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...
The War to End All Wars
Baltimore, the nation’s first diocese, paid tribute to its record in World War I in the regular feature, “Our Back Pages,” in the Catholic Review. Paul McMullen contributed the story:
“The Official Diocesan Year Book for 1920 includes references to prominent World War I locales under the heading, ‘List of the Catholic Boys from the Archdiocese of Baltimore Who Made the Supreme Sacrifice in the World War.’ Three years after the conflict began in Europe, Americans were still debating entry into what, unfortunately, did not live up to its billing as the ‘War to End All Wars.’…
“One minute before the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918—the moment when an armistice took effect to end World War I—Henry Gunther was shot and killed near the French village of Chaumont-devant-Damvillers. The 23-year-old infantryman and parishioner of Sacred Heart of Jesus in Highlandtown became the last casualty of World War I, receiving the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously.”
Let us then pursue what makes for peace. (Romans 14:19)
Wars still plague our world, Father. Turn our hearts toward peace.
A Veteran’s Longest Battle
Noah Galloway, who was recently on Dancing with the Stars, has been sharing his story of coming back from a devastating war injury. In a 2018 interview with Charisma News, Galloway tells of being on patrol in Iraq in 2005 when a roadside bomb nearly took his life. He woke up weeks later in Walter Reed Medical Center, having lost his left arm and left leg.
His injuries and the abrupt end of a military career sent Galloway into a depression. After his release from the hospital, he was drinking, staying up all night, and going out with friends rather than spending time with his wife and three children.
Galloway knew something had to change so he began to address his issues. He got back into physical shape, and started sharing his story. “I had people early on that asked me, am I mad at anybody, am I mad at God...and I never was," he said.
Today, Galloway is noted as an inspirational speaker and fitness enthusiast. But his biggest contribution is helping others fight the battle against despair.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed.
(2 Corinthians 4:8)
Jesus, grant that I may use my challenges to help others.
The Most Holy Name
Gary Jansen didn’t just write a book about Catholic devotions; he practices several himself. But there’s one in particular that he turns to on a regular basis: the Most Holy Name of Jesus devotion.
During a Christopher Closeup interview about his book Life Everlasting: Devotions and Mysteries for the Everyday Seeker, Jansen explained, “You repeat the name of Jesus throughout the day and allow the supernatural power of Jesus’ name, the love that is embedded in that name, to be on your lips throughout the day.
“When you’re standing in line at the grocery store, repeat the name of Jesus over and over. It’s like thought substitution. Instead of worrying about stuff, repeat Jesus’ name. It leads to a shifting of consciousness and makes you aware that Jesus is important to me, so let me focus on Him for a few seconds.”
Jansen concluded, “St. Paul said, ‘Pray ceaselessly.’ He didn’t really tell us how to do that, but I think the Devotion to the Most Holy Name is key to finding out how.”
Glory in His Holy Name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. (1 Chronicles 16:10)
Jesus, I turn my mind and heart to You.
NFL Player to the Rescue
As she related in a series of long posts on her Twitter page, Delilah Cassidy was returning home from a trip to Europe when she belatedly discovered American Airlines now charged extra for any carry-ons. She would need to pay an additional $50, credit only. Unfortunately, Cassidy had no working credit cards handy, as she had deactivated all of them while she was overseas.
She was at her wit’s end, especially when the airline employees told her she would need to walk to the ticket counter to pay, causing her to miss her flight in the process. All of a sudden, a man appeared behind Cassidy, asking how much she owed. After American Airlines informed him of the amount, he instantly handed them his own card, assuring them, “I got this.”
Cassidy’s rescuer was later revealed to be Arizona Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham, who kindly refused Delilah’s offer of cash reimbursement, requesting that she simply “pay it forward.” On Twitter, Cassidy concluded, “There are good people in this world. Be that person for someone.”
Let each of you look… to the interests of others.
Paraclete, may we remember kindness is contagious.
Not a Dog-Eat-Dog World
“Scientists have long been mystified as to why anyone would ever do something unselfish for anyone else,” says writer Thomas Bass. “These displays of niceness don’t seem to square with the Darwinian scheme of things.”
According to that theory, the strongest grab all the food they can. Animals that share should die out. But they haven’t. Some animals such as chimpanzees share food – not just with relatives but with other members of their group.
Two Australian mathematicians used computer simulation to study behavior strategies. They found that in the long run, animals that exploit others will be the ones to die out. Unselfish ones that share food and information will flourish.
Not a bad reminder that needing others and looking out for others is not only good, it’s natural.
Do not reach out your hand for everything you see…Judge your neighbor’s feelings by your own, andin every matter be thoughtful. (Sirach 31:14-15)
Jesus, enable me to be unselfish.
Mission Honor Veterans Monument
Students at Butler High School in New Jersey have their priorities straight. They honored veterans in their community who are graduates of the school. And with a tight-knit town and a high school that dates back to 1905, there were nearly a thousand names to choose from!
Some 500 graduates, students and friends packed the school for the dedication of the Mission Honor Veterans Monument. The project was initially developed by two graduates, and the town enthusiastically joined in.
Peggy Wright was on hand to cover the event for The Daily Record, a local paper. The crowd included one general—Army Maj. Gen. Scott Spellmon, who went on from Butler’s Class of 1982 to West Point. He accepted an award on behalf of his father, Edward, a former BHS student who was a Korean War veteran and died last year. The moving ceremony also included four veterans of World War II and their families.
The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him,
“The Lord is with you, you mighty warrior.” (Judges 6:12)
Bless all those who have endured the horrors of war, Father.
On God’s Side
A friend of Abraham Lincoln once tried to console him in his many presidential problems by saying, “I hope that the Lord is on our side.”
To everyone’s amazement, Lincoln replied kindly but emphatically that this was not his hope. He said, “I am not at all concerned about that, for we know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side.”
The problem is not a question of God fitting into our plans because the very reason for our existence is to accommodate ourselves to His plans. The big job to be done, especially in our day, is to fulfill the portion of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Remember, we can all help to bring the peace and order of heaven to this troubled world.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
Help me, Lord, to play a part in bringing Your peace to this world.
An Officer’s Brave Legacy
A policeman’s widow and her two young sons tearfully accepted their hero-father’s Medal of Honor, the New York City Police Department’s highest award, from Police Commissioner James O’Neill in 2017. Six months earlier, Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo, 41, was killed by an ex-con’s bullet in the Bronx.
Graham Rayman reported on the award ceremony for the Daily News. Tuozzolo’s widow, Lisa, and their two sons were presented with the medal. The younger son, Austin—who was four at the time of the shooting—studied the medal as he held it.
“There are very few professions where an eight-hour workday can range from absolutely tenuous to downright terrifying and everything in between,” O’Neill said as he presented the awards. “They instinctively met challenges that they could not imagine when they woke up that day. They didn’t do it for the thanks. They didn’t do it for the praise.”
Father of orphans and protector of widows is God in His holy habitation. (Psalm 68:5)
Bring comfort and strength to the families of police officers killed in the line of duty, Prince of Peace.
The Parable of the Blown Tire
One morning in early November, a man was driving on a highway in Chicago. Suddenly, his right rear tire exploded. Managing to get safely to the side of the road, he checked his trunk for a spare, a jack, and a tire iron. The spare was flat; the tire iron and jack were missing.
Three people stopped to help. The first, a woman, left to call a tow truck. The second, thinking that everything was under control, smiled and went on his way. And then, a third stopped. The man took the flat spare to a nearby garage and filled it with air. Working with the stranger’s tire iron and jack, the two men changed the tire.
“Could I repay you?” asked the once-stranded driver. “Send me a Christmas card,” this third man said, providing his name and address. At that moment, a city tow truck arrived, sent by the first woman who stopped.
Helping hands on a highway. A lesson on being a “Good Samaritan” for others.
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)
Strengthen me that I may reach out to others, Holy Spirit.
Old Age, Love, and Rice Krispies
“Old age has arrived.” Some of us might say that at 65 or 70, but not Pauline Sister Mary Augusta Biolchini. She didn’t start feeling old until she reached age 99! That’s one of the benefits of a holy life lived with a positive attitude, sense of humor, and love of Jesus.
When Sister Augusta passed away at age 102 in 2018, her provincial, Sister Donna Williams, delivered the eulogy, filled with stories and laughs. Sister Donna said of her, “She lived on love and on Rice Krispies—also on prodigious amounts of sugar in her coffee—but mostly on love.”
One of Sister Augusta’s great loves was prayer. At age 100, she would sneak out of the infirmary to walk downstairs to the chapel by herself to pray. Her superiors put bells on the door so they could hear her, but she even found a way around that.
“During Sr. Augusta’s last trip to the ER, where she was hospitalized with flu,” recalled Sr. Donna, “the EMTs asked her, ‘Sister, how are you feeling?’ She replied: ‘I feel that Jesus is with me.’” Surely, Sister Augusta is now closer to Jesus than ever. May she rest in peace.
Whoever believes has eternal life. (John 6:47)
Be with me today and always, Jesus.
When Heaven Prayed Back
Mary Beth Bonacci was preparing to give a talk to a women’s conference. Seeking an inspirational quote, she turned to a biography of her friend, former president of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Father Michael Scanlon, TOR, who had recently passed away.
It struck Bonacci that she had never asked Father Mike to pray for her. She did so, adding a prayer for the repose of his soul. As Bonacci later wrote in her Denver Catholic column, she ended up not using the quote or mentioning Fr. Scanlon in her talk after all. She was leaving the conference when she was approached by a religious sister who had been in the audience.
“I was praying for you during your talk,” the sister said. “And I felt the Lord asking me to deliver a message to you. Here it is.” She handed Bonacci her business card, on the back of which she had written: “Fr. Mike Scanlon, TOR, is praying for you.”
We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses. (Hebrews 12:1)
Heavenly Father, grant eternal rest to the faithful departed, and inspire me to seek the intercession of the saints.
A 2016 blog post at Aleteia revealed the surprising Catholic origins of the celebration of Halloween. The word is “a Scottish shortening of the phrase, ‘Allhallow-even,’ literally meaning ‘All Holy Evening’ and dates back to the 18th century.”
It references the vigil Mass the night before All Saints Day, a holy day of obligation for Catholics celebrated on November 1, and regarded as a “holy evening,” wrote Philip Kosloski.
What about trick-or-treating? Well, “in various cultures in Europe there developed a tradition of ‘souling’ and baking ‘soul cakes’ in honor of the faithful departed. These cakes were baked on All Hallows’ Eve and children would go out on All Saints Day and All Souls Day, begging door-to-door for these cakes in exchange for praying for deceased relatives and friends.”
And the costumes traditionally associated with Halloween? “It is believed that in some places there was a tradition of wearing disguises while souling that represented the various souls in purgatory who were seeking these prayers.”
Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. (James 5:13)
Help me celebrate every feast with joy and gratitude, Lord!
The Terror of Demons
Talk about holy rollers! In 2015, Father Angelo Micciulla and Father Jean-Paul Soler, both pastors of churches in Staten Island, New York, founded the Terror of Demons motorcycle ministry—and they’re both riders themselves! Named for Saint Joseph’s determination to protect Mary and Jesus from all evil, this organization’s goal was to open up a new avenue of evangelism.
Most of this rolling ministry’s events center on blessing large groups of motorcycle riders throughout the archdiocese. A Memorial Day event two years ago attracted 60 riders. As the group’s membership has expanded, so has its plans for the future.
“We had a lot of people stray away from the church,” Father Micciulla explained in Catholic New York. “They see a priest on a motorcycle, they begin to talk with us, and we try to get them back in church. They’re willing.”
“We have to meet them on their ground,” he continued, “and it’s easy to do that with a motorcycle.”
We have been…entrusted with the message of the gospel… to please God, who tests our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:4)
Abba, strengthen all priests in their life-saving ministry.
The Eye of the Beholder
Sister Pat Snider, SSpS, directress of the Holy Spirit Missionary Association, felt a little sad at the view she saw from her office window. All the leaves had fallen off the trees as the season began to change. She wrote, in SSpS Mission:
“While I was standing there feeling bad about this mess on the ground, our 101-year-old sister came up behind me and with joy in her voice exclaimed, ‘Aren’t these golden leaves just beautiful? I love that color!’”
Sister Pat admitted, “Somehow I thought of myself as a positive person, but now I have to wonder.”
She confesses that when she hears of the devastation from hurricanes, or the “horrible ruins” from the earthquake in Mexico, her heart aches. But then she recalls words she read years ago: “It is the pain and suffering of others that brings out the good in each of us, if we but listen to God’s voice in our lives and the lives of others.”
Let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord; for He is coming. (Psalm 96:12-13)
Open my eyes to the beauty of creation, Father.
Courage in the Face of Terror
When Taylor Winston saw the truck’s keys lying on the seat, he didn’t hesitate to drive it away. But no one got angry.
An Iraq War veteran, Winston sprang immediately into action when a shooter began spraying bullets at the crowd at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas in October 2017, reported AOL News.
He said, “The shots got louder and louder, closer to us and I saw people getting hit...Once we got to the fence, I helped throw a bunch of people over, and got myself over. It was a mini warzone, but we couldn’t fight back.”
“I saw a field with a bunch of white trucks,” Winston continued. “I tested my luck to see if any of them had keys in them. The first one we tried opening had keys sitting right there. I started looking for people to take to the hospital.”
After taking the first round of victims to the hospital, Winston came back for more, between 20 to 30 altogether. But he doesn’t like being called a hero. He concludes, “There was a lot of bravery and courageous people out there.”
Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11)
Thank You, Lord, for heroes who defend the innocent.
A Glass of Milk
Shevah Weiss was six years old when his family went into hiding from Poland’s Nazi occupiers. Most Polish Jews were sent to death camps, and Christians who attempted to shelter them were shot on sight. Yet the family survived – through the courage and generosity of others.
Recalling those terrible days from his home in Israel, Weiss told Aleteia that the family’s first shelter was in a Catholic neighbor’s private chapel, “in the arms of the Crucified.” They also spent months in a narrow hiding space Weiss’s father had built into their family home, with bunks stacked behind a double wall. During the last part of the war, they lived in the damp basement of an orphanage, sometimes reduced to gnawing on leather-bound books for nourishment.
One gesture sums up the miracle of survival. “I remember how Ms. Potężna [a Christian neighbor] brought me, a small boy hidden under the bed, a glass of milk. I will remember this simple gesture till the end of my life,” Weiss says.
I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink. (Matthew 25:35)
Heavenly Father, bring Your human family together in love and care.
Secrets of a Peaceful Marriage
Conflicts are a part of life, including married life. There are, after all, two persons with two personalities and two sets of wants, needs, desires, fears (some days it may seem like more!). Here are some suggestions for resolving them:
■ Try seeing the disagreement from a “we” perspective, not as one of two “I”s. It takes two to make (or break) a marriage.
■ Do not drag in unrelated subjects.
■ Do not focus on winning or losing, but on an amicable resolution.
■ Avoid even the most creative name calling.
■ L-I-S-T-E-N to each other.
■ Practice the art of give and take.
■ Congratulate each other when peace with mutual respect and justice has been restored.
Life and your marriage are worth the effort.
Do not let the sun go down on your anger.
Redeemer, enable married couples to resolve their conflicts amicably and justly.
Disarming Weapons and Hostility
When the U.S. Navy was testing a new torpedo back in 1962, it encountered a strange problem. Whenever the sonar device sent out a targeting sound, it would be answered from underwater. These mysterious answers caused the torpedo to go off course.
For two years the Navy tried to find the source of the interference. Finally, they discovered that the sounds came from dolphins trying to make friends with the torpedo. Friendliness was literally making a weapon ineffective.
Friendliness can often be disarming in a different way, turning aside anger and hostility. These feelings often grow out of hurt or fear, and friendliness can soothe and reassure. Even if your first reaction to unkindness is retaliation, try something better. You just might get a friend.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
Who needs to be disarmed by my friendly, patient words, Savior?
Give God Your Broken Pieces
While working on his album All In, singer-songwriter Matthew West came to the realization that he doesn’t want to hold anything back from God anymore—and that includes his own flaws. It’s an issue he deals with on the track “Broken Things,” which includes the lyrics: “The pages of history, they tell me it’s true / That it’s never the perfect; it’s always the ones with the scars that You use.”
During a Christopher Closeup interview, West said, “I just assumed that the parts of my life that God would more readily want to use would be my gifts and my abilities, the positive character traits and so on.
“What God showed me in the writing of that song was, ‘Matthew, what I’m asking you to trust Me with is the most broken parts of your life, the biggest struggles you face, your weakest moments. I’m asking you to dare to believe that I’m the God who can not only use your good stuff, but I can shine brightest through your broken pieces.’ Because that’s when we really go all in. Not when we give God part of our hearts, but when we give God every single part of our lives.”
A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not
despise. (Psalm 51:17)
I offer You the broken parts of myself, Divine Healer.
A Prayer for Knitters (and Others)
Before each meeting of the Knitting and Crocheting Ministry of St. Theresa’s Women’s Club of St. Adalbert parish in Elizabeth, New Jersey (profiled in yesterday’s entry), the participants say a special prayer for the work they’re going to do. With some minor adjustments, it could also be adapted to other types of service for those in need.
The prayer reads, “Loving God, as we gather together to share our stories and the work of our hearts, we pray for Your blessing on our endeavors. Bless our minds so that we might spend this time free of worries. Bless our hands so that we might create something of beauty. Bless our yarns that they might be shaped into patterns that display our love and concern.
“Bless our tools that they might hold the promise of the project we seek to make. Bless our knitting and crocheting that it might be a work of heart and hands, body and spirit.
“Bless the one who will receive the fruit of our prayer and our work. We join our prayers and our work with people all over the world who seek to bring healing and comfort to those who most need a sign of Your loving care. Amen.”
I will bless those who bless you. (Genesis 12:3)
Guide my effort to be a blessing to someone today, Lord.
The Spirituality of Knitting
If it’s the first Saturday of the month, you’ll find Kathy Skrupskis and her friends at St. Adalbert parish in Elizabeth, New Jersey, knitting blankets and shawls. While the ladies enjoy the social aspect of their ministry, they also see it as a way to bring God’s love to those in pain.
As reported in New Jersey Catholic, the items they knit are distributed to homebound parishioners and those in the palliative care program at Trinitas Regional Medical Center. A note that accompanies each item reads, in part, “It has been blessed by loving hearts and passed through praying hands. May it keep you warm and bring you comfort. May you be cradled in hope and blessed with peace. You will always remain in our prayers.”
Skrupskis feels good that she is making a difference for those in need and also for her fellow knitters. She says, “I felt strongly about giving these women a place to gather...It’s a real spiritual exercise...Church isn’t just going to Mass. It’s community—going out and serving others.”
If you have come to me in friendship, to help me, then my heart will be knit to you. (1 Chronicles 12:17)
May I offer a “loving heart” and “praying hands” to others, Lord.
An Antidote to Historical Illiteracy
If you’ve ever read David McCullough’s books, such as the Christopher Award-winning John Adams or The American Spirit, you’ll know that his passion for history is infectious. He hopes to ignite that passion in others because studies have shown that many young people today are “historically illiterate.”
In a speech he gave at Michigan’s Hillsdale College in 2005, McCullough said, “We have to know who we were if we’re to know who we are and where we’re headed...We have to value what our forebears...did for us, or we’re not going to take it very seriously, and it can slip away.”
McCullough also cautions against thinking we’re better than those who came before us: “We’ve got to teach history and nurture history...because it’s an antidote to the hubris of the present—the idea that everything we have and everything we do and everything we think is the ultimate, the best. We should never look down on those in the past and say they should have known better. What do you think they will be saying about us in the future? They’re going to be saying we should have known better.”
Wisdom gives life to the one who possesses it.
May I learn a new piece of history today, Divine Teacher.
“They Go Out of Their Way”
Sister Marie-Cecile was used to the sights and sounds of the inner-city Cincinnati neighborhood known as Over-the-Rhine. She was a familiar sight there herself, a nun in full habit helping volunteers clear out two rubble-filled houses – often carrying loads of brick and stone. So when a police chase ended with a car crashing into the garden gate of Old St. Mary’s Church, where Sister Marie-Cecile lives, her first thought was to check on those who might be injured, not to survey the damages.
The next morning, though, as Sister Marie-Cecile told the Catholic Telegraph’s Gail Finke, she saw that the gateway to the historic church had been demolished. Hoping to clear the sidewalk for passersby, she began picking up the heavy granite stones and stacking them. “And then one by one, the homeless people started to help.”
Sister Marie-Cecile wasn’t surprised. “Homeless people often ask if you want help,” she said. “They go out of their way for you.”
The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good. (Luke 6:45)
Holy Spirit, help me to see the goodness in others, even where I don’t expect to find it.
What Our Kids Need to Know
The reality of God’s love is something that singer-songwriter Sarah Hart tries to convey to her audiences, especially when it comes to young people. During an interview with The Christophers, the mother of two teen daughters explained:
“Love is a very convoluted thing, especially for our teenagers. It drives me nuts the kind of pressures that we put on our kids that surround dating and dances and proms and prom-posals…So their image of the love of God is mirrored by what they think love is supposed to look like on Earth.
“When they discover that the love of God is actually something different – extremely unconditional, vast, has been forever and will be forever – then it’s much easier for them.
“When I do youth conferences, my goal is to...let them know that God loves them. [I tell them], ‘You are not just loved but beloved,’ which is a totally different thing. You are beloved of God. You were wanted. You were placed here. You are seen and you are heard. That’s what our kids need to know.”
Be imitators of God, as beloved children.
Help me to accept that I am beloved by You, Lord.
On Being a Leader
John Wooden is known as a one of the most successful college basketball coaches of all time, having won seven NCAA championships in a row while at UCLA. But Wooden was also known for teaching his players to be good men and effective leaders. Part of his wisdom came from his own father, Joshua, who taught him these principles (quoted in the inspirational newsletter Apple Seeds):
■ “Remember this. You’re as good as anybody. But never forget, you’re no better than anybody, either. Don’t look down on anybody.”
■ “Never try to be better than someone else, but always be learning from others.”
■ “You’ll never know a thing that you didn’t learn from someone else.”
■ “Don’t whine, don’t complain, and don’t make excuses. Just do the best you can. Nobody can do more than that.”
■ “Great leaders give credit to others and accept the blame themselves.”
With upright heart He tended them, and guided them with skillful hand. (Psalm 78:72)
Make me a humble and effective leader, Holy Spirit.
Redeeming Ruth, Part Three
In 2011, Ruth was in the first grade, making friends, and thriving. But one night, the Merrills discovered she had stopped breathing in her sleep. Despite efforts to revive her, Ruth was gone.
Meadow found her faith tested, and asked God why He would allow this to happen. She still doesn’t have an answer to that particular question, but she has found comfort in a different perspective, which she writes about in her Christopher Award-winning memoir Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores.
During an interview, Meadow explained, “As the Lord began to work in my heart, I had this assurance that there was nothing we could lose of value here that would not be restored in heaven. And even though our love wasn’t enough to redeem Ruth in the long-lived way we hoped, I knew that God’s love was enough to redeem her, and ultimately, that she will experience a life with Him in a completely restored body forever – and that I will get to see her someday again.”
He shall be to you a restorer of life. (Ruth 4:15)
In times of unimaginable grief, Lord, remind me that Your love can restore us each in heaven.
Redeeming Ruth, Part Two
Though Meadow Rue Merrill had always wanted to adopt, she wasn’t sure she could handle a child like Ruth, who had severe cerebral palsy. Meadow recalled, “She was not able to speak, use her hands in any relevant way, feed herself, play, sit up, or walk.”
“But,” continued Meadow, “when we looked at Ruth, she had such joy! Not only joy, but a wildly delicious sense of humor. For not being able to speak, her laugh would light up a room. We just responded to that. It was something that we thought, ‘How could we say no to this child?’”
The Merrills’ other children also came to love and embrace Ruth, so they proceeded with the adoption plans. They happily discovered that contrary to a doctor’s prognosis that Ruth would never advance beyond a two-month-old intellectually, the girl’s mind was completely normal. She understood everything that was going on around her, and loved her new family.
But years later, Ruth’s health problems would lead to an unexpected tragedy. More tomorrow...
He blessed her saying, “Come in, my daughter, and welcome.” (Tobit 11:17)
Strengthen children with special needs, Loving Creator.
Redeeming Ruth, Part One
“Lord, if You have another child for us, You will have to bring that child to us.” That was the prayer of writer and author Meadow Rue Merrill and her husband, Dana, one night. Meadow had been thinking of adopting a child, but as the parents of two young boys and a girl, Dana wasn’t sure this was the right time. But that all changed one summer evening.
During a Christopher Closeup interview about her Christopher Award-winning memoir Redeeming Ruth, Meadow said, “We walked into a friend’s church where our children were going to vacation Bible school, and my friend, Theresa, had welcomed me to sit with her in the pew. She asked me, ‘Would you like to meet Ruth?’ It took me a minute to remember that she and her husband were hosting an abandoned baby with disabilities from a Ugandan orphanage.
“I said, ‘Sure,’ and her husband brought this beautiful little child over to us. She was one and a half years old, but she had the physical abilities of an infant. He laid Ruth in Dana’s arms, and without one moment of hesitation, Dana looked at me and said, ‘So do you want to adopt her?’” More tomorrow...
You have been the helper of the orphan. (Psalm 10:14)
Guide orphans to loving families, Jesus.
Christ in a Plastic Poncho
Aleteia photographer Jeffrey Bruno was covering New York’s Columbus Day parade in a pouring rainstorm. His trusty raincoat had given up the ghost and was providing no protection at all. Bruno moved back to take shelter and found himself chatting with a man seated on a rock in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The man was wearing a plastic poncho and holding an umbrella, which he offered to share.
The man introduced himself as Dominick, and Jeff figured he was just another onlooker. But as they chatted “it became apparent that perhaps I had been mistaken,” Bruno wrote. “People in suits, important people, were coming over and calling him ‘Your Excellency.’” Later Jeff identified the man in the plastic poncho as NY auxiliary Bishop Dominick Lagonegro.
“I realized I’d experienced something rather startling: A bishop gladly holding an umbrella over a tired, wet photojournalist in the middle of New York City. There was something profoundly Christ-like in the gesture. A shepherd tending to a wet sheep.”
You have been...a shelter from the rainstorm.
Lord Jesus, I know You are near.
Sock It to Me
John Cronin, who has Down syndrome, grew up loving colorful, wacky socks. So it made sense that when he wanted to start a business with his father, Mark, they chose to found an online store called John’s Crazy Socks. Their mission, said 21-year-old John to Now This News, goes beyond sales. It’s about “spreading happiness.”
With 1,500 styles of socks, all made in the U.S., the company earned over one million dollars in its first year and includes a note from John in every shipment. Five percent of their profits are donated to Special Olympics because John has benefited from its programs and encouraging message. And he has been welcoming of others with similar backgrounds by employing people with some form of learning disability.
Mark said, “We want to show what’s possible, what can happen when you give somebody a chance. These guys are great workers. They’re excited to be here. They want to be here. It’s not because we’re nice people; it’s because it helps our business.” John adds, “Down syndrome never holds me back.”
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
Lead our culture to embrace those with disabilities, Lord.
Teen Shows That Being Kind Is Cool
When Carlie Steele of Amity, Oregon, was nine years old, she was watching a telethon on TV that was raising money for kids with cancer. Inspired to do something herself, she took to social media and wound up collecting $2,000 worth of toys and games to donate to children enduring chemotherapy.
Aware of her ability to make a positive difference in the world, the youngster created Carlie’s Kindness Campaign, which is now an official 501(c)(3) non-profit to do good herself – and to inspire others to do the same.
Now age 13, Carlie has sent Christmas gifts to members of the military serving overseas, promoted respect for those with disabilities and special needs, collected money and goods for Hurricane Harvey victims, and much more.
