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...
Black Authors Shine a Light, Part 1
When they were kids growing up in Pittsburgh and Brooklyn, respectively, Kelly Starling Lyons and Torrey Maldonado rarely saw children’s books with characters who looked like them, characters who were African American.
That lack of representation all those years ago planted a seed in them, however. Today, they are both acclaimed authors, shining lights on their culture, past and present, and giving children and young adults characters they can look up to.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Kelly recalled growing up in a family where both reading and storytelling were important. Her grandparents often shared stories from black history that she never heard in school.
The first book she remembers seeing with a black character was Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. She said, “It made an impact on me: the power of seeing yourself and what that does in terms of letting you know that you matter—and your family and your history matters. That planted a seed in me that bloomed into my later becoming a children’s book author.”
We are children of God. (Romans 8:16)
May children have good role models, Creator.
Black Authors Shine a Light, Part 2
Torrey Maldonado grew up in what he calls “a book desert.” The Red Hook Houses in Brooklyn were the largest black housing projects in the United States. They were also a hotbed of crime and drugs.
Torrey, however, was always a “bookish child,” though he couldn’t be so publicly because others would accuse him of being “soft” instead of tough, which is how you needed to be in order to survive in Red Hook.
Torrey’s mom encouraged his love of reading in their home. He never saw any characters who looked like him, though, until his mother gave him the book The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, featuring a young African American boy.
“My mom planted that seed,” said Torrey, “but she also lit a spark in me that grew over time into me realizing, ‘That magic…of our community that’s not showing up in books, I can do that. I can share that magic.’…[Kelly and I] are trying to inspire young kids to grow up to take our place and become the writers that the world needs.”
In your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech. (Titus 2:7-8)
Help me plant seeds that bear good fruit, Lord.
Black Authors Shine a Light, Part 3
Kelly Starling Lyons earned a Christopher Award for her children’s book Tiara’s Hat Parade, which shares the story of an African American girl who tries to revive her mother’s spirits after she’s forced to give up her beloved hat making business.
The book grew out of the fact that hats hold a special place in African American culture, especially in church. Why? Kelly explained, “You have people who work…tough jobs where they’re not able to show their individuality and their style. And also, as a way of being humble, covering your head when you’re going into a house of worship.”
There is an implicit element of faith in Tiara’s Hat Parade, when Tiara prays for her mom to be able to make hats again. God answers that prayer by making Tiara herself the instrument of that happening. Kelly notes that she doesn’t intentionally aim to work God into her stories, but since her faith and family are the two most important things in her life, it usually works out that way. “To me, it was just natural that she’s worried about something, so she takes it to God,” said Kelly.
If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
(1 John 5:14)
Hear my pleas for help, Savior, and guide me to solutions.
Black Authors Shine a Light, Part 4
Torrey Maldonado’s mom instilled him with “mustard seed faith” and inspired the character of the mother in his Christopher Award-winning young adult novel Tight. When Torrey saw trouble in their crime-ridden neighborhood, she advised him to “look for the angels, for the helpers,” he recalled on Christopher Closeup.
She also encouraged him to envision a better future by asking what he wanted to be and do in his life. Torrey said, “I would open up to my mom and tell her these wild dreams. She called them prophecies. She believed God was putting those dreams in me…My mom said, ‘You can do those things. You can go to those places. You could be that person. You just have to have mustard seed faith.’
“Following my mom’s wisdom, I found that biblical wisdom…I applied a little bit of that faith and became the first person in my family to graduate from college. Then, everybody was saying, ‘You can’t publish any books because you don’t know anybody in the book publishing world.’ Now I’m on my third book published, and I’ve got more books coming out.”
If you have faith the size of a mustard seed…nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20)
Grow my mustard seed faith, Messiah.
Black Authors Shine a Light, Part 5
Torrey Maldonado recalled that prayer was looked down on in his tough neighborhood growing up. But he credits his mother with teaching him that all prayers don’t begin with, “Father, grant me…” or a phrase like that.
As an example, he points to a passage from his book Tight, in which the main character, Brian, goes to the store and has to buy food on credit because his family can’t afford to pay cash. Brian sees a young girl looking at him, and he feels like “a broke joke.” As a result, Brian says a prayer, though it begins with the words “I wish,” because young people in those situations simply pray differently, Torrey explained.
