THREE MINUTES A DAY
A perennial favorite, our annual book offers inspirational stories and reflections for each day of the year. View a selection of current reflections here on the site, order the current volume in our shop or to subscribe to receive Three Minutes reflections free-of-charge daily...
Holy Courage, Part 4
Among Sister Ave Clark’s greatest role models of holy courage were the young people with special needs that she used to teach. Though they ranged in age from 15 to 17, they were mentally on the level of six-year-olds. Yet they had the kindest hearts of anyone she’d known.
For example, she recalled one student coming up to her and asking that another student be given two stars on a test despite getting most of the answers wrong. When she asked why, the boy responded, “He has the biggest heart in the world. He is the kindest boy on the planet.”
Sister Ave observed, “He didn’t see the boy’s disability. He saw the beauty of the boy’s being. And I think so often in our world, if we would listen to people with special needs, we would grow more in touch with our own humanity.”
For those who read A Heart of Courage, she adds, “Hold your worry, hold your loss in your heart, and know that the Creator’s love is there with you. He’s holding them with you.”
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. (Proverbs 31:26)
Holy Spirit, help me see the beauty in other people.
Holy Courage, Part 3
For many years, Sister Ave Clark has done her best to help others find their holy courage through Heart to Heart Ministry. She offers pastoral counseling to post-abortive women, parents who have lost a child due to miscarriage, people with post-traumatic stress, victims of crime, survivors of suicide, survivors of abuse, those dealing with depression or grief, and more. The secret to her success is listening.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Sister Ave said, “There are people who will call me on the phone that had gotten very depressed…Some of them had lost loved ones. What I found in my life is the holy courage to be able to listen. Not to tell somebody else how to feel, not to diminish what they’re sharing, not to give them false hopes. [I] just to say to them, ‘I’ll be there with you.’
“I have found that with so many people, that boosts them up. And I think I would want the same done to me, somebody not to say, ‘Do it this way and everything will be fine,’ but to be able to listen to the heart of someone else and know that you’re going to learn something about yourself in listening, too.”
Let everyone be quick to listen. (James 1:19)
Improve my listening skills so I can be a comfort to someone in distress, Jesus.
Holy Courage, Part 2
In light of her experience learning to walk again after her accident, Sister Ave Clark pondered the idea of “holy courage.” During a Christopher Closeup interview about her book A Heart of Courage, she said, “Struggles make us stronger sometimes in broken places…Holy courage is opening your heart up to new ways of resurrecting in life.”
Though some may associate courage with bravado, Sister Ave points out that it can be exhibited in a variety of ways. She writes, “Like love, courage is not conceived in the mind, it emanates from the heart…And it comes in many forms.
“It was the courage of devotion that inspired Mary when she accepted her calling from Gabriel…It was the courage of humility displayed by Jesus, when although battered and beaten, He told a bewildered Pilate of the limitations of his power, thereby sealing His fate on the cross…Yet courage need not be so extraordinary. We can find it in the times and places of our everyday lives: in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and in our own homes.” More tomorrow…
Be strong and courageous…The Lord your God is with you. (Joshua 1:9)
May I practice holy courage in my daily life, Paraclete.
Holy Courage, Part 1
It sounds like a scene you’d see in a movie, but it really did happen to Sister Ave Clark. Sixteen years ago, a runaway train slammed into her car while she was driving in Queens, New York. Hospitalized for close to a year, Sister Ave endured a lot of physical therapy before she was able to walk again.
During that time, she was sustained by the Scripture from Romans 8: “Nothing will ever separate us from the love of God.” And she kept telling herself to “have courage.” Recalling her time in the hospital, Sister Ave felt sorry for herself and asked, “Why, God?” Soon, she decided to ask a different question: “God, what am I going to do now?” God provided an answer.
While she was sitting around waiting for therapy, for lunch, or for dinner, different people would come into her room and have conversations with her. Instead of traveling to churches to give retreats, she was listening and offering guidance to the people around her. Somebody observed that she was doing ministry from her hospital bed. Sister Ave realized, “I guess this is where God wants me.” More tomorrow…
Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength. (Isaiah 40:31)
What would You have me do today, Father?
Villagers Save Family From Nazis
Eric Schwan was just a child when the Nazis took power in his homeland of Austria. His Jewish family fled to the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, which was prepared to help Jewish refugees.
As recounted by Dolors Massot on Aleteia, Protestant pastor André Trocmé and his wife Magda organized a network of people in 1940 to help Jews fleeing persecution. Eventually, the entire village of 2,500 people joined in their mission.
When Schwan and his family arrived in 1943, they were hidden in a local Christian school. For two years, villagers brought them food and water. But they weren’t the only ones in hiding there. “It’s estimated,” writes Massot, “that the townspeople saved between 3,000 and 5,000 people during the years of the Holocaust.”
Eric Schwan went on to live a happy life in Lyon, France, until his death in 2021. But he never forgot Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. As thanks, he left the village two million dollars “for scholarships and other educational and youth initiatives.”
Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the
hand of the wicked. (Psalm 82:4)
Grant me the courage to help those in danger, Lord.
Making sure your heart is functioning well should be an important part of everyone’s life. Writing in AARP Magazine, Nicole Pajer suggests several ideas on maintaining or improving heart health:
■ Get enough sleep, but not too much.
■ Exercise enough to get your heart rate up, after checking details with your doctor.
■ Get a flu shot.
■ Instead of drinking diet soda, or any soda, try sparkling water with a slice of fruit.
■ Driving in heavy traffic can be a risk to heart health because you’re sitting, fuming at a traffic jam, and breathing polluting fumes.
■ Take care of dental health.
■ Maintain friendships and cope with loneliness.
■ Eat more fruit, less red meat or chips.
As the old saying goes: “Take care of your heart, and it will take care of you.”
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow
the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
May I keep You in my heart always, Jesus.
You Are Not Alone
As resilient as children can be, they’re not immune to the effects of stress. While adults might complain or ask for help, youngsters can get lost in the shuffle when their acting out goes unnoticed, or is misunderstood and critiqued.
Periodically check on the mental health of the children in your life. You can make a difference in the way they deal with their feelings.
“Don’t assume your children will tell you if they are struggling or need help,” writes Todd Karlin, Psy.D. in a Manhattan Times article. Be particularly alert to acute warning signs such as “expressing hopelessness or purposelessness, withdrawal from relationships…risky behaviors.”
Don’t necessarily assume the worst, but do let children know they’re not alone and you are available to support them through problems big and small.
It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you;
He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
Help us, Holy Spirit, to guide our children through life’s challenges.
Finding God in Silence
In a piece for Northwest Catholic, Shemaiah Gonzalez reflected on the frightening nature of the silence that descended on our nation when stay-at-home orders were issued due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Silence is scary for some,” she wrote. “We are afraid of what might surface in the silence. Grief? Anger? Sadness?”
Gonzalez resolved to embrace the silence and eventually found it to be transformative, writing, “In the silence, I found Jesus. Now silence has become my favorite prayer.”
Gonzalez came to understand how silence can help us connect with God in profound ways, as expressed in Psalm 131, where David sings, “I have stilled my soul, / Like a weaned child to its mother, / Weaned is my soul.”
Quoting Dutch priest and theologian Henri Nouwen, who once prayed, “Prevent the world from filling our lives to such an extent that there is no place left to listen,” Gonzalez concluded, “May this be our prayer. May we sit in silence and hear what we can hear.”
For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is in Him. (Psalm 62:5)
Speak to me, oh God, in the stillness of my soul.
God’s Love Leads Addict to Recovery, Part 1
Jim Wahlberg grew up as one of nine kids, two of whom became the famous actors/musicians Mark and Donnie. Their family was relatively poor, so his father worked two jobs, while his mom worked an overnight shift as a nurse. Starved for attention, Jim started hanging out with the neighborhood troublemakers, who were happy to give him beer. Once, he drank so much that he got violently ill at home.
Jim’s father, who himself could be a volatile alcoholic, thought that bad experience would keep his son away from alcohol for good, but he was wrong.
During a Christopher Closeup interview about his memoir The Big Hustle, Jim explained, “You can’t scare an alcoholic or a drug addict out of doing substances. I’ve been to funerals where people died of overdoses, and all their friends there were under the influence of the same drug that killed their friend. Because the thing about addiction…is the world sees that substance as the thing that’s tearing [the addict] apart. But the addict sees it as the thing that’s holding them together.” More tomorrow…
Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise. (Ephesians 5:15)
Help young people avoid the pitfalls of addiction, Lord.
God’s Love Leads Addict to Recovery, Part 2
Though Jim Wahlberg grew up in a culturally Catholic family, his understanding of God was defective because he was taught an image of a vengeful God who is always watching us and out to get us. He believes that negative spirituality played a role in his addiction.
Jim said on Christopher Closeup, “That’s such a terrible thing to do to a child. I don’t blame any particular people, except maybe I do blame the Church a little bit because either they weren’t saying it or I wasn’t hearing it. But I never heard the words, ‘God loves you, Jesus died for you.’
“It wasn’t like I was encouraged to have a relationship with God. I was encouraged to be afraid…I think everybody maybe should have a little fear of living a totally sinful life, but ultimately nobody should be denied the fact that Jesus loves them and that He died for them. That’s important information. And I didn’t get that information until I was 22 years old in state prison for the second time.”
That part of the story tomorrow…
God proves His love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Remind me that You love me, Creator.
God’s Love Leads Addict to Recovery, Part 3
At age 22 and in prison for the second time, Jim Wahlberg finally heard a message about God’s love from none other than Mother Teresa—though at the time, Wahlberg had no idea who she was. She was visiting the prison, and before she even said a word, he could tell she was someone important and holy.
As the Mass for the inmates began, Mother Teresa was invited to sit in a place of honor next to the cardinal. But she adamantly refused, choosing instead to sit with the inmates.
Wahlberg recalled, “When her time came to speak, she spoke words that I never heard before: God loves you. Jesus died for you. You are more than your prison number. You are more than the crimes that you have committed to get here. You are a child of God.”
Those words touched something deep inside of Wahlberg that had never been touched before. With the help of a priest he befriended, he got his addictions under control. But his spiritual journey wasn’t a straight line from there. More of the story tomorrow…
You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Psalm 86:15)
Help me to rise above my past mistakes, Father.
God’s Love Leads Addict to Recovery, Part 4
Jim Wahlberg finally absorbed the message that God loved him and found himself on track to embrace his Catholic faith in a deeper way than ever. But then, the Church’s abuse scandal rocked Boston, and Jim only saw the Church’s dark side and hypocrisy.
During a Christopher Closeup interview about his memoir The Big Hustle, Wahlberg said, “In my early recovery journey, after getting out of prison, I wasn’t focused on God. I was focused on myself.” He bought flashy gold chains and a fancy car because he wanted to look successful to the outside world.
During this time, Jim still accomplished some milestones in his life. He stayed free of drugs and alcohol for five years, got married, and had three children. But without God, he remained empty inside and even suicidal.
When Wahlberg finally embraced his Catholic faith and developed a relationship with Jesus, he began to flourish. He shared his experiences with people around the country and made several films about addiction. That part of the story tomorrow…
Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
Guide people toward recovery from addiction, Jesus.
God’s Love Leads Addict to Recovery, Part 5
Jim Wahlberg strove to make a difference for others struggling with addiction by making short films on the topic, as well as by traveling the country to share his story. He said, “I met hundreds of people who had lost their children. And I kept getting requests: will you come and show your film? Will you come and help facilitate a conversation? We need your help.
“I said, ‘God, I don’t know what You want from me, but I can’t walk away from these people. So I’m committing to You that I’m going to say, yes, Lord, whatever You want me to do.”
Jim went on to create 12 films about addiction, including What About the Kids? at WhatAboutTheKidsFilm.com. It tells the story of an eight-year-old girl whose parents are addicts. When her mother dies of an overdose, she is left in the custody of her religious grandmother, who teaches her to rely on God.
There is one common theme in both What About the Kids and Jim’s memoir The Big Hustle: “Stigma. It’s about not judging people and knowing that anything is possible with God.” More tomorrow…
Serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. (1 Peter 4:10)
How can I best do Your will in this world, Father?
God’s Love Leads Addict to Recovery, Part 6
Jim Wahlberg’s addiction battle gave him the strength to practice mercy towards his father, who had been an alcoholic himself and never given Jim the affection he craved. Jim learned that the problem was generational. His father’s father was an emotionally cold alcoholic, so it was largely a matter of modeling the example that was set for him.
Wahlberg said, “My dad and I, we healed a lot. A lot of it wasn’t through words. It was through actions. My dad lived with me, in my home, with my family, as he got older and got weaker…He loved my children. All the things that I wanted to hear as a child, I watched him pour all over them, and tell them how adorable they are, how much he loved them.
“I learned a lot in the process, about my dad and how he was raised, about his limitations, about alcoholism, which he suffered from. I learned about all that through my own recovery, in my relationship with God. I learned about myself, and I saw the similarities between he and I. I came to [understand] that he did the best he could with the tools he was given.”
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)
May forgiveness, understanding, and compassion guide my relationships, Father.
God’s Love Leads Addict to Recovery, Part 7
Jim Wahlberg learned that the stigma associated with addiction is hard to overcome. A Gallup poll once showed that addiction had no place on people’s concerns about the world.
A marketing expert explained to Jim, “When you call your neighbor and [say] your kid has cancer, they cook you a casserole. They cut your grass. They go to the supermarket for you. When you call your neighbors and say, ‘My son is suffering from addiction,’ they pull their shades down. They lock their doors. They tell their kids to stay away from you.”
Wahlberg observed, “Why is it that we’re willing to serve somebody in [one] instance, but not in [another]? This person is in danger of losing their child. Why is it that we do that? It’s stigma. It’s lack of understanding. It’s lack of education on the topic, and I get it…Most people don’t educate themselves on addiction until addiction shows up at their door.”
Today, Jim Wahlberg continues turning his pain into purpose. Having walked through the darkness of addiction, he has emerged into God’s light and is determined to share it with everyone who needs help.
Speak out for those who cannot speak. (Proverbs 31:8)
Heal my biases against those with addictions, Savior.
A Christopher Prayer for 9/11
Giver of Life, on this day, we remember and pray for all the souls who died due to the shocking acts of violence committed on September 11th, 2001: the innocents on the planes and at work in the Twin Towers and Pentagon, the heroic passengers onboard Flight 93, and the selfless first responders who, while trying to save lives, lost their own, either on that day or in the ensuing years from 9/11-related illnesses.
Lord, we pray also for the families and friends the victims of 9/11 left behind. Though their grief might have eased over time, the hole in their lives remains. Help them to find joy in the memories of their loved ones, not just sadness at their absence.
Finally, Prince of Peace, guide us to live as people of peace, grounded in Your command to love God and our neighbors above all else. It is easy to succumb to the temptations of anger and hatred when wrongs are committed against us. But these all-consuming emotions lead to a dead end. Help us instead to find the beauty and goodness You placed in this world and to follow the words of Scripture:
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
Embrace the souls lost on 9/11 in Your embrace, Father.
Never Ending Grief?
Feelings of intense grief are natural when a spouse, child, parent, or other loved one dies. Experts say that the “all-consuming, debilitating pain eventually fades” for most people. “But for those with ‘prolonged grief disorder,’ an enigmatic condition that afflicts seven to 10 percent of bereaved adults, time does not heal. Instead, their anguish may persist, raw and unresolved for years, even decades.”
Symptoms can include a tendency to blame yourself or others, avoidance of situations that remind you of the deceased, and social withdrawal. Complicated grief is now a recognized condition with a treatment developed by Dr. Katherine Shear from Columbia University’s School of Social Work.
According to an article in Columbia magazine, “The protocol focuses on three components of the mourning process: accepting the reality of the death, developing an ongoing relationship with the person who died, and envisioning a future in which the beloved is no longer physically present but possibilities for joy and happiness remain.”
You have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice. (John 16:22)
Jesus, heal my grief and lead me to joy again.
Reignite Your Spiritual Pilot Light
Dolly Parton lets her light shine in many ways, not just as an entertainer extraordinaire. One of her most impressive acts of philanthropy stems from her founding of the Imagination Library, which has donated more than 150 million books to children worldwide to promote literacy and self-esteem.
But even though she’s focused on shining a light on faith, hope, and goodness, Dolly endures times of darkness like everyone else. So how does she respond? As it says on the four Christopher Awards she has won, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”
Dolly agrees with that sentiment. During a Christopher Closeup interview, she concluded that in times of darkness, “I go to that God core inside me. Even when I feel like my little pilot light might have gone out, I know it’s still there. I just have to reignite it through prayer, faith, love, friends, and family.”
It is You who light my lamp; the Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.
When I’m feeling overwhelmed by darkness, Lord, ignite the light within me through service, prayer, family, friends, and the power of love.
Principal Gets Second Job to Help Students
When Principal Henry Darby of North Charleston High School in South Carolina took a part-time job at Walmart, he secretly used that paycheck to help support local kids and their families in need, not realizing the ripple effect that would ensue.
Principal Darby worked a full day at the high school, and then would stock shelves at Walmart from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., three nights every week. He secretly donated the money he earned to help local families struggling financially.
When word got out about Darby’s generous sacrifice, the community came together to raise even more money to bolster this wonderful cause, with Walmart donating $50,000 to Darby’s school.
In honor of Darby’s generous nature, the state presented him with its highest civilian honor, the Order of the Palmetto. As reported by NPR, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said, “Principal Darby personifies the best of South Carolina, a selfless person who goes above and beyond for others.”
A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water. (Proverbs 11:25)
Loving Jesus, thank You for leaders who model selfless behavior.
A Coffee and Ice Cream Surprise
On her way home from work, Alice Morrow Rowan stopped by a September Farm store to buy a cup of decaf coffee and a scoop of ice cream. In front of her on line were a mother, father, and their three little kids.
Recalling the incident on Facebook, Rowan wrote, “They apologized for making me wait so long while they ordered. I smiled and said it gave me enough time to make up my mind.
“When I got to the register, I was told that my coffee and ice cream had already been paid for! I didn’t quite know how to handle that, so I prayed, and continue to pray, for that family to be blessed tenfold for their generosity and kindness.”
Perhaps buying someone a coffee and ice cream sounds like a small gesture of kindness. But that small gesture can touch someone’s heart and spirit, as this case shows. It isn’t necessarily the magnitude of a good deed that makes it worthwhile, but the intention behind it. Keep your eyes open for an opportunity to practice a small kindness today.
Kindness is like a garden of blessings. (Sirach 40:17)
Heavenly Father, remind me that all acts of kindness are reflections of Your kindness and infinite compassion towards us, Your children.
For 31 years, The Christophers has sponsored a poster contest for high school students, asking them to visually interpret the theme, “You can make a difference.” First Prize in 2021 was awarded to Alexi Ann Farrell, whose digital poster is comprised of photographs highlighting her volunteer work with youngsters who have special needs. In the center of the entry is the statement, “You can make a difference by embracing ability rather than disability.”
“In 2017, my vocal coach partnered with an organization called Gigi’s Playhouse, a Down syndrome achievement center,” Alexi explained in an e-mail to The Christophers, “to put on a performance led by individuals with Down syndrome. I was asked to assist in directing, as well as mentoring the students…and I fell in love with the work.”
Farrell continued, “In the world today, people are so quick to judge individuals with special needs and focus on the things that they may be unable to do. Embracing their abilities instead of their disabilities not only gives them confidence, but also helps change society’s view of people with special needs.”
The Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2:4)
May I celebrate everyone’s unique abilities, Jesus.
A Simple Way to Start Your Day
St. Teresa of Calcutta is remembered for her charity work among the poorest in India. But she is also well-known for her practical spiritual guidance for those looking to grow closer to Jesus.
Writing for Aleteia, Sarah Robsdottir shared a piece of wisdom handed down from Father Gary Caster, who heard it from Mother Teresa: “Before you get out of bed…say ‘Good morning, Jesus.’” Father Caster explained that Mother Teresa gave him this advice 33 years ago, and it has helped him orient each day towards “speaking heart-to-heart with God.”
Speaking this way to God can help deepen your relationship with Him. It’s a simple way to acknowledge the presence of Jesus in our lives, from the very moment we wake up until the time we fall asleep. Just like we would greet a spouse or loved one, greeting God with a “good morning” can be a short prayer to start your day off right.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and
fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Jesus, may I nurture my relationship with You at the start of each day.
Chaplain Inspires Faith Journey, Part 1
When award-winning New York Times sportswriter and author Joe Drape moved his family to Kansas in 2008, he didn’t know God was planting a seed. Drape thought he was just there to work on a book about an undefeated high school football team, the Smith Center Redmen, who had two rules: “Love one another, and let’s get better each day.”
But God never lets a good opportunity go to waste, and so while Drape was there, he learned about the life of Korean War hero Father Emil Kapaun, a Kansas native on the road to possible sainthood.
Drape, a lifelong—albeit lukewarm—Catholic, was impressed by Father Kapaun’s story, but nothing else came of it until seven years later when his publisher asked him if he had an interest in writing about something other than sports for his next book. That’s when Father Kapaun came to mind—and that’s why Joe has now authored The Saint Makers: Inside the Catholic Church and How a War Hero Inspired a Journey of Faith. More on Father Kapaun tomorrow…
I planted…but God gave the growth.
(1 Corinthians 3:6)
Help the seeds You plant in my life to flourish, Creator.
Chaplain Inspires Faith Journey, Part 2
Born in Pilsen, Kansas in 1916, Father Emil Kapaun found his calling-within-a-calling as a chaplain in the Army. That assignment led to him being sent to Korea with U.S. troops. As The Saint Makers author Joe Drape said during a Christopher Closeup interview, “Father Kapaun and his fellow GIs walked into 25,000 Chinese soldiers descending on 6,000 of them.”
Father Kapaun quickly earned the respect of his fellow soldiers. He moved from battlefield to battlefield with his stole and ciborium, also carrying food, tobacco, and several canteens of water. Drape said, “He crawled into these foxholes and never really pushed the faith on them. The most he’d say is, ‘Do you mind if we say a little prayer?’ It didn’t matter what faith they were, he never asked.
“During that stretch, a lot of people were getting slaughtered, and he would not leave the wounded behind. He would go to where the wounded were [and]…pile them up on the Jeep [himself]. It was almost superhuman. They just marveled at how he’d go into enemy fire and, with artillery going off, he’d always come back with men.” More tomorrow…
Take action, for it is your duty. (Ezra 10:4)
Fill me with courage in dangerous situations, Lord.
Chaplain Inspires Faith Journey, Part 3
Father Emil Kapaun and U.S. troops were eventually overwhelmed by the Chinese, having no choice but to surrender. But the Chinese didn’t want to bring wounded Americans with them to the POW camp, so they prepared to execute a soldier named Herb Miller, who had been hurt.
When Father Kapaun saw a Chinese soldier with his rifle aimed at Miller’s head, he rushed over, pushed the gun aside, put Miller on his own shoulder, and carried him 60 miles over a period of weeks until they arrived at the camp. Joe Drape, author of The Saint Makers about Father Kapaun, said, “That simple act made everybody around him pick up the wounded. It was a moment of leadership that everybody emulated.”
