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Jerry Costello

Each of You is a Hero to Someone
April 26, 2015

  The note came straight from the heart.

                It came after 30 years or so, but no question about it: the note came straight from the heart. “You were my hero,” it said, and the once-young woman who wrote it is now in her middle years. It made you wonder what the man had done, the man who inspired those words.

                Actually he was a priest, and he was simply doing his job. An important job, as it turns out:  At the time Father Joe Breighner did a nationally syndicated radio program called the Country Road, and station WPOC carried it locally in Baltimore. That’s where the writer of the note “found” Father Joe all those years ago. He recalled the incident recently in his column, “Wit and Wisdom,” in theCatholic Review, newspaper of the Baltimore Archdiocese.

                The column was about the importance of gratitude, and Father Joe quoted from the writer’s note to help drive home a point:

                “Still after all these years, I have the cassette tapes from running your show back in the 1980s. I can honestly tell you that I would not be writing this card had you not been in my life to help me through my teenage years. My heart has always had love and gratitude for you in my life. You were my hero and through you I understood faith and love.”

                The priest hastened to explain that he was quoting from the note not to point at himself, but instead to point at his readers. He went on to explain:

                “Each of you reading this column is a hero to someone, perhaps to many someones. As parents and grandparents, as aunts and uncles, as brothers and sisters, as teachers and helpers, you have impacted others in ways you may never know this side of heaven…a thank-you has power that we never know.”

                Proving his point, Father Joe referred to a second note he had received at roughly the same time, and like the first it mentioned an incident that had happened long, long ago. Stationed then at a parish, he found his regular parking space blocked and pulled into another, quite a distance away.

                Then, walking to the church, he explained, “I met a wonderful young woman who needed to talk. She had just lost a baby, and was in deep grief. In those few moments together I was able to be of help to her. She never forgot it.” And, as you may have guessed by now, it was that woman who wrote him that note.

                When we do touch someone else’s life as Father Breighner did on those two occasions, it’s really God who is at work through us. “I wasn’t aware that I was anyone’s hero, as in the first note,” he said. “I wasn’t aware that someone needed to talk at the precise moment that I parked in a different place.” He added:

                “God is living in us and through us at every moment, and all we have to do is to surrender to God.”

                Now couldn’t that incident that inspired the second note be explained away by chance; couldn’t that regular parking spot that was already taken be a matter of coincidence?

                Father Joe had the answer for that one, too. Coincidence, he said, happens when God chooses to remain anonymous. Darned if that doesn’t make sense too.



For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, ANGELS: MESSENGERS FROM GOD, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: