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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...

December 4

An Irish Monk’s Simple Lesson, Part 3

August Turak got the message that God was sending him. He discovered the way to fill the “soul hole” in himself was by practicing selflessness and love. He went on to study theology and write an essay about his experience with Brother John for a contest. That essay won $100,000 and became an illustrated book called Brother John.

During a Christopher Closeup interview, Turak said he shared the story of Brother John as a way to shine light in the darkness: “Most people these days are relativistic. We’re all supposed to find our own purpose. I say, we all have the same purpose…We’re all put here for the exact same reason: to be transformed from selfish people to selfless people.

“We may do that as a doctor or lawyer or parent or teacher or whatever…But we all have the same purpose…The paradoxical thing is: we think we want self-indulgence, but we’re actually happiest when we’re sacrificing, when we’re giving ourselves away for something worth giving ourselves away to. We’re all looking for a mission that’s bigger than ourselves.”

Make every effort to support your faith with goodness. (2 Peter 1:5)

Help me choose selflessness over selfishness, Messiah.

December 3

An Irish Monk’s Simple Lesson, Part 2

A few days after the encounter with the man in the gym, August Turak heard about Mepkin Abbey, a Trappist Monastery and working farm in Berkeley County, South Carolina. He traveled to the Abbey for several weekends of prayer and meditation, and found the monks’ kindness and selflessness made a big impression on him. It was Christmas Eve, however, when he had a life-changing encounter with Brother John.

Following Mass and a small party, Turak headed to his room in a separate building. He heard raindrops hitting the roof and realized he’d forgotten his umbrella. Now, he would get drenched. As he approached the doorway, Turak saw 60-year-old Irish monk Brother John standing there in his thin habit with an umbrella, walking people who’d forgotten theirs to their rooms.

For the next week, Turak couldn’t get Brother John’s simple gesture of kindness out of his head. The monk had anticipated the needs of others and endured discomfort in order to help them. This, Turak realized, was love. And it came effortlessly to this monk, grounded in his love of God and man.

More tomorrow…

Always seek to do good. (1 Thessalonians 5:15)

Abba, ground me in a fervent love of You and all humanity.

December 2

An Irish Monk’s Simple Lesson, Part 1

August Turak jumped out of an airplane. He had a parachute on, of course, but his skydiving attempt resulted in a smashed ankle. As he spent a week in the hospital, he began experiencing panic attacks and a deep depression because he was facing his own mortality for the first time.

This reaction was ironic since Turak made his living coaching college students on spirituality and finding meaning in their lives. Yet here he was, the teacher who offered advice to others, but found himself empty.

Though the panic attacks stopped, the emptiness continued to torture Turak. At the gym one day, a man that he recognized commented to him, “Not feeling too good, are you, Aug? It feels like your heart’s broken, don’t it?”

Turak was shocked that this relative stranger knew how he was feeling. The man continued, “In AA, we call it the Soul Hole. You’re in for two years of so much hell, you’re going to be wishing you was never born. But you’re going to come through the other side. When you do, you’re going to love yourself a whole lot more than you do right now.” More tomorrow…

I am allotted months of emptiness. (Job 7:3)

Guide me from emptiness to fulfillment, Savior.

December 1

A Wanderer Finds a Home

Chris Barrington had no place to call home anymore. The 30-year-old with special needs, who functions at the level of a six-year-old, needed his father to care for him. But his father was dying of leukemia and could no longer handle the job.

For two days, Chris wandered through Waco, Texas, before police officers spotted him and tried to help. Chris couldn’t tell them the names of any immediate family. The only name he recalled was Mrs. Michell Girard, his former junior high teacher.

Girard told KWTX that she asked officials, “What happens if I don’t take him? Will he get put in a group home?” They answered, “No, he’ll go into an institution.” Her response to that was, “Not on my watch he’s not.”

Since then, the kindhearted Girard has welcomed Chris into her home and applied for legal guardianship. She also threw him his first ever birthday party. Girard said, “Everyone who meets him just falls in love. He is so funny and appreciative of everything, especially since he has been denied so many opportunities...He deserves a good life.”

Whoever welcomes this child in My name welcomes Me. (Luke 9:48)

Guide me to make selfless, loving choices, Father.

November 30

Generosity of the “Everyday Santa”

John Fling of Columbia, South Carolina, passed away in 2007. But during his life he was known as the “Everyday Santa.”

Fling used most of the small salary he earned at a car dealership to tend to the needs of many elderly, blind, and disabled people in the city.

In addition to his full time job, Fling spent up to 40 hours a week serving others. He would buy and deliver groceries to some, and offer money to others. He read mail to the blind and escorted them while they shopped.

His generosity knew no limits. Three different times he signed over the ownership of his own car to someone who desperately needed a means of transportation.

Becoming a Good Samaritan requires sacrifice. But often it’s just plain fun. It makes life meaningful to be a kind, giving person day after day. When was the last time you gave up your convenience to help a stranger?

We must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for He Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

May I do my best to help others, Jesus.

November 29

Advent’s Anticipation

To begin Advent with the right mindset, Catholic Charities of Rockville Centre, New York, shared the following reflection: “Advent is Latin for ‘coming’...From the earliest days of our Church, it was meant to be a time of expectant preparation and waiting. These days, most folks try to avoid waiting at all costs. We yearn to rush right through things...Yet, the Advent wait for the Christ child is precisely what fills our hearts and brings us His peace. This is not something to avoid, but rather to embrace.

“Oftentimes, waiting is made easier when it’s done in community with others. Just think, how many lines have been made less tedious by passing time in pleasant conversation with another?... Scripture tells us that even the Magi who looked for the infant king had to patiently search the night skies for weeks to find Him and, when they did, He wasn’t on a throne surrounded by wealth. He was in a cave reserved for livestock.

“So this Christmas, may we look up and around like the Magi in search of our Lord. And may you and your loved ones enjoy the wait and find our Savior in the ordinary places all around you.”  

They were all waiting for Him. (Luke 8:40)

Fill my heart with longing for You, Messiah.

November 28

Teacher Finds Joy in the Classroom                    

A bulletin board at the front of teacher Grace Chengery’s first grade classroom at St. Columba School in Oxon Hill, Maryland, reads, “For the greater glory of God.” The bulletin board at the back says, “Go forth and set the world on fire.”

In the spring of 2019, the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. presented Grace with a Golden Apple Award, which recognizes a teacher’s professionalism, excellence, leadership, and commitment to Catholic values. “Grace brings Jesus to everybody, every day,” said one colleague. “In her actions, in her words, she shows nothing but love.”

Grace told Washington’s Catholic Standard newspaper, “Every day I get the joy of bringing my kids around the reading table and teaching them how to read...We also build the foundation of religion in the classroom, so we spend a lot of time talking about being saints and how we are saints in the making...There is a lot of joy in our school. And because we get to celebrate Mass and talk about God, how could there not be joy in what we do?”

Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding. (Proverbs 3:13)

Lord, guide our educators to teach Your ways.

November 27

After the Fire

During the 1990s, Dawn Foster grew up in a Catholic family in Wales that didn’t practice its faith or even think much about God. But her view of religion changed in 2017 after the fire in London’s Grenfell Tower killed more than 70 people. She spent hours talking to survivors and noted that churches opened their doors to help the victims.

Writing in The Guardian, Foster said, “One evening, speaking to a woman who was close to tears because her friend was missing, she grasped the pendant around my neck – a Miraculous Medal I had been given by a family member – then fixed her eyes on me and asked me to pray for her. I was sorely out of practice but not remotely in a position to say no.”

“Offering a prayer for someone seemed materially inconsequential but weighted with significance: it is easy to give money without any thought...but a prayer genuinely prioritizes someone else over your own emotions.”

That prayer led Foster to start practicing her faith. By attending church every Sunday, she gained a sense of being part of something greater than herself.

My peace I give to you. (John 14:27)

Help me find peace in You, Jesus.

November 26

Searching for Blessings

“I know I should thank God for my blessings every day, but sometimes I don’t feel thankful.” So writes author and Patheos blogger Gary Zimak with refreshing honesty. So how does he deal with these moments? With a little help from the short, simple suggestions in an article by Andrew Hess called “100 Remarkable Reasons to Thank God.” Here are a few:

■ “Thank God for knitting you together in your mother’s womb.”

■ “If you were born to parents who loved you and provided for you, thank God (and thank them).”

■ “Thank God for all the times He has protected you when you were unaware.”

■ “For every automatic bodily process keeping you alive at this very moment, thank God.”

■ “If you’ve grown in faith, grace, holiness, joy, love, hope, wisdom or obedience, thank God.”

■ “If you’ve never woken up in a war zone, thank God.”

■ “If you have people with whom you enjoy spending your free time, thank God.”

With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. (Colossians 3:16)

May I find something to be grateful for every day, Lord.

November 25

A Sermon of Gratitude 

Pastor Jason Micheli stood on the pulpit of Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, to deliver the Thanksgiving sermon. It had been a year since he was diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer and had last spoken to the congregation. Micheli’s cancer was “controlled,” but this husband and father of two young children would need chemo every two months for the remainder of his life.

Micheli told his congregation, “You’ve fed us and prayed for us and with us. You’ve helped us with my medical bills and you’ve sat with me in the hospital.” Micheli then noted that it was much easier for him to give others help than to accept it himself. But this experience taught him about gratitude.

Strength and healing, he discovered, came through community. And gratitude is not about “keeping score,” but about relationships. As reported in Guideposts, Micheli preached, “We can endure all things because you’ve been with us...It was kind of you to share my nightmare. It was kind of you to make my cancer—our cancer—yours too.”

You are those who have stood by Me in My trials. (Luke 22:28)

Lord, help me through my many trials with a grateful heart.

November 24

Send in the Clowns

Some people wake up Thanksgiving morning ready to put a smile on people’s faces by cooking a scrumptious meal of turkey with all the trimmings. But for the past several years, Rachel Zampino puts a smile on people’s faces in a different way: she serves as a clown in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Zampino works as a law clerk in Mineola, New York, but when a friend of hers from Macy’s asked if she wanted to join his clown team, she jumped at the chance – and even attended a special school for training.

As reported by Newsday, “Zampino learned the tricks of the trade at Macy’s Clown U — and hung the diploma on her office wall next to her Harvard University law degree.”

Now, she loves interacting with spectators along the parade route. “I always like to pick out somebody who’s not smiling or looks disengaged,” Zampino said. “I wave or smile at them. To see them pick up and start to glow is a cool feeling.”

He lifts up the soul and makes the eyes sparkle; He gives health and life and blessing. (Sirach 34:20)

Move me toward being the kind of person who lifts other’s spirits, Holy Spirit.

November 23

A Wish Upon a Star

In November 2018, an 11-year-old girl in foster care saw a star falling from the sky and did what young kids do at that sight: make a wish. In her case, it was to be adopted, along with her six siblings. Happily, that wish came true a few days later.

As reported by Yahoo, Terri and Michael Hawthorn of Hot Springs, Arkansas, had been foster parents to many children over several years and even adopted two of them in April 2018. The opportunity then arose to adopt the seven siblings, ranging in age from eight to 15, some of whom had previously lived with them. These brothers and sisters were bounced around the foster care system for years because their parents were drug addicts.

Terri and Michael grew to love them all, so they wanted to make it official. They shared the adoption news with the kids at church on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The siblings were overjoyed – and so were their new parents! Terri told WFTV, “This is a blessing, they are a blessing. Every day these kids wake up and they are giggling and they are happy...Lots of prayer and love is what made this possible.”

Whoever welcomes one such child in My name welcomes Me. (Matthew 18:5)

Lead abandoned children to loving homes, Father.

November 22

I Serve a Savior

Country music superstar Josh Turner is known for his distinctive baritone voice. But around 26 years ago, in the town of Hannah, South Carolina, he was just a teenager who felt a passion for country music and prayed to God for guidance because he wanted to pursue it as a career.

During a Christopher Closeup interview about his album I Serve a Savior, he recalled God giving him this answer: “If this is what you want, I’ll give it to you as long as you trust Me.”

That trust became difficult when Josh developed a lesion on his right vocal cord that caused him to lose his voice. He couldn’t understand why God would do this to him.

But, said Josh, “I kept thinking back to [God] saying, ‘Hey, just trust Me.’ So, that’s what I did. I endured the hardship part of it, and I did the work that was required of me, and it actually became a blessing in disguise. Once I went through everything at the Vanderbilt Voice Clinic in Nashville, and the Classical vocal training, and going to Belmont University, I [noticed] that my voice kept getting stronger and richer. Had I not gone through that time, I would never have the voice that I have now.”

When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. (Psalm 56:3)

Help me trust Your wisdom for my life, Holy Spirit.

November 21

Loaves and Fishes

“Loaves and Fishes” is an organization started by Kathleen DiChiara many years ago to relieve hunger among the unseen poor in the affluent town of Summit, New Jersey. One of those receiving help was a mother who had nothing but a box of cereal to feed her three children for three days. Others were unemployed or elderly people living on a fixed income.

DiChiara got the idea when a parish priest suggested that people give up meat on Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent to protest high meat prices. She took it a step further by asking her friends to use the money saved to provide canned goods to the needy in their own community.

Each week parishioners brought canned goods to Sunday services. Hundreds of families in Summit and surrounding communities benefited. Many came back a few months later with bags of groceries for other people.

Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fishes was a mystery of love. We carry on His work when we search out those in need.

Taking the five loaves and the two fish He looked up to Heaven...and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were filled. (Luke 9:16-17)

Help me search out those in need, Jesus.

November 19

Let Your Light Shine On            

Depression nearly caused young actress Letitia Wright to give up on acting, but it was through her faith in God that she rose out of the darkness and toward her dreams.

When 25-year-old Wright won a BAFTA Rising Star Award on Sunday February 10, 2019, she took the opportunity to give a voice to those suffering with depression. As reported by BBC.com, Wright said during her acceptance speech, “I want to encourage young people. You don’t have to be young, you can be any age, but I want to encourage you – anyone going through a hard time...God made you, and you’re important.”

Backstage, the Black Panther star further added that this is a tough industry and she is grateful she had the faith to never give up. Wright’s speech was an opportunity to remind anyone dealing with depression to “let their light shine on.”

“I was struggling with stuff before that many people in the industry are struggling with and are hiding away from,” Wright said, “and that was my opportunity to say, ‘I see you and I understand what you’re going through.’”

God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:4)

Lord, may my light shine on and overpower the darkness.

November 18

The 50 State Kindness Challenge

At a fast food restaurant in Hollywood, Father Jim Sichko stands at the drive-thru window buying lunch for everyone who stops by. He has also spent time topping off people’s gas tanks at a gas station in Kentucky. Next, he is on his way to Arizona to continue with his mission: spreading kindness across all 50 states in the U.S.

Father Sichko is one of 700 papal missionaries of mercy from around the world, appointed by Pope Francis as part of the “Jubilee of Mercy” that began in December 2015 (but currently has no end date). The pope’s simple mandate was, “Go forth and do good deeds.”

“My approach,” Sichko told the Associated Press, “is not so much speaking about the word of God, although I do a lot of that, but showing the presence of God through acts of kindness.”

He says the first question people ask is “Why are you doing this?”

Father Sichko’s response: “My question is…why not?”

This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, He is my brother. (Genesis 20:13)

God, give my love strength to extend across all boundaries.

November 17

Sportscaster Gives Praise to God

Sportscaster James Brown has been a regular part of the lives of football fans for many years, through his work at FOX and CBS. But did you know that he is also an ordained minister?

As reported in a recent Washington Post profile, Brown grew up in Northeast Washington, D.C., and played basketball for DeMatha Catholic High School. Following college, he was a salesman at Xerox when he took a freelance job as a broadcaster, calling Washington Bullets games.

Though Brown has grown into a major talent, he hasn’t let success go to his head. As he arrived at the Acela Express to take him to work, he thanked the men who helped him with his bags by saying, “God bless you, gentlemen.” And during the train ride, he meditated quietly on the line from Psalm 33, “We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.” Brown notes, “It’s how I give thanks and center myself.”

Thanksgiving is a core piece of Brown’s faith because he knows that both professionally and personally, he’s “been blessed over and over again.”

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
(Psalm 34:1)

Keep me grounded in thanksgiving, Father.

November 16

Through the Eyes of a Child

Having a child can teach adults to look at their surroundings with a sense of wonder they might have lost through the years. That was certainly true of ABC News correspondent Linsey Davis. She admitted on Christopher Closeup that the “daily grind of everyday life” left her somewhat jaded and blind to “the rainbow, the sunset, and the grandeur, beauty, and intricacy [of nature].”

One day, when it was snowing heavily, Linsey looked at the streets and lamented how much trouble getting to work would be. Then she observed her young son “holding out his little hand with his gloves on and marveling at each snowflake.”

That sight changed Linsey’s perspective. She said, “I really did decompress and take the time to talk to him about how no snowflake is alike and they’re all different. Just the uniqueness of that and of God’s creation. It’s so rare, I think, that as adults we take that step back and appreciate life with the eyes of a child, to see life with the same excitement.”

Their children become a blessing. (Proverbs 37:26)

When I feel jaded, Holy Spirit, remind me to appreciate the wonders of this world as if I am still a child.

November 15

Paying Sam Back

For many years, one of the hottest attractions on late-night radio in the East was a man whose voice was ordinary enough to belong to your Uncle Horace, and whose advice covered everything from marriage problems to home repairs.

The late Bernard Meltzer of WOR had a warm, blunt, and spiritual approach to life’s problems. Those who called him for advice often waited an hour to get on the air.

Meltzer, who had experience in 12 different fields, said his career at the City College of New York was saved by a $100 book loan he accepted in desperation from an unsuccessful lawyer named Sam. The lawyer told him: “I want no interest. You’re not going to pay me back in money. But when anybody needs help, you’re going to help him, and you’re going to say to yourself, ‘I’m paying Sam back.’”

Almost 200,000 people heard Bernard Meltzer sign off each night with: “May the light of the Lord guide you, and keep you in the palm of His hand. God keep you. Good night.”

Meltzer definitely paid Sam back.

Do not let your hand be stretched out to receive and closed when it is time to give. (Sirach 4:31)

Father, help us to be ready listeners, always willing to help.

November 14

Long Name Changed His Life

What’s in a name? Plenty, if it happens to be Oliver William Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes.

Shortly after World War II, Oliver was a subaltern aboard a British troopship. He was mistakenly awarded a three-berth cabin—one for each of his surnames. He went out to find other people to share his cabin with.

One of his cabin mates turned out to be an Anglican Franciscan friar. Their conversations changed young Oliver’s life. He entered the church, took holy orders, and eventually became the Dean of Lincoln Cathedral in Sydney, Australia.

“The name’s a help, really,” the soft-spoken English cleric claimed. “Some people think it’s a joke and become inquisitive. This means you can talk to people.”

Whatever the length or origin of the name we bear, each of us has a role in life that God has assigned to us alone. Let us each live up to that responsibility.

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.

(Proverbs 22:1)

Help us, Lord, in our struggles to establish ourselves as individuals.

November 12

Johnny-on-the-Spot

Charles Dasch was a hard man to keep down. In 1913, as a teenager in Baltimore, he went to work to support his mother, five sisters and brother. He lost an arm on the job in a piece of machinery he had been assigned to oil. Though given a small cash settlement, Dasch lost his job.

When local authorities threatened to break up the penniless family, the youth went to Annapolis to complain to the governor. The visit gained him publicity, kept the family together, and brought in public donations.

At 21, Dasch rescued a man from a car that had gone off a dock into the water. In Philadelphia in the 1930s, he evacuated dozens of people from a deadly hotel fire in which he was overcome by smoke. Later, he became a crusader for the rights of the elderly in Woodbury, New Jersey, where he ran for public office at age 72.

Do opportunities make people—or do people make opportunities? Charles Dasch would have made his mark no matter where he lived. Ask God to make you a self-starter.

I am confident...that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion. (Philippians 1:6)

Jesus, inspire us to be people who can’t be kept down.

November 11

A Humble Marine’s Honor  

Retired Marine Sgt. Maj. John L. Canley of Oxnard, California, is a decorated Vietnam War veteran. He served 28 years in the Marine Corps, and was awarded numerous medals and commendations for his valor in battle. During one particularly difficult battle, he was credited with saving the lives of 20 of his fellow Marines, carrying wounded men to safety.

Those who served with Canley thought he deserved the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, for his actions. But time had passed, and the Medal of Honor is given within five years of the extraordinary acts of valor.

After years of pushing for Canley’s case, a special exception was made. The now 80-year-old retired sergeant became the 300th Marine to be presented with the medal.

“He is an extraordinarily humble man and he never talks about his role,” Congressional Representative Julia Brownley told ABC News. “He always talks about his Marines, his Marines that he loved then and he loves now.”

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

(James 4:6)

Help me to be humble, Lord, and serve You and others selflessly.

November 10

Spearhead, Part Four

Clarence Smoyer and Gustav Schaefer reunited on the steps of Cologne Cathedral in Germany in 2013. They discussed their encounter during the war and realized they would never be able to tell which of their bullets actually killed Kathi Esser. It was a tragedy of war that they couldn’t have done anything about.

That meeting was also the start of an unusual but beautiful friendship. Spearhead author Adam Makos told The Christophers, “They were men who once fought each other, who once tried to kill each other. But at their core, they were good men and they became friends.”

Makos notes how knowing men like Clarence and Gustav has changed him: “These men remind me to look for something bigger, strive for something good, and to be about other people, other than just living for myself…It’s important for us to remember as we wait in line at Starbucks or go to a soccer game on a weekend, that 75 years ago, some young guy died in a snowy field in Belgium for us. Or on a street in Cologne in the rubble, bleeding to death with his buddies around him. It’s too important to just go about our lives and forget these people.”

Pursue peace with everyone. (Hebrews 12:14)

Help us turn enemies into friends, Prince of Peace.

November 9

Spearhead, Part Three

In 1945, Clarence Smoyer’s tank led the American army through the streets of Cologne, knocking out a German Panzer tank that was guarding Cologne Cathedral. Spearhead author Adam Makos said, “In essence, Clarence liberated the symbol of God in the city of Cologne.”

It was there that Clarence’s tank got into a firefight with German tank gunner Gustav Schaefer. A young German woman named Kathi Esser accidentally “drove through the middle of their gunfire,” explained Makos. “These two enemies shot to pieces a civilian car. Eventually, Kathi succumbed to her wounds and died there.

“Her death propelled these two enemies, Clarence and Gustav, to not only seek each other out as old men, but to go back to Cologne in 2013, to reunite on the steps of the Cathedral – and then to go back to the place where they fought to try to find answers. To try to find, how did we shoot this young woman and how can we make amends for it? How can we seek forgiveness from her?”

The conclusion of the story tomorrow...

Out of his anguish he shall see light. (Isaiah 53:11)

Bless the souls of all innocents killed in war, Jesus.

November 8
Spearhead, Part Two 

In addition to sharing Clarence Smoyer’s experiences with the U.S. Army during World War II, Spearhead author Adam Makos also explores the conflict’s final days from the perspective of an 18-year-old German tank gunner named Gustav Schaefer, who he was also able to meet and interview.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Makos said, “Gustav was just a farm kid from northern Germany…I was amazed at how simple his lifestyle was before he joined the military. They didn’t have a radio. They didn’t have power. They would work the fields in this farm, from sun up until sun down. He basically was so far removed from Nazi Germany.”
But in war, you go where you’re sent. And Gustav was sent to Cologne, Germany, to face down the American tank squadron, led by Clarence. “It was a suicide mission,” explained Makos.
It was in Cologne that Clarence crossed paths with Gustav in a firefight that would haunt them both for years to come—and lead them to meet in person more than 65 years later. That part of the story tomorrow...
Let all the soldiers draw near. (Joel 3:9)

Fill our hearts with peace instead of violence, Lord.

 

November 7
Spearhead, Part One

In 1944, at age 21, Clarence Smoyer found himself in Nazi-occupied Belgium, serving with the U.S. Army’s Third Armored Division on a job that ran counter to his natural, peaceful personality: tank gunner. He was the one who now had to pull the trigger in order to kill another human being.
Far from developing any kind of bloodlust, Clarence’s motivation was simply that he wanted to keep every member of his crew alive. That became increasingly difficult when his tank became the Spearhead, the lead tank going into battle.
As recalled on Christopher Closeup by author Adam Makos, whose book about Clarence is called Spearhead, one of the ways that Clarence dealt with fear was prayer. During a tense situation in the Battle of the Bulge, he started talking to God as if He were sitting next to him in the tank. He would either say to God, “Get me through this night” – or “Thank You for getting me through this day.” It was a simple, yet deeply profound way of connecting with his maker in the worst of circumstances.
More of the story tomorrow...

