Three Minutes a Day
Finding the “Richness” in You
Fifty-two-year-old Albanian immigrant Gac Filipaj has worked as a janitor at Columbia University in Manhattan for half of his life. And in May 2012, he was part of Columbia’s graduating class as well. It took Filipaj 12 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree in classics, but his work was worth the effort.
“This is a man with great pride, whether he’s doing custodial work or academics,” declared Peter Awn, dean of Columbia’s School of General Studies. “He’s one individual who makes his own future.”
An extremely self-reliant man, Filipaj left his small home village in Yugoslavia to avoid being drafted into the army, where he knew ethnic Albanians like himself were viewed as enemies. In 1992, he moved to New York and stayed with an uncle, taking a job as a restaurant bellboy before becoming a janitor at Columbia. Now, he hopes to become a custodial supervisor, preferably at Columbia. Money, however, is not a primary object for Filipaj. “The richness is in me…not in my pockets,” he says.
Wisdom is as good as an inheritance. (Ecclesiastes 7:11)
Jesus, grant me the courage to accomplish our goals in life.
Blessed Are Those Who Bring Bliss
Because of his cerebral palsy, 15-year-old Alberto Zambrano of Queens, New York, spends a lot of time in his bedroom. That’s why the transformation accomplished by the nonprofit Blissful Bedrooms brought him to tears.
Run by husband and wife Alex and Martha Dvoryadkin, the charity relies on volunteers and small Internet donations to help redecorate the bedrooms of severely disabled children. “If they’re going to spend all of their time in their bedroom, we want it to be a sanctuary,” Martha told the Daily News.
To help attract donations, Alex, who is a freelance photographer, takes pictures and makes videos to put a face to each story, then posts them on their website. Zambrano’s room renovation, which cost $5,000, included a new paint job, a flatscreen TV, and professional wrestling memorabilia.
“We feel it’s our responsibility to give back,” says Martha, “and this is how we do it.”
Look for unique ways that you can “give back.”
As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace. (1 Peter 4:10)
God Almighty, help us share beauty and goodness with our fellow man, as You have done so freely with all of creation.
A Beautiful Warrior
In 2004, Eric Strauss, an ABC News producer for the network’s Primetime series, traveled to Texas to profile Bridget Kelly. Two years earlier, at age 24, Kelly had been the victim of a brutal attack in which she was kidnapped, raped, shot repeatedly, and left for dead. She miraculously survived her ordeal and became an advocate for victims of sexual violence.
Kelly eventually left Texas to attend New York University. One day, she and Strauss met for a friendly lunch. Their friendship soon blossomed into something more.
On July 7, 2012—10 years after the horrific attack that changed her life—Bridget Kelly married Eric Strauss in an interfaith ceremony in Manhattan. During the wedding, Kelly told Strauss, “I knew from our first times spent together that you were smart and funny and caring…You listen. You accept me for who I am and make me feel safe and happy.”
Strauss told his bride, “You revealed yourself to be a beautiful warrior the second I met you. With your elegance, insightfulness, and compassion, you inspire me to be better.”
It’s amazing how God can bring love out of tragedy.
Love bears all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7)
Help me rediscover hope after tragedy, Jesus.
Living with Grateful Hearts
How many times a day do you say “thank you?”
In Uganda, East Africa, being thankful goes far beyond politeness—it is a way of life.
According to Sister Mary Margaret Lavonis, the ideals of gratitude are ingrained in Ugandans at a young age. This principle is known as “webali,” or “an expression of gratitude for all God’s gifts, no matter how big or small.”
After learning about this tradition, Sister Lavonis admitted, “There are so many things in life I just expect and do not recognize as gifts. It would be good for each of us to adopt an attitude of thanksgiving. One way we can do this is to spend some quiet time reflecting upon all God has given us.”
Besides lifting up prayers of gratitude to God, Sister Lavonis recommends writing thank-you letters and attending Mass, which is “the ultimate offering of thanksgiving to God.”
Like the children of Uganda, we should all strive to live with grateful hearts.
To You, O God…I give thanks and praise.
Lord, may we be thankful for Your endless love.
Hospital Food People Love
A new popular dining spot in Warrenton, Virginia, Bistro on the Hill, offers good food, a great view, and musical accompaniment by a retired piano player. It’s also the cafeteria of Fauquier Hospital.
“We believe that food is nurturing,” says Zach Erickson, Fauquier’s director of nutrition services. A trained chef, he and his staff go to a lot of trouble to keep the meals as healthy as possible.
A “culinary healing garden” just outside the Bistro provides fresh produce, which is supplemented by locally grown fruits and vegetables. Salad dressings are made from scratch, and contain no artificial ingredients or hydrogenated oils.
And the cost is affordable; meals on senior nights are just $4.50 a plate. And diners interviewed give the food and the service two thumbs up.
All we do for others should be given our best effort, and provide the best to those we serve.
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord. (Joel 2:26)
Bless us, O Lord, and all the gifts we receive from Your generous bounty.
Tweets to Save Lives
Eleven-year-old Bailey Browning of Roanoke County, Virginia, admires the heroes on the action-adventure TV series Chuck, but she herself is a real-life hero for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.
The middle schooler first got involved with raising money for the Tennessee hospital six years ago when her kindergarten teacher, Joy Watson, launched a St. Jude Math-a-Thon on behalf of a student with leukemia. Participants earn donations for every math problem they finish. The money is then given to St. Jude’s which treats patients regardless of their ability to pay.
Because Chuck is Browning’s favorite TV show, she contacted stars Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Adam Baldwin and others through Twitter. They shared links to her online donation page with their 250,000 Twitter followers, and contributed donations themselves. Over the past three years, Browning has raised more than $20,000. Though the youngster has never visited St. Jude’s, she’d like to work there someday doing celebrity relations.
Compassionate hearts and social media can help save lives.
He cured many who were sick. (Mark 1:34)
Help me be a vessel of healing, Lord.
Letting Go of Grudges
In his book That Your Joy May Be Full, Father John Catoir, former Director of The Christophers, shares a story about Catherine Marshall, author of the best-seller Christy. She and her husband decided to make a concerted effort to practice forgiveness the way Jesus called us to.
Each day, they wrote down any grievance they had against anybody, read those grievances aloud, forgave the persons involved, then destroyed the papers. The practice, they found, helped cleanse them of resentment.
Father Catoir writes, “Why do so many people devoted to Christ miss the importance of a forgiving heart? If you have a flood in the basement, it is far wiser to turn off the water before you begin bailing out. The same with prayer. Lots of good people pray, but they feel justified and self-righteous about their grudges. If you’ve been abused by someone, only you can understand how much it hurts, but the Lord asks you to forgive, even if forgiveness offends your sense of justice….If we do, our lives will be enriched, our prayer will be more fruitful, our peace will be restored, and our joy will be deepened.”
Pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
Lead my heart to forgiveness, Merciful Savior.
According to Inc. magazine, the best managers share a similar understanding about workplace, company, and team dynamics. Here are just two of those core beliefs.
▪ A company is a community, not a machine. Good bosses see their company as a collection of individual hopes and dreams, all connected to a higher purpose. They encourage their employees to dedicate themselves to the success of their peers and therefore to the community and the company at large.
▪ Motivation comes from vision, not from fear. The best chiefs in the workplace inspire people to see a better future and how they’ll be a part of it. They see change as an inevitable part of life, and help employees embrace new ideas and new ways of doing business.
No matter what we do to earn our bread and shelter, all we do should give praise to the God Who gives us the talent for every task.
Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord. (Ephesians 6:7)
Bless the work of my hands, Master.
Garden Retreats Nurture Hope and Faith in God
Do you feel like you want to grow closer to God? Benedictine Sister Angela Jarboe suggests planting a garden.
She has led numerous garden retreats at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, Indiana, with positive results. She explains that witnessing the growth of various flowers rejuvenates both the body and soul.
“Everything God creates is unique,” Sister Angela told David Shaughnessy of the Indianapolis archdiocesan newspaper, The Criterion. “Everything has a life cycle. In our lives, we have to learn we are only temporary. While we are living, we need to be images of God.”
Sister Angela has cherished a fondness for nature ever since she was a child, when she would frequently accompany her father on hiking and canoeing trips.
“I went through a period of crisis in my life,” she confided. “Hiking in the woods to see the wildflowers got me out of it. When you’re in hard times, watching something grow gives you hope. Christians should be hopeful people. Hope gives life.”
I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in Me…bear much fruit. (John 15:5)
Abba, help us to grow in physical and spiritual maturity.
It’s Good to be the King
At Urbana High School in Frederick County, Maryland, a popularity contest was won by a most deserving student.
Kevin Schombert is a sports enthusiast, a manager of the high school’s basketball team, and a beloved part of the school community. He also has Down syndrome. What better way to honor his spirit and dedication, thought senior Caitie Cyr, than by nominating Schombert for Homecoming King?
Cyr created a Facebook page to generate support for her idea. She wrote, “Kevin lives, breathes and bleeds Urbana Hawk Blue. Plus he has a contagious smile. Let our legacy be more than championships, let’s do something that will make us all feel good. NOMINATE KEVIN SCHOMBERT HOMECOMING KING 2011!!!”
When Schombert’s name was announced at the school’s basketball game, the entire home side of the stadium cheered and chanted while the school spirit team began a cheer in his honor.
Celebrate the good people in your community!
I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! (Psalm 139:14)
O God, all are made in Your image. In our humanity, we find and truly see our commonality with You.
A Prayer for Mother’s Day
As a tribute to his late mother, the Rev. Chuck Currie wrote the following prayer for Mother’s Day:
“God, this Mother’s Day we stop to give You thanks for our mothers. We remember the times that they have set aside their own needs to tend to ours. We remember those moments where they have expressed love for us when no one else would…We remember moms that we have lost and ask that Your spirit hold them fast—and that You watch over us as we still grieve. We ask for Your healing touch for mothers who have lost children and for women who have tried to conceive but been unable to. Help us…be the family for those that have no other.
“We also lift up to you today mothers who are struggling to provide shelter, food and medical care for their children. Use us as instruments of Your will as we seek to build the Kingdom you have promised…We also acknowledge, O God, that not every mother is perfect. Help us to forgive those that have wronged us. Forgive us too for the times we have not shown our mothers the love they deserve for all the mighty gifts they have given us. In the name of Jesus, born of Mary, we pray. Amen.”
He blesses your children within you. (Psalm 147:12)
Let me show gratitude for my mother, Lord.
In the Symphony of Life
Violinists enrich a symphony by the individual touch they bring into their playing. According to an acoustical scientist, if all the violinists in an orchestra hit the same note at exactly the same instant, the effect would be like the amplification of a single instrument.
“Of course,” he added, “the violinists must play very close together to produce good music. But they play just far enough apart—in pitch and timing—to achieve a richness, an aliveness, which they would not have if they were playing precisely alike.”
Your part in life may be a humble one. But whether one plays the instruments or polishes them, sells tickets or sweeps up after the performances—each has a role to play. And each is needed if the program as a whole is to succeed.
God gave you a particular role to play in our world. Therefore, our world will be richer because of the unique elements of love and beauty you bring to it.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord.
(1 Corinthians 12: 4-5)
Help me play my role humbly and effectively, Jesus.
As a popular blogger, author, wife, and mother of five kids, Hallie Lord knows what it’s like to be busy. She also realizes that she is just one of the many women out there who may feel overwhelmed at times because of everything they have to do. That’s why she points out the importance of women doing something for themselves once in a while without feeling like they’re neglecting their responsibilities.
During a Christopher Closeup interview about her book Style, Sex and Substance, Lord explained, “You can mistakenly get into this mindset of, ‘If I’m doing something for myself, that is a moment in time that I am not serving the world.’ But that’s actually not true because when you’re taking care of yourself—whether it’s taking a nap, taking a bath, reading a book, going for a run—you’re actually fueling yourself. You’re fueling your body, spirit and mind. It sounds a little trite but it’s true that you have got to put your own oxygen mask on first. If we don’t, we’re going to have nothing to give back to the world.”
In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. (Isaiah 30:15)
Enable me to find rejuvenating peace, Savior
Helping the Graduate
If your child is a recent college graduate, watching him or her struggle to find a job can be frustrating. But there are some positive things parents can do to help.
▪ Look for internships. Such an opportunity can lead to full-time employment.
▪ Stay location-flexible. Seek out options in less popular locations—rural, remote or even Third World spots.
▪ No blank checks. Think carefully before offering financial assistance. If you do, make it related to job-seeking, such as for interview clothes. If you do grant a loan, spell out the specifics, including the provisions for paying it back.
▪ Cast a wide net. Broaden your child’s sights to consider all job offerings—not just high-paying ones that are exceedingly scarce.
Your greatest contribution to the process is, of course, your loving presence as they walk this new path in life’s journey.
The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
May all I do this day, Lord, help others to know and love You.
Staying Positive by Running
The stress Jodi Sampson experienced after being told her two-year-old son had cancer could have been unbearable if it weren’t for the relief she found in running as exercise.
After six years of chemotherapy, her son was declared cancer-free. But then, Sampson was diagnosed with breast cancer herself. Her doctors thought exercise could still be beneficial, even during radiation treatments. So, she made sure to keep on running.
Now thankfully cancer-free, Sampson shared these tips with Fitness magazine about how “sweating kept her sane:”
▪ Put life on pause: “I couldn’t control what happened in the hospital, but I could lace up my sneakers, grab my iPod and hit the road. When I returned, I felt like I was better able to cope.”
▪ Write it down: “I made two lists—one of things that stressed me out and another of those that made me happy. It helped me pick activities that made me feel good.”
▪ Reach out: “It’s hard for me to ask for help from others, but I’m learning.”
Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees. (Hebrews 12:12)
Help us to stay active in the midst of our distress, Father.
Fresh Conversations for Real Women
Twenty-somethings Kara Eschbach and Janet Sahm felt disappointed that modern women’s magazines didn’t reflect their own lives, hopes, and values. As an alternative, they launched Verily magazine in summer 2012 to “start fresh conversations on what it means to be real women” and focus on inner beauty as well as fashion and appearance.
As Eschbach explained on Christopher Closeup, “Women today are more unhappy than ever. There's a statistic pointing out that 70 percent of young girls feel worse about themselves after three minutes of reading a fashion magazine” because they compare their bodies to the models and feel they don't measure up. Verily aims to be a positive influence on young women.
Though the magazine is secular, it's grounded in the values that its co-founders learned growing up. Eschbach admits that she went to church on Sunday, but lived in ways that didn't reflect her beliefs: “For me, it's been this slow journey of [discovering] how I reconcile the person I want to be with [how] I'm living...of trying to come closer to God's truth in the decisions I make every day.”
Strive first for the kingdom of God. (Matthew 6:33)
Jesus, help me see authentic beauty in others.
A Knuckleballer’s Heart
When Queens, New York, resident Mike Gitelson was diagnosed with acute myeloid anemia in 2011, treatment required heavy doses of chemotherapy. His wife, Eileen Lopez, asked a friend with connections to the Mets if he could get a team member to call Mike, who was a diehard fan. The caller would be All-Star knuckleball pitcher, R.A. Dickey.
Dickey invited the couple to a Mets game in June. They got a tour of Citi Field—and conversation time as well. As reported by Wayne Coffey in the Daily News, “[Gitelson] liked that Dickey said he’d pray for him, and even though Gitelson was not at all religious, he was open to people praying for him.”
Said Dickey: “He was having some trouble, and I just tried to engage with him. I wanted to be in the moment with him.”
Mike Gitelson died in March 2012 at age 40. He was buried wearing an R.A. Dickey shirt because, as Eileen, said, “R.A. brought him so much joy.”
When you spend time with a person who’s suffering, be in the moment with them. That simple act can produce a lot of joy.
Comfort My people, says your God. (Isaiah 40:1)
Help me truly listen to others, Divine Savior.
It Was Worth the Cost
With severe weather predicted for Henryville, Indiana, Stephanie Decker picked her two children up at school before things got bad. Once they arrived at home, Decker saw a tornado heading straight for her house and rushed with the kids into the basement. After wrapping her son and daughter in a comforter, she covered them with her body.
Decker told The Courier-Journal that when the tornado hit, debris began falling. A large steel beam that fell on her leg nearly severed it completely.
Just as the tornado finally moved on, a second one hit, forcing Decker to endure even more of a battering. When that tornado passed, the children were able to get help for their ailing mother who had lost 40 percent of her blood due to a severed artery. Decker endured multiple injuries including the amputation of parts of both her legs. Doctors say she’ll be able to walk with prostheses.
Decker’s husband calls her a “hero.” And she believes her injuries were worth it, saying, “I love my kids…I wanted to do anything I could to protect them.”
The Spirit helps us. (Romans 8:26)
Grant me the strength to protect my loved ones, Jesus.
Donuts and Prayers for the Homeless
Brenda Prohaska of City Island, New York, stops by the local diner to pick-up donuts and coffee with a purpose in mind. As she explained to a neighbor she met there, they were to be used for an interfaith prayer service on Potter’s Field, the city cemetery for the indigent and unclaimed located near her Bronx home. The donuts and coffee would serve as refreshments after the prayers.
The Potter’s Field Campaign is just one initiative of Picture the Homeless, a grassroots organization founded and led by homeless people.
“All who pass from this life possess a sacred dignity intrinsic to their membership among the human family, and all deserve to be reposed in dignity and remembered with honor and love,” the group’s website explains.
God created each one of us in love; we are called each day to share that love with our neighbor, in prayer and action.
Blessed be the God…of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction. (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4)
Comfort those who mourn, Lord; send Your peace to troubled souls
Wisdom from Non-College Grads
Forbes magazine contributor David DiSalvo grew up in an extended family of people who didn’t go to college because they had to go to work instead. Despite their lack of schooling, however, they were “steeped in wisdom.” DiSalvo shared several of the lessons he learned:
▪ You can learn something useful from anyone. “Whenever we find ourselves ignoring someone because we’ve already determined that they aren’t ‘smart’ enough to say something meaningful, we’ve made a big mistake…I’ve yet to meet someone who couldn’t teach me something.”
▪ Learning is good; Doing is better. “You can learn a lot about car engines, but until you get under the hood and work on one, you can’t see how remarkable an invention these machines are.”
▪ Money is important, but experience is invaluable. “When you buy something, you’ll enjoy that thing for a while, but eventually…[it] will become yet another thing you own. When we invest in experience, however, we are buying memories, new learning, new ways of thinking, and a whole lot more.”
Apply your ear to words of knowledge. (Proverbs 23:12)
Open my ears to the wisdom around me, Savior.
Good Food, Kind Souls
Rocker Jon Bon Jovi and his wife Dorothea have opened a restaurant with a twist. Located on the Jersey Shore, it caters both to those who can afford a good meal—and those who can’t.
Known as Soul Kitchen, the restaurant is a pay-what-you-can initiative. Patrons have two options: pay the suggested donation (or more to help cover others’ meals) or pay by volunteering to work at Soul Kitchen. The diner is staffed by volunteers, and is open Thursday through Sunday.
As reported in The Wall Street Journal, the Bon Jovis originally tried out the idea using pilot locations at a local church and soup kitchen. Then they renovated an auto shop which now has the “feel of a neighborhood hangout spot” and is part of the JBJ Foundation, the Bon Jovis’ charitable organization. The JBJ Foundation had been mostly focusing on affordable housing, but with the economic downturn in recent years, they added feeding the community to their mission.
Offering food to the hungry will not only feed their bodies; it will nourish their souls.
You shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother. (Deuteronomy 15:7)
Lord, we are grateful for the ability to help others in need.
Wedding Gowns to Haiti
In 2008, a friend approached Diane Cornelius about donating wedding gowns to poverty-stricken areas of Haiti. A bridal store owner from Lexington, Kentucky, Cornelius was willing to help out, figuring such events would be big celebrations. When she traveled to Haiti herself, she discovered they were so much more.
As Cornelius met and spoke with brides, she came to understand that marriages in Haiti are not just cause for a party, but rather a gateway to a better life. Once married, women achieve greater recognition in the community, even in church circles.
So far, Cornelius has donated dresses to more than 100 brides. “To me, a wedding means joy, hope and a future,” she says.
A husband and a wife joined together in love can bring joy and hope to an entire community.
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:14)
May our love be a reflection of Your great love, Lord.
AIDA—A Speech, Not an Opera
Want to give an effective talk? A national magazine for executives recommends the following, easy-to-remember formula:
▪ A—Attention. Make a simple statement of your subject that shows your audience how they will benefit by listening. Keep it short and to the point.
▪ I—Interest. Ask questions. Promise the listener that he will gain personally by listening.
▪ D—Desire. Arrange your points so that the listener is compelled to follow you. Sum up each idea as you go along and show its connection to the next one.
▪ A—Action. This is the summary. It should be a short, simple, positive, closing statement about what you want your audience to believe or do.
The “how” of giving a speech is important, but so is the “what.” Ground yourself in gospel values so that you will have something worthwhile to say when the opportunity arises.
I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right. (Proverbs 8:6)
Give me the courage and skills to speak up, Father.
After Losing $800…
As 77-year-old Jane Corbett drove to buy groceries for the St. Louis, Missouri homeless shelter where she volunteers, hundreds of dollars were flying out of the envelope she had accidentally left on top of her car while buckling in her special needs grandchild.
Construction worker Ray Leuthauser was driving behind Corbett and unsuccessfully honked at her to try to get her to stop. He finally just pulled over and started grabbing whatever money he could that was flying around—over $300—along with the Sam’s Club credit card that had come out of the envelope too.
The credit card was made out to Sts. Peter and Paul Church which is how Leuthauser tracked Corbett down to return the money. After learning that $500 were still missing, Leuthauser collected donations from his fellow construction workers to make up the difference.
Needless to say, Corbett was extremely appreciative. She told KSDK-TV, “Just pass it on. [Let’s] do whatever we can every other minute to help each other."
Helpers are for a time of trouble. (Sirach 40:24)
Lord, teach me to go out of my way to help others.
Laugh at Yourself
How important is laughter in one’s spiritual journey? According to the late Charles M. Schulz, creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip, it’s a necessity.
“It has long been my belief,” wrote the cartoonist, “that one of the things which has enabled man to survive is the ability to laugh. No matter how difficult the situation may be, man somehow has always been able to find humor in it…If I were given the opportunity to present a gift to the next generation, it would be the ability for each individual to learn to laugh at himself…I think it is one of God’s greatest blessings.”
We fail at laughter when we take ourselves too seriously—when we believe that what “I” think or want or do is all that matters. But the world runs according to God’s order, not ours.
There are billions of stars in our galaxies, and yet by the wonderful gift of faith we know that God cares about each one of us personally. To lose sight of that is to narrow our chances for happiness.
See the joy that is coming to you. (Baruch 4:36)
Teach me to see the humor around me, Holy Spirit.
Peace by the Potbelly Stove
Lunchtime in New York City. Tourists rush from spot to spot, breathless from activity. Workers e-mail and text, frenetic in their daily routine.
But inside the Potbelly Sandwich Shop, you’re likely to find a different world. The smiling staff welcomes customers, while a musician plays familiar songs on his guitar. Conversations take place—person to person, instead of phone to phone. The soothing smell of baked bread fills the air.
The Potbelly Sandwich Shop chain began in 1977 in Chicago inside a small antique store. Taking its name from the potbelly stoves that were once a gathering place in homes and communities all over the country, it became a spot to share a meal and conversation. With more than 200 outlets nationwide, these sandwich shops remain such an oasis, even in the midst of a bustling city.
In our daily lives, we too need those breaks, moments to nourish body and spirit.
Anxiety weighs down the human spirit, but a good word cheers it up. (Proverbs 12:25)
Send Your Spirit, Master, to renew the face of this earth.
Building a Better Workplace
When employers and employees don’t treat each other with respect, a workplace can become stressful. The Christophers’ founder, Maryknoll Father James Keller, gave this advice on creating a kinder, more productive business environment:
“If you’re an employer, show those who work for you that you respect them and don’t regard them as mere cogs in a wheel. If you’re an employee, give your employer his due in a spirit that shows you consider your work as something more than an obstacle on your way to a paycheck. Above all, whether you are an employer or employee, be pleasant at all times. If you are, everyone who crosses your path will be blessed. It takes only a moment to disagree without being disagreeable.”
One more suggestion from Father Keller: “At the close of each day, examine your conscience to make sure you are going forward, not backward in showing kindness to others. The more you grow in love of others for love of God, the more peace of soul you will enjoy. And those who have peace of heart and soul seldom get ulcers or need sleeping pills.”
We are God’s servants. (1 Corinthians 3:9)
May my work glorify You, Father.
The Gift of Human Beings
Though she achieved success as an actress, including as a co-star with Elvis Presley, Dolores Hart left Hollywood to become a Benedictine nun at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut, in 1962. She had followed her spiritual calling, but it wasn’t until many years later that a debilitating disease took her relationship with God to a deeper level.
n 1997, Mother Dolores was left wheelchair bound due to a mysterious illness that went undiagnosed for some time. Finally, New York City doctor Norman Latov diagnosed her with peripheral neuropathy. He found a treatment that eased her symptoms and restored her ability to walk.
That suffering taught Mother Dolores an important lesson. She said on Christopher Closeup, “You have to become dependent on the gift of human beings, and you discover that God is an incarnate reality. In the beginning, God was always a pie-in-the-sky reality. Now I had to realize that Jesus was there through the people who were assisting me, caring for me, and doing the things that were bringing me through.”
God sent me to heal you. (Tobit 12:14)
Lord, grant me the blessing of people who love me.
A Clear Vision
On her first mission trip, to Guyana in South America, Jo Yerrick remembers fitting villagers—mostly children—with eyeglasses.
“We had one little girl whose eyesight was so bad she couldn’t attend school,” Yerrick said.
Finding a pair to fit her prescription in the box of 2,000 donated eyeglasses took a while. But when Yerrick found the right pair and put them on the child, it opened her up to a whole new world in which she can now see better and get an education.
The Michigan resident and mother of six grown children has also visited Nicaragua and Haiti. Another such traveler, Noel Heikkinen, says of the experience, “This radically changed my view of the entire world.”
Our own life’s vision is clearest seen when we serve others with eyes of hope and love.
Look my eye has seen all this…But I would speak to the Almighty. (Job 13:1)
Bless me, Father; use my life for Your will.
Faithfulness in Little Things
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once wrote the following about the importance of being a person of character:
“Faithfulness in great things is not uncommon; faithfulness in little things is rare but most indicative of character. Almost any husband would leap into the sea or rush into a burning building to rescue his wife. But to anticipate the convenience or happiness of the wife in some small matter, the neglect of which would go unnoticed, is a more eloquent proof of tenderness.
“Our lives for the most part are made up of little things, and by these our character is to be tested. There are very few who have to take a prominent place in the great conflicts of our age; the vast majority must dwell in humbler scenes and be content to do a more humble work…Little duties carefully discharged; little temptations earnestly resisted with the strength which God supplies; little sins crucified—these all together help to form that character which is to be described not as popular or glamorous, but as moral and noble.”
The righteous walk in integrity—happy are the children who follow them! (Proverbs 20:7)
Give me courage to make right decisions, Jesus.
Raising a Cowboy for the Disabled
Twenty-seven-year-old Jamie Feretic of Queens, New York, decided to make a difference for the disabled in a somewhat unique way. She is raising and training a Labrador Retriever puppy named Cowboy to potentially be a therapy dog for the charity Canine Companions for Independence (CCI).
As reported in the Daily News, CCI provides dogs free-of-charge to “people who suffer from physical and mental disabilities.” Volunteers like Feretic take in eight-week-old puppies, absorb the cost of caring for them for 18 months, and help socialize them. Approximately 40 percent of the dogs go on to become actual therapy dogs for CCI. If a canine is disqualified for some reason, the person who raised him or her has the option of adopting the animal.
Feretic says, “It’s one of the most rewarding things I have ever done, but it’s a lot of work…He loves helping people.”
Each of us can derive joy from helping others. If you see an opportunity, take it.
Serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. (1 Peter 4:10)
Teach me to love helping others, Lord.
Mariano Rivera Has Faith
Some sports writers dismiss professional athletes’ expressions of their religious faith, but Bob Raissman of the Daily News says he knows real spirituality when he sees it.
“Forgive this mere mortal for passing judgment on such matters, but [Mariano] Rivera’s spirituality is sincere. His faith has carried him to this point and will take him even further,” Raissman writes.
He notes that one reporter asked the New York Yankees’ pitcher how he’d remained so “dominant and durable” for so long. Rivera answered that God gave him his athletic gift. “I didn’t discover it,” he said. “It was given to me by the Lord.”
Cynical reporters remain skeptical, and maybe their doubt is warranted when certain athletes seem to be praising themselves more than God. But Bob Raissman is convinced that Rivera is the real deal. “Believe it,” he says.
Like Mariano Rivera, may we also give the praise for our individual talents where it is due: to God.
Those who wait for the Lord shall…shall run and not be weary. (Isaiah 40:31)
Keep us focused on what really matters in life, Jesus.
More Than Knowledge
One day when Thomas Aquinas was preaching to the local populace in Italy, the future saint saw an old woman listening attentively to his every word.
Inspired by her eagerness to learn more about the God she loved so dearly, he said to the people, “It is better to be this unlearned woman, loving God with all her heart, than the most learned theologian lacking love.”
A great theologian himself, Aquinas knew that our main avenue of approach to God is love. Though he never belittled knowledge of God—indeed, he wrote volumes of books monumental in their deep knowledge of the things of God—he insisted on this cardinal point: if we do not love God and our neighbors, and work to increase that love, it matters little how much we know about Him.
Those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (1 John 5:21)
Jesus, help me to grow in love of You and my neighbor.
Ellen headed to work on a Friday morning. Her mind should have been filled with happier thoughts of the weekend ahead with family and friends. Instead, the looming problems of her job seemed to block out the sunshine of the beautiful spring day.
While her thoughts were focused on possible solutions, she caught sight of a young boy walking with his mother on his way to school. Dressed as a knight, complete with sword and shield, the child marched down the New York City street, slaying the imaginary dragons in his path. His smile broadened with every victory.
Suddenly Ellen smiled, too. Yes, a shot of youthful hope can help us all slay the dragons that face us today and every day.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised. (Psalm 18:3)
You are my rock of refuge, Lord, my shield against life’s storms.
