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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...

May 16

Lending a Sympathetic Year

         Are you a good listener? We don’t mean if you hear when someone speaks, but rather, do you really listen? There’s a difference, and the distinction is important, according to psychologist and author Robert Wicks.

         Although effective listening takes a little extra time and attention, this form of “mental health first aid” is invaluable, he said on an old Christopher Closeup show. Then he commented on a phenomenon we’ve all observed: “It’s marvelous how many people there are in the world who love to tell you how you should live your life. There’s no scarcity of those people.”

         By way of contrast, helpers “are interested in listening. They’re willing to sit for a few minutes and hear you out.”

Although all of us can serve as a counselor at times, Wicks cautions against the “savior complex,” or the feeling that we must help a friend reach some definite solution. Lending an ear is often all that’s needed. And if a friend is obviously troubled but hasn‘t asked for help, Wicks advises reaching out anyway.

If you will not listen, my soul will weep in secret. (Jeremiah 13:17)
Jesus, help me to practice the art of listening.

May 15

Animal Sanctuary Inspired by Mom

Christopher Vane opened an animal sanctuary in Florida in honor of his late mother, Ursula, who taught him compassion for all God’s creatures.

Before Ursula passed away, she said, “When I die, I’m going to have a barn up in heaven, and I’m going to have all the animals, and they’re going to stay with me.”

Though she died before she could see her son bring her version of heaven to life here on earth, Vane named the facility Little Bear Sanctuary in her honor. (“Ursula” means “little bear” in Latin.)   

To date, Little Bear has rescued more than 150 animals, and it’s a no-kill, no-cage sanctuary where abused animals and those rescued from slaughter can live out their lives in peace. Because of its high standards for animal care and business practices, Little Bear Sanctuary is a verified “true sanctuary” by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

Vane told Today, he starts his morning with a smile: “You can’t be depressed here. These animals just change your day.”

God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind.” (Genesis 1:24)

God, help us to treat all Your creatures with compassion.

May 14

Student Follows Way of Christ

Teachers are known for having an impact on students’ lives, but in Hamilton, New Jersey, a student made a difference for a teacher and for newborn babies in her state.

Educator Jennifer Gallagher caught a virus—specifically, a cytomegalovirus—when she was pregnant with her son, Rocco. As reported by CBS2 New York’s Meg Baker, “If you contract this very common viral infection for the first time while pregnant, it can transfer to the fetus and cause severe brain damage and hearing loss.” That’s what happened with Rocco, who came to be diagnosed with congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV). He now has cerebral palsy and is disabled.

The vast majority of mothers have never heard of CMV, so Eva Drennan, an eighth grader at St. Gregory the Great Academy, where Gallagher teaches, spearheaded a campaign to test all newborns for CMV—and also make mothers aware of the condition and the damage it causes. She said, “We follow the way of Christ…to help in our community and to reach out as much as we can, so I thought this was a great way to do that.”

Speak out for those who cannot speak. (Proverbs 31:8)

May young people be inspired to follow the way of Christ in their own unique way.

May 12

Refugee Gives Back

After years of enduring war in Sudan, Nabila Hamid applied for refugee status and was eventually resettled in Boise, Idaho, with her children. Determined to make a good life for her family, she enrolled in a work-training program that allowed her to get a job at St. Luke’s Meridian Medical Center as an environmental service technician. That means she sanitizes hospital rooms after a patient is discharged.

Hamid’s job became more dangerous and complicated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though she had concerns about bringing the virus home to her family, she told Nicole Foy of the Idaho Statesman, “Going to the hospital everyday to help people, according to my religion, I believe this is my destiny. I am not afraid. I do what I can to protect my family, but…in the end we are all human beings; we need to give something back.”

Julianne Donnelly Tzul, executive director of Boise’s International Rescue Committee, praised people like Hamid, saying, “Refugees and immigrants are a critical part of our society. They are keeping the engine of our community running.”

You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:19)

Help refugees find welcome in their new homes, Father.

May 11

Reconciling with God and Family

Though Matt Palmer’s parents took him to Mass when he was growing up, his father never took part in the sacraments of Holy Communion or Reconciliation. Instead, writes Matt in a column for Catholic News Service, “Dad had one best friend—the grudge.” It resulted in his father cutting himself off from various family members, including Matt himself as an adult.

After 15 years of not speaking, Matt received word that his father was in the hospital dying of leukemia. Matt knew this was the time to make peace, yet he still felt anxious. But when he entered his father’s hospital room, his dad greeted him almost as if no time had passed. In addition, Matt learned that a priest had come and offered to hear his father’s Confession.

Matt writes, “After decades of holding back…he shared with the priest a lifetime that had weighed on his conscience. ‘It all came pouring out,’ Dad said as tears just rolled down his bearded cheeks. ‘I was so scared. But he just listened to me and didn’t judge me. Things used to be so harsh. I think things are changing…It felt good.” Matt’s father died a week later, finding comfort in the love of his family and the mercy of God.

May He…be reconciled to you. (2 Maccabees 1:5)

Guide me in reconciling with You and others, Messiah.

May 10

Addict Finds Rehabilitation                    

“I lived an ugly life,” admitted Joseph Valadez of Fountain Valley, California, during an interview on The Kelly Clarkson Show. But Joseph has managed to turn that ugliness into beauty through hard work, determination, and the support of good people.

When he was a boy, Joseph joined a gang and began abusing drugs and alcohol. He wound up being sent to prison 40 times, for a total of 30 years over the course of his life. During that time, no one ever asked if he had a drug problem and needed some help. Tired of being addicted and imprisoned, he finally took the initiative himself and called various rehab centers.

Joseph was accepted by the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center of Anaheim, California. He credits them with saving him. Then, to complete his education, he enrolled at California State University of Long Beach, and graduated with a degree in Sociology at age 63 in 2021 with a 3.67 GPA. Joseph said, “There’s a misconception about guys like me that I want to break. If I can do it, anyone can.”

I have swept away your transgressions…Return to Me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:22)

Guide addicts to turn their lives around, Messiah.

May 9

NICU Babies Rescued After Hurricane             

In the summer of 2020, Hurricane Laura’s more than 100 mph winds caused damage to Lake Charles, Louisiana’s CHRISTUS Ochsner Lake Area Hospital, leaving four babies from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in desperate need of help. 

That’s when a group of NICU nurses from their sister hospital, 90 minutes away in Beaumont, Texas, sprang into action to save these children’s lives.

“Knowing that it’s been us in that same position many times before, there was no question about whether or not to help,” Paul Trevino, president and CEO of CHRISTUS Southeast Texas Health System, said on Good Morning America.

Registered nurse Kelli Huebel coordinated the transport of patients from one facility to another and reassured anxious parents saying, “Our job is to love, support, and care for these babies and their families.” And that is precisely what they did, getting those babies to their destination without any complications. How’s that for a life-saving delivery? 

Let us journey on our way, and I will go alongside you. (Genesis 33:12)

Loving Lord, bless the babies in the NICU, fighting for life.

May 8

Following in Mom’s Footsteps

Joanne Vendetti has served as an oncology nurse at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore for 40 years. Not only does she see her patients and co-workers as family, one of them actually is a member of her family. Her daughter Lena works as a nurse in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Paul McMullen of the Catholic Review reports that both women are graduates of the Institute of Notre Dame and were influenced by the Sisters of Mercy. Lena’s greatest influence, of course, is her mom, whom she describes as her “role model” for the loving care she provides to her patients and family.

This care became especially necessary when Lena discovered a lump in her neck in 2017. Tests revealed that it was Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. “I wanted my Mom to be the one to give me the results,” Lena said. “When it was me going through [cancer treatment], her best friends were my nurses.”

Thankfully, Lena’s cancer went into remission. She went on to get married and have a daughter. Perhaps that little girl will follow in her family’s footsteps as well one day.

We were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. (1 Thessalonians 2:7)

Thank You for the loving care shown by good nurses, Lord.

May 7

A Caregiver Calls on God for Help

It was a moment of panic for Beth Gormong. Though she was good at doing the cooking, cleaning, and laundry when she visited her parents, she felt unsure of herself when having to deal with her mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s. One day, when Beth’s father was out, she was left alone with her mom, who woke up from a nap exclaiming, “I’m scared. The snow’s getting on me. I’m cold, so cold. Help me!”

Beth tried explaining that there was no snow. But dementia patients often can’t grasp reality, so Beth prayed for guidance. Recalling the incident in Guideposts, she soon realized, “Maybe words weren’t the answer…I sat on the arm of Mom’s chair, rubbed her forehead and hummed softly, just like she’d done for me as a child when I had a migraine…As the minutes wore on, Mom’s frantic breathing slowed. The tension left her face. She began to hum along. It was the sweetest sound I’d ever heard.

“I bowed my head, comforted that I wasn’t alone until Dad returned. The Lord was there with us. I’d remember that the next time Mom was frightened so that I wouldn’t be frightened too.”

My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.

(Exodus 33:14)

Help me remember I am never alone, Holy Spirit.

May 6

Frontline Hero Surprised with $1 Million

Andrea Dalzell, the only registered nurse in a wheelchair in New York City, has never let her disability stop her from overcoming obstacles. And when COVID-19 hit, she quickly volunteered to help patients in need.

Dalzell was five years old when she was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder called transverse myelitis. Even though she would never walk again, she vowed her disability would never stop her from going after her dream of becoming a nurse. Despite initial pushback, Dalzell prevailed.

Due to her disability advocacy and heroic volunteer efforts during the pandemic, the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, a nonprofit supporting people with spinal cord injuries, surprised her with a one million dollar check. Dalzell could only think of helping others with the money.

She plans to start a program for people with disabilities to go into healthcare. “They should be given a chance,” she concluded. “People with disabilities aren’t living a death sentence. They’re living life.”

Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

Heavenly Father, bless all those who live with disabilities.

May 5

Ben Mazur Day

         It all started with a runaway shopping cart at Schnuck’s, a grocery store located in Alton, Illinois. Ben Mazur, a 24-year-old Schnuck’s employee whose job is collecting carts from the parking lot, noticed one rolling into the path of traffic. Terrifyingly, a child was in the cart!

Mazur, who is on the autism spectrum, swiftly jumped into action, pulling the youngster out of harm’s way just in time. According to Fox2Now, the mother of this toddler was distracted getting her other children into her car, unaware that her baby had literally slipped out of her grasp “until it was almost too late.”

         In gratitude for the young man’s quick thinking and heroism, Alton Mayor Brant Walker declared May 5th to be Ben Mazur Day. The date also happened to be Mazur’s birthday. Working at Schnuck’s had long been a dream of Ben’s, one he was able to fulfill with the help of Challenge Unlimited, “a program that helps people with disabilities find employment.”

“He’s outstanding,” Jiuana Evans, Mazur’s job coach at Challenge Unlimited commented, “and I know he’s going to continue to do great things.”

            Nothing will be impossible with God. (Luke 1:37)

            Lord, may we not allow any limitation to define us.

May 4

A Grandmother’s Secrets, Part 3            

The “gritty Swedish gumption” displayed by Deacon Don Grossnickle’s grandmother Maja in overcoming her struggles worked its way into his DNA, too. For years, he worked closely with high school boys who had broken their necks playing sports and needed to adjust to life with a disability. He has also created a ministry in Uganda that uses a microfinance program to lift people out of poverty and get them the medical care they need.

During a Christopher Closeup interview about his book My Maja, Deacon Don said, “I think the common theme is that there’s a lot of broken people in the world. We deacons are, by Scripture, looking at the widows and orphans and those that are cast aside by society—and we have a special heart to be there for them. That’s what the Lord asks all of us.

“The Christophers’ founder said that each of us has a certain calling, unique to each of us. And we can be there for others. So it wove its way [into me] watching what Maja did. She was selfless. It was all about being strong enough to rally, no matter what she faced.”

I…beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called. (Ephesians 4:1)

Give me the strength to follow Your call, Jesus.

May 3

A Grandmother’s Secrets, Part 2

After losing her husband at age 35, Deacon Don Grossnickle’s grandmother Maja suffered greatly, balancing the work she needed to do to survive with raising three children.

“The stress and strain [led to] a nervous breakdown,” said Deacon Don on Christopher Closeup. “Her children were taken away from her…But Maja never spoke about those incidents to me. My relationship was such that her focus was on what the Lord was asking her to do all the time. She didn’t look back necessarily on how she spent some time in this Chicago insane asylum, and she did the treatments necessary to get out, so she could rejoin her children. As far as I’m concerned, that’s about as gritty a gumption as any person would ever imagine.”

As a result of learning about his grandmother’s struggles, Deacon Don notes that his compassion has been deepened: “Every person that I see who is struggling with depression or with suicide tendencies, I can see the face of Maja in each of them, and know that with the Lord’s help, they can be strong.”

More tomorrow…

I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord. (Psalm 12:1-2)

Guide those with mental illness towards healing, Lord.

May 2

A Grandmother’s Secrets, Part 1            

While he was growing up in Chicago, Deacon Don Grossnickle loved visiting his grandmother Maja, an immigrant from Sweden. But as he researched her life in recent years, he discovered family secrets that shed new light on the struggles she endured in the U.S. He shares those secrets in his book My Maja.

During a Christopher Closeup interview, Deacon Don explained that Maja’s most prominent traits were resilience and “gritty Swedish gumption.” Both became necessary for her survival in the states after her husband died at age 35, leaving her a widow with three children. Maja had been trained as a night nurse in Sweden, but had focused on raising her children here. After her husband’s death, which occurred during the Great Depression, Maja returned to work to survive.

Deacon Don explained, “Maja went to work 12-hour shifts taking care of wealthy people…She also converted the upper floors of her house into a boarding house…The stress and strain were terrible.” Though Maja relied on her faith in God to sustain her, there were also times when she would exasperatedly pray, “What are you asking of me, Lord?” More tomorrow…

Why, O Lord, do You stand far off? (Psalm 10:1)

Reveal Yourself to me in times of trouble, Creator.

May 1

High School Students Inspire Bus Driver

Ten years ago, Clayton Ward attended college, but dropped out after a few semesters because the challenge of balancing work with school became too much for him. After moving to Massachusetts, he found employment as a school bus driver. Little did he know that bus route would help him rediscover his desire to return to college and finish what he started. 

Ward spoke about history to the high school students he was driving. They, in turn, said they wished Ward was their teacher. Ward told the Framingham Source those words “gave me the motivation to complete a goal I had started years ago.”

He enrolled at MassBay Community College in May 2019, working full-time driving the school bus while attending classes. Despite the difficulties he encountered, Ward said, “I would think of those students and all the years I wanted to make this happen, and it helped me focus my energy.”

Ward completed his Associate’s Degree with top honors and is planning to pursue his Bachelor’s Degree in History, with a minor in Secondary Education.

The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher.

(Isaiah 50:4)

Lord, may I pursue wisdom in the world and in Your words.

 

April 30

Two Donors Save Boy's Life

In early 2020, six-year-old Zeke Puig moved to Philadelphia to undergo treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for a rare combination of life-threatening cancers. Unfortunately, that was right when hospitals started shutting down due to the coronavirus pandemic. That left Zeke unable to see his siblings, and with only one parent at a time by his side.

Zeke’s body was rejecting the cells from his first bone marrow transplant, so he was in desperate need of a second life-saving treatment. With the pool for donors smaller than usual due to the pandemic, the Puigs waited and prayed for a miracle.

As reported by Good Morning America, their prayer was answered when not one, but two donors signed up on the bone marrow registry and were perfect matches. Zeke’s body responded well to the transplant and, after 75 days in the hospital, he enjoyed an emotional reunion with his family. 