Under horrific conditions in the POW camp, Father Kapaun continued to care for his men. He helped feed them by foraging for berries and stealing food from the guards. “And when they were dying,” added Drape, “he would go sit with them and bury them, digging the hole himself…He was a 360-degree caregiver for these guys, and they all looked up to him.” More tomorrow…
He will not overlook…the love that you showed for His sake in serving the saints. (Hebrews 6:10)
Help me be a leader that emulates You, Jesus.
Chaplain Inspires Faith Journey, Part 4
Another one of Father Emil Kapaun’s best qualities that impressed author Joe Drape was his ecumenical approach to faith. Drape explained, “You had Turkish soldiers who were Muslims, they loved the guy. You had two Jewish doctors, they loved the guy. Atheists, Protestants, he just saw the goodness in everybody and was able to exude goodness back.”
Father Kapaun eventually died in the POW camp, but the men he served wouldn’t let his heroism and courage be forgotten. Their stories—along with a couple of miracles attributed to Father Kapaun’s intercession—paved the way for his consideration for sainthood.
Father Kapaun’s example also prompted Drape to reevaluate his own lackluster spiritual life. Specifically, he had forgotten how to pray. His friend, Father Jim Martin, gave Drape the guidance he needed, saying: “You have a teenage son. If he was troubled by something, wouldn’t you want him to come to you and ask for help?” Drape responded, “Yes.”
It’s the same with God, said Father Martin: “God wants you to come lay your troubles at His feet and let Him help you.”
Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer. (Psalm 4:1)
Lord, teach me to pray.
Chaplain Inspires Faith Journey, Part 5
In writing The Saint Makers about Father Emil Kapaun and his possible road to sainthood, Joe Drape found himself inspired by the priest’s selflessness and devotion to God and the soldiers to whom he ministered. He even began asking for Father Kapaun’s intercession, an idea that had never occurred to him before. Drape found his relationship with God and efforts to live out his faith greatly improved in the aftermath.
There is a lot more to The Saint Makers, so Drape encourages people to read the book. He described his hope for readers during a Christopher Closeup interview: “I did not intend for the book to come out in a divided culture in the midst of a pandemic, but it’s probably good it comes out at this time.
“I hope people pick it up and say, ‘[Father Kapaun] was just like me. He was nothing special, except he put his faith in God and put the effort in to serve God. He made the world a better place, and he endured illness, division, and ridicule about everything else, physically and mentally. And he did it with grace and dignity.’ That’s a worthy lesson to move on with.”
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)
Jesus, help me to trust and serve You.
Singer Colton Dixon’s Miracle Daughter
On August 18th, 2020, singer Colton Dixon’s wife Annie was delivering twins at the hospital when suddenly a Caesarean was ordered. The parents were met with a heart-stopping situation—one of their twin babies, Dior, didn’t have a pulse.
In an interview with Pure Flix Podcast, Dixon said everything had been going well with the delivery until suddenly he knew “something didn’t look right” when his baby girl came out discolored. The Dixons watched and prayed in panic as the doctors got to work trying to save their daughter.
Thankfully, the doctors were able to save Dior—and after a short time in the NICU for some head trauma, she is now home and doing well with her parents and her twin sister, Athens.
Colton released a song entitled “Miracles” early in 2020 and believes his daughter truly is a miracle: “Time and time again, we’ve seen God show up and work in a really mighty way, and this was no different.”
By his words, he performed swift miracles. (Sirach 45:3)
Jesus, please bestow Your blessings upon the babies in the NICU, their parents, and the healthcare workers.
The Voice of Jeopardy
“This is Jeopardy!” For 37 years, the voice of Johnny Gilbert has kicked off each episode of the iconic game show with those words—and he’s still going strong at age 92.
As a child raised in Newport News, Virginia, Gilbert sang in his Lutheran Church’s choir and eventually pursued a career as a singer. He found some work, but also ran into a talent manager willing to hire him as an emcee at a local club.
As he recalled in an interview on the Today Show, Gilbert didn’t know what a Master of Ceremonies was, but the talent manager taught him how to introduce people on stage. Gilbert’s talent and charisma made him a quick study, bringing him a new skill for his résumé. TV announcing jobs followed, and in 1984 he was hired by Merv Griffin and Alex Trebek for Jeopardy.
After Trebek died from pancreatic cancer in 2021, Gilbert questioned whether he should continue on the show without his good friend. But executive producer Mike Richards still wants him there. He said, “If you just listen to the way Johnny articulates each name, each word, he has a voice and even more importantly, delivery, unlike anyone else.”
A gentle tongue is a tree of life. (Proverbs 15:4)
Teach me to develop my talents, Creator.
Backstreet Boys Make Dreams Come True
In order to have a little fun, several members of the Kentucky nonprofit Down Syndrome of Louisville recorded themselves lip syncing the 1999 Backstreet Boys hit “I Want It That Way,” because they were huge fans of the band.
Little did they know that their video would go viral and attract the attention of Backstreet Boys member Nick Carter. Not only did he share the video with his online followers, he invited the lip syncers to attend the band’s concert in their area. To say they were thrilled is an understatement.
Julie Torzewski, Down Syndrome of Louisville’s executive director, told CNN. “They’re uninhibited in their emotions, this is what makes them so special. They just embraced the moment, it bought them so much joy.”
The stars of the video and several of their friends got to hang out and sing with the Backstreet Boys before their concert. “It’s so cool to meet them, and they are awesome guys,” Ellie Fizer told WAVE3 News. Kudos to the band for bringing joy and a welcoming spirit to their fans with Down syndrome.
Let them ever sing for joy. (Psalm 5:11)
May we as a society be more open and welcoming to people with Down syndrome and special needs, Redeemer.
The History of Black Catholic Nuns
At an event honoring the history of black Catholic nuns in the United States, Dr. Shannen Dee Williams of Villanova University said that generations of black Catholic nuns “fought against racism in order to answer God’s call in their lives.”
Dr. Williams is the author of the book, Subversive Habits: The Untold Story of Black Catholic Nuns in the United States. In a story for Catholic News Agency, she explains that black Catholic nuns “are women who have deep roots in American Catholicism,” and she notes that their stories offer lessons about the fight for racial equality in the U.S. and in the Church.
Referencing two early communities of black Catholic nuns, the Oblates of the Sisters of Providence (the first to accept formerly enslaved women) and the Sisters of the Holy Family, Williams laments the “profound resistance” they faced from fellow Catholics. Yet she strikes a hopeful tone for the future, saying, “The future of black women in religious life…may very well be in the hands of where the Church is growing, experiencing exponential growth, and that is in terms of Africa.”
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free.
Lord, no matter our differences, unite us in Your love.
A Game in Their Chairs
Basketball players at a Queens, New York high school learned that you can’t judge another team until you’ve played a game in their chairs.
To draw attention to the special talents of handicapped students, physically challenged basketball players went up against the school’s varsity team. The catch was that all participants had to play from wheelchairs.
In the end, the varsity team lost. Since these players usually jump to sink their shots, they hadn’t developed the upper arm strength needed to shoot baskets sitting down. Players and spectators alike quickly came to appreciate the agility and the skill of the Wheelchair athletes.
Getting to know the unique talents of others is an enlightening experience. What might initially be perceived as a weakness can actually be revealed as a strength. So celebrate and incorporate the special gifts of all. When we cooperate instead of compete, everybody wins.
We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us. (Romans 12:6)
Teach me to appreciate the gifts of all my fellow human beings, Creator.
How to Overcome Stress
Many of us find that stress is a constant companion, with society making almost impossible demands. There is the pressure of work. There is the pressure (often self-imposed) to wear the right clothes, drive the best car, or be constantly attractive physically. There is the pressure of real obligations, such as being a good parent, parishioner, or citizen.
No one is immune from stress. So how do you cope with pressure? Here’s some advice from Rear Admiral William M. Lukash, a doctor since 1948 and former member of the White House medical staff.
Many years ago, he said in U.S. News and World Report: “Certainly it’s important to get away from the job and relax. You can relax by enjoying good music, reading a book, being with your family. I personally endorse the use of vigorous physical exercise.”
Sound advice. But consider one more thing: relax through prayer. If you need convincing, read the life story of almost any mystic. They found inner peace in the midst of turmoil. And you can, too.
Peace I leave with you. (John 14:27)
Father, help me to seek You out and ease my stress.
Medicine Bottles Can’t Block Horizon
You probably know Robert Louis Stevenson as the author of the classics Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. What you may not know is that the Scottish writer suffered from tuberculosis for years before he died, while only in his forties.
Despite serious health problems, Stevenson remained an optimist. He worked daily at keeping his attitude positive.
Once, after a severe coughing spell, his wife said to him, “I expect you still believe it’s a wonderful day.” He answered, “I do. I will never permit a row of medicine bottles to block my horizon.”
Troubles or misfortune can block our view. But we need not let circumstances control our attitude. When fear or indecision threaten to choke your spirit, hold to your faith, pray for the strength to persevere, and focus on the light that always shines on the horizon.
For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from Him. (Psalm 62:5)
When my future seems dark, Oh Lord, be my light, my comfort, and my guide.
Mary and the Golden Thread
When it comes to motherhood, there is no greater earthly and heavenly example than that of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. For therapist and mother of two Kimberly O’Connell, Mary is more than just a maternal role model. “I like to think of Mary as a…foresister,” O’Connell writes in The Catholic Moment, “a person whom I can consider a friend.”
“Having children is truly like wearing your heart outside of yourself,” Kimberly continues. “You are distinctly you, and they are distinctly them, but there’s an invisible golden thread that binds our hearts to the hearts of our children…Mary, just like you, knows of this golden thread, and shares in our lineage.”
“Mary knew what it was like to care for a Son in which ultimately everything was out of her control,” O’Connell concludes. “I believe we all have moments in our motherhood where we realize…our children’s lives are…outside our control…In these moments, we have the ability to stretch ourselves, to acknowledge our fears, and calm our hearts…Rest well with your image of Mary, and feel the connectedness in the golden string she extends from her heart to yours.”
Her children…call her blessed. (Proverbs 31:27)
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.
Finding God During Life’s Storms, Part 1
“I love my Catholic faith because of my granddaughters, Katie and Laura.” Katie Prejean McGrady found that note in her grandmother’s Bible after she passed away from dementia in 2020—and she found many other notes, too.
“As I start to look at them,” Katie said on Christopher Closeup, “I realized that they were notes about all of us: her grandkids, my grandfather, her children. She had dementia, so she had begun forgetting things. She realized it, so she started writing things down so she could go back and read them. And I mean, beautiful things about all of us.
“So this little note [read], ‘I love my Catholic faith because of my granddaughters, Katie and Laura.’ It was a touching reminder that oftentimes when we evangelize, we have this perspective of: I have this information as the adult… and I’m going to give it to this young person, and they’re going to be grateful that I gave it to them. [But] a lot of times it happens in a very organic, reverse way, where it’s kids who love Jesus—and their love of Jesus inspires somebody else to want to know a little bit more about Him.”
A little child shall lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)
Help me to better know and love You, Jesus.
Finding God During Life’s Storms, Part 2
Two months after her grandmother’s funeral, Katie Prejean McGrady, her husband Tommy, and their three-year-old Rose returned to her grandfather’s house because they had to evacuate their Louisiana home due to Hurricane Laura. And, oh yeah, Katie was nine months pregnant at the time. Katie gave birth in a different hospital than she had planned—though, thankfully, baby Clare was healthy.
Three weeks later, another hurricane hit the McGrady’s home, leaving even more damage in its wake. That was the point when Katie felt fed up and raged at God. Then, unexpectedly, Katie felt the presence of God, reminding her that He is always faithful, even when His goodness is hard to see.
“He will hand us things that we certainly can’t handle on our own,” Katie explained on Christopher Closeup, “but that’s an even deeper and more challenging invitation to continue to trust. I can’t say I’ve always done that well…and that there haven’t been moments in prayer where I have raged and cried…So I’m a work in progress in figuring that out.”
Do not fear, for I am with you… I will strengthen you.
Help me to trust in You during dark times, Messiah.
Finding God During Life’s Storms, Part 3
Despite the hardships she endured in 2020, Catholic speaker and radio host Katie Prejean McGrady found God’s presence as well, especially in her experiences with her grandfather. He had been living alone for more than a year since her grandmother had to move into an assisted living facility. “Loneliness hits you hard after you’ve spent 50 plus years of your life with the same person day in and day out,” Katie noted.
Suddenly, during the McGrady’s evacuation, her grandfather had a fuller house than he’d had in ages! There was Katie, her husband, her daughter, three dogs, and Katie’s parents. Katie said, “There was so much life in that house for those eight weeks! Every morning, he would wake up, and he and my daughter…would sit on the back porch…and eat an oatmeal cream pie for breakfast…They became best buds.
“I got to bring my newborn daughter into the house where my grandparents lived…[My grandfather] was so attentive and loving…The circumstances were awful, but every day we got to fill his house with joy.”
Do not cast me off in the time of old age. (Psalm 71:9)
How can I bring joy and companionship to the elders in my life, Jesus?
For more than 30 years, Beth Chambers has been following Jesus’ mandate to feed the hungry through her work as Director of Catholic Charities of Greater Boston. In that role, writes Mayra Parrilla Guerrero in The Boston Scope, she runs the Teen Center in Dorchester, which supplies needy students in grades 5 through 12 with free breakfasts and lunches, as well as a summer camp program.
Describing the scope of her work, Chambers said, “We have ESL classes, adult education classes, and six food pantries. We also have shelters in Boston and outside of Boston that specialize in homeless families and women in treatment who are able to keep the children in placement with them. We have emergency services to help people with their bills. So we are a multi-service agency.”
The Teen Center provides a safe space for young people and sends them on field trips, among other activities. Some teens also volunteer at the food pantries in order to learn about helping those who are less fortunate than they are.
You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity. (2 Corinthians 9:11)
May I be a model of good works, Divine Giver.
Adopt a Flowerbed
The grounds of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Holladay, Utah, includes a lot of outdoor space where weeds grow rampant. Father John Norman, the pastor, told the Intermountain Catholic’s Linda Petersen that there was no way he could keep up with the landscaping during the summer months. Then, the idea for a unique initiative blossomed in his mind: an “adopt a flowerbed” program.
More than 20 parishioners volunteered to take care of the landscaping, trimming, and pruning of various parts of the property—and they did a magnificent job! Pattie and Darold LeClaire, for instance, cleared out a “rocky and weed-infested” area, bringing in shrubs, trees, and flowers at their own expense.
In addition, the parish has created a “Share the Harvest” program, through which “parishioners share fresh vegetables and fruit from their gardens. The produce is placed in the entryway of the church,” where parishioners who live in nursing homes or care centers can take some fresh fruits and vegetables home with them. Father Norman concludes, “There’s no stopping people’s kindness once you get started.”
The Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. (Genesis 2:9)
May more acts of kindness bloom in our world, Creator.
Invest Your Humanity
Dr. Albert Schweitzer was an authority on music and a perceptive theologian, but he gave up careers in those fields to concentrate on humanitarian work, providing medical care to the people of equatorial Africa. He expressed his philosophy on fulfillment in the following way:
“Open your eyes and look for some man, or some work for the sake of men, which needs a little time, a little friendship, a little sympathy, a little sociability, a little human toil. Perhaps it is a lonely person or [a disabled person]…to whom you can be something. It may be an old man, or it may be a child. Or some good work in want of volunteers who will devote a free evening to it or will run errands for it.
“Therefore, search and see if there is not some place where you may invest your humanity. Do not be put off if you find that you have to wait and experiment. Be sure that you will have disappointments to endure. But do not be satisfied without some sideline in which you may give yourself out. There is one waiting for you if only you are willing to take it up.”
Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all. (Mark 9:35)
Jesus, how may I best use my gifts to serve others?
Winning Isn’t Everything
Back in 1912, during the Invitational for Ladies at Shawnee-on-Delaware in Pennsylvania, one golfer took 166 strokes to make the 16th hole.
When her tee shot landed in the river and floated downstream, the woman and her husband hopped in a rowboat and followed the ball. A mile and a half later, she managed to knock it back onto shore. The woman then played through the woods until she returned to the golf course and finally sank her shot.
Safe to say, she lost that tournament. But this woman proved herself to be a “pro” in all that matters. She demonstrated persistence, dedication, and honor in a situation where most people would have just given up. Doing what she loved was more important than winning.
That’s an important lesson. You may not be able to win all the time, but you can always enjoy the game.
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)
Jesus, even though I stumble sometimes on my path to You, help me to get up and try again.
Thistle Farms Grows Hope
Experiencing child abuse and the death of her father when she was only five years old instilled Becca Stevens with a yearning to help others. As an adult, that’s exactly what the Nashville resident did by creating Thistle Farms, an organization that provides homes and job training for women who are former addicts, prostitutes, and victims of human trafficking.
Stevens’ mission began more than 20 years ago when she purchased a house and invited five women looking to rebuild their lives to reside there. She told Sounds Like Nashville’s Annie Reuter, “I wanted to work alongside the women in a powerful way, not in a way where you’re just giving them a sandwich or saying a prayer, but to say, ‘Let’s do this together and figure out what love looks like.’”
To sustain Thistle Farms, Stevens started a business in which residents make candles, oils, and other body products that are sold to 400 stores nationwide. The candles are especially meaningful to Stevens. She said, “In the midst of a lot of darkness, if we have a tiny bit of light, you can find your way.”
Every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.
Guide all victims of abuse to healing, Messiah.
A Saint for Today
The lives of the saints can be inspiring and thought-provoking, especially during difficult times. When the COVID pandemic hit, and churches were being closed throughout the country for public health reasons, Kathryn Jean Lopez wrote in Angelus about one of her inspirations: Claire of Assisi.
Lopez first encountered St. Claire during a pilgrimage to Assisi, and was immediately drawn to her writings and perspective. St. Claire’s passage on looking on the mirror of Christ, with His chosen poverty, sorrows, and lamentations, helps connect us to God during our times of trouble. The image of St. Claire, holding the Eucharist, is from a story where the sickly nun was able a turn away an invading army with just her faith and the Blessed Sacrament.
Lopez writes, “There are two lessons… First, trust in Jesus. His presence in the world is real and has power, more power than everything that tempts us to despair…The other message is the call to always be His presence. We have no idea what’s to come.” Truly a good lesson for uncertain times!
Jesus…seeing her…said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” (Matthew 9:22)
God, may we never fear the future in Your loving presence.
The Power of Selflessness, Part 1
News anchor Richard Lui recently wrote a book called Enough About Me: The Unexpected Power of Selflessness. And though he didn’t know it at the time, the seeds of the book were planted by his parents when he was growing up in California.
Richard’s father Stephen was a Presbyterian minister, youth pastor, and social worker, while his mother worked as a teacher. She loved her job so much that she turned down promotions because she wanted to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds get a better education and fulfill their potential.
However, she took a break from teaching to raise her kids.
As a result, the Luis didn’t earn enough money to fully support Richard and his siblings. During a Christopher Closeup interview, he recalled, “We were on food stamps and, thanks to the welfare system, able to get by.”
Despite not having a lot, materially speaking, Richard witnessed his parents helping others in whatever ways they could. That’s why he knew that when his father began showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease, he would have to exercise his own “selflessness muscles.” More tomorrow…
Be rich in good works. (1 Timothy 6:18)
Help me exercise my selflessness muscles, Lord.
The Power of Selflessness, Part 2
“Richard, your dad can’t remember our names.” With those words from a relative at a family reunion, the reality of Alzheimer’s Disease entered Richard Lui’s family, and his life began to change. The New York-based news anchor had spent years building his career on CNN, NBC, and MSNBC, but he was willing to give it all up to help care for his father in California.
Richard planned to approach his boss at MSNBC, Yvette Miley, about his situation, but he expected her to tell him they couldn’t accommodate him wanting to work fewer hours. To his surprise, however, Miley revealed that she herself was caring for her mother in California. She understood his situation and was willing to work around his schedule.
For the past seven years, therefore, Richard has been on-air in New York two or three days a week, while commuting to California to help care for his father the rest of the time (at least until COVID shut down traveling in 2020). Prior to that, he estimates that he traveled between 300,000 to 500,000 miles a year. He is grateful for his boss’s selflessness. More tomorrow…
Honor your father and your mother. (Exodus 20:12)
May we as a society take better care of our elderly, who need love and care, Father.
The Power of Selflessness, Part 3
Richard Lui’s boss was kind enough to reconfigure his work schedule, giving him time to care for his ailing father. But this wasn’t Richard’s first experience with an employer who acted with an employee’s best interest at heart.
When Richard was a student at UC Berkeley during the 1990s, he was hired for a marketing position at a small manufacturing company run by a man named Mike Breslin. Things were going well for a time, but a national recession hit the business hard, so Breslin informed his staff that they would have to take a 20 percent pay cut until finances improved. What Breslin didn’t reveal was that he was cutting his own salary to $0, so that he could keep his employees on the job.
It is an example of selflessness that motivates Richard to this day, and which makes its way into his book Enough About Me: The Unexpected Power of Selflessness. In his research, Richard learned that selflessness in the business world results in more success than acts of selfishness—and that productivity increases significantly when a boss offers gratitude to workers.
Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)
Remind me to make sacrifices for others, Paraclete.
Retiree Keeps Changing the World
Some people look forward to retirement as a time to relax or travel. And in a way, that’s what Olga Murray did when she moved on from her legal career 30 years ago. But her form of retirement is quite active and focused on changing lives.
As reported by Jamie Yuccas of CBS News, after Murray retired, she traveled to the country of Nepal “on a whim.” She soon found herself in love with the country and its people. “The children, they held my hand, they laughed,” she recalled. “They were just so delightful, and they wanted to go to school. Most kids didn't go to school then.”
Murray realized that her new passion in life was educating these children, so she created the “Nepal Youth Foundation, a nonprofit that combats poverty, builds schools, and rescues girls forced into servitude.” As a result of Murray’s work, 50,000 kids have been educated and 72 hospitals have been built. Murray, now age 96,” observed, “I don’t think about stopping and, you know, as long as I have my marbles and I’m healthy, I’ll just continue to do that.”
Moses was 120 years old when he died…his vigor had not abated. (Deuteronomy 34:7)
Give our elders good health, passion, and purpose, Lord.
Hero Puts Faith Into Action
Freelance TV cameraman Sean Conaboy was heading home from a job in Manhattan one night in May 2021. His regular subway was undergoing track work, so he decided to take a different train to get back to Brooklyn. That decision proved to be life-altering for Conaboy and a woman named Kelli Daley.
As reported by The Tablet, newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn, Conaboy stood on the subway platform and noticed a man wearing winter clothes, even though it was warm outside. Soon after, Conaboy heard a woman screaming nearby! He looked up to see the suspicious stranger stabbing this woman, Kelli Daley. Conaboy tackled the attacker and wrestled him onto the ground until police arrived. His actions saved Daley’s life.
Conaboy, a lifelong Catholic who attends Mass at St. Michael’s Church in Sunset Park, was hailed as a hero throughout the city. The 52-year-old accepted the praise humbly, and added, “When I reflect back on it, yes, I think God was with me at that moment…Moments to put faith into action happen every day. All you have to do is look up.”
