▪ “How does his/her care make you feel loved by her? By God?”
▪ “What is his/her greatest virtue?”
Regardless of the time of year, offer your loved ones sincere words and actions from the heart.
Love one another deeply from the heart. (1 Peter 1:22)
Inspire me with words that convey the depth of my love for the special people in my life, Divine Savior.
Avoiding the Worry Generator
Odd Thomas is one of best-selling author Dean Koontz’s most beloved characters because he retains his hope, humor and faith despite witnessing some horrific crimes.
In the book, Odd Apocalypse, Odd Thomas shares his thoughts about trusting God. The advice can apply to anyone tempted by negative thinking.
Koontz writes, “Without faith to act as a governor, the human mind is a runaway worry generator, a dynamo of negative expectations…If you entertain too much anxiety about too many things, if you place no trust in providence, what you fear will more often come to pass. We make so many of our own troubles, from mere mishaps to disasters, by dwelling on the possibility of them until the possible becomes the inevitable. Therefore I told myself to stop worrying…to place myself in the care of providence…If we are in a condition of complete simplicity (as the poet T.S. Eliot said), hope and trust will more reliably keep a man afloat, while fear is more likely to sink him.”
Cast all your anxiety on Him. (1 Peter 5:7)
Increase my trust in You, Compassionate Redeemer.
Only Chocolate Should Be Bitter
If Valentine’s Day finds you single and resentful of the people who will be making gooey eyes at each other on February 14, Verily magazine’s Monica Gabriel has some advice. As a young, single woman herself, she notes, “Bitterness only makes a person happy when it comes in the form of baking chocolate.”
Here are some of Gabriel’s survival tips:
▪ “Don’t make it all about you. Instead of wallowing, I will send a card or flowers to a single girlfriend or sister. Just because it’s not from ‘The One,’ does not mean I won’t make them feel loved.”
▪ “Plan a night out with friends. Valentine’s Day is a wonderful excuse to gather all available friends—boys and girls—to celebrate being single and being loved.”
▪ “Be kind to yourself. I don’t have to pretend that being single for the rest of my life would make me perfectly happy. But [not having someone to share] a candlelight dinner with this Valentine’s Day does not mean that I am unlovable. I feel hopeful and loved every other day of the year, why should Valentine’s Day be any different?”
Do not let your hearts be troubled. (John 14:1)
Bring companionship to the lonely, Lord.
A Stable Life at the Ranch
Though they have two biological children, Julie and Rusty Bulloch have also welcomed nearly 30 teens and young adults into their Lakeland, Florida home and ranch over the past 16 years. Why? To provide them with a stable family life—or to help them get away from gang life or drugs.
The Bullochs didn’t adopt or foster these young people, but rather worked in conjunction with their mothers, who knew their kids needed help. During an interview on Christopher Closeup about their reality television show Bulloch Family Ranch, Julie explained, “We always uplift the mom.”
Fathers, on the other hand, are part of the problem, especially since an estimated 95 percent of the Bullochs’ “kids” come from broken homes. Rusty said, “We’ve actually had some of the kids say, ‘If we didn’t steal, we didn’t eat.’ When you look at it like that, how can you blame that kid for surviving? I blame the dad for not being there and bringing them up in a godly home and leading them in the right way.”
Be a positive influence in the lives of young people.
Fathers make known to children your faithfulness. (Isaiah 38:19)
Help fathers be responsible parents, Lord.
A Good Samaritan Doctor
One of the people NBC News correspondent Bob Dotson highlights in his book American Story is Jack McConnell, a doctor who retired to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
While talking to one of the island’s 6,000 working poor, Dr. McConnell discovered that most of them couldn’t afford medical care, so they would go to the emergency room when they were sick. The physician knew that was fine if you broke a leg, but inefficient if you needed a check-up or preventive care.
Dr. McConnell asked his fellow retired doctors, “Why don’t we open up a clinic and volunteer?” Their initial response was that they had gotten out from under burdensome insurance costs and didn’t want to open themselves up to lawsuits.
Dr. McConnell appealed to South Carolina’s legislature to let him operate a clinic under the state’s Good Samaritan law, which states that you can’t sue a doctor who stops to help you in an emergency situation. The law passed and the clinic opened. Today, 44 states have similar free clinics because of Dr. Jack McConnell’s efforts.
Honor physicians for their services. (Sirach 38:1)
Bless and guide caring physicians, Divine Healer.
Date the Unexpected One
When seeking a relationship, it’s only natural to imagine the perfect looking person over the perfect person for you. But what about your compatibility in areas like finances and lifestyle? Do you both see child-rearing in your future, or spending time together in excitement and boredom?
Writer J.R. Baldwin suggests that if you want true love and romance, you have to prepare for it. How?
▪ Close your eyes, and don’t just judge by looks. Are you interested in this person because of their availability and their ambitions? Their sense of humor and their smile?
▪ Don’t worry whether he or she is “the one.” First, genuinely enjoy getting to know the other person and pray about the relationship. Keep an open mind to a future, and discuss things that matter.
▪ Pray for God to guide your mind and heart.
Remember, the first step toward love comes from being open to a person as God sees them, not as you want to see them.
Seek Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
Lord, protect my heart and give me the courage to seek and give love.
The Angry Driver’s Surprise
On Facebook, a man named Garry shared the following story about his encounter with an impatient driver:
“I bought a very irritated women a latte this morning. I was on my way to a client meeting in Farmington Hills, and as I made a lane change, she sped up to keep me out of the lane. We were coming up to a red light, and my nose was already in the lane when she tried to cut me off, but she had a good time honking at me.”
“I pulled into the Starbucks drive-thru for a double tall mocha…and she pulled in right behind me. When I came to the window I paid for her drink as well as mine, and then for several miles down the highway, I was still smiling. It was a better choice than road rage :-)”
It isn’t easy to answer rudeness with kindness, but it can be the best, most peaceful option. It may also leave you smiling.
Wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; prudence will watch over you; and understanding will guard you. (Proverbs 2:10-11)
Help me to control my temper, Father, so that I may be a loving example to others..
