Three Minutes a Day
Keep Practicing Until You Get It Right
When someone asked Grammy award-winning singer Harry Connick Jr. if he was a practicing Catholic, he responded, “Yeah, and I’m gonna keep practicing until I get it right!”
Connick grew up in New Orleans with a Jewish mother and Catholic father who let him choose his own religious path. At age 14, he decided to become Catholic. He told Christianity Today, “The church manifests itself in my life through the people who have set the best examples for me, like my dad. My mother knew more about the Catholic Church than 99 percent of the Catholics I know. And her actions were Christian actions.”
Connick also notes that his faith and family keep him grounded when he’s traveling the world as an entertainer. He said on the Busted Halo radio show, “Somebody famous asked me one time, ‘Don’t you ever get tempted to cheat on your wife because there’s a lot of beautiful women out there?’ For me, [because of] my faith and my family, I know where my home is. It’s the people that don’t have that who may have a harder time separating those two worlds. They’re clearly separated for me.”
The house of the righteous will stand. (Proverbs 12:7)
Help me grow stronger in my faith, Divine Savior.
House Calls to the Homeless
“Pittsburgh’s Dr. Jim Withers operates his practice with a simple idea: the best way to care for the homeless is to treat them where they live. Nightly, he takes to the streets with a man who once was homeless, to care for those no one else cares for.”
So writes Deacon Greg Kandra on his Patheos blog about a physician living out the corporal works of mercy.
Dr. Withers began his ministry, called Operation Safety Net, 22 years ago after meeting Mike Sallows, a man who’d been homeless for seven years and was now giving out blankets and food to those who needed them. Withers offered to go along to provide free basic medical care. As stated in a video by the digital media company NationSwell, “Withers estimates he’s treated over 1,200 homeless a year since 1992.”
His influence extends beyond his Pennsylvania hometown as well. Dr. Withers said, “We have helped create organizations like ours—street medicine programs—in over 85 communities throughout the world. I’d love to see it become a point of pride, a jewel in the crown, for communities everywhere.”
Honor physicians for their services. (Sirach 38:1)
Teach me to care for society’s outcasts, Father.
A Divine Mercy
The last words that 17-year-old Claire Davis spoke were “Oh my gosh, Karl, what are you doing?” Then Karl Pierson, 18, pulled the trigger and a shotgun blast ended up costing her life. She was the only murder victim that day in Arapahoe High School in Colorado, which came to a close when Pierson killed himself. And yet Claire’s parents, through their tears, found the strength to forgive her killer.
Michael and Desiree Davis, speaking at a memorial service for their daughter that thousands of people attended, said that Pierson “was so blinded by his emotions he didn’t know what he was doing.” Pierson had walked into the school that day intending to shoot the debate coach he thought cost him the chance to join the Air Force, yet shot Davis—who succumbed to her wounds eight days later.
“My wife and I forgive Karl Pierson for what he did,” Michael Davis said during the service. “We would ask all of you here and all of you watching to forgive Karl Pierson.”
Then the Lord said, “I do forgive, just as you have asked.” (Numbers 14:20)
Free our hearts from revenge and hatred, Prince of Peace.
Finding God at the Oscars
The annual Academy Awards ceremony may not be a show where you expect to hear winners talk about God, but that was the case in 2014. The first reference came from singer Darlene Love, who was profiled in the Best Documentary Feature winner 20 Feet from Stardom.
After the producers finished talking, Love came to the microphone to say, “Lord God, I praise You,” then sang the last few lines of the Christian hymn “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” bringing the audience to their feet.
The other God reference came from Best Actor winner Matthew McConaughey, whose reputation as a wild man seems to have mellowed now that he is a husband and father. He began his acceptance speech by saying, “I want to thank God because that’s who I look up to. He has graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand.”
You don’t have to stand in front of a microphone to thank God for your blessings. Just tell Him every day in your heart.
With gratitude in your hearts, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. (Colossians 3:16)
Thank You, Lord, for the blessings in my life.
A Goalie’s Good Heart
What could a high school soccer goalie do to help send sick children to Disney World? He could make his saves in goal count for something extra, that’s what. And Joseph Pigot, of Park Ridge High School in New Jersey, decided to do just that.
Captain of the school’s varsity soccer team, Pigot launched Joey’s Saves, which collected donations for each save he made and in turn saw to it that the proceeds went to Baking Memories 4 Kids, a local charity which sends ailing children and their families on all-expense-paid trips to Florida.
“It motivates me in tough games when I’m tired and I want to give up,” he said. “You don’t give up because you’re fighting for something bigger than yourself.”
Mary Diduch told Pigot’s story in The Record, a leading northern New Jersey newspaper, alerting readers as to how they could join the project. As for Pigot, he envisions a lasting impact, hoping that future Park Ridge goalies follow in his footsteps.
Do not hesitate to visit the sick, because for such deeds you will be loved. (Sirach 7:35)
Help me set a selfless example for others, Father of Light.
Blondes Didn’t Have More Fun
Many years ago, a Maryland junior high school taught its students a lesson about discrimination by conducting a unique experiment. Though black students had endured segregation for many years in the school system, this effort—held during Brotherhood Week—singled out blonde young people.
They voluntarily agreed to use different rest rooms, stairways, and water fountains; endure snubs from brunettes; and sit at separate cafeteria and library tables. “You would be astounded at how many of these kids didn’t know what prejudice and discrimination were,” commented one faculty member.
Protests from parents, which forced the school to discontinue the program, received little sympathy from the student volunteers. They regretted that the experiment had ended just as it was “beginning to mean something.”
Our rights are often accepted light-heartedly until we are deprived of them. If we are helped by education or experience to cherish freedom, we are in a better position to take a stand for others. God plays no favorites—and neither should we.
Live in harmony with one another. (Romans 15:5)
Help me, Father, to respect the rights of all people.
Gaining By Losing
“I struggled mightily,” said Bob Groves, shocked at losing his job and the sense of identity it had fostered. “Suddenly, I was no longer ‘The Man’ I had been at work, the one people came to, and I had to figure out how to fulfill myself.”
Then, the 66-year-old former executive set out to find a new path and discovered his calling as a teacher at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Temple University in Philadelphia.
Groves now instructs a class of older adults in a human-rights course; he teaches English to a woman from Nepal; and he finds time each week to be with his toddler granddaughter.
People draw strength from the oft-expressed sentiment that when God closes a door He opens a window. If you’re dealing with a loss of some kind, use creativity and courage to help you cope. And remember that a new reality might require stepping outside of your comfort zone and setting new goals.
The Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
God, may we find the window of opportunity You have opened for us.
More Core Behaviors for Positive Leaders
Today, we share more of success coach Kathy Caprino’s “core behaviors of people who positively impact the world:”
■ They embrace critique. “The most powerful positive influencers don’t need or want to be ‘right’—they want to grow and be more effective…They know how to integrate constructive feedback to strengthen their work and ideas.”
■ They uplift others as they ascend. “These positive influencers want others to grow. They walk away from ‘success-building’ opportunities that will be hurtful and damaging to others. They know that those unethical, demeaning or destructive approaches go against the very meaning and purpose they’re committed to.”
■ They use their power and influence well. “Those who impact the world for the better are careful and judicious with their words, actions, and behaviors. They take [leadership] seriously, as a special honor and responsibility not to be flaunted or misused. They understand their special role, and accept it with grace, compassion, and care.”
Leaders of the congregation, pay heed! (Sirach 33:19)
Help me follow Your example of leadership, Jesus.