His mother is so thankful to the donors who answered the call to save her son’s life: “You can’t help but see these people and be thankful, and see the good in humanity through this pandemic.”

In distress you called, and I rescued you. (Psalm 81:7)

Loving Lord, help me answer the call of someone in need.

April 29

Let Go of Anger and Stress, Part 2                     

Peace is another gift of the Holy Spirit that will help us move beyond anger and stress. Peace is not just the absence of conflict, though, according to Gary Zimak, author of Let Go of Anger and Stress.

He said on Christopher Closeup, “Peace is a sense of serenity or tranquility that allows us to remain untroubled in the face of serious or unpleasant circumstances…It’s the ability to sleep in the boat while the storm is raging around us.

“Jesus was able to do that. Why? Because He knew He was in control. If He gives us His Spirit through the Holy Spirit, we’re able to tap into that peace, that serenity, even though the world might be crumbling…We’re able to be at peace in duress knowing that He’s in control.”

Achieving this peaceful state is an ongoing process, admits Gary, who takes his own stumbles in this area with humor and humility. He said, “We’re a work in progress. I’m going to be working on this every day for the rest of my life, and I think that’s the way the Lord wants it. He just wants us to keep trying each day.”

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

Jesus, help me find peace knowing You’re in control.

April 28

Let Go of Anger and Stress, Part 1

Catholic author and speaker Gary Zimak used to be a chronic worrier, filled with anger and stress. His faith led him to move beyond those emotions, and now he’s written a book called Let Go of Anger and Stress.

During a Christopher Closeup interview, Gary noted that stress and anger are issues that “both flow from the same thing: a lack of control…If I try to control other people, try to control my circumstances, I can easily become angry and frustrated…

“This whole book that I’ve written is a Holy Spirit book. This book is about letting the Holy Spirit work through us, and one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is love. I can’t love on my own. There are people that annoy me so bad that I’m just not going to pray for that person if it was up to me.

“That’s where I get into trouble, and this is where Jesus, through His Spirit, tells me, ‘No, Gary, you have to make that decision to love that person through prayer. You don’t have to take them out to dinner, but you have to do what’s best for that person and pray for them.”

Pray for one another, so that you may be healed.

(James 5:16)

Help me move beyond anger and stress toward love, Jesus.

April 27

The Road to Being a Teacher

         Joanne Foster’s road to being a teacher began at age 14, when she started babysitting. She told Franchesca Caputo of the Diocese of Albany’s The Evangelist newspaper, “I just had so many people [to watch]. I would just sit there and hours would go by, and I would do all these silly things with these kids, and I’d [notice], ‘I just like being around them,’ so that was it.”

Foster went on to attend Albany’s College of Saint Rose and then to teach for many years at nearby St. Madeleine Sophie School, where she won the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Distinguished Elementary School Teacher Award for 2020-21, after a year in which she cheerfully conducted class in a church basement to accommodate social distancing requirements.

Approaching her job as a vocation, she said, “Seeing the accomplishment in the kids, seeing that sense of ‘Yep, I understand what you’re teaching me,’ and just the excitement of it, that to me is everything.”      

Serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. (1 Peter 4:10)

Lord, may we always honor Your servants in this world.

April 26

God’s Guiding Hand

A nine-year-old boy named Tiziano was shot on the doorstep of his home in Las Talitas, Argentina, during a family celebration in 2021.         

What happened next was described by his mother, Alejandra, as a “miracle.”

Writing for the Daily Mail, Jack Newman reported that Tiziano “felt a sudden pain in his chest and saw a bullet on the ground next to him.”

Tiziano was taken to the hospital, where doctors found only a superficial wound. “After he returned home,” Newman writes, “the boy’s aunt found his crucifix necklace on the ground. The silver cross which Tiziano had received as a gift from his father David had a hole in the middle where the bullet had entered.”

Alejandra said, “He is here, thank God. For us it is a miracle. We took him to church, he talked to the Father. He told him that he has been blessed. Anything could have happened to him. For us it is a miracle.”

He does great things and unsearchable, marvelouthings without number. (Job 5:9)

Lord, I trust in Your guiding hand of protection.

April 25

A Saint for Appalachia

Eula Hall spent her life as a woman on a mission. And when she passed away at age 93 in 2021, her mission had been accomplished.

Born into a poor family in Appalachian Kentucky, Hall saw the poverty around her, as well as the need for basic medical services. So in 1973, she founded Mud Creek Clinic for those who could afford to pay—and for those who couldn’t.

She eventually joined forces with Big Sandy Health Care and endured her clinic burning down. Until it could be rebuilt, she used her home as the clinic site, temporarily moving her family into a trailer. In order to raise money, she set up a roadblock on the highway and appealed to drivers for donations.

Laura Ungar in the Louisville Courier Journal notes, “[Hall] always believed that health is more than medicine, and no one should be denied care because they lack money. Her clinic offered primary care services as well as mental health counseling, a pharmacy and a food and clothing pantry. To be healthy, she said, people need the basics of life.”

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

Help me to live selflessly, Lord.

April 24

Taco Bell Joe’s Standout Service

Have you ever met a cashier or server at a fast food restaurant whose service makes your day? Joe Deciccio of South Daytona, Florida, is one of those people. The 70-year-old has worked the drive-thru window at his local Taco Bell for 20 years and, as reported by WABC-TV, he’s been “handing out smiles and friendly greetings along with food orders.”

During the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, a Facebook group held a contest to highlight restaurant workers who leave a great impression on their customers. Deciccio, who is lovingly known as Taco Bell Joe, won by a landslide. The initial prize was $50, but donations from appreciative customers ballooned that amount to $6,000. Raj Gohill said, “You could have the worst day, by the time you get through the drive-thru there, you’re just smiling.”

A grateful and humbled Deciccio said, “It’s my customers that I owe this to. They bring out the best in me…And I’m going to do my best to live up to it and spark a light, a little candle in every heart of every person that I meet.”

There are varieties of services, but the same Lord.

(1 Corinthians 12:5)

Jesus, help me to serve others with a cheerful spirit.

April 23

Preventing Procrastination

“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today” is a timeless adage, but too many people get caught up putting off necessary projects until the last minute. Elliot Berkman and Jordan Miller-Ziegler dig into the psychology behind procrastination and how to overcome it at GetPocket.com.

So why do people procrastinate? Berkman and Miller-Ziegler say, “Procrastination, in psychological terms, is what happens when the value of doing something else outweighs the value of working now.”

They continue, “A group of studies shows that people procrastinate more on unpleasant tasks. These results suggest that reducing the pain of working on a project, for example by breaking it down into more familiar and manageable pieces, would be an effective way to reduce procrastination.”

So the next time something else tempts you to put off an important task, remember to break it down into smaller tasks—and exert the commitment and willpower necessary to get it done. 

Now begin the work, and the Lord be with you.              

(1 Chronicles 22:16)

God, help me to stop procrastinating and do work today!

April 22

Perfectly Frank Pays it Forward

Perfectly Frank, a Norfolk, Virginia restaurant, has begun a free meal initiative called “Franks for Friends,” in which customers can donate meals to help feed those in need in their community. 

Tarah Morris, Perfectly Frank’s owner, said that the idea began with a single donation and quickly grew from there. Anyone who needs a meal can go to the restaurant, pull a ticket off the “Franks for Friends” bulletin board, and exchange it for a menu item. “Maybe COVID hit them really hard, or they’re in between jobs—or maybe they’re taking a meal for their neighbor,” Morris told CNN. “We don’t ask any questions.”

Morris remembers one man, who was going through a tough time. He said he was “so filled with joy to know that there are good people out there doing good things in this chaos.” An employee “paid it forward” and donated $20 in that person’s name.

“It’s not even about the money,” Morris reflected.  “It’s about people doing nice things for somebody.”

You will have confidence, because there is hope.

(Job 11:18)

Savior, may we strive to pay every kindness forward.

April 21

The Secret of Life

         What is the secret of life? You can look to the late Luke Pesane, who lived to age 103, for some answers. After serving in the Air Force for three years during World War II, Pesane became the first in his family to graduate college (Syracuse University). He went on to become a regional business manager for Moore Business Forms.

Luke and his wife, Ruth, held the distinction of being the longest married couple in their Fayetteville, New York church (75 years), before the latter’s death at 97 in 2017.

Father Thomas J. Ryan, Pesane’s pastor, noted in The Catholic Sun that during his life, Luke had “a deep faith, a sharp mind, a kind demeanor, and a terrific sense of humor…Whenever I mention that he has the secret of life, he comments that ‘God has been good’ to him.” Luke’s daughter added that her father loved helping people.

“You’re not old till you hit 90,” Pesane once quipped. “You’re not even entitled to worry about it…I’ve been able to hang on to the age [103]. And grateful for that, you know.”

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

Savior, may we treasure every day of life for the gift it is.

April 20

Gratitude Leads to New Job

In June 2020, Kevin Gibson and his wife Jennifer welcomed twin daughters Jemma and Junie (short for Juniper) into this world. But Junie was born with a congenital heart defect called aortic stenosis—and she was fighting for her life.

Junie spent 28 tough days at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. Kevin told Today Parents, he was “scared for [his] tiny little girl,” and didn’t know if she would survive.

During the nights he spent in the hospital with Junie, Kevin, who has a background in security and investigative work, chatted with the hospital’s security officers and swapped “war stories” to pass the long hard nights.

When Junie was given the green light to go home after successful heart surgery, Kevin was so filled with joy that he wanted to give back to the hospital that saved her life. One of the hospital police officers said there was an opening and that Kevin should apply. Kevin knew he found his calling and took the job, saying, “If I was a millionaire, I’d fork over a bunch of money to them, but helping people is the way I have to say thanks.”

He protected us along all the way…and among all the peoples through whom we passed. (Joshua 24:17)

Loving God, help me to repay kindnesses done for me.

April 19

Angels of the Holocaust

         Jonathan Sacerdoti, a London-based writer and journalist, observed that while the numbers of Holocaust survivors in the world are rapidly decreasing, they themselves should never be forgotten—and neither should the “righteous Gentiles” who helped rescue them.

Sacerdoti then recalled the story of his own Florence-born Italian Jewish father, Cesare, who passed away in 2019. The son of a rabbi, Cesare was only five years old in 1943, but he vividly recalled being sheltered, along with his younger brother, at several different places, including an Italian convent.

         “As my father once said, ‘They [the nuns] seemed to appear where and when you needed them, like angels,’” Jonathan recounted in Spectator magazine. “In fact, their actions were decidedly human, actively choosing to protect their fellow man at a time when evil and indifference prevailed…The warmth of the nuns who protected [my father]—he told us that warmth stayed with him all his life.”

For the righteous will…be remembered. (Psalm 112:6)

Rabbi, may we always be grateful for the angels who walk among us.

April 18

Egyptian Catholics United through Focolare

Vivian Azer grew up in Egypt and recalls how tough living as a Catholic was in her homeland. After immigrating to America a few years ago and settling in Staten Island, New York, she has joined other Egyptian Americans in the Focolare movement to meet and share the Gospel.

 As reported by The Tablet, Focolare began in 1943 during World War II, when an Italian school teacher, Chiara Lubich, wanted to create a world without war and hate. Lubich’s mission was to serve and fulfill the work of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Now, approximately 4.6 million people worldwide participate in Focolare groups, and they are always led by a woman “as an expression of the Church’s Marian profile.”

Azer said that while her group is mostly Coptic Catholics, it is open to anyone and helps people of all faiths and backgrounds. Azer stated, “The common language between all of us is love, and love is God.”

I ask…on behalf of those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one. (John 17:20-21)        

Loving Jesus, I pray for people of all religions and faiths, for we are all one in Your love.

April 17

Alleluia, Be Happy Today

         As we joyously celebrate the resurrection of Christ, here are excerpts from an Easter sermon by St. John Chrysostom: “Whoever you are, come, celebrate this shining happening, this festival of light…

“Let everybody…crowd into the exhilaration of Our Savior. You the first and you the last: equally heaped with blessings. You the rich and you the poor: celebrate together. You the careful and you the careless: enjoy this day of days. You that have kept the fast, and you that have broken it: be happy today…

         “For forgiveness itself has reared from the tomb. No one need fear death; for Our Savior Himself has died and set us free. He confronted death in His own person and blasted it to nothing…

         “Christ rises and the angels are wild with delight. Christ rises and life is set free. Christ rises and the graves are emptied of dead. Oh yes, for He broke from the tomb like a flower, a beautiful fruit: the first fruit of those already gone. All glory be His, all success and power…for ever and ever.”    

He has been raised. (Matthew 28:6)

Jesus, keep the joy of Easter in our hearts always.

April 16

To Have Loved and Lost, Part Four                   

Every day, Chase and Sadie Smith prayed that they would have more time together than the three to five months that doctors predicted he had left due to his cancer. And in that sense, their prayer was answered. Chase lived 11 months before passing away at home, surrounded by his family, on April 4, 2021, at age 19. It was Easter Sunday, the day Jesus conquered death.

Sadie told the Indianapolis Star, “I whispered in his ear that everything was going to be OK and that he won this fight. I continued to reassure him that it was OK to let go and it was time for him to run into God’s arms with no more pain and suffering.”

Sadie felt devastated in the aftermath of his loss, but relied on God to give her strength. And Chase’s life continues to touch those who knew him. His father Brad said, “I learned from Chase through this journey every day is a gift and just not [to] waste that. Appreciate every day… Enjoy the time that God has given us right there in front of us and make the most of that because we don’t know what tomorrow is going to hold.”

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. (Revelation 21:4)

May we take comfort in Your resurrection, Jesus.

April 15

To Have Loved and Lost, Part Three                

Despite his battle with cancer, Chase Smith never lost his faith in Christ. He told the Indianapolis Star, “I’ve seen what a cancer journey looks like when [people] have God by their side, and I’ve seen what a cancer journey looks like when they don’t. To me, it’s a no-brainer of what I would rather choose. That’s my main goal in life…to just point people to the word of God.”

That faith guided Chase in April 2020 when he received the news that he had multiple tumors on his skull. Doctors gave him only three to five months to live. He reflected, “The precious people in your life, the amount of time they are in your life, take every moment you have. Enjoy and give everything you can in those relationships and know there is so much possible with love when your love includes God.”

Chase knew that he wanted to face his final days with Sadie at his side, so despite only being high school seniors, the couple got married a few days after the prognosis, with their families’ blessings. Sadie said, “Every day…we pray that Chase would stay on this earth longer so we can bring more people our story of love.” More tomorrow…

I found him whom my soul loves. (Song of Solomon 3:4)

Help me spread stories of love, Creator.

April 14

To Have Loved and Lost, Part Two                   

Chase Smith kept attending swim meets when his cancer or chemotherapy treatments didn’t drain him of his energy. In 2018, at a social function following one of those meets, he met a diver from Mooresville High named Sadie Mills. Thinking she was cute, he asked her out and they soon became an inseparable couple. 

Sadie told the Indianapolis Star that she “loved Chase’s maturity and how he genuinely liked doing things with her.” And Chase observed that he loved “the way she made him feel, the way his fears calmed when she was near him.”

Chase had that positive effect on a lot of people. Jack Scott, his radiation oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic, noted, “When you see someone like Chase…it forces you to be better in order to match that bravery and match that attitude and then it also makes you grateful. His message and the way he lives his life is a meaningful one, and it’s a great honor to be part of that.”

Sadie’s love remained Chase’s greatest strength, so despite their youth, they decided to take a major step. More tomorrow…

Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed. (2 Corinthians 4:16)

Fill those facing illness with courage and love, Jesus.