How This Teen Might Save Your Life
Having lost both an uncle and a family friend to pancreatic cancer, 15-year-old Jack Andraka from Crownsville, Maryland knew that the disease was often fatal because of a lack of early detection. While sitting in his North County High School biology class one day, the scientifically-inclined teen came upon the idea to develop a test involving antibodies and “carbon nanotubes.”
Following extensive research, he sent a letter explaining his theory to 200 professors at Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health, asking for lab assistance. All the professors but one rejected him. With support from Dr. Anirban Maitra, Andraka devised a specially designed paper sensor that checks blood and urine for a biomarker that indicates pancreatic cancer. The test takes five minutes to run, costs three cents, and is 400 times more sensitive than current tests.
If pancreatic cancer patients in the future get life-saving treatment, they can be grateful for Jack Andraka’s intelligence, initiative and refusal to take no for an answer.
Give me now wisdom and knowledge. (2 Chronicles 1:10)
Bring comfort and healing to all cancer patients, Lord.
Prayer Before Starting Work
Today we’d like to share a prayer for the beginning of your work day. The writer is unknown:
“My Heavenly Father, as I enter this workplace I bring Your presence with me. I speak Your peace, Your grace, Your mercy, and Your perfect order into this office. I acknowledge Your power over all that will be spoken, thought, decided and done within these walls.
“Lord, I thank You for the gifts You have blessed me with. I commit to using them responsibly in Your honor. Give me a fresh supply of strength to do my job. Anoint my projects, ideas and energy so that even my smallest accomplishment may bring You glory.
“Lord, when I am confused, guide me. When I am weary, energize me. When I am burned out, infuse me with the light of the Holy Spirit. May the work that I do and the way I do it bring faith, joy and a smile to all that I come in contact with today. Amen.”
Now begin the work, and the Lord be with you. (1 Chronicles 22:16)
Help me find joy in my labor, Lord.
No Greater Love or Glory
On January 23rd, 1943, a U.S. Army troop ship sailed off the coast of New York, bound for Greenland. Four chaplains were also on board that fateful night: Father John P. Washington, a Catholic priest; Rabbi Alexander D. Goode; Rev. Clark V. Poling, a minister of the Reformed Church; and Rev. George L. Fox of the Methodist Church. Armed with faith in God, these men proved to be true heroes a few short weeks later.
When a German submarine torpedoed their ship on February 3rd, the four chaplains rushed on deck to assist, even going so far as to give up their life jackets. These men of God were last seen holding hands on deck and praying. In 1944, they were posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Distinguished Service Cross.
“Certainly the chaplains did something huge,” Father Joseph Mancini, pastor of St. Stephen’s Church in Kearny, New Jersey, told Catholic New York reporter Claudia McDonnell. “We don’t have to do something that huge, but in the small things, we’re all capable of that same ideal.”
I have fought the good fight…kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)
Lord, bless and safeguard our nation’s military chaplains.
A Groundhog Day Awakening
Though he had a family and a career he loved, Paul Hannam felt restless and unfulfilled—yet he didn’t know why. One night, he and his wife watched the movie Groundhog Day, which stars Bill Murray as an arrogant weatherman mysteriously forced to repeatedly relive the same day; it leaves him even more miserable than he already is. Finally, Murray wakes up and realizes that if he’s stuck reliving Groundhog Day anyway, he might as well make it the best day possible. In other words, he chooses gratitude instead of misery. That makes all the difference, and allows him to move forward with his life.
Writing in Guideposts, Hannam says, “I thought back to all [my] successes…Had I ever given thanks for them? And what about my family?...There was no earthly reason for my misery.”
Hannam concludes, “I’ve come to appreciate all that I’ve been given and all that I can give to others. It goes back to what I learned from Groundhog Day, that choice I make every morning. Let me make today the best day possible. And you know what? It is.”
Give thanks to the Lord. (1 Chronicles 16:34)
Help me be grateful for my blessings, Holy Spirit.
“The Blind Side’s” Super Ending
Many people have seen the Christopher Award-winning movie The Blind Side, which told the story of Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy (played by Tim McGraw and Sandra Bullock) adopting homeless African-American teen Michael Oher, supporting him and his education, and helping to launch his football career with the Baltimore Ravens.
The Tuohys met resistance because they were white and Oher was black, but they ignored the criticism and created a happy ending by both Hollywood and real-life standards. That ending got happier on Feb. 3, 2013, when the Ravens won the Super Bowl with help from Oher, whose adopted family was with him.
After the game, Leigh Anne Tuohy told ABC News that she, her husband and their biological children were overjoyed at Michael’s success. Tuohy said, “You don’t have to look like someone else to love them…There are wonderful kids all over this country and this world that want a forever family. We believe there are no unwanted kids; there are just unfound families.”
Whoever welcomes one such child in My name welcomes Me. (Matthew 18:5)
Help us to see beyond superficial differences, Father
Giving God Room to Work
When American Idol producers told Season 11 contestants that making religious comments on social media could hurt them with viewers, Colton Dixon ignored the warning. “That’s the only reason I was there,” he said during an interview on Christopher Closeup. “It was amazing to see God work and use us as tools on a TV show in front of 20 million people.”
Dixon earned seventh place on Idol that season, and is now establishing himself in the Christian music industry by writing and singing songs grounded in the challenges he’s experienced: “We’ve all gone through something that has broken us down, but I love realizing that I’m broken because that gives room for God to work and fill you up with His love.”
Though Dixon wants to be a witness for Christ, he admits he falls short sometimes so people should be wary of putting too much faith in him. He said, “What outsiders looking in on us have to realize is that you’re not following us; you’re following Jesus. We’re not perfect and we’re never going to be. We’re trying just like everyone else.”
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted. (Psalm 34:18)
Redeemer, use my brokenness to fill me with Your love.
The Last Word
Some 20 years ago, Joyce Holman decided to take stock. Her life was a mess. She’d been in and out of jails for most of it, all for nonviolent offenses related to her drug habit. Mother of two grown children, she asked herself how a grandmother could wind up in jail. She resolved to turn things around.