The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.
(Exodus 33:11)

Teach me to speak to You as a friend, Jesus.

 

November 6
Project Open Paw
For the past several years, San Francisco resident and doggy daycare worker Paul Crowell had an important self-appointed side job: distributing leftover food to his city’s homeless canines. “I became known as the ‘doggy food man,’” Crowell told The Things writer Mark Lugris.
   After the daycare center switched owners, however, giving away leftover dog food became strictly prohibited. So Crowell took matters into his own hands, and created Project Open Paw.
   All proceeds from this online nonprofit are used to aid the homeless dogs of San Francisco. To date, Project Open Paw has raised over $98,000. In the near future, Paul hopes to garner enough money to open a shelter for canines whose owners are either temporarily incarcerated or in rehab.
“The dogs give these people a reason to carry on,” Crowell concludes. “They help each other live. My goal....has been to keep them together unless there’s abuse…to reunite owners with their dogs when they’re able to have them again.”
The righteous know the needs of their animals. (Proverbs 12:10)       
Jesus, may we never underestimate the power and healing of unconditional love.


November 5
Blind Player Makes Sports History

Jake Olson was born with a rare form of eye cancer that cost him his vision by age 12. Though blind, he never lost his love for sports, and joined the University of Southern California (USC) football team as a walk-on player in 2015.
   When his right eye was removed in 2009, then USC Coach Pete Carroll invited Olson to come and meet the team. He began a friendship with Carroll that resulted in a try-out for the team when he arrived at USC.
Olson was USC’s long snapper for years, throwing back the football so that it could be set for the kicker to kick a field goal. Though completely blind, his snaps were perfect. In 2018, he played his last game for USC. His athletic performance and ability to defy the odds of his disability made him an inspiration to people throughout the country.
   For his success, Olson gives all the glory to God. He told the Los Angeles Times, “There’s a beauty in it. If you can’t see how God works things out, then I think you’re the blind one.”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing. (Romans 15:13)    
Lord, give me the vision to see how You’re working things out in my life.

 

November 4
The Power of Positivity 

We all know a positive outlook can help throughout life, but new research has shown just what a difference it can make in learning. A Stanford experiment in brain imaging, summarized in an article at Inc.com, looked at students, ages seven to ten.
The research showed that liking a particular subject helps the students’ brains work better. This was especially true with math, which had the highest level of negative association among the children.
   “Attitude is really important,” said Dr. Lang Chen, the study’s author. “Based on our data, the unique contribution of positive attitude to math achievement is as large as the contribution from IQ.”
So take note, parents: the very act of staying positive has a noticeable effect on outcomes, helping change brains for the better. No matter what the difficulty, accentuate the positive!
You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of gladness with Your presence. (Acts 2:28)
Grant me a glad heart, Lord, and may that gladness radiate through me to others!

 

November 3
Unchained from Addiction

A child’s addiction can test any parent’s hope for a better future. That’s one reason why Nancy McCann Vericker and her son, JP, wrote Unchained, a book about the whole family’s experience going through JP’s struggles with drugs and alcohol.
Nancy, a former newspaper reporter, tells the story with gripping details. JP’s addictions began in his late teens. His parents and siblings all felt helpless as they watched him get worse. It was often isolating, as Nancy writes, as “no one comes to your door with a casserole the day after the police arrive at your house.” She spent a lot of her energy trying to protect her family from the judgment of others.
   They finally found JP a halfway house and treatment center that helped his sobriety. One counselor, Paul, made a big impact. Nancy told Catholic New York, “God put him in our path. His unflinching commitment to give away his gift of recovery to us taught me so much. He taught JP the ropes.” Today, JP is living sober and is the co-founder of a substance abuse treatment center. He lives out his message of hope each day.
Endurance produces character, and character produces hope. (Romans 5:4)
My God, may I never give up hope for those who seem lost.

 

November 2
A Hug is Like Life      

Writer Sean Dietrich met Miss Jean Lee at a Methodist church in Enterprise, Florida. Though they didn’t know each other well, she gave him the type of hug that his grandmother used to give—and he never forgot it.
When Dietrich heard that Miss Jean Lee was in hospice due to pancreatic cancer, he wrote a tribute to her on Facebook and reflected on the power of hugs: “I believe that a hug is like life. A body lives an entire existence beside the heartbeat of the universe without realizing it. All that ever was, all that ever will be, all that is, all the beauty of life, it’s only a few inches from us. All the time. But we are separated by a thin veil.
“A good hug pulls back the veil and whispers things to the human spirit....like: ‘You’re special to me...’ Or: ‘Life has been worth living simply because you were in it.’ Or: ‘I love you.’
“I wish you peace, Miss Jean Lee. I wish for Heaven itself to hold you, squeeze you, look you straight in the eyes, and with all the weight and beauty of Eternity, to tell you...‘It’s gonna be okay.’”
You are precious in My sight, and honored, and I love you. (Isaiah 43:4)
Embrace Your children when they return to You, Father.

 

November 1
Becoming a Saint  

In his homily for All Saints Day 2018, Deacon Greg Kandra offered some insightful observations grounded in the Beatitudes. He said, “Each of us has the potential to become a saint. So it’s worth asking ourselves: How are we doing? The Gospel gives us a checklist.
“Are we ‘poor in spirit’? Do we give up things for ourselves so that we can give more to others? How selflessly do we mourn? How much time do we give to others who are sorrowful, or forgotten, or alone?
“Are we meek? Do we strive, like John the Baptist, to decrease, so that Christ may increase? How zealously do we hunger and thirst for righteousness? Do we stand for justice and what is right?  Do we stand beside those who are victims?
“Do we show mercy?...Do we have clean hearts? Or are they cluttered with jealousy or pettiness or hate? Do we strive to make peace?...Finally: are we willing to be persecuted, to suffer, in the name of Christ?
“This is where blessedness begins. This is how holiness takes root. This is how we can become saints.”
Contribute to the needs of the saints. (Romans 12:13)
Guide me in living according to Your will, Jesus.


October 31
Jeannie Gaffigan Crosses Boundaries, Part 3

One of the Imagine Society’s projects was the Image-Inn, which was held at a local church. It was a pop-up shelter in which 20 homeless men were invited to receive food, lodging, and an experience of community for one night.During a Christopher Closeup interview, Jeannie said, “We had kids from the different youth groups plan the menu, plan the decor, plan the goody bags…One of the most beautiful parts of the evening was the engagement and conversation.“The kids sat down at the table, brought over a cup of coffee, and brought out the [playing] cards and the Jenga, and had conversations. It was this amazing unification of all these different kids and cultures and acts of service. We got so much out of it, and it was so amazing.”When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the Imagine Society adapted to the quarantine by raising money to feed frontline workers in hospitals around the city. Jeannie said, “It was important for all of us, the teenagers and adults, to…offer our support and our love.”
Make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love. (Philippians 2:2)
Guide my steps to build community, Holy Spirit.

 

October 30
Jeannie Gaffigan Crosses Boundaries, Part 2

After creating a service-oriented Catholic youth group in her New York City parish, and then discovering other youth groups from different religions doing similar work, mother of five Jeannie Gaffigan felt God calling her to build something new out of this diversity.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Jeannie said, “In the Gospel, Jesus [says to go] to the ends of the earth. In New York City, you don’t have to go to the ends of the earth. We’re in the middle of all these vibrant cultures…people who are doing good. That’s very much [in line] with The Christophers: what are we doing to uplift and be a light in the darkness?”
And so, The Imagine Society was born to unite diverse youth groups under one umbrella organization. Jeannie explained, “Although I have a Catholic youth group, I love the fact that we can interact with a youth group from another religion….The world is not just a little bubble where you’re only with your own people. We can magnify the goodness in the world [by reaching] out across boundaries.” More tomorrow…
I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love. (Colossians 2:2)
Teach us to find unity among our differences, Jesus.

 

October 29
Jeannie Gaffigan Crosses Boundaries, Part 1 
 

Even as Jeannie Gaffigan endured a lengthy and arduous recovery from the surgery that removed a life-threatening tumor from her brain stem, she felt overwhelmed by a desire to work with the youth of her Catholic parish in New York City, Old St. Patrick’s. Her oldest daughter and oldest son had received the sacrament of Confirmation, and she wasn’t sure what their spiritual formation would look like from that point forward.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Jeannie explained that she and another mother got some pre-teens and teens together, asked them what societal needs they saw, then helped them create the type of group that would fill those needs. They called the group the St Patrick’s Warriors.
As time passed, the Warriors interacted with a youth group from Ascension Church that was so large that they started a food pantry for food-insecure people in their neighborhood. They eventually crossed paths with a Jewish youth group doing similar service work. That’s when Jeannie saw an opportunity to do an even greater amount of good. More tomorrow…
Remember your creator in the days of your youth. (Ecclesiastes 12:1)
Guide young people toward selfless service, Father.   

 

                                                              October 28
                                                    God is Always Near 

In the late 1990s, spiritual writer Gary Jansen was living in New York City. One day while returning home from work, he walked up to his grandmother’s house and saw her leaning out the window. She told him to go to his girlfriend Grace’s house and pray for her. Grace’s father had just had a heart attack.  
Jansen recalled how he prayed fervently on the ride over, invoking St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, to intercede. When he got to Grace’s house, her father had already died, and in the next few days the family was overwhelmed with grief.
“In the days that followed,” Jansen wrote, “while God often seemed far away, Jude seemed to be close at hand, watching over Grace’s family, offering all of us not miracles, but consolation and strength precisely when we were at our lowest…through random acts of kindness, flashes of peace, inspiration from Jude prayer cards.”
These events convinced Jansen that even though they were going through a difficult time, God’s love was always near in the many small things helping the family to carry on.
The Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:27)
Be close to those who are grieving, Divine Comforter.

October 27

Water With Blessings

Though cholera is rare in the United States, it has killed thousands in Haiti over the last decade. Spread by bacteria that is found in contaminated food or water, it is treatable if you’re near a good medical facility. But that often isn’t the case in Haiti.
Enter Sister Larraine Lauter of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount St. Joseph and cofounder of the nonprofit Water With Blessings. She vowed to make a difference after caring for a cholera-infected little girl in Verrettes, Haiti.
As reported by Ruby Thomas for Catholic News Service, “Water With Blessings trains women in communities without access to safe drinking water to use donated water filtration systems.” Within a few months of their work in Verrettes and the surrounding area, there were no new cases of cholera. The group continues to work in Haiti and around the world.
Sister Larraine said, “The reason I felt I could make that promise is that I felt I could count on the Haitian team, the mothers and the generosity of the people in the U.S.—and we could ultimately count on God.”
To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.

(Revelation 21:6)
Fill us with the spring waters of life, Jesus

                                                              October 26
                                                    Where the Help Begins

“This is where the help is. This is where the help begins.” So says Joseph Rivera, a Peer Support Specialist at Eva’s Village in Paterson, New Jersey. The nonprofit provides a variety of social service programs that help those struggling with poverty, addiction, and homelessness.
Eva’s Village is spread out over three blocks and includes a community kitchen, halfway houses for men and women and mothers with children, basic medical and dental services, and drug recovery programs.
Rivera himself struggled with opioid addiction and believes in being open and honest with the people he serves. He told WABC-TV, “We all know somebody that has a friend or family member that is suffering from the opioid epidemic. I’m very vocal about what I’ve been through because I don’t believe that I can help by staying anonymous. I help more by showing people that there is a way out of this and that it can happen to anybody.”
Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress. (Psalm 25:17)
Merciful Savior, show me ways that I can use my experiences to help others going through similar troubles.

 

                                                              October 25
When a 97-year-old woman went missing in her neighborhood in October 2019, the Roseville Police reached out for help in the California community. They unexpectedly received assistance from a group of 10 and 11-year-old heroes.
After hearing the missing person announcement from a helicopter flying over their houses, friends Logan Hultman, Kashton Claiborne, Makenna Rogers, and Hope Claiborne sprang into action. They rode their bikes to search for her and even went to the top of a hill to get a better vantage point. They found the woman disoriented and immediately called 911.
The Roseville Police thanked the “junior detectives” on Facebook, proving anyone of any age can help out in a time of need. Kristina Rogers, Makenna’s mom, told CNN, “They are a great group of caring kids and it’s events like this that will really help shape them into their future selves.”
Logan now wants to be a real detective when he grows up and wants to help more people in need: “Because when someone needs help, you help them.”
Search, and you will find. (Matthew 7:7)
Lord, bless the hearts of our children, who are our future.

October 24
The Student Who Couldn’t Hear

Back in the third grade in Flint, Michigan, Reggie Williams was withdrawn because he had a lisp. And he had a lisp because his hearing was so poor that he couldn’t hear his own voice. But nobody knew that. They just figured he wasn’t intelligent. So they gave Reggie grades of “unsatisfactory,” but passed him along anyway.
In the third grade, however, his new teacher, Mrs. Chapman couldn’t reconcile his previous grades with his love for books and ability to read. She arranged a hearing test for him and discovered the truth. She also advised young Reggie, “Read…read…You can be anything.”
   If you remember the 1982 Super Bowl, you might have seen Reggie Williams. He was a linebacker for Cincinnati. On defense, he stared at Jim LeClair, who called the defensive signals. He stared because he was reading LeClair’s lips, a skill he acquired in high school before graduating with honors and moving on to Dartmouth. And his success was partially due to having one teacher who believed in his potential.
The Teacher also taught the people knowledge. (Ecclesiastes 12:9)

Father, inspire gifted people to become teachers.


 

October 23
Penitent Thieves Restore Faith in Humanity

In October 2019, the Vick family of Blades, Delaware, received devastating news that their five-year-old autistic son, Timmy Vick, Jr., had developed a brain tumor. To lift his spirits, his parents bought him a “WWE replica championship belt.”
Mr. and Mrs. Vick even got in touch with the original belt designer, Sergio Moreira, who offered to make the belt look more authentic for Timmy, free of charge.
Unfortunately, Moreira’s doorbell camera caught two women stealing the mailed package off his porch. The local news station picked up this footage, as well as the story behind it. Days later, both women showed up on Moreira’s doorstep, not only with the belt, but with a four page handwritten letter of apology.
As it turns out, these ladies were homeless drug addicts, just looking to sell what was in the box for extra cash. “We never wanted to steal a child’s hope,” the note read. “Please find it in your hearts to forgive us.”
Moreira said he would not press charges, as long as these ladies promised to get the help they needed.  

Confess your sins …that you may be healed.
(James 5:16)

God, grant us sincere, life-changing repentance of our sins.

October 21
Hope in God When All Seems Lost

During the 2019 baseball season, Msgr. Stephen Rossetti’s role as Catholic chaplain for the Washington Nationals took on an extra dimension because that was the year they made a serious run at the World Series—and wound up winning! But that might not have been the case without the priest’s encouraging message.
In an interview with the Catholic University of America, Msgr. Rossetti shared some advice he gave the team, advice that applies to anyone facing challenges in life. He said:
“Early in the season, when we were 12 games below .500, it would have been easy to give up. If they did, they would never be where they are today. In everyone’s life, there are difficult moments…Especially at those times, we hope in God. We know that God is always with us, never abandons us. So, we never give up or give in. We, too, stay in the Christian fight until the end.”
When it comes to his prayers, Msgr. Rossetti does his best to be even-handed. But smilingly, he admits, “I know God loves everyone and I pray for everyone. But…I think God has a pretty good idea who I’m rooting for.”
Do not be…dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

(Joshua 1:9)
Send me Your hope when I feel defeated, Messiah.


                                                               October 20
                                                    The Sermon of the Trees     

St. Paul of the Cross was the founder of the Passionist order of priests. As Franciscan Media notes, “He was known as one of the most popular preachers of his day, both for his words and for his generous acts of mercy.”
St. Paul was also a lover of nature who found his spirit nurtured by the great outdoors. He once wrote the following prayer: “When you are walking alone, lift up your spirit and listen to the sermon preached to you by the trees, the shrubs, the sky and the whole world. Notice how they preach to you a sermon full of love, of praise of God, and how they invite you to glorify the sublimity of the sovereign Artist who has given them being.”
St. Paul of the Cross also offered this advice on growing closer to Jesus: “Make for yourself a most beautiful retreat in the deepest part of your spirit, and in this sacred desert commune with God, one on one, adoring Him in spirit and in truth.”
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice…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 96:11-13)
Open my eyes to the beauty of Your creation, Yahweh.

                                               October 19 A God Incident                
       Shaun Weiss, a former child star from The Mighty Ducks film series, had been in a years-long downward spiral, with reports of arrests for theft, possession of a controlled substance, and public intoxication. But that began to change after he broke into the California home of Lou Binninger, who does outreach for people with addictions at the nearby Yuba County Jail.
   Lightworkers.com reported that Weiss entered Binninger’s garage and smashed his car window in order to rob the vehicle. Binninger grabbed a gun he had in the house for protection and confronted Weiss. Binninger was able to hold Weiss at bay without firing a shot until police arrived.
After the incident, Weiss was booked into the Yuba County Jail, where Binninger does his outreach. “I call it a God incident,” Binninger said, declaring that it was no coincidence. “It was a divine fit. He needed help, and I can help him.”
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God.
(Romans 8:28)

For the vision to see God’s hand at work in all things, I pray, O Lord. And may I learn to recognize and respond to others’ cries for help.

October 18

A Song of Praise, a Prayer Answered

Father Patrick Setto from the Archdiocese of Detroit got the surprise of a lifetime and the answer to a prayer when he attended a Josh Groban concert. As reported in the Detroit Catholic, the 31-year-old priest, who serves as assistant pastor of Mother of God Chaldean Catholic Church, was gifted tickets to the concert by his cousins. He had discovered Groban’s music as a teenager and had always wanted to see the singer live.

Father Setto even prayed on the way to the concert that he would have the chance to meet Groban. The moment came when Groban asked audience members if they’d like to join him on stage, and Father Setto was chosen. Little did Groban, or the audience, know that they were the ones in for a treat.

Father Setto belted out a jaw-dropping version of “To Where You Are,” one of Groban’s hits. The singer and the audience loved it! Video of the song even went viral. Father Setto concluded, “I really want the world to know that, as priests, we are human and we can relate. We have gifts and we want to share those gifts with the world, and that’s really a way of evangelization.” 

I will sing to my God a new song. (Judith 16:13)

May my words and song today proclaim Your love, Lord!

October 17

A Start to Life’s Journey Together

Karla and Jason De Los Reyes, of Washington, D.C., were preparing for marriage when the idea struck them to make their wedding a meaningful pilgrimage on one of the oldest pilgrimage routes in the world.

Both Karla and Jason had travelled the famed Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, in Spain on separate occasions. The journey made a big impact on each one of them, and it was one of the points they connected on when they met and began dating. Speaking to the Arlington Catholic Herald, Karla said, “We referred to our wedding planning as a Camino.”

Their families were supportive of the couple’s unusual request, and after lining up the details, the two flew to Spain, with their families joining them later. Karla and Jason spent three and a half days walking 75 miles of the Camino. Their trek ended at a former monastery in Santiago, where they were wed.

“I think if we can do the Camino together, we can get through life together,” said Jason. “It just felt like this was God’s plan for us.”

Were not our hearts burning within us while He was talking to us on the road? (Luke 24:32)

Jesus, be with me as I walk with You on life’s journey.

October 16

Try This—Just for Today

         How would you like to be happy—at least for today? Happiness is within the reach of all of us, if not every day, then at least more often than we realize. Try this program:

■ Today I will try to adjust myself to reality, rather than trying to adjust everything to my wishes.

■ Today I will try to learn something useful or read something that requires thought and response.

■ Today I will perform an act of kindness for someone else and do something I don’t really want to do.

■ Today I will make myself as agreeable as I possibly can, avoiding criticism and fault-finding.

■ Today I will have a program, a plan of activity, without letting myself become a slave to it.

■ Today I will try to take a half hour for myself, relaxing from the cares of the day.

■ Today I will try to be unafraid.

■ Today I will make an effort to see the beautiful things all around me, reflecting on the goodness of the Creator.

O that today you would listen to His voice. (Psalm 95:7)

Holy Spirit, help me to find happiness today.

October 15

98-Year-Old Mom Takes Care of Son

When 80-year-old Tom Keating had to move into an assisted living facility, his mom Ada moved in with him to help take care of her son. “She’s very good at looking after me,” Tom told Lightworkers.com. Jokingly he added, “Sometimes she’ll say, ‘Behave yourself!’”

Ada, now age 98, was a young mom and a registered nurse. Tom never married and lived with his mother all his life. During the day, the pair enjoy doing puzzles together and watching TV.  They inspire those around them to love throughout the years. 

Philip Daniels, manager of the facility, says, “It’s very rare to see mothers and their children together in the same care home and we certainly want to make their time together as special as possible. They are inseparable.”

Living in the facility is a big change for the pair, but Ada lovingly wouldn’t have it any other way. As she says with a heartwarming smile, “You never stop being a mom.”

Love is patient…It bears all things, believes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:8)

Loving Lord, encourage me to love throughout the years and to always be there for my family.

October 14

Hooves for Heroes

Veteran and former Army nurse Charmayne Baycock was desperate for help. She “fell ill in theater” in 2007, and when medications failed to heal her, she found both therapy and a renewed sense of purpose through the calm and stable horses at Hooves for Heroes in South Dallas, Texas. “They helped save my life,” Baycock told Dallas News in 2019. 

Hooves for Heroes was founded by Susannah Denney in 2012 after she “lost a loved one in Iraq.” She struggled with that death for some time before finding her purpose in offering therapeutic horsemanship services to veterans free of cost. 

Since its inception, the program has helped over 1,500 veterans, including Baycock, and Marine veteran Derick Garcia, who served two tours in Iraq. Garcia’s months spent at Hooves for Heroes helped him transition back into civilian life. “The experience with animals kept me coming back,” he says. “I got a sense of ease. I’d rather be around animals than people.”

You save humans and animals alike, O Lord. (Psalm 36:6)

Abba, we thank You for the loving and healing presence of animals.

October 12

Don’t Limit Yourself

         Deborah M. Hall was born with hands that were misshapen. She had no real fingers, just two stumps at the end of each arm.

         Nevertheless, she became one of the most efficient workers in the Labor Department’s Office of Civil Rights in Washington, D.C. In 1983, she was named the department’s national handicapped employee of the year.

         When Hall was a child, doctors told her adoptive parents that she would never be able to write. However, she said that writing and typing were things “I had to learn to do—so I did.” She also learned how to sew and went on to sew many of her own clothes.

         Reflecting on her achievements, Hall said, “Each accomplishment in my life was based on somebody telling me I couldn’t do it. I guess it was me proving they were wrong.”

         Though some people recoiled at the sight of her hands, her philosophy was, “You can’t stay home and hide. You have to be in the real world.” Her advice to others with physical challenges? “Do not put limits on yourself—go beyond yourself.”

I have had help from God. (Acts 26:22)

Help me to set the highest possible goals for myself, Holy Spirit.

October 11

What to Do if Your Child is Bullying

No parent wants to hear that their child is a bully. Even good kids can make bad choices, and the old expression “hurt people hurt people” is true, according to Sameer Hinduja, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center.

Hinduja, along with other mental health professionals, shared with TODAY Parent 11 tips for parents to help stop bullying and get to the root of the problem. They also encourage parents to seek professional help if needed.

■ Have a wake-up call—with yourself.

■ Even if angry or disappointed, treat the child with dignity.

■ Recognize signs that the child may be in great distress.

■ The child may be vying for attention or trying to fit in.

■ Kids with high emotional intelligence can exert power.

■ Children with untapped leadership potential may bully.

■ Peer intervention is a powerful thing.

■ Accountability is key.

■ Put appropriate discipline and controls in place.

■ Help your child make things right again.

■ Cultivate empathy.

Be reconciled to your brother or sister. (Matthew 5:24)

Dear Jesus, help me to forgive and love my enemies.

October 10

Glorify Him in Everything

                     In 2020, the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl, becoming the first team to be down by more than 10 points in three postseason games, but still come back to win. In addition, the youngest quarterback to win an MVP and the Super Bowl at the same time was their quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, age 24.