Kelly Starling Lyons added, “I love the idea of taking what you’ve survived…and looking for the blessing, the people who are the helpers, the light that shines in your family, the magic that you have and the talents that God has gifted you with…When I grew up…my grandma used to say, ‘You pray with your feet moving.’ It’s prayer plus action. Love is an action word. It’s not just saying it, but it’s showing it and it’s doing it.”
Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. (Ephesians 6:18)
Teach me to pray with my feet moving, Jesus.
A Light in This World Forever
Family and friends always knew that Tallu Schuyler Quinn, the founder of the Nashville Food Project, was special. She was born with a spirit of kindness and generosity, said her loved ones. That spirit remains, despite Quinn’s death from brain cancer at age 42.
Under her leadership, the Project grew from a church kitchen with several volunteers to a multi-service operation that makes hundreds of thousands of meals.
The Tennessean quotes her alma mater as saying: “She built an impressive and impactful program that addresses food insecurity and food sovereignty problems in the greater Nashville area…To know her, was to love her. She was an incredible beam of light.”
One mourner said that many people won’t go to bed hungry today, and for the future, because of Quinn and her work, noting, “Although her candle burned out tonight, she will remain a light in this world forever.”
If you offer your food to the hungry…your light shall
rise in the darkness. (Isaiah 58:10)
Help us, Lord, to appreciate the many ways we can make a
positive difference in life.
It’s certainly unusual to have a person who can’t speak deliver the valedictorian speech at a college graduation ceremony, but there’s no question that Elizabeth Bonker was the perfect choice for this groundbreaking occasion.
Though Bonker has nonverbal autism, her comprehension and intelligence are high. She communicates by typing on a computer and attended Florida’s Rollins College, where she majored in Social Innovation, minored in English, and founded a nonprofit called “Communication 4 All, an organization dedicated to providing communication resources for all non-speakers so that they too can be freed from their silent cage.”
In her speech, delivered via a text-to-speech computer, Bonker said, “Each and every one of us can live a life of service…God gave you a voice. Use it…I leave you today with a quote from Alan Turing, who broke the Nazi encryption code to help win World War II: ‘Sometimes, it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.’ Be those people. Be the light! Fiat lux. Thank you.”
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Help me to use my voice and be a light, Messiah.
Greek Restaurant Prevails in Pandemic
Adan Muñoz had just launched his own Greek restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, when COVID-19 caused economic hardships in the city’s restaurant business. Despite an uncertain future, he remembered what his grandma taught him about generosity. That lesson helped Muñoz’s restaurant survive.
Yia Yia’s Taverna, named in honor of Muñoz’s grandma (“Yia Yia” is Greek for “Grandma”), began providing free meals to the newly unemployed. Muñoz told the Daily News, “People would say, ‘I just lost my job, and I’m applying for government [aid],’ and I’d say, ‘Just sit down, have a glass of wine with me, next time you’ll pay.’”
Online reviews were soon praising the food and Muñoz’s hospitality. Even though they were fighting to keep the restaurant afloat, it was a “sign they loved the food, a sign we were doing something right.”
Those once-virtual customers became in-person regulars, all thanks to Yia Yia’s teachings of generosity.
Their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity. (2 Corinthians 8:2)
Loving Jesus, help us rejoice with a generous spirit.
Education is a Lifelong Companion
English essayist Joseph Addison once described education as “a companion which no misfortune can depress, no crime can destroy, no enemy can alienate, no despotism can enslave.”
“At home,” Addison added, “education is a friend, abroad it is an introduction. In solitude, education is a solace, and in society it is an ornament. It chastens vice and guides virtue.”
These are wise words to consider for young people attending school, but the benefits of education can be applied to individuals of any age. After all, this world is full of God’s wonders that we can better appreciate the more we learn about them. Education can also play a role in lifting people out of poverty or helping them discover their untapped potential.
Perhaps most importantly, education can expose us to different peoples, cultures, and times in history that we’ve never experienced ourselves, but that can contribute to our understanding of the world and human nature. So always take advantage of the benefits of education
An intelligent mind acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. (Proverbs 18:15)
Guide me towards knowledge and wisdom, Holy Spirit.