For openers, she swore off drugs—and has been sober for 20 years. She got a GED, a degree and a steady, well-paying job. She started a program to help former addicts like herself. And Holman, a New Jerseyan, resolved to ask Gov. Chris Christie for a pardon.
Her hard work and good example paid off handsomely. The governor, impressed, granted the pardon and hailed her as “a beacon” for the state.
Holman’s response was simple. “I never thought that I would be deserving of this but God always comes through,” she said. “He always has the last word.”
I have come not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32)
Father, may we never doubt Your infinite capacity to forgive.
Seniors Find Satisfaction in Volunteering
All across the nation, more and more programs geared towards assisting the elderly are comprised of volunteers who are senior citizens themselves. Catholic News Service journalist Liz O’Connor gives a few examples of some of these participants.
“Sue Jepson, 70, is legally blind and has some difficulty walking,” O’Connor notes, “but that doesn’t stop her from being active in several organizations and volunteering three or four days a week.”
“I just like helping others,” Jepson explains in an interview from her Catholic Charities-affiliated home in Portland, Oregon.
Cindy Hamberg, 64, who heads an osteoporosis prevention organization at the Winona, Minnesota branch of Catholic Charities, also attests to the benefits of seniors volunteering.
“I love it, I really love it,” she exclaims. “What a powerful feeling volunteering is!”
No matter your age, you can always find meaning and purpose in your life by assisting others.
Let them…work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. (Ephesians 4:28)
Jesus, guide us to respect and comfort the elderly.
The Miracle Baby
A womb infection caused Carolyn Isbister to go into premature labor at 24 weeks gestation. Her daughter Rachael was born weighing only 20 ounces.
As reported by the Daily Mail, the baby’s heart “was beating once every 10 seconds and she was not breathing.” Doctors informed Isbister that Rachael would likely die within 20 minutes. The grief-stricken mother noticed that her daughter felt cold, so she laid the baby on her chest to warm her up. Then, the seemingly impossible happened.
The warmth of Carolyn’s body caused Rachael’s heart to start beating correctly and breathe on her own. Carolyn recalled, “The doctors came in and said there was still no hope, but I wasn’t letting go of her. We had her blessed by the hospital chaplain, and waited for her to slip away.”
Rachael had other plans, though. Though she required a four-month stay in the hospital, she grew to normal baby weight and eventually went home. One doctor said, “I have seen nothing like this in my 27 years of practice. I have not the slightest doubt that mother’s love saved her baby.”
Love…hopes all things. (1 Corinthians 4,7)
Allow us to feel the healing embrace of Your love, Lord.
God Leads Us By Strange Ways
Cardinal John Henry Newman once offered the following insight about finding our unique path to happiness by trusting in God.
“God knows what is my greatest happiness, but I do not. There is no rule about what is happy and good; what suits one would not suit another. And the ways by which perfection is reached vary very much; the medicines necessary for our souls are very different from each other.
“Thus God leads us by strange ways; we know He wills our happiness, but we neither know what our happiness is, nor the way. We are blind; left to ourselves we should take the wrong way; we must leave it to Him.”
Sometimes the unexpected paths we follow in life lead us to the greatest happiness. Put your trust in our Heavenly Father, and let Him show you the way.
Those who know Your name put their trust in You, for
You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. (Matthew 7:7)
I like being in control, Lord. Instill me with the humility to surrender to Your will.
Sit Less, Live Longer
If you’re sitting down while reading this, you might want to stand up when you’re done. In fact, if you sit a lot in general—at work, for instance—you need to consider adding a new routine to your day.
As reported in Spry magazine, studies have shown that “people who spend extended periods on their duffs are about twice as likely to develop type two diabetes, heart disease and early death—even if they exercise regularly.”
That may sound frightening, but some relatively simple solutions can remedy the problem: “Breaking up your day with two-minute periods of activity will do the trick. Set a timer to go off every 30-60 minutes to prompt you to stretch your legs. Every four hours, take a 10-minute stroll. And make a habit of standing during TV commercials, phone calls—even business meetings if your co-workers are game.”
God created us body and soul. Be sure to care for both.
If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15:44)
Guide me in creating new routines that benefit my body, mind and spirit, Creator.
Happiness Changes with Age
Heidi Grant Halvorson, age 40, has a confession to make: spending Saturday nights at home watching old movies or playing with her seven-year-old makes her happy. She realizes that her 20-year-old self would be horrified by how boring that sounds, but in fact, studies show it’s completely normal.
Writing in The Atlantic, Halvorson notes that three psychologists analyzed expressions of happiness over 12 million personal blogs: “Younger bloggers described experiences of happiness as being times when they felt excited, ecstatic, or elated—the way you feel when you’re anticipating the joys the future will bring. Older bloggers were more inclined to describe happy moments of feeling peaceful, relaxed, calm, or relieved…This kind of happiness is less about what lies ahead, and more about being content in your current circumstances.”
Halvorson concludes, “If you’re like me, and you find that your life has become more about pursuing peace and relaxation than giddy excitement, rest assured that you aren't missing out on happiness. Your happiness has evolved, just as you have.”
Happy are those who find wisdom. (Psalm 3:13)
Holy Spirit, help me appreciate life’s simple pleasures.
Angel on the Road
The year was 1977. A tremendous blizzard blanketed the Northeastern United States, leaving three feet of snow, icy roads and downed power lines in its wake. The city of Buffalo, New York, was hit particularly hard.
Dennis J. Morrison’s future mother-in-law, Ruth, was at her friend’s playing bridge. Long used to Buffalo’s treacherous weather, Ruth ventured out to take the short drive home. When she found the way to her street blocked, she decided to walk. Then a stranger appeared, warning her that the path to her home was too dangerous to walk alone. He guided Ruth around fallen trees and power lines, and got her safely to her front door. No one knew this man, and he was never seen again.
In The Catholic Times, Morrison wrote that Ruth said of this stranger, “He was my Guardian Angel, whose job that evening was to see to it that I arrived home safely.”
