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THREE MINUTES A DAY

A perennial favorite, our annual book offers inspirational stories and reflections for each day of the year.  View a selection of current reflections here on the site, order the current volume in our shop or to subscribe to receive Three Minutes reflections free-of-charge daily...

December 3

Teen Heroes Save Lives

When Stephaine Irlbeck and her husband took their two kids, Olivia and RJ (ages eight and four), sledding at Beacon Hill Country Club in New Jersey, she never thought their lives would end up in danger. But thanks to the quick thinking of local teens, disaster was averted.

In December 2020, Olivia and RJ were sliding down a steep hill on an inflatable sled when they lost control and shot into the freezing water of an icy pond. Stephanie stood at the top of the hill, helpless and beside herself with worry.

Fourteen-year-old Kieran Foley was hanging out nearby with his four friends when he witnessed what happened and saw the kids sinking in the water. “I didn’t see anyone else be able to do anything, so I just jumped in,” Foley recalled on Patch.com.  With the help of his friends, they formed a human chain, pulling the kids out unharmed. 

The teens are now being hailed as local heroes, and Irlbeck is beyond grateful to them for helping to save her children. She said, “They were insanely humble. They didn’t want anything, they just wanted to make sure my kids were OK.”

Be strong and courageous. (Joshua 1:9)

Merciful Lord, help me to be brave in times of crisis.

December 2

The Call of a Christopher

         Right before Christmas 2020, The Christophers received a special message from Mrs. Josephine “Josie” Costa-Christopher. When our customer service representative returned Mrs. Christopher’s call, she was amazed at her story.

Josie is originally from Sicily, but moved to Jamestown, New York, in 1947, when she was just 12 years old. She received her nursing degree in the late 1950s and has been working/volunteering in healthcare facilities for 69 years.

At 86, Christopher is still an active member of the “Circle of Love,” a charity she co-founded with a fellow volunteer and friend. This nonprofit distributes knitted pillows and prayer shawls to various churches, hospitals, and healthcare centers. Mrs. Christopher said she recently listened to a special on EWTN about Father Keller and The Christophers, and felt “compelled” to call us, as our work coincides with her own.

In appreciation for the representative’s help, Josie volunteered to knit and mail her a prayer shawl—which the employee has since received, along with a hat and pillow. Talk about a happy ending coming “full circle!”

My heart will be knit to you. (1 Chronicles 12:17)

Father, may we always be open to Your call in all things.

December 1

Festive Lights to Celebrate the Season

Every year, as the holiday season approached, Norman Vincent Peale loved walking to his job as pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan because signs of Christmas began appearing. Stores sparkled “with festive lights,” he wrote in Guideposts. “And from hundreds of apartments and offices, high above, Christmas lights glow across the night sky.”

Peale went on to point out, “The Old Testament prophet Isaiah first put light and Christmas together. Looking far into the future, he wrote: ‘The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light’ (Isaiah 9:2).”

“The meaning of his words became clear when, seven centuries later…Simeon saw the Christ Child and exclaimed in prayer: ‘I have seen the Savior You have given the world. He is the Light that will shine upon the nations’ (Luke 2:30-32).”

“This Christmas,” concluded Peale, “let’s turn on the lights and let them radiate out in glowing celebration. For that’s what the celebrating is all about. Light has come! Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace—Jesus Christ, the Light of Christmas, has come!”

I am the light of the world. (John 8:12)

May I strive to reflect Your divine light, Jesus.

November 30

I Forgive

         Have you ever met a person who really hated another person? It is a brutal thing to see. It becomes a passion and eventually devours the person who hates.

         Not many of us, thankfully, hate to the very depths of our being. But we may find it difficult to forgive others who have hurt us. Yet we know that God expects us to forgive. Jesus, in talking to His followers, taught them to pray to the Father, saying, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

         Special efforts are necessary if we wish to become forgiving persons. For one thing, forgiveness is not a matter of “feeling”—or even of waiting until the hurt has disappeared. Rather, it is a conscious decision, made without any conditions attached. Thus, it involves a risk that the forgiving person could be hurt again. But there is a risk in not forgiving too—the risk that we might become hate-filled.

         Is there someone who needs your forgiveness? The sooner you’re able to forgive, the sooner the healing process will begin.

Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:13)

Jesus, help me to become a forgiving person.

November 27

Ways to Practice Hope, Part One

Advent is a season of hope. Yet with all the hardships and division in the world in 2020, Bob Burnham found hope hard to come by. That led him to reflect on how hope should be defined.

Writing on Busted Halo, Burnham said, “Hope is more than wishful thinking…That’s optimism. Hope—Christian hope—is the desire for the Kingdom of Heaven in the here and now. It inspires us to act with kindness, gentleness, and generosity so we might know and experience peace and joy today…[Hope isn’t] something you have. It’s something you do.”

Burnham then offered advice on practicing Christian hope. First, he looked to the story of the Virgin Mary meeting St. Juan Diego at Tepeyac Hill in Mexico and asking him to approach his bishop about building a chapel there in her honor.

He told her, “I am nothing. You have sent me to walk in places where I do not belong.” Mary responded that “she chose him because she loved him,” explained Burnham. “Hope allows us to ignore our feelings of worthlessness and see that we are, in fact, worthy for no other reason than the fact that God loves us.”

More tomorrow…

My hope is from Him. (Psalm 62:5)

May I find hope in Your unconditional love for me, Father.

November 28

Ways to Practice Hope, Part Two

Comforting others is a way that Bob Burnham suggests we practice hope during Advent. Writing at Busted Halo, he says, “I practice hope by being a source of consolation to others. By recognizing their suffering, I can then be a person of love, mercy, and compassion.”

Burnham also suggests that we pay attention to beauty. He writes, “St. Francis of Assisi praised God with the words, ‘You are beauty.’ God is not something beautiful. God is beauty itself! Hope opens my eyes to the beauty that surrounds me.”

“Personally, I find beauty in nature—I often lose myself in the gentle silence of an evening snowfall. I can also find beauty in…a Chicago L train decorated with Christmas lights…When we see beauty, we will see God.”

“Advent is the season of hope. We can live this hope by seeing ourselves as, first and foremost, people loved by God. We can live this hope by coming to the aid of others. We can live this hope by looking for the beauty that surrounds us. We can bring Emmanuel—which literally means ‘God is with us’—into the world by being people who live hope.”

He encourages those who are losing hope. (Sirach 17:24)

Teach me to reflect divine hope to others, Lord.

November 26

The Blessing of a Blessing

It’s common to say, “God bless you” when someone sneezes, but have you ever thought about the power of blessing someone? It’s not just reserved for clergy and religious.

Writing at BustedHalo.com, Shemaiah Gonzalez recalls a quote by poet John O’Donohue: “It would be lovely if we could rediscover our power to bless one another…A blessing is a circle of light drawn around a person to protect, heal and strengthen…It is a gracious invocation where the human heart pleads with the Divine heart.”

Gonzalez says she has been looking for opportunities to bless others with words of kindness. For instance, she told a neighbor who serves as a caregiver for her mother, “You move through this with so much grace. I am in awe.” 

Gonzalez suggests some general blessings any of us can share. For someone who has moved into a new home, say, “May these walls give rest to your bodies and your soul.” And for someone beginning a new job, try, “May this work challenge you and use the gifts God has given you in new ways.”

The blessing of the Lord be upon you! We bless you in the name of the Lord! (Psalm 129:8)

Remind me to be a blessing to others, Yahweh.

November 25

Community Loaves Feeds Seattle’s Hungry

With more than 500 home bakers aiming to help their hungry neighbors, the Seattle initiative “Community Loaves” has been on a mission to donate homemade bread to a local food bank. Led by college administrator and avid baker Katherine Kehrli, she told Today that the effort has grown from a small initial donation to the delivery of over 1,300 loaves of bread.

“Bread’s been around for a long time,” Kehrli said. “It’s four simple ingredients: and each time someone discovers it for the first time, it’s like magic.”