Doctor Brings Light to Patients, Part 1
Early in his medical career, Dr. Wes Ely worked as a phlebotomist at a nursing home where one of his patients was an unresponsive elderly woman with dementia, who never spoke or indicated she was even aware of her surroundings. During the doctor’s regular visits, he would simply put a tourniquet on her arm and draw blood without acknowledging her in any way.
One day, Dr. Ely noticed that the sun was shining through this woman’s window, directly into her eyes, so he closed the curtain. He was shocked when she then turned to him and said, “Doctor, everything that is light is Jesus Christ.”
That incident had a profound impact on the Catholic doctor’s career and the way he has chosen to practice medicine by focusing on his patients’ physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Dr. Ely shares his views—as well as the life-saving work he has done improving practices in hospital intensive care units—in his Christopher Award-winning book Every Deep-Drawn Breath: A Critical Care Doctor on Healing, Recovery, and Transforming Medicine in the ICU. More tomorrow…
I am the light of the world. (John 8:12)
Light my way through this world, Jesus.
Doctor Brings Light to Patients, Part 2
For some Christopher Award winners, being notified about the recognition is the first they hear of The Christophers’ motto, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” But that was not the case with Dr. Wes Ely, who won for his book Every Deep-Drawn Breath.
Unbeknownst to us, he has lived by that motto since childhood because his mother used to receive the local Catholic newspaper which carried the columns of Father John Catoir, The Christophers’ Director at the time.
The idea of lighting a candle in the darkness was especially important to Dr. Ely during his childhood because his father left their family to pursue a different life. This choice wounded the young Ely, who says he felt “defective” after the abandonment.
His mother, however, countered this idea with one of her own. She wrote on a bookmark, “Wes, Jesus loves you. May you know this, and love and serve Him all the days of your life.” Dr. Ely’s mother put those words on paper, but eventually they came to be written on his heart. More tomorrow…
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God.
(1 John 3:1)
Help me to know and feel Your love for me, Jesus.
Doctor Brings Light to Patients, Part 3
Another impactful experience for Dr. Wes Ely was his work as a farmhand during his high school years. During a Christopher Closeup interview, he recalled, “I was in charge of the pickers, and the pickers were usually migrant workers. They worked for an hourly wage, and their whole life was in these fields. They didn’t have a safety net, and I saw that.”
“These pickers, they would get a cut, that would become an abscess,” he continued. “They would get a toothache, that would become a gap in their smile. I realized that they were, in a sense, silenced in their own life. I [saw] this as a testimonial injustice.”
Around this time, Dr. Ely read Maya Angelou’s memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, in which she addresses the trauma she experienced and how she was silenced as well. That, said Dr. Ely, “made me dive even deeper into this notion that people all around me were suffering and getting hurt. Could it be that maybe there was something I could do from a vocational perspective to help give them a voice and find a way forward? That’s what led me into medicine.” More tomorrow…
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice? (Isaiah 58:6)
Guide me in correcting injustices, Divine Judge.
Doctor Brings Light to Patients, Part 4
Despite his noble intentions, Dr. Wes Ely admits that he often lost sight of his patients’ humanity during the early parts of his career, especially when he became a critical care doctor in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
For instance, it was common practice to intubate ICU patients and put them under deep sedation for days or even weeks at a time, believing this would help them recover. In the early 90s, Dr. Ely noticed that while his patients who underwent this treatment were often cured of their original problems, they wound up developing “acquired dementia, acquired PTSD and depression, and neck down, muscle and nerve disease.”
Dr. Ely sought a solution, which resulted in the A2F bundle safety checklist. He explained, “We’re going to try and get you out of bed [and] walk you, even on the ventilator…give you just enough sedation and pain meds so you’re not suffering…Meanwhile, your brain is being engaged, and so are your legs, arms, and chest wall so that you’re not losing muscle and the neurons aren’t dying.” More tomorrow…
Honor physicians for their services, for the Lord created them. (Sirach 38:1)
Give doctors the wisdom and humility to truly heal, Lord.