Thirty-five years later, at age 96, Ruth passed away. While her family grieved, they were all assured her Guardian Angel was waiting to take her “home” once again.
I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you. (Exodus 23:20)
Jesus, may we always give thanks for our guardian angels.
Good Counsel Homes
In 1979, Chris Bell was working in a Times Square shelter with homeless and runaway kids when a young mother with a baby approached him asking for help.
The young woman explained that when she found out she was pregnant, she was happy because she thought that she and her boyfriend would start a life together. Instead, her boyfriend’s response to the pregnancy was, “Get rid of this thing.”
Alone and depressed, the young woman considered killing herself, then realized she couldn’t do that to the innocent baby inside her. Thrown out of the house by her own mother soon after the baby was born, she had nowhere to turn.
Bell told her he would help, but soon discovered there was very little assistance available for mothers and babies in similar situations. That’s what led him to start Good Counsel Homes, which offer shelter, care and career counseling to homeless, expectant and new mothers with children in New York and New Jersey. They continue to offer help or guidance to anyone who calls their toll free number at 1-800-723-8331.
Let the little children come to Me. (Matthew 19:14)
Help me to be a lifeline to those in need, Jesus.
That’s Not What I Wanted
If you’re frustrated that you didn’t make the positive life changes you wanted, blame your mind.
The late Dr. Edmund Bergler, psychologist and author, described the phenomenon as “the human tendency to find a strange, deeply unconscious satisfaction in displeasure.” In other words, our mind tricks us out of what we want—and often to our own detriment.
In some cases, we tell ourselves we can’t do something or don’t deserve to do it. At other times, we convince ourselves that happiness can’t last, so why bother to change, or that certain actions are selfish, and we feel guilty. Sometimes our mind even justifies our wrong actions, or the hurtful actions of others toward us.
How can we “trick” our minds back to right thinking? Be aware of the negative—and think positive instead. Certainly our loving God wants nothing but the best for each one of us.
Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God. (1 Chronicles 22:19)
Open my heart to Your love, Lord.
God Told Me What to Say
When Sister Mary Antona Ebo was about to celebrate her 89th birthday last year, she was off for a few days to Washington, D.C., where she talked about the time she marched with Dr. Martin Luther King. She spends quite a few days talking about that experience, in fact, because she regards it as a centerpiece in her life.
“I think that’s why I’ve lived this long, because I’ve got a story to tell you,” she said to her Washington audience. And it is quite a story at that. Sister Mary Antona, from St. Louis, recalled being in Selma, Alabama, responding to Dr. King’s call for a peaceful protest to answer the then-recent Bloody Sunday violence. And how, as the only black nun in her group, she became a de facto spokesman when TV reporters peppered her with questions.
“All I know was that I was scared to death,” she remembers. “But God told me what to say, and it went around the world.” She’ll keep on saying what God wants her to as long as she’s able to do it. As she notes: “Beware of being silent.”
For it is God who is at work in you. (Philippians 2:13)
Abba, grant us the courage to speak out against injustice.
Walking Through Hell with a Smile
Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were kidnapped, held captive, raped and violently abused by a Cleveland, Ohio man for 10 years. Upon their escape in May 2013, they requested privacy so they could focus on reconnecting with their families and rebuilding their lives. The Cleveland Courage Fund was established to help each of them financially.
In July 2013, the young women got together to record a video thanking all those who had helped them, saying they appreciated the public’s “love and kindness.
Michelle Knight said, “I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and my head held high…I don't want to be consumed by hatred. With that being said, we need to take a leap of faith and know that God is in control. We have been hurt by people, but we need to rely on God as being the judge. God has a plan for all of us. The plan that He gave me was to help others that have been in the same situation. I am in control of my own destiny with the guidance of God.”
You will be able to endure. (Exodus 18:23)
Heal our wounds, Savior, and help us trust in You.
How Boots Are Like Marriage
When Kathy Tuan-Maclean’s soon-to-be fiancé gave her L.L. Bean boots for Christmas many years ago, she wasn’t initially impressed. Even though they felt warm, they were clunky and unfashionable. Still, she wore them for the next two decades of marriage through snow and ice.
Then, in the winter of 2010, Tuan-Maclean decided she wanted cute boots. They made her very happy—until they sprang a leak during their third winter.
Disappointed in her relatively new purchase, she complained to her husband, who confirmed the value of the L.L. Bean boots. “That’s why I got them for you—they’re practical and sturdy and will last forever, just like me,” he said. Tuan-Maclean realized that her marriage, like those boots, isn’t flashy; it’s built for endurance, for hardship, and for the long haul.
When you choose the person you want to marry, look beyond the surface and go for the one that’s built to last.
Love…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 4:7)
Jesus, guide us to spouses who will love us like You do.
Unmasking the Idols in Your Life
In her book Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life, author Elizabeth Scalia explores our modern-day tendency to make gods of ideology, money, technology, sex, pride and more. One of the ways she combats her personal idols is by invoking the presence of God whenever possible.
Scalia learned that practice when she and her husband arranged for a police officer to talk with a teen group at their church. The officer said that every time he gets called to a domestic disturbance, he asks Jesus to stand between the couple who are fighting. The reason: “Jesus is peace, and He will bring His peace into this situation in one way or another.”
Scalia said on Christopher Closeup, “The officer said this has never failed and he actually uses this in his life now. I do too… Even when I’m in a grocery store and I see something like a kid yelling at the mother, I’ll think, ‘Jesus, stand between them.’”
Scalia hopes her book makes readers ask, “Is something standing between me and God? If so, isn’t it something that I should move to the side so I can look at Jesus and have that relationship with Him that He is calling me toward?”
Return to Me…rend your hearts. (Joel 2: 12,13)
Keep my vision and heart focused on You, Jesus
Not a Friend, But a Father
When Patheos.com blogger Calah Alexander was going through a rebellious teen period that led her to constantly challenge her parents’ rules, she once declared to her father, “I hate you.” Though she could tell he was hurt, he simply responded, “If your hate is the price I have to pay to get you to do the right thing, I’ll pay it. Even if you hate me forever, I will never stop pushing you to be good.”