As reported by Lightworkers.com, Mahomes points to his faith in God as a leading inspiration. He said, “[Football has] given me a lot of blessing in my life and I’m trying to maximize and glorify Him in everything I do.”

The famous quarterback isn’t the only member of the Kansas City team to lean on his faith. CEO Clark Hunt, Guard Stefen Wisniewski, and running back Raheem Mostert all made public statements after the big game that emphasized their reliance on God, in good times and bad.

No matter what the arena you’re working in, whether in the NFL or any other area, faith in God is a bedrock for weathering difficult times and celebrating success.

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give Glory. (Psalm 115:1)

May my achievements and victories glorify You, O God!

October 9

Homeboys Healing Through Baking

When you walk into Homeboy Bakery in downtown L.A., you wouldn’t know that this place filled with artisan baked goods is run by rehabilitated, formerly incarcerated gang members.

Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles is the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation, and reentry program in the world. Its founder, Jesuit Priest Father Greg Boyle, recognized the need to have a place that could provide ex-gang members with both work and healing.

Father Boyle says that guys work things out shoulder-to-shoulder. In an interview with U.S. Catholic in 2019, he noted, “Enemy rivals will work side by side making croissants. They’re not talking stuff out, but they are working stuff out…There’s a bond deeper than they’ve ever known in their gang and stronger than anything they’ve even known in their families.”

In 2016 Boyle was given the James Beard Foundation Humanitarian of the Year award, and he says people keep coming back to his bakery because “it stands for something.”

In Your steadfast love You led the people whom You redeemed. (Exodus 15:13)

Abba, may we remember that it is never too late to choose a better path in life.

October 8

The Courage to Act

         It was a quiet night in the Woods family home in Bartow County, Georgia, until a fire suddenly erupted. Out of the eight people inside and sleeping, the first to awake and discover the smoke and flames was five-year-old Noah.  

         But Noah didn’t panic, reported CNN. Instead, “he jumped out of bed, grabbed his sister and got out of the house through the only exit available, an open window.” He even managed to pull the family dog to safety before running next door to the home of a relative, who helped him wake up and alert the entire family.

            Everyone made it out safely, and Noah was hailed as a hero

   for his actions. He was recognized as an honorary Bartow

   County firefighter and presented with a lifesaving award usually 

   reserved for professionals.

Noah’s grandfather, who survived the fire, said of his grandson, “By the grace of God, all of our loved ones were able to get out of our home. If it wasn’t for Noah, we may not be here today.”

He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. (Isaiah 40:29)

Grant us courage when facing life’s most difficult challenges, Blessed Redeemer.

October 7

Mail Carrier’s Instinct Saves Life

         When Staten Island letter carrier Lisa Sweeney returned to her mail route after her vacation in 2017, she looked at 86-year-old Marie Boyer’s house and instantly knew something was wrong.  Boyer’s mail was piled up outside of her door, and her garbage cans stood, unmoved, at the curbside. “I just had a feeling in my heart that Marie was inside,” Lisa told Guideposts contributor Lisa Guernsey.

         Sweeney quickly called 911 and circled Marie’s house until they arrived. As it turned out, Sweeney’s instincts proved to be correct. Marie had taken a bad fall four days prior, and now lay unconscious. Her cries for help had gone unanswered, because both her doors and windows were closed. Marie insisted that if it wasn’t for Sweeney, she wouldn’t be alive and well today.

         Even though Marie has since moved into an assisted living facility, she and Sweeney still keep in close touch. And to Sweeney, her timely rescue of Marie was no accident. “I think things happen for a reason,” she concluded. “Marie has a new lease on life.”

The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Messiah, may we listen for Your call in all that we do.

October 6

“Jesus” Saves Minneapolis Runner

When Tyler Moon wrote the message “Jesus Saves” on his race bib, he had no idea that the message was prophesying what would actually happen that day.

  Moon, age 25, was running the Medtronic TC 10 mile race in downtown Minneapolis in October 2019. All of a sudden, at mile eight, something went wrong. Moon suffered from ventricular tachycardia, a fast, irregular heartbeat, and for about 10 seconds his heart was not pumping blood. He collapsed and wasn’t breathing.

 Behind him was a Lakeville man named Jesus Bueno. He is a certified registered nurse anesthetist who immediately sized up the situation and told someone to call 911. He performed CPR on Moon until paramedics arrived.

Moon is still recovering, but expresses gratitude to both Jesuses. When he wrote “Jesus Saves” on his bib, it was to help lead people back to God. He told Twincities.com, “We’re just happy God had it happen where it did…I went for a run, then all of a sudden, a bunch of strangers saved my life.”

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6)

Jesus, thank You for saving me when You died on the cross.

October 5

We Carry Kevan, Part 3

Because of his neuromuscular disease, Kevan Chandler’s limbs are shorter than most people’s. So in order to travel to Europe with him without a wheelchair, his friends got creative. They designed a special backpack in which they could carry Kevan wherever they went. And it worked beautifully.

They explored Sacre-Coeur Basilica in Paris, a Django Reinhardt fan gathering along the Seine River, the legacy of Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie in England, and the island/former monastery of Skellig Michael off the coast of Ireland, which Kevan described as “beautiful but intense.”

Community was at the heart of the trip these six friends took through Europe, so naturally it’s at the heart of the memoir Kevan wrote to document the experience, We Carry Kevan. He is also working to expand experiences of community for others with disabilities through his nonprofit. The goal is to expand accessibility and let those with physical challenges know, “We love you, and we care about you. You matter to us.”

Some men came, carrying a paralyzed man on a bed… When he saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” (Luke 5:18,20)

May I be willing to carry my friends who need help, Jesus.

October 4

We Carry Kevan, Part 2               

The positive attitude of Kevan Chandler’s parents stemmed from their Christian faith. During a Christopher Closeup interview, he explained, “Their pro-life approach to life is certainly derived from their relationship with the Lord—and then my own as I grew to understand Jesus and His love for me.

“No matter what’s going on with my body as it continues to decline…what really matters is what’s going on in my heart and in my mind and my relationship with the Lord. He is where my hope has been found, and He’s the one that keeps me going.”

Kevan also has friends that keep him going, friends who serve as the arms and legs of Jesus in his life. The group decided it would be both fun and educational to take a trip through Europe together. Kevan especially had always wanted to visit there because of his interest in music, literature, his family history, and Christian history. Yet the difficulties of finding wheelchair accessibility everywhere had kept him grounded in the U.S. Then, his friends came up with a unique way for Kevan to see the world. More tomorrow…

Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed.

(2 Corinthians 4:16)

Help me to find hope in You, Christ Jesus.

October 3

                                          We Carry Kevan, Part 1                                       

Before Kevan Chandler was even born, his parents knew that he would likely suffer from major health issues. That’s because his sister Connie, who is three years older than him, was born with a neuromuscular disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which impeded the growth of her arms and legs and weakened her muscles in general. Doctors told the Chandlers, “If you have more children, it will probably be the same case again.”

The couple looked at their good-natured, joyful daughter and responded, “If the worst that can happen is that we have another child like Connie, that’s okay with us.”

Mr. and Mrs. Chandler—an airplane mechanic and the director of a crisis pregnancy center, respectively—soon welcomed Kevan into the world. As doctors predicted, he also had Spinal Muscular Atrophy and eventually wound up in a wheelchair. But his parents focused more on building on his strengths than dwelling on his weaknesses, filling him with a “can do” spirit as he grew into adulthood. They also taught him to love Jesus, which made all the difference. More tomorrow…

I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord… to give you a future with hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Help parents instill a “can do” spirit in their kids, Lord.

 

October 1

Holy Doubters, Part 2

In recalling the stories of holy people who experienced doubts in God at points in their lives, Elizabeth Manneh of BustedHalo.com cites the life of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, whose feast day is celebrated today.

Manneh writes, “St. Thérèse didn’t have an easy life. Her mother died when Thérèse was just 4, and her much-loved older sister entered a convent, leaving Thérèse lonely and without the love and spiritual support of her family. She suffered from depression and anxiety, especially in her later years when tuberculosis began to take a serious toll on her health.

“Nevertheless, St. Thérèse continued to practice a routine of prayer, study, and receiving the Sacraments, trusting in God’s faithfulness rather than her own convictions. When I’m doubting and feeling far from God, keeping a routine of worship and prayer acts as a framework for my faith. Even though I might not feel like spending time in prayer or worship, trying to stick to a daily practice reminds me of God’s love, and I often find myself inspired and refreshed afterward.”

Build yourselves up on your most holy faith…And have mercy on some who are wavering. (Jude 1:20,22)

Jesus, help me to build a framework for my faith.

September 30

Holy Doubters, Part 1              

Though Elizabeth Manneh is a practicing Catholic, she admits on BustedHalo.com that she sometimes questions aspects of her faith and the idea that God truly loves her. However, she takes comfort from other holy doubters who became saints.

Manneh writes, “When we look to the so-called giants of Christianity for reassurance, it’s easy to think that they must have superhuman powers of trust and confidence. Yet perhaps unsurprisingly, even those we admire for their holiness have had their own struggles.”

Consider St. Thomas, for example, who didn’t believe Jesus had risen from the dead until he saw the savior with his own eyes. Manneh writes, “I have a hard time taking things totally on trust without seeing the evidence…But I’m comforted that Jesus didn’t condemn Thomas for his attitude and allowed him to touch His wounds as he’d wanted. Rather than condemning us for our need to see before we believe, Jesus seeks to engage us and draw us closer.”

He said to Thomas…“Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” (John 20:27)

Strengthen my faith when I feel doubtful, Messiah.

September 29

A Grumpy Grandpa’s Reminder

Singer-songwriter Sarah Hart recalled that her grandfather was a lovely man with a servant’s heart who always turned strangers into friends. But one day, during the last few years of his life, they were talking on the phone and she realized he sounded out of sorts.

“Are you grumpy, Grandpa?” Sarah asked him. He acknowledged that he had gotten a little crotchety lately and that he’d even yelled at somebody that day. Sarah told him, “That’s so not like you.”

The message registered, so a few days later, Grandpa called her back to say he had found a solution to his problem. Using the old style printer paper that still had holes on the side, he made himself a banner that read, “Be Nice,” and hung it over the door so it was the last thing he saw before he left the house.

It proved to be a reminder that worked, and the phrase “Be nice” became a family mantra for the Harts. Sarah even wrote a song called “Be Nice” for her album And Lovely It Is. Its goal is to promote more civility and kindness in the world.

A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)

Help me to make kindness a habit, Prince of Peace.

September 28

“Best Eatery” with Best Service

A high-end restaurant, 65 Degrés, was awarded “Best Eatery” by TripAdvisor out of 2,000 Belgium contenders. The recognition wasn’t only for its delicious French cuisine but also for its amazing service, with many staff members having Down syndrome.

The goal of 65 Degrés is to provide work for those with intellectual disabilities and enable them to work on the luxury side of the food industry. As Aleteia reported, one of the co-founders, Valentin Cogels, shared that “one of the benefits of their restaurant is offering high-end cuisine with high-end service: staff members who are so happy to work and are genuinely delighted to make the clients feel welcome.”

One staff member with Down syndrome, Marie-Sophie Lamarche, said, “The customers are here to see us and to savor the restaurant’s atmosphere and gastronomy. It is a lot of pressure. We are proud of ourselves.”

Their business model is proving to be a huge success, and hopefully, other restaurants will follow suit and give people with Down syndrome a chance to shine.

Arise, shine; for your light has come. (Isaiah 60:1)

Lord, may we give those with disabilities a chance to shine.

September 27

He Lifted Her Up

Tully Elementary School fourth grader Ryan Neighbors of Kentucky was born with Spina Bifida, paralyzing her from the waist down. Due to her needing a wheelchair, she sometimes misses out on class trips. But in 2019, Jim Freeman, a teacher from her school, made sure that Ryan wouldn’t miss out on a class hiking trip to a state park with lots of rocky terrain.

Ryan’s mom, Shelly King, had planned to use a specially designed backpack to ensure her daughter the opportunity to join her peers. She just needed someone to wear the backpack and carry Ryan in it. Freeman heard Shelly talking about this and volunteered to do it himself.

Shelly told the Today Show, “The world needs hope. The world needs love. Sometimes people feel awkward about stepping forward and saying, ‘Hey, let me help you,’ especially when it comes to people with disabilities because a lot of people don’t know how to handle them. I think that seeing his act of kindness, people are relating to it and saying, ‘Hey, maybe it’s not so awkward.’”

It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner. (Genesis 2:18)

Allow me to be a help to those in need, Divine Messiah.

September 26

DHH Mask Project

         During the coronavirus outbreak in 2020, one of the most difficult adjustments to make was finding alternate methods of communication. Ashley Lawrence, age 21, decided to reach out to a part of the community often forgotten in their struggles.

Ashley studies education for the deaf and hard of hearing at Eastern Kentucky University. She told LEX18 News, “I felt like there was a huge population that was being looked over. So I felt like it was very important that, even at a time like this, people need to have that communication.”

Teaming up with her mother, Ashley got to work designing a special kind of facial covering for this worldwide minority. Using bed sheets and plastic, she created a mask which allowed the mouths of the people wearing them to remain visible through the clear material sewn onto the bottom.

Ashley also started a GoFundMe page, the “DHH Mask Project,” which provided free masks for any doctors attending patients who had difficulty hearing, and relied on lip reading to communicate.

Let me see your face. (Song of Solomon 2:14)

God, may we always seek to assist those with special needs.

September 25

A Crown Fit for a Princess

Trinity Arrington, a senior at S&S High School in Sadler, Texas, was shocked when she won the title of homecoming queen in September 2019. Instead of accepting the crown, however, she offered it to her fellow nominee and friend, Emily Petty, who has Down syndrome.

 “I decided to give my crown to my sweet friend Emily because she’s always wanted to be a princess,” Arrington told the CBS News affiliate, KXII. “So I decided she deserved it.”

The teens met and became friends a year ago when Arrington started eating lunch in the special education cafeteria. And on the day of homecoming, they walked hand-in-hand down to the field, the glittering crown sitting atop Petty’s head.

Becoming homecoming queen is more than a title to these two girls. They were thrilled to share that moment together. It wasn’t so much the crown, but the act of kindness that made this day so unforgettable. The friends inspire each other and, as Arrington said, “[Emily’s] always been my queen, she deserved it. It made her happy.”

A true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin.

(Proverbs 18:24)

God, help me to be selfless, and a true friend always.

September 24

The Oldest Volunteer

         The late William Pierson of Elizabeth, New Jersey, proved the point that you’re never too old to be a volunteer. At 86, he was the oldest member of an army of volunteers at Alexian Brothers Hospital many years ago.

         Although he suffered from arthritis, Pierson traveled to the hospital several times a week, frequently walking the three miles from his home. He sorted and delivered mail to the patients, to whom he was as familiar as any doctor.

         “Some people have said I’m crazy,” Pierson admitted. But he confided, “I think they’re crazy, sitting around all day looking at television. Even some people in my family think I’m nuts to work without getting paid. But when they have to go to the hospital, they’re glad to get the service we give.”

         Pierson also figured the volunteer work kept him healthy. “I’d much rather come here than pay to visit a doctor,” he said, noting that service to others is a good antidote to boredom and loneliness, as well as effective medicine.

      Your faith has made you well. (Matthew 9:22)

            Jesus, thank You for providing us with volunteers. And

            place us nearby when others need help.

September 22

The Awfulizer, Part 3

A family’s faith life can play a positive role in overcoming the shame game. Kristin Maher said, “We’re created in God’s image, so at our core, we are good and beautiful. Shame is a lie that wants to tell you that you’re broken and beyond reach. I explained once to my husband that I always believed that Jesus forgave me, but I could never forgive myself because I felt broken.

“That’s what shame did to me…I can’t explain how much purer or brighter my relationship is with God once I can see myself the way He sees me. Once I could break the glasses of shame and [realize], ‘I am created in His image, and I am worthy’—that has been a real blessing for me.”

One way in which Kristin and her husband, singer Matt Maher, promote this idea with their kids is by playing “The Table Game.” While everyone is eating dinner together, each person says something positive about all the other people at the table, then ends by saying something positive about themselves. “It’s great,” said Kristin, “because it teaches you to see beautiful things in those around you, but also remember what you like about yourself.”

I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)

Remind me that I am created in Your image, Father.

September 21

                         The Awfulizer, Part 2                       

Kristin Maher’s illustrated children’s book The Awfulizer highlights the detrimental effect that shame can have on young people. The story begins with eight-year-old James on the school bus, remembering that he got in trouble for talking during class.

That’s when his Awfulizer, his shame, shows up as a big, green, furry monster. During a Christopher Closeup interview, Kristin explained, “It tells him that it wasn’t just a mistake; it’s that he’s a bad kid and everybody knows. The more he listens to this voice telling him that he’s bad, the bigger the Awfulizer gets, to the point where it’s all James can see.

“It takes his parents coming to him and [saying], ‘We know something’s wrong. Can you tell us what’s going on?’ James finally gets the courage to tell them about the Awfulizer. And when he starts to talk about his feelings and he hears how his parents also struggle with shame, the Awfulizer shrinks and disappears. Then, James learns to become an Awesomizer!”

Kristin goes on to describe the role that religious faith can play in battling shame. That part of the story tomorrow…

[Men] look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

(1 Samuel 16:7)

Guide children toward healthy self-esteem, Creator.

September 20

           The Awfulizer, Part 1             

Kristin Maher is in therapy to deal with feelings of shame, and she notes that people aren’t always clear on what exactly that means. During an interview on Christopher Closeup, she explained, “There’s a difference between shame and guilt. If you feel guilty about doing something, that means you feel guilty about the action. Shame is more personal. It’s not that you made a mistake; it’s that [you think], ‘I am a mistake.’”

When Kristin noticed her son using shame language about himself, she hoped to address it quickly, so she met with a school counselor to ask about resources. That’s when they both discovered there was next to nothing that dealt with shame and kids. So Kristin set out to create something herself.

In group therapy once, members were tasked with role playing certain events or feelings they might be having. Kristin was asked to play the person who could only see negative aspects about herself. Jokingly, she referred to herself as “the Awfulizer.” Then, she thought that would make a great children’s book someday. Well, “someday” arrived in 2019, and Kristin released The Awfulizer. More tomorrow…

Let me never be put to shame. (Psalm 71:1)

Remind me that I am Your beloved child, Father.

 

September 19

Charity in the Storm

On a normal day, 21-year-old Satchel Smith works the front desk at the Homewood Suites in Beaumont, Texas. But September 19, 2019, was not a normal day. Due to Tropical Storm Imelda, torrential rains flooded the area, leaving all the hotel’s other employees unable to get to work. Smith had to take care of 90 guests by himself.

Thankfully, he was more than up to the task. One of the guests, Angela Chandler, wrote on her Facebook page, “He has manned the phones, answered each of our questions, ensured that we have had a hot cup of coffee or tea, and helped serve us a hot breakfast. He has handled this situation with grace, kindness, and a beautiful smile on his face.” Smith noted that he and the guests worked together “like a big family.”

After more than 30 hours, another employee finally made it in to relieve Smith. But Chandler will always remember the way Smith served as a reflection of the divine in a dark time. She wrote, “I do think that sometimes [God] allows things to happen so we can be His light and share the love of Christ with others.”

His prosperity will be established and the assembly will proclaim His acts of charity. (Sirach 31:11)

Lord, help me to act in kindness as a witness of You.

September 18

The Hero of Cologne’s Belated Reward

Clarence Smoyer, age 96, assumed he was in Washington, D.C., for a book signing with Adam Makos, author of a book about him entitled Spearhead. Smoyer had been an American tank gunner in World War II, who was dubbed the “hero of Cologne” for his lead role in liberating that city from the Nazis.

The Pennsylvania native should have earned a Bronze Star for his heroic actions, but he encountered a group of German children after the battle. They asked him for some chewing gum, so he emptied his pockets to show them he didn’t have anything. When military police saw this, they accused Smoyer of fraternizing with the enemy. As a result, he never received the Bronze Star he deserved.

Makos restarted the effort to right this wrong and in 2019, it finally happened. As Smoyer got out of a car at the World War II Memorial, he was met by an Army color guard, a Sherman tank, and a crowd of friends and onlookers who watched as the Bronze Star was pinned on his chest. Smoyer humbly concluded, “I wear this in memory of all the young people who have lost their lives in battle.”

You have acted in good faith and honor. (Judges 9:19)

Bless our veterans for their heroism, Father.

September 17

A Memorable Traffic Stop

When Milwaukee Police Officer Kevin Zimmermann noticed a woman driving a car without the proper license plates, he asked her to pull over. As he approached the vehicle, reports CBS News, he saw three young children in the backseat, two of whom were not in car seats.

Officer Zimmermann discovered that the driver, Andrella Jackson, was a single mother of five who couldn’t afford car seats. He took down her contact information, but not because he was giving her a ticket. Instead, the policeman went to Walmart to buy two car seats, as well as books and stickers for the children.

He delivered them to her home later that day and instructed Jackson on how to install them in her backseat. Jackson commented, “It was loving, sweet. I really appreciate it, though, because he didn’t have to do that. I could’ve gotten three tickets instead of car seats.” She and her kids will always remember Officer Zimmermann’s kindness.

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have,

for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:16)

Remind me to go out of my way for others as a way of reflecting Your love, Messiah.

September 16

A Hero of the Revolution

         On January 7, 1785, a one-line notice appeared in a New York newspaper: “Thursday died Haym Salomon, a broker.” What the notice did not say was that Haym was one of the heroes of the American Revolution.

A refugee from Poland who could not vote or hold office here because he was Jewish, he nevertheless spied for the Americans and raised funds to support the army.

         Using his position as a broker to learn about British activities in New York, Salomon passed the information along to the Americans. When the British learned of this, they arrested him, tried him, and sentenced him to death.

         He escaped to Philadelphia where he became a conduit for supplies from French and Dutch sources. On one occasion, hearing of Washington’s urgent need for funds to keep his troops from starving, he raised the money himself.

         Once he was asked why he cared about the colonists’ cause inasmuch as he could not vote. “The cause of freedom anywhere on earth concerns all men,” he replied.

God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean. (Acts 10:28)

Free us of bigotry, Holy Spirit.

September 15

Blind Woman Stays Connected

Up until age 24, Andrea Villasenor had no problems with her vision. However, all that changed suddenly when her diabetes led to two detached retinas and complete blindness.

When Villasenor realized she would live the rest of her life in darkness, she told CBS News that moment was “very hard, and very lonely.” It became even lonelier when she felt like she was losing her independence and couldn’t even stay connected with friends and family through social media. 

She nearly gave up hope until she discovered that social media classes were being offered at the Braille Institute in La Jolla, California. The institute taught her innovative ways to use social media despite her condition, such as double-tapping on a screen to bring up a Facebook page with audio prompts.

“It was overwhelming knowing that I could still do the things that any other twenty-something year old can do,” Villasenor concluded. She is now using her newfound skills to teach other visually impaired people to stay connected.

You are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness. (Romans 2:19)

Help me stay connected with You, God, even in times of darkness.

September 14

Notice Things, Change Things

         When newly-hired elementary school principal Wendy Poveda noticed staff bringing home students’ clothes to launder them in their own homes, she acted. Learning that some youngsters were unable to get their clothes clean due to difficult housing circumstances, the New York City principal reached out to Catholic Charities Community Services, Alianza Division (CCCS) for help.

         Not having clean clothes “impacts attendance, it impacts self-esteem,” said Poveda to the Manhattan Times. CCCS installed a washer and dryer at the school. The idea is for children to bring in dirty laundry in a little backpack with their names and have a school aide wash it for them.

         School staff and community youth leaders envision the “laundry room” becoming a place where students and their families will have access to other services as well. And it’s all because one concerned person noticed the unmet needs around her.

If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. (John 13:14)

Encourage us, Lord, to serve each other humbly and emulate You.

September 12

Sanitation Worker Is a Treasure

Billy Shelby may collect trash for a living, but he is a treasure of a human being to the people on his route in Kansas City, Missouri, especially 88-year-old Opal Zucca.

In 2019, the elderly woman took a fall while trying to bring her garbage can from the curb to her house. Thankfully, Shelby, a sanitation worker with Waste Management, happened to still be there and stayed with her until the ambulance arrived.