Core Behaviors for Positive Leaders
Success coach Kathy Caprino has met people from all walks of life and circumstances who love their work and use their influence to “change the world for the better.” She noted in Forbes magazine that there are several “core behaviors” these types of people share:
■ They dedicate themselves to what gives their life meaning and purpose. “They have found that there is a purpose to their life, and that purpose usually involves some aspect of turning their ‘mess into a message,’ or using what they’ve learned as a means of being of service to others.”
■ They commit to continually bettering themselves. “Innovators who positively shape the world [have] an openness to see, learn, and experience new things.”
■ They invest time and energy not in what is, but what can be. “When they see something that agitates and disturbs them, they strive to know more, get to the root of the issue…and arrive at new solutions.”
We’ll share more “core behaviors” tomorrow.
The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me. (Psalm 138:8)
Instill me with purpose and possibility, Father.
The Church as Field Hospital
In an interview with America magazine, Pope Francis shared his view of the best way to evangelize a culture that’s often hostile to faith: “I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else.”
The pope is basically saying that Christians need to meet people where they are. He’s not saying to leave them where they are—or, using his own example, to ignore their high cholesterol and blood sugar. Rather, there’s an order to follow. Treat the sucking chest wound before you encourage a low-fat diet.
In the same way, you can’t expect to reach people who are unchurched or who have been poorly evangelized and catechized to understand where the Church is coming from if they don’t have a solid foundation of experience and understanding. It’s really about doing your best to become a personal example of holiness, and seeing that example bear fruit in relation to others.
Let us set an example for our kindred. (Judith 8:24)
Lord, help me to be a messenger of strength, truth, and love for others, especially those who don’t believe in You.
Gary Sinise Puts Soldiers First
Actor Gary Sinise’s dedication to helping members of the U.S. military was sparked at age 25 when he saw a play called Tracers. It was written by Vietnam veterans about their experiences during and after the war, experiences which often involved them being hated here in the U.S. Sinise felt bad that these men were being abused by their fellow citizens, so he befriended many of them and advocated on their behalf.
After the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, Sinise started visiting troops in hospitals. Though he felt awkward at first, he gained new perspective at Germany’s Landstuhl Medical Center.
Sinise said, “I met a lot of folks that had been blown up, shot up and burned up. That was a difficult day. But when I left, I knew that my being there had helped some people, so you forget about your own reaction to what you’re seeing, and it becomes about them. It’s not about you. From that point on, I knew that even though it’s difficult to see some of these injuries, my presence there helps them and their families.”
Humble yourselves before the Lord. (James 4:10)
Make me humble enough to put the needs of others ahead of my own discomfort, Lord.
Mercy in the City
Lent’s focus on giving something up or adopting a new spiritual practice is one of the reasons Kerry Weber is fond of the season. She’s grateful it lacks commercial aspects so she doesn’t have to ask herself, “What do I get everyone for Lent?”
One Lent a few years ago, Weber decided to live out each of the Corporal Works of Mercy (feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead), an experience which became the basis for her book Mercy in the City. It led her from the St. Francis Breadline in New York City to San Quentin State Prison in California.Why did she set her sights so high?
Weber said, “I think that being Catholic [involves] trying to deal with people in the margins and include them in the body of Christ and the larger Christian community. Going to places where I’ve never been before are ways to bring them in…The Gospel calls us to be a little bit uncomfortable sometimes, so we have to challenge ourselves to move beyond our comfort zones.”
Reach out and give to them as much as you can. (Sirach 14:13)
Holy Spirit, help me choose my Lenten disciplines wisely.
Hero Nanny Saves Boy from House Fire
Live-in nanny Alyson Myatt, 22, awoke in her bedroom in Louisville, Kentucky, at 6 a.m. to a loud boom. A faulty ventilation fan had fallen down in the bathroom, setting fire to the door and the entire hallway outside the bedroom of her five-year-old charge, Aden Hawes.
Heedless of the roaring flames before her, Alyson charged barefoot through the fire to retrieve the frightened Aden. She sustained third-degree burns on both her feet and one of her hands. But she wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“I didn’t even think about me getting hurt,” Myatt told Today show correspondent Ann Curry. “I was just yelling for Aden.”
Single parent J.B. Hawes, Aden’s father, was away on business and as soon as he rushed home that same day, he went to the Louisville Hospital, where Alyson was recovering. “There’s no words to put how grateful I am to have Alyson in our world,” an emotional Hawes concluded. “God brought her into our world, that’s for sure.”
Let us love…in truth and action. (1 John 3:18)
Father, grant us the courage to protect our loved ones.
Notes from George Washington’s Childhood
School boys in George Washington’s day copied inspirational sentences into their notebooks. Here are a few found in one of our first president’s exercise books:
■ “Speak not when you should hold your peace.”
■ “Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another though he were your enemy.”
■ “Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive.”
■ Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of Celestial fire called conscience.”
■ “When you speak of God and His attributes, let it be seriously and with reverence.”
We’ll never know how much these kinds of maxims influenced the Father of our country. But we do know that the early years are a critical period in personality development. Pray and work for homes and schools that encourage children to give the best that is in them.
I have said this to you, so that in Me you may have peace. (John 16:33)
Father, teach us to impart sound values to our children.
Gifted with Blindness
To 75-year-old Father Patrick Martin, blindness has been as much of a gift as his very life. At age nine, he survived a battle with meningitis, which left him mostly blind, though he could read by putting words together “letter by letter.” From the time he became an altar boy at age 10, he felt a persistent calling to the priesthood—yet his pastor told him it wouldn’t be possible due to his blindness.
Instead, Patrick joined the Brothers of Christian Instruction. He never gave up on his dream, however, so—with the Brothers’ blessing—he became a diocesan priest at age 35 while working in Norwich, Connecticut. In addition, Father Martin founded the ministry “People are Gifts” to help those with disabilities serve the church. He recently relocated to Texas to be closer to his sister.
Father Martin told Today’s Catholic, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, “When we die, if the world isn’t a better place because of our disabilities, then we’ve failed. Every one of us is here to make a difference.”
Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character. (Romans 5:3)
Abba, may our weaknesses serve to bring us closer to You.
Marriage is Bigger than a Wedding
On the occasion of her 10th wedding anniversary, singer-songwriter Brooke White recalled the day she married “Dave Ray, CPA” (as she jokingly calls her husband).
Though their wedding wasn’t as big and fancy as the ones she sees in magazines nowadays, White said on Facebook that she wouldn’t change a thing. Her dress was simple and the reception was held in her parents’ backyard, but a lot of love went into the event and, more importantly, the relationship.
“The truth is,” explained White, “that a wedding, as big and exciting and beautiful as it all is, is just one day. But marriage! That’s every day. It’s real life without DJs and chocolate fountains and fancy dresses. Nothing can truly prepare you; it’s a leap of faith. There are no guarantees, but if two people decide to keep choosing each other every day, I believe it can go on forever. Ten years is a good long time [with] a lot of learning, changing, forgiving, letting go, hanging on, growing, building, and loving. But it’s hardly a particle of dust in the scheme of eternity. It’s all so much more. It’s sacred.”
Let marriage be held in honor by all. (Hebrews 13:4)
Help married couples choose each other anew each day, Lord.
A Different Side of Lincoln
Compassion and gentleness dominate the popular image of Abraham Lincoln, but he could be firm when circumstances required. For instance, his stepbrother John D. Johnston—whom Lincoln described as “not lazy,” but an “idler”—often borrowed money from the lanky lawyer to tide him over rough spots. Finally, in December, 1848, he asked once too often.