Many years later, Alexander—now a parent herself—reflected on what that incident taught her about the love of both her earthly and heavenly fathers.
She wrote, “Those words were the most powerful ones my father ever said to me…He loved me so much that he wanted what was best for me, not what would make me happy, not what would make me love him more. He loved me unselfishly…not because I was such a joy to be around. Not because I was obedient, or even tolerable at that age. He loved me because I was his daughter, and nothing I could do would ever change that.”
For the Lord reproves the one He loves. (Proverbs 3:12)
Instill parents with wisdom and selflessness, Father.
Tornado Can’t Destroy Hope
Hearing the story of Nancy Davis taught National Review writer Kathryn Jean Lopez a lesson about hope. Davis, age 94, lost her home in the tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma, on May 20, 2013. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time that happened. Her house had also been destroyed during a tornado in 1999.
As the 2013 storm approached, Davis invited several neighbors, including a pregnant woman and two-year-old boy, into her storm shelter where they all rode out the 210-mile-per-hour winds. When the tornado was over, she discovered a stack of $100 bills. Instead of keeping them all for herself, she handed them out to others who had lost their homes as well.
What did all this teach Lopez? She writes, “Part of the reason we rush to watch scenes of devastation on live television is that we need to know how people begin again…What is it that gives people reason to rejoice when they have lost what seems like everything? Hope. Gratitude. Faith in a destination so much greater than what we can see around us, so much more beautiful than the most radiant gem you can conjure up.”
My hope is in You. (Psalm 39:7)
When all seems lost, Jesus, be my hope.
A Swab to Save a Life
Losing a young cousin to cancer motivated Austin Luera to take part in Senior Swab Day at Loyola Blakefield High School in Towson, Maryland. The bone marrow drive collected DNA samples by swabbing students’ cheeks. They were then entered into a database to be possible bone marrow donors in the future.
During his freshman year at the University of South Carolina, Luera learned his bone marrow was a match for an eight-year-old boy fighting leukemia. Despite the pain and recovery time involved in donating bone marrow, he decided to do whatever he could to save this child’s life.
Luera told the Catholic Review, “They made two incisions on either side of my hip bone and went in 15 times on each side to extract the necessary bone marrow…I might feel a little pain for a few weeks, but when you have a young person dealing with something much more serious, you need to think beyond yourself and do what you can to help them.”
Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord. (Ephesians 6:7)
Father, give me the courage to endure pain to benefit someone in need.
The Value of Compliments
Writing on the Verily magazine blog, Ashley Crouch reflected on a recent report from the Harvard Medical Association, which found that “gratitude helps us refocus on what we have instead of what we lack. Those who count their blessings have less likelihood for depression, anxiety, or envy, while possessing stronger social connections, greater relationship satisfaction, and a real leg up in the workplace.”
Crouch then cited psychologist Dr. John Gottman who, after researching thousands of couples, discovered that those who complimented each other the most “reported the highest satisfaction…Conflict will happen in any relationship, but major research on emotional psychology discovered that it can be easier to offer criticism when both parties rest secure in their affection towards one another.” Dr. Gottman noted that couples who rarely compliment each other often wind up with serious marital problems that can even lead to divorce.
The lesson? If you want successful relationships, remember to build each other up, not tear each other down.
A cheerful heart is a good medicine. (Proverbs 17:22)
Holy Spirit, open my eyes to the good in everyone.
Jennifer Lawrence’s Biggest Fan
Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and hasn’t let success distract her from the friends she made there. In fact, she still stays in close touch with Andy Strunk, a young man with Down Syndrome whom she got to know in church.
Strunk’s mother, Pollyanna, told New York’s Daily News, “[Jennifer] always had a soft heart for him. She looked out for him. Middle school is a tough place to be, especially for a kid with special needs.” Lawrence even got Strunk crowned the school’s king for a day by nominating him and campaigning for him.
Since Lawrence’s Hollywood success, Strunk has become a local celebrity in his own right. While being profiled by local TV station WAVE3, he called Lawrence with the cameras rolling. She sounded thrilled to hear from him and told the reporter, “He has the kindest heart of anybody I’ve ever met, he’s always in a good mood, and he’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever been around.”
If you know someone with special needs, follow Jennifer Lawrence’s example and be a loving, supportive friend to them.
Love kindness. (Micah 6:8)
Teach me what it means to be a true friend, Lord.
Do Me a Favor, Go to Uganda
Dr. Kevin Hunt, the brother of actress and talk show host Bonnie Hunt, practices Internal Medicine in Chicago. In 2005, he attended a Mass which was celebrated by Father Sam Okori, a Catholic priest from Northern Uganda who was in the United States taking pre-med classes.
When Dr. Hunt met Father Sam after Mass, he told the priest that he’d be happy to write him a letter of recommendation for medical school. Father Sam thanked him, then said, “Can you do me a favor? Can you go to Uganda with me? I’d like you to see my people and what health care is like there.”
After discussing it with his wife, Dr. Hunt followed his heart and accepted Father Sam’s offer. In conjunction with Uganda’s Catholic Diocese of Lira, the two traveled there in 2007, and saw unsanitary conditions and a lack of basic medical supplies.
As a result, Dr. Hunt and Father Sam created a foundation called “Medical Aid to Northern Uganda” (MANU) to raise funds. Dr. Hunt said, “Going somewhere that’s foreign to help somebody else, you have to just take that leap of faith. It’s one of the best things I ever did in my life.”
He sought the good of his nation. (1 Maccabees 14:4)
Savior, open my heart to the suffering of others.
Saved from a Kidnapper
When a five-year-old girl was kidnapped in Lancaster Township, Pennsylvania in July 2013, police officers and community members combed the streets looking for her. Temar Boggs, age 15, and his friend Chris Garcia decided to help too.