Since then, Shelby always accompanies Zucca back to her house and carries her can himself. As reported by CBS News, the two have developed a friendship in which they look forward to seeing each other. A Ring doorbell camera recently captured video of Shelby “walking hand in hand with Zucca, telling her ‘God bless you, darling.’”

As Zucca’s daughter, Colette Kingston, told Fox News, “Knowing that somebody else would care for a stranger like they would their own family member, it reminds me that there are lots of good people still around.”

When was it that we saw You a stranger and welcomed You? (Matthew 25:38)

Remind me that kindness to strangers is kindness to You, Lord.

September 11

An Angel in the Rubble

         In 2001, Genelle Guzman-McMillan was the last survivor pulled from the World Trade Center after the September 11th terrorist attacks. She was racing to escape and had reached the 13th floor, when the building collapsed. She spent 27 hours trapped in the dark under a mountain of concrete and steel.

         “I prayed,” she wrote in Guideposts. “Well, it was more like pleading, screaming, promising, asking for some sort of miracle until I pushed my hand through a few inches of rubble above my head and felt someone’s warm hand close around mine. Then I heard a male voice say the four sweetest words I have ever heard: I’ve got you, Genelle.”

         The voice belonged to a “Paul,” who said he was going to let go of her hand so the rescuers could help her. It was only after she recovered that she tried to find Paul. Strangely, the firemen and rescuers could think of no such person there that day. They couldn’t explain who helped her, or how he knew her name. All Genelle knows is someone heard and answered her prayers.

Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14)

God, may Your angels watch over me every day.

September 10

Seeing the Face of God

The 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City are never far from the mind of Franciscan Friar Christopher Keenan, despite the fact that they happened 20 years ago. As the city’s Fire Department chaplain, he counsels those still suffering from PTSD and 9/11-related cancers, and he is himself dealing with the same type of cancer, brought on by his seven months working at Ground Zero.

Keenan does his best to stay positive and honor those who died. He recalled to Stephen Mangione of HNP.org, “One night, as I was walking down the makeshift bridge into the pit, I remember thinking: I am descending into hell and, at the same time, seeing the face of God in the hundreds of people around me that were volunteering in the recovery process.

“In the darkness, there was light at the end of the tunnel…While nearly 3,000 perished that day in New York City, we must never forget, too, that more than 25,000 people were brought to safety in that short few hours—which was the single-largest rescue operation in history.”

Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked. (Psalm 71:4)

Bless those still suffering from 9/11, Lord.

September 9

A More Important Job

As a journalist with NBC News, Bob Dotson spent six weeks around Ground Zero after the 9/11 terrorist attacks trying, as he wrote on Facebook, “to put a face on the faceless thousands who pitched in during the rescue efforts.” One day, he crossed paths with Eric Ortner, an NBC producer who was also a volunteer emergency medical technician.

Dotson wrote, “Eric did something reporters seldom do. He delayed his own coverage two days…He left his camera crew behind to spend the next forty-eight hours looking for lost lives.”

Eric got a call to help free a man trapped under 10 feet of rubble. Smoke was everywhere, so he could barely see what was in front of him. Even so, he joined with firefighters to create a human chain to where this person was trapped. “Firefighters laid a hose line,” Eric explained. “They put in just enough water to make the hose rigid. We followed it like breadcrumbs.”

Dotson concluded, “Rescue workers…lowered Eric into the hole. He took no camera, no notebook.” Together, they all saved that man’s life because Eric followed a higher calling that day. 

God sent me before you to preserve life. (Genesis 45:5)

Divine Savior, may I always respond to Your call to serve and save others in distress. 

September 8

Why We Remember

On September 11, 2001, actress Danica McKellar woke up in her Los Angeles home and watched the second plane hit the Twin Towers live on the news. In 2019, she reflected on why it’s important to remember that date every year.

McKellar wrote on Instagram, “I believe we remember to honor the bravery of those who willingly gave their lives to avoid that last plane hitting the Pentagon. I believe we remember to celebrate the firefighters of 9/11, some of whom also gave their lives searching for survivors in the rubble of the World Trade Center. I believe we remember to support the families who lost loved ones and still grieve every day.

“I believe we remember to stay vigilant and conscious that our seemingly impermeable bubble can indeed be compromised by ‘bad guys’—they do exist. So let’s remain grateful for the protection of the greatest military in the world and celebrate those who serve. I believe we also remember to value the incredible human spirit that unites us in times of crisis, seeing everyday citizens become heroes. May we claim that same spirit today, even in the smallest ways, wherever we can.”

Be united in...the same purpose. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

Lord, may we emulate the examples of 9/11’s selfless heroes.

September 7

A Triumph of Life

Holocaust survivor Shoshana Ovitz turned 104 in 2019, and celebrated her birthday with a trip to Jerusalem. The best part? She was joined by hundreds of her descendants, including children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

In The New York Post, Ovitz described how she survived the Auschwitz concentration camp, and how she met the man who would become her husband after the war. She went on to raise her children and remain close to many members of her family. Her wish was to have them all gather in the Holy City for her birthday, as a way to showcase the triumph over the Nazi atrocities.

Ovitz was thrilled to have her wish granted! And even though they were missing about 10 percent of the family, such a huge turnout was a gift to her. “We do not have an exact number, but there are probably 400 grandchildren and descendants,” Ovitz’s oldest granddaughter, Panini Friedman, told Israeli news site Walla. “It wasn’t a simple thing to organize this rare event. Everyone was there with tears in their eyes,”

Your children will be like olive shoots around your table. (Psalm 128:3)

Thank You, Lord, for the priceless gift of life.

September 6

Remembering Our Heroes

         As reported by John Annese in the New York Daily News, “The brave rescuers and volunteers who sacrificed their health and lives in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks will be forever remembered.”

         A new eight-acre Memorial Glade was dedicated in 2019 to the people who courageously came from all over the world to the site of the fallen World Trade Center towers to help in the rescue and recovery. Many would later suffer disease and death due to the toxic nature of the rubble they sifted through.

         “I thank you for giving us a place to remember them, a place that honors the work that they did, their courage and their strength. What a beautiful place for our heroes,” said Caryn Pfeifer, the widow of firefighter Raymond Pfeifer.

Look for those who have acted heroically in society, and also in your own life, and let them know that you appreciate their positive impact on you and the wider community.

The memory of the righteous is a blessing.

(Proverbs 10:7)

Jesus, may we never forget those who gave their all in service to others.

September 4

Joy in an Injury?

When 2017 Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles began his quarterbacking stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2019, he looked forward to leading his new team to a successful season. But that dream got sacked when he endured a clavicle injury that forced him to sit out several months of play. His Christian faith, however, gave him a hopeful perspective on the situation. In fact, he said that he could even find “joy” in his injury.

Foles said, “The reason I am smiling is because my faith is in Christ…Though I might not be playing, that is difficult from a fleshly perspective. But from a spiritual perspective, from my heart, I have been able to grow as a human being to where I feel like I am at a better situation here as a person than I was before because of the trial I just went under.” 

Foles added, “I don’t believe in the prosperity gospel. I believe that if you read the word of God and you understand it, there [are] trials along the way. But, they equip your heart to be who you are.” 

Whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. (James 1:2-3)

Help me to face my trials with courage and hope, Jesus.

September 3

Youthful Living for Seniors

It was a momentous day! Joel Wilson was moving into an assisted living facility for seniors. So why was that such a big deal? Because Joel is a college freshman at Minnesota’s Winona State University. Here’s the story.

Cheryl Krage is the assisted living director at Senior Living for Watkins, which is located a few blocks away from the school. With a few empty rooms in the spacious facility, she decided to rent them out to college students, thereby allowing young and old to develop mutually beneficial relationships.

As reported by KARE11-TV, grad student Laura Jensen runs weekly crocheting sessions for female residents, who in turn provide a motherly influence. And nursing student Ashley McGaw holds a Bible study with 89-year-old Allen Thompson, who says of their talks, “It’s refreshing, it’s a breath of fresh air.”

The program is so successful that Karge plans to open it to a few more students. She observed, “[It’s great] just watching them laugh and have banter back and forth...It works because I think we are all connected.”

One generation shall laud Your works to another. (Psalm 145:4)

May my friendships bridge all generations, Creator.

September 2

An Unexpected Pregnancy, Part 2          

As Shannon Lapp’s emergency C-section began in the hospital, she was surprised to hear her doctor exclaim, “I don’t know how you got pregnant!” Shannon’s uterus was in such a state of severe endometriosis that she shouldn’t have gotten pregnant in the first place, much less been able to carry a baby to 35 weeks.

Though five weeks early, the baby, named Isaac, was born at a healthy six pounds, nine ounces. Despite a few early health issues, Isaac quickly recovered and went home from the hospital with his parents four days later.

Regarding the experience, Shannon said on Christopher Closeup, “I truly believe another miracle happened that day… It’s funny that it took me 28 years to be able to fully surrender to God and to embrace it after watching my mom do it so many times. But I think it can take something so big and powerful in your life to realize that you’re not in control. And yeah, it was difficult, but the moment I [surrendered], there was this sense of peace and calm, and I knew that things would be okay.”

Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him. (Genesis 21:3)

Help me to surrender to Your will and find peace, Jesus.

September 1

An Unexpected Pregnancy, Part 1                      

“Pack your bags, get into the hospital right now! You’re having an emergency C-section as soon as we can clear you,” exclaimed the doctor to Shannon Lapp. It was a harrowing time yet again for the 28-year-old who had miraculously escaped death after enduring both liver rejection (from a childhood transplant) and meningitis in September 2018.

In fact, Shannon’s pregnancy had come as a surprise. She knew that because of her medical history, getting pregnant and carrying a baby to term would be difficult. That’s one of the reasons that she and her husband Jesse chose to adopt a child. But six months after bringing their adoptive son home, Shannon learned she was pregnant.

Towards the end of the pregnancy, Shannon experienced a liver problem that threatened both her own life and that of her unborn child. As Shannon and Jesse rushed to the hospital, she and her family turned to prayer. For a young woman who had already experienced several miracles in her life, she would soon discover that another was on the way. More tomorrow…

Shall I indeed bear a child?...Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? (Genesis 18:13-14)

Sustain women through difficult pregnancies, Creator.

August 31

Singers Deliver Smiles to Cancer Patient            

Sixteen-year-old Lily Jordan would have loved to attend the Jonas Brothers concert in her hometown of Hershey, Pennsylvania in August 2019. But Lily had an especially large obstacle keeping her from the event: she was at Penn State Children’s Hospital receiving chemotherapy for the vicious cancer osteosarcoma.

On a lark, she posted a message to the Jonas Brothers on her Instagram page, inviting them to visit her at the hospital before their concert. Lily’s friends and admirers shared her appeal so often that it finally came to the Jonas Brothers’ attention. So on August 31st, Nick, Joe, and Kevin Jonas entered her hospital room, giving the bedridden teen the thrill of her life.

They chatted with Lily for a while and posed for pictures, treating her with the warmth and friendliness that briefly took her mind off her ongoing health battle. Afterwards, Lily wrote on Instagram, “Thank you thank you thank you @jonasbrothers for taking time out of your day to come pay me a visit. Literally made my life.”

Do not hesitate to visit the sick, because for such deeds

you will be loved. (Sirach 7:35)

Lead me to bring comfort to someone who is ailing, Jesus.

August 30

                               A Reason to Live                           

         Once people retire, they may find themselves floundering, without a sense of purpose. According to research, this can have a negative impact on their health, writes Judith Graham for Kaiser Health News.

          “I think people can get a sense of purpose from very simple things: from taking care of a pet, working in the garden or being kind to a neighbor” writes Graham quoting Patricia Boyle, a researcher and professor of behavioral sciences. Or, “a purpose in life can arise from learning a new thing, accomplishing a new goal, working together with other people.”

         Seniors with a sense of purpose tend to be less likely to develop various diseases, perhaps because they are “more physically active and take better care of themselves…They may be less susceptible to stress.”

It might take time to find new ways to contribute to society. But the effort is worth it.

I cry to God Most High, to God who fulfills His purpose for me. (Psalm 57:2)

Help us, Lord, to find meaning in life.

August 27

The Long Road Home

After separating from his wife more than 25 years ago, Jose Lopez of New Jersey moved to Miami and mostly lost touch with his young daughters, Kristy and Angela. They reconnected over the phone a few times, but those calls abruptly ended when Jose suffered a series of strokes in 2012, forgot his girls’ phone numbers, and ended up homeless.

In 2019, Jose used his Social Security money to make his way back to Jersey. That’s where Transit Police Officers Josue Robles and Sean Pfeifer found him in August, homeless and in need of help. Lopez told them he was trying to get to his daughters, but didn’t know how to find them.

As reported by the North Jersey Record, Officer Pfeifer tracked down Kristy and Angela, who felt joyful that their long lost father had come home. At their emotional reunion, Kristy and Jose “said the same thing to each other when they finally came face to face: ‘I thought I’d never see you again.’”

The family is now making up for lost time and getting Jose the mental health services he needs. Jose told CBS2 News, “I’m in heaven.”

He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents. (Malachi 4:6)

Reunite families in forgiveness and love, Father.

August 26

When Visiting a Nursing Home

         The secret to a warm and satisfying visit to a friend or relative in a nursing home is sharing. Writer Marilyn Fanning offers these ideas:

■ Share food. But go beyond just bringing candy or fruit and leaving it. Instead, bring something that you know would be considered a special treat, and then eat with the patient. It shows that you enjoy his or her company.

■ Share books and articles. But again, don’t just bring some reading matter and leave it. Instead, read certain passages or short articles aloud and then discuss them.

■ Share the environment. People in nursing homes feel a sense of confinement. Walk with them, take them on an outing, or bring flowers or a plant.

■ Share yourself. Don’t visit and run. Stay and do something. Fix the patient’s hair, give him a shave, tidy up, or just listen.

It is the isolation from normal human contacts, coupled with a loss of independence, that makes life in a nursing home difficult. But your visit can provide a memory to cherish.

Do not forsake me when my strength is spent. (Psalm 71:9)

Holy Spirit, remind me to be considerate to others.

August 25

Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge

         For 23 years, California Highway Patrol Officer Kevin Briggs had the task of monitoring the Golden Gate Bridge. Until he was assigned this post in 1994, he had no idea how necessary patrolling the bridge was.

         “There were four to six cases of suicidal folks on the bridge each and every month,” Briggs recalled in a CBC radio interview. “I had no idea about this, and...I had no training to handle these types of situations.”

         It took him a while, but Officer Briggs finally figured out the best approach to talk people down off the bridge: just listen. “That’s all that many, many people are looking for is someone to listen,” he pointed out. “What I believe…they want to hear is, ‘Yeah, it is tough.’”

The now retired Briggs helped change the minds of over 200 people contemplating suicide, earning him the moniker, “Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge.” He concluded, “It…takes a lot of courage to come back [from over that rail] and face…reality …But life is beautiful and…it is worth living.” 

Let everyone be quick to listen. (James 1:19)

God, may we always be ready with a helping hand and an open ear.

August 23

Prepared For a Purpose, Part 4

Antoinette Tuff used her moment in the spotlight to benefit others. She created a nonprofit called “Kids on the Move for Success,” which offers literacy and mentoring programs to students who attend the same school in which she saved lives.

During a Christopher Closeup interview about the Christopher Award-winning TV movie she inspired, called Faith Under Fire, Tuff said, “They are homeless kids, they’re foster kids, and they all live in at-risk communities. So I wanted to make sure that we could impact their lives.” Tuff also started a Youth Trailblazing team, which aims to prevent suicide and gun violence among young people.

In addition to her volunteer efforts, Tuff now travels the country giving presentations to churches, schools, and businesses on how to deal with difficult situations. And though she is self-employed, she still believes she has a boss: “My new boss is God…When I get up every morning, I don’t know how God is going to do it, but I know my assignment is changing lives and saving souls for the kingdom.”

God…will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for His sake. (Hebrews 6:10)

How can I use my struggles to help others, Lord?

August 22

Prepared For a Purpose, Part 3

Police and media had gathered outside the school in response to the hostage situation, while students remained locked down in their classrooms with teachers. Meanwhile, Antoinette Tuff managed to act with compassion, confidence, and control in the midst of the fear, threats, and uncertainty.

She began revealing to Michael Hill the troubles she had endured in her life, including her suicide attempts and the fact that her son Derrick was born with disabilities that affected his sight, hearing, and ability to walk. Yet Derrick had faced those challenges and become a successful husband and father.

Tuff wanted to convey to Hill that he, too, could overcome his hardships and succeed in life. Her message about God’s love, self-empowerment, and ending this standoff without any bloodshed finally got through to him. He surrendered to police without a single person being injured or killed.

Tuff was hailed as a hero and said the situation gave her a new perspective on life as well. “God loves me unconditionally,” she said, “and He validates me.” More tomorrow…

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? (Psalm 27:1)

Let me face my challenges with trust in You, Creator.

August 21

Prepared For a Purpose, Part 2

Though shocked and scared by the seemingly-homicidal gunman in front of her, Antoinette Tuff immediately noted that Michael Hill was suicidal. During a Christopher Closeup interview, Tuff explained, “I saw him as 20-year-old standing in front of me, that was younger than my children, and saying to me that he hadn’t taken his medicine, and that he should just kill himself…I knew that I needed to help save his life.”

Tuff’s spiritual beliefs kicked in as well as she prayed, “God, what do I say? How do I say it? Every word that proceeds out of my mouth right now is life or death, not just for me, but for all of us that are involved. So give me the words to say—no more no less—that this young man may be able to see You in the process of it all.”

Though there were moments when Tuff could have escaped, she chose not to because she realized that might cost the lives of the 800 children and staff in the school. She explained, “For me that day, it was important that everybody went home to their families, including the gunman.” More tomorrow…

Be strong and bold; have no fear…it is the Lord your God who goes with you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Fill me with Your courage during troubling times, Jesus.

August 20

Prepared For a Purpose, Part 1

Antoinette Tuff had not lacked hardships in her life. As a child, she endured homelessness and abandonment by her parents. In adulthood, she attempted suicide after learning that her husband was leaving her for another woman. But what Tuff didn’t realize until August 20, 2013, is that her pain had prepared her for a greater purpose.

Tuff began the day as she always did, with prayer. Despite her faith, she wasn’t in the best place, emotionally speaking, as she headed to her bookkeeping job at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Georgia, that morning.

Tuff went to help out in the school’s front office because everyone else was busy. As a parent was leaving, he held open the door for a young man who wanted to enter. That young man was Michael Hill, who was mentally ill, off his medication, and carrying an AK-47 and over 500 rounds of ammunition in his shoulder bag and backpack. When he took the weapon out in front of Tuff, he declared, “We are all going to die today.”

More tomorrow…

Be alert…praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place. (Luke 21:36)

Lord, guide all those facing danger.

August 19

Christmas in August

One August morning in Buffalo, New York, Uber driver Lamiyah Jabbar picked up a woman named Diane to take her to her job at Tim Hortons, a fast food restaurant chain.

The two women began chatting, and Diane revealed that she couldn’t afford new clothes for herself because she was caring for her grandkids and strapped for cash. Specifically, Jabbar recalled to CBS News, “[Diane] was hoping to be able to get a new dress for church and a robe and house shoes for Christmas.”

Jabbar couldn’t help but think, “I’m someone who doesn’t have to wait until Christmas for something as simple as a robe, house shoes and a new dress.” So she decided to make a difference. After dropping Diane off at work, the kindhearted driver did some shopping. She then returned to Tim Hortons, where Diane was working the drive-through window.

Jabbar handed a surprised Diane a new dress and a $50 gift card. Diane exclaimed, “Thank you so much! This has been such a horrible day. You just made my day!” Jabbar’s day was made too, knowing she had played Santa Claus a few months early.

Show yourself…a model of good works. (Titus 2:7)

Inspire me to keep a spirit of generosity alive all year long, Jesus.

August 18

First, Tell Them They’re Right

It’s difficult to have a conversation about a serious topic with someone who disagrees with you. Often we want to point out what’s wrong about their argument or approach. But a better way to winning over a convert to your way of thinking was outlined by a 17th century philosopher. And it even has the benefit of building on an affirmation, rather than a rejection.

Philosopher Blaise Pascal had an insight into what today is the field of positive psychology. An article on getpocket.com highlights the similarities between Pascal’s approach and what research phycologists have found.

The best way to win an argument is to begin by pointing out what the other person has gotten right in their perspective. Then, you can point to seeing a different side. That way the person doesn’t have to accept that he or she was wrong, only that they failed to see all sides.

By leading with positivity and recognition of where they are correct, you are more likely to win over someone to your way of thinking. The ultimate takeaway? Positivity wins!

The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life. (Proverbs 13:14)

Help me to persuade with love and gentleness, Lord!

August 17

                                       Man with a Mission                                       

In 1967, Odilon Long retired from the Illinois Bell Telephone Co. at age 65 after 41 years of service. He joined the Peace Corps that same day and, almost two decades later, he was its oldest volunteer.

Long taught industrial skills, such as welding and carpentry, in an area of Haiti so poor that there were few roads and no plumbing or electricity. Before taking that assignment, he had put in for a brief leave of absence to recuperate from dengue fever, a tropical disease he contracted in Upper Volta. He also served in Sierra Leone and Togo, two other African nations.

Long believed that by helping others he helped himself. “The Haitians are helping me by needing me,” he said. He added that he joined the Peace Corps because “I knew I could help. I joined to render a service. You have to sacrifice, but work was what I was looking for and I got it.”

Everyone is called to a life of service, a life of mission. How we exercise that calling may vary from time to time, but the essential mission remains: to serve.

I will very gladly spend and be spent for You. (2 Corinthians 12:15)

Remind me, Jesus, to always be of service.  

August 15

                           The Most Powerful Weapon                                

         Born in 1944 to a pious Catholic family in West Lafayette, Indiana, Bill Strasburger grew up learning the importance of faith. “Most evenings, my three older sisters, my parents and I would pray the rosary together,” he recalled to Mary McAfee of The Catholic Moment. “The rosary and Catholicism were part of our everyday life….Faith is not just one separate part of life, but the heart of all activities.”

         Strasburger’s devotion to Mary continued into adulthood, and he credits the rosary he always carries with him as his most powerful weapon, especially when he served in the Vietnam War. There was one horrific battle in 1968 in which his unit was ambushed. While Strasburger’s heroic actions earned him a Bronze Star, many lives were lost. “We would pray over the kids who had been killed,” he remembered. “I knew Mary was with me as I kept praying.”

“The rosary is still my weapon,” Strasburger concluded. “Mary wants to guide us…and connect us on a deeper level to her Son. She’s just a really great saint to have in your pocket.”

You girded me with strength for…battle.

(2 Samuel 22:40)

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.

August 14

The Baby Whisperer

David Deutchman had spent much of his life as an international marketing executive. But after he retired, he didn’t have much to do and found himself feeling bored and unfulfilled. One day, as he passed Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta hospital, he decided to go in and ask if they had any volunteer opportunities.

Deutchman wound up assigned to the pediatric and neonatal intensive care units, where he would hold babies who were either premature or faced medical challenges. His soothing voice and calming presence often silenced crying babies, leading nurses to dub him “the baby whisperer.”

Deutchman estimates he’s held about 1,500 babies over his 15 years of volunteering. And he is also a source of comfort to their worried parents, who appreciate his compassion and willingness to listen.

Deutchman told the Atlanta Jewish Times, “I think for guys my age, getting off your butt and doing something is important, if for no other reason than to give back for all the things you have enjoyed in life. I can’t imagine not doing this.”

The Lord has comforted His people. (Isaiah 52:9)

Guide me towards being a comforter, Lord.

August 13

The Power of Music

         Music soothes the soul for so many, whether it’s folk, jazz, classical, country, pop, musical theater, etc. Whatever the genre, people turn to it for a lot of reasons.

For one group of North Carolinians, it was religious hymns, particularly those of praise and thanksgiving, that brought them comfort during difficult times, according to a study by the School of Nursing, University of North Carolina.

As reported in Good Housekeeping, Jill B. Hamilton, Ph.D. explained, “In interviews with 65 North Carolinians who had experienced a life-threatening illness, the death of a loved one, or another difficult time, those who expressed their faith through song said they felt strengthened, more at peace, and better able to endure stressful situations when they sang or simply hummed hymns to themselves while thinking about the lyrics.”

God gave us the gift of music as a balm to our souls. Take advantage of this gift during your own stressful times.          

While the musician was playing, the power of the Lord came on him. (2 Kings 3:15)

Holy Spirit, may music help us through life’s ups and downs.