Doctor Brings Light to Patients, Part 5
Dr. Wes Ely has developed practices for Intensive Care Units that are greatly improving the quality of patients’ lives once they recover, but he approaches his career with a spiritual mindset, too.
During a Christopher Closeup interview about his Christopher Award-winning book Every Deep-Drawn Breath, he explained, “I was in India, in Kolkata, at Mother Teresa’s Home for the Destitute and Dying, and one of the things that she always said when they asked her, ‘How do you pick up these people? They’re covered in vomit and maggots and flies.’ And she said, ‘I look in their eyes, and I say to myself, ‘This is Jesus Christ.’”
“For a non-Christian, the same thing can happen. You can look in the person’s eyes—whether you’re Muslim, Hindu, atheist, agnostic—and say…‘I am here to serve this entire person.’…I take a spiritual history of my patients and put them in charge…and I ask, ‘Do you have any spiritual values that you want me to know?’” More tomorrow…
Just as you did it to one of the least of these…you did it to Me. (Matthew 25:40)
May I see Your face, Jesus, in all people.
Doctor Brings Light to Patients, Part 6
Dr. Wes Ely has taken part in his patients’ spiritual requests, whether they were religious or atheists. But his Catholic faith played a role when he treated Gian, a fellow doctor who had contracted COVID-19 and wanted to receive the Eucharist.
Since Dr. Ely is a Eucharistic Minister, he was able to bring Gian Holy Communion. Dr. Ely reflected, “As physicians, Gian and I incorporate science into faith, acknowledging that when we ingest the Eucharist, it enters the workings of the cells of our entire body. My faith affirms that consuming the Eucharist helps me become a better servant of God and others…I believe that how we handle ourselves on earth will echo into eternity, and the Eucharist is both our shield and protection during life—and our Viaticum, food for the journey, in dying.
“For Gian, the knowledge that this might be the last time he received the Eucharist—and it was—transformed the…ICU, to a place where he felt safe, loved, and in an eternal relationship with God. It was a humbling experience for me to do that.” More tomorrow…
Whoever eats of this bread will live forever. (John 6:51)
Feed my soul through Holy Communion, Jesus.
Doctor Brings Light to Patients, Part 7
Dr. Wes Ely hopes that people who read his Christopher Award-winning book Every Deep-Drawn Breath find it helpful and enriching on multiple levels. There are social justice aspects to its stories, as well as the idea that “alongside suffering can be joy and love.”
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Dr. Ely also reflected on the ways he lights a metaphorical candle when he endures times of darkness in his life. He concluded, “There’s been a lot of heartache in my family and…with my patients, when I hope that one of them will survive and they don’t. When I hit those moments of darkness, I try to remind myself that my job is to take what comes and find the beauty and the love alongside that sadness and heartache.”
“I have a motto that I keep in the forefront of my mind: V = v. I got this from Maximilian Kolbe. He used to teach the seminarians that the capital V, Voluntas, God’s will, must become my little v, voluntas. In other words, my will is subordinate to God’s will in my life…That’s how I go forward.”
Your will be done. (Matthew 6:10)
Help me conform my will to Yours, Creator.
Controlling Your Inner Pharisee
Estefania Garcia admits that she has an inner “mini Pharisee” that rears its head from time to time, prompting her to feel contemptuous of others who think differently than she does. But then she remembers the judgmental attitudes of the Pharisees in so many New Testament stories, dubbing them “the Mean Girls of Jesus’s time.”
When this happens, writes Garcia at Busted Halo, she recalls Matthew 9:9-13, when the Pharisees ask why Jesus is hanging around sinners. Jesus responds, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”
Garcia observes, “God desires that we show each other the same love and mercy that He shows us all. Showing compassion is more important to Him than any religious ritual or sacrifice…We should all take time to think about what these words really mean: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ How am I practicing mercy right now? Am I letting everyone sit at my table like Jesus did, or am I just being a mean girl?”
I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.
Teach me to be more loving and merciful, Jesus.
Good Samaritan Goes Above and Beyond
It was a morning like any other in Santa Ana, California, for 94-year-old tamale vendor Jose Villa Ochoa. But one casual encounter with 28-year-old Kenia Barragan would change his life—and hers—forever.