Be strong and courageous…The Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
Inspire me to put my faith into action, Savior.
Bonding with God
The wisdom of St. Ignatius of Loyola once helped Seth Haines overcome a disordered attachment to alcohol. In an article for America Magazine, Haines recalled his journey to sobriety after encountering the idea of bonded attachments, wherein healthy relationships are fostered to support personal wellbeing.
Wanting to extend this concept of stability into his spiritual life, Haines began to search for a way to cultivate a bonded attachment to God. Though he wasn’t Catholic at the time, his search led him to explore the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and he began to learn how to utilize imaginative prayer to overcome disordered attachments. Haines wrote, “[Ignatius] attached himself to the divine love of God through Christ and treated everything else as secondary.”
Referencing Ignatius’ characterization of himself as “a man given to the vanities of the world,” Haines encourages us to follow the Spiritual Exercises to become people who, “Cultivate a bonded attachment with the Giver instead of the gifts.”
Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.
God, may I deepen my relationship with You.
Cupcakes for a Cause
Since 2016, when they lost their grandfather to bladder cancer, the Andrade family has worked hard to raise money to aid cancer research. As a matter of fact, over the past several years, they’ve collected a whopping $160,000 for the Jimmy Fund, which helps support the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
But in 2020, seventh grader Gabriella Andrade decided to spearhead her own project to fundraise for cancer research, by utilizing a hobby she particularly enjoys and excels in: baking!
In just one year, with the assistance of her little sister and her parents, who covered the cost of her supplies, Gabby sold over 300 cupcakes, netting a profit of $1,100 for the Jimmy Fund. She was recognized as one of Rhode Island’s top youth volunteers of 2021 by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Gabby’s award includes a $2,500 scholarship, a silver medallion, and an invitation to a virtual awards ceremony.
“It is so spectacular to think about the impact one little cupcake can make!” 12-year-old Gabby exclaimed to the Rhode Island Catholic.
Serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. (1 Peter 4:10)
Abba, may we utilize our God-given talents to help others.
Two Friends Defy the Odds
When they were born with brain damage, neither Odin Frost nor Jordan Granberry was expected to survive. But the two best friends defied the odds and graduated high school together.
The two boys met at Wayne D. Boshears Center for Exceptional Programs in Tyler, Texas, when they were just three years old. Tim Frost, Odin’s dad, told CBS News, “They pretty much had this immediate bond. Neither one of them could speak, but wherever the other one was, they were always together.”
Their friendship continued to blossom, and despite having received a two percent survival rate diagnosis from doctors, both Frost and Granberry reached essential milestones together.
And on July 16th, 2020, both Frost and Granberry attended their high school graduation ceremony and crossed the stage to get their diplomas. “It’s something we thought would never happen,” Tim Frost said. “We didn’t think [Odin] was going to live...Now he’s walking the stage and graduated.”
But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. (Psalm 55:13)
Heavenly Lord, bless all those who live with special needs, and surround them with true love and friendship.
A Bridge of Friendship
It’s 1,100 miles from Eaton Rapids, Michigan, to Wichita Falls, Texas, but friendship offered in adversity bridged the distance. When a tornado struck Wichita Falls many years ago, 22 people from Methodist congregations in Eaton Rapids and nearby towns drove to the Texas community to help its residents rebuild their homes.
It was the sort of personal response to disaster that had become traditional with members of the United Methodist Church in Eaton Rapids. For years, they donated skills and labor to families living in areas hit by natural disasters, such as tornadoes and floods.
The volunteers paid their own expenses, setting up headquarters in local churches on arriving at a disaster scene where they could be of assistance. Frequently, they gave money to those in need of help. They raised the money through a maple sugaring operation.
In helping those near and far, we testify to the essential unity of the human race.
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! (
Inspire me to reach out to those in need, Lord.
Olympian Finds Faith and Success, Part 1
Scott Hamilton is known for winning the gold medal in figure skating for the United States at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. But as a child, Scott suffered from low self-esteem for various reasons. He was shorter than all his classmates and wasn’t growing; he endured numerous hospital stays due to a mystery illness that left him feeling sick much of the time; and he was bullied because he was adopted.
After four years of trying to determine his illness, one doctor finally told Scott’s parents, “We can’t figure this thing out, but I can give you some real solid advice, and that’s go home and live a normal life.”
Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton were exhausted from the nonstop caretaking, so they took the advice of their family physician, who recommended they send Scott to ice skating lessons every Saturday morning at a new facility nearby. Not only did it give the couple some necessary downtime, it exposed Scott to a talent he didn’t know he had. More tomorrow…
There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit… It is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. (1 Corinthians 12:4,6)
Guide me in discovering my talents, Holy Spirit.
Olympian Finds Faith and Success, Part 2
After beginning ice skating lessons, Scott Hamilton quickly became an excellent athlete and felt healthy self-esteem for the first time. His medical problems also miraculously improved as he pursued his new passion. Scott’s mother was his greatest champion throughout his childhood and teen years. She also served as a model of optimism, even after she was diagnosed with cancer when Scott was a sophomore in high school.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, he said, “She was always finding the best side of everything, and I understood that was a conscious choice on her part. She fought [cancer] for two years and then succumbed. And it was like, how do I live without her? [But] I was able to mourn her in the best way possible: by trying to become the person that she always thought I could be.”
Scott himself was diagnosed with cancer as an adult. He observed, “I learned that there’s the opportunity for something spectacular on the other side. It allows you to endure whatever your condition is, knowing there’s a promise of a better day.” More tomorrow…
Be transformed by the renewing of your minds. (Romans 12:2)
May my endurance lead me to hope, Savior.
Olympian Finds Faith and Success, Part 3
Though Scott Hamilton faced his struggles with a spirit of Christian hope, he didn’t always have that firm grounding. He felt he had a guardian angel looking out for him, but he didn’t understand the Bible when he first picked it up to read it.
“One day,” recalled Scott during a Christopher Closeup interview, “I went on a walk, and I sat and opened my heart to allow God in because I didn’t know how to reach Him. I was hoping He would reach me…When I was up against [tough times], I would pray. I didn’t know how I was praying or who I was praying to. Anytime I had a problem, if I verbalized it, that solution would come to me.”
After dating Tracie, the woman who would become his wife, Scott’s spiritual seeking found both a direction and a destination. Since they wanted their relationship to move forward, Tracie introduced Scott to her minister, who recommended that Scott read the Bible again, but this time focus on God’s interactions with His people. That became the key to Scott’s new understanding of Scripture. More tomorrow…
I am your servant; give me understanding. (Psalm 119:125)
Teach me to understand Your words and will, Father.
Olympian Finds Faith and Success, Part 4
In reading the Bible again, Scott Hamilton came to believe “that every single thing I need to know was given to me by Jesus. Every way of solving a problem, of redeeming a relationship, of rising above any affliction.”
Scott recently created a podcast called Live Your Days and does his best to include a “faith element” with his guests. He explained, “I look at it as the four legs of a chair…1) The physical, we’ve got to be healthy. 2) Emotional, we’ve got to feel good about ourselves. 3) Intellectual, we’ve got to be interested in growing, [in] understanding who we are in the world and how we fit in it. 4) And then the last piece is the Spirit. If any one of those four legs are missing, you’re probably going to fall down.”
Scott then revealed that he fell ill a few years ago: “No one could figure out what was wrong. I felt my life force slipping away…I knew I was going to die and I was 100% comfortable with that…What a gift that was to understand that when I get to the end of these days, I’ll be able to accept it because of what I’ve learned about who I am in Christ.” More tomorrow…
Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. (John 11:26)
Teach me who I am in You, Jesus.
Olympian Finds Faith and Success, Part 5
Gratitude is one of the hallmarks of Scott Hamilton’s life now. And though he was bullied as a child for being adopted, he has come to realize the beauty of what his parents did for him.
He said, “Being adopted is a huge part of my identity. I was loved, unconditionally, sacrificially loved. [And I had] that experience of seeing my mom and dad leverage everything they had to get me the healthcare I needed, and then put me in skating, almost at their own financial ruin…[They] taught me that it doesn’t matter if you’re biologically a child or if you are chosen. To be in a family, it’s a treasured gift.”
Scott and Tracie eventually started their own family, and it was momentous. Scott said, “When my son [Aidan] was born and I looked into his eyes, I was looking into flesh of my own flesh for the very first time ever. It was powerful.”
After Scott’s bout with testicular cancer and a pituitary brain tumor, he and Tracie didn’t think having another baby was likely. Nevertheless, they had another son named Maxx, whom they consider a miracle. They also adopted two children from Haiti, bring Scott’s adoption journey full circle.
[Children] are a heritage from the Lord. (Psalm 127:3)
Instill parents with sacrificial love, Savior.
Olympian Finds Faith and Success, Part 6
At this point in his life, Scott Hamilton remains focused on giving back for the blessings he has received. He created the Scott Hamilton Cares Foundation to fund research for cancer treatment options. And he hopes that his Live Your Days podcast encourages viewers to live their lives to the fullest.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Scott concluded, “Since I started the whole Live Your Days platform, there’s been days where the world just comes at me…It’s really wild that the more you put out something on building joy, building gratitude, building ownership of your life, the more that the forces of this world try to pull the rug out from underneath you.
“You know, my brain tumor started to grow back a little bit, and we’re keeping an eye on it still. [But] I’m not going to just sit down and think about that thing all day long. I have options, and if I have to endure another episode of whatever, I will. I’m still here, and I’m still fighting and I’m still craving every opportunity to live joyfully and productively.”
Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
Help me to live with joy and gratitude, Paraclete.
A Pioneer at First Base
The San Francisco Giants defeated the Oakland Athletics on July 20th, 2020, but all eyes were on first base when 30-year-old Alyssa Nakken appeared in uniform on the field, serving as the first female coach in a major league baseball game.
Before breaking barriers, Nakken was already seen as a “strong leader” by her alma mater, the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco. Dan Rascher, director of academics for the Master’s degree program in sports management, told Catholic News Service, “[Nakken] has been very helpful for many students…men and women…interested in working in baseball.”
As the Giants’ assistant first base coach, Nakken develops, produces, and directs a number of the organization’s health and wellness initiatives, and helps oversee outfield and baserunning instruction.
Coaching was something Nakken hadn’t expected to do, so she feels a great sense of responsibility, saying, “I’m so excited to be in this role for the challenge…But also, I’m excited that now girls can see there is a job on the field in baseball.”
I press on toward the goal. (Philippians 3:14)
Lord, give me the strength to pursue my goals, despite obstacles in my way.
Deaf Priest Making a Difference
Father Min Seo Park, one of only two dozen deaf priests in the world, arrived in the United States from his native country of Seoul, South Korea, in 2021, to serve as chaplain to the Catholic community at Gallaudet University. He is also serving an underrepresented deaf community that believes deafness should be treated as a culture.
Deaf since an illness at the age of two, Father Park grew frustrated by the Church’s lack of priests who could offer Mass in sign language. As reported by the Catholic Standard, Father Park prayed to Jesus Christ on the cross: “I asked Him if He could send a signing priest for the deaf. However, suddenly I felt that Jesus said to me, ‘Why not you?’”
The path to his vocation was not easy, and Father Park struggled to keep up with his studies at St. John’s Seminary in New York. Luckily, the seminary provided sign language interpretation, making it easier to stay on track. Ordained in 2007, he taught several seminarians sign language, already helping to fill a gaping need to minister to the deaf. And he’s only getting started.
You shall not revile the deaf. (Leviticus 19:14)
Lord, may we heed Your calling and take up our vocation.
Helping with Healing
For some people, it’s almost as difficult to handle the illness of a relative or friend, as it is to cope with our own diminished abilities when we ourselves are ill. While visiting a patient, we may feel uncomfortable, not knowing what to say or how to help.
Even so, our presence is often the best gift we can give a patient. Here are some suggestions to enhance that gift:
■ Make your visit short, and be alert to signs of fatigue or pain.
■ Come close to the person physically, even touching him or her to show your concern and your acceptance of the person as he or she now is.
■ Avoid false cheeriness or empty words. Those who are in pain are aware that they don’t really “look great.”
■ Offer to help the patient or the family by babysitting, running an errand, or cooking a meal.
Friends and relatives, through their interest, can ease the pain of the sick person and aid in the healing process. There are times we are each called to fill the role of healer.
God has appointed in the church…gifts of healing. (1 Corinthians 12:28)
Lord, let me be a consolation to someone who is ailing.
Love Can’t Be Caged
Father Walter Ciszek didn’t let himself be defeated by 23 years of degradation, hunger, exhaustion and, at times, isolation. During an interview with The Christophers many years ago, the Jesuit priest discussed his life in Russian prisons and labor camps as an alleged “spy of the Vatican.” (He was released in 1963 in exchange for two Soviet spies.)
In those harrowing situations, Father Ciszek came to realize what was to be the scope of his priestly mission: “in every situation [to] react as best I could with the convictions I had,” despite his own personal misery.
Although he experienced cruelty, Father Ciszek also felt the concern of others. Fellow captives expressed love through their hospitality. He recalled, “They would share with me. And in the camp, if you would share a piece of bread that you got with a friend of yours, that meant you respected him. That meant you were giving part of your life away.”
For us, hospitality and sharing don’t usually involve giving part of our lives away. But they do demonstrate selflessness, which is a reflection of the divine.
Share your bread with the hungry. (Isaiah 58:7)
Jesus, give me the strength to choose selflessness.
Sanitation Worker’s Road to Harvard
Rehan Staton suffered a career-shattering injury, nearly crushing his hopes for his future. But then he got help from unlikely co-workers who put him on the path to Harvard Law.
Staton grew up in poverty in Bowie, Maryland. As reported by Good Morning America, he trained religiously to be a boxer, surrounded by people who lauded his athletic abilities more than his grades. Staton was ready to go pro when he suddenly developed severe tendonitis right before graduation, shattering his boxing dreams. Due to his low grades, he gave up hope of going to college. Instead, he landed a job as a sanitation worker.
To Staton’s surprise, his sanitation co-workers became a guiding light. They saw his potential and connected him with a professor at Bowie State University, a school that initially denied him. The professor encouraged the university to enroll Staton.
Staton flourished, graduated with honors, and was accepted into Harvard Law School in 2020. That surreal moment made all the sacrifice worthwhile. He said, “You can always see the light in any dark situation…You need to hold on to that light.”
It is You who light my lamp; the Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.
God, show us the light in times of darkness and uncertainty.
How to Handle Disputes
Family disagreements have been with us since the beginning of time, so here are a few ideas on handling conflict productively:
■ Be willing to discuss matters and give consideration to the views of others.
■ Stick to the point of the conflict; don’t inject irrelevancies.
■ Don’t argue at mealtime.
■ Don’t argue in front of others.
■ Never abuse anyone physically, verbally, or psychologically.
■ Don’t resort to unfair tactics to win your point.
■ Look for areas of agreement.
■ Be willing to admit when you’re wrong.
■ Be willing to forget the disagreement once it’s behind you.
■ Be willing to forgive or apologize if either is called for.
Do not answer before you listen, and do not interrupt when another is speaking. (Sirach 11:8)
Lord, teach me to disagree without being disagreeable.
Fulfilling a Dream at Age 95
At age 95, Brigid Kavanagh was given “a new lease of life,” according to her son Declan, who, along with his brother Sean, helped his mother fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming an author.
Kavanagh was told by nuns in her early school days, “You should be a writer.” Despite that initial nudge in that direction, Kavanagh never attempted to fulfill that passion until later in life. She finally took a chance in her eighties, but faced a series of rejections from publishers.
Kavanagh thought her dream of seeing her words in print was over. However, in 2020 with the strict lockdown in Ireland, Kavanagh’s sons, Declan and Sean, seized the opportunity to help their 95-year-old mother fulfill her ambition and publish her memoir, In My Mind’s Eye: Walking Amongst Ghosts.
Seeing her words finally in print was truly a dream come true for Kavanagh, but moreso, she was grateful to her sons for making this dream a reality. “I just can’t believe it,” Kavanagh shared with RTE News. “I’m absolutely thrilled.”
He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age. (Ruth 4:15)
Loving Jesus, may we never lose sight of our dreams.
The Commandments of Freedom
Sister Nathalie Becquart, xmcj, is the Xaviere sister that Pope Francis appointed to the job of Under-Secretary to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. She also reflects on Scripture for Salt and Light Media. She recently shared lessons from the story of the Ten Commandments in Exodus.
Sister Nathalie wrote, “In first place is the experience with God, the encounter with Him…which is a journey towards true liberty. In this way, the Lord our God is presented as the Lord of Liberation, the One who wants human beings to be free from slavery, free from idolatry. His Law is a law of freedom, of liberty. And the Psalm tells us that His decrees and precepts have a truly positive impact on us.
“The effects of God’s law are comparable to the fruits of the Spirit: refreshing the soul, giving wisdom to the simple, rejoicing the heart, enlightening the eye, enduring forever. The aim of this Law is about incarnated life, as our God is a God of Life, concerned with our concrete lives. He wants to feed us, to meet our deepest desires.”
The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)
Guide me in observing Your commandments, Lord.
Kids 4 Change
You’re “never too young” to make a difference. This is what 11-year-old Cartier Carey of Hampton, Virginia, believes with all of his heart. He became living proof of this credo in the summer of 2020, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, when he opened a lemonade stand, which ended up raising a whopping $4,500 in profits in just one month.
Cartier decided to use this money to buy supplies for parents in need, even setting up a special diaper donation sideline as well. “There was no diapers at all [in the stores],” Carey told ABC News, “and I was like, ‘Oh, people are having babies, so I should help [them] afford diapers.’”
Cartier collected over 22,000 diapers to distribute for this purpose and continued his charitable work into the virtual school year through the establishment of a nonprofit entitled “Kids 4 Change.” He urged his peers to start similar initiatives within their own communities, matter-of-factly concluding that “others can [also] make a difference, just like I’m doing now.”
Let no one despise your youth, but set…an example…in love. (1 Timothy 4:12)
Father, may we seek to emulate the pure, selfless generosity of our children.
Saved by a Cyclist
Gregory Randolph, age 73, was exploring the remote terrain of Lake County, Oregon, when his Jeep got stuck in a dry waterbed between two narrow sides of a canyon. Miles away from civilization with no emergency equipment to dislodge his Jeep, not to mention any cell phone service, Randolph stayed the first night in his car with his two dogs, Buddy and Cruella. The next day, he decided to walk for help, but after 14 miles, he collapsed from heat exhaustion.
Miraculously, a young cyclist on a weeklong getaway, Tomas Quinones, soon found the prone Randolph with one of his canines, Cruella, nearby, loyally standing guard. Having the proper supplies on hand, Quinones got to work reviving him.
Although Quinones had no cell phone signal himself, he did have a SPOT tracker device, which allowed him to send out a signal for assistance. Thanks to Quinones, Gregory and his two dogs survived their harrowing expedition. Quinones humbly told KPTV, “I just happened to be in the right spot at the right time.”
The human…plans…the Lord directs the steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
Lord, we thank You for the assistance of Good Samaritans.
Don’t Let Age Hold You Back
Gymnastics is generally seen as a young person’s sport, with most competitors being in their teens or early twenties. But Chelsie Memmel is trying to push past those boundaries by returning to competition at age 32.
In 2005, Memmel won the title of world’s all-around champion, and in 2008, she earned an Olympic silver medal. She retired from gymnastics in 2012, got married, and gave birth to two children.
During the pandemic in 2020, Memmel started practicing gymnastics again at the gym her parent’s own in Wisconsin. The workouts reignited her passion for the sport, as well as her desire to compete again. In 2021, she performed well enough at the U.S. Classic to qualify for the national championships.
Memmel told USA Today, “The biggest thing for me is don’t be afraid to go after something, to set a goal. And try not to listen to someone who tells you, ‘Yeah, you probably can’t do it.’ It should be about you and your journey and not listening to people who don’t think you can.”
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance. (Proverbs 21:5)
Jesus, help me to believe in myself and my abilities.
Eagle Scout to the Rescue
On a mountain hiking trail in Hudson Valley, New York, a 10-year-old boy became separated from his family. While wandering alone, he slipped onto a slope and found himself desperately clinging to the side of the mountain, 20-feet above a highway. Thankfully, Lawrence Chiulli, an Eagle Scout, came swooping in for the rescue.
Chiulli jumped into action the minute he saw the boy was in trouble. “I noticed that he was in a spot where he wouldn’t be able to hold on much longer, though I told him he could,” Chiulli told CBS New York’s Tony Aiello.
Being both an Eagle Scout and member of the National Guard, Chiulli was trained to remain calm in times of crisis. He scrambled up the mountain and got there just in time, as the boy was slipping. Chiulli helped him hang on until first responders arrived and maneuvered a bucket truck beneath them to bring them to safety and reunite the boy with his family.
Chiulli concluded, “I was genuinely happy to be in the right place at the right time.”
The Lord God of hosts has a day of tumult...a cry for help to the mountains.
Lord, place me in the right place at the right time.
More Good, Part Three
While visiting Wichita, Kansas, in her quest to document stories of goodness from around the country, Mary Latham met a woman named Julie, who had been shot in a robbery. As recounted in the Saturday Evening Post, complications from surgery resulted in Julie losing both arms below the elbow and both legs below the knee. Then, one week after her release from the hospital, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Julie told Latham that she came to realize that lying on her couch feeling sorry for herself was a dead end. She now travels to various hospitals to be a source of comfort, compassion, and guidance to patients who have lost limbs.
Latham observed, “I think that’s a theme of all of these stories. People are going through something tragic, and they immediately turn around and figure out how to help the next person. If their child dies, now they’re helping other families that lose children…The first thought is, I have to give back, I have to help, instead of wallowing in self-pity. It’s so therapeutic to keep that person’s spirit alive and help these other people.”
Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
Help me turn my tragedies into hope for others, Lord.
More Good, Part Two
As 32-year-old Mary Latham made her three-year drive across the country, searching for stories of kindness in honor of her late mother, she made a discovery that might seem remarkable in our divided times. She told the Saturday Evening Post, “I’m in Trump homes, Hillary homes, atheist homes, super-religious homes—the common denominator is that everyone wants to be part of something good right now.”
Along the way, Latham heard about large acts of goodness, such as the two Chicago sisters who each donated a kidney to a stranger because their father received a kidney donation. There were also small gestures, such as the customer who asked her bank teller if she was alright. The teller felt stressed, but responded, “It’s nothing some M&Ms won’t fix.” A half hour later, the customer returned with a bag of M&Ms for the teller.
Latham said, “I love telling that story, because that’s something we can all do. A bag of M&Ms. We feel like an act of kindness has to be big, but it can be buying someone a cup of coffee. Or just smiling more.” More tomorrow…
Whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all. (Galatians 6:10)
Lead me to perform an act of kindness, Paraclete.
More Good, Part One
“Mary, there are always going to be tragedies in the world, but there will always be more good. You just have to look for it.” Mary Latham’s mother made that observation to her daughter in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shootings in 2012. And after losing her mother to cancer in 2013, Mary held on to those words close to her heart until they became her mission.
She decided to drive her late mother’s blue Subaru hatchback from her Long Island, New York home to every state in the country looking for stories of kindness—or, as her mother put it, “more good.” As reported by Ken Budd in the Saturday Evening Post, the trip encompassed three years and 43,000 miles.