Taking a Technology Break
Face it—it’s a digital world. Whether for work or connecting with friends and family, we’re wrapped up in the internet with social media, e-mail and chat messengers. Wireless technology keeps us connected even when we’re on the go.
One online blogger tried taking a break from all these connections and found her offline time comprised her most productive work hours. Here are some of her suggestions to arrange your digital downtime:
▪ Know exactly what you want to do online. Disconnect when you’re done.
▪ Get away from your desk. Work on your top priorities during that break.
▪ Set clear your next steps before getting back online. Fight the distractions to accomplish those tasks.
Online or offline, we are never disconnected from the Source of all hope—our loving God. We don’t ever need to take a break from Him.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
Speak, Lord; help me to know Your will.
The Goal of Honesty
Pat Smith of Owatonna, Minnesota, is the father of 11-year-old identical twin boys Nate and Nick. As reported by ABC News, Nate wowed hockey fans during a celebrity fundraiser by “hitting a puck through a hole in a board 89 feet away” during a charity event. The prize was $50,000.
The problem, however, was that Nate was ineligible for the jackpot because the raffle ticket permitting the hockey shot was written in Nick’s name. If they hadn’t revealed the deception, the boys would have received a windfall, but their dad encouraged them to do the right thing and tell the truth.
For the Smiths’ honesty, the sponsoring agency decided to donate $20,000 to youth hockey in Minnesota in the twins’ names. The youngsters were pleased with the donation. In addition, the boys were given a three-week hockey camp next summer.
“I just think that honesty is more important than any prize or money you can get,” Smith concludes. “It’s always best to tell the truth and things will work out.”
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely. (Proverbs 10:9)
May we always strive to be truthful, Almighty God.
Whiners Need Not Apply
What traits will help you get a job or get ahead in a job you already have? Kaitlin Madden, writing on CareerBuilder.com, notes that human resources managers prize emotional intelligence even more than one’s IQ “because employees with high emotional intelligence are more likely to stay calm under pressure, solve conflict effectively and show empathy to their team members.”
Depending on circumstances, some workers believe it is next to impossible or even unrealistic to stay calm and not whine when circumstances are difficult. But there’s more than one way to address legitimate complaints.
Madden describes people with a high share of emotional intelligence as demonstrating control over their feelings, practicing self-reflection, listening actively and empathizing with colleagues. Naturally, workers need relevant job skills. But if the choice is between two technically competent people, preference often goes to the one able to remain level-headed and agreeable.
These are traits worth cultivating both at work and in life.
One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty. (Proverbs 16:32)
Help me to stay calm and trust in You, Jesus.
How to Stay Young
American General Douglas MacArthur kept a poem in his office entitled “How to Stay Young.” It was written by Samuel Ullman and its words are timeless. Here is an excerpt:
“Youth is not a time of life—it is a state of mind; it is a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a predominance of courage over timidity…Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years; people grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair—these are long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust.
“Whether 70 or 16, there is in every being’s heart the unfailing childlike appetite for…the joy of the game of life. You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope; as old as your despair. So long as your heart receives messages of beauty, cheer, courage, grandeur and power from the earth, from man and from the Infinite, so long are you young.”
Be careful then how you live. (Ephesians 5:15)
Regardless of my age, Lord, make my outlook youthful.
He Never Gave Up
Thomas A. Edison had strong reasons to throw his hands up in despair. As a child, he was sent home from school after three months because his teachers felt he was “to addled” to learn.
Edison also lost his hearing at the age of 12. The love and encouragement of his mother, coupled with his own thirst for knowledge and willingness to work hard, kept him going.
The result? At age 21, Edison invented the stock ticker. At 23, he developed an automatic telegraph that sent 1,000 words a minute. At 37, he was a millionaire. But discovery, not money, was his goal. So Thomas Edison kept at it, eventually inventing the phonograph, the electric light, and the motion picture camera.
When discouragement beckons—at home, on the job, or anywhere else—think of the example of men and women who refused to quit. If you resolve to do your part, you can confidently leave the results in the hands of a loving God.
Be strong and of good courage. Fear not; be not dismayed. (1 Chronicles 22:13)
Jesus, You never gave up on Your mission. May we reflect the same perseverance in our lives.
The Ex Vivo Miracle
Rita Saverino, a wife and mother of two in New York City, was diagnosed with a grapefruit-sized cancerous tumor behind her liver. The only way to get it out and make sure the cancer was removed from the surrounding areas was to perform an “ex vivo” surgery.
That meant Saverino’s abdominal organs—her liver, stomach, kidney, and intestines—would be surgically removed, operated on outside her body, then replaced into her body once the tumor was out.
Seven surgeons told Saverino this procedure couldn’t be done, until she found Dr. Tomoaki Kato at New York Presbyterian Hospital. He is one of the only surgeons in the world willing to perform this cutting edge procedure.
As shown on the ABC reality series NY Med, the surgery lasted 18 hours, but was successful. It gave Saverino a new lease on life, and a greater appreciation for how precious every day with her family is. She said, “Life is fragile. Life is precious. I believe in miracles.”
Confidence brings a great reward. (Hebrews 10:35)
Lead me to healing in all my afflictions, Lord.
The Burden of Needless Worry
It’s easy to get consumed by worries of what other people think of you. Up-and-coming musical theater actress Brooke Evans was no exception.
Evans exuded talent and confidence, but often felt crippled by the need to know how others saw her, both on a personal and professional level. If she didn’t know, she would assume the worst. She explains, “I didn’t trust that others would see in me what God sees in me or what I see in myself.”
Hitting bottom forced Evans to confront issues she never realized she had. She said, “I’d never taken the time to find out what was holding me back. I prayed constantly that God would show me how to move forward. When I discovered my problem, I started working on the solution. I now don’t need to know what others think of me. It’s inconsequential as long as I know that God can be proud of me, and I can be proud of myself.”
Since her epiphany, Evans was accepted into a prestigious New York theater program where she is developing her natural talent without unnecessary worries holding her back.
Give yourself the esteem you deserve. (Sirach 10:28)
I am secure in Your love for me, Father.
Wake Up, Generation
Twenty-one-year-old singer/songwriter Paige Omartian knows that life is precious because she almost lost hers to bone cancer at age 11. She gets frustrated when she sees young people wasting their lives, as if they have no God-given purpose.
Now healthy and married, Omartian has written a book, Wake Up, Generation, to share her story. In it, she recalls visiting the hospital for a checkup and seeing “patients attached to tubes and IV poles…with scared, half-conscious faces, wondering what was happening to them. I couldn't help but ask this: Why do we have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death before we realize our lives are so precious?”
Omartian concludes, “As young people, we have a tendency to think that we’re not only invincible, but have all the time in the world…We need to open our eyes…We’ve been sleepwalking in apathy, passive in our motivations, blinded to the incredible adventure that God wants to breathe into our lives…Wake up!...Leave your old ways behind. Christ will guide you…You don't have a second to waste.”
Wake up. (Revelation 3:2)
Teach me to appreciate and use my gift of life, Jesus.
Give God the Glory
Golfer Bubba Watson surprised everyone, including himself, when he won the 2012 Masters Tournament on Easter Sunday. His first words also may have surprised everyone: “I’d like to first thank Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.”
Watson showed admirable humility and level-headedness as he called his accomplishment a blessing, saying that he never dreamed he would win. Shedding tears as he spoke, he put it all in perspective as he mentioned his newly adopted son.
Watson said, “Golf isn’t everything for me. If I would have lost today, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world. To win is awesome, but I’ll go back to real life next week. I still haven't changed a diaper.”
Watson continued to praise God on Twitter after his win—and continues to try to do so with the way he lives his life.
In good times or bad, praising God first shows our perspective on life—and helps shape us as we do it.
Rejoice always, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Thank You, Lord, for being with me always.
When Climbing Out Your Minivan Window…
With a broken driver’s-side door handle inside her minivan, mother of five Jennifer Fulwiler tried exiting her vehicle like the characters on the old TV show The Dukes of Hazzard: by climbing out the window. As she writes in the book Style, Sex, and Substance, she soon realized this was not an easy task for “a 34-year-old mother with a penchant for…ice cream.”
To make matters worse, this was happening in the church parking lot in front of a proper-looking parishioner. Fulwiler says, “My foot got stuck in the steering wheel, and I lost my balance, [tumbling] out the window.”
Feeling embarrassed, Fulwiler researched female saints she could look at as role models for living a more dignified, holy life. She was surprised to discover the saints were a diverse group of women with varying temperaments and lifestyles.
Fulwiler writes, “My insecurity about how to be a Catholic woman the ‘right’ way had led me to focus almost exclusively on myself…It was only when I learned to accept myself that I could forget myself and…show others the love of Christ.”
I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)
May I extend to others the grace You give me, Jesus.
The Doctor is a Nun
Though Sister Anne Brooks tends to the spiritual needs of the people in poverty-stricken Tutwiler, Mississippi, she spends even more time caring for their physical needs as the only local doctor many of them have ever known.
In 1983, Sister Anne opened a medical clinic in Tutwiler with the help of a grant from the charity, Catholic Extension. As reported by Byron Pitts of CBS News, she is now 73 and works 12-hour days, seven days a week.
More than two-thirds of her patients have no money to pay for medical care. “Last year, I spent $48,000 buying medicine for people who couldn’t afford it but would have died if they didn’t have medicine,” said Sister Anne. The money all came from donations for which she is extremely grateful.
As she gets older, Sister Anne especially wishes for a second doctor to help with her work. She has no intention of retiring, though, because she loves the people of the community. She says, “[This work] is about having someone care about you so you can care about yourself. It’s a dream.”
The Lord is my strength and my might. (Exodus 15:1)
Give me the strength to serve Your people, Lord.
Making the Most of the Night
Family life is filled with an excessive amount of activities and often not a lot of down time.
Author Jenn Berman (The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids) suggests several ways to make the most of those precious few hours of evening family time.
First, call a “black out”—an hour or two of tech-free time. No texting, tweeting or video games.
Next, eat together, and maybe even prepare dinner as a family.
Finally, right before bed time, talk with one another. Have each family member discuss their favorite and least favorite parts of the day.
Each moment we share with those we love is precious and to be treasured.
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)
In all times, we seek Your love and wisdom, Master.
Speaking With Someone Facing Illness
You may want to comfort a friend or loved one who’s struggling with cancer, but you’re not sure what exactly to say.
Lori Hope, author of Help Me Live: 20 Things People with Cancer Want You to Know, offers several suggestions:
▪ Say “I’d like to ask how you’re doing, but I don’t want to bring it up if you don’t want to talk about it. What would you prefer?”
▪ Ask, “How’s it going?” not “How are you feeling?” That allows people to talk about their illness or to introduce a different topic to discuss, if they prefer.
▪ Try, “I’m so sorry to hear about your cancer. Know that I’ll be thinking of you.” Or, “I imagine you’re feeling so many things right now. Please know that I’m here to listen whenever you’d like to talk about it.”
▪ If you do offer to help in some way, be specific. Say you’ll bring dinner or baby-sit the children.
In addition, be sure to always keep them in your prayers.
The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)
Guide us with Your Word, Lord
A Sweet 16 to Remember
Most teenagers ask for cash on their 16th birthday, and high-school junior Kara Magoolaghan from White Plains, New York, was no different. Only instead of keeping this money for herself, she asked that it be donated to the Charity Ghana ACT (Alliance for Community Transformation), which was founded by her mother’s friend John Barber.
Magoolaghan learned from Barber that his group was raising money to construct a school in Ho, Ghana. She was happy to aid this worthy cause, and even opted to visit Ho herself to get to know the kids there.
“I thought it would be much more memorable and meaningful if I went somewhere to help other people. I got just as much out of it as I would have if I had a party,” Magoolaghan explained to Catholic New York reporter Juliann DosSantos.
If you have the opportunity, each out to someone who needs help. It may initially seem like you’re giving them the gift, but you’ll find the experience rewarding too.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Christ, may we be as generous to others as You are to us.
The Impossible Gold Medalist
Swimmer Katie Ledecky, 15, was the youngest member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team in London. A well-liked and humble student at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland, she told The Catholic Standard newspaper that she prays before each race, and goes to Mass every week because it helps her “reflect and connect with God.”
On August 3, Ledecky swam a challenging 800-meter race. Nobody, including NBC announcers Rowdy Gaines and Dan Hicks, expected the first-time Olympian to win. When she took off like a cannonball at the race’s start, they said she was expending too much energy and would dwindle. Ledecky, however, defied conventional wisdom. She was in a race, so she was going all out to win. And win she did.
It was a great night for a teenager whose Christian faith asserts things some claim are impossible. Yet here was Ledecky reminding everyone that experts can be wrong—and that people who don’t know they can’t achieve the impossible can achieve it anyway with a little faith and heart.
The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
Lead me, Lord, down Your paths for me.
Hope for the Future
On August 16, 2008, a small private plane carrying popular “mommy blogger” Stephanie Nielson and her husband, Christian, crashed in Arizona, exploding on impact. Though Christian was injured and burned, Stephanie bore the brunt of the explosion with burns over 80 percent of her body. Near death, she remained in a medically-induced coma for 10 weeks.
Despite Stephanie’s grueling recovery and lingering scars, she maintained her positive attitude. She chronicled her journey of healing on her blog, called The Nie Nie Dialogues, and has written a book called Heaven is Here.
In April 2012, Stephanie gave birth to her fifth child, Charlotte. She wrote on her blog, “I just wanted to express publicly how thankful I am…how good God is. Because of Him I am blessed and happy and have a very beautiful baby. Because of Him my trials are bearable and there is reason to live, even among my pain and physical problems. Because of Him I know who I am and what I am doing here on earth. I have a purpose and because of Him, I have hope for the future.”
Put your trust in the Lord. (Psalm 4:5)
Heal my emotional and spiritual scars, Jesus.
A Defiant Song
Following the movie theatre massacre that occurred in Aurora, Colorado, on July 20, 2012, Denver-based preacher Nadia Bolz Weber considered canceling her weekly Friday night “Beer and Hymns” gathering. In the end, she held it anyway.
Weber wrote on her blog, “We sang our prayer to God, and in our singing I heard a defiant tone. The sound of a people who simply will not believe that violence wins, a people who know that the sound of the risen Christ speaking each of our names drowns out all other voices…In baptism we are a people marked by the cross of Christ…but this violence and death has been overcome by the love of a God who, in the three days between Good Friday and Easter, reached into the very bowels of hell and said, ‘Even here I will not be without you.’”
“This is the God to whom we sing. A God who didn’t say we would never be afraid, but that we would never be alone… To sing praise to God amidst violence is to simply put evil in its place. It’s to draw a line and say, ‘Here and no further.’ For the devil surely hates the sound of Alleluia.”
Sing to the Lord for He has triumphed. (Exodus 15:21)
Help me see You when my heart is breaking, Jesus.
Carry the Peace of God
Jesus is dead. He lies in the tomb. He died that you might live, proving His love for you to the last drop of His blood.
His request to you is to continue what He began. He died for all. He wishes to continue to live here in the souls of men and to carry on His work through your cooperation.
In His first appearance to His disciples after the Resurrection, Christ gave His followers the sublime and thrilling mission of bringing peace to the world: “Peace be to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
This was more than just a polite suggestion. It was a solemn command to carry the peace of God to the whole world—that precious peace for which all mankind longs.