After buying a torta (Mexican sandwich) from this gentleman, Kenia stopped to chat with him and learned he sold tamales for a woman who paid him at the end of the day. No one else would hire Ochoa, also known as “Don Joel,” due to his advanced age. Without some employment, like many older people, Don Joel would not be able to survive.
Deeply moved by Ochoa’s story, Barragan shared the details of their meeting on social media, and even petitioned for money to assist him. She ended up raising more than $80,000. Don Joel was moved to tears by Barragan’s generosity.
“I’ve always wanted a purpose in my life,” Barragan told Fox 11 News, “and I wanted to help people…We need to take care of each other. Even if you can’t give money—donate a prayer, give something back, take time to get to know someone.”
Give liberally…the Lord…will bless you.
Lord, may we take care of each other.
The Best and Worst of Us
The King Institute shares some of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s sermons online. One sermon, delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, discussed the topic of loving our enemies. Here is an excerpt:
“Within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we come to see this, we take a different attitude toward individuals. The person who hates you most has some good in him; even the nation that hates you most has some good in it; even the race that hates you most has some good in it.
“And when you come to the point that you look in the face of every man and see deep down within him what religion calls ‘the image of God,’ you begin to love him in spite of. No matter what he does, you see God’s image there. There is an element of goodness that he can never slough off. Discover the element of good in your enemy. And as you seek to hate him, find the center of goodness and place your attention there and you will take a new attitude.”
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
Help me to see the best in people, even my enemies, Lord.
The Road to Happiness, Part 1
St. Philip Neri once said, “Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life; wherefore the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits.” Yet, happiness can be an elusive disposition, and many today are struggling to find joy in their daily lives.
Advice columnist Helen Dennis recently fielded a question on this topic. The questioner expressed a lack of “contentment or happiness” and even guilt for this concern, given the amount of suffering others are enduring.
Dennis pointed out that concern over one’s own mental and spiritual well-being should not be discounted. We need to be at our best so we can help others through their struggles. And that very dynamic of building ourselves up for the purpose of helping others is at the heart of the ultimate answer to finding happiness.
Aside from basic issues of self-care, such as getting enough sleep and exercise, Dennis suggests being more social, expressing gratitude, being in the moment, and practicing kindness. More tomorrow…
Anxiety weighs down the human heart, but a good word cheers it up. (Proverbs 12:25)
Lead me toward greater contentment and happiness, Lord.
The Road to Happiness, Part 2
In her advice column, responding to a question about finding happiness, Helen Dennis wrote, “People who are the happiest report focusing on the needs of others. They donate money, volunteer, or just do random acts of kindness. Of equal importance is being kind to ourselves. We need to remember that most often we do the best we can. Harsh self-criticism and unrealistic expectations do not lead to happiness.”
We can see this practical advice pointing back to the deeper spiritual reality of why we must attend to our own well-being. Every one of us has a purpose in life that goes beyond temporal happiness, but we need to keep our spirits up if we are to attain all that God wants of us in this world.
In short, we owe it to ourselves to be joyful in order to better serve God and others. Living in the moment is a great way to express gratitude because it demonstrates our trust that God is looking out for the bigger picture. And being more social both lifts our own spirits and enables us to do the same for others so we can practice kindness towards them.
We are workers with you for your joy, because you stand firm in the faith. (2 Corinthians 1:24)
May Your love lead me to joy, Father.
Learning from Poverty
Mrs. Patricia Zotti and her family knew what it was like to be poor. They lost their money when illness and unemployment struck.
When they got back on their feet, one of the first things they did was join a family-to-family program to help the poorest of the poor.
Poverty, Mrs. Zotti said, had awakened in her family an urge to give. Once you have been poor, she added, you find you can identify with the paralyzing despair of others.
Search for ways to identify with the poor. Perhaps it would help to remind yourself that we are all in need of support and encouragement—and that we all live precariously in many ways.
Finances, health, jobs, and family situations can change abruptly. We need one another.
The compassion of human beings is for their neighbors,
but the compassion of the Lord is for every living thing.
Make me compassionate, Merciful Lord.
