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...
Mom’s Hunch Brings Healing to Daughter
When Austin Carrigg gave birth to her daughter Melanie, who has Down syndrome, she knew there would be challenges in their future. But as Melanie became a toddler and was unable to sit up, hold her head up, or stay awake, the concerned mother believed some other health issue might be the underlying cause.
Austin took Melanie to several pediatricians, who simply attributed her problems to Down syndrome. But Austin wouldn’t give up on her “mother’s intuition.” After an instance in which Melanie threw up and seemed to lapse into a coma, ER doctors deduced that her blood sugar was dangerously low.
As reported by the Today Show, Austin fought for a referral to a metabolic geneticist, who diagnosed Melanie with “ketotic hypoglycemia, a condition that causes low blood sugar with ketosis.” Treatment, thankfully, is simple: you take cornstarch and that stabilizes the blood sugar. Within six months, Melanie was walking, playing, and thriving. Austin soon discovered that other children with Down syndrome suffer from the same condition, so she is now working to help them, too.
Let her works praise her in the city gates.
Guide the fierce love of mothers for their children, Lord.
A Caregiving Journey, Part 1
As her parents aged and developed medical problems, Noreen Madden McInnes felt called to care for them as much as possible, even though she lived in San Diego, while they resided in Mountain Top, Pennsylvania.
Her first experience of caregiving occurred when she was a little girl and would accompany her grandfather to visit his elderly, widowed sisters. Seeing him perform “these Christian works of mercy and care,” she recalled during a Christopher Closeup interview, “planted a seed within me that this is how we treat the elderly, with love and respect, and you spend time with them.”
In addition, Noreen’s grandmother modeled God’s unconditional love to her. Noreen said, “She was like my angel, praying for me, caring for me, and loving me in all facets of my life…As I got older, I lived far from her but…whenever I got back to Pennsylvania, she was always waiting for me with a ham sandwich. And I think, ‘That’s our Lord. He is always waiting for us to call on Him, always ready with a ham sandwich.’”
Do not cast me off in the time of old age. (Psalm 71:9)
May our culture love and care for our seniors, Father.
A Caregiving Journey, Part 2
In her journey as a caregiver, Noreen Madden McInnes came to rely on the Catholic faith she had seen modeled by her family all her life.
During a Christopher Closeup interview about her memoir Keep at It, Riley! Accompanying My Father Through Death Into Life, she said, “We are formed, united with the heart of God in liturgy, in the encounter with the real presence of Christ. But that’s not the end. That is how we are shaped to be sent from the liturgy to be Christ to others. I witnessed it with my grandparents and parents and how they met the world.”
When her parents began experiencing medical problems, Noreen regularly flew in to visit them, which gave her a new perspective on her mother Joan’s faith. Joan had always looked at life “through rose colored glasses,” and Noreen admitted this could get annoying. But as Noreen accompanied Joan to Mass every morning, she recalled, “I was able to see [my mother’s] complete trust in the Lord, her deep faith that God was truly with her in every moment, no matter how bad things got.”
I will trust, and will not be afraid. (Isaiah 12:2)
Increase my trust in You, Holy Trinity.
A Caregiving Journey, Part 3
While Noreen Madden McInnes was in Pennsylvania because her father Frank was in the hospital, her mother Joan was killed in a car accident while driving over to visit him. This was a devastating blow for their whole family.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Noreen said, “[Mom] lived every day as if she was ready to go home to the Lord, so I think that when we celebrated her funeral Mass, it was tragic and painful…But all of a sudden, this great joy came to me. I was flooded with tremendous grace that I knew my mom had. She was in heaven, and [I knew] that we need to celebrate that and not focus on our loss…That grace carried me through the days of accompanying my dad through all his sickness.”
Another thing that carried Noreen through dark times was their family motto, “Keep at it, Riley!” Though nobody in their Irish Catholic clan was named Riley, the phrase had been passed from generation to generation as a way to say, “You never give up, you never give in. You just give it to the Lord. And what seems an annoyance or a problem, it’s really a blessing.”
Let us…approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we…find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
Fill me with grace, Prince of Peace.
A Caregiving Journey, Part 4
Noreen Madden McInnes notes that even in the midst of his illness, her father Frank embodied the ideal of trusting in God and never giving up. During a Christopher Closeup interview about her memoir Keep at It, Riley!, she described him as a people person with a warm and friendly personality.
For instance, Noreen once took her dad to a rehab session in the hospital, filled with patients in wheelchairs. He was placed next to a sickly-looking man. Suddenly, this man happily exclaimed, “Frank!”
With a big smile, Frank greeted him, saying, “Hello, Donald, how are you?” The nurse then told Noreen that Donald had only said one word in the three months he was there: Frank.
“In those few minutes,” said Noreen, “[I looked] at this poor person that’s sick and didn’t have any family with him. But just a smile and greeting [from my dad], and you see the dignity that he, too, is made in the image and likeness of God, regardless of his suffering and illness. That’s how we are to look at the face of everyone.”
A cheerful heart is a good medicine. (Proverbs 17:22)
May I be a healing presence to those who are sick, Jesus.
A Caregiving Journey, Part 5
Though Noreen Madden McInnes still sheds tears talking about the loss of her father, she also expresses deep gratitude that she was able to serve him in his final months as an anam cara, which is an Irish term for a spiritual midwife who accompanies the dying from this life into their “eternal reward in heaven.” Again, her family’s faith played the key role.
During an interview about her memoir Keep at It, Riley!, Noreen concluded, “At the end of life…you see what appears is a downward spiral [in the aging]. Every day, they’re more sick and frail. But in reality, it’s a spiral upward towards Heaven. You’re waiting for the angels to come and carry them home to God.”
“What a gift that relationship is because, in reality…our Lord is our anam cara, accompanying us…[I knew that my father would] be called home to the Lord, and I would meet him again one day. As sad as I am for myself without him here, I know he has his eternal reward.”
You have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice. (John 16:22)
Lord, may we remember death is not an ending, but rather an eternal beginning with You.
Rosie the Riveter’s Legacy
As men joined the military to fight in World War II, their jobs were filled by five million civilian women, who collectively became known as “Rosie the Riveters.” The iconic poster of a woman curling her bicep represented Rosies all over the country.
In 2021, at age 99, one of the six original Rosies, Phyllis Gould, passed away. She had worked as a welder at a shipyard, making 90 cents an hour, which was equal pay to men at the time. When the war ended, Gould feared that people would forget the work done by all the Rosies, so she set out to promote their legacy.
CBS News reported, “Gould helped establish a museum and make March 21st ‘National Rosie the Riveter Day.’ She wrote hundreds of handwritten letters lobbying for a Congressional Gold Medal for the Riveters. Her efforts paid off…She took that tenacious work ethic home with her too. She built a log cabin with a hammer and nails. At age 92, she joined fellow Riveters at the White House, a lifelong dream of hers.”
One generation shall laud your works to another.
May we honor the accomplishments of our forefathers and foremothers, Creator.
Family Adopts Son’s Best Friend
In Bensalem, Pennsylvania, a family opened their home to their son’s best friend, and after years of waiting, welcomed him as a true part of their family. “There are just no words to explain how grateful I am for my family,” Rita Marlow told WABC-TV.
A decade ago, Nate Rosas, who lived in foster care, was playing soccer with Rita’s son, Zach, and they became fast friends. A few years later, the family took Nate in as their foster child. After the first year and a half, Nate decided “that this is where he wanted to stay.”
Years of paperwork and hearings came to fruition in 2021, when “Gotcha day!” arrived. It was the day that finalized Nate’s adoption with Zach’s family, and it was marked with celebration. “I can’t put it into words,” 16-year-old Nate said, so happy to finally be part of a family—something he’s waited his entire life to have.
You have received a spirit of adoption. (Romans 8:15)
Loving Jesus, bless all foster care children and help them find good homes with loving parents.
Spreading Kindness through Soda Bread
When Mary O’Halloran, owner of the New York City pub Mary O’s, faced hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, she did it with a smile by spreading kindness one Irish soda bread scone at a time.
With her pub closed, O’Halloran, along with her six children, went to work to help in any way they could. First, they made 30 meals a day for frontline workers. But as the pandemic persisted, and with her pub still closed, O’Halloran feared how she’d support her family with no money coming in.
Remembering her mother’s recipe from Ireland, O’Halloran began making soda bread scones with homemade blackberry jam, each packed with a handwritten letter from her eight-year-old daughter. Word spread throughout the community and soon she had one million dollars worth of orders.
O’Halloran told ABC News that she is grateful for her community, noting, “I pray and hope everybody receives their scones with the same feeling I have when I make them.”
So that there may be food in my house…I will…pour down for you an overflowing blessing. (Malachi 3:10)
Generous Lord, thank You for the kindness of strangers.