 

April 13

To Have Loved and Lost, Part One

Chase Smith’s first passion in life was swimming. As reported by Dana Hunsinger Benbow of the Indianapolis Star, “By the time Chase was 12, he was a nationally ranked swimmer, second in the nation for the 100-meter butterfly, six-time state champion and record holder for the 100-meter individual medley, 100-meter freestyle and three relays at Indian Creek Middle School. His sights were set on the Olympics.”

In 2014, however, at age 14, severe pain and swelling in Chase’s left thigh led him to get checked by a doctor. The unexpected diagnosis was a tumor on his femur due to “Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare cancer of the bone and tissues.”

Chase endured chemotherapy in the aftermath and served as an assistant coach to his father and sister as they trained youngsters in swimming. When doing that work, Chase said, “My mind doesn’t allow me to think about anything else other than the kid I’m coaching…or the relationship I’m building with someone while I’m here. It…is an escape from everything.”

Soon, however, Chase would find a love even greater than swimming: Sadie. More of the story tomorrow…

Bless the Lord…all that swim. (Daniel 3:79)

Help me find an escape from my troubles, Savior.

April 12

It Matters to Jesus

Author and spiritual director Becky Eldredge got a phone call from a friend who had suffered greatly in her life. But on this particular day, this friend conveyed a spirit of hope, saying, “Becky, I had a huge ‘aha’ this morning. It matters to Jesus what I have gone through. Every bit of it. It matters to Jesus.”

Writing at IgnatianSpirituality.com, Becky recalled feeling joy for her friend. Becky also thought back to her own ‘aha’ moment while practicing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius some time ago. She said, “As I hear and pray with the moments of Jesus’ suffering during the Lenten season, my understanding of how much Jesus understands suffering widens. He not only gets physical pain, betrayal, and abandonment, but He also understands being misunderstood, what it feels like not to belong, and what it’s like to forgive.”

“There is something that changes in us when we let the wounds of our lives touch the wounds of Jesus. It is as if Jesus were gazing at us with eyes of love and understanding, inviting us to tell Him everything we are seeing and feeling.”

We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. (Hebrews 4:15)

Bring me closer to You in times of struggle, Jesus.

April 11

Priest Who Fought the KKK

The Ku Klux Klan’s violent and racist actions against African Americans and Jewish Americans are well-known. But were you also aware the Klan held a deep hostility towards Catholics as well? As reported by DenverCatholic.org, Colorado was a hotbed of KKK activity in the early 20th century. They considered Catholics to be anti-American, so they urged boycotts against Catholic-owned businesses and tried to shut down Catholic schools, orphanages, and even Masses.

Father Matthew Smith, editor at the time of the Denver Catholic Register, is credited with helping to reduce the Klan’s power and influence by countering its lies in the pages of his newspaper.  For instance, he wrote, “The way to fight such movements as this one is not by violence. That only adds impetus to them. It gives them favorable publicity as being persecuted. Not only that, it is morally wrong.”

“But at the same time we shouldn’t sit back and hope to see them die a natural death…If we spread truth among our non-Catholic friends, sooner or later they will realize that such a movement as the Klan has no place in our American institution.”

A truthful witness saves lives. (Proverbs 14:25)

May I serve as a beacon of Your truth, Messiah.

April 10

What Would You Ask God?

Shemaiah Gonzalez’s 11-year-old son likes to ask questions to get conversations started. At the playground once, he asked the kids, “Which is better, dogs or cats?” Everyone had an opinion. But one night at dinner, he asked his family a question that left them sitting in silence for a while: “If you could ask God anything, what would you ask?”

Gonzalez pondered the question for days and came up with various options. At IgnatianSpirituality.com, she wrote, “Over the next few days, my son’s question kept coming back to me. I tried to imagine God sitting in a chair in my room with me. Do you love me? I asked. Why? What do you see in me?

“As I practiced this discipline, I sensed God’s presence more and more. I felt certain that God loved me and began to see myself through His eyes as a doting Father. As I sat with Him, I became more certain of His ways and the truth and goodness in the world. As I sat with God, I felt strengthened to take on the tension of the world outside. I realized I wanted to ask fewer questions and just enjoy His presence.”

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God…and it will be given you. (James 1:5)

Help me to trust in You and enjoy Your presence, Lord.

April 9

Wednesday’s Child Encourages Adoptions

When empty nester Samanthia Jordan-Hill turned on the news one day, she saw the “Wednesday’s Child” segment highlighting a child in foster care. The teen, named Christian, “struck her spirit,” and after two years of going through the system, Jordan-Hill adopted Christian as part of her family. 

The number of Georgia adoptions has nearly doubled in five years, due to the actions of local media spreading awareness through their “Wednesday’s Child” segments, as well as a legislation overhaul that began in 2018. 

State Rep. Bert Reeves told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that adoptions in Georgia have been on an “upward trajectory…due to a lot of awareness that’s been brought to our community about the need to adopt foster kids.”

The hope is that even more people will rise to this calling.  As Jordan-Hill's husband, Norman, concluded, “I figured, the Lord blessed me, and now I can bless somebody…to give somebody the opportunities I can provide.”

He destined us for adoption as His children through      

Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:5)

Lord, open our minds and hearts to children in need of a loving home. 

April 8

The Road to Peace

         Writing in the magazine Fellowship many years ago, C. David Matthews, pastor at the time of First Baptist Church of Greenville, South Carolina, made an interesting point. He wrote, “Our world has limits, boundaries. And we now possess the power to blast ourselves beyond these borders into nothingness.”

Under the circumstances, he asked, what difference does it make if the individual does or does not attempt to be a peacemaker? Matthews’ answer resonated with the Christopher philosophy.

He observed, “Individuals are the agents that have steered history, for better or for worse. A few of them we know…but scores of them we do not know. Unseen by us, anonymous in recorded history are most of the doers and deciders who have determined today. If history teaches us anything, it is that the significance of the individual should not be minimized.”

Start with self, family, neighborhood. Every conflict resolved is a building block to peace.   May the Lord of peace Himself give you peace. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

Jesus, fill me with Your peace so I can share it with others.

April 7

Newman’s Own Generosity

The late actor Paul Newman took his work seriously on camera—and off. Using the profits from the food company he started, Newman founded a year-round camp for terminally ill children. His original intent was to bring some extra joy into their lives. But he soon found out that helping kids made him and his entire staff feel good about themselves too.

Newman’s venture became so successful that in 1994, he received an honorary Oscar for his efforts on behalf of children.  He said, “Not everybody can make a livelihood out of helping others. But everybody can try to find some time. Any amount of time we give is worthwhile.”

Giving of yourself is always worthwhile. So be generous with your talent and your time. You may not win an Oscar, but the satisfaction you’ll receive is a wonderful reward.

The one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. (2 Corinthians 9:6)

Holy Spirit, remind me to be generous with my talent and time.

April 6

Healthcare Chaplain’s Healing Hope, Part 4

Just as caffeine wakes us up in our daily lives, Marianne Sailus hopes to wake people up in their spiritual lives through her work as a healthcare chaplain and author. Some of that spiritual caffeine can come by calling on the Holy Spirit.

She said, “I believe the Holy Spirit should be a constant partner in our lives through [our] calling upon Him. In the Roman tradition, I know that the main prayer to the Holy Spirit that I learned was, ‘Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Your love,’ et cetera.

“In the Eastern church, we have, ‘Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, who are everywhere present and fill all things, Treasury of blessings and Giver of life: come and dwell within us, cleanse us of all stains and save souls, O Gracious One.’

“So to call on the Holy Spirit with that prayer from either tradition, once a day, I think is a very helpful thing—and to ask Him to guide every action, every word, every deed of every day of our lives.”

You may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Come and guide me, Holy Spirit.

April 5

Healthcare Chaplain’s Healing Hope, Part 3

One of the focuses in healthcare chaplain Marianne Sailus’ book of reflections Paschal Ponderings is the resurrection of Jesus, a topic she often addresses with patients at low points in their lives.

During a Christopher Closeup interview, she said, “It’s important to remind patients that they may be stuck in the Garden of Gethsemane [or] on Calvary—or a family member may be that Mary or John beneath the cross at Calvary—but not to give up hope because in Christ there is resurrection and new life. And care and cure are two different things.

“Oftentimes, people want cure, but sometimes God’s purpose for them is care and to make sure that they are comfortable of body, mind, and soul…When I’m with hospice patients…the patient, if they’re conscious, knows that the end is coming, the family knows that the end is coming. But they have people there—nurses, doctors, social workers, and chaplains—who are giving support and being that hope, even in what seems to be a hopeless situation.” More tomorrow…

Though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for You are with me.

(Psalm 23:4)

May I be a comfort to those who are suffering, Savior.

 

April 4

Healthcare Chaplain’s Healing Hope, Part 2          

Since pursuing her calling to be a healthcare chaplain, Marianne Sailus has been a comfort and guide to many people from all walks of life, so she’s learned how to read different situations and discern what approach is best to take.

Sometimes, there are no words that will help, so in those cases she practices a ministry of presence, of “being that person who’s showing Christ’s love to the person by the touching of a hand, the humming of a hymn. That sometimes is just enough. Other times, you need to share some words of encouragement, some words of faith. Especially if the person is a person of faith, they want to hear the Lord’s words on how to deal with that situation.”

“One of my favorite passages that I share is from the gospel of St. Mark, where Jesus raises the daughter of Jairus. And when everybody tells Jesus, ‘Don’t bother the Master any further, the little girl is dead,’ in the new American Bible, Jesus’s answer is translated this way and I love it: ‘Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.’ That became my motto.” More tomorrow…

Do not be frightened…The Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

Teach me to deepen my faith and trust in You, Jesus.

April 3

Healthcare Chaplain’s Healing Hope, Part 1

If you or a loved one has ever faced any medical issues that landed you in the hospital, you’ll know what a trying time that can be. But one of the people who can bring spiritual comfort in that situation is a healthcare chaplain, who offers prayers, guidance, or even just the willingness to listen.

Marianne Sailus has served as an interfaith healthcare chaplain for more than two decades, and she joined us recently on Christopher Closeup to discuss her work, as well as her book Paschal Ponderings: Meditations on the Acts of the Apostles.

“I had been a hospital patient,” recalled Marianne about how the seeds of her career were planted, “in and out of hospitals for 26 years of my life due to uncontrollable epilepsy from which the Lord cured me on the operating table in 1994. And thanks be to God, I never had a seizure from that day forward. My background was already in theology, and I just felt called to being at the bedside of others who were struggling.”

More on Marianne’s work tomorrow…

The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29)

Guide me towards my life’s calling, Creator.

April 2

Seeing Stars for the First Time

An eight-year-old Canadian boy named Sam wanted to wish upon the stars, but he could never see them because he suffers from a rare eye disorder called retinitis pigmentosa. He was told there was no cure—until a new form of gene therapy changed his life.

Images most people take for granted—the stars, an airplane streaking across the sky, or even our own shoes—were beyond the scope of young Sam’s vision. “You lose perception of light,” Dr. Elise Heon, of Sick Kids Hospital, explained to CTV News. “You end up in darkness, and [it’s] slowly progressive.”

When Sam and his mom heard there was hope with a new form of gene therapy, they traveled to the United States to undergo the treatment. Since then, Sam’s vision continues to improve. Now he can finally see those stars he always dreamed of. “This is a story about hope,” Sam’s mom said.  Because now Sam can wish upon those stars he can see.

Look up to the heavens and see the sun, the moon, and

the stars. (Deuteronomy 4:19)

Jesus, may I not take for granted the blessings You have bestowed upon me—and may I remember to look to the stars.

April 1

Laughter As Medicine

         Laughter as the best medicine seems more than a cliché for Alan Alda, noted actor and science buff. Like so many others during the COVID-19 pandemic, Alda and his wife Arlene, married 63 years, spent a lot of time at home engaging in video visits with family and friends.

         When asked about the best thing for us to do, Alda told AARP writer David Hochman, “Laugh! Laughter is good. That’s one of the benefits of this isolation. My wife and I are laughing more than we ever have. When you laugh, you’re vulnerable…You let the other person in, and that brings us all closer.”

         Alda, who had polio as a child and developed Parkinson’s in adulthood, has an abiding interest in humor, science, and communications. “I’m still alive,” he concluded. “If that changes, I’ll let you know.”

Our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue

with shouts of joy. (Psalm 126:2)

Encourage us to share smiles with those we meet, Jesus.

March 30

Where Is God in Times of Tragedy?

         “Praying was as natural a part of growing up as was brushing my teeth. I learned the discipline of being grateful for all things that happened in my life,” notes Rabbi Harold Kushner in the anthology For the Love of God.

         But it wasn’t until Rabbi Kushner and his wife learned their three-year-old son had a life-threatening disease that he was “forced to abandon my idea that if I was a good and pious person, God would protect me and my family from tragedy.”

         After a period of feeling anger and alienation, Rabbi Kushner concluded, “God does not send disease, accident, or tragedy…God sends us the strength to survive and transcend…I learned to find God not in the tragedy, but in the capacity of the human soul to surmount [it].”

We all face tragedies in life, so it’s important to call on God to support us through these tragedies—and to pray for the awareness that the Lord is present with us.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

Father, give us strength in times of trouble.

March 29

Change of Heart, Part 4

Twenty-three years after her sister’s murder, Jeanne Bishop mailed her incarcerated killer, David Biro, a letter in prison, saying, “I forgave you a long time ago, and I never told you…I waited all these years for you to apologize to me. I’ll go first. I’m sorry. And I’ll come see you if you want.”

Biro answered her letter with his own. On Christopher Closeup, Jeanne recalled, “It was his confession for the first time, and this expression of deep remorse, shame, regret, heartbreak. He had waited to hear from me because he didn’t want to traumatize me by reaching out and having to see his name in the mailbox unexpected. It was his expression of empathy for my family over how heartbroken and baffled we must have been—and inviting me to come and talk to him.”

Jeanne met with Biro and found his repentance to be sincere. She now shares her Christian witness about forgiveness around the country and in her memoir Change of Heart. Not everyone responds positively to her act of mercy, but Jeanne notes it was something she needed to do—and she credits the Holy Spirit with giving her the strength to do it.

He has mercy on whomever He chooses. (Romans 9:18)

Holy Spirit, give me the strength to practice mercy.

March 28

Change of Heart, Part 3

In the years following her sister’s murder, Jeanne Bishop began work as a public defender in Cook County, Chicago, and kept encountering people and situations that prompted her to think about mercy more deeply. One day, she passed a church service taking place on a beach and heard the preacher talking about how all of humanity is a mess, but that God responds to our messiness with “mercy, mercy, mercy.”

That led Jeanne to reconsider her support of life without parole sentences for juveniles because it is “merciless. It forecloses any possibility of redemption, change, and remorse.” And when she once described Biro as “remorseless” in a conversation with legal scholar Mark Osler, he responded, “How do you know? You’ve never even spoken to him.”

Jeanne decided to reach out to Biro. She explained, “It was realizing that as Jesus hung on the cross, He was praying for the people who were in the process of killing Him, who had not apologized, who weren’t sorry. And this was completely an act of trying to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.” More tomorrow…

Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke 23:34)

Jesus, may I emulate Your model of forgiveness.

March 27

Change of Heart, Part 2

Despite her sister’s final act of love before she died, Jeanne Bishop still deeply grieved her loss. At the same time, however, she decided that her response to the murder would not be hate.

It took six months for the killer, David Biro, to be caught. He was only 16 years old. At the time, Jeanne and her family supported the prosecutor pursuing a sentence of life without parole. Jeanne noted, “I had always opposed the death penalty, and I opposed the death penalty after my sister’s murder, even more because I saw that shedding more blood and digging another grave and creating another grieving family like mine was never going to heal us, that it was only going to drag me closer to who the murderer was.”

