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...
“MacGyver” in a Children’s Hospital
The TV show MacGyver was a 1980s hit that Andres Guerrero enjoyed watching as a kid. Each episode revolved around the main character solving problems in unconventional ways. Little did Guerrero realize that he would one day grow into that MacGyver-like role and transform lives for the better.
Guerrero is the first rehabilitation engineer at Valhalla, New York’s Blythedale Children Hospital. With a background in mechatronics, he’s using technology to help patients become more independent and more actively participate in the world.
Julie Knitter, director of occupational therapy at the hospital, told WCBS 880, “Our kids have limited ability to move or interact…so, without Andres, some of these children couldn’t be active with their families, with their friends…or school.”
Guerrero creates everything from specialized bikes, to scooters, to toys with easy-to-operate switches. His inspiration is to help children with complex medical issues get better, saying, “There is a plus of actually doing something for somebody that needs it.”
Like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and
someone else is building on it. (1 Corinthians 3:10)
May I use my skills to build upon Your love, dear Lord.
Nurse Prays to Be God’s Hands and Heart
Sister Marie Anna Stelmach has been a Dominican Sister for the past 56 years. She has served as a teacher, chaplain in prisons, nurse, and even conducted missionary work in Bolivia and Trinidad. Now she is serving patients as a volunteer with the Mayo Clinic hospital in Rochester, Minnesota, and believes that helping patients is a reminder that God is everywhere.
“People here are hurting physically, emotionally, spiritually,” she said on the Mayo Clinic’s website in 2020. “I ask God to be God’s hands and heart when I am with a patient.”
Sister Marie Anna has been sharing her own warmth and friendliness with patients – from hand massages to checking patients in and comforting worried family members.
Through this volunteer experience, she says, “There are so many God moments here.” When she returns back to her community, she will be a better person for it: “With volunteering, of course, you receive far more than you ever imagined and far more than you ever give.”
Rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands (2 Timothy 1:6)
Guide me to be Your hands and heart, Loving God.
Jesus, Take the Wheel
“Jesus is 7 minutes away.” That was the message Kerry Maggard received on her smartphone—and it was indeed the answer to a prayer.
Maggard and her sister, Deb Eggers, were flying to their Aunt Ann’s 100th birthday celebration in Edgerton, Minnesota. But because they had missed a connecting flight, they ended up stranded at the Minneapolis airport, which was 200 miles away from the party. CNN’s David Williams reported that all other flights were “sold out and they couldn’t get a rental car.”
Maggard decided to contact Uber to see if any drivers would be willing to make the lengthy trip. Sure enough, there was one: Jesus Florentino. Maggard was a little surprised by the “Jesus is 7 minutes away” message, but found humor (and maybe a little divine help) in the situation. Both sisters appreciated their driver’s kindness.
Florentino said, “It’s an important occasion, and if I was in their place I would appreciate very much someone bringing me there when there was no other way.”
I do need you to travel with me, and I will pay you your wages. (Tobit 5:7)
Inspire me to go out of my way for strangers, Jesus.
I’ll Do What I Can
Many years ago, the Rev. Herbert S. Costain, an Episcopalian priest from Hagerstown, Maryland, wrote a thank you note to The Christophers for the help we had been in his ministry—a ministry he celebrated in a poem which he gave us permission to use. The poem deals with the development of his vocation and is called “The Vision.” It is as follows:
“I saw a vision of work to be done, / Of loads to lift; of a light leading on. / Leading where? Why forward and on and up / And not only up, but down and in; / Into the hovels of worry and care, / This Lighter of lamps would lead us there.
“And, what to do if we do go there? / We have little to brighten a dwelling so bare; / ‘Tis true, said the Vision, but listen awhile. / What of your friendship, your brotherly smile? / What of your hands that can tidy the place? / Or comfort the brow of a feverish face?
“Why yes, ‘tis so, answered wondering one, / No more need I blindly go blundering on. / I’ll try to be brother to every man, / With this as my motto, I’ll do what I can.”
Be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous.
(1 Timothy 6:18)
Guide me in following Your vision for me, Father.
During summer vacation, students at Louisiana’s Port Allen Middle School don’t just enjoy their free time, they try to think of ways that they can help others. The initiative is part of SPARK, which stands for Student Program for Arts, Recreation, and Knowledge.
One of the program’s most successful ventures is PAM’s Pantry, which collects donated clothes and distributes them to students in need. In addition, the Pantry includes school supplies, hygiene products, shoes, and more.
The idea originated with 13-year-old Chase Neyland-Square. He told Good Morning America, “My favorite part about helping with the pantry is getting types of clothes and sorting them out to give to various people. It makes me feel good because I know that I can make a difference in my school...I have a heart for giving.”
Chase’s mom Amanda adds, “It makes me proud because we’re very blessed, and I always encourage him to bless others.”
They are ever giving liberally and lending, and their children become a blessing. (Psalm 37:26)
Instill me with a heart for giving, Jesus.
Youngsters Bloom with Flowers
We associate flowers with spring, romance, and celebrations—not with jail and juvenile offenders. But linking flowers and youngsters in trouble with the law was a unique feature of a rehabilitation program called Flowers with Care.
Its executive director many years ago was Father James Harvey of Brooklyn, New York, who explained that as an alternative to spending time in jail, girls and boys who’ve had their first brush with the law were given an opportunity to work as apprentices with participating florists.
Their instructors not only taught the youngsters about the trade, but also counseled them and showed them that someone cared about them personally. Additionally, they were given a chance to develop their creativity, working up floral arrangements of their own design—an accomplishment that gave them a sense of pride. Father Harvey noted that the program helped these young people become respected members of the community.
I will instruct you in the good and right way. (1 Samuel 12:23)
Help us to put the power of love to work in our communities, Jesus.
R.A.G.E. Leads to Peace
When a bullet pierced the front door of their family’s home, Asiaha Butler and her husband considered moving out of their Englewood, Chicago neighborhood. After all, reports WTTW, “Englewood ranked sixth of Chicago’s 77 communities for violent crime,” with 43 percent of families living below the poverty line.
Upon reflection, however, Asiaha said, “I realized that if I leave, I’m not better than anyone else who has left. So I asked myself, ‘What can I do to give back?’” What she did was create the Resident Association of Greater Englewood, aka R.A.G.E. And the purpose of R.A.G.E. is to create purpose and peace.
They sponsor community events for children and teens, including meaningful conversations between young people and their elders. Butler also founded a youth journalism program and hopes to turn a shuttered school “into an affordable housing complex and an urban farm.” Butler said, “The major assets of our community lie in the spirit of the people…and the dedication to actively engage in projects or issues that impact them.”
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)
Help me to be a peacemaker, Prince of Peace.
Teens Repair Homes for the Needy
Cynthia Byrd, formerly homeless and now raising six grandchildren, watches in awe as a crew adds skirting to her mobile home to provide additional insulation. The crew consists of teenagers from around the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, who are volunteering their time for WorkCamp. It’s all part of a one-week program during summer vacation to help build and repair homes for those in need.
Each year, approximately 850 teenagers volunteer their time for one week in June and travel to 110 homes that need fixing up. Many people they assist are elderly, poor, or caregivers who have children with disabilities. The teens do everything from fixing roofs, installing windows, painting, and other essentials needed for home maintenance.
Byrd’s mobile home has a sign that says “Home Sweet Home.” As she told the Catholic Herald, “I’m so grateful and so blessed for what [the students] all are doing for me. I’m a single lady on a fixed income…and I’m making it through.” She points up to the sky and adds, “He keeps on blessing me.”
Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct. (1 Timothy 4:12)
Thank You, dear Lord, for the kindness of strangers.
A Campus Minister’s Spiritual Path
It was her love of her Catholic faith that motivated Andrea Pinnavaia to start pursuing a Theology degree at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, in 2003. All these years later, she’s still at the school, helping current students nurture their spirituality and grow closer to God.
Hired as a Campus Minister in 2008 after earning her Master’s Degree, Pinnavaia is now in charge of Liturgy and Faith Formation. As such, reports Steve Vivona for StJohns.edu, “She helps direct the campus R.C.I.A. program, in which non-Catholics, as well as Catholics who may not have received some of the sacraments of initiation (i.e., baptism, confirmation, and Holy Eucharist), are welcomed fully into the Church.”
Pinnavaia tells students that their interest in joining the Church is a response to God’s promptings. She says, “As someone who was born into this Church, witnessing these young adults make this choice for themselves is extraordinary. Seeing their commitment to the process and their desire to come together as a community to learn, share, and pray is beautiful.”
If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.
(1 John 1:7)
Guide young people closer to You, Father.
Facing Brokenness, Part Three
When Christine Rucci graduated from nursing school, it was one of the proudest moments of her life for both herself and her family, especially her mom Lillian, who had been her supporter and advocate through all her troubles.
Rucci loved her new job and her colleagues. But her psychological struggles stemming from her facial disfigurement remained. One night, she drank so much alcohol that she almost died. Rucci now reflects, “The grace of God kept me alive.”
Following her beloved mother’s death from breast cancer, Rucci experienced an epiphany. She recalled, “After wading in the victim pool and drowning myself in alcohol for all these years, I finally realized that only I can save me.”
As Rucci learned about post-traumatic stress and its symptoms, she realized that she had never dealt with the trauma of her accident all those years ago. Now, she was finally able to accept her situation and move forward with a feeling of hope. Her sister Lilly said, “God had a plan for her and for all of us. I am just so very thankful to have her in my life.”
I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord...to give you a future with hope.
Guide me through my struggles with an eye on hope, Lord.
Facing Brokenness, Part Two
Because of her disfigurement, Christine Rucci hated to go out in crowds. She even lost some of her hometown friends who couldn’t handle being around her in her new condition. One saving grace was her high school friend Rob, who greeted her with the words, “Hey, beautiful!” and gave her a big hug.
Rucci returned to college and, thankfully, the close friendships she had established there remained strong. She also underwent numerous surgeries in the ensuing years to repair her face as best as possible. But both physical and emotional pain remained, so Rucci indulged in alcohol to make herself feel better. In reality, it only made things worse, leading her to develop unhealthy relationships with men. She came to believe she didn’t deserve happiness.
Rucci did, however, come to focus on a new career track which she thought would be an ideal fit for her in light of her medical experiences. And so the woman who had been broken by a car accident decided to become a healer by studying nursing. More tomorrow...
Do not...consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing. (Isaiah 43:18-19)
Help me to choose light over darkness, Father.
Facing Brokenness, Part One
Christine Rucci was lucky to have survived. While hitching a ride back home to New Jersey with her college friend Mary, distracted driving led Mary to hit a guardrail and lose control of the car. Rucci was thrown out of the vehicle and “hit the pavement face first,” she writes in her memoir Too Phased.
After surgery in the hospital, Rucci recalls, “I was lying helpless in bed with tubes coming out of every orifice. I was on a ventilator to help me breathe, had a catheter in my bladder, and was hooked up to 3 IVs. My head had swollen up to the size of a watermelon.” Her mother and family could do nothing but pray.
Over time, Rucci’s condition improved, and she could even get up and go to the bathroom by herself. That’s when she noticed the mirrors were covered with paper. Confused, she pushed aside the paper and discovered that her face had been horribly fractured and disfigured. Only 19 years old at the time, Rucci felt devastated, as if her life was over. With the support of her siblings and mother, she needed to figure out how to move forward. More of her story tomorrow...
I have become like a broken vessel. (Psalm 31:12)
Open the hearts of those who feel broken to Your comforting presence, Jesus.
Pitcher Literally Plays by Ear
Here’s a story from many years ago: Softball player Pete Crowley had to rely on his teammates more than most pitchers once he was out on the field. The reason? He is blind and unable to see home plate.
Crowley played for the Slammers in a league in Manhasset, Long Island. At the start of each inning, he was led to the pitching mound by his seeing-eye dog Lori. “We’re all baffled [how he does it],” said a teammate. But Crowley explained that he has an acute sense of hearing. As a batter stepped to the plate, Crowley’s catcher would tell him if he was a left-handed or right-handed hitter, and then provided a line of chatter.
Crowley made plays in the field too. “When he fields the ball, I just yell his name, and he makes the throw towards the sound of my voice,” said first baseman Jim Tomlinson.
What it comes down to is teamwork and friendship. In that sense, we are all like Pete Crowley because we all need people who we can rely on for support and encouragement in good and bad times
Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter; whoever finds one has found a treasure.
Jesus, You are my friend; help me be a friend to others.
Feeding the World
Celebrity chef José Andrés isn’t just committed to feeding people who come to his restaurants. He also ensures that hot meals reach those in disaster zones who have lost everything. Through his charity World Central Kitchen, Andrés has helped prepare meals for the millions of victims of the California wildfires, floods in the Midwest, and Hurricanes Maria and Dorian in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.
While speaking at Pennsylvania’s Lancaster Theological Seminary, Andrés—a naturalized American citizen originally from Spain—noted that when disasters happen, “the best of America shows up. It’s not about being a Democrat or Republican or Independent. It’s about three words: ‘We the people.’”
Lancaster Online reports that Andrés also discussed his impressions as an immigrant coming to the U.S. He said, “I was humbled to become an American. We [immigrants] have to give back, because we get so much more...We want to...support the community and to tell them that people from far away are nice people, too, like they are.”
Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks. (Isaiah 61:5)
Allow me to feed someone’s body or soul, Creator.
The Answer to a Coal Miner’s Prayer
As millions of Americans were getting ready to celebrate Independence Day in 2019, hundreds of coal miners in Harlan, Kentucky, worried how they would keep their heads above water. The Blackjewel coal company had suddenly laid them all off and didn’t even provide them with their final paychecks.
When word about their ordeal reached Father Jim Sichko in Lexington, he took his papal mandate to be a “missionary of mercy” and decided to help. Laid off miners were invited to bring their paperwork and bills to Harlan’s Holy Trinity Catholic Church, where Father Sichko wrote checks to cover their expenses until their unemployment benefits kicked in.
The Louisville Courier Journal’s Joseph Gerth reported that upon instructions from Pope Francis, Father Sichko had spent several years practicing random acts of kindness around the country. He now spent hours talking to the miners and listening to their stories. In the end, “he helped pay bills for 119 miners—totaling $20,434.55.” The priest concluded, “I go and do things that speak to my heart. This speaks to my heart.”
Honor the Lord with your substance. (Proverbs 3:9)
Lord, if I am in a position to help someone who is struggling, guide me in being a missionary of mercy.
Stop By and Say, “Howdy”!
If you ever pass through Dallas, Texas, be sure to say, “Howdy” to the folks at the Howdy Homemade Ice Cream shop. Its 13 employees all have special needs, but they also have a gift for making their customers feel welcome and treating them right.
The shop’s founder, businessman Tom Landis, had experience working with the special needs community and, as reported by WFAA-TV, was aware that they faced difficulties finding jobs. So he decided to create opportunities himself.
Landis explained, “Everything in the restaurant was designed for people with special needs to succeed...They are restoring friendliness to the hospitality industry…I think I’ve taught them how to work, and they’ve taught me how to live.”
Anne Marie Carrigan is one of Howdy’s workers, who makes the store’s 34 flavors of ice cream every day. She noted that she used to feel there was no place for her in the world. Now, due to her job, she says, “Never take no for an answer. Grab what you are passionate about and make it happen. Because you are worth living for.”
The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me. (Psalm 138:8)
You created each of us to contribute a piece of Your love to this world, Lord. Lead me toward sharing that love.
Hitching a Ride in the Popemobile
Drenching rains fell from the skies of Rome as Bishop Peter Rosazza stood in the doorway of his hotel, lamenting the fact that he had missed the Vatican bus that was taking all the bishops to their various congregational visits. The retired auxiliary bishop from Hartford, Connecticut, also noticed how slippery the cobblestones were that lined the Vatican’s streets.
Bishop Peter then saw Pope Francis getting into his own car. As related by Bridgeport Bishop Frank Caggiano, who heard the story from Bishop Peter, “When the Pope saw Bishop Peter…he called out to him, warned him of the slippery conditions of the cobblestones and asked him where he needed to go…The Pope smiled [and] told him to join him in the car.”
“Bishop Peter was deeply touched, amazed and grateful for such a kind gesture, offered in an ordinary and hidden way. It’s in witnessing such kindness by the Vicar of Christ that we all get a better glimpse of the man who was chosen to lead the Church in these difficult times.”
Remember…those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7)
Keep me humble enough to serve You well, Father.
A Second Chance in the Same Courtroom
When Robert VanSumeren of Jackson County, Michigan, first appeared in Judge Michael Smith’s courtroom, it was 1999. The then-troubled teen was sentenced to six years in prison for robbery.
Nearly 20 years later, VanSumeren was back in Judge Smith’s courtroom, only this time to be sworn in as a member of the Michigan State Bar. VanSumeren’s redemption story, from convict to attorney, was detailed in the Washington Post.
Heartbreak over his family’s breakup led the young VanSumeren to drugs, alcohol, and crime. When Judge Smith sentenced him to prison, VanSumeren knew he had to turn his life around. After his release, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He kept thinking about his perspective of the criminal justice system and decided to go to law school.
“When I got out of prison in 2005, I really struggled to find examples of people who had gotten out of prison and really thrived in professions,” he said. “I didn’t know if it was possible, but now 15 years later, there are a lot more stories like mine.”
In hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? (Romans 8:24)
Thank You, Lord, for the second chances in my life.
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 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.
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.
A Son’s Heartfelt Tribute to Dad
When George Grimwade was eight year’s old, his mom married Michael Musto, and the three of them became a close knit family. George always felt loved and supported by Michael throughout his life and came to think of him as his real father, even though they weren’t related by blood.
In 2019, while playing football at Alabama’s Samford University, George decided to show Michael how much he really meant to him. The young man legally changed his name to George Grimwade-Musto because, as he explained in a video, “[My dad] doesn’t have anyone to carry on his last name. And he raised me ever since I was in second grade. And I feel like I owe it to him to carry on his last name, when I hopefully have kids.”
On the day of his big reveal, George approached Michael on the sidelines before a game, told him how much he loved him, then turned around to reveal the name “Musto” on his jersey. The gesture moved Michael to tears, and he hugged George, exclaiming, “You’re my son.”
The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who begets a wise son will be glad in him. (Proverbs 23:24)
Heavenly Father, we thank You for our earthly fathers who love and support us.
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. (Proverbs 21:21)
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.
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.
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. (John 13:5)
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.
Thus Sayeth the Lord, Part 3
In studying the prophets of the Bible for her book Thus Sayeth the Lord, author Julie Davis found herself asking the question, “Why does God use human help so much?”
During a Christopher Closeup interview, she concluded, “God does His greatest work through frail people. He helps us become the people we are meant to be…It starts with Adam. We were meant to be helpers all along. When Adam is first created, God says, ‘Help till the land. Help this garden become greater.’ So that was always our destiny.
“Then personally, for each of us, we’re helping not because [God] needs us. He doesn’t need anything. But we need it. It’s both fulfilling and creatively satisfying when you’re doing what you’re created to do. And not as a puppet, but with full cooperation and thought. Also…we have all fallen. We are all sinful. We all have to get back up and keep trying. As we try and fail and try again, that’s how we learn.”
Our steps are made firm by the Lord, when He delights in our way; though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand. (Psalm 37:23-24)
Pick me up when I fall, Divine Messiah.
Thus Sayeth the Lord, Part 2
Our dislike or hatred of those who don’t think like we do plays a role in the prophet Daniel’s life as well, says author Julie Davis. Daniel teaches us about living with faith in a culture that’s hostile to faith. And he doesn’t do it by lashing out in anger, but by responding rationally and civilly, with kindness and faith.
For instance, when Daniel refuses to eat the food given to him by the king, preferring to adhere to his faith’s dietary laws, he proposes an evidence-based test. Daniel says, “Test your servants for 10 days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. You can then compare our appearance with the appearance of the young men who eat the royal rations, and deal with your servants according to what you observe.”
Daniel expressed no anger in this proposal, and he was willing to suffer the punishment if his way was proven insufficient. Instead, Daniel was found to be in better shape after 10 days than those who ate the king’s rations. Julie explained that with Daniel’s approach, “You’re not lashing out…You’re showing them something new, and that’s an attractive thing.”
The king said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods.” (Daniel 2:47)
Teach me to turn enemies into friends, Blessed Redeemer.
Thus Sayeth the Lord, Part 1
In her book Thus Sayeth the Lord, author Julie Davis takes a fresh look at the prophets of the Bible and how they relate to our lives today. She begins with the story of Jonah.
God tells Jonah to go preach repentance to the Ninevites, whose acts of wickedness were horrific. If they don’t turn from their evil ways, says God, they will be destroyed. But Jonah wants no part in delivering this message. In that sense, notes Julie, he’s like those of us who resist God’s direction in our lives.
Jonah jumps on a ship headed in the opposite direction and winds up in the belly of a large fish, where he reflects on his actions and agrees to do what the Lord commanded.
After Jonah shares God’s message with the Ninevites, they actually repent, so God relents in the punishment He had planned. But this upsets Jonah because he hates them so much! He thinks they’re getting off the hook too easy.
Then, God reminds Jonah that He extends His mercy to everyone equally if they turn to Him, no matter what they’ve done in the past. It’s a lesson those of us with our own grudges and hatreds today need to remember as well.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)
Give me the strength to show mercy to my enemies, Lord.
Mailman’s Special Delivery
The coronavirus pandemic deprived people of many celebrations, including graduation ceremonies and the parties that usually follow. Last year, in acknowledgement of the achievements of the graduates, families would put up signs outside of their homes that indicated a “Class of 2020” student was in residence.
One Pennsylvania mailman, Josh Crowell, was especially moved by these posters. A father of two himself, he thought about how disappointed his children would feel in this situation. “I just said to myself, ‘I should get those students a graduation card and maybe put a gift card inside,’” Josh, who had only been a mailman for six months at the time, told CBS News.
In May 2020, Crowell delivered 25 graduation cards along his route and planned to drop off many more before the summer’s end. He had already received several handwritten notes in deep appreciation of his thoughtfulness. “Thank you so much,” one of the cards read. “Your good deed meant so much to me and absolutely made my week!”
Let us work for the good of all. (Galatians 6:10)
God, may we remember that even the smallest act of kindness can make the biggest difference.
Laughter on Call
Dani Klein Modisett of Los Angeles noticed that her 84-year-old mother Muriel, who lives in a nearby care center for Alzheimer’s patients, was acting very quiet and depressed. In passing, Modisett mentioned to someone that she wished she could hire a stand-up comedian to lift her mother’s spirits.
The person suggested she give it a try, so Modisett did some research and paid a comic to visit Muriel. “After that visit,” Modisett told Cathy Free of the Washington Post, “my mom became more engaged and started eating and laughing again. She felt that she was being seen.”
Modisett went on to create “Laughter on Call,” a business which pairs comedians with dementia patients. Michael Piper-Younie is the comic who now regularly visits Muriel. Though he is making a difference in her life, she is also impacting his.
He said, “We’ve developed a special bond that is beneficial for both of us. I feel honored to be doing this beautiful work and to be Muriel’s companion. When I get her to a full belly laugh, it really makes my heart sing.”
Then our mouth was filled with laughter. (Psalm 126:2)
Guide me to provide a smile and a helping hand to someone with dementia, Lord, who may feel alone.
Second Chance Renovations
Raised by a single father who was angry and verbally abusive, 11-year-old David Figueroa sought a sense of family by joining a gang in his Humboldt Park, Illinois neighborhood. This led him to crime, drugs, and jail time in the ensuing years.
After his second stint in prison ended, reports ABA Journal, Figueroa chose to pursue a better life and find a job. But getting on the right track wasn’t easy. As soon as potential employers learned of his criminal record, they would reject him. He finally got a construction company to hire him and remained there for several years until he got hurt on the job.
Figueroa then decided to take matters into his own hands in order to help those who were just like him. He founded Second Chance Renovations, a home renovations company that employs those with criminal records. Instead of asking job applicants about their past, he questions them about their future goals.
Harry King, an ex-con that Figueroa hired, praises his new boss, saying, “He’s opened my eyes and showed me that if you want to dedicate yourself to being something, you can. He goes above and beyond.”
Bring out the prisoners from the dungeon. (Isaiah 42:7)
Remind me to give people second chances, Merciful Savior.
The 95-Year-Old Graduate
Corporal Lewie Shaw of Claremore, Oklahoma, has quite an interesting story. An orphan at age 12, he dropped out of high school five years later and joined the Marines in 1943, during World War II.
As reported by KJRH News, Corporal Shaw fought in Tinian, Saipan and Iwo Jima, and sustained injuries in the line of duty. After the war, Shaw married and worked for 30 years in a lumberjack company with his son. The one regret he always carried with him, however, was that he never received his high school diploma. In November 2019, Claremont High School fulfilled the now 95-year-old veteran’s long-held wish.
“The sacrifices [the veterans] made are real,” Bryan Frazier, superintendent of Claremore Public Schools, declared. “I think we should be grateful for that. And…recognize them.”
Shaw always remembered himself as “hard-headed” when it came to learning, but urges pupils today to further their studies. “My advice to them is to keep clawing, continue digging,” he concluded. “Get that education.”
Wisdom gives life to the one who possesses it. (Ecclesiastes 7:12)
God, may we be open to both secular and spiritual growth.
A Brother’s Memory
Bartlesville, Oklahoma resident Tug Baughn, age 85, often recalls the last words his brother Richard ever said to him. The year was 1944, and Richard was a soldier leaning out the window of a troop train, heading off to fight in World War II. He called to Tug, “I want you to make that high school basketball team. And I don’t want you doing any smoking or drinking.”
As reported by TulsaWorld.com, Richard was killed in action shortly thereafter, but Tug never knew the details of what happened. Then, in 2019, Tug discovered that Richard’s story was shared in Adam Makos’ new book Spearhead, about a World War II tank crew. And Buck Marsh, who had served with Richard, was still alive.
Tug connected with Buck, who was at Richard’s side when he was shot by a sniper in Cologne, Germany. Buck stayed with him until he could be evacuated, but Richard died from his wound. Tug took comfort in finally learning what happened to the brother he looked to as a hero. And, for the record, Tug made the high school basketball team and has never touched alcohol.
The memory of the righteous is a blessing. (Proverbs 10:7)
Bless those who gave their lives for their country, Messiah.
Holy Spirit Guides Priest to Restaurant
Father Tony Cecil, a priest in the Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky, was trying to decide where to go for lunch when a restaurant he doesn’t usually frequent inexplicably popped into his head. Though he didn’t want to go there, he couldn’t think of another one, so he gave it a try.
Recalling the incident on his Twitter account, Father Tony wrote, “[I] ordered my food and an employee came over, a guy around my age, and asked if we could talk. He just found out there’s a huge mass on his kidneys and even if it’s not cancer he’ll likely need surgery. Scared out of his mind. He wanted to pray together, so we did, right in the middle of the restaurant.”
The employee was Catholic, so Father Tony asked if he would like the anointing of the sick. He said, “Yes,” so Father Tony went to his car to get the necessary oils, administered the sacrament, and prayed with him again. “He burst into tears and threw his arms around me in a big hug,” said Father Tony. Because the priest had followed an unusual prompting of the Holy Spirit, he was able to help a person in need.
You shall anoint for Me the one whom I name to you. (1 Samuel 16:3)
Allow me to pray with those in spiritual distress, Savior.
A Disease of Denial
Alcoholism “is a disease of denial,” according to Father Leo O’Neill, a guest on one of our Christopher Closeup television programs many years ago. “We think everyone else has got a problem with booze, but ‘not me’,” he said in discussing a common reaction people have when confronted with the fact that they have a drinking problem.
Other people don’t help the alcoholic when they “cover” for him, despite their good intentions. “Other priests covered for me which was a big mistake—charity, a mistake in charity.”
Outwardly, he said, “I could see that I was functioning…I was a pastor of three different parishes, I was vicar general in one diocese. I always thought my superiors wouldn’t give me these important jobs if I were an alcoholic. I was functioning, but I was in trouble.”
Father O’Neill got the help he needed and went on to provide it to others. He emphasized that help is available to everyone needing it.
There is hope for your future. (Jeremiah 31:17)
Give us hope, Jesus, as we tackle life’s difficulties.
During the coronavirus pandemic, many Americans had difficulty adjusting to the restrictions of the quarantine lockdown. However, there was a large group of Americans who were already accustomed to such isolation. These were the approximately 43,000 young people scattered throughout the country in juvenile detention centers. Because of the quarantine, no visits with these youngsters were permitted.
This was when David Domenici, co-founder of the Maya Angelou Schools, a set of alternative schools established in the Washington area, came up with the Care-Mail Project. This organization matched up volunteers with young people in prisons, offering them the opportunity to become “pandemic pen pals.” The response to this project, especially after its advertisement on Facebook, was overwhelming.
“I wish I could write to 100 kids,” Florida volunteer Lucretia Murphy told the Washington Post. “They always need encouragement, but especially now…In my experience, most of these kids have really big hearts. They will match what you send them—and more.”
Remember those who are in prison. (Hebrews 13:3)
God, may we work to combat the pangs of loneliness.
Keep Your Brain Young
We all want to keep our brains sharp as we get older, so Reader’s Digest offered some suggestions to help us do just that:
■ Walk. “People who started walking 10,000 steps or more daily in midlife had younger brains—about 2.2 years on average—than people who didn't exercise.”
■ Go green. “People who consume approximately one serving of leafy greens a day are cognitively 11 years younger than those who rarely eat them, according to a report in the journal Neurology.”
■ Do crosswords, Sudoku, or other puzzles. “People who engage in these types of brain games have the problem-solving skills and short-term memory of individuals who are about eight years younger.”
■ Keep friendships strong. Dr. Joel Salinas of Harvard Medical School explains, “Maintaining emotional support promotes activity in specific brain circuits that lead to the production of BDNF, a molecule that’s critical for brain cell repair and the creation of new connections.”
I give you a wise and discerning mind. (1 Kings 3:12)
Guide my efforts to stay both physically and spiritually healthy, Creator.
Recovering Addict Finds Piece of Heaven
“My desperation was a gift.” That’s how Dana Smith of Statesboro, Georgia, describes hitting rock bottom from her drug addiction. Her arrest led her to drug court, which led to a recovery program and a job at a restaurant called Mr. Omelette, where the customers grew to love and support her.
When Mr. Omelette moved its location, Smith couldn’t bear to leave her customers, who had become friends. She took over the space herself and named it D’s Friendly Diner. It has become a great success, and Smith makes sure to hire other people in recovery to give them the same chance she had because “working builds self-esteem.”
Smith is also quick to credit God with helping her get sober, noting the changes in her life are nothing short of miraculous. She told Discovering Bulloch magazine, “I would have never in a million years imagined my life would be this full and awesome. A lot of it is because of my little diner. I like to refer to it at times as a little piece of heaven. I find much peace in that. It serves a huge purpose in my life.”
Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you. (Psalm 50:15)
Bring strength and help to those battling addictions, Lord.
A Mission of Compassion
If you look hard enough, you can find happy endings anywhere, even at the neighborhood bar. This was the case in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, in 2018, when a woman came to bar owner Jimmy Gilleece frantic because she lost her wallet, which had her wedding ring inside of it.
After checking security camera footage, Jimmy saw the wallet laying on a bench outside his bar. It was then picked up and taken by a stranger. Jimmy called it his “mission” to locate this customer’s wallet. He tracked down the young man who stole it and got him to confess that he had taken the money and disposed of the wallet in a nearby ocean channel.
Jimmy hired divers to retrieve the wallet, along with the ring, which was miraculously still intact. Then, he reached out to the thief, 17-year-old Rivers Prather. “He was living in the woods,” Gilleece told CBS News’ Steve Hartman. “I could tell he wasn’t a criminal…just somebody who needed a little help.”
“Most other people would have just gave the footage to police, and he chose to help me,” added Rivers, who now lives with Jimmy and his family. “I say thank you to him every day.”
Build up each other. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Father, we thank You for the gift of second chances.
Bonnie Hunt on Family and Faith, Part 7
Actor Carroll O’Connor was in deep despair after the suicide of his son Hugh. So when Bonnie Hunt approached him to play a role in a movie she was writing and directing, Return to Me, he declined, but asked to read the script anyway.
Afterward, O’Connor met Bonnie for a meal. She recalled on Christopher Closeup, “We were talking about loss and faith and praying and getting through hard times and believing in something bigger than ourselves. And at one point he looked at me and said, ‘I think I’m going to do your picture.’”
Bonnie cried tears of joy all the way home. She also served as O’Connor’s nurse on set because of his health issues. The actor made it through the film, giving a witty and wise performance as a character based on Bonnie’s late father. Appropriately, she gave his character the line that she had learned from her dad many years ago: “It’s the character that’s the strongest that God gives the most challenges to.”
People still come up to Bonnie in stores or at parties and say how much that line meant to them when they were going through a hard time. “That is so meaningful to me,” she said.
God…fulfills His purpose for me. (Psalm 57:2)
Help me bring comfort to others, Messiah.
Bonnie Hunt on Family and Faith, Part 6
Bonnie Hunt went on to help many more cancer patients as a nurse for the next several years. But she also started pursuing her goal to be a storyteller and entertainer by joining a comedy troupe. She even brought them to the hospital to perform for the patients. Then, she again met a patient who redirected her life.
This one was named Rudy, and he told her to go to Hollywood and pursue her dreams. Bonnie responded that she was too afraid to fail. Rudy told her, “The biggest regret of my life is that I feared failure. I want you to look me in the eye, take my hand, and tell me that when I’m gone, you’ll go to Hollywood and you’ll fail many times. Go, give it a try.”
Bonnie agreed to Rudy’s deal and headed for the West Coast after he passed away. She said, “I went to Hollywood and failed many times. I’ve had the perspective of cancer patients to help me through those times…You keep going forward. Through every experience, every show that’s been canceled, I’ve maintained these incredible friendships with people that make your life richer and better. It’s not only about the success.”
God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love.
(2 Timothy 1:7)
Help me face my fears and trust in Your will, Holy Spirit.
Bonnie Hunt on Family and Faith, Part 5
After discovering the connection between her late father and her patient Mr. O’Brien, Bonnie Hunt decided to stay his student nurse. He died a few months later, but Bonnie remained a nurse for several years before pursuing her Hollywood dreams.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Bonnie said, “Becoming a nurse defined me in so many ways and gave me a more thoughtful approach to life. And patients gave me a deep perspective. I believe in divine intervention because I think my Dad got to heaven and said, ‘Don’t let her go to Hollywood! Can we find anyone that could stop her?!’ Somehow, they found this one patient out of 500. I mean, I was assigned one patient!”
That connection also helped Bonnie resolve her anger at God and her grief in general. She said, “Anybody that’s experienced great loss…the loss is so deep that anger is part of the emotion—and getting to acceptance is part of the journey. Mr. O’Brien was a bridge. Until this day, whenever I experience great sadness, the thing that helps me the most is to help someone else.” More tomorrow…
O Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You have healed me. (Psalm 30:2)
Transform my anger and grief into hope and healing, Lord.
Bonnie Hunt on Family and Faith, Part 4
Upon Bonnie Hunt’s return to nursing school after the death of her father, she was assigned one patient out of the hundreds in the hospital: Mr. O’Brien. He cheerfully called her “my Bonnie lass” and informed her he was “doomed” because he had terminal cancer.
Bonnie was shocked by how casually he spoke of his own impending death, but Mr. O’Brien explained, “I feel lucky to have cancer…I’m Irish, and there’s a lot we don’t say to our families. But now I’ve been able to tell my boys how much I love them and tell my bride…I had a friend who died suddenly, and he’d always talk about his kids as his greatest accomplishment. He didn’t get to say goodbye, and I’m getting that opportunity.”
Bonnie developed a real affection for Mr. O’Brien. When she learned he worked at the Board of Education, which was where her father had worked, she asked him if he knew Bob Hunt. Mr. O’Brien touched Bonnie’s arm, saying, “That’s the man who died suddenly that I’ve been speaking about.” Bonnie and Mr. O’Brien cried together about Bob’s death and this unlikely connection between the two of them. More tomorrow…
This is my comfort in my distress. (Psalm 119:50)
In my grief, send me healing relationships, Jesus.
Bonnie Hunt on Family and Faith, Part 3
Bonnie’s hospitalization furthered her interest in becoming a nurse. Despite wanting to be a storyteller in Hollywood, Bob Hunt convinced his daughter to stay put for a while and give nursing school a try. He said, “If you want to be a storyteller and a writer, you have to live life in order to write about it.”
Bonnie followed his advice and was newly into nursing school at age 18 when the unthinkable happened. Bob suffered a heart attack in the family home and died at age 50. Though decades have passed since then, the pain of that loss remains fresh in Bonnie’s mind and heart. She recalled on Christopher Closeup, “Dad was there, so healthy, strong, protective, vibrant. And then suddenly, just gone.”
Bonnie endured near-total despair and felt angry at God, asking, “How could You take our dad?!” She decided that she would quit nursing school. Her motivation for that career died with Bob. However, Bonnie’s mom Alice convinced her to go back to school for one more week in Bob’s honor. That week led to a healing experience of divine intervention. More tomorrow…
When Jesus saw her weeping…He was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. (John 11:33)
Guide those who are grieving to signs of hope, Savior.
Bonnie Hunt on Family and Faith, Part 2
Family was the center of Bonnie Hunt’s life when she was growing up. Her father Bob worked two or three jobs to get all the bills paid, while her mom Alice took care of the kids. At the heart of everything were love and faith. “I still envy my Mom’s faith,” said Bonnie, “because it’s unwavering and beautiful.”
At age 13, Bonnie began volunteering as a candy striper. “I couldn’t get enough,” she recalled. “We would read to the patients who couldn’t see, or we would help feed the patients that couldn’t feed themselves…I remember feeling good in my heart that I could make a difference in someone’s day.”
At age 14, Bonnie wound up in the hospital herself as a patient following a car accident. In pelvic traction, she was feeling sorry for herself, until her dad told her, “It’s the character that’s the strongest that God gives the most challenges to.”
Those words helped Bonnie because “I felt like it meant I was strong. I was expected to be strong and that made me stronger.” Her time in the hospital also pointed her in a new career direction: nursing. More tomorrow…
Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character. (Romans 5:3-4)
Strengthen and guide me through challenges, Father.
Bonnie Hunt on Family and Faith, Part 1
Actress Bonnie Hunt is familiar to anyone who has watched her classic films, such as Cheaper by the Dozen, Jumanji, Return to Me, etc. She’s also voiced numerous characters in Pixar movies, including Dolly in Toy Story. But it all began for Bonnie in her Chicago hometown, growing up in a Catholic family where she honed her storytelling talents by observing her dad Bob, mom Alice, and six brothers and sisters.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Bonnie observed, “When you grow up in a blue collar neighborhood, there’s those summer nights on the front porch and everybody stopping by and talking. You see the storyteller…and a lot of times it was my dad telling a story and everybody listening and laughing. You see how healing and comforting and joyful it is, and you go to bed as a kid feeling the power of that.”
Watching The Andy Griffith Show as a family taught Bonnie that TV and movies were not just fun diversions, but they could be “cathartic and comforting.”
She learned valuable lessons from real-life too, though. More of Bonnie’s story tomorrow…
He told them many things in parables. (Matthew 13:3)
Help me to utilize the power of storytelling, Jesus.
A New Sense of Prayer
Actress Ann Blyth, known for classic films such as Mildred Pierce, was a good friend of The Christophers’ founder Father James Keller, M.M. They connected because of Blyth’s deep faith, which she had first seen modeled by her mother.
Blyth’s faith was tested as a teenager, however, when a skiing accident left her with a broken back. Doctors told her she might never walk again. But with serene confidence, her mother said, “Have faith, my darling. You’ll walk.”
Recalling the incident in Guideposts, Blyth notes that recovery gave her a “new sense of prayer. Now there were not the busy times of telling [God] what I needed but, rather, times of listening communion, of gathering strength, when my human strength and courage seemed to ebb away.”
Blyth regained her ability to walk, but faced heartbreak when her beloved mother died. She wrote, “[From] my faith came the assurance that [my mother] would be...a part of every decision, every success and every happiness—for they all stemmed from her inspired teaching. They would become the flowers of the mustard seed of faith she had placed in my heart.”
We walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
Jesus, may the memories of those we have loved and lost comfort and strengthen us always.
A Mother’s Love
What’s so special about a mother’s love? As we approach Mother’s Day, I’d like to share excerpts from essays about mothers written by some young girls. Their definitions explain the uniqueness of a mother’s love:
“My mother is someone who shows me how to live. She teaches me how to love people and not to be someone who only thinks about themselves.” (Cathy, Grade 4)
“She always seems to be there when I need her, doing my homework…When I’m mad she calms me down. When I’m sad she makes me happy. On rainy days brings sunshine to my life.” (Kara, Grade 4)
“A mother is the one who brought you into this world…She mends your clothes, cooks your dinners…is someone to love and someone to get loved by. But most of all, a mother is a teacher, teaching you how to behave and about God. I love her very much.”
(Tara, Grade 5)
In essence, a mother is a person who loves—and is loved.
Strength and dignity are her clothing…Her children rise up and call her blessed. (Proverbs 31:25,28)
Jesus, bless all mothers every day.
The Good Morning Man
For the past six years, Larry Tutt has greeted commuters at the bustling corner of 15th street and K Street in Northwest Washington D.C., with his booming voice, calling out “Good Morning” to brighten everyone’s day. “The little girl said, ‘Daddy, there goes The Good Morning Man,’” Tutt told the ABC affiliate WJLA with a smile.
Tutt’s story is one of struggle and redemption. Being the “Good Morning Man” saved him from the graveyard and going back to prison. A Vietnam veteran, he witnessed his best friend die in front of him from a booby-trap bomb during the war.
After returning home with PTSD, he couldn’t find work, got hooked on drugs, and spent a decade in prison on a burglary conviction. Homeless and living on the streets, his life changed when God came to him in a dream and told him to walk across the street and say good morning to people.
Tutt was able to get a small apartment with the generous help of the friends he made spreading joy on their morning commute, saying, “This is my family here. I love these people. I don’t know what I’d do without them.”
Let all who take refuge in You rejoice. (Psalm 5:11)
Heavenly Father, help me brighten someone’s day today.
Uber Driver Goes Extra Mile
Kansas native and first-time mother Nikki Ihus was going through a tough time. Her baby boy, John Henry, was born with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), a condition that requires major surgery in order to survive. So Nikki brought her child to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. Their CDH team is renowned nationwide.
One afternoon, after a particularly stressful day, Nikki decided to go shopping for her son at a local consignment store, and ordered an Uber to take her there. While chatting with her driver, Belinda Smith, Nikki found her whole story spilling out, along with quite a few tears. Belinda, a mother herself, empathized with Nikki, so much so that, after she dropped her off, Smith went off the clock and followed her inside the store.
“I found [Nikki] and said, ‘This is a day that should be fun for you,’” Belinda said, according to the Sunny Skyz news website. “And you shouldn’t be alone. Let’s shop.”
Nikki walked away with more than a bundle of new clothes for her son that day; she walked away with a true friend for life.
May your friends be like the sun as it rises. (Judges 5:31)
Lord, may I go out of my way for someone in need.
Chef of the Poor
Dino Impagliazzo was walking through a Rome, Italy train station one day in 2006 when a homeless man approached him for spare change. Impagliazzo struck up a conversation with the man and was surprised to learn that most homeless charities didn’t provide free meals on Sundays.
“I realized that perhaps instead of buying one sandwich, making some sandwiches for him and for the friends who were there would be better,” Impagliazzo surmised, as reported by CBSNews.com. “And thus began our adventure.”
Impagliazzo started bringing sandwiches to the homeless and elderly people around the railway station on Sundays, but soon the organization grew, and RomAmoR was born.
Now, RomAmoR delivers food multiple times a week. And while he’s known as “chef of the poor,” the 90-year-old Impagliazzo offers so much more to those in need: “We try to involve more and more people, so that Rome becomes a city where people can love each other. It’s solidarity.”
And the cooking pots in the house of the Lord shall be as holy as the bowls in front of the altar. (Zechariah 14:20)
Lord, grant us the strength and means to assist the poor.
Skywalker Surprises Bionic Bella
Bella Tadlock is a typical 11-year-old from Tallahassee, Florida, except for one thing: she was born without fingers on her right hand – and her left arm was short with a nub at the end. Numerous surgeries resulted in Bella getting three fingers and a thumb on her right hand, but she wanted to avoid another operation to fix her left arm. Then she heard about the company Open Bionics, which makes robotic arms.
As a Star Wars fan, Bella hoped to raise enough money for a “hero arm” with an R2-D2 design. In 2019, she began a crowdfunding campaign to pay for it, which came to the attention of actor Mark Hamill, who plays Bella’s favorite character, Luke Skywalker. He helped promote her efforts—and that made all the difference.
Upon receiving her arm, Bella said, “I am so excited. I will be able to ride my bike, create in the kitchen, and be like my friends. To be able to bend my fingers and pick things up is a dream come true.” Bella also got a special treat: a video call with Hamill, to whom she was thrilled to show her off her new arm.
Show hospitality to strangers…some have entertained angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)
Inspire me to help someone who is disabled, Creator.
A News Fast’s Spiritual Impact
In order to tap into a spirit of joy when making her album And Lovely It Is, singer-songwriter Sarah Hart made one major change in her life: she stopped watching the news on TV or listening to it on the radio because the media “have a tendency to report on nothing but the negative.”
To stay abreast of what’s going on in the world, she will read some stories, but she refuses to go back to being a full-fledged consumer of news. During a Christopher Closeup interview, Sarah said, “It’s amazing the effect that [a news fast] has had on my spirit. There’s something that happens in the way that you look at other human beings when you’re not hearing every day about how bad human beings can be, when you’re not constantly being filled up with the bad things humanity can do.
“Instead, [you’re] looking at people and trying to see the face of God in that person…and loving people in the world. That has changed me. So I highly recommend it. Don’t listen to the news. If you need to know something, read it. But listen to good things instead. Like Christopher Closeup.”
Be transformed by the renewing of your minds. (Romans 12:2)
May I see Your image in everyone, Creator.
A Life-Saving Gift
In 2009, University of Pittsburgh nursing student Sarah Aiken took part in a bone marrow drive on campus, run by the nonprofit DKMS, which helps those suffering with blood cancers. Sarah volunteered to have her cheek swabbed to collect cells that were then entered into a national database.
As reported by The New York Times, Sarah heard from DKMS a year and a half later, notifying her that she was a match for an anonymous six-year-old with a rare blood cancer. Sarah’s bone marrow was the child’s last hope, so the young nurse underwent the extraction procedure.
Sarah heard nothing for one year. Then, she received a message from Michelle Strohl, the mother of Kinley, the child who had received the transplant. Michelle revealed that Kinley was alive and well thanks to Sarah.
Though they stayed in touch online, the Strohls never met Sarah in person until her wedding in 2019. Kinley and Sarah joyfully embraced when they saw each other, and Kinley felt emotional. She said, “I have a bond with her no one else has.”
Faithful friends are life-saving medicine. (Sirach 6:16)
Inspire me to change the life of a stranger, Father, and change him or her into a friend.
A Treasure Beyond the Brook
In Long Island, New York, Melissa Kuch Lamothe was in the middle of the hot zone of the COVID-19 virus in spring 2020. Having been in quarantine for a month, Melissa was struggling to work and care for her four-year-old daughter Lily. But it became even more challenging when Melissa found out a family member was fighting for her life.
The young mother was trying to stay strong for Lily in their backyard, when Lily said, “Let’s do a treasure hunt.” It was the escape they needed, so Melissa claimed there was a treasure on the other side of a nearby brook and they headed off to find it. On Facebook, Melissa noted, “We laughed, smiled, and I nearly forgot the troubles I was facing back in the real world.”
Along the way, Melissa realized the true treasure was actually her daughter. The two were about to head home when Melissa noticed they were on the other side of the brook, where she initially had said the treasure was. She froze in disbelief. Under a tree was a blue rock with the word “Peace” painted on it. There really was a treasure, and what a magical treasure it was!
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. (Matthew 13:44)
Lord, I trust in You completely to lead me on my journey.
Gift of a Forever Family
Katie Connell Heaps observed that no matter where she traveled, from the U.S. to Chile to Uganda, there was a need for children to find a stable and loving home. She became a children’s advocate to help facilitate adoptions for families through the organization Gift of Adoption.
“I saw orphans on the street in Uganda. But it exists here in the United States, too,” Heaps said on the website of her alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. “You see situations where kids and families struggle. When something happens to parents, children need somewhere to go.”
Gift of Adoption provides grants to families to assist with expenses at the end of the adoption process. It has helped fund adoptions for more than 2,800 children by providing $8.3 million in adoption assistance grants. This year alone, it will help 400 children find homes and “unite with their families.”
Heaps’ favorite part of her job is sharing the stories of the children united with their forever families, saying, “Now, 400 children will have warm beds and goodnight stories, things that seem simple but are so critical and life-changing.”
Let the little children come to Me…for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. (Luke 18:16)
Show me the way, oh merciful God, to help a child in need.
Bridging the Generations
When his great-grandmother came to live with his family in Illinois many years ago, eight-year-old Voight Smith resented it. He remembers feeling that her arrival “meant extra work,” because “she couldn’t walk, see, or hear very well.”
Besides, he didn’t like the idea of introducing her to his friends. Like him, “they were uncomfortable around people her age,” people who sometimes stared out the window or fell asleep in a chair, he said.
One day he rebelled, he confessed in Guideposts magazine. “I can’t stand living with her,” Voight told his mother. Instead of scolding him, however, his mom approached him and said, “I thought you might like to see some of Grandma’s old things.”She left him alone with the items, which included an old Bible. Voight picked it up and came across an underlined passage: “Cast me not off in the time of old age” (Psalm 7:9).
Voight took it as a message. Gradually, his relationship with his grandmother improved. “I began thinking of her as a real person,” he wrote.
In old age they still produce fruit. (Psalm 92:14)
Fill me with appreciation for the aged, Jesus.
The Eyes of Love
Julia Dent Grant was the wife of Ulysses S. Grant, the Civil War general who became the 18th president of the United States. As he became more prominent, Julia worried about her looks. As the White House Historical Association (WHHA) reported, Julia was born with “strabismus, a condition that prevents both eyes from lining up in the same direction and hinders one’s eyesight.”
Julia asked a doctor to perform corrective surgery on her eyes, but he informed her that nothing could be done. Depressed at the negative response, Julia told her husband about her failed plan. He was shocked! “Did I not see you and fall in love with you with those same eyes?” he said. “I like them just as they are, and now, remember, you are not to interfere with them.”
Ulysses S. Grant viewed Julia through the eyes of true love, and nothing could change that. As the WHAA wrote, “President Grant’s only wish in his death was to be buried alongside Mrs. Grant, which ruled out most military cemeteries because they did not permit women to be interred there. Today, they are buried within feet of each other at Grant’s Tomb in New York.”
Love one another with mutual affection. (Romans 12:10)
Help married couples see the best in each other, Savior.
The Maine Way
Barbara Hinckley of Auburn, Maine, was the victim of an all too common scam. A con man claiming to work for Publishers Clearinghouse convinced the 95-year-old that she had won second prize in their contest: namely $2.5 million and a Mercedes Benz to boot. After giving him her bank account information, he stole her entire life savings of $16,000.
While that part of the story highlights the worst of humanity, the best of humanity soon emerged. The former governor of Maine, John Baldacci, saw Hinckley’s story when it was picked up by the Sun Journal, and he immediately took action. He organized a spaghetti dinner fundraiser, which consisted of 60 pounds of noodles and 17 gallons of sauce! With 400 people in attendance, a whopping $18,000 was raised, $2,000 more than what Hinckley had lost.
“Stealing from the elderly is not the Maine Way,” Baldacci matter-of-factly stated to the Bangor Daily News. “Let’s turn something bad into something positive by showing the world our true Maine character.”
Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another. (1 Peter 4:10)
Abba, may we seek to make a positive out of every negative.
Joseph Stalin’s Daughter Finds God, Part 2
In joining the Orthodox Christian Church, Joseph Stalin’s daughter Svetlana officially rejected her father’s violent and tyrannical ideology. She said, “The sacrament of baptism consists in rejecting evil…I believed in ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ I believed in truth without violence and bloodshed. I believed that the Supreme Mind, not vain man, governed the world. I believed that the Spirit of Truth was stronger than material values. And when all of this had entered my heart, the shreds of Marxism-Leninism taught me since childhood vanished like smoke.”
Svetlana’s personal life and even her faith didn’t hold steady, however. She changed religions several times and went through a few marriages and divorces.
But after befriending Father Giovanni Garbolino, reports Matthew Archbold in the National Catholic Register, Svetlana converted to Catholicism in 1982 and remained Catholic until her death in 2011. She said, “Before, I was unwilling to forgive and repent, and I was never able to love my enemies. But I feel very different from before, since I attend Mass every day.”
Repent, and believe in the good news. (Mark 1:15)
Teach all people to reject evil and accept Your loving spirit of truth, Messiah.
Joseph Stalin’s Daughter Finds God, Part 1
Though he was raised in the Orthodox Church, Joseph Stalin came to reject God and hate religion. The Russian dictator was responsible for the destruction of many churches and the torture, imprisonment, and murder of hundreds of thousands of Christians. But when it came to his daughter Svetlana, Stalin had a warm and loving relationship with her—at least initially.
She didn’t see his darker side until she got older and realized that her father was responsible for the disappearance of some of her own family members, as well as the family of her school friends. As Matthew Archbold wrote in the National Catholic Register, “When Svetlana found her first boyfriend her father considered him unacceptable and condemned him to a Gulag.”
After her father’s death in 1953, Svetlana chose to change her last name to her late mother’s maiden name: Alliluyeva, which is a form of “Allelujah.” And in 1962, she was baptized into the Orthodox Christian Church. But her spiritual journey wasn’t done just yet. More tomorrow…
Our struggle is…against the spiritual forces of evil. (Ephesians 6:12)
Guide us through darkness to find Your light, Father.
Caregivers Need Care, Too
“Caring for an individual living with a dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease is among the most stressful of caregiving situations,” notes the Home Instead Senior Care network. Here are some of their suggestions to help caregivers find peace:
■ “Keep a journal to identify what you are feeling. Writing down what is happening and what you are feeling can help tap into your emotions.”
■ “Talk with a friend. Sometimes talking with someone who knows and loves us can help us figure out what we are feeling.”
■ “Find a support group. Look to your local faith community or... connect with others who are going through the same thing.”
■ “Get help. If there is a specific task that is difficult, consider asking someone else to do it. Call your local Alzheimer’s Association and Home Instead Senior Care office for more information about how these organizations could assist you. The Alzheimer’s Association has a free 24/7 help line with master-level clinicians to talk with family members who are over-burdened. Call 1-800-272-3900 if you need help.”
Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
Strengthen all caregivers, Prince of Peace.
A Wife’s Love
Wife and first time mom-to-be Ashley Goette woke up early one morning and discovered her husband, Andrew, was gasping for breath. The frantic Ashley immediately dialed 911, and the dispatcher was able to talk her through performing CPR on him until the paramedics arrived.
By then, Andrew was in cardiac arrest and had to be rushed to a hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, the same hospital where Ashley was scheduled to have an induced birth that day.
The doctors in the Intensive Care Unit put Andrew in a medically induced coma and advised his family to steel themselves for the worst because he had serious brain swelling brought on by a heart rhythm disorder.
But Ashley wouldn’t give up hope. “I kept telling him the whole time he was…in his coma that I was not going to have this baby until he woke up,” she told KMSP News.
The miracle came the next morning, when Andrew awakened, and his brain returned to normal. Ashley gave birth later that day, and he was able to hold their newborn son, Lenny.
Wife…you might save your husband. (1 Corinthians 7:16)
Abba, bless the sacred bonds between husbands and wives.
A Plumber’s Special Bill
One doesn’t usually get a bill for $0, especially after a plumber makes a house call. But that’s exactly what happened to a 91-year-old woman in Burnley, England. CNN reported on the story after it gained widespread attention on social media.
The plumber, James Anderson, responded to a call to repair a boiler. During the visit, he learned that the woman whose house he was in was elderly and in the late stages of fighting leukemia.
He wrote on the bill, “No charge for this lady under any circumstances. We will be available 24 hours to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible.” Anderson even promised her “free plumbing for life.”
This isn’t the first time Anderson offered this kind of help. The company he founded, DEPHER, is a nonprofit committed to providing plumbing and heating services for the elderly and disabled. Primarily running on donations, he offers free and reduced price services to those who need it. When asked why, he told CNN, “It makes me feel human, humble and a little giddy inside... I want to expand this service across the country.”
Religion that is pure and undefiled…is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress. (James 1:27)
Let my actions be an extension of Your love, Jesus.
Never Giving Up
When Kayden McClanahan was born, his parents were given the devastating news that he had a rare chromosomal disorder (Trisomy 18) that would likely result in his death within his first year of life. But Kayden has beaten those odds.
Instead of dwelling on the negatives, reports Aleteia, his parents Marta and Frank, and three siblings, focused on giving Kayden the best life possible, filled with every opportunity. They fought tirelessly for medical treatment, surgeries, and disability care.
In 2019, Kayden turned 18, graduated high school in his hometown of St. Cloud, Minnesota, and is doing so much better than anyone expected. He has gone through many difficulties and has significant challenges ahead, but he still perseveres.
His parents and siblings say he’s the happiest boy. And as a person made in the image and likeness of God, he is a tremendous blessing to his family and all who come into contact with him.
Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to Me.” (Luke 18:16)
Thank You for the gift of children in the world and in our lives, Prince of Peace.
A Legacy Lives On
The first five gatherings of the National Black Catholic Congress took place in the late 1800s. They were organized by Daniel Rudd, an African American son of slaves who became a pioneer of Catholic journalism.
A Crux article on Rudd details his founding of the American Catholic Tribune. Of his paper’s mission, Rudd said that it would do something never done by African Americans: “give the great Catholic Church a hearing and show that it is worthy of at least a fair consideration at the hands of our race, being as it is the only place on this Continent where rich and poor, white and black, must drop prejudice at the threshold and go hand in hand to the altar.”
Rudd used his platform to speak out against racism, and his paper carried on the masthead the endorsement of several American Bishops. In 1987, after a near 100-year hiatus, Rudd’s initiative was revived and now the National Black Catholic Congress meets every five years to discuss the well-being of African Americans.
In everything do to others as you would have them do to You…this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
Heal our hearts of racism, Messiah.
Professor Fed Hungry Youngsters
During the early 1980s, between 2:00 and 5:00 p.m., kids would file through the first floor of a building in a rubble-strewn area of Washington. All of the youngsters were hungry, some having had no breakfast or lunch. At the counter of the storefront room, they asked for milk or fruit juice or a sandwich.
These children were all clients of Martha’s Table, named for Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus, in whose home Jesus was once a dinner guest. Veronica Maz founded the center, which served youngsters between the ages of two and 12.
She called herself the “official scrounger” for the operation and described Martha’s Table as a “soup kitchen for all God’s children.” A former sociology professor at Georgetown University, Maz had already founded two other centers for those in need: SOME (So That Others May Eat) and the House of Ruth, which provided homeless women with a place to stay.
She was motivated by the belief that “the homeless and the very poor need a great deal of love, need people who are genuinely concerned about them.”
Honor the Lord with your substance. (Proverbs 3:9)
Help me to become an instrument of Your concern for the poor,
Irish Priest Saves 6,500 Lives During WWII
“Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.” This quote is carved into a memorial bench in Tralee, Ireland, in honor of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, the Irish priest credited with saving more than 6,500 lives during World War II.
As recalled on the website Ireland Calling, Msgr. O’Flaherty was in Rome at the collapse of the Mussolini empire. The Nazis were rounding up Jews to be sent to Auschwitz and executed, as well as recapturing Allied prisoners of war. Msgr. O’Flaherty organized safe houses for thousands of people while evading the ruthless eye of Colonel Herbert Kappler, Rome’s Nazi head of police.
Kappler discovered O’Flaherty was behind the operation, and despite several assassination attempts on his life, the priest continued to work. When the Allied Forces finally took control of Italy and imprisoned the Nazi soldiers, Msgr. O’Flaherty found it in his heart to forgive, and eventually baptize the man who had relentlessly tried to kill him, Kappler. O’Flaherty died in 1965, but the memory of his life and bravery will live on.
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Oh, Merciful Lord, give me the courage to persevere.
I Do For Two
It was a New York love story for the ages! Last April, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, NYU Winthrop Hospital maternity nurse, Kelly Donohue, 27, and Nassau County police officer, Andrew Schuerlein, 29, decided not to wait until June to tie the knot. In light of the fear and uncertainty gripping New York and the entire country, the couple decided, “Why not just get married [now]?”
“I’ve been so overwhelmed with everything going on at work,” Kelly admitted in a phone interview with Newsday. “We both knew…we were…going to get…exposed to the coronavirus...I just wanted to get married.”
And marry they did, in Donohue’s parents’ North Merrick driveway. The groom’s newly ordained father officiated, and a small but enthusiastic group of family members watched from a proper distance. A larger wedding ceremony will follow in time, but for Mr. and Mrs. Schuerlein, whose love first bloomed in high school, it is safe to say this wedding will hold a special place in their hearts.
It is said, “The two shall be one.” (1 Corinthians 5:16)
Abba, guide all couples on their holy journey of matrimony.
Dogs That Uplift the Spirit, Part 2
One of the dogs that John Schlimm profiles in his book Extraordinary Dogs: Stories From Search and Rescue Dogs, Comfort Dogs, and Other Canine Heroes is Hannah, a golden retriever who is part of Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog ministry. Her handler is Barb Granado, and the two traveled to Boston following the Marathon bombings in 2013.
Word spread that Hannah and other Comfort Dogs were at First Lutheran Church so people could simply hug them and interact with them. As quoted in Extraordinary Dogs, Barb said, “Those affected by the bombing arrived at the church in tears and left with a smile. Then they came back again and again just to hug Hannah and all the other Comfort Dogs who were there.
“They felt safe. They felt love from us and the dogs. I can’t explain it to anyone other than to say we call these experiences God Moments. God uses us and our dogs as instruments of His love. The dogs are the bridge. We are a presence, and it’s very special. We don’t preach, and we pray if people want to, but what we are more than anything else is a presence. And in those moments, God reveals His love and compassion.”
Comfort My people, says your God. (Isaiah 40:1)
How can I comfort the traumatized, Father?
Dogs That Uplift the Spirit, Part 1
Since documenting his life-changing friendship with an 87-year-old nun in the Christopher Award-winning memoir Five Years in Heaven, author John Schlimm has come to believe in “divine choreography.” And so his follow-up book is also filled with the peace and love of God. It’s called Extraordinary Dogs: Stories From Search and Rescue Dogs, Comfort Dogs, and Other Canine Heroes.
The book is comprised of 40 essays profiling different dogs, along with lovable, heartwarming pictures of each canine, taken by co-author Liz Stavrinides. During a Christopher Closeup interview, Schlimm said that the dogs’ handlers “believe that this is an extension of Jesus’ own work that they’re doing.
“They are going into some of the most tragic places on the planet: into schools after school shootings…into Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria…You realize that not only are all of these dogs truly American treasures, but they are helping us to express the best of the human spirit and bringing light into lives that have been submerged into dark.” More tomorrow…
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. (Matthew 4:16)
Bless the animals who bring light into our lives, Lord.
They Give Me Purpose
Jessica Benzakein of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was only 12 years old when her mother gave up all parental rights, leaving the girl an orphan. The chances of children over the age of five being adopted are significantly low, so Jessica remained in the foster care system until she began college.
Jessica went on to get married and have two biological children. Though she is now divorced, she expanded her family in 2015 by becoming a foster parent to six boys, ranging in age from four to 18. And in 2020, reports Today.com, Jessica officially adopted them all.
Growing up in the foster care system motivated Jessica to give “older sibling sets” a home. Four of her boys are related by blood. She understands the pain of being separated from family, saying, “I went through my 20s thinking I didn’t need a family. But I did. They give me purpose.”
Jessica now provides her kids with the type of home she would have wanted as a child: “They have a safe place where they can screw up, make mistakes and laugh and joke.”
The Lord may…in His compassion multiply you. (Deuteronomy 13:17)
Teach me to build a safe home for a child, Divine Messiah.
A Spiritual Home Run Hitter
As the Catholic chaplain for Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals, Monsignor Stephen Rossetti may not score runs on the field, but his spiritual contributions to the team are a hit with the players—and sometimes even their opponents.
As reported by the Catholic University of America, Msgr. Rossetti celebrates Mass for players and staff at RFK Stadium for all home games. He says, “I have baptized their babies, done marriage prep, and helped them with other sacramental issues. At the Mass, both teams are invited…It is a nice time when both teams can gather together before a game and pray together. When Mass is over, I notice how good the opposing teams are to each other, shaking hands and welcoming. It’s a nice witness of unity and mutual respect and esteem.”
Msgr. Rossetti offers blessings to whoever wants them, regardless of where they are on their spiritual path. He says, “[I] bring the Church to those that don’t go to church anymore. To my surprise, almost all the players, Catholic and otherwise, are grateful and even seek out a blessing. It’s a beautiful moment…I encourage priests everywhere to be generous in blessing people.”
Bring a blessing on me too! (Exodus 12:32)
Guide me in being a blessing to others, Savior.
Brighten a Day
For about a year and a half, 15-year-old sophomore Hita Gupta had been an active volunteer at Daylesford Crossing, a nursing home located in Paoli, Pennsylvania. She even started an online initiative called “Brighten a Day,” where people could donate to help her create uplifting care packages for senior centers and children’s hospitals. Once the coronavirus pandemic hit, Hita took her “Brighten a Day” mission to the next level.
Since visits to seniors at nursing homes were prohibited for the residents’ protection, Gupta set up a GoFundMe page, so that she could make their care packages more comprehensive in content.
These boxes now included brain teasers, drawing implements and coloring books, as well as handwritten notes penned by her nine-year-old brother Divit. As of April 2020, Hita had delivered packages to 23 nursing homes in Pennsylvania. “Loneliness is now a bigger problem than ever with our pandemic,” she concluded to CNN News. “We need to let nursing home residents know that they are not…alone.”
Even to your old age…I will carry you. (Isaiah 46:4)
Abba, may we always remember the needs of our elderly.
On Getting Started
The late Frank Ferree was known as either the “Border Angel” or the “Gringo Messiah,” depending on whether he was being a Good Samaritan north or south of the Mexican border,
For more than 40 years, Ferree was a symbol of hope to the poor of the Rio Grande Valley, dispensing food, medicine, and clothes when he himself had nothing to eat, little to wear, and lived in a shack off a dirt road.
A devout Christian, Ferree once told a Houston Chronicle interviewer that “of course, God had a hand in this. But I wouldn’t say I was ‘called.’ If anything, He pushed me.”
The push came from an incident that happened when he was a member of a surveying crew. After the crew had lunched one day, he said, “A group of Mexican men who had been watching us moved in and (ate) the scraps of food we’d left. They even ate the banana peelings.”
Recalling the motto that “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness,” Ferree said, “I realized it was up to me to do what I could and not worry about the rest. So I started.”
Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Jesus, help me to set about doing Your work.
Paula Faris’ Tribute to Dad, Part 4
Paula Faris and her three siblings traveled to their father Ed’s ancestral homeland of Lebanon to memorialize him in a special way. You see, when Ed’s father immigrated to the U.S., he brought a clipping from the grape arbor on his family’s land and used it to grow his own here. As an adult, Ed took a clipping from his father’s grape arbor and used it to grow his own as well, meticulously caring for it to stay connected to his roots.
To create a full circle moment, recalled Paula, “We took the clipping of the grape arbor from [our dad’s] backyard… went to the mountain village where my [grandparents] were born and raised and where my dad spent so much time. We went to a hill right where the church was that our family was so involved in.
“We four kids each said something to my father,” Paula continued. “We buried that clipping in the earth there…We were all weeping and in tears, but we felt this almost indescribable connection with our father and an indescribable peace. And we completely felt his presence there…I felt like this was when we really got true closure with our father.”
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. (Revelation 21:4)
Fill mourners with Your indescribable peace, Messiah.
Paula Faris’ Tribute to Dad, Part 3
On the Saturday before he passed away, Ed Faris was lying in his hospital bed when his daughter Paula noticed he was crying. She asked if it was because he was in pain. Unable to speak, he shook his head, “No.” She then asked if he was crying because he was sad. Again, her father shook his head.
Paula then said, “Are you crying because you’re overwhelmed by the love and the memories and the life that you lived and the people you’re surrounded with?”
Ed nodded, “Yes.”
For Paula, it was a reassurance that she, too, had made the right decision in prioritizing family over career. And as heartbreaking as it was losing her father, her faith gives her reassurance that this separation is temporary, not final.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, she said, “When you lose a parent, it’s like your tectonic plates shift. It’s so foundational. I can’t imagine saying goodbye and not having the peace that I’m going to see him again. Dad, I love you, and we’re going to be together forever.” More tomorrow…
The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:26)
May I take comfort in the promise of eternal life, Jesus.
Paula Faris’ Tribute to Dad, Part 2
After his death, Paula discovered that her father Ed had kept journals in which he reflected on his life. They had been stashed in old boxes, and nobody knew about them. Ed wrote about growing up in a Lebanese Catholic family, but never experiencing a real relationship with God. He struggled to find peace in his soul, searching for it through alcohol, transcendental meditation, and career advancement. But nothing worked.
It wasn’t until Ed was in his 40s and married with three children that he found the Morningstar Christian Community, an ecumenical group born out of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement. This was the place where God became an active presence in Ed’s life, helping to save his marriage and giving him a deeper love and appreciation for his family.
Paula was born in the aftermath of this spiritual awakening when Ed found his peace in God. During a Christopher Closeup interview about her book Called Out, Paula said, “My dad was a brilliant man, an engineer. He had multiple opportunities to move up the corporate ladder, but he didn’t [take them] because he wanted to be home with his family.” More tomorrow…
Let them seek peace and pursue it. (1 Peter 3:11)
Give me a greater appreciation of my family, Jesus.
Paula Faris’ Tribute to Dad, Part 1
Easter is always meaningful, but Jesus’ resurrection holds special significance for those who have recently lost a loved one and take comfort in the idea that they will be reunited again in heaven. That was the case with Paula Faris, whose father Ed passed away in 2019, due to a stroke. In the aftermath of his death, Paula discovered that her dad had left her a gift that no one knew existed. And it found her when she needed it most.
In 2018—after enduring a “season of hell” that included a miscarriage, a concussion, a head-on car crash, and pneumonia—Paula stepped back from her two time-consuming jobs at ABC News, remaining at the network as Senior National Correspondent and creator of the podcast Journeys of Faith.
However, she felt “lost” because so much of her identity had been tied up in her high profile job titles and pursuit of career advancement. But Paula knew that God was telling her to focus more on her husband, children, and faith. And that’s when she discovered that her struggles were echoed by her father’s own experiences. More tomorrow…
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
May I not be blinded by worldly pursuits, Creator.
What is Hope?
Author Katie Prejean McGrady admits she’s always struggled with how to define “hope.” In her Catholic News Service column, she writes that she’s always seen it as “the desiring of heaven and eternal life,” which “seems so far off.”
But upon reflection, McGrady realized she was wrong. “Hope isn’t just longing for heaven someday,” she observes, “it’s the belief that we’re made for heaven, meant for heaven, designed for heaven and life with God now, and that we are promised something by God (eternity with Him) and He will deliver.”
“Our source of hope,” continues McGrady, “and what our eyes should remain open to is that God loves us, that Christ saves us and that Christ is very much alive...If I know that Christ died on the cross for me and believe that He was thinking of me as He shed His blood, then I can rest assured my own sufferings and cross carrying has meaning. If I know that Christ is alive and believe He is acting even right now, then I can order my steps and live my life for Him.”
When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
Open my heart to your saving love, Jesus.
Prayer Kept Him Alive
“Sigitas Tamkevicius…may be one of the most heroic priests you’ve never heard of,” wrote Deacon Greg Kandra on his blog. “[But] he is a man worth remembering.”
Born in Lithuania in 1938, Tamkevicius felt called by God to become a priest, was ordained in 1962, and became a Jesuit six years later. Due to his outspokenness against Soviet oppression, his license to work as a priest was revoked, so he went on to jobs in a metal factory and as a ditch digger. Wherever he was, he continued to proclaim the Gospel.
After founding the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers Rights with four other priests, Father Tamkevicius “was arrested by the KGB, sentenced to 10 years of hard labor, part of it spent in Siberia.” Prayer, the priest said years later, kept him alive.
His first act after being released in 1993 was to celebrate Mass. Father Tamkevicius went on to serve as a parish priest, a spiritual director, and Archbishop of Kaunas in Lithuania. And in 2019, Pope Francis named this faithful servant a cardinal.
Redeem me from human oppression, that I may keep Your precepts. (Psalm 119:134)
May I stay focused on You through all hardships, Jesus.
The Meaning of Suffering
Christians have traditionally associated suffering and hardship with spirituality and growth. But how can pain and sorrow have any purpose or meaning in our lives? The answer can only be found in Christ crucified.
Jesus Christ came into a world filled with pain and sorrow. As a man, He wept bitterly at the prospect of His own suffering. He felt the sting of abandonment and rejection. But Jesus asks us to look beyond the cross to the resurrection.
A Carmelite nun looked beyond her pain and came to realize that her suffering could be exchanged for something of value. She wrote: “A person who assumes that his life must consist of stepping from success to success is like a fool who stands next to a building site and shakes his head because he cannot understand why people dig deep down when they set out to build a cathedral. God builds a temple out of each soul, and in my case He is just starting to excavate the foundation.”
God brought the triumph of Easter out of the tragedy of Good Friday. And He will do the same for us.
If any want to become My followers, let them deny themselves…and follow Me. (Matthew 16:24)
Father, help me find hope in Your resurrection.
Two Pieces of the Truth
Dante Iozzo’s time at Cornell University as a PhD candidate involves studying theoretical astrophysics and gravitational radiation from binary black hole collisions. But science isn’t Iozzo’s only focus. He is also a practicing Catholic who had lost his faith for a period of time. After studying Thomas Aquinas in a philosophy course, however, he was re-introduced to Catholicism in a new way.
Iozzo told Jeff Witherow of the Catholic Courier, “I came in and saw the truth in the Church’s teachings, and I kind of saw my own pursuit as a scientist no longer as something I’m doing that’s interesting, but as an actual search for truth in a different avenue.
“So being a scientist and being a person of faith, I didn’t really see as any contradiction. I’m looking for truth in two different places to get the entire picture…I find that [science and religion] illuminate different parts of the whole truth, and it’s our goal to look for the entire truth…If you miss one or the other, then you’re missing a piece of the truth.”
When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all…truth. (John 16:13)
Help me to see Your truth in its entirety, Creator.
A Plea for God’s Peace During Grief
It’s not unusual to hear God mentioned at country music awards shows, but the context at the 2019 CMT Awards was a little different. When Kane Brown won an Artist of the Year Award, he dedicated the prize to his friend and drummer Kenny Dixon, who had died in a car accident two days prior.
Later on, singer Thomas Rhett took the stage to accept his own award. Instead of a traditional acceptance speech, he offered the following prayer: “Father God, we love You so much, while also [struggling with] something we can’t comprehend....I pray that You would be with Kane and his family, and his drummer Kenny and his family, and bring them peace that only You know how to bring somebody...We love You, Jesus, and in Your name we pray, Amen.”
Reba McEntire echoed the sentiments when she accepted the Artist of a Lifetime Award, saying, “That’s what we need in our life: a little more God. We’ve gotta give this world back to God. We’ve gotta give Him the focus and the attention that He needs.”
Do not avoid those who weep, but mourn with those who mourn. (Sirach 7:34)
Help me be a comfort to those in mourning, Jesus.
Jesus in “Distressing Disguise”
On her blog Not Strictly Spiritual, Mary DeTurris Poust recalled being a tourist in San Francisco and wanting to take pictures in the chapel of the original Mision San Francisco de Asis. After waiting for the chapel to clear out so she could get a closer look, she came across a seemingly-homeless woman wearing raggedy clothes, sitting in a pew. At first, Poust walked past her. Then, something told her to go back.
Poust struck up a conversation with the woman, whose name was Zenobia. Zenobia handed her a prayer card of St. Jude and a little vial of oil, asking Poust to bless herself with it. Poust wrote, “I did what she told me, all the while feeling that I was in the presence of someone very special.”
As Poust walked away, she couldn’t help but recall Mother Teresa’s challenge to see Jesus in the “distressing disguise of the poor.” That day, Poust thought she was doing a good deed, but she was the one who received a greater gift. She wrote, “I set out to see a church, but I ended up seeing Jesus.”
It is…God who…has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)
Open my eyes to recognize Your face today, Jesus.
An Actor’s Vision of Jesus
Actor Ernest Borgnine played the centurion at the foot of the cross in the film Jesus of Nazareth. While shooting the crucifixion scene one day, actor Robert Powell, who portrayed Jesus, wasn’t on set, so Borgnine was directed to look up at a chalk mark on the cross as if he was there. In order to get Borgnine into the right frame of mind, director Franco Zeffirelli read out loud Jesus’ lines from the Bible.
Then, recalled Borgnine in Guideposts, “As I stared upward, instead of the chalk mark, I suddenly saw the face of Jesus Christ, lifelike and clear….Pain-seared, sweat-stained, with blood flowing down from thorns pressed deep, His face was still filled with compassion. He looked down at me through tragic, sorrowful eyes with an expression of love beyond description.”
When Zeffirelli yelled, “Cut,” Borgnine wiped tears from his eyes and looked at the cross again. Jesus was gone. Borgnine isn’t sure whether he had a vision or if his imagination played a trick on him, but he calls that event “a profound spiritual experience…I have not been quite the same person since.”
God proves His love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Open my eyes to Your presence in the world, Jesus.
Enough As You Are, Part 4
Some people are book smart, while others are good with their hands. But they each might feel inferior because they can’t do what the other person does. Peggy Weber encourages her readers to recognize and appreciate their individual talents, pointing to St. Andre Bessette as an example.
She said, “He’s uneducated, he can barely read. He’s a lost soul of sorts, but very faithful. So the pastor in this small town in Canada sends him to a monastery…For 40 years, he was a porter at a college, just opening the door, closing the door, taking messages. He worked in the laundry. [You might think], ‘This guy’s not going to amount to much in terms of our world?’
“Yet when people came to the door, he would talk to them, he would comfort them, he would listen to them. And a million people filed past his casket in Montreal, at the Oratory, after he died, because he became known as such a healing, wonderful, saintly man…So I think you just have to be content and recognize, ‘I have something to contribute to the world.’ Think about what it is and be happy with that.”
There are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them. (1 Corinthians 12:6)
Remind me to appreciate and use my unique talents, Jesus.
Enough As You Are, Part 3
One of the biggest saintly influences on Peggy Weber’s life was the patron saint of journalists, St. Francis de Sales, which is appropriate considering that Peggy has worked in the Catholic press for nearly 40 years. Many of the chapters in Enough As You Are begin with a quote by him, including his one: “It is wonderful how attractive a gentle, pleasant manner is, and how much it wins hearts.”
In an age of angry, divisive voices in our culture, this is an especially important idea. Peggy said of St. Francis de Sales, “He went to the Calvinists with pamphlets, and he went with kindness. If you go on Twitter…and you look at all these people just trying to prove they’re right, it’s so frustrating.
“I think my message is, ‘Chill everyone. You can like this and you can like that, as long as we have the basic tenets of our church in place. Let’s try and look at the bigger picture of loving our neighbor, loving ourselves, furthering our faith.’ I think my book reminds people to not go after each other and to accept each other in a good and healthy way.” More tomorrow…
The wise of heart is called perceptive, and pleasant speech increases persuasiveness. (Proverbs 16:21)
Remind me to speak civilly and peacefully, Father.
Enough As You Are, Part 2
Peggy Weber took the lesson God taught her about being “enough as you are” to heart and even wrote a book with that title to help others accept that truth about themselves. During a Christopher Closeup interview, Peggy said her message to younger people is, “You don’t have to have that picture perfect postcard on Facebook of your family vacation. God loves you, just as you are, [even] 10 pounds heavier with musty hair.”
Peggy also shoots down the idea that only those with theology degrees can teach us about God. As an example, she points to her grandmother, who “came over from Ireland at age 18 with nothing in her pocket but her rosary beads and her faith, and transmitted that faith to several generations beyond.
“She brought over all her brothers and sisters, who had been orphaned, and built a life for so many people. When I was sitting at the college graduations of my children, I was crying, thinking that this woman could bring over a love of education and a love of faith so that my children could live that life.”
One generation shall laud Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:4)
Help me transmit my faith to the next generation, Jesus.
Enough As You Are, Part 1
Peggy Weber knows it’s easy to compare ourselves with other people’s picture perfect lives—and find our own lives lacking. The award-winning journalist and grandmother of seven even does it herself sometimes. A few years ago, Peggy was in church for Good Friday services when the priest talked about Jesus loving us and dying for us. She looked around and got the feeling that all the congregants there were holier than she was.
Afterwards, Peggy went to her daughter Kerry’s house for her grandson Cillian’s first birthday. Because it was Good Friday, the celebration was low key and the meal was simple. But Kerry asked Peggy, “Do you think I’m doing enough for his first birthday? Because some people hire ponies and clowns.”
Peggy realized that her own daughter was now doing the same kind of joy-killing, doubt-inducing “comparing herself to others” that she had done in church just a short time earlier. Peggy interpreted the situation as God telling her to talk about “being good enough, being enough as we are.”
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. (Romans 12:2)
Remind me to stop comparing myself to others, Savior.
A Centenarian’s Advice for Long Life
When Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt was a 20-year-old nun, she heard someone say that age 40 is when “you’re put on the shelf.” She thought that was foolish at the time. And now, 60 years after that 40-year mark, she is celebrating her 100th birthday with the Loyola University community that has become her family.
In fact, in her nineties, Sister Jean was living a dream life. As the chaplain for the Ramblers, Loyola’s basketball team, you’d see her wearing her maroon-and-gold scarf and letterman’s jacket, cheering on the team from her wheelchair. She even became the darling of the 2018 NCAA Tournament during the Ramblers’ unlikely run to the Final Four. But it is her pregame prayers on the court that the team looks forward to most.
As she told the Chicago Tribune, “The legacy I want is that I helped people and I was not afraid to give my time to people…and teach them to be positive about what happens...”
And what is Sister Jean’s secret to long life? “I eat well and sleep well, and hopefully I pray well.”
Pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word. (Colossians 4:3)
Jesus, help me live my best life today and serve others.
Fish Tank Wisdom about Forgiveness
When Louisville, Kentucky writer Mary Ann Steutermann buried the last of the 11 fish who had died from her son’s fish tank, she discovered more than just a science experiment – she found it in her heart to forgive.
Steutermann uncovered that the reason all the fish perished was because no one had noticed the first fish’s death, resulting in its body releasing toxic ammonia. As she wrote in her post on Busted Halo, “So in effect, by failing to remove the first dead fish from the tank, we poisoned the whole lot of them.”
This revelation also rang true for forgiveness. For too long, Steutermann realized, she had failed to forgive the people who wronged her, and as a result, she “poisoned [her own] fish tank.”
“It took me longer than it should have, but I eventually realized that forgiveness isn’t a gift for the offender; it’s a grace we allow for ourselves. Now I’m more patient, not only with others but with myself and my shortcomings because I know if I’ve been hurt, I’ve hurt others too…In the end, I found that giving up my resentment gave me so much more in return.”
Before judgment comes, examine yourself; and at the time of scrutiny you will find forgiveness. (Sirach 18:20)
Lord, guide me to seek forgiveness in myself and others.
A New Set of Beatitudes
Special Olympics is the world's largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual and physical challenges. Its Chairman, Tim Shriver, posted “Beatitudes for Friends of People with Disabilities” on his social media feed. It reads:
“Blessed are you who take the time to listen to difficult speech, for you help me to know that if I persevere I can be understood. Blessed are you who never bid me to ‘hurry up,’ take my tasks from me, and do them for me, for I often need time rather than help. Blessed are you who stand beside me as I enter new and untried ventures, for my failures will be outweighed by the times I surprise myself and you.
“Blessed are you who asked for my help, for my greatest need is to be needed. Blessed are you who understand that it is difficult for me to put my thoughts into words. Blessed are you who, with a smile, encourage me to try once more.
“Blessed are you who never remind me that today I asked the same question two times. Blessed are you who respect me and love me as I am, and not like you wish I were.”
I praise you, for I am…wonderfully made.
Help me to love others the way You love me, Father.
A Billboard of Hope
When driving in Kansas City, Missouri, your eye may be drawn to a billboard with a simple yet powerful message: “You are human. You are loveable. You are strong. You are enough.”
This beautiful billboard was created by Nicole Leth in memory of her father, Richard, who committed suicide when she was just 17 years old.
“I realized over the years I could never save someone’s life for them, but I could create an encouraging and affirmative space to empower them to save their own life,” Leth told the Today Show in August 2019.
Her message of love and hope continues to resonate with everyone who sees it. Even the owner of the billboard space was so moved by the overwhelming response that he has decided to keep the billboard up free of charge.
Leth is happy to honor her father’s memory in such a public, life-affirming way. She said, “He was the first person who taught me how to make beauty out of hard things.”
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God.
(1 John 3)
Father, in my darkest days, help me to see the light.
One Woman’s Gift: Laughter
“Dear Lord, help me to create more laughter than tears, dispense more happiness than gloom, spread more cheer than despair.” That prayer was written by Kathryn Tambling, once designated America’s leading female clown.
Most people knew her as “Rainbow the Clown.” But few who met her were aware of the pain with which she performed during the last two years of her life.
Ravaged by cancer, she underwent chemotherapy for 11 months, covered the pin holes in her hands with white gloves, and stuffed pillows under her clown suit so the hug of the sick children she performed for wouldn’t hurt too much.
Why did she do it, despite the pain that she was experiencing? Her friend Wendy Garrett recalled Kathryn once saying, “A rainbow is God’s promise, and His promises are never broken.” In other words, her commitment to bringing joy to children overrode her pain.
In 1981, Kathryn died at home with her family. Her life was a testament to the therapeutic power of laughter.
Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and
the voice of song. (Isaiah 51:3)
For those who make us laugh, we thank You, Father.
Friends of the Poor
In 1976, a group of people at St. Maurice Parish in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, agreed to eat only rice one Thursday each month, contributing the money saved to programs that combat hunger. They went on to collect up to $80,000 a year to support a food program in a Bogota slum, a Guatemalan nutrition center and nursery, a hot-lunch program for 597 rural students in Thailand, and three Central African water projects.
Two people were the moving force behind the parish programs. One was Father John Mulcahy, Irish-born pastor of the parish who first became interested in hunger issues when he saw the amount of food simply thrown away by Americans. The other was Sheila Benson, secretary of a six-member advisory board that directed the parish program.
She recalled having seen a documentary on the plight of Cambodian refugees and wondering “why God was letting this happen. Then I realized it’s we who are letting it happen. Something had to be done.”
The Lord has comforted His people, and will have
compassion on His suffering ones. (Isaiah 49:13)
Father, fill me with a desire to aid those who are hungry.
Direct Line to Heaven
Here’s a humorous story for St. Patrick’s Day: On vacation in Europe, Bert noticed a golden telephone hanging on a marble column in a church in Rome. As a young priest passed by, Bert asked who the telephone was for. The priest told him it was a direct line to Heaven, and if he’d like to call, it would be a thousand dollars. Bert was amazed, but declined the offer.
Throughout Europe, Bert kept seeing the same golden telephone. People always told him it was a direct line to Heaven that cost a thousand dollars. After Bert finished his tour in Ireland, he decided to attend Mass at a local village church. When he walked in the door he noticed the golden telephone, but underneath it there was a sign stating: DIRECT LINE TO HEAVEN - 25 CENTS!
“Father,” he said, “I have been all over Europe and in all the great cathedrals I visited, I’ve seen telephones exactly like this one but the price is always a thousand dollars. Why is it that this one is only 25 cents?”
The priest smiled and said, “Son, you’re in Ireland now. It’s a local call!”
May God give you of the dew of heaven. (Genesis 27:28)
Guide me toward Your heavenly home, Father.
Voyage of Mercy, Part 3
On the other side of the ocean, the Irish escaping the famine were landing on America’s shores with stories of the devastation being experienced back home. In February 1847, President Polk, Congress, and leading government officials rallied Americans to contribute food to Ireland, which would be shipped over on the USS Jamestown, a warship that was designated as a ship of mercy.
“Many of the people who contributed to the Irish effort were poor,” explained author Stephen Puleo. “They were simple farmers. Children in orphanages contributed. People who were members of slave churches in the South contributed. Every walk of life, every occupation, every geographic region contributed.”
The U.S. efforts were also notable because the way that countries had previously interacted involved either war or trade. Helping another country for altruistic reasons was unheard of. Puleo concluded, “So when the American response continues over the next 16 months, where 150 ships loaded with food are sent to Ireland, it’s an amazing effort on an unparalleled scale.”
If you offer your food to the hungry…then your light shall rise in the darkness.
Instill us with a spirit of selflessness, Creator.
Voyage of Mercy, Part 2
During the Irish Potato Famine of 1846-47, also known as “The Great Hunger,” a hero emerged in the person of Father Theobald Mathew of County Cork. Voyage of Mercy author Stephen Puleo said, “Father Mathew had a reverence for poverty. He helped the Irish people during cholera, typhus, diseases. He worked in fever sheds and in hospitals.
“He would listen to the poor folks’ confessions at 5:00 a.m. before they went into the fields, and as late as 11:00 p.m. when they returned from work…When the famine hits, he resumes that kind of effort. He works hands-on with starving Irish people, helping them with food. He allows people to stay in his home, contributes his own money, buries the dead, ministers to the sick.
“He’s one of these priests who the hierarchy doesn’t care for so much,” Puleo continued. “He’s too ecumenical. He helps everybody of all kinds of religions, whether they actually go to Mass or not. He’s that kind of a priest and a real heroic character.”
More help for the Irish people was on the way soon from the United States. That part of the story tomorrow…
Make every effort to support your faith with goodness. (2 Peter 1:5)
Bless priests who care for the poor, Jesus.
Voyage of Mercy, Part 1
Many modern people are only nominally familiar with the Irish Potato Famine of 1846-1847 and the devastation it caused to the people of Ireland. Historian and author Stephen Puleo shares this largely forgotten bit of history in his book Voyage of Mercy: The USS Jamestown, the Irish Famine, and the Remarkable Story of America’s First Humanitarian Mission.
When a blight destroyed Ireland’s potato crop in 1846, mass starvation ensued, with a million people dying and another million emigrating to other countries. Considered a part of the United Kingdom at the time, Ireland sought help from the British government.
Their response, said Puleo during a Christopher Closeup interview, “was a mixture of incompetence, indifference, impotence, ineptness, benign neglect, and anti-Catholicism.” In fact, British official Charles Trevelyan said he believed the famine was sent by God “to teach the Irish a lesson, and it must not be too much mitigated.”
But there were signs of hope for Ireland, including the actions of a heroic priest. His story tomorrow…
Famine had spread over all the land. (Genesis 41:56)
How can I bring hope to starving people, Father?
The Way Back
In the 2020 film The Way Back, actor Ben Affleck plays a high school basketball coach struggling with alcoholism. It was a role that hit close to home for Affleck, who has been open about his own struggles with alcohol abuse. In an interview with Dewayne Hamby for Beliefnet, the actor spoke about the film’s theme of redemption and the ideas contained within Christianity.
Affleck said, “One of the things that I found most beautiful about it, and I struggle with my faith, I struggle with belief, but I do see there’s something enormously beautiful and elegant about the notion that we are all sinners, and that it’s our job to find our redemption, to find God’s love, to redeem ourselves, to live the best life that we can, to love one another, to not judge one another, and to forgive one another.”
Affleck concluded, “We all have pain. We all have challenges of various types and degrees. The question is really, how do we handle that? Do we suffer, fall apart, let it derail us? Or do we pick ourselves up and keep going? That choice is what ultimately defines us.”
Seek the Lord and His strength, seek His presence continually. (1 Chronicles 16:11)
Lord, grant me the strength to choose redemption.
I Was in Prison, and You Came to Me
In Pelzer, South Carolina, Deacon John Leininger and Father Rhett Williams take Jesus’ command to visit those in prison especially seriously. The prison ministry in which they serve is bringing mercy and redemption to those behind bars – and has even brought five inmates into the Catholic Church.
It took the ministry years to establish credibility among the prison population, so that the inmates came to see Deacon John and other volunteers as reliable and genuine in their faith and example. The approach is one of mutual respect, rather than an undue focus on sin. “We’re just trying to live with them and talk about God’s word,” said Deacon Leininger.
The fruit of their work is becoming apparent. “[Confirmation was] the most important day of my adult life,” said James, an inmate. “The understanding of the role Christ plays in my life has taken new shape. I have come to love the Catholic faith, and the more I learn, the better my life becomes.”
Father Williams added, “There's nothing greater that we can give than our love and attention, God's grace working through us.”
The Lord sets the prisoners free. (Psalm146:7)
Jesus, I pray that all who are imprisoned find You.
Brian Black, a building trades professional, and Ryan Pohl, a machinist, are the founders of Harmel Academy, a unique Catholic vocational school in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
As reported by Catholic News Agency, the school offers courses in the humanities, similar to what you would find at a traditional liberal arts college, as well as an emphasis on the skilled trades, such as electrical work and plumbing. And it’s all done in an authentically Catholic environment.
“We are going to inform you about Christ, who chose to become man as a carpenter, as a tradesman,” Black said. The program is rigorous and geared towards students who want to learn with their hands. Daily structured prayer life and a strong Catholic living environment are central to Harmel’s mission.
One thing that isn’t? High student debt. Tuition is $18,500 a year, including room and board. Students graduate well prepared for a career in the trades and well versed in the Catholic intellectual tradition. “We are looking at…forming a fully integrated man,” Black concluded.
Everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:17)
Lord, may the work of my hands reflect Your love.
In 2012, Logan Wells found out his grandmother was diagnosed with dementia. A few years later, the 14-year-old began developing an app to help his family and other families in similar situations with the care of their older relatives.
Logan told WTVR News that his app, which he named CareZare, “helps caregivers look after a loved one by giving them a platform to track med reports, visits…and any other information you’d want family members to know.”
As of January 2020, there had already been 5,000 downloads of CareZare, and it has received generally positive feedback from all of its users.
“What I love about the CareZare app,” said user Liz O’Donnell, “is that I could…visit mom or dad in the morning and say, ‘Oh, they’re having a great day…This would be a good day to…take them for a ride’—you know, tell my sisters. Or, ‘They’re having a bad day…Come…and help me out.’”
“My hope is that they can have more time they can spend with their loved one instead of managing their loved one,” Logan concluded.
Even to your old age…I will carry you. (Isaiah 46:4)
Messiah, bless and strengthen the efforts of all caregivers.
Lay Chaplains Aid Patients
“I’ve learned to listen in my home—to my husband, to my children—and to be sensitive to their needs,” said Eileen Costa many years ago. She was describing the personal rewards she experienced after joining a lay chaplaincy program at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Smithtown, New York.
The program was launched in 1979. Volunteer participants were recommended by the pastors of their own churches and underwent a training program developed by the Rev. Ronald A. Sunderland, a Methodist minister, in Houston, Texas.
Participants were assigned to a particular floor, according to the Rev. Gregg Wood, former director of the program at St. John’s. He told the lay chaplains that the success of their pastoral visits would depend on basic listening skills. “Listening is not as easy as it sounds,” he explained. He advised them to “listen for feelings—not just for facts. Let the patient control the conversation. Let them verbalize their fears.”
Listening is an art—a healing art. It can be learned by anyone willing to take the time.
In Your steadfast love hear my voice;
O Lord…preserve my life. (Ps. 119:149)
Father, fill me with the patience to be a good listener.
Oh, What A Beautiful Morning!
For 23 years, John Cherry, age 87, has served as the hardworking, devoted custodian of The Mary Louis Academy (TMLA), an all-girls high school located in Queens, New York. Every day, at 6:00 a.m., Cherry is there to open the school’s doors. He then welcomes in every student with his cheery trademark “Good Morning!”
For most girls, mornings wouldn’t be the same without Cherry. “We all have our off days,” student body president Devon Nicholson attested in The Tablet, “but when we walk in and Mr. Cherry says good morning with a smile, it really cheers everyone up. We…consider him part of the TMLA family.”
A grandfather who lives right up the road from his job, Cherry was also a recipient of the TMLA Peacemaker Award back in 2003, in recognition of his “selfless service.” He said, “I’m happy here. Everybody here knows me, trusts me…It’s like I’m at home. It’s a family.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Cherry concluded, when asked about his plans for retirement. “You’ve just got to keep moving…I got the Good Lord watching over me.”
Rich experience is the crown of the aged. (Sirach 25:6)
God, may we value the work and wisdom of our elders.
Good Neighbors Cared for Aged Woman
Though this story happened many years ago, the moral is still important in our times. It is difficult to match the care and attention showered on Charlotte Greene of St. Louis by A.C. Gibbs and his wife Susie. For sheer love of neighbor they cared for Miss Greene every day for 10 years, according to reporter Charles J. Oswald.
Oswald learned of their devotion when Mr. and Mrs. Gibbs, realizing they could no longer care for the bedridden woman because Mrs. Gibbs was suffering from cancer, called the city hospital to ask them to take Miss Greene.
Although there was no running water in Miss Greene’s apartment, the toilet was broken and the building was in shambles, Miss Greene’s flat was immaculate. The Gibbs’ had been cooking her meals and cleaning her clothes and her apartment. “We’re the only family she has,” Mrs. Gibbs lamented. “I consider her my baby.”
The weaker and more isolated the individual, the more there is a need for family and community. Embrace someone in need of the comfort and solace you can provide.
Let love be genuine. (Romans 12:9)
Father, make me a good neighbor.
House of Hope
It was her sister’s drowning at age 11 that prompted Cori Salchert of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, to ask, “Where was God when my sister needed Him most?” But as an adult, writes Cori on Today.com, “I laid down the hurt and disillusion before God and said, ‘Here, You take this and redeem it.’”
The way God worked this redemption came about through Cori’s work as a registered nurse, where she encountered both hospice patients and new mothers who were told their newborns had serious medical issues and wouldn’t survive long.
Cori, her husband, and their eight children began taking in babies who were given these dire prognoses when their parents couldn’t care for them. Though these babies’ lives are short, they are showered with love every day.
Cori concludes, “We invest deeply, and we ache terribly when these kids die, but our hearts are like stained-glass windows. Those windows are made of broken glass which has been forged back together, and those windows are even stronger and more beautiful for having been broken.”
He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)
Help me to create beauty out of my brokenness, Jesus.
The Giving Tree
Many people know Shel Silverstein’s story The Giving Tree, about a sentient tree that gives fully of itself to help its young friend as he grows from boy to man. Whether he is a child picking apples, or an older man needing material to build a boat, the protagonist always finds the tree willing to share of itself.
Deb Siggins of Lisbon, Iowa, decided to put her own twist on that story last March, when she festooned the tree in front of her home with a product that was much needed in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic: homemade face masks.
Siggins, a talented seamstress, initially donated 100 masks to her local hospital in Cedar Rapids. Then she started getting more mask requests from her family and friends, and that’s when she got the divinely inspired idea.
Right before Easter, when Deb and her family usually hid eggs in their tree, they placed masks on its branches for people to take instead. Hundreds took advantage of the opportunity. Siggins told Good Morning America, “I felt like [my sewing] is a gift that I could put towards other people because it’s a gift God has given me.”
Give, and it will be given to you. (Luke 6:38)
God, teach us to give selflessly of both our time and talents.
Over 25 years ago, a German woman named Rita Ebel was
in a car accident that left her needing a wheelchair to get around. After years of struggling with the inaccessibility of shops in her hometown of Hanau, she recently decided to take action in an ingenious and fun way.
Reuter’s Chris Dyer tells of Ebel’s decision to solve the
problem by building short ramps out of Legos to help people get
over the steps of a shop’s entryway from the sidewalk.
Dyer writes, “Helped by her husband, the 62-year-old grandmother often spends two to three hours a day building the made-to-order ramps which contain several hundred of the small plastic bricks stuck together with up to eight tubes of glue.”
Ebel has gained the nickname “Lego grandma,” and now
she is taking orders for her ramps from places around the world. “For me, it is just about trying to sensitize the world a little bit to barrier-free travel,” she said. “Anyone could suddenly end up in a situation that puts them in a wheelchair, like it did me.”
For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.
Give me the inspiration to build a better world, Creator.
Embracing Weakness, Part 3
Because of their interest in social justice, Shannon K. Evans and her husband Eric got involved in a Catholic Worker community called Day House, near their Iowa hometown.
During a Christopher Closeup interview about her book Embracing Weakness, Shannon said, “[They were] a group of people living intentionally…among the poor and the homeless…People were welcome to come during the day for meals, and to shower. There was a little library, a piano, and things that make you feel like a human being.”
Shannon and Eric felt at home there because this wasn’t a typical volunteer experience. She said, “Every model of volunteer work that I had been a part of was…‘I’m here to serve you a meal, and then, I’ll go eat my own dinner at home.’
“Here, we all cooked the meal together. We all sat down and ate together. That was representative of the spirit of the place, of believing that every human being is created in the image of God. And no matter what their circumstances, they do have something to offer other human beings.”
They broke bread…and ate their food with glad and generous hearts. (Acts 2:46)
No matter our status in life, Lord, unite us as Your children.
Embracing Weakness, Part 2
Shannon K. Evans came to see that embracing weakness gave her a better understanding of the Incarnation and Passion of Jesus. During a Christopher Closeup interview, she said, “I feel like that inclination to gravitate to the power of God is prevalent wherever you go in the Christian tent.
“It feels good because it makes us feel like winners…I think it enables some of us to feel superior to other people who might not be looking as good and shiny from the outside. But when we look at the gospels, it’s clear that is not, ultimately, the message that Jesus was coming to present. Otherwise…He wouldn’t have come making Himself vulnerable.
“[We have] a God who would come from perfect glory and perfect comfort, and who would take on the physical discomforts of flesh, the grief, the pain of what it is to be human. I think that transforms us, and I think that is the model that can transform the world when we start to embody that in our relationships with those around us, the way that Jesus did.”
My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.
(2 Corinthians 12:9)
It is difficult for me to embrace my weakness, Jesus. Teach me to look to You as a model.
Embracing Weakness, Part 1
When Shannon K. Evans moved to Indonesia with her husband Eric as part of their evangelical church’s mission team, she had big plans of working in an orphanage, ministering to street kids, single-handedly stopping sex trafficking, and leading people to Jesus and salvation.
Soon, however, Shannon’s grand intentions collided with the harshness of reality, leaving her disillusioned at her lack of power to make a difference. Then came the ballet class. As a fun activity for the young girls in her community, Shannon watched ballet tutorials on Youtube and began to teach them simple steps, despite being a novice herself. As a result, it was the first time Shannon experienced a “sense of actual connection” with them. They were all beginners learning together.
In a culture that often emphasizes God’s power and strength, Shannon realized that approaching people with humility was the better option. It wasn’t just the information she had to impart to them that was important, but also what she could learn from them—and how she could connect with them.
Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility. (Colossians 3:12)
Teach me to connect with all Your children, Creator.
Forgiveness: A Healing Experience
To forgive others is to liberate oneself. For that you can take the word of Hasula Hanna of Aurora, Colorado. Writing in Guideposts magazine many years ago, she recalled the Saturday evening when her 35-year-old daughter failed to come home from work. The young woman was found murdered the next morning—the first of the killer’s multiple victims.
On the day of the man’s arrest, Hanna vented her anger by slashing his picture in the paper. Hate began to gnaw at her. Then, she began to think about forgiveness.
One day she asked a representative of Gideons International to arrange for delivery of a Bible to her daughter’s attacker. “Tell him,” she said, “that because Jesus forgives, Mrs. Hanna forgives you, and because Jesus said, ‘Love one another,’ Mrs. Hanna loves you.”
The message was delivered. It so shocked the prisoner, who by now was sullen and morose, that he turned to religion for solace. After that, he began ministering to other convicts. He and Mrs. Hanna each found a measure of peace.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for
what is noble in the sight of all. (Romans 12:17)
Teach us how to forgive, Holy Spirit.
The Way to Ease is Not Easy
Writer Mary DeTurris Poust found her middle-aged self grappling with a particularly challenging new exercise class. She yearned for everything to come easy, even though she had never done these exercises before. But Poust’s instructor gave her a different perspective.
In her column for Catholic New York, Poust wrote, “During the class, as I made a comment about my inability to do something, my teacher said, ‘Why would you want to do this perfectly? What would you learn from that? I want you to struggle. I want you to fail.’”
“Ah, that’s the part we don’t always remember, no matter what our age,” Poust continued. “We want to get better at things but we don’t always want to struggle to get there. We want to find a place of ease—where we reach contentment, acceptance—but we fool ourselves into thinking the way to ease is easy.
“It’s anything but. Ease doesn’t mean no suffering, no mistakes, no bobbling. It means experiencing all those things and still maintaining inner peace, still learning and growing.”
Endure trials for the sake of discipline. (Hebrews 12:7)
Grant me the grace to face my challenges humbly, Jesus.
Reunited After 75 Years
Cousins Morris Sana and Simon Mairowitz never thought they would see each other again. Having been close childhood friends in pre-World War II Romania, each one’s family fled the country separately after the government allied itself with Nazi Germany. With no way to keep track of each other, each of the boys assumed the other was murdered in a concentration camp.
Mairowitz went on to live and have a family in England, while Sana settled in Israel. Recently, Sana’s daughter did some genealogy research and discovered that the cousin her father believed had perished was alive and well after all. Both families arranged for an emotional reunion in Israel in 2019, which was 75 years after the last time they had seen each other.
Video footage showed the two men overcome with joy and tears as they met and embraced each other in a warm, long-awaited hug. Mairowitz said to Sana, “Seventy-five years you waited. It’s a long time. But we’ve got each other now.” And Sana’s granddaughter, Leetal Ofer, commented, “This is one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen.”
He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)
Bring healing to survivors of war, Blessed Creator.
When One of Us Rises
Actress Nikki DeLoach is deeply grateful for the people who stepped in to help her through her son’s health crisis and her father’s dementia. And they reminded her that there is far more goodness in the world than we sometimes realize.
She said on Christopher Closeup, “In the news, we are inundated with stories of things that people did wrong and how people are messed up…[But] we also have people who are making such a difference in people’s lives…With my dad, at the church, everyone is aware of his situation, so they all help him.
“We have to go to those in need. We have to help because when one of us rises, we take the rest with us. I think we sit around and wait for some big person [to fix things]. I call it the Jesus syndrome, where people are waiting around for someone to come in and save everyone from the woes of the world.
“That’s not the way it is. Jesus died to give us free will. We are the ones that are sent here to make a difference. I will never forget what my friends and my community have done for me and my family through the last couple of years of our lives.”
Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
Inspire me to go to those in need, Abba.
Embrace Your Wound as Your Teacher
In the face of the hardships she was facing in her family, Nikki DeLoach found her new philosophy expressed in a quote she read: “The healer’s gift is her own wound. It is the source of empathy and true understanding of compassion and forgiving. To heal thyself, embrace your wound as your sacred teacher.”
Nikki notes that the traumas we experience in life can create disease in our bodies and minds if they’re not addressed. “But if you can turn within and bring compassion and love to your wound—and ask it, ‘What can I learn from you? How can I grow from you’—that’s how you begin to heal yourself,” she said on Christopher Closeup.
“That’s also how you begin to help others through deep compassion and empathy…When we see somebody else that’s in pain, we can look at them, knowing what that feels like, and say, ‘How can I help you?’ Sometimes that means sitting with someone while they cry…Sometimes it may involve people delivering food if the family’s going through something. But whatever it is, when you listen from that space, you can be a source of love and compassion for someone else.”
Weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15)
May my wounds guide me to help others, Messiah.
What It Means to Walk in Faith
In 2017, Hallmark Channel actress Nikki Deloach’s son Bennett was born with multiple heart defects and her father was diagnosed with an aggressive form of dementia. As a Christian raised in the Baptist faith, she admits that she wondered if God was making these things happen to her loved ones as a punishment, which is what some Christians believe.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Nikki explained, “I had to re-examine what it meant to walk with God and Jesus. [I believe that] God doesn’t do these things to us…God is all good all the time and all love all the time…The truth of the matter is that life is hard and bad stuff happens to all of us. It is our faith that helps us to give any situation meaning.
“Whether that situation is painful or full of joy, it is our faith that helps us look at it and say, ‘How can I give this purpose? How can I lean into God to get me through, knowing that at the end of the day, I am still being held?’ That is what I had to come to understand about what it means to walk in faith.”
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned.” (John 9:2-3)
Jesus, teach me what it means to walk in faith.
So Help Me God
When George Washington took the oath as the first President of the United States on April 30, 1789, he spontaneously added this four-word prayer of his own: “So help me God.” The invocation is still used in many official oaths.
In the first part of his inaugural address, immediately following the oath, Washington reverently acknowledged our country’s dependence on Almighty God. He said:
“It would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe—who presides in the council of nations—and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States, a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes.”
“So help me God” doesn’t just have to be said in official oaths. We can say this silent prayer in our daily tasks to remind ourselves that we need God’s grace each and every day.
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is
the Lord. (Jeremiah 17:7)
Father, help our nation to trust You in every circumstance,
and help me to trust You in every moment of my life.
Never Too Old to Learn
Sadie Catania learned an important lesson many years ago. And that lesson was: you’re never too old to learn! That’s what she herself discovered at age 70 in 1978. “I had been doing volunteer work teaching remedial reading when it struck me that it was time for me to return to school,” said the New Yorker.
Catania attended Bronx Community College. And in 1982, at the age of 74, she completed the necessary work for a liberal arts degree in psychology, achieving a 3.95 average. She accepted a job as education counselor at the Bronx Psychiatric Center.
Recalling her experience, she admitted to being “scared and skeptical” at the start: “I wondered if my faculties were sharp enough to do college work.” She found that they were—“and the stimulation of learning new things made me sharper.”
“I was happy and fulfilled raising a family and keeping house,” Catania added. “But through college I have been able to expand my…world.”
If you cry out for insight…and search for it as hidden
treasures, then you will…find the knowledge of God.
Fill me with a longing for wisdom, Holy Spirit.
Disciples of the Lamb
During the 1980s, Véronique, a young French woman with Down syndrome, felt called to become a nun, but no religious order would accept her because of her condition. Then, she met a woman named Line, who grew determined to help her fulfill her vocation. Though it took many years and much support, the two ladies created a new community for women with Down syndrome, called the Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb.
As reported by Vatican News, the order currently has 10 Sisters, eight of whom have Down syndrome. Mother Line, now the prioress, understands their deep spirituality, saying, “They know the Bible, the lives of the saints, and they have a fabulous memory...Their souls are not disabled! On the contrary, they are closer to the Lord, they communicate with Him more easily.”
Sister Véronique adds, “Thirty-four years have passed since I heard the call of Jesus. I have tried to know Jesus by reading the Bible and the Gospel. I was born with a disability called Down syndrome. I am happy. I love life...Jesus made me grow in His love.”
Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
Teach me to grow in Your love, Savior.
Iwo Jima Revisited
February 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima. In a ceremony commemorating those who served, veteran Nick Troianiello was honored for being the last surviving Marine from Staten Island to have fought in the battle.
The Tablet, newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, detailed Troianiello’s story. “We weren’t even supposed to land on Iwo,” he recalled. “The report was that it was going to be taken in three to five days. How mistaken they were! Thirty-six days, over 7,000 killed and over 20,000 wounded…I was one of them.”
Troianiello was shot in the right forearm and hit with shrapnel near his right eye. He credits God with his survival, saying, “There is a God. I believe deeply and believe in God, family and country. I kept going to church all the time…I went to church every Sunday…going to church every morning and praying for everybody. I pray for everybody, every night and always the guys that never came home.”
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)
May the souls of our fallen heroes be in heaven, and may their sacrifices bring peace and a better world, Father.
Stranded in a Snowstorm
Many years ago, M. Philippi of Green Brook, New Jersey, wrote a letter to the editor of a local newspaper that told of the kindness shown to his daughter during one of the worst blizzards ever to strike the northeast.
His daughter Beth left work in her car at 2:30 p.m., having been let out early because of the storm. She had to make a detour because of drifting snow. Eventually, she became lost and confused amid a tangle of unfamiliar streets and abandoned cars.
Distraught, she plowed into a snow drift far from home and was marooned for hours. Her efforts to free the car left her “soaking wet and shivering with the cold when Mr. Melvin, a passenger in another car, stopped to help her,” Philippi wrote.
“Her feet were frozen and she could not walk so he carried her through knee-deep snow to the car. He took her to the safety of his home where he and his wife went out of their way to make her comfortable.”
On that cold day long ago, the Philippi family was reminded that the world is full of people with warm hearts.
I was a stranger and you welcomed Me.
Let me welcome the stranger as I would welcome You,
A Prayer for Lent
The following prayer appeared in church bulletins throughout the country in 2019 to help spiritually prepare people for the season of Lent:
“Merciful Lord, Your will is that all people know Your gracious love in the depths of their being.
“Look upon Your people with patience as they strive to live the love You have shown us.
“Keep us steadfast in prayer. Help us to persevere in our fasting and abstinence.
“Inspire us to be generous in our almsgiving. Cleanse our hearts during this penitential season.
“When we turn away from You—frightened, tired, or frustrated by our failures—fill us with joy in the salvation You have given us, that we might renew our efforts and praise Your saving power. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. (Joel 2:12-13)
Help me grow closer to You this Lent, Jesus.
A Marriage Milestone
You’ve heard of silver wedding anniversaries (for 25 years), golden anniversaries (for 50 years), and even diamond anniversaries (for both 60 and 75 years). But those colors still don’t capture the number that D.W. and Willie Williams reached in 2019 when they celebrated 82 years of marriage!
D.W. and Willie, ages 103 and 100 respectively, enjoyed the party thrown by their granddaughter BJ Williams-Greene at First Mayfield Memorial Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. She told WSOC-TV, “To see them at this age and still doing well, it’s just a blessing.”
The African American couple have seen a lot in their time: from 10 cent cab rides, to wars, to the Great Depression, to the civil rights movement. But through it all, they endured.
When asked if they had a secret to a long-lasting marriage, the Williams said, “Just be nice to each other.” Their granddaughter added, “It’s communication and loving each other and working together. They are each other’s best friend.”
What God has joined together, let no one separate. (Mark 10:9)
May married couples be grounded, in faith, love, and friendship, Messiah.
Love in Time of Coronavirus
During a period of strict social distancing, who would have thought a sweet romance could bloom? Yet this is exactly what happened between 23-year-old dancer Tori Cignarella and 28-year-old photographer Jeremy Cohen. It was like something straight out of the movies!
Cohen spotted his “Cignarella” dancing on the rooftop of her apartment building, which was located directly across the street from his own. “I saw a shining bright light,” he told CBS News. “She was happiness in a dark time. So I went out to my deck and I waved ‘hi.’ She waved ‘hi’ back. And I felt a little bit of a connection.”
But how to make the first move in a time of quarantine? Cohen thought of a clever way—he flew a drone across the street with his phone number taped to it. Cignarella took the bait, and before they knew it, the couple had their first virtual date.
Their love story attracted media attention, and Cohen used this interest to promote awareness about helping the less fortunate, citing charities such as Feeding America.
You are altogether beautiful, my love. (Song of Solomon 4:7)
Paraclete, may we never underestimate the power of love.
“Jesus Told Me to Talk to You”
Chris Pratt is now a successful actor, who has starred in movies such as Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World. He also speaks openly about his Christian faith. But there was a time when Pratt was neither successful nor faithful.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, he recalled a period when he was living on a beach in Maui, feeling lost and unsure about what to do with his life. While Pratt was sitting outside a grocery store waiting for someone to buy him beer because he wasn’t old enough to buy it himself, a man named Henry approached him and asked him questions about his plans for the night.
Pratt responded that he would be drinking and partying with some girls, then inquired, “Why are you asking?” Henry answered, “Jesus told me to talk to you.”
Pratt agreed to go to church with Henry—and soon after, decided to change his life. The actor attributes his career success to his willingness to be led by God, as well as the real world struggles he faced along the road to stardom.
Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak. (Exodus 4:12)
Jesus, open my eyes and ears to the messages You are trying to share with me.
His Specialty: Saving Lives
Forrest Bird of Sandpoint, Michigan, was a pilot, a physician, and an inventor. All of these activities engaged him in the most sublime of all callings: saving lives.
Although his name is unknown to most people, he is the developer of respirators that do the breathing for thousands of people needing such support.
One of his respirators, called the Baby Bird, helped save the lives of hundreds of thousands of premature babies born since 1970. Their survival rate became 90 percent, whereas it used to be 30 percent.
A man who said he had “a reverence for all life,” Dr. Bird also flew his helicopters into mountainous areas to rescue lost or injured hikers. He told people that his hobby was his work. At work, his philosophy was a simple one: “I work as if I were going to be the next person to need a respirator. I share in the benefits I bestow on others and my work has enriched my life.”
As for rewards, he says, “When the 11th hour comes and they say, ‘Bring out the Bird,’ and it works—that’s my reward.”
In the path of righteousness there is life. (Proverbs 12:28)
Father, instill a reverence for life in all doctors.
A Definite Hero
It was a terrifying night in February 2020 when two-year-old Ethan Adeyemi wandered away from his family’s home in Elkridge, Maryland. He disappeared late in the evening, and when the family contacted police, a search ensued, with fire personnel, K9 units, drones, aircraft, helicopters, and people from the neighborhood joining in the search.
As reported by CBS News, Ethan had been missing for nearly 10 hours when U.S. Postal Service employee Keith Rollins was driving along a highway and spotted something unusual on the side of the road. He pulled over and found Ethan, who was non-responsive and shivering cold, without even shoes or socks on his feet. Rollins called 911, then picked Ethan up and put him in his car to keep him warm until police arrived.
Rollins rejected being called a hero for his actions, saying, “It was God-ordained that I be in that place at that time…Giving glory to God that I was able to help at that particular time and be in the correct place at the right time…But a hero? Nah, not at all.”
Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)
Guide me in helping the most vulnerable, Jesus.
To counteract the loneliness and isolation many people experienced during the coronavirus pandemic, 21 Canadian students from Calgary High School banded together to launch a positive media organization, aptly named the Joy4All Project.
It centered on a telephone hotline, created specifically for seniors, as many older people live alone. So, if any of the elderly in quarantine were feeling lonely, all they had to do was dial 1-877-JOY-4ALL.
According to the initiative’s website, “When you call, you’ll hear kind words, stories and humor from…youth who want to spread messages of hope and connection.” Any young person can submit positive anecdotes or quotes for this purpose.
“Through this project,” student Ali Ahmad told LiveWireCalgary News at the project’s inception, “we will be able to show our appreciation to people that are self-isolating, and give them something they can always look forward to in their day. Hopefully, it can lighten the mood and save lives.”
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold. (Proverbs 25:11)
God, may we never underestimate the importance of communication.
A Pioneer for Black Catholics
The history of Catholicism in America involves people from different backgrounds and nationalities contributing the light of Christ to the Church and to their country. One previously unsung hero has been Anne Marie Becraft, a black woman from the early 19th century.
In America magazine, Shannen Dee Williams describes how in 1820, at age 15, Becraft created one of the first schools for black children in Washington, D.C. She felt called to religious life, but was excluded from many orders because of her color. Becraft eventually joined the Oblate Sisters of Providence, an order founded by and for African-American women. She served as a powerful force to better the lives of black people.
Sister Anne Marie’s piety and determination were noted by her contemporaries at the time, and though she died at the young age of 28, she is being honored today for her work promoting racial equality in the Catholic faith. In fact, in 2017, when Georgetown University sought to rename a building on campus, they named it after Anne Marie Becraft for her crucial work.
Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women. (Acts 5:14)
Help me be a model of racial healing, Prince of Peace.
Deacon Discovers a Grateful Heart, Part 4
Following his cancer journey, Deacon Donald Michael gained a new perspective on the Beatitudes of Jesus, recounted in Matthew 5:1-12. The deacon writes: “Jesus’ Beatitudes were not simple suggestions that can be shoved under a pillow. They are our marching orders to build His Kingdom.
“That comes first with the acknowledgement that we cannot be our own saviors. We cannot demonstrate the power of the Holy Trinity if we are not willing to bend our knees before the Creator and listen to His instructions. We cannot begin our spiritual cleansing if we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to heal our wounds, fears and mistakes. I have learned through the Beatitudes what an unbound soul can become: freer, more open to holiness, more aware of the movement of the Holy Spirit.”
“The words of Jesus are seemingly too difficult to absorb when we are healthy, strong and secure,” the deacon concludes. “These words become more valued and accepted when we face the reality that our lives are fragile…It is during these moments we are forced to be honest with ourselves.”
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
Holy Spirit, heal my wounds, fears, and mistakes.
Deacon Discovers a Grateful Heart, Part 3
During his arduous treatment and subsequent recovery from cancer, Deacon Donald Michael reflected on the healing love and counsel he received from his wife, children, friends, parishioners, and dog. Then, he realized that “God’s love and forgiveness” must be even greater.
The deacon wrote, “I was overwhelmed and filled with emotion over the letters, cards, gifts, prayers and words of support that continue to this day. My journey with spiritual and physical healing is a testament [to] the tools and people God uses to help us in life.
“I discovered the value of waking up each morning with a grateful heart, [knowing] I have family and friends among me. I’m grateful for all the gifts life offers. I used my hospital bed as an altar of prayer for forgiveness and deep reflection of what I was failing at…Although I was sick, I felt [God’s] presence and voice telling me I would be O.K.”
The experience also gave Deacon Donald a new perspective on the Beatitudes. More tomorrow…
I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me. (1 Timothy 1:12)
Teach me to be grateful for my blessings, Creator.
Deacon Discovers a Grateful Heart, Part 2
Deacon Donald Michael felt “numb” when he learned that he had cancer: specifically, an Anterior Mediastinal Mass. And though it was treatable and curable, according to doctors, chemotherapy treatments would need to be aggressive and would leave him feeling miserable.
In addition to his own prayers, the prayers and encouragement of loved ones and the devotion of his dog Henry, the deacon credits the oncology nursing staff at the University of Michigan Medical Center with helping to sustain him. He writes:
“As I lay in bed, with the chemo dripping into my veins, they would ask me questions about my family, my struggles and fears. One nurse would occasionally be by my side, hold my hand and console me during the darkest and more difficult times of the therapy.”
Deacon Donald lost 40 pounds, along with his hair, some hearing, and a sense of balance. But the cancer went into remission, leaving him to reflect on life, love, and “God’s mercy and forgiveness.” More about that tomorrow…
God…consoles us…so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction.
(2 Corinthians 1:3,4)
May I be a consolation to someone who is suffering, Lord.
Deacon Discovers a Grateful Heart, Part 1
Deacon Donald Michael of St. Anthony Catholic Church in Hillsdale, Michigan, was supposed to serve as a spiritual guide for parishioners. But that was tough to do in 2019 when he felt “spiritually bitter” himself because of the wider Church’s handling of the sex abuse scandal.
At the same time, the deacon was experiencing troubling medical symptoms that required testing: “weakness, shortness of breath, coughing, poor balance and vocal hoarseness.”
Parish administrator Father David Reamsnyder suggested that Deacon Donald attend the Unbound Prayer Ministry Retreat at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. There, writes Deacon Donald, he met “Ms. Nancy DeBacker who took time with me to discuss my concerns. She prayed with me. She helped me release the anger and hurt I was holding onto.”
Deacon Donald’s renewed faith became even more important when a short time later he received the diagnosis that nobody wants to hear: cancer. More tomorrow…
You must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice. (Colossians 3:8)
Anger can be righteous, Jesus, but please don’t let it rule my heart. Help me to find Your peace.
A Matter of Preparation
Many years ago, five friends—all Boy Scouts—were out for a hike in New Jersey’s South Mountain Reservation. It was winter and it started to snow while they walked gingerly along a rock ledge. Suddenly, Tim Germann slipped on some ice and tumbled into a pool of water 30 feet below.
Two of the boys, Mario Piccinini and Andrew Pierson, ran for help. The two others, David Wilms and John Germann, scurried down the ravine to see what they could do for their companion, who had been knocked unconscious and was lying face down in the water.
John said, “He wasn’t breathing and his jaws were locked. We hyperextended his neck and chin to try and open up the airway. His jaws stayed locked, but within a few seconds he started to breathe.”
The boys also treated their friend for shock, putting their jackets around him and raising his legs slightly to promote circulation. Later, the paramedics who responded to the call told Tim’s mother that the boys, whose Scout training had prepared them for emergencies, had undoubtedly saved his life.
You also must be ready. (Matthew 24:44)
Grant that I might always be prepared for Your coming, Jesus.
The Forgotten Pioneers
In a particular Denver museum, visitors find such items as the buffalo coat once owned by a cowboy who rode with the Sundance Kid, a photo of a cowboy wresting a bull to the ground, and the medical equipment belonging to a nurse who served in frontier Colorado.
What makes this collection unique is that those memorialized in it are the forgotten pioneers, the black men and women who helped tame the West. The Black American West Museum is the work of Paul Stewart, a former barber. The museum is dedicated to preserving and publicizing the role of African Americans in settling the West.
Stewart spent years tracking down books, photographs, and stories. He conducted many of the interviews while barbering. “I used to keep a tape recorder by the chair,” he said, “and when I’d find some old fellow who’d driven cattle or worked out here in the old days, I’d turn it on and let him talk.”
Elderly people of your acquaintance have their own stories to tell. Take the opportunity to learn from them.
This land shall fall to you as your inheritance. (Ezekiel 47:14)
Father, fill me with appreciation for the sacrifices of those who have gone before me.
A Racer Who Made a Difference
John Andretti was a beloved race car driver who was part of the famous Andretti family. Like them, he competed in the Indy 500. But John also had a huge heart for giving back to the community, specifically to the Riley Children’s Foundation.
The annual dinner and go-kart race that he spearheaded raised money for pediatric cancer research and supported Riley Children’s Hospital in Indiana. John also frequently visited the hospital to raise the spirits of the kids who were patients there.
Unfortunately, John neglected his own healthcare. At age 54, he was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. Had he received a colonoscopy earlier, it could have been prevented or treated. John went public with the news and encouraged others to get themselves checked. Many people did exactly that.
John Andretti died in 2020 at age 56. A memorial service was held at Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis where family, friends, and admirers gathered to celebrate his life. His sister Carolyn said, “We love and miss you, John. But we also know you’re already negotiating with God to look after us.”
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
(2 Timothy 4:7)
Remind me to look after my own health, Creator.
Luck on the Field, and Off
Former NFL quarterback Andrew Luck is known for his leadership of the Indianapolis Colts and his retirement from professional football at age 29. But he’s also outspoken about his Catholic faith.
During a fundraising event for Catholic Charities Indianapolis, Luck said, “Anybody and everybody can serve. There is no age limit. There is no distinction of where you come from, who you are, the color of your skin. We are all called to serve. We all have an obligation to serve one another.”
Luck’s message to Catholic Charities included a personal recollection of his work with children’s hospitals, his mentoring of his teammates, and his devotion to St. John Paul II. In all areas of Luck’s life, he’s focused on striving to be his best and on helping those around him.
“Spirit of service is a two-way street,” Luck added. “We’ve all been on the receiving end and, I hope, we’ve all been on the other end as well.”
Render service with enthusiasm. (Ephesians 6:7)
Christ, may we always be blessed with opportunities to both give and receive.
A Little Kindness Can Change the World
In times of tragedy, the best in humanity can often be highlighted. This was certainly the case when 10-year-old Hannah Imig of Chesterfield, Missouri, made a heartfelt plea on Facebook for funds to be raised for her local police department.
“Police officers are very important people, right?” Hannah’s letter began. “They protect us even when it’s dangerous. They sacrifice themselves for strangers…But because a lot of the stores and restaurants shut down, there was a loss of sales tax, and the police had to cut their payroll….I thought we could brighten their day by doing a fundraiser for them.”
“And to make the world an even better place,” Hannah’s letter concluded, “we can buy gift cards from stores that have shut down, that way the police and the small businesses can benefit… Remember, a little kindness can change the world.”
Hannah’s fundraiser raised $2,400 in just a day and a half, enough for 232 gift cards, two cards per officer. What a beautiful testament to the fact that one person truly can make a difference!
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted. (Ephesians 4:32)
Lord, may we strive to bring more positivity into the world.
January 27, 2020, marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. For survivors of the Nazi death camp, it was a time to remind the world that the victims of the Holocaust must never be forgotten.
NPR highlighted the account of 96-year-old Alina Dabrowska, who was sent to Auschwitz as a young woman after being arrested for aiding Allied forces. After the war, she raised a family and had a successful career in Poland’s foreign ministry.
Like many survivors, she spent years without speaking publicly about her ordeal. But recently, that has changed, and now she travels to Germany twice a month to tell her story to young people.
She says, “Those children will grow up one day and they
will be the ones deciding about how to rule the world. It is important [to talk about it] in order to develop the conviction that war is not a good thing, in order to seek peace and try to talk about it, in order to think that it is us who are responsible for this earth and for passing it on, undamaged, to the next generations.”
My steadfast love shall not depart from you, and My covenant of peace shall not be removed. (Isaiah 54:10)
Lord, give me the strength to help others learn from my suffering.
FaceTime for Nana
With the onslaught of the coronavirus last year, many freedoms taken for granted were lost, one of them being able to go visit grandparents at nursing homes. School nurse and Massachusetts resident Sarah Otis Firth felt deeply for the elderly and their extended families. “I thought of these poor people in the nursing homes,” she told The Standard Times. “They’re so scared and isolated. I wish I could get a bunch of iPads to give to them [to make FaceTime calls with their loved ones].”
Firth soon found the means to put her wish into action. With her friend Jill Valadao, she established a Facebook fundraiser called “FaceTime for Nana.” Their goal was to raise $300 for one iPad. In the following weeks, however, thousands of dollars were donated and numerous iPads purchased.
A local nursing home, Alden Court Nursing Care, became one of the first iPad recipients. They sent back a message of thanks, saying that 75 FaceTime calls had been made, and the residents and families could not be more grateful. Jill concluded, “Our society needed to slow down and be reminded of what really matters…Look for the good…There’s a lot of good.”
A gift opens doors. (Proverbs 18:16)
Abba, may we always value human connection.
Revolution of the Heart, Part 3
Throughout her life, Dorothy Day engaged in difficult work, and many pictures show her as being serious. Yet documentarian Martin Doblmeier found an audio clip of Day talking about joy. She said, “Frankly, you can have a sense of joy just in serving the people that are in need around you. And a sense that your vocation is being fulfilled.”
Doblmeier explained, “That was a wonderful line, especially for young people…[who ask], ‘What is my place in the world?’…Vocation was something that Day felt very clear about: the idea that God is calling you to some kind of place in the world. And if you can find that, you can find joy in doing it.
“When you look at the film, I’ve been told that Day looks dour sometimes. But we found a photograph of her smiling. It was a quiet moment when she was reading to an elderly woman. There’s joy in serving other people. Even though they’re poor, [they] give back to you what you’re giving to them. And that becomes your vocation. In the midst of your vocation, feeling as though your life has a purpose, you can find unspeakable joy.”
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)
Teach me to find joy in giving, Divine Messiah.
Revolution of the Heart, Part 2
After her conversion to Catholicism, Dorothy Day met a French man named Peter Maurin, who insisted that she needed to understand Catholic social teaching. He told her, “You need to start a newspaper and think about how you can respond in a creative way to the needs of the poor. You have to start living the beatitudes in a different way.”
Day found Maurin annoying at first because he wouldn’t leave her alone. But finally she came to the conclusion, “Maybe this is the man that God [sent] to me. Maybe this is the voice that I need to be listening to.”
Together, Day and Maurin founded the Catholic Worker movement, which published its own newspaper and opened houses of hospitality where the poor could live and eat together. In addition, Day adopted “voluntary poverty” herself.
Martin Doblmeier, filmmaker of the Day documentary Revolution of the Heart, said, “Day felt as though you can’t be serving the poor from the top down. You have to live together with them and be poor like them.” More tomorrow…
How does God’s love abide in [one] who…sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? (1 John 3:17)
Open my eyes to the needs of others, Jesus.
Revolution of the Heart, Part 1
In 2020, Christopher Award-winning filmmaker Martin Doblmeier profiled Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement, in his documentary Revolution of the Heart.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Doblmeier noted that even in her early years, when she was a communist, Day felt haunted by God. She tried to suppress her religious sensibilities, but they were always bubbling back up to the surface because she was drawn to activities, such as reading the Psalms.
After giving birth to a daughter named Tamar out of wedlock, Day wanted to marry the father, Forster Batterham. But he had no interest in making that kind of commitment, which led her to take stock of her life. Having read Thomas à Kempis’ Imitation of Christ and other religious literature, Day had Tamar baptized in the Catholic Church and soon decided to become Catholic herself.
Even after her conversion, though, Day still wasn’t sure of her place in the world and how to live out her faith. Then, a man named Peter Maurin changed her life. More tomorrow…
I believe; help my unbelief. (Mark 9:24)
There are times when I struggle to believe in You, Lord. Lead me to a deeper faith.
A Divinely Inspired Career Change
After graduating from the University of Illinois with an engineering degree, Jessica Lambert got a job at a company that helped buildings reduce their energy load. She considered this work a way of serving God, but still felt something missing in her life. After turning to God in prayer, she felt the call to serve others by becoming a nun.