“You are now in need of some ready money,” Lincoln wrote, “and what I propose is, that you shall go to work…You say if I furnish you the money you will deed me the land, and if you don’t pay the money back, you will deliver possession. Nonsense! If you can’t now live with the land, how will you then live without it?”
Lincoln also offered, however, to match dollar for dollar any money Johnston earned during the next five months.
There are moments when we all need compassion. But at other times, there is no substitute for hard-headed realism. Try, with God’s help, to maintain a healthy balance between the two.
We hear that some of you are living in idleness. (2 Thessalonians 3:11)
Lord, may I take advantage of good opportunities each day.
‘I Wish Everyone Had a Collette’
Steele Devitto can’t say enough about Collette, which is understandable. Collette is his older sister, and every night when he was in high school and college, she’d talk to him on the phone, encouraging him while he pursued a career in pro football. There’s something else about Collette. She also has Down syndrome, a fact which is perfectly fine with Steele.
“I wouldn’t trade her for the world,” he told Jeff Roberts of The Record, a New Jersey newspaper.
Steele Devitto has since gained all the credentials to make it into the pros. A linebacker, the Connecticut native played first for Don Bosco High School, a perennial New Jersey powerhouse, and then started for three years at Boston College. But talented as Devitto is, he knows he would never have gotten this far without Collette.
She attacks every day with a smile on her face, he says, and she’s selfless and unflinchingly honest. “I wish everyone had a Collette,” he declares, and when he says it, it’s every bit as honest as his big sister.
Therefore…build up each other. (1 Thessalonians 5:1)
Jesus, may we always seek to support our fellow man.
A Subway Hero
Tara Lewis couldn’t believe her eyes.
A conductor in the New York subway system, she’s used to seeing passengers either exit or board her train when it’s stopped in a station and the doors are open. But here was one man, standing on the platform as the train approached, as if to board when it stopped. Instead he waited while the doors were opened, and once the train had started up again he hurled himself between cars and disappeared from sight.
Horrified, Lewis pulled the emergency brake cord and the subway train ground to a halt. It was an action that probably saved the man’s life. Somehow he ended up on the landing between cars, opened the door and tried to blend in with regular passengers. Lewis would have none of it. She quickly contacted the police, who took the man to a hospital for evaluation.
“I believe he would have lost his life if I didn’t see him and pull the emergency cord,” she told Pete Donohue of the Daily News. Her supervisor agreed, putting her in for a “hero” award. And she went home, ready to start another day the next morning.
You save me from violence. (2 Samuel 22:3)
May I be a help to others when needed, Jesus.
Don’t Overcomplicate Kindness
During the semi-finals in cross-country skiing at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Russian skier Anton Gafarov fell and broke one of his skis. As he got up and attempted to finish the race on one ski, Team Canada’s cross-country coach Justin Wadsworth quickly brought him a new ski and even dropped to his knees to affix it to Gafarov’s boot.
Though the Russian finished last, news of this example of good sportsmanship spread around the world. It also led writer Cindy Keating to ask, “Can an Olympic moment change the way we’ve complicated kindness?” Keating notes that we sometimes hesitate when an impulse toward kindness strikes us. She says, “We don’t want to intrude. We don’t want to be rejected, or look silly. We end up talking ourselves out of something good.”
If Coach Wadsworth had reacted that way, Gafarov and the world would have been denied a beautiful moment. Keating concludes, “The world needs people who will respond…people not afraid to get down on their knees and serve. Why? Because we all need help to finish the race we were put on earth to ski.”
I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)
Instill me with the courage to act on kind impulses, Lord.
Becoming a Priest at Age 71
David Link was convinced he had the ideal job—until, at the age of 71, he was ordained a priest. He had finally found real happiness. Not that the job he used to have was insignificant.
For 24 years, until 1999, he was dean of Notre Dame’s law school, imparting a love for the law to more than 4,000 students. Then, as his career was winding down, he reluctantly followed the suggestion of his wife, Barbara, and began teaching prisoners the fine points of the law. To his amazement he loved the work, impressed by his students’ eagerness to learn.
When Barbara died in 2003, Link threw himself even more into his volunteer work with prisoners, catching the attention of many with his enthusiasm. Among those impressed was Bishop Dale J. Melczek of Gary, Indiana, who invited Link to become a priest. After seminary studies Father Link was ordained in 2008. In charge of the diocese’s prison ministry program, Father Link couldn’t be happier. “I need to bring my prisoners hope, and knowledge of eternal life,” he said. “And I love that.”
He chose blameless priests devoted to the law. (1 Maccabees 4:42)
Help me bring hope to those who need it, Jesus.
No TYME Like the Present
At 23 years old, Elaine Newkirk found herself a foster mother of five kids—her 14-year-old sister and two friends, and two infants given up for adoption by their young mother. Now, two years later, Newkirk is not only the proud mother of five teenagers, but she is also the head of TYME (Teach Youth, Motivate and Empower) Ministries, a program in rural Pennsylvania meant to inspire youth and help the less fortunate through volunteer services.
Their ministries have expanded to include a nonprofit thrift store, a bakery and a youth center. Newkirk has taken on a daunting load, but one of the most important lessons she has learned is that she does not need to carry it alone.
“I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned is that even though I have a ‘save the world’ mentality, I can’t save the world on my own,” Newkirk told Daily Good writer Audrey Lin. “It takes the help of a community.”
May we all be inspired by Newkirk’s example to make a difference one organization, one volunteer project at a time.
Bear one another’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2)
God, motivate communities to work together for the sake of the greater good.
What’s Next For You?
“In my mid-30s, I was 200 pounds,” said Betty Smith. She smoked, didn’t exercise, and couldn’t even play tag with her daughter. “I had to get off that path,” she realized.
Now a trim marathoner, Smith, 71, exemplifies how change is possible, according to AARP and its collaborators in the Life Re-imagined project, which offers signposts for your new path:
■ Reflect. What goals and values have motivated you? What future possibilities would you like to pursue?
■ Connect. By retirement age you may have lost some earlier friends due to changed circumstances. Create a new mutually helpful support system.
■ Explore. Leave your comfort zone. If you always read sports pages, try the food section. Or vice versa.
■ Narrow Choices. Focus in on a few new paths.
■ Repack. Scrap excess baggage. Summarize your life’s chapters to date. How would you like future ones to read?
■ Act. Take your first steps in a new direction.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:6)
Holy Spirit, guide our steps as we travel throughout life.
You Had Your Baby Where?
A 20-year-old sales associate had gotten used to seeing everything in New York City, but this was one for the books: a woman giving birth to a baby in broad daylight at 68th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan. Without thinking of the cold weather (this was in February of 2014), Isabel Williams turned into a Good Samaritan in a split second. She tore off her sweater and coat and used them to cover mother and young daughter as they awaited an ambulance.
Mom Polly McCourt explained that she’d been waiting for a taxi when the baby—named Ila Isabelle, in part after her Good Samaritan benefactor—decided the time had come. When they got to the hospital, both mother and daughter were doing fine. So was the father, Cian, who nearly missed all the excitement.
Williams was reunited with the whole McCourt family, including two more young children, a few days later. “I don’t know how to express how touched I am,” she said. Holding her little namesake, she said, “She’s absolutely perfect.”
Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31)
Lord, inspire me to help someone at a moment’s notice.
God Turns Gloom to Gratitude
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time—waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God—it changes me.”