Whether or Not to Have a Child
Writer John Ficarra admits he was the type of person who always saw “the glass as half full—of poison.” His pessimism especially came into play when his wife told him she would like to have a baby. Ficarra came up with a list of negatives, ranging from the costs of raising a child to “the miserable state of the world in general,” he recalled in New York’s Daily News.
He then went to talk to his friend, Paul Peter Porges, a European cartoonist with a wife and two grown daughters. Ficarra explained his reasoning to Porges, questioning whether it would be wise to bring a child into this troubled world.
Porges looked at him with a bemused smile, prompting Ficarra to remember that his friend was born in Vienna in 1927 and spent much of his childhood escaping the Nazis. Yet here he was, decades later, living a life filled with purpose and love.
Ficarra’s daughter was born less than a year later. He writes, “The nurse placed her in my arms and, to my great surprise, the most wonderful thing happened: I fell instantly and hopelessly in love.”
Every perfect gift is from above. (James 1:17)
Help couples welcome children into their lives, Father.
The 84-Year-Old Graduate
At age 84, Betty Sandison is living proof that you’re never too old to make a lifelong dream come true. In 1955, when she was 17, Betty left her small town of Renville, Minnesota, to attend the University of Michigan. The first in her family to go to college, she earned her license to become a nurse within the year.
Meeting her future husband, getting married, and raising two daughters, however, paused her academic studies. Nearly seven decades later, Betty found herself inspired by a conversation with friends to return to college and complete her degree. She eventually reenrolled at the University of Michigan.
Even the onset of COVID and the overwhelming nuances of current technology did not deter her from earning her Bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies. Betty described the ultimate fulfillment of her dream as a feeling of “pure, pure, joy” and “satisfaction.”
“You need to do what you want to do, or what your goals are,” she told WCCO. “Don’t let anybody stop you.”
One who began a good work…will bring it to completion. (Philippians 1:6)
Messiah, may we never stop pursuing our lifelong dreams.
Kicking the Stigma
It is time to leave behind the negative perceptions around mental illness. That’s why it was great to hear about the Indianapolis Colts’ initiative called “Kicking the Stigma.” It’s an effort to destigmatize mental illness so that people understand how common it is to struggle with these issues.
In an interview with Rich Eisen, Colts owner Jim Irsay said, “The stigma that’s attached with mental illness literally kills people and destroys families.” Irsay goes on to ask everyone to consider how destructive it would be for a stigma to be attached to seeking treatment for any other disease.
Some facts: one in five adults in the U.S. experience mental illness each year; one in six youths, ages 6 to 17, experience a mental health disorder each year; and suicide is the second leading cause of death among those ages 10 to 34. This does not have to be the case. Let us cultivate an atmosphere where people feel comfortable talking about their problems and seeking help.
How does God’s love abide in anyone who…sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? (1 John 3:17)
Lord, may I be a healing presence for those with mental illness.
How We View the Disabled
Before her daughter Penny was born with Down syndrome, Amy Julia Becker, author of To Be Made Well, believed that “disability was a problem in need of fixing,” she recalled on Time.com. But as she got to know and love Penny—and came to study Scripture more—she discovered that the word used in stories of Jesus’s healings was “sozo,” which reflected a restoration of “our bodies, minds, emotions, and souls.”
Jesus’s restorations also involved reintegrating the disabled into the “fabric of social life,” leading Becker to see the problems of the disabled as less about their physical infirmities and more about being rejected by their communities. She notes this problem still exists today, citing a report that says special needs children are often excluded at their churches.
Becker explains, “[Jesus] casts a vision in Luke 14 of the ones who will celebrate together at God’s table: the blind, the physically disabled, the poor. Their bodies are not changed before they are welcomed at the feast. They come to the banquet as they are. The healing comes through belonging, through celebrating in God’s presence together.”
He restores my soul. (Psalm 23:3)
May I be a welcoming presence to the disabled, Lord.
Father Marcel Uwineza, a Jesuit priest from Rwanda, was only 14 years old when his family was murdered in 1994 by people who were acquaintances. Living through the Rwandan genocide took a severe toll on his faith and his worldview.
In an interview published on Aleteia, he commented, “For three years I didn’t set foot in a church. Even those who called themselves ‘men of God’ had abandoned us.”