While searching the neighborhood on bicycles, Boggs noticed a car that was deliberately avoiding a police checkpoint. Boggs followed the car, getting close enough to see there was a little girl inside. When the driver noticed that Boggs and Garcia had spotted him, he pushed the girl out of the car and drove away. The girl ran to Boggs, who carried her to a police official and returned her to her grateful family.
Police caught the abductor who, it was discovered, had sexually assaulted the girl. If not for Boggs and Garcia, he might have done worse. The girl’s family told Lancaster Online that Boggs is their hero. The humble teen responded, “I’m just a normal person who did a thing that anybody else would do…It was a blessing for me to make that happen.”
Show yourself in all respects a model of good works. (Titus 2:7)
Instill us with the courage to pursue justice, Holy Spirit.
A Good Word to Remember
“Why did this happen to this vibrant, intelligent, faith-filled man?” That’s the question singer Amy Grant asked after her father, Dr. Burton Grant, was diagnosed with dementia.
A respected radiation oncologist, he had always loved singing, family togetherness, and prayers of gratitude. Writing in Guideposts, Amy said, “I never heard him say a negative word about another person. What a lesson that was.” Now, Dr. Grant can’t put two coherent sentences together.
“And yet,” wrote Amy, “without words he is still teaching me one of the most important lessons of all: how to trust God in the smallest moments…even on those days when I don’t understand a thing my father is saying except the word ‘beautiful.’”
Amy then recalled standing arm-in-arm with her father on a sunny day on their farm, taking in their surroundings. “Beautiful,” he said. The truth of that moment struck his daughter’s heart. Amy realized, “I guess if you’re going to hang on to a short list of words, ‘beautiful’ is a good one.”
Hope in the Lord. (Psalm 130:7)
Comfort and guide all caregivers and patients, Jesus.
A Post-Christmas Prayer
The inspirational newsletter Apple Seeds featured this prayer—originally published in Connections magazine—for the days when the Christmas season comes to an end:
“Long after the angels disappear into the heavens, the shepherds return to their flocks, the Magi journey home and the great star sets, Jesus remains.
“The Child in whom we rediscover God’s great love for humanity becomes the adult Redeemer who challenges us to imitate his selflessness and compassion in order that we might transform our world in love…
“May we allow the miracle of Christmas to continue long after the holiday trappings have been packed away. May we welcome the adult Messiah and his challenging Gospel to recreate our lives, making the peace, justice and hope of this holy season a reality in every season of the New Year. Amen.”
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do notgive to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
Jesus, may I carry Your peace to others throughout the year.
Making a Place in Heaven
Though Mary Sauter never had children of her own, the love she shows for the children of Albia, Iowa, conveys a motherly devotion. For more than 20 years, the retired teacher has been buying toys and clothes for the town’s kids whose families can’t afford them.
As reported by NBC News’s Bob Dotson, Sauter spends $30,000 a year buying gifts: $10,000 of that total is from her savings, while the other $20,000 is from jobs such as tutoring. She’s a bargain hunter who gets the most value from every dollar so she can help the maximum amount of people.
Perhaps that selflessness stems from her father, who adopted her from an Italian orphanage in 1957. Now 100 and practically blind, the father was welcomed into Sauter’s home when he finally decided he couldn’t live alone anymore.
For Sauter, the joy she sees on children’s faces is reward enough for her efforts. Katie Della Vedova, one of her former students, says of her, “She’s made her place in heaven.”
May He defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy. (Psalm 72:4)
Instill me with initiative and love, Father.
The Student and the Retiree
A car accident right before his freshman year of high school left Collin Smith permanently paralyzed from the chest down. Ernest Greene, a recent retiree who belonged to the same church as Smith’s family, heard about the accident and felt “a calling” to help. Smith’s overwhelmed parents welcomed the assistance, so Greene became Smith’s caretaker and driver through his four years of high school.
As reported by ABC News, “When Smith entered North Carolina’s High Point University, Greene started putting in 12-hour days, leaving his home before dawn to get to Smith’s house by 6 a.m…He attended every class with Smith and took notes for him while pushing him three miles a day or more.”
When Smith graduated from college in May 2013, Greene felt like a proud parent as he pushed his young charge across the stage. The school even gave Greene his own honorary diploma.
Regarding his special friend, Smith says, “Without him, I wouldn’t have gotten where I needed to go…You just can’t describe what we mean to each other.”
A true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin. (Proverbs 18:24)
Help me be a true friend to others, Jesus.
Who Sent the Bacon and Corn Meal?
In his book The Sower’s Seeds: 120 Inspiring Stories for Preaching, Teaching and Public Speaking, Father Brian Cavanaugh shares this story from an unknown source.
“Years ago an old lady down south had no money to buy food. But with complete trust in God, she got down on her knees and prayed aloud, ‘Dear Lord, please send me a side of bacon and a sack of corn meal.’
“One of the town’s worst characters, overhearing her plea, decided to play a trick on her. Hurrying to the nearest store, he bought a side of bacon and a sack of corn meal. Upon his return to her home, he dropped the food down the chimney. It landed right in front of the hungry woman as she knelt in prayer.
“She exclaimed jubilantly: ‘Oh Lord, you’ve answered my prayer!’ Then she ran all around the neighborhood telling everyone the good news…The scoundrel ridiculed her before the whole town by telling how he had dropped the food down the chimney himself. The wise old woman quickly replied, ‘Well, the devil may have brought it, but it was the Lord who sent it!’”
The Lord will provide. (Genesis 22:14)
Send us Your blessings, O Generous Creator.
Getting Your Life Out of a Rut
Charles M. Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip, put a lot of wisdom and laughs into his work.
For instance, in one strip, Charlie Brown visits Lucy’s psychiatry booth and asks, “What can you do when you don’t fit in? What can you do when life seems to be passing you by?”
“Follow me,” Lucy tells Charlie Brown as she leads him to the top of a hill. “See the horizon over there? See how big this world is? See how much room there is for everybody? You were born to live in this world, right?”
“Right,” responds Charlie Brown.