Catholic New York reporter Juliann DosSantos recalled that quote one day when she was feeling particularly gloomy. She admits in her book, Footprints on the Journey, that no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t lift herself out of her “rotten mood.” Then she decided to let God do the lifting—and the results were far different.
DosSantos writes, “As soon as I opened my heart to say a little prayer to ask for help, I found I had resources right in front of me. I let God lead me—and He led me to the laughter, love, and kindness that come from friends and family. Before I knew it, my mood was starting to lift…There was a time in my life where I felt like I had to do everything on my own. But that is not a good way to live. I needed God and still do.”
She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord. (1 Samuel 1:10)
In my distress, hear my cry and heal me, Divine Redeemer.
The Roots of Black History Month
For those who don’t know much about the history of Black History Month, Professor Patricia Gloster-Coates of Pace University is instructive. During an amNewYork newspaper interview, Gloster-Coates, the history department chair, says the event was incorporated in 1976 but claims older roots.
“Carter G. Woodson, a historian who started the Journal of Negro History in 1916, later came up with the idea of celebrating Negro History Week on the Sunday closest to Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays,” she says.
Originally, the remembrance was meant to highlight the cultural achievements of African-Americans. But a fixed annual event continues to be important, Gloster-Coates says, so “people can get together, reminisce and share facts and history.”
Look into the history of your family or culture. It will help you celebrate accomplishments, learn from mistakes, honor ancestors, and better understand others.
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction. (Romans 15:4)
Help us, Lord, to appreciate the human bonds that link all of Your children.
A Prayer for Generosity
Here’s an excerpt from a prayer for generosity written by Father Jonathan Morris: “Heavenly Father, today I am reminded of Jesus’ parable of the rich landowner who, confident in his wealth, decides to build larger warehouses to store his earthly possessions. But God replies, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.
“Lord, at times, I have been like this man—holding onto my possessions and striving for more—instead of being mindful of others or of what matters to You. I haven’t always given You all that You deserve. Forgive me for this.
“Lord God, You have been so generous to me, in so many ways. Help me to heed the lesson in Jesus’s words. Grant me Your wisdom and perspective in dealing with not only the money I earn, but also my time, talents, and other possessions. All of these should be, and can be, used to help others and to glorify You. Amen.”
I treasure Your word in my heart. (Psalm 119:11)
Help me choose to be generous today, Jesus.
The Prison Angel
A woman who gave up her life just to live with prisoners? It sounds a little unreal, but that’s just what happened to Mary Clarke, who grew up in a comfortable home in Beverly Hills, California, and raised a family there. She died (in 2013) at the age of 86 as Mother Antonia Brenner (a.k.a. The Prison Angel) in Tijuana, Mexico—where she had lived among and ministered to prisoners at La Mesa Penitentiary.
She began her prison ministry in 1965 when she accompanied a priest as he delivered medicine and other supplies to the prison’s infirmary. In 1977, with her children grown, she moved into the prison, sleeping in a cell in the women’s wing—and spent the rest of her life there. Eventually she established a religious order, the Eudist Sisters of the 11th Hour, for older women, which was approved by the bishop of Tijuana.
“In 30 years there,” Mother Antonia said a few years ago, “I haven’t met anyone that wasn’t worth everything I could give to them—even my life. I see the image and likeness of God in each and every one of them.”
When he was in prison she did not leave him. (Wisdom 10:14)
May I see Your image in all people, Divine Creator.
Beyond Left and Right
Pope Francis has had a remarkable impact on everyone in the world, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, with his frugal style of living, his humility and his strong emphasis on the teachings of Jesus. How best to understand him? Greg Burke, the U.S.-born Vatican media adviser, has some tips in that direction via Catholic News Service, and here are a few of them:
“Pope Francis is not a politically correct pope,” Burke said, but rather “a loyal son of the church” who presents the hard truths with a heavy dose of mercy. He added that the pope “wants to get beyond left and right” by getting people to focus on the Gospels, on God and His truth and mercy.
Further, he said, the pope is not advocating a “feel good” religion, but talks about the truth of the Gospels—a truth “that will walk with them to the Lord.”
“The pope’s picture should have one of those warning labels,” he concluded—one that says “Danger: This man could change your life.”
You are righteous, O Lord…All Your ways are mercy and truth. (Tobit 3:2)
Help me follow Your ways, Lord, not the world’s ways.
Like Feathers in the Wind
A Jewish man known for spreading gossip had ruined the reputation of many in his town. He went to see a rabbi because he felt guilty about his actions, but wasn’t sure he could stop his deep-seated habit.
The rabbi told the man to get a pillow full of feathers, take it to the top of a high building, cut it open, and let the feathers fly. The man did as asked, then returned to the rabbi for more instructions. The rabbi told him to gather all the feathers, which represented all the rumors he had spread about others. Horrified at the impossible nature of this task, the man returned home determined not to gossip anymore.
Reflecting on this story for the website IgnatianSpirituality.com, Marina McCoy offers feather-free advice on avoiding the temptation to gossip. First, she suggests meditating on our own shortcomings before we put down other people. Also, focus on a “good character trait of the person we are tempted to malign. Gratitude for others’ good gifts is a natural antidote to criticism and gossip.”
Let no evil come out of your mouths. (Ephesians 4:29)
May I always speak well of others, Eternal Word.
‘Can I Trust You?’
Forty-five-year-old Merrie Harris put her faith and American Express Platinum card into the hands of Jay Valentine, an unemployed homeless man in Manhattan. “I asked her for change and told her I wasn’t working,” Valentine told the New York Post. “She said she only had a card. She said, ‘Can I trust you?’ I said, ‘I’m honest, yes.’”
Harris said she had no reservations about letting Jay borrow her card to buy some essentials. Valentine himself added that it never occurred to him to betray Harris’s trust. “I wasn’t tempted at all,” added the 32-year-old former real estate agent. “She trusted me, and I didn’t want to violate that trust.”
Valentine’s purchases totaled approximately $25, and included deodorant and Vitamin Water. He is also dependent on the kindness of strangers for his sleeping situation: the staff of a New York City internet café allows him to spend nights in their establishment. “It sets a good example that people in need—like I am or worse—can and should be trusted,” Valentine concluded.
Happy are those who make the Lord their trust. (Psalm 40:4)
Jesus, may we always give others the benefit of the doubt.
Family Makes Victory Sweeter
At the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy, Noelle Pikus-Pace was ready to compete in the women’s skeleton competition (a sledding event) when a four-man bobsled team ran into her, breaking her leg. At the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, she would have earned a bronze medal if not for one maneuver that took her two inches too far to the right, earning her only fourth place.
After that, Pikus-Pace decided to retire because she and her husband wanted to start a family and her training wasn’t conducive to that. They had a son and a daughter and then conceived a third child. But that pregnancy ended in an emotionally devastating miscarriage. With the desire to focus on something positive, Pikus-Pace turned to the Olympics again.
Her husband Janson quit his job and, with their kids in tow, accompanied his wife through all her training, and finally, to the 2014 Sochi Olympics where she won a silver medal. As much as she wanted to win in the past, this victory felt sweeter because her whole family was there. As she told Today.com, “It’s never been only me crossing the finish line. It’s always been us.”
May we shout for joy over your victory. (Psalm 20:5)
Give me loved ones with whom I can share my joys, Father.
Light Up Life
Molly Anne Dutton wasn’t supposed to be born.
Twenty-two years ago, her mother was raped and became pregnant. Resisting pressure to have an abortion, she found support at the Birmingham, Alabama-based adoption agency Lifeline Children’s Services, so she could have the baby. Peggy Dutton and her husband, who served on Lifeline’s board of directors, decided to adopt the child themselves.