August 12

Living a Holy Life

         Many years ago, Rev. Robert K. Hudnut served as pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Winetka, Illinois, and he noted that it’s not easy to both live a spiritual life and live in the world. He tried living as a layman for two years, but then returned to active ministry.

         In particular, Rev. Hudnut said he didn’t have time to “take God seriously,” and nothing seemed to satisfy his wants for transcendence and fellowship. He called it an “unbalanced” existence, one that left little time for reflection and emotional sharing.

The experience, he said, convinced him that it’s not a bad idea for clergy to live as lay people occasionally to better appreciate the problems lay people face.

         That’s one reason for this book and its title of Three Minutes a Day. We are asking you to spare at least three minutes daily to reflect on God with the idea that it will be the start of a deeper spiritual search.

After saying farewell to them, He went up on the mountain to pray. (Mark 6:46)

Bring me to an appreciation of the need for daily prayer, Father.

August 11

Faith in the Spotlight

Raised in a Christian home, Inside Edition correspondent Megan Alexander claimed her faith for herself when she was in middle school, asking, “Do I believe in Jesus Christ myself? Am I going to have that personal relationship?” Her answer: “Yes.”

As her media career progressed, Megan stayed true to her beliefs in a secular industry and wrote a book on that topic called Faith in the Spotlight. She also learned to discern when it was appropriate to share her beliefs in a professional setting.

She explained, “I wanted to be known for good work first. Gain the respect of your colleagues, that you will deliver for them... So much of life is relationships and friendships. We have been with each other through the deaths of family members, births of babies, marriages, divorces…That’s when you get a chance to share how you get through life. For me, it’s my faith.

“Do excellent work first. Then, ask the Lord for guidance on when you should speak and when you should not. I think it is a case-by-case basis, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to live out my faith because I know at the end of the day, God has me where He wants me and He can use anyone anywhere.”

I treasure Your word in my heart. (Psalm 119:11)

Help me to better live out my faith in You, Lord.

August 10

Sit on the Bench by Yourself

Megan Alexander’s parental compassion and wisdom come in part from the example set by her own parents. Her father worked as a financial advisor and always treated the security guard in his building with the same respect that he treated the CEO. And her mom taught her to be open to new relationships when she felt alone.

During a Christopher Closeup interview, Megan said, “My mom told me once when I was lonely in elementary school, ‘Go sit on the bench by yourself. This is an opportunity to meet new friends.’ And that was such great advice that I’ve taken with me, whether it’s attending corporate gatherings by myself or not being afraid to introduce myself to someone when I’m the new kid on the block.

“In the broadcasting world, you have to move around a lot when you’re starting out. [Had it not been for Mom’s advice], I don’t think I would have had the confidence to show up by myself, and I would’ve missed out on so many friendships. So I think God can use us when we allow ourselves to be available to Him and seek out new friendships and new people.”

You shall also love the stranger. (Deuteronomy 10:19)

Help me turn strangers into friends, Abba.

August 9

One More Hug

In 2019, Inside Edition correspondent Megan Alexander not only gave birth to her third child, she also published her first-ever children’s book, One More Hug, which earned her a Christopher Award. The story was inspired by Megan’s oldest son, who is now nine. She explained on Christopher Closeup:

 “When he went to Kindergarten and first got on the bus, he had some anxiety and would run back to me for one more hug. He must’ve asked me five or six times…And this has been our thing, where he asked me for ‘one more hug, Mama.’”

The book follows a boy from infancy through his departure for college, and readers witness the difference that unconditional love can make in a child’s life. Megan believes the story is especially important for boys who are often conditioned by our culture to keep their emotions bottled up.

She said, “We want to create a safe place for [boys] where they can…always share their feelings as they get older. That’s what the story is…[It’s a reminder to] our little ones that as they get older, they can always run back for one more hug.”

The teaching of kindness is on her tongue. (Proverbs 31:26)

Strengthen the love between mothers and children, Jesus.

August 7

Ten-Year-Old Founded Library

         Residents of Elsinore, Utah, got their own library many years ago, despite only having a population 680. And it was all thanks to a one-man campaign conducted by Jason Hardman, then 10 years old.

         No one wanted a library more than Jason. Every time he wanted a book, he had to travel six miles to Monroe, Utah, to get one. For Jason, that was a drudge. So he organized—and then ran—the Elsinore town library.

         It wasn’t easy. First he had to convince his parents. “We thought it was a whim. We figured it would go away,” said his mother. His father advised Jason to go to the city council and ask for a place for the library. He did. Recalling that experience, he said, “They thought I was nuts. They didn’t think I’d stick to it.”

         But the council relented and provided space in the basement of an old building used as city hall. Within a few years, the library had some 5,000 volumes and a book return rate of 100 percent. And it was all because of a youngster with a great idea and the enthusiasm to make it happen

A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul. (Proverbs 13:19)

Fill me with the enthusiasm of the young, Holy Spirit.

August 5

Snow in August?

During the month of August, most people are dealing with sweltering heat. So why does the Catholic Church celebrate the feast of Our Lady of the Snows on August 5th? On the website CatholicMom.com, Tiffany Walsh shared the origin story.

Walsh wrote, “The title of Our Lady of the Snows developed from a tradition involving a Roman couple in 352. Both husband and wife had a dream in which Our Lady appeared to them and told them that she wanted a church built in a place on which snow would fall to mark the spot. Given that they lived in Rome, you can imagine that the couple was a bit curious; snow does not fall all that often there, especially in August!

“Sure enough, on August 5, snow covered the Esquiline Hill in Rome. All of Rome proclaimed this a miracle, and a church was built on the hill in 358. Through the years, the church has undergone a lot of restoring and refurbishing, and today it is known as the Basilica of St. Mary Major…As well, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate…run an American shrine to Mary under this title in Belleville, Illinois.”

To the snow He says, ‘Fall on the earth.’ (Job 37:6)

You still make miracles happen, Son of Mary. Open my eyes to the wonders around me.

August 4

A Hiking Dream Team

Colorado native Melanie Knecht loves the outdoors and hiking, but pursuing her passions is a challenge because she is confined to a wheelchair, having been born with spina bifida. At age 29, however, she found the ideal and most unlikely hiking partner, Trevor Hahn, who happens to be blind.

 Hahn, also a hiking enthusiast from Colorado, lost his eyesight five years ago due to glaucoma. He met Knecht at a course for adaptive exercise in 2019, and they soon became friends. Their shared passions encouraged them to team up and hike in the mountains together. “He’s the legs, and I’m the eyes – boom! Together we’re the dream team,” Knecht exclaimed on Good Morning America. 

Hahn carries Knecht on his back in a custom-made carrier, and Knecht is the guide, describing the terrain and landscapes to her sightless partner. “I hope that [our story] encourages other people to try what we’re doing, or just for anyone to think outside of whatever box they’ve been put in,” Knecht concluded. “It goes to show you that we really are stronger together.”

I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. (Job 29:15)

Father, may we remember there is great strength in numbers.

August 3

Boy Scout’s Invention Helps Healthcare Workers

         One of the most visually scarring images from the coronavirus pandemic is that of nurses and doctors with deep bruises etched into their faces, sustained from wearing surgical face masks for so many hours at a time. To this end, Canada sent out a nationwide appeal to anyone who could help bring some relief to these healthcare heroes.

Quinn Callander, a 13-year-old Boy Scout, came up with a unique solution. Using his 3-D printer, he created a formula for an ear guard – a plastic, serrated band that wraps around the back of the head, and lifts the mask straps, so they don’t dig as painfully into the backs of the ears. Quinn’s mother posted her son’s design on Facebook, and even allowed public access to his ear guard file, so anyone with a 3-D printer could potentially make them.

“In one week I’ve personally produced over 1,300 straps. 1,215 have gone to a few hospitals in my region where they seem to be really appreciated,” Quinn wrote on the file. “A volunteer group that I’m contributing to in the Vancouver BC area has delivered over 3,300 straps, including mine.”

We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us…Serve the Lord.
(Romans 12:6,11)

Messiah, may we strive to use our talents to help others.

August 2

Called Out, Part 2

Paula Faris feels that part of her vocational calling in this season of life is hosting the ABC News podcast Journeys of Faith, on which she interviews prominent people about their diverse spiritual beliefs. The work has been an education for Paula. Having attended a small Christian college where she earned a Bible Minor, she thought she was well-versed in world religions. But the podcast taught her how much she didn’t know.

Being exposed to different belief systems has also led Paula to learn more about her own. She notes that living in an echo chamber where we only interact with like-minded people can be detrimental because we’re never challenged to explore our faith more deeply.

During a Christopher Closeup interview, she observed, “You need to know what you believe and why you believe it. You should be able to dig into it and ask questions. Don’t just believe it because that’s how you were raised. Question, ‘What do I believe? Why do I believe this?’ If anything, my faith has only grown since I embarked on this journey of faith.”

Test everything; hold fast to what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)                                      

Guide me toward a deeper faith in You, Holy Trinity.

August 1

Called Out, Part 1

ABC News’ Paula Faris details her struggle for identity in the memoir Called Out: Why I Traded Two Dream Jobs for a Life of True Calling. During a Christopher Closeup interview, Paula explained, “It’s a book about…buying this lie from society that our only worth is our work, that our value is our vocation, that our calling is our career.

“One of the first questions you ask somebody is, ‘What do you do for a living?’ Even subconsciously, we’re projecting this narrative that you’re only as good as your job…I leaned into all that because I thought that was my calling. And I burned out.”

“I learned that we have two callings. We have a faith calling, and we have a vocational calling. [My] faith calling is singular: to love God and love people. That is my purpose on this earth…My vocational calling IS going to change, but my vocation is just the conduit by which I’ll fulfill my purpose to love God and love people. When I understood that for the first time, it changed everything. What I do doesn’t define me. [Give] yourself permission to allow your vocation to change.”

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…and your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)

Help me follow my true callings, Abba.

July 30

Little Dreams, Part 1

For 10 years, singer-songwriter Marie Miller made albums with Curb Records and found herself compared to artists like Taylor Swift and Sara Bareilles. But in recent years, Marie felt restless, yearning to create music with more of a country and bluegrass sound, while also openly singing and speaking about her Catholic faith. Despite some trepidation, she left the safety of her record label to become an independent artist.

“The deepest part of me is a lover of Jesus,” explained Marie on Christopher Closeup about her decision to leave Curb in 2018. Though she loves pop music and performing in regular venues, she wanted the option to do more faith-oriented work.

At first, Marie felt excited by this new adventure. Then, fear crept in as she realized she no longer had the power of a major record label behind her. But she trusted in God anyway, noting, “In the way that God does, He has given me the daily bread of what I’ve needed. There’s been investors that have gotten involved and wonderful people. So, as an independent artist, I feel even stronger. But it took a leap of faith to do that.”

We walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Guide me in taking leaps of faith, Holy Spirit.

July 29

                                   Kiki’s Kindness Project                                        

         Five-year-old Katelyn “Kiki” Hardee, a student at Breeze Elementary School in Southern California, had just overheard something very troubling. A parent was saying she couldn’t afford the after-school program for her child.

When Kiki approached her mom Karina about this situation, Karina explained, “Sometimes people aren’t as fortunate and…we need to try to be kind and give when we can.”

         Kiki took her mother’s words to heart because she wasted no time in setting up a hot cocoa, cider, and cookie stand to raise money. She made $78 on the first day and used it to partially pay off “the negative lunch balances of 123 students.”

Kiki’s generosity didn’t stop there, though. With the help of a Fundly page, “Kiki’s Kindness Project” has raised $17,308, which will be used not only to help the Breeze School, but the entire district. “It’s all about kindness,” Karina said about her daughter’s altruistic endeavor. “With everything that’s going on in the world, we just need a bit more kindness.”

Kindness is like a garden of blessings. (Sirach 40:17)

God, may I contribute more kindness to the world.

July 28

Lead with Empathy

What’s the most important skill in leading a team of people in business today? If you said “vision,” “determination,” or “drive,” you’d be half right. But it turns out one of the biggest things employees are looking for from their leaders is empathy.

Brigette Hyacinth writes on LinkedIn that employee engagement and appreciation are at all-time lows. The difference between good leaders and great leaders is a simple concept: show people that you care.

“If we treat people only as the means to an end, we will never have their loyalty,” Hyacinth observes. She goes on to say, “Empathy and listening go hand in hand. Why? Because listening shows you care. You can’t show empathy if you do not listen.”

Listening, treating people with respect, and caring about those you work with – these are fundamental perspectives in any relationship. It’s no wonder they’re also great business practices!

Let the wise also hear and gain in learning, and the discerning acquire skill.

(Proverbs 1:5)

May Christ’s love of all people be reflected in my words and actions today, Lord, and may I learn to lead by example.

July 27

God’s Plan in Good Time

Father Darrick Leier is a priest in Aspen, Colorado, but his journey to the priesthood was not a typical one. Speaking to the Aspen Daily News, he said he spent years as a self-described fallen-away Catholic. But he came back to the faith of his youth in his late thirties when his mother was dying of cancer.

In those times, Leier began to ask deep questions about faith and life. He started attending Mass again and got involved with different ministries. But that wasn’t enough for Leier, who was working as a technology engineer at the time.

He said “I had no doubt [this transformation] was the work of the Lord. I knew He had plans for me…I spent as much time in prayer as I could. I surrendered and said, ‘Jesus, whatever Your plan is for me, give me the grace to say yes to it.’”

At age 38, he went to a seminary, specifically for older men with vocations, and returned to serve as a diocesan priest. Father Leier describes his faith as having been “dormant” for many years, until the Lord used the occasion of his mother’s death to awaken him to his vocation.

He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19)

Jesus, may I hear Your voice calling me.

July 26

                Google’s “Project Understood”                          

Voice recognition technology, such as Siri and Alexa, is everywhere, offering daily schedule reminders, the ability to access directions, and ways to keep in contact with loved ones. However, the current technology is missing every third word a person with Down syndrome says because of their unique speech patterns. Google is now working to change this with their initiative called “Project Understood.”

Google partnered with the Canadian Down Syndrome Society to collect voice samples from adults with Down syndrome. As Julie Cattiau, product manager at Google explained it at www.disabilityscoop.com, “The more people who participate, the more likely Google will be able to eventually improve speech recognition for everyone.”

“Project Understood” will enable the algorithm to better decipher the speech patterns of the Down syndrome population. As Laura LaChance of the Canadian Down Syndrome Society says, if this works, “voice technology can help facilitate infinite access to tools and learnings that could lead to enriched lives.”

You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice.
(Deuteronomy 4:12)

God bless those who are improving the lives of others.

July 25

Good Samaritans Save a Life

Toni Pollard’s friends kept badgering her to walk to the grocery store with them in their Washington, D.C. neighborhood. Despite not wanting to go, she finally gave in. On their way, they came upon a car that had crashed because the driver, 75-year-old Joe Cwiklinksi, had a heart attack. Neighborhood residents rushed out of their homes to pray and call 911!

As reported by Hannah Natanson in the Washington Post, Pollard, a registered medical assistant, saw that Cwiklinski had no pulse, so she pulled him from the car and immediately began CPR. The ambulance arrived several minutes later and transported Cwiklinski to the hospital, where medical staff acknowledged that Pollard’s actions had saved his life.

Following his recovery, Cwiklinski returned to the site of the accident and posted a sign on a tree thanking his “Good Samaritans.” That led to a public ceremony with all the parties involved, including an emotional meeting between Pollard and Cwiklinski. Pollard said, “I’ve never saved a life before, and to see someone that you actually saved…it’s like a miracle.”

Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. (Psalm 31:2)

Guide me to serve as a lifeline to someone in need, Divine Messiah.

July 24

Better Than Coffee and Donuts

On Special Agent Troy Sowers’ last day with the FBI, he was unexpectedly reunited with an important figure from his past.

In 1997, having recently started his job, Sowers was put on a case in pursuit of a woman who had kidnapped a baby boy while posing as a doctor at St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood, Washington. As reported by NPR, a 19-hour search led police to the kidnapper. Then, the kidnapper led Sowers to the baby.

Flash forward 22 years to 2019. Sowers expected his retirement party to just involve coffee and donuts. Instead, one of his colleagues brought in a special guest who wanted to wish Sowers well: Marine Corps Corporal Stewart Rembert, the kidnapped boy he had saved all those years ago.

Sowers felt understandably emotional. Cpl. Rembert said he came to tell Sowers that “his efforts that day, and all of his efforts since, made a difference.”

Sowers concluded, “I’m proud of anybody that serves others above themselves. The fact that he is now doing that makes that case even more special.”

Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)

Teach me to live a life of service, Messiah.

July 21

Following God’s Call        

Cackie Upchurch of Little Rock, Arkansas, has been responding to God’s calls all her life, though in the beginning she wasn’t too sure of where He was leading her.

When she was in high school, Cackie felt drawn to working for the Church, but there were no laywomen around to serve as role models. She didn’t think it was possible to study theology as a laywoman until her friend, Msgr. David LeSieur, told her otherwise. Cackie went on to serve as a campus minister, a teacher, and Director of Little Rock Scripture Study (LRSS).

The Arkansas Catholic reports, “Among her biggest accomplishments were the partnerships formed with groups in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia to distribute LRSS materials and the publication of the Little Rock Catholic Study Bible. At one point LRSS was used in 52 countries.”

In 2019, Cackie retired from LRSS after 30 years to care for her mother. She said, “You honor your parents by the way you care for them as they age. I felt God was asking me to respond.”

Let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you. (1 Corinthians 7:17)

May I always hear and follow Your call, Father.

July 20

Faith, Family, and the Moon

On the 50th anniversary of the first man landing on the moon, Gene Kranz, the former NASA flight director for Apollo 11, acknowledged the vital role that faith and family have played in his life. Blessed by having his six children and his wife at his side, Kranz reflected on his stellar journey at the Galveston-Houston Archdiocesan Prayer Breakfast.

Following his service as a U.S. fighter pilot in Korea, Kranz believes God guided his subsequent search for work by pointing him toward a trade journal about a new government program looking to put Americans in space. “Whenever there is a fork in the road and a major decision, it’s always part of God’s plan,” Kranz told Catholic News Service.

Retired from NASA after 37 years, Kranz continues to be heralded for his earthbound work on that historic eight-day trip to the moon. Kranz says that he felt the presence of God throughout his work and his life: “God’s mark is everywhere and is on everything.”

The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful…and abounding in

steadfast love and faithfulness. (Exodus: 34:6)

God, may I trust that You are leading me on the right path.

July 19

Seniors Still Living Their Faith

When Pablo Diaz served as guest preacher at a Spanish Baptist church in 2019, he discovered a vibrant community of senior citizens dedicated to putting God’s love into action. On Guideposts.com, he wrote, “They may walk more slowly, their hair may be gray, and they may face health challenges, but their faith, commitment and joy are stronger than ever.”

Diaz met Lydia, age 93, who told him about the church’s history and how important the congregation is in her life. In addition, Diaz’s own father Pablo, age 83, and his friend Johnny, age 80, were working on establishing a food pantry to serve the community. Diaz commended the church’s pastor, Eli, for being so welcoming to seniors.

Diaz concluded, “We must continue to respect and care for our elders. They helped shape the world as we know it today, and they are the reason we are here. They have so much to give and teach in their golden years.  As the late TV commentator Andy Rooney said, ‘The best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.’” 

Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life. (Proverbs 16:31)

May our society be more respectful of our elders, Father.

July 18

“MacGyver” in a Children’s Hospital

The TV show MacGyver was a 1980s hit that Andres Guerrero enjoyed watching as a kid. Each episode revolved around the main character solving problems in unconventional ways. Little did Guerrero realize that he would one day grow into that MacGyver-like role and transform lives for the better.           

Guerrero is the first rehabilitation engineer at Valhalla, New York’s Blythedale Children Hospital. With a background in mechatronics, he’s using technology to help patients become more independent and more actively participate in the world.

Julie Knitter, director of occupational therapy at the hospital, told WCBS 880, “Our kids have limited ability to move or interact…so, without Andres, some of these children couldn’t be active with their families, with their friends…or school.”

Guerrero creates everything from specialized bikes, to scooters, to toys with easy-to-operate switches. His inspiration is to help children with complex medical issues get better, saying, “There is a plus of actually doing something for somebody that needs it.”

Like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and     

someone else is building on it. (1 Corinthians 3:10)

May I use my skills to build upon Your love, dear Lord.

July 17

Nurse Prays to Be God’s Hands and Heart

Sister Marie Anna Stelmach has been a Dominican Sister for the past 56 years. She has served as a teacher, chaplain in prisons, nurse, and even conducted missionary work in Bolivia and Trinidad. Now she is serving patients as a volunteer with the Mayo Clinic hospital in Rochester, Minnesota, and believes that helping patients is a reminder that God is everywhere.

“People here are hurting physically, emotionally, spiritually,” she said on the Mayo Clinic’s website in 2020. “I ask God to be God’s hands and heart when I am with a patient.”

Sister Marie Anna has been sharing her own warmth and friendliness with patients – from hand massages to checking patients in and comforting worried family members.

 Through this volunteer experience, she says, “There are so many God moments here.” When she returns back to her community, she will be a better person for it: “With volunteering, of course, you receive far more than you ever imagined and far more than you ever give.”

Rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands (2 Timothy 1:6)

Guide me to be Your hands and heart, Loving God.

July 16

Jesus, Take the Wheel

“Jesus is 7 minutes away.” That was the message Kerry Maggard received on her smartphone—and it was indeed the answer to a prayer.

Maggard and her sister, Deb Eggers, were flying to their Aunt Ann’s 100th birthday celebration in Edgerton, Minnesota. But because they had missed a connecting flight, they ended up stranded at the Minneapolis airport, which was 200 miles away from the party. CNN’s David Williams reported that all other flights were “sold out and they couldn’t get a rental car.”

Maggard decided to contact Uber to see if any drivers would be willing to make the lengthy trip. Sure enough, there was one: Jesus Florentino. Maggard was a little surprised by the “Jesus is 7 minutes away” message, but found humor (and maybe a little divine help) in the situation. Both sisters appreciated their driver’s kindness.

Florentino said, “It’s an important occasion, and if I was in their place I would appreciate very much someone bringing me there when there was no other way.”

I do need you to travel with me, and I will pay you your wages. (Tobit 5:7)

Inspire me to go out of my way for strangers, Jesus.

July 15

I’ll Do What I Can

         Many years ago, the Rev. Herbert S. Costain, an Episcopalian priest from Hagerstown, Maryland, wrote a thank you note to The Christophers for the help we had been in his ministry—a ministry he celebrated in a poem which he gave us permission to use. The poem deals with the development of his vocation and is called “The Vision.” It is as follows:

         “I saw a vision of work to be done, / Of loads to lift; of a light leading on. / Leading where? Why forward and on and up / And not only up, but down and in; / Into the hovels of worry and care, / This Lighter of lamps would lead us there.

         “And, what to do if we do go there? / We have little to brighten a dwelling so bare; / ‘Tis true, said the Vision, but listen awhile. / What of your friendship, your brotherly smile? / What of your hands that can tidy the place? / Or comfort the brow of a feverish face?

         “Why yes, ‘tis so, answered wondering one, / No more need I blindly go blundering on. / I’ll try to be brother to every man, / With this as my motto, I’ll do what I can.”

Be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous.

(1 Timothy 6:18)

Guide me in following Your vision for me, Father.

July 14

PAM’s Pantry

During summer vacation, students at Louisiana’s Port Allen Middle School don’t just enjoy their free time, they try to think of ways that they can help others. The initiative is part of SPARK, which stands for Student Program for Arts, Recreation, and Knowledge.

One of the program’s most successful ventures is PAM’s Pantry, which collects donated clothes and distributes them to students in need. In addition, the Pantry includes school supplies, hygiene products, shoes, and more.

The idea originated with 13-year-old Chase Neyland-Square. He told Good Morning America, “My favorite part about helping with the pantry is getting types of clothes and sorting them out to give to various people. It makes me feel good because I know that I can make a difference in my school...I have a heart for giving.”

Chase’s mom Amanda adds, “It makes me proud because we’re very blessed, and I always encourage him to bless others.”

They are ever giving liberally and lending, and their children become a blessing. (Psalm 37:26)

Instill me with a heart for giving, Jesus.