He wrote, “As Latham drives across our increasingly cynical and divided country, something fascinating has occurred. By seeking kindness, she has inspired kindness. Latham has stayed in 154 homes during her travels, welcomed as a guest by strangers…And with each stop, and each story, she shares a refreshing message: Kindness lives—and it’s nonpartisan.”
Those who are kind reward themselves, but the cruel do themselves harm. (Proverbs 11:17)
May my acts of kindness inspire more kindness, Jesus.
What Made Lincoln Special
“The world will little note nor long remember what we say here.” How wrong Abraham Lincoln was when he said those words in November 1863. The world not only remembers what was said at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg, but has forever carved it on the walls of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
“What was there about Abraham Lincoln?” asked Louis Redmond in an essay in Our American Heritage. “He came out of nowhere special—a cabin like any other out West. His folks were nobody special—pleasant, hard-working people like many others…He…talked about running a country as if it were…just a matter of people getting along.”
Lincoln started out like most people, although perhaps a bit poorer and less educated. What made him special was a conviction that the Declaration of Independence “gave liberty not alone to the people of this country, but hope to all the world, for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights would be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance.”
You were called to freedom. (Galatians 5:13)
Lord, help me to serve humanity.
The Lawn Kid
At age 14, Nathan Adams was told he was too young to be hired for regular employment. He didn’t let that deter him, however. Using skills passed down to him from his late grandfather, Frederick, an Army veteran, Adams created his own lawn mowing business—but with a philanthropic twist.
“My grandfather passed in February,” Nathan told Fox News, “and I thought that maybe in his honor since I had my own business, I could cut lawns for veterans for free.”
During the first month of Nathan’s project, he cut about 20 lawns, free of charge, (the first cut for veterans is always free—after that, they are given a discount). Those in his Buffalo, New York neighborhood dubbed him “the lawn kid.” He was even gifted with a new lawn mower by a neighbor and Lowes employee, Leona Doherty, to assist him in his endeavor.
“It makes me so proud to see [Nathan] doing something in my dad’s honor,” Nathan’s mother, Angela, concluded. “He has a good heart. He also has ADHD and autism…and he doesn’t let that slow him down.”
The memory of the righteous is a blessing (Proverbs 10:7)
Savior, help us to honor and remember all veterans.
The Great White and the Priest
When a four-meter-long great white shark attacked a surfer, a Catholic priest came to the rescue, saying it was God’s grace that gave him the courage to act at that moment.
Father Liam Ryan, a 33-year-old priest in Perth, Australia, was surfing on a beach in July 2020, when suddenly, a great white shark breached the water’s surface, mauling a fellow surfer, Phil Mummert, a few meters away.
Father Ryan and another surfer, Alex Oliver, didn’t hesitate, paddling straight into danger to help the injured and bleeding Mummert get to shore and to the hospital.
Mummert recovered from his injuries and is beyond grateful to everyone who helped save his life that day, including Father Ryan. “Just the definition of heroes, isn’t it?” he said, as reported by CatholicVoice.org.au.
Father Ryan observed, “There’s something deep inside you that wants to help. Christianity is built on that principle of someone giving their life for you.”
We were reconciled to God through the death of His
Son…Having been reconciled, will we be saved by His
life. (Romans 5:10)
Jesus, may I strive to emulate Your sacrificial love.
Struggling Ice Cream Shop's Sweet Surprise
Howdy Homemade, a beloved Dallas, Texas ice cream shop, recently earned a sweet surprise live on the Today Show, not just for its delicious flavors but for its deeper mission: employing individuals with special needs.
Several years ago, founder Tom Landis felt inspired after meeting Coleman Jones, a young man with special needs who showed great leadership potential. Now, Jones is the face of Howdy Homemade, and they have since hired more employees with Down syndrome and other special needs.
When the pandemic hit, the store endured hard times and Landis feared he would have to close his doors. He said, “I honestly think that’s when God said…‘I'm going to surround you with a village of people, from all over Dallas.’”
The community came together and raised over $100,000 for the shop, and CNBC’s The Profit host Marcus Lemonis surprised Landis and Jones with a $50,000 grant. Lemonis said, “[We] are blown away by the leadership you’re showing and the role models the two of you are to the rest of us.”
Peace be to the whole community, and love with faith,
from God the Father. (Ephesians 6:23)
God, may I be of service to a community member in need.
Carl Reiner Gives Confidence Boost
Martha Williamson found great success as the writer-producer of the hit TV series Touched By An Angel—and in more recent years as creator of the Hallmark series Signed, Sealed, Delivered. But after the death of comedy legend Carl Reiner in 2020, she recalled an encounter with him from early in her career when she struggled with feelings of self-doubt.
Martha wrote on her Instagram page, “I met my hero Carl Reiner in a sushi bar on Sunset and Gower many years ago. I thanked him for his movie The Man with Two Brains and for his message that what is truly beautiful is on the inside – a hard thing to hold onto as the only (and very overweight) woman in the writer’s room of a sitcom in production next door.
“He took my hand and said, ‘My dear, you are absolutely beautiful inside and out. And funny, too!’ That was the day I stopped being ‘the girl in the room’ and for the first time ever, fully and confidently claimed my seat at the writer’s table. Thank you, Mr. Reiner. May you rest in joy and laughter.”
Let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:4)
Holy Spirit, open my eyes to the true beauty that lies within.
A Force for Good, Part 2
On the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, voice actress Ashley Eckstein turned her sometimes snippy character Ahsoka Tano, the student of Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker, into a hero grounded in courage, self-sacrifice, and helping others, whatever the cost. These values line up perfectly with Ashley’s own.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, she said, “My husband [2006 World Series champ with the St. Louis Cardinals David Eckstein] and I are Catholic. Our faith definitely guides us, and it’s a part of our everyday decisions. But one thing I’m very mindful of…Star Wars is a story that should bring people together. To me, it’s a story of hope, of good overcoming evil.
“Regardless of your religion or race or gender, it’s something where we should be able to all come together and enjoy. I absolutely see parallels in my own faith, but I think there are parallels for whatever your beliefs are. What I try to do is provide a safe space where everyone can come together and learn these lessons of hope and letting the light guide you.”
If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. (1 John 1:7)
May I always be guided by Your light, Holy Spirit.
A Force for Good, Part 1
As the voice of Jedi-in-training Ahsoka Tano in the animated Star Wars series The Clone Wars and Rebels, Ashley Eckstein has faced down her share of villains. But in the real world, Eckstein serves as a role model as well in her advocacy for mental health issues.
It began when fans started confiding in her about their own battles with anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide because of bullying. And when Ashley herself became the victim of vicious online bullying based on an untrue rumor, she gained new insight into what they had endured.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, she explained her support of Columbus, Ohio’s “first Behavioral Health Pavilion on a children’s hospital campus in our nation…Fifty percent of lifelong mental illnesses present themselves by the age of 14, so think about how many adults we can save if we catch it early.”
Ashley promotes their “On Our Sleeves” campaign, which encourages kids, teens, and families to share their emotions and break the stigma surrounding mental health.
The tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)
When I feel anxious or depressed, Lord, remind me that talking to loved ones or counselors is a healing tool.
A Grandparent’s Special Bond
For working parents, it is difficult juggling childcare. Even though grandparents are known for their loving and caring nature, only one out of three grandparents regularly help take care of their grandchildren. A recent Oxford University study, however, is hoping to change that statistic.
The study involved more than 1,500 children and discovered that grandparents who play a vital role in raising their grandchildren could help them through an emotional crisis and hone their problem-solving skills.
“Grandparents have a wealth of experience. They’ll often tell stories about their lives and how things worked when they were young, and once kids become adults, they’re able to maximize those lessons,” Sara Moorman, an Associate Professor of Sociology at Boston College told the blog Positive Outlooks in September 2019.
Additional studies show another benefit for grandparents helping to raise their grandkids. They tend to live longer, too!
Grandchildren are the crown of the aged.
Lord, thank You for the love and wisdom of my elders.
A Hand Up
“Akamasoa is about helping the poor stand up so they don’t live on their knees.” So says Argentinian Catholic layman Gaston Vigo to Crux about the program he started in his native country. Vigo’s role model is missionary priest Father Pedro Opeka from Akamasoa, a city built in Madagascar that’s home to some 30,000 people who have risen above the impoverished conditions in which they used to live.
Vigo notes that the Argentine economy has been mismanaged, causing over 35 percent of the population, and over 50 percent of all children, to live in poverty. As a result, he founded Akamasoa Argentina, Mas Humanidad, combining the ideas of a self-sustaining community and the concept of helping the poorest with a hand up.
Crux writes that the group “is not just helping families overcome child malnutrition but also helping them finish school, learn trades, look for formal employment and build their own neighborhood with bricks and mortar.” Vigo says, “The biggest satisfaction we could have five years from now is having built a community of friends, the meaning of Akamasoa in Malagasy.”
Think of us…as servants of Christ. (1 Corinthians 4:1)
May my work and actions reflect Your love, Lord Jesus.
Ausome Balloon Creator
Balloon artist Eddie Lin of Edison, New Jersey, found a way to keep his creative skills sharp during the coronavirus pandemic, while also giving a much needed morale boost to frontline workers.
Since Lin was no longer sought after for the children’s parties and weddings he usually did, he began distributing balloons fashioned in the shape of emergency workers he knew (i.e. doctors, grocery store workers, mailmen, etc.). His designs soon caught attention on social media, where he was already well-known as the “Ausome Balloon Artist.”
This nickname came about because Lin has autism. Yet at an early age, this talented youngster demonstrated a penchant for creating beautiful art out of balloons, which his parents were happy to encourage.
“Balloons just automatically give people a sense of joy and happiness,” Eddie’s mother, Jenny Lin, told ABC News. “I think with this pandemic, people are getting creative and showing [essential workers] appreciation in many different ways, and this is a great way of bringing everyone together.”
In all toil, there is profit. (Proverbs 14:23)
Lord, may we utilize our talents for the greater good.
Be Kind with Abandon
Stay-at-home mother and Maine resident Gwenivere Rollins was having a rough Monday morning. She was on her way to the second of three doctor’s appointments that day for her 18-month old daughter, Farris, who was suffering from croup and an ear infection, as well as a full-body viral rash.
On the way to the doctor, Rollins made a quick stop at the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through window to order a coffee for herself and a donut for her daughter. When she pulled up to pay, the cashier told her that her bill had already been taken care of by the State Trooper in the car ahead of her.
Rollins was moved to tears by this generosity and expressed her gratitude on social media. Her post ended up getting over 4,000 shares. Along with her fervent thanks to the State Trooper, Gwenivere added this insightful bit of wisdom:
“I myself am really ill and needing surgery, as well as being a college student and a stay-at-home mom. You NEVER know what someone is carrying, so always, always be kind…Spread kindness as fast as this post has spread. Do good recklessly. Be kind with abandon.”
We are…created…for good works. (Ephesians 2:10)
Abba, may we remember that kindness is contagious.
Free for the Asking
If you ever found yourself on U.S. Rt. 16 heading for Delaware’s Eastern Shore resort area many years ago, you might have noticed Gerald Pearson’s produce stand. It stood out from the others because it had a sign that read, “Free Food.”
Pearson gave fresh fruits and vegetables to travelers, many of whom were tourists from New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. “They’ll see the sign but they don’t believe it,” said Pearson. “So they come up to the house and ask if it’s really free.” It was.
Explained Pearson, “It’s just surplus that I have. We’ve got enough here.”
Maybe you have a surplus of your own—be it in terms of food, money, clothes, books, furniture, or just plain friendship. Learn to share your surplus willingly with others and taste the pleasure of giving. “It is in giving that we receive,” says the popular prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. You might just find that to be true yourself.
Send out your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will get it back. (Ecclesiastes 11:1)
Teach me to be generous, Holy Spirit.
Some Words Have a Religious Past
Religious feast days used to be marked in red on the calendar. And thus was born the red-letter day—a day to remember. That’s just one example of an English word or expression that has either lost its original meaning or its religious significance.
Rev. Dale Bringman, a Lutheran minister, once investigated words like these. “Enthusiastic,” for instance, meant “filled with God.” A word that still retains traces of the original idea is “sacrifice,” which in the Middle Ages meant to make something holy. Now, while it generally means giving up something, sacrifice is considered a selfless act and is therefore recognized as sanctifying, at least by religious people.
Few would recognize the original idea behind “short shrift,” however. It comes from “shrive,” meaning to confess, and a short shrift was the brief confession permitted to those about to be executed.
Language, like every living thing, undergoes constant change. In the process of change, try to retain that which has enduring value or meaning.
My words will not pass away. (Luke 21:33)
Teach me to appreciate Your words, Jesus.
If anyone has earned the moniker of “forever dad,” it is Guy Bryant. To date, he has fostered more than 50 young men in his home. It all started with one teen Guy took in when he was doing placement work at ACS (Administration for Children’s Services) in Brooklyn, New York. Forty-nine kids and 12 years later, the rest, as they say, is history.
“He’s the closest thing to a father figure in my life,” Dior Dillard, one of Bryant’s foster sons, said in an Inside Edition interview. “My mother wasn’t really taking care of me, I didn’t know my Pops…It led to me doing a lot of reckless stuff…But when I came here, Mr. B….showed me…a better path.”
“I was brought up in a Kool Aid house,” Bryant reminisced. “If somebody had no place to go, my family was always taking them in…This is what it’s all about. This is my family…It makes me feel good to know I am a part of whatever success [my foster sons] have.”
“Mr. B. saves lives,” Dillard concluded. “He saved all these people that came to his possession…They’re changing the way they were to a better way, so that’s saving somebody.”
A father’s blessing strengthens…children. (Sirach 3:9)
God, bless all earthly fathers, and guide them in Your ways.
How to Be a Good Father
What does it take to be a good father? Father’s Day provides an opportunity for some reflections on that question. As a starter, here are some Commandments for fathers:
■ Thou shalt love your children as yourself, seeing in them the image of their Creator.
■ Thou shalt introduce your children to their Creator at an early age inasmuch as they come to a knowledge of Him through you.
■ Thou shalt be forgiving, dispensing mercy as well as justice.
■ Thou shalt never abuse your children physically or psychologically.
■ Thou shalt find time for your children each day, if at all possible.
■ Thou shalt teach your children respect for the rights of others.
■ Thou shalt instruct your children in the rights and duties of citizenship.
■ Thou shalt give good example at all times.
And every work that he undertook…to seek his God, he did with all his heart. (2 Chronicles 31:21)
Jesus, help me live up to the trust that my children have in me.
A Grandmother’s Last Wish
Stasia Foley’s last wish was to attend her granddaughter Tara’s wedding in Austin, Texas. But the reality of her situation made it impossible. Stasia was 102 years old, had a weak heart, and lived in hospice care in Naples, Florida. Her nurses told her she wouldn’t be able to fly.
Tara, however, had always enjoyed a special relationship with her grandmother, so she decided to do the next best thing. She flew to Florida with her wedding dress, hired a professional photographer and makeup company, and spent the day taking pictures with Stasia as if it were her actual wedding day.
Tara wrote on Facebook, “Words cannot explain how much these moments mean to me...Her smile and her laugh are forever etched in my mind and the love between us will live in my heart...When I said goodbye to her that night, I think we both knew it would be the last time we would see each other. She grabbed my cheeks with her hands, looked me straight in the eye and said ‘I love you very much’ — and 27 days later, she passed away. I am so blessed to have this be my last memory with her.”
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived
first in your grandmother. (2 Timothy 1:5)
May grandparents always be loved and honored, Savior.
Belated Graduation in Memory of Mom
Floyd Covey of Upshur County, West Virginia, was only in high school when he was drafted into the Army to fight in the Vietnam War. As a result, he never received his diploma.
Now age 78 and a resident at Martinsburg VA Medical Center, Covey told staff members that his mother had always wanted her son to be a high school graduate, and he still longed to fulfill that wish for her, even though she had since passed away. The staff reached out to Upshur County education officials, who soon made Covey’s dream a reality.
Though Covey was initially invited to take part in his actual high school’s graduation ceremony, a medical issue prevented him from doing so. Instead, Schools Superintendent Dr. Sara Stankus and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison traveled to the VA Center for a smaller ceremony for him.
As reported by the website My Buckhannon, Covey, dressed in a cap and gown, received his diploma at a party with staff members who celebrated his accomplishment. With tears of gratitude, he said, “This would mean everything to my mom.”
A desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12)
Father, allow me to help answer someone’s prayer.
A Caring Community
In some ways, Max Olson was the leading citizen of Canton, South Dakota, many years ago. People didn’t so much cater to Max as help him care for himself.
Max was profoundly handicapped due to cerebral palsy. He “walked” on his knees, got around town on a converted golf cart, and had trouble speaking. Max could dress himself, and when he was able, he sold pencils or distributed religious literature. After his parents died, he thought he was left to care for himself and vowed to do the best he could.
At the age of 57, and with the patient encouragement of friends, he learned to feed himself, a skill that people hadn’t permitted him to use before. He took pride in each new achievement.
Still, there were some things Max couldn’t do. Johnnie Bakkene cut his hair. The fellows at the garage kept his cart in repair. Dick Haisch wrote letters for him. Said a friend, “He’s a morale builder. He’s a missionary. He talks about how lucky he is and it makes you sit down and take inventory.”
Open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need. (Deuteronomy 15:8)
Jesus, may I be a friend to people with disabilities.
There is one sight that never fails to fascinate six-year-old Finn Daly of West Hartford, Connecticut: an American flag blowing in the breeze. The youngster, who has both Down syndrome and autism, could sit for hours just watching the flags outside his own home and his neighbors’ homes.
During walks with his parents and sister, one particular flag always grabbed Finn’s attention, and he would often sit on the sidewalk staring at it. This flag was mounted to a tree in the front yard of Todd Disque’s home. Disque saw this and told CBS News’ Steve Hartman, “The boy would just sit there, transfixed by the flag. I was like, God bless America.”
Disque so appreciated Finn’s attention that he built the boy a small bench, painted the word’s “Finn’s Bench” on it, and left it by the tree for the Daly family to discover. They were all surprised and thrilled. Finn’s mom Brooke said, “It’s such a small gesture, but things like this really restore your faith in humanity…There’s still good people out there that want to do kind things for no other reason than just to be kind.”
Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life and honor.
Remind me to show kindness to everyone, Prince of Peace.
No Birthday Left Behind
One day, Tanvi Barman of San Francisco hopes to pursue a career as a pediatrician, but she has already committed to being of service to kids. At age 14, while volunteering at a homeless shelter, Barman was playing with the children there when she learned that some of them had never had a birthday party.
She told India-West, “My birthday is always my favorite day of the year. But many kids in shelters, whose parents might be unemployed and who get moved around every couple of months, do not know what a birthday party is.”
Barman decided to rectify that problem by founding the nonprofit No Birthday Left Behind. She travels to five shelters each month to throw a party featuring a cake, presents, goodie bags, and games. The children are always delighted by Barman’s kindness and compassion.
Barman, now age 17, concluded, “My friends, our childhood, we don’t appreciate what we get so easily, and what our parents are willing to give us. These kids — they get so much joy out of a simple party.”
Happy is the person who...places his children under her shelter. (Sirach 14:20,26)
Teach me to bring joy to a child, Divine Messiah.
The Gift of Forgiveness, Part 3
Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt feels compassion and empathy for all the people she interviewed for her book The Gift of Forgiveness. Those qualities were partially planted in her by her grandparents, Sargent Shriver and Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
Sargent helped found the Peace Corps, which promotes volunteering and bettering the lives of people around the world. And Eunice founded Special Olympics, which was revolutionary in changing the attitudes many people have toward those with intellectual challenges.
Katherine concluded, “My grandparents were huge figures in my life when they were here on earth, and still are after having passed. I think about them a lot. I think the biggest lesson they taught me was that our purpose on this earth is to make the world a better place and to help others.
“They taught us as their grandchildren…that you could always be of service, and how you choose to do that is up to you. So with this book on forgiveness, my goal with it is to help other people in their forgiveness journey.”
The good leave an inheritance to their children’s children. (Proverbs 13:22)
Holy Spirit, help me be of service to others.
The Gift of Forgiveness, Part 2
In writing The Gift of Forgiveness, Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt interviewed 22 people who endured horrific circumstances or evils. And she shares how they managed to unburden themselves of the anger, hatred, and resentment that were weighing them down. For several of her subjects, religious faith was a key factor.
Polly Sheppard, for instance, is a survivor of Dylann Roof’s racist murder spree at Charleston, South Carolina’s Emanuel A.M.E. church in 2015. Days after the shootings, Sheppard publicly forgave Roof. Katherine noted, “[Sheppard] grew up in a family where faith was the main feature in her life. That formed her understanding and view on forgiveness.
“She quickly spoke about getting to a place of forgiveness and wanting to talk to Dylann Roof about why he chose to do what he did—and also try to get faith [into] his life…I think the way she came to [forgiveness] was having compassion and empathy, but also a clear mission to want to spread the power of faith into other people’s lives, especially Dylann Roof’s life, who clearly she felt did not have that presence.”
Do good to those who hate you. (Luke 6:27)
Help me to forgive the seemingly unforgivable, Jesus.
The Gift of Forgiveness, Part 1
Like a lot of people, Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt grew up thinking that forgiveness required the actions of two people: 1) the person who hurt you apologizing for what he or she did, and 2) you, who would grant that person forgiveness.
But what Katherine realized as she got older—especially during the writing of her best-selling book The Gift of Forgiveness: Inspiring Stories from Those Who Have Overcome the Unforgivable—is that forgiveness is ultimately a gift that you give yourself, regardless of another person’s remorse or lack thereof.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Katherine explained, “I went through phases of feeling like forgiveness is something that weak people do, something that almost makes an action or a wrongdoing okay. It can feel like a betrayal of your own hurt. After doing this book and speaking to all these amazing people, I understand that forgiveness requires an incredible amount of strength and courage. It is an example of us taking our power back in control of our own lives.”
If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (Matthew 6:14)
Give me the strength to forgive, Divine Mercy.
Play by Play
Silvia Grecco of Sao Paulo, Brazil, loves soccer, as does her young son Nickollas. The catch is that Nickollas was born blind and has never actually seen a soccer game. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t experienced them. Silvia has been narrating each game to him, and their story was recently told on Aleteia.
When watching games together, Silvia goes into detail about the players, the plays, even the stadium’s atmosphere. This comes from a deep love of the boy she adopted, who was born premature and passed over for adoption by 12 other couples. “He was reserved for me,” she said. “He had to be my son.”
When the story came out, Nickollas came to the attention of his favorite team, the Palmeieras. They were inspired by his dedication to the team and by his mother’s love and willingness to make the games come alive for her son.
Nickollas has gotten to meet many of his favorite players, and attend games in person. Nickollas and Silvia also won The Best Fan Award from FIFA, the worldwide soccer organization, for their love and dedication to the sport.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. (Isaiah 35:5)
Messiah, remind me there are power and strength in love.