Life without parole is the sentence that was handed down when Biro was found guilty. Jeanne decided to forgive him in her heart, so he wouldn’t take up space in her brain. Then she vowed not to think of him anymore. But over the course of the next 20 years, Jeanne came to a point where she was willing to practice an astonishing act of mercy. More tomorrow…

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. (Romans 12:17)

Help me move beyond the grudges and hatreds I hold in my heart, Prince of Peace.

March 26

Change of Heart, Part 1

On April 7th, 1990, Jeanne Bishop felt overjoyed for her sister Nancy and brother-in-law Richard, who had just announced they were pregnant with their first child. But the next morning, that joy turned to devastation when Jeanne, while singing in her church choir, received a call saying that Nancy, Richard, and their unborn child had been murdered.

Jeanne sobbed in the immediate aftermath of the news, and raged at God, “Where were You when this happened? Why didn’t You protect her?” It was only after police revealed a particular detail about the crime scene that Jeanne was able to move beyond her anger at God.

During a Christopher Closeup interview about her memoir Change of Heart, she explained, “In Nancy’s last moments, she had dragged herself across this basement floor where they’d been shot…And next to where her husband lay dead, she had dipped her finger in her own blood and written the shape of a heart and the letter U, next to him: Love you. I knew that nothing but the presence of God in her last moments could explain the serenity and the love and the strength to do that.” More tomorrow…

Love is as strong as death. (Song of Solomon 8:6)

Sustain the grieving with Your love, Jesus.

 

March 25

Beaux and Paws

         It’s always good to put your best foot forward in terms of appearance. That’s also true for animals, especially ones up for adoption. This is what 14-year-old Darius Brown believes, and why he founded Beaux and Paws, an organization that both donates and sells handmade bowties for rescue cats and dogs to wear, as they await adoption into their forever homes.

Brown first learned how to sew from his older sister, Dahzai, when he was only eight years old. He soon became adept at making bowties. It was a simple donation of 25 bowties to an ASPCA shelter in the wake of Hurricane Irma that first sparked his entrepreneurial interest.

“I saw how happy the people at the shelter were to get the bowties, and how much the dogs liked them, and I decided to make more,” Brown recalled to the Washington Post. “I came up with a goal to give bowties to an animal shelter in every state.”

With the help of a GoFundMe page, Beaux and Paws has distributed 600 bowties to shelters in eight different states, with a portion of its online store profits going directly to the ASPCA.

It is well with those who deal generously. (Psalm 112:5)

Father, teach us to give freely of our time and talents.

March 24

I Am With You Always

         Susan Bailey faced a problem that many of us deal with: insomnia. Waking up in the middle of the night, overcome with fears and anxieties, she found she could not get back to sleep, no matter how hard she tried.

Susan prayed to God to deliver her from her worries, but more often than not she was met with silence. That’s when she realized something profoundly important about God’s presence.

Writing at CatholicMom.com, Susan observed, “These nighttime experiences continued for a long time before I finally got the point—it is not necessary for God to answer. His very presence is the answer, and it is up to me to have faith. I had to stop relying upon my emotions and instead turn to my intellect. My knowledge of God, small as it is, tells me that He is nearest to me during times of trouble.”

When insomnia and nighttime worries revisit her, Susan offers prayers of gratitude for God’s presence in her life. She listens to sacred music, such as Gregorian chant, knowing that even in the dark and silence, God is there. 

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is

from Him. (Psalm 62:5)

Lord, help me in times of worry to trust You are with me.

March 23

Don’t Overload Your Life

As part of a contest many years ago, twelve cheerleaders in Ventura, California, squeezed into a Volkswagen bug. But they didn’t stay there long. The car suddenly filled with smoke, forcing them to make a quick exit.

What happened? The heavy load of their combined weight forced the seat springs down against the car’s uncovered battery terminals—and set fire to the back seat.

The same type of thing can happen when we try to squeeze too much into our lives. We become so weighted down by activities and commitments that the stress causes emotional burnout.

Don’t let your life become so overloaded that you end up physically or spiritually drained. Life is short. It’s also very special and sweet. Find the right balance between doing for others and taking care of yourself.

Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles. (Isaiah 40:31)

Lord, help me avoid becoming overburdened—and give me the strength to do what I need to do.

March 22

A Prayer for Endings—and Beginnings

All of us must endure “endings” in our lives. Those times of transition can be heavy with worry or grief over what has been lost. But the future can be approached with hope. Christopher Award-winning author Kate Bowler wrote a prayer for people in these challenging situations. Here are some excerpts:

“Blessed are you on the brink of something new. A new life, a new career, a new commitment, a new relationship, a new decade. Blessed are you, dear one, so full of hope. You whose horizon extends far beyond what your eyes can see…”

“May you find comfort from places and people you don’t anticipate, that remind you that you are not alone. And dear one, you may be saying goodbye to something, someone dear, but something new will be born. I can’t promise it will replace what was there, and I won’t try to tell you that it will always be better. But I do believe that we can find beauty and meaning and truth right here where we stand in our transitions, in our hellos and goodbyes, and yes, even on the other side.”

I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Guide me through life’s difficult transitions, Messiah.

March 21

A Group of Decent People

         Many years ago, Coach John Thompson told his Georgetown University basketball team something memorable during the NCAA tournament. He called them together before one of their early games and talked to them about their real achievements.

         “Win or lose,” he recalled, “I wanted them to know how I felt: that by serving as role models for kids back home, by being decent people doing positive things, they had done something that would outlive all the individual honors they could attain.”

         Georgetown lost in the quarter-finals—by one point. And Thompson’s team showed how well it learned from him. They congratulated the winners, offered no excuses, and left everyone with a memory of “decent people,” who had learned to lose with grace and dignity.

         During the year, the team had also demonstrated that they learned to win the same way. That’s no small thing in a society which places so much emphasis on being number one.

Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity. (Titus 2:7)

Jesus, instill in our athletes the desire to be worthy examples for others.

March 20

Mail Carrier Delivers Love

After 19 years on the same mail route in California, mail carrier Tina Weber knew many people in the neighborhood, especially seniors. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, these vulnerable adults had to stay at home for their own safety.

Many of Weber’s customers didn’t have any family members nearby to help them, so she decided to pass on her phone number and told them to reach out to her if necessary. “How can I say no when they ask for help?” Weber said in her article, published by AARP.org.

Weber proceeded to deliver groceries, toilet paper, and other essentials to those in need. She even assisted one gentleman who was undergoing chemotherapy, telling him, “If you’re not feeling well, call me and I’ll make you some food or visit with you on the telephone.”

It was more than just groceries and other basic necessities that Weber delivered—it was friendship and love.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 19:19)

Lord, help me to be a good neighbor. 

March 19

A Saint of Steadfast Silence

         Deacon Greg Kandra calls St. Joseph a “saint of steadfast silence” because he is never quoted in the Bible. Yet Jesus’ earthly father has much to teach us despite his lack of words.

         In his book The Living Gospel: Daily Devotions for Lent, Deacon Greg writes, “A lot of what we need to know can be learned from St. Joseph. Among other things: strive to be ‘righteous.’ Stand by those you love, no matter what. Keep your commitments. Listen to angels. Don’t worry so much about the future. Trust in God. Stay connected to your roots. Embrace the journey. Believe that God can be found anywhere, even when others don’t make room for Him.”

“Don’t be afraid to be quiet. Sometimes the silent partner has much to say. You can speak volumes just by being present, being strong, and being a model of obedient faith. For those of us journeying through Lent, St. Joseph offers us companionship and inspiration…[He] made of his life a prayer and never lost sight of where God meant him to go. May he continue to travel with us and show us the way.”

Joseph…did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.

(Matthew 1:24)

Increase my trust in You, Father.

March 18

Sanitation Workers Save Kidnapped Girl

A 10-year-old Louisiana girl, who was abducted by a family acquaintance in March 2021, was found safe after two sanitation workers spotted the suspected kidnapper’s vehicle.

After the girl was kidnapped from her home, police issued an Amber Alert for her and an arrest warrant for her alleged abductor, who was last seen driving a silver Nissan Altima.

Two sanitation workers for Pelican Waste & Debris, Dion Merrick and Brandon Antoine, had just started their route when they noticed a car parked in the middle of a field in St. Martin Parish. Merrick immediately recognized the car from the Amber Alert, blocked the entrance to the field, and called 911.

Police arrived in under a minute and apprehended the suspect. The girl was then safely reunited with her family. Merrick, a 39-year-old father, told Today he didn’t think twice about helping the little girl: “We’re a close-knit community so I had to do what I had to do for my community.”

Peace be to the whole community, and love with faith. (Ephesians 6:23)

Thank You, Lord, for concerned citizens who act quickly to save lives. 

March 17

Father Peyton’s Legacy, Part 3

Deeply humbled and grateful to God and the Blessed Mother for his second chance at life, Father Patrick Peyton thought back to what a great gift it was to pray the rosary as a family when he was growing up. Believing that other families could benefit from this practice as well, he started holding rosary rallies to promote this message.

Eventually, he decided to use mass media—initially radio, then television—to further spread the message. Hollywood’s biggest stars, from Lucille Ball to Jackie Gleason to Frank Sinatra, lined up to help him.

Although Father Peyton appealed to many Catholics, he also took an ecumenical approach to his message. Father David Guffey, executive producer of the film Pray, about Father Peyton’s life, explained that the priest recognized that not everybody was Catholic, so when he went into an area, he would encourage people to pray according to their own faith tradition.

In conclusion, Father Guffey hopes that viewers of Pray will be both entertained and “gather with the people that they love most, especially families, and consider praying together.”

Pray in the Spirit at all times. (Ephesians 6:18)

Remind me to pray with my family, Savior.

March 16

Father Peyton’s Legacy, Part 2

Years after becoming a Holy Cross priest, Father Patrick Peyton contracted tuberculosis, which was often a death sentence in the early 20th century because antibiotics had not yet been created. His case became severe, and doctors told him to make his peace with God. They called in his family to say goodbye.

Father David Guffey continued the story: “An old Holy Cross priest, who had been a philosophy professor of Father Peyton’s at Notre Dame, came in to visit him, prayed with him. He said, ‘Pat, we know that you have faith. We know that you’re close to the Blessed Mother. Let her intercede for you. Turn to her. If you believe in her, she’ll believe in you.’

“[Father Peyton] believed in her, and he prayed like he’d never prayed before. The very next day, he felt a physical healing. He felt a physical change in his body. It took a while to convince the doctors to do another chest X-ray, but when they finally did a few weeks later, the tuberculosis was just gone, and there was no medical explanation of what could have happened.”

More tomorrow…

I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; indeed, I will heal you. (2 Kings 20:5)

Bring healing and comfort to the desperately ill, Lord.

March 15

Father Peyton’s Legacy, Part 1

Irish immigrant Father Patrick Peyton reached millions with his “the family that prays together stays together” call-to-action. But when Peyton first came to the United States in 1927 with his brother Tom, his intention was to become a millionaire.

So how did his path in life change so dramatically? That story is told in the Christopher Award-winning documentary Pray: The Story of Patrick Peyton. Father David Guffey, one of the film’s executive producers and the national director of Family Theater Productions, which Father Peyton founded, discussed the project on Christopher Closeup.

Father Guffey said, “Patrick and Tom…had a vision that the United States’ streets were paved with gold and that this was the land of opportunity—which it was, but not in the way they thought.” Patrick eventually found work as a janitor in St. Joseph Cathedral in Scranton, Pennsylvania. That job “brought him close to God in an ever deeper way,” eventually leading him to join the Congregation of Holy Cross order of priests. But a bout with death was also on the way. More tomorrow…

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8)

Move me closer to You, Jesus.

March 14

Hey, Blue

Retired New York City police officer John Verdi has seen the divide between police and the African American community, so he began using his past experiences to build connections between the two. Verdi worked at Ground Zero in New York in the aftermath of 9/11. He recalled to Florida Today, “As I was dodging buildings and bodies…I just prayed to the Lord that I could survive so I could do something bigger than myself.”

After moving to Melbourne, Florida, Verdi wanted to build relationships between police and the community’s children, so he started a venture called “Hey, Blue.” He invited members of the local police department to read stories to kids, initially in a café, and eventually in their classrooms. This allowed everyone to get to know each other on a safe and friendly level.

Natasha Walker, an African American mom, grew up with a distrust of police officers. After taking part in “Hey, Blue” with her daughter, Walker told NBC News that she now has an open door of communication with her police department. It doesn’t solve every problem, but it is a step in the right direction.

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

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is anger and distrust, let me bring peace and healing.

March 12

The Art of Listening

As the old saying goes, “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we ought to listen twice as much as we speak.” But becoming a good listener can take practice. Octavio Messias at Aleteia offers these tips:

■ “Repeat what the other person just said. Even if we only do it silently in our minds, this exercise helps us to understand exactly what the person said, not what we think they said.”

■ Focus your mind. Don’t be easily distracted.

■ Show genuine interest in what the other person is saying. “This not only improves our understanding, but…helps the other person feel more comfortable to express themselves honestly.”

■ When dealing with serious matters, talk face-to-face. “This allows us more integral communication, perceiving each other’s tone of voice, expressions and body language.”

■ “Suspend judgment. We tend to judge and draw hasty conclusions from what the other person is saying before they even conclude what they have to say. We need to adopt the understanding posture of someone who wants to find the truth and solutions, and not broaden the differences.”

Let the wise also hear. (Proverbs 1:5)

Teach me to be an attentive, empathetic listener, Lord.

March 11

Drew Robinson’s Second Chance, Part Three

After surviving his suicide attempt, Drew Robinson realized he is a person who needs to communicate with others. Keeping his emotions bottled up for all those years took a toll on his mental state, so he became an advocate for therapy, medication, and simply talking to others. “People that love you want to hear it,” Robinson told ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan, “and if you don't have people that love you, therapists want to hear it.”

Drew’s new perspective prompted his parents, brother, and sister to admit their own mental health struggles and seek help.

Careerwise, Drew wasn’t sure there was room in major league baseball for a one-eyed player. But he trained relentlessly anyway and got signed by the San Francisco Giants to play in their minor league clubs in 2021.

Drew knows he needs to pay attention to his mental health because life isn’t all sunshine and roses. But he has hope. Every once in a while, he takes out the bullet that he shot himself with, having kept it as a keepsake of sorts. He looks at it and says, “I’m stronger than you. I’m stronger than what I thought I was.”

The Lord…is a stronghold in times of trouble.

(Psalm 9:9)

Help me realize my strength when You’re with me, Lord.

March 10

Drew Robinson’s Second Chance, Part Two

Doctors marveled at the fact that Drew Robinson survived a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. If the bullet had traveled a slightly different path, he would have died. And though he had lost his right eye and suffered internal injuries that required surgery, Drew would be physically okay.

It was Drew’s mental condition, however, that landed him in this situation in the first place. Early on, there were positive steps in that respect, too. When his family came to see him in the hospital, he felt compelled to say he loved them and mean it sincerely. “I’m meant to be alive,” he told his brother Chad.

Jeff Passan of ESPN.com wrote, “Drew was determined that his ‘after’ was going to differ from his ‘before.’ This was his chance. To be what he always wanted and never could. To fix himself. His family. Others. The compulsion—to love, and to share that love—was instantaneous.”

Drew revealed, “[This is] a huge, painful sign that I’m supposed to help people get through something that they don’t think is winnable.” More tomorrow…

I have set before you life and death…Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Help me to uplift a depressed person, Savior.

March 9

Drew Robinson’s Second Chance, Part One

The negative voices inside Drew Robinson’s mind had always haunted him. From his parents’ divorce when he was a child, to navigating his roller coaster baseball career through the minor and major leagues, he blamed himself for every failure—and never gave himself credit for any successes.  