As reported by Vince Gerasole of CBS2 Chicago, Lambert joined the order of the Franciscans of the Eucharist, where she will “work to feed the poor at their food pantry and teach religion in nearby schools—and spread the word of God’s compassion.”
Interestingly, Sister Jess didn’t attend Catholic schools growing up. And the only nuns she was exposed to were via the movies Sister Act and The Sound of Music.
When asked how her goals have changed, she responded, “It used to be this grandiose idea of having an engineering job and building the bridges that would have people walk to where they needed to. But now it’s just answering God’s call each day to do a good deed, and to love Him through loving others.”
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling. (Ephesians 4:4)
Father, may we listen for Your Divine Call in all we do.
Lesson From a Two-Year-Old
“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut!” That’s a line from the Dr. Seuss book Oh, The Places You’ll Go. It’s also the quote on the front of two-year-old Rose McGrady’s favorite T-shirt. Her mom Katie reflected on those words in a column for Catholic News Service.
She wrote, “[They remind] me to keep my eyes open rather than turned down at a screen...to pay attention and to look for the wonder, especially in the quiet, mundane, ordinary moments that could pass by entirely unnoticed.”
For Katie, watching the way Rose lives brings that message home. She said, “[Rose] runs through the house and yard with endless energy...She watches TV, reads books, eats meals, dances and plays games with a committed joy...Her eyes are wide open, and her desire to soak in life is unmatched.
“She has, in a very tangible way, an unalterable, unassailable, visible, obvious and even enviable spirit of hope because her eyes are open. She isn’t missing the best things, but soaking them all in.”
Unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3)
Help me to regain my childlike joy and wonder, Creator.
The Importance of Trust
It was early on a winter morning many years ago, and the roads around Ridgefield, Connecticut, were icy. Joseph Samaha was at the wheel of a school bus carrying 52 youngsters. He said later that he saw the car coming down the hill toward him but there wasn’t much he could do, because to hit the brakes would have sent the bus into a skid.
In the resulting accident, the bus crashed into the guard rail and toppled over the embankment. Gasoline fumes filled the bus, so Samaha quickly climbed out his window and opened other windows and exits. “I had to get the kids out,” he said. “I didn’t know if there was going to be a fire.”
Not only did he get them out, but one woman remembered that he returned to the bus “to look for lost books or glasses.”
Samaha didn’t feel he had done anything special, however. “The parents put the kids in your hands,” he commented. “If they trust you with that, the least you can do is follow it up.”
Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much. (Luke 16:10)
Help me to become a trustworthy person, Jesus.
Words of Wisdom
On Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we recall several of his memorable quotes:
■ “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”
■ “Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and enables the man who wields it.”
■ “Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals.”
■ “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
■ “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
Love one another. (John 13:34)
Build my intelligence, character, and faith, Messiah.
CEO Slashes Own Salary to Give Raises
Dan Price isn’t a typical boss. As CEO of Gravity Payments, he took a million dollar salary cut in 2015 in order to provide all his employees a starting annual salary of $50,000 (most employees had been making only $30,000). Four years later, he flew to the new Idaho office to share even better news to his employees: a commitment to pay everyone at least $70,000 by 2024.
Price told the Today Show that there was “general excitement and gratitude all around. I received a lot of high fives, hugs, and handshakes that day. It was a tremendous feeling.”
Price was inspired to start his minimum income experiment after reading an article detailing how more money can make a crucial difference in fostering happiness. And what a difference it has made! Since the first pay increase, many employees were able to pay down debt and live a healthier, happier lifestyle.
Price is hoping to inspire other CEOs and companies to learn from his example: “I took a seven-figure pay cut in order to afford the initial increase, and my life has gotten richer for it.”
Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life. (John 6:27)
Lord, guide me to make sacrifices that will benefit others.
An Angel 900 Miles Away
When Kimberly Williams started her shift at a Comcast Cable call center near Clinton, Mississippi, little did she know she would save a man’s life that day.
In August 2019, Williams answered a call from Dan Magennis of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and noticed that something sounded wrong. His speech was slurred, and Williams realized Magennis was having a stroke. “It happened so fast,” she recalled on the Today Show. “He was talking to me, and I couldn’t understand what he was saying.”
Feeling helpless, and 900 miles away, she kept talking to him on the other end of the line and Googled help in that area. She called the fire department, who sent EMTs and police to rescue the 65-year-old. They reached Magennis in time and rushed him to the hospital where they restored his blood flow.
“She doesn’t know me, but what she did, it was phenomenal,” Magennis declared. “She saved [me].”
Save Your servant who trusts in You. You are my God. (Psalm 86:2)
Lord, please protect and send help to those who need Your saving grace.
When Life Gives You Pears, Part 4
In her Christopher Award-winning memoir When Life Gives You Pears, Jeannie Gaffigan recalls her arduous recovery from brain surgery and the lessons God taught her along the way. Gratitude remains a central lesson because there was a long period when Jeannie wasn’t able to take a sip of water, a breath of air on her own, or even speak a word. As a result, she no longer keeps these commonplace abilities for granted.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, she concluded, “Live your day in gratitude because gratitude makes you kind. Gratitude is the seed of all good things…And if you have gratitude for the small things, like swallowing water or smelling your kid’s head, it radiates out and affects your whole life.
“Because I’m still suffering some effects of this surgery physically, it’s easy for me to keep a sense of gratitude because it is still hard to swallow. It is still hard to breathe sometimes. It is still hard to speak…But my advice to people is to put a post-it note on your laptop [that says], ‘Be grateful’ as a constant reminder, because it’s so easy to start listening to the noise of the stresses of life and forget that you’re alive.”
Give thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Remind me to take nothing for granted, Savior.
When Life Gives You Pears, Part 3
While recovering from brain surgery, Jeannie Gaffigan felt that God was giving her several commandments that would affect how she approached life with her husband, comedian Jim Gaffigan, and their five children.
These commandments included, “Tell Jim and your children you love them every day,” “Praise their strengths and be patient with their weaknesses as you guide them,” “Teach them to serve others,” and “Remember that people are more valuable than accomplishments.”
On Christopher Closeup, Jeannie explained, “I called them commandments because I was being funny. But they were like spiritual direction from the source of wisdom that resides in all of us, which I believe is God. He’s talking to us, and we’re not tuned into it. So I feel like God said that I need to enjoy the moments that He’s given me with these kids, my friends, my family, and I need to experience gratitude instead of trying to control everything.”
The Lord is my shepherd…He restores my soul. (Psalm 23:1,3)
Jesus, give me the spiritual direction that I need.
When Life Gives You Pears, Part 2
Jeannie Gaffigan was used to managing her family’s life and being addicted to control. But that all changed when she was diagnosed with a pear-sized tumor on her brain stem. She had to learn to let go of some of her ego and humble herself, asking God to guide her through this trying time.
After miraculously being led to the neurosurgery team at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, Jeannie underwent surgery, which was successful. However, she couldn’t eat, drink, or talk for what seemed like an eternity.
She recalled on Christopher Closeup, “[When I was healthy], I [avoided] listening to my inner voice when God was talking to me. So when I was in a situation where I could not move and couldn’t eat and couldn’t do anything, I went into a forced period of cloistered monastery in my own mind. That’s when I [discovered] that I was regretful about what I had not done with my life…I wasn’t really experiencing life and motherhood in a pure way. I felt like I wanted another chance.”
For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from Him. (Psalm 62:5)
Remind me to listen to Your voice in my life, Jesus.
When Life Gives You Pears, Part 1
Jeannie Gaffigan is the wife and writing/producing partner of comedian Jim Gaffigan and mother of their five children. She is also outspoken about the importance of her Catholic faith. Her introduction to God came in her family’s home in Milwaukee, where she grew up as the eldest of nine children.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Jeannie recalled her mom emphasizing that God was always with her. There was also “the tradition of going to Mass every week,” said Jeannie. “It became ingrained in my cultural identity that that’s what you do on Sunday: you get up, fight with your siblings, go to Mass, complain on the way…and then you have a big family dinner.”
For a time in young adulthood, Jeannie stopped attending Mass and treated God like a “sugar daddy,” appealing to Him for help on a school test or finding a parking spot. As life got more complicated, she went back to church because she wanted to be part of something that helped her connect with the invisible, transcendent reality that she felt existed beyond the senses. That became more important than ever when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor many years later. More tomorrow…
Do not reject your mother’s teaching. (Proverbs 1:8)
May all families model love and faith, Creator.
Love Must Win the Day
Political differences have led to much animosity between people in recent years, but singer-songwriter Sarah Hart is determined not to let anger dominate her relationships. She wrote this message on her Facebook page:
“Dear friends, just a note to tell you that I love you, and I appreciate your humanity. I don’t know where you stand politically, but this can never be the deciding factor about whether or not I love you. Hatred is the great divider, and…evil loves nothing more than when we stand against each other. I want to stand with you and for you in love.
“I can fully believe that you are misguided in some way, and yet still love you as a brother or sister. You can do the same for me. I know this is difficult to do, but this is what being a Christian means, and this is what Christ commanded of us: ‘love one another, as I have loved you.’ My prayer is that we can all find ways to look beyond our [disagreements]…Hatred and anger have never saved the day, nor ever won a heart to the side of light. Love alone has done this. Let it be so.”
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. (Proverbs 10:12)
May love guide all my relationships, Father.
Lifting the Mood of a Stranger
Talking to a stranger or even making eye contact with someone in an elevator tends to be scary for most individuals, and most of us resort to staring down at our phones. But research suggests that doing the opposite and striking up a conversation with that stranger may brighten not only their day but your own.
A recent study by University of British Columbia psychologist Elizabeth Dunn and her colleague Gillian M. Sandstrom tested whether short conversations with strangers promote happiness. They did a study where half of the participants would go into Starbucks for coffee and leave without speaking, whereas the other half would strike up a conversation.
They found that the people who engaged in “a quick social interaction left Starbucks in a better mood,” Dunn told WBUR News. “And they even felt a greater sense of belonging in their community.”
Fear often prevents us from enjoying these interactions, so the next time you’re looking to add happiness to your day, put your smartphone away and enjoy a conversation with a stranger.
The kiln tests the potter’s vessels; so the test of a person is in his conversation.
Lord, help me to brighten the day of a stranger.
Dignity, Not a Dumpster
A Little Caesar’s restaurant in Fargo, North Dakota, has been applauded by the community for a rare sign posted on its doors. It began when customers complained that homeless people were seen digging through the dumpster behind the restaurant for food.
In response, store manager Michelle Lussier put a sign on the front door that read: “To the person going through our trash for their next meal, you’re a human being and worth more than a meal from a dumpster. Please come in during operating hours for a couple slices of hot pizza and a cup of water at no charge. No questions asked.”
Her approach to “dealing with the situation,” which is what customers and others asked her to do, was to respond with a kind gesture that treated the homeless with dignity and compassion. It has also resulted in a lot of positive press. The store owners were supportive of Lussier’s endeavor and now have a donation box inside the restaurant to help the homeless.
Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of My family, you did it to Me. (Matthew 25:40)
Jesus, help us respond compassionately to those in need.
In 1991, Corky Hawthorne was an alcoholic who got into a devastating car accident while driving drunk. Nobody else was injured, but he was badly hurt. While in the hospital, he got many letters from well-wishers, including a six-page letter from an Eddie Walker who had been at the scene of the accident.
Eddie wrote about his personal faith, how he had been in a similarly dark place until Christ came through for him, and how God had spared Corky’s life for a reason. At the time Corky dismissed the letter, but he couldn’t seem to throw it away.
A year later, Corky had begun drinking again. Through an intervention by his family and friends, he realized that he needed to go to rehab. And on Good Friday, 1992, he humbly asked God for help.
Eddie’s letter was an important part of his conversion. Corky wrote in Guideposts, “Though I don’t remember the strangers who saved my life that night, I will never forget the message they helped deliver—that I could become a new man, transformed forever by God.”
You have been born anew…through the living and enduring word of God.
(1 Peter 1:23)
Jesus, help me to share my faith with those who need to know You.
Vet Friends Foundation
Five years ago, Detroit resident and Navy veteran Joel Rockey created the Vet Friends Foundation, a nonprofit that pairs seasoned military veterans with older senior dogs in need of love and companionship.
Rockey came up with the idea after he returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, having been away for five years. Looking for newfound purpose, he soon discovered a stray senior pug dog during a snowstorm. The canine was blind, deaf, and severely injured, but Rockey and his family took in the dog, whom they named Lurch, and nursed him back to health.
Although Joel only had Lurch for three months before he passed, he never felt so full of life and more importantly, needed, than when he had him.
“As a vet myself, I think veterans, when they get out of the military, aren’t asked to do anything anymore,” Rockey says. “Everyone is thanking them, but they’re not being asked to do anything. When they’re taking care of a senior animal, they’re needed and it creates a new sense of value in their life.”
Who teaches us more than the animals? (Job 35:11)
God, may we trust in Your ability to work good through us.
A Healing Prayer
During the coronavirus pandemic, when the entire country was under quarantine, the Ukrainian Orthodox Christian Church composed this healing prayer: “O Lord Jesus Christ, in Your loving care, You traveled through towns and villages, ‘curing every disease and illness.’ Come to our aid now…that we may experience Your healing love.
“Be with the families of those who are sick or have died. May they regain their health and strength…As they worry and grieve, defend them from illness and despair. Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbors from helping each other.
“Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected…Be with the leaders of all nations. Give them the foresight to act with charity and true concern for the well-being of the people they… serve…Healer of all…stay by our side. For You are a Merciful and Loving God, and to You we give glory, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit…to the ages of ages. Amen.”
The prayer of faith will save the sick. (James 5:14)
Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities, for Thy namesake.
Trebeks Are Models of Generosity
Jeopardy host Alex Trebek has taught us a lot of facts over the last 36 years. But he and his wife Jean are also models of generosity. They established a two million dollar scholarship fund for students in Harlem, New York, who attend their son’s alma mater, Fordham College at Rose Hill.
As reported by Fordham News, the couple was honored with the school’s 2020 Founders Award. University President Father Joseph McShane said, “[Alex] teaches us about how to live each day with purpose, with focus, with determination, with love, and without being obsessed with oneself.”
In his acceptance speech, Alex Trebek touched on his battle with stage four pancreatic cancer and the support he’s received, stating, “If there’s one thing I discovered this past year, it is that power of prayer. I learned it from the Jesuits when I was a kid, I learned it from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate when I was in boarding school.” He concluded, “If you have compassion in your heart, everything is possible…If we are able to affect society in a positive way, then our lives will not be for naught.”
To the sensible person education is like a golden ornament. (Sirach 21:21)
Lord, allow me to help educate those without resources.
Getting Help is a Strength, Not a Weakness
Emily Norton felt physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. Her husband Chris had been injured during a college football game and left a quadriplegic, so she took it upon herself to tend to his every need. In addition, the couple also began foster parenting a teen named Whittley.
Chris saw that Emily was overextended and even suffering from depression, so he suggested hiring a caretaker to help him. But Emily refused to acknowledge she couldn’t do everything herself. As a result, she kept getting worse.
Then, the couple decided to start attending church again and everything changed. It was one Sunday sermon in particular that had an impact. As reported in Guideposts, “[The pastor] talked about how a really independent person going through a hard time might realize they had to depend on God.”
Emily realized that described her to a tee. She hired a caretaker, and started seeing a therapist and taking medication. The fog of depression soon lifted. Emily concluded, “I realized that getting help is a strength, not a weakness...I’ve learned to surrender the weight to God...and just focus on what I can do.”
I will satisfy the weary. (Jeremiah 31:25)
Grant me the humility to ask for help when I need it, Jesus.
Lend a Hammer and a Hand
Jack Crawford needed a solution to help his ailing wife Mary. After moving into a house surrounded by trees in New York’s Putnam County, Mary was diagnosed with spinal cancer. She endured surgery to deal with tumors that were crushing her spine and, as a result, was left mostly paralyzed from the neck down.
Their son Jared, now a producer for the Today Show, recalled that in order to get to doctor’s appointments, Jack had to carry Mary “out the door, up the steep footpath through the trees, and into the car waiting in the driveway.”
It was a challenge for everyone involved, so Jack decided he would build a bridge over the landscape to serve as a ramp. He hired a few contractors and then left flyers in their new neighbors’ mailboxes that read, “Lend a hammer and a hand.”
Volunteers showed up with “tools, food, and good intentions.” The bridge was completed in one weekend, and a community’s coming together made life just a little easier for Mary in the remaining three years of her life.
All their neighbors aided them. (Ezra 1:6)
Holy Spirit, inspire me to lend a hand to someone in need whenever I can.
New Heart, New Family
Nurses are known for having big hearts, and that’s certainly true of Lori Wood, who works at Piedmont Newnan Hospital in Coweta County, Georgia. In fact, she is largely responsible for a 27-year-old autistic man receiving the heart transplant he needed to stay alive.
After being hospitalized following a fall, Jonathan Pinkard discovered he needed a heart transplant. But Pinkard had no real home, family, or support system. As reported by the Today Show, Wood asked to become his legal guardian two days after meeting him. She said, “God places people in situations in your life, and you have the choice to do something about it. And I guess…for this situation there was no choice. It really wasn’t anything I struggled about. He had to come home with me.”
Not only did Wood give Pinkard a home that allowed him to have transplant surgery, she also gave him motherly love. The two have bonded over “football and Family Feud,” and she’s helping him understand how to manage his finances. Pinkard says, “If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”
I will not leave you orphaned. (John 14:18)
Help me to love the people You put in my path the way You love me, Savior.
In with Honey, Out with Vinegar
God is always encouraging us to grow into the people He created us to be. But sometimes this growth can be a struggle because it forces us to confront the parts of ourselves that keep us from developing physically, professionally, morally, emotionally, or spiritually.
Here is a wise insight from St. Augustine about approaching this struggle with the right frame of mind: “Consider that God wants to fill you up with honey, but if you are already full of vinegar where will you put the honey? What was in the vessel must be emptied out; the vessel itself must be washed out and made clean and scoured, hard work though it may be, so that it be made fit for something else, whatever it may be.”
Reflect on your life and consider if God is trying to rid you of some sourness in order to make room for sweetness. He only wants what is best for you. Put yourself in His hands and trust that He will lead you in the right direction.
I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you. (Psalm 81:16)
You know me better than I know myself, Lord. Help me to become the best version of myself.
A Deacon’s Resolutions for All
“Exercise and lose weight. Save money. Travel.”
Deacon Greg Kandra noted that a survey showed those were people’s top resolutions for two years in a row. So on his blog, he suggested making resolutions inspired by Mary, the mother of Jesus. Deacon Greg wrote:
“First, let us resolve to be open to miracles and to listen to angels, wherever and however we may find them. Let’s be prepared to expect the unexpected—and to welcome what God brings us as a gift of grace...
“Resolve to serve, and to do it for others with haste, as Mary served her cousin Elizabeth. Let us resolve to magnify God, so our souls and our lives and everything we are can beautifully and boldly proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let us resolve to live our lives in a way that honors and celebrates His work in the world...
“In times of anxiety and trial may we, like Mary and Joseph, resolve to still seek Jesus when we fear we have lost Him—and trust that God will help us to find Him.”
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” (John 2:5)
Lead me to be more like Your mother, Jesus.