“WELL, LIVE IN IT THEN!” bellows Lucy. Then she adds, “Five cents, please.”
If we feel like our lives are in a rut, it’s easy to follow the Charlie Brown route and feel powerless and self-pitying. In this case, however, Lucy is the wise one.
Make the choice to change, then take action. All that’s required is creativity and initiative. And maybe five cents.
My God I seek You, my soul thirsts for You. (Psalm 63:1)
Give me the vision to see the right path for my life, Jesus.
A Bigger Purpose
Jeffrey Wright is a popular physics teacher at Louisville Male Traditional High School in Kentucky because he incorporates exploding pumpkins and other attention-grabbers into his lessons. Yet it’s a simple lecture that makes the biggest impression on his students every year.
As reported in the New York Times and chronicled in the documentary Wright’s Law, the teacher shares with his class the experience of being the father of a son, Adam, with a rare disorder that leaves him visually impaired and unable to speak or control his movements. Wright recalls his devastation at Adam’s diagnosis. He wondered if there was even a purpose to life.
When Adam was four, Wright saw him playing with his sister and realized the boy had an inner life, after all. Wright and his wife taught him some sign language and, one day, Adam signed “I love you” to his father. That’s when Wright learned life’s purpose: love. He said, “When you look at physics, it’s all about laws and how the world works. But [you have to]…tie those laws into a bigger purpose, the purpose in your heart.”
Save me in Your steadfast love. (Psalm 31:16)
Lord, guide me in living out Your purpose for my life.
Resolutions with a Higher Purpose
In his book, You Can Change the World, The Christophers’ founder, Maryknoll Father James Keller, shared some ideas you may want to consider as New Year’s Resolutions.
One piece of advice was, “All of us should pray as if all depended on God—and work as if everything depended on ourselves…The more we realize our strength is rooted in God, the more we will be inspired by an exhilarating assurance that nothing can daunt us.”
Another one of Father Keller’s central beliefs was: “Aim to serve, not to be served.” He goes on to quote author John Mason Brown, who wrote, “No one, I am convinced, can be happy who lives only for himself. The joy of living comes from immersion in something that we know to be bigger, better, more enduring and worthier than we are. People, ideas, causes—these offer the one possible escape not merely from selfishness but from the hungers of solitude and the sorrows of aimlessness.”
May God guide you in being a Christ-bearer in the coming year.
Hope for…for lasting joy and mercy. (Sirach 2:9)
Increase my joy in the coming year, Father.
Dick Clark’s Real Legacy
TV star and producer Dick Clark passed away in 2012, several years after being afflicted by a stroke. Though his legacy includes American Bandstand and New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, his most important accomplishment may be more recent.
After his stroke in December 2004, many people assumed Clark’s on-camera career would end. Instead, he returned to New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in 2005. His speech was slurred and he wasn’t able to move as he used to. Yet underneath the debilitation, there was a spark of determination. In a TV landscape that often presents us with unattainable images of physical perfection, here was a man demonstrating that life could still be lived with purpose even after something bad has happened. Human dignity was still there.
In a way, Clark’s presence on TV after the stroke was a gift to viewers—a reminder that life goes on even when things are not perfect, even when people are not perfect—and that’s okay. Our inherent dignity as children of God always remains.
The human body is a fleeting thing, but a…good name lasts forever. (Sirach 41:11,13)
Help me see the dignity of the infirm, Messiah.
New Year, New You?
Many people start the New Year hoping to change for the better—lose weight, save money, exercise, quit smoking—but within weeks slip up and become discouraged. According to Kelly McGonigal, author of The Willpower Instinct, we can strengthen our ability to stick with our goals. Her tips for enhancing willpower include:
▪ Accept the busy, stressed person you are today. “Don’t wait for the efficient person who resists all temptation to show up,” says McGonigal. “Take action now and understand that you’re human and you’ll have setbacks.”
▪ Tweak your environment. If you’re trying to lose weight, remove junk food and put out bowls of fruit and vegetables.
▪ Start small. Set manageable daily goals. “If you stick with that goal for a week, congratulate yourself and up the ante the following week.”
▪ Seek support. Surround yourself with people who encourage you.
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
A Christmas Prayer
The Scottish author and poet Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote books like Treasure Island and Kidnapped, once penned a memorable Christmas prayer that conveyed the true and divine meaning of the holiday:
“Loving Father, help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and worship of the wise men.
“Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting. Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.
“May Christmas morning make us happy to be Your children, and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.”
A child has been born for us, and a son given to us…and He is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
Thank You for the gift of Your Son, Heavenly Father. May He guide our thoughts and actions today and every day.
To Honor Him
In the Salesian booklet Glad Tidings of Joy, Delight D. Kilyan shares a Christmas poem called To Honor Him:
“In darkened sky a star shone bright, while angels sang that wondrous night / Of Jesus’ birth in stable dim, that all may come to honor Him.
“To honor Him, our King of Kings, on Christmas Eve, the church bell rings, / And people gather from afar to celebrate that holy star, / Proclaiming Him, our Savior mild, the holy Babe, the dear Christ Child.
“We honor Him with song and light, with holly wreaths and candles bright, / Our homes aglow with Christmas cheer, goodwill abounds this time of year.
“So celebrate with gift and song, but let your spirit all year long / Proclaim His coming, sing His praise, the Savior comes to bless our days.”
Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea. (Matthew 2:1)
Keep my soul watchful for Your presence and light in the world, Messiah.
The Heart of Christmas
Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Matthew West has always had a year-round fascination with Christmas. It’s not just the presents and decorations that attract him; it’s the focus on the birth of Jesus Christ.
During an interview on Christopher Closeup following the release of his album The Heart of Christmas, West recalled that, when he was growing up, his parents always read the Christmas story in Luke’s gospel before any presents could be opened Christmas morning. At the time, the waiting seemed like “punishment.” Looking back now, it helped him realize, “There is no gift greater than the gift of the Savior.”