No greater support has been given any mission. The whole of heaven is behind anyone who throws himself into the task. That is a direct invitation and challenge to everyone.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)
Give me the strength, O Lord, to do my part in carrying Your Son’s peace to all people.
One Father’s Love
There was only one thing that could get Rick Van Beek of Midland, Michigan, to finally quit smoking and get in shape: his daughter, Maddy, who is unable to walk or talk due to cerebral palsy. Van Beek isn’t even sure that Maddy can see, yet he’s ensured that the now 13-year-old is living an active life.
Van Beek told the Midland Daily News that the one thing he knows Maddy enjoys is being outdoors. Since 2008, father and daughter have competed in more than 70 half-marathons, triathlons, and other races. Van Beek pushes or pulls Maddy in a specially-designed stroller, and sometimes carries her. Their presence has inspired the many who witness this act of love.
Van Beek told Fox News, “Maddy has changed more peoples’ lives than I even know about without doing anything, just being out there.” The devoted father now hopes to start a charity that will build equipment for special needs children.
Some might look at Maddy and see only what she lacks. Van Beek sees her through the life-changing eyes of love, and knows she is a blessing.
[Be] rooted and grounded in love. (Ephesians 3:17)
Inspire me to practice a higher quality of love, Lord.
A Life of Fortitude
Father Francis Ford, one of the first four Maryknoll missionaries in China, traveled there, eager to share his faith but also cognizant of the challenges ahead. His first prayer on arriving in China was, “Lord, make us the doorstep by which the multitudes may come to worship Thee.”
Ordained a bishop in 1935, he worked for years starting schools and churches, helping people in need and training the native clergy. George Weigel, telling Bishop Ford’s story for the Ethics and Public Policy Center, notes that the bishop was arrested by communist authorities and died a martyr in a Chinese prison in 1952. Time magazine described the bishop’s final days based on statements by his secretary, Sister Joan Marie Ryan, M.M. Though he was never tried for any crime, Ford was “publicly paraded, beaten, and degraded in some of the cities in which he had done mission work since 1918.”
Bishop Ford died a witness to his faith—and a shining example of courage to future generations.
Keep alert, stand firm in your faith…be strong. (1 Corinthians 15:13)
Give us the courage to hold fast to our convictions, Lord.
Jesus Wrecked My Life
Katie Davis believes that Jesus “wrecked” her life. In her eyes, however, that's a good thing.
A few years ago, the Tennessee teen served as class president at her high school, enjoyed shopping for shoes, and planned to attend college. But Davis had grown up admiring Mother Teresa and the love with which she served the poor.
On her 16th birthday, Davis told her parents that she wanted to spend a year doing mission work before going to college. They reluctantly agreed to let her volunteer at an orphanage in Uganda. She enjoyed the work so much that she moved to Uganda after graduation to work as a kindergarten teacher.
In her Christopher Award-winning memoir, Kisses From Katie, Davis writes, “I think many people would have looked at [the orphans] and seen only their filthy clothes, or the ringworm on their heads…[God] blinded me to the filth and disease, and I saw only children hungry for love that I was eager to share with them...I have one purpose, in Uganda and in life, and that is to love. I could ask for no greater assignment.”
Clothe yourselves with love. (Colossians 3:14)
Guide me in serving the less fortunate, Lord.
Strangers No More
Over 800 children fleeing poverty, political persecution, and genocide in other countries are welcomed at the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv, Israel. The Christopher Award-winning documentary Strangers No More follows three of those students whose skilled and compassionate teachers provide them with a solid education, and the help they need to move beyond their tragic pasts to create a better tomorrow.
The film’s directors call the school “an extraordinary place where one can experience a sense of humanity so rich and pervasive, it often feels impossible.” Thankfully, the school’s success is very real—and provides a model for creating community out of diversity.
Chances are you’re surrounded by people you see on a regular basis, but who are strangers to you. Why not say “hi” and turn a stranger into a friend?
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)
Lord, give me the courage to approach people I don’t know and extend my hand in friendship.
The Humbling Grace of Service
When Janet Sahm, co-founder of Verily magazine, was in college, she took a summer job with an elderly care program in Indianapolis. Though Sahm grew up Catholic, she’d become disconnected from her faith as she got older. Her interest in reconnecting with Catholicism coincided with her new job.
Before she was trained, Sahm got an emergency call to take the overnight shift caring for a 97-year-old infirm priest named Msgr. Richard Kavanagh. “I was scared to death,” she recalled on Christopher Closeup. “[We] both laughed because he knew I didn’t know what I was doing, but he was so gracious.”
Msgr. Kavanagh grew so comfortable with Sahm that he asked her to help him say Mass in his kitchen. She said, "I’d be his server and hold him up and help walk him to the altar. The graces that were happening, I didn’t even realize…I was Catholic and desired to be close to our Lord, but how I was living my life was totally disconnected. What a gift I had to be with him in the last days of his life. That experience taught me the beauty of the Eucharist and the beauty of the Mass. It was humbling.”
I am among you as one who serves. (Luke 22:27)
Jesus, help me grow closer to You through humble service.
The Gift of Life
When Michael Peters of Omaha, Nebraska, was an infant in 1996, his parents heard the distressing news that his heart was terribly weak. He would need a transplant in order to survive. Their spirits were lifted once a donor became available.
Michael and his parents still honor the two-year-old heart donor and her family whose gift gave them hope and life.
“When I think about her now, I feel blessed,” said Michael. “Because of what they did, what she did, I was able to live.”
Father Michael Gutgsell, rector of St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha, offers the religious viewpoint on organ donation. He explains that giving or receiving organs “doesn’t cheapen, disrespect or corrupt the goodness of the physical being or create an obstacle of the possibility of our resurrection from the dead in a glorified body.”
The need for organ donors is great and signing up isn’t necessarily complicated. Is it right for you?
I will pour out My spirit on all flesh. (Joel 2:28)
May we recognize the inherent dignity of our human bodies and revere all the lives You have created, Father.
A Father’s Message
As a child, Ann Curry, the NBC television journalist, would ask her father what she should be when she grew up. His answer was always the same: “Whatever you do, do something that is of some service to somebody else, because if you do, you’ll know that it mattered that you were born.”
That message, Curry admits, propelled her into a life of traveling the world, seeing people in great need with her own eyes—and doing something to help.
“What I didn’t realize until much later was that my father had given me the keys to happiness,” she explains. “In the rush and the hustle and bustle of our lives, we often forget that those simple acts of giving can give our own lives the most value, the most comfort and peace.”
Who is your “neighbor in need” this day? How will you help?
Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another. (1 Peter 4:10)
Slow me down, Lord. Help me to see Your way to make a difference.
Movin’ With the Spirit
In the mid-90s, New York musician Sean Forrest could be found “hanging out in pubs, being on stage, [and] getting ready to party,” but he couldn’t find fulfillment. “I just knew that wasn’t what God was calling me to do,” Forrest said.
He converted to Catholicism and started a nonprofit called Movin’ With the Spirit, which uses retreats and music to minister to teens and their families. In 2009, Forrest expanded his work to include outreach to Haiti’s poor and suffering. Their need was magnified after the devastation caused by the 2010 earthquake.
“When we go, we feed the people,” Forrest told the National Catholic Register. “But we also feed them Christ. We catechize and teach them with the truth of our Catholic faith.”
Forrest has found fulfillment and so have his volunteers. “They come back even more energized and spiritually fulfilled by the faith of the Haitian people.”
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans…to give you a future with hope.
(Jeremiah 29: 11)
Help me, Jesus, to discover my true vocation.
Child Slavery Rampant
We may think the slave trade was abolished in prior centuries but tragically, it exists to this very day. “80 percent of today’s slaves are women and girls; 50 percent are children,” writes Mark Hanlon, an executive at Compassion International, a Christian organization that works to free youngsters from poverty.
“The nature of slavery may differ from country to country —from enslavement in the sex trade to child abduction by rogue military organizations—but nearly all enslaved children share a common trait: extreme poverty,” Hanlon notes.
Brazil is highlighted as a country in which the child sex trade has reached epidemic proportions. Girls as young as 12 are pushed into the field to make money, thereby destroying any sense of a normal childhood. “Nations with high rates of child slavery are compromising their next generation of leaders,” Hanlon says.
Thankfully, organizations such as Compassion International are working on solutions to place child trafficking where Hanlon claims it belongs—“in the history books.”
If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up. (Psalm 27:10)
Heavenly Father, shield our children from exploitation.
The Medal of Honor
America’s Medal of Honor is usually given posthumously, but Sgt. First Class Leroy A. Petry, who survived his combat experience, received his award in a 2011 White House ceremony. He became the second living medal recipient from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
During combat in Afghanistan, Petry, an Army Ranger, was shot in both legs. Then a grenade exploded nearby, wounding several of his fellow soldiers. When a second enemy grenade landed close to them, Petry threw it away as it detonated. The explosion filled him with shrapnel and ripped off his right hand.
In honoring Sgt. Petry, President Obama referred to 9/11 and paid tribute to “a generation that has borne the burden of our security during a hard decade of sacrifice.”
Much is indeed sacrificed during war, most directly by combatants and their families. Societies sacrifice as well. There is always good reason to seek and spread peace throughout our world, while we also honor the selflessness and heroism of those who fight.
Be courageous and valiant. (2 Samuel 13:28)
Bring peace into our world as well as our hearts, Messiah.
Silence Can Nourish Your Soul
“At all times cultivate silence.”
These words in a chapel’s stained glass window made Judith Valente realize that although she led spiritual retreats for busy professionals, she had forgotten to nourish her own soul.
Writing in USA Today, she said, “What I lacked were moments of silence and solitude when I could simply be. Without them, I was losing drop by drop the inner resources I needed to do my work well and cultivate an inner life.”
Valente was on a retreat in a Benedictine monastery where she learned many lessons from the monastic practices that also could apply to her professional life. Foremost among these was conversatio which means “a constant turning, a continuous conversation with life.” However, we cannot have a conversation if we never stop to listen, which calls for periods of silence.
We are often so busy “doing” that we forget how to “be.” Set up a daily time of silence and listen for God's voice.
But the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. (1 Kings 19:12)
Lord, may I always be attentive to Your still, small voice speaking out of the whirlwind of my life.
The Grace of Brokenness
On January 2, 2009, Kevin Wells—a healthy 40-year-old husband and father of three— had just gone to bed when a malformed tangle of veins and arteries in his brain suddenly burst. The sharp pain from the blood and other fluids that were filling his head grew worse as he and his wife waited for an ambulance.
Wells was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage, and given emergency brain surgery. His situation remained dire for the next few weeks, so he came to lean on his faith to find physical and spiritual healing. During an interview on Christopher Closeup about his memoir, Burst, Wells said he endured so much pain he felt like Satan was tempting him to give up on life. That’s when he started a contemplative prayer focused on Jesus that calmed him down. At one point, said Wells, he saw Jesus putting His hand on his head and saying, “It’s going to be okay.”
Though Wells slowly found healing with the help of doctors, nurses, and constant care from loved ones, he also credits God—with whom he’s developed a close relationship—for bringing him back from the edge.
He went about doing good and healing. (Acts 10:38)
May I be a source of healing to the suffering, Jesus.
Irish Blessings and Good Wishes
The Irish are known for their way with words, so here is a special wish for St. Patrick’s Day.
“May there always be work for your hands to do / May your purse always hold a coin or two. / May the sun always shine warm on your windowpane, / May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain. / May the hand of a friend always be near you, / And may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.”
Next, a bit of Irish wisdom:
“It's easy to be pleasant when life flows by like a song. / But the man worthwhile is the one who can smile / When everything goes dead wrong.”
Finally, here’s one to make you smile:
“May those who love us, love us. / And those that don't love us, May God turn their hearts. / And if He doesn't turn their hearts, / May He turn their ankles, / So we’ll know them by their limping.”
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
A joyful heart is life itself, and rejoicing lengthens one’s life span. (Sirach 30:22)
Grant me eloquence, wisdom, and joy, Heavenly Father.
At St. Vincent Academy in Newark, New Jersey, students learn more than just school subjects. “Learning compassion is a major theme of our school,” explains the administrative director, Sister June Favata, S.C.
“We must pay attention to the ‘soul and heart’ development of the young women who are students at our school,” she adds.
Toward that end, the high school has a “Students-in-Community” service program. In one activity, freshmen and sophomores welcomed more than 100 special education and special needs children for a festive “compassion” carnival.
“This is about teaching them to be sensitive to other people’s needs,” Sister June explains.
Each of us is called to compassion class every day. It’s what’s good for us—and for our neighbor.
When He went ashore, He saw a great crowd; and He had compassion for them. (Matthew 14:14)
Be merciful with me, Master, when I stumble and fall
Harnessing the Sun
OB-GYN Laura Stachel left her Berkeley, California home to investigate why so many women in Nigeria were dying in hospitals while giving birth. She discovered hospitals there lacked reliable electricity. “I watched [cesarean sections] where the lights would go out and the doctors literally finished with my own flashlight,” she says.
Stachel turned to her husband, who was familiar with ways to create solar electricity. He designed a simple suitcase containing solar panels that convert sunlight to electricity, which is then stored in a battery that hospitals can use to power operating room lights. The suitcases are a work in progress, distributed through their nonprofit, We Care Solar. Cost reduction is being studied to try to reach as many as possible of the estimated 300,000 clinics needing help worldwide. However, 160 clinics have been aided so far with solar suitcases.
Helping others can be a work in progress, but even a small beginning can give others hope.
For You have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress. (Isaiah 25:4)
Lord, help me brighten the lives of others.
Blindness Leads to New Vision
In 1996, 23-year-old David Bigoney was shot in the head by his stepmother, who also killed his father and then herself. Undiscovered for seven hours, Bigoney survived, but was left completely blind. Initially unable to navigate his home without bumping into walls, he began training for Iron Man triathlons to give himself purpose. He finished his first event in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, just minutes before the 17-hour deadline.
Bigoney was surprised to hear he inspired others. “Inspire you? I’m here for me,” he thought. Eventually Bigoney began Team Vision Foundation to help connect those with visual challenges to sports and healthy living. After competing in a 10k run as part of Team Vision, a visually challenged girl named Madison said, “I feel like an eagle!”
Bigoney says he is a better man now than when he was shot on that long ago night. “No pun intended, but it has opened my eyes to a whole other world,” he says.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me.
Guide me through life’s dark valleys, Lord.
Krishna Roy, 83, lives outside of Washington, D.C. She has worn many hats in her lifetime—working for the Indian government, the United Nations and a community-based health care clinic, to name but a few.
As she ages, she sees faith as critical to facing life. “I feel that I have been tested several times, and the kind of faith I grew up with taught me that hope and love are the most important aspects of my life,” she explains.
Roy recalls times when she even fought with others, but faith kept her from becoming bitter or making enemies. “The tolerance, patience, peace, hope and love from faith have been central to my life,” she concludes.
Believing in God’s goodness and manifesting it to others are our best course of action at any age.
The beauty of the aged is their gray hair. (Proverbs 20:29)
Father, Your love for us is everlasting, and for that we give You praise.
A professional musician, Marie Bellet sings about what she knows—as a wife and mother of nine. “A lot of my music is trying to find the supernatural meaning of what we’re doing every day at the grocery store, in the laundry room, at the dining room table,” explains the singer-songwriter to Catholic Digest.