Carlie won a Presidential Spirit of Community Award for community service in 2017. She told KOIN-TV that this is just the beginning: “I want to try and end the negativity in the world and show kids my age that being kind is cool, and volunteering is a great thing to do.”
I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
(3 John 1:4)
Inspire children to spread kindness and generosity, Father.
It seems a big dog was watching a smaller dog chase his tail. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“I’m looking for happiness,” the small dog said. “Someone told me that happiness is in my tail and when I catch it, I will be happy.”
The big dog replied that he had heard that, too. But he discovered that every time he chased his tail it ran away from him. “So, now,” he said, “I just relax and do what dogs are supposed to do, and I find that happiness comes to me.”
If you’re running around in circles trying to find happiness, why not just relax and do what humans are supposed to do. Love God and your neighbor and yourself. And perhaps, not so surprisingly, happiness will find you.
May [Christ] dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. (Ephesians 3:17)
Abide within me, Jesus.
Don’t Let the Sun Set on Anger
Guideposts contributor Adam Hunter recalled an old parable his rabbi told every Yom Kippur.
A rich young man about to graduate from college was anticipating a nice gift, as was the custom in his neighborhood. However, when he opened the small gift his father handed him, he found a Bible. “Outraged that his wealthy father would give him such a gift, he left home that day, and vowed to never speak to his father again.” The father eventually died, and the son came back for the funeral, regretful of his poor behavior.
“Looking through his father’s things, he found the Bible his father had given him. He opened it up, and found a slip of paper tucked inside. A check, dated the day of his graduation, made out for the exact amount of the sports car he’d so desired.”
Adam found many theories explaining the parable. Some said, “God’s blessings come in unexpected packages” or “One should look to the Bible to succeed.” But Adam’s rabbi said, “Never hold a grudge. By the time you’re ready to forgive, it may be too late.”
Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger. (Ephesians 4:31)
Father, may I be appreciative of gifts, great or small.
The Eight-Year-Old Role Model
Maurice Adams Jr., age eight, was in the car with his mom, Contricia Hill, in their Milledgeville, Georgia hometown when he saw an elderly woman with a walker having trouble navigating her way up some steps. He asked Hill if he could go and help the lady, and she told him, “Yes.”
As reported by CBS News, the child unhesitatingly “ran up the steps, put an arm around the woman, and helped her pick up her walker. The two made it up the steps with teamwork, and celebrated with a big hug.”
Ordinarily, this good deed would have remained anonymous, but watching all this unfold nearby was Riley Duncan, who decided to record the whole encounter and post it on Facebook with the comment, “Thank God for our youth.”
The video went viral, inspiring people around the country to reach out with kindness toward someone in need. Hill said she was proud of her son, while Duncan rewarded Maurice with $100 for his good deed. And the elderly woman Maurice helped called him “special.” There’s no doubt about that.
A little child shall lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)
Help me be a role model for young people, Father, and may I also be inspired by the goodness they model.
Notes from One Heart to Another
Most of us are delighted to receive notes and letters. Yet we don’t take the time or the trouble to write them as often as we could. If that’s your problem, consider what one Wisconsin man said about the notes he gets from his wife whenever he brown-bags his lunch.
“I value them so much, I dump out whatever’s edible to get to the note. I can tell her moods by her handwriting, and by what she says. What she doesn’t know is that I’ve saved all her notes in a big shoe box. I’m afraid it would make her self-conscious to know how much I treasure them. Occasionally, I pull out the box, and leaf through them. It makes me feel good all over again.”
Wife or husband, parent or child, friend or neighbor – you have something to say that someone would love to hear. Jot it down. Pass it along. Brighten someone else’s day – and your own.
Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. (Proverbs 3:3)
Teach me, Jesus, to let those closest to me know how much
they mean to me.
A Helping Hand for Parents
The pro-life movement is often criticized for not caring about babies and their mothers post-birth, said Notre Dame sophomore Lorenzo Beer in an interview with the university’s student paper, The Observer.
The school’s Right to Life Club is trying to help change that perception by sponsoring a free daycare service once a week for graduate students who have kids. The students want their community service to highlight their belief in the dignity of every human person, from birth to natural death.
“We recognize that our once-a-week child care service isn’t going to dramatically improve the lives of parenting students,” said Sarah Drumm, president of the Right to Life Club. “However, we do hope that the little we do somehow can make their workload a little lighter and their jobs as parents a little easier, at least for a few hours a week.”
“Raising a child is hard enough,” said Beer. “Raising a child while being a graduate student requires superpowers.”
Whoever welcomes one such child in My name welcomes Me. (Matthew 18:5)
From birth to death, may I respect the dignity of life, Creator.
Acts of Moral Beauty, Part Two
Kristin Keating still tears up when she remembers the day in 2015 when Pope Francis reached out to her family. The Keatings were on the tarmac to welcome the pope to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. As the motorcade got on its way, Pope Francis asked the car to stop. He had seen the Keatings’ son Michael, who has cerebral palsy, in a wheelchair with his family at his side. The pope exited the car, walked to the guardrail, and embraced and kissed Michael.
It wasn’t just an amazing moment for one family. As CNN Religion Editor Daniel Burke reported, the video of the pope’s gesture went viral and touched many people. A follow-up article in the Washington Post on the costs of caring for Michael moved producer J.J. Abrams and his wife to donate $50,000 on the spot. Many others donated, too.
Daniel Burke says these encounters with goodness, and the affect they have on us, are not just about the power of the papacy. They’re about how hungry each of us is for goodness, and for lessons in how to practice it.
Teach me Your way, O Lord. (Psalm 86:11)
Open my heart, O Lord, and stir my generosity.
Acts of Moral Beauty, Part One
When CNN Religion Editor Daniel Burke found himself moved to tears by the interactions between Pope Francis and members of the crowd at a papal audience, he was both surprised and intrigued. Burke thought this kind of emotion was a cliché, but he experienced it as genuine – and he wanted to know where it came from. For the answer, he turned to social scientist Jonathan Haidt, who had found his own answer in a 200-year-old letter from President Thomas Jefferson.
Jefferson wrote that witnessing acts of what he called “moral beauty” could open the heart and lift the soul. “When any...act of charity or of gratitude,” he wrote, “is presented to our sight or imagination, we are deeply impressed with its beauty or feel a strong desire in ourselves of doing charitable or grateful acts also.”
Some researchers call this experience “elevation.” It’s not just personal; it moves us, Burke reports, to reach out and do something for others. More tomorrow...
Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor. (Luke 19:8)
Help me to see goodness and be moved by it, Lord.
Nurses: Health Care Heroes
Laura Clary is no longer one of medicine’s “unsung heroes.” With a nudge from her firefighter husband, Joseph, she aced a contest that searched for America’s Most Amazing Nurse, reported Prevention Magazine.
A forensic nurse and the mother of two, Clary’s competence and compassion were important factors in her winning. But her attitude and ability to learn from patients also played a role. Over the years, patients have taught her:
■ Defer judgement. The scruffy homeless guy in the ER might have had a stellar military career.
■ Life can change in a heartbeat. “Dealing with the harsh reality of pain and death has made me more grateful.”
■ Listen instead of rushing to fix things. Your presence alone can be comforting.
■ Take care of yourself to better care for others.
■ You’re stronger than you think. Her nurses are fond of the quote, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”
Your mercy came to their help and healed them (Wisdom 16:10)
Lord, help us see the potential for heroism in everyone.
Calling All Angels
When St. Francis of Assisi parishioner Betty Schaaf was looking for religious formation for her teen son, she wasn’t sure where to turn. Schaaf’s son has Down syndrome, and like many other parents of children with disabilities, Schaaf wasn’t finding many resources available. So she proposed to faith formation director Amy Toft that the Cartersville, Georgia parish begin its own program.
The Guardian Angel program that Schaaf and Toff pioneered now uses adaptive curriculum and “angel” partnerships between high school students and special needs youngsters. One of the goals is to involve children – ranging in age from six to 18 – and their families as fully as possible in the life of the parish community.
Schaaf’s son Noah, 18, recently began serving at the altar and is training to be a lector. “It’s very relational. We’re very blessed,” Schaaf told The Georgia Bulletin.
Let the little children come to Me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs. (Luke 18:16)
Heavenly Father, increase my love and care for all Your children.
Little Things with Great Love
Though singer-songwriter Audrey Assad released her new album Evergreen in 2018 and still performs concerts, most of her time is spent being a mom to her two young children. She sees motherhood as a vocation that takes place out of the spotlight, just like many other jobs and careers, so she wants to help people realize their work has divine meaning. That idea worked its way into her song “Little Things with Great Love.”
Audrey said, “Everybody, from your plumber to your pastor, has a God-given call to be who they are and to do what they’re doing. For me, particularly as a mother who is at home a lot doing invisible things all day, I take refuge in the idea that me sucking the snot out of my daughter’s nose is ministry.
“A lot of us...don’t feel like the things we’re doing lend us any significance in the eyes of other people or in our own eyes. The beauty of being fearfully and wonderfully made by God is that all of our actions done out of love are fragrant to God. That means anything, from bodily fluids of children to giving water to a stranger to going to prison and ministering to prisoners. Those things are all heavily weighted in the kingdom of God.”
Let all that you do be done in love.
(1 Corinthians 16:14)
I bring Your love to all I do today, Jesus.
Shortly after her parents were killed in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Hungarian native Edith Eger crossed paths with Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele. Because of her background as a ballerina, he demanded that she dance for him.
Repulsed and frightened, Eger nevertheless did as he asked. In return, she received a loaf of bread, which she shared with her fellow prisoners. These prisoners later saved Eger’s life, allowing her to stay alive long enough for the Americans to liberate the camps.
Eger eventually built a successful life, family, and career in the United States, but she remained haunted by survivor’s guilt and the trauma she experienced as a teen. In her Christopher Award-winning memoir The Choice, she recounts her life, her quest to forgive herself, and the ways in which she now uses her own struggles to heal others through her work as a psychologist.
In the end, Dr. Eger reminds readers, “We can’t choose to vanquish the dark, but we can choose to kindle the light.”
It is You who light my lamp; the Lord, my God, lights up my darkness. (Psalm 18:28)
Lord, despite the darkness I’ve experienced in my life, I choose to kindle Your light within me.
Finding God in Mercy, Part Three
Leticia Ochoa Adams admits that if she had been met with judgment instead of mercy when she went to St. William parish, she wouldn’t have followed through on her inclinations to join the church. And she offers her own life as a lesson for those involved with evangelization.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, she explained, “When we’re evangelizing people, we have to understand that the reason those people are asking questions – or why they’re showing up to Mass when you can’t really figure out why because they don’t do anything else Catholic – the reason is God. That’s God’s voice calling them to Him. And we have a choice.
“We can either cooperate with the voice of God that’s calling those people to Him, or we can cooperate with the Evil One who’s telling them they don’t belong here. That really is our choice as Catholics, every single day, in little things and big things, in little interactions and big interactions.”
Leticia did get married and finally found the love and acceptance she had been yearning for all her life.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)
It’s easy for me to judge others, Jesus. Help me to see the divine potential in each person instead.
Finding God in Mercy, Part Two
When Leticia Ochoa Adams moved in with her childhood boyfriend Stacey, the couple started attending Mass for Christmas and Easter because Stacey was Catholic. When Leticia brought up marriage, he insisted it would have to happen in a Catholic church. She didn’t like the idea of conversion, but decided to look into it anyway by attending a class taught by Noe Rocha at St. William parish in the suburb of Austin.
“His very first class,” said Leticia, “was about God’s love. He looked right at me when he said the words, ‘God loves you more than you think He does. No matter how far you’ve gone, no matter what you’ve done, He loves you exactly how you are.’
“It hit a place in my heart that I had not opened up to anyone in so long. By this point, I had closed myself off from anything that resembled real and true love. Even being with Stacey was not about love. It was about safety. From that point on, I struggled. I argued and argued, and I was very angry. [And] they loved me in my anger...I found the safety that I was looking for in that parish.” More tomorrow...
I will place them in the safety for which they long. (Psalm 12:5)
Help me find good spiritual friends and mentors, Lord.
Finding God in Mercy, Part One
“A wasted drunk girl in a bar in Amarillo, Texas, sleeping with different guys who didn’t care about her, and wasting her life away.” That’s how Leticia Ochoa Adams describes her life 11 years ago. During an interview on Christopher Closeup, Adams revealed that her troubled young adulthood stemmed from her troubled childhood.
She never knew her father, so she suffered “a wound of abandonment.” She was also sexually abused from age five to nine and had never dealt with the trauma: “What I’ve come to understand is that all of the things I was doing [were done] in search of love. That’s all I wanted my whole life: to be loved.”
In 2007, Leticia’s best friend was killed in a car accident. His funeral Mass was held in a Catholic church, and she instinctively knew when to kneel and sit and so on because her old babysitter had taken her to Mass every day. “I was so restless in my life, in my emotional being, in my spiritual being…Mass felt like home to me...It kind of turned me towards the direction of Catholicism.” More tomorrow...
Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)
When I feel lost, Lord, guide my steps toward You.
The Gift of Reading
Though Norman Brown, age 47, made it through the tenth grade back when he was in school, he never learned to read beyond a second-grade level.
The native of Bakersfield, California, which was named “the least literate city in the U.S.” in a recent study, admitted to Emily Page Lockamy of the website Babble that he felt embarrassed about this shortcoming, and he knows it hampered his job prospects through the years. “I knew if you could read a book, you could go anywhere in the world,” he said.
Intent on finally learning to read, Brown “signed up for tutoring at the Kern Literacy Center and began meeting with tutor, Ed Western, on a weekly basis.” Though the work challenged Brown so much that he considered giving up at times, he stuck with it. And he’s glad he did.
He now runs his own auto body shop, and enjoys reading used car manuals and books of all kinds. And to the 32 million Americans who are still unable to read, he encourages them to seek help. Opening up a book, he says, will change your life.
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy. (Revelation 1:3)
May I take the initiative to learn something new, Lord.
Candido Arcángel owns a bodega – a small corner shop – in Brooklyn. All day customers come and go, buying coffee and homemade egg sandwiches, stocking up on canned soup, picking up toilet paper or a candy bar or a newspaper. They may notice the little knot of men gathered outside to share a beer or a smoke or mumbling to themselves as they pace the aisles, but it’s likely they only register as “homeless,” an unsurprising sight here. No one knows that at night, when Arcángel closes up the shop, he lets the men sleep in the basement under the stairs.
Over 14 years, The New York Times reports, countless men have found rest in Arcángel’s unofficial shelter. When asked why he goes out to the streets to bring back those who are sleeping on bus benches and behind dumpsters, he shrugs. “Because I have,” he says, “and they don’t.”
The aptly-named Arcángel doesn’t charge, and he’s never been robbed. His shelter has few amenities – he wants the men to move on to better lives. But it has one thing the men prize most of all: kindness. “Hello, blessings, how are you?” he greets his guests.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers. (Hebrews 13:2)
Lord Jesus, may I see You in all who need what I can give.
The Only Disability
Actor Daniel Lissing is known for having played heroic Canadian Mountie Jack Thornton on the Christopher Award-winning Hallmark Channel series When Calls the Heart. In real life, he has a big heart for people with Down syndrome because of his aunt Linda, who had the chromosomal condition which causes developmental and intellectual challenges.
When asked about her in Parade magazine, Lissing responded, “In my opinion, we don’t take care of our disabled people well enough. We don’t take care of our elderly well enough. We should honor them more than we do. The only disability is no love. It was just normal for me growing up with a family member with severe Down syndrome. It was completely normal. She was just Auntie Linda. I loved her and she loved me. She had a spirit that was just positive. For me, it taught me tolerance and acceptance of all human beings.”
Society can look at the elderly or disabled as a burden, so do your part to bring love to anyone who needs it and guide this world in the right direction.
Those who love a pure heart and are gracious in speech will have the king as a friend. (Proverbs 22:11)
May I never suffer from the disability of no love, Lord.
The Responsibility of Artists
Creating music with a broad appeal reflects Christian singer-songwriter Melanie Penn’s approach to art in general because she doesn’t see a distinction between Christian and non-Christian art. During a Christopher Closeup interview, she said, “I’ve listened to music, and I’ve walked through art galleries, and I know for sure that the artists were never thinking, ‘How do I glorify God with this work?’ Yet I know that when I encounter it, it reminds me that there’s more to life. It points me to eternity.
“So just because the artist might not have intended to glorify God, doesn’t mean that’s not happening and doesn’t mean that the person who encounters the art doesn’t feel God’s presence. I think that’s a gift that God has given us: to be able to make things [that] can…impact people aside from what we may or may not believe or intend.
“The opposite is also true. I think we can make things that are destructive in culture. Art is very powerful, so it’s something that I hold very delicately. I think all creators of art need to take that responsibility seriously and bring things forward in the world that help renew people and give people hope.”
He has filled him with divine spirit. (Exodus 35:31)
Inspire all artists to create works of hope, Holy Spirit.
The Anonymous Samaritan
Jill Brennan O’Brien’s life was in crisis. After a long diagnostic process, she found she had aplastic anemia, a rare blood disorder in which the body’s bone marrow stops producing sufficient red blood cells. Doctors told Jill her best hope was a bone marrow transplant, but she needed an anonymous donor, as no family members or friends were a tissue match.
Two anonymous matching donors were found but refused the painful donation procedure, which involves drawing marrow cells from the hip bone. Meanwhile, “my situation had become rather dire,” O’Brien wrote in America magazine. “The anemia had already caused serious abdominal bleeds requiring hospitalization, and a major brain bleed very nearly killed me.”
Finally, a willing 21-year-old anonymous donor was found. The transplant, though not without complications, was successful, and O’Brien writes, “Through the compassionate act of a stranger, my life was saved. He may be an atheist; a humanist; a Christian; a Muslim. But like the Good Samaritan in Luke’s Gospel, he showed mercy to a fellow human being. Imagine if all of us could go and do likewise.”
Blessed are the merciful. (Matthew 5:7)
Lord, may I never pass by when I am needed.
“Now I Want to Live”
Consuelo Cordoba was the victim of a terrible acid attack by her partner in 2000. The attack, which came close to killing her, left her permanently disfigured and disabled. She has undergone nearly 90 operations. She requires tubes in her nose to breathe and cannot eat solid food.
“I’ve thought about committing suicide. I say to myself, why live? With a life like the one I have, what for?” Cordoba told the Catholic Herald. After developing a brain infection, Cordoba requested a lethal injection from her doctor, under euthanasia laws in Colombia where she lives. But something drove her to ask to speak with Pope Francis first, on his visit to her country. She wanted to ask the pope’s permission to choose assisted suicide.
Pope Francis had other ideas. “He said, ‘no,’” Cordoba said. “He told me I was very brave and very pretty. That changed my life. Now I want to live. I’m not going to do the injection, because God is going to bring greatness to my life.”
You show me the path of life. In Your presence there is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11)
Healing Lord, may I be a presence of hope and a promise of Your joy to those who are close to despair.
Night to Shine for Kids with Special Needs
“Why in the world is this guy carrying these kids who are worthless?” According to Mike Wilson, co-founder of the ministry MyLIFEspeaks, that’s what the citizens of a village in Haiti asked themselves when they saw American sports star Tim Tebow carrying disabled children into a special party called “Night to Shine.” It’s sponsored by Tebow’s foundation to give a prom night experience to special needs youth, ages 14 and up.
The locals believe that children born with disabilities are cursed and a burden. But now they saw an American treating each child as being worthy of God’s love. And the villagers themselves found their views about these young people changed.
Missy Wilson, Mike’s wife and myLIFEspeaks co-founder, noted, “That night brought out so much dignity for all of those kids in the village that had never had that dignity – and it was coming from their peers and their neighbors…It’s transformed moms into looking at their kids differently, so it truly has changed the dynamic of how our village is going to be a ripple effect out to other parts of Haiti.”
I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)
May our culture better love those with special needs, Jesus.
The Allergy-Friendly Food Pantry
Dangerous food allergies in children and adults have become common in recent years, and they’re especially hard to address if your family is struggling financially. That’s what Emily Brown discovered when her one-year-old daughter was diagnosed with allergies to peanuts, eggs, dairy, wheat and soy.
As reported by the website NationSwell.com, “Because allergy-friendly food can cost two to four times the price of regular food, Brown’s family quickly became overwhelmed by its ever-increasing grocery budget.”
Brown decided to become an advocate for other families like hers, and in 2015, she and her friend, Amy Goode, founded Renewed Health, the country’s “first allergy-friendly food pantry” in Overland Park, Kansas. In one year, they gave away over 12,000 pounds of allergy-friendly food.
Brown says, “We would love to see our pantry model replicated across the nation...This is America, and there is plenty. We just have to make sure that everyone has a seat at the table.”
In the time of plenty think of the time of hunger. (Sirach 18:25)
If I have plenty, Lord, teach me to share with those who don’t.
A Beautiful Note
Eight years ago, Jacques Ruffin of Florida was a 13-year-old boy who played the trumpet in a school band. He loved music and didn’t realize at the time how much his mother was struggling financially to keep his lessons going.
While cleaning out a closet he found a letter from James W. Jones, owner of Allegro Music Centre. Jones heard of the family’s financial problems and forgave the debt on Jacques’ trumpet, only asking that the boy continue to play—or return the instrument if he stopped, so another student could use it. A story at Aleteia quotes the letter: “I have been through bad times like you. But remember, tough times never last, tough people do.”
That gift sparked a lifelong love of music in Jacques, and upon learning of Jones’ kindness, he decided to pay it forward. He set up an online funding page to raise money for music scholarships and shared the experience on the internet. Reddit users from all over applauded Jones and sent him instruments to share with other needy students. His kind act from eight years ago continues to make a difference.
Kindness is like a garden of blessings, and almsgiving endures forever. (Sirach 40:17)
May I be ever grateful for the kindnesses I have received, Lord.
Comfort the Sorrowful
On the website Busted Halo, Teresa Coda gives five excellent tips on how to write a sympathy note.
First, she says, begin by “saying how you feel. When we don’t know what to say, it can be tempting to turn to clichés or offer explanations. But sentiments like, ‘He’s in a better place’ … are unhelpful at best and offensive at worst. Instead, a sincere line expressing how you feel is a good place to start.”
Next, she recommends sharing a memory. “These memories, like photographs of a joyous occasion…demonstrate that a person lives on in the minds and hearts of many, not just those who were closest to the deceased.” If you want to do more, offer specific help, such as childcare or errands.
Coda notes that acknowledging losses beyond immediate family members (such as a friend or even a pet) can promote healing for the grieving person. And last but not least, “remember that short and simple is okay. Simply knowing that people are thinking of them can be comforting and uplifting for the bereaved.”
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)
May I show Your love to those who are grieving, Jesus.
Saving Kids on the Farm
“Because one good turn deserves another.” That’s the purpose behind Mike Rowe’s Facebook series Returning the Favor, which features the Dirty Jobs host rewarding people across the U.S. who help their communities.
Two of their beneficiaries in 2018 were Springfield, Ohio’s Deb McCullough and Cathy Tofstad, who run On-the-Rise Farm. For 16 years, at-risk youth who struggle with family, social or behavioral problems have come to the farm to learn about compassion and work ethic. The kids care for animals, do chores, garden, and receive tutoring to help them do better in school.
Rowe’s crew surprised Deb and Cathy with a free tractor and other machinery from John Deere, to make maintaining the farm easier. But perhaps more importantly, some of the farm’s alumni returned to celebrate the two women and let them know how much their love and support helped them get on the right track in life. Deb and Cathy believe that “Every child is a story yet to be told.” Thanks to them, those stories have a better chance at a happy ending.
Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray. (Proverbs 22:6)
Guide children toward caring mentors, Father.
Finding Unity After Adversity
During his 13 years as an anchor and weather person on Good Morning America, Spencer Christian got to travel around the country, meeting people from all different backgrounds. They taught him a lesson about coming together in times of trouble.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Spencer said, “I traveled into areas where people had lost their homes in a flood or hurricane or tornado. I saw people dealing with incredible adversity, who in many cases had not spoken to their next door neighbors in 10 years, or who had allowed petty personal differences to come between them.
“All of a sudden, in these moments of extreme crisis and dire need, they would pull together, pray together, work together, cry together, hug each other. I saw relationships that had gone sour that were repaired.
“I’ve seen so many examples of how the human spirit will not be defeated and how tragedy and adversity often bring out the best in the human spirit. Those have always been inspiring and uplifting experiences.”
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)
Help me to be a good and forgiving neighbor, Jesus.
Sports with a Purpose
In the Daily News of New York, Sarah Gabrielli and Ben Chapman told the story of Joseph Stewart, a physical education teacher at PS 721 in Lower Manhattan, who uses an inventive athletics program to give students with disabilities new perspectives on their lives.
Stewart, 39, began assembling various sports teams for kids dealing with special challenges in 2006, four years after he started working there. He dubbed the teams the City Hawks and uses them to give kids with cognitive and developmental disabilities the chance to compete in sporting competitions.
For his commitment to the students and his creative use of sports to engage them, he was nominated for the News’ Hometown Heroes Award. “I do it for the kids,” said Stewart, who believes that youngsters with disabilities gain confidence from sports, and that athletics can often lead to academic achievements.
Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Inspire more teachers to guide young people with disabilities to reaching their full potential, Holy Spirit.
Choosing Happiness After Tragedy
Patty Fallone knew that her husband was dead. She and a friend were walking in New York City on September 11, 2001, when a stranger asked them, “Did you hear about the plane?” When Patty looked south, she saw smoke. She knew without being told that her husband, Anthony, a bonds trader at Cantor Fitzgerald, was gone. Numbed, Patty had to break the news to her children. “I’m here to take care of you,” she told them.
She feared for others, too. “Even in the midst of her mourning, Patty worried about the men who worked at the neighborhood deli, one from Egypt and one from Palestine. She hoped neither was the target of bigotry or misdirected anger,” wrote Kerry Weber in America magazine. In the days following, mothers from her children’s school came to her door. “The women – Jewish, Christian and Muslim – joined together and prayed for healing.”
“You have to be open,” Patty said. “You have to want things to get better. You have to want to be happy again. There is a choice to be made: You’re going to be happy or wallow. When you have faith, you can make that choice.”
Cast your burden on the Lord. (Psalm 55:23)
Father, may I turn to You when my heart is broken.
A 9/11 Debt of Gratitude
Thousands of relief workers and first responders who came to the aid of those caught in the 9/11 terrorist attack are finally getting their due. They’ll be honored with a separate memorial at the site in Manhattan where the Twin Towers stood, it was announced in 2017—and reported in a story by Glenn Blain in the Daily News. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the announcement.
Bloomberg is chairman of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Board, and Jon Stewart, the comedian who joined in the announcement, is a board member.
“Thousands of people converged at the World Trade Center immediately after the attacks to show the world that our city and our country were not defeated,” said Bloomberg. “We owe these men and women of the recovery a great debt of gratitude and they deserve a fitting tribute for their courage, sacrifice and bravery.”
Pay to all what is due them...respect to whom respect is
due, honor to whom honor is due. (Romans 13:7)
May the memories of the courageous always be a guiding light to the world, Prince of Peace.
Priest Devoted Life to Slaves
During the 17th century, one of the few people who boldly proclaimed the human dignity of slaves was Spanish Jesuit priest Father Peter Claver. In an Aleteia blog post about his life, Meg Hunter-Kilmer wrote that the missionary to Colombia “handed his life over to the slaves” working tirelessly to fight the horrific quality of life forced upon the African people.
The slaves were treated like worthless animals on the ships that brought them to the New World. But whenever a ship arrived, says Hunter-Kilmer, “Into this sea of misery came Father Claver with food and medicine, blankets and bandages, interpreters, Sacraments, and dignity. He looked at each person as just that: a person, beloved by the Father and worthy of love and respect.”