Grandpa, Gardening, and Growth
Reilly Johnston, writing for Holy Cross Ministries, recalls spending time with his grandfather, whom he lovingly calls “Big G.” Big G’s hobby was gardening, and over the years he would go through the ritual of starting seeds in the basement, transplanting them outside, cultivating and caring for his plants, and sharing the bounty of fruits and vegetables with his family and friends.
Reilly writes, “He taught me a lot of life lessons through the process of gardening, including patience, the importance of dedication and motivation, and the need to put others before yourself—to name a few. I have carried these lessons, and many more, with me throughout my time gardening over the years, as well in my life outside of gardening.”
After Big G passed away, Reilly continued maintaining the garden, and encourages other families to take up the spade and begin their own tradition. “By taking part in cultivating new life,” he said, “gardening allows families to cooperate actively in God’s creation with one another.”
Kindness is like a garden of blessings. (Sirach 40:17)
Lord, help me to cultivate what’s important in life.
Students Promote Animal Care
Some school assignments remain thoughts on paper. Others jump off the page and are brought to life when one person takes notice. That’s what happened when a fifth grader at Notre Dame Academy in Buffalo wrote an essay about changing the world. It included the line, “I would like to make blankets and take care of the animals.”
When the school’s principal, Jenniffer Maslakowski, read this essay, she set about to help the student’s wish become reality. The result? Local families and friends teamed up and arranged for students to assemble blankets for the SPCA Buffalo Animal Shelter. For instance, Girl Scout Troop 34213 contributed necessary fabric and precut material.
Maslakowski told Western New York Catholic, “I saw an opportunity not only to do something for our community, but to show our students that with a little work, they can create changes.”
O Lord…the earth is full of Your creatures. (Psalm 104:24)
Inspire us, Holy Spirit, to look for opportunities to improve everyday life.
Why You Shouldn’t Hold a Grudge
Author Malachy McCourt wrote in his book A Monk Swimming, “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” In fact, holding a grudge doesn’t bring any kind of relief, but instead inflicts pain on the person whose already been hurt.
Octavios Messias explored the topic “What Holding a Grudge Can do to You” for the website Aleteia. He shared three reasons you should practice forgiveness instead:
■ Holding a grudge is more a way of repressing a feeling than of assimilating it.
■ Sorrow imprisons us in the past. The only way we can be free is to liberate ourselves from what once was.
■ If God believes in forgiveness, who are we to put ourselves in a position of superiority and judgment?
“Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? Seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times but seventy-seven times.”(Matthew 18:21-22)
Loving and forgiving Jesus, help me forgive those who have done me wrong, and help me find peace in my soul.
Letter Carrier Gives a Lift
Letter carrier James Desnacido had not seen one of his customers, Allen Menkin, in at least a couple of months. But one day, as Desnacido was out on his regular route, he heard Menkin’s wife frantically calling for help. Allen had collapsed approximately two hours prior, and his wife was not strong enough to lift him back into his reclining chair.
Thankfully, Desnacido was able to get Menkin back on his feet, and then help lower him back into his chair. The postman was later recognized by his local NALC (National Association of Letter Carriers) Branch #2502.
Allen was unable to attend the ceremony honoring Desnacido, but he sent his mailman the following message: “Give deepest thanks and my best regards to James. He is the representative that the Postal Service should be proud of!”
“I just do like all carriers,” Desnacido concluded modestly in The Postal Record. “Help out when you can, and then get back to delivering when everything’s safe.”
Two are better than one, because…if they fall, one will lift up the other.
Loving Lord, bless and honor the unsung heroes of our world.
Remembering a Stranger in Need
In 2022, Papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski offered a funeral Mass for 64-year-old Roberto Mantovani, who died of pneumonia in a homeless shelter near Rome’s Termini railway station. Years ago, an injury had ended Mantovani’s career as a professional soccer player for Hellas Verona F.C.
In recent years, he had been living on the streets near the Vatican, where he was befriended by people who tried to help him, including Cardinal Krajewski, who told Catholic News Agency, “[Mantovani] was a cheerful, sunny person. At the lunches we had, he made everyone laugh.”
The funeral Mass was attended by volunteers from the homeless shelter where Mantovani was staying, police officers from the station near where he often slept, and workers from the Community of Sant’Egidio, who distribute food to Rome’s homeless and run the Vatican’s newest homeless shelter.
In life, Mantovani was known to sleep in front of a closed door. May he stand before an open door now, and may he follow Christ through that door to eternal glory.
If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard. (Proverbs 21:13)
May I see You in the face of the homeless, Jesus.
Working for Peace in Jail
Though Rita McCaffrey’s husband was a judge, she couldn’t seem to stay out of jail. It was for a good reason, though.
Mrs. McCaffrey volunteered at the Rutland Correctional Center in Vermont. In fact, she spent 40 hours a week on a program to help inmates plan and make decisions about their future.
She saw this not only as part of the rehabilitation process, but also as a work of peace. Jails, she pointed out, are traditionally places of violence. By introducing a peaceful element into a center of repressed violence, she helped add to the overall climate of peace.
Every home, every neighborhood, every city needs individuals dedicated to living peace, to sharing it. In your words, your actions, and your thoughts, be a peacemaker.
Live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be
with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)
How can I be at peace with myself and others, Prince of
Journey with God, Part 1
“The Lord was always…trying to get my attention, but for some reason, I just ignored Him.” That’s how Gary Zimak remembers his younger years when he struggled with chronic worry. Despite being a cradle Catholic who attended Mass every week, he felt determined to make it through on his own, never asking God for help. “He just wasn’t real enough to me,” admits Gary.
That changed in the 1970s, when a friend invited Gary to a Charismatic Renewal prayer meeting. During a Christopher Closeup interview about his book Journey with God, Gary recalled, “I went kicking and screaming. I didn’t want anything to do with it. Then, I got in there…People were praising the Lord, and they had their Bibles with them, and they were hugging me. [I thought], ‘Whoa, these people are weird…but they’re happy. They have something that I want.’”
“I kept going back,” continued Gary, “and I started to realize, ‘God is real, and He’s bigger than my problems, and He loves me. Maybe I should ask Him for help.’ That’s what I’ve been doing ever since.” More tomorrow…
When you search for Me, you will find Me; if you seek Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
Open people’s eyes to Your existence, Creator.
Journey with God, Part 2
Once Gary Zimak accepted God as being real, he also came to a deeper acceptance of God’s love for him. Previously, Gary had the “head knowledge” about God’s love, but he finally came to accept it in his heart, which made a world of difference. The Holy Spirit played a role in that acceptance.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Gary explained, “The Holy Spirit is the very spirit of Jesus…We now have that spirit because of our faith, our relationship with the Lord…I can only do so much, and the Lord knew that. That’s why He gave me His spirit, so that I can love with His spirit. I can have the peace and joy that comes from His spirit.
“I’m not a patient person, and it’s one of the fruits of the spirit: patience…If I let the Holy Spirit work in me, I can follow the Lord, look at my problems…and with that joy and peace that flows from the Spirit, say, ‘I can handle this with the Lord’s help.’…The Holy Spirit’s main job is to transform us into the image of Jesus. For somebody like me, He’s got a big job, but little by little, the Holy Spirit’s doing that in me.”
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness. (Galatians 5:22)
Transform me into Jesus’s image, Holy Spirit.
Journey with God, Part 3
As he writes in Journey with God, Gary Zimak begins each morning with the words, “Holy Spirit, please inspire my thoughts, my words and my actions today.” He admits that he doesn’t feel any differently after that prayer, but he believes the Spirit is helping him regardless of his feelings.
There are also times when Gary doesn’t feel the presence of God and endures “desert experiences.” Life has taught him to keep believing in those circumstances as well. He said on Christopher Closeup, “If something doesn’t feel good or if I feel I’m not making progress, I just want to say, ‘That’s it, I quit.’ But with that help of the Holy Spirit—and with what little persistence that I can muster up—I’ve learned, you’ve got to move forward. I’m going to pray whether I feel like it or not.”
“It took me a long time to get to that point, but now when I don’t feel it, I know that the Lord’s trying to stretch me a little bit…We’re supposed to love the giver more than the gifts, and that can be challenging. So, that desert experience, we all go through it. It doesn’t last forever, and it helps us grow in faith.”
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)
Help me to persevere in prayer, Holy Spirit.
Journey with God, Part 4
Though it might seem counterintuitive, accepting our crosses in life can lead us to happiness. Gary Zimak acknowledges that this is a paradox and makes no sense in worldly terms. However, we create a lot of stress when we fight against these crosses, so instead we should ask God to bear the burden with us.
“We’re all going to have [crosses], whether we’re followers of Christ or not,” said Gary during a Christopher Closeup interview about his book Journey with God. “We all will have some suffering in this life because we live in a fallen world. This life isn’t heaven, but our heaven can begin in this life.
“It doesn’t mean we won’t have problems, but it means the Lord is bigger than the problems, and He can give us the peace to deal with them. That’s a hard message, though, because people don’t think it’s possible. Once you give it a try, it works. He does give us peace.”
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. (John 14:27)
When my crosses overwhelm me, Jesus, send me Your peace.