The title of Bellet’s fifth album, Everything Changes, has a deep meaning for her as well. She says, “We have to constantly be open to being transformed. Your life changes constantly. You go from having little kids and being constantly watchful they don’t stick a fork into a light socket, to suddenly they’re…leaving home. One of the hardest things, when your kids are getting older and leaving, is that you realize they are moving out of your comfort zone and they’re going to be facing their own adventures…And God asks us to just trust in Him.”
No matter the changes in life, a focus on love and a search for God’s presence in the details of every day will surely make life better.
I keep the Lord always before me…I shall not be moved. (Psalm 16:8)
In the details of this day, Lord, help me see Your face.
Can Hollywood Forgive Its Own?
Actor/Director Mel Gibson’s public indiscretions and offensive outbursts have been well-documented by the press. Some wondered if he would ever work again. In 2011, at the 25th Annual Cinematheque Award Ceremony, he presented an award to actor Robert Downey Jr. at Downey’s request.
In his acceptance speech, Downey made a stirring plea: “I asked Mel to present this award for a reason. When I couldn’t get sober, he told me not to give up hope and encouraged me to find my faith. It didn’t have to be his or anyone else’s as long as it was rooted in forgiveness. And I couldn’t get hired, so he cast me in the lead of a movie actually developed for him. He kept a roof over my head and food on the table…All he asked in return was that someday I help the next guy in some small way. At the time, he didn’t imagine the next guy would be him…I would ask you to join me, unless you are completely without sin…in forgiving my friend his trespasses and offering him the same clean slate you gave me.”
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you. (Matthew 6:14)
Jesus, help us reflect Your Divine Mercy.
Judging Your Neighbor
In his book series In Conversation with God, Francis Fernandez encourages Christians to become more understanding toward the faults of others, especially during Lent. He writes, “Charity changes the heart so that there is room in it for all, even those who don’t understand us or who fail to respond to our love. With the Lord beside us, we will not feel anyone to be our enemy.”
“[St. Bernard advises], ‘Although you might see something bad, do not instantly judge your neighbor, but, rather, excuse him interiorly. Excuse the intention if you are unable to excuse the action. Consider it as if done in ignorance, or unawares, or through weakness.’”
Fernandez concludes, “Only he who is humble is capable of maintaining an understanding attitude. Otherwise, the tiniest faults of others are magnified, and one tends to justify and minimize one’s own greater faults and errors. Pride is like a curved mirror that distorts the reality of things.”
Maintain constant love for one another. (1 Peter 4:8)
Give me the patience to deal with the faults of others as well as my own, Jesus.
A prominent businessman who was enrolling his son in a prominent university shook his head when he started to examine the institution’s catalogue of studies.
“Does my son have to take all these courses?” he asked the dean. “Can’t you make it shorter? He wants to get out quickly.”
“Certainly he can take a shorter course,” replied the dean. “But it all depends on what he wants to make of himself. When God wants to make an oak, He takes 20 years, but He only takes two months to make a squash.”
Shortcuts attract all of us. And of course, we’re free to take the easy way out. But just as oaks don’t grow overnight, neither do a person’s mind and character. We’ll have to live for all eternity based on the way we form ourselves here on earth.
He that is patient, is governed with much wisdom; but he that is impatient, exalts his folly. (Proverbs 14:29)
Lord, I pray for the patience to develop the best qualities with which You have created me.
No Loaves, but 40 Fish
“Small miracles are all around us,” writes Catholic News Service columnist Father Peter Daly. For instance, a woman in his parish in Prince Frederick, Maryland, who works cleaning houses, took in her three recently-unemployed adult children and their families. Altogether, she now had 18 mouths to feed.
Another parishioner had been catching fish to help feed this mother’s significantly-enlarged table of guests. One day, he enlisted the help of two teenagers from the parish’s Catholic Heart Work Camp for his next fishing trip. After a quick prayer, the three of them went on to catch a whopping total of 40 fish—“one every three minutes.” This extraordinary blessing was enough to feed this woman’s family for several days.
When life’s problems seem too much to bear, say a prayer and have faith that God will provide you with the physical and spiritual help you need. And if you have the opportunity to be a source of blessings for others, put yourself in God’s hands and see what the two of you can accomplish together.
The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places. (Isaiah 58:11)
Christ, may we always trust in Your everlasting bounty.
How to Sharpen a Student
In his monthly Apple Seeds newsletter, Father Brian Cavanaugh recalled asking a college student how her midterm exams went. She replied they weren’t too tough, except for one professor whose tests are “impossible to pass.”
Father Cavanaugh asked, “Do you learn more studying for her tests, or from the teachers that are not so difficult?”
The student admitted she had learned more with the difficult professor, but still wondered why she had to be so tough. Father Cavanaugh then asked if she thinks the best way to sharpen a knife is with a stone or a towel.
“You can’t sharpen a knife on a towel!” the student said.
“Exactly!” he answered. “A knife can only be sharpened on a hard surface so that it will be sharp enough to fulfill its purpose and cut what needs cutting. Students and children, too, cannot be sharpened on soft surfaces. They are sharpened on the hard surfaces of teachers and parents, so that they’ll be sharp enough to cut it in life and fulfill their life’s purpose.”
Those who are wise shall shine. (Daniel 12:3)
Allow the challenges I face to make me better, not bitter, Lord.
How to Talk to God
Prayer is an important part of our Lenten obligations. If you find it difficult to pray, you might simply imagine God speaking to you. His words might sound something like this:
You don’t have to be clever to please Me; all you have to do is want to love Me. Just speak to Me as you would to anyone of whom you are very fond. Are there people you want to pray for? Tell Me their names, and ask as much as you like. Trust Me to do what I know best.
Is there anything you want for your soul? Tell Me if you feel guilty about anything. I will forgive you, but you have to accept My forgiveness.
Tell Me about your self-centeredness, and your laziness. I love you in spite of your faults. Do not hesitate to ask Me for blessings for mind and body. I can give everything you need for a happier, holier life. Are you afraid of anything? Trust yourself to Me. I am here. I see everything. I will never leave you.
I prayed, and understanding was given me; I called on God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. (Wisdom of Solomon 7:7)
Jesus, guide my mind and heart in prayer.
When Scottish famine relief worker Magnus MacFarlane Barrow traveled to Malawi in 2002, a child he met there told him that his only wish—and by extension, the wish of most children—was “to have enough food to eat and to go to school one day.”
That encounter, coupled with his desire to follow Jesus’ command to feed the hungry, led Barrow to create Mary’s Meals. The Scottish-based organization feeds over 500,000 people in 16 poor countries including Kenya, Malawi, Sudan and Haiti. It often concentrates on providing meals to preschoolers who are particularly vulnerable to hunger-related diseases.
As reported in the National Catholic Register, Barrow’s efforts now include drought-stricken areas of Africa. He says, “The situation in east Africa has become increasingly desperate, with failed rains leading to dire food and water shortages.”
Through one man’s initiative and Christ-like compassion, there are less starving children in the world. Foster that same kind of initiative and compassion in your life.
I will abundantly bless its provisions; I will satisfy its poor with bread. (Psalm 132:15)
Holy Spirit, help me feed the hungry in body and spirit.
A Healthy Helping of Healing
Gilbert McClure, a retired Kansas cattle rancher, lists his recently deceased son John’s best qualities: integrity, sincerity, honesty. That last one digs deep into his sorrow. You see, John took his own life, and admitting that is heartbreaking.
His parents didn’t see his death coming; his personality was the opposite of his actions. John was a chef whose popular restaurant was always full. But as his mother Marilyn told The Kansas City Star, “You have to face the truth so you can start the healing. When you say suicide, invariably, someone else will open up.”
Now, his parents are using their son’s death for suicide prevention. Gilbert also finds solace in the thought that John is still cooking: “Let the Lord know he got himself a great chef.”
Pain that’s shared can often be lightened because you’re no longer bearing the burden alone. It is also the first step toward healing.
Pray for one another, so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
Lord, You never promised an easy life. Give us the strength to follow You.
Love to the Rescue
“All I want is for her to live, I don’t care if she is injured or not,” Lieutenant Onur Eryasar of the Turkish Air Force told a Reuters news photographer. He was speaking of his 25-year-old fiancé, who was trapped under rubble following an earthquake in Turkey. “It doesn’t matter, I just want her alive.”
Upon learning of the quake, the lieutenant rushed from his military base to the scene of devastation. He determined from friends that his fiancé had been there having lunch in a restaurant. Lieutenant Eryasar located the place in the dark and shouted her name. “Hearing the voices of other people trapped in the collapsed building, he persuaded one of the rescue teams to begin digging,” Reuters News Service reported.
After 18 hours pinned under bricks and debris, the young woman and two colleagues were rescued alive and conscious. Thanks to Eryasar’s love-fueled persistence, a young life was saved.
Where there is love, miracles can happen.
Love…believes all things…endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13; 7, 8)
Inspire us, Holy Spirit, to love one another.
A Three Dollar Lesson
When National Catholic Register writer Matthew Archbold arrived in Virginia on a business trip, he asked an elderly man inside the train station for directions. The chatty stranger not only gave him directions, but offered to walk him to his destination. Archbold writes, “I refused…Being a Northener, I figured anyone being this nice was selling something.”
Archbold later returned to the station where he again saw the stranger. Ever a talker, the man revealed that he had been visiting Virginia for his high school reunion when he suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized. With his ticket expired, he was waiting for a check that would allow him to buy a new ticket. Feeling bad at having been standoffish, Archbold offered him $10 to buy food. The man said three dollars would be fine.
He went off and returned an hour later. Archbold assumed he had eaten. Then, a homeless man entered the station, walked up to Archbold’s new friend, and thanked him for buying him a hot dog. The stranded stranger had used the three dollars to help someone else in greater need. It was an example of selflessness that Archbold says he will never forget.
Love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:31)
Open my eyes to the needs of others, Lord.
No Tempers in Thailand
A travel magazine offered this tip about what not to bring on a trip to Thailand—your temper. In fact, Thais consider such emotional wrath to be a form of insanity.
The culture in this Asian nation instead celebrates jai yen, the art of keeping a “cool heart,” and that means keeping your anger in check no matter the circumstances.
What’s the secret for such a serene demeanor? It’s another characteristic of Thai culture—mai pen, or “never mind.” Thais take problems in stride. Life is meant to be enjoyed, they say.
Not every experience will keep us calm, cool and collected. But during those times that don’t, we need to keep in mind only the boundless love and mercy of God for us all.
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him. (Psalm 103:11)
Lord, You are slow to anger and rich in kindness; send me Your Spirit this day.
The Unexpected Road to God
“None of the characters went looking for God, but God found them,” said writer/director/producer Emilio Estevez about his Christopher Award-winning movie, The Way.
It tells the story of Tom, an American doctor whose son, Daniel, dies while on the historical pilgrimage called the Camino de Santiago in France and Spain. Because of his strained relationship with Daniel, Tom decides to honor his memory by embarking on the pilgrimage himself. Along the road, he’s joined by other travelers whose friendship he comes to value.
The film’s sense of community has a special resonance for Estevez. He explained on Christopher Closeup, “One of the great salvations of my life is that I live very close to my parents. We talk daily. In this film, you have four pilgrims who are without family. Then they find each other. They need community more than anything else…That is the biggest theme of the film. These people realize that what ultimately connects them is their humanity and brokenness.”
God created us to be in relationship with one another. Be open to building new, healing friendships in your life.
Be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. (Psalm 25:16)
Lead me toward fulfilling relationships, Lord.
The Duke’s Witness of Faith
Father Matthew Muñoz from the Diocese of Orange, California, has an impressive lineage. His grandfather is Academy Award-winning actor John Wayne.
In an interview with Catholic News Agency, Father Muñoz explained Wayne’s spiritual path: “He was raised with a lot of Christian principles and a Bible faith that, I think, had a strong impact upon him.”
In 1933, Wayne married a young Catholic woman named Josephine who is Father Muñoz’s grandmother. The priest said, “He was constantly at Church events…After a while, he got the sense that the common secular vision of what Catholics are—and what his own experience actually was—were becoming two different things.”
Though Wayne and Josephine civilly divorced in 1945, she never stopped praying for him and his conversion. That prayer was answered in 1978, the year before the actor’s death. Father Muñoz said, “He wanted to become baptized and become Catholic. It was wonderful to see him come to the faith and leave that witness for our whole family.”
Come, let us return to the Lord. (Hosea 6:1)
Lead me in Your ways, Jesus.
Paralyzed Youth Inspires Hockey Players
In December 2011, Minnesota teen Jack Jablonski was paralyzed from the neck down after taking a hit from behind into the boards during a junior-varsity hockey game. The injury touched the hearts of players throughout the National Hockey League.
New York Rangers rookie defenseman Stu Bickel was first to respond by donating a jersey a few days after the injury. Fans and professional players from across the country have shown an outpouring of support. More importantly, within a month of Jablonski’s injury, USA Hockey—the U.S. body governing ice hockey—began assessing more severe penalties for boarding and checking from behind to help reduce player injury.
Jablonski’s recovery has been greatly improved from the initial diagnosis, with movement in his right and left arms. He works hard at therapy, bolstered by frequent calls and visits from the professional players he admires.
Life may seem bleak at times, but great good can come from it if we help each other.
As you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation. (2 Corinthians 1:7)
Lord, help me remember that You want all good for us.
We’re Called to Serve
How many people every day walk by a homeless person without a second glance? Bishop Chatard High School sophomore Abby Wuensch admits to having done so. After taking part in a homelessness immersion program conducted through her Indianapolis school, however, the teen says she’ll never do so again.
“I’ve had my eyes opened,” Wuensch confided to Criterion reporter John Shaughnessy. “I’ve learned that I shouldn’t be awkward around homeless people. I should give them a smile.”
This program, created by religion teacher Sister Kathleen Keadon, helped its participating students and teachers to see homeless people in a new, more compassionate light.
“[The program] made me see the human dignity in everybody,” English/theater teacher Abby Funk confessed. “It’s made me smile at people more.”
Jesus said the poor will always be with us. Therefore, we shouldn’t retreat from the impoverished in fear, but rather reach out to them in love and understanding.
For the needy shall not always be forgotten. (Psalm 9:18)
Lord, help us to uphold the human dignity of all Your children, rich or poor.
A Fresh (Vegetable) Approach to Feeding the Hungry
St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, takes the Bible’s urging to “feed the hungry” seriously. The parish is known for its outreach programs, including an active youth ministry and a Philoptochos chapter of the largest organization of Orthodox women in the country. These Philoptochos societies raise money for all sorts of worthy charities.
“Perhaps our most innovative outreach program is a vegetable garden, the proceeds of which are donated to a local food bank,” parish priest Father Nicholas Pathenos informs the Orthodox Observer.
Ironically, although Bloomfield Hills was once one of the five richest cities in the United States, the recent unemployment rise has created a need for more charitable outreach than ever.
“My biggest challenge is dealing with the economic impact…on people’s lives,” Father Nicholas admits. “I do a lot of counseling.”
Each of us has the power to help the less fortunate.
Give, and it will be given to you. (Luke 6:38)
Lord, may we seek fresh approaches to assist the impoverished.
An Olympic Gymnast’s Blessings
“God has given me this awesome talent to represent Him. Glory goes up to Him, and the blessings fall down on us,” said 16-year-old gymnast Gabby Douglas, after winning the gold medal in the 2012 Olympic women’s all-around competition.