He baptized 300,000 people, founded a choir, and went into prisons and hospitals. “We must speak to them with our hands,” he said, “before we speak to them with our lips.” During the Jesuit’s canonization, Pope Leo XIII said, “No life, except the life of Christ, has moved me so deeply as that of Peter Claver.”
You are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.
Jesus, even if the world scoffs, may I see You in all people.
Out of the Dark, Part Three
Not only did counseling lead Mandisa toward healing, so did working on new music: specifically, “Prove Me Wrong,” the first song she co-wrote (with Cindy Morgan) for her album Out of the Dark. Cindy heard Mandisa say that she was so angry at God, she dared Him to prove her wrong about all the doubts and questions she had. They took that idea and developed it further.
Mandisa said, “To know that God, Who is all powerful, was able to heal Kisha but for some reason chose not to – I just hadn’t dealt with that. So, it was cathartic for me writing that song, because it was the first time that I actually dealt with my anger and disappointment.
“I feel like God taught me a powerful lesson, and that is not to shut out all of that anger that we feel. He actually wants us to bring that to Him, because if we feel it, the safest place to bring that is to Him…‘Prove Me Wrong’ began the process of me being honest with the Lord and letting Him shine that light back into my life.”
Restore us, O God; let Your face shine, that we may be saved. (Psalm 80:3)
I place my anger before You today, Lord. Help me to find peace and healing.
Out of the Dark, Part Two
Emptiness and isolation allowed the darkest of thoughts to enter Mandisa’s mind: thoughts of taking her own life. Around that time, she decided to actually leave her house to go see the Christian film War Room because one of her songs was used in the movie. She didn’t like the story, though, because everyone got what they prayed for. “I remember thinking: that is not reality,” she said on Christopher Closeup.
As Mandisa left the theater, she was confronted by eight of her friends, who had covered her car with sticky notes containing messages like, “We love you, we miss you, come back to us.”
Mandisa recalled, “They had an intervention for me, and they basically forced me to go get counseling. I look back at that, and I feel like God put it on their hearts because I was getting to a bad place. Had that not happened, I don’t know that I would be here today, because I was just starting to contemplate [suicide]. And it was in that moment [that] my friends were the literal hands and feet of Jesus lifting me out of that dark place.”
You have delivered my soul from death...so that I may walk before God in the light of life. (Psalm 56:13)
Send me good friends, and may I be a good friend, Jesus.
Out of the Dark, Part One
Known for her upbeat, empowering hits like “Good Morning” and “Overcomer,” Grammy Award-winning Christian singer-songwriter Mandisa had every confidence that God would heal her friend, Kisha Mitchell, of the breast cancer that threatened her life.
When that didn’t happen, Mandisa felt betrayed by God and sunk into a pit of despair that resulted in her isolating herself from her family and friends for three years, gaining almost 200 pounds, and even considering suicide.
Part of the reason Mandisa retreated from the world was that she was known for being so positive, and now she couldn’t live up to those expectations. But her loved ones never gave up on her. In fact, the first track on her album Out of the Dark isn’t a song at all; it’s a series of voicemails from family and friends expressing their concern for her.
She said, “I wanted people to hear that because Out of the Dark is not just an album title, this was my life.”
More of Mandisa’s story tomorrow...
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God. (Psalm 42:11)
In times of despair, show me Your light, O Lord.
A Hostage Relies on God
Father Tom Uzhunnalil, a Catholic Salesian priest from India, was working in Yemen in 2016 when violence broke out at a senior citizen home run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. He was kidnapped by militants and held for 18 months.
Loaded into the trunk of a car during the kidnapping, Father Tom noticed that the tabernacle from the altar of the senior center was at his feet. “His hands weren’t tied, and he was able to reach under the velvet cloth and touch it, confirming that it contained four or five Eucharistic hosts that he had blessed the day before. ‘So I said to myself, without the knowledge of God, nothing will happen to me.’”
As reported by the Associated Press, the 59-year-old priest was freed in 2017, and reported that his captors did not injure him, although they pretended to in videos in order to speed along negotiations. He said, “I thank God almighty for this day. He saved me healthy enough. Clear mind. Emotions under control until now. God has been extremely kind to me.”
I keep the Lord always before me. (Psalm 16:8)
Jesus, you are always by my side in times of trouble. Help
me to trust in You. And save the lives of all those in the
world who suffer under violence and terrorism.
Back on the Field
When Nevest Coleman, a groundskeeper at the Chicago White Sox home field, punched the time clock at the end of his shift one night in 1994, he told his buddies Harry Smith and Jerry Powe he’d see them the next day.
As ABC News reported, however, Coleman and another man were arrested that night on suspicion of rape and murder. Despite protests of innocence, they were convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Twenty-three years later, after new evidence surfaced, the two men were exonerated. Coleman, newly freed, knew exactly where he wanted to go.
So there he was on Monday, March 23, 2018, with his lunchbox in hand and his buddies Jerry (now his boss) and Harry, beaming at his side, punching in for work at Gate 4 of the White Sox stadium. The team is delighted to have him back, and Coleman is upbeat.
“The past is the past now,” he says. “When I was in there, I was miserable, but now I’ve got my loved ones behind me on my side, that misery is gone.”
I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation. (Psalm 40:9)
Lord, may I never lose hope in Your saving love.
The Reason You Crave Pumpkin Spice
Yes, it’s pumpkin spice season again! You’ll find the flavor in coffees, donuts, candles, and more. So what’s the big draw? It turns out that our love of pumpkin spice stems from our innate yearning for tradition and family.
As reported by CNN, most pumpkin spice mixtures don’t even contain actual pumpkin, but rather “ground cinnamon, nutmeg, dry ginger and clove or allspice.” Catherine Franssen, assistant professor of psychology at Virginia’s Longwood University, notes that because this blend of spices has been used in home-baked goods for many years, our brains are wired to experience them as good and comforting.
Kantha Shelke, a food science communicator for the Institute of Food Technologists, adds, “In the Western world, the aroma of pumpkin spice immediately transports people to all the warm and friendly times associated with pumpkin pie, holiday gatherings, families, celebrations, treats, sweets...things that childhood memories are made of.”
The Lord said to Moses: Take sweet spices.
Help me to create warm memories with my loved ones over food, drink, and good company, Creator.
Down in the Dumps
In September 2017, Marie Mischel was having one of those weeks, overwhelmed by the turmoil and devastation around the globe. In addition, her brother had received a stage four cancer diagnosis, a friend’s baby was very sick, and Marie was struggling with her own health issues.
The editor of Intermountain Catholic tried to take a walk. She went to Mass. But nothing helped lift the weight. Until one morning she spent 20 minutes in prayer with God. At work, “what at first appeared to be an insurmountable workload dissipated one task at a time with such little effort that I was able to leave before suppertime.” She then had time for relaxation and some more work and finally gained some perspective.
“The world remains in a sorry state, my brother and the baby are still ill, and my foot continues to hurt, but somehow my anger about all this has faded, and although I do not have the peace God alone can give, I can at least believe I may in time be worthy of it,” she mused. “God works in mysterious ways; he gives food in due season.”
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
Lord, when I’m in a bad mood, give me strength to look up.
The Grace Project
At Franciscan Health Indianapolis, Hailey Swartz showers love on her six-week-old daughter, Gracelynn, but also feels guilty about the child’s medical condition. As reported by the Indianapolis Star, “Gracelynn is slowly being weaned off the morphine nurses have pumped into her since birth to treat the painful withdrawal symptoms she suffers as a result of her mom’s drug use.”
Hailey and Gracelynn’s saving grace is the appropriately named Grace Project, “a two-year-old hospital foundation program dedicated to helping drug-addicted moms before and after delivery by removing barriers to treatment and recovery.”
Nurse Erin Neu and social worker Traci Schank offer mercy and compassion instead of judgment when it comes to the moms they work with—and their approach has met with success. The Grace Project has helped 37 out of 40 babies and moms achieve recovery and stay together. Swartz adds, “If it wasn’t for [Traci and Erin]...I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to see clearly, to know that I’m worth being here. And this time, I’m facing my demons.”
Grace and mercy are upon His holy ones. (Wisdom 3:9)
Guide those with addictions to Your healing grace, Lord.
A Quadruplet Surprise
When Justina and Matt Kopp of Crystal, Minnesota, learned they were expecting, they approached the sonogram stage with an extra measure of caution. They had been working with fertility technicians and had reason to fear an irregular pregnancy. They laughed when they discovered they were having quadruplets…and then they started panicking.
With the help of friends, they eventually came to realize they’d somehow make it (with the assistance, be it noted, of God Almighty). Maria Wiering’s story in The Catholic Spirit of St. Paul-Minneapolis, brings to life Cora, Raph, Theo and Ben—three boys and a girl—who were added to the Kopp family.
They each weighed four pounds at birth and remained in the hospital for a few weeks. When they were finally released to the family, the Kopps began an exciting ride that hasn’t let up yet. Matt says, “I can’t imagine raising quadruplets without a sense of faith. It makes you have to trust in God a lot more, because you have to trust that everything will work out in the end, that the babies will stay well and job stuff will work out.”
Your children will be like olive shoots around your table. (Psalm 128:3)
Fill new parents with Your strength and wisdom, Father.
Staying Happy as You Age
As someone once said, getting old isn’t for the faint of heart. The losses of aging, especially if financial resources are limited, pose real challenges. Nevertheless, many people maintain an upbeat spirit or even find happiness for the first time.
An article in Kaiser Health News highlights “secrets to chronic happiness as you age.” One 76-year-old man with numerous health problems doesn’t harp on what he can no longer do. He appreciates what he can do. It’s not easy, but he says he refuses to give up.
In addition to being grateful, here are a few more tips:
■ Accept your new reality and move forward.
■ Maximize your abilities.
■ Ask for help.
■ Exercise, even while seated.
■ Maintain a social support system.
■ Have a purpose in life.
■ Find small ways to help others.
The glory of youths is their strength, but the beauty of the aged is their gray hair. (Proverbs 20:29)
Inspire us, Holy Spirit, as we seek to find fulfillment throughout life.
Of Names and Places
Ever wonder how your hometown got its name? Or wonder why some other town’s name is Peculiar? For the people who live in Peculiar, Kansas, it’s simple. When townsfolk couldn’t agree on a name, a frustrated postal official asked why they kept coming up with such peculiar suggestions.
When another town had trouble coming up with a name, the postmaster looked out the window for inspiration. He didn’t see much except grass and shrubs. And that’s how Notrees, Texas, got its name.
Sometimes, people decide a name just doesn’t seem appropriate or even respectful. When the folks in Mole Hill, West Virginia, felt dissatisfied, what else could they do but turn it into Mountain?
Still, whether it’s a town or a person, reputation is really built on how your actions express your character. Give yourself a good name.
Have regard for your name, since it will outlive you
longer than a thousand hordes of gold. (Sirach 41:12)
Show me what it means to have a good name and how I can
preserve it, Holy Spirit.
The 15:17 to Paris, Part Three
The seeds of faith were planted in the lives of Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, and Spencer Stone by their families. Skarlatos credits his mother with taking him to church and putting him in a Christian school. Stone also notes the influence of his mother’s faith, but adds, “At a certain point, I was able to distinguish between people telling me that God was there and working in my life – and feeling and seeing it [myself]. That recognition cemented it.”
Sadler’s greatest spiritual influence was his father, who is now the pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church in Sacramento. He said, “My dad told me, even as a kid, that he was just giving me the foundation – that there would be a time when I’m 18 and...it would be up to me to make my choices in life to see if I was going to continue my own journey with God.
“I credit him with doing that because it made me attentive. It was important to keep that relationship [with God] and I’m glad I did...Surviving that situation [with the terrorist] in the manner that we did, you can’t look at anybody else but God.”
Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray. (Proverbs 22:6)
Make me attentive to Your presence, Lord.
The 15:17 to Paris, Part Two
In 2018, Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, and Spencer Stone’s story made it to the silver screen in the Clint Eastwood-directed film The 15:17 to Paris. Not only that, the three young men played themselves in the movie.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, they said they were happy that Eastwood didn’t downplay the God factor in their story. Skarlatos explained, “Looking back, you could see our whole lives leading up to that moment without us even knowing it. Based on the training that Spencer and I had in the military, it all played out perfectly…It’s impossible to not see God’s hand or some sort of fate working in our favor.”
That was especially true for Stone, who would likely have been killed if the terrorist’s gun had not misfired. He said, “When does that ever happen? That’s such a rare thing in a moment like that with one of the most reliable weapons on the planet. There were definitely a lot of prayers of gratitude to God after that one, because that would have changed the whole course of the event. I’d be dead and probably hundreds of other people.”
The conclusion tomorrow...
Deliver me from my enemies, O my God. (Psalm 59:1)
Guide and protect me in times of trouble, Savior.
The 15:17 to Paris, Part One
On Aug. 21, 2015, longtime friends Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, and Spencer Stone were making their way from Amsterdam to Paris on a high-speed train. The three young Americans from Sacramento were simply enjoying a vacation together when they were thrust into history by the presence of a heavily armed terrorist intent on murdering everyone on board.
Stone, an Air Force Airman First Class, and Skarlatos, a member of the Oregon National Guard who had recently returned from deployment in Afghanistan, were quick to jump into action with Sadler by their side. Stone was the first to rush the gunman, only to be met with an AK-47 assault rifle that the terrorist shot. But no bullet came out. The gun misfired.
That allowed Stone, Skarlatos, and Sadler, to tackle and subdue the gunman, who still managed to cut Stone with a box cutter, injuring his head, neck, and hand. The three Americans were hailed as heroes around the world, but were quick to give credit to God for guiding and protecting them that day.
More of the story tomorrow...
Be strong and of good courage, and act.
(1 Chronicles 28:20)
Fill my heart with courage, Messiah.
The Tides of Change
Many years ago, Janet Zeller’s painful and progressive neurological disease, reflex sympathetic disorder, threatened the active outdoor lifestyle she knew and loved.
Within a year, the Dunbarton, New Hampshire native was a quadriplegic. She lost her job. Her husband walked out on her. She fought despair and prayed for peace, strength and guidance.
With help, she created a special kayak to compensate for her disabilities and began canoeing and kayaking. Janet Zeller became an instructor, and was asked by the American Canoe Association (ACA) to introduce handicapped paddlers to the sport.
Elected national president of the ACA, she started recreational programs for the disabled. “I want to do as much as I can, while I can,” she says. “God has shown me my life has a purpose, and with His help, I’ve reaped the benefits.”
I am your God, I will strengthen you, I will help you.
Lord, give me strength to do things I would never attempt on my own.
The Dog Did His Part
A barking puppy tried unsuccessfully to get a message to the man who carried him home from the veterinarian’s office in Memphis, Tennessee.
When they arrived home, the man told his wife about the dog’s strange behavior: “He didn’t enjoy the visit. He barked all the way home as if he were trying to tell me something.”
The wife took a close look at the dog and said: You’re right. He was trying to tell you that you brought the wrong dog home.”
It’s a human failing to overlook the reminders that God sends each of us. Don’t disregard the signs or warnings that your own conscience offers or those that come from family, friends, acquaintances – or even from little dogs.
Be reasonably alert to every admonition that draws you towards doing what is right and away from drifting into needless mistakes.
Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:13)
Keep me moving in the right direction with my life and choices, Holy Spirit.
Dr. Jane Goodall: Educator
You would probably understand it if noted primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall retired after decades inspiring us to care for the environment and protect chimps and other living things.
Goodall’s groundbreaking work began with the study of chimps in Africa in the 1960s. In addition to an Institute in her name, she started a Roots and Shoots program where she shares her insights with younger generations.
And now, at age 83, Goodall is branching out finding new ways to pass on her life’s knowledge. Although she still travels frequently, she has begun reaching ever larger audiences electronically with an online Master Class program.
Goodall has high hopes that young people will carry on her work. “Don’t think you can do everything, I always tell the students. Pour your energy into what you care about and do it well and you will make a difference.”
Ask the animals, and they will teach you...Who among
all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has
done this? In His hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of every human being. (Job 12:7,9-10)
Help us, Lord, to cherish the beauty of Your creation.
When Forgiveness Seems Impossible
In January 2018, a 15-year-old student took a gun to Marshall County High School in Kentucky, killing two of his classmates (Bailey Nicole Holt and Preston Ryan Cope, both age 15) and injuring 18 more.
CBS This Morning hosts Gayle King, Norah O’Donnell, and John Dickerson interviewed one student, Tristan Cline, who arrived at the school in his car just after the shooting spree had started. He started to drive away when he saw his friend Danny lying in a field, surrounded by teachers because he’d been shot. Cline raced him to the hospital where Danny received treatment.
Despite the loss of life, Cline discussed forgiving the perpetrator: “God is love and in perfect love, there is no fear. So we’ll get over it eventually. It just takes time. He was a person, too.” Gayle King later commented, “I’m always surprised when something this tragic happens, and in the beginning, people can start thinking about forgiveness during the process of their grief.”
John Dickerson then observed, “Grace is an amazing thing.”
Deliver us, and forgive our sins. (Psalm 79:9)
Remind me, Lord, that forgiveness doesn’t mean approving the wrong that was done, but rather letting go of bitterness and rage that could darken my soul and take over my life.
The Man Who Brought the War Home
Egbert Roscoe Murrow was born April 25, 1908, in Polecat Creek, North Carolina, a hamlet with no automobiles, telephones, or electricity. In 1934, he became involved in helping to expatriate Jewish academics from an increasingly anti-Semitic Germany. In 1937, he was dispatched to London by CBS News as its European correspondent.
Egbert eventually changed his name to “Edward” R. Murrow. In 1940, he took his microphone to the London streets where the Nazis were dropping bombs, making the horror of what was happening very real in American homes.
Murrow’s was the most trusted news voice on radio. He later attempted to facilitate himself to television, a medium he never warmed to. “This instrument can teach,” he declared. “It can illuminate. Yes, it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it is merely wires and lights in a box.”
He brought us the war, and a prophecy.
Prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house. (Matthew 13:57)
Help me to recognize Your voice in all the voices I hear, God.
Cop Gets Assist from the Virgin Mary
Police Officer Federick Yap of Fairfax County, Virginia, credits prayers to the Virgin Mary with helping him save the lives of three women. It all began in 2006 when he joined the force. Working at night, he looked for a quiet place to do some work—which turned out to be the parking lot of a local church.
“I didn’t realize I was in front of the Virgin Mary statue. I didn’t put any strong emphasis on it because being Catholic, it was normal for me,” he said in an April 2018 interview with the Arlington Catholic Herald. “I don’t know how it started and why it started, but I just offered a short prayer to the Virgin Mary and made it a practice (before every shift).”
Through the years, Yap and his colleagues saved women from death three times. Pinned on his uniform are the three bars he received as awards for those rescues—and he’s named the bars after the women. “Rain or shine, hot and cold, I will see [the Blessed Mother]. I believe she helps me make the best decision,” he said. “You don’t expect this to happen three times. For me, these are miracles.”
Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. (Luke 1:30)
Thank you, Jesus, for giving us our heavenly Mother!
From the Ark to a SPAR
The Daughters of St. Mary of Providence were founded in Italy in 1881, when a group of young women felt called to minister to people with disabilities. They opened a house that soon came to be known as “Noah’s Ark,” because the sisters took in everyone from orphans to the elderly and the disabled.
Coming to the U.S. in 1913, the Daughters first worked with Italian immigrants in Chicago. Today, the expanded community focuses on serving children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
In Syracuse, New York, as Crux reports, the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence run the diocese’s SPAR – Special Adult Religious Formation – ministry, offering adaptive catechesis for sacramental preparation for teens and adults.
“We hope to contribute to the good of every person who must be helped to live his or her life with conditions that require support, attention and care,” the Daughters’ code of ethics states. “The centrality of every human person continues over time and cultural changes in our world today.”
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me and do not stop them.” (Matthew 19:14)
Lord, may all Your children know they are loved.
“Because You Can”
When Crystal Champ first encountered Albuquerque police officer Ryan Holets, she was pregnant, homeless, and addicted to both heroin and methamphetamines. Holets, a father of four, let his anger show. “How can you do this to your baby?” he asked Crystal. She told him she was looking to give the baby up for adoption. Holets made a spontaneous offer to adopt Champ’s baby and to help her and her boyfriend get clean.
After clearing his decision with his wife, Rebecca, Holets prayed over it. “You will do it — because you can,” he says God answered. Baby Hope was born, and the Holetses adopted her, helping her through withdrawal from the drugs she’d been exposed to in utero.
Crystal and her boyfriend, however, turned down the first chance at rehab the Holetses arranged, stopping just short of the airport gate. Crystal knew from previous attempts how hard getting clean could be. But after more prayer and work, she and her boyfriend made the choice to try. By the time the Holetses were honored at the 2018 State of the Union, Time magazine reports, the couple had been sober 40 days…and counting.
Do not fear…Do not be discouraged. (Isaiah 54:4)
Lord, free Your people from the chains of addiction.
A Prayer in the Storm
“It was in a moment of utter desperation when I met Patrick in 2013,” wrote World Vision staff member Maryann Zamora about her time in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan.
“He was hunched over among the debris-littered ground sobbing. He told me how he’d been separated from his wife and children in the chaos of Typhoon Haiyan. He hadn’t seen them in hours after the storm…He worried that his wife and children were among the bodies I’d seen cast alongside the road on a horrific journey to Tacloban.”
Touched by his grief, Zamora asked him if they could pray together, and he agreed.
As the weeks passed, Zamora admits she started thinking less of Patrick and his family. But three months after the storm, she returned to Tacloban: “I rolled into a local eatery for a late lunch. As I ate chicken curry I looked up and caught a familiar face. It was Patrick. He was working as a server at the small restaurant. ‘By God’s grace, I found my family, and they are safe. Our prayer was answered, ma’am,’ he told me.”
Where two or three are gathered in My name, I am there among them. (Matthew 18:20)
When tragedy overwhelms me, I find solace in You, Lord.
An Actress’s Moral Quandary
When actress Jen Lilley was offered the role of Theresa Donovan on the soap opera Days of Our Lives, she felt inclined to turn it down. Theresa was a cocaine addict who frequently engaged in one-night stands. For Lilley, a Christian, that wasn’t a part she wanted to play. Yet she felt that God was calling her to do it because He wanted to convey that Jesus died for the Theresas of this world, too, and that people like her are not beyond redemption.
With that in mind, Lilley took the part because it gave her the opportunity to add her personal touch to the moments of unscripted silence, the moments after a sexual encounter that convey to the audience that the void she feels is still there.
“By the time I left,” explained Lilley on Christopher Closeup, “Theresa becomes this selfless, amazing individual. They built a church set, [Theresa] goes in, and she prays to Jesus and [says], ‘I can’t do this without You. I know I’m not a model citizen, but I don’t know what else to do.’ It was so amazing.”
There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:7)
Guide actors to use their influence for good, Jesus.
The Most Important Question
“What's the difference between a really bad childhood and being able to overcome that—and a traumatic childhood and someone not being able to overcome that?” Oprah Winfrey asked childhood trauma specialist Dr. Bruce Perry during a 60 Minutes interview. For Winfrey, it was not just journalistic curiosity. Her own journey from a childhood of poverty and physical and sexual abuse made understanding how to mitigate trauma critical.
Dr. Perry said the key lies in relationships. “What he really means is love,” Winfrey told 60 Minutes Overtime. "He's a scientist. He's not going to use the word ‘love.’ But it really is about how you are responded to, valued, trusted and loved by those around you.” That person may not be a family member.
Winfrey acknowledges the role her 4th-grade teacher, Mrs. Duncan, played in listening to her and helping her believe she mattered. After talking with Dr. Perry, Winfrey says her understanding of surviving trauma has been confirmed. “The most important question you can ask anyone who is acting out is not ‘What’s wrong with you?’ but ‘What happened to you?’”
I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten. (Joel 2:25)
Lord, let me listen to and value all those in my life.
The Grace of Max
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson lost her dog Max to a brief bout with bone cancer. She was grateful to have had a last month with Max to do the things they loved together – especially riding in the car. “This month with Max taught me many important lessons,” she wrote at Aleteia, “but most of all it taught me about grace – a concept I have struggled with for a long time.”
Through her love for Max, Anderson says, she got a glimpse of how God loves each of us. “It’s easier to understand and accept how thoroughly I loved Max than to understand God’s love for me, and yet Max wasn’t perfect. When he sat up front, he put more than one small puncture in the upholstery of the car seat. But, I saw beyond all that to the joy in his eyes that only made me love him more, and without reservation.”
Anderson asks, “Can I see myself as God sees me, with all the punctures and ruptures I have been responsible for? The person God created and loves?”
To do so, she says, is to catch a glimpse of grace.
The Lord does not see as mortals see…the Lord looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 17:13)
Lord, help me to see myself and others as You see, with the eyes of the heart.
Pocket Full of Colors
“I need your wild and beautiful colors.” That’s what Walt Disney told trailblazing animator, illustrator, and designer Mary Blair in 1964 when he needed her talents for a special project.
Blair grew up looking at the world as a palate of vibrant, joyful colors. With her innate artistic tendencies, she became one of the first women ever hired by Walt Disney studios in 1940. But her renderings of flying magenta horses and twinkling emerald skies proved to be too much for some of her male colleagues, who often deemed her art to modern and abstract.
Blair eventually left the studio, but Walt Disney himself always remembered her talent, so he hired her in 1964 to design the “It’s a Small World” ride for the World’s Fair in New York. It has since become a beloved classic.
In 2018, authors Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville and illustrator Brigette Barrager won a Christopher Award for their children’s book about Blair, titled Pocket Full of Colors. It serves as an inspiration to any child with dreams that require defying the odds.
I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord...to give you a future with hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Open my eyes to the vibrant colors of Your world, Creator.
A True Leader
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ passion isn’t confined to football; he has a deep faith, which sprang into life when he was 17 and heard a stirring sermon at First Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.
In an interview with Sports Spectrum magazine, Brees recalled, “Normally, me and my brother would be elbowing each other during the service. But that day was different.” The pastor said that God was looking for “a few good men.” That idea “clicked” with Brees and “I really accepted Jesus into my heart.”
When Brees began his career with the San Diego Chargers, he made an impression with Shawn Mitchell, the team’s chaplain, who said, “Drew was a real catalyst to the spiritual dynamic on the team. He was always in the front row of our team meetings, and he was also in the middle of our chapel services.”
After a bad injury, Brees briefly thought, “Why is this happening?” However, “I quickly snapped out of it, and realized, this is happening for a reason, and I’m going to turn this into a positive. [God] wouldn’t let me face it if I couldn’t handle it.”
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.
Lord, make me a true leader, one who trusts You.
Grateful for Each Day
A New Jersey pastor admits he’s lucky to be alive following a one-car accident in 2017 in rural Swartswood. Consider what happened to Father Abuci Nwosu: the priest came upon a good-sized rock in the road, so he swerved to avoid it. His car lurched to one side and rolled over twice before coming to rest on the blacktop, upside-down.
The windows were shattered and pieces of wreckage littered the road. With the help of a passerby, he was able to slide out of a window on the driver’s side—and emerged virtually unscathed. “I can’t believe that I survived,” said Father Nwosu, a native of Nigeria. “I’m so grateful to God for saving my life, for whatever reason He has in mind.”
Father Nwosu spoke a few days later to Michael Wojcik, news editor of The Beacon, newspaper of the Paterson Diocese. “I definitely appreciate life more. Even today, I still thank God for each day.”
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts...and with my song I give thanks to Him. (Psalm 28:7)
Save me, O Lord, from danger, and help me to make the most of each day.