July 12

Youngsters Bloom with Flowers

         We associate flowers with spring, romance, and celebrations—not with jail and juvenile offenders. But linking flowers and youngsters in trouble with the law was a unique feature of a rehabilitation program called Flowers with Care.

Its executive director many years ago was Father James Harvey of Brooklyn, New York, who explained that as an alternative to spending time in jail, girls and boys who’ve had their first brush with the law were given an opportunity to work as apprentices with participating florists.

         Their instructors not only taught the youngsters about the trade, but also counseled them and showed them that someone cared about them personally. Additionally, they were given a chance to develop their creativity, working up floral arrangements of their own design—an accomplishment that gave them a sense of pride. Father Harvey noted that the program helped these young people become respected members of the community.

I will instruct you in the good and right way. (1 Samuel 12:23)

Help us to put the power of love to work in our communities, Jesus.

July 11

R.A.G.E. Leads to Peace

When a bullet pierced the front door of their family’s home, Asiaha Butler and her husband considered moving out of their Englewood, Chicago neighborhood. After all, reports WTTW, “Englewood ranked sixth of Chicago’s 77 communities for violent crime,” with 43 percent of families living below the poverty line.

Upon reflection, however, Asiaha said, “I realized that if I leave, I’m not better than anyone else who has left. So I asked myself, ‘What can I do to give back?’” What she did was create the Resident Association of Greater Englewood, aka R.A.G.E. And the purpose of R.A.G.E. is to create purpose and peace.

They sponsor community events for children and teens, including meaningful conversations between young people and their elders. Butler also founded a youth journalism program and hopes to turn a shuttered school “into an affordable housing complex and an urban farm.” Butler said, “The major assets of our community lie in the spirit of the people…and the dedication to actively engage in projects or issues that impact them.”

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

Help me to be a peacemaker, Prince of Peace.

July 10

Teens Repair Homes for the Needy

Cynthia Byrd, formerly homeless and now raising six grandchildren, watches in awe as a crew adds skirting to her mobile home to provide additional insulation. The crew consists of teenagers from around the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, who are volunteering their time for WorkCamp. It’s all part of a one-week program during summer vacation to help build and repair homes for those in need.

 Each year, approximately 850 teenagers volunteer their time for one week in June and travel to 110 homes that need fixing up. Many people they assist are elderly, poor, or caregivers who have children with disabilities. The teens do everything from fixing roofs, installing windows, painting, and other essentials needed for home maintenance.

Byrd’s mobile home has a sign that says “Home Sweet Home.” As she told the Catholic Herald, “I’m so grateful and so blessed for what [the students] all are doing for me. I’m a single lady on a fixed income…and I’m making it through.” She points up to the sky and adds, “He keeps on blessing me.”

Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct. (1 Timothy 4:12)

Thank You, dear Lord, for the kindness of strangers.

July 9

A Campus Minister’s Spiritual Path

It was her love of her Catholic faith that motivated Andrea Pinnavaia to start pursuing a Theology degree at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, in 2003. All these years later, she’s still at the school, helping current students nurture their spirituality and grow closer to God.

Hired as a Campus Minister in 2008 after earning her Master’s Degree, Pinnavaia is now in charge of Liturgy and Faith Formation. As such, reports Steve Vivona for StJohns.edu, “She helps direct the campus R.C.I.A. program, in which non-Catholics, as well as Catholics who may not have received some of the sacraments of initiation (i.e., baptism, confirmation, and Holy Eucharist), are welcomed fully into the Church.”

Pinnavaia tells students that their interest in joining the Church is a response to God’s promptings. She says, “As someone who was born into this Church, witnessing these young adults make this choice for themselves is extraordinary. Seeing their commitment to the process and their desire to come together as a community to learn, share, and pray is beautiful.”

If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.
(1 John 1:7)

Guide young people closer to You, Father.

July 8

Facing Brokenness, Part Three

When Christine Rucci graduated from nursing school, it was one of the proudest moments of her life for both herself and her family, especially her mom Lillian, who had been her supporter and advocate through all her troubles.

Rucci loved her new job and her colleagues. But her psychological struggles stemming from her facial disfigurement remained. One night, she drank so much alcohol that she almost died. Rucci now reflects, “The grace of God kept me alive.”

Following her beloved mother’s death from breast cancer, Rucci experienced an epiphany. She recalled, “After wading in the victim pool and drowning myself in alcohol for all these years, I finally realized that only I can save me.”

As Rucci learned about post-traumatic stress and its symptoms, she realized that she had never dealt with the trauma of her accident all those years ago. Now, she was finally able to accept her situation and move forward with a feeling of hope. Her sister Lilly said, “God had a plan for her and for all of us. I am just so very thankful to have her in my life.”

I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord...to give you a future with hope.

(Jeremiah 29:11)

Guide me through my struggles with an eye on hope, Lord.

July 7

Facing Brokenness, Part Two

Because of her disfigurement, Christine Rucci hated to go out in crowds. She even lost some of her hometown friends who couldn’t handle being around her in her new condition. One saving grace was her high school friend Rob, who greeted her with the words, “Hey, beautiful!” and gave her a big hug.

Rucci returned to college and, thankfully, the close friendships she had established there remained strong. She also underwent numerous surgeries in the ensuing years to repair her face as best as possible. But both physical and emotional pain remained, so Rucci indulged in alcohol to make herself feel better. In reality, it only made things worse, leading her to develop unhealthy relationships with men. She came to believe she didn’t deserve happiness.

Rucci did, however, come to focus on a new career track which she thought would be an ideal fit for her in light of her medical experiences. And so the woman who had been broken by a car accident decided to become a healer by studying nursing. More tomorrow...

Do not...consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing. (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Help me to choose light over darkness, Father.

July 6

Facing Brokenness, Part One

Christine Rucci was lucky to have survived. While hitching a ride back home to New Jersey with her college friend Mary, distracted driving led Mary to hit a guardrail and lose control of the car. Rucci was thrown out of the vehicle and “hit the pavement face first,” she writes in her memoir Too Phased.

After surgery in the hospital, Rucci recalls, “I was lying helpless in bed with tubes coming out of every orifice. I was on a ventilator to help me breathe, had a catheter in my bladder, and was hooked up to 3 IVs. My head had swollen up to the size of a watermelon.” Her mother and family could do nothing but pray.

Over time, Rucci’s condition improved, and she could even get up and go to the bathroom by herself. That’s when she noticed the mirrors were covered with paper. Confused, she pushed aside the paper and discovered that her face had been horribly fractured and disfigured. Only 19 years old at the time, Rucci felt devastated, as if her life was over. With the support of her siblings and mother, she needed to figure out how to move forward. More of her story tomorrow...

I have become like a broken vessel. (Psalm 31:12)

Open the hearts of those who feel broken to Your comforting presence, Jesus.

July 5

Pitcher Literally Plays by Ear

         Here’s a story from many years ago: Softball player Pete Crowley had to rely on his teammates more than most pitchers once he was out on the field. The reason? He is blind and unable to see home plate.

         Crowley played for the Slammers in a league in Manhasset, Long Island. At the start of each inning, he was led to the pitching mound by his seeing-eye dog Lori. “We’re all baffled [how he does it],” said a teammate. But Crowley explained that he has an acute sense of hearing.  As a batter stepped to the plate, Crowley’s catcher would tell him if he was a left-handed or right-handed hitter, and then provided a line of chatter.

         Crowley made plays in the field too. “When he fields the ball, I just yell his name, and he makes the throw towards the sound of my voice,” said first baseman Jim Tomlinson.

         What it comes down to is teamwork and friendship. In that sense, we are all like Pete Crowley because we all need people who we can rely on for support and encouragement in good and bad times

Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter; whoever finds one has found a treasure.
(Sirach 6:14)

Jesus, You are my friend; help me be a friend to others.

July 4

Feeding the World

Celebrity chef José Andrés isn’t just committed to feeding people who come to his restaurants. He also ensures that hot meals reach those in disaster zones who have lost everything. Through his charity World Central Kitchen, Andrés has helped prepare meals for the millions of victims of the California wildfires, floods in the Midwest, and Hurricanes Maria and Dorian in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.

While speaking at Pennsylvania’s Lancaster Theological Seminary, Andrés—a naturalized American citizen originally from Spain—noted that when disasters happen, “the best of America shows up. It’s not about being a Democrat or Republican or Independent. It’s about three words: ‘We the people.’”

Lancaster Online reports that Andrés also discussed his impressions as an immigrant coming to the U.S. He said, “I was humbled to become an American. We [immigrants] have to give back, because we get so much more...We want to...support the community and to tell them that people from far away are nice people, too, like they are.”

Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks. (Isaiah 61:5)

Allow me to feed someone’s body or soul, Creator.

July 3

The Answer to a Coal Miner’s Prayer

As millions of Americans were getting ready to celebrate Independence Day in 2019, hundreds of coal miners in Harlan, Kentucky, worried how they would keep their heads above water. The Blackjewel coal company had suddenly laid them all off and didn’t even provide them with their final paychecks.

When word about their ordeal reached Father Jim Sichko in Lexington, he took his papal mandate to be a “missionary of mercy” and decided to help. Laid off miners were invited to bring their paperwork and bills to Harlan’s Holy Trinity Catholic Church, where Father Sichko wrote checks to cover their expenses until their unemployment benefits kicked in.

The Louisville Courier Journal’s Joseph Gerth reported that upon instructions from Pope Francis, Father Sichko had spent several years practicing random acts of kindness around the country. He now spent hours talking to the miners and listening to their stories. In the end, “he helped pay bills for 119 miners—totaling $20,434.55.” The priest concluded, “I go and do things that speak to my heart. This speaks to my heart.”

Honor the Lord with your substance. (Proverbs 3:9)

Lord, if I am in a position to help someone who is struggling, guide me in being a missionary of mercy.

July 2

Stop By and Say, “Howdy”!

If you ever pass through Dallas, Texas, be sure to say, “Howdy” to the folks at the Howdy Homemade Ice Cream shop. Its 13 employees all have special needs, but they also have a gift for making their customers feel welcome and treating them right.

The shop’s founder, businessman Tom Landis, had experience working with the special needs community and, as reported by WFAA-TV, was aware that they faced difficulties finding jobs. So he decided to create opportunities himself.

Landis explained, “Everything in the restaurant was designed for people with special needs to succeed...They are restoring friendliness to the hospitality industry…I think I’ve taught them how to work, and they’ve taught me how to live.”

Anne Marie Carrigan is one of Howdy’s workers, who makes the store’s 34 flavors of ice cream every day. She noted that she used to feel there was no place for her in the world. Now, due to her job, she says, “Never take no for an answer. Grab what you are passionate about and make it happen. Because you are worth living for.”

The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me. (Psalm 138:8)

You created each of us to contribute a piece of Your love to this world, Lord. Lead me toward sharing that love.

July 1

Hitching a Ride in the Popemobile

Drenching rains fell from the skies of Rome as Bishop Peter Rosazza stood in the doorway of his hotel, lamenting the fact that he had missed the Vatican bus that was taking all the bishops to their various congregational visits. The retired auxiliary bishop from Hartford, Connecticut, also noticed how slippery the cobblestones were that lined the Vatican’s streets.

Bishop Peter then saw Pope Francis getting into his own car. As related by Bridgeport Bishop Frank Caggiano, who heard the story from Bishop Peter, “When the Pope saw Bishop Peter…he called out to him, warned him of the slippery conditions of the cobblestones and asked him where he needed to go…The Pope smiled [and] told him to join him in the car.”

“Bishop Peter was deeply touched, amazed and grateful for such a kind gesture, offered in an ordinary and hidden way. It’s in witnessing such kindness by the Vicar of Christ that we all get a better glimpse of the man who was chosen to lead the Church in these difficult times.”

Remember…those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7)

Keep me humble enough to serve You well, Father.

June 30

A Second Chance in the Same Courtroom        

When Robert VanSumeren of Jackson County, Michigan, first appeared in Judge Michael Smith’s courtroom, it was 1999. The then-troubled teen was sentenced to six years in prison for robbery.

Nearly 20 years later, VanSumeren was back in Judge Smith’s courtroom, only this time to be sworn in as a member of the Michigan State Bar. VanSumeren’s redemption story, from convict to attorney, was detailed in the Washington Post.

Heartbreak over his family’s breakup led the young VanSumeren to drugs, alcohol, and crime. When Judge Smith sentenced him to prison, VanSumeren knew he had to turn his life around. After his release, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He kept thinking about his perspective of the criminal justice system and decided to go to law school.

“When I got out of prison in 2005, I really struggled to find examples of people who had gotten out of prison and really thrived in professions,” he said. “I didn’t know if it was possible, but now 15 years later, there are a lot more stories like mine.”

In hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? (Romans 8:24)

Thank You, Lord, for the second chances in my life.

June 29

Carl Reiner Gives Confidence Boost

Martha Williamson found great success as the writer-producer of the hit TV series Touched By An Angel—and in more recent years as creator of the Hallmark series Signed, Sealed, Delivered. But after the death of comedy legend Carl Reiner in 2020, she recalled an encounter with him from early in her career when she struggled with feelings of self-doubt.

Martha wrote on her Instagram page, “I met my hero Carl Reiner in a sushi bar on Sunset and Gower many years ago. I thanked him for his movie The Man with Two Brains and for his message that what is truly beautiful is on the inside – a hard thing to hold onto as the only (and very overweight) woman in the writer’s room of a sitcom in production next door.

“He took my hand and said, ‘My dear, you are absolutely beautiful inside and out. And funny, too!’ That was the day I stopped being ‘the girl in the room’ and for the first time ever, fully and confidently claimed my seat at the writer’s table. Thank you, Mr. Reiner. May you rest in joy and laughter.”

Let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:4)

Holy Spirit, open my eyes to the true beauty that lies within.

June 28

A Force for Good, Part 2

On the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, voice actress Ashley Eckstein turned her sometimes snippy character Ahsoka Tano, the student of Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker, into a hero grounded in courage, self-sacrifice, and helping others, whatever the cost. These values line up perfectly with Ashley’s own.

During a Christopher Closeup interview, she said, “My husband [2006 World Series champ with the St. Louis Cardinals David Eckstein] and I are Catholic. Our faith definitely guides us, and it’s a part of our everyday decisions. But one thing I’m very mindful of…Star Wars is a story that should bring people together. To me, it’s a story of hope, of good overcoming evil.

“Regardless of your religion or race or gender, it’s something where we should be able to all come together and enjoy. I absolutely see parallels in my own faith, but I think there are parallels for whatever your beliefs are. What I try to do is provide a safe space where everyone can come together and learn these lessons of hope and letting the light guide you.”

If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. (1 John 1:7)

May I always be guided by Your light, Holy Spirit.

June 27

A Force for Good, Part 1              

As the voice of Jedi-in-training Ahsoka Tano in the animated Star Wars series The Clone Wars and Rebels, Ashley Eckstein has faced down her share of villains. But in the real world, Eckstein serves as a role model as well in her advocacy for mental health issues.

It began when fans started confiding in her about their own battles with anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide because of bullying. And when Ashley herself became the victim of vicious online bullying based on an untrue rumor, she gained new insight into what they had endured.

During a Christopher Closeup interview, she explained her support of Columbus, Ohio’s “first Behavioral Health Pavilion on a children’s hospital campus in our nation…Fifty percent of lifelong mental illnesses present themselves by the age of 14, so think about how many adults we can save if we catch it early.”

Ashley promotes their “On Our Sleeves” campaign, which encourages  kids, teens, and families to share their emotions and break the stigma surrounding mental health.

The tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)

When I feel anxious or depressed, Lord, remind me that talking to loved ones or counselors is a healing tool.

 

June 25

A Hand Up

                     “Akamasoa is about helping the poor stand up so they don’t live on their knees.” So says Argentinian Catholic layman Gaston Vigo to Crux about the program he started in his native country. Vigo’s role model is missionary priest Father Pedro Opeka from Akamasoa, a city built in Madagascar that’s home to some 30,000 people who have risen above the impoverished conditions in which they used to live.

Vigo notes that the Argentine economy has been mismanaged, causing over 35 percent of the population, and over 50 percent of all children, to live in poverty. As a result, he founded Akamasoa Argentina, Mas Humanidad, combining the ideas of a self-sustaining community and the concept of helping the poorest with a hand up.

Crux writes that the group “is not just helping families overcome child malnutrition but also helping them finish school, learn trades, look for formal employment and build their own neighborhood with bricks and mortar.” Vigo says, “The biggest satisfaction we could have five years from now is having built a community of friends, the meaning of Akamasoa in Malagasy.”

Think of us…as servants of Christ. (1 Corinthians 4:1)

May my work and actions reflect Your love, Lord Jesus.

June 24

Ausome Balloon Creator

         Balloon artist Eddie Lin of Edison, New Jersey, found a way to keep his creative skills sharp during the coronavirus pandemic, while also giving a much needed morale boost to frontline workers.

Since Lin was no longer sought after for the children’s parties and weddings he usually did, he began distributing balloons fashioned in the shape of emergency workers he knew (i.e. doctors, grocery store workers, mailmen, etc.). His designs soon caught attention on social media, where he was already well-known as the “Ausome Balloon Artist.”

This nickname came about because Lin has autism. Yet at an early age, this talented youngster demonstrated a penchant for creating beautiful art out of balloons, which his parents were happy to encourage.

“Balloons just automatically give people a sense of joy and happiness,” Eddie’s mother, Jenny Lin, told ABC News. “I think with this pandemic, people are getting creative and showing [essential workers] appreciation in many different ways, and this is a great way of bringing everyone together.”

In all toil, there is profit. (Proverbs 14:23)

Lord, may we utilize our talents for the greater good.

June 21

Some Words Have a Religious Past

         Religious feast days used to be marked in red on the calendar. And thus was born the red-letter day—a day to remember. That’s just one example of an English word or expression that has either lost its original meaning or its religious significance.

         Rev. Dale Bringman, a Lutheran minister, once investigated words like these. “Enthusiastic,” for instance, meant “filled with God.” A word that still retains traces of the original idea is “sacrifice,” which in the Middle Ages meant to make something holy. Now, while it generally means giving up something, sacrifice is considered a selfless act and is therefore recognized as sanctifying, at least by religious people.

         Few would recognize the original idea behind “short shrift,” however. It comes from “shrive,” meaning to confess, and a short shrift was the brief confession permitted to those about to be executed.

         Language, like every living thing, undergoes constant change. In the process of change, try to retain that which has enduring value or meaning.

My words will not pass away. (Luke 21:33)

Teach me to appreciate Your words, Jesus.

June 20

A Son’s Heartfelt Tribute to Dad

When George Grimwade was eight year’s old, his mom married Michael Musto, and the three of them became a close knit family. George always felt loved and supported by Michael throughout his life and came to think of him as his real father, even though they weren’t related by blood.

In 2019, while playing football at Alabama’s Samford University, George decided to show Michael how much he really meant to him. The young man legally changed his name to George Grimwade-Musto because, as he explained in a video, “[My dad] doesn’t have anyone to carry on his last name. And he raised me ever since I was in second grade. And I feel like I owe it to him to carry on his last name, when I hopefully have kids.”

On the day of his big reveal, George approached Michael on the sidelines before a game, told him how much he loved him, then turned around to reveal the name “Musto” on his jersey. The gesture moved Michael to tears, and he hugged George, exclaiming, “You’re my son.”

The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who begets a wise son will be glad in him. (Proverbs 23:24)

Heavenly Father, we thank You for our earthly fathers who love and support us.

June 19

Forever Dad

         If anyone has earned the moniker of “forever dad,” it is Guy Bryant. To date, he has fostered more than 50 young men in his home. It all started with one teen Guy took in when he was doing placement work at ACS (Administration for Children’s Services) in Brooklyn, New York. Forty-nine kids and 12 years later, the rest, as they say, is history.

         “He’s the closest thing to a father figure in my life,” Dior Dillard, one of Bryant’s foster sons, said in an Inside Edition interview. “My mother wasn’t really taking care of me, I didn’t know my Pops…It led to me doing a lot of reckless stuff…But when I came here, Mr. B….showed me…a better path.”

“I was brought up in a Kool Aid house,” Bryant reminisced. “If somebody had no place to go, my family was always taking them in…This is what it’s all about. This is my family…It makes me feel good to know I am a part of whatever success [my foster sons] have.”

“Mr. B. saves lives,” Dillard concluded. “He saved all these people that came to his possession…They’re changing the way they were to a better way, so that’s saving somebody.”

A father’s blessing strengthens…children. (Sirach 3:9)

God, bless all earthly fathers, and guide them in Your ways.

June 18

How to Be a Good Father

         What does it take to be a good father? Father’s Day provides an opportunity for some reflections on that question. As a starter, here are some Commandments for fathers:

■ Thou shalt love your children as yourself, seeing in them the image of their Creator.

■ Thou shalt introduce your children to their Creator at an early age inasmuch as they come to a knowledge of Him through you.

■ Thou shalt be forgiving, dispensing mercy as well as justice.

■ Thou shalt never abuse your children physically or psychologically.

■ Thou shalt find time for your children each day, if at all possible.

■ Thou shalt teach your children respect for the rights of others.

■ Thou shalt instruct your children in the rights and duties of citizenship.

■ Thou shalt give good example at all times.

And every work that he undertook…to seek his God, he did with all his heart. (2 Chronicles 31:21)

Jesus, help me live up to the trust that my children have in me.

June 17

A Grandmother’s Last Wish

Stasia Foley’s last wish was to attend her granddaughter Tara’s wedding in Austin, Texas. But the reality of her situation made it impossible. Stasia was 102 years old, had a weak heart, and lived in hospice care in Naples, Florida. Her nurses told her she wouldn’t be able to fly.

Tara, however, had always enjoyed a special relationship with her grandmother, so she decided to do the next best thing. She flew to Florida with her wedding dress, hired a professional photographer and makeup company, and spent the day taking pictures with Stasia as if it were her actual wedding day.

Tara wrote on Facebook, “Words cannot explain how much these moments mean to me...Her smile and her laugh are forever etched in my mind and the love between us will live in my heart...When I said goodbye to her that night, I think we both knew it would be the last time we would see each other. She grabbed my cheeks with her hands, looked me straight in the eye and said ‘I love you very much’ — and 27 days later, she passed away. I am so blessed to have this be my last memory with her.”

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother.

(2 Timothy 1:5)

May grandparents always be loved and honored, Savior.

June 16

Belated Graduation in Memory of Mom

Floyd Covey of Upshur County, West Virginia, was only in high school when he was drafted into the Army to fight in the Vietnam War. As a result, he never received his diploma.Now age 78 and a resident at Martinsburg VA Medical Center, Covey told staff members that his mother had always wanted her son to be a high school graduate, and he still longed to fulfill that wish for her, even though she had since passed away. The staff reached out to Upshur County education officials, who soon made Covey’s dream a reality.

Though Covey was initially invited to take part in his actual high school’s graduation ceremony, a medical issue prevented him from doing so. Instead, Schools Superintendent Dr. Sara Stankus and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison traveled to the VA Center for a smaller ceremony for him.

As reported by the website My Buckhannon, Covey, dressed in a cap and gown, received his diploma at a party with staff members who celebrated his accomplishment. With tears of gratitude, he said, “This would mean everything to my mom.”

A desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12)

Father, allow me to help answer someone’s prayer.

June 15

A Caring Community

         In some ways, Max Olson was the leading citizen of Canton, South Dakota, many years ago. People didn’t so much cater to Max as help him care for himself.

Max was profoundly handicapped due to cerebral palsy. He “walked” on his knees, got around town on a converted golf cart, and had trouble speaking. Max could dress himself, and when he was able, he sold pencils or distributed religious literature. After his parents died, he thought he was left to care for himself and vowed to do the best he could.      

         At the age of 57, and with the patient encouragement of friends, he learned to feed himself, a skill that people hadn’t permitted him to use before. He took pride in each new achievement.

         Still, there were some things Max couldn’t do. Johnnie Bakkene cut his hair. The fellows at the garage kept his cart in repair. Dick Haisch wrote letters for him. Said a friend, “He’s a morale builder. He’s a missionary. He talks about how lucky he is and it makes you sit down and take inventory.”

Open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need. (Deuteronomy 15:8)

Jesus, may I be a friend to people with disabilities.

June 14

Finn’s Bench

There is one sight that never fails to fascinate six-year-old Finn Daly of West Hartford, Connecticut: an American flag blowing in the breeze. The youngster, who has both Down syndrome and autism, could sit for hours just watching the flags outside his own home and his neighbors’ homes.