Journey with God, Part 5
Another key to happiness that Gary Zimak points out in his book Journey with God is service to others. It may involve handing out donuts in church or helping your spouse with the dishes instead of reading your prayer book. We need to pay attention to our surroundings and circumstances and ask, “How does God want me to love Him today?”
Helping other people isn’t easy, however, when those people are annoying. Gary admits he struggles with this himself. The trick, he says, is asking the Holy Spirit for help: “I want to be able to look at people who drive me crazy and see them the way Jesus sees them. Part of it has to do also with His patience with me…He’s put up with a lot from me. Yet I get impatient with other people. But I think this is an ongoing process.”
“I’m a big believer in the sacrament of Confession. The grace I receive in Confession helps me get better at this because people do drive me crazy sometimes. It’s easier to spend time with the Lord alone, but what are the greatest commandments? Love God and love others. That’s what He wants.”
Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 19:19)
How do You want me to love You today, Lord?
Ministering to Detroit’s Poor for 45 Years
As a young seminarian, Rev. Tom Lumpkin was drawn to working with the poor after witnessing people living in refrigerator boxes. Little did he realize that God was calling him to help launch Detroit’s Catholic Worker community, which he faithfully served for 45 years.
The Catholic Worker Movement was founded in 1933 to answer the question, “How can the Christian believer live justly in society?” It was the calling Lumpkin was seeking. A few years after being ordained in 1976, he helped open Manna Meal Soup Kitchen at Most Holy Trinity Church. Eventually, they moved up the road to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, where he and volunteers prepared and served meals to the poor daily.
Rev. Lumpkin told religionnews.com he was “the only diocesan priest in the world who had his diocesan assignment with the Catholic Worker Movement.” Despite retiring, Rev. Lumpkin says, “You never retire from your Christian vocation. You can always be a force for good.”
Let each of you lead the life…to which God called you.
(1 Corinthians 7:17)
Lord, help us to faithfully walk in Your footsteps to serve the poor with dignity and grace.
Friendship Spans Generations
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, teenager Keslar Just of Loudoun County, Virginia, got the idea to send letters to lonely seniors who were quarantined in nursing homes, inviting them to be her pen pal. She only got one response, though, from 92-year-old Jean Peck in Henrietta, New York.
As reported by WJLA-TV, the two wrote 80 letters to each other over the course of two years and even talked on the phone several times. A beautiful bond was formed between these two women from different generations.
Early in 2022, Peck’s family let Keslar know that she was put in hospice care. Keslar, now a college student, immediately traveled to New York to visit her friend in person before she passed away. Though Peck had been unresponsive, Keslar’s visit perked her right up.
Keslar said, “Seeing it in person, when Jean reached out to hold my hand and she became responsive…the family was very appreciative for our relationship and our letters. I will always remember our relationship and what that brought to both of us.”
You shall rise before the aged. (Leviticus 19:32)
May our culture better appreciate seniors, reaching out to them in friendship, Messiah.
Faith Guides Actor’s Life, Part 1
Actor Josh Swickard has portrayed Detective Harrison Chase on ABC’s General Hospital since 2018. But he grew up in Illinois as the son of a pastor. During a Christopher Closeup interview, Josh told program host Tony Rossi that he was fortunate to have parents who guided him and his three sisters in their lives, without resorting to a rigid “do this or else” approach. As a result, neither he nor his siblings ever “really went nuts.”
When Josh turned 18, he asked himself an important spiritual question: “My parents believe this, and my grandparents believe this, but what do I believe for myself?”
He realized that Christianity was real for him, and he lived his life accordingly. Still, Josh knew there was a lot more room to grow in his faith, and the perfect person from whom to learn had served as the best man at his wedding: his 97-year-old grandfather, Arthur Brown, a World War II veteran who had run with a gang in high school, but who changed his ways after picking up a Bible that someone had given him. More tomorrow on their life-changing relationship…
To all who received Him…He gave power to become children of God. (John 1:12)
Increase my faith in You, Jesus.
Faith Guides Actor’s Life, Part 2
General Hospital star Josh Swickard called his grandfather, Arthur Brown, during the show’s COVID shutdown and said, “We’re both locked up right now. You want to do some FaceTimes every morning and crack the Word?” So, they did Bible study every morning, for up to three hours.
Not only did Josh benefit in his understanding of Scripture, he came to appreciate his grandfather even more. Josh said, “Seeing how he lives life and dives into every morning, going, ‘This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.’ He’s forcing himself to do it with joy in how he says it, no matter what he’s feeling. Then he starts quoting Scripture, and he sings a hymn.”
That ritual taught Josh we can all take action to choose our disposition for the day. He related the idea to going to the gym, noting that if you only go once a week, you won’t get fit. You need to work out multiple times a week for it to have an effect. The same can be said of getting spiritually fit. It has the most effect when practiced several times a week. More tomorrow…
Blessed…are those who hear the word of God and obey it! (Luke 11:28)
May I enrich my life through Your Word, Father.
Faith Guides Actor’s Life, Part 3
Actor Josh Swickard explained that the growth of his faith during General Hospital’s COVID shutdown led him to start daily conversations with the Lord. During a Christopher Closeup interview, he said he prays, “Lord, I hope all my thoughts, my actions, and the words that come out of my mouth glorify You.”
“Something that simple,” added Josh, “and all of a sudden, you start to see life in a really beautiful way. I’m so new to it, and I obviously fail every day, and I’m overcome by sin—we all are. But boy, it’s such a better way to live, in my opinion.”
When Josh discusses his faith, he conveys a sense of joy, humility, and kindness. He credits that to seeing the way his family has lived out their faith, without an overemphasis on judging others. “All I know,” explained Josh, “is that God has called me to be the light or the salt, and He’s called me to love. When I break it down to that simple truth, everything else goes out the window.” More tomorrow…
Love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:12)
Jesus, above all, may I strive to emulate Your unconditional love.
Faith Guides Actor’s Life, Part 4
Josh Swickard’s parents and grandparents were his role models in approaching married life for himself and his wife, Lauren. He said, “I put a lot of pressure on marriage when growing up, because I didn’t see fighting. I didn’t see people raising their voices and yelling in multiple generations.”
“Thankfully, I married a wonderful woman,” continued Josh. “I think we had one disagreement where there were raised voices when we were dating. And I was like, ‘I’ve got to be honest with you. I don’t know how to cope. I don’t have the right tools for this. So, if we want to make this a lifetime thing, we can’t yell at each other.’ And she said, ‘Okay.’ Knock on wood, it’s been four years, and we haven’t yelled at each other yet.”
Josh and Lauren even co-produced and co-starred in the Netflix movie A California Christmas, for which Lauren wrote the script. They had no squabbles working together either. The reason? “I really don’t mind being the sous chef,” Josh explained. More tomorrow…
Love is patient; love is kind. (1 Corinthians 13:4)
May married couples love and respect each other, Lord.
Faith Guides Actor’s Life, Part 5
Josh Swickard has a lot of joy in his life right now: from a successful career to a loving marriage to a healthy, happy baby daughter. But when dark times come, he approaches them with the wisdom he’s learned from life, family, and God.
Josh concluded, “If I’m going through a dark time, I’ll pray, and I’ll give it to the Lord. After I give it to the Lord, I usually recognize…I’m so blessed. No matter what house you live in or what your bank account looks like or what you drive, everyone goes through [darkness].”
“My dad did a lot of mission trips, so I grew up going to Central and South America. Seeing that in your developmental years—what actual poverty looks like—it puts everything in perspective. So, I…give it to the Lord.”
“That usually pulls me out. Sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s okay. You have a bad day. That’s the beauty of morning by morning, new mercies I see. Regardless, God is still good. That’s the one thing that doesn’t change. If you try to keep that [idea] center and not tertiary, I think you’re in good shape.”
His mercies…they are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22,23)
Be my light in the darkness, Jesus.
Lenten Practices for Children
If you are at a loss as to what liturgical practices you should incorporate into your child’s daily routine this Lent, The Catholic Moment offers these engaging activities that might benefit your spiritual life as well:
■ Encourage participation in small acts of charity.
■ Collect or raise money for a worthy cause.
■ Block out a special time every day for prayer.
■ Consider giving up something you really love for Lent.
■ Involve your children in creating menus for Lenten meals.
■ Bake bread together, making sure to discuss how Jesus is the “Living Bread of the World.”
■ Go over the Lord’s Prayer and the Stations of the Cross.
■ Act out the Palm Sunday story, using blankets to show your children how people laid down their coats at Christ’s feet.
■ Demonstrate the miracle and renewal that comes through Christ’s resurrection, through the dyeing of Easter eggs and/or the planting of spring flowers, such as crocuses.
God…put a new…right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)
Lord, may Lent be an opportunity for spiritual renewal.
What is Shrove Tuesday?