Kehrli encouraged volunteers to donate three loaves to Hopelink, an area food bank that had been hard hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, while still keeping one loaf for themselves, to “thank them for their time while (also) paying it forward.” 

“Community Loaves” has helped reconnect families around the simple act of baking together. Kehrli said this project “restores my faith that we can be more self-determined, even in the face of the pandemic.”

Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves. (Genesis 18:5)

Help me to feed those in need, Oh Loving God.

November 24

A Christopher Prayer for Thanksgiving

Gracious Lord, as many of us in this country gather around the table with our loved ones on this special day, we praise and thank You for the blessings in our lives. May we never take them for granted, and may we live with a grounding in gratitude all year long.

For some of us, blessings may be hard to see because of struggles we are enduring with family, friends, work, health, or even faith. Remind us, Father, that You are with us every step of the way, and help us to see Your presence always.

Open our eyes to the beauty that surrounds us: from the vibrant colors of nature, to the delightful laugh of a baby, to acts of kindness between strangers. Remind us also that “it is in giving that we receive,” so that we can serve as conduits of Your divine love and bring blessings into the lives of others.

Finally, Father, thank You for the gift of life. Help us to make the most of our days on this earth, so that when we eventually pass into eternal life with You, the people we leave behind will be grateful for having known us. Amen.

Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving. (Psalm 95:2)

Thank You, Lord, for everything.

November 23

Thanking God During the Good Times

“If you cannot thank God when things are easy, how much harder will it be to thank God when [life] is hard?” That’s a question author Hannah Brencher asked herself, and it caused her to reflect on the nature of gratitude.

On her website HannahBrencherCreative.com, she wrote, “I really believe good things are happening every single day. They pass us by without us even realizing it. A lot of times, our focus is on whatever is coming ‘next’ and we fail to see the beauty God has set before us for this day, this hour, this moment. Just this morning I’ve experienced so much: another chance at life. A good cup of coffee. A chance to bond with my husband. A home that keeps me warm and dry…If I am not careful, I will consume all of this without ever murmuring a prayer or a response of gratitude. 

         “Today I am urging all of us: let’s not go another minute or hour without stopping everything to be grateful…Who do you love right now? How have you been blessed recently? Where do you see God moving? There is so much to be thankful for even if we have to dig a bit deeper to find it.” 

Give thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Open my eyes to all I should be grateful for, Lord.

November 22

What Do You Get to Do?

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear recalled a piece of advice that he received from his strength and conditioning coach in college, Mark Watts, that improved the sense of gratitude with which he approaches life. Watts noted that people say things like, “I have to wake up early for work” or “I have to cook for my family.” Instead, he advised changing the word “have” to “get.”  I get to wake up early for work. I get to cook for my family.

Clear wrote that by changing that one word, “You transition from seeing these behaviors as burdens and turn them into opportunities…I once heard a story about a man who uses a wheelchair. When asked if it was difficult being confined, he responded, ‘I’m not confined to my wheelchair—I am liberated by it. If it wasn’t for my wheelchair, I would be bed-bound and never able to leave my house.’ This shift in perspective completely transformed how he lived each day.

“I think it’s important to remind yourself that the things you do each day are not burdens, they are opportunities. So often, the things we view as work are actually the reward.”

Be filled with the Spirit…giving thanks to God the Father at all times. (Ephesians 5:18,20)

Teach me to better appreciate my life, Father.

November 19

When You Are Promoted

         An old issue of Foremanship magazine carried an article dealing with the adjustments that individuals have to make when they receive a promotion and are given the responsibility of supervising others. A promotion of this kind requires a major change in outlook.

         No longer is the individual primarily working with tools or products, or providing a service. Now, he or she is responsible for people. The new manager will be making decisions affecting the lives of others. Not only that, but he or she now becomes dependent on others.

Success in the new job frequently depends on how others perform. And how well they do depends on the supervisor’s ability not just to get along with people of varying personalities, but to bring out the best in them.

The good supervisor is more a facilitator than a boss. It’s easy to “boss” people around. It’s not so easy to bring out their best, to help them feel good about the company and what they are doing. If you find yourself in a supervisory position, do your best to make the individuals in your employ your top concern.

With upright heart, he tended them. (Psalm 78:72)

Jesus, help me be a good guide to those who depend on me.

November 15

Sky Blossom

After caring for his father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, news anchor Richard Lui began noticing other caretakers more. That led to him directing the documentary Sky Blossom, which earned a Christopher Award in 2021. The film highlights a group of young people that embody love, goodness, and selflessness.

Lui said, “We focused on students…aged 11 to 26, who were caring for somebody in their family that had an ailment, who had a disability. [They are] truly ‘care heroes’…They go to school…[then] go home and live another life…The point was to show…[that] caring for other people is worth it. And look at how these students are doing it. You can do it, too.”
        The title Sky Blossom stems from World War II, when paratroopers would fly behind battle lines to bring aid to Allied troops. “Their parachutes would open, and they’d look like blossoms,” explained Lui. “We called [the film] Sky Blossom because these student caregivers were coming in behind the lines to help their dad, their mom, their grandparents…On top of that, they were blossoming and growing at the same time.”

Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant. (Matthew 20:26)

May my care for others help me blossom, Messiah.

November 14

To Love and Care for All

In an article published by Crux, Father Jeffrey Kirby, a Catholic priest from Charleston, South Carolina, recently reflected on putting his faith into action. He wrote about his ministry being blessed by the presence of people with disabilities, such as those with Down syndrome.

The joys and contributions of individuals with disabilities are fully appreciated by the Christian worldview, which was something new and shocking in the ancient world. In the Roman Empire, those with special needs were often cast aside, left out in the elements, or killed. Christians, with an emphasis on the brotherhood of all men and women, intentionally looked after outcasts—making a bold Gospel statement to the pagan world.

Father Kirby points out that gains made on behalf of people with disabilities in our society need to be protected, and that “The task of every Christian generation…is to take up the mantle of service and to continue the sacred tradition of love and care for all.”

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like

children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

(Matthew 18:3)

May I see all people as Your children, God, to be cared for.

November 12

Injured Cop Builds New Business

In 1996, a gunman shot Chicago Police Officer Jim Mullen. The bullet damaged his spine, leaving him a quadriplegic who required a wheelchair with a ventilator to stay alive. Learning to deal with his condition took years, but eventually the husband and father began thinking of ways that he could earn money, perhaps by starting his own business.

Mullen’s thoughts turned to his mother’s homemade applesauce that he had always enjoyed as a kid. He used to joke that she should sell it because it was so good. The time had come to give this idea a try. So in 2007, Mullen’s Applesauce was born. It got picked up by a number of local stores in the Chicago area, and it gave Mullen’s mother a thrill to see her recipe making her son a successful businessman. Today, more than 500 stores in the Midwest carry the delicious product.

Regarding his motivation in starting the business, Mullen told Restarting America, “I just wanted to be a positive entity after my injury. I didn’t want it to be the end. I wanted to keep striving or trying to be a productive member of society.”

I called to the Lord out of my distress, and He answered me. (Jonah 2:2)

Guide the injured to new sources of fulfillment, Lord.

November 11

Veterans Keep Serving

         To honor Veteran’s Day, Pace University highlighted the lives of some graduate-veterans:

■ Steven Michael Hardy returned from combat with PTSD. As he improved, he noticed others suffering. One Vietnam vet needed food and money, but Hardy had neither at the time. The vet told him, “That’s OK, my brother. I have God. I will get through another day.” The encounter spurred Hardy to found a group dedicated to ending veteran homelessness.

■ Colonel Mary Lynch Westmoreland, with more than 30 years of service, addresses the “diverse needs of women veterans.” Acknowledged for her advocacy, she said, “It’s about changing the world, one person at a time.”

■ Dustin Shryock returned from Iraq and began helping others. Eventually he realized he, too, needed help. He went from client to staff at Headstrong which helps “destigmatize mental health issues.” He loves the work and knows he’s making a difference.

God is not unjust; He will not overlook your work

and the love that you showed for His sake in

serving the saints. (Hebrews 6:10)

God bless all those who serve in our military. May they find

help—and give help—to their fellow veterans.