Keeping emotions bottled up was a common trait in Drew’s family, so he put on a happy face in public, never talking about his feelings to anyone. In essence, Drew hated himself, and that’s why he chose to end his life on April 16, 2020.

As reported by Jeff Passan for ESPN.com, the 28-year-old penned a suicide note absolving his family and friends of any guilt. Then he put his handgun to his head and pulled the trigger. The bullet pierced his head, taking out his right eyeball, and exiting above his left cheekbone.

Minutes later, Drew wondered how he was still alive. Bleeding and in pain, it took him 20 hours to realize he didn’t want to die after all. He called 911 for help, and it became his first step in building a new life. More tomorrow…

Why should you die before your time? (Ecclesiastes 7:17)

Help suicidal people seek the help they need, Father.

  

March 8

Pray For Those Who Aggravate You

Author Hannah Brencher felt like she was in a spiritual rut and found it difficult to pray. When telling a friend about the situation, the friend responded, “You have to keep praying when you’re bored. You have to decide to pray until God gives you the answer, not to pray until you’re tired of praying for that thing.”

The comment left Hannah wondering what would happen if she—or anyone, really—prayed unceasingly. More than that, she explored praying for two people she didn’t really want to pray for because she found them aggravating. But instead of asking God to change them, Hannah asked the Lord to change her.

On her website HannahBrencherCreative.com, she wrote, “Within 36 hours of praying for these two people, they both reached out. And they reached out with a really vulnerable text that I wasn’t expecting. And they both needed me and it was almost like God was touching down and saying, ‘I couldn’t start to move until you invited Me into the situations.’”

Hannah concluded, “Bring that stuff out into the light. God wants to change things, and He wants to use you as a catalyst.”

The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

(James 5:16)

Teach me to pray for people I don’t like, Savior.

March 7

The GodSquad Promotes Peace

Gun violence and homicides in New York City saw a startling uptick in 2020. In one Brooklyn neighborhood, though, clergy members stepped up the peacekeeping efforts in which they had been engaging for years.

As reported by Kathryn Watson for Christianity Today, the group is officially called the 67th Precinct Clergy Council, Inc.—but they call themselves “the GodSquad.”

Watson writes, “The GodSquad facilitates a leadership academy for teenagers, hosts support groups for the mothers of murdered children, and sometimes ‘deploys’ to tense scenes, where they engage people and attempt to de-escalate, bringing a peaceful presence to the street.”

The group has also helped create a broader outreach through the national organization Clergy for Safe Cities, which operates in Boston, Chicago, and other places. Gilford Monrose, pastor of Mt. Zion Church of God 7th Day, explains, “What we’re doing is the simplest form of the gospel that we can perform. This is a ministry of love, mercy, and justice.”

Those who counsel peace have joy. (Proverbs 12:20)

Replace our impulses toward violence with a commitment to living Your peace, Jesus.

March 6

Angels at Outback

The stranger who tapped Kenneth Smith on the shoulder may not have had wings, but she was nevertheless an angel who redirected his life. As reported by Good Morning America, Smith, age 50, had been homeless for several years. He was sitting outside an Outback Steakhouse in Fort Worth, Texas, when he fell asleep.

A stranger tapped him on the shoulder to ask if he was okay. Smith replied that he was starving, so the stranger went inside the restaurant and brought him out a $100 gift card so he could get something to eat.

After entering the restaurant, the friendly and gregarious Smith began chatting with Outback managing partner Laura Hodges, who was impressed by Smith’s story and told him to come back anytime for a free hot meal.

Smith really wanted to work, though, so he asked if he could do odd jobs around the restaurant. Hodges hired him as a busser, so now Smith can afford an apartment. Smith said, “It’s been really hard, but altogether, God, He’ll never forsake you. He’s blessed me with a job.”

She opens her hand to the poor. (Proverbs 31:20)

May I be a source of hope to the needy, Jesus.

March 5

                                 Sandwich Saturday                                  

         You’ve heard of Meatless Monday? Well, at St. John XXIII Church in Canal Winchester, Ohio, they have Sandwich Saturday. The tradition first began almost 20 years ago, when six parishioners met one Saturday morning, and assembled 200 sandwiches to donate to the St. Lawrence Haven Food Pantry, located in downtown Columbus.

Among these original parishioners was Sean Cleary, who remains an active participant. What started as a small philanthropic effort now comprises 35 to 50 regular volunteers. “Sandwich Saturday is a family affair,” Cleary noted in the Catholic Times, “and our sandwich assemblers cover the age spectrum…We wrap up each session with special intentions and a prayer.”

“COVID has not interrupted Sandwich Saturday,” Sean proudly concluded. “In our most recent gathering, we made 1,762 sandwiches…It’s not the number of sandwiches made that counts, though. The lasting and meaningful friendships we have built over the years are what sustain Sandwich Saturday.”

Offer your food to the hungry…

then your light shall rise in the darkness. (Matthew 18:20)

Savior, unite our hearts and minds in helping others.

March 4

A Time to Serve

         Lent is often characterized as a time to give up something. But another form of sacrifice involves service to others—being attentive to one’s neighbors and seeing in them the Christ we claim to follow.

         “It is no use to say that we are born 2,000 years too late to give room to Christ,” wrote the late Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement. “Christ is always with us, asking for room in our hearts.”

         Day further suggested that we can do for Christ now “what those who knew Him in the days of His flesh did…It is…with the heart of anyone in need that [Jesus] longs for shelter. And giving shelter or food to anyone who asks for it, or needs it, is giving to Christ.”

         Dorothy Day’s life was a constant Lenten observance. Working in New York’s Bowery, she and her helpers daily fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and reached out in love to those who were most in need. This year, let your own observance of Lent embrace the concept of service to those around you.

         Just as you did it to one of the least of these…you did it

         to Me. (Matthew 25:40)

         Jesus, renew my desire to serve You in others.

March 3

Scripture is Always New

Even though you’ve heard or read some Bible passages many times throughout your life, there’s always a possibility you might discover something new. That’s what happened to Mary DeTurris Poust, and she shared her observations in the book Not By Bread Alone: 2021.

DeTurris Poust writes, “It’s easy to think, as we begin yet another Lenten journey, that we know the drill…But the truth is that Scripture is a living thing, always new. I know this firsthand because every time I sit down to write a Lenten reflection about a Scripture passage…something jumps out at me and makes me say, ‘How did I not notice that before?’

“We hear every Scripture reading differently, depending on where we are on our life journey, our spiritual journey or maybe just what side of the bed we woke up on that day. God meets us where we are, and if we’re paying attention, we can hear God, see God, recognize God in unlikely places…When we take time to listen for the still small voice, a scene, a sentence, a word calls out to us as if surrounded by blinking neon lights along a dark highway, and we are found, even if only for a few minutes.”

The Word of God is living and active. (Hebrews 4:12)

Father, may Your Word guide and protect me.

March 2

                         If You Love…                   

“If you love, you want to give yourself.” Those words from Dorothy Day’s memoir The Long Loneliness inspired Deacon Greg Kandra’s Ash Wednesday homily in 2021. On his The Deacon’s Bench blog, he writes, “The question before us today: How can we give more? How can we live more generously? How can we love more deeply? How can we leave this place today and be, as St. Paul put it to the Corinthians, ‘ambassadors for Christ?’

“Several years ago, on Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke of the three words that define how we should observe this season. The words are: pause, see and return…Pause, he said, from noise, from empty gestures, from the need to show off, from the urge to want to control everything.

“See, he said, the faces of families striving to do their best. See the elderly, the sick, children yearning for hope. See the remorseful and the searching. See the face of Christ crucified.

“And Return…he said, without fear. Return to celebrate with those who are forgiven. Return to the Father to experience His healing.”

Return…to the Lord, your God. (Hosea 14:1)

Help me to “Pause, See, and Return” this Lent, Jesus.

March 1

Practice Self-Discipline This Lent, Part Two                

Fasting from material things is one aspect of Lent, but we can also practice self-discipline regarding negative habits and behaviors. Writing at CatholicMom.com, Father Mark Villano asks, “What do we need to fast from? From our pettiness or our judgmental attitudes? Our envy or desire for revenge? Do we need to fast from our procrastination, or all those things that waste so much of our time and rob us of life?”

“If you choose to remove something destructive from your life, you must replace it with something healthy,” adds Father Villano. “Removing something leaves a void. If you don’t fill it with something else, then after Lent the same old unhealthy stuff will fill the void again.

“Fast from something destructive and feast on something constructive, something holy. Fast from procrastination­­­­ and feast on action…Fast from worry and feast on prayer…Fast from isolation and feast on friendship…When Easter comes…our hearts will be renewed, ready for the feast!” 

Put away your former way of life…[and] clothe yourselves with the new self. (Ephesians 4:24)

May my fasting lead to feasting, Creator.

February 28

Practice Self-Discipline This Lent, Part One

Father Mark Villano, writing at CatholicMom.com, praises the self-discipline we are asked to follow during Lent. Specifically, he points out two ways of fasting that can turn us into better people who are closer to God.

First, we can fast from things we enjoy, such as certain types of food or entertainment. Father Villano writes, “We remove these for a while so that when they return, we have a new appreciation for them. We become more grateful for the good things we have…We also become more aware that others may not have things that we take for granted…We have a greater awareness of the needs of the world around us.”

Also, “We can fast from things that are bad for us. We fast from junk food or unhealthy substances. We fast from bad habits. Some psychologists say that an optimal time for developing a new habit is 30-40 days. Lent becomes a perfect time for changing patterns in our lives…that are ultimately destructive.”

But what about fasting from behaviors or attitudes that stunt our spiritual growth? More on that tomorrow…

The fast of the fourth month, and…of the fifth…shall be seasons of joy and gladness. (Zechariah 8:19)

Father, help me to grow in self-discipline.

February 27

Lent for Catholic Teens

Catholic author and speaker Katie Prejean McGrady is trying to help young people nurture their relationships with God by helping them have a spiritually fruitful Lent. She and her husband Tommy co-wrote a short book of reflections called Lent: One Day at a Time for Catholic Teens.

Based on her experiences as a high school teacher, Katie said on Christopher Closeup, “Young people just see Lent as a checklist: no candy, no soda, maybe no Netflix, if they’re super spiritual…But how can we get them to pray to the Lord, to actually think about what’s going on in their journey of faith, maybe ways that they can more deeply invest in their personal, spiritual journey?”

Katie hopes that the spiritual journey that teens begin during Lent continues afterward. She said, “My hope is that a young person says, ‘I like reading the Bible now. I like talking to Jesus first thing in the morning.’ There’s a few challenges in there about helping out around the house, doing the dishes for your mom…Hopefully those things would continue.”

Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray. (Proverbs 22:6)

Guide me in my journey toward You, Lord.

February 26

Serving God, Building a School

         Catherine and Jared Rudolph of Johnstown, Ohio, never thought they would be educators to anyone but their own three children. However, God had other plans for the couple.

After recovering from hysterectomy surgery, Catherine asked God what she could do to best serve Him. “[God] said, ‘Start an independent Catholic Montessori’s school,’” Catherine recalled to Our Sunday Visitor. “He showed me this farm, this beautiful land, and then He really gave me this passion for the mission at the same time that the calling came.”

Catherine and Jared found a farm not far from the highway where they could attract the notice of families in the Northwest Columbus area. And they had a clear vision for their Mission Academy: to offer an authentic Catholic education, focusing on truth and beauty—and incorporating the working farm into their curriculum to grow food for the poor.

“What we’ve learned… is there’s so much the Lord can do when you say yes to Him and to His will,” Catherine said.

The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon Him. (Luke 2:40)

Lord, help me to say ‘yes’ to Your will in my life. 

February 25

The Arcángel of Brooklyn

         At Arcángel Deli Grocery in Borough Park, Brooklyn, you will find more than physical nourishment. If you are homeless, you will also find a place to rest your head. This is all thanks to the kindness of the deli’s owner, aptly named Cándido Arcángel.

After several life-changing meetings with a homeless man 15 years prior, Arcángel, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, opened up the basement of his deli to those in need. “To be able to stay here, and stay safe,” one of Arcangel’s temporary residents, Juan, declared, “is everything.”

Today, Cándido’s underground haven has grown to include a TV, hot plate, and a small hose to use for a shower. He also has enough pallets and sleeping bags for 10 men.

The only thing Arcángel asks is that his occupants are indoors before his business closes at 10 p.m. Cándido, a devout Catholic, constantly looks to God for inspiration in his life’s work. “I love Him,” Cándido succinctly summed up his life’s credo in an interview with The Tablet, holding up his crucifix.

Show hospitality…for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)

Paraclete, may we strive to practice what we preach.

February 24

Snow Angels Aid Hospital Workers

When staff at a Rhode Island hospital rushed to their cars during a raging nor’easter, they were amazed to find that “snow angels” had already cleared their vehicles of snow—and those angels were none other than a 10-year-old boy and his family friend aiming to perform some good deeds. 

When the nor’easter hit in the winter of 2021, Christian Stone, age 10, knew he wanted to help in some way. He asked his family friend, 29-year-old Abbey Meeker, to come with him to Westerly Hospital at shift change time, when doctors, nurses, and other staff members were walking to the parking lot. Together, they got to work and cleaned off 80 cars.

The hospital staff were beyond grateful. One woman commented on the WJAR Facebook page, “[The] only thing I had to do was [get] in and drive away.”  

When asked why he volunteered to help, Stone told CNN affiliate WJAR, “I was thinking they’ve been helping us a lot through this whole pandemic, and I figured why don’t we help them?” 

Bless the Lord, dews and falling snow; sing praise to      

Him and highly exalt Him forever. (Daniel 3:68)

Lord, may I seek to make someone’s life easier today.

February 23

Pint-Sized Hero Saves Family of Seven

         There are few things scarier than waking up to the sound of a blaring alarm, but that’s what happened to the Martinez family one February evening. Because a stove burner was left on, carbon monoxide began filling the house and set off the alarm.

Of the seven family members in their household, only one was awake to hear the alarm’s beeps: seven-year-old Michael. Although he has cerebral palsy, rendering him unable to move without a wheelchair, this did not stop him from crawling to his parents’ bedroom to warn them.

As his mother, Angie, informed Fox News, she Googled the number of beeps the alarm was emitting (four), and determined they needed to get to fresh air immediately. And not a moment too soon! Angie and her sister were already starting to feel chest pains.

“We told [Michael] that he is our hero,” Angie said. “Many people look at people with disabilities like they are not able to do much, but Michael showed everyone just how untrue that is.”

A little child shall lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)

Paraclete, help us to embrace the potential within us.

February 22

An Eagle Scout Milestone

In February 2021, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) celebrated a major milestone when they honored the first nearly 1,000 girls and young women who attained the “prestigious rank of Eagle Scout.”

Isabella Tunney of Minneapolis, age 16, was one of the first female Eagle Scouts honored in a virtual celebration. She recalled those many years she longed to be a Boy Scout, like her older brother, but was saddened to miss out on camping trips and other activities he took part in.

“When the Boy Scouts opened up to girls [in 2018], I was so excited to get the opportunity to participate myself,” Tunney told ABC News. Tunney worked intensively over two years to amass the minimum number of merits and badges required to attain Eagle.

“This is a powerful moment for these young women,” said Jenn Hancock, the BSA’s national chair for programs. “People recognize Eagle Scouts as individuals of the highest caliber, and for the first time, that title isn’t limited by gender."

Happy are those who persevere. (Daniel 12:12)

Loving Lord, bless the Eagle Scouts and all who are shining examples of leadership in our communities.