An uncle invited Marcel to come back to church, and through that experience he discovered personal healing and, eventually, his vocation. After he was ordained, he returned to his village to pray at the graves of his family members. There, one of the murderers of his brothers approached him and got down on his knees, asking for forgiveness.
Father Marcel recalled, “Before I told him I forgave him, I saw him as nothing but a monster. But when I recognized his vulnerability and the sincerity of his request for forgiveness, that man became a person again…Forgiveness turned a challenge into an opportunity. My test turned into a testimony.”
To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness.
May I mirror Your mercy, Lord Jesus.
A Light to a Lost Soul, Part 1
Randi Emmans has a heart for the homeless—and being that she lives in Los Angeles, where homelessness is a major crisis, she finds plenty of opportunities to live up to her ideals.
During an interview on The Kelly Clarkson Show, Randi explained that she makes it a point to acknowledge the homeless and say hello to them. And during the holiday season, she runs a charity called Operation Backpack, in which she gives backpacks full of essentials to those living on the streets.
Outside Randi’s apartment building, there was a particular homeless man named Pedro, who always said “Good morning” to her. One night, as she went out to walk her dog, she heard Pedro talking to himself, but directing his words at humanity in general. He said, “I’m a human. Look at me. Talk to me, don’t just stare at me. Don’t laugh at me. You’ll see I’m an educated man if you talk to me.”
Randi’s heart broke at hearing this, so she contacted her boyfriend, John Suazo, to come and talk with Pedro, too. Together, they would change Pedro’s life. More tomorrow…
Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing.
Help me look at the homeless with new eyes, Father.
A Light to a Lost Soul, Part 2
When John Suazo joined his girlfriend, Randi Emmans, in talking with Pedro, the homeless man outside her apartment building, he was struck by Pedro’s kindness, gentleness, and intelligence. Pedro was originally from Charleston, South Carolina, but had moved to Los Angeles, where he fell into a life of drug and alcohol addictions and ended up homeless.
Pedro revealed to Randi and John that he was exhausted from living on the streets. The couple asked how they could help him. As recalled on The Kelly Clarkson Show, Pedro said he would love to reconnect with his family, whom he hadn’t been in touch with in 20 years.
Randi and John collected as much information from Pedro as he could remember about his family. Then, they conducted extensive online research and started making phone calls to follow up on their leads. After hitting many dead ends, John finally connected with a man named Pierre, who exclaimed, “That’s my nephew! We’ve been looking for him for 20 years, praying every day. What do we do now?” More tomorrow…
I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed.
May I be a guiding light to a lost soul, Jesus.
A Light to a Lost Soul, Part 3
After sharing Pedro’s story on social media, Randi Emmans and John Suazo collected more than $6,000, which allowed them to put Pedro up in a hotel for a few nights, as well as fly his uncle Pierre and cousin Mia to Los Angeles to get him. Mia told the Washington Post, “Randi and John are godsent people. I don’t even have words for the heart they have to stop and speak to him and then find us.”
Finally, in 2020, Pedro reunited with his family, with numerous tears of joy being shed. He returned to Charleston with them and has now moved to Atlanta, where he enrolled in Georgia State University to pursue a psychology degree. He hopes to become a counselor that helps other people who might be in situations similar to what he endured.
As Pedro concluded on The Kelly Clarkson Show, “Diamonds are dug up out of mud…Some of the most beautiful things that this earth cherishes, they come from mud, from dirty soil. I was that diamond in the rough, and John and Randi found me. So hopefully someone else can get that opportunity as well.”
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will
be repaid in full. (Proverbs 19:17)
Help me see the potential of diamonds in the rough, Lord.
The Nursing Home Card Project
After her mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Rachel Bennett of New York City upended her life to care for her. Eventually, she had no choice but to move her into a nursing home, where she died in 2016. During her visits, however, Rachel always brought her mom colorful handmade cards with messages that made her smile.
As reported by Sami Roberts of OurTownNY.com, that experience gave Rachel insight into the loneliness experienced by many seniors in nursing homes. So, when the COVID-19 pandemic isolated the elderly there even more, Rachel created the Nursing Home Card Project. She reached out to family and friends, and together they sent hundreds of cards with warm, loving sentiments to one facility.