That baby was Molly who, 22 years later as a college student at Auburn University, decided to run for homecoming queen on the platform “Light Up Life,” which was dedicated to sharing her personal story and promoting the light that adoption can bring into a dark situation.
Molly’s story resonated with her fellow students—and even spread around the world. She was elected Auburn’s 2013 Homecoming Queen. Said her adoptive mom Peggy, “Her joy spreads wherever she is, and this could only be the Lord.”
You have delivered my soul from death…so that I may walk before God in the light of life. (Psalm 56:13)
May we believe in the potential of all human life, Lord.
On snowy days in the Chicago neighborhood of Humboldt Park, residents who shovel out their cars put chairs in their parking spaces as a way of calling “dibs” on the spot when they return home. That leads to arguing over minimal parking spaces, so Jamie Lynn Ferguson decided to do something about it.
After a January 2014 snowstorm, the 29-year-old took the day off from her job at Breakthrough Urban Ministries and after-school program to dig out every car on her block. She told the Chicago Sun Times, “Forget about dibs, and I’ll just do it for you. I think it’s a better way for us to live as a community: as people who look out for each other instead of fighting for spots.”
Ferguson started at 9 a.m., sharing her progress on Twitter. Elderly ladies came out to thank her, while others said she deserved a medal and wished that God would bless her. By 5 p.m., she completed her exhausting task, but felt it was worth it.
She said, “To me, it’s a simple thing to do for your neighbors, but the look of awe on their faces is so rewarding.”
Assist your neighbor to the best of your ability. (Sirach 29:20)
When the world is cold, Father, create in me a warm heart.
Father William Byrne, a gifted speaker, is pastor of St. Peter’s Parish on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. He also livens the pages of the Catholic Standard, the archdiocesan newspaper, with his regular column—as he did with his thoughts on Five Things We Shouldn’t Forget to Do.
■ Call An Old Friend. “An e-mail, a note or a call is not as awkward as it may seem. If they don’t write back, it’s good that you tried.”
■ Lie on the Ground and Look at the Clouds. “God is an amazing artist. Not only can he paint the sky, he can change it constantly.”
■ Be Quiet. “This is the hardest of all because we have such noise in our worlds...The quietest place of all is a church in the middle of the day. Pay a visit. No need to say anything; God knows it already.”
■ Do a Divine Two-Step. “Pray to be free enough to please God and to not worry about what others think.”
■ Smell the Roses. “No, literally stop and smell some roses.”
Be careful not to forget the covenant that the Lord your God made with you. (Deuteronomy 4:23)
Keep me mindful of life’s beauty, Divine Creator.
A Carousel’s Place in History
A small marker has been mounted on a carousel that now stands on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., a merry-go-round with an unbreakable connection to Dr. Martin Luther King’s memorable “I Have a Dream” speech of Aug. 28, 1963. For it was on that same day that the carousel, then located in Baltimore, was first opened to white and black children. In Baltimore at that time, it was a truly historic event.
A civil rights protest, complete with counter-protests from a mob of segregationists, led to the decision—that the carousel, previously open to only whites, would instead be open to all. It set off an uproar, but the decision stood...and for years, both black children and white children rode its silent steeds.
Eventually the carousel found its way to Washington—near the site where Dr. King delivered his stirring speech. That’s more than fitting. Not only did both events share the same day, but the opening of the carousel to all caused one of Dr. King’s dreams—that black and white children would some day play side by side—to come true.
Have unity of spirit. (1 Peter 3:8)
Move us past superficial divisions, Lord.
Infinitely Loved by God
Priest, professor, and author Henri Nouwen once wrote the following words about the power of God’s unconditional love:
“How do we know that we are infinitely loved by God when our immediate surroundings keep telling us that we’d better prove our right to exist?
“The knowledge of being loved in an unconditional way, before the world presents us with its conditions, cannot come from books, lectures, television programs, or workshops. This spiritual knowledge comes from people who witness to God’s love for us through their words and deeds. These people can be close to us but they can also live far away or may even have lived long ago. Their witness announces the truth of God’s love and calls us to act in accordance with it.”
Are you living in accordance with the truth of God’s love? He’s offering it to you. All you have to do is accept.
God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He loved us…made us alive together with Christ. (Ephesians 2:4-5)
Father, there are times when I feel alone and unloved. Remind me that Your unconditional love is ever-present.
Dude, Your House is on Fire!
Ben Carroll is used to delivering The Columbus Dispatch newspaper to the community of Hilltop, Ohio, every morning at 5 a.m. But in 2013, he added an extra duty to his usual routine: saving lives.
The 28-year-old smelled smoke and saw flames coming from the side of a two-story house on Midland Avenue. He immediately called the fire department and started banging on the door. When no one answered, he peered through the window and saw a child, so he frantically banged even more.
A resident finally came to the door, but thought he was being pranked. Carroll insisted, “Dude, your house is on fire!” When the resident saw the flames himself, he rushed to wake up the other four adults and six children in the house, who all ran to safety and thanked their conscientious newspaper carrier.
Though Carroll downplayed his actions, his girlfriend noted, “He’s a hero whether he wants to believe it or not.”
In other words—Dude, you’re a hero!
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me. (Psalm 71:2)
Savior, help me to think and act fast in times of trouble.
Keith Urban Takes Strength in Faith
“As an observer, I would say his faith is his strength.” That’s how Father Ed Steiner from Nashville’s Cathedral of the Incarnation described his parishioner, Grammy Award-winning singer Keith Urban.
During an interview with the website Celebuzz in 2013, Father Steiner discussed the role that faith plays in the lives of Urban—who has struggled with drug and alcohol addiction in his past—and his wife, actress Nicole Kidman. Though the couple travel a lot, they attend church when they’re home in Nashville. The priest said, “They both take their faith very seriously.”
In addition, Father Steiner describes Urban as an attentive father to his two daughters with Kidman: “When they’ve had to take their daughter to the church nursery, Keith is not the type of father who just drops his daughter off. He visits with all our sitters, he visits with the Religious Ed teachers. He interacts with other people’s children in a very positive way. What I’ve really experienced from him is what a loving father he is.”
Be open to the love of your Father in heaven.
See what love the Father has given us. (1 John 3:1)
May my faith in Your love be my rock, Father.
The Fastest Nun in the West
Billy the Kid was a notorious Old West outlaw who normally wouldn’t shy away from a fight. Unless it was with a nun—or at least, with Sister Blandina Segale, the Italian-born Sister of Charity of Cincinnati whose life is being investigated by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe for possible sainthood.
The Associated Press reported that she came to the U.S. in 1877, “co-founded public and Catholic schools…and worked with the poor, the sick, and immigrants.” So many stories spread about her encounters with outlaws that the TV series Death Valley Days did an episode about her: The Fastest Nun in the West. Even more legendary were her run-ins with Billy the Kid.
In one story, Segale nursed Billy’s friend back to health after a gunshot wound because four doctors refused to treat him. Billy came to town to thank Sister Segale, but also to kill the doctors. She asked him to abandon his murderous plans—and he agreed. In another story, Billy was going to rob a covered wagon until he looked inside and saw Segale. Then, he simply tipped his hat and left. The lesson: even outlaws don’t mess with nuns.
You are citizens with the saints. (Ephesians 2:19)
Help me to follow the saintly example of good people, Lord.
Nine-year-old Ella Frech hasn’t had an easy life. For two years, she’s endured painful injections to treat juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. While that is now under control, she’s been burdened with a mysterious new ailment that has weakened her legs so much that she needs a wheelchair.
Despite all this, the little girl who used to take ballet classes hasn’t let her struggles overcome her. As family friend Calah Alexander noted on her Patheos.com blog, Ella has faced her challenges with so much “grace and courage” that she decided to channel her energies into a new activity she could do while seated: drawing.
Ella had never shown a particular aptitude for art, but six months into her new hobby, she has sketched and colored beautiful pictures of her favorite Disney characters and even some religious drawings of St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary. Her mother posts her drawings on EllasDoodles.blogspot.com to share her work with others—and hopefully to attract a few prayers for a little girl who could use a break from her suffering.
O Lord, heal me. (Psalm 6:2)
Relieve the burdens of suffering children, Divine Healer.
The $90,125 Pay Cut
Raymond Burse, the interim president at Kentucky State University, remembers the minimum-wage jobs he held during his high school and college years—and he empathizes with workers in similar jobs who struggle to make ends meet today.
Actually, he does more than empathize with them. He has taken a step to make their lives a little bit easier, by taking a 25 percent cut in his own salary—equaling $90,125—in order to boost their wages.
As reported by the Washington Post, the 24 employees at KSU (“including custodial staff, groundskeepers and lower end clerical workers”) who make below $10.25 an hour will now be bumped up to that baseline. Burse says he believes in raising wages, but didn’t want to put the financial burden on the school, so he lived up to his own principles in a unique way.
He said, “I didn’t have any examples of it having been done out there and I didn’t do it to be an example to anyone else. I did it to do right by the employees here.”
The laborer deserves to be paid. (Leviticus 19:14)
Bless those struggling financially, Lord, with bosses who are willing and able to improve their lives.
A Prayer to the Holy Family
Every family can use a little spiritual guidance from above. Who better to ask than the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph? Catholic Digest offers this prayer for intercession:
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph, like you we are members of the Father’s family. We pray that our family love may reflect His love in its openness to all people. May we forgive even when not forgiven, and be patient with others’ weaknesses.
“Jesus, give us peace, unity and strength to meet the difficulties of daily living. May we use our family resources to improve the quality of life for ourselves and all people. Let us show joy in serving, for whatever we do for others, we do for You.
“Mary, inspire us, that our love may be strong but not possessive. Let our willingness to give depend on the needs of others rather than on the cost of giving.
“Joseph, help us to be attentive to the Father’s will. Let us be ready, as you were, to act whenever He calls us. Amen.”
The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds, and it will not rest until it reaches its goal. (Sirach 35:21)
Guide and bless the members of my family, Holy Trinity.
Moving On and Letting Go
Today, a few more ideas from writer Tim Hoch on ways that you can make your life easier and happier.
■ “Do you need to forgive someone, turn your back on a failed relationship, or come to terms with the death of a loved one?
Closure is a word for people who have never really suffered. There’s no such thing. Just try to ‘manage’ your loss. Put it in perspective. You will always have some regret and doubt about your loss. You’re not alone. Find someone who understands and talk to that person. Reach out for support.”
■ “One way to deal with loss is to immerse yourself in doing good. Volunteer. Get involved in life. It doesn’t even have to be a big, structured thing. Say a kind word. Encourage someone. Pay a visit to someone who is alone. Get away from your self-absorption. When it comes down to it, there are two types of people in this world. There are givers and there are takers. Givers are happy. Takers are miserable. What are you?”
The measure you give will be the measure you get back. (Luke 6:38)
Guide me in moving beyond behaviors that stand in the way of my own happiness, Divine Redeemer.
Making Life Harder than It Has to Be
Writer Tim Hoch believes that many of us are making life harder than it has to be. He points outs some ways in which we do this—and how we can move past them to find happiness.
- “Another driver cut you off. Your friend never texted you back. Your co-worker went to lunch without you. Everyone can find a reason to be offended on a steady basis. So what caused you to be offended? You assigned bad intent to these otherwise innocuous actions. You took it as a personal affront. Happy people don’t ascribe intent to the unintentional actions of others.”
- “I have a bad habit of fast forwarding everything to its worst possible outcome and being pleasantly surprised when the result is marginally better than utter disaster. My mind unnecessarily wrestles with events that aren’t remotely likely, [such as] my lost driver’s license fell into the hands of an al-Qaeda operative who will wipe out my savings account. Negativity only breeds more negativity. It is a happiness riptide. It will carry you away from shore and if you don’t swim away from it, will pull you under.”
Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? (Luke 12:25)
Help me to nurture a positive outlook on life, Creator.
A Brain Surgeon’s Snowy Trek
When a major snowstorm paralyzed Birmingham, Alabama, in 2014, most residents just stayed inside. But not 62-year-old neurosurgeon Dr. Zenko Hrynkiw.
While assisting another brain surgeon at Brookwood Medical Center, he received the CT scans of a patient at Trinity Medical Center on his phone. Dr. Hrynkiw believed the patient had a 90 percent chance of dying, so he decided to walk six miles in his scrubs to Trinity to perform emergency surgery.
As reported by the Alabama Media Group, Dr. Hrynkiw’s journey “included stops to help push stranded motorists stuck in the roadway due to the snowstorm—and a stop to sit in an ambulance to warm up from the below 20-degree weather.”
Dr. Hrynkiw insisted, “I walk a lot so it wasn’t that big a deal.” But in light of the patient’s good prognosis, Trinity CEO Keith Granger disagreed with the humble physician, saying, “It’s a remarkable physical and mental feat. We have an individual alive today who wouldn’t be here if not for his efforts.”
The Lord has made my journey successful. (Genesis 24:56)
Guide my steps during difficult journeys, Divine Savior.
A Millionaire’s Dream Job
When Jon Kitna hung up his cleats in 2011 after 15 years as an NFL quarterback, he not only went back to school but he went there to teach—at Lincoln High School, the same one he’d attended while growing up in Tacoma, Washington. Lincoln is in a high-poverty area these days, and many of the students are potential dropouts. That didn’t trouble Kitna. “Give me your toughest students,” he said. And he got them.
Kitna didn’t turn to teaching because he needed the money. His football career brought him over $20 million, $2.3 million of it in his final year with the Dallas Cowboys. He did it for love of the profession, a feeling he doesn’t attempt to hide.
“This is my dream job,” he says.
His “dream job” includes teaching three algebra classes, and he loves seeing students go from outright failure straight to the honor roll.
“To see lives changed,” he said. “That’s something!”
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor.” (Matthew 19:21)
Lord, bless teachers who bring wisdom to young people.
Addicts Challenge Atheist’s Unbelief
When photographer Chris Arnade started taking pictures of homeless drug addicts in New York’s South Bronx, he expected to find a group of people who, like himself, were atheists. After all, how could individuals living desperate lives on the streets believe there was a loving God who cares for everyone?
Arnade was shocked that the exact opposite view prevailed. Michael, a crack addict, always carries a rosary with him. Heroin addicts Sonya and Eric count a picture of the Last Supper as their most valued possession. Takeesha, a prostitute, describes herself as “a child of God.”
Arnade’s hard shell of disbelief cracked. He wrote in The Guardian, “In Biblical terms, we are all sinners. On the streets the addicts, with their daily battles and proximity to death, have come to understand this viscerally. Many successful people don’t. Their sense of entitlement and emotional distance has numbed their understanding of our fallibility.”
Arnade now sees his own fallibility, and admires the addicts whose faith offers them a source of hope.
He instructs sinners in the way. (Psalm 25:8)
Lord, guide all people who search for You to a better life.