The day before Ash Wednesday is known as “Shrove Tuesday.” But do you know why that is? Explaining the origins of the day in Guideposts, Rick Hamlin writes, “The word ‘shrove’ comes from the old English word ‘shrive,’ which refers to asking for absolution from your sins. To get ready for Lent, it was traditional to ask forgiveness.”
The tradition of eating pancakes (yes, that’s a thing!) on Shrove Tuesday was to feast on the foods and sugary things you might be giving up for Lent. Dancing, such as we see during Mardi Gras, was the celebration before the Lenten period of fasting and contemplation.
The day before Lent is a time to indulge a bit, to make merry with your friends and community before entering the wilderness of Lent and imitating Christ’s 40 days of prayer and fasting. But it starts with seeking and receiving forgiveness, to be “shriven and forgiven,” Hamlin writes, as a way to prepare for the Easter season. With a side of dancing and pancakes, of course.
Whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the
hypocrites. (Matthew 6:16)
May my Lenten journey start and end with joy, Jesus.
Grace Tully worked as a personal secretary for Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt for more than 30 years. Right up to the time of her death, Tully spoke with admiration of the way she was treated by them.
With the Roosevelts, she said, you were never considered just the help. You were considered part of the family.
Tully recalled that if someone was working late and Eleanor Roosevelt was aware of it, she would order another chair to be put at the dinner table so that person could eat with the presidential family. That special touch of hospitality made all the difference.
Real hospitality goes beyond mere politeness to guests. It is a commitment to the golden rule—and it includes one’s friends, as well as strangers. So be hospitable, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and
with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.
Help me be a model of hospitality, Jesus.
A Snowboarding Pioneer Retires
One of the best things about watching the Olympics is seeing athletes at the top of their game, after years of honing their skills. Snowboarding legend Shaun White fits the bill, having competed on the world stage since not long after snowboarding became an Olympic event.
He won gold medals in 2006 and 2010—and at 2022’s Beijing Olympics, he said a fond farewell to the sport as he announced his retirement. On his last run, he took a moment to slowly ride down the course and wave to the cheering crowds.
As reported on the Today Show, White got emotional when talking about his career: “I just want to thank everyone for watching. Everyone at home, thank you. Snowboarding, thank you. It’s been the love of my life.”
At age 35, White was the oldest Olympian to ride the half pipe. Through his dedication and love of the sport, he showed a generation of snowboarders that hard work and perseverance pay off—and that using your God-given talents can lead you to achieve great things.
Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before
us. (Hebrews 12:1)
Guide me, Lord, so my endeavors reflect Your goodness.
Texas Boy Shares Love of Literacy
Ten-year-old Orion Jean has a mission: to collect 500,000 books from across the country through his “Race to Kindness” initiative for children in need. “I want to be able to share my love of literacy with as many people as possible,” he told CBS News.
Jean’s mission started in 2020 when he won a student kindness contest in Fort Worth, Texas. He realized his $500 prize was a “catalyst to something so much bigger.” After donating toys to a children’s hospital and assisting various food drives, he launched “Race to Kindness” to share the gift of reading with hundreds of thousands of kids.
“Race to Kindness” motivated people across the country to give away their used books to children who didn’t have any, collecting 120,000 books thus far. As Jean said, “It’s all about my moral duty to help people…Kindness is a virtue we can all possess. So why not start today?”
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God. (1 John 3:1)
Loving Jesus, bless the children for they are the ones to
make the future brighter.
Best Buddies Helps Disabled Thrive
Based on findings from the “A Place in this World” report, 62% of people with developmental disabilities (IDD) dream of having their own apartment. However, 75% live with their parents. The Best Buddies Living program is an opportunity for people with disabilities to live independently in a dynamic environment where they can learn, grow, and thrive.
The Best Buddies Living program invited six high school age students with IDD to practice their independent living skills. According to Bestbuddies.org, this two-day, two-night program “introduced participants to skills like grocery shopping, cooking meals, making a bed, doing laundry, hygiene routines, taking the Metro, and budgeting.” They even got to do a sleepover in their own apartment in Washington, D.C.
This program encouraged students to step out of their comfort zone, learn new skills, and, most importantly, have fun with the other participants. These are skills they will continue to carry with them into the future.
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)
Lord, bless all those with disabilities and help them continue to learn, grow, and thrive in all they do.
Reaching Out Like Jesus
The Christophers’ founder Father James Keller, M.M., once wrote, “The Gospels reveal how our Lord was ever on the move, not merely to enjoy Himself, but always with the hope and prayer that as He moved among the people, He would reach some who could be reached in no other way.”
When we look at the whole of Christ’s life, we see a balance between formation and outreach. It is a balance we all need in our lives, but we must always remember that the value of our formation is measured by how it prepares us to go out into the world and give of ourselves to others.
Of Christ’s ministry, Father Keller wrote, “His was the loving purpose of bringing God to men and men to God. He went to dinners, to weddings, to all sorts of gatherings. He engaged in conversation with all types of persons in all sorts of places. And the people flocked to Him because He first went to them.”
This spirit of generosity is at the heart of what it means to be a Christopher, and it is the approach to life that inspired Father Keller to start The Christophers back in 1945.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.
Teach me to reach out to others with Your love, Jesus.
Praying in a Warzone
Russia’s war on Ukraine has resulted in the separation of many Ukrainian families. Cerith Gardiner of Aleteia wrote, “Spouses have had to live with tremendous anxiety. Wives could be a phone call away from hearing that their husbands have been killed…As the men stay behind, they worry about whether their families are safely settled far from home.”
Gardiner related the story of Petro and Oksana Galuga, residents of Kyiv who have been married 25 years. Oksana fled to Poland with their children when the war began, leaving Petro behind to help with humanitarian efforts in his role as State Secretary of the Knights of Columbus in Ukraine.
“We all feel very lonely and sad that we are separated,” Petro said. Highlighting what keeps them connected, he added, “We pray together. It unites us very much spiritually.”
“Peter is very much in keeping with his name,” Oksana said. “Peter is the rock.”
“Eventually the Lord will give us peace,” Petro said, “and we will have the opportunity…to rebuild our country.”
He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.
Lord, grant us peace so we can build a better world.
Hoagies 4 Hope
For many years on Super Bowl Sunday, Clearview Regional High School in Mullica Hill, New Jersey, sold sandwiches to raise money for various good causes. In 2022, one of the school’s own students, Julia Buck, was selected to receive the proceeds of the fundraiser.
Julia had been in a terrible car accident the year before, one that involved three other girls from the high school, when they were hit by an oncoming truck. As reported on WPVI, Buck and one other girl were airlifted to a hospital with serious injuries. After 10 months and 10 surgeries, the community was still rallying behind Julia.
The funds raised from “Hoagies 4 Hope” helped Julia’s family, as her mom left full-time work to care for her. The road to healing was difficult, but Julia’s determination and the support of those around her made a marked difference. “They told us she was going to possibly be paralyzed,” said Jennifer Buck, Julia’s mom. “And today, I cannot believe she’s walking.”
Peace be to the whole community, and love with faith, from God the Father. (Ephesians 6:23)
Thank You, Lord, for the community that surrounds me.
Catholic Roots of Super Bowl Success
When he hoisted the Lombardi trophy in February 2022, 36-year-old Sean McVay became the youngest-ever head coach to win a Super Bowl. His journey to success leading the Los Angeles Rams began two decades earlier when he was a student at Marist School in Atlanta. There, he learned values and discipline, both on and off the field, and he credits his education with helping him on his career journey.
In 2003, while a senior at Marist, McVay led the football team to the state championships. He then went on to Miami University to play football in Division I, and once finished with college he began his professional coaching career. He never forgot the lessons of his Catholic education.
As quoted by Catholic News Service, McVay shared this message with Marist’s 2021 graduating class: “Marist is a special place…I’ve been so fortunate and blessed because there’s so many of the foundational principles that were instilled in me from the time I got here that have been instrumental in a lot of the things that have been good in my life.”
The Lord’s gift remains with the devout, and His favor
brings lasting success. (Sirach 11:17)
May Your words and lessons guide my endeavors, Lord.
Saved by Spider-Man
It was an older person’s worst nightmare. At 3:00 in the morning, 79-year-old Stella Thorley fell on her way to the bathroom, unable to lift herself to an upright position.
“I’m so tall it makes it harder,” the six-foot Thorley, a pensioner from Crewe, England, explained to Cheshire Live News. “I…just lay there…By the morning, I was so confused, and in shock.”
To make matters worse, when Stella’s daughter came to check on her that morning, the front door would not open because the house key was stuck in the inside lock. Enter seven-year-old Jayden Kenyon, Thorley’s neighbor, who was able to reach his arm through the mail slot to dislodge the key and let her daughter get inside. Jayden got “lots of cuts and bruises” from this retrieval, but to the youngster, it was more than worth it.
“I knew it was an emergency, and we had to rescue Stella,” Kenyon concluded matter-of-factly, “and I just wanted to help like Spider-Man does…I felt a bit like bendy Spider-Man. He’s my favorite superhero…I felt amazing.”