During walks with his parents and sister, one particular flag always grabbed Finn’s attention, and he would often sit on the sidewalk staring at it. This flag was mounted to a tree in the front yard of Todd Disque’s home. Disque saw this and told CBS News’ Steve Hartman, “The boy would just sit there, transfixed by the flag. I was like, God bless America.”

Disque so appreciated Finn’s attention that he built the boy a small bench, painted the word’s “Finn’s Bench” on it, and left it by the tree for the Daly family to discover. They were all surprised and thrilled. Finn’s mom Brooke said, “It’s such a small gesture, but things like this really restore your faith in humanity…There’s still good people out there that want to do kind things for no other reason than just to be kind.”

Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life and honor. (Proverbs 21:21)

Remind me to show kindness to everyone, Prince of Peace.

June 12

No Birthday Left Behind

One day, Tanvi Barman of San Francisco hopes to pursue a career as a pediatrician, but she has already committed to being of service to kids. At age 14, while volunteering at a homeless shelter, Barman was playing with the children there when she learned that some of them had never had a birthday party.

She told India-West, “My birthday is always my favorite day of the year. But many kids in shelters, whose parents might be unemployed and who get moved around every couple of months, do not know what a birthday party is.”

Barman decided to rectify that problem by founding the nonprofit No Birthday Left Behind. She travels to five shelters each month to throw a party featuring a cake, presents, goodie bags, and games. The children are always delighted by Barman’s kindness and compassion.

Barman, now age 17, concluded, “My friends, our childhood, we don’t appreciate what we get so easily, and what our parents are willing to give us. These kids — they get so much joy out of a simple party.”

Happy is the person who...places his children under her shelter. (Sirach 14:20,26)

Teach me to bring joy to a child, Divine Messiah.

June 11

The Gift of Forgiveness, Part 3                

Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt feels compassion and empathy for all the people she interviewed for her book The Gift of Forgiveness. Those qualities were partially planted in her by her grandparents, Sargent Shriver and Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

Sargent helped found the Peace Corps, which promotes volunteering and bettering the lives of people around the world. And Eunice founded Special Olympics, which was revolutionary in changing the attitudes many people have toward those with intellectual challenges.

Katherine concluded, “My grandparents were huge figures in my life when they were here on earth, and still are after having passed. I think about them a lot. I think the biggest lesson they taught me was that our purpose on this earth is to make the world a better place and to help others.

“They taught us as their grandchildren…that you could always be of service, and how you choose to do that is up to you. So with this book on forgiveness, my goal with it is to help other people in their forgiveness journey.”

The good leave an inheritance to their children’s children. (Proverbs 13:22)

Holy Spirit, help me be of service to others.

June 10

The Gift of Forgiveness, Part 2

In writing The Gift of Forgiveness, Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt interviewed 22 people who endured horrific circumstances or evils. And she shares how they managed to unburden themselves of the anger, hatred, and resentment that were weighing them down. For several of her subjects, religious faith was a key factor.

Polly Sheppard, for instance, is a survivor of Dylann Roof’s racist murder spree at Charleston, South Carolina’s Emanuel A.M.E. church in 2015. Days after the shootings, Sheppard publicly forgave Roof. Katherine noted, “[Sheppard] grew up in a family where faith was the main feature in her life. That formed her understanding and view on forgiveness.

“She quickly spoke about getting to a place of forgiveness and wanting to talk to Dylann Roof about why he chose to do what he did—and also try to get faith [into] his life…I think the way she came to [forgiveness] was having compassion and empathy, but also a clear mission to want to spread the power of faith into other people’s lives, especially Dylann Roof’s life, who clearly she felt did not have that presence.”

Do good to those who hate you. (Luke 6:27)

Help me to forgive the seemingly unforgivable, Jesus.

June 9

The Gift of Forgiveness, Part 1

Like a lot of people, Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt grew up thinking that forgiveness required the actions of two people: 1) the person who hurt you apologizing for what he or she did, and 2) you, who would grant that person forgiveness.

But what Katherine realized as she got older—especially during the writing of her best-selling book The Gift of Forgiveness: Inspiring Stories from Those Who Have Overcome the Unforgivable—is that forgiveness is ultimately a gift that you give yourself, regardless of another person’s remorse or lack thereof.

During a Christopher Closeup interview, Katherine explained, “I went through phases of feeling like forgiveness is something that weak people do, something that almost makes an action or a wrongdoing okay. It can feel like a betrayal of your own hurt. After doing this book and speaking to all these amazing people, I understand that forgiveness requires an incredible amount of strength and courage. It is an example of us taking our power back in control of our own lives.”

If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (Matthew 6:14)

Give me the strength to forgive, Divine Mercy.

June 7

Tiny Homes with Big Hearts

Many teenagers age out of foster care between ages 18-21. As a result, they lose critical resources and financial aid, and they don’t have the emotional support network to navigate the difficult transition to adulthood. The nonprofit Pivot Inc. decided to do something about this flaw in the system by building tiny houses to give these teens a home and a fresh start.

With the help of volunteers, Pivot built and furnished tiny homes behind their Oklahoma office for teens who’ve aged out of foster care. One such teen is Carter, who was practically homeless. His father is in prison, and his mother died when he was 10 years old. Thanks to Pivot’s tiny house, Carter now has a bed to sleep in and a roof over his head to call a home. 

Spotlight reports that President and CEO of Pivot, Jennifer Goodrich, said, “[We are] able to serve them in a way that, again, lets them show that they have the same talents, skills that any other young person in our community has.”

These houses will give the teens a chance to stand on their own two feet, and the reassurance that they are not alone. 

Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build Me a house to live in? (2 Samuel 7:5)

In Your embrace, Abba, may all Your children find a home.

June 6

From the Basketball Court to the Altar

A former NBA referee has replaced his playbook with a holy book and is now serving as a deacon at St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Steve Javie, age 64, was rated one of the top NBA referees. However, when bad knees forced him to retire in 2011, he realized he wanted to find a new purpose for his life.

Through his wife Mary Ellen, he reconnected with his faith and discovered a new calling to become a deacon. He studied for seven years, achieved his Masters in theology, and in 2019, he was ordained a deacon. He can now officiate weddings, perform baptisms, and deliver homilies. 

Javie brings a lot of what he learned on the road to his preaching. As he told The Inquirer, “A lot of guys I traveled with, they struggled with all the temptation that comes with being on the road. I would try to talk to them about it. My thinking was, we’re all sinful, but if we can talk about these things with each other, it might make our marriages and families a little more solid.”

Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness but  will have the light of life.
(John 8:12)

Jesus, I put my faith in You to guide me along my journey.

June 5

Gowns 4 Good

         Nathaniel Moore was one of the many graduates in the summer of 2020 that had to have a virtual commencement ceremony from college, due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. A physician’s assistant at the University of Vermont Medical Center at the height of the pandemic, the 30-year-old became concerned at the lack of protective gowns for frontline workers.

         That was when Moore came up with the idea for a new online initiative, aptly named Gowns 4 Good, where graduates could donate their gowns to frontline workers in need. To his delight, contributions for his nonprofit began pouring in from all over the country, so much so that Nathaniel had to create a GoFundMe to cover the shipping and handling costs.

Moore also used the tagline, “Wear the Cap, Donate the Gown,” as a decorative logo that could be affixed to the graduates’ caps in acknowledgement of their accomplishments. “We want them to keep their caps,” Moore told CNN. “They can signify their effort, and show they did something great with their gown...What’s a better idea than to put those gowns in the hands of our medical providers as a solution to protect them?”

Honor physicians for their services. (Sirach 38:1)

God, may we always be grateful for the gift of healing.

June 4

Mark Wahlberg Shares his Faith

Mark Wahlberg may skip his workouts once or twice a week, but there’s one thing he is committed to following every day: his prayer routine. A devout Catholic, the actor opened up on Today about his spiritual practices: “I don’t take a day off from getting on my hands and knees and reading my prayer book and my daily devotionals  and…expressing the gratitude that I have for all the blessings that have been bestowed upon me.”

Wahlberg also keeps a list of people that he prays for, whether he personally knows them or not. If he reads about people who are struggling in life, he’ll ask God to help them.

The Boston native, who prays about 20 minutes a day, also expressed an openness to sharing his faith, noting, “I will not hide the fact that I love the Lord and I want to be committed to serving the Lord, but I also don’t jam it down anybody’s throat.”

The actor adds that he asks God for “the strength and guidance to be able to use the talents and gifts that God’s given me to help others and inspire and know what right is and to do so...to be the best husband I can be, the best father I can be.”

Strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness. (Matthew 6:33)

Teach me to share Your lessons with others, Jesus.

June 3

Do What You Can

You typically think of Jon Bon Jovi selling out concerts or belting his famous songs, like Livin’ on a Prayer. But in March 2020, the Today Show reported that the rocker was volunteering his time at his nonprofit restaurant, JBJ Soul Kitchen, to help do his part during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If you can’t do what you love, do what you can!” That was the caption underneath a photo of the 58-year-old music icon washing dishes at his restaurant in Red Bank, New Jersey.

The nonprofit community restaurant is one of three facilities across New Jersey, run by the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, created to serve in-need customers. The restaurant doesn’t charge for meals, and their menus don’t include prices. They simply ask patrons who can pay for a suggested donation that subsidizes the cost for those who can’t afford to pay.

This truly is a time where everyone, no matter your celebrity status, is living on more than a prayer. They are answering prayers by helping each other. 

Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet. (John 13:5)

Loving God, may I remember we all are Your humble servants. Please bless us with the courage to do Your will.

June 2

The Hotel is Divine

Some hotels will offer you free amenities when you check in, but it’s likely that only The Leo House in New York City has rosaries available at the front desk for whoever wants them. That’s because the Leo House has been run by an order of nuns since it opened in 1889, and they dubbed it a “Catholic guest house for travelers.”

As reported by Larry McShane in New York’s Daily News, the 81-room structure offers “an affordable alternative to Manhattan’s eye-popping hotel tabs.” And though the building includes a chapel, several religious statues, and stained glass windows, people of any religion are welcome to stay there.

Sister Marilyn Ellickson is one of only four nuns who still live at the Leo House, and McShane notes that she serves as a “cheerful tour guide.” Sister Marilyn says, “People are glad to be here. It’s safe, it’s friendly. There’s a certain ambiance, and the sisters put it here. They created the whole kit and kaboodle.”

Regarding the hotel’s continued appeal, she adds, “Every day is different. You don’t know what the day holds.”

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)

Teach me to welcome the stranger, Father.

June 1

The Senior Flower Girls

                     It’s always sweet when you go to a wedding and see the little flower girls walking down the aisle, scattering petals on the floor. It was sweet at Lyndsey Raby’s wedding, too. Only her flower girls weren’t so little.

                     Raby chose to have her own two grandmothers, as well as her husband-to-be’s two grandmothers, serve as her flower girls. As reported by Today.com, Wanda Grant, 76, Betty Brown, 72, Kathleen Brown, 90, and Joyce Raby, 72, relished their role in this special day. And the 24-year-old bride was thrilled with all the special attention they received.

         “I’m so lucky,” said Raby. “A lot of women don’t get one grandparent at their wedding, and I was blessed to have all of them.” The bride also noted that the ladies all bonded and communicate regularly on Facebook.

         Natalie Caho, the wedding’s photographer, added, “I was not expecting the level of sass that these girls brought. Their energy all day was that of a little girl who was in the same position. It truly goes to show that age is just a number.”

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother.
(2 Timothy 1:5)

May we remember and honor our grandmothers, Lord.

May 31

Thus Sayeth the Lord, Part 3

In studying the prophets of the Bible for her book Thus Sayeth the Lord, author Julie Davis found herself asking the question, “Why does God use human help so much?”

During a Christopher Closeup interview, she concluded, “God does His greatest work through frail people. He helps us become the people we are meant to be…It starts with Adam. We were meant to be helpers all along. When Adam is first created, God says, ‘Help till the land. Help this garden become greater.’ So that was always our destiny.

“Then personally, for each of us, we’re helping not because [God] needs us. He doesn’t need anything. But we need it. It’s both fulfilling and creatively satisfying when you’re doing what you’re created to do. And not as a puppet, but with full cooperation and thought. Also…we have all fallen. We are all sinful. We all have to get back up and keep trying. As we try and fail and try again, that’s how we learn.”

Our steps are made firm by the Lord, when He delights in our way; though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand. (Psalm 37:23-24)

Pick me up when I fall, Divine Messiah.

May 30

Thus Sayeth the Lord, Part 2

Our dislike or hatred of those who don’t think like we do plays a role in the prophet Daniel’s life as well, says author Julie Davis. Daniel teaches us about living with faith in a culture that’s hostile to faith. And he doesn’t do it by lashing out in anger, but by responding rationally and civilly, with kindness and faith.

For instance, when Daniel refuses to eat the food given to him by the king, preferring to adhere to his faith’s dietary laws, he proposes an evidence-based test. Daniel says, “Test your servants for 10 days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. You can then compare our appearance with the appearance of the young men who eat the royal rations, and deal with your servants according to what you observe.”

Daniel expressed no anger in this proposal, and he was willing to suffer the punishment if his way was proven insufficient. Instead, Daniel was found to be in better shape after 10 days than those who ate the king’s rations. Julie explained that with Daniel’s approach, “You’re not lashing out…You’re showing them something new, and that’s an attractive thing.”

The king said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods.” (Daniel 2:47)

Teach me to turn enemies into friends, Blessed Redeemer.

May 29

Thus Sayeth the Lord, Part 1

In her book Thus Sayeth the Lord, author Julie Davis takes a fresh look at the prophets of the Bible and how they relate to our lives today. She begins with the story of Jonah.

God tells Jonah to go preach repentance to the Ninevites, whose acts of wickedness were horrific. If they don’t turn from their evil ways, says God, they will be destroyed. But Jonah wants no part in delivering this message. In that sense, notes Julie, he’s like those of us who resist God’s direction in our lives.

Jonah jumps on a ship headed in the opposite direction and winds up in the belly of a large fish, where he reflects on his actions and agrees to do what the Lord commanded.

After Jonah shares God’s message with the Ninevites, they actually repent, so God relents in the punishment He had planned. But this upsets Jonah because he hates them so much! He thinks they’re getting off the hook too easy.

Then, God reminds Jonah that He extends His mercy to everyone equally if they turn to Him, no matter what they’ve done in the past. It’s a lesson those of us with our own grudges and hatreds today need to remember as well.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)

Give me the strength to show mercy to my enemies, Lord.

May 28

Mailman’s Special Delivery

         The coronavirus pandemic deprived people of many celebrations, including graduation ceremonies and the parties that usually follow. Last year, in acknowledgement of the achievements of the graduates, families would put up signs outside of their homes that indicated a “Class of 2020” student was in residence.

One Pennsylvania mailman, Josh Crowell, was especially moved by these posters. A father of two himself, he thought about how disappointed his children would feel in this situation. “I just said to myself, ‘I should get those students a graduation card and maybe put a gift card inside,’” Josh, who had only been a mailman for six months at the time, told CBS News.

In May 2020, Crowell delivered 25 graduation cards along his route and planned to drop off many more before the summer’s end.  He had already received several handwritten notes in deep appreciation of his thoughtfulness. “Thank you so much,” one of the cards read. “Your good deed meant so much to me and absolutely made my week!”

Let us work for the good of all. (Galatians 6:10)

God, may we remember that even the smallest act of kindness can make the biggest difference.

May 27

Laughter on Call

         Dani Klein Modisett of Los Angeles noticed that her 84-year-old mother Muriel, who lives in a nearby care center for Alzheimer’s patients, was acting very quiet and depressed. In passing, Modisett mentioned to someone that she wished she could hire a stand-up comedian to lift her mother’s spirits.

The person suggested she give it a try, so Modisett did some research and paid a comic to visit Muriel. “After that visit,” Modisett told Cathy Free of the Washington Post, “my mom became more engaged and started eating and laughing again. She felt that she was being seen.”

Modisett went on to create “Laughter on Call,” a business which pairs comedians with dementia patients. Michael Piper-Younie is the comic who now regularly visits Muriel. Though he is making a difference in her life, she is also impacting his.

He said, “We’ve developed a special bond that is beneficial for both of us. I feel honored to be doing this beautiful work and to be Muriel’s companion. When I get her to a full belly laugh, it really makes my heart sing.”

Then our mouth was filled with laughter. (Psalm 126:2)

Guide me to provide a smile and a helping hand to someone with dementia, Lord, who may feel alone.

May 26

Second Chance Renovations

Raised by a single father who was angry and verbally abusive, 11-year-old David Figueroa sought a sense of family by joining a gang in his Humboldt Park, Illinois neighborhood. This led him to crime, drugs, and jail time in the ensuing years.

After his second stint in prison ended, reports ABA Journal, Figueroa chose to pursue a better life and find a job. But getting on the right track wasn’t easy. As soon as potential employers learned of his criminal record, they would reject him. He finally got a construction company to hire him and remained there for several years until he got hurt on the job.

Figueroa then decided to take matters into his own hands in order to help those who were just like him. He founded Second Chance Renovations, a home renovations company that employs those with criminal records. Instead of asking job applicants about their past, he questions them about their future goals.

Harry King, an ex-con that Figueroa hired, praises his new boss, saying, “He’s opened my eyes and showed me that if you want to dedicate yourself to being something, you can. He goes above and beyond.”

Bring out the prisoners from the dungeon. (Isaiah 42:7)

Remind me to give people second chances, Merciful Savior.

May 25

The 95-Year-Old Graduate

         Corporal Lewie Shaw of Claremore, Oklahoma, has quite an interesting story. An orphan at age 12, he dropped out of high school five years later and joined the Marines in 1943, during World War II.

As reported by KJRH News, Corporal Shaw fought in Tinian, Saipan and Iwo Jima, and sustained injuries in the line of duty. After the war, Shaw married and worked for 30 years in a lumberjack company with his son. The one regret he always carried with him, however, was that he never received his high school diploma. In November 2019, Claremont High School fulfilled the now 95-year-old veteran’s long-held wish.

“The sacrifices [the veterans] made are real,” Bryan Frazier, superintendent of Claremore Public Schools, declared. “I think we should be grateful for that. And…recognize them.”

         Shaw always remembered himself as “hard-headed” when it came to learning, but urges pupils today to further their studies. “My advice to them is to keep clawing, continue digging,” he concluded. “Get that education.”

Wisdom gives life to the one who possesses it. (Ecclesiastes 7:12)

God, may we be open to both secular and spiritual growth.

May 24

A Brother’s Memory

Bartlesville, Oklahoma resident Tug Baughn, age 85, often recalls the last words his brother Richard ever said to him. The year was 1944, and Richard was a soldier leaning out the window of a troop train, heading off to fight in World War II. He called to Tug, “I want you to make that high school basketball team. And I don’t want you doing any smoking or drinking.”

As reported by TulsaWorld.com, Richard was killed in action shortly thereafter, but Tug never knew the details of what happened. Then, in 2019, Tug discovered that Richard’s story was shared in Adam Makos’ new book Spearhead, about a World War II tank crew. And Buck Marsh, who had served with Richard, was still alive.

Tug connected with Buck, who was at Richard’s side when he was shot by a sniper in Cologne, Germany. Buck stayed with him until he could be evacuated, but Richard died from his wound. Tug took comfort in finally learning what happened to the brother he looked to as a hero. And, for the record, Tug made the high school basketball team and has never touched alcohol.

The memory of the righteous is a blessing. (Proverbs 10:7)

Bless those who gave their lives for their country, Messiah.

May 23

Holy Spirit Guides Priest to Restaurant

Father Tony Cecil, a priest in the Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky, was trying to decide where to go for lunch when a restaurant he doesn’t usually frequent inexplicably popped into his head. Though he didn’t want to go there, he couldn’t think of another one, so he gave it a try.

 Recalling the incident on his Twitter account, Father Tony wrote, “[I] ordered my food and an employee came over, a guy around my age, and asked if we could talk. He just found out there’s a huge mass on his kidneys and even if it’s not cancer he’ll likely need surgery. Scared out of his mind. He wanted to pray together, so we did, right in the middle of the restaurant.”

The employee was Catholic, so Father Tony asked if he would like the anointing of the sick. He said, “Yes,” so Father Tony went to his car to get the necessary oils, administered the sacrament, and prayed with him again. “He burst into tears and threw his arms around me in a big hug,” said Father Tony. Because the priest had followed an unusual prompting of the Holy Spirit, he was able to help a person in need.

You shall anoint for Me the one whom I name to you. (1 Samuel 16:3)

Allow me to pray with those in spiritual distress, Savior.

May 21

A Disease of Denial

         Alcoholism “is a disease of denial,” according to Father Leo O’Neill, a guest on one of our Christopher Closeup television programs many years ago. “We think everyone else has got a problem with booze, but ‘not me’,” he said in discussing a common reaction people have when confronted with the fact that they have a drinking problem.

         Other people don’t help the alcoholic when they “cover” for him, despite their good intentions. “Other priests covered for me which was a big mistake—charity, a mistake in charity.”

         Outwardly, he said, “I could see that I was functioning…I was a pastor of three different parishes, I was vicar general in one diocese. I always thought my superiors wouldn’t give me these important jobs if I were an alcoholic. I was functioning, but I was in trouble.”

         Father O’Neill got the help he needed and went on to provide it to others. He emphasized that help is available to everyone needing it.

            There is hope for your future. (Jeremiah 31:17)

            Give us hope, Jesus, as we tackle life’s difficulties.

May 20

Care-Mail

         During the coronavirus pandemic, many Americans had difficulty adjusting to the restrictions of the quarantine lockdown. However, there was a large group of Americans who were already accustomed to such isolation. These were the approximately 43,000 young people scattered throughout the country in juvenile detention centers. Because of the quarantine, no visits with these youngsters were permitted.

This was when David Domenici, co-founder of the Maya Angelou Schools, a set of alternative schools established in the Washington area, came up with the Care-Mail Project. This organization matched up volunteers with young people in prisons, offering them the opportunity to become “pandemic pen pals.” The response to this project, especially after its advertisement on Facebook, was overwhelming.

         “I wish I could write to 100 kids,” Florida volunteer Lucretia Murphy told the Washington Post. “They always need encouragement, but especially now…In my experience, most of these kids have really big hearts. They will match what you send them—and more.”

Remember those who are in prison. (Hebrews 13:3)

God, may we work to combat the pangs of loneliness.

May 19

Keep Your Brain Young

We all want to keep our brains sharp as we get older, so Reader’s Digest offered some suggestions to help us do just that:

■ Walk. “People who started walking 10,000 steps or more daily in midlife had younger brains—about 2.2 years on average—than people who didn't exercise.”

■ Go green. “People who consume approximately one serving of leafy greens a day are cognitively 11 years younger than those who rarely eat them, according to a report in the journal Neurology.”

■ Do crosswords, Sudoku, or other puzzles. “People who engage in these types of brain games have the problem-solving skills and short-term memory of individuals who are about eight years younger.”

■ Keep friendships strong. Dr. Joel Salinas of Harvard Medical School explains, “Maintaining emotional support promotes activity in specific brain circuits that lead to the production of BDNF, a molecule that’s critical for brain cell repair and the creation of new connections.”

I give you a wise and discerning mind. (1 Kings 3:12)

Guide my efforts to stay both physically and spiritually healthy, Creator.

May 18

Recovering Addict Finds Piece of Heaven

“My desperation was a gift.” That’s how Dana Smith of Statesboro, Georgia, describes hitting rock bottom from her drug addiction. Her arrest led her to drug court, which led to a recovery program and a job at a restaurant called Mr. Omelette, where the customers grew to love and support her.

When Mr. Omelette moved its location, Smith couldn’t bear to leave her customers, who had become friends. She took over the space herself and named it D’s Friendly Diner. It has become a great success, and Smith makes sure to hire other people in recovery to give them the same chance she had because “working builds self-esteem.”

Smith is also quick to credit God with helping her get sober, noting the changes in her life are nothing short of miraculous. She told Discovering Bulloch magazine, “I would have never in a million years imagined my life would be this full and awesome. A lot of it is because of my little diner. I like to refer to it at times as a little piece of heaven. I find much peace in that. It serves a huge purpose in my life.”

Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you. (Psalm 50:15)

Bring strength and help to those battling addictions, Lord.