February 21

The Value of Teachers

Most people wouldn’t refuse an invitation to the White House.  But best-selling author James Michener once did just that.

Mr. Michener wrote to Dwight Eisenhower: “Dear Mr. President, I received your invitation three days after I had agreed to speak a few words at a dinner honoring the wonderful high school teacher who taught me to write.  I know you will not miss me at your dinner, but she might at hers.”

In return, Michener received a very perceptive note from the President.  It said: “In a lifetime a man can live under many presidents, but a really fine teacher comes into his life rarely.”

Teachers are wonderful.  They guide us and challenge us.  They awaken minds and hearts to the wonders of the world. We offer our “thank you” to teachers everywhere. Your efforts are needed and appreciated. 

Give instruction to the wise, and they will become wiser still; teach the righteous and they will gain in learning. (Proverbs 9:9)

May we value teachers for their kindness and knowledge, Holy Wisdom.

February 20

Lead, Kindly Light

Despite being Catholic, Andrew Petiprin admits that he has trouble putting his hope and trust in God. Writing at Word on Fire, he states, “Even in the most mundane matters, I find myself imagining the worst-case scenarios and leaving God’s grace completely out of my calculations.”

One night, Petiprin lay in bed engaging in “pointless worrying” about a small parenting issue. After getting up to distract himself, he saw a tweet from a friend quoting St. John Henry Newman: “Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom; / Lead Thou me on! / The night is dark, and I am far from home; / Lead Thou me on! / Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see /
The distant scene – one step enough for me.”

Petiprin found that Newman’s focus on taking just “one step” towards hope in the midst of darkness “assured me that if I moved forward in God’s direction, however slowly, I would find my way…I may forget God, but He never forgets me. Until the day I take my last step toward Him, I pray I keep following where He leads.”

Let Your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in You.

(Psalm 33:22)

Guide me towards Your light one step at a time, Lord.

February 19

A Warm Gesture in Winter

In February 2021, shoppers filled the H-E-B Plus supermarket on U.S. 183 in Austin, Texas, because of the devastating winter storms that were hitting the area.

Sure enough, a new problem presented itself as many were in line at the store: all the power went out. That meant the cash registers and credit card readers didn’t work, and customers couldn’t pay for their groceries. So management made a selfless decision.

As reported by the Austin American-Statesman, checkout clerks began waving customers through the line, saying, “Go ahead.” People then walked to their cars with free baskets of groceries.

The store’s act of kindness inspired kindness in others. Customer Tim Hennessy told the Washington Post, “Everybody started helping each other” in the parking lot, where some people’s cars got stuck in the snow. Hennessy also contacted H-E-B a few days later to ask if they had a favorite charity to which he could donate the cost of his groceries as a gesture of thanks.

If you offer your food to the hungry…then your light shall rise in the darkness. (Isaiah 58:10)

May I choose generosity when given the chance, Lord.

February 18

A Blessing for Caregivers

Caring for an ailing loved one is an act of love. But sometimes the responsibilities can become overwhelming. Christopher Award-winning author Kate Bowler wrote and shared “A Blessing for Caregivers” on her Instagram page to help those trying to do it all. Here are some excerpts:

“Blessed are we for whom the call to loving action is still strong, whose every urge is to keep going, keep working, and not to count the cost. And yet blessed are we, beginning to notice that we are slowing down…

“Blessed are we who say I really can’t keep going like this, at this pace, under this weight, and also, the momentum is so strong, I can’t stop. God, come and be the hands that sit me down and keep me there long enough for me to really feel what I feel, and know what I know.
        “Come and be the wisdom to find the support system that is broad enough, kind enough, effective enough to meet the needs that are here—both mine and theirs. Come and be the peace that frees me to let my hands lie gently open awhile, the grace to just receive.”

I will strengthen you. (Isaiah 41:10)

Lord, bring caregivers the support systems they need.

February 17

Glued to Her Seat to Stand for Her Rights

Rosa Parks is famously known as one of the heroes of the civil rights movement for combating bus segregation in the South. However, it’s important to remember that nine months before Parks, there was a brave 15-year-old black girl who helped ignite the spark for this powerful movement.

Claudette Colvin was “glued to her seat” when she refused to give it up to a white woman on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. Colvin, now 81, told The Catholic Review, “I felt like Sojourner Truth was pushing down on one shoulder and Harriet Tubman was pushing down on the other, saying, ‘Sit down, girl!’”

Colvin was forcibly removed from the bus and jailed for three hours until her parents posted bail for the frightened teen. Even though the NAACP and other civic leaders chose Rosa Parks to be the face for their mass protest, Colvin still made history one year later as one of four plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle. This young woman’s brave testimony in that landmark case helped overturn bus segregation laws throughout Alabama.

Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you. (Exodus 14:13)

Lord, give me the strength to stand up for what is right.

February 16

Dads Appreciating Down Syndrome

“You fear what you don’t know,” recalled Chad Druetzler about receiving the news eight years ago that his son Luke would be born with Down syndrome. Druetzler expected a life of hardship, so he attended a meeting of the Indianapolis group Dads Appreciating Down Syndrome (DADS), to learn what their experiences were like.

In an interview with Craig Melvin on the Today Show, Druetzler noted that he was surprised when everyone at the meeting seemed to be thriving, joyful, and full of stories about life with their children. Yes, there were some challenges in parenting a child with Down syndrome, but once he learned some basics from the group, and formed bonds of friendship with them, life became much easier.

One DADS member said, “My daughter Andrea is a member of the National Honor Society…People think that people with intellectual disabilities cannot achieve any educational success. That’s not true.” You can find more information about the group at DadsNational.org.

The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice. (Proverbs 23:24)

Teach men to be good fathers, Holy Spirit.

February 14

The Foundation for Marriage

Christopher Award-winning author Mark Shriver continues to find inspiration for his own life and marriage in the example of his late parents, Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

During a Christopher Closeup interview, Mark recalled, “When my wife [Jeannie] and I got married almost 30 years ago, the Gospel was the story of building your faith on bedrock. And when storms come, the ones that are built on mud are just swept away. Jeannie and I try to [build our faith on bedrock] every day, have that relationship with God.

“My parents reminded me [of that] every day, not in words, but by the fact that they went to Mass, and they knelt down every day and asked for help, and guidance, and forgiveness. That’s a pretty powerful example for me. I’ve tried to incorporate that into my marriage, and into my life, and into our relationship with our kids. Again, I struggle with it because I’m not perfect. But it’s the foundation.”

Everyone…who hears these words…and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. (Matthew 7:24-25)

Be the foundation of my life, Loving Father.

February 12

Finding Love at the Bowery Mission

Cleaning a dirty shower in which homeless men wash up may not seem like a setting for romance, but that’s exactly what it was for Mark and Tabatha Dixon. After losing her real estate job due to COVID-19, Tabatha began volunteering at New York City’s Bowery Mission, which offers meals and other services to those struggling with poverty. Mark already worked there full time, and the two soon became friendly.

One day, one of the Mission’s clients had an “accident” in the shower, so Mark and Tabatha went to scrub everything clean together. Tabatha told New York’s Daily News, “I actually knew that I loved him as we were cleaning poop together off the shower’s floor.” Mark added, “For me to see that she wasn’t the one waiting for me to do it, I just knew it.”

The couple, who are committed to loving God and loving others, eloped in August 2020. Tabatha said, “For me, being able to service the community has always been important. Finding the person who has similar interests isn’t an easy task. I wanted someone who loved to serve, and he has such a serving heart.”

Love…comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith.

(1 Timothy 1:5)

Instill me with a love of service, Jesus.

February 11

Lunch and a History Lesson

The restaurant Kounter Dining in Rock Hill, South Carolina, may be relatively new, but it occupies an important place in American civil rights history. In 1961, the location was the McCrory’s Variety Store in which nine black men sat at the “Whites Only” lunch counter and were subsequently arrested.

Dubbed “the Friendship Nine,” because they attended Friendship Junior College, the group spent 30 days in jail instead of paying bail to draw attention to the injustice of segregation.

In 2019, chef Rob Masone rented the space to open his own restaurant, not realizing that this was the McCrory’s he had learned about in history class. He wanted to honor the location’s importance to the civil rights movement in some way—and when David Williamson, Jr., a member of the Friendship Nine, stopped in during renovations and ran his hand across the counter where they sat down all those years ago, Masone knew what to do.

That original counter serves as the “heart of the restaurant,” notes Eaters Carolina. Customers not only get served delicious meals there, they learn about the heroes who took a brave stand (and seat) for equality.

The righteous are as bold as a lion. (Proverbs 28:1)

Help us remember and learn from history, Creator.

February 9

The Last Ordinary Hour, Part 4             

Kathy Izard progressed in her journey of faith, but there were still challenging times ahead. One day, Charlie was in the hospital again and this time flatlined before doctors brought him back to life. Because of the situation, the hospital sent a priest to the room to be a source of spiritual comfort for Kathy. His presence, however, brought out Kathy’s rage at God—and she railed and ranted at him for some time.

Kathy recalls, “That priest did one of the most holy things you can do. He was just present, just with me…He didn’t even understand where my anger was coming from. But I think sometimes that’s the most holy work, just to be with someone in their hard times. I believe that’s what happens with God too.

“I might’ve been angry with Him, but I don’t think I was ever alone. And I don’t think He ever left us…[Charlie] miraculously survived in 2013. We’ve had ups and downs, but…he’s been allowed to be here for the graduation of all four of our daughters, a wedding of another daughter…I say a prayer every night and morning: ‘Thank You for this day. Thank You he’s still here. Thanks for all the extra time we’ve been given.’”

I do not cease to give thanks for you. (Ephesians 1:16)

Remind me to be grateful for every day, Messiah.

February 8

The Last Ordinary Hour, Part 3             

One of the sources from which Kathy Izard’s beliefs about God started evolving came through the writings of Father Richard Rohr. He helped her realize that tragedies occur in every life.

Kathy explained, “We spend all of this time making a life plan and setting up what we think is our perfect, idyllic life. And then something happens that shatters all that. When we’re putting our lives back together, growing deeper in our faith, allowing people to help us, and realizing we’re not alone—that we’re in this together, and we’re here with God and grace—that is a much deeper way of living. And it points to a lot more of the important things in life.”

Growing in faith should also involve growing in humility. For Kathy, that meant accepting acts of kindness from others. She notes, “I’ve always helped other people, but I’ve not wanted to let people help me. I wanted to be the giver. So to receive the cards, the dinners, the flowers that were dropped off…all of that, you realize you’re not alone.” More tomorrow…

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

Open me to a deeper way of living, Holy Spirit.

February 7

The Last Ordinary Hour, Part 2             

When a person of faith enters a time of great darkness, it’s not uncommon to think, “God is supposed to protect my family from this because I’m a good person.” As a Christian who worked to help the homeless and mentally ill in Charlotte, North Carolina, that was certainly the case with Kathy Izard when she learned about her husband Charlie’s rare disease, which could kill him at any moment.

During a Christopher Closeup interview about her memoir The Last Ordinary Hour, Kathy said, “I had come from a place of little faith. Then working with the homeless…I thought I’d found my way home to a real belief in God. But what I realized is, I believed in the Sunshine God, the God of the miracles that were showing up for the homeless. And really, I didn’t have a faith in the God that was going to be with me in the dark.

“I talk about how medical emergencies cause spiritual emergencies…That is what this book is about. It’s the second half of my faith journey, of realizing even in terrible times, that is when we need God most.” More tomorrow…

When I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. (Micah 7:8)

Be my light in the darkness, Jesus.

February 6

The Last Ordinary Hour, Part One                    

February 22, 2013, began as an ordinary day for Kathy Izard and her husband Charlie. While visiting their daughter in Massachusetts, Charlie went to work out in the hotel gym, but soon returned, complaining of arm and chest pain. He had recently been given a clean bill of health by his cardiologist, so Kathy thought the problem might just be stress.

Charlie lay on the bed to take a nap, but Kathy noticed his arms had turned white, as if there was no blood running through them. Hours later, Charlie underwent emergency surgery in the hospital for a shocking problem.  

During a Christopher Closeup interview, Kathy recalled, “[Charlie had] a rare disease…called Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD), and it caused the artery in his heart to collapse for no reason…It actually can happen in any artery in your body. It can split and dissect at any time…Our life went from relatively ordinary to radical uncertainty on how we were going to live with this disease, with the fear that it could happen again at any moment.” More tomorrow…

Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:13)

Guide me through times of fear and uncertainty, Savior.

February 5

                            Slave Escape Route Revisited                                  

         In 1980, nine African American students from Oberlin College went on a 400-mile trek from Greensburg, Kentucky, to Oberlin, Ohio. They were dressed much as slaves might have been dressed more than 100 years earlier.

         The nine were trying to recreate a trip some of their ancestors might have taken. Walking up to 15 miles a day, they were following an escape route that was part of the pre-Civil War “underground railroad,” a secret route established by abolitionists to help escaping slaves.

         At might they slept in barns, churches, and private homes along the way to get the feel of what it meant to be a fugitive.

Their journey had its share of surprises. One came at a gas station outside Lexington, Kentucky.

A white farmer, who had heard about their trip, pulled up to the station as the nine were making a rest stop, approached one of the nine and gave him $10, saying, “That’s not much. But maybe it will help make it easier for you than it was for your forefathers.” It was a small but significant gesture of healing.

Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

Father, grant that I may never block another person in the exercise of his or her rights.

 

 February 4

                       On Top of the Mountain                          

         He had come from an urban setting and never seen mountains before. He had volunteered for this detail, even though at times the temperature on Whiteface Mountain, site of some of the 1976 Winter Olympic Games, fell to 20 degrees below zero.

This was his first day on the job, said a guard who was there. “He rode all the way to the top of Whiteface, jumped off the lift and just stood there,” the guard recalled. “He just stood there staring. And after a while, he said, ‘My God, I may be in jail, but right now, I feel like I’m on top of the world.”

The man was an inmate of Camp Adirondack, a minimum security prison. He and other prisoner-volunteers contributed some $200,000 worth of labor to get the 1976 game sites in top condition. Invariably, they spoke of the “feeling of freedom” the open-air work on the mountain gave them.

Sometimes we take freedom—or mountains and streams—for granted. Open your eyes to the beauty around you.

The Lord has made all things, and to the godly He has given wisdom. (Sirach 43:33)

Thank You, Father of Creation, for the beauty of Your works and the freedom to enjoy them.

February 3

                            Vaccine via Snowmobile                          

Despite being isolated from most of the world, villages in rural Alaska were still in need of the COVID-19 vaccine, so an all-female team of health care workers battled the harsh winter conditions to deliver it to grateful patients. 

The team consisted of one pharmacist, one medical doctor, and two nurses, who traveled by plane, sled, and snowmobile to deliver the vaccine to residents across rural northern Alaska. Meredith Dean, the team’s pharmacist, noted on Good Morning America, “It’s challenging getting the vaccine up here to begin with, and then getting it out to the villages brings on a whole new set of challenges.”

Time was of the utmost importance. Nurse Heather Kenison had to wrap the vaccine in a protective envelope and ride with it like she was “carrying a baby” or else it would freeze inside the needle in the frigid outdoor air.

The brave team traveled hundreds of miles to multiple villages to deliver 65 vaccinations. Dr. Katrine Bengaard said, “We were all willing to do what we needed to do.”

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

Lord, bless health care workers and keep them safe.

 

February 2

                             A Sensitive Response                                      

         A writing contest sponsored by The Christophers several decades ago drew almost 3,000 entries from high school students across the country. Every one of the articles revealed something about its particular author.

         Of special interest was the sensitivity shown by so many young people. One story in particular stood out. It was told by a girl who was a volunteer in a home for the aged. One of the people she visited regularly was a woman with signs of dementia, who was shunned at times by staff because of her constant demands for attention.