Douglas has turned to God throughout her life during times of physical training and emotional turmoil, such as her parents’ divorce and living apart from her mother, Natalie Hawkins.
Though Hawkins was reluctant, she allowed her daughter to move from Virginia Beach, Virginia to West Des Moines, Iowa, in 2010 so she could work with Liang Chow, the coach who trained Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson. Unable to afford living expenses, Douglas was welcomed into the home of Missy Parton, her husband and four children who cared for her like a member of their own family. Hawkins, meanwhile, sent her daughter Bible passages twice daily to keep her grounded.
Yes, Gabby Douglas is grateful to her Father in heaven for showering blessings on her. Those blessings include two loving mothers, Natalie and Missy, who made her dreams possible.
Cast all your anxiety on [God]. (1 Peter 5:7)
Guide my steps as I walk life’s winding roads, Jesus.
Helping After School
After graduating from high school, Demetrius Phillips had one wish—to help others.
The Oakland, California teen found the right fit in an organization called Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships. The group focuses on preventing teen dating violence and abuse.
Phillips visits places frequented by teens his age and talks with his peers about understanding and preventing abuse. “Teen violence is not taken seriously,” he says, believing it has direct connection to a young person’s own family and friends, in some cases. He also points out that a teenage male who abuses his girlfriend is likely to become an adult who abuses a child. He and others feel strongly about stopping that from happening.
No matter our age, we’re called to understand and respect the dignity and inherent worth of all around us.
Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct. (1 Timothy 4:12)
Fill my heart with Your gentle Spirit, Lord.
February 20, 2013
The Importance of Forgiveness
Steve Wayne of Louisville, Kentucky, had a challenging relationship with his father, Bill, who often treated him harshly. Yet Bill also had a generous side which allowed him to be a foster father to teens without a responsible parent to care for them.
Later in life, when Bill, now a double amputee, was in poor health, Steve would help his mother care for him. One day, Bill asked why the son he treated the worst would care for him, especially in light of the fact that Steve suffered with chronic anxiety. “I did this to you,” Bill said.
Steve responded, “Dad, that was 30 years ago…You did what you thought was right. If it matters to you, I forgive you.”
Steve writes, “The truth is I had forgiven him 20 years before that day, but my father held that guilt in his heart. I learned from my mother that he felt guilt up to the day he died. That is sorrowful news, for there is much about my father that I inherited that was a blessing...Dad, we had our ups and downs, but I love you still…You live in our hearts just as you live in heaven.”
Bear with one another, and…forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you. (Colossians 3:13)
Strengthen the bonds between parents and children, Jesus.
Made in His Image
“I don’t think I would be alive today if it wasn’t for the hope God had to offer that there is so much more to life than the suffering I was going through at the time.”
For 26-year-old New Jersey native Maura Byrne, that suffering stemmed from 15 years of physical abuse, an eating disorder and serious self-image issues. The turning point in Maura’s struggles occurred during a summer she spent in Calcutta, India, volunteering with the late Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. Though raised by Catholic parents, Maura had no conception of the role God’s love could play in her life.
Maura says, “One of the missionaries told me about God the Father’s love. I remember breaking down in tears, and I wanted to get to know this loving God. It happened through time spent in Eucharistic adoration, discovering my dignity as a daughter of God created in His image and likeness.”
Maura has now created a ministry called Made In His Image which provides support and counseling to young women dealing with abuse and eating disorders.
Seek Me and live. (Amos 5:4)
Jesus, help me see myself through Your eyes.
The Cancer Year
When singer/songwriter Audrey Assad married William Price III in February 2011, it was a happy moment for both of them. Then, cancer intruded on their joy.
Price was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma within weeks of their wedding. The doctors assured him this was the best type of cancer to have because it was treatable and curable.
That began what Price calls his “cancer year.” Though chemotherapy was difficult, he chose to focus on the positive.
On his blog, the now cancer-free Price wrote, “The Cancer Year is not marked by disease; it is marked by the unity of Joy and Suffering—not joy and suffering experienced alternately, but together, united. So far, marriage and cancer have served the same purpose, namely, to unite me with Christ on the Cross. The consolation of accompanying Christ in spirit at a place where He was physically alone is so sweet, like nothing I’ve known…I would never wish chemotherapy on my worst enemy, but I would never take that experience back. It was an opportunity to see love from my wife and friends and family that I could never have otherwise seen.”
He has given us a new birth into a living hope. (1 Peter 1:3)
Heal my physical and spiritual ills, Savior.
Some Alone Time with God
Criterion writer Marcellino D’Ambrosio schedules some “alone time” with God when he feels the stresses of life overtaking him. Specifically, he visits a monastery to enhance his prayer life. “Prayer is like breathing,” D’Ambrosio writes in the Indianapolis archdiocesan newspaper. “All Christians need to do it continually to survive.”
The monks and the nuns that D’Ambrosio visits are living reminders of lives blessed by constant communion with God. D’Ambrosio remembers one aspect of a Trappist monastery that particularly resonated with him.
“I was struck by the words chiseled in stone above the door—‘God Alone,’” D’Ambrosio recounts. “A monastery is a place where men or women live alone, apart from…secular life. Whether it be for a morning, day, weekend or full week of retreat, entering into the rhythm of the monks’ prayer and solitude helps me restore my focus and energy.”
May we all be so similarly inspired to take deep breaths, and reconnect with God.
Answer me when I call, God of my right! (Psalm 4:1)
Father, strengthen the bonds of our heavenly communion.
Become a “Good Conductor”
When he was a poor student desperate to get home to see his dying mother, British writer Bernard Hare was in a bind. He had missed the last train for the day that would take him directly home, but bought a ticket for another train, knowing he’d likely miss his connection. He was also unable to afford a taxi.
Fortunately the “Good Conductor,” as Hare calls him, noticed his distress and offered help even after being rebuffed. The trainman radioed ahead to his colleagues and had the connecting train held up until Hare could board. The youth was rendered speechless. He didn’t know how to repay this generous man. The conductor replied, “The next time you see someone in trouble, you help them out. Tell them to pay you back the same way and soon the world will be a better place.”
Hare retells his story to inspire the troubled youngsters he mentors today, saying, “My meeting with the Good Conductor changed me from a selfish, potentially violent hedonist into a decent human being.”
Be a “Good Conductor” of kindness.
The fruit of the spirit is love. (Galatians 5:22)
Generous Father, help me spread kindnesses today.
February 14, 2013
A Love From Here to Eternity
The late Sargent Shriver was one of the most admired public servants of the 20th century. An integral part of the Kennedy administration, he founded the Peace Corps, and later served as President of the Special Olympics which his wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, created for children with intellectual disabilities.
The devotion Shriver and his wife shared throughout their 56 years of marriage was grounded in mutual respect and love for God. In the book, A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver, their son Mark prints a letter his father once wrote to his mother that demonstrates how deep his love went.
It reads, “If I end up in heaven someday with our most precious Lord and Savior, you my courageous and wise wife will be the single most important reason for my being there. Second only to our Lord himself, you will have saved my soul—by your intelligence, your example, your dedication to our Lord and to the Blessed Mother, by your faith and by your love.”
Let your spouse know how much he or she means to you—and center your lives around God.
Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:8)
Bless all married couples, Jesus.
An All Star Legacy
Six-time NBA All-Star Jack Twyman, who died in May 2012, achieved some great feats on the basketball court. His greatest legacy, however, is the extraordinary kindness he showed to an injured teammate.
In the Cincinnati Royals’ final game of the 1957-58 season, Maurice Stokes flew over the shoulders of an opponent and hit his head on the floor. He was left permanently paralyzed.
Stokes had no one to care for him, so Twyman leapt into the breach. He became Stokes’ legal guardian, helped him learn to communicate again, and raised money for his medical expenses. After Stokes died in 1970, Twyman pressed for his admission to the Hall of Fame. When Stokes was finally elected, in 2004, it was Twyman who accepted the honor for his friend.
And one more thing. In 1958—when the civil rights movement was only beginning—Twyman did what he did even though he was white and Stokes was black. Why? He told the New York Times, “Something had to be done and someone had to do it. I was the only one there, so I became that someone.”
Bear one another’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2)
Show me, Lord, how to help others.
February 11, 2013
Wishing to Remember
Almost 70 years ago, Dorothy Flood was denied access to a train dining car because she was black.
Traveling with her grandmother from New Jersey to North Carolina, Flood recalls what happened once they crossed the Mason-Dixon Line: “The African-Americans would go in the back, and white people would go into separate cars.”
When granted a wish to enjoy a meal in that dining car today—thanks to Jeremy Bloom’s Wish of a Lifetime, an organization that grants wishes to adults 65 and older—Flood had the chance to dine in style, giving thanks that times had changed for her and for all people of color.
“Oh, she would have loved this,” Flood said while enjoying dessert and thinking of her late grandmother.
Remembering the mistakes of the past helps ensure that we don’t repeat them, while also reminding us not to hurt ourselves or our neighbors in the future.
Justice and only justice you shall pursue. (Deuteronomy 16:20)
We are all Your family, Father, and we give praise to Your name.
February 10, 2013
Jesus and the Bikers
Finding groups of Christians who are committed to spreading the Gospel may not seem odd. What is perhaps unusual is the focus of one ministry—bikers.
The Freedom Biker Church has branches in the Carolinas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Colorado, and even British Columbia, Canada. Its mission—reach out to bikers who would probably not be too comfortable walking into a mainstream church.
“Everybody in the world is looking for acceptance, security, significance and a real genuine love from somebody,” explains church founder Mike Beasley. “And what Freedom Church really is, is just taking the essence of the church in our relationship with Jesus Christ and saying there are no pretenses here, no walls. You come as you are.”
God’s love is unconditional. He invites us into relationship with Him just the way we are. It is through that transforming relationship, however, that we can grow to become better than we’ve ever been.
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and spread the good news to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15)
Lord, may I accept my neighbor as a reflection of You.
Recognize and Stop Cyberbullying
Many adults dismiss schoolyard bullying as a normal rite of passage. But things have changed in this Internet age.
“The explosion of technology in recent years has given rise to the phenomenon known as ‘cyberbullying,’ which involves using the Internet or other mobile devices to send or post harmful or cruel texts or images,” Allyson Bowen, a clinical social worker from Columbia, South Carolina, tells the Catholic Chronicle.
According to Bowen, we once imagined a bully to be a burly boy picking on smaller kids on the playground. Now the problem is also girls targeting other girls on the Internet. In fact, Allyson notes that now girls “are about twice as likely as boys to be not only victims but perpetrators” of cyberbullying.
“Everyone has been targeted at some point in his or her life,” says Bowen. “The difference between us being targets and becoming victims is our coping skills.”
Teach your kids empathy as well as what they need to know to protect themselves in this new technological era.
In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law. (Matthew 7:12)
Dear God, heal those in need of Your comfort
February 8, 2013
Learning to Shelve Your Pride
Part-time nurse and mother of seven Molly Beck from Westfield, Indiana, knows how irresistible it can be to want to handle everything by yourself. However, there was one moment at a school event for her kindergartener several years back which changed this stubborn determination.
Beck made her way through the buffet line with her kids and a stroller in tow. Though other parents offered to help carry food for her and her family, Beck refused all assistance and instructed her kids to carry their own plates. Her back hadn’t been turned for two seconds when her oldest daughter, Natalie, started crying because her plate and bagel had fallen onto the floor. As Beck comforted her daughter, she thought about her pride, what it had caused her to do, and how wrong she’d been.
“We are called by our very human nature to help each other out,” Beck claims. “These days, when I am offered help, my instinct is still to demur. But when I remember the sight of those tears, I swallow that bitter pill of pride and say…‘Yes, please.’”
Never be afraid to accept and offer help.
Pride goes before destruction. (Proverbs 16:18)
Jesus, may we never be too prideful to accept help.
February 7, 2013
History in a School
Back in the 19th century, Cornelia Peacock Connelly, a native of Philadelphia, found herself separated from her husband and living, with her three children, in England. There she started a Religious Community—the Society of the Holy Child Jesus—focusing on educating the children of English Catholics and Irish immigrants.
By the time of her death in 1879, the Society had started in America. Her vision—transforming lives through education—lives on in schools like Cornelia Middle School (CMS) of the Holy Child on New York City’s Lower East Side.
Says Sonia Rivas, a graduate: “I made it through high school with the help of the CMS support program, and now I am a freshman at John Jay Criminal College in New York City.”
The good we do can have a ripple effect far past our own lifetimes, helping others achieve their own greatness.
Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity. (Titus 2:7)
Teach me Your ways, Lord.
February 6, 2013
In the media coverage of activist Chen Guangcheng’s fight to leave his native China for the United States, some focused on his blindness as a key element in that story, while others thought it peripheral.
“His blindness did not give him any particular bravery or insight,” wrote one author. “It is just a factor in a much larger life.” Conversely, a journalist saw his lack of sight as “the central fact” of his existence.
Blind from a young age, Guangcheng managed to study law. His work on behalf of human rights in his homeland—particularly for those persons with disabilities—had landed him in jail, and had him placed under house arrest where he was beaten. In 2012, he was allowed to move to the United States.
A focus on his blindness aside, it is clear that Guancheng sees clearly what should be important to each one of us: the inherent worth and dignity of every human being.
There is no longer Jew or Greek…there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Jesus Christ. (Galatians 3:28)
All around me, Father, I see the beauty of Your creation.
February 5, 2013
Wake Up Call—Take Two
You open your eyes to begin the day—and it’s suddenly a disaster. Maybe your children are throwing a collective “I don’t want to get up!” tantrum. Or perhaps the morning news program pronounces packed roadways or troubles on commuter trains.
Press “rewind” on the day’s start with these three steps.
▪ Find the light. Stand in a sunny spot in your home for just a few minutes to absorb the brightness and warmth, natural mood elevators.
▪ Shake it off—literally. Walk quickly around the house, or up and down the stairs, helping your brain get the “feel better” message.
▪ Smile. While you may not feel like it, the act of smiling makes you and those around you feel better. Others will instinctively reflect back what they see.
Good or bad start, each day is an opportunity to make the world a better place for others and for yourself.
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
Sunrise to sunset, You are my strength, Father, giving meaning to my life.
A Suitcase for Dreams
As a flight attendant, Kary Doerfler of Seattle, Washington, made many journeys, logging miles across the globe. But one trip—to Accra, Ghana, in Africa—changed the direction of her life.
While there, she started volunteering at the Osu Children’s Home orphanage, bringing them supplies whenever she returned. Soon she realized she wanted to do more than just make a visit, give out toys and go home.
So Doerfler started a non-profit organization called Dreams for Orphans to provide a home and an education for orphans in developing countries. Fellow flight attendants joined her in the effort.
“After 20 years of flying, we have all found our calling and passion within the spirits of these children,” Doerfler says.
Life’s journey takes us to many places; at each stop, there’s an opportunity to connect with new hearts.
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God…and…God is love. (1 John 4:7,8)
Father, help me to show Your love to all in need.
Let the Lower Lights Be Burning
The Lower Lights, a gospel group that performs classic hymns with a folk/bluegrass flavor, took its name from one of the songs they recorded: Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy.