That’s a message West feels our society desperately needs. He said, “The chaos that has become Christmas is anything but Christ-focused. From the advertising to the shopping to everybody trying to take Christ out of this season, my wife and I feel we have to make [Jesus] that much more of a priority if we want our kids to grow up knowing what Christmas is about and where true joy is found, not only at Christmas but all throughout the year.”
The day of the Lord is near. (Joel 1:15)
Open my heart to Your coming, Messiah.
Christmas Kindness at Kmart
During the 2011 Christmas season at an Omaha, Nebraska, Kmart, an anonymous donor paid $200 toward the balance of Lori Stearnes’ layaway account. As someone who lives paycheck to paycheck, that act of kindness meant a great deal to her. Filled with the Christmas spirit, Stearnes used the money she had planned to spend on presents to help someone else.
In Indianapolis, a young father waited in line with his three children to make a payment on his layaway account, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to pay it off before Christmas. As he stepped up to the counter, a woman joined him and told the cashier that she would pay his account. The store’s assistant manager, Edna Deppe, told the Associated Press, “He just busted out in tears.” That same woman paid for at least 50 people’s Kmart layaway accounts, gave away $50 bills to customers, and paid for a woman’s two carts of toys. All she asked in return was that people remember her husband, Ben, who had recently died.
Commit a random act of kindness today.
For the measure you give will be the measure you get back. (Luke 6:38)
Jesus, teach me to give generously to others.
Need To Unwind?
Have you ever finished a busy day at work but been unable to relax once you are at home?
This was Kevin Lowry’s predicament. While he sat in his Columbus, Ohio, home trying unsuccessfully to unwind, his four-year-old daughter Hannah kept tapping on his shoulder, asking if he wanted to play with her. She was patient but very persistent. Finally, he gave in and found himself pleasantly surprised by the results of this exercise.
Lowry writes, “It may seem counterintuitive, but I think the best thing for my hyper-busy-ness was to slow down and play with stuffed animals and dolls for a while with my daughter. It helped me to regain a little perspective, a little joy, a little wonder at the innocent world of a four-year-old.”
Lowry doesn’t think it was a coincidence that the next day at work, he was extra productive. He also offers this insight for the next time you’re feeling too wrapped up in your own work: “Don’t be surprised if the Holy Spirit whispers in your ear. It might even sound like the voice of a child.”
Let the little children come to Me. (Matthew 19:14)
Thank You, Father, for children and their sense of wonder.
Counting Your Blessings
These days Lexie Davis considers himself blessed to be free of drug addiction. For a long time he was burdened by a crack habit which cost him his home, his family, and his business.
The 58-year-old New Yorker had been living at the Volunteers of America Charles H. Gay Shelter Care Center for homeless men when a minister asked him a life-altering question.
“He asked me who was the greatest homeless man I had ever known,” Davis told the Daily News. “I told him I don’t know any…He said Jesus Christ was born in a manger and walked the Earth for all 33 years of his life and was homeless all that time.”
Inspired, Davis began to energetically work his way back to a rewarding life. He now lives happily with his wife and son and volunteers at the same shelter that helped him so much. “I know what it is to need help and now I know what it is to help people and give back,” Lexie Davis testifies.
If you’re looking for a role model, look to Jesus Christ, the world’s “greatest homeless man”—and Savior to us all.
For He stands at the right hand of the needy. (Psalm 109:31)
May we appreciate and share God’s gifts in our lives.
Finding Your True Self
The need to fit in has increased since the advent of social networking sites such as Facebook, where a person’s worth may be measured by how many friends they have. However, as Catholic New York columnist Mary DeTurris Poust wisely notes, “Life is not a popularity contest.”
“Too often we think becoming successful or holy means becoming someone different than the person we are created to be,” DeTurris Poust continues. “Truth is, we are loved exactly as we are, by a God who holds us in the palm of His hand no matter how many Facebook friends we have.”
DeTurris Poust’s point is simple: since God loves us, just as we are, so should we also love ourselves. Trying to mold ourselves into what we believe others think we should be only drives us further from the images of our true selves, and from God as well. Trappist monk Thomas Merton is quoted as stating that a life is “shaped by the end” it strives to reach. So long as we make Christ our ultimate end, we have nothing to fear—and everything to live for.
For the Lord will be your confidence. (Proverbs 3:26)
Messiah, may everything in our lives draw us closer to You.
Joy: A Year-Round Basic
Many people associate joy with Christmastime. Churches remind us to “Rejoice and be glad” while Christmas carols teem with joyous refrains. Catholic News Service writer David Gibson wonders why such a vital feeling should be confined to the Christmas season.
“Joy ranks high among the basics of Christmas,” Gibson asserts. “But for Christians, joy…is a year round basic. In others’ eyes, joy lends credibility to Christian life. Joy is inviting and contagious.”
Gibson goes on to say that many people incorrectly use “joy” and “happiness” synonymously. He cites Jesuit Father James Martin as saying joy is “deeper than happiness” and “a virtue founded in the knowledge that we are loved by God.”
Truly, if we take daily comfort in the fact that God loves us unconditionally, even during the darkest of times, we will live more joyfully, all year round.
I have said these things to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11)
Christ, may we live our lives joyfully in the knowledge of Your unending love.
Angel for an Evening
Philip Stover and Father Charles Ehrenbach were strangers stranded at the Philadelphia Airport because of a blizzard-related delay in their flight to Albany, New York.
Stover noticed that the elderly priest looked confused. He asked if he needed help, discovered they were on the same flight, and the two men began a friendly conversation.
Once the plane took off and they arrived in Albany, Father Fehrenbach was stranded because his ride never showed up. Stover drove him to the hotel where the priest was scheduled to lead a retreat. After dropping him off, the shy Stover departed without saying good-bye.
A year later, Stover received a letter from Father Ehrenbach who said he believed his helper was an actual angel until he found his business card. Writing in Catholic Digest, Stover says the experience taught him that “we each have all it takes within us to become [God’s] angel for an evening.”
Reach out to someone in fellowship and you might find that you too can be “an angel for an evening.”
Show hospitality. (Hebrews 13:2)
Lord, may we always give thanks for earthly angels
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