On one occasion, the woman told the young woman that there was a man under her wheelchair, and he was bothering her. Instead of brushing the woman off or telling her it was only her imagination, the girl bent down, scolded the “man,” and told him to stop bothering people. A moment later, the woman confided to the girl, “There he goes. Thank you so much.”

Yes, it takes a little extra effort to respond in a sensitive way to the hopes and fears of those around us. But it means a happier moment, a fuller day for others, a happier life.

Pursue love. (1 Corinthians 14:1)

Jesus, help me respond to the needs of others.

February 1

        Science Trailblazer Guided by Faith               

Sheila Stiles Jewell, an African American woman from Memphis, Tennessee, was a trailblazer in science during a time of segregation in the south. Now in her 70s, Jewell is helping pave the way for the next generation of female scientists.

Regarding the past, Jewell told Catholic News Service, “We couldn’t always realize our dreams because of segregation, but that did not keep us from striving to be somebody.” She credits her success to the Catholic Church, through a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who encouraged her to go to college and major in biology.

That act of encouragement, as well as her faith, helped Jewell persist and become the first permanent African American female employee in the Department of Interior in the Milford marine biological laboratory, where she has had a 56-year career.

Jewell says, “Science has made my faith stronger…God has been beside me throughout this journey. I could not have made this journey alone.”

Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? (Isaiah 40:26)

Jesus, thank you for all the courageous trailblazers who have helped pave the way for future generations.

January 30

Bonding After Loss of a Loved One

When Mary Catherine Pfaadt’s husband passed away after 27 years of marriage, she felt lost and alone. Then, her friends insisted she join them at a grief support group called “On with Life” at her local church in Louisville, Kentucky. Over time, Pfaadt went on to lead that ministry herself with grace and hope.  

As reported by The Record, “On With Life” was established in 1983 to provide peer support to individuals of all faith traditions as they work through the grieving process and adjust to life without their spouse. “We all had lost our mate, and we just bonded. It helped with the grief a great deal,” said Pfaadt, who is now 83 years old. “I found a new life.”

Sue Brodfehrer, who worked alongside Pfaadt at the Family Ministry Office, attested that she is a “very graced woman and has gifted people all these years with her presence.” She further added how important it is to be there for those who are grieving and hurting after a loss: “It’s part of Jesus Christ’s calling to us to be present to the living.”

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.
(Psalm 34:18)

Lord, may I find hope after experiencing loss—and find love in times of despair.

January 29

Becoming a Doer

         One of the chief paradoxes of modern life is this: thousands and thousands of people experience a sense of helplessness in controlling their own lives, while all around them other thousands prove over and over again that the individual really can bring about change.

         What makes the difference between the two groups? Perhaps it’s because the doers—from Nobel Prize winners to unofficial neighborhood leaders—have developed a sense of mission and self-worth.

         In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, psychiatrist Viktor Frankl had this to say about mission: “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus everyone’s task is as unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.”

         That’s a philosophy doers can identify with. It is not a question of whether a person will change the world or not. It’s a question of whether that change will be for better or for worse.

We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us. (Romans 12:6)

Jesus, help me to live out my mission in life.

 

January 28

Do You Need Help?

       Flavaine Carvalho has served a lot of patrons as a waitress at Mrs. Potato Restaurant in Orlando, Florida, but none stand out as much as an 11-year-old boy whose life she saved in January 2021. The youngster was sitting in a booth with his stepfather, mother, and sister, when Carvalho noticed “bruises on his arms and face,” reported WFTV. She also noticed that the boy was forbidden from ordering any food.

         Carvalho went to get a piece of paper, wrote on it “Do you need help?”, then held it up in a spot where the boy could read it, but his family members couldn’t. When the 11-year-old indicated, “Yes,” Carvalho immediately called the police.

         When officers arrived, they determined the boy was in a dangerous situation, and arrested his stepfather for child abuse, and his mother for child neglect. Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon said, “This could have been a homicide situation if [Carvalho] had not intervened…The lesson here for all of us is to recognize when we see something that isn’t right to act on it... This saved the life of a child.”

Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones. (Matthew 18:10)

Father, save children from abusive situations.

January 27

Finding Light in the Darkness

         On January 27th, 2021, Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano published an interview with Edith Bruck to coincide with Holocaust Remembrance Day. Bruck, an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor, had recently published a book, The Lost Bread, in which she juxtaposes the horrors of the Holocaust with the glimpses of humanity that gave her hope along the way.

         A few weeks later, Bruck, who has lived in Rome since 1954, received a visit from Pope Francis. “When I opened the door, I burst out in tears and we embraced,” she later told Vatican News. “We were both overcome with emotion.”

         “I have come to thank you for your witness,” the Pope is reported to have told her, in a conversation that lasted for almost two hours and touched on the occasional acts of kindness she experienced in the concentration camps.

“Without hope, we cannot live,” Bruck said. “In the concentration camps, all it took was a German looking at you with a human gaze. All it took was a gesture…They gave me a glove with a hole in it; they left me some jam in the bottom of a plate. That was life inside. That is hope.”  

The Lord…lights up my darkness. (Psalm 18:28)

Help me to see Your light, even in dark moments, Lord.

January 26

Lasagna Love

A national movement to feed the hungry began with San Diego mom Rhiannon Menn feeling helpless as COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the country in 2020. “There were so many moms that I knew who had lost childcare, who had lost jobs,” she told the Today Show. “They were just feeling stressed out. And so literally one day, I [said], I’m gonna make extra meals.”

Menn started making lasagnas and bringing them to people in her community who needed help. She explained that there’s something about lasagna that conveys “kindness, warmth, and love.” As word spread online, others joined her effort as well, and it became known as Lasagna Love.

By December 2020, the movement had spread around the country through the website LasagnaLove.org. It matches hungry people with volunteer cooks in each area, resulting in more than 10,000 meals—lasagna and otherwise—being delivered. Amy Carson of Jacksonville, Florida, states, “It feels really good to be passing our blessings on to others.”

If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness. (Isaiah 58:10)

Help me to nourish people’s bodies and souls, Savior.

January 25

Grateful for Ordinary Miracles

Author Chris Lowney’s mother was seriously injured in a car accident and required physical therapy in order to walk again. At the rehab facility, Lowney watched as a therapist encouraged his mom to push herself up from her wheelchair and grab the pair of parallel bars at her side.

With intense effort, wrote Lowney at Aleteia, “She stood up out of the chair the way a few billion of us do every day. She stood unsteadily for a few seconds and looked around, taking in the world from a perspective she hadn’t enjoyed for more than two months. Then she slumped back down, exhausted.”

His mother’s struggles prompted Lowney to reflect on the ordinary miracles we experience every day: “We take so much for granted. So many of us can walk, button our own shirts, stand up unaided after sitting in chairs, read a newspaper, hear birds sing…Shouldn’t we feel profoundly grateful for these extraordinary blessings, even though they happen daily?...Don’t wait for extraordinary moments to remind you of the manifold, ordinary ways in which you are blessed. Be grateful now, tomorrow, every morning, and every evening.”

We always give thanks to God. (1 Thessalonians 1:2)

Teach me to appreciate each day, Creator.

January 24

                                                The COVID Bandit                                              

During the coronavirus pandemic, many businesses and restaurants struggled to stay afloat. Enter the COVID bandit!

One day, in January 2021, a customer placed an order at Notchtop Bakery and Café in Estes Park, Colorado. After asking how many employees worked at the establishment (there were seven), the customer left a $200 tip for each of them. The patron’s order totaled only about $20, so altogether that added up to a whopping $1,400 tip! The Notchtop staff was amazed at this man’s generosity.

According to the owner, Nailya Khametvalieva, he had only been to her restaurant once before. “That brought truly tears to all the servers [and] cooks,” Khametvalieva told KMGH News. “You know, nobody ever thinks of cooks. The cooks were just so surprised and shocked. We were all shocked. We did thank him, but I felt like we didn't do it enough.”

To that end, Nailya and her employees posted a picture of themselves on Facebook , along with the story of this customer’s magnanimity, and a caption that read: “Thank you, ‘COVID Bandit,’ for your generous gift…has touched many lives.”

Let your light shine before others. (Matthew 5:16)

God, may we always strive to brighten someone’s day.

January 23

                                        An Unexpected Reward                                     

         “Thy help made me great,” said David to the Lord. And his words stand as a reminder that no one attains success on the strength of his or her own efforts alone.

Even so, it’s rare to come across tangible acknowledgment of the fact. But that’s just what publisher Kenneth E. Johnson did after selling the Grand Junction Sentinel many years ago. It was a daily newspaper in Colorado with a circulation of 30,000.

         Johnson took one million dollars of the proceeds and divided it among the newspaper’s 186 employees, including part-timers. Everybody got a bonus, with the amount hinging on seniority and the job performed. In some cases, the bonus came to $40,000.

         In explaining his decision, Johnson said, “All of them through the years have built this newspaper.” He also added, “They are my friends.” Where friendship exists, quality is sure to be a hallmark of the work performed.

I have called you friends. (John 15:15)

Holy Spirit, help me to be friends with employees and superiors alike.

January 22

Hammerin’ Hank’s Higher Power         

When baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron passed away at age 86 in January 2021, accolades for his life and career poured in from around the country. It was a different story, though, during his days playing the sport.

Throughout Aaron’s years with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, he received death threats from racists who couldn’t stand to see an African American player achieve his level of success. Those threats only increased when Aaron approached, and eventually broke, Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974. Still, he persevered with grace, telling a reporter, “When I was in the ballpark…I felt like I was surrounded by angels, and I had God’s hand on my shoulder.”

A man of deep faith, Aaron also once wrote in Guideposts, “I need to depend on Someone who is bigger, stronger, and wiser than I am. I don’t do it on my own. God is my strength. He gave me a good bound and some talent and the freedom to develop it. He helps me when things go wrong. He forgives me when I fall on my face. He lights the way.”

Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock.
(Isaiah 26:4)

Increase my trust in You, Messiah.

January 21

The Courage to Sacrifice

         When third grade teacher Erin Durga of Minnesota’s Kimball Elementary School discovered that school custodian Patrick Mertens needed a kidney transplant, she stepped up in a big way.

Writing for Minnesota’s Star Tribune, Mary Lynn Smith quotes Durga as saying, “I knew in my heart that I could do this for someone else. Pat is a wonderful person, and I can’t imagine him not being around.”

For a long time, Durga had wanted to perform a large act of kindness for someone. “I just never knew how,” she said. “I’m a teacher and I don’t make a lot of money, so I can’t do a lot of things that way.”

“It brought a few tears to my eyes,” Mertens said of Durga’s selflessness. “It’s quite the honor that someone would give you their kidney. You will appreciate them for the rest of your life.”

“I think there are a lot more people like me,” Durga said. “I think there are a lot of people who want to do good in the world, but many don’t see the opportunity.”

Love your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)

God, please grant me the courage to sacrifice for others.

January 20

NFL Quarterback Embraces God’s Blessings

         “I had two childhood dreams,” Philip Rivers said towards the end of his long career as an NFL quarterback with the Los Angeles Chargers and Indianapolis Colts. “One was playing in the NFL. I still love that. The other was to be a high school football coach, as my dad was.”

         One year later, after playing 17 seasons in the NFL, Rivers announced his retirement. Though his coach hoped he would play another season, Rivers declined in order to take a job coaching football at St. Michael Catholic High School in Fairhope, Alabama, where he—the father of seven girls and two boys—would have the opportunity to coach his own sons.

Rivers announced his retirement on January 20th, 2021. He said, “Every year, January 20th is a special and emotional day. It is St. Sebastian’s Feast Day, the day I played in the AFC championship without an ACL, and now the day that after 17 seasons, I’m announcing my retirement from the National Football League. Thank You, God, for allowing me to live out my childhood dream of playing quarterback in the NFL.”

All these blessings shall come upon you. (Deuteronomy 28:2)

Lord, grant us fortitude to wait upon Your blessings.

January 19

Unexpected Acts of Kindness

Everyone likes to have their day brightened by an unexpected act of kindness. Here are some suggestions to try out, courtesy of Susan Spencer in Reader’s Digest:

■ Help an elderly neighbor. If you notice an elderly person struggling with their groceries or bringing their trash can in from the curb, offer to help them.

■ Praise a parent. Tell a parent they’re doing a good job. (They probably rarely hear that!) Especially tell them that if their kid is acting out at the time. Few things are more stressful!

■ Make someone’s rainy day. Buy extra umbrellas and keep them in your car. When you see someone caught in a downpour, hand one over.

■ Introduce yourself. Take the time to learn the name of someone who regularly helps you out— whether it’s a security guard, a doorman, or a cashier at your grocery store. Greet them by name. This seemingly small gesture will demonstrate how greatly you value your local service people and your interactions with them.

He will keep a person’s kindness like the apple of His eye. (Sirach 17:22)

Remind me to practice kindness, Giver of Grace.

January 18

Stress Relief Tip from Navy SEALS                   

Everyone deals with stress and anxiety. Left unchecked, it can do serious harm to our physical well-being and mental state. But executive coach Melody Wilding looked to the Navy SEALS for insights on staying calm in high pressure situations and found a technique that works: box breathing.

Writing at Inc.com, Wilding explains there are four steps to box breathing: 1) Breathe in for four seconds; 2) Hold air in your lungs for four seconds; 3) Exhale for four seconds; and 4) Hold your breath, lungs emptied, for four seconds.

This is a proven technique with SEALS on dangerous missions, and Wilding found it works in regular situations as well. She recommended it to a client, who was a manager dealing with a situation that deflated morale and created chaos. Her anxiety affected her job performance, so she began to practice box breathing.

After a few days, writes Wilding, the manager had “improved her ability to regulate her emotions, she felt more in control…[And] with renewed levelheadedness, she could communicate more effectively.”

The breath of the Almighty gives me life. (Job 33:4)

Holy Spirit, fill me with Your divine peace.
 

January 17

                                   The Great Equalizer                                 

As someone who grew up poor in Philadelphia, Salome Thomas-El wouldn’t have been able to do well in school without the support of caring teachers. So it made sense that he became a teacher himself, focusing on inner city students who are often at a disadvantage in life and education.

Today, Thomas-El serves as principal of Thomas Edison Charter School in Wilmington, Delaware, and he uses his favorite childhood game—chess—to teach students lessons that extend beyond the classroom. He told Good Morning America, “Chess is the great equalizer…These are inner-city students in some very high-crime, high-poverty areas. These children are playing chess and graduating high school and going to some of the top colleges and law schools in the nation.”

Thomas-El credits chess with teaching his students about both winning and losing. He is also proud that several of his pupils went on to become teachers and returned to their communities.  He said, “It’s truly a blessing to be able to bless others. And I think that’s what chess has been for me.”

We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us…the teacher in teaching. (Romans 12:6-7)

Allow me to be a blessing to others, Holy Spirit.

January 16

Harry Connick Jr. on Music and Faith, Part 5 

Harry Connick Jr. looks back at his life and sees the Holy Spirit at work. For instance, his first job when he moved to New York City was as a church organist. He recalled, “I was broke…So I went around looking for any place I could play. [Our Lady of Good Counsel Church] was a couple of blocks away, so I went in and said, ‘Hey, do y’all need a piano player?’

“Father Richard Guastella was the priest there, and he said, ‘Sure. We’ll pay you 25 bucks, and you play the 10:00 a.m. and the noon Mass.’ And I’m thinking, ‘You know how many ramen noodles I can buy with $25? That’ll set me up for the week!’”