Let each of you look…to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)
Savior, may we lend a helping hand to those in need.
‘I Hate No One’
Father Dehua (“Edward”) Zhang was truly a remarkable man. Born in Tianjin, Heibi Province in China in 1928, Zhang long dreamed of becoming a priest. On November 18, 1944, he made his first vows with the Little Brothers of St. John the Baptist. Unfortunately, the communist government got wind of this, sentencing him to hard labor in various prison camps located throughout China.
In 1986, Zhang was released on good behavior, but before he could be ordained, he was imprisoned again, for eight more years. In 1994, he was able to escape, first to Hong Kong and then to New York, where he fulfilled his dream of ordination.
“Father Ed” served two parishes in Queens, New York, and he was especially faithful in his visits to the elderly. He continued his ministry until his death in 2022, inspiring all who knew him with his gentle, forgiving nature.
“You would think he had every right to be bitter,” Bishop Robert Brennan said in Zhang’s funeral homily, reported in The Tablet. “[Yet he] is known to have said, ‘All this is the Divine Will of God. God is love, so I hate no one.’”
Love covers all offenses. (Proverbs 10:12)
Savior, may we strive to emulate Your Divine forgiveness.
Olympian Deals with Disappointment
Throughout life, it’s likely we’ll occasionally disappoint ourselves and others. People might even judge us harshly. But not everyone experiences their distress in as public a way as world-class skier Mikaela Shiffrin did in 2022.
According to CNN Sports, she “had a realistic chance of becoming the first American skier to win three gold medals at a single Olympics.” Instead, she crashed and left without a medal.
Unkind social media critics let her have it and even suggested she leave the sport.
The 26-year-old Shiffrin, who had medaled in previous Olympics, responded, “The pinnacle of the last four years of work is over…[Yet] you can go through all of that and have the most turbulent times and still rise again tomorrow.”
Shiffrin plans “to go out again and try next time,” reminding everyone that failure doesn’t have to be fatal to our dreams if we don’t let it be.
Though they fall seven times, they will rise again.
God, give me the strength to persevere during frustrating
Building the Ice Chapel
When some towns get hit by a blizzard, its citizens break out the shovels and snow blowers. But in Houghton, Michigan, which received 200 inches of snow during the winter of 2021-2022, Catholic students at Michigan Technological University take a different approach: they build an ice chapel.
It’s a tradition that has been going on for years in this traditionally freezing part of the country, which holds an annual Winter Carnival that includes snow sculptures. But the ice chapel is no simple sculpture. It becomes an actual place of worship.
As reported by Jennifer Barton in Today’s Catholic, Father Ben Hasse of St. Albert the Great University Parish ministers to Catholic students in the area. He conceived the idea of building an open air “snow church” years ago as a means to bring people together, even those who are not active churchgoers.
Matthew Henry, a FOCUS missionary who helped build the church, said, “A lot of…students are there…and we’re able to welcome them into the community that way and have them…participate in literally building up the Church.”
He shall build a house for My name. (2 Samuel 7:13)
Guide me in helping to build Your church, Jesus.
Black Authors Shine a Light, Part 1
When they were kids growing up in Pittsburgh and Brooklyn, respectively, Kelly Starling Lyons and Torrey Maldonado rarely saw children’s books with characters who looked like them, characters who were African American.
That lack of representation all those years ago planted a seed in them, however. Today, they are both acclaimed authors, shining lights on their culture, past and present, and giving children and young adults characters they can look up to.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Kelly recalled growing up in a family where both reading and storytelling were important. Her grandparents often shared stories from black history that she never heard in school.
The first book she remembers seeing with a black character was Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. She said, “It made an impact on me: the power of seeing yourself and what that does in terms of letting you know that you matter—and your family and your history matters. That planted a seed in me that bloomed into my later becoming a children’s book author.”
We are children of God. (Romans 8:16)
May children have good role models, Creator.
Black Authors Shine a Light, Part 2
Torrey Maldonado grew up in what he calls “a book desert.” The Red Hook Houses in Brooklyn were the largest black housing projects in the United States. They were also a hotbed of crime and drugs.
Torrey, however, was always a “bookish child,” though he couldn’t be so publicly because others would accuse him of being “soft” instead of tough, which is how you needed to be in order to survive in Red Hook.
Torrey’s mom encouraged his love of reading in their home. He never saw any characters who looked like him, though, until his mother gave him the book The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, featuring a young African American boy.
“My mom planted that seed,” said Torrey, “but she also lit a spark in me that grew over time into me realizing, ‘That magic…of our community that’s not showing up in books, I can do that. I can share that magic.’…[Kelly and I] are trying to inspire young kids to grow up to take our place and become the writers that the world needs.”
In your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech. (Titus 2:7-8)
Help me plant seeds that bear good fruit, Lord.
Black Authors Shine a Light, Part 3
Kelly Starling Lyons earned a Christopher Award for her children’s book Tiara’s Hat Parade, which shares the story of an African American girl who tries to revive her mother’s spirits after she’s forced to give up her beloved hat making business.
The book grew out of the fact that hats hold a special place in African American culture, especially in church. Why? Kelly explained, “You have people who work…tough jobs where they’re not able to show their individuality and their style. And also, as a way of being humble, covering your head when you’re going into a house of worship.”
There is an implicit element of faith in Tiara’s Hat Parade, when Tiara prays for her mom to be able to make hats again. God answers that prayer by making Tiara herself the instrument of that happening. Kelly notes that she doesn’t intentionally aim to work God into her stories, but since her faith and family are the two most important things in her life, it usually works out that way. “To me, it was just natural that she’s worried about something, so she takes it to God,” said Kelly.
If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
(1 John 5:14)
Hear my pleas for help, Savior, and guide me to solutions.
Black Authors Shine a Light, Part 4
Torrey Maldonado’s mom instilled him with “mustard seed faith” and inspired the character of the mother in his Christopher Award-winning young adult novel Tight. When Torrey saw trouble in their crime-ridden neighborhood, she advised him to “look for the angels, for the helpers,” he recalled on Christopher Closeup.
She also encouraged him to envision a better future by asking what he wanted to be and do in his life. Torrey said, “I would open up to my mom and tell her these wild dreams. She called them prophecies. She believed God was putting those dreams in me…My mom said, ‘You can do those things. You can go to those places. You could be that person. You just have to have mustard seed faith.’
“Following my mom’s wisdom, I found that biblical wisdom…I applied a little bit of that faith and became the first person in my family to graduate from college. Then, everybody was saying, ‘You can’t publish any books because you don’t know anybody in the book publishing world.’ Now I’m on my third book published, and I’ve got more books coming out.”
If you have faith the size of a mustard seed…nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20)
Grow my mustard seed faith, Messiah.
Black Authors Shine a Light, Part 5
Torrey Maldonado recalled that prayer was looked down on in his tough neighborhood growing up. But he credits his mother with teaching him that all prayers don’t begin with, “Father, grant me…” or a phrase like that.
As an example, he points to a passage from his book Tight, in which the main character, Brian, goes to the store and has to buy food on credit because his family can’t afford to pay cash. Brian sees a young girl looking at him, and he feels like “a broke joke.” As a result, Brian says a prayer, though it begins with the words “I wish,” because young people in those situations simply pray differently, Torrey explained.
Kelly Starling Lyons added, “I love the idea of taking what you’ve survived…and looking for the blessing, the people who are the helpers, the light that shines in your family, the magic that you have and the talents that God has gifted you with…When I grew up…my grandma used to say, ‘You pray with your feet moving.’ It’s prayer plus action. Love is an action word. It’s not just saying it, but it’s showing it and it’s doing it.”
Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. (Ephesians 6:18)
Teach me to pray with my feet moving, Jesus.
A Light in This World Forever
Family and friends always knew that Tallu Schuyler Quinn, the founder of the Nashville Food Project, was special. She was born with a spirit of kindness and generosity, said her loved ones. That spirit remains, despite Quinn’s death from brain cancer at age 42.
Under her leadership, the Project grew from a church kitchen with several volunteers to a multi-service operation that makes hundreds of thousands of meals.
The Tennessean quotes her alma mater as saying: “She built an impressive and impactful program that addresses food insecurity and food sovereignty problems in the greater Nashville area…To know her, was to love her. She was an incredible beam of light.”
One mourner said that many people won’t go to bed hungry today, and for the future, because of Quinn and her work, noting, “Although her candle burned out tonight, she will remain a light in this world forever.”
If you offer your food to the hungry…your light shall
rise in the darkness. (Isaiah 58:10)
Help us, Lord, to appreciate the many ways we can make a
positive difference in life.
It’s certainly unusual to have a person who can’t speak deliver the valedictorian speech at a college graduation ceremony, but there’s no question that Elizabeth Bonker was the perfect choice for this groundbreaking occasion.
Though Bonker has nonverbal autism, her comprehension and intelligence are high. She communicates by typing on a computer and attended Florida’s Rollins College, where she majored in Social Innovation, minored in English, and founded a nonprofit called “Communication 4 All, an organization dedicated to providing communication resources for all non-speakers so that they too can be freed from their silent cage.”