November 10

Wheels of Courage, Part 4

As time passed, companies began stepping up to help paralyzed veterans make a living, companies such as Bulova, which gave them vocational training on how to make and repair watches. Wheelchair athletics also became more widespread, leading to the creation of the Paralympic Games.

One of the people who helped elevate the games in the public’s consciousness was Pope John XXIII. His meeting with the Games’ organizer, Dr. Ludwig Guttman, and some of the athletes, made news around the world, elevating the perception of the disabled in the public’s mind.
        In the end, David Davis’ book Wheels of Courage highlights people who met a challenge and took the initiative to make things better. And today, it should be noted that curb cutouts, ramps, handicap parking, and other elements of modern life that accommodate people with disabilities are legacies of the movement begun by the veterans and doctors that Davis writes about. Our society should be thankful.

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

May we be more welcoming of people with disabilities, Lord.

November 9

Wheels of Courage, Part 3

Sports, particularly the invention of wheelchair basketball by the doctors and therapists treating paralyzed veterans, gave the injured a new sense of accomplishment. The sport was made possible by the creation of wheelchairs that were lighter and easier to maneuver than the old-fashioned ones, which were more like La-Z-Boy recliners on wheels.

And in writing his Christopher Award-winning book Wheels of Courage, David Davis learned something important about the phrase “confined” to a wheelchair. He said, “People would tell me, that is a misnomer. The wheelchair is liberating, it’s freedom. These veterans [could say], ‘I can wheel myself to a car. I can wheel myself to a basketball court.’ So for them, it was something to embrace.”

At first, the veterans played wheelchair basketball only among themselves. But to counteract the bias against disabled people at the time, they eventually played in public exhibitions, giving citizens the chance to see that paraplegics could be tough, rather than helpless or worthy of pity. More tomorrow…

Lord…You will strengthen their heart. (Psalm 10:17)

Instill me with a can-do spirit of hope and possibility, Jesus.

November 8

Wheels of Courage, Part 2

In his book Wheels of Courage, David Davis tells the story of several World War II veterans who were paralyzed during the conflict. They ended up in VA hospitals in the U.S., where they were left asking questions, such as “Can I get married? Can I hold down a job?”

With the creation of penicillin to fight infections, doctors and physical therapists realized these men were likely to live normal lifespans and needed to be prepared for the future. Davis said, “What [the doctors] did was...holistic care of the mind and the body. There were physical exercises to strengthen the upper body, arms, shoulders, neck, core muscles.”

“It was very much a psychological aspect [too] in the sense, here are these young men…and they’ve lost the use of their legs. That was...a huge psychological blow…Recreation and sports, I think, was a crucial element for many of the men…This is part of energizing someone to go, ‘I’m not going to sit in bed for the rest of my life. I’m going to get up and make something of my life.’”

More tomorrow…
Let the peoples renew their strength. (Isaiah 41:1)

Guide those with disabilities toward a new sense of purpose, Creator.

November 7

Wheels of Courage, Part 1

It’s not uncommon to see people in wheelchairs living happy, fulfilling lives, albeit with numerous challenges. But that was not the case 100 years ago, after World War I, when many soldiers incurred injuries that left them paraplegics. In fact, paralysis was largely considered to be a death sentence.

During an interview about his Christopher Award-winning book Wheels of Courage: How Paralyzed Veterans from World War II Invented Wheelchair Sports, Fought for Disability Rights, and Inspired a Nation, author David Davis explained:

“Before the 1930s, people who were paralyzed…were considered dead-enders, no-hopers, by the medical community…It wasn’t necessarily the injury that was the problem, but the after-effects: infection, sepsis…There was no penicillin…The life expectancy was about 18 months.”

By World War II, penicillin had been created to fight infections—and treatments on the battlefield had also improved. Therefore, soldiers who would have died from their injuries during World War I wound up surviving the second World War.

More tomorrow…

Be patient in suffering. (Romans 12:12)

Give the wounded the strength to endure suffering, Lord.

November 6

Made with Love and an Extra Chromosome

When Connor Rodriguez was born with Down syndrome, a social worker at the hospital told his parents Fred and Marian that he would likely never have a bank account or attend college because of his condition. That comment made the couple angry, and they grew determined to make sure their son lived a rich and fulfilling life, regardless of people’s expectations.

Ten years later, reports New York’s Daily News, Fred and Marian have helped turn Connor’s favorite things—cooking and his dogs, Scoob and Max—into a thriving business called Connor’s Canine Treats. The doggie cookies—made in peanut butter, pumpkin and bacon flavors—are baked by the family in their home in the Rockaways. The treats are sold via mail order and at a local market event in which Connor works the cash register and enjoys interacting with customers.

Marian says, “Connor has taught us so much about resilience and not giving up. He can do whatever he puts his mind to, and we want to make sure we give him every opportunity to do so.”

God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

May those with Down syndrome find fulfillment, Jesus.

November 5

                              Getting Out of a Rut                                 

Johanna Stamps compares the rut she was in to a “wartime trench.” The wife, mother, and writer had been driving herself relentlessly to fulfill her annual goals, but found herself achieving nothing. Her lack of success drove her to her knees—and that’s where she found the wisdom she needed.

Writing at CatholicMom.com, Stamps said, “I got quiet. Then, God shone the light—not on my head or my calendar— but on my heart. God doesn’t want my calendar or my tasks list or my strategic plan. He wants me. He invites me to spend quality time with Him, and I kept telling Him that I’m too busy. There is nothing left for me to be busy with anymore.”

The message Stamps received from God was also enlightening. He told her, “Johanna, love the people I’ve put in your life.” She admitted that her busyness often kept her from doing that, then concluded, “I begin to say ‘yes,’ small at first and then bigger. As my ‘yeses’ grow, so does my trust. I listen deeper and find stillness in the moment of hearing, knowing, and trusting [God]. There is beauty in this cycle of trust.”

Be still, and know that I am God! (Psalm 46:10)

When I’m pushing myself too hard, Jesus, slow me down so I can listen to You.
 

November 4

The Perfect Match

         Years ago, Jocelynn James struggled with a debilitating addiction to opioids. Now the manager of a successful nonprofit that offers counsel and assistance to women who suffer from drug dependency, she says it was police officer Terrell Potter who saved her life. The reason? It was Potter’s arrest of James that prompted her to pursue recovery—and which ultimately enabled her to help lead others towards recovery as well.

So, in November 2019, when James heard through Facebook that Potter was in dire need of a kidney transplant, something in her heart told her that she would be the one to save his life this time around. Sure enough, James proved to be a “perfect match” for Potter, and the transplant procedure was completed. The retired cop, now living in Phil Campbell, Alabama, felt overwhelmed with gratitude towards his unexpected savior.

“If you asked me 100 names of who may give me a kidney, her name would have not been on the list,” Potter told FOX 11. “It’s just unbelievable that she was willing to do that…It’s not a coincidence. It’s just God. There’s no other way.”

Every generous act…is from above. (James 1:17)

Abba, may we strive to pay every kindness forward.

November 3

A Saint in the Making, Part 3

When teaching children about the saints, Lisa Hendey also advises, “Tell your child the stories of saints in your family who have gone before you, and remember those loved ones in prayer by name.”

She explains, “We all know and love our own saints in the making, or saints that we know who rest in God’s embrace. To share their stories and to honor their memory is a beautiful thing. Most importantly, we remember to pray that our family members are resting with God. We should spend the rest of our lives doing that and hoping for the same for ourselves.”

One hindrance towards sainthood can be children getting down on themselves after they’ve made a bad choice. How can parents teach their kids not to let a sense of perfectionism derail their path to sainthood? Lisa advises teaching them about the Sacrament of Reconciliation and adds, “When an infraction happens, it’s an opportunity for God’s grace to rush in, and for mercy to begin to heal our lives. That’s a beautiful gift, uniquely precious.”

God…has given us the ministry of reconciliation.

(2 Corinthians 5:18)

Lord, may I trust in the healing power of reconciliation.