         “The great thing about Father Richard,” continued Harry, was that “almost every Sunday, he would take me across the street and buy me a hamburger…He was calm, he was measured, and I was 18 and needed someone like that in my life. He was so kind. He became a monsignor, moved to Staten Island. [He married] me and my wife, Jill, so he came down to New Orleans [in 1994]. And then sadly, we found out that he died last year from COVID. So it’s been a tough year. But those are happy memories for me, playing in that church.”

Keep watch…over all of the flock. (Acts 20:28)

Thank You for the gift of kind and caring priests, Lord.

January 15

Harry Connick Jr. on Music and Faith, Part 4

Harry Connick Jr. takes part in a number of humanitarian efforts. He credits his parents with building that foundation of giving in his life.

During a Christopher Closeup interview, Harry recalled times when he was a kid and “we’d be at the grocery store, my mom and dad are in the front seat of the car, me and my sister in the back. We’re pulling out, and some elderly woman’s putting her groceries in the trunk. My dad would stop the car and say, ‘Go help that lady.’…And you get that drilled into your head, and it feels good to do those types of things.”

Harry’s father also taught his son to be aware of the movings of the Holy Spirit in his life. When certain opportunities present themselves, for instance, the elder Connick said, “That’s the Holy Spirit talking to you. Say yes and listen.” That’s why Harry’s dad is working to build a chapel to the Holy Spirit and developing a foundation for it called “the Spiritual Mysteries.” He’s even got an architect lined up and has already tapped his son to hold some fundraisers for the project.

The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you everything. (John 14:26)

Open my eyes to Your will and wisdom, Holy Spirit.

January 14

Harry Connick Jr. on Music and Faith, Part 3

Harry Connick Jr.’s faith was also shaped by the city in which he was raised: New Orleans. He told The Christophers’ Tony Rossi, “In New Orleans, there’s so many Catholics, so it felt very comfortable for me to go to church with my dad. I went to Jesuit High School. I became close to many of the priests there. They were great spiritual advisors, and friendly to me.

“I lost my mom around the time I went to high school. I think about the President of Jesuit High School then, his name was Fr. Tony McGinn. I was having hard times, and he was incredibly patient and kind with me, so I felt at home in the Catholic Church. It felt like a natural place for me.”

Regarding the diversity of New Orleans, Harry adds, “A lot of us have that common thread of Christianity. And even though that is thought of from different perspectives, it’s a unifying force down there…When you grow up in a town like New Orleans, or you grow up in a country like the United States, to me, that’s something we should be celebrating. It’s the antithesis of a homogenous society. Man, what a unique opportunity we have to celebrate the cultural differences that we have.”

Live in harmony with one another. (Romans 12:16)

May my faith serve as a unifying force, Father.

January 13

Harry Connick Jr. on Music and Faith, Part 2

On his album “Alone With My Faith,” Harry Connick Jr. explores the idea that despite not having all the answers to life’s big questions, he also knows he is never alone. The singer notes that he has found a way to incorporate questions, and even occasional doubts, into a strong faith life.

He explained, “My dad is my spiritual hero. His faith is stronger than almost anyone I’ve ever met. We talk about faith and what it means, and what it means to question things, and what it means to have a spectrum of varying degrees of faith. I’m happy in my spiritual life because of that.

“My dad and I have different outlooks. He was raised by two extremely devout Roman Catholics. They said the rosary every day, my dad had an incredibly fertile Catholic upbringing. My mom was Jewish and was non-denominational by the time I was born, so I didn’t even get baptized as a baby. I was 13 when I got baptized and confirmed. So my dad and I have a lot of good conversations. And I like where I am because I have asked a lot of questions, but I’ve also found a lot of answers, too.”

He rewards those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Guide me through my questions and doubts, Jesus, to find Your merciful, loving presence.

January 12

Harry Connick Jr. on Music and Faith, Part 1

Harry Connick Jr. is a man who’s always on the go, be it as a singer, musician, actor, or humanitarian. When the COVID shutdowns hit in March 2020, Harry’s career came to a total stop. He considered the fact that he has his own music studio at home so he could record the gospel album he’d been thinking about doing for quite some time.

Harry played all his own instruments and recorded his own vocals for songs such as “How Great Thou Art” and “Panis Angelicus.” He also wrote several original songs, including the title track “Alone With My Faith,” inspired by his thoughts on faith and spirituality during the pandemic.

One of the standout tracks on the album is “Amazing Grace.” Harry begins the song quietly. But as he continues, the joy in his voice and the accompanying instrumentation continue to build, reflecting the joy that arises when God’s grace becomes a more dominant force in our lives. Harry explained on Christopher Closeup, “I think the inherent definition of grace, and the fact that it is amazing, lends itself to some pretty wild jubilation. And that’s why [the song] came out like that.”

Let us sing to the Lord. (Psalm 95:1)

Thank You for your life-saving grace, Savior.

January 11

Dolly Parton: “God is My Co-Pilot”

Country music legend and four-time Christopher Award winner Dolly Parton recently released a book called Songteller: My Life in Lyrics, in which she revisits 175 of her most popular and lesser-known songs. No matter what type of song Dolly writes, she always finds elements of the divine in the experience. She told The Christophers’ Tony Rossi, “God is my co-writer and my co-pilot. Anything that I do, I always keep God first because I feel like that’s where I draw my strength.

“[Songwriting] is my God-time. I have a little world that I work in with God and leave myself open [to Him]. Some times are better than others, but I enjoy the process because God gave me my gift. We all have our gifts. Some of us don’t use them like we should. It’s like that Scripture in the Bible about hiding [your light] under a bushel basket. If you don’t let it shine, it’ll go out.

“So I feel like God gave me this gift, and I want to write, create, spread joy, and spread a message. And I want to be there for other people. I know God is there for me.”

No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. (Matthew 5:15)

May I use my gifts for Your glory, Jesus.

January 10

Batman Serves the Homeless

         In Santiago, Chile, a masked man has been delivering food and good cheer to the homeless. Dressed as Batman (and complete with a coronavirus protective face mask), he has been going out into the streets with hot food and a good sense of humor to help the less fortunate in the capital city.

The costume—quite authentic in its logos, belt, and chest protector—looks like it could have come straight from Hollywood. Speaking to Reuters, Batman said, “Look around you, see if you can dedicate a little time, a little food, a little shelter, a word sometimes of encouragement to those who need it.” He added that the disguise was meant to bring good cheer and unite people. The city is currently suffering an economic crisis, with more than 12 percent unemployment.

This masked hero doesn’t want any personal attention or accolades. He instead prefers to remain anonymous. Said one of the recipients of Batman’s good will, who was glad to get a hot meal, “It is appreciated...from one human to another.”

When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. (Matthew 6:3)

Let me seek not praise or recognition for my good deeds,

Lord. Your recognition is enough.

January 9

Chefs Fulfill a Woman’s Dying Wish                   

Brandon Jones’s mother-in-law always said that when she was on her deathbed, she wanted to have the tempura broccoli dish from Ekiben, an Asian-fusion restaurant in Baltimore. Now, she was dying from lung cancer in Vermont, and Brandon struggled to find a way to fulfill her final wish.

Brandon knew it was a longshot, but he emailed the head chef at Ekiben for the recipe. He couldn’t believe it when that head chef, Steve Chu, offered to meet Brandon and his wife, Rina, in Vermont to make the dish himself and fulfill the 72-year-old lady’s dying wish.

Chu, along with two other chefs, loaded up their pickup and drove six hours to Vermont. They set up a makeshift kitchen outside of Rina’s mom’s house, created the dish (in freezing temperatures!), boxed it up, and rang the doorbell.

Brandon’s mother-in-law couldn’t believe her eyes and was shocked that these chefs traveled all the way to Vermont to cook for her. As Chu told the Washington Post, it was a “huge honor to be able to help fulfill the family’s wishes.”

Prepare for me savory food…and bring it to me to eat,   so that I may bless you before I die. (Genesis 27:4)

God, thank You for the kindness of strangers. 

 

January 8

A Model of Peace in a Warzone

The 2021 hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza also descended into street violence in which Jews and Arabs attacked each other. Some of the victims were brought to Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel, for treatment. That’s where Dr. Adam Lee Goldstein serves as head of trauma surgery.

Writing in The New York Times, Dr. Goldstein noted that his staff was made up of “a team of Arabs, Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze,” all trying to save lives. “One of our Arab nurses,” he continued, “would thoroughly treat a Jewish wounded woman; a Jewish intern examined a young Arab man who had been injured by a rubber bullet to the chest.”

Dr. Goldstein concluded, “I hope that what is happening now under the roof of this hospital—the selflessness, the lack of ego, the teamwork and diversity and mutual respect—can be a model for this entire country, for our entire region. If neighbors and communities can’t work together…I worry that we are guaranteeing that the suffering across this country will only get worse. If we do come together, as we do inside our walls, it will be a beautiful thing.”

Seek peace, and pursue it. (Psalm 34:14)

Help me to be an instrument of peace, Father.

January 7

The Power of Everyday Compassion

Author Shannon K. Evans was sitting in a local coffee shop with her rambunctious two-year-old son, who proceeded to smash the muffin she had bought him, sending its remnants flying left and right. Then, a kindly older lady sitting nearby collected the muffin crumbs still on the table in a cup and gave it to the two-year-old to eat with a spoon. The child was delighted!

But after he finished eating, the boy poured his cup of water out on the table, forcing an exasperated Shannon to wipe it all up. To her surprise, a man in a wheelchair came over to take the soggy papers from her hands and throw them away. When she thanked him, he smiled and said there was no need.

Recalling the incident in a Facebook post, Shannon wrote, “These were small actions. Inconsequential, they would say… But here I am…typing out the story…because I think it matters that we document the kindness of strangers. I think in the end, when the curtain closes and it all fades to black, we’ll see that everyday compassion was the only kind of compassion there ever really was.”

May you be blessed by the Lord for showing me compassion! (1 Samuel 23:21)

Teach me to practice “everyday compassion,” Paraclete.

January 6

Chalking the Door

On the Feast of the Epiphany, also known as Three Kings Day, some families maintain a tradition known as “Chalking the Door.” It is a way of asking God’s blessing on all the residents in their home, and any visitors as well, in the coming year.

As explained by the Carmelites (via Deacon Greg Kandra on his The Deacon’s Bench blog), someone uses chalk “to write above the home’s entrance, 20 + C + M + B + 22. The letters C, M, B have two meanings. They are the initials of the traditional names of the three Magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. They also abbreviate the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat, ‘May Christ bless the house.’ The + signs represent the cross, and [the final number represents] the year.”

A prayer is also offered: “Visit, O blessed Lord, this home with the gladness of Your presence. Bless all who live or visit here with the gift of Your love; and grant that we may manifest Your love to each other and to all whose lives we touch. May we grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of You; guide, comfort, and strengthen us in peace, O Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.”

Peace be to your house. (1 Samuel 25:6)

Bless and protect my home and loved ones, Jesus.

January 5

The Message of Epiphany

As a child growing up in India, Father Satish Joseph didn’t like the Feast of the Epiphany because it meant that Christmas was over. But as an adult, he came to a new appreciation of this day because it marks “the manifestation, or the revelation, or the making known of the Christ to the entire world,” he wrote on the website Where Peter Is. We are reminded that God became human, so humanity could become divine.

In addition, wrote Father Satish, Christmas and Epiphany call us to recognize each person “as a sacrament of God…The broader meaning of the word ‘sacramental’ refers to any created reality that communicates the divine. In this sense, creation is a sacramental in the same way as a crucifix or holy water. More importantly, if we believe that every human person is made in the image and likeness of God, and that God became human so that we can become divine, then every human person too is a sacrament of God.”

“Christmas and Epiphany invite us to humility, to openness, and the willingness to be surprised by God. They call us to discover the divine in every human person.”

Those who seek me diligently find me. (Proverbs 8:17)

Help me to see Your presence in everyone, Messiah.

January 4

A Life Changed in Kroger’s Parking Lot

After undergoing some tough times, LaShenda Williams was forced to sell her house and live in her car in Nashville, Tennessee. Hungry, homeless, and unemployed, her situation changed one day in a supermarket parking lot. 

Williams was parked outside Kroger’s in January 2020, when she noticed a job fair being held there. She decided to check it out, and was soon approached by Kroger manager Jackie Vandal, who encouraged her to apply for employment at the store. Williams was hired by the end of the fair.

Williams is a fantastic worker, and her positivity has been a blessing to Kroger customers and employees. Vandal told WKRN, “[Williams] has changed our lives. We feed off that uplifting spirit she has.” A customer was inspired to create a GoFundMe to help Williams furnish her new apartment, and the East Nashville community rallied together to help.

Williams is so thankful to her Kroger family—and for her faith that has been her strength: “Nobody knew what I was going through, but God showed me how to be a blessing to others.” 

Stretch out your hand to the poor. (Sirach 7:32)

Lord, I know hardships can befall any of us. Please be our strength in helping to spread compassion and kindness.

January 3

Music and Love to Remember

Growing up, actress Nikki DeLoach shared a love of music with her father. But the past few years took a toll on Mr. DeLoach’s health and memory. He was diagnosed with an aggressive form of dementia called Pick’s Disease, and he passed away in 2021. Still, whenever Nikki would visit him in his final months, they would sing together. One of their favorites was the classic “My Girl.”

As time passed, Mr. DeLoach lost the ability to speak, but Nikki decided to sing to him anyway during a recent visit. She got to the chorus of “My Girl,” and was shocked to hear him echo her words “in perfect harmony,” she recalled on Instagram. “I looked up at him, shocked. And a tiny smile spread across his face. Tears fell down my cheek as I finished the song.”
        “Watching this disease swallow my dad whole, is absolutely devastating,” Nikki concluded. “Yet, even in the midst of tremendous heartache, there are miracles and magic. This was one of those moments for me and I am so grateful.”

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

Bless and comfort families struggling with dementia, Abba.

January 2

The Friendship Room

In January 2014, as a blizzard barreled toward Steubenville, Ohio, Molly McGovern emerged from Mass feeling called to help those without a home make it through the freezing weather. She and her husband Bill turned their house into a “warming center,” thinking the situation would last a couple of weeks.

As the cold weather dragged on, the McGoverns came to genuinely care about their guests and understand how desperate they were to find a welcoming place to stay. And so, The Friendship Room was born. To this day, the facility provides food, shelter, and love to those in poverty or suffering from addiction. Bill explains, “Many of these people literally have nobody…With that love, a chance for hope enters their lives.” 

Molly adds, “It’s not on our merit that those things haven’t happened to us. That could be any one of us. But we have a chance to comfort Christ when we comfort one another…When we open up this home to anybody that needs a place to...be accepted for who they are today, then we are healed because we are encountering truly the face of Christ.”

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)

Help me offer friendship to the forgotten, Jesus.

January 1

Wisdom for the New Year

Here are a few bits of wisdom gleaned from a Quaker newsletter. They might make good resolutions as the new year begins: “Live beneath your means. Return everything you borrow. Stop blaming other people. Admit it when you make a mistake. Give clothes not worn to charity. Do something nice and try not to get caught. Listen more; talk less.

“Every day, take a 30-minute walk. Strive for excellence, not perfection. Be on time. Don’t make excuses. Don’t argue. Get organized. Be kind to unkind people. Let someone cut ahead of you in line. Take time to be alone.

“Cultivate good manners. Be humble. Realize and accept that life isn’t fair. Know when to keep your mouth shut. Go an entire day without criticizing anyone. Learn from the past. Plan for the future. Live in the present. Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

We would add a few spiritual ideas to this list: make time for God every day; talk to Him in prayer; have a conversation with Him, as with a friend; reflect His love to others through encouraging words and acts of kindness.”

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

Guide me throughout this new year, Prince of Peace.