In her speech, delivered via a text-to-speech computer, Bonker said, “Each and every one of us can live a life of service…God gave you a voice. Use it…I leave you today with a quote from Alan Turing, who broke the Nazi encryption code to help win World War II: ‘Sometimes, it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.’ Be those people. Be the light! Fiat lux. Thank you.”
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Help me to use my voice and be a light, Messiah.
Greek Restaurant Prevails in Pandemic
Adan Muñoz had just launched his own Greek restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, when COVID-19 caused economic hardships in the city’s restaurant business. Despite an uncertain future, he remembered what his grandma taught him about generosity. That lesson helped Muñoz’s restaurant survive.
Yia Yia’s Taverna, named in honor of Muñoz’s grandma (“Yia Yia” is Greek for “Grandma”), began providing free meals to the newly unemployed. Muñoz told the Daily News, “People would say, ‘I just lost my job, and I’m applying for government [aid],’ and I’d say, ‘Just sit down, have a glass of wine with me, next time you’ll pay.’”
Online reviews were soon praising the food and Muñoz’s hospitality. Even though they were fighting to keep the restaurant afloat, it was a “sign they loved the food, a sign we were doing something right.”
Those once-virtual customers became in-person regulars, all thanks to Yia Yia’s teachings of generosity.
Their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity. (2 Corinthians 8:2)
Loving Jesus, help us rejoice with a generous spirit.
Education is a Lifelong Companion
English essayist Joseph Addison once described education as “a companion which no misfortune can depress, no crime can destroy, no enemy can alienate, no despotism can enslave.”
“At home,” Addison added, “education is a friend, abroad it is an introduction. In solitude, education is a solace, and in society it is an ornament. It chastens vice and guides virtue.”
These are wise words to consider for young people attending school, but the benefits of education can be applied to individuals of any age. After all, this world is full of God’s wonders that we can better appreciate the more we learn about them. Education can also play a role in lifting people out of poverty or helping them discover their untapped potential.
Perhaps most importantly, education can expose us to different peoples, cultures, and times in history that we’ve never experienced ourselves, but that can contribute to our understanding of the world and human nature. So always take advantage of the benefits of education
An intelligent mind acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. (Proverbs 18:15)
Guide me towards knowledge and wisdom, Holy Spirit.
Doctor Brings Light to Patients, Part 1
Early in his medical career, Dr. Wes Ely worked as a phlebotomist at a nursing home where one of his patients was an unresponsive elderly woman with dementia, who never spoke or indicated she was even aware of her surroundings. During the doctor’s regular visits, he would simply put a tourniquet on her arm and draw blood without acknowledging her in any way.
One day, Dr. Ely noticed that the sun was shining through this woman’s window, directly into her eyes, so he closed the curtain. He was shocked when she then turned to him and said, “Doctor, everything that is light is Jesus Christ.”
That incident had a profound impact on the Catholic doctor’s career and the way he has chosen to practice medicine by focusing on his patients’ physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Dr. Ely shares his views—as well as the life-saving work he has done improving practices in hospital intensive care units—in his Christopher Award-winning book Every Deep-Drawn Breath: A Critical Care Doctor on Healing, Recovery, and Transforming Medicine in the ICU. More tomorrow…
I am the light of the world. (John 8:12)
Light my way through this world, Jesus.
Doctor Brings Light to Patients, Part 2
For some Christopher Award winners, being notified about the recognition is the first they hear of The Christophers’ motto, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” But that was not the case with Dr. Wes Ely, who won for his book Every Deep-Drawn Breath.
Unbeknownst to us, he has lived by that motto since childhood because his mother used to receive the local Catholic newspaper which carried the columns of Father John Catoir, The Christophers’ Director at the time.
The idea of lighting a candle in the darkness was especially important to Dr. Ely during his childhood because his father left their family to pursue a different life. This choice wounded the young Ely, who says he felt “defective” after the abandonment.
His mother, however, countered this idea with one of her own. She wrote on a bookmark, “Wes, Jesus loves you. May you know this, and love and serve Him all the days of your life.” Dr. Ely’s mother put those words on paper, but eventually they came to be written on his heart. More tomorrow…
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God.
(1 John 3:1)
Help me to know and feel Your love for me, Jesus.
Doctor Brings Light to Patients, Part 3
Another impactful experience for Dr. Wes Ely was his work as a farmhand during his high school years. During a Christopher Closeup interview, he recalled, “I was in charge of the pickers, and the pickers were usually migrant workers. They worked for an hourly wage, and their whole life was in these fields. They didn’t have a safety net, and I saw that.”
“These pickers, they would get a cut, that would become an abscess,” he continued. “They would get a toothache, that would become a gap in their smile. I realized that they were, in a sense, silenced in their own life. I [saw] this as a testimonial injustice.”
Around this time, Dr. Ely read Maya Angelou’s memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, in which she addresses the trauma she experienced and how she was silenced as well. That, said Dr. Ely, “made me dive even deeper into this notion that people all around me were suffering and getting hurt. Could it be that maybe there was something I could do from a vocational perspective to help give them a voice and find a way forward? That’s what led me into medicine.” More tomorrow…
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice? (Isaiah 58:6)
Guide me in correcting injustices, Divine Judge.
Doctor Brings Light to Patients, Part 4
Despite his noble intentions, Dr. Wes Ely admits that he often lost sight of his patients’ humanity during the early parts of his career, especially when he became a critical care doctor in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
For instance, it was common practice to intubate ICU patients and put them under deep sedation for days or even weeks at a time, believing this would help them recover. In the early 90s, Dr. Ely noticed that while his patients who underwent this treatment were often cured of their original problems, they wound up developing “acquired dementia, acquired PTSD and depression, and neck down, muscle and nerve disease.”
Dr. Ely sought a solution, which resulted in the A2F bundle safety checklist. He explained, “We’re going to try and get you out of bed [and] walk you, even on the ventilator…give you just enough sedation and pain meds so you’re not suffering…Meanwhile, your brain is being engaged, and so are your legs, arms, and chest wall so that you’re not losing muscle and the neurons aren’t dying.” More tomorrow…
Honor physicians for their services, for the Lord created them. (Sirach 38:1)
Give doctors the wisdom and humility to truly heal, Lord.
Doctor Brings Light to Patients, Part 5
Dr. Wes Ely has developed practices for Intensive Care Units that are greatly improving the quality of patients’ lives once they recover, but he approaches his career with a spiritual mindset, too.
During a Christopher Closeup interview about his Christopher Award-winning book Every Deep-Drawn Breath, he explained, “I was in India, in Kolkata, at Mother Teresa’s Home for the Destitute and Dying, and one of the things that she always said when they asked her, ‘How do you pick up these people? They’re covered in vomit and maggots and flies.’ And she said, ‘I look in their eyes, and I say to myself, ‘This is Jesus Christ.’”
“For a non-Christian, the same thing can happen. You can look in the person’s eyes—whether you’re Muslim, Hindu, atheist, agnostic—and say…‘I am here to serve this entire person.’…I take a spiritual history of my patients and put them in charge…and I ask, ‘Do you have any spiritual values that you want me to know?’” More tomorrow…
Just as you did it to one of the least of these…you did it to Me. (Matthew 25:40)
May I see Your face, Jesus, in all people.
Doctor Brings Light to Patients, Part 6
Dr. Wes Ely has taken part in his patients’ spiritual requests, whether they were religious or atheists. But his Catholic faith played a role when he treated Gian, a fellow doctor who had contracted COVID-19 and wanted to receive the Eucharist.
Since Dr. Ely is a Eucharistic Minister, he was able to bring Gian Holy Communion. Dr. Ely reflected, “As physicians, Gian and I incorporate science into faith, acknowledging that when we ingest the Eucharist, it enters the workings of the cells of our entire body. My faith affirms that consuming the Eucharist helps me become a better servant of God and others…I believe that how we handle ourselves on earth will echo into eternity, and the Eucharist is both our shield and protection during life—and our Viaticum, food for the journey, in dying.
“For Gian, the knowledge that this might be the last time he received the Eucharist—and it was—transformed the…ICU, to a place where he felt safe, loved, and in an eternal relationship with God. It was a humbling experience for me to do that.” More tomorrow…
Whoever eats of this bread will live forever. (John 6:51)
Feed my soul through Holy Communion, Jesus.
Doctor Brings Light to Patients, Part 7
Dr. Wes Ely hopes that people who read his Christopher Award-winning book Every Deep-Drawn Breath find it helpful and enriching on multiple levels. There are social justice aspects to its stories, as well as the idea that “alongside suffering can be joy and love.”
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Dr. Ely also reflected on the ways he lights a metaphorical candle when he endures times of darkness in his life. He concluded, “There’s been a lot of heartache in my family and…with my patients, when I hope that one of them will survive and they don’t. When I hit those moments of darkness, I try to remind myself that my job is to take what comes and find the beauty and the love alongside that sadness and heartache.”