Tiny Homes with Big Hearts
Many teenagers age out of foster care between ages 18-21. As a result, they lose critical resources and financial aid, and they don’t have the emotional support network to navigate the difficult transition to adulthood. The nonprofit Pivot Inc. decided to do something about this flaw in the system by building tiny houses to give these teens a home and a fresh start.
With the help of volunteers, Pivot built and furnished tiny homes behind their Oklahoma office for teens who’ve aged out of foster care. One such teen is Carter, who was practically homeless. His father is in prison, and his mother died when he was 10 years old. Thanks to Pivot’s tiny house, Carter now has a bed to sleep in and a roof over his head to call a home.
Spotlight reports that President and CEO of Pivot, Jennifer Goodrich, said, “[We are] able to serve them in a way that, again, lets them show that they have the same talents, skills that any other young person in our community has.”
These houses will give the teens a chance to stand on their own two feet, and the reassurance that they are not alone.
Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build Me a house to live in?
(2 Samuel 7:5)
In Your embrace, Abba, may all Your children find a home.
From the Basketball Court to the Altar
A former NBA referee has replaced his playbook with a holy book and is now serving as a deacon at St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Steve Javie, age 64, was rated one of the top NBA referees. However, when bad knees forced him to retire in 2011, he realized he wanted to find a new purpose for his life.
Through his wife Mary Ellen, he reconnected with his faith and discovered a new calling to become a deacon. He studied for seven years, achieved his Masters in theology, and in 2019, he was ordained a deacon. He can now officiate weddings, perform baptisms, and deliver homilies.
Javie brings a lot of what he learned on the road to his preaching. As he told The Inquirer, “A lot of guys I traveled with, they struggled with all the temptation that comes with being on the road. I would try to talk to them about it. My thinking was, we’re all sinful, but if we can talk about these things with each other, it might make our marriages and families a little more solid.”
Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness but
will have the light of life. (John 8:12)
Jesus, I put my faith in You to guide me along my journey.
Gowns 4 Good
Nathaniel Moore was one of the many graduates in the summer of 2020 that had to have a virtual commencement ceremony from college, due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. A physician’s assistant at the University of Vermont Medical Center at the height of the pandemic, the 30-year-old became concerned at the lack of protective gowns for frontline workers.
That was when Moore came up with the idea for a new online initiative, aptly named Gowns 4 Good, where graduates could donate their gowns to frontline workers in need. To his delight, contributions for his nonprofit began pouring in from all over the country, so much so that Nathaniel had to create a GoFundMe to cover the shipping and handling costs.
Moore also used the tagline, “Wear the Cap, Donate the Gown,” as a decorative logo that could be affixed to the graduates’ caps in acknowledgement of their accomplishments. “We want them to keep their caps,” Moore told CNN. “They can signify their effort, and show they did something great with their gown...What’s a better idea than to put those gowns in the hands of our medical providers as a solution to protect them?”
Honor physicians for their services. (Sirach 38:1)
God, may we always be grateful for the gift of healing.
Mark Wahlberg Shares his Faith
Mark Wahlberg may skip his workouts once or twice a week, but there’s one thing he is committed to following every day: his prayer routine. A devout Catholic, the actor opened up on Today about his spiritual practices: “I don’t take a day off from getting on my hands and knees and reading my prayer book and my daily devotionals and…expressing the gratitude that I have for all the blessings that have been bestowed upon me.”
Wahlberg also keeps a list of people that he prays for, whether he personally knows them or not. If he reads about people who are struggling in life, he’ll ask God to help them.
The Boston native, who prays about 20 minutes a day, also expressed an openness to sharing his faith, noting, “I will not hide the fact that I love the Lord and I want to be committed to serving the Lord, but I also don’t jam it down anybody’s throat.”
The actor adds that he asks God for “the strength and guidance to be able to use the talents and gifts that God’s given me to help others and inspire and know what right is and to do so...to be the best husband I can be, the best father I can be.”
Strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness. (Matthew 6:33)
Teach me to share Your lessons with others, Jesus.
Do What You Can
You typically think of Jon Bon Jovi selling out concerts or belting his famous songs, like Livin’ on a Prayer. But in March 2020, the Today Show reported that the rocker was volunteering his time at his nonprofit restaurant, JBJ Soul Kitchen, to help do his part during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If you can’t do what you love, do what you can!” That was the caption underneath a photo of the 58-year-old music icon washing dishes at his restaurant in Red Bank, New Jersey.
The nonprofit community restaurant is one of three facilities across New Jersey, run by the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, created to serve in-need customers. The restaurant doesn’t charge for meals, and their menus don’t include prices. They simply ask patrons who can pay for a suggested donation that subsidizes the cost for those who can’t afford to pay.
This truly is a time where everyone, no matter your celebrity status, is living on more than a prayer. They are answering prayers by helping each other.
Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet.
Loving God, may I remember we all are Your humble servants. Please bless us with the courage to do Your will.
The Hotel is Divine
Some hotels will offer you free amenities when you check in, but it’s likely that only The Leo House in New York City has rosaries available at the front desk for whoever wants them. That’s because the Leo House has been run by an order of nuns since it opened in 1889, and they dubbed it a “Catholic guest house for travelers.”
As reported by Larry McShane in New York’s Daily News, the 81-room structure offers “an affordable alternative to Manhattan’s eye-popping hotel tabs.” And though the building includes a chapel, several religious statues, and stained glass windows, people of any religion are welcome to stay there.
Sister Marilyn Ellickson is one of only four nuns who still live at the Leo House, and McShane notes that she serves as a “cheerful tour guide.” Sister Marilyn says, “People are glad to be here. It’s safe, it’s friendly. There’s a certain ambiance, and the sisters put it here. They created the whole kit and kaboodle.”
Regarding the hotel’s continued appeal, she adds, “Every day is different. You don’t know what the day holds.”
Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)
Teach me to welcome the stranger, Father.
The Senior Flower Girls
It’s always sweet when you go to a wedding and see the little flower girls walking down the aisle, scattering petals on the floor. It was sweet at Lyndsey Raby’s wedding, too. Only her flower girls weren’t so little.
Raby chose to have her own two grandmothers, as well as her husband-to-be’s two grandmothers, serve as her flower girls. As reported by Today.com, Wanda Grant, 76, Betty Brown, 72, Kathleen Brown, 90, and Joyce Raby, 72, relished their role in this special day. And the 24-year-old bride was thrilled with all the special attention they received.
“I’m so lucky,” said Raby. “A lot of women don’t get one grandparent at their wedding, and I was blessed to have all of them.” The bride also noted that the ladies all bonded and communicate regularly on Facebook.
Natalie Caho, the wedding’s photographer, added, “I was not expecting the level of sass that these girls brought. Their energy all day was that of a little girl who was in the same position. It truly goes to show that age is just a number.”
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother. (2 Timothy 1:5)
May we remember and honor our grandmothers, Lord.
A Reflection from the Greatest Generation
Five months after graduating from the Brooklyn, New York campus of St. John’s University in 1944, Edward Toriello, Sr. found himself fighting the Battle of the Bulge under the command of General George S. Patton. At age 98, Toriello reflected on his wartime years and his life in an interview with his alma mater for www.stjohns.edu.
Toriello survived that historic battle and credits the prayers of his mother for his safety. He is quick to remind anyone who asks that the men who lost their lives are the true heroes, having given their lives to preserve the freedoms we hold dear. Post-war, he worked at the New York telephone company, where he met and married Zina (who passed away in 2013). They raised six boys together. Toriello is thankful for his beautiful family.
Toriello is also a force for good in his community through various volunteer efforts that include raising $100,000 for the Southern Ocean County Medical Center. He concluded, “I have been blessed by the Lord, who I thank every day for my life and the blessings that made it all possible.”
These things I remember, as I pour out my soul.
God, bless our veterans.
A Racing Pioneer
When Sarah Fisher was a high school sophomore, she was considered an outsider due to being a racing enthusiast. But when she received a surprise call from NBC News—who had heard about the teen tearing up the dirt track in sprint cars and wanted to do a story on her—Fisher rose to the challenge that set her on the path to breaking racing records for women.
Fisher raced in her first Indianapolis 500 at age 19 on May 28th, 2000, becoming the third and youngest woman to compete in the iconic race. She didn’t finish due to an accident, but that would be the first of nine Indianapolis 500 starts for Fisher, the most for any woman in its history. It paved the way for more female race car drivers in the years to come.
Two decades later, Fisher reflected on what she would tell her younger self. “Smile more,” she told Dana Hunsinger Benbow of the Indy Star. “Enjoy what you’re doing because there are great people around you. And don’t spend life looking back. There is always more to come.”
I smiled at them when they had no confidence; the light of my countenance they did not extinguish. (Job 29:24)
Lord, in the race car of life, may we not focus only on the destination, but enjoy the journey.
An Early Memorial Day
Christopher Award-winning historian David Blight discovered that the first Memorial Day occurred earlier than previously known. While researching a book on the Civil War, Blight learned that Union soldiers captured by the Confederates near Charleston, South Carolina, were imprisoned at the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club.
History.com reports, “More than 260 Union soldiers died from disease and exposure while being held in the racetrack’s open-air infield. Their bodies were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstands.”
When the war ended, former slaves “exhumed the mass grave and reinterred the bodies in a new cemetery.” And on May 1st, 1865, ten thousand freed slaves and some white missionaries engaged in a memorial parade around the racetrack to honor the fallen soldiers. Bible verses were read, while “three thousand black schoolchildren carried bouquets of flowers and sang ‘John Brown’s Body.’” Though records of this event are few, it does serve as the first instance of a Memorial Day commemoration.
These stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial forever. (Joshua 4:7)
Keep alive the memories of fallen soldiers, Lord.
Medical Danger Caught in Time
“It was divine intervention.” That’s how Long Island, New York mother Judy Tedesco explains the fact that she survived not one, not two, but three brain aneurysms.
The 52-year-old went to the doctor in January 2021 after experiencing severe headaches and swelling around her eyes. The physician sent her for a CT scan, discovered the three brain aneurysms, and immediately had her transported to South Shore Hospital.
“Her doctors tackled the problem from two different fronts,” reported Eyewitness News, “first in January with microsurgery, clipping two of them on the right side…Then, in April, they obstructed the aneurysm on the left with a tiny mesh device inserted through a catheter.”
Brain aneurysms that rupture kill people immediately 30 percent of the time, so Tedesco was blessed to discover hers early enough to save her life. Six months after her surgeries, she was fully healed and back to normal. She said, “There’s more for me to do, apparently, on this earth.”
Cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” (Luke 10:9)
Guide me towards the healing I need, Savior.
Making a Success of Family Life
Marlene Shelton LaRoe was a family life therapist in Houston for 25 years. She helped families overcome difficulties that, left unattended, could threaten family stability.
One thing she learned from her practice is this: successful family living doesn’t just happen. People have to work at it. She offers this advice for families who want to make their life together everything it could be: “Roll up your shirt-sleeves. Relating is work. Growing is work. Loving is work.”
So how do you go about doing that kind of work? Pope John Paul II shared these words: “Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others and share their burdens. Each one must show concern, not only for his or her own life, but also for the lives of other members of the family.”
Encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Jesus, help me to become a source of strength for my family.
Community Fridges Feed the Hungry
Not all people who suffer from hunger or food insecurity can find the help they need. But now, community fridges, filled with food for the taking, are helping to solve that problem.
After seeing an Instagram post about a community fridge project in New York, Ismael Salazar decided to start a similar effort in his Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights. He partnered with his friend, Day Hernandez, to make it happen.
“I went on Facebook Marketplace and I found a free fridge. It was technically donated. We picked it up, we cleaned it, we washed it, we painted it,” said Hernandez to KABC.
They next connected with the owner of Milpa Grille, who offered to place it outside and plug it into her restaurant, welcoming anyone to take food from the fridge at any time.
Now this idea is spreading, with more businesses setting up fridges in their neighborhoods, filled with food donations, such as produce, prepared meals, milk, and eggs. It’s a prime opportunity for neighbors to give back to those in need.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and…set before the crowd. (Luke 9:16)
Lord, grant us both physical and spiritual nourishment.
Actor Becomes Mental Health Advocate, Part 5
Having endured his own time of darkness, Maurice Benard now finds himself with a renewed commitment to bringing light to people enduring mental health problems. His memoir, Nothing General About It, earned a Christopher Award for that very reason. And on his Youtube talk show MB State of Mind, he interviews fellow actors and others about the mental struggles they’ve faced.
Ultimately, Maurice hopes that people who read his book and watch State of Mind feel less alone. He adds, “I’ve gotten help in the past for my nervous breakdowns, but if you’re having anxiety or depression…if you feel [suicidal tendencies], call somebody.
“There’s NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), Didi Hirsch, there’s so many that I work with, Mental Health of America, and they’ll set you up somehow. There’s no need to do what I did for four months. Get help now…I know I look strong and I’m tough, but there is a fragile side to me that’s unbearable. So if I can do it, anybody can do it.”
Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find.
Make me willing to ask for help when I need it, Lord.
Actor Becomes Mental Health Advocate, Part 4
Maurice Benard struggled with depression for four months before seeking out a psychiatrist. In retrospect, he wishes he had asked for professional help sooner. The doctor put him on the drug Lexapro, which can make you feel worse for the first five days, but then starts improving your mental state.
General Hospital started shooting again just as the Lexapro was working, so Maurice was able to return to work and went on to win his third Daytime Emmy Award for the Alzheimer’s storyline. “[I was at] the [second] worst of my life,” he noted on Christopher Closeup. “And then you go and do your job, and at the end win an award. What a difference a year makes, man.”
Beyond that, Maurice is also experiencing a renewed sense of joy, saying, “What brings me joy is that I’m free of that darkness. I don’t have it in me. If we had this interview a year ago, I would be a totally different person…I have so much joy because I know that other feeling, [the darkness], because it just happened, in a sense. And I see the huge difference…It’s like heaven.” More tomorrow…
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did
not overcome it. (John 1:5)
Bring light to those with crippling depression, Jesus.
Actor Becomes Mental Health Advocate, Part 3
Life was going well for Maurice Benard during the early days of 2020. His memoir, Nothing General About It, was being released. His General Hospital storyline, about Sonny dealing with his father’s Alzheimer’s, received acclaim. And he was enjoying his time with his wife Paula and their kids.
Then came COVID and everything shut down. And, in a case of art imitating life, Maurice learned that his father had Alzheimer’s. “It was the end of the world—in my head,” he recalled on Christopher Closeup, noting he felt suicidal.
He continued, “I’d go and run outside, and…I was looking at a tree to figure out how to put a rope around it [to hang myself]…But somehow, this is where I think God comes in, He puts a hand on your shoulder and says, ‘It’s all right, just keep [going].’”
In Maurice’s case, God made Himself present through the actor’s family. Maurice recalled, “I was in the car with my son, Joshua, and I was crying, and I said, ‘I don’t think I can go on any longer.’…Then Joshua says, ‘Dad, I’ll take care of you.’ And he did. My other kids were great, too.” More tomorrow…
He drew me up from the desolate pit. (Psalm 40:2)
Send me a lifeline when I feel despair, Messiah.
Actor Becomes Mental Health Advocate, Part 2
For Maurice Benard, there has always been a spiritual dimension to his struggles. He said, “I believe that when you’re going through a nervous breakdown, it’s God and the devil fighting each other. That’s my interpretation…But God usually comes through. All the time for me.”
Maurice finally received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which involves a series of chemical imbalances in the brain. Through therapy and the drug lithium, he was able to pursue the life and acting career he dreamed of—at least until he got cocky and stopped taking his lithium.
That led to another nervous breakdown during the earliest days of his job on General Hospital, where he was hired to portray mob boss Sonny Corinthos. Producers, crew, and his colleagues were all supportive, though, and eventually Maurice got back on lithium and was able to function again. He also began speaking publicly about his mental health struggles, in order to help others in similar situations. More tomorrow…
Blessed be…the Father of mercies…who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Strengthen me in my mental and spiritual battles, Savior.
Actor Becomes Mental Health Advocate, Part 1
Around the time he started out as an actor at age 21 during the early 1980s, Maurice Benard’s bipolar disorder began manifesting itself through mania, hallucinations, and even violent outbursts. He wound up in a psych ward and mental hospital where he endured horrific treatment without anyone being able to learn what was actually wrong with him.
One day, while strapped down to a bed, Maurice managed to get his hands free and break off a latch. His hopelessness led him to hold the latch over his wrist, as if to slit it, in order to kill himself and escape his mental anguish.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Maurice recalled, “Then I just started praying, and I felt God, strongly. So I took the latch, broken in half, made it into a cross, and put it by my bed. And I knew in that moment, with so much pain, that there was a reason that I was going through this. And I know now with all the mental health [advocacy] that I’ve done, that that’s the reason.” More tomorrow…
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror. (Psalm 6:2)
Make Your presence known to those with mental illness, Father, and bring them Your healing comfort.
God’s Little Messenger
A trip through the woods to get closer to nature turned into a surprising encounter with God for Stu Reininger of Calabria, Italy. The boat captain had been taking a hike to clear his head. Within the last year, he had lost his fiancée and his younger brother, both of whom died tragically.
Writing in Guideposts, Stu shared how he was going up the trail when a shepherd dog began to follow him, almost egging him on as if herding him, to pay attention. Stu preferred to be lost in his grief, but the dog wouldn’t give up, pushing Stu toward a certain spot. Suddenly, Stu heard the faint bleating of a baby goat. Its mother must have wandered off after giving birth, so the baby goat would surely have died if left alone. The dog had led Stu there to save the goat’s life.
Stu concluded, “I picked up the baby goat, then settled it into my knapsack to return to the flock…I sized up the dog that had once seemed like my nemesis and thought of the parable of the lost sheep. There were things that happened in this world that I’d never be able to resolve or understand. But it wasn’t for being overlooked by God.”
I am the good shepherd. (John 10:11)
Lord, may I trust in Your divine timing.
Liver Donation Saves Two Lives
The prognosis for one-year-old Brooks Campbell was grim. Acute liver failure due to an autoimmune disorder would kill the boy in a matter of days if an organ donor wasn’t found. Brooks’ father, Matt, and his family were all ineligible because they had a blood clotting disorder. And Brooks’ mom, Andrea, was pregnant and, therefore, couldn’t donate part of her own liver.
As reported by the Today Show, Andrea’s brother, Grant, drove from Texas to Ohio to visit Brooks in the hospital. When he learned about the child’s need for a liver, he volunteered to donate a part of his own.
One year prior to this, Grant had faced some losses in his life that left him suicidal. Thankfully, he never acted on those thoughts and was able to save his nephew’s life. As Matt told Grant prior to the surgery, “I guess you found your purpose.”
The liver transplant was successful, and both donor and recipient recovered well. Grant treasures the experience, believing that Brooks saved his life just as much as he saved Brooks’ life.
It is God who is at work in you, enabling you…to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)
Lord, may we remember that every life has a purpose.
A Cut Above
Lex Moran knows how fortunate she is to be alive. In 2016, while standing at the front porch of her home in Louisville, Kentucky, the 29-year-old was shot a staggering four times by a gunman. The injuries resulting from this attack required an “8-hour surgery, 10-day recovery,” as well as “physical and emotional recovery.”
With her newfound lease on life, Moran befriended an older homeless man named Joe, whom she often saw at her neighborhood bus stop. One day, Joe mentioned to her that “his hair…was tickling his ears.” That happened to be the same day that Moran obtained her master barber’s license.
She had all her supplies in her car, and in a photo that went viral, she gave her friend Joe a much-needed trim. “I didn’t do it for any attention,” Moran told MSNBC. “I [have] been doing this for Joe. I am just attached to him.”
“I’ve gotten so much love from just helping Joe,” Moran concluded. “If I can just be a little hope, and a little change, and a little love that is in the community, maybe I can lead other people to do the exact same thing as I am.”
Show yourself…a model of good works. (Titus 2:7)
Father, may we strive to use our skills to help others.
Lending a Sympathetic Year
Are you a good listener? We don’t mean if you hear when someone speaks, but rather, do you really listen? There’s a difference, and the distinction is important, according to psychologist and author Robert Wicks.
Although effective listening takes a little extra time and attention, this form of “mental health first aid” is invaluable, he said on an old Christopher Closeup show. Then he commented on a phenomenon we’ve all observed: “It’s marvelous how many people there are in the world who love to tell you how you should live your life. There’s no scarcity of those people.”
By way of contrast, helpers “are interested in listening. They’re willing to sit for a few minutes and hear you out.”
Although all of us can serve as a counselor at times, Wicks cautions against the “savior complex,” or the feeling that we must help a friend reach some definite solution. Lending an ear is often all that’s needed. And if a friend is obviously troubled but hasn‘t asked for help, Wicks advises reaching out anyway.
If you will not listen, my soul will weep in secret. (Jeremiah 13:17)
Jesus, help me to practice the art of listening.
Animal Sanctuary Inspired by Mom
Christopher Vane opened an animal sanctuary in Florida in honor of his late mother, Ursula, who taught him compassion for all God’s creatures.
Before Ursula passed away, she said, “When I die, I’m going to have a barn up in heaven, and I’m going to have all the animals, and they’re going to stay with me.”
Though she died before she could see her son bring her version of heaven to life here on earth, Vane named the facility Little Bear Sanctuary in her honor. (“Ursula” means “little bear” in Latin.)
To date, Little Bear has rescued more than 150 animals, and it’s a no-kill, no-cage sanctuary where abused animals and those rescued from slaughter can live out their lives in peace. Because of its high standards for animal care and business practices, Little Bear Sanctuary is a verified “true sanctuary” by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.
Vane told Today, he starts his morning with a smile: “You can’t be depressed here. These animals just change your day.”
God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind.” (Genesis 1:24)
God, help us to treat all Your creatures with compassion.
Student Follows Way of Christ
Teachers are known for having an impact on students’ lives, but in Hamilton, New Jersey, a student made a difference for a teacher and for newborn babies in her state.
Educator Jennifer Gallagher caught a virus—specifically, a cytomegalovirus—when she was pregnant with her son, Rocco. As reported by CBS2 New York’s Meg Baker, “If you contract this very common viral infection for the first time while pregnant, it can transfer to the fetus and cause severe brain damage and hearing loss.” That’s what happened with Rocco, who came to be diagnosed with congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV). He now has cerebral palsy and is disabled.
The vast majority of mothers have never heard of CMV, so Eva Drennan, an eighth grader at St. Gregory the Great Academy, where Gallagher teaches, spearheaded a campaign to test all newborns for CMV—and also make mothers aware of the condition and the damage it causes. She said, “We follow the way of Christ…to help in our community and to reach out as much as we can, so I thought this was a great way to do that.”
Speak out for those who cannot speak. (Proverbs 31:8)
May young people be inspired to follow the way of Christ in their own unique way.
Refugee Gives Back
After years of enduring war in Sudan, Nabila Hamid applied for refugee status and was eventually resettled in Boise, Idaho, with her children. Determined to make a good life for her family, she enrolled in a work-training program that allowed her to get a job at St. Luke’s Meridian Medical Center as an environmental service technician. That means she sanitizes hospital rooms after a patient is discharged.