In a sermon, 19th-century preacher Dwight L. Moody told the story of a Lake Erie ship that crashed into the shore of a Cleveland harbor during a violent storm one night, killing many on board. Though the lighthouse shone brightly, its lower lights, which guide ships safely to shore, were not working. Moody concluded, “Brethren, the Master will take care of the great lighthouse; let us keep the lower lights burning.”
That imagery impressed Moody’s friend, composer Philip Paul Bliss, so he turned it into a hymn: “Brightly beams our Father's mercy from His lighthouse evermore. / But to us He gives the keeping of the lights along the shore. / Let the lower lights be burning! Send a gleam across the wave! / Some poor fainting, struggling sea-man you may rescue, you may save.”
The Lower Lights now hope their music will serve as a little piece of God’s light in the world.
I am the light of the world. (John 8:12)
Help me reflect Your light, Father.
February 2, 2013
Gifted Teacher Inspires Many
When Jacksonville Beach, Florida teacher Mike Tetlow died unexpectedly, First Coast News writer Erin Hawley shared his story along with the tributes sent in to honor him.
On his honeymoon 18 years ago, a car accident left Tetlow paralyzed. Using a power-driven wheelchair, he returned to teaching at St. Paul’s Catholic School where students and faculty admired him for being passionate, demanding, and encouraging, while never dwelling on his disability. His assistant principal, Krissy Thompson, added that he showed youngsters they could do just about anything if they put enough thought and effort into it.
One of his students, Katie, further asserted that Tetlow was “an example of strength and humility…He depended on a few student volunteers to help him during lunch every day—setting out his pills and meal for him. He had a way about him that put me, and other students who did this for him, at ease.”
Another one of his pupils, Brooke, concluded, “He was a teacher, father, husband, Christ-believer, comedian, and a fighter.” May we all be motivated by Mike Tetlow’s example.
Therefore be imitators of God. (Ephesians 5:1)
Move us, Holy Spirit, to inspire others by example.
February 1, 2013
Transforming Hate Into Love
While visiting his sons’ video production office in Chicago, Christopher Award-winning Today Show producer Mike Leonard met 63-year-old postal worker James Hundley. Leonard’s reaction: “Never have I met a more friendly, polite, upbeat person.” Those personality traits were surprising in light of Hundley’s background facing down hatred and violence.
In the mid 1960’s, Hundley joined his fellow African-Americans in peacefully marching for civil rights in his native Mississippi. He was cursed at, spit upon, had rocks thrown at him, was threatened with guns, and arrested. Hundley told Leonard, “I was angry but…I’ve gotten past that.”
Leonard notes that Hundley absorbed the hate, then “transformed it into a genuine display of good will toward others.” How did he manage that transformation?
Hundley explains, “My mother and father always taught us good values—that no matter what, you should love others. Love is the strongest force in the universe.”
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience. (Galatians 5:22)
Move me beyond past hurts toward love, Jesus.
January 31, 2013
Six journals filled with hand-written praise and thanks from everyday Americans are among Sgt. Timothy Gallagher's most prized possessions. Deployed in Afghanistan, Gallagher is one of the soldiers “adopted” by Delta flight attendant Robin Schmidt, who regularly passes journals around domestic flights for passengers to write notes to members of the U.S. military.
Messages are wide-ranging, including jokes, thank-you letters, condolences, and surprising confessions. Afghan and Iraqi passengers have sent thanks for helping their countrymen.
“I thought it was amazing,” says Army Specialist Jonathan Pacheco, who Schmidt also adopted. “I didn’t think there were that many people that supported the cause.” Soldiers say they keep every journal, though they often share them with others.
The journals have turned into a passion inspiring Schmidt, the soldiers, and those writing them.
All the brethren send greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. (1 Corinthians 16:20)
Lord, thank You for the gift of community—and for the gift of our selfless servicemen and women.
January 30, 2013
From Toledo to Tanzania
Meeting someone on a plane can be memorable, but rarely does it lead to selling one’s home, moving to Tanzania, helping start a Catholic university, and converting to Catholicism. Yet that’s what happened when Toledo, Ohio’s Don Stiles met Tanzanian Archbishop Paul R. Ruzoka on a flight in 2009.
Stiles and his wife, Gisela, became friendly with the archbishop, and grew to support his mission to build a university in Tabora, Tanzania, so much that they moved there. Though not Catholic themselves, they were so lovingly welcomed by the community they began looking into converting. Several bouts of malaria forced the Stiles to return to Toledo, where they now run a nonprofit that raises money for projects in Tanzania.
One goal is building a sanctuary and providing educations for albino children. Albinos in Tanzania are regularly kidnapped, mutilated and killed for superstitious reasons. “These children need to be protected,” says Mrs. Stiles.
Life is full of unexpected surprises when you put yourself in God’s hands.
The Lord…will keep your life. (Psalm 121:7)
Lord, protect Your most innocent.
January 29, 2013
Powering Up the Will
Our daily lives are full of temptations that tax our self-control and drain our willpower—forcing us, at times, to lash out or give in to bad choices.
According to Roy Baumeister, Ph.D., director of social psychology at Florida State University, willpower functions like a muscle. It can be fatigued by overuse, but strengthened by some healthy habits to make you more productive, less stressed and happier. Here are two tips from Baumeister.
▪ Play offense. People with strong self-control spend less time resisting and more time planning ahead—setting themselves up for success.
▪ Use the calm before it storms. You can’t control or predict life’s surprise stresses but let the peaceful moments prepare you for difficult situations. Don’t add to stressful times with more stress; use your willpower wisely.
In any moment, our will to do good can be strengthened with a prayerful appeal to God.
If any of you lacks wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously. (James 1:5)
I place my trust in You, Lord; You are my hope.
January 28, 2013
Beauty and Brains
Well-known for her beauty, actress Hedy Lamarr had another side. Growing up Jewish in Austria, Lamarr was fascinated by science. Later on in Hollywood, since she wasn’t they type to party, she looked for something to occupy her time. She discovered that she had a talent for inventing.
Obsessed with helping the war effort—especially after Nazi submarines sank a cruise ship of British schoolchildren in 1940—Lamarr invented a radio guidance system that could help the U.S. military. Though it was too difficult to implement, it would become the precursor to many wireless technologies we use today, including Bluetooth, GPS and cell phone networks. It wasn’t until the 1990s, when Lamarr was in her early 80s, that her pioneering efforts were recognized and honored.
Every life is multiple-faceted, with interests and gifts able to make life better for all.
Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father. (Matthew 5:14)
You have planted Your spark of life within me, Lord. May I honor this great gift.
January 27, 2013
No Age Restrictions on Service
The Hahn brothers have long found meaning in life by serving others. Both 85-year-old Lawrence and 95-year-old Father Bernardine were inspired as boys by the example of the Franciscan brothers at Immaculate Conception parish in Omaha, Nebraska.
Lawrence has worked for the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s food pantry and currently visits hospitalized and homebound parishioners from his current parish, Holy Ghost. “Caring for others gives me a complete spiritual feeling,” he told The Catholic Voice.
The same holds true for his brother, Father Bernardine, who has been a Franciscan for the past 75 years. “I enjoy being a priest,” Father Bernadine testifies. “That’s what keeps me going….I’m not going to retire until I have to. From reading, I know that people who retire don’t often live long. They need activities to keep them going. What I do is what energizes me.”
Remember, Jesus never put any age restrictions on serving others. Help those in need for as long as you can.
So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim Your might. (Psalm 72:18)
May we always look for the true meaning of life, Jesus.
January 26, 2013
Being a Peacemaker
Maryknoll Father James Keller, the founder of The Christophers, encouraged everyone he met to be a Christopher—a Christ-bearer—in the truest sense of the word. One of his suggestions for doing that involved being a peacemaker.
Father Keller once wrote, “You can do more than you think to bring to all men that precious peace for which the human heart yearns. Almighty God has placed in your hand a share of His peace. He expects you to keep a bit of it for yourself. But the rest of it is intended for everybody. And according to His divine plan, He sends that peace to others through you and millions of others like you. But no angel will come down from heaven and point the way for you. God leaves it up to you to discover for yourself how and where you will deliver or transmit that peace the world needs so much today.”
Father Keller concludes, “Here then is the sublime commission that has been given to each of us: to take Christ’s peace into our hearts and our homes, so that it will radiate from there to every part of the world.”
A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. (James 3:18)
Make me a peacemaker, Prince of Peace.
January 25, 2013
A Good and Perfect Gift
After her daughter, Penny, was born with Down syndrome, Amy Julia Becker admits to feeling grief and fear intermingled with the natural joy of having a new baby. As someone who'd always been devoted to her Christian faith, she engaged in some emotional and spiritual wrestling about how Down syndrome fit into God's plan.
A friend told Becker that when she first heard the baby’s diagnosis, she was reminded of the Bible verse, “Whoever receives this child, receives me.” Those words gave Becker a new perspective that would develop even further over time.
In her Christopher Award-winning memoir A Good and Perfect Gift, Becker notes that she eventually came to see Penny not as a diagnosis, but simply as her daughter. She and her husband, Peter, came to a new understanding of parental love, God's grace, and finding strength in weakness.
Sometimes the situations we initially perceive as burdens can actually be blessings in disguise.
Whoever welcomes one such child in My name welcomes Me. (Matthew 18:5)
Open my heart to children with challenges, Messiah.
January 24, 2013
When we are created, we are given special talents, though we don’t yet know it. We’re endowed with the ability to love, and this love will manifest itself in different ways throughout life. For Lorie Burcham of Nashville, Tennessee, her purpose was expressed through baking.
Burcham and her husband worked in youth ministry for 14 years, and were looking for more ways to help pay the bills and feed their family. Her love of baking started out as a way to earn extra money, but soon turned into a passion and a booming business. With extra effort and a special technique called “infusion,” which keeps wedding cakes moist and delicious through a marinating process, Burcham and her husband were invited onto the Food Network twice for cake-baking challenges.
Thanks to the increased publicity the TV exposure brought them, the couple is now running a café, alongside their cake studio, where they are able to sell their delicious desserts.
How can you use your God-given talents to make life a little sweeter?
In all toil there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. (Proverbs 14:22-23)
Lord, I do not know how or when You will use my talents, but let all I do glorify You!
January 23, 2013
Sharing God's Love with a Bike Ride
A new bike is a dream come true for many children. However, for Francessca Robertson, a four-year-old quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, a bicycle seemed like an impossible dream. Connie and Gordon Hankins, however, make impossible dreams come true. They modify standard tricycles with special handlebars, pedals, and axles for children with special needs. All this is done for a fraction of the cost of other adapted tricycles, although the Hankins invest a lot of personal time on the project.
“The driving force is our faith because we want to pass God’s love on to those that need it,” Connie Hankins says. “You see these children and the joy it brings them. That is our blessing.”
Francessca is not likely to forget that blessing as she pedals her new red and white bike (with pink streamers and rhinestone bell) around her suburban Chicago neighborhood as fast as her older brothers, just like the other kids.
What can you do to help others using skills or materials you already have?
There was not a needy person among them; distribution was made to each as any had need. (Acts 4:34-35)
Open my eyes, Jesus, to how I could be helping others.
January 22, 2013
The Choice to Save Mothers and Babies
In 1981, Wall Street executive Kathy DiFiore realized she was feeling spiritually unfulfilled. She asked for God’s guidance while praying the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. Inspired to learn more about the saint’s life, she discovered that he took Jesus’s words very seriously—feed the hungry, shelter the homeless. As DiFiore recalled on Christopher Closeup, “It motivated me to do something unique.”
With a heart for the unborn—and an awareness that many families would throw their daughter out of the house when they discovered she was pregnant—DiFiore decided to offer her New Jersey home as a shelter for a pregnant teenager.
In the ensuing years, that effort has grown to become the non-profit, Several Sources Shelters. They own and run five New Jersey facilities that have saved thousands of babies.
In addition, DiFiore founded a national pro-life website, LifeCall.org. It lists contact information for shelters and crisis pregnancy centers in every state in the U.S. and offers a toll-free number of its own: 1-800-NO-ABORT (662-2678).
Act with steadfast love. (Jeremiah 9:24)
Create in me, O Lord, a compassionate heart.
January 21, 2013
Let Freedom Ring
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the leading figure of the 1960s civil rights movement. His “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered in 1963 before 200,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., remains a model of eloquence.
Dr. King began by stating his intention to “cash a check,” the promise that President Lincoln had given to black people 100 years earlier when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. “We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity in this nation,” he said.
He urged listeners not to give in to “bitterness and hatred,” or to turn to violence. He said, “We must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” Then Dr. King reached the “I have a dream” section of the speech, channeling the voice of Isaiah as he proclaimed that “the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.”
“Let freedom ring,” he pleaded, until all people are “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous. (Proverbs 21:15)
Help me treat all people with dignity, Creator.
January 20, 2013
Few Words Spoken But Much Said
Christopher Klusman was born deaf so he understands the feelings of isolation and marginalization that a lack of hearing can bring. Now that he’s been ordained a Catholic priest, he hopes to be a bridge of inclusion to the deaf parishioners of St. Roman’s Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
With an estimated three to five million deaf Catholics in the United States, Father Klusman knows he is serving a traditionally under-served community. After the 34-year-old finished celebrating Mass in American Sign Language, he was happily greeted by the congregation. “I feel like I’ve learned more about my faith from him than I have my whole life,” parishioner Karen Lausten told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It’s so important to have a priest that understands our language, our culture.”
Father Klusman embodies a “joyful boyishness” irresistible to everyone he meets. In his ministry, he strives to show deaf people they are loved by God. “They are equal members of the body of Christ,” he says. “They have so many gifts.”
Remember, we are all equal in the body of Christ.
He made godliness prevail. (Sirach 49:3)
Lord, speak Your words in my heart.
January 19, 2013
The Greatest Empire
The 19th century French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte spent the final six years of his life in exile on the island of Saint Helena. He had much time for thought during these days, and some of his reflections proved highly interesting.
For instance, Napoleon wrote, “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I founded great empires. But upon what did the creation of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love, and to this very day millions would die for Him.”
Forcing no one, Christ taught in a new way, the only one throughout history whose whole school and whole plan was founded on love. The world had never before heard of this love. And even now, 20 centuries later, the legacy of that love continues. It may be threatened in many places, but the light of faith still burns in people’s hearts.
Often, Jesus seems to lose. In reality, He always wins—and always by love.
A new commandment I give unto you: that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 13:34)
Help me to love as You love, Jesus.
January 18, 2013
Teachers Change Lives
Teacher Tony Apuzzi first met Jasalle Ruiz when she was “a rowdy sixth grader” at Intermediate School 120 in the Bronx, reports the Daily News. When he left for another job, Ruiz’s grandmother told him, “You’ve changed my granddaughter’s life. Please remain a part of her life after you leave.”
Apuzzi kept in touch with Ruiz in the ensuing years and supported her in all her endeavors. After receiving her associate’s degree from Bronx Community College in 2010, she was accepted into the College of New Rochelle, but unable to afford the tuition. That’s when her former teacher changed her life once again.
Apuzzi sold part of his prized collection of baseball memorabilia for $3,000 so he could help pay Ruiz’s tuition. And when a friend of Apuzzi’s wrote to the Yankees about the situation, pitcher Mariano Rivera donated $6,000 from his own foundation towards Ruiz’s education. “Nobody has ever done what he [Apuzzi] has done for me,” said Ruiz, now 21 and hoping to be a doctor. “He’s always been there when I needed him.”
The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life. (Proverbs 13:14)
Lord, bless all adults who mentor and encourage youth.
January 17, 2013
Friends Extend Grace
Busy wife, mom and writer Elizabeth Duffy had to drop out of a months-in-the-making dinner with friends because she had accidentally scheduled a trip out of town for the same day. Duffy e-mailed the friend who had coordinated the get-together saying, “I hate myself.” Her friend told her not to hate herself explaining, “Friends extend grace to one another.”
That phrase resonated with Duffy. Writing on Patheos.com, she said, “I might have withdrawn from the group knowing that I’d goofed up long-held plans. Conversely, I might have been ejected from the group by less understanding friends. But any time the soul chooses to isolate rather than to embrace, it is the ego. And the ego is the enemy of human relationships. It allows us to build imaginary castles around ourselves.”
“We have an obligation to extend grace to one another, to people who are not expecting it—to extend it freely, with maturity…When our egos win, we all lose.”
A true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin. (Proverbs 18:24)
May I extend to others the grace You give me, Jesus.
January 16, 2013
Loving Links in a Chain
A little girl hurt in a disastrous Indiana accident was ultimately rescued by the efforts of many guardian angels. All would become links in a loving chain of care and concern.
Maggie Mullin, 3, was in the audience at the State Fairgrounds to hear her favorite band, Sugarland, when the stage rigging collapsed due to a violent storm, trapping Maggie and others. The youngster was bleeding badly, but her mother who was next to her couldn’t move because of a broken leg.
That’s when numerous concertgoers turned into angels to save a little girl. Among them were a doctor, a machinist, a registered nurse, a nursing student, a state trooper, a sheriff, a firefighter and others. They rescued Maggie and transported her to a first-aid station, seeing to it that she was taken to a hospital emergency room.
All of these ordinary people went to extraordinary lengths and personal risk to help a stranger in need. Hopefully, each of us will find the courage to help others during their times of need.
Let each of you…look to…the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)
Gracious Father, thank You for Your healing power
January 15, 2013
Saving New York from Nazis
John Cullen of the U.S. Coast Guard was a World War Two hero you may never have heard of.
A Daily News obituary reported that Cullen, who died at age 90 in 2011, was a “baby-faced 21-year-old” sentry on a Long Island, New York, beach when he came upon several Nazi saboteurs posing as clammers with boat trouble.
The New York native didn’t trust these so-called fishermen. Actually, they had been dropped off by a German submarine in the waters near Long Island as part of a war plan known as Operation Pastorius.
The Nazis threatened Cullen, and also offered him a $300 bribe to stay quiet about his suspicions. Although he pretended to acquiesce, he left and informed his superiors. Due to the young sentry’s quick thinking, Operation Pastorius failed.
Today’s active duty service members, veterans, and their families continue their acts of quiet heroism evident throughout American history.
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord. (Psalm 31:24)
Prince of Peace, guide our military during times of war.
January 14, 2013
Taught to be Generous
When Janice Sparhawk, 72, fell behind on the mortgage payments of her Wisconsin home, her 12-year-old grandson, Noah Lamaide, raised $10,500 in one month to save it from foreclosure. He accomplished that goal through his website, Noah’s Dream Catcher Network, by telling potential donors of all the wonderful things his grandmother had done for others. He had started the website at age nine when his mother challenged him to complete one community service project a year.
Noah’s passion for helping others started with his grandma, who was a foster parent to hundreds of children in Wisconsin. When he turned eight, Noah invited all of his friends to his birthday party. In lieu of gifts, he asked his guests to bring a donation for the local food pantry.
Noah says, “I want to help others and make a difference in the world by asking people to reach out and help each other.”
The world needs more people with such generous hearts and inspirational initiative.
Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray. (Proverbs 22:6)
Lord, grant me the desire to serve Your people.
January 13, 2013
“Lord, Make a Way Here”
Bankruptcy and divorce were just two of the problems with which a member of Father Peter Daly’s parish—St. John Vianney in Prince Frederick, Maryland—had to deal.
After being forced to retire from his job, this man took a minimum wage job at a local motel. The meager salary wouldn’t allow him to pay for the oil that heats the water in his home during the winter. When this man went to see Father Daly, they prayed together, “Lord, make a way here.”
Soon after, the 20-year-old oil burner in the church’s parish center stopped working, and they opted to replace it with a natural gas furnace. The burner still had 1,000 gallons of unused oil remaining, so Father Daly knew exactly what to do with it.
In the column he writes for Catholic News Service, Father Daly says, “Our maintenance man siphoned the oil into a tank mounted on his pickup track and took it over to our struggling parishioner. He was so happy that he did a little ‘happy dance’ in his driveway. Now he’ll have hot water and heat in the cold weather. It was a gift from God by way of our parish.”
Trust in the Lord with all your heart. (Proverbs 3:5)
Lord, may we always be a source of good will for others.
January 12, 2013
A Nurse’s Calling
“I think we identify with people who can’t help themselves. I never realized that until Virginia died,” said Diana Costine, RN, an emergency room nurse at New York Presbyterian Hospital featured on ABC’s reality TV series NY Med.
The “Virginia” referred to is Virginia Dunn, a homeless woman Costine calls a “frequent flyer” because she’s been coming to the ER for 20 years with drug and alcohol problems. Dunn is the type of person most of us would do our best to avoid in the street. Yet Costine and her colleagues treat her with the highest level of dignity, respect, and compassion. They are concrete examples of God’s love in action.
When Dunn is brought into the ER after suffering a heart attack, the doctors and nurses try to save her but are unable to. Her death hits them emotionally because they knew her and liked her. For Costine, it also confirms she’s chosen the right career path—that of helping the most vulnerable.
Regardless of what vocation you’re called to, offer a heart and a hand to those in need of help.
Let love be genuine. (Romans 12:9)
Fill my heart with compassion for the helpless, Lord.
January 11, 2013
An Olympian’s Reality Check
Olympian Shawn Johnson’s first gymnastics coach at age five told her mother that the youngster had no talent. Thankfully her mother transferred her to a new coach, Liang Chow, whose training led Johnson to the 2008 Beijing Olympics where she won one gold and three silver medals.
Though Johnson was proud of all her medals, she reveals in her memoir, Winning Balance, that she was shocked to discover reporters referring to her as a loser when she won silver—as if being the second best gymnast in the world was something about which to be disappointed. She explained on Christopher Closeup that the experience led her to find pride within herself instead of from outside sources.
Johnson learned another lesson while watching her friend’s sister endure chemotherapy for cancer. She said, “Seeing her go through that while tending to four beautiful kids and not once complain [taught me that] family and faith and health means the most. I feel like we don’t put enough attention on that. It was a great reality check for me.”
Endurance produces character. (Romans 5:4)
Help me feel satisfied with my life and efforts, Lord.
January 10, 2013
A Prayer for Employment
In light of all the people struggling to find jobs so they can support themselves and their families, here is a prayer for employment from EWTN.com that you or someone you know might find helpful:
“God, our Father, I turn to You seeking Your divine help and guidance as I look for suitable employment.
“I need Your wisdom to guide my footsteps along the right path, and to lead me to find the proper things to say and do in this quest. I wish to use the gifts and talents You have given me, but I need the opportunity to do so with gainful employment.
“Do not abandon me, dear Father, in this search, but rather grant me this favor I seek so that I may return to You with praise and thanksgiving for Your gracious assistance.
“Grant this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal. (Philippians 3:13-14)
Send your peace and guidance to those struggling with unemployment, Father.
January 9, 2013
Doing What You Thought You Couldn’t
“I have fears…big ones, little ones, medium ones…served up like different size fries you order at McDonald’s,” wrote singer/songwriter Brooke White on her blog.
The former American Idol contestant and current member of the band Jack and White revealed that one of her medium-sized fears has always been singing the national anthem at a sporting event. “Not because of a lack of patriotism,” she explained. “Indeed I’m proud to be an American. [But] I’ve always believed I lacked the capability to sing it in a way that is respectful to the tune in front of stadiums of people.”
In December 2011, to fulfill her husband’s dream of enjoying floor seats and meeting players at a Phoenix Suns basketball game, White finally agreed to sing the anthem before the game. After a full day of prayers and preparation, she sang the song perfectly, drawing cheers from the crowd.
White concluded, “I don’t like facing my fears…But there [is] something I dislike even more, and that is being controlled by fear because it usually means that I miss out on opportunities, that I don’t become what I’m supposed to become…There is nothing quite like doing the thing you thought you couldn’t do.”
Do not fear, for I am with you. (Isaiah 41:10)
Lord, let us face my fears together.
January 8, 2013
Bob invited a large group of friends to dinner at his home, and asked his wife, Mary, to cook up a feast on very little notice. The night of the dinner arrived and everyone was having a wonderful time as they all sat down to eat.
At the table, Mary turned to their six-year-old daughter, Katie, and asked, “Would you like to say the blessing?”
“I wouldn’t know what to say,” Katie replied.
“Just say what you hear Mommy say,” Mary answered.
Katie bowed her head and said, “Good Lord, why on earth did Bob invite all these people to dinner?”
While that joke may be funny, it’s also got a little truth to it. We may forget the fact that people—either kids or adults—are listening to and absorbing the words we say. God, of course, always hears everything.
The lesson: choose your words wisely—and for goodness sake, give your spouse plenty of notice before inviting a crowd over for dinner!
The prudent are restrained in speech. (Proverbs 10:20)
Guide my words, Holy Spirit, that they may be pleasing to You.
January 7, 2013
The Character That’s the Strongest
Prior to his death in 2001, actor Carroll O’Connor’s final role was in the film Return to Me, a comedy written and directed by actress Bonnie Hunt in 2000. One of O’Connor’s lines in the movie stemmed from something Hunt’s father used to say before he passed away: “It’s the character that’s the strongest that God gives the most challenges to.” O’Connor could relate, having been devastated by the loss of his son, Hugh, to suicide in 1995.
The release of Return to Me coincided with O’Connor receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Bonnie Hunt attended to pay tribute to her colleague. As recounted in Entertainment Weekly magazine, Hunt hugged O’Connor after the ceremony and asked, “Were you thinking of Hugh a little?”
O’Connor looked startled and said, “Thank you for saying his name. People never want to talk about Hugh, because they think I’ll become upset or depressed, but just the opposite is true. I love to think about him; I love it when people remember him.”
Thanks to Hunt’s insightfulness and compassion, O’Connor’s bittersweet day was made just a little sweeter.
Clothe yourselves with love. (Colossians 3:14)
Help me reach out in kindness to those who suffer, Lord.
January 6, 2013
A Gift of Grace
For 16 years, blogger Elizabeth Scalia, her husband and their two sons thought of their border collie, Alle, as another member of the family. That’s why it was so painful when Alle passed away in July 2012.
Scalia recalled how insightful and loving the dog was, noting that “[Alle was] the one who knew when any of us was sick, and came to lie with us. The one who watched at the window as we left, and ran to the door when we returned, because all she knew was love, love, love.”
After reflecting on Alle’s life, Scalia discerned a spiritual lesson that can benefit everyone: “That much love is a gift of grace…I can remember…what she taught me about God—the constancy of a love so unconditional; a love that watches as you leave, waits so faithfully and runs to meet you when you return; a love that comforts in illness, consoles in loneliness; a love that is present even as we are lost in our dreams.”
That’s a perfect reminder of God’s ever-present, ever-loving, ever-merciful presence in our lives—and of the way we’re all supposed to act toward each other.
A friend loves at all times. (Proverbs 17:17)
Nurture my ability to practice unconditional love, Jesus.
January 5, 2013
Writing in the New Year
The start of a new year may fill you with feelings of both anticipation and apprehension. According to freelance writer Christina Capecchi, however, there is a simple and intellectually stimulating way to combat this anxiety: writing.
Christopher Award-winning author David McCullough, whom Capecchi cites, claims that of all the lost art forms of our present world, the loss of daily writing is the most unfortunate.
“The loss of people writing,” McCullough decried to Time magazine last year, “is not just the loss for the record. It’s the loss of the process of working your thoughts out on paper…That [writing] was brain calisthenics.”
Capecchi echoes McCullough’s sentiments, adding that writing benefits spiritual growth as well: “We write to make sense of our lives and our world, to examine who we have been and who we hope to become.”
Take Capecchi’s advice and start this New Year’s off right—by writing, even just a little bit, each day.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you. (Colossians 3:16)
Lord, may the words I write and speak help me grow in my love for You and my neighbor.
January 4, 2013
A Spiritual Detective
When the late Johnny Cash's wife, June Carter Cash, died in 2003, many of the couple's family and friends spoke at her funeral service. One of the most poignant eulogies was the one delivered by Rosanne Cash, Johnny's daughter from his first marriage.
Rosanne had this to say about the kind of person June was: “In her eyes there were two kinds of people in the world: those she knew and loved—and those she didn't know and loved...She looked for the best in everyone. It was a way of life for her. If you pointed out that a particular person was perhaps not totally deserving of her love and in fact might be somewhat of a loser, she would say, ‘Well, honey, we just have to lift him up.’ She was forever lifting people up. It took a long time for me to understand that what she did when she lifted you up was to mirror the very best part of you back to yourself. She was like a spiritual detective: she saw into all your dark corners and deep recesses, saw your potential and your possible future and the gifts you didn't even know you possessed, and she lifted them up for you to see.”
Be the kind of person who lifts others up.
Pursue peace with everyone. (Hebrews 12:14)
Help me bring out the best in others, Jesus.
The Kindness That Changed Two Lives
In 2008, New York Police Officer Susan Porcello and her partner responded to a 911 ambulance call that took them to a one-bedroom apartment at a Brooklyn address. There they found Gaspar Musso, an elderly diabetic who lived alone. He told them that he needed help, and that he had no family or friends. Officer Porcello felt she had to say something, and it was a simple statement. “Well,” she told Musso, “I’m your friend.”
As reported by Denis Hamill in the Daily News, those words changed both their lives. Officer Porcello got Mr. Musso to Lutheran Medical Center and made sure he received prompt and caring attention. She also discovered that he was a Marine veteran who had seen combat in the South Pacific in 1944.
Porcello got Musso admitted to a first-class nursing home in Brooklyn. There she visited him several times a week, reading to him and otherwise seeing to his needs until he passed away shortly before Thanksgiving.
Thanks to Officer Porcello’s kind heart, a lonely veteran spent his final days feeling appreciated and loved.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. (John 13:34)
Jesus, help me be a friend to the lonely.
January 1, 2013
The Road Not Taken
In 2008, high school basketball phenomenon Elena Delle Donne started attending the University of Connecticut, a decision that would likely have launched her sports career into the stratosphere because of the school’s reputation. Two days later, she moved back to her home state to attend the University of Delaware which was 20 minutes from her family’s home.
Her step back from quick personal success surprised many. But Delle Donne wasn’t concerned with ‘personal’ success. It was her sister, Lizzie, who was born deaf, blind and with cerebral palsy, that she cared about most.
Delle Donne told ABC News, “She knows me by my smell and my feel. Physical contact is the only thing she knows. So when I did leave, I lost Lizzie.”
Separation from the sister she loved was too much to bear, so Delle Donne is now playing basketball for the University of Delaware. Her career path may be slowed somewhat, but the blessing of being near her biggest fan makes it worth the wait.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)
Remind me that love is the key to seeing You, Lord.
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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