A New Perspective on Your Church Organ
The story about Timothy Patterson bore the headline “New life in old pipes,” and an apt summary it was. The account, written by Catherine Deeds in The Catholic Spirit of St. Paul-Minneapolis, told of the organ’s ability to affect human emotion. It described the way Patterson completed the organ restoration work at Ascension Parish in Minneapolis, combining it with his natural interest in the way things work.
“Music has been known to affect humans and animals,” Patterson told Deeds, “to soothe, to calm down, to excite. We are all moved by music; the organ enhances this experience.”
Along the way. Patterson turned his passion into his business, designing and restoring organs, mostly for use in churches. He acquired a degree in computer science, since most of the projects he does include adding full computer software systems to enhance and update an organ’s capabilities.
“The organ has a multitude of sounds,” he said. “The organist has a way to express these emotions, and helps guide the people to realize that.”
While the musician was playing, the power of the Lord came on him. (2 Kings 3:15)
Help me find music to lift my spirits, Father.
Air Mattress to the Rescue
Sometimes all it takes to be a hero is access to an air mattress.
Thirteen-year-old Virgil Smith told Texas station KTRK-TV that his friend and neighbor called him in a panic at 2 a.m. from another building during Hurricane Harvey: the area was flooding, and he and his family didn’t know how to swim. Without hesitation, Smith grabbed an inflatable mattress and went out into the dark to swim to his friend’s aid, loading everyone onto the mattress.
“I put him, his two sisters, one baby and his brother, and I had my other friend by the hand right here,” Smith remembered. “And I set his momma and his step-dad on the air mattress.”
Smith didn’t stop with his friends. He rescued others, including a woman in a wheelchair. His mom Lisa, while worried, was proud of her son and said her faith “got her through...All I’m thinking about is ‘I know he’s able to save. He can rescue, he can swim. And I just had faith in the Lord that everything was gonna be alright.”
Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread.
May I always be brave when You ask me to be, Lord.
The Quiet Benefactor
Sylvia Bloom of Brooklyn was no one’s idea of a wealthy benefactress. Ms. Bloom was a legal secretary who lived frugally, working for the same law firm for 67 years. She was 96 years old when she retired, the New York Times reported, and she died soon afterward.
But Sylvia Bloom’s will contained a big surprise. After some bequests, Ms. Bloom left the bulk of her estate to the Henry Street Settlement, a nonprofit social services agency on New York’s Lower East Side. That turned out to be a gift of almost six and a quarter million dollars.
Bloom, it seems, was not just a loyal secretary to her bosses; she was also influenced by their investment choices. “When the boss would buy a stock, she would make the purchase for him, and then buy the same stock for herself, but in a smaller amount because she was on a secretary’s salary,” her niece noted. Over the years, Ms. Bloom’s quiet strategy funded what is the largest gift in the Settlement’s 125-year history, earmarked for scholarships for the neediest young people the charity serves.
You have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things. (Matthew 25:21)
Lord, show me how to invest in serving Your kingdom.
The Difference a Smile Makes
One of the ways that Roma Downey has brought God’s grace to those in need for the past 20 years is through her volunteer efforts with the charity Operation Smile, which sends doctors and nurses to third world and developing countries to operate on children born with cleft lip and cleft palate.
“In the absence of proper care in some of these countries,” explained Roma during a Christopher Closeup interview, “the child grows up with a deformity that, in many cases, prevents them from eating, so they’re malnourished — prevents them from speaking correctly, so there’s an assumption they’re mentally deficient.”
Roma has traveled to Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Central America with Operation Smile and experienced many moments when she hands a child back to its mother after surgery. The “tears of gratitude” the mother sheds at seeing her child’s face restored always have a profound effect on Roma, leaving her feeling humbled and privileged to take part in missions that make a real difference in people’s lives.
I smiled on them when they had no confidence.
Help me bring a smile to someone’s face today, Lord.
Colors in a Rainbow
Rainbows are created whenever it rains, but to see them you have to be in the right position in relation to the sun. And what you see is yours alone. Ten people who seem to be looking at the same rainbow are actually seeing ten different rainbows because no two people look at a rainbow from exactly the same angle.
When sunlight strikes drops of rain, the light is bent and separated into its constituent colors. Each raindrop contains all the colors, but contributes just one color at a time to a rainbow. As each raindrop falls and its angle to your eye changes, its color changes. And the different colors come out at different angles, producing a multicolored band.
People are as individual as the rainbows they see, and each person, in his or her own way, adds beauty to the world. Each person has special qualities that can make the world a better place—and each quality is a talent for being, living, and doing in a unique way.
Each of us was given grace according to the measure of
Christ’s gift…to equip the saints for the work of…building up the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:7-12)
Help me discover the gifts You’ve given me, Holy Spirit!
Salute to Fair Play
It’s great to hear about the victories of athletes, but what about the athletes who consider fair play more important than winning? The British kayak team lost the world championship in 1990. But what caused them to lose the race won them the Pierre de Coubertin International Fair Play Trophy.
The British team was in second place in the race, with the Danish team leading. Then the Danish team’s rudder was damaged – and the British team stopped to help them fix it.
The race continued, and the Danes beat the British by one second! If the British had taken advantage of the other team’s accident, they would have won. But they valued fair play more than winning.
The real winners, in life as in sports, are those who show nobility of spirit.
Happy are those who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times. (Psalm 106:3)
Courteous Lord, give me a share of Your courtesy even as you give me the ability to run the race and receive the prize - life eternal.
On Duty and Decency
Jimmy Breslin was a journalist with a talent for capturing the heart of a story and the people who live it. When his wife Rosemary died in 1981, he gave a eulogy that showed the kind of decent person she was. He said:
“She was a person who regarded life as one long attempt to provide a happy moment or so for another person…
“She thought the word duty meant that each day there should be a word or gesture that would cause someone else to smile over the life about them. Her contempt was reserved for those who would not attempt this. Who are you, she would rail, to go through a day knowing that another day is to follow and another day after that…and still you refuse to join with us and help soften the path of those around you?”
It is so easy to think only of what we want. But we jostle through life in the company of others. That is the path God set before us all. Let’s look out for one another.
The Lord is my shepherd…He leads me in right paths for His name’s sake. (Psalm 23:1,3)
Why do I need to be reminded so often of my brother’s need, my sister’s hope? Lord, help us to help each other.
LaVonne Neal had it all: a high-powered corporate job, a townhouse, annual vacations in Europe. But something was missing.
In her reflective moments, she remembered how important a teacher had been to her in middle school. “She saw something in me, pulled me aside, and taught me how to channel my talents. She gave me the direction I needed at a critical point in my life.”
When Neal could not take the emptiness any longer, she quit her job and went back to school to become a teacher. She earned her credentials in a year and landed a job at Grisham Middle School in Round Rock, Texas.
Gone was the luxury, the European vacations. Instead, she put in long hours to make a difference educating young people, going on to achieve her master’s degree in education.
Neal finally felt good about herself after sharing her true and selfless passions with the world.
The souls of the righteous…will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. (Wisdom 3:1,7)
Put more love in my heart, Lord of Love, that like You, I might give it away.
Love Should Be “Always”
In 1925, Irving Berlin published the song “Always,” and it became a big hit. Its basic theme is that love should be distinguished by sincerity and understanding that is for “always.”
The closing refrain of the song accentuates the idea that love should be permanent and timeless—that it should be “not for just an hour, not for just a day, not for just a year, but always.”
While practically everyone wishes to be loved endlessly, too few of us in turn show a willingness to love our fellow human beings in fair weather and foul, through thick and thin, forever.
In attempting to perfect our love for others and make it more enduring, we would do well to imitate the “always” love that the Creator Himself has for each of us. No matter how changeable and inconstant we may be, the Lord is a loving Father to us always. He expects us to care for one another with the same lasting love with which He loves us.
I have loved you with an everlasting love.
Lord, grant that I love others with the same constancy with which You love me.
Katie Hughes’ father died shortly before she was born in 1980. She felt the loss as she was growing up, but found a way to connect with him in an abstract way by learning to use the vast array of tools he kept in the family’s shed.
Katie grew up to be a carpenter who realized that women were under-represented in the trades. As a result, she founded the charity Girls Build. As reported by KATU-TV in 2017, “This past summer, 164 girls – eight to 14 years old – attended Girls Build summer camps, where they got hands-on training in 10 different trades...[including] roofing, plumbing, electrical, painting, and fine carpentry.”
Katie sees value in the training she’s giving these girls, beyond just the actual skills they learn. She said, “That little girl, when she goes back to school in September, she’s going to be more confident, she’s going to raise her hand a little more, she’s going to try new things a little more. It’s going to change the direction of her life, we hope.”
The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands. (Proverbs 14:1)
Instill young people with the confidence to try new things and gain more confidence, Creator.
An Approach to Anxiety
A perennial worrywart who was raised Catholic but not too steeped in the faith, author Gary Jansen started to find relief from his anxiety when someone introduced him to the writings of Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, and Fulton Sheen. During a Christopher Closeup interview, he said, “[I saw] they were dealing with their anxiety and fear and how to overcome it.”
An experience with his young son also taught Jansen a lesson about responding to fear. The two of them went to the grounds of St. Ignatius Retreat House in Long Island years ago to walk around and play. As it got dark, Jansen held his son’s hand as they walked, and the boy said, “Dad, don’t let go. I’m afraid.”
Jansen recalled, “It was this moment of deep connection with my son, with the world, and with God…I’ve been frightened so many times in my life, and a lot of times I don’t reach out to my Father’s hand and say, ‘Abba, help me. Hold onto me. Don’t let me go.’ When you can do that, when you can surrender your intellect [or] how you are living your life and say, ‘God, hold my hand,’ it just changes everything.”
Though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the
Lord holds us by the hand. (Psalm 37:24)
Abba, help me. Hold onto me. Don’t let me go.
The Town That Found a Cure-All
Physician Helen Kingston, who practices in the English town of Frome, in Somerset, was frustrated. Patients often repeated the same set of complaints, protesting that nobody listened. Many felt isolated by their illnesses.
Drawing on research that suggested medical outcomes were better in situations where patients could rely on communities, rather than going it alone, Kingston helped create the Compassionate Frome Project. The project offers patients a network of community support for meeting practical needs, such as debt and housing. More importantly, it offers patients a wide variety of ways to become reengaged in their own communities – from lunch groups to choirs to “men’s sheds” where participants gather to tinker on favorite projects.
As The Guardian reports, results from the first three years of the project are astonishing. While emergency hospital admissions rose 29 percent across Somerset, emergency admissions in Frome for the same period decreased by 17 percent. Kingston’s patients no longer come to her complaining; they can’t wait to get together with others and try new things.
A cheerful heart is a good medicine. (Proverbs 17:22)
Lord, may I offer community to those who are alone.
Laughing at the World
When Og Mandino was at a particular low point in his life that left him contemplating suicide, he walked to a library and found the self-help section. He began devouring books on success and came to glean the best advice he could, applying it to his own life. His best-seller, The Greatest Salesman in the World, includes the following wisdom:
“I will laugh at the world. And how can I laugh when confronted with man or deed which offends me so as to bring forth my tears or my curses? Four words I will train myself to say until they become a habit...These words, passed down from the ancients, will carry me through every adversity and maintain my life in balance. These four words are: This too shall pass.
“And with my laughter, all things will be reduced to their proper size. I will laugh at my failures and they will vanish in clouds of new dreams; I will laugh at my successes and they will shrink to their true value. Never will I allow myself to become so important, so wise, so dignified, so powerful, that I forget how to laugh at myself and my world.”
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
May I always retain the ability to laugh, Holy Spirit.
A Fitting Tribute
New York Daily News writer Bob Raissman gave a welcome shout-out to the entire New York Mets baseball organization for their refusal to forget Shannon Forde, who died in 2016 after a long battle with breast cancer. Forde worked in the Mets’ front office, where she was a PR executive, highly popular with fans and players alike.
The Mets remembered her in a big way. They dedicated the Shannon Dalton Forde Memorial Field in her honor (in her hometown of Little Ferry, New Jersey). Funds for the field came from $240,000 that the Mets and Major League Baseball raised in an auction following her death. Forde made a lasting impression on those with whom she worked and those she did business with in her role as the face of the Mets.
For their efforts, Raissman gave the baseball team the “Dude of the Week” award in his weekly column.
The memory of the righteous is a blessing.
Lord Jesus, help us preserve the memories of our lost loved ones and the goodness they brought to the world.
The Beekeeper’s Success
Ever Antonio Rios Rivera—that’s his full name—was understandably a little nervous when he started learning the art of beekeeping. After all, he was only 17, and just as would hold true for you and me, he was afraid of getting stung.
As time went on, he learned to appreciate the beekeeping internship provided by Catholic Relief Services in Nicaragua and started enjoying it—but he always checked his protective headgear.
As reported by Jossie Flor Sapunar in The Wooden Bell, a publication of CRS, Rivera created a plan for his beekeeping business and received funding, and he was off and running. The magazine takes up the story:
“The business allows him to help his family, so he wants to keep studying. As he pulls on his safety suit and reaches for the smoker, his methodical movement suggests that the fear of bees has given way to a familiar routine. Through the veil, he smiles.”
My child, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. (Proverbs 24:13)
Creator, guide all people to work that they find fulfilling and that can make their lives sweeter.
The Best Mistake She Ever Made
Maddie Zahm used to be a popular girl in her Boise, Idaho high school, but after she gained 100 pounds in one year, she became an outcast who was bullied because of her weight.
The reason for her weight gain, as she finally discovered during her senior year, was polycystic ovary syndrome, which causes women to add pounds because of hormone imbalances. The lifelong musician and singer felt dejected because she not only lost her friends, she lost her confidence and ability to perform the songs she used to love.
During that time, Maddie accidentally walked into a music class for kids with disabilities. She now calls it “the best mistake I ever made.” That’s where she saw Marcus, a young man with Down syndrome. Maddie sensed he could use a friend, too, and the two have become close.
She appreciates the fact that Marcus sees her for who she is, not how much she weighs. And in encouraging Marcus to become more social, Maddie pushed herself out of her comfort zone by auditioning for American Idol. She now works with special-ed kids, and is giving a music career a shot as well.
The Lord will guide you continually. (Isaiah 58:11)
Turn my mistakes into blessings, Messiah.
The Spider-Man of Paris
A boy swayed precariously from a fourth-floor apartment balcony in Paris, just barely able to maintain his grip on the railing. According to the youngster’s neighbor, Jerry Alfred, the four-year-old had fallen from two floors above, where he lived with his father. The boy’s parent had gone out shopping, leaving his son dangerously unsupervised.
Malian immigrant Mamoudou Gassama, age 22, happened to be in the vicinity watching a football game when he saw a crowd forming around the dangling child. In less than 30 seconds, as recorded by someone’s video phone, Gassama scaled the building like Spider-Man, deftly lifting the child to safety. “I didn’t think about it,” Mamoudou told CNN affiliate BFM-TV. “I climbed up and God helped me.”
For Gassama’s valor, French President Emmanuel Macron presented him with a gold medal for bravery. Gassama has also been granted full French citizenship, and was even offered a job, quite fittingly, in the Paris fire brigade.
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Paraclete, may we trust in the goodness of Your plans for us.
Hoping and Dreaming at Any Age
Some people have so-called “bucket lists” with grand goals they eventually hope to achieve, such as climbing the Great Wall of China or skydiving. But in an article for Kaiser Health News, Bruce Horovitz writes about people pursuing somewhat more modest ambitions.
Cecile Tegler, 92, went to college – unaffordable during her youth – and has inspired her peers to imagine new possibilities. Mildred Reeves, 97, took the controls of a single-engine airplane and had the great pleasure of flying, with her grandson cheering her on.
The women are residents of an assisted living home whose owner, David Tosetto, actively encourages older people to set goals. He said, “Young people dream and old people remember.” But he believes elders need to dream, too.
Geriatric psychiatrist Marc Agronin adds, “Our bucket lists need to be in line with our core values.” We don’t have to travel far and wide to achieve something meaningful. Look locally and you might possibly find the adventure of a lifetime.
In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap. (Psalm 92:14)
Lord, encourage us to keep dreaming about possibilities.
What Animals Teach
When a local farmer donated “Fiona,” a Scottish Highland calf, to Green Chimneys, the students got a wonderful opportunity to hone their skills in the care and training of an animal to be presented at the local 4-H fair.
Green Chimneys is a broad-based educational organization that helps young people with various special needs. According to an area newspaper, Fiona presented the youngsters with an opportunity “to be a part of a new animal’s life, to study farm science and biology in class and spend time on a farm.”
As part of the process, the students learn how to better care for their pets at home and to develop positive relationships with adults and peers. It was a well-earned bonus when the children exhibiting Fiona received top honors at the fair.
God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind...And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:25)
Inspire us, Holy Spirit, to notice and appreciate all forms of life.
Home Is Not a Convent…and That’s OK
Moms are always struggling to find time for their own spiritual lives. It’s an age-old problem, as Guideposts noted in a classic reflection from 1950s Western film star Dale Evans, the wife of musical cowboy Roy Rogers and a mother of seven.
In the everyday chaos of marriage, career and motherhood, Evans found herself in need of a quiet space for prayer and Scripture reading. So she went on a weekend retreat at an Episcopal convent.
“Up there in the silence,” Evans wrote, “I learned something about our noisy home in the valley. I learned that our home is not a convent! The orderly life that those holy women lead up there is the most beautiful and selfless in the world, but I suddenly knew it was not my life. I was a wife and a mother, and my religion had to be like my life—as spontaneous and spur of the moment as the little crises that keep me jumping.”
From keeping a box of Scripture quotes on hand for emergency inspiration to telling Bible stories on daily car trips, Dale Evans found that she could find God after all, even in the noisy busyness of family life.
Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Lord, let me be in Your presence all through my day.
The Catch of the Day
When 11-year-old Brodie Brooks was fishing with a relative in Lake Hartwell in Anderson, South Carolina, he felt a tug on his line and was hoping to reel in a big catch. Instead, hanging at the bottom of his fishing rod was a woman’s purse.
A closer examination of the bag’s contents revealed items such as credit cards and Clemson University-themed checks, all still surprisingly intact. Even more surprisingly, Brodie’s relative, Ben Myers, discovered he knew the purse’s owner.
According to the identification in the bag, the woman’s name was April Bolt, and Myers had gone to school with her nephew. Myers and Brodie were able to track down April and return her purse after it had been missing for what turned out to be 25 years. She had been visiting her parents in 1992, and she left her bag unattended in the family boat. By the time she went to retrieve it, the purse was gone, along with many irreplaceable memories, such as photographs of her then 15-month-old son.
“It’s just so precious to have it back,” April told ABC News. “It meant the world to me.”
Where your treasure is…your heart will be. (Matthew 6:21)
Lord, may we cherish life’s unexpected blessings.
Miracle in Motion, Part Three
For a man with so much seemingly left to do with his life, it is a mystery why Father TJ died so young. He was only 44 when he succumbed to stomach cancer, so David Warden finished the book Miracle in Motion for him.
For Warden, Father TJ will always be a light in the darkness – and he believes that their book will help readers find that light in their own lives. During a Christopher Closeup interview, he concluded, “None of us who work, support families, and have kids can devote the kind of time to doing the things Father TJ did to build people up. But without saying it, he [implied], ‘Maybe you could do a little bit more than you’re doing.’ And you know, he’s right.
“There’s a benefit that one gets out of doing that. It’s not just labor; it does oneself good. There’s many, many people around this town, and this state, and maybe in the United States that have been touched like that by TJ. I may be the only conversion to the faith that he had while he was alive, but I suspect that he’ll get a few others through reading this book.”
Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)
May my years, long or short, produce good fruit, Lord.
Miracle in Motion, Part Two
So how did Father TJ Martinez found Houston’s Cristo Rey Jesuit High School successfully in such a short amount of time? For one thing, his favorite mantra was, “Whatever happens, the story will end well.” In other words, he worked tirelessly himself, while trusting God to bring about the best ending.
In addition, notes his friend and Miracle in Motion co-author David Warden, “He had an uncanny ability to relate to anyone at any place on the socio-economic spectrum. He could be in the barrios of Houston and relate to those people. And then that night, he could be in the most expensive homes, drinking fine wine and bringing those people closer to God…If you wanted to put him in a capsule for me and so many others, he was equal parts friend, hero, and saint.”
For Warden, who didn’t have a Catholic background, it was Father TJ’s approach to life that ended up converting him: “The more I talked to him, the more I saw room for somebody who approached the mystery in life. He called it the mystery of our faith. We don’t need to know how it all is, but we need to know there’s mystery out there.” More tomorrow...
The mystery of our religion is great. (1 Timothy 3:16)
May life’s mysteries lead me closer to You, Creator.
Miracle in Motion, Part One
“Six years ago,” writes Father TJ Martinez in his memoir Miracle in Motion, “I was ordered by my provincial to start a Jesuit college preparatory high school for the underprivileged in Houston, Texas. [The provincial said], ‘I know you have no school, no land, no money, no kids, and no idea how to start this process…but go get it done.’”
That’s exactly what Father TJ did, becoming the founding president of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. Smart, motivated students have to be at or near poverty level to get in, and they must intend to go to college. In addition, explains the school’s website, “a unique Corporate Work-Study Program places students in Houston businesses and nonprofits where they earn up to 50 percent of the cost of their education.”
David Warden, Father TJ’s friend, said, “A lot of these kids, if they’re left in the school systems in their neighborhoods, [will] get beat up because they want to learn…The doors that are opened for them...and the opportunities given to them by getting into college, is a life they didn’t envision.” More tomorrow...
How much better to get wisdom than gold!
Help young people to want to learn, Holy Spirit.
The 50 Yard Challenge
“Back in 2016, I was driving home from school and came across an elderly man outside mowing his lawn,” 28-year-old Alabama resident Rodney Smith, Jr. told the New York Post. “He was struggling, so I pulled over and helped him out...That’s when I came up with the idea for ‘Raising Men Lawn Care Service.’ It shows [young men] the importance of giving back to the community.”
Using the catchy slogan “The 50 Yard Challenge,” Smith asks young people across the nation to mow 50 lawns in their own neighborhoods. Any youngster who successfully completes the challenge receives a new lawn mower, hand-delivered by Smith himself.
As for Smith, he pursues his own objective to mow the lawns of “50 yards in 50 states.” His Twitter account chronicles his astonishing progress. “When I was younger, I never liked to mow lawns,” Smith observed in conclusion. “But God took something I disliked and turned it into something I love to do. I believe this is my purpose.”
The human mind plans the way, and the Lord directs the steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
God, may we remember Your guiding hand is in all we do.
Health in the Hood
TV host Mike Rowe’s Facebook show, Returning the Favor, celebrates “do gooders” around the country and offers them help in achieving their goals. One 2018 episode highlighted Asha Loring, founder of the non-profit Health in the Hood.
The group brings fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income communities in the Miami area by creating community gardens in vacant lots that residents tend. They grow kale, tomatoes, zucchini, and more, allowing kids and adults to eat healthier.
When Rowe’s team came to town, led by producer Sarah Yourgrau, they planned a surprise for Loring: they got her the mobile food truck she wanted in order to bring more healthy eating options to various communities.
As cameras rolled at a party in one of the gardens, Loring wasn’t sure what was going on when her father, who got her started in urban farming, drove up in the truck. Once she learned it was hers to use for Health in the Hood, she was overjoyed. She said, “With this recognizable vehicle, we can reach more people and increase our visibility in an exciting way.”
You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord...for the good land that He has given you. (Deuteronomy 8:10)
Help us feed our bodies with nourishing foods, Creator.
Black Panther Star Loves Jesus
Actress Letitia Wright shone in her role of a brainy technician in the box-office smash, Black Panther. But it is her life story before her stardom that makes this young woman so interesting.
“I needed to take a break from acting, because I really idolized it. So I came off from it and I went on a journey to discover my relationship with God, and I became a Christian,” she explained during a British talk show. “It really just gave me so much love and light within myself. I felt secure, like I didn’t need validation from anyone else, or getting a part. My happiness wasn’t dependent on that, it was dependent on my relationship with God.”
In an interview with Premier Gospel, Wright said, “Where I go, where He takes me, that’s where I need to spread the love of God…Because people’s souls are dying. My soul was dying, and He saved me. So I can’t keep this to myself…I fell in love with Jesus and I’m still in love. Amen.”
What will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? (Mark 8:36)
Jesus, I will never be so busy as to not spend time with You.
The Living Reef Project
Eating a particular type of seafood in Hempstead, New York restaurants isn’t only satisfying to patrons’ stomachs, it’s good for the environment.
As reported by Kristin Thorne of Eyewitness News, restaurants have been collecting used oyster and clam shells for the past several years and donating them to the town to help create a new barrier reef that will protect them against coastal surges in the event of storms.
As the first batches of shells were dropped into Middle Bay in July 2018, Maureen Murphy, from the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said, “Constructing living shore lines by using natural substances, such as clam and oyster shells, protects our marshes by reducing the wave energy and allowing fine sediment to rebuild the marsh.”
Laura Gillen, Hempstead’s Town Supervisor, added, “It is our hope that with this living reef project, we will be able to vastly restore the ability of our barrier islands and other barrier islands to mitigate the flooding associated with storm surges.”
Throughout the land that you hold, you shall provide for the redemption of the land. (Leviticus 25:24)
Help me to be a good steward of Your creation, Lord.
Life Is Worth Living
“Whatever you learn today, please remember this,” said Frank Stephens to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, in 2017. “I am a man with Down syndrome, and my life is worth living.”
Stephens addressed Congress to urge that federal funds be allocated toward research to help people with Down syndrome, instead of aborting the baby. Aleteia blogger Elizabeth Scalia called his words “powerful, moving, and terrific.”
With deep emotion, Stephens said, “Some people say prenatal screens will identify Down syndrome in the womb and those pregnancies will just be terminated. It’s hard for me to sit here and say those words. I completely understand that the people pushing this particular ‘final solution’ think people like me should not exist. That view is deeply prejudiced by an outdated idea of life with Down syndrome. I have a great life!”
He also talked about how research into Down syndrome could lead to answers on Alzheimer’s, which “has already begun to steal my mom from me. Please, think about all those people you love the way I love my mom. Help us make this difference.”
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.
Father, thank You for the courage of others to speak truth.
E Pluribus Unum
The late historian Stephen Ambrose once said, “More Americans get their history from Ken Burns than from any other source.” That’s because Burns has been making historical documentaries for almost 40 years and won seven Christopher Awards for films such as The Statue of Liberty, The Civil War, and Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.
Burns’ passion for history has guided his filmmaking because, as he said in an interview with American Heritage magazine, “It is the great arrogance of the present to forget the intelligence of the past.”
He once told The Christophers, “Too often in our country, we’re reminded of how we’re different...and we forget the things that bring us together. Our motto, the Latin motto, is ‘E pluribus unum’ – ‘out of many, one.’ There are too many people out there in the job of pluribus. I’m in the job of unum. I want to remind us why we can agree to cohere, why we can all sit around a table and share an American conversation.”
Have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (1 Peter 3:8)
Help me to bridge divides between people, Savior.
The Humility of The Brave
Actor Mike Vogel comes from a military family, and was even headed to the Air Force Academy to be a fighter pilot before being detoured by show business. So when he was cast as Captain Adam Dalton in the NBC military drama The Brave, he felt a sense of responsibility to all service members.
Vogel plays Dalton as a strong, confident, humble leader. That approach stems from him knowing some of his military friends for 10 years before learning they’d won awards. Bragging is not a part of their make-up, he believes, and the people who do brag likely haven’t done half of what they’re talking about.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Vogel noted, “Any time ego gets involved with anything in life, it’s a recipe for disaster. As men, we certainly have a strong ego. What the training is designed to do…it’s a lesson in humility, in checking your ego at the door; understanding you don’t know everything, and, in fact, you know nothing. The quicker you get to that point, the quicker you can start rebuilding after being torn down…[The show] is about giving honor to those that you’ve served with…and not taking accolades for the things that you’ve done.”