Hamid’s job became more dangerous and complicated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though she had concerns about bringing the virus home to her family, she told Nicole Foy of the Idaho Statesman, “Going to the hospital everyday to help people, according to my religion, I believe this is my destiny. I am not afraid. I do what I can to protect my family, but…in the end we are all human beings; we need to give something back.”
Julianne Donnelly Tzul, executive director of Boise’s International Rescue Committee, praised people like Hamid, saying, “Refugees and immigrants are a critical part of our society. They are keeping the engine of our community running.”
You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:19)
Help refugees find welcome in their new homes, Father.
Reconciling with God and Family
Though Matt Palmer’s parents took him to Mass when he was growing up, his father never took part in the sacraments of Holy Communion or Reconciliation. Instead, writes Matt in a column for Catholic News Service, “Dad had one best friend—the grudge.” It resulted in his father cutting himself off from various family members, including Matt himself as an adult.
After 15 years of not speaking, Matt received word that his father was in the hospital dying of leukemia. Matt knew this was the time to make peace, yet he still felt anxious. But when he entered his father’s hospital room, his dad greeted him almost as if no time had passed. In addition, Matt learned that a priest had come and offered to hear his father’s Confession.
Matt writes, “After decades of holding back…he shared with the priest a lifetime that had weighed on his conscience. ‘It all came pouring out,’ Dad said as tears just rolled down his bearded cheeks. ‘I was so scared. But he just listened to me and didn’t judge me. Things used to be so harsh. I think things are changing…It felt good.” Matt’s father died a week later, finding comfort in the love of his family and the mercy of God.
May He…be reconciled to you. (2 Maccabees 1:5)
Guide me in reconciling with You and others, Messiah.
Addict Finds Rehabilitation
“I lived an ugly life,” admitted Joseph Valadez of Fountain Valley, California, during an interview on The Kelly Clarkson Show. But Joseph has managed to turn that ugliness into beauty through hard work, determination, and the support of good people.
When he was a boy, Joseph joined a gang and began abusing drugs and alcohol. He wound up being sent to prison 40 times, for a total of 30 years over the course of his life. During that time, no one ever asked if he had a drug problem and needed some help. Tired of being addicted and imprisoned, he finally took the initiative himself and called various rehab centers.
Joseph was accepted by the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center of Anaheim, California. He credits them with saving him. Then, to complete his education, he enrolled at California State University of Long Beach, and graduated with a degree in Sociology at age 63 in 2021 with a 3.67 GPA. Joseph said, “There’s a misconception about guys like me that I want to break. If I can do it, anyone can.”
I have swept away your transgressions…Return to Me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:22)
Guide addicts to turn their lives around, Messiah.
NICU Babies Rescued After Hurricane
In the summer of 2020, Hurricane Laura’s more than 100 mph winds caused damage to Lake Charles, Louisiana’s CHRISTUS Ochsner Lake Area Hospital, leaving four babies from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in desperate need of help.
That’s when a group of NICU nurses from their sister hospital, 90 minutes away in Beaumont, Texas, sprang into action to save these children’s lives.
“Knowing that it’s been us in that same position many times before, there was no question about whether or not to help,” Paul Trevino, president and CEO of CHRISTUS Southeast Texas Health System, said on Good Morning America.
Registered nurse Kelli Huebel coordinated the transport of patients from one facility to another and reassured anxious parents saying, “Our job is to love, support, and care for these babies and their families.” And that is precisely what they did, getting those babies to their destination without any complications. How’s that for a life-saving delivery?
Let us journey on our way, and I will go alongside you. (Genesis 33:12)
Loving Lord, bless the babies in the NICU, fighting for life.
Following in Mom’s Footsteps
Joanne Vendetti has served as an oncology nurse at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore for 40 years. Not only does she see her patients and co-workers as family, one of them actually is a member of her family. Her daughter Lena works as a nurse in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Paul McMullen of the Catholic Review reports that both women are graduates of the Institute of Notre Dame and were influenced by the Sisters of Mercy. Lena’s greatest influence, of course, is her mom, whom she describes as her “role model” for the loving care she provides to her patients and family.
This care became especially necessary when Lena discovered a lump in her neck in 2017. Tests revealed that it was Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. “I wanted my Mom to be the one to give me the results,” Lena said. “When it was me going through [cancer treatment], her best friends were my nurses.”
Thankfully, Lena’s cancer went into remission. She went on to get married and have a daughter. Perhaps that little girl will follow in her family’s footsteps as well one day.
We were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. (1 Thessalonians 2:7)
Thank You for the loving care shown by good nurses, Lord.
A Caregiver Calls on God for Help
It was a moment of panic for Beth Gormong. Though she was good at doing the cooking, cleaning, and laundry when she visited her parents, she felt unsure of herself when having to deal with her mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s. One day, when Beth’s father was out, she was left alone with her mom, who woke up from a nap exclaiming, “I’m scared. The snow’s getting on me. I’m cold, so cold. Help me!”
Beth tried explaining that there was no snow. But dementia patients often can’t grasp reality, so Beth prayed for guidance. Recalling the incident in Guideposts, she soon realized, “Maybe words weren’t the answer…I sat on the arm of Mom’s chair, rubbed her forehead and hummed softly, just like she’d done for me as a child when I had a migraine…As the minutes wore on, Mom’s frantic breathing slowed. The tension left her face. She began to hum along. It was the sweetest sound I’d ever heard.
“I bowed my head, comforted that I wasn’t alone until Dad returned. The Lord was there with us. I’d remember that the next time Mom was frightened so that I wouldn’t be frightened too.”
My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.
Help me remember I am never alone, Holy Spirit.
Frontline Hero Surprised with $1 Million
Andrea Dalzell, the only registered nurse in a wheelchair in New York City, has never let her disability stop her from overcoming obstacles. And when COVID-19 hit, she quickly volunteered to help patients in need.
Dalzell was five years old when she was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder called transverse myelitis. Even though she would never walk again, she vowed her disability would never stop her from going after her dream of becoming a nurse. Despite initial pushback, Dalzell prevailed.
Due to her disability advocacy and heroic volunteer efforts during the pandemic, the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, a nonprofit supporting people with spinal cord injuries, surprised her with a one million dollar check. Dalzell could only think of helping others with the money.
She plans to start a program for people with disabilities to go into healthcare. “They should be given a chance,” she concluded. “People with disabilities aren’t living a death sentence. They’re living life.”
Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
Heavenly Father, bless all those who live with disabilities.
Ben Mazur Day
It all started with a runaway shopping cart at Schnuck’s, a grocery store located in Alton, Illinois. Ben Mazur, a 24-year-old Schnuck’s employee whose job is collecting carts from the parking lot, noticed one rolling into the path of traffic. Terrifyingly, a child was in the cart!
Mazur, who is on the autism spectrum, swiftly jumped into action, pulling the youngster out of harm’s way just in time. According to Fox2Now, the mother of this toddler was distracted getting her other children into her car, unaware that her baby had literally slipped out of her grasp “until it was almost too late.”
In gratitude for the young man’s quick thinking and heroism, Alton Mayor Brant Walker declared May 5th to be Ben Mazur Day. The date also happened to be Mazur’s birthday. Working at Schnuck’s had long been a dream of Ben’s, one he was able to fulfill with the help of Challenge Unlimited, “a program that helps people with disabilities find employment.”
“He’s outstanding,” Jiuana Evans, Mazur’s job coach at Challenge Unlimited commented, “and I know he’s going to continue to do great things.”
Nothing will be impossible with God. (Luke 1:37)
Lord, may we not allow any limitation to define us.
A Grandmother’s Secrets, Part 3
The “gritty Swedish gumption” displayed by Deacon Don Grossnickle’s grandmother Maja in overcoming her struggles worked its way into his DNA, too. For years, he worked closely with high school boys who had broken their necks playing sports and needed to adjust to life with a disability. He has also created a ministry in Uganda that uses a microfinance program to lift people out of poverty and get them the medical care they need.
During a Christopher Closeup interview about his book My Maja, Deacon Don said, “I think the common theme is that there’s a lot of broken people in the world. We deacons are, by Scripture, looking at the widows and orphans and those that are cast aside by society—and we have a special heart to be there for them. That’s what the Lord asks all of us.
“The Christophers’ founder said that each of us has a certain calling, unique to each of us. And we can be there for others. So it wove its way [into me] watching what Maja did. She was selfless. It was all about being strong enough to rally, no matter what she faced.”
I…beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called. (Ephesians 4:1)
Give me the strength to follow Your call, Jesus.
A Grandmother’s Secrets, Part 2
After losing her husband at age 35, Deacon Don Grossnickle’s grandmother Maja suffered greatly, balancing the work she needed to do to survive with raising three children.
“The stress and strain [led to] a nervous breakdown,” said Deacon Don on Christopher Closeup. “Her children were taken away from her…But Maja never spoke about those incidents to me. My relationship was such that her focus was on what the Lord was asking her to do all the time. She didn’t look back necessarily on how she spent some time in this Chicago insane asylum, and she did the treatments necessary to get out, so she could rejoin her children. As far as I’m concerned, that’s about as gritty a gumption as any person would ever imagine.”
As a result of learning about his grandmother’s struggles, Deacon Don notes that his compassion has been deepened: “Every person that I see who is struggling with depression or with suicide tendencies, I can see the face of Maja in each of them, and know that with the Lord’s help, they can be strong.”
I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord. (Psalm 12:1-2)
Guide those with mental illness towards healing, Lord.
A Grandmother’s Secrets, Part 1
While he was growing up in Chicago, Deacon Don Grossnickle loved visiting his grandmother Maja, an immigrant from Sweden. But as he researched her life in recent years, he discovered family secrets that shed new light on the struggles she endured in the U.S. He shares those secrets in his book My Maja.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Deacon Don explained that Maja’s most prominent traits were resilience and “gritty Swedish gumption.” Both became necessary for her survival in the states after her husband died at age 35, leaving her a widow with three children. Maja had been trained as a night nurse in Sweden, but had focused on raising her children here. After her husband’s death, which occurred during the Great Depression, Maja returned to work to survive.
Deacon Don explained, “Maja went to work 12-hour shifts taking care of wealthy people…She also converted the upper floors of her house into a boarding house…The stress and strain were terrible.” Though Maja relied on her faith in God to sustain her, there were also times when she would exasperatedly pray, “What are you asking of me, Lord?” More tomorrow…
Why, O Lord, do You stand far off? (Psalm 10:1)
Reveal Yourself to me in times of trouble, Creator.
High School Students Inspire Bus Driver
Ten years ago, Clayton Ward attended college, but dropped out after a few semesters because the challenge of balancing work with school became too much for him. After moving to Massachusetts, he found employment as a school bus driver. Little did he know that bus route would help him rediscover his desire to return to college and finish what he started.
Ward spoke about history to the high school students he was driving. They, in turn, said they wished Ward was their teacher. Ward told the Framingham Source those words “gave me the motivation to complete a goal I had started years ago.”
He enrolled at MassBay Community College in May 2019, working full-time driving the school bus while attending classes. Despite the difficulties he encountered, Ward said, “I would think of those students and all the years I wanted to make this happen, and it helped me focus my energy.”
Ward completed his Associate’s Degree with top honors and is planning to pursue his Bachelor’s Degree in History, with a minor in Secondary Education.
The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher.
Lord, may I pursue wisdom in the world and in Your words.
Two Donors Save Boy's Life
In early 2020, six-year-old Zeke Puig moved to Philadelphia to undergo treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for a rare combination of life-threatening cancers. Unfortunately, that was right when hospitals started shutting down due to the coronavirus pandemic. That left Zeke unable to see his siblings, and with only one parent at a time by his side.
Zeke’s body was rejecting the cells from his first bone marrow transplant, so he was in desperate need of a second life-saving treatment. With the pool for donors smaller than usual due to the pandemic, the Puigs waited and prayed for a miracle.
As reported by Good Morning America, their prayer was answered when not one, but two donors signed up on the bone marrow registry and were perfect matches. Zeke’s body responded well to the transplant and, after 75 days in the hospital, he enjoyed an emotional reunion with his family.
His mother is so thankful to the donors who answered the call to save her son’s life: “You can’t help but see these people and be thankful, and see the good in humanity through this pandemic.”
In distress you called, and I rescued you. (Psalm 81:7)
Loving Lord, help me answer the call of someone in need.
Let Go of Anger and Stress, Part 2
Peace is another gift of the Holy Spirit that will help us move beyond anger and stress. Peace is not just the absence of conflict, though, according to Gary Zimak, author of Let Go of Anger and Stress.
He said on Christopher Closeup, “Peace is a sense of serenity or tranquility that allows us to remain untroubled in the face of serious or unpleasant circumstances…It’s the ability to sleep in the boat while the storm is raging around us.
“Jesus was able to do that. Why? Because He knew He was in control. If He gives us His Spirit through the Holy Spirit, we’re able to tap into that peace, that serenity, even though the world might be crumbling…We’re able to be at peace in duress knowing that He’s in control.”
Achieving this peaceful state is an ongoing process, admits Gary, who takes his own stumbles in this area with humor and humility. He said, “We’re a work in progress. I’m going to be working on this every day for the rest of my life, and I think that’s the way the Lord wants it. He just wants us to keep trying each day.”
My peace I give to you. (John 14:27)
Jesus, help me find peace knowing You’re in control.
Let Go of Anger and Stress, Part 1
Catholic author and speaker Gary Zimak used to be a chronic worrier, filled with anger and stress. His faith led him to move beyond those emotions, and now he’s written a book called Let Go of Anger and Stress.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Gary noted that stress and anger are issues that “both flow from the same thing: a lack of control…If I try to control other people, try to control my circumstances, I can easily become angry and frustrated…
“This whole book that I’ve written is a Holy Spirit book. This book is about letting the Holy Spirit work through us, and one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is love. I can’t love on my own. There are people that annoy me so bad that I’m just not going to pray for that person if it was up to me.
“That’s where I get into trouble, and this is where Jesus, through His Spirit, tells me, ‘No, Gary, you have to make that decision to love that person through prayer. You don’t have to take them out to dinner, but you have to do what’s best for that person and pray for them.”
Pray for one another, so that you may be healed.
Help me move beyond anger and stress toward love, Jesus.
The Road to Being a Teacher
Joanne Foster’s road to being a teacher began at age 14, when she started babysitting. She told Franchesca Caputo of the Diocese of Albany’s The Evangelist newspaper, “I just had so many people [to watch]. I would just sit there and hours would go by, and I would do all these silly things with these kids, and I’d [notice], ‘I just like being around them,’ so that was it.”
Foster went on to attend Albany’s College of Saint Rose and then to teach for many years at nearby St. Madeleine Sophie School, where she won the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Distinguished Elementary School Teacher Award for 2020-21, after a year in which she cheerfully conducted class in a church basement to accommodate social distancing requirements.
Approaching her job as a vocation, she said, “Seeing the accomplishment in the kids, seeing that sense of ‘Yep, I understand what you’re teaching me,’ and just the excitement of it, that to me is everything.”
Serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. (1 Peter 4:10)
Lord, may we always honor Your servants in this world.
God’s Guiding Hand
A nine-year-old boy named Tiziano was shot on the doorstep of his home in Las Talitas, Argentina, during a family celebration in 2021.
What happened next was described by his mother, Alejandra, as a “miracle.”
Writing for the Daily Mail, Jack Newman reported that Tiziano “felt a sudden pain in his chest and saw a bullet on the ground next to him.”
Tiziano was taken to the hospital, where doctors found only a superficial wound. “After he returned home,” Newman writes, “the boy’s aunt found his crucifix necklace on the ground. The silver cross which Tiziano had received as a gift from his father David had a hole in the middle where the bullet had entered.”
Alejandra said, “He is here, thank God. For us it is a miracle. We took him to church, he talked to the Father. He told him that he has been blessed. Anything could have happened to him. For us it is a miracle.”
He does great things and unsearchable, marvelouthings without number. (Job 5:9)
Lord, I trust in Your guiding hand of protection.
A Saint for Appalachia
Eula Hall spent her life as a woman on a mission. And when she passed away at age 93 in 2021, her mission had been accomplished.
Born into a poor family in Appalachian Kentucky, Hall saw the poverty around her, as well as the need for basic medical services. So in 1973, she founded Mud Creek Clinic for those who could afford to pay—and for those who couldn’t.
She eventually joined forces with Big Sandy Health Care and endured her clinic burning down. Until it could be rebuilt, she used her home as the clinic site, temporarily moving her family into a trailer. In order to raise money, she set up a roadblock on the highway and appealed to drivers for donations.
Laura Ungar in the Louisville Courier Journal notes, “[Hall] always believed that health is more than medicine, and no one should be denied care because they lack money. Her clinic offered primary care services as well as mental health counseling, a pharmacy and a food and clothing pantry. To be healthy, she said, people need the basics of life.”
Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)
Help me to live selflessly, Lord.
Taco Bell Joe’s Standout Service
Have you ever met a cashier or server at a fast food restaurant whose service makes your day? Joe Deciccio of South Daytona, Florida, is one of those people. The 70-year-old has worked the drive-thru window at his local Taco Bell for 20 years and, as reported by WABC-TV, he’s been “handing out smiles and friendly greetings along with food orders.”
During the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, a Facebook group held a contest to highlight restaurant workers who leave a great impression on their customers. Deciccio, who is lovingly known as Taco Bell Joe, won by a landslide. The initial prize was $50, but donations from appreciative customers ballooned that amount to $6,000. Raj Gohill said, “You could have the worst day, by the time you get through the drive-thru there, you’re just smiling.”
A grateful and humbled Deciccio said, “It’s my customers that I owe this to. They bring out the best in me…And I’m going to do my best to live up to it and spark a light, a little candle in every heart of every person that I meet.”
There are varieties of services, but the same Lord.
(1 Corinthians 12:5)
Jesus, help me to serve others with a cheerful spirit.
“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today” is a timeless adage, but too many people get caught up putting off necessary projects until the last minute. Elliot Berkman and Jordan Miller-Ziegler dig into the psychology behind procrastination and how to overcome it at GetPocket.com.
So why do people procrastinate? Berkman and Miller-Ziegler say, “Procrastination, in psychological terms, is what happens when the value of doing something else outweighs the value of working now.”
They continue, “A group of studies shows that people procrastinate more on unpleasant tasks. These results suggest that reducing the pain of working on a project, for example by breaking it down into more familiar and manageable pieces, would be an effective way to reduce procrastination.”
So the next time something else tempts you to put off an important task, remember to break it down into smaller tasks—and exert the commitment and willpower necessary to get it done.
Now begin the work, and the Lord be with you.
(1 Chronicles 22:16)
God, help me to stop procrastinating and do work today!
Perfectly Frank Pays it Forward
Perfectly Frank, a Norfolk, Virginia restaurant, has begun a free meal initiative called “Franks for Friends,” in which customers can donate meals to help feed those in need in their community.
Tarah Morris, Perfectly Frank’s owner, said that the idea began with a single donation and quickly grew from there. Anyone who needs a meal can go to the restaurant, pull a ticket off the “Franks for Friends” bulletin board, and exchange it for a menu item. “Maybe COVID hit them really hard, or they’re in between jobs—or maybe they’re taking a meal for their neighbor,” Morris told CNN. “We don’t ask any questions.”
Morris remembers one man, who was going through a tough time. He said he was “so filled with joy to know that there are good people out there doing good things in this chaos.” An employee “paid it forward” and donated $20 in that person’s name.
“It’s not even about the money,” Morris reflected. “It’s about people doing nice things for somebody.”
You will have confidence, because there is hope.
Savior, may we strive to pay every kindness forward.
The Secret of Life
What is the secret of life? You can look to the late Luke Pesane, who lived to age 103, for some answers. After serving in the Air Force for three years during World War II, Pesane became the first in his family to graduate college (Syracuse University). He went on to become a regional business manager for Moore Business Forms.
Luke and his wife, Ruth, held the distinction of being the longest married couple in their Fayetteville, New York church (75 years), before the latter’s death at 97 in 2017.
Father Thomas J. Ryan, Pesane’s pastor, noted in The Catholic Sun that during his life, Luke had “a deep faith, a sharp mind, a kind demeanor, and a terrific sense of humor…Whenever I mention that he has the secret of life, he comments that ‘God has been good’ to him.” Luke’s daughter added that her father loved helping people.
“You’re not old till you hit 90,” Pesane once quipped. “You’re not even entitled to worry about it…I’ve been able to hang on to the age . And grateful for that, you know.”
Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life. (Proverbs 16:31)
Savior, may we treasure every day of life for the gift it is.
Gratitude Leads to New Job
In June 2020, Kevin Gibson and his wife Jennifer welcomed twin daughters Jemma and Junie (short for Juniper) into this world. But Junie was born with a congenital heart defect called aortic stenosis—and she was fighting for her life.
Junie spent 28 tough days at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. Kevin told Today Parents, he was “scared for [his] tiny little girl,” and didn’t know if she would survive.
During the nights he spent in the hospital with Junie, Kevin, who has a background in security and investigative work, chatted with the hospital’s security officers and swapped “war stories” to pass the long hard nights.
When Junie was given the green light to go home after successful heart surgery, Kevin was so filled with joy that he wanted to give back to the hospital that saved her life. One of the hospital police officers said there was an opening and that Kevin should apply. Kevin knew he found his calling and took the job, saying, “If I was a millionaire, I’d fork over a bunch of money to them, but helping people is the way I have to say thanks.”
He protected us along all the way…and among all the peoples through whom we passed. (Joshua 24:17)
Loving God, help me to repay kindnesses done for me.
Angels of the Holocaust
Jonathan Sacerdoti, a London-based writer and journalist, observed that while the numbers of Holocaust survivors in the world are rapidly decreasing, they themselves should never be forgotten—and neither should the “righteous Gentiles” who helped rescue them.
Sacerdoti then recalled the story of his own Florence-born Italian Jewish father, Cesare, who passed away in 2019. The son of a rabbi, Cesare was only five years old in 1943, but he vividly recalled being sheltered, along with his younger brother, at several different places, including an Italian convent.
“As my father once said, ‘They [the nuns] seemed to appear where and when you needed them, like angels,’” Jonathan recounted in Spectator magazine. “In fact, their actions were decidedly human, actively choosing to protect their fellow man at a time when evil and indifference prevailed…The warmth of the nuns who protected [my father]—he told us that warmth stayed with him all his life.”
For the righteous will…be remembered. (Psalm 112:6)
Rabbi, may we always be grateful for the angels who walk among us.
Egyptian Catholics United through Focolare
Vivian Azer grew up in Egypt and recalls how tough living as a Catholic was in her homeland. After immigrating to America a few years ago and settling in Staten Island, New York, she has joined other Egyptian Americans in the Focolare movement to meet and share the Gospel.
As reported by The Tablet, Focolare began in 1943 during World War II, when an Italian school teacher, Chiara Lubich, wanted to create a world without war and hate. Lubich’s mission was to serve and fulfill the work of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Now, approximately 4.6 million people worldwide participate in Focolare groups, and they are always led by a woman “as an expression of the Church’s Marian profile.”
Azer said that while her group is mostly Coptic Catholics, it is open to anyone and helps people of all faiths and backgrounds. Azer stated, “The common language between all of us is love, and love is God.”
I ask…on behalf of those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one. (John 17:20-21)
Loving Jesus, I pray for people of all religions and faiths, for we are all one in Your love.
Alleluia, Be Happy Today
As we joyously celebrate the resurrection of Christ, here are excerpts from an Easter sermon by St. John Chrysostom: “Whoever you are, come, celebrate this shining happening, this festival of light…
“Let everybody…crowd into the exhilaration of Our Savior. You the first and you the last: equally heaped with blessings. You the rich and you the poor: celebrate together. You the careful and you the careless: enjoy this day of days. You that have kept the fast, and you that have broken it: be happy today…
“For forgiveness itself has reared from the tomb. No one need fear death; for Our Savior Himself has died and set us free. He confronted death in His own person and blasted it to nothing…
“Christ rises and the angels are wild with delight. Christ rises and life is set free. Christ rises and the graves are emptied of dead. Oh yes, for He broke from the tomb like a flower, a beautiful fruit: the first fruit of those already gone. All glory be His, all success and power…for ever and ever.”
He has been raised. (Matthew 28:6)
Jesus, keep the joy of Easter in our hearts always.
To Have Loved and Lost, Part Four
Every day, Chase and Sadie Smith prayed that they would have more time together than the three to five months that doctors predicted he had left due to his cancer. And in that sense, their prayer was answered. Chase lived 11 months before passing away at home, surrounded by his family, on April 4, 2021, at age 19. It was Easter Sunday, the day Jesus conquered death.
Sadie told the Indianapolis Star, “I whispered in his ear that everything was going to be OK and that he won this fight. I continued to reassure him that it was OK to let go and it was time for him to run into God’s arms with no more pain and suffering.”
Sadie felt devastated in the aftermath of his loss, but relied on God to give her strength. And Chase’s life continues to touch those who knew him. His father Brad said, “I learned from Chase through this journey every day is a gift and just not [to] waste that. Appreciate every day… Enjoy the time that God has given us right there in front of us and make the most of that because we don’t know what tomorrow is going to hold.”
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. (Revelation 21:4)
May we take comfort in Your resurrection, Jesus.
To Have Loved and Lost, Part Three
Despite his battle with cancer, Chase Smith never lost his faith in Christ. He told the Indianapolis Star, “I’ve seen what a cancer journey looks like when [people] have God by their side, and I’ve seen what a cancer journey looks like when they don’t. To me, it’s a no-brainer of what I would rather choose. That’s my main goal in life…to just point people to the word of God.”
That faith guided Chase in April 2020 when he received the news that he had multiple tumors on his skull. Doctors gave him only three to five months to live. He reflected, “The precious people in your life, the amount of time they are in your life, take every moment you have. Enjoy and give everything you can in those relationships and know there is so much possible with love when your love includes God.”
Chase knew that he wanted to face his final days with Sadie at his side, so despite only being high school seniors, the couple got married a few days after the prognosis, with their families’ blessings. Sadie said, “Every day…we pray that Chase would stay on this earth longer so we can bring more people our story of love.” More tomorrow…
I found him whom my soul loves. (Song of Solomon 3:4)
Help me spread stories of love, Creator.
To Have Loved and Lost, Part Two
Chase Smith kept attending swim meets when his cancer or chemotherapy treatments didn’t drain him of his energy. In 2018, at a social function following one of those meets, he met a diver from Mooresville High named Sadie Mills. Thinking she was cute, he asked her out and they soon became an inseparable couple.
Sadie told the Indianapolis Star that she “loved Chase’s maturity and how he genuinely liked doing things with her.” And Chase observed that he loved “the way she made him feel, the way his fears calmed when she was near him.”
Chase had that positive effect on a lot of people. Jack Scott, his radiation oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic, noted, “When you see someone like Chase…it forces you to be better in order to match that bravery and match that attitude and then it also makes you grateful. His message and the way he lives his life is a meaningful one, and it’s a great honor to be part of that.”
Sadie’s love remained Chase’s greatest strength, so despite their youth, they decided to take a major step. More tomorrow…
Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed. (2 Corinthians 4:16)
Fill those facing illness with courage and love, Jesus.
To Have Loved and Lost, Part One
Chase Smith’s first passion in life was swimming. As reported by Dana Hunsinger Benbow of the Indianapolis Star, “By the time Chase was 12, he was a nationally ranked swimmer, second in the nation for the 100-meter butterfly, six-time state champion and record holder for the 100-meter individual medley, 100-meter freestyle and three relays at Indian Creek Middle School. His sights were set on the Olympics.”
In 2014, however, at age 14, severe pain and swelling in Chase’s left thigh led him to get checked by a doctor. The unexpected diagnosis was a tumor on his femur due to “Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare cancer of the bone and tissues.”
Chase endured chemotherapy in the aftermath and served as an assistant coach to his father and sister as they trained youngsters in swimming. When doing that work, Chase said, “My mind doesn’t allow me to think about anything else other than the kid I’m coaching…or the relationship I’m building with someone while I’m here. It…is an escape from everything.”
Soon, however, Chase would find a love even greater than swimming: Sadie. More of the story tomorrow…
Bless the Lord…all that swim. (Daniel 3:79)
Help me find an escape from my troubles, Savior.
It Matters to Jesus
Author and spiritual director Becky Eldredge got a phone call from a friend who had suffered greatly in her life. But on this particular day, this friend conveyed a spirit of hope, saying, “Becky, I had a huge ‘aha’ this morning. It matters to Jesus what I have gone through. Every bit of it. It matters to Jesus.”
Writing at IgnatianSpirituality.com, Becky recalled feeling joy for her friend. Becky also thought back to her own ‘aha’ moment while practicing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius some time ago. She said, “As I hear and pray with the moments of Jesus’ suffering during the Lenten season, my understanding of how much Jesus understands suffering widens. He not only gets physical pain, betrayal, and abandonment, but He also understands being misunderstood, what it feels like not to belong, and what it’s like to forgive.”
“There is something that changes in us when we let the wounds of our lives touch the wounds of Jesus. It is as if Jesus were gazing at us with eyes of love and understanding, inviting us to tell Him everything we are seeing and feeling.”
We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. (Hebrews 4:15)
Bring me closer to You in times of struggle, Jesus.
Priest Who Fought the KKK
The Ku Klux Klan’s violent and racist actions against African Americans and Jewish Americans are well-known. But were you also aware the Klan held a deep hostility towards Catholics as well? As reported by DenverCatholic.org, Colorado was a hotbed of KKK activity in the early 20th century. They considered Catholics to be anti-American, so they urged boycotts against Catholic-owned businesses and tried to shut down Catholic schools, orphanages, and even Masses.
Father Matthew Smith, editor at the time of the Denver Catholic Register, is credited with helping to reduce the Klan’s power and influence by countering its lies in the pages of his newspaper. For instance, he wrote, “The way to fight such movements as this one is not by violence. That only adds impetus to them. It gives them favorable publicity as being persecuted. Not only that, it is morally wrong.”
“But at the same time we shouldn’t sit back and hope to see them die a natural death…If we spread truth among our non-Catholic friends, sooner or later they will realize that such a movement as the Klan has no place in our American institution.”
A truthful witness saves lives. (Proverbs 14:25)
May I serve as a beacon of Your truth, Messiah.
What Would You Ask God?
Shemaiah Gonzalez’s 11-year-old son likes to ask questions to get conversations started. At the playground once, he asked the kids, “Which is better, dogs or cats?” Everyone had an opinion. But one night at dinner, he asked his family a question that left them sitting in silence for a while: “If you could ask God anything, what would you ask?”
Gonzalez pondered the question for days and came up with various options. At IgnatianSpirituality.com, she wrote, “Over the next few days, my son’s question kept coming back to me. I tried to imagine God sitting in a chair in my room with me. Do you love me? I asked. Why? What do you see in me?
“As I practiced this discipline, I sensed God’s presence more and more. I felt certain that God loved me and began to see myself through His eyes as a doting Father. As I sat with Him, I became more certain of His ways and the truth and goodness in the world. As I sat with God, I felt strengthened to take on the tension of the world outside. I realized I wanted to ask fewer questions and just enjoy His presence.”
If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God…and it will be given you. (James 1:5)
Help me to trust in You and enjoy Your presence, Lord.
Wednesday’s Child Encourages Adoptions
When empty nester Samanthia Jordan-Hill turned on the news one day, she saw the “Wednesday’s Child” segment highlighting a child in foster care. The teen, named Christian, “struck her spirit,” and after two years of going through the system, Jordan-Hill adopted Christian as part of her family.
The number of Georgia adoptions has nearly doubled in five years, due to the actions of local media spreading awareness through their “Wednesday’s Child” segments, as well as a legislation overhaul that began in 2018.
State Rep. Bert Reeves told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that adoptions in Georgia have been on an “upward trajectory…due to a lot of awareness that’s been brought to our community about the need to adopt foster kids.”
The hope is that even more people will rise to this calling. As Jordan-Hill's husband, Norman, concluded, “I figured, the Lord blessed me, and now I can bless somebody…to give somebody the opportunities I can provide.”
He destined us for adoption as His children through
Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:5)
Lord, open our minds and hearts to children in need of a loving home.
The Road to Peace
Writing in the magazine Fellowship many years ago, C. David Matthews, pastor at the time of First Baptist Church of Greenville, South Carolina, made an interesting point. He wrote, “Our world has limits, boundaries. And we now possess the power to blast ourselves beyond these borders into nothingness.”
Under the circumstances, he asked, what difference does it make if the individual does or does not attempt to be a peacemaker? Matthews’ answer resonated with the Christopher philosophy.
He observed, “Individuals are the agents that have steered history, for better or for worse. A few of them we know…but scores of them we do not know. Unseen by us, anonymous in recorded history are most of the doers and deciders who have determined today. If history teaches us anything, it is that the significance of the individual should not be minimized.”
Start with self, family, neighborhood. Every conflict resolved is a building block to peace. May the Lord of peace Himself give you peace. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
Jesus, fill me with Your peace so I can share it with others.
Newman’s Own Generosity
The late actor Paul Newman took his work seriously on camera—and off. Using the profits from the food company he started, Newman founded a year-round camp for terminally ill children. His original intent was to bring some extra joy into their lives. But he soon found out that helping kids made him and his entire staff feel good about themselves too.
Newman’s venture became so successful that in 1994, he received an honorary Oscar for his efforts on behalf of children. He said, “Not everybody can make a livelihood out of helping others. But everybody can try to find some time. Any amount of time we give is worthwhile.”
Giving of yourself is always worthwhile. So be generous with your talent and your time. You may not win an Oscar, but the satisfaction you’ll receive is a wonderful reward.
The one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. (2 Corinthians 9:6)
Holy Spirit, remind me to be generous with my talent and time.
Healthcare Chaplain’s Healing Hope, Part 4
Just as caffeine wakes us up in our daily lives, Marianne Sailus hopes to wake people up in their spiritual lives through her work as a healthcare chaplain and author. Some of that spiritual caffeine can come by calling on the Holy Spirit.
She said, “I believe the Holy Spirit should be a constant partner in our lives through [our] calling upon Him. In the Roman tradition, I know that the main prayer to the Holy Spirit that I learned was, ‘Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Your love,’ et cetera.
“In the Eastern church, we have, ‘Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, who are everywhere present and fill all things, Treasury of blessings and Giver of life: come and dwell within us, cleanse us of all stains and save souls, O Gracious One.’
“So to call on the Holy Spirit with that prayer from either tradition, once a day, I think is a very helpful thing—and to ask Him to guide every action, every word, every deed of every day of our lives.”
You may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
Come and guide me, Holy Spirit.
Healthcare Chaplain’s Healing Hope, Part 3
One of the focuses in healthcare chaplain Marianne Sailus’ book of reflections Paschal Ponderings is the resurrection of Jesus, a topic she often addresses with patients at low points in their lives.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, she said, “It’s important to remind patients that they may be stuck in the Garden of Gethsemane [or] on Calvary—or a family member may be that Mary or John beneath the cross at Calvary—but not to give up hope because in Christ there is resurrection and new life. And care and cure are two different things.
“Oftentimes, people want cure, but sometimes God’s purpose for them is care and to make sure that they are comfortable of body, mind, and soul…When I’m with hospice patients…the patient, if they’re conscious, knows that the end is coming, the family knows that the end is coming. But they have people there—nurses, doctors, social workers, and chaplains—who are giving support and being that hope, even in what seems to be a hopeless situation.” More tomorrow…
Though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for You are with me.
May I be a comfort to those who are suffering, Savior.
Healthcare Chaplain’s Healing Hope, Part 2
Since pursuing her calling to be a healthcare chaplain, Marianne Sailus has been a comfort and guide to many people from all walks of life, so she’s learned how to read different situations and discern what approach is best to take.
Sometimes, there are no words that will help, so in those cases she practices a ministry of presence, of “being that person who’s showing Christ’s love to the person by the touching of a hand, the humming of a hymn. That sometimes is just enough. Other times, you need to share some words of encouragement, some words of faith. Especially if the person is a person of faith, they want to hear the Lord’s words on how to deal with that situation.”
“One of my favorite passages that I share is from the gospel of St. Mark, where Jesus raises the daughter of Jairus. And when everybody tells Jesus, ‘Don’t bother the Master any further, the little girl is dead,’ in the new American Bible, Jesus’s answer is translated this way and I love it: ‘Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.’ That became my motto.” More tomorrow…
Do not be frightened…The Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
Teach me to deepen my faith and trust in You, Jesus.
Healthcare Chaplain’s Healing Hope, Part 1
If you or a loved one has ever faced any medical issues that landed you in the hospital, you’ll know what a trying time that can be. But one of the people who can bring spiritual comfort in that situation is a healthcare chaplain, who offers prayers, guidance, or even just the willingness to listen.
Marianne Sailus has served as an interfaith healthcare chaplain for more than two decades, and she joined us recently on Christopher Closeup to discuss her work, as well as her book Paschal Ponderings: Meditations on the Acts of the Apostles.
“I had been a hospital patient,” recalled Marianne about how the seeds of her career were planted, “in and out of hospitals for 26 years of my life due to uncontrollable epilepsy from which the Lord cured me on the operating table in 1994. And thanks be to God, I never had a seizure from that day forward. My background was already in theology, and I just felt called to being at the bedside of others who were struggling.”
More on Marianne’s work tomorrow…
The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29)
Guide me towards my life’s calling, Creator.
Seeing Stars for the First Time
An eight-year-old Canadian boy named Sam wanted to wish upon the stars, but he could never see them because he suffers from a rare eye disorder called retinitis pigmentosa. He was told there was no cure—until a new form of gene therapy changed his life.
Images most people take for granted—the stars, an airplane streaking across the sky, or even our own shoes—were beyond the scope of young Sam’s vision. “You lose perception of light,” Dr. Elise Heon, of Sick Kids Hospital, explained to CTV News. “You end up in darkness, and [it’s] slowly progressive.”
When Sam and his mom heard there was hope with a new form of gene therapy, they traveled to the United States to undergo the treatment. Since then, Sam’s vision continues to improve. Now he can finally see those stars he always dreamed of. “This is a story about hope,” Sam’s mom said. Because now Sam can wish upon those stars he can see.
Look up to the heavens and see the sun, the moon, and
the stars. (Deuteronomy 4:19)
Jesus, may I not take for granted the blessings You have bestowed upon me—and may I remember to look to the stars.
Laughter As Medicine
Laughter as the best medicine seems more than a cliché for Alan Alda, noted actor and science buff. Like so many others during the COVID-19 pandemic, Alda and his wife Arlene, married 63 years, spent a lot of time at home engaging in video visits with family and friends.
When asked about the best thing for us to do, Alda told AARP writer David Hochman, “Laugh! Laughter is good. That’s one of the benefits of this isolation. My wife and I are laughing more than we ever have. When you laugh, you’re vulnerable…You let the other person in, and that brings us all closer.”
Alda, who had polio as a child and developed Parkinson’s in adulthood, has an abiding interest in humor, science, and communications. “I’m still alive,” he concluded. “If that changes, I’ll let you know.”
Our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue
with shouts of joy. (Psalm 126:2)
Encourage us to share smiles with those we meet, Jesus.
Where Is God in Times of Tragedy?
“Praying was as natural a part of growing up as was brushing my teeth. I learned the discipline of being grateful for all things that happened in my life,” notes Rabbi Harold Kushner in the anthology For the Love of God.
But it wasn’t until Rabbi Kushner and his wife learned their three-year-old son had a life-threatening disease that he was “forced to abandon my idea that if I was a good and pious person, God would protect me and my family from tragedy.”
After a period of feeling anger and alienation, Rabbi Kushner concluded, “God does not send disease, accident, or tragedy…God sends us the strength to survive and transcend…I learned to find God not in the tragedy, but in the capacity of the human soul to surmount [it].”
We all face tragedies in life, so it’s important to call on God to support us through these tragedies—and to pray for the awareness that the Lord is present with us.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
Father, give us strength in times of trouble.
Change of Heart, Part 4
Twenty-three years after her sister’s murder, Jeanne Bishop mailed her incarcerated killer, David Biro, a letter in prison, saying, “I forgave you a long time ago, and I never told you…I waited all these years for you to apologize to me. I’ll go first. I’m sorry. And I’ll come see you if you want.”
Biro answered her letter with his own. On Christopher Closeup, Jeanne recalled, “It was his confession for the first time, and this expression of deep remorse, shame, regret, heartbreak. He had waited to hear from me because he didn’t want to traumatize me by reaching out and having to see his name in the mailbox unexpected. It was his expression of empathy for my family over how heartbroken and baffled we must have been—and inviting me to come and talk to him.”
Jeanne met with Biro and found his repentance to be sincere. She now shares her Christian witness about forgiveness around the country and in her memoir Change of Heart. Not everyone responds positively to her act of mercy, but Jeanne notes it was something she needed to do—and she credits the Holy Spirit with giving her the strength to do it.
He has mercy on whomever He chooses. (Romans 9:18)
Holy Spirit, give me the strength to practice mercy.
Change of Heart, Part 3
In the years following her sister’s murder, Jeanne Bishop began work as a public defender in Cook County, Chicago, and kept encountering people and situations that prompted her to think about mercy more deeply. One day, she passed a church service taking place on a beach and heard the preacher talking about how all of humanity is a mess, but that God responds to our messiness with “mercy, mercy, mercy.”
That led Jeanne to reconsider her support of life without parole sentences for juveniles because it is “merciless. It forecloses any possibility of redemption, change, and remorse.” And when she once described Biro as “remorseless” in a conversation with legal scholar Mark Osler, he responded, “How do you know? You’ve never even spoken to him.”
Jeanne decided to reach out to Biro. She explained, “It was realizing that as Jesus hung on the cross, He was praying for the people who were in the process of killing Him, who had not apologized, who weren’t sorry. And this was completely an act of trying to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.” More tomorrow…
Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke 23:34)
Jesus, may I emulate Your model of forgiveness.
Change of Heart, Part 2
Despite her sister’s final act of love before she died, Jeanne Bishop still deeply grieved her loss. At the same time, however, she decided that her response to the murder would not be hate.
It took six months for the killer, David Biro, to be caught. He was only 16 years old. At the time, Jeanne and her family supported the prosecutor pursuing a sentence of life without parole. Jeanne noted, “I had always opposed the death penalty, and I opposed the death penalty after my sister’s murder, even more because I saw that shedding more blood and digging another grave and creating another grieving family like mine was never going to heal us, that it was only going to drag me closer to who the murderer was.”
Life without parole is the sentence that was handed down when Biro was found guilty. Jeanne decided to forgive him in her heart, so he wouldn’t take up space in her brain. Then she vowed not to think of him anymore. But over the course of the next 20 years, Jeanne came to a point where she was willing to practice an astonishing act of mercy. More tomorrow…
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. (Romans 12:17)
Help me move beyond the grudges and hatreds I hold in my heart, Prince of Peace.
Change of Heart, Part 1
On April 7th, 1990, Jeanne Bishop felt overjoyed for her sister Nancy and brother-in-law Richard, who had just announced they were pregnant with their first child. But the next morning, that joy turned to devastation when Jeanne, while singing in her church choir, received a call saying that Nancy, Richard, and their unborn child had been murdered.
Jeanne sobbed in the immediate aftermath of the news, and raged at God, “Where were You when this happened? Why didn’t You protect her?” It was only after police revealed a particular detail about the crime scene that Jeanne was able to move beyond her anger at God.
During a Christopher Closeup interview about her memoir Change of Heart, she explained, “In Nancy’s last moments, she had dragged herself across this basement floor where they’d been shot…And next to where her husband lay dead, she had dipped her finger in her own blood and written the shape of a heart and the letter U, next to him: Love you. I knew that nothing but the presence of God in her last moments could explain the serenity and the love and the strength to do that.” More tomorrow…
Love is as strong as death. (Song of Solomon 8:6)
Sustain the grieving with Your love, Jesus.
Beaux and Paws
It’s always good to put your best foot forward in terms of appearance. That’s also true for animals, especially ones up for adoption. This is what 14-year-old Darius Brown believes, and why he founded Beaux and Paws, an organization that both donates and sells handmade bowties for rescue cats and dogs to wear, as they await adoption into their forever homes.
Brown first learned how to sew from his older sister, Dahzai, when he was only eight years old. He soon became adept at making bowties. It was a simple donation of 25 bowties to an ASPCA shelter in the wake of Hurricane Irma that first sparked his entrepreneurial interest.
“I saw how happy the people at the shelter were to get the bowties, and how much the dogs liked them, and I decided to make more,” Brown recalled to the Washington Post. “I came up with a goal to give bowties to an animal shelter in every state.”
With the help of a GoFundMe page, Beaux and Paws has distributed 600 bowties to shelters in eight different states, with a portion of its online store profits going directly to the ASPCA.
It is well with those who deal generously. (Psalm 112:5)
Father, teach us to give freely of our time and talents.
I Am With You Always
Susan Bailey faced a problem that many of us deal with: insomnia. Waking up in the middle of the night, overcome with fears and anxieties, she found she could not get back to sleep, no matter how hard she tried.
Susan prayed to God to deliver her from her worries, but more often than not she was met with silence. That’s when she realized something profoundly important about God’s presence.
Writing at CatholicMom.com, Susan observed, “These nighttime experiences continued for a long time before I finally got the point—it is not necessary for God to answer. His very presence is the answer, and it is up to me to have faith. I had to stop relying upon my emotions and instead turn to my intellect. My knowledge of God, small as it is, tells me that He is nearest to me during times of trouble.”
When insomnia and nighttime worries revisit her, Susan offers prayers of gratitude for God’s presence in her life. She listens to sacred music, such as Gregorian chant, knowing that even in the dark and silence, God is there.
For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is
from Him. (Psalm 62:5)
Lord, help me in times of worry to trust You are with me.
Don’t Overload Your Life
As part of a contest many years ago, twelve cheerleaders in Ventura, California, squeezed into a Volkswagen bug. But they didn’t stay there long. The car suddenly filled with smoke, forcing them to make a quick exit.
What happened? The heavy load of their combined weight forced the seat springs down against the car’s uncovered battery terminals—and set fire to the back seat.
The same type of thing can happen when we try to squeeze too much into our lives. We become so weighted down by activities and commitments that the stress causes emotional burnout.