May 17

A Mission of Compassion

If you look hard enough, you can find happy endings anywhere, even at the neighborhood bar. This was the case in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, in 2018, when a woman came to bar owner Jimmy Gilleece frantic because she lost her wallet, which had her wedding ring inside of it.

After checking security camera footage, Jimmy saw the wallet laying on a bench outside his bar. It was then picked up and taken by a stranger. Jimmy called it his “mission” to locate this customer’s wallet. He tracked down the young man who stole it and got him to confess that he had taken the money and disposed of the wallet in a nearby ocean channel.

Jimmy hired divers to retrieve the wallet, along with the ring, which was miraculously still intact. Then, he reached out to the thief, 17-year-old Rivers Prather. “He was living in the woods,” Gilleece told CBS News’ Steve Hartman. “I could tell he wasn’t a criminal…just somebody who needed a little help.” 

“Most other people would have just gave the footage to police, and he chose to help me,” added Rivers, who now lives with Jimmy and his family. “I say thank you to him every day.”

         Build up each other. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

         Father, we thank You for the gift of second chances.

May 16

Bonnie Hunt on Family and Faith, Part 7          

Actor Carroll O’Connor was in deep despair after the suicide of his son Hugh. So when Bonnie Hunt approached him to play a role in a movie she was writing and directing, Return to Me, he declined, but asked to read the script anyway.

Afterward, O’Connor met Bonnie for a meal. She recalled on Christopher Closeup, “We were talking about loss and faith and praying and getting through hard times and believing in something bigger than ourselves. And at one point he looked at me and said, ‘I think I’m going to do your picture.’”

Bonnie cried tears of joy all the way home. She also served as O’Connor’s nurse on set because of his health issues. The actor made it through the film, giving a witty and wise performance as a character based on Bonnie’s late father. Appropriately, she gave his character the line that she had learned from her dad many years ago: “It’s the character that’s the strongest that God gives the most challenges to.”

People still come up to Bonnie in stores or at parties and say how much that line meant to them when they were going through a hard time. “That is so meaningful to me,” she said.

God…fulfills His purpose for me. (Psalm 57:2)

Help me bring comfort to others, Messiah.

May 15

Bonnie Hunt on Family and Faith, Part 6          

Bonnie Hunt went on to help many more cancer patients as a nurse for the next several years. But she also started pursuing her goal to be a storyteller and entertainer by joining a comedy troupe. She even brought them to the hospital to perform for the patients. Then, she again met a patient who redirected her life.

This one was named Rudy, and he told her to go to Hollywood and pursue her dreams. Bonnie responded that she was too afraid to fail. Rudy told her, “The biggest regret of my life is that I feared failure. I want you to look me in the eye, take my hand, and tell me that when I’m gone, you’ll go to Hollywood and you’ll fail many times. Go, give it a try.”

Bonnie agreed to Rudy’s deal and headed for the West Coast after he passed away. She said, “I went to Hollywood and failed many times. I’ve had the perspective of cancer patients to help me through those times…You keep going forward. Through every experience, every show that’s been canceled, I’ve maintained these incredible friendships with people that make your life richer and better. It’s not only about the success.”

God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love.
(2 Timothy 1:7)

Help me face my fears and trust in Your will, Holy Spirit.

May 14

Bonnie Hunt on Family and Faith, Part 5          

After discovering the connection between her late father and her patient Mr. O’Brien, Bonnie Hunt decided to stay his student nurse. He died a few months later, but Bonnie remained a nurse for several years before pursuing her Hollywood dreams.

During a Christopher Closeup interview, Bonnie said, “Becoming a nurse defined me in so many ways and gave me a more thoughtful approach to life. And patients gave me a deep perspective. I believe in divine intervention because I think my Dad got to heaven and said, ‘Don’t let her go to Hollywood! Can we find anyone that could stop her?!’ Somehow, they found this one patient out of 500. I mean, I was assigned one patient!”

That connection also helped Bonnie resolve her anger at God and her grief in general. She said, “Anybody that’s experienced great loss…the loss is so deep that anger is part of the emotion—and getting to acceptance is part of the journey. Mr. O’Brien was a bridge. Until this day, whenever I experience great sadness, the thing that helps me the most is to help someone else.” More tomorrow…

O Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You have healed me. (Psalm 30:2)

Transform my anger and grief into hope and healing, Lord.

 

May 13

Bonnie Hunt on Family and Faith, Part 4

Upon Bonnie Hunt’s return to nursing school after the death of her father, she was assigned one patient out of the hundreds in the hospital: Mr. O’Brien. He cheerfully called her “my Bonnie lass” and informed her he was “doomed” because he had terminal cancer.

Bonnie was shocked by how casually he spoke of his own impending death, but Mr. O’Brien explained, “I feel lucky to have cancer…I’m Irish, and there’s a lot we don’t say to our families. But now I’ve been able to tell my boys how much I love them and tell my bride…I had a friend who died suddenly, and he’d always talk about his kids as his greatest accomplishment. He didn’t get to say goodbye, and I’m getting that opportunity.”

Bonnie developed a real affection for Mr. O’Brien. When she learned he worked at the Board of Education, which was where her father had worked, she asked him if he knew Bob Hunt. Mr. O’Brien touched Bonnie’s arm, saying, “That’s the man who died suddenly that I’ve been speaking about.” Bonnie and Mr. O’Brien cried together about Bob’s death and this unlikely connection between the two of them. More tomorrow…

This is my comfort in my distress. (Psalm 119:50)

In my grief, send me healing relationships, Jesus.

May 12

Bonnie Hunt on Family and Faith, Part 3

Bonnie’s hospitalization furthered her interest in becoming a nurse. Despite wanting to be a storyteller in Hollywood, Bob Hunt convinced his daughter to stay put for a while and give nursing school a try. He said, “If you want to be a storyteller and a writer, you have to live life in order to write about it.”

Bonnie followed his advice and was newly into nursing school at age 18 when the unthinkable happened. Bob suffered a heart attack in the family home and died at age 50. Though decades have passed since then, the pain of that loss remains fresh in Bonnie’s mind and heart. She recalled on Christopher Closeup, “Dad was there, so healthy, strong, protective, vibrant. And then suddenly, just gone.”

Bonnie endured near-total despair and felt angry at God, asking, “How could You take our dad?!” She decided that she would quit nursing school. Her motivation for that career died with Bob. However, Bonnie’s mom Alice convinced her to go back to school for one more week in Bob’s honor. That week led to a healing experience of divine intervention. More tomorrow…

When Jesus saw her weeping…He was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. (John 11:33)

Guide those who are grieving to signs of hope, Savior.

May 11

Bonnie Hunt on Family and Faith, Part 2

Family was the center of Bonnie Hunt’s life when she was growing up. Her father Bob worked two or three jobs to get all the bills paid, while her mom Alice took care of the kids. At the heart of everything were love and faith. “I still envy my Mom’s faith,” said Bonnie, “because it’s unwavering and beautiful.”

At age 13, Bonnie began volunteering as a candy striper. “I couldn’t get enough,” she recalled. “We would read to the patients who couldn’t see, or we would help feed the patients that couldn’t feed themselves…I remember feeling good in my heart that I could make a difference in someone’s day.”

At age 14, Bonnie wound up in the hospital herself as a patient following a car accident. In pelvic traction, she was feeling sorry for herself, until her dad told her, “It’s the character that’s the strongest that God gives the most challenges to.”

Those words helped Bonnie because “I felt like it meant I was strong. I was expected to be strong and that made me stronger.” Her time in the hospital also pointed her in a new career direction: nursing. More tomorrow…

Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character. (Romans 5:3-4)

Strengthen and guide me through challenges, Father.

May 10

Bonnie Hunt on Family and Faith, Part 1

Actress Bonnie Hunt is familiar to anyone who has watched her classic films, such as Cheaper by the Dozen, Jumanji, Return to Me, etc. She’s also voiced numerous characters in Pixar movies, including Dolly in Toy Story. But it all began for Bonnie in her Chicago hometown, growing up in a Catholic family where she honed her storytelling talents by observing her dad Bob, mom Alice, and six brothers and sisters.

During a Christopher Closeup interview, Bonnie observed, “When you grow up in a blue collar neighborhood, there’s those summer nights on the front porch and everybody stopping by and talking. You see the storyteller…and a lot of times it was my dad telling a story and everybody listening and laughing. You see how healing and comforting and joyful it is, and you go to bed as a kid feeling the power of that.”

Watching The Andy Griffith Show as a family taught Bonnie that TV and movies were not just fun diversions, but they could be “cathartic and comforting.”

She learned valuable lessons from real-life too, though. More of Bonnie’s story tomorrow…

He told them many things in parables. (Matthew 13:3)

Help me to utilize the power of storytelling, Jesus.

May 9

A New Sense of Prayer

Actress Ann Blyth, known for classic films such as Mildred Pierce, was a good friend of The Christophers’ founder Father James Keller, M.M. They connected because of Blyth’s deep faith, which she had first seen modeled by her mother.

Blyth’s faith was tested as a teenager, however, when a skiing accident left her with a broken back. Doctors told her she might never walk again. But with serene confidence, her mother said, “Have faith, my darling. You’ll walk.”

Recalling the incident in Guideposts, Blyth notes that recovery gave her a “new sense of prayer. Now there were not the busy times of telling [God] what I needed but, rather, times of listening communion, of gathering strength, when my human strength and courage seemed to ebb away.”

Blyth regained her ability to walk, but faced heartbreak when her beloved mother died. She wrote, “[From] my faith came the assurance that [my mother] would be...a part of every decision, every success and every happiness—for they all stemmed from her inspired teaching. They would become the flowers of the mustard seed of faith she had placed in my heart.”

We walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Jesus, may the memories of those we have loved and lost comfort and strengthen us always.

May 8

A Mother’s Love

         What’s so special about a mother’s love? As we approach Mother’s Day, I’d like to share excerpts from essays about mothers written by some young girls. Their definitions explain the uniqueness of a mother’s love:

         “My mother is someone who shows me how to live. She teaches me how to love people and not to be someone who only thinks about themselves.” (Cathy, Grade 4)

         “She always seems to be there when I need her, doing my homework…When I’m mad she calms me down. When I’m sad she makes me happy. On rainy days brings sunshine to my life.” (Kara, Grade 4)

         “A mother is the one who brought you into this world…She mends your clothes, cooks your dinners…is someone to love and someone to get loved by. But most of all, a mother is a teacher, teaching you how to behave and about God. I love her very much.”
(Tara, Grade 5)

In essence, a mother is a person who loves—and is loved.

Strength and dignity are her clothing…Her children rise up and call her blessed. (Proverbs 31:25,28)

Jesus, bless all mothers every day.

May 7

The Good Morning Man

For the past six years, Larry Tutt has greeted commuters at the bustling corner of 15th street and K Street in Northwest Washington D.C., with his booming voice, calling out “Good Morning” to brighten everyone’s day.  “The little girl said, ‘Daddy, there goes The Good Morning Man,’” Tutt told the ABC affiliate WJLA with a smile.

Tutt’s story is one of struggle and redemption. Being the “Good Morning Man” saved him from the graveyard and going back to prison. A Vietnam veteran, he witnessed his best friend die in front of him from a booby-trap bomb during the war.

After returning home with PTSD, he couldn’t find work, got hooked on drugs, and spent a decade in prison on a burglary conviction. Homeless and living on the streets, his life changed when God came to him in a dream and told him to walk across the street and say good morning to people.

Tutt was able to get a small apartment with the generous help of the friends he made spreading joy on their morning commute, saying, “This is my family here. I love these people. I don’t know what I’d do without them.”

Let all who take refuge in You rejoice. (Psalm 5:11)

Heavenly Father, help me brighten someone’s day today.

May 6

Uber Driver Goes Extra Mile

         Kansas native and first-time mother Nikki Ihus was going through a tough time. Her baby boy, John Henry, was born with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), a condition that requires major surgery in order to survive. So Nikki brought her child to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. Their CDH team is renowned nationwide.

One afternoon, after a particularly stressful day, Nikki decided to go shopping for her son at a local consignment store, and ordered an Uber to take her there. While chatting with her driver, Belinda Smith, Nikki found her whole story spilling out, along with quite a few tears. Belinda, a mother herself, empathized with Nikki, so much so that, after she dropped her off, Smith went off the clock and followed her inside the store.

“I found [Nikki] and said, ‘This is a day that should be fun for you,’” Belinda said, according to the Sunny Skyz news website.  “And you shouldn’t be alone. Let’s shop.”

Nikki walked away with more than a bundle of new clothes for her son that day; she walked away with a true friend for life.

May your friends be like the sun as it rises. (Judges 5:31)

Lord, may I go out of my way for someone in need.

May 5

Chef of the Poor

Dino Impagliazzo was walking through a Rome, Italy train station one day in 2006 when a homeless man approached him for spare change. Impagliazzo struck up a conversation with the man and was surprised to learn that most homeless charities didn’t provide free meals on Sundays.

“I realized that perhaps instead of buying one sandwich, making some sandwiches for him and for the friends who were there would be better,” Impagliazzo surmised, as reported by CBSNews.com. “And thus began our adventure.”

Impagliazzo started bringing sandwiches to the homeless and elderly people around the railway station on Sundays, but soon the organization grew, and RomAmoR was born.

Now, RomAmoR delivers food multiple times a week. And while he’s known as “chef of the poor,” the 90-year-old Impagliazzo offers so much more to those in need: “We try to involve more and more people, so that Rome becomes a city where people can love each other. It’s solidarity.”

And the cooking pots in the house of the Lord shall be   as holy as the bowls in front of the altar. (Zechariah 14:20)

Lord, grant us the strength and means to assist the poor.

May 4

Skywalker Surprises Bionic Bella

Bella Tadlock is a typical 11-year-old from Tallahassee, Florida, except for one thing: she was born without fingers on her right hand – and her left arm was short with a nub at the end. Numerous surgeries resulted in Bella getting three fingers and a thumb on her right hand, but she wanted to avoid another operation to fix her left arm. Then she heard about the company Open Bionics, which makes robotic arms.

As a Star Wars fan, Bella hoped to raise enough money for a “hero arm” with an R2-D2 design. In 2019, she began a crowdfunding campaign to pay for it, which came to the attention of actor Mark Hamill, who plays Bella’s favorite character, Luke Skywalker. He helped promote her efforts—and that made all the difference.

Upon receiving her arm, Bella said, “I am so excited. I will be able to ride my bike, create in the kitchen, and be like my friends. To be able to bend my fingers and pick things up is a dream come true.” Bella also got a special treat: a video call with Hamill, to whom she was thrilled to show her off her new arm.

Show hospitality to strangers…some have entertained angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)

Inspire me to help someone who is disabled, Creator.

May 3

A News Fast’s Spiritual Impact

In order to tap into a spirit of joy when making her album And Lovely It Is, singer-songwriter Sarah Hart made one major change in her life: she stopped watching the news on TV or listening to it on the radio because the media “have a tendency to report on nothing but the negative.”

 To stay abreast of what’s going on in the world, she will read some stories, but she refuses to go back to being a full-fledged consumer of news. During a Christopher Closeup interview, Sarah said, “It’s amazing the effect that [a news fast] has had on my spirit. There’s something that happens in the way that you look at other human beings when you’re not hearing every day about how bad human beings can be, when you’re not constantly being filled up with the bad things humanity can do.

“Instead, [you’re] looking at people and trying to see the face of God in that person…and loving people in the world. That has changed me. So I highly recommend it. Don’t listen to the news. If you need to know something, read it. But listen to good things instead. Like Christopher Closeup.”

Be transformed by the renewing of your minds. (Romans 12:2)

May I see Your image in everyone, Creator.

May 2

A Life-Saving Gift

In 2009, University of Pittsburgh nursing student Sarah Aiken took part in a bone marrow drive on campus, run by the nonprofit DKMS, which helps those suffering with blood cancers. Sarah volunteered to have her cheek swabbed to collect cells that were then entered into a national database.

As reported by The New York Times, Sarah heard from DKMS a year and a half later, notifying her that she was a match for an anonymous six-year-old with a rare blood cancer. Sarah’s bone marrow was the child’s last hope, so the young nurse underwent the extraction procedure.

Sarah heard nothing for one year. Then, she received a message from Michelle Strohl, the mother of Kinley, the child who had received the transplant. Michelle revealed that Kinley was alive and well thanks to Sarah.

Though they stayed in touch online, the Strohls never met Sarah in person until her wedding in 2019. Kinley and Sarah joyfully embraced when they saw each other, and Kinley felt emotional. She said, “I have a bond with her no one else has.”

Faithful friends are life-saving medicine. (Sirach 6:16)

Inspire me to change the life of a stranger, Father, and change him or her into a friend.

May 1

A Treasure Beyond the Brook

In Long Island, New York, Melissa Kuch Lamothe was in the middle of the hot zone of the COVID-19 virus in spring 2020. Having been in quarantine for a month, Melissa was struggling to work and care for her four-year-old daughter Lily. But it became even more challenging when Melissa found out a family member was fighting for her life.

The young mother was trying to stay strong for Lily in their backyard, when Lily said, “Let’s do a treasure hunt.” It was the escape they needed, so Melissa claimed there was a treasure on the other side of a nearby brook and they headed off to find it. On Facebook, Melissa noted, “We laughed, smiled, and I nearly forgot the troubles I was facing back in the real world.”
         Along the way, Melissa realized the true treasure was actually her daughter. The two were about to head home when Melissa noticed they were on the other side of the brook, where she initially had said the treasure was. She froze in disbelief.  Under a tree was a blue rock with the word “Peace” painted on it. There really was a treasure, and what a magical treasure it was!

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. (Matthew 13:44)

Lord, I trust in You completely to lead me on my journey.

April 29

Gift of a Forever Family

Katie Connell Heaps observed that no matter where she traveled, from the U.S. to Chile to Uganda, there was a need for children to find a stable and loving home. She became a children’s advocate to help facilitate adoptions for families through the organization Gift of Adoption.

“I saw orphans on the street in Uganda. But it exists here in the United States, too,” Heaps said on the website of her alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. “You see situations where kids and families struggle. When something happens to parents, children need somewhere to go.”

Gift of Adoption provides grants to families to assist with expenses at the end of the adoption process. It has helped fund adoptions for more than 2,800 children by providing $8.3 million in adoption assistance grants. This year alone, it will help 400 children find homes and “unite with their families.”

Heaps’ favorite part of her job is sharing the stories of the children united with their forever families, saying, “Now, 400 children will have warm beds and goodnight stories, things that seem simple but are so critical and life-changing.”

Let the little children come to Me…for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. (Luke 18:16)

Show me the way, oh merciful God, to help a child in need.

April 28

Bridging the Generations

         When his great-grandmother came to live with his family in Illinois many years ago, eight-year-old Voight Smith resented it. He remembers feeling that her arrival “meant extra work,” because “she couldn’t walk, see, or hear very well.”

Besides, he didn’t like the idea of introducing her to his friends. Like him, “they were uncomfortable around people her age,” people who sometimes stared out the window or fell asleep in a chair, he said.

         One day he rebelled, he confessed in Guideposts magazine. “I can’t stand living with her,” Voight told his mother. Instead of scolding him, however, his mom approached him and said, “I thought you might like to see some of Grandma’s old things.”She left him alone with the items, which included an old Bible. Voight picked it up and came across an underlined passage: “Cast me not off in the time of old age” (Psalm 7:9).

Voight took it as a message. Gradually, his relationship with his grandmother improved. “I began thinking of her as a real person,” he wrote.

In old age they still produce fruit. (Psalm 92:14)

Fill me with appreciation for the aged, Jesus.

April 27

The Eyes of Love

Julia Dent Grant was the wife of Ulysses S. Grant, the Civil War general who became the 18th president of the United States. As he became more prominent, Julia worried about her looks. As the White House Historical Association (WHHA) reported, Julia was born with “strabismus, a condition that prevents both eyes from lining up in the same direction and hinders one’s eyesight.”

Julia asked a doctor to perform corrective surgery on her eyes, but he informed her that nothing could be done. Depressed at the negative response, Julia told her husband about her failed plan. He was shocked! “Did I not see you and fall in love with you with those same eyes?” he said. “I like them just as they are, and now, remember, you are not to interfere with them.”

Ulysses S. Grant viewed Julia through the eyes of true love, and nothing could change that. As the WHAA wrote, “President Grant’s only wish in his death was to be buried alongside Mrs. Grant, which ruled out most military cemeteries because they did not permit women to be interred there. Today, they are buried within feet of each other at Grant’s Tomb in New York.”

Love one another with mutual affection. (Romans 12:10)

Help married couples see the best in each other, Savior.

April 26

The Maine Way

         Barbara Hinckley of Auburn, Maine, was the victim of an all too common scam. A con man claiming to work for Publishers Clearinghouse convinced the 95-year-old that she had won second prize in their contest: namely $2.5 million and a Mercedes Benz to boot. After giving him her bank account information, he stole her entire life savings of $16,000.

While that part of the story highlights the worst of humanity, the best of humanity soon emerged. The former governor of Maine, John Baldacci, saw Hinckley’s story when it was picked up by the Sun Journal, and he immediately took action. He organized a spaghetti dinner fundraiser, which consisted of 60 pounds of noodles and 17 gallons of sauce! With 400 people in attendance, a whopping $18,000 was raised, $2,000 more than what Hinckley had lost.

         “Stealing from the elderly is not the Maine Way,” Baldacci matter-of-factly stated to the Bangor Daily News. “Let’s turn something bad into something positive by showing the world our true Maine character.”

Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another. (1 Peter 4:10)

Abba, may we seek to make a positive out of every negative. 

April 25

Joseph Stalin’s Daughter Finds God, Part 2

In joining the Orthodox Christian Church, Joseph Stalin’s daughter Svetlana officially rejected her father’s violent and tyrannical ideology. She said, “The sacrament of baptism consists in rejecting evil…I believed in ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ I believed in truth without violence and bloodshed. I believed that the Supreme Mind, not vain man, governed the world. I believed that the Spirit of Truth was stronger than material values. And when all of this had entered my heart, the shreds of Marxism-Leninism taught me since childhood vanished like smoke.”

Svetlana’s personal life and even her faith didn’t hold steady, however. She changed religions several times and went through a few marriages and divorces.

But after befriending Father Giovanni Garbolino, reports Matthew Archbold in the National Catholic Register, Svetlana converted to Catholicism in 1982 and remained Catholic until her death in 2011. She said, “Before, I was unwilling to forgive and repent, and I was never able to love my enemies. But I feel very different from before, since I attend Mass every day.”

Repent, and believe in the good news. (Mark 1:15)

Teach all people to reject evil and accept Your loving spirit of truth, Messiah.

April 24

Joseph Stalin’s Daughter Finds God, Part 1

         Though he was raised in the Orthodox Church, Joseph Stalin came to reject God and hate religion. The Russian dictator was responsible for the destruction of many churches and the torture, imprisonment, and murder of hundreds of thousands of Christians. But when it came to his daughter Svetlana, Stalin had a warm and loving relationship with her—at least initially.

She didn’t see his darker side until she got older and realized that her father was responsible for the disappearance of some of her own family members, as well as the family of her school friends. As Matthew Archbold wrote in the National Catholic Register, “When Svetlana found her first boyfriend her father considered him unacceptable and condemned him to a Gulag.”

After her father’s death in 1953, Svetlana chose to change her last name to her late mother’s maiden name: Alliluyeva, which is a form of “Allelujah.” And in 1962, she was baptized into the Orthodox Christian Church. But her spiritual journey wasn’t done just yet. More tomorrow…

Our struggle is…against the spiritual forces of evil. (Ephesians 6:12)

Guide us through darkness to find Your light, Father.

April 23

Caregivers Need Care, Too

“Caring for an individual living with a dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease is among the most stressful of caregiving situations,” notes the Home Instead Senior Care network. Here are some of their suggestions to help caregivers find peace:

■ “Keep a journal to identify what you are feeling. Writing down what is happening and what you are feeling can help tap into your emotions.”

■ “Talk with a friend. Sometimes talking with someone who knows and loves us can help us figure out what we are feeling.”

■ “Find a support group. Look to your local faith community or... connect with others who are going through the same thing.”

■ “Get help. If there is a specific task that is difficult, consider asking someone else to do it. Call your local Alzheimer’s Association and Home Instead Senior Care office for more information about how these organizations could assist you. The Alzheimer’s Association has a free 24/7 help line with master-level clinicians to talk with family members who are over-burdened. Call 1-800-272-3900 if you need help.”

Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)