November 2

A Saint in the Making, Part 2

Diversity is a key factor in making Lisa Hendey’s book A Saint in the Making relatable to children. For instance, there is one spread by illustrator Katie Broussard that highlights saints from different parts of the world: Saint Juan Diego from Mexico, who was visited by Our Lady of Guadalupe; Blessed Augustus Tolton, an African American priest from the U.S. who began life as a slave; and Saint Mary MacKillop from Australia, who helped provide educations for poor children.

During a Christopher Closeup interview, Lisa explained, “One of our goals for the book was to have any child who picked it up be able to find somebody who looked a little bit like them, that this would be a book that was inclusive and diverse, and that also spread this message that God equips us.

“He doesn’t make saints who just are born with a halo over their heads. No matter what our station in life, we have that calling. We’re not there yet. I’m a long way from it. But I think that children can recognize in themselves these trademarks of the saints.” More tomorrow…

Contribute to the needs of the saints. (Romans 12:13)

May people of all races see themselves in Your communion of saints, Creator.

November 1

A Saint in the Making, Part 1

Teaching the faith to children in a relatable, interesting way is a goal for many parents and grandparents. And for much of her career, Lisa Hendey has been doing just that, as the founder of CatholicMom.com and as a children’s book author. Her latest work is titled I am a Saint in the Making.

As Lisa has given talks over the years, she has conveyed to audiences not only her love of the saints, but also a call to action and awareness that children can begin the road to sainthood, even at their young ages. She said on Christopher Closeup, “They resonate towards understanding that they’re called to live this life of love and mission in the world around them.”

I Am a Saint in the Making shares brief stories of various saints that children can relate to on various levels. Lisa said, “With Saint John Paul II, we look back at his love for soccer, skiing. We talk about…his forgiveness in a challenging situation. Those are simple things that children can grasp onto…I’ve raised two sons, so I know how ornery they can be. But they also have a true love and a pure faith at that age…They begin to ask big questions, but with hope and with trust.” More tomorrow…

Train children in the right way. (Proverbs 22:6)

Guide children on the path to sainthood, Savior.

 October 31

                              What Really Matters                                

         Sometimes, all it takes is one kind word or deed to remind us what is really important in life. For Indiana mother Carolyn Mick, this generous act came in the form of a note, telling her the cost of her son’s birthday cake had already been taken care of by someone else.

Mick was quick to share the note on her Facebook page. It read, “Today is my son’s 35th birthday, his 5th one in heaven. In his memory, I’ve paid for your cake. Please enjoy, make special memories, and hug your children and loved ones tight. My son loved cake!” It was signed, “Toni, Tyler’s mom.”

In response to Toni’s heartwarming note, Carolyn included one of her own. “Dear Toni,” she wrote in her Facebook post, “you know who you are, and I want to express how moved I am. This means so much that my husband and I cried together. With the turmoil of things going on it reminds us of what really matters…LIFE!”

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in…action. (1 John 3:18)

Heavenly Father, may we bake acts of kindness into our daily lives.

October 27

A Dying Man’s Journey to Healing, Part One

One of Jason Shanks’ children was exposed to COVID-19 at school, so the whole family wound up getting the disease. Everyone recovered, except for Jason, whose breathing kept getting worse. An ambulance took the 44-year-old to the hospital, where doctors determined he should be sedated and intubated for several weeks so his body could fight the virus.

Though Jason’s wife, Melissa, wanted to handle things on her own, she knew she couldn’t shoulder this burden by herself. So she swallowed her pride and asked for help.

Jason’s colleagues at Our Sunday Visitor in Indiana stepped in to organize “weekly Rosaries and the delivery of regular meals to the Shanks’ home. Local parishes provided supplies and support. A summer babysitter for the family, who happened to test positive for COVID-19 while away at school, returned to Fort Wayne to quarantine with the family, giving Melissa a much-needed hand around the house. People around the world began praying for Jason’s recovery.”

Those prayers became even more important when Jason’s health took a turn for the worse.
More tomorrow…

Ask, and it will be given to you. (Matthew 7:7)

Make me humble enough to ask for help, Paraclete.

 

October 28

A Dying Man’s Journey to Healing, Part Two              

         While fighting COVID-19 in the hospital, Jason Shanks wound up getting “bacterial pneumonia and MRSA that caused his blood to go septic,” wrote Gretchen Crowe in Our Sunday Visitor. His body began shutting down, and doctors believed he would die.

         As the situation grew more dire, someone suggested to Jason’s wife Melissa that they pray the nine-day St. Jude Novena. One friend even dropped off a St. Jude relic for Melissa to leave with Jason. She took it to the hospital and gave it to a nurse, who placed it on Jason’s chest.

         When Melissa began the novena with her online prayer community over Facebook Live, she asked for the specific intention, “We need to get over COVID.” Two days later, Jason finally tested negative for the virus. And an X-ray of his chest, where the relic had been placed, showed his lungs were clearing up. Melissa said, “That novena took us from being sick and in fear of death to the path to recovery. It made a huge difference.”

More tomorrow…

Are any among you suffering? They should pray. (James 5:13)

Hear my prayers for the suffering, Compassionate Jesus.

 

October 29

A Dying Man’s Journey to Healing, Part Three            

Jason Shanks’ recovery from COVID-19 required months of rehabilitation and care. But there was also a spiritual component. His friend, Father Tony Steinacker, brought him Holy Communion and read him the gospel of the paralytic whose friends lowered him through the roof of a house so Jesus could heal him. This story took on new meaning for Jason.

He told Our Sunday Visitor’s Gretchen Crowe, “I really feel like I was the paralytic being lowered down from the roof…It was the prayer of my wife and friends and colleagues and people from around the world that lowered me through the roof and laid me before Christ. And He said, ‘rise and walk.’ I really think it was the prayers of many that saved my life.”

From his harrowing experience, Jason also gained an even deeper appreciation for his wife, Melissa. He said, “When you get married and take those vows…you say these things…but it’s not until something like this happens that I think you get to really see the face of marriage lived out—the face of what love looks like. And for me it was the strength of my wife.”

Love one another with mutual affection.

(Romans 12:10)

Increase my love for my family and friends, Abba.

October 26

WWII POWs Found Aid at Vatican

         The Second World War touched every part of Europe, including Vatican City. Though officially neutral, but under the close eye of Mussolini’s Italy and a German occupation in 1943, the Vatican did more to help escaped Allied POWs than was  previously known. The history of this underground movement was recently documented in the book MI9: A History of the Secret Service for Escape and Evasion in World War II.

Author Helen Fry spoke to Crux, explaining that the Vatican was a prominent location for MI9’s operations in helping prisoners of war make their way safely back to Allied territory. “Pope Pius XII knew that POWs were being sheltered in the precincts, and he also blessed some of them before they departed back to Britain,” she explained.

Fry’s research also revealed that “when Rome was liberated on June 4th, 1944, a dozen Allied servicemen were living in the city state, and scores more were hiding in Church-owned properties.”

You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God. (Ephesians 2:19)

Open my eyes, Lord, to the people who need my help today.

October 25

Hope for the Soul

         “Hope can flourish only when you believe that what you do can make a difference, that your actions can bring a future different from the present.”

         So writes Dr. Jerome Groopman in his Christopher Award-winning book The Anatomy of Hope. In it, he describes his journey from a young doctor, who had yet to learn the value of hope in himself and the lives of his patients, to one who grew to understand the difference between true hope and false hope.

         In his work as a specialist in blood diseases and cancer, it was his many patients who taught him many lessons. One, “a woman of deep faith showed me that even when there is no longer hope for the body, there is hope for the soul,” he noted.

         It’s probably impossible to extinguish all fear and anxiety in the face of serious illness. So “we must find ways to bridle fear and give greater rein to hope,” Dr. Groopman concluded.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope. (Psalm 130:5)

When I’m feeling anxious, Lord, give me divine peace and the hope that trusts in You.

October 24

The Challenge of Being Courageous

         There seem to be times when hate crimes spike against people of different ethnicities, religions, or political leanings. Gestures of camaraderie and support are important. Influential community members can lead the way.

         After several anti-Semitic attacks in 2021, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, “in a show of solidarity with the Jewish community,” contacted Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson, Senior Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, and asked to join him in Shabbat services, according to a story in AM New York. Rabbi Davidson responded, “What makes friends, friends is that they know when you need them.”

         Reaching out to the targets of hate takes courage, compassion, and empathy—especially if you’re not in a position of power. Pray for the strength and courage to be a friend to victims of bullying and hate.

Whoever says, “I am in the light,” while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. (1 John 2:9)

Help us, Lord, to see Your presence in all we meet.

October 23

For the Love of Bruce

         To what lengths would you go to save your dog’s life? For eight-year-old Virginia native Bryson Kliemann, there was no sacrifice too great for his beloved canine, Bruce.

Bruce had been diagnosed with parvo, a potentially deadly dog virus. Wanting to help with the cost of his puppy’s vet treatments, which he knew his parents would have difficulty paying, Bryson decided to sell his most valuable possession: his collection of rare Pokémon cards.

Seeing the youngster’s picture on social media, next to a sign that read “Pokémon 4 Sale,” moved many people to this worthy cause. So when Bryson’s mother set up a GoFundMe to further assist with Bruce’s expenses, it was no surprise they raised far beyond their initial goal of $800.

They actually collected over $5,000, more than enough to cover the cost of Bruce’s bills, with enough to spare to donate to other sick dogs in need within their community. “I’m happy he’s home,” Bryson told WCYB News about Bruce’s full recovery, “and I’m proud of myself.” 

The righteous know the needs of their animals.

 (Proverbs 12:10)

Lord, protect our pets, guardians and healers of us all.

October 19

Bobby Bones’ Road Out of Poverty, Part One

Bobby Bones has a lot of successes on his résumé: host of the number one country morning radio show in the U.S., mentor on American Idol, author of two New York Times’ best-selling books, etc. But as a child, Bones had all the odds stacked against him from achieving much in life.

As reported by ArkansasOnline.com, Bobby Estell (his real last name) grew up in poverty in Mountain Pine, Arkansas, because “his father abandoned the family early on, leaving Bobby’s mother, who had gotten pregnant with him at 15, to raise him and his sister alone.” Unable to handle the responsibilities, his mother turned to alcohol and drugs.

Bobby found comfort in his relationship with his churchgoing grandmother, as well as in reading books and listening to the radio. Though he was often bullied in school, he grew more determined to make something of himself.

After graduating college, Bobby got a job as a radio personality, and his career kept moving onward and upward. He hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be poor, so he does his best to help those who need support. More on that tomorrow…

Do not lag in zeal. (Romans 12:11)

Guide me in overcoming life’s challenges, Savior.

 

October 20

Bobby Bones’ Road Out of Poverty, Part Two              

Radio personality and TV host Bobby Bones may have become a millionaire, but he hasn’t forgotten the poverty in which he grew up. In addition to raising money for charities such as St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, he helps those in his Arkansas hometown in more personal ways as well.

Vic Gandolph, Bobby’s former coach at St. Luke’s Episcopal School, told ArkansasOnline.com that he quietly makes contributions to the students all year long. And Bobby credits Gandolph as one of the people who led him to success.

Gandolph said, “Bobby, I think, at that particular time needed a strong role model. Someone to tell him there’s more out there, just keep reaching and keep digging and keep rolling up your sleeves, and he bought into that. Bobby was an extremely hard worker. He wasn’t a great, great athlete. But he made up with it in his hard work and determination…He just found a way to get it done. He took some of those skills, life skills that we taught him along the way, and...I think that was a big help in him being successful right now.”

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go.

(Psalm 32:8)

Help me be a strong, positive role model for others, Father.

October 21

Bobby Bones’ Road Out of Poverty, Part Three                       

Reflecting on the past has given radio personality Bobby Bones a clear vision for the future. He told ArkansasOnline.com, “Churches would come by and give us food…We didn’t always have food. Just to use the analogy, I was given fish a lot, but I wasn’t taught how to fish. My mom got pregnant at 15. I didn’t have a dad around, so everyone was trying to survive more than they were trying to learn how to invest in the future of anything.

“As I got older, I started to be around people that taught me things and that’s what I’m trying to do now…My goal now is to take care of those that were me a few years ago. And to teach them how to take care of themselves long-term.”

Bobby has since forgiven his parents for their shortcomings. He used to resent his mother, but now has empathy for the situation she was in. He also made peace with his father for abandoning the family. After meeting for the first time in 30 years, the two had a conversation. “He wasn’t a villain to me after that,” Bobby noted. “It was just a guy who made some bad decisions when he was a kid. I mean, he was 17.”

Be kind to one another…forgiving one another, as God

in Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)

Teach me to forgive those who’ve let me down, Redeemer.

October 18

The Lasagna Lady

         Michelle Brenner of Washington state was one of the many people laid off in the spring of 2020, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The 45-year-old chose to use her extra time productively. Specifically, she began making lasagna from her Italian grandmother’s family recipe, using her community’s Facebook page to spread the word.

         “If any of you want some fresh homemade, no calorie- counting lasagna, please let me know and I will gladly prepare it,” Brenner’s Facebook message read.

         Michelle initially used her $1,200 stimulus check to purchase ingredients. Soon however, she had to set up a GoFundMe page to help supply the increasing number of requests. A local sportsman’s club in Gig Harbor even offered Brenner the use of their commercial kitchen, which was temporarily vacant.

“A lot of the people I make lasagna for have lost their jobs,” Michelle concluded to Fox News, “and this is my way of saying…’I’m here for you.’ I can’t change the world, but…my two little hands are capable of making a difference.”

Those who are generous are blessed. (Proverbs 22:9)

Jesus, may we remember charity begins at home.

October 17

Anticipating Emergencies

         Although her main parachute failed to open, skydiver Ila Zan Taylor of Gulfport, Mississippi, suffered little more than a broken ankle many years ago after a 7,500-foot fall. The 20-year-old had already plunged some 4,000 feet before she pulled the chord for her chute.

         When she realized it wasn’t going to open, she recalled that she “just kept trying to stay calm and remember how to handle a malfunction…what to do and how to do it.”

Taylor was finally able to open her reserve parachute. But by that time, she was pretty close to the ground, and the chute never opened completely. Fortunately, she landed in a pine tree, and the combination of circumstances saved her life. She believes that she survived because she was able to remain calm throughout the emergency.

When the unexpected occurs in your life, don’t panic. That’s when you need to think clearly. You can train yourself to respond intelligently to emergencies by preparing for them ahead of time. That preparation might save your life.      

Keep sound wisdom and prudence. (Proverbs 3:21)

Holy Spirit, guide me through every emergency.

October 16

Custodian Hero to Special Needs Student

When Adrian Wood sent her young, autistic son Amos to school, it was a scary ordeal. But thanks to the kindness of the school’s custodian, Raymond Brown, Amos ultimately grew more comfortable in his surroundings.

When Amos started at White Oak Elementary School in Edenton, North Carolina, he didn’t speak and wasn’t an easy friend to have. But when Mr. Brown started calling him “Famous Amos” and made him feel special, Amos would say “Hey, Brown,” when he saw the janitor. This was before he was even saying Daddy, so it was “really something,” Wood told Today.

Mr. Brown has touched the lives of many students during his 15-year tenure at the elementary school. However, when he lost the North Carolina School Heroes contest, Amos’s mother helped raise $35,000 for Mr. Brown, which they presented to him at a surprise ceremony. “I was caught off guard,” said Brown. “To see all those people shouting and hollering, ‘Mr. Brown, congratulations,’ it was beautiful.”

He…was amazed when he saw the signs and great miracles that took place. (Acts 8:13)

Lord, bless all the unsung heroes of our world.  

October 15

Love, Jessica

For parents who lose a child through miscarriage or stillbirth, the heartbreak can feel devastating. What can make this difficult time even more challenging are the ever-mounting medical bills involved. That’s what Jennifer Jara and her husband discovered in 2014 when their daughter Jessica was born at 27 weeks gestation with no heartbeat.

As weeks passed, the bills poured in, totaling about $5,000. On the website Love-Jessica.org, Jennifer writes, “I ignored the bills for months because my mind couldn’t go there, and when I finally had to deal with the collection agencies, it made me think, ‘This is how everyone who has asked to help could have helped me’…[by helping] eliminate these bills.” 

Jennifer suffered several more miscarriages in the ensuing years, but also gave birth to three children. In 2020, she finally created the nonprofit Love, Jessica, which offers financial assistance to families who need help paying medical and funeral expenses after a miscarriage or stillbirth. To date, they have assisted 63 families, making a heartbreaking time more bearable.

Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will

Fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

Bring healing to couples enduring miscarriages, Savior.

October 14

Soccer Mom Surprised at McDonald’s

It had already been a long day at soccer practice with her four-and-seven-year-old kids when Brittney Reed ordered food for them at the McDonald’s drive-thru. To her dismay, she realized she left her wallet at home. Instead of turning her away, Wyatt Jones, the young McDonald’s employee serving her, paid for her family’s meal himself.

Reed was more than grateful to Jones. Even after returning to the McDonald’s later to pay the young man back, the Waynesville, Ohio local insisted the meal was on him.

Reed reached out on her Facebook page to thank Jones’s parents for raising such a kind and compassionate son, reported GoodNewsNetwork.org. After learning Jones was raising money to buy a car, Reed wanted to help and started a GoFundMe campaign, which ended up raising nearly $32,000.

 “Wyatt,” Reed wrote on Facebook, “do not let this world change your kind heart, young man, for its people like YOU that will change this world for the better!”

The Lord was gracious to them and had compassion on them. (2 Kings 13:23)

Help me spread compassion and kindness today, Lord.

October 13

Learning Good Communications

         There are two aspects of communication. One is the act of communicating itself—the attempt to convey an idea or fact to another person. The other is the receipt of the information—the art of listening or reading. Just because you write or speak a message doesn’t mean that message has been received; or, if received, that it has been understood.     

         Fortunately, effective communication can be learned. And there’s no better place to start than in the family, particularly if you have young children. Here’s an experiment to try at dinner or the next time the family is taking a trip together.

         Invite each family member to take turns saying something about a particular subject, such as their favorite animal, dessert, television show, sport, etc. After each person finishes, the others comment on what has been said.

         The exercise encourages listening. It builds confidence in those who are sometimes overpowered in free-wheeling conversations. It can contribute to family understanding and sensitivity. And it can be a lot of fun!

There is a season…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak. (Ecclesiastes 3:1,7)

Holy Spirit, help me give voice to my thoughts.

October 12

A Recipe for Friendship

Though he’s now a famous chef in his own right, Scott Peacock was only 27 when he worked with 74-year-old Edna Lewis for the first time. Lewis, the granddaughter of slaves, was renowned for her Southern cooking—especially her pie—and had run a successful restaurant in New York City for years.

In the early 1990s, she traveled to Georgia to make her pies for a fundraiser at the governor’s mansion, where Peacock was working. When Peacock arrived at the train station to pick her up, Lewis was dragging a cardboard box as she approached him. The box, he learned, was filled with 100 pounds of frozen pie dough that she brought with her from New York to save time.

As they worked side-by-side, Peacock and Lewis established a rapport. When Lewis lost her home in New York, Peacock invited her to move in with him in Georgia. The two developed a friendship, grounded in respect and love. Lewis began suffering from dementia in her 80s, so Peacock became her caregiver until she died. Their friendship became the best recipe of their lives.

Two are better than one…For if they fall, one will lift

up the other. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

Help me be a friend in good times and bad, Jesus.

October 11

Love Motivates Career Change

Kristin Schmitt has had quite the professional and personal journey in recent years. The wife, mother of two, and social worker from Franklin, Wisconsin, decided to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. While applying to out-of-state medical schools, Schmitt discovered that her grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

On the Alzheimer’s Association blog, Schmitt recalled growing up close to her “Grams,” who taught her about baking, crafting, and gardening—and who always had a positive influence on her in general. Schmitt knew she couldn’t leave her at this difficult time, so she reconfigured her own career plans and stayed in Wisconsin.

Schmitt still needed to make a living, though, so she created a soap-making business named Inik (it means “unique” in Haitian Creole), which allowed her to set her own hours. Schmitt now balances her life as a wife, mom, entrepreneur, and caregiver, grounded in the love she received from the woman who now needs her love and patience more than ever.

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

Guide and strengthen all caregivers, Jesus.

October 10

Guy Fieri Feeds First Responders

When a menacing wildfire struck California’s Sonoma-Napa wine country in October 2020, firefighters and first responders spent days battling to put the fire out. That’s when celebrity chef Guy Fieri stepped.

Fieri has long lived in Sonoma County, and when hearing of the wildfire crisis and the needs of the first responders, he fired up his mobile kitchens and assembled a team at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. They boxed up about 2,000 meals of penne pasta, salad, 3,800 meatballs, and garlic bread for everyone there, reported The Press Democrat.

Hungry California firefighters, law enforcement officers, and other first responders lined up to eat after working a long day. They thanked Fieri and his team for the delicious meal. Fieri deflected their praise right back. “Come on!” he exclaimed. “You’re out saving our community.”

Fieri’s act of service for his community truly outshone the wildfire that day, making a difference to those first responders. 

Whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies. (1 Peter 4:11)

Loving Jesus, no matter the crisis at hand, may I always find it in my heart to use my gifts to serve others. 

October 8

Grace from the Rubble, Part 3

Bud Welch traveled to Bill McVeigh’s home in Buffalo, New York, and came to know him as a quiet, humble man who was shocked and appalled by what his son had done. Timothy had grown up as an average, unremarkable kid who never got in trouble. But he got radicalized after joining the military and befriending the two other men who would be his co-conspirators.

Bud was able to tell Bill, “I don’t hate your son. I don’t want him to die. I don’t hate you. I don’t blame you as a father for what he did, and I’m going to do everything I can to try to stop this killing in my daughter’s name.”

Bill deeply appreciated this statement because he didn’t want his son to die. He understood that Timothy deserved life in prison, but his heart broke at the thought of him being executed.

In the end, Bud Welch and Bill McVeigh’s efforts to spare Timothy from execution proved futile. Jeanne Bishop believes that life in prison would have allowed him to reflect on what he did and eventually realize it was wrong. But Timothy died expressing no remorse. Still, Bud Welch’s grace toward Bill McVeigh added a touch of God’s love and mercy to the world.

God…gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

Fill me with Your grace, Merciful Lord.

October 7

Grace from the Rubble, Part 2

After his daughter Julie was killed by Timothy McVeigh in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Bud Welch began blackout drinking every day. The friends who knew him said he looked “lost,” and would tell him, “Bud, you are killing yourself with this hate.” He responded, “Well, the sooner I die, the sooner I get to Heaven to see my daughter Julie again.”

Jeanne Bishop, who shares Bud’s story in the book Grace from the Rubble, said on Christopher Closeup, “After a time, [Bud] saw that they were right, that the grief and rage were consuming him. So he started reflecting, ‘Why had Timothy McVeigh done this?’ That’s when he discovered it was all about retaliation and revenge. And he thought, ‘That’s futile. And if we execute him, that’s just more retaliation, more revenge. Where does this cycle end? It has to stop. It has to stop with me.”

That epiphany led Bud to more deeply embrace his own Catholic faith and vocally oppose the death penalty for Timothy McVeigh. He also felt motivated to reach out to Bill McVeigh, Timothy’s father, who was also a Catholic. More tomorrow…

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)

Move our culture beyond cycles of revenge, Messiah.

October 6

Grace from the Rubble, Part 1

Earlier in this book, we shared the story of Jeanne Bishop forgiving the man who murdered her sister. That experience prompted her interest in other stories of mercy, and she shared one of those in her Christopher Award-winning book Grace from the Rubble.

It was inspired by Jeanne’s friendship with Bud Welch, whose daughter Julie was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995. Perpetrated by Timothy McVeigh in the hopes of inspiring a revolution against the U.S. government, the attack killed 168 people.

Bud was especially close to his daughter Julie, whose Catholic faith became increasingly important to her in the two years prior to her death. She attended Mass and received the Eucharist daily. Her goal in life was to help others, which is what she was doing in her job at the Social Security Administration in the Murrah building. After the bombing, Bud was heartbroken and filled with hate for Timothy McVeigh. Eventually, he came to see that hate as a dead end. That part of the story tomorrow…

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. (Proverbs 10:12)

Heal those who are grieving the loss of loved ones, Jesus.

October 5

Miraculous Reunion of Long-Lost Friends        

In September 2020, a prayer service (held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic) inadvertently brought together two long-lost friends: Holocaust survivors Ruth Brandspiegel and Israel “Sasha” Eisenberg.

Brandspiegel and Eisenberg became close as children after their families fled Poland to escape the Nazis. They met at a displaced persons camp in Austria, which is where they last saw each other in 1949, before losing touch. Little did they know they both wound up living in the United States: Brandspiegel in Philadelphia, and Eisenberg in New Jersey.

During a virtual prayer service, Ruth heard Sasha’s name being spoken and discovered it was her old friend. So for Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day of the year, the two reunited at the home of Brandspiegel’s son for a socially distanced get-together.

After 70 years apart, the two friends reminisced, shared photos, and shed joyful tears. “We were ‘Mispacha’ already,” said Brandspiegel, using the Hebrew word for “family.” She further told ReligionNews.com that it was something she never expected, but it is a moment she will never forget. 

May your friends be like the sun. (Judges 5:31)

Lord, bless all the friends that I have lost touch with. 

October 4

                           Enlighten the Darkness of My Heart                              

In his book Francis of Assisi in His Own Words, author Jon Sweeney recounts the story of Francis kneeling before a cross in a rundown church in San Damiano in 1206 and asking God to make His wishes known. That’s when the future saint heard the Lord say, “Go and rebuild My church.”

In response, Francis not only began gathering bricks to literally rebuild the church, but he also composed this prayer, which became part of the Franciscan movement and can be said by anyone:

Most High, Most Glorious God,

Enlighten the darkness of my heart.

Grant me a right and true faith,

A certain hope, and

A perfect charity, feeling, and understanding

Of You,

So that I may be able to accomplish

Your holy and just commands. Amen.

Like living stones…be built into a spiritual house. 

(1 Peter 2:5)

Savior, may we remember we are living icons of Your image on earth.

 

October 3

They Made Us What We Are

         In the 1950s, Martin L. Scheiner created a company called Electronics for Medicine (E. for M.), which manufactured electronic medical instruments. He worked out of his home at the start, but the company grew to employ more than 600 people. In 1979, Scheiner sold the firm to Honeywell, Inc., and retired.

         Scheiner kept in touch with all his former employees. He also surprised them by giving them each $50 for every month they had worked for him. In all, he distributed more than one million dollars.

         He also sent a letter to each of his former employees. It read, “It was not by accident that E. for M. grew from the small company which I started to the respected organization which Honeywell bought. This success was due to the efforts of all of you who worked with me over the years.”

         This is true not only of Scheiner, but of each of us. Whatever success we have achieved, it is as much due to the help and support we have received as to our own efforts. Take the time to acknowledge this and show your gratitude.      

Give to the Lord the thanks due to His righteousness.

(Psalm 7:17)

Jesus, may I remember those who have helped me.

October 2

Edna, Next Door

When Andrew Johnson and his family moved into a house on Harrison Street in Kansas City, Missouri, he learned that his neighbor Edna was neither patient nor kind. In her nineties, she wanted everything to stay “as it had always been,” Johnson wrote in Commonweal, “and as it had always been meant 1942.”

For instance, when Johnson wanted to add a gate to their shared driveway to keep his children in their own backyard, Edna told him it was his job, not a gate’s, to manage his kids.

Edna only left her house on Sundays, when she would drive her 1985 Buick to St. James Catholic Church. Before Mass, she always whispered with several other women. When the priest once asked what they talked about, Edna revealed they were sharing prayer requests “for other parishioners who were sick or homeless or hungry or going through great trials, and they would make quick plans for how to care for them in the coming days.”

After Edna’s passing, Johnson said of her, “She was not always patient. She was not always kind. And yet her small web…still stitched itself into a greater web of love.”

Whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you. (Matthew 6:2)

Help me to see each person’s many dimensions, Creator.

October 1

Ask For Help

The problem had been building for more than two decades, and in 2016, Father James Mulligan finally suffered a complete mental breakdown. Everything stemmed from him witnessing his mother commit suicide in 1991 and repressing or denying the memory in the years that followed. The New Zealand priest found himself falling into “a deep, dark hole,” so there was no repressing anything anymore.

After receiving therapy and medications, Father Mulligan sees himself as being in recovery. He admitted to the NZ Catholic that he never reached out for help because he saw depression as a sign of weakness. Now, he realizes, “it’s okay to talk about stuff.”

Father Mulligan’s faith continues to give him strength as he continues dealing with his mental illness. He says, “I suppose the average person, especially if they are people of faith, they might think…you lack trust in God if you admit to depression. But I think looking back over my experience, I would call it God’s calling card, really. God does not orchestrate these sufferings… But God can still use these circumstances for a greater good.”

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted. (Psalm 34:18)

May I not be afraid to ask for help, Jesus.

September 30

Holy Courage, Part 4

Among Sister Ave Clark’s greatest role models of holy courage were the young people with special needs that she used to teach. Though they ranged in age from 15 to 17, they were mentally on the level of six-year-olds. Yet they had the kindest hearts of anyone she’d known.

For example, she recalled one student coming up to her and asking that another student be given two stars on a test despite getting most of the answers wrong. When she asked why, the boy responded, “He has the biggest heart in the world. He is the kindest boy on the planet.”

Sister Ave observed, “He didn’t see the boy’s disability. He saw the beauty of the boy’s being. And I think so often in our world, if we would listen to people with special needs, we would grow more in touch with our own humanity.”

For those who read A Heart of Courage, she adds, “Hold your worry, hold your loss in your heart, and know that the Creator’s love is there with you. He’s holding them with you.”

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. (Proverbs 31:26)

Holy Spirit, help me see the beauty in other people.

September 29

Holy Courage, Part 3

For many years, Sister Ave Clark has done her best to help others find their holy courage through Heart to Heart Ministry. She offers pastoral counseling to post-abortive women, parents who have lost a child due to miscarriage, people with post-traumatic stress, victims of crime, survivors of suicide, survivors of abuse, those dealing with depression or grief, and more. The secret to her success is listening.

During a Christopher Closeup interview, Sister Ave said, “There are people who will call me on the phone that had gotten very depressed…Some of them had lost loved ones. What I found in my life is the holy courage to be able to listen. Not to tell somebody else how to feel, not to diminish what they’re sharing, not to give them false hopes. [I] just to say to them, ‘I’ll be there with you.’

“I have found that with so many people, that boosts them up. And I think I would want the same done to me, somebody not to say, ‘Do it this way and everything will be fine,’ but to be able to listen to the heart of someone else and know that you’re going to learn something about yourself in listening, too.”

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

Improve my listening skills so I can be a comfort to someone in distress, Jesus.

September 28

Holy Courage, Part 2

In light of her experience learning to walk again after her accident, Sister Ave Clark pondered the idea of “holy courage.” During a Christopher Closeup interview about her book A Heart of Courage, she said, “Struggles make us stronger sometimes in broken places…Holy courage is opening your heart up to new ways of resurrecting in life.”

Though some may associate courage with bravado, Sister Ave points out that it can be exhibited in a variety of ways. She writes, “Like love, courage is not conceived in the mind, it emanates from the heart…And it comes in many forms.

“It was the courage of devotion that inspired Mary when she accepted her calling from Gabriel…It was the courage of humility displayed by Jesus, when although battered and beaten, He told a bewildered Pilate of the limitations of his power, thereby sealing His fate on the cross…Yet courage need not be so extraordinary. We can find it in the times and places of our everyday lives: in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and in our own homes.” More tomorrow…

Be strong and courageous…The Lord your God is with you. (Joshua 1:9)

May I practice holy courage in my daily life, Paraclete.

September 27

Holy Courage, Part 1

It sounds like a scene you’d see in a movie, but it really did happen to Sister Ave Clark. Sixteen years ago, a runaway train slammed into her car while she was driving in Queens, New York. Hospitalized for close to a year, Sister Ave endured a lot of physical therapy before she was able to walk again.

During that time, she was sustained by the Scripture from Romans 8: “Nothing will ever separate us from the love of God.” And she kept telling herself to “have courage.” Recalling her time in the hospital, Sister Ave felt sorry for herself and asked, “Why, God?” Soon, she decided to ask a different question: “God, what am I going to do now?” God provided an answer.

While she was sitting around waiting for therapy, for lunch, or for dinner, different people would come into her room and have conversations with her. Instead of traveling to churches to give retreats, she was listening and offering guidance to the people around her. Somebody observed that she was doing ministry from her hospital bed. Sister Ave realized, “I guess this is where God wants me.” More tomorrow…

Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength. (Isaiah 40:31)

What would You have me do today, Father?

 
 

September 26

Villagers Save Family From Nazis

Eric Schwan was just a child when the Nazis took power in his homeland of Austria. His Jewish family fled to the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, which was prepared to help Jewish refugees.

As recounted by Dolors Massot on Aleteia, Protestant pastor André Trocmé and his wife Magda organized a network of people in 1940 to help Jews fleeing persecution. Eventually, the entire village of 2,500 people joined in their mission.

When Schwan and his family arrived in 1943, they were hidden in a local Christian school. For two years, villagers brought them food and water. But they weren’t the only ones in hiding there. “It’s estimated,” writes Massot, “that the townspeople saved between 3,000 and 5,000 people during the years of the Holocaust.”

Eric Schwan went on to live a happy life in Lyon, France, until his death in 2021. But he never forgot Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. As thanks, he left the village two million dollars “for scholarships and other educational and youth initiatives.”

Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the

hand of the wicked. (Psalm 82:4)

Grant me the courage to help those in danger, Lord.

September 25

Heart Health

Making sure your heart is functioning well should be an important part of everyone’s life. Writing in AARP Magazine, Nicole Pajer suggests several ideas on maintaining or improving heart health:

■ Get enough sleep, but not too much.

■ Exercise enough to get your heart rate up, after checking details with your doctor.

■ Get a flu shot.

■ Instead of drinking diet soda, or any soda, try sparkling water with a slice of fruit.

■ Driving in heavy traffic can be a risk to heart health because you’re sitting, fuming at a traffic jam, and breathing polluting fumes.

■ Take care of dental health.

■ Maintain friendships and cope with loneliness.

■ Eat more fruit, less red meat or chips.

As the old saying goes: “Take care of your heart, and it will take care of you.”

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow

the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

May I keep You in my heart always, Jesus.

September 24

You Are Not Alone

         As resilient as children can be, they’re not immune to the effects of stress. While adults might complain or ask for help, youngsters can get lost in the shuffle when their acting out goes unnoticed, or is misunderstood and critiqued.

         Periodically check on the mental health of the children in your life. You can make a difference in the way they deal with their feelings.

         “Don’t assume your children will tell you if they are struggling or need help,” writes Todd Karlin, Psy.D. in a Manhattan Times article. Be particularly alert to acute warning signs such as “expressing hopelessness or purposelessness, withdrawal from relationships…risky behaviors.”

         Don’t necessarily assume the worst, but do let children know they’re not alone and you are available to support them through problems big and small.

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you;

He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.

(Deuteronomy 31:8)

Help us, Holy Spirit, to guide our children through life’s challenges.

September 23

Finding God in Silence

         In a piece for Northwest Catholic, Shemaiah Gonzalez reflected on the frightening nature of the silence that descended on our nation when stay-at-home orders were issued due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

         “Silence is scary for some,” she wrote. “We are afraid of what might surface in the silence. Grief? Anger? Sadness?”

         Gonzalez resolved to embrace the silence and eventually found it to be transformative, writing, “In the silence, I found Jesus. Now silence has become my favorite prayer.”

         Gonzalez came to understand how silence can help us connect with God in profound ways, as expressed in Psalm 131, where David sings, “I have stilled my soul, / Like a weaned child to its mother, / Weaned is my soul.”

Quoting Dutch priest and theologian Henri Nouwen, who once prayed, “Prevent the world from filling our lives to such an extent that there is no place left to listen,” Gonzalez concluded, “May this be our prayer. May we sit in silence and hear what we can hear.”

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is in Him. (Psalm 62:5)

Speak to me, oh God, in the stillness of my soul.

September 14

God’s Love Leads Addict to Recovery, Part 1

Jim Wahlberg grew up as one of nine kids, two of whom became the famous actors/musicians Mark and Donnie. Their family was relatively poor, so his father worked two jobs, while his mom worked an overnight shift as a nurse. Starved for attention, Jim started hanging out with the neighborhood troublemakers, who were happy to give him beer. Once, he drank so much that he got violently ill at home.

Jim’s father, who himself could be a volatile alcoholic, thought that bad experience would keep his son away from alcohol for good, but he was wrong.

During a Christopher Closeup interview about his memoir The Big Hustle, Jim explained, “You can’t scare an alcoholic or a drug addict out of doing substances. I’ve been to funerals where people died of overdoses, and all their friends there were under the influence of the same drug that killed their friend. Because the thing about addiction…is the world sees that substance as the thing that’s tearing [the addict] apart. But the addict sees it as the thing that’s holding them together.” More tomorrow…

Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise. (Ephesians 5:15)

Help young people avoid the pitfalls of addiction, Lord.

 

September 15

God’s Love Leads Addict to Recovery, Part 2 

Though Jim Wahlberg grew up in a culturally Catholic family, his understanding of God was defective because he was taught an image of a vengeful God who is always watching us and out to get us. He believes that negative spirituality played a role in his addiction.

Jim said on Christopher Closeup, “That’s such a terrible thing to do to a child. I don’t blame any particular people, except maybe I do blame the Church a little bit because either they weren’t saying it or I wasn’t hearing it. But I never heard the words, ‘God loves you, Jesus died for you.’

“It wasn’t like I was encouraged to have a relationship with God. I was encouraged to be afraid…I think everybody maybe should have a little fear of living a totally sinful life, but ultimately nobody should be denied the fact that Jesus loves them and that He died for them. That’s important information. And I didn’t get that information until I was 22 years old in state prison for the second time.”

That part of the story tomorrow…

God proves His love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Remind me that You love me, Creator.

 

September 16

God’s Love Leads Addict to Recovery, Part 3 

At age 22 and in prison for the second time, Jim Wahlberg finally heard a message about God’s love from none other than Mother Teresa—though at the time, Wahlberg had no idea who she was. She was visiting the prison, and before she even said a word, he could tell she was someone important and holy.

As the Mass for the inmates began, Mother Teresa was invited to sit in a place of honor next to the cardinal. But she adamantly refused, choosing instead to sit with the inmates.

Wahlberg recalled, “When her time came to speak, she spoke words that I never heard before: God loves you. Jesus died for you. You are more than your prison number. You are more than the crimes that you have committed to get here. You are a child of God.”

Those words touched something deep inside of Wahlberg that had never been touched before. With the help of a priest he befriended, he got his addictions under control. But his spiritual journey wasn’t a straight line from there. More of the story tomorrow…

You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Psalm 86:15)

Help me to rise above my past mistakes, Father.

September 17

God’s Love Leads Addict to Recovery, Part 4 

Jim Wahlberg finally absorbed the message that God loved him and found himself on track to embrace his Catholic faith in a deeper way than ever. But then, the Church’s abuse scandal rocked Boston, and Jim only saw the Church’s dark side and hypocrisy.

During a Christopher Closeup interview about his memoir The