‘What Is Needed Is Trust’
After graduating college, Michigan resident Jim Ziolkowski hitchhiked around the world, spending time in developing countries like India and Nepal, where he felt overwhelmed by the poverty he witnessed. One day, he passed through a village where they were celebrating the opening of a school. Ziolkowski realized how powerful education can be.
When he returned to the U.S. in 1990, he got a job in corporate finance at GE. But after 15 months, he quit that job to start the nonprofit buildOn. Their initial mission was to build three schools in poor areas of three different continents, using inner-city youth from America to help do it.
Beyond good intentions, though, Ziolkowski had no idea how to accomplish that task. He felt paralyzed by fear, until one night he opened his Bible and read Jesus’s words from Mark’s gospel: “Fear is useless. What is needed is trust.” Ziolkowski got the courage to call up the CFO of GE Capital, and ask for financial help. His pitch worked, and the project came together. Today, buildOn has built 618 schools in developing countries.
My heart shall not fear. (Psalm 27:3)
Strengthen my belief in Your loving providence, Lord.
A Labor of Love and Faith
Twenty-nine-year-old Daniel Andrade suffers from a severe type of cerebral palsy, rendering him unable to walk, talk, or move since birth. Yet thanks to the singular efforts of his loving mother, Irma, he is able to attend Mass once a week.
Every Sunday, 56-year-old Irma Gomes-Andrade washes, dresses and carries her son down the stairs of their second-floor apartment to his wheelchair waiting in the driveway below. The pair then walk the three blocks to St. John the Baptist Church, located in their hometown of Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Irma has gone through some especially rough periods in her life. Daniel’s birth father left her after learning their son was disabled, and it took years to get Daniel to hold up his own head. Even today, he still requires constant everyday care. But Irma is grateful to God for the gift of Daniel’s life—and her own.
“I opened my arms and I trusted God that He would give me the strength to raise him the best I can,” Irma told the Rhode Island Catholic. “I thank God for everything He has given me.”
God, the Lord, is my strength. (Isaiah 40:31)
Christ, may we always lean upon Your ineffable strength.
Listen to Your Mother…Usually
You should always follow your mother’s advice. Well, almost always. Consider this story that actor and comedian Tim Conway shared as a guest on Christopher Closeup while promoting his memoir What’s So Funny?
During his third year starring in the 1960’s hit sitcom McHale’s Navy, Tim got a call from his mother Sophia in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. She told him, “Ken Shutts down at the hardware store is taking on new help. You know him rather well, so you should apply.”
A little surprised, Tim responded, “Ma, have you been watching television in the last couple of years?”
Sophia answered, “I saw it, but that junk isn’t going to last. You got a chance to get a good steady job. You should take it.”
Thankfully, Tim didn’t pursue the hardware store job, which freed him up to eventually make it onto The Carol Burnett Show, where he cemented his legacy as a comedy great. But the down-to-earth attitudes he learned from his parents stay with him to this day. And he’s a better (and funnier) man for it.
A cheerful heart is a good medicine. (Proverbs 17:22)
May laughter lift my spirits, Heavenly Father.
Thank You for Listening, Young Lady
While working as a Spanish translator for a meditation class at Mercy Center in the Bronx, New York, Angelica Perez encountered a woman in her late fifties who opened up about her lifetime of physical and emotional pain. Though Perez realized this woman needed professional treatment for depression, she listened sympathetically as she talked for over an hour.
Before leaving to see a social worker to get the help she needed, the woman hugged Perez and said, “Thank you for listening to my story… No one has ever sat with me and listened for such a long time. Thank you, young lady.”
Recalling that experience on the Mercy Volunteer Corps blog, Perez wrote, “Did I really say the magical words to get this lady to feel better and cure her depression? Not quite; all I did was listen with compassion and respond gently. I was reminded on this day that the simplest acts of kindness can make a big difference; even when we think we’re not making a difference, we may be doing more than we give ourselves credit for.”
Speak, for Your servant is listening. (1 Samuel 3:10)
Give me the patience and compassion to listen to the lost and lonely, Savior.
‘I’m Not a Victim’
When TV host Mike Rowe met retired Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills at the Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., he was astonished at the condition of the man standing in front of him. It wasn’t just the fact that Mills was a quadruple amputee with two prosthetic arms and two prosthetic legs, but also that his spirit was shockingly upbeat.
When Rowe inquired what happened to him, Mills said an IED in Afghanistan had destroyed his limbs. Despite that, Mills said, “I’m not a victim, Mike, and I refused to be portrayed that way.” Instead, Mills focuses on his wife, his child, and on helping wounded veterans adjust to life with their injuries.
On Facebook, Rowe wrote, “Travis is missing more than a few original parts; he’s missing all traces of self-pity. And that presents a challenge for mortals like me…[to] listen to a guy with no arms or legs tell me how lucky he is, and how much he appreciates all my hard work. That’s called a gut-check, and I could use one from time to time.”
Be strong, and let us be courageous. (2 Samuel 10:12)
Instead of dwelling on misfortune, Father, inspire me to be a blessing to others.
Prepare for New Possibilities
Patheos.com blogger Deacon Greg Kandra and his wife spent one New Year’s Eve in a Times Square hotel, overlooking the revelry and confetti below. The next morning, they were amazed at how well the streets had been cleaned up.
Deacon Greg then saw those clean streets as a symbol for New Year’s Day—and a symbol of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
He wrote, “New Year’s Day is…the moment when everything is possible. Every page of the calendar is blank. Every diet is successful…Here and now we begin anew. How appropriate, then, that the Church…has dedicated this particular moment in time to Our Lady, as we mark the feast of Mary the Mother of God. In Mary, we see the ultimate vessel of possibility. In her, the world was given a new start.
“This January 1st, I would challenge you to…resolve to learn something from the woman we honor. Resolve to dwell in possibility. Resolve to see every day, not just this one, as a fresh beginning…Trust that God will see you through it—and then reflect on it in your heart. Just like Mary did.”
My soul magnifies the Lord. (Luke 1:46)
Help me focus on new possibilities, Lord.
How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions
How many times do we make our New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions, but then end up breaking them?
Father Pat Toner, pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Plain City, Ohio, offers some useful tips for sticking to your resolutions in The Catholic Times:
▪ Limit your number of resolutions to one or two. Trying to keep one resolution is hard enough without having to juggle too many at once.
▪ Replace your bad habit with a new, more beneficial task.For example, if you find yourself taking God’s name in vain, turn your cursing into a prayer to Him.
▪ Make it a daily intention. Try to include this new habit as a part of your everyday ritual.
▪ Develop strategies to ingrain the habit. For instance, if you have trouble praying in the evening, like Father Pat, putting your hymnal on your bedside table might help.
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
Jesus, may our faith be at the center of every New Year’s resolution.
A Good Samaritan Needs Help Himself
When Hurricane Sandy whipped through the East Coast in October 2012, Pete Vadola’s home in Staten Island, New York, was one of the few left standing in his neighborhood of Midland Beach. Vadola came through for his stricken neighbors, though, evacuating no less than 200 of them with a motorboat.
Now Vadola—who lives with his wife Melissa and their two young sons—knows how the others feel. His own home was destroyed by fire in July of 2013, and Vadola’s family had to take up lodging in his parents’ house nearby.
“When a friend who was marooned in his attic with his wife and kid called for help the day after Sandy, I was feeling blessed that my home was spared,” he told Denis Hamill of the Daily News. “Now I know how all of my neighbors felt.”