“I have a motto that I keep in the forefront of my mind: V = v. I got this from Maximilian Kolbe. He used to teach the seminarians that the capital V, Voluntas, God’s will, must become my little v, voluntas. In other words, my will is subordinate to God’s will in my life…That’s how I go forward.”
Your will be done. (Matthew 6:10)
Help me conform my will to Yours, Creator.
Controlling Your Inner Pharisee
Estefania Garcia admits that she has an inner “mini Pharisee” that rears its head from time to time, prompting her to feel contemptuous of others who think differently than she does. But then she remembers the judgmental attitudes of the Pharisees in so many New Testament stories, dubbing them “the Mean Girls of Jesus’s time.”
When this happens, writes Garcia at Busted Halo, she recalls Matthew 9:9-13, when the Pharisees ask why Jesus is hanging around sinners. Jesus responds, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”
Garcia observes, “God desires that we show each other the same love and mercy that He shows us all. Showing compassion is more important to Him than any religious ritual or sacrifice…We should all take time to think about what these words really mean: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ How am I practicing mercy right now? Am I letting everyone sit at my table like Jesus did, or am I just being a mean girl?”
I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.
Teach me to be more loving and merciful, Jesus.
Good Samaritan Goes Above and Beyond
It was a morning like any other in Santa Ana, California, for 94-year-old tamale vendor Jose Villa Ochoa. But one casual encounter with 28-year-old Kenia Barragan would change his life—and hers—forever.
After buying a torta (Mexican sandwich) from this gentleman, Kenia stopped to chat with him and learned he sold tamales for a woman who paid him at the end of the day. No one else would hire Ochoa, also known as “Don Joel,” due to his advanced age. Without some employment, like many older people, Don Joel would not be able to survive.
Deeply moved by Ochoa’s story, Barragan shared the details of their meeting on social media, and even petitioned for money to assist him. She ended up raising more than $80,000. Don Joel was moved to tears by Barragan’s generosity.
“I’ve always wanted a purpose in my life,” Barragan told Fox 11 News, “and I wanted to help people…We need to take care of each other. Even if you can’t give money—donate a prayer, give something back, take time to get to know someone.”
Give liberally…the Lord…will bless you.
Lord, may we take care of each other.
The Best and Worst of Us
The King Institute shares some of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s sermons online. One sermon, delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, discussed the topic of loving our enemies. Here is an excerpt:
“Within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we come to see this, we take a different attitude toward individuals. The person who hates you most has some good in him; even the nation that hates you most has some good in it; even the race that hates you most has some good in it.
“And when you come to the point that you look in the face of every man and see deep down within him what religion calls ‘the image of God,’ you begin to love him in spite of. No matter what he does, you see God’s image there. There is an element of goodness that he can never slough off. Discover the element of good in your enemy. And as you seek to hate him, find the center of goodness and place your attention there and you will take a new attitude.”
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
Help me to see the best in people, even my enemies, Lord.
The Road to Happiness, Part 1
St. Philip Neri once said, “Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life; wherefore the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits.” Yet, happiness can be an elusive disposition, and many today are struggling to find joy in their daily lives.
Advice columnist Helen Dennis recently fielded a question on this topic. The questioner expressed a lack of “contentment or happiness” and even guilt for this concern, given the amount of suffering others are enduring.
Dennis pointed out that concern over one’s own mental and spiritual well-being should not be discounted. We need to be at our best so we can help others through their struggles. And that very dynamic of building ourselves up for the purpose of helping others is at the heart of the ultimate answer to finding happiness.
Aside from basic issues of self-care, such as getting enough sleep and exercise, Dennis suggests being more social, expressing gratitude, being in the moment, and practicing kindness. More tomorrow…
Anxiety weighs down the human heart, but a good word cheers it up. (Proverbs 12:25)
Lead me toward greater contentment and happiness, Lord.
The Road to Happiness, Part 2
In her advice column, responding to a question about finding happiness, Helen Dennis wrote, “People who are the happiest report focusing on the needs of others. They donate money, volunteer, or just do random acts of kindness. Of equal importance is being kind to ourselves. We need to remember that most often we do the best we can. Harsh self-criticism and unrealistic expectations do not lead to happiness.”
We can see this practical advice pointing back to the deeper spiritual reality of why we must attend to our own well-being. Every one of us has a purpose in life that goes beyond temporal happiness, but we need to keep our spirits up if we are to attain all that God wants of us in this world.
In short, we owe it to ourselves to be joyful in order to better serve God and others. Living in the moment is a great way to express gratitude because it demonstrates our trust that God is looking out for the bigger picture. And being more social both lifts our own spirits and enables us to do the same for others so we can practice kindness towards them.
We are workers with you for your joy, because you stand firm in the faith. (2 Corinthians 1:24)
May Your love lead me to joy, Father.
Learning from Poverty
Mrs. Patricia Zotti and her family knew what it was like to be poor. They lost their money when illness and unemployment struck.
When they got back on their feet, one of the first things they did was join a family-to-family program to help the poorest of the poor.
Poverty, Mrs. Zotti said, had awakened in her family an urge to give. Once you have been poor, she added, you find you can identify with the paralyzing despair of others.
Search for ways to identify with the poor. Perhaps it would help to remind yourself that we are all in need of support and encouragement—and that we all live precariously in many ways.
Finances, health, jobs, and family situations can change abruptly. We need one another.
The compassion of human beings is for their neighbors,
but the compassion of the Lord is for every living thing.
Make me compassionate, Merciful Lord.
Whether or Not to Have a Child
Writer John Ficarra admits he was the type of person who always saw “the glass as half full—of poison.” His pessimism especially came into play when his wife told him she would like to have a baby. Ficarra came up with a list of negatives, ranging from the costs of raising a child to “the miserable state of the world in general,” he recalled in New York’s Daily News.
He then went to talk to his friend, Paul Peter Porges, a European cartoonist with a wife and two grown daughters. Ficarra explained his reasoning to Porges, questioning whether it would be wise to bring a child into this troubled world.
Porges looked at him with a bemused smile, prompting Ficarra to remember that his friend was born in Vienna in 1927 and spent much of his childhood escaping the Nazis. Yet here he was, decades later, living a life filled with purpose and love.
Ficarra’s daughter was born less than a year later. He writes, “The nurse placed her in my arms and, to my great surprise, the most wonderful thing happened: I fell instantly and hopelessly in love.”
Every perfect gift is from above. (James 1:17)
Help couples welcome children into their lives, Father.
The 84-Year-Old Graduate
At age 84, Betty Sandison is living proof that you’re never too old to make a lifelong dream come true. In 1955, when she was 17, Betty left her small town of Renville, Minnesota, to attend the University of Michigan. The first in her family to go to college, she earned her license to become a nurse within the year.
Meeting her future husband, getting married, and raising two daughters, however, paused her academic studies. Nearly seven decades later, Betty found herself inspired by a conversation with friends to return to college and complete her degree. She eventually reenrolled at the University of Michigan.
Even the onset of COVID and the overwhelming nuances of current technology did not deter her from earning her Bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies. Betty described the ultimate fulfillment of her dream as a feeling of “pure, pure, joy” and “satisfaction.”
“You need to do what you want to do, or what your goals are,” she told WCCO. “Don’t let anybody stop you.”
One who began a good work…will bring it to completion. (Philippians 1:6)
Messiah, may we never stop pursuing our lifelong dreams.
Kicking the Stigma
It is time to leave behind the negative perceptions around mental illness. That’s why it was great to hear about the Indianapolis Colts’ initiative called “Kicking the Stigma.” It’s an effort to destigmatize mental illness so that people understand how common it is to struggle with these issues.
In an interview with Rich Eisen, Colts owner Jim Irsay said, “The stigma that’s attached with mental illness literally kills people and destroys families.” Irsay goes on to ask everyone to consider how destructive it would be for a stigma to be attached to seeking treatment for any other disease.
Some facts: one in five adults in the U.S. experience mental illness each year; one in six youths, ages 6 to 17, experience a mental health disorder each year; and suicide is the second leading cause of death among those ages 10 to 34. This does not have to be the case. Let us cultivate an atmosphere where people feel comfortable talking about their problems and seeking help.
How does God’s love abide in anyone who…sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? (1 John 3:17)
Lord, may I be a healing presence for those with mental illness.
How We View the Disabled
Before her daughter Penny was born with Down syndrome, Amy Julia Becker, author of To Be Made Well, believed that “disability was a problem in need of fixing,” she recalled on Time.com. But as she got to know and love Penny—and came to study Scripture more—she discovered that the word used in stories of Jesus’s healings was “sozo,” which reflected a restoration of “our bodies, minds, emotions, and souls.”
Jesus’s restorations also involved reintegrating the disabled into the “fabric of social life,” leading Becker to see the problems of the disabled as less about their physical infirmities and more about being rejected by their communities. She notes this problem still exists today, citing a report that says special needs children are often excluded at their churches.