Wisdom is with the humble. (Proverbs 11:2)
Help me to embrace humility, Holy Spirit.
The Real McCoy
Once a successful landscaper, Baltimore native Aeric McCoy became addicted to painkillers following a 2012 car accident. He was living hand-to-mouth when he came across a fancy-looking purse in an abandoned alleyway. A recent victim of theft himself, McCoy decided to return the bag in person since it had ID inside. According to WBAL TV, “it wasn’t a short trek” to Kaitlyn Smith’s neighborhood, but he made it.
For her part, Smith never expected to see her purse again. Touched by McCoy’s selflessness and honesty, she not only offered him a ride home, but also said she would be willing to pay for his plane ticket to a treatment center in Florida, which McCoy told her he believed could truly help him.
Three days later, McCoy gave Smith a call, saying he had reserved a spot at the treatment facility in Florida, if she was still willing to pay for him to get there. She booked Aeric on the next flight to Florida, and it wasn’t long before her new friend was celebrating 100 days sober. It just goes to show how doing the right thing truly can make all the difference.
Jesus…said…“Do you want to be made well?”
Lord, open our minds and hearts to Your healing grace.
Keeping a Sense of Wonder Alive
Spending time with children in an attentive way can help adults keep wonder, enthusiasm, and admiration for the works of God alive. Clint Kelly found this true in his own family and writes these “awe-inspiring” hints for others:
■ Take delight in creation. Watch the sun set or the moon rise with your children.
■ Be spontaneous. Kelly left a warm easy chair for a night outdoors when his son pleaded for the two of them to camp out to experience stormy, windy weather. He didn’t sleep, yet found the night “was one of the best I’ve had.”
■ Let them go. Kelly hesitated before letting his daughters volunteer at an animal shelter knowing they’d see some sad sights. What he learned was that they could better face the tragic when they could also participate in the joyful, such as finding homes for orphaned puppies.
It’s possible to see “a faded world anew” through children’s eyes. Spend some time, gain some wonder.
Consider the wondrous works of God. (Job 37:14)
Divine Master, thank You for the excitement in the eyes of
little children as they discover Your wonders.
We All Depend on the Land
Some people who work with America’s wildlife, soil, rivers, and grasslands shun being called environmentalists. They just love America and its beautiful land; they want to protect it. Best-selling author Miriam Horn tells the stories of five of these lovers in her well-reviewed book “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman.”
She writes about people who personally know what’s at stake if our resources aren’t protected. They include a Montana rancher, a Kansas farmer, a Mississippi riverman, a Louisiana shrimper, and a Gulf fisherman.
According to a write-up in Columbia University’s magazine, “America’s most important environmental-conservation work is being done not by scientists or political activists but by the ranchers, farmers, and fishermen whose livelihoods depend on the land.”
All of us depend on the bounties of God’s good earth to keep us alive. Let’s appreciate its beauty and sustenance, and do our part to keep this earth thriving for years to come.
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world,
and those who live in it. (Psalm 24:1)
Lord, open our eyes to the natural beauty surrounding us.
Valentine Shows Love for Mets Legend
Bobby Valentine hasn’t managed the New York Mets baseball club since 2002, but that didn’t stop him from saying “yes” when answering a request that would benefit a Mets legend.
The “legend” is Shannon Forde, public relations executive for the Mets, who died from stage four breast cancer in March 2016, leaving behind two young children, Nick and Kendall.
The fundraiser for the Forde Children’s Fund took place at a midtown Manhattan bar. It was one of several for Forde, one of the most-loved and respected executives in the Mets’ front office. Valentine entertained patrons of the establishment by telling a few stories and signing autographs.
For his efforts, Valentine was rewarded with a “Dude of the Week” honor from Bob Raissman, sports radio-TV writer for the New York Daily News
You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity. (2 Corinthians 9:11)
So little can make such a difference, Lord. May I do my part.
Wedding in the ICU
The simple room had become a chapel; the wedding guests were all in place; there were floral displays and a wedding arch. It would indeed be a wedding to remember. But this wedding was taking place in the ICU—the hospital’s intensive care unit.
Father Vic Subb, the celebrant and a Glenmary missioner, wrote about the wedding in Glenmary Challenge magazine. A friend had explained the problem to him: Forrest Joines wanted to be present at the wedding of his daughter, Cherrie Lynn, to her high school sweetheart at Nashville’s cathedral. But Forrest had a serious illness and was fading fast.
The original ceremony would still take place at the cathedral, but Father agreed to come to Forrest’s hospital room the day before and repeat the ceremony in advance, with Forrest present. “How wonderful to be here,” Father Subb thought during the ceremony. “I knew I was in a holy place.”
Forrest passed away two days later, happy because he had seen his daughter wed.
The Lord bless you from Zion. … May you see your children’s children. (Psalm 128:5-6)
Bless, O Lord, and strengthen all marriages and families.
The Greenest Block in Brooklyn
It was only a block in Brooklyn, New York, but when its residents banded together, they found out how much they could accomplish. East 25th Street in Flatbush, between Clarendon Road and Avenue D, triumphed over 150 entries from 23 different neighborhoods and became “the greenest block in Brooklyn.” It was no mean feat.
“Every time we compete, we compete to win,” said Grace Henry, president of the block association. “When you look on this block, you see that it is well-loved by some wonderful people.”
Each three-story townhouse on the block has a unique front garden—some with well-manicured lawns and shrubbery, others with lush displays of flowers. The presentation was made at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and the Daily News covered the story.
“Great cities have great communities, great communities have great blocks, and great blocks have great people that plant flowers,” said Borough President Eric Adams. As far as the winners were concerned, that said it all.
The desert shall rejoice and blossom. (Isaiah 35:1)
Spirit of God, help me nurture the seeds of community.
A Cubs Fan’s Kindness
After a Cubs game at Wrigley Field in June 2016, Casey Spelman was walking down the street when she noticed a blind man unsuccessfully trying to hail a taxi. She approached him to ask if he needed assistance. He said he did, so Spelman flagged down a cab and moved on after he got in, thinking that was the end of the story.
Little did she know that Ryan Hamilton was on the rooftop of a nearby restaurant and captured her act of kindness on camera. After posting the images on Facebook and reporting what he had seen, the story went viral because people wanted to celebrate a simple act of goodness.
Local TV stations tracked down everyone involved. The blind man was assistant U.S. attorney Yusef Dale, who appreciated that Spelman “didn’t touch me, which is an issue for some people with disabilities.” Spelman didn’t see what she did as a big deal, but encouraged others to offer help when someone is in need. And Hamilton added, “There’s so much negative stuff going on in the world. This was the opposite of that.”
I was eyes to the blind. (Job 29:15)
Inspire our culture to celebrate acts of kindness, Jesus.
Talking to a young child about the topic of death can be a delicate, sometimes-confusing conversation because the child may not comprehend what it means for a life to end. In her Christopher Award-winning children’s book, Ida, Always, Caron Levis shares a story that might help.
Every day, the Central Park Zoo’s two polar bears, Gus and Ida, can always be found playing side by side and relishing each other’s friendship. Though they can’t see the city around them, they can feel its heartbeat always. But one day, Ida can’t come out to play. The zookeeper tells Gus that Ida is sick and that her body will soon stop working.
Gus devotes himself to make Ida’s final days as happy as possible, as they both deal with the uncertainty of knowing what will come next. When Ida passes away, Gus misses her terribly. But he comes to feel Ida’s presence when he sits in the spot where she liked to soak in the sun. And he knows that she is with him – always.
He will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces. (Isaiah 25:8)
Help me be a balm of comfort to the grieving, Father.
Sports at Its Best
Trash talking sometimes happens in sports, but at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the world got a lesson in good sportsmanship from two of the toughest competitors in their field: swimmers Katie Ledecky (USA) and Sarah Sjostrom (Sweden).
Both women had just broken their own world records two days prior, so interest was high in the 200-meter freestyle. The race was tight throughout and came down to the last few strokes, with Ledecky edging out Sjostrom for the gold by less than a second. The two young women hugged afterwards and seemed to genuinely appreciate the other’s talent.
Sjostrom didn’t display the angry face that sometimes emerges on athletes when they miss out on the top spot. She even smiled, as if she realized what a captivating event had just happened: the best competing against the best. And had Ledecky lost, she likely would have been as graceful in defeat as Sjostrom was. It was nice to see two athletes at the highest level of their sport be respectful toward each other. Youth around the world should look to them as models of sports at its best.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit. (Philippians 2:3)
May I always respect those with whom I compete, Jesus.
The Papal Ninja Speaks
Known by America for his gymnast moves and impressive strength, Sean Bryan nonetheless isn’t motivated by the praise of his peers. The competitor on American Ninja Warrior draws inspiration from someplace far deeper.
In an interview with Patheos blogger Kate O’Hare, Sean – who calls himself the “Papal Ninja” – likened his Catholic faith to the training it takes to compete on the hit NBC show.
“Just as it takes a lot of hard work to strengthen muscles and train them in a way to develop good technique and to master complex skills in athletic training, so too in the spiritual life. In order to develop virtue, and to see with the eyes of Jesus – to perceive the world, our family, friends, and relationship as Christ would – we must have the discipline to practice true devotion.”
But why label himself the “Papal Ninja?” Bryan explained, “[A ninja is] a gifted person who stealthily helps to accomplish the mission of the one who sent him. Laypeople are likewise called by Christ to partake in the secular mission of His Church by using their gifts.”
From your youth choose discipline. (Sirach 6:18)
Jesus, let my actions reflect Your love for us.
Teach Kids to Evaluate Their Feelings
Brazilian blogger Fabiana Santos booked a few sessions with a child psychologist when her young daughter began throwing tantrums at school and at home. “We need to make children feel respected in the sense of acknowledging what they are feeling,” she explained on Aleteia regarding what she learned in her meeting. “And so, at the time of a crisis, whatever the reason for it, we need to help kids (ages 5 and up) think and figure out what is going on with them.”
Santos says the best approach is to ask the child a simple question: “Is this a big problem, a medium problem, or a small problem?” The question has worked miracles; it acknowledges the validity of feelings, while not allowing her child to rule the situation with her emotions.
“For my daughter, those moments of sincerely thinking about what was going on around her have become magical, at least here at home,” she wrote. “And every time I ask the question and she answers, we find a way to solve the problem, starting from her perception of where to look for the solution.”
I will be with them in trouble. (Psalm 91:15)
Help me to be a solution-oriented person, Creator
Desmond Doss’s Wisdom and Courage, Part Three
Hacksaw Ridge producer Terry Benedict believes that Desmond Doss’s life has special meaning in today’s world. He said, “People talk about ‘tolerance,’ and we get so judgmental about it – ‘If you don’t fit into my cookie-cutter mold, then you can’t be offering anything that’s worthwhile.’
“What Desmond brought was a different ideology than what the Army was looking for, and the Army thought he was the weakest link. In fact, he became the strongest link. Just because somebody believes differently than we do, we ought not write them off. We ought to consider what they bring to the table and work in a more collaborative mode.
“The other point that Desmond [made]: all of us, on our journey of life, will usually come upon some incredibly challenging time, some tragedy. He wanted people to know that if we lived a life that had the faith element as a priority, our faith in God could and would get us through the day. He was always a source of encouragement for me as a result of that.”
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. (Luke 6:37)
When I’m tempted to be judgmental, Lord, make me humble.
Desmond Doss’s Wisdom and Courage, Part Two
Terry Benedict produced a documentary about Desmond Doss’s life called The Conscientious Objector and went on to co-produce the Christopher Award-winning 2016 feature film Hacksaw Ridge.
Though Doss passed away in 2006, Benedict’s admiration for him hasn’t wavered. During a Christopher Closeup interview, he said, “Desmond led a simple life growing up, and after the war he led a simple life. He was disabled. He lived on one lung and was deaf because the Army gave him too much of an antibiotic that made him deaf overnight.
“When you go through a war experience like that, you’re forever changed. But the thing that remained in Desmond that was so amazing was he never became jaded. He had this innate unconditional love for humanity that was a godly kind of thing. I would call him ‘the magnet’ because people would just go right to him. It was because of his effusiveness of love.”
Tomorrow, the message of Doss’s life.
Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts. (Romans 5:5)
Teach me to be effusive in my love of others, Jesus.
Desmond Doss’s Wisdom and Courage, Part One
Since his parents didn’t have a TV in the house, Terry Benedict read books voraciously growing up. His favorite was The Unlikeliest Hero about Desmond Doss, who so deeply believed in the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” that he refused to pick up a gun after joining the Army during World War II. Doss was, however, willing to serve as a medic who saved lives on the battlefield.
Doss’s convictions earned him intense abuse from his fellow soldiers and superiors, who branded him a coward and unworthy to serve. Yet at the battle of Hacksaw Ridge in Okinawa, Doss saved 75 lives without firing a single shot. Soon after, he earned the Congressional Medal of Honor because of praise from the same soldiers who had once persecuted him.
As a child, Benedict met Doss, and then reconnected with him years later when Benedict was working in Hollywood. The budding producer knew this was a story meant to be shared with the world. More tomorrow.
When the ways of people please the Lord, He causes even their enemies to be at peace with them. (Proverbs 16:7)
Help me stand up for my beliefs, Messiah.
A Dad Who Lingers
John Rowe may be 85 years old, but he remains incredibly active helping others. On Father’s Day 2017, his son, TV host Mike Rowe, wrote a Facebook tribute to his Dad’s giving nature:
“This Tuesday is Meals on Wheels Day. That means my Dad will get up early, drive over to the local church, load up his car with meals, and deliver those meals to people who are too old or too sick to care for themselves. Then he’ll hang out, lingering longer than usual.”
“This Wednesday is Hospital Day. My Dad’s been volunteering at the local hospital for decades. Currently he’s in the ambulatory oncology unit, assisting cancer patients...His main job, though, is sneaking off after his shift and spending time with random patients...many of whom are desperately bored and lonesome. He seeks these people out. He talks to them. He tells them jokes and stories and listens to theirs. Then he lingers, longer than usual.”
“Happy Father’s Day, Dad. [And] do me a favor. Keep lingering.”
He has sent me...to bind up the brokenhearted.
Remind me to linger with the lonely, Jesus.
Show God’s Glory in Your Life
Prior to writing his debut novel Elijah, Frank Redman was blessed to gain best-selling suspense author Dean Koontz as his mentor. That’s one of the reasons that Redman, like Koontz himself, does an excellent job weaving threads of his own Christian faith into the story he tells.
The religious elements in Elijah never feel like, “We interrupt this suspense story to give you an important Christian message!” Instead, the faith elements emerge organically from the characters and their situations.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Redman explained: “I have my beliefs and I’m very firm in my beliefs, but I don’t ever want to push my beliefs on somebody else. My style of evangelism is to befriend people, develop relationships, and hopefully they see God’s glory in my own life. [Maybe] that permeates over into their life, and they decide that they want to make the decision to pursue God and see what that’s like. That’s exactly what came out through the novel.”
The heavens proclaim His righteousness; and all the peoples behold His glory. (Psalm 97:6)
May my life give witness to Your glory, Holy Trinity.
Don’t Let Cynicism Steal Your Joy
Author and blogger Elizabeth Scalia believes the modern penchant towards cynicism and negativity is robbing us of our joy. “It’s making everybody miserable,” she said during a Christopher Closeup interview, “and Christians really need to try to avoid it because I think it’s damaging to the soul.”
Scalia’s own focus on the good was born out of reflecting on the times in her life when she’s suffered. “Why did I have to go through that, Lord?” she would ask, only to discover that those times “gave me strength that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, and insights or compassion for others that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.” Instead of becoming bitter, Scalia worked to become better.
She concluded, “If you’re so caught up in the negative, the snark, the bitter resentment and always looking for something to be angry about, how can you ever find gratitude? If you can’t find gratitude, how will you ever find joy?”
Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up...so that your words may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)
Help me be a voice of hope in a cynical world, Jesus.
While visiting his grandfather’s grave in Redding, California, in 2015, 11-year-old Preston Sharp got angry at what he saw—or rather, at what he didn’t see. Preston noticed that not all the veterans buried there had a flag by their graves.
Even hours afterward, he remained haunted by the issue. As reported by Steve Hartman of CBS News, his mother, April, told him, “Son, if you’re going to complain about something, you have to do something about it or let it go.” Preston responded, “I’m going to do something about it, Mom.”
Preston started taking small jobs to raise money, while also asking for donations toward his cause. Soon enough, he collected enough money to cover all the veterans in the cemetery, so he personally put the flags on their graves. But he didn’t stop there.
Preston kept raising money and adding flags for veterans in other cemeteries. In two years, he’s covered 23,000 graves. And he’s still out there every weekend, rain or shine, as a tribute to those who served their country with honor.
Do not be weary in doing what is right. (2 Thessalonians 3:13)
Instill me with a love of God and country, Father.
The Gift of a Down Syndrome Child
As the mom of six children, including Grace, a daughter with Down syndrome, photographer Katie Driscoll noticed that she rarely saw advertisements featuring kids with disabilities. She then co-founded a nonprofit called Changing the Face of Beauty. Its purpose was to encourage advertisers to highlight more individuals with disabilities in their work. Over 100 companies have partnered with them so far.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Driscoll noted that many parents have thanked her for expanding the perception of people with disabilities in a positive way. And she herself has been changed by the work she’s doing. She said:
“Our lives are completely different because of Grace and I guess that’s why I love her name so much: because she did give us grace. [This work] has opened my eyes that there is beauty in all people and to embrace what makes you unique and different...I truly believe that God has a plan for all of us. This was my plan, and He guided us through it. I’m forever grateful that he chose our family to receive such a gift.”
By the grace of God I am what I am. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
Open my eyes to see beauty in all Your children, Lord.
‘That is Someone’s Daughter’
In 2011, Shannon Hickey won a Christopher Award for the ministry she started to help the homeless. In 2016, she posted a story on Facebook about the ways her mother, Kelly, continues to influence her life. She wrote:
“This woman, Crystal, was laying on the street of NYC sleeping on the concrete sidewalk. I stood on the corner as over 100 people walked past her without even glancing her way. All of a sudden I heard my mom say ‘That is someone’s daughter. We need to help her.’
“Seconds later, I see my mom bent down talking to this woman, then running down the street to get a coffee for her. That’s all Crystal asked for. Not money, not a hand out, but a cup of coffee. We then bought her a pillow, and I watched as my mom handed Crystal the pillow and I sobbed.
“I watched Crystal lay her head on her new pillow and all I could think was how that one tiny act of kindness impacted her life. I hope one day I can show my own kids the life lessons my mom has shown me my whole life.”
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord. (Proverbs 19:17)
Inspire mothers to be role models for their children, Lord.
Though serving as pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church in Fort Worth, Texas, keeps Father Jeff Poirot fairly busy, he still has time for a hobby: homebrewing beer with his friend Nick McCoy. In 2017, that hobby received some major recognition when the pair’s beer won the Ninkasi Award, the highest honor at the annual National Homebrew Competition. “It’s surreal,” Father Poirot told The Star-Telegram’s Matthew Martinez.
The priest was inspired by the Trappist monks in Belgium, who began brewing beer in the Middle Ages. He and McCoy have even visited some of their monasteries and breweries. But the lure of hops and barley won’t be leading Father Poirot away from his vocation anytime soon. He said:
“For me, I always want to balance [brewing] with being a priest, because being a priest is primary, first and foremost for me. This is a hobby, and it’s a hobby I’ve done all right with...You can have a busy life. You can have commitments with family and work, but you can still do something you love.”
Drink your wine with a merry heart. (Ecclesiastes 9:7)
Help me enjoy life’s pleasures, like food and drink, in moderation, Father.
Find a Real Friend in Jesus
As the author of Find a Real Friend in Jesus, Catholic author and speaker Gary Zimak often gets asked how to go about establishing that friendship. The first step, he said during a Christopher Closeup interview, is to simply tell Jesus, “Lord, tell me what I can do to get to know you better.” Also, start sharing your daily thoughts and needs with Him.
Reading Scripture is another important step because it’s “one of the best ways to listen to the Lord. Start by reading the daily Mass readings or the Gospels...Make some quiet time for Him and say, ‘Lord, speak to me and let me know You’re there.’ You’re going to hear Him speak in the silence of your heart. You’ll get thoughts, not necessarily in audible words, but given enough time, He will speak to you.”
Also, love your neighbor. “We can sit in church all day long, but if we get out of church and we’re not treating people nicely or being kind or charitable, we’re going to be in for a rude awakening when we’re judged. It’s very important.”
Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)
Jesus, I want to get to know You better.
Mother Teresa’s Elbow Grease
One of the reasons that Mother Teresa (now St. Teresa) endeared herself to so many people was that she wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty when it came to getting work done. This willingness to humble herself was evident even in the early days of her life as a nun, when she worked as a teacher in India. The book A Call to Mercy features an example in her own words:
“When my little ones saw me for the first time, they were asking one another whether I am a goddess or evil spirit...Those that are good to them they admire like one of their deities; and if someone is moody they are afraid of them...
“Immediately I...moved the furniture in the room, took water and the brush in my hands and started to scrub the floor. They were utterly surprised. They were only watching me because they have never seen that one teacher would start doing such work, especially because it is the job of the lowest caste in India. But seeing me happy and joyful, the girls, one by one, started helping me and the boys started carrying water. In two hours the dirty room became a classroom; everything was clean.”
In all toil there is profit. (Proverbs 14:23)
May I always be willing to do hard work, Creator.
From the Steel Mill to the Stage
He was a high school dropout whose odd jobs couldn’t have been odder: pumping gas, bootlegging whiskey, stealing hubcaps, handling hot wire in a steel mill, clerking in a cigar shop. Surely, this young man would never make anything of himself, right? Wrong.
The young man in question was born Dino Crocetti in Steubenville, Ohio, but the world came to know him as singer Dean Martin, whose hits included “That’s Amore” and “Everybody Loves Somebody.” Writing in The Boston Globe, Jeff Jacoby says he still loves Martin’s smooth voice and the way that he appealed to the common man and stayed humble.
He concludes, “He was worth millions, but Martin never forgot where he started...That's what was in Dean Martin's voice...the empathy of a guy who used to bundle coils of steel wire and deal poker hands in the back of the Rex Cigar Store. He never grew too full of himself, too ego-swollen to appreciate his audience. He was a singer who adored his job, and you could hear it in every stanza.”
All who humble themselves will be exalted.
Keep my ego in check regardless of my successes, Father.
Roosevelt’s D-Day Prayer
On June 6, 1944, when Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, in an effort to bring an end to World War Two, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked the nation to join with him in prayer. Here is an excerpt from his words:
“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
“They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong...Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph...
“Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace...that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil. Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.”
He is our help and shield. (Psalm 33:20)
Protect military members serving in warzones, Father.
Texans Show Big Heart
It was a sweltering June day in 2016 when 20-year-old Justin Korva of Rockwall, Texas, was making his three-mile walk to his job at Taco Casa. Andy Mitchell, a local who was driving by, spotted him in his fast food uniform and offered him a ride. Mitchell learned that Korva walked to and from work daily, and hoped to earn enough money someday to buy a car to make the trip easier.
Admiring Korva’s determination, Mitchell shared his story on Facebook. Pizza shop owner Samee Dowlatshahi saw the post and put a donation box in his store to raise funds for Korva’s car. As reported by CBS News, he collected $5,500 in two days. Meanwhile, Danny Rawls, general manager of a local Toyota dealership, offered to sell a used car for a reduced price.
All of this happened without Korva’s knowledge, so when the men drove the car to Taco Casa and gifted it to him, he teared up at their kindness and gave them each a hug. Dowlatshahi said, “We just want you to know, seriously, this community, nothing we love better than to have someone who works hard.”
The hand of the diligent will rule. (Proverbs 12:24)
Guide those who work hard to success, Holy Spirit.
Habits to Build a Happy Marriage
“How do you build a happy marriage? By making healthy relationship behaviors a habit.” So says Verily magazine Relationship Editor Monica Marshall. Here are a few of her suggestions:
■ Greet one another with joy. “According to Dr. Bill Doherty, author of The Intentional Family, the way a couple greets each other at the beginning or end of the day can have a huge impact on the quality of their marriage.”
■ Set aside daily, undistracted communication. “According to Dr. John Gottman, storied marriage researcher and author, two minutes of undistracted communication a day can have more impact on your marriage than spending a whole unfocused week together as a couple. Having meals together, sans cell phone, is a great way to get that quality time.”
■ Ask a lot of questions. “Marriage gets boring when a couple stops learning about one another. Constantly being in touch with your partner’s developing thoughts, ideas, and dreams makes them feel understood and builds shared meaning between the two of you.”
Clothe yourselves with love. (Colossians 3:14)
Help married couples nurture their love, Father.
Families Helping Families
Many Americans feel helpless about the violence that continues to sweep Syria. Oftentimes, we aren’t sure what we can do to help such an overwhelming situation. But a group of seven teenagers in Westchester County, New York, didn’t let themselves be hindered by doubt. Rather, they forged ahead to raise more than $15,000 for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA).
The kids were motivated by the heartbreaking images and headlines coming from Syria, reported WABC-TV. The longtime friends successfully put together a picnic and benefit concert at a local park to raise money that would be sent to Syrian refugee families, hospitals, and schools through CNEWA.
“I don't like to think of it as us helping Syrians, because that makes them seem so distant and far away from us," said student Gibran Mourani in an interview. “I like to think of it as teenagers helping teenagers, families helping families.”
Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct. (1 Timothy 4:12)
Holy Spirit, help me overcome my feelings of helplessness so that I may set the world ablaze with Your love!
You Are Being Watched
Though Michael Carrillo retired from his work as a California police officer, he remains humbled by the ways his approach of seeing Jesus in everyone impacted others.
Writing on CatholicMom.com, he recalled sitting in his patrol car one afternoon when a woman approached. She thanked Carrillo for arresting her when she was under the influence of drugs because that was the wake-up call she needed to turn her life around. And recently, a former colleague told Carrillo that his “Christ-like” influence prompted him to become the police department’s chaplain.
Carrillo concludes, “This taught me that people are always watching us Catholics, we Christians. Each of us makes a difference in the world and to people, whether we realize it or not. I had no idea that anyone had been observing me so closely. I had no clue that what I was doing made anyone even think of me as Christ-like in how I conducted myself or that I may have changed someone’s life in a profound way. I thought I was just doing my job.”
Live in love, as Christ loved us. (Ephesians 5:2)
Remind me that people look to me as an example, Jesus.
Cop Sees Jesus on the Streets
During the years that California police officer Michael Carrillo was on the job as a patrolman, he had to talk with a lot of people, both average citizens and those he was arresting. One day, the Catholic husband and father had an epiphany which he recalled on CatholicMom.com:
“I needed to start seeing Jesus in everyone I encountered. EVERYONE! I found myself speaking with more people on my rounds. I would get out of my car, walk the area, and just say hello to whomever I saw...I had always tried to be respectful and kind to everyone in the past. Now, seeing them with different eyes was the game changer. Don’t get me wrong, there were people that made it very difficult to find Jesus within. It was not always perfect. However, that was the lesson.”
Carrillo realizes how difficult this can be for cops who encounter gangsters, child abusers, murderers, etc. Yet he still calls on them to try: “Look at your job not as just an earthly career but as your Christian vocation...Stay grounded, be humble. Remember, whatsoever you do to the least brothers, you do to Jesus.”
God...gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)
Strengthen, guide, and protect police officers, Lord.