The project continues to grow, and Rachel hopes that churches and synagogues will also get involved. She concludes, “We underestimate what a small token of love can give…We will probably all get sick at some point. I think that it’s important to remember that everything we do, I think, also will be done to us. So just be the person that we’d want to be around us.”
Honor your father and your mother. (Exodus 20:12)
Increase my compassion for the elderly, Jesus.
Do you ever struggle with feelings of self-doubt and negativity? Or maybe you have a hard time accepting that you are special to God? Joy Marie Clarkson, author of the book Aggressively Happy, has a message for you.
Writing on her Twitter account, Clarkson said, “Let me tell you the truest thing about you: before you did anything useful, or said anything clever, or helped anyone, you were loved. After you failed, or disappointed people, or did something stupid, you were loved.
“You aren’t loved because of qualities that might disappear with age. You aren’t even loved on the basis of what you will become someday. You are loved completely, eternally, and right now.
“Fundamentally, who you are is a beloved child of God. If someone asked, ‘Who are you?’ the truest answer you could give is, ‘I’m a beloved of God.’”
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patie nce. (Colossians 3:12)
Remind me that I am loved by You, Lord.
Make the New Year a Work of Art
“What’s the use of making New Year’s resolutions? A year from now, I might be starting all over again after failing to keep the resolutions I do make.”
Are you inclined to ask yourself this question? It’s true that many New Year’s resolutions are thrown out with the Christmas tree. Our performance often falls short of our hopes to conquer our vices, control our habits, make changes in our lives. Sometimes this is because we set goals for ourselves that are too high, or we set too many goals.
Unrealistic resolutions only bring discouragement, so try a different approach this year—and couple it with prayer. Here’s a prayer that might help when the going gets rough:
“Lord, teach me not to give up. Give me more trust in You. Remind me that You never give up on me, that You trusted me enough to make me and give me freedom. I fall short of Your hopes, I know. My actions fail to measure up to what You have put within me to do. And yet, every January, You give me a New Year and say, ‘Try to make it a work of art.’”
For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible. (Mark 10:27)
Jesus, help me to set reasonable goals for myself.
Bishop Robert Deeley of the Diocese of Portland, Maine, shared a Christmas reflection about the light of Christ on his Twitter feed. Here are some excerpts:
“A light in the window at Christmas is said to be an Irish custom. The candle, placed in the front window of a home, becomes an invitation to the Holy Family passing by seeking a place to stay that this home would welcome them.
“The candle is a welcome to the Christ who is coming into the world…[and] also a reminder that He who is being welcomed is Himself the light of the world. The candle welcomes all, family, friends, and strangers. Christ, the Light, comes for all.”
“Christmas reminds us of God’s abundant love for us in Jesus. May we also remember to offer help to those in need in our community. That is, after all, the true meaning of Christmas: carrying His light into the world through our care for one another…May we welcome Christ with lighted candles, with hearts full of joy and generosity.”
I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me should not remain in the darkness. (John 12:46)
May I follow Your divine light wherever it leads, Jesus.
A Christmas Homily Like No Other
On Christmas Eve 2020, Deacon Greg Kandra took part in the Mass at his parish church in Queens, New York. It had been the year of COVID-19, the year of death and isolation, so the message of Christmas was especially needed. The pastor’s homily was moving and eloquent, wrote Deacon Greg on his The Deacon’s Bench blog—yet the best homily came later.
As Mass ended, the choir began singing “Silent Night.” Deacon Greg observed, “[Parishioners] stood in the pews and listened. Some bowed their heads. Some sang along. Others looked up and around, in wonder and gratitude. They took it all in: the soaring music, the glittering lights, the flowers overflowing from the sanctuary, the infant in the manger.”
When the choir finished, attendees left feeling a spirit of joy, beauty, and community they had missed—or maybe taken for granted during better times. Deacon Greg concluded, “Experiencing that was, for me, a Christmas homily like no other—a living, breathing reminder of the true gift of Christmas. The people who walked in darkness had seen a great light.”
If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. (1 John 1:7)
Open my heart to the light of Your blessed Nativity, Jesus.