Becker explains, “[Jesus] casts a vision in Luke 14 of the ones who will celebrate together at God’s table: the blind, the physically disabled, the poor. Their bodies are not changed before they are welcomed at the feast. They come to the banquet as they are. The healing comes through belonging, through celebrating in God’s presence together.”
He restores my soul. (Psalm 23:3)
May I be a welcoming presence to the disabled, Lord.
Father Marcel Uwineza, a Jesuit priest from Rwanda, was only 14 years old when his family was murdered in 1994 by people who were acquaintances. Living through the Rwandan genocide took a severe toll on his faith and his worldview.
In an interview published on Aleteia, he commented, “For three years I didn’t set foot in a church. Even those who called themselves ‘men of God’ had abandoned us.”
An uncle invited Marcel to come back to church, and through that experience he discovered personal healing and, eventually, his vocation. After he was ordained, he returned to his village to pray at the graves of his family members. There, one of the murderers of his brothers approached him and got down on his knees, asking for forgiveness.
Father Marcel recalled, “Before I told him I forgave him, I saw him as nothing but a monster. But when I recognized his vulnerability and the sincerity of his request for forgiveness, that man became a person again…Forgiveness turned a challenge into an opportunity. My test turned into a testimony.”
To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness.
May I mirror Your mercy, Lord Jesus.
A Light to a Lost Soul, Part 1
Randi Emmans has a heart for the homeless—and being that she lives in Los Angeles, where homelessness is a major crisis, she finds plenty of opportunities to live up to her ideals.
During an interview on The Kelly Clarkson Show, Randi explained that she makes it a point to acknowledge the homeless and say hello to them. And during the holiday season, she runs a charity called Operation Backpack, in which she gives backpacks full of essentials to those living on the streets.
Outside Randi’s apartment building, there was a particular homeless man named Pedro, who always said “Good morning” to her. One night, as she went out to walk her dog, she heard Pedro talking to himself, but directing his words at humanity in general. He said, “I’m a human. Look at me. Talk to me, don’t just stare at me. Don’t laugh at me. You’ll see I’m an educated man if you talk to me.”
Randi’s heart broke at hearing this, so she contacted her boyfriend, John Suazo, to come and talk with Pedro, too. Together, they would change Pedro’s life. More tomorrow…
Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing.
Help me look at the homeless with new eyes, Father.
A Light to a Lost Soul, Part 2
When John Suazo joined his girlfriend, Randi Emmans, in talking with Pedro, the homeless man outside her apartment building, he was struck by Pedro’s kindness, gentleness, and intelligence. Pedro was originally from Charleston, South Carolina, but had moved to Los Angeles, where he fell into a life of drug and alcohol addictions and ended up homeless.
Pedro revealed to Randi and John that he was exhausted from living on the streets. The couple asked how they could help him. As recalled on The Kelly Clarkson Show, Pedro said he would love to reconnect with his family, whom he hadn’t been in touch with in 20 years.
Randi and John collected as much information from Pedro as he could remember about his family. Then, they conducted extensive online research and started making phone calls to follow up on their leads. After hitting many dead ends, John finally connected with a man named Pierre, who exclaimed, “That’s my nephew! We’ve been looking for him for 20 years, praying every day. What do we do now?” More tomorrow…
I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed.
May I be a guiding light to a lost soul, Jesus.
A Light to a Lost Soul, Part 3
After sharing Pedro’s story on social media, Randi Emmans and John Suazo collected more than $6,000, which allowed them to put Pedro up in a hotel for a few nights, as well as fly his uncle Pierre and cousin Mia to Los Angeles to get him. Mia told the Washington Post, “Randi and John are godsent people. I don’t even have words for the heart they have to stop and speak to him and then find us.”
Finally, in 2020, Pedro reunited with his family, with numerous tears of joy being shed. He returned to Charleston with them and has now moved to Atlanta, where he enrolled in Georgia State University to pursue a psychology degree. He hopes to become a counselor that helps other people who might be in situations similar to what he endured.
As Pedro concluded on The Kelly Clarkson Show, “Diamonds are dug up out of mud…Some of the most beautiful things that this earth cherishes, they come from mud, from dirty soil. I was that diamond in the rough, and John and Randi found me. So hopefully someone else can get that opportunity as well.”
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will
be repaid in full. (Proverbs 19:17)
Help me see the potential of diamonds in the rough, Lord.
The Nursing Home Card Project
After her mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Rachel Bennett of New York City upended her life to care for her. Eventually, she had no choice but to move her into a nursing home, where she died in 2016. During her visits, however, Rachel always brought her mom colorful handmade cards with messages that made her smile.
As reported by Sami Roberts of OurTownNY.com, that experience gave Rachel insight into the loneliness experienced by many seniors in nursing homes. So, when the COVID-19 pandemic isolated the elderly there even more, Rachel created the Nursing Home Card Project. She reached out to family and friends, and together they sent hundreds of cards with warm, loving sentiments to one facility.
The project continues to grow, and Rachel hopes that churches and synagogues will also get involved. She concludes, “We underestimate what a small token of love can give…We will probably all get sick at some point. I think that it’s important to remember that everything we do, I think, also will be done to us. So just be the person that we’d want to be around us.”
Honor your father and your mother. (Exodus 20:12)
Increase my compassion for the elderly, Jesus.
Do you ever struggle with feelings of self-doubt and negativity? Or maybe you have a hard time accepting that you are special to God? Joy Marie Clarkson, author of the book Aggressively Happy, has a message for you.
Writing on her Twitter account, Clarkson said, “Let me tell you the truest thing about you: before you did anything useful, or said anything clever, or helped anyone, you were loved. After you failed, or disappointed people, or did something stupid, you were loved.
“You aren’t loved because of qualities that might disappear with age. You aren’t even loved on the basis of what you will become someday. You are loved completely, eternally, and right now.
“Fundamentally, who you are is a beloved child of God. If someone asked, ‘Who are you?’ the truest answer you could give is, ‘I’m a beloved of God.’”
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patie nce. (Colossians 3:12)
Remind me that I am loved by You, Lord.
Make the New Year a Work of Art
“What’s the use of making New Year’s resolutions? A year from now, I might be starting all over again after failing to keep the resolutions I do make.”
Are you inclined to ask yourself this question? It’s true that many New Year’s resolutions are thrown out with the Christmas tree. Our performance often falls short of our hopes to conquer our vices, control our habits, make changes in our lives. Sometimes this is because we set goals for ourselves that are too high, or we set too many goals.
Unrealistic resolutions only bring discouragement, so try a different approach this year—and couple it with prayer. Here’s a prayer that might help when the going gets rough:
“Lord, teach me not to give up. Give me more trust in You. Remind me that You never give up on me, that You trusted me enough to make me and give me freedom. I fall short of Your hopes, I know. My actions fail to measure up to what You have put within me to do. And yet, every January, You give me a New Year and say, ‘Try to make it a work of art.’”
For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible. (Mark 10:27)
Jesus, help me to set reasonable goals for myself.
Bishop Robert Deeley of the Diocese of Portland, Maine, shared a Christmas reflection about the light of Christ on his Twitter feed. Here are some excerpts:
“A light in the window at Christmas is said to be an Irish custom. The candle, placed in the front window of a home, becomes an invitation to the Holy Family passing by seeking a place to stay that this home would welcome them.
“The candle is a welcome to the Christ who is coming into the world…[and] also a reminder that He who is being welcomed is Himself the light of the world. The candle welcomes all, family, friends, and strangers. Christ, the Light, comes for all.”
“Christmas reminds us of God’s abundant love for us in Jesus. May we also remember to offer help to those in need in our community. That is, after all, the true meaning of Christmas: carrying His light into the world through our care for one another…May we welcome Christ with lighted candles, with hearts full of joy and generosity.”
I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me should not remain in the darkness. (John 12:46)
May I follow Your divine light wherever it leads, Jesus.
A Christmas Homily Like No Other
On Christmas Eve 2020, Deacon Greg Kandra took part in the Mass at his parish church in Queens, New York. It had been the year of COVID-19, the year of death and isolation, so the message of Christmas was especially needed. The pastor’s homily was moving and eloquent, wrote Deacon Greg on his The Deacon’s Bench blog—yet the best homily came later.
As Mass ended, the choir began singing “Silent Night.” Deacon Greg observed, “[Parishioners] stood in the pews and listened. Some bowed their heads. Some sang along. Others looked up and around, in wonder and gratitude. They took it all in: the soaring music, the glittering lights, the flowers overflowing from the sanctuary, the infant in the manger.”
When the choir finished, attendees left feeling a spirit of joy, beauty, and community they had missed—or maybe taken for granted during better times. Deacon Greg concluded, “Experiencing that was, for me, a Christmas homily like no other—a living, breathing reminder of the true gift of Christmas. The people who walked in darkness had seen a great light.”
If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. (1 John 1:7)
Open my heart to the light of Your blessed Nativity, Jesus.