Don’t let your life become so overloaded that you end up physically or spiritually drained. Life is short. It’s also very special and sweet. Find the right balance between doing for others and taking care of yourself.
Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles. (Isaiah 40:31)
Lord, help me avoid becoming overburdened—and give me the strength to do what I need to do.
A Prayer for Endings—and Beginnings
All of us must endure “endings” in our lives. Those times of transition can be heavy with worry or grief over what has been lost. But the future can be approached with hope. Christopher Award-winning author Kate Bowler wrote a prayer for people in these challenging situations. Here are some excerpts:
“Blessed are you on the brink of something new. A new life, a new career, a new commitment, a new relationship, a new decade. Blessed are you, dear one, so full of hope. You whose horizon extends far beyond what your eyes can see…”
“May you find comfort from places and people you don’t anticipate, that remind you that you are not alone. And dear one, you may be saying goodbye to something, someone dear, but something new will be born. I can’t promise it will replace what was there, and I won’t try to tell you that it will always be better. But I do believe that we can find beauty and meaning and truth right here where we stand in our transitions, in our hellos and goodbyes, and yes, even on the other side.”
I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Guide me through life’s difficult transitions, Messiah.
A Group of Decent People
Many years ago, Coach John Thompson told his Georgetown University basketball team something memorable during the NCAA tournament. He called them together before one of their early games and talked to them about their real achievements.
“Win or lose,” he recalled, “I wanted them to know how I felt: that by serving as role models for kids back home, by being decent people doing positive things, they had done something that would outlive all the individual honors they could attain.”
Georgetown lost in the quarter-finals—by one point. And Thompson’s team showed how well it learned from him. They congratulated the winners, offered no excuses, and left everyone with a memory of “decent people,” who had learned to lose with grace and dignity.
During the year, the team had also demonstrated that they learned to win the same way. That’s no small thing in a society which places so much emphasis on being number one.
Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity. (Titus 2:7)
Jesus, instill in our athletes the desire to be worthy examples for others.
Mail Carrier Delivers Love
After 19 years on the same mail route in California, mail carrier Tina Weber knew many people in the neighborhood, especially seniors. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, these vulnerable adults had to stay at home for their own safety.
Many of Weber’s customers didn’t have any family members nearby to help them, so she decided to pass on her phone number and told them to reach out to her if necessary. “How can I say no when they ask for help?” Weber said in her article, published by AARP.org.
Weber proceeded to deliver groceries, toilet paper, and other essentials to those in need. She even assisted one gentleman who was undergoing chemotherapy, telling him, “If you’re not feeling well, call me and I’ll make you some food or visit with you on the telephone.”
It was more than just groceries and other basic necessities that Weber delivered—it was friendship and love.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 19:19)
Lord, help me to be a good neighbor.
A Saint of Steadfast Silence
Deacon Greg Kandra calls St. Joseph a “saint of steadfast silence” because he is never quoted in the Bible. Yet Jesus’ earthly father has much to teach us despite his lack of words.
In his book The Living Gospel: Daily Devotions for Lent, Deacon Greg writes, “A lot of what we need to know can be learned from St. Joseph. Among other things: strive to be ‘righteous.’ Stand by those you love, no matter what. Keep your commitments. Listen to angels. Don’t worry so much about the future. Trust in God. Stay connected to your roots. Embrace the journey. Believe that God can be found anywhere, even when others don’t make room for Him.”
“Don’t be afraid to be quiet. Sometimes the silent partner has much to say. You can speak volumes just by being present, being strong, and being a model of obedient faith. For those of us journeying through Lent, St. Joseph offers us companionship and inspiration…[He] made of his life a prayer and never lost sight of where God meant him to go. May he continue to travel with us and show us the way.”
Joseph…did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.
Increase my trust in You, Father.
Sanitation Workers Save Kidnapped Girl
A 10-year-old Louisiana girl, who was abducted by a family acquaintance in March 2021, was found safe after two sanitation workers spotted the suspected kidnapper’s vehicle.
After the girl was kidnapped from her home, police issued an Amber Alert for her and an arrest warrant for her alleged abductor, who was last seen driving a silver Nissan Altima.
Two sanitation workers for Pelican Waste & Debris, Dion Merrick and Brandon Antoine, had just started their route when they noticed a car parked in the middle of a field in St. Martin Parish. Merrick immediately recognized the car from the Amber Alert, blocked the entrance to the field, and called 911.
Police arrived in under a minute and apprehended the suspect. The girl was then safely reunited with her family. Merrick, a 39-year-old father, told Today he didn’t think twice about helping the little girl: “We’re a close-knit community so I had to do what I had to do for my community.”
Peace be to the whole community, and love with faith. (Ephesians 6:23)
Thank You, Lord, for concerned citizens who act quickly to save lives.
Father Peyton’s Legacy, Part 3
Deeply humbled and grateful to God and the Blessed Mother for his second chance at life, Father Patrick Peyton thought back to what a great gift it was to pray the rosary as a family when he was growing up. Believing that other families could benefit from this practice as well, he started holding rosary rallies to promote this message.
Eventually, he decided to use mass media—initially radio, then television—to further spread the message. Hollywood’s biggest stars, from Lucille Ball to Jackie Gleason to Frank Sinatra, lined up to help him.
Although Father Peyton appealed to many Catholics, he also took an ecumenical approach to his message. Father David Guffey, executive producer of the film Pray, about Father Peyton’s life, explained that the priest recognized that not everybody was Catholic, so when he went into an area, he would encourage people to pray according to their own faith tradition.
In conclusion, Father Guffey hopes that viewers of Pray will be both entertained and “gather with the people that they love most, especially families, and consider praying together.”
Pray in the Spirit at all times. (Ephesians 6:18)
Remind me to pray with my family, Savior.
Father Peyton’s Legacy, Part 2
Years after becoming a Holy Cross priest, Father Patrick Peyton contracted tuberculosis, which was often a death sentence in the early 20th century because antibiotics had not yet been created. His case became severe, and doctors told him to make his peace with God. They called in his family to say goodbye.
Father David Guffey continued the story: “An old Holy Cross priest, who had been a philosophy professor of Father Peyton’s at Notre Dame, came in to visit him, prayed with him. He said, ‘Pat, we know that you have faith. We know that you’re close to the Blessed Mother. Let her intercede for you. Turn to her. If you believe in her, she’ll believe in you.’
“[Father Peyton] believed in her, and he prayed like he’d never prayed before. The very next day, he felt a physical healing. He felt a physical change in his body. It took a while to convince the doctors to do another chest X-ray, but when they finally did a few weeks later, the tuberculosis was just gone, and there was no medical explanation of what could have happened.”
I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; indeed, I will heal you. (2 Kings 20:5)
Bring healing and comfort to the desperately ill, Lord.
Father Peyton’s Legacy, Part 1
Irish immigrant Father Patrick Peyton reached millions with his “the family that prays together stays together” call-to-action. But when Peyton first came to the United States in 1927 with his brother Tom, his intention was to become a millionaire.
So how did his path in life change so dramatically? That story is told in the Christopher Award-winning documentary Pray: The Story of Patrick Peyton. Father David Guffey, one of the film’s executive producers and the national director of Family Theater Productions, which Father Peyton founded, discussed the project on Christopher Closeup.
Father Guffey said, “Patrick and Tom…had a vision that the United States’ streets were paved with gold and that this was the land of opportunity—which it was, but not in the way they thought.” Patrick eventually found work as a janitor in St. Joseph Cathedral in Scranton, Pennsylvania. That job “brought him close to God in an ever deeper way,” eventually leading him to join the Congregation of Holy Cross order of priests. But a bout with death was also on the way. More tomorrow…
Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8)
Move me closer to You, Jesus.
Retired New York City police officer John Verdi has seen the divide between police and the African American community, so he began using his past experiences to build connections between the two. Verdi worked at Ground Zero in New York in the aftermath of 9/11. He recalled to Florida Today, “As I was dodging buildings and bodies…I just prayed to the Lord that I could survive so I could do something bigger than myself.”
After moving to Melbourne, Florida, Verdi wanted to build relationships between police and the community’s children, so he started a venture called “Hey, Blue.” He invited members of the local police department to read stories to kids, initially in a café, and eventually in their classrooms. This allowed everyone to get to know each other on a safe and friendly level.
Natasha Walker, an African American mom, grew up with a distrust of police officers. After taking part in “Hey, Blue” with her daughter, Walker told NBC News that she now has an open door of communication with her police department. It doesn’t solve every problem, but it is a step in the right direction.
The tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is anger and distrust, let me bring peace and healing.
The Art of Listening
As the old saying goes, “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we ought to listen twice as much as we speak.” But becoming a good listener can take practice. Octavio Messias at Aleteia offers these tips:
■ “Repeat what the other person just said. Even if we only do it silently in our minds, this exercise helps us to understand exactly what the person said, not what we think they said.”
■ Focus your mind. Don’t be easily distracted.
■ Show genuine interest in what the other person is saying. “This not only improves our understanding, but…helps the other person feel more comfortable to express themselves honestly.”
■ When dealing with serious matters, talk face-to-face. “This allows us more integral communication, perceiving each other’s tone of voice, expressions and body language.”
■ “Suspend judgment. We tend to judge and draw hasty conclusions from what the other person is saying before they even conclude what they have to say. We need to adopt the understanding posture of someone who wants to find the truth and solutions, and not broaden the differences.”
Let the wise also hear. (Proverbs 1:5)
Teach me to be an attentive, empathetic listener, Lord.
Drew Robinson’s Second Chance, Part Three
After surviving his suicide attempt, Drew Robinson realized he is a person who needs to communicate with others. Keeping his emotions bottled up for all those years took a toll on his mental state, so he became an advocate for therapy, medication, and simply talking to others. “People that love you want to hear it,” Robinson told ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan, “and if you don't have people that love you, therapists want to hear it.”
Drew’s new perspective prompted his parents, brother, and sister to admit their own mental health struggles and seek help.
Careerwise, Drew wasn’t sure there was room in major league baseball for a one-eyed player. But he trained relentlessly anyway and got signed by the San Francisco Giants to play in their minor league clubs in 2021.
Drew knows he needs to pay attention to his mental health because life isn’t all sunshine and roses. But he has hope. Every once in a while, he takes out the bullet that he shot himself with, having kept it as a keepsake of sorts. He looks at it and says, “I’m stronger than you. I’m stronger than what I thought I was.”
The Lord…is a stronghold in times of trouble.
Help me realize my strength when You’re with me, Lord.
Drew Robinson’s Second Chance, Part Two
Doctors marveled at the fact that Drew Robinson survived a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. If the bullet had traveled a slightly different path, he would have died. And though he had lost his right eye and suffered internal injuries that required surgery, Drew would be physically okay.
It was Drew’s mental condition, however, that landed him in this situation in the first place. Early on, there were positive steps in that respect, too. When his family came to see him in the hospital, he felt compelled to say he loved them and mean it sincerely. “I’m meant to be alive,” he told his brother Chad.
Jeff Passan of ESPN.com wrote, “Drew was determined that his ‘after’ was going to differ from his ‘before.’ This was his chance. To be what he always wanted and never could. To fix himself. His family. Others. The compulsion—to love, and to share that love—was instantaneous.”
Drew revealed, “[This is] a huge, painful sign that I’m supposed to help people get through something that they don’t think is winnable.” More tomorrow…
I have set before you life and death…Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)
Help me to uplift a depressed person, Savior.
Drew Robinson’s Second Chance, Part One
The negative voices inside Drew Robinson’s mind had always haunted him. From his parents’ divorce when he was a child, to navigating his roller coaster baseball career through the minor and major leagues, he blamed himself for every failure—and never gave himself credit for any successes.
Keeping emotions bottled up was a common trait in Drew’s family, so he put on a happy face in public, never talking about his feelings to anyone. In essence, Drew hated himself, and that’s why he chose to end his life on April 16, 2020.
As reported by Jeff Passan for ESPN.com, the 28-year-old penned a suicide note absolving his family and friends of any guilt. Then he put his handgun to his head and pulled the trigger. The bullet pierced his head, taking out his right eyeball, and exiting above his left cheekbone.
Minutes later, Drew wondered how he was still alive. Bleeding and in pain, it took him 20 hours to realize he didn’t want to die after all. He called 911 for help, and it became his first step in building a new life. More tomorrow…
Why should you die before your time? (Ecclesiastes 7:17)
Help suicidal people seek the help they need, Father.
Pray For Those Who Aggravate You
Author Hannah Brencher felt like she was in a spiritual rut and found it difficult to pray. When telling a friend about the situation, the friend responded, “You have to keep praying when you’re bored. You have to decide to pray until God gives you the answer, not to pray until you’re tired of praying for that thing.”
The comment left Hannah wondering what would happen if she—or anyone, really—prayed unceasingly. More than that, she explored praying for two people she didn’t really want to pray for because she found them aggravating. But instead of asking God to change them, Hannah asked the Lord to change her.
On her website HannahBrencherCreative.com, she wrote, “Within 36 hours of praying for these two people, they both reached out. And they reached out with a really vulnerable text that I wasn’t expecting. And they both needed me and it was almost like God was touching down and saying, ‘I couldn’t start to move until you invited Me into the situations.’”
Hannah concluded, “Bring that stuff out into the light. God wants to change things, and He wants to use you as a catalyst.”
The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.
Teach me to pray for people I don’t like, Savior.
The GodSquad Promotes Peace
Gun violence and homicides in New York City saw a startling uptick in 2020. In one Brooklyn neighborhood, though, clergy members stepped up the peacekeeping efforts in which they had been engaging for years.
As reported by Kathryn Watson for Christianity Today, the group is officially called the 67th Precinct Clergy Council, Inc.—but they call themselves “the GodSquad.”
Watson writes, “The GodSquad facilitates a leadership academy for teenagers, hosts support groups for the mothers of murdered children, and sometimes ‘deploys’ to tense scenes, where they engage people and attempt to de-escalate, bringing a peaceful presence to the street.”
The group has also helped create a broader outreach through the national organization Clergy for Safe Cities, which operates in Boston, Chicago, and other places. Gilford Monrose, pastor of Mt. Zion Church of God 7th Day, explains, “What we’re doing is the simplest form of the gospel that we can perform. This is a ministry of love, mercy, and justice.”
Those who counsel peace have joy. (Proverbs 12:20)
Replace our impulses toward violence with a commitment to living Your peace, Jesus.
Angels at Outback
The stranger who tapped Kenneth Smith on the shoulder may not have had wings, but she was nevertheless an angel who redirected his life. As reported by Good Morning America, Smith, age 50, had been homeless for several years. He was sitting outside an Outback Steakhouse in Fort Worth, Texas, when he fell asleep.
A stranger tapped him on the shoulder to ask if he was okay. Smith replied that he was starving, so the stranger went inside the restaurant and brought him out a $100 gift card so he could get something to eat.
After entering the restaurant, the friendly and gregarious Smith began chatting with Outback managing partner Laura Hodges, who was impressed by Smith’s story and told him to come back anytime for a free hot meal.
Smith really wanted to work, though, so he asked if he could do odd jobs around the restaurant. Hodges hired him as a busser, so now Smith can afford an apartment. Smith said, “It’s been really hard, but altogether, God, He’ll never forsake you. He’s blessed me with a job.”
She opens her hand to the poor. (Proverbs 31:20)
May I be a source of hope to the needy, Jesus.
You’ve heard of Meatless Monday? Well, at St. John XXIII Church in Canal Winchester, Ohio, they have Sandwich Saturday. The tradition first began almost 20 years ago, when six parishioners met one Saturday morning, and assembled 200 sandwiches to donate to the St. Lawrence Haven Food Pantry, located in downtown Columbus.
Among these original parishioners was Sean Cleary, who remains an active participant. What started as a small philanthropic effort now comprises 35 to 50 regular volunteers. “Sandwich Saturday is a family affair,” Cleary noted in the Catholic Times, “and our sandwich assemblers cover the age spectrum…We wrap up each session with special intentions and a prayer.”
“COVID has not interrupted Sandwich Saturday,” Sean proudly concluded. “In our most recent gathering, we made 1,762 sandwiches…It’s not the number of sandwiches made that counts, though. The lasting and meaningful friendships we have built over the years are what sustain Sandwich Saturday.”
Offer your food to the hungry…
then your light shall rise in the darkness. (Matthew 18:20)
Savior, unite our hearts and minds in helping others.
A Time to Serve
Lent is often characterized as a time to give up something. But another form of sacrifice involves service to others—being attentive to one’s neighbors and seeing in them the Christ we claim to follow.
“It is no use to say that we are born 2,000 years too late to give room to Christ,” wrote the late Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement. “Christ is always with us, asking for room in our hearts.”
Day further suggested that we can do for Christ now “what those who knew Him in the days of His flesh did…It is…with the heart of anyone in need that [Jesus] longs for shelter. And giving shelter or food to anyone who asks for it, or needs it, is giving to Christ.”
Dorothy Day’s life was a constant Lenten observance. Working in New York’s Bowery, she and her helpers daily fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and reached out in love to those who were most in need. This year, let your own observance of Lent embrace the concept of service to those around you.
Just as you did it to one of the least of these…you did it
to Me. (Matthew 25:40)
Jesus, renew my desire to serve You in others.
Scripture is Always New
Even though you’ve heard or read some Bible passages many times throughout your life, there’s always a possibility you might discover something new. That’s what happened to Mary DeTurris Poust, and she shared her observations in the book Not By Bread Alone: 2021.
DeTurris Poust writes, “It’s easy to think, as we begin yet another Lenten journey, that we know the drill…But the truth is that Scripture is a living thing, always new. I know this firsthand because every time I sit down to write a Lenten reflection about a Scripture passage…something jumps out at me and makes me say, ‘How did I not notice that before?’
“We hear every Scripture reading differently, depending on where we are on our life journey, our spiritual journey or maybe just what side of the bed we woke up on that day. God meets us where we are, and if we’re paying attention, we can hear God, see God, recognize God in unlikely places…When we take time to listen for the still small voice, a scene, a sentence, a word calls out to us as if surrounded by blinking neon lights along a dark highway, and we are found, even if only for a few minutes.”
The Word of God is living and active. (Hebrews 4:12)
Father, may Your Word guide and protect me.
If You Love…
“If you love, you want to give yourself.” Those words from Dorothy Day’s memoir The Long Loneliness inspired Deacon Greg Kandra’s Ash Wednesday homily in 2021. On his The Deacon’s Bench blog, he writes, “The question before us today: How can we give more? How can we live more generously? How can we love more deeply? How can we leave this place today and be, as St. Paul put it to the Corinthians, ‘ambassadors for Christ?’
“Several years ago, on Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke of the three words that define how we should observe this season. The words are: pause, see and return…Pause, he said, from noise, from empty gestures, from the need to show off, from the urge to want to control everything.
“See, he said, the faces of families striving to do their best. See the elderly, the sick, children yearning for hope. See the remorseful and the searching. See the face of Christ crucified.
“And Return…he said, without fear. Return to celebrate with those who are forgiven. Return to the Father to experience His healing.”
Return…to the Lord, your God. (Hosea 14:1)
Help me to “Pause, See, and Return” this Lent, Jesus.
Practice Self-Discipline This Lent, Part Two
Fasting from material things is one aspect of Lent, but we can also practice self-discipline regarding negative habits and behaviors. Writing at CatholicMom.com, Father Mark Villano asks, “What do we need to fast from? From our pettiness or our judgmental attitudes? Our envy or desire for revenge? Do we need to fast from our procrastination, or all those things that waste so much of our time and rob us of life?”
“If you choose to remove something destructive from your life, you must replace it with something healthy,” adds Father Villano. “Removing something leaves a void. If you don’t fill it with something else, then after Lent the same old unhealthy stuff will fill the void again.
“Fast from something destructive and feast on something constructive, something holy. Fast from procrastination and feast on action…Fast from worry and feast on prayer…Fast from isolation and feast on friendship…When Easter comes…our hearts will be renewed, ready for the feast!”
Put away your former way of life…[and] clothe yourselves with the new self. (Ephesians 4:24)
May my fasting lead to feasting, Creator.
Practice Self-Discipline This Lent, Part One
Father Mark Villano, writing at CatholicMom.com, praises the self-discipline we are asked to follow during Lent. Specifically, he points out two ways of fasting that can turn us into better people who are closer to God.
First, we can fast from things we enjoy, such as certain types of food or entertainment. Father Villano writes, “We remove these for a while so that when they return, we have a new appreciation for them. We become more grateful for the good things we have…We also become more aware that others may not have things that we take for granted…We have a greater awareness of the needs of the world around us.”
Also, “We can fast from things that are bad for us. We fast from junk food or unhealthy substances. We fast from bad habits. Some psychologists say that an optimal time for developing a new habit is 30-40 days. Lent becomes a perfect time for changing patterns in our lives…that are ultimately destructive.”
But what about fasting from behaviors or attitudes that stunt our spiritual growth? More on that tomorrow…
The fast of the fourth month, and…of the fifth…shall be seasons of joy and gladness. (Zechariah 8:19)
Father, help me to grow in self-discipline.
Lent for Catholic Teens
Catholic author and speaker Katie Prejean McGrady is trying to help young people nurture their relationships with God by helping them have a spiritually fruitful Lent. She and her husband Tommy co-wrote a short book of reflections called Lent: One Day at a Time for Catholic Teens.
Based on her experiences as a high school teacher, Katie said on Christopher Closeup, “Young people just see Lent as a checklist: no candy, no soda, maybe no Netflix, if they’re super spiritual…But how can we get them to pray to the Lord, to actually think about what’s going on in their journey of faith, maybe ways that they can more deeply invest in their personal, spiritual journey?”
Katie hopes that the spiritual journey that teens begin during Lent continues afterward. She said, “My hope is that a young person says, ‘I like reading the Bible now. I like talking to Jesus first thing in the morning.’ There’s a few challenges in there about helping out around the house, doing the dishes for your mom…Hopefully those things would continue.”
Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray. (Proverbs 22:6)
Guide me in my journey toward You, Lord.
Serving God, Building a School
Catherine and Jared Rudolph of Johnstown, Ohio, never thought they would be educators to anyone but their own three children. However, God had other plans for the couple.
After recovering from hysterectomy surgery, Catherine asked God what she could do to best serve Him. “[God] said, ‘Start an independent Catholic Montessori’s school,’” Catherine recalled to Our Sunday Visitor. “He showed me this farm, this beautiful land, and then He really gave me this passion for the mission at the same time that the calling came.”
Catherine and Jared found a farm not far from the highway where they could attract the notice of families in the Northwest Columbus area. And they had a clear vision for their Mission Academy: to offer an authentic Catholic education, focusing on truth and beauty—and incorporating the working farm into their curriculum to grow food for the poor.
“What we’ve learned… is there’s so much the Lord can do when you say yes to Him and to His will,” Catherine said.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon Him. (Luke 2:40)
Lord, help me to say ‘yes’ to Your will in my life.
The Arcángel of Brooklyn
At Arcángel Deli Grocery in Borough Park, Brooklyn, you will find more than physical nourishment. If you are homeless, you will also find a place to rest your head. This is all thanks to the kindness of the deli’s owner, aptly named Cándido Arcángel.