Growth of Love
After visiting famed horticulturalist Luther Burbank, Helen Keller said of him: “When plants talk to him he listens. That is why they tell him so many things about themselves...Mr. Burbank feels the individuality…of the plant…so he encourages the plant to put forth the best of which it is capable.”
When Burbank was asked how he could keep track of details about his thousands of plants, he replied: “I do it with love. I feel an affection with everything I am working with, and so I can keep in touch with everything that concerns them.”
Just as plants respond to care and sensitivity to their individual needs, so children blossom when they receive love and appreciation. They need words of encouragement to let them know that they are special and important.
Help the youngsters in your home, in your town, to flourish, to blossom.
Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands. (Isaiah 49:15-16)
I pray that I might never forget Your compassion, Abba, and that I may show it to Your children.
Talking It Out
“Talk is cheap” is an old expression. And that is true, as far as it goes. But talk is also a remarkable human characteristic.
Talk teaches. Talk encourages. Talk comforts. Talk leads. Talk heals. Talk shows respect for others. Talk relieves tensions. Talk can even help resolve disputes.
When two people disagree, they will stay right where they are if they don’t talk about their disagreement. People have to talk with each other if they wish to sort out their differences, if they wish to find a common ground enabling them to begin the process of reconciliation.
So whenever a problem in human relations arises, try talking about it. Give others a chance to talk, too. Remember to talk with someone, not at them.
And, above all, listen to each other. That’s the hard part. Talk can do all of the good things mentioned above and more. Or it can exacerbate the situation. How we talk – and listen – is our choice.
I must speak…I must open my lips and answer.
Open my lips to speak, my ears to hear, Creator.
Excelling on a Different Court
Robert “Stix” Mitchell was a standout on the Seton Hall basketball court in the 2008-2009 season. But by his junior year, arguments with his coach over playing time had Mitchell off the team. In an effort to revive his chances, Mitchell set a meeting with Seton Hall’s president.
As reported in New York’s Daily News, a bad decision – to drive a friend to another dorm to buy drugs – put Mitchell in jail. He swears he did not know the friend was armed and intent on robbing those at the dorm, some of whom were Mitchell’s teammates. Another bad decision – to take a guilty plea, even though he was an unwitting accessory, to avoid prison time – insured Mitchell would never again play NCAA basketball.
For a time, Stix tried to outrun his past. But now he’s back home in Brooklyn, mentoring young men like he used to be, strengthening them in basketball and in life. “They have heard all my stories,” Mitchell says. “I try to keep the guys sharp and ready for life's challenges. That is the greatest gift I can give.”
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways. (Psalm 51:13)
Help me, Lord, to transform my past into a gift.
Never Give Up
Richard Jenkins of Philadelphia may only be 18 years old, but he knows adversity. He faced poverty, medical issues, multiple moves and even homelessness. But thanks to his persistence and the people who believed in him, Jenkins was accepted into Harvard University’s class of 2022.
In an interview with CNN, Jenkins recalls living in a homeless shelter when he was in sixth grade. He had been teased by other students for his academic success, and it was then he realized that school could be the way out for him and his family. “I can't allow my brothers or my mother to go through that,” he said about living in the shelter.
Jenkins focused even harder on his school work, and despite setbacks like crippling migraines, he continued to excel. He took his natural academic abilities and focused them on science, was accepted into a Philadelphia boarding school for gifted students, and took off from there. His creativity, positive attitude, and initiative are an inspiration, and he encourages others to follow their dreams as he begins his college career.
The appetite of workers works for them; their hunger urges them on. (Proverbs 16:26)
Jesus, grant me perseverance and faith in Your plans.
Don’t Forget the Warriors
The Purple Heart that Staff Sgt. Bernard J. McNamara was awarded during World War II had been misplaced many years ago. But the memory of his courageous acts was indelibly ingrained in all who knew him.
Good detective work recently relocated the 1943 medal, and it was respectfully returned to his family, including a daughter, a son, and a grandson. “My dad (who died in 1975) was a very quiet, humble man,” said his daughter, at the ceremony. “This is truly very special.”
In addition to being wounded in battle, McNamara was held as a prisoner of the Nazis for more than 15 months. Eventually, he made it back home and set about quietly finding a job and raising a family like so many soldiers during so many conflicts before and after.
Even if wars seem endless and distant, let’s not forget the warriors and their families who continue to make daily sacrifices with or without medals.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven...a time for war, and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1,8)
Jesus, bless the men and women who died in service to their country.
A Vietnam Hero Remembered
A heroic alumnus of Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, New York, continues to be remembered by current students, even though he was killed over 50 years ago.
As reported by the school’s alumni magazine, Stanner Life, Private First Class (PFC) Louis Willett (class of ’63) was on a security patrol in Vietnam on Feb. 15, 1967, when his squad came under intense enemy fire that prevented them from returning fire or retreating.
With guts and skill, PFC Willett maneuvered himself to a position where he could fire on the North Vietnamese. His actions allowed his squad to move closer to the perimeter, but they would never make it out if he abandoned his position. So PFC Willett chose to keep providing cover fire until they could escape. He was killed saving the lives of his brothers in arms, and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
PFC Willett was also inducted into Archbishop Molloy’s Hall of Fame, and “an alumni award given annually to an outstanding graduating senior was named in his memory.”
God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love. (2 Timothy 1:7)
May we always remember the fallen, Savior.
The Man Who Volunteered for Auschwitz
Witold Pilecki was a devout Polish Catholic, the father of two, and a leader in his community. An officer in the Polish cavalry, Pilecki led a platoon against the 1939 Nazi invasion. Even after Poland surrendered, Pilacki fought on, founding the Secret Polish Army and leading a resistance of more than 8,000.
In 1940, Pilecki volunteered to let himself be captured to get inside Auschwitz. The resistance fighters did not know of the camp’s deadly function; they thought it was a work camp where they could organize prisoners to fight the Nazis. As Jean Elizabeth Seah wrote at Aleteia, Pilecki said of his capture, “I bade farewell to everything I had hitherto known on this earth and entered something seemingly no longer of it.”
Pilecki was able to escape from Auschwitz, but the Soviets who claimed to be Poland’s allies were not interested in liberating the camp. Pilecki himself was later tortured and presumed killed by the Soviets for his loyalty to a Free Poland.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)
Jesus, Good Shepherd, keep me mindful of those things worth living and dying for.
Writer Emilio Rojes once shared the following story: Moved by the beauty around him, one of the disciples of a great teacher asked his master how he could help others to see and feel such riches.
“What you ask is difficult,” answered the old man. “To see and feel beauty outside oneself, one must first be – and feel himself to be – beautiful.”
“Master, how do we know if someone is beautiful?” asked the disciple. “And if one isn’t beautiful, how does one become so?”
“Beauty is a part of love,” the master explained. “It is being great enough to give—and humble enough to receive. To help another discover beauty is to open one’s spirit to noble and generous ideas. It is removing the egotistical blindfold that covers the mind. And tearing off the bandages that shroud the heart.”
How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! (Romans 10:15)
You are Beauty, itself, Lord God. Fill me with Your beauty,
Your goodness, Your love.
Sensing the Rhythm, Part Three
A key moment in the renewal of Mandy Harvey’s spirit after her hearing loss occurred when she fell down the stairs in her home. She lay on the floor contemplating whether she should give up on life. Then she realized, “I had a lot of people encouraging me constantly, but all of that meant nothing if I didn’t make the choice myself. And so I made the choice to stand up. I didn’t see light or hope or happiness, but I was determined that I was going to make it [with] a lot of small steps.”
Mandy created opportunities for herself by learning American Sign Language. She also followed her father’s advice to start playing and writing music and singing again. How can a deaf person sing when she can’t hear what she sounds like?
Mandy’s years of musical training, along with her near perfect pitch, helped immensely. She also uses electronic tuners that give her a visual cue when she hits the right note. Then she practices for hours, learning to recognize how certain notes vibrate in her throat or chest or nasal cavity. So how did Mandy become a nationally known singer? The conclusion tomorrow...
Our steps are made firm by the Lord. (Psalm 37:23)
When my future is uncertain, Holy Spirit, guide my steps towards God’s will.
Sensing the Rhythm, Part Two
After singer Mandy Harvey suffered permanent hearing loss and felt devastated about the end of her dream of a music career, her minister father helped her to see the errors in what he calls a “theology of the healthy,” that believes all your dreams will come true if you just try hard enough.
Mandy eventually achieved a new understanding of life and God. “[I learned] that God’s not a bully with a stick beating you down,” she said on Christopher Closeup. “He’s holding your hand, hoping you’re going to take another step forward.
“I wish that we could all understand that the world is broken, that life is messy, and bad things happen. We’re not supposed to have all of the answers or sugarcoat every moment. We’re supposed to hold each other’s hands and say, ‘We’re gonna get through this together. What can I do for you?’”
Though it took time, Mandy emerged from the depression she experienced after going deaf. But her hopes of a career in music were definitely over, right? No. Not by a long shot. More tomorrow...
I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13)
Make me someone who walks with others through their pain, Father.
Sensing the Rhythm, Part One
Mandy Harvey studied music extensively throughout her early life because she wanted to become a vocal music teacher. But that dream was shattered while in college when she lost her hearing due to a connective tissue disorder.
Having grown up with a father who is a minister, Mandy had a foundation of faith that could have helped her deal with this major detour in her life. Instead, some of her Christian Bible study peers made her feel worse by telling her that God would restore her hearing if only she had enough faith.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Mandy said, “What [they were] telling me is that this is my fault, and I have the will to manipulate God in some manner to make my life perfect. That’s just wrong. Instead of praying for me to have strength, or wisdom to make good decisions, or patience to deal with the day-to-day, they kept praying for a miracle that wasn’t happening – and then blaming me when it didn’t.”
Mandy’s father helped her see the error of that thinking, which led to her own miracle, of sorts. More tomorrow...
Do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you. (Joshua 1:9)
Guide me, Lord, when struggles overwhelm me.
Accepts Thanks but Not Money
Many years ago, a Dutch policeman refused a reward of $7,000 for saving an American’s life during World War II. The American, who traced his rescuer through a Dutch newspaper, finally met him 26 years after the war ended.
The police sergeant had twice taken the fugitive trying to escape the Nazis to underground addresses to hide him. The sergeant was eventually arrested for his aid to Jewish refugees, but he survived the war.
The grateful American gave him a check to express his thanks, but the policeman said, “What I did was my duty—and I accept your thanks but not your money. You are the only one with words of thanks, but I won’t accept your money.”
We can be grateful to God in every age that He raises up men and women to go against the tide of dehumanization. Accounts of the heroism of others make the rest of us ask ourselves whether we are acting according to our own deepest beliefs. Their accomplishments can embolden us to act.
Go and do likewise. (Luke 10:37)
May I be ready to do Your will, Jesus, when the moment of decision arrives.
How a Slurpee Saved a Life
Paramedic Christiana Corrado had an unusual hankering for a Slurpee for the first time in several years, reported CBS New York in May 2018. “It’s pretty strange to me that all of a sudden on this day, at that moment, I would decide to go to that particular 7-Eleven to obtain one,” she told reporter Tony Aiello.
While on her way, she saw a male driver run into a pole. The car then rolled down a patch of grass and hit a building. Corrado made a U-turn and ran to the man’s rescue. It turned out he’d had a heart attack. He was unresponsive with no pulse, so she began chest compressions on him. “Hard, fast, and he went from blue to pale to pink, his eyes started to move, then his eyes opened and he actually started to talk and asked what is going on,” she said.
Corrado had been having a bad day, and told CBS that she’d just been thinking, “This day’s been a waste.” After her experience, though, she said, “You know what, your day wasn’t a waste. Look at that. You never know what God has in plan for you.”
Taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8)
Holy Spirit, help me to trust that You always put me in the right place, at the right time.
The Third Grader Who Changed the World
In 1951, Linda Brown was a third grader. Because schools in her hometown of Topeka, Kansas (like many around the country at that time) were segregated by race, Linda, an African-American, had to travel miles by foot and by bus to attend a black school far from her neighborhood.
Linda’s father and some other African-American parents attempted to enroll their children in all-white schools closer to home and were denied. The denial allowed the NAACP to bring a lawsuit against the Board of Education, citing violation of the children’s civil rights. The lawsuit made its way to the US Supreme Court, which decided in Brown v. Board of Education that racial segregation in education was unconstitutional, and that “separate but equal” schools were fundamentally unequal.
When Linda Brown, a lifelong champion of civil rights, died at the age of 75, ABC News reported that Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer said, “Linda Brown’s life reminds us that sometimes the most unlikely people can have an incredible impact, and that by serving our community we can truly change the world.”
I have given you...as a light to the nations. (Isaiah 42:6)
Heavenly Father, place me where I can do Your will!
Why Did God Make Me Different?
Michael and Maria McQuay wouldn’t take no for an answer. With opportunities sorely lacking for their teenage son, Mike Jr., who is on the autism spectrum, they founded the Jersey Hammerheads, a competitive swim team for young people with developmental disabilities.
The Christopher Award-winning documentary POV: Swim Team follows Mike Jr. and two other young men with autism, who find the acceptance, self-confidence, and success that had long eluded them. The film also introduces viewers to the parents, whose abiding love and patience guide their children through enormous struggles.
Mike Jr., feeling hurt by the fact that he didn’t fit in anywhere, once asked his father, “Why did God make me different?” With tears in his eyes, his father responded, “God made you special, and that’s why you’re different.”
As a result of his parents’ efforts, Mike Jr. says in the film, “When I’m swimming, I feel normal.” That normalcy serves as a springboard to hope and the possibility of a better future.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. (Romans 12:2)
Help us bring Your love to special needs children, Lord.
From the Soup Kitchen to the Palace
When Buckingham Palace announced the engagement of Britain’s Prince Harry to American Meghan Markle, most people recognized the new duchess-to-be from her work as an actress, model and UN spokesperson. Meghan’s former teachers at Immaculate Heart High School, a Catholic girls’ school in Hollywood, on the other hand, remembered Markle as a girl who learned a valuable lesson about putting others first.
As IHHS theology teacher Maria Pollia recounted to Carol Zimmerman of The Dialog, Markle volunteered as a 13-year-old to help out at the Catholic Worker soup kitchen on L.A.’s Skid Row. “I felt really scared,” Markle later shared in an interview. “I was young, and it was rough and raw down there, and though I was with a great volunteer group, I just felt overwhelmed.”
In later visits, she practiced what Pollia, a former Catholic Worker, taught her: “to put the needs of others before your own fear.” It’s advice that Markle says “has always stayed with me.”
Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10)
Lord, may I always have the courage to place others’ needs before my own fears.
“If You Can Help, Do So”
Mike Lewis II is a star basketball player for Duquesne University. In February 2018, he became a lot more famous for a move a he made off the court.
Heading to and from practice every day in Pittsburgh’s Uptown neighborhood, Lewis noticed a car parked in the same place for a week, with a woman inside. Given the city’s homeless population, Lewis figured it was a good bet the woman was living in her car. One Sunday morning, he stopped, knocked on the car window, and introduced himself.
“I’m sorry to bother you,” Lewis told the woman, handing her some food boxes. “I’ve noticed you have been out here all week. I play basketball up at Duquesne, (and) we got some food today, so I just wanted to give you a pizza and some wings. I just wanted to give this to you.”
Lewis recorded the encounter on his phone, and later posted the video on social media with the message “Did what I could, don't just walk past people, if you can help do so. #GodsPlan.” As the Tribune-Review noted, the post went viral – a big score for kindness.
Clothe yourselves with compassion. (Colossians 3:12)
Spirit of God, open my eyes and my heart to those in need.
A Son’s Love for His Mother
Here’s a story about a young boy’s love for his Mom. It’s passed along by Rita Buettner in the Catholic Review of Baltimore:
“One of my favorite wedding stories is from my little sister’s wedding, when I accepted her invitation to be matron of honor. It was an exciting idea, to own a custom-made dress. We went for a fitting and picked a fabric and returned three times.
“When I made my last trip to pick up the dress, I decided to take one of my sons along. He was curious about everything. Then I tried on the dress and stepped in front of the mirror. ‘Mama’ he said. ‘You look beautiful in that dress!’ His reaction made me feel good...
“The next morning he said to me, ‘Mama, are you still wearing that dress?’ ‘No,’ I answered, ‘this is just my bathrobe.’
“Whenever we retell that story, I think of how in my son’s eyes, I was as beautiful in a worn-out bathrobe as I was in a fancy dress. What a wonderful reminder of the love a child has for his mother!”
Let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. (1 Peter 3:4)
May all children appreciate their mothers’ beauty, Lord.
A Bond Between “Angels”
Roma Downey knew that no one could ever replace her mother, but she did find an adoptive mother of sorts in her Touched by an Angel co-star, the late Della Reese, with whom she worked for nine years on the show. Della also penned the Introduction for Roma’s memoir, Box of Butterflies.
The two actresses hit it off immediately, forming a bond that could be called transcendent. It was also a bond that ultimately proved necessary to both of them.
Roma said, “A heartbreaking thing occurred in Della’s life because her only daughter passed away unexpectedly while we were working together. Not long after, Della took me aside and said, ‘You know, baby, God is so amazing. I always knew that He brought me into your life because you needed a mother. I didn’t realize that He was bringing you into my life because I was going to need a baby girl. Will you be my daughter?’”
“Yes,” responded Roma affectionately. “Then I am your mama,” declared Della. And for over 20 years, Roma says she benefited from Della’s “wisdom, love, strength, and courage.”
Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother. (Matthew 12:50)
May I treat all Your children as family, Father.
Roma Downey’s Butterfly Memory
Actress and producer Roma Downey brought joy to a lot of viewers as the angel Monica on the beloved TV series Touched by an Angel, but she’s also endured heartache, especially at age 10 when her mother Maureen died unexpectedly.
During a Christopher Closeup interview about her memoir Box of Butterflies, Roma said, “My father leaned into prayer to help us cope and get us through that very painful time. We had the promise through our faith that we would see our mother again, but I was still just a little girl, and I missed my mom.”
On the Mother’s Day after Maureen’s death, Roma and her father brought pansies to the grave because they were one of her mom’s favorite flowers. Suddenly, a butterfly flew by! Her father said it could be a sign from Maureen that she was still with them.
Roma said, “That was the beginning of the butterfly helping create some sort of comfort [for me]. But I missed her all through my life…I wrote this book hoping it would be a comfort to someone who has experienced loss.”
My child, let your tears fall for the dead...then be comforted for your grief.
Help me find comfort in times of grief, Messiah.
Hope Blooms in the Bronx
“As long as there is poverty and hunger, I’ll never stop trying to make a difference in people’s lives,” said Karen Washington, who helps bring hope and healthy foods to low-income neighborhoods.
In an interview with AARP: The Magazine, Washington remembers the challenges of raising two children in the Bronx in the 1980s. “All I could see from my kitchen window was an empty lot filled with garbage and abandoned cars.”
Instead of despairing, she joined with neighbors to create a thing of beauty. They cleared ground, dug soil, planted, and even fought City Hall. Their efforts brought to fruition an urban garden, called La Familia Verde. It sells the specialty produce customers want and helps them if they need to stretch their dollars.
“The flowers, the vegetables, the knowledge we were growing our own food in the Bronx!” said Washington. “That first Spring was like a rebirth.”
I went down...to look at the blossoms of the valley, to see whether the vines had budded, whether the pomegranates were in bloom. (Song of Solomon 6:11)
Nourish the gardeners among us, Lord.
The Real Rosie the Riveter
Throughout the decades, there has been a lot of speculation about who the real Rosie the Riveter was, with many women thinking perhaps they served as inspiration for the iconic World War II-era “We Can Do It” poster.
But after a lot of sleuthing by Dr. James Kimble, “Rosie” was suspected to be a California waitress named Naomi Parker Fraley. Mrs. Fraley had worked in a Navy machine shop during World War II. It took a lot of painstaking research involving photo archives, newspaper clippings, museum trips and interviews to ascertain that she was the most likely “Rosie.”
She passed away in 2016 at the age of 96, but not before she was identified and her story told, said her obituary in The New York Times. “The women of this country these days need some icons,” Mrs. Fraley said in an interview with People magazine. “If they think I’m one, I’m happy.”
Before her death, The World-Herald asked what she thought about her identification as Rosie. “Victory!” she cried. “Victory! Victory!”
Know that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Lord, help me learn from generations that came before me.
A Historian’s Advice
You might call historian David McCullough an optimist. He knows bad things happen, yet he believes in our individual power to make things better through our words and actions.
Here is some timeless advice that he offered to the students of Union College in Schenectady, New York, on their graduation day in 1994: “You have good minds, now go out and use them. Make a difference...Let’s do something about public education. Let’s stop the mindless destruction of historic America. Let’s clean up our rivers and skies, and while we’re at it, let’s clean up our language—private and public and on the airwaves...
“Get to know people. Get to know what they’ve been through before you pass judgment. That’s essential. Read history...Read books. Try to understand the reason why things happen, why they are as they are...
“Sometime, somewhere along the line, memorize a poem. Sometime, somewhere along the line, go out in a field and paint a picture, for your own pleasure...And sometime, somewhere along the line, do something for your country.”
I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right. (Proverbs 8:6)
Guide me in becoming the person You created me to be, Father.
Sing For Hope
You wouldn’t be surprised to hear the sounds of piano music in a concert hall or bar, but what about on the streets of a crowded big city? In Spring 2018, for the seventh year in a row, the nonprofit Sing For Hope placed hundreds of pianos, painted vibrant colors by professional designers, all over New York City, allowing anyone to tickle the ivories for a while.
As reported by Michelle Miller of CBS News, Sing For Hope was founded by Camille Zamore and Monica Yunus as a way to give people the opportunity to connect with others. The music is also meant to touch hearts and souls with culture and beauty, impacting even physical well-being.
The pianos end up donated to New York City schools as an “arts intervention,” says Zamora, because “a third of the kids here don’t have regular access to arts education.” Teacher Erin Young of Manhattan’s P.S. 8, said, “It’s made a huge impact on kids that have struggled here. The more they know people care about them, the more likely they are to be successful in life.”
I will praise the name of God with a song. (Psalm 69:30)
Creator, You instilled in us a love for harmony. Allow music to draw us closer to You and to each other so that our spirits can soar.
The Work of Their Hands
Throughout the world the plight of refugees has resonated as their stories are told. Despite fleeing their homeland because of war or oppression, many maintain a strong hope in the future. In May 2018, World Vision reported on several young refugees in Uganda, who are channeling their optimism into entrepreneurial endeavors.
Empowered by education offered by World Vision, and given the tools to begin their businesses, 60 young men and women took a six-month vocational training program.
Richard Idro, 21, has learned carpentry and, with a few basic tools, has begun a small business that now supports him and his siblings. Mary Andrua, 28, has become a hairstylist and now can provide for her four-year-old son and her four younger brothers.
Both Richard and Mary are working in the refugee camps. Thanks to someone’s faith in them, they were given the tools and education to better themselves and provide a needed service to their community.
All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord, and all Your faithful shall bless You. (Psalm 128:10)
May the work of my hands bless Your name, Lord!
It Takes a Village…and Two Moms
Every Mother’s Day, Robby Muse-Myers delivers bouquets of flowers and notes of thanks – worded more eloquently than most teenage boys’ efforts – to two women. Neither is Robby’s mom, who died when he was in eighth grade. Both women stepped forward when Robby’s dad also passed away within months of his mother’s death.
Shelley West is Robby’s cross-country coach at Indiana’s Lebanon High School. She’s seen him battle grief and anger and helped him push through it by running. His note to her said, “As I was living in the darkest part of my life, you helped me fight through it...You gave sunlight to a rose that was surrounded by concrete.”
Julie Poole, a mother of five (including Robby’s teammate Camren), opened her family to Robby when living with his married sister got too tough. Shelley and Julie aren’t the only ones cheering Robby at the finish line. The whole community has reached out to show support. “They say it takes a village,” Robby says. “Lebanon is my village.”
I will not leave you orphaned. (John 14:18)
Heavenly Father, show me how to reach out to the lost and grieving ones in my own family and community.
The Power of Forgiveness
When Elizabeth Barrett married fellow poet Robert Browning, her parents disapproved so strongly that they disowned her.
Elizabeth wrote frequently to her parents, expressing her love and wish for a reconciliation. Even though she got no reply she continued writing.
Finally, about 10 years after her marriage, she received a box from her parents. In it, she found all the letters she had written to them – still unopened.
Later generations reading these letters have been moved by their expressiveness. If her parents had read them, their hearts might have been softened and the family reunited.
Harboring resentment can only cause pain. But forgiveness heals. So don’t leave your heart unopened the way Elizabeth’s parents left her letters. Practice mercy.
Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our
debtors. (Matthew 6:12)
Dear God, if I’m being petty by holding a grudge, help
me to forgive for love of You – and for my own good.
Pizzas 4 Patriots
It all started eight years ago, when retired Air Force Master Sergeant Mark Evans was enjoying a pizza with his son while watching the news. “My son looked at the soldiers in Iraq on TV and he asked me what they were eating,” Evans told Fox News writer Rebekah Sager. “I told him Meals Ready to Eat (MREs)—not pizza. He asked me if we could send them some pizzas.”
Sergeant Evans thought this was a wonderful suggestion. Having retained important ties from the time he served in the military, Evans contacted the right people and shared his plan to deliver 2,000 pizzas to Iraq. This signaled the beginning of a prosperous nine-year partnership—and the distribution of a whole lot of pizzas!
Evans even created a nonprofit, named Pizzas4Patriots, to help fund his scrumptious mission. To date, this organization has shipped nearly 170,000 donated pizzas to Iraq. These delicious packages are mailed out twice a year, every Veterans Day and Super Bowl Sunday. “There’s no better feeling than paying it forward,” Evans concluded. “The stories I hear are incredible…We’re very blessed.”
I was hungry and you gave Me food. (Matthew 25:35)
God, may we seek to fill physical and spiritual hunger.
At Home with the Homeless
Brother Michael Ignatius, a Carmelite postulant, has spent the last year living among the homeless in San Diego, California. He slept on benches, or on trolley cars, and he relied on God’s providence for his meals. His road to this radical decision was not a straight path – he is a 61-year-old widower and father of four grown children. He told the Southern Cross, the newspaper of the Diocese of San Diego, that he felt called to serve the homeless in a profound way. “I needed to become homeless,” he said. “I needed to go through what they go through.”
Brother Michael gave away all of his possessions and boarded a bus. His trust in God’s plan was rewarded time and again with gifts from strangers and unexpected discoveries of food. And though he had no set plan for his ministry, he shares Scripture, prayer, and meals with anyone on the street. He never lets himself appear disheveled and greets everyone openly.
“[If] you’re going to go serve [the homeless] dinner…don’t just hand them the tray,” he said. “Hand them the tray, and sit down next to them, and talk to them.”
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. (Luke 4:18)
Help me be present to those who have little, Lord.
A Very Special Delivery
Amazon Prime Now is a quick-delivery service designed to fill customers’ last-minute needs: the batteries for that birthday toy, ingredients for an impromptu meal, staples in anticipation of a snow day. When walking the streets of New York City, however, filmmaker Rob Bliss got to thinking about other, very different needs Amazon Prime Now might help fill.
As reported by Rebecca Shapiro at Huffington Post, Bliss began asking the homeless people he encountered what he could order for them. Socks, they told him. And sleeping bags. And toiletry kits. Bliss used his Amazon account to place the orders, giving the nearest street address and noting that deliveries should be made to the person waiting outside.
He wasn’t sure it would work, but within a couple of hours packages started arriving. Bliss, whose video of the experiment went viral, hopes he has inspired others to find creative ways to meet critical needs.
You have been...a refuge to the needy in their distress. (Isaiah 25:4)
Lord, open my eyes to the needs of others and help me meet them.
“What Can a Woman Do?”
Ann Ross was a Methodist preacher’s daughter, born in Cincinnati in 1813. She was barely five feet tall and had hearing problems. As a teen, she was drawn to the Catholic Church. She read about missionaries and wanted to be one, to save souls and make a difference in the world. Ann’s father wasn’t pleased. “What can a woman do?” he scoffed.
Quite a bit, it turns out, as Patrick McNamara wrote at Aleteia. Ann became a Catholic and, at 19, joined the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Kentucky. She was given the name Xavier after the great Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier. She was soon made a superior and became known as Mother Xavier.
Over her 65 years of religious life, Mother Xavier and her Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth opened colleges and orphanages, schools and hospitals across the West – still wild mission territory at the time. “If you see anything that needs to be done, do it!” Mother Xavier said. “Don’t wait to be asked or told.”
Here I am...I delight to do Your will, O my God.
Blessed Mother Mary, may I place my life at God’s service as you did!
Careful with Praise
We know that praise from adults can help children, but psychologists tell us inappropriate praise can also hurt them.
Suppose a Little League baseball player who usually swings and misses hits a foul ball. “Good try” is sincere and appropriate praise. But a comment like “that’s terrific!” sends the message that you don’t think the child is capable of playing well.
Too much praise for good grades can make grades seem more important than what is learned.
And remember that praise for specific tasks, such as “You did a good job of putting together that puzzle,” will mean more than a comment like “You’re a smart girl.”
Encourage children by praising their efforts, but be sure your praise is sincere and constructive. And don’t forget that adults can use a kind word as well.
Let another praise you. (Proverbs 27:2)
I like others to praise me, Lord. Help me praise them, too, for we all need affirmation.
Vegetable Gardens Counter Malnutrition
With its list of compassionate donors, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is a source of hope for men, women and children in the 112 countries it serves worldwide. Pope Francis seemed to take note of this in a recent homily in which he reminded his listeners: “God created us to be a source of hope for others—a true and attainable hope.”
He might have been thinking of the lush green hills of Rwanda, where CRS donors make a difference. There, they fight malnutrition—the type of malnutrition that imposes a starch-heavy diet of potatoes. CRS is teaching families to grow other vegetables in their gardens at home, and to include them in their daily meals—and it’s working.
Mark Melia, an executive vice-president for CRS, told The Wooden Bell magazine that during a recent visit, he saw “proof that the expanded diet is working.” The children of Rwanda are getting healthier, thanks to CRS donors.
God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.” (Genesis 1:29)
Help me maintain healthy eating habits, Creator.
Enjoying the Here and Now
Every year, Egyptians celebrate a holiday called Sham al-Nessim, the Smelling of Spring. Families spend the day outdoors, picnicking and enjoying the fresh spring air. They might go to a park or a desert oasis. The purpose is to simply enjoy the beauty of the season, of the earth, of the day.
This could serve as an example to us. Our holidays and vacations are often so hectic that we don’t enjoy them. On Thanksgiving Day, we spend so much time and effort preparing mountains of food that we are thankful when the day is over. At Christmas, we are caught in a whirl of shopping for gifts, decorating, entertaining and being entertained. Often we are too rushed and preoccupied to experience the real joy of the season.
Vacations become marathons, planned to cover maximum territory in minimum time. Instead of coming back refreshed, we are likely to return exhausted. Don’t let plans and an overcrowded schedule push aside the present. Take time to relax, to savor the fragrance of flowers, the warmth of the sunlight, the sound of laughter. The joy of the moment is God’s gift to us.
Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. (Psalm 111:2)
Slow me down, Lord, that I may appreciate the present.
Listen to Your Heart
Heather Hendershot was sitting still when her Apple Watch alerted her to high heart activity. Since she considered herself healthy, the 25-year-old mom from Kansas chalked it up to a glitch, reported USA Today in April 2018.
However, the alerts continued for the entire day so, as a precaution, Hendershot went to the emergency room where doctors “gave her IV fluids and conducted blood tests.” They discovered that she had hyperthyroidism, in which the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone.
The doctors kept an eye on her in the intensive care unit while they treated her because a “thyroid storm” could set in. That’s a “potentially fatal condition where the heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure become dangerously high.”
Hendershot is now on medication to treat her condition, and she wants others to hear her story so they obey their health instincts. “Pay more attention,” she advised. “Go to the doctor once a year…You don’t have any idea about your health until it gets bad.”
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength. (Psalm 73:26)
Jesus, may I always cherish my body like the temple it is.
Sharing the Wounds of Christ
In a heartbreakingly beautiful article in First Things, blogger Leah Libresco Sargeant recounts miscarrying her baby at about six weeks gestation. Her doctor suggested she go home, but instead, Leah and her husband “walked to our parish church to cry in the pew, in a room filled with flowers and alleluias.”
“A parishioner named Michael saw our unseasonable grief and offered to get us a priest. He never pressed for details about what was wrong, not that day, nor over the subsequent weeks,” she wrote in the September 2017 article. “He just saw that we were upset, and immediately offered what he could.”
Then, when Leah shared her grief with friends, she found many others suffering the same cross. “One week after we lost our baby, the Gospel reading was the story of the apostle Thomas poking his finger into the wounds of Christ. I’d spent the whole week doing the same thing.
“These other mothers were Christ to me. I spent the Easter Octave surrounded by images of the crucified and resurrected Christ – women bearing wounds it was hard to imagine they could carry, and yet walking, talking, eating and loving me.”
In hope we were saved. (Romans 8:24)
Jesus, in hard times, I remember that You conquered death.
A Clean Heart
Singer-songwriter Matt Maher is well aware that we live in “an age of divisiveness,” as he said during a Christopher Closeup interview. It leaves us feeling uncertain about how to respond. He realizes that “you can’t change anyone else. You can only change yourself. And even that you can’t do without the grace of God.”
That was the thought behind his song “Clean Heart,” off his album Echoes. Inspired by Psalm 51, the lyrics offer a vital message for all of us:
[Verse 1] – “Woke up this morning / The whole world was yelling / I wish I was dreaming / Of all that we’ve been through / My soul has been searching / For some deeper meaning / I know there’s a kindness / That leads me to the truth.
[Chorus 1] – “When everybody’s looking for another fight / When trouble’s on the rise, no end in sight / Oh Savior, won’t You come and make the wrong things right / Let me be the place You start / Give me a clean heart.”
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
Give me a clean heart, Jesus.
“It Was Just Like Love”
Maureen K. Day remembers attending the Easter Vigil when her daughter Veronica was five months old. When the flame of the Paschal candle “pierced the darkness,” wrote Day in America magazine, Veronica “shrieked with delight.”
Eleven years later, Day was again at an Easter Vigil with her family and, once again, Veronica was drawn to the fire. Day writes, “The flame passes from candle to candle, and I watch as Veronica holds hers close, feeling the warm glow from her own little star. She looks all around at the other flames—some steady, others flickering. She is pondering something big.”
Later, Veronica excitedly tells her mom, “The fire, it just kept spreading! It didn’t matter how many flames it made, it never got smaller or dimmer. No matter how much fire we took away from it, it still kept giving...Mom, it was infinity! It was just like love, Mom! It was just like God!”
Day concludes, “I give her a nodding smile with my eyes stinging, feeling that crescendoing instant of God’s undeniable presence.”
She is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God.
Jesus, may I always help to spread Your love.
Do you remember St. John’s account of the Crucifixion? John was the disciple whom Jesus loved – some say His best friend.
John and Mary, the mother of Jesus, stayed at the foot of Jesus’ cross. Just before He died, Jesus looked at His mother and said, “Woman, behold your son.” And to John, He said, “Behold your mother.”
Why did Jesus do this? He knew that His mother and His friend would be grief-stricken at His death. So He gave them each other, knowing that each could ease the other’s grief. They would be there for one another, caring for and looking after one another.
When you ease the grief of another person, you follow the example of Jesus – you become Christ-like. Be there for those who are grieving. They need you.
[Jesus] had compassion for her. (Luke 7:13)
Compassionate Jesus, may I treat others with that
compassion with which You’ve treated me.
Jeannie Gaffigan Relies on God, Part One
Jeannie Gaffigan is a Christopher Award-winning writer/producer, wife of comedian Jim Gaffigan, and mother to their five children. In early 2017, she endured “massive headaches and dizzy spells,” balance issues, and even hearing loss, she explained on Christopher Closeup.
She wrote the symptoms off as seasonal allergies, but when they persisted, further medical tests revealed an apple-sized tumor wrapped around her brain stem. Instead of falling apart, Jeannie turned to God, saying, “You’re going to have to guide me through this because I have no idea what I’m doing...and I still have a lot of work to do for You.”
The tumor was benign, but it needed to come out, otherwise she would be left paralyzed. Jeannie called her “prayer warrior” cousin to start a prayer chain. She also sent her best friend from childhood, now a neurologist, her brain scans to get his advice. After reviewing them, he called and said, “You need to get to the operating room as soon as you can. Find the top neurosurgery department in Manhattan and go to the ER at that hospital.” More tomorrow...
When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. (Psalm 56:3)
Guide the sick through their medical struggles, Lord.
Jeannie Gaffigan Relies on God, Part Two
Jeannie Gaffigan scheduled an immediate appointment with neurosurgeon Dr. Joshua Bederson at Mount Sinai Hospital. She recalled, “On Good Friday, I went through a series of MRIs where they mapped out my entire brain and did a virtual surgery on how to deal with the tumor and the nerves surrounding it. Then they said, ‘You have Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday with your family. On Monday, you’re going to surgery.’”
The nine-hour operation was successful, but recovery came with its own difficulties, including temporary paralysis of her throat, a feeding tube in her stomach, and life-threatening pneumonia. Thankfully, Jeannie has come a long way since then.
She said, “The healing that I’ve experienced has been nothing short of a miracle. I’ve had the most powerful spiritual people in the world praying for me. I’ve even had people who I thought to be atheists praying for me. I have a renewed sense of the power of intercessory prayer, and a renewed sense of my purpose on earth. I had a lot of spiritual encounters with God during those dark days in the hospital. There’s no doubt in my mind that the hand of God was with me every step of the way.”
I will strengthen you. (Isaiah 41:10)
Be with me always, Hand of God.
Corrosion and Self-Destruction
Books printed before the middle of the nineteenth century endured for many hundreds of years. Today’s books self-destruct after 50 years or so. The reason is changes in paper making. Chemicals now used in the process leave an acid residue that gradually erodes the paper.
In our lives, there is an equally corrosive effect when we harbor anger and resentment. Holding a grudge against someone who has wronged us destroys our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It literally eats us up.
There are times when it’s natural to feel anger or resentment, but we can get rid of these negative emotions through forgiveness. Forgiveness not only frees others from the destructive effect of our ill will, it frees us as well.
Peter [asked]…“How often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but…seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
Merciful Lord, enable me to forgive.
A Quiet Life Lived Faithfully
Growing up, Rod Dreher couldn’t wait to get out of his small hometown of Starhill, Louisiana, where he never felt like he fit in. He had ambition to be a success in the wider world, and that’s the road he pursued, eventually becoming an acclaimed journalist and author. Dreher’s sister Ruthie, on the other hand, couldn’t imagine living anywhere other than Starhill. She loved the place and the people, choosing to start a family there and work as an elementary school teacher.
Dreher told The Atlantic that these divergent viewpoints created “invisible walls” between him and his sister. But in 2010, Ruthie, a healthy non-smoker, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at age 40. That’s when Dreher returned home and gained a new perspective on the people of Starhill. Because Ruthie had invested so much of herself in the community, they rallied to help her family with meals and school and bills. One resident told him, “This is what folks are supposed to do for each other.”
Dreher concluded, “What I saw over the course of her 19-month struggle with cancer was the power of a quiet life lived faithfully with love and service to others.”
Aim to know your neighbors. (Sirach 9:14)
Jesus, teach me to better love my neighbor.
“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”
Actor Mario Lopez, host of TV’s popular entertainment news show Extra, has never made a secret of the role faith plays in his life. In a 2015 interview with Fox News Latino, the father of two said, “I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve just tried to build a more spiritual muscle in a business that is very unpredictable. It’s nice to have something that is consistent in our life.”
During Holy Week 2018 Lopez made a deeper commitment to the Catholic faith he had been practicing and shared it with his followers via social media. On a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Lopez underwent a renewal of his baptismal vows in the Jordan River at the site where tradition says Jesus was baptized by John.
“It’s a beautiful day,” Lopez posted. “There’s a really cool Catholic priest that’s gonna do me the honors. So I’m going to join these fine folks and then, bam! It’s on!”
As a group of pilgrims from Romania sang “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” Lopez was immersed in the water and rose to renew his commitment to his faith.
Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Messiah, the Son of God. (John 11:27)
Blessed Trinity, may I re-commit myself to faith every day.
A Prayer for Your Talent
Are there days when you feel troubled that you’re not using your talents as well as you could? Doubts about our gifts and the uses we make of them is common to most people. Questioning ourselves can lead to greater understanding. But not if it paralyzes our ability to act, to decide, to create. Our goal should be consistent: to do our best and trust in God.
Samuel Johnson, the 18th-century essayist, poet, critic and journalist, is best known for his Dictionary of the English Language. On the day he began the second volume of his pioneering work, he prayed:
“O God, who has hitherto supported me, enable me to proceed in this labor, and in the whole task of my present state; that when I shall render up, at the last day, an account of the talent committed to me, I may receive pardon, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received…so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 4:10,11)
Thank You, God, for the generous gifts You have given me.Show me how to share them.
Using All You’ve Got
After the bombing of the Alfred Murrah building in Oklahoma City in 1995, people from all over the country came to help. Susan Close was one of them. Close is a native of nearby Moore, Oklahoma.
She drove to the site of the bombing daily and delivered clean clothes and laundry to the volunteer workers. She did it even though she uses a wheelchair. “I told them just because I’m handicapped doesn’t mean I can’t do something,” Close said.
How often do we say, “I’m only one person. I can’t change the world?” Look at the big picture. Realize that the world is made up of individuals – young, old, able-bodied, disabled, men, women – who, together, can make a huge difference in the way things are.
No one else can do the job God has entrusted you.
This is love, that we walk according to His
commandments. (2 John 6)
What job have You entrusted to me today, loving Savior?
Star-Struck for God
Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno once came to a crossroads between his two passions – but eventually found how to balance them both.
“I grew up in an ordinary Catholic household of the ’50s and learned my science and religion from the Sisters of Charity,” he said. “I …thought about being a priest but realized I didn’t have the personality for it, and wound up at MIT mostly because of their science fiction library!”
In an April 2018 Q&A with Crux, Consolmagno recounted that he had a crisis of faith – not in Catholicism, but in science. He joined the Peace Corp, taught at a college, and eventually entered the Jesuits. Then, to his surprise, they sent him to Rome to study astronomy. In 2016, he received the honor of being nominated director of the Vatican Observatory by Pope Francis.
“Worship is a way that we come closer to God; and that’s what we do when we study the cosmos,” he said. “I do not rely on the Bible to tell me the answers to my scientific questions, but I do rely on the authority of Scripture to be reassured that those answers can be found and are worth pursuing.”
The heavens are telling the glory of God. (Psalm 19:2)
Lord, all creation is shouting for joy at Your beauty!
During the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, students, faculty and alums of two St. Paul, Minnesota, area Catholic schools were glued to the coverage. Two of their own, sisters Hannah and Marissa Brandt, were playing on the Olympic ice hockey teams.
The Brandt sisters were both graduates of Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood and St. Odilia School in Shoreview, where they are remembered fondly. “Not only are they great athletes, both Hannah and Marissa were outstanding students and all-around wonderful young women,” Hill-Murray principal Erin Herman told America magazine. “They are both humble and kind; you would not have known they were Olympic athletes when you met them in the hall.”
Though the Brandt sisters share the same sport and the same alma maters, they did not play for the same Olympic teams. Marissa, who was adopted as a baby from South Korea, used her birth name, Park-Yoon Jung, and skated with the team from the combined Koreas. Hannah played for the U.S. women’s team and brought home a gold medal.
Athletes exercise self-control in all things. (1 Corinthians 9:25)
Lord, may I use Your gifts with humility and kindness.
The Nun Who Built Peace a Home
After the Israeli-Palestinian Six-Day War in 1967, many children were left orphaned. They squatted in ruins, fighting over garbage to eat or earning a meager living picking trash.
Sister Rafaela Wlodarczak, who with other Polish sisters was in Jerusalem working with Palestinian Christians, was motivated to give the children a home. The sisters scrimped and saved and finally, with a miraculous anonymous donation, were able to purchase a plot of land on the Mount of Olives.
Construction was controversial, and the building permit was delayed. At times, Sister Rafaela and the other nuns carried out the construction themselves under cover of darkness, donning heavy boots and carrying steel girders on their backs.
As Aleteia reported, the Home of Peace on the Mount of Olives has now been sheltering children for 50 years—and Sister Rafaela’s vision has grown to include another house in Bethlehem. She said, “Many of our children have graduated from university and found a good job. Some have started their own families. I hope they will carry light into many people’s lives.”
Blessed are the peacemakers. (Matthew 5:9)
Prince of Peace, give me the courage to work for peace in my own neighborhood.
A Personal Journey of Healing
LifeWorks NW, a mental health and addiction treatment center, serves more than 21,000 people in northwest Oregon every year. Mary Monnat is the CEO of the center, and according to a 2018 article in the Catholic Sentinel, she has many things in common with her patients, including her recovery.
Monnat said that she first came to the field of addiction treatment and counseling when she confronted her own alcoholism. At the time, she was struggling with a decision to go to law school. She conquered her drinking with the right help. When she saw firsthand how important the work of counselors was to her recovery, her mind was made up. “My intervention found my career, my passion,” she declared.
Through her recovery, she connects with patients. She is able to relate to them in a special way - as someone who has been where they are and can help them through the other side. The mix of Monnat’s personal experience, faith, and professional expertise brings healing to those in need.
To one is given...gifts of healing by the one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:8,9)
My struggles today may bear fruit tomorrow. May I trust in You always, Jesus!
The Wisdom of Mister Rogers
2018 marked the 50th anniversary of the debut of the PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which taught and inspired generations of children. The late Fred Rogers, a Christopher Award winner, offered some memorable quotes during his lifetime. Here are a few, courtesy of the website Mashable:
■ “As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has – or ever will have – something inside that is unique to all time.”
■ “There is no normal life that is free of pain. It’s the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth.”
■ “When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.”
We are what He has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works. (Ephesians 2:10)
Remind me that I am created in Your image, Father.
Just a Regular Hero
“I’m not a hero. I’m just a regular person,” said James Shaw, Jr., an unarmed man who saved several lives by single-handedly disarming and subduing a shooter at an Antioch, Tennessee, Waffle House. While speaking at a press conference shortly after the event, Shaw kept insisting that his actions were no big deal.
NPR News quoted Shaw saying, “Me doing that, I did save other people. But I don't want people to think that I was the Terminator, or Superman, or anybody like that. It was just, I figured if I was going to die, he was going to have to work for it.” And when asked if he had ever had combat training, Shaw joked that he didn’t: “I just fight my daughter every night, so I can put her to bed.”
Shaw, 29, who made sure to attend church services the day after the incident, may not want to give himself credit. But in truth he did an incredibly brave thing. He also acted unselfishly in the aftermath, by starting a Go Fund Me account that has raised thousands of dollars for the victims of the shooting and their families.
The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
Good Shepherd, help me be generous in the cause of life.
Showing God’s Love to Those with Autism
David and Mercedes Rizzo, parents of a daughter with autism, could not but help sing the praises of the Kinney Center for Autism Education, part of St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. In a March 2018 blogpost at CatholicMom, they wrote that the center “educates and trains the autism professionals of tomorrow, while supporting and serving the individuals and families affected by autism today.”
During a visit to the University, the welcoming staff showed the family a wealth of resources, including classrooms, sensory rooms, programs and camps.
“As parents of a young adult with autism, we find it is both reassuring and refreshing that the Center is focused on the development and training of teachers who are knowledgeable regarding autism,” wrote the Rizzos. “It is really heartening to see our Catholic institutions of higher learning doing such wonderful work furthering the mission of the church to show God’s love to the world.”
In humility regard others as better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)
Holy Spirit, guide me to be creative in how I approach others.
Prepping for the End Brings New Beginning
Joseph Badame spent most of his adult life preparing for doomsday. A New Jersey architect, he believed that an economic calamity would someday cause the collapse of society. He wanted to be prepared, and his wife, Phyliss, shared his dedication to stockpiling supplies.
Badame is 74 now, and he lost his wife in 2013. Recently, he lost his house, too, to foreclosure. He didn’t want his prepping to go for nothing, so he was happy to hear that Victoria Martinez-Butler, hired to run the sale of his belongings, was going to donate the proceeds to her family in Puerto Rico, still struggling after Hurricane Maria.
Badame showed Martinez-Barber his crammed food storage room and offered to donate it all to Puerto Rican relief. He told NJ.com that after losing almost everything, it was good to be able to help people survive after all. And though Badame’s doomsday never came, his preparations brought a new beginning to others and himself. Martinez-Butler and her husband have “adopted” Badame as family.
Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.
Lord, help me prepare for eternal life by doing good.
A Miracle on Ice
Alexa Scimeca Knierim and her husband and figure skating partner Chris regularly wow crowds with their pairs fireworks, including a quadruple twist. All that dazzle on the ice requires grueling training, physical courage, and the ability to come back from injury and defeat. But Alexa has faced much worse, as she told People magazine, and it was God who helped her through.
In 2016, Alexa was diagnosed with a rare and often deadly gastrointestinal condition. Her illness required immediate, extensive surgery along with two follow-up procedures. Treatment and recovery took a big toll, physically and professionally. “Four months ago, brushing my teeth was more challenging than any long program I’ve ever performed,” she tweeted to her fans. But “when my body was at its weakest, my faith was at its strongest.”
Against all odds, Alexa and Chris skated at the 2018 Olympics, taking home silver for the U.S. in the group competition. The two credited their faith and said that their Olympic appearance was their chance to “glorify God.”
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
Father, help me to place my life in Your hands.
A Grave Endeavor
Dick Huber has a unique ministry: he’s a volunteer for Find a Grave. Huber, 75, of St. Paul, Minnesota, is on the go almost constantly. In the five years that he’s been volunteering, he’s fulfilled some 500 requests for assistance—and he estimates that he’s uploaded 2,650 photos along the way.
“I try to treat each grave as if it were one of my own relatives,” Huber said. “It’s to honor the memory of those people who have gone before us. They are gone but not forgotten.”
Here’s the way Find a Grave works: when volunteers like Huber get calls for a photo of a headstone from the deceased’s friends or relatives, they arrange it by zip code, go to the century, take the photo, and upload it to a national site. When Huber finds a grave but no headstone, he’ll place a small wooden cross there, he told Cynthia Hill of the Catholic Spirit.
“It’s fun helping others,” he says. “And I hear back from the majority of those who have requested a photo, expressing their gratitude. That’s very satisfying,”
Place your bread on the grave of the righteous.
May my actions bring some small comfort to those who are
grieving, Divine Messiah.
Design Students Think “Disruptively”
Design students, encouraged by a competition, are making life a little easier for people of all ages with visual impairments.
If you are an independent blind person, how do you know what the clothes in your closet look like? What styles and colors match? Whether these pants go with that shirt or blouse? Is this outfit professional or casual?
Sighted people might also be “style challenged” but at least they can see their clothes. Camila Chirboga, a graduate of the Parson’s School of Design, won $3,000 in an AARP sponsored contest called “Disrupt Aging Design Challenge.” Her design involved a 3-D way of tagging each piece of clothing by type, style and color.
“The tagging method allows the wearer to instantly determine by touch if a garment is for casual or business wear, and indoor or outdoor use,” she told the AARP Bulletin. The 22-year-old winner added, “I use fashion as a tool to help people feel more independent and confident.”
I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. (Job 29:15)
Remind me, Lord, to use my talents to benefit others.
A Springtime Harmony
The flowering of the woods in spring may seem haphazard, with each plant just doing its own thing. But botanists tell us the process is as carefully orchestrated as a symphony.
Flowers appear first on the small plants near the ground. These always bloom early, before the taller plants above them put out flowers and leaves – and shut out the sun.
Then in orderly succession, buds next unfurl on the shrubs, then low trees, and finally the tallest trees – timed in perfect harmony.
We, too, need to be governed by harmony with ourselves, with others, and with God. Health, happiness, and spirituality are interrelated. Let us seek to live in the harmony that God offers us all.
Agree with God, and be at peace, in this way good will
come to you. (Job 22:21)
Prince of Peace, how can I be at peace with my own self,
“How Can Life Go On?”
“It was a beautiful, sunny day,” Mary Ann Rowan told America. “Everybody’s out, walking and talking with coffee in hand, and we thought, ‘How can life go on? How can these people be smiling?’ It was the most incongruous feeling, to see that everyone else was living their lives, and Kevin was gone.”
Rowan was recalling the day her son Kevin, then 30, took his own life. Sixteen years later, she is speaking to a group of others who have lost loved ones to suicide. It’s a meeting of LOSS (Loving Outreach for Survivors of Suicide), a church-based but nondenominational grief ministry begun by Chicago’s Father Charles Rubey. The healing power of the group lies in simply allowing people to bring their grief into the room, to speak it, to pray with it.
“Families of suicide bring hope, bring understanding, bring gratitude,” Father Rubey says. “They are such brave people to continue living. They are gifts to the church because they can smile again...They share in the fullness of the resurrection.”
Come to Me, all you that are weary…and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
Savior, console those who are burdened with grief.
The Heart of Prayer
Do you put more of your head or your heart into your prayers? Gary Jansen, author of Life Everlasting: Devotions and Mysteries for the Everyday Seeker, acknowledges that you need the right balance. But he suspects that over-intellectualizing prayer is common, so we need to focus more on the heart.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, he explained, “When you think of devotions and traditions, you never see the sacred mind of Jesus; you see the Sacred Heart of Jesus. You don’t see the Immaculate Head of Mary; you see the Immaculate Heart of Mary. And when Gabriel comes to Mary and says, ‘You’re going to be the mother of God,’ she doesn’t think about this. What happens? She ponders this in her heart.
“In tradition, ancient people used to believe that the heart was the center of the intellect. And think about this…When a fetus is developing, the first thing to develop is the heart. That happens about 14 days after conception. Another 14 days after that, that’s when the brain starts. So the heart is sending information that creates the brain…Heartfelt prayer and meditation can revolutionize the way that you experience God.”
Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. (Deuteronomy 6:6)
Open my heart to Your will, Jesus.
Ten Signs You’re Doing Well in Life
It’s easy to get bogged down by negative thinking, when life takes some unexpected detours. But barring some form of serious illness or tragedy, maybe you’re actually doing better than you think. The Facebook page Positive Words offers these 10 Signs You’re Doing Well in Life:
1. You have a roof over your head.
2. You ate today.
3. You have a good heart.
4. You wish good for others.
5. You have clean water.
6. Someone cares for you.
7. You forgive others.
8. You have clothes to wear.
9. You smile.
10. You’re breathing.
The message: be thankful for the little things.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
May life’s challenges not blind me to my blessings, Divine Messiah.
What Is Youth?
Most people would say that youth is a time of life when we’re young. General Douglas MacArthur would have disagreed. On his 75th birthday, he explained his view of youth as being more of a state of mind. “It is not wholly a matter of ripe cheeks. It is a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life.”
The general said youth “means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of an appetite for adventure over love of ease. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years.”
Years don’t age one beyond the surface. What really takes a toll and “wrinkles the soul,” said MacArthur, are “worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair.” Pessimism and cynicism age us. What keeps our hearts young are “messages of beauty, hope, cheer and courage.”
In a culture that seems to glorify youth and stigmatize age, it is heartening to consider the things of the mind and soul that really matter.
Keep up your courage. (Acts 27:25)
Help me, Jesus, to more fully appreciate the rewards of maintaining a youthful spirit.
Beating the Odds
Zéa Lane, just a few months old, was running a dangerously high fever. When her family arrived at the hospital, an MRI showed every parent’s worst nightmare. “She was covered with cancer,” her mother, Heather Lane, told CNN’s Ashley Strickland in November 2017.
Zéa went through a surgery that left her paralyzed from the waist down, followed by horrific rounds of chemotherapy. But when her parents noticed Zéa wiggling her toes, doctors became hopeful because for “a very young and developing child, therapy and rehab could turn the wiggling of her toes into walking.”
Sessions of aquatic therapy helped Zéa make tremendous strides in learning to walk again, and her mom hopes she’ll be able to walk independently someday.
“Zéa was not even able to sit up on her own after surgery. She wasn’t able to roll over for many months, wasn’t able to crawl. I never thought that she would. I was preparing myself for dealing with a child that could potentially be paralyzed from the chest down. But she just keeps beating the odds.”
Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that
you may be in good health. (3 John 1:2)
Thank you for the miracles You show every day, Jesus.
From Auschwitz to America
Because he was Jewish, 16-year-old David Wisnia became a prisoner at the concentration camp Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland. After being tattooed with his prisoner number, he noticed the belt buckle of the SS officer in front of him. It read, “Gott mit uns,” which means “God is with us.” As he recalled in an interview with the website Buzzfeed, Wisnia said to himself, “God is not with you, and I’m going to outlive you.”
Because Wisnia could sing, the Nazis used him for entertainment and gave him special prisoner status, though he witnessed untold horrors in his three years at Auschwitz. He was eventually saved by American soldiers and moved to the U.S., where he built a good life for himself.
Wisnia said, “I now understand, maybe not for the same reason, when the Pope comes to the U.S. or any place, he kisses the ground...I kissed the ground of the United States because I really understand what America is all about. What I have, thank God, is a beautiful family here, a wife now for 69 years. And I love to say, I still have hope. That’s her name: Hope.”
You are the God of the lowly, helper of the oppressed...savior of those without hope. (Judith 9:11)
Lead victims of war to peace and hope, Savior.
Donated with Love
The international aid powerhouse, Catholic Relief Services, was started in January 1943 by the U.S. bishops. Originally known as War Relief Services, CRS took as its first mission helping to resettle Polish refugees in Santa Rosa, Mexico.
In a 2018 blog post dedicated to their 75th anniversary, CRS shared the story of Julek Plowy, who was born in Siberia’s horrific Gulag camps after his family was expelled from Poland by Soviet troops in 1940. In 1943, Plowy, his mother, and his sister joined 1,500 refugees resettled in Santa Rosa.
“Catholic Relief Services provided aid to us in many forms, such as clothing, food, education, toys, medical aid and also finances,” Plowy says. “Beautiful dresses and other clothing collected in the United States were distributed to us. In many cases, it was too large for our emaciated bodies, but it was received with great appreciation. The refugees went to work remaking these precious pieces, donated with love…Our hope and faith in God’s goodness was manifested by the effort on so many different fronts in our walk back to humanity.”
The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you. (Leviticus 19:34)
My faith in You, Jesus, turns strangers into my family.
A Saint for an Anxious Age
Patheos blogger Deacon Greg Kandra believes that St. Joseph is the perfect saint for our age of anxiety. Why? He writes, “[Joseph] must have known economic uncertainty – wondering how he would support and sustain his family, running his own small business...Like many people today, shortly after his son was born, Joseph and his family became refugees, immigrants in a foreign land...Joseph also lived with the threat of terror – a ruthless king bent on murdering children.
“On a more personal level, Joseph knew the anxiety of any man about to become a father. He must have asked himself: am I ready for this? Am I good enough, strong enough, wise enough?...He also must have thought at some point: this is not what I had planned...
“How many of us have had to face, like Joseph, a confusing world with uncertainty, and doubt, and anxiety and fear? But into all that...comes a voice in a dream. ‘Do not be afraid. God is with us.’ And his world – and ours – is changed. In the middle of ‘the anxiety of Joseph’ comes blessed reassurance – and a reminder that God’s will sees beyond our fears, beyond our limitations.”
Cast all your anxiety on Him. (1 Peter 5:7)
Calm my fears, Father. Help me trust in You.
Let There Be Peace
Consider the lovely words of this prayer, first printed in a Boston paper, but appropriate to any city, any town, any neighborhood.
“O God of mercy, understanding and peace, help our beloved city: to maintain racial harmony, to reject all violence, to strive for understanding.
“Let each of us realize our need for You, and our need for one another. Let there be peace in our hearts; let there be peace in our city; let this peace begin with me.”
If we want to build peaceful cities and a peaceful world where there is racial and ethnic harmony and nonviolence, we must work to understand and respect each other’s common humanity. We can heal the hate around us – with intelligent, courageous, strong love.
I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. (Luke 6:27)
Jesus Crucified, make me a respectful and forgiving person, even as I am a respected and forgiven person.
The Monks of Skellig Michael
If you’ve seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi, you’re familiar with the planet Ahch-To, where Luke Skywalker has isolated himself for many years. In reality, that is an island in Ireland called Skellig Michael, on which 12 Christian monks established a monastery over 1,000 years ago.
Christian history lover Philip Kosloski set out to learn more about the island and the monks who inhabited it. During a Christopher Closeup interview, he explained that for centuries after St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, monasteries were founded throughout the country, including in isolated places.
That made Skellig Michael a desirable destination. Located about seven miles off Ireland’s coast, the island was seen by the monks “as a great place to get away from the world so they can enter into a greater communion with God.”
Kosloski concluded, “They saw their lives as doing something greater than themselves...They didn’t curse or shun the world, but they were doing it as a sacrifice, in honor of union with Christ.”
Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. (Matthew 18:20)
Help me enter into closer union with You, Jesus.
A Model of Radical Kindness, Part One
Arthur Mirell’s love for Jesus originated with free hot dogs, a carnival, and a friendly priest. As recalled by his longtime friend, Sister Ave Clark, O.P., when Arthur was a young Jewish boy in Brooklyn, New York, he was walking by a church when the parish priest came out and invited Arthur and some other children to come enjoy a carnival the church was having.
The other kids quickly accepted the invitation, but Arthur just stood there and responded, “Well, I’m not Catholic.” The priest said, “That doesn’t matter. There’s hot dogs and fun.”
That simple, welcoming attitude made an impression on Arthur, prompting him to further explore the Catholic faith. Though he always maintained a love for his Jewish heritage, he eventually converted to Catholicism. “He loved to go sit in church quietly,” said Sister Ave on Christopher Closeup. “He said he would just look up at the cross and feel Jesus comforting him on his journey with his own cross.”
What was that cross? More tomorrow...
Whoever welcomes you welcomes Me. (Matthew 10:40)
May I be welcoming to friends and strangers alike in Your name, Jesus.
A Glorious Resurrection, a Lovely Garden
It is a law of nature that a garden needs attention to produce its bounty. The earth needs to be turned and tilled, seeds need to be planted, weeds carefully but persistently removed. There needs to be balance between water and fertilizer. And then, there needs to be quiet patience and trust.
The season of Lent, which comes before the glorious resurrection of the Lord, is also a time of cultivation and weeding. For too long a time, perhaps, Lent has been a time of denial, something unpleasant, a time of depravation.
Think of the season as if it were a garden: a time for tending ourselves, taking care to remove those things which make us less than we could be, encouraging the beauty in our natures to flower. Then, perhaps on Easter Sunday, we can share our bounty with others.
Jesus said to [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in Me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” (John 11:25)
Help me to see growth as I tend Your life in me, Risen Lord.
The Seemingly Perfect Life
In the aftermath of designer Kate Spade’s suicide in June 2018, author and radio host Jennifer Fulwiler shared the following reflection on her Facebook page: “Just yesterday I was looking at Kate Spade purses. As I browsed the gorgeous designs, I paused to think about what a perfect life Kate must have. With envy, I imagined how blissfully happy she must be in her problem-free existence as an iconic designer.
“We’ve talked a lot recently about how comparing ourselves to other people impacts us. But seeing the news that Kate died in an apparent suicide is a stark reminder that when we indulge in envious delusions about how perfect other people’s lives are, we objectify and dehumanize them. We don’t see their struggles because we’re determined to believe that they have none.
“Take this opportunity to reach out to *that* person in your social circles – the one who seems to have it all, for whom every detail of life seems to be perfect. Ask her how she’s really doing. I bet you’ll be surprised by the answer.”
My soul is full of troubles. (Psalm 88:3)
No one’s life is free from struggles, Lord, so help me be kind to everyone.
The Aim of Spiritual Reading
If you’re reading this, spiritual topics must be important to you. They were also important to the writers of Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life, which was published from 1986 to 2017.
A 1988 issue, quoted in the inspirational newsletter Apple Seeds, included the following observations: “Spiritual reading is the discipline through which we enter the company of the saints in order to glean their wisdom and to receive their guidance toward spiritual maturity. Yet spiritual reading of Scripture or other texts does not follow the ‘strip-mining method’ we so often apply to written material.
“The aim in spiritual reading is not to scour the pages for valuable nuggets of insight with which we can turn a spiritual profit. Rather, spiritual reading is a form of dwelling in the words, listening attentively for what God is saying to us in the unique circumstances of our life.”
We speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:13)
Guide me towards reading that allows me to hear Your voice and know You better, Father.
When I Was Imprisoned, You Visited Me
Father Charles “Chuck” Canterna from the Archdiocese of Baltimore has given his life to fulltime prison ministry, beginning with his entrance into the priesthood.
“Some guys have told me they could not walk past a bank without stopping to rob it,” he said in a 2017 Catholic Review interview with Paul McMullen. “With me, I couldn’t walk past the church without wanting to pray, fourth through eighth grade. It was a powerful experience.”
After his 1976 ordination, Father Chuck became a “street priest” working with the poor, and is now chaplain at the Maryland Penitentiary Complex. He’s ministered to people from every walk of life, including death row inmates. Among them was Wesley Baker, the last person executed in Maryland in 2005.
“I found Christ in these men and they shared it with me. It didn’t matter whether they were Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, there was a respect,” he said. “The key is love. The key is your presence, your oneness with that person. You have to give of yourself, like Jesus did.”
Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them. (Hebrews 13:3)
Teach me to see You in all, Lord, especially the imprisoned.
The Archbishop and the Fish Fry
Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis had a memorable night—and showed that he could take a ribbing—when he attended a fish fry in St. John’s parish in Hugo.
As Maria Wiering tells it in the Catholic Spirit, a parishioner jokingly objected to the archbishop granting a blanket exemption from the Lenten Friday fast from meat because St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Friday. The parishioner, who had helped arrange the fish fry, claimed it had cost the parish men’s club $2,000 and sent the archbishop a “bill.”
Regarding the event, Archbishop Hebda said, “It was fun. I ate well, but I think they were surprised to see me. I tried going every Friday to a different parish unannounced, and it gave me the opportunity to experience the life of the parish. It’s a wonderful opportunity just to talk to people.”
When asked why he prefers to go unannounced, Archbishop Hebda answered, “This way there’s no hype. It’s an opportunity to have that raw experience of what parish life is like. I think there’ll always be the temptation to pull out the salmon instead of the cod.”
A bishop must be...hospitable. (1 Timothy 3:2)
Lead Your shepherds to reflect Your kindness, Lord.
The Post-Retirement Career
When Al Boll of Ham Lake, Minnesota, was facing retirement a few years ago, he wasn’t really sure how he would spend the extra time. Now – thanks to the devotion of a friendly priest and the benefits of daily Mass – he’s more sure than ever. And a lot of additional people are reaping the benefits.
Boll has become a spiritual director, and it’s a calling with which he’s more than comfortable. As he told Dave Hrbacek of the Catholic Bulletin of St. Paul-Minneapolis, after starting with one person he gets together with several people at a time—some retired, and some far from it.
It all began with regular advice from his pastor. Later, after the priest died, he kept up with daily Mass and other devotions. His first “client” approached him, and soon they were meeting during lunch hour. Now he has a steady job. Asked what advice he had for newcomers, he says to simply listen to God. “Be open,” he says, “to hearing what He asks you to do.”
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:18-19)
Bring me the spiritual direction and life direction that I need, Holy Spirit.
Lessons from Lent
Lent, the 40 days of spiritual preparation for the remembrance of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection from the dead, means different things to different individuals.
■ Vanessa White takes time during Lent “to look at the areas of my life that I need to change.” She says, “As the process of Lent goes on, I find myself becoming more aware of God’s presence and my need for God.”
■ Lent used to be a very sad time for Carlos Cueto, as he thought of “everything the Lord had to suffer.” Knowing how Jesus gave up His life out of love helped put a positive spin on Lent, Cueto says.
■ For Karol Belak, a trip to Jerusalem during Lent – walking the path Jesus walked to His Crucifixion – confirmed Belak’s faith and called him to focus on that faith every day, not just on the days of Lent.
What does Lent mean for you?
Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God. (Joel 1:14)
Guide my feet in ways pleasing to You, Father.
Love, Enjoy, Nurture, Transform
Marian Bach grew up in a family that was committed to giving up something for Lent. But now that she’s older, she’s expanded her approach. Writing on the Loyola Press website, Bach states:
“My experience of Lent has gone through a metamorphosis. By now, we have all probably heard the ‘fast from’ and ‘feast on’ approach to Lent: fast from a bad habit and feast on loving one’s neighbor more, fast from eating candy and feast on getting out there and doing volunteer work, and so forth.
“Thinking about Lent this year:
■ “I hope to express Love to those who are hurting and in need in ways that might be challenging for me.
■ “I hope to Enjoy the gifts God has given me and to see the good that is in the world and in my personal life.
■ “I hope to Nurture the Spirit within me and others, listening to the Spirit’s lead as the days unfold.
■ “I hope to be open to the Transforming power of God’s love.”
Return to Me with all your heart, with fasting...rend your hearts and not your clothing. (Joel 2:12-13)
May these 40 days of Lent change me for the better, Holy Spirit.
Young Missioner’s Presence Is Felt
Kathy Bartek expected to bring something new into the lives of the impoverished people she encountered as a lay missioner in Africa many years ago. And she did. But in the process, this young woman was also learning and being enriched by her experiences.
Kathy’s two-year stint in the Ivory Coast taught her that, at times, her most important role was to listen and “be there” with others. She didn’t have money or material aid to offer. And she couldn’t solve all the terrible problems. “This type of mission of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ is challenging me to have confidence in the importance of my presence here, sharing in the lives of others as we connect across cultures,” she wrote home.
“In the light of Christianity, I’m trusting my presence here is significant in the unfolding or coming of the kingdom, in the coming together of people reverencing creation in all its uniqueness.”
This is His commandment, that we should believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another. (1 John 3:23)
Make it possible for us, Jesus, to appreciate the value of our caring presence in the lives of others.
Broadcaster Moves Through Gambling Addiction
Spencer Christian was the happy-go-lucky weatherman on Good Morning America for 13 years, yet behind the scenes, he experienced moments of “self-loathing.” The reason: he had a hidden gambling problem that was ruining his life. Despite the shame he felt, the possible thrill of winning kept drawing him back to the casinos.
During a Christopher Closeup interview about his memoir You Bet Your Life, Spencer, a lifelong Christian, discussed the role his faith played during these years: “I was asking God to help me deal with it, but I think I was not praying in the right way...[I asked God], ‘Please relieve this pain and anxiety I feel’ or ‘Please show me a way to get out of debt.’
“What I wasn’t praying was, ‘Take away my desire to have [gambling] in my life. Take away the pleasure that I derive from it so I can find the strength to give it up.’ It wasn’t until I arrived at that point, probably after I had been gambling for a couple of decades, that I began to lose the desire and feel like God was leading me in a more purposeful direction.”
God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
Heal those struggling with addiction, Messiah.
An Accountant’s Miracle on Ice
You never know when you’re going to be called up to the big leagues. After playing hockey in college and in recreational leagues on the side, accountant Scott Foster was signed to an amateur tryout contract by the Chicago Blackhawks to be an emergency backup goalie, reported NPR.
This had happened before and had resulted in the 36-year-old father of two sitting in the press box and then heading home. But not this March 2018 game against the Winnipeg Jets.
With all of their other goalies out, Foster was told to take the ice. “I don’t think I heard anything other than, ‘Put your helmet on,’” he said. He stopped seven shots in their 6-2 win.
“You think there’d be a lot of pressure. But, really, tomorrow I’m going to wake up, I’m going to button up my shirt, and I’m going to go back to my day job. So what pressure is there for me? You just keep grinding away in men's league, and eventually you’ll get your shot,” he joked.
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
(2 Corinthians 9:15)
Help me to always joyfully receive the wondrous surprises You send to me, Lord.
A March for Peace
Catholics responded to violence in Chicago with a march from Immaculate Conception parish to a neighborhood where two shootings had taken place that killed three and injured eight. More than a hundred people took part in the march.
Father Manuel Dorantes of Immaculate Conception led several priests from his own and nearby parishes in the march. Neighbors told him they had considered moving out of the parish because of the violence. Editor Joyce Duriga, covering the event for the Chicago Catholic, said that bullets shattered windows and penetrated the doors in some of the homes.
“We need to care about one another,” Father Dorantes said. “No gun, no injustice, no person, no one can destroy the fact that we are brothers and sisters...We will walk with them to the darkest corner of our neighborhood. We need to feel what they feel and walk for just a moment in their pain.”
Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. I am for peace. (Psalm 120:6-7)
May communities filled with violence find new life through individuals who serve as instruments of Your peace, Jesus.
Running on Prayer
Back in 1982, Alberto Salazar had become known as the best marathon runner in the world after winning races in New York City, Boston and Portland, Oregon. But more than a decade later, Salazar would not cross the finish line alone.
God, the athlete would say, helped him win a grueling 50-mile-plus marathon in South Africa. “I really believe it was a miracle,” Salazar said.
In the last 20 miles of that race – a race that lasted 5½ hours – Salazar was so tired he was ready to drop out. It was then that he began to pray. In the end, two hours of rosaries and prayerful meditation got him through. Salazar came to realize that “the only real success is having a relationship with God.”
All of us, too, can find strength by putting our “daily race” in God’s hands.
Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Lord, help me to always remember that no matter what I face, You are with me, giving me strength.
Someone May Be Watching
Almost every day we read or hear about someone who has performed some act of heroism. A life is rescued from a burning car, an icy pond, or a variety of dangerous situations. The hero acts instantly, efficiently, often while subjected to great personal danger.
In subsequent interviews, the rescuer usually says something like “I didn’t do anything special,” or “I didn’t think about it; I acted on instinct.”
These spontaneous reactions to the plight of people in trouble do not just happen. They are a product of a way of thinking – of a mind and heart that have been subtly conditioned to be generous, thoughtful and self-giving. People who perform such heroics have had a lifetime of exposure to parents, family members, and friends who behave consistently in loving ways.
We never know who’s watching and learning from our behavior. Try to perform a small act of kindness or courtesy toward another person today – no strings attached.
I am among you as one who serves. (Luke 22:27)
Help us to be sensitive to the needs of others, O God, and to be conscious of the fact that our actions speak eloquently.
A Wounded Warrior Finds Healing
On August 5, 2014, Maj. Jeremy Haynes, serving in Afghanistan, suffered four gunshot wounds. He sustained serious injuries and was ultimately evacuated to Walter Reed National Medical Center in Washington, where he recovered from his wounds, was rehabilitated—and became intimately acquainted with the American Red Cross.
“He has triumphed over depression and debilitating pain,” said Koby Langley, an Army veteran and senior vice president of the American Red Cross. He was quoted in Cross Notes, the organization’s publication, in the same issue that announced honors for Maj. Haynes and his family. “He continues to be an outstanding and strong example to his family and fellow service members.”
Maj. Haynes was also honored by the Harlem Globetrotters, who have teamed up with the organization. “I am grateful for the opportunity to serve our nation—and be a part of the American Red Cross family,” said Maj. Haynes.
When the righteous triumph, there is great glory.
Injured service members walk a challenging road, Lord. Grant them healing and strength.
An Unimaginable Transformation
The song “I Can Only Imagine,” performed by MercyMe, captures the joy a forgiven sinner experiences when being welcomed into the kingdom of heaven. It is one of the most played and best loved hits of popular Christian music.
Bart Millard, MercyMe’s lead singer, wrote “I Can Only Imagine” in a matter of minutes, but it flowed from a lifetime of pain transformed. Millard’s father, Arthur, was violent and abusive all through Bart’s childhood. Yet, unimaginably, Arthur turned his life around by becoming a Christian. He reconciled with his family before passing away from cancer at age 48.
The song’s backstory was recently made into a film. As Bart told Catholic Digest, “My greatest desire is that people remember that their stories are not finished…If there’s somebody out there saying there’s no hope for a person in their life or maybe you’re that person, and you think that there’s no hope for you, just remember as long as your heart is beating, it’s not over. No one is out of the reach of grace.”
There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance. (Luke 15:7)
Lord, turn the hardest hearts with Your saving mercy!
Big League Faith
Michael Fulmer has made it to the majors. This young pitcher earns over half a million dollars a year playing for the Detroit Tigers, and he’s won awards like American League Rookie of the Year in 2016. But he hasn’t let that change him.
Even though Fulmer is successful he continues to volunteer with Wings, a Christian nonprofit dedicated to helping adults with developmental disabilities.
Religion News Service reports that the 25-year-old pitcher has been helping the group since he was in high school. He was thrilled when 43 men and women served by Wings came out to see him play at a recent away game. He took time to pose for pictures and talk with them after the game.
Fulmer keeps up with his faith by sharing it with his fellow baseball players. His aim, no matter how successful he is on the field, is “to preach the Lord’s name.”
Randy Webb, who has known Fulmer for years, said, “He trusts that God has a plan for him and will direct him in his path…It just goes back to his faith. He has a servant’s heart.”
This is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.
(1 John 5:4)
Make me steadfast in my faith, Lord, in all that I do.
The Hero Next Door
On his Facebook page, TV host Mike Rowe shared an article his mother Peggy had written in 2012 about 90-year-old Chick Serio, a new neighbor who, she discovered, had been a hero of World War II. Serio enlisted in the Marines in 1942 because his best friend and uncle, Joe Marsiglia, had been drafted, and he envisioned the two of them fighting side by side. But the two never saw each other after basic training.
Serio went on to become a sergeant, who took part in the 1945 invasion of Japan at Iwo Jima. All these years later, he still has nightmares about the horrors he witnessed. He earned the Silver Star for driving through enemy fire to get more ammunition when the Americans were under attack.
“Chick Serio credits a strong faith in the Lord for bringing him through the turmoil of war and its aftermath,” writes Peggy, who notes that he built a good life that includes marriage and four children. Mike Rowe adds, “Introduce yourself to the old man down the hall, or the elderly woman who lives down the street. You never know, you might be living next door to a hero.”
We have heard...that you are a mighty warrior and worthy to be our friend.
(1 Maccabees 10:19)
May I appreciate the seniors in my midst, Prince of Peace.
The Stranger’s Visit
In the 1930s, members of the Federal Writers’ Project interviewed former slaves about life before emancipation. A man named Bob Maynard shared one fascinating incident, reported by The Atlantic. In 1860, Maynard said, a stranger visited the Texas plantation where he was enslaved. The stranger stayed a while and was curious about the hardships the slaves endured.
Later, Maynard said, the stranger sent a letter to the plantation owner, “informing him he would soon have to free his slaves – ‘that everybody was going to have to, that the North was going to see to it.’ The stranger told the owner to go into the room where he’d slept, and see where he’d carved his name into the headrest. And when the slaveholder went and looked, he saw the name: ‘A. Lincoln.’”
Maynard was by no means the only former slave with a similar story. There were accounts from all over the South. And though there is no evidence that Abraham Lincoln ever visited plantations, the belief that he did gave enslaved people a sense that they had cooperated with him in ending slavery – that they were agents, not just distant objects, of emancipation.
Let My people go. (Exodus 7:16)
Lord, give hope and freedom to all who are enslaved.
Giving Kids the Love They Need
Not only did actress Jen Lilley become a spokesperson for the charity Childhelp USA, she and her husband Jason got involved in its mentoring program for kids who had been abused and neglected. During a Christopher Closeup interview, she explained that these are children the government deems unable to be rehabilitated. And some of them are just eight years old!
Childhelp’s founders, Sara O’Meara and Yvonne Fedderson, refused to give up on these kids because they believed God made us all “a new creation” and that redemption was possible. With love and therapy, notes Lilley, “these kids go on to become teachers and senators and amazing people.”
Lilley learned that high percentages of children who have gone through foster care eventually wind up as trafficking victims, prisoners, or homeless because of bad experiences. In order to be a light in the darkness to these kids, she and Jason became foster parents themselves. In 2016, the couple welcomed a baby boy into their home, and they have become vocal advocates for foster parenting and adoption.
You have received a spirit of adoption. (Romans 8:15)
Guide loving, responsible adults to welcome children into their families, Father.
A Special Valentine
When Rev. Greg Asimakoupoulos attended the Sunday service at One Church Wheaton in Illinois in February 2018, he met 111-year-old Merle Phillips. Because of her friendly smile, the two started talking, and Rev. Greg learned about some of the joy and sadness she’d faced in her life.
Writing in the Daily Herald, he noted that Merle had met Leonard, the “love of her life,” in 1937, and he “proposed on Valentine's Day by presenting her with an original poem...Every Valentine's Day, Leonard created a homemade card, something Merle looked forward to.” She kept them all in a scrapbook.
After 30 years of marriage, Leonard died of leukemia. Heartbroken, Merle thought she would never get another special Valentine again. But as she was going through his papers, she discovered that he had written her one final Valentine, the memory of which still brings tears to her eyes.
Merle never got married again, believing she already had the truest of loves. But Rev. Greg sent her his own Valentine that year, as a way to honor the love story she and Leonard shared.
Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:8)
Send Your healing to widows and widowers who miss their spouses, Creator.
Food for Thought
Alyssa Kapasi never thought an issue like world hunger could hit so close to home, until she began volunteering at a nonprofit that matched older students with kids whose parents couldn’t afford to pay for tutors. The 17-year-old noticed that these volunteers brought in sandwiches for their young pupils.
When Kapasi learned they did so because the children didn’t have enough money to buy school lunches, she was determined to do something about it. A senior at Brearley High School in New York, she teamed up with four other classmates to create the “Food For Thought” app.
“The most common way for parents to pay for their child’s lunch is to use an online platform in which they load money to their child’s multipurpose school ID or a lunch debit card,” Kapasi explained to the Good News Network. “Basing our concept off…the current systems, on my platform…parents can add money for their child to use. When they are confirming their payment, they will be asked if they would like to anonymously pay for a $2-3 meal for another child in their community.”
What a simple and delicious way to keep paying it forward!
I was hungry and you gave Me food. (Matthew 25:35)
Jesus, help me to feed someone’s body and soul.
Surgery in the Womb Brings Hope
“Within moments of Baby Boy Royer’s birth at Texas Children’s Hospital, he did what his parents and doctors had eagerly hoped to see: He moved his legs and feet.” So wrote Denise Grady in The New York Times in January 2018.
While moving arms and legs may seem like standard operating procedure for a newborn, this was no ordinary birth. While in utero, the little boy had undergone a minimally invasive experimental surgery to treat a severe form of spina bifida, “in which the tissue that should enclose and protect the spinal column does not form properly.”
“I’ve never seen such a big defect successfully repaired, with the child moving his feet at birth,” said Dr. Larry Hollier, the surgeon-in-chief and chief of plastic surgery. The baby needed just a bit of plastic surgery after birth to close the hole in his back. “It’s unbelievable,” said the doctor.