He’s keeping everything in perspective, though. “Thank God no one was hurt. I have insurance; I have a job. I’m okay. But I am deeply touched by my neighbors, who care so much about us. That’s why, like everybody else around here, I will rebuild.”
I will be with them in trouble. (Psalm 91:15)
Redeemer, make us remember those who reached out to us in our need so that we may be a help to them.
Rain to the Rescue!
Man’s best friend can also prove to be a wonderful spiritual healer. Just ask Father Bert Woolson, who has a five-year-old female King Shepherd dog named Rain. A member of the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addictions’ K-9 Assisted Crisis Response Team, Rain was originally trained to be a wheelchair assistance dog. Father Bert, a State Police Chaplain, adopted her, making her a part of his “special ministry.”
The chaplain’s main task is to comfort people at the scene of accidents and, if necessary, help them find the proper spiritual and mental care in the aftermath of these disasters. According to Father Bert, Rain is a superbly instinctive canine caregiver.
“She was in Henryville (following a tornado in March) for two days…we also responded to a fire,” the priest recalls. “When a fireman injured his arm, somehow that dog gave him the courage to go on. I have no idea how she did it.”
Animal behaviorists tell us that just touching a dog can greatly lower a person’s stress level. How fortunate we are that God has blessed us with such uncannily perceptive companions!
But ask the animals, and they will teach you. (Job 12:7)
Abba, bless and protect faithful pets, our unsung healers.
A Healing Presence
“All through our lives, we need the healing presence of others; perhaps a grandmother, perhaps a therapist; someone when the going gets rough, with whom to share tears and smiles.”
Judith Schmidt, Ph.D., learned that significant life lesson as a little girl, while spending many Sunday afternoons at her grandmother’s home. She describes the atmosphere as “a warming world away from the warring one at home.”
That early example taught Dr. Schmidt what children need in order to become adults capable of love. She herself grew up to become a clinical psychologist who wants to help people.
All these years later, Dr. Schmidt still returns to that place of comfort in her memory. She says, “I know that there will be a moment when my grandmother will call my name. In the kitchen, we will sit quietly together….She will put her hand to my face, smile and touch me with love.”
Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)
Jesus, may we fully appreciate the healing power of love.
Though many of us consider reading or watching Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as an annual tradition, the story was written at a time when the opposite was true.
As recounted by Jamie Lutton in The Capitol Hill Times, “When Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1842, the holiday was nearly dead in modern England. Christmas was celebrated by the rural and poor, but frowned upon by employers.”
It was only after reading author Washington Irving’s lament that people were losing the “goodwill and cheerfulness” of the holiday that Dickens felt inspired to write a story about it.
As he walked the streets of London seeing poor, starving children, Dickens grew angry that many of the city’s wealthy citizens saw them as “surplus population,” as unnecessary human beings instead of as children of God. He incorporated that theme into his story, reminding his readers that the birth of Jesus is a time of celebration and appreciation of all human life.
Do not despise one of these little ones…Their angels continually see the face of My Father. (Matthew 18:10)
Jesus, help children to experience love.
The King of Kings Is Always With You
In his book A Simple Guide to Happiness, former Director of The Christophers Father John Catoir tells the following story:
“In 1953, I was walking guard duty at midnight on Christmas Eve. There I was, a lonely Army draftee serving at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas…I could hear the choir singing at the post chapel, where Midnight Mass was being held, and I felt terribly lonely.
“It never dawned on me that I was giving in to self-pity, and thereby was missing a wonderful opportunity to come closer to God. It would have been so much better had I united spiritually with the choir and thought of God as a friend who was closer to me than my own heartbeat.
“I didn’t realize that joy never comes to those who are caught up in their own brooding…The thoughts you think soon become the emotions you feel. If you think you’re alone in the world, your feelings of loneliness will intensify. But you are never alone. Your best friend, the King of kings, is always with you.”
In Your presence there is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11)
Lord, help me to choose joy when I’m tempted by self-pity.
The Christmas Miracle
It was Christmas Eve in London; the year was 1940. A young German student, severely afflicted with pneumonia, begged English nurse Eve Gordon to keep him awake for the night, for if he fell asleep, he knew he would not survive.
Taking pity on the student, Eve spent the night regaling him with the beloved Christmas story and singing him holiday carols. The young man remained awake, and was released from the hospital days later, fully recovered.
Several years passed and Hitler’s terrifying Nazi regime swept across Europe. Gordon’s language skills earned her a position as a spy in Nazi-occupied Norway. When she and many other Norwegian citizens were caught one day, Eve feared the worst and prayed for a quick death, lest her mission be discovered.
Roughly pushed into a room for questioning, Eve was shocked to recognize her Nazi interrogator as the student she helped years ago. Knowing Gordon as well, the soldier pointed to the door: “Go. I give you back your Christmas.”
Love your enemies, do good. (Luke 6:35)
Lord, may we give as generously as we receive.
The Bar That Helps Santa
Every Christmas season, Kip’s Inn in Milwaukee, Wisconsin doesn’t just serve drinks; it serves the less fortunate in the community.
As reported in The Catholic Herald, owner Kim Engebregtsen grew up as one of five children in a poor family that was helped by the generosity of other people and the Catholic Church. As a means of repaying that kindness, she’s sponsored an annual toy collection for Catholic Charities at the bar for the last six years.
Each year, Catholic Charities gives Engebregtsen a list with wishes from needy families that she and her patrons go above and beyond to fulfill. They don’t just buy what’s asked for; they include a little extra. Sharon Brumer, communications manager of an appreciative Catholic Charities, said of Engebregtsen, “She embraces sharing and giving to others, and that always rubs off on the people that come to your establishment.”
It sounds like Engebregtsen exemplifies the joy of giving, the joy we’re all supposed to feel at the gift of God’s Son.
The righteous are generous. (Psalm 37:21)
Holy Spirit, inspire our generosity.
Rosaries for Newtown
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shootings in 2012, which killed 26 students and teachers, Newtown, Connecticut residents needed extra comfort and prayers. To that end, Sandy Hook alumna Jackie Hennessey came up with the idea of making rosaries, using her parish of Holy Family in Endwell, New York as a fundraising springboard for her project.
“Everyone wanted to help,” Hennessey told The Catholic Sun. “The thought of creating rosaries that would actually touch the kids who lost brothers, sisters, cousins and friends, well, that’s pretty powerful.”
Hennessey’s charitable act is also a family affair. Her mother, Pam Arsenault, is the director of parish education at St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown. She distributed over 1,800 rosaries to the Sandy Hook children on Good Friday.
“The gift of the rosaries will help the process of healing,” Arsenault said. “We say in Newtown that we choose love, not hate. This is a tremendous gift of love.”
Pray for one another, so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
Lord, comfort those who mourn the losses of loved ones.
Sleeping on the Right Side of the Bed
How many of us complain of lack of sleep because we simply can’t fall asleep? Maybe we’re too tired, not tired, worried or wired. Here are some ideas to make sure you start the night’s rest right:
▪ Give yourself a bedtime. Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin says to look to the time you have to get up, and count backwards for the seven hours of sleep you need.
▪ Slow down. Sending e-mails and playing games on your Smartphone are not pre-bedtime activities. Rubin notes: “Let your mind wind down.”
▪ Set a routine. Establishing certain tasks you do every night before bed become a calming ritual, Rubin explains.
Our hearts remain ever restless, content only as they find peace in knowing the Lord and trusting in His love.
I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and no one shall make you afraid. (Leviticus 26:6)
Lord, I am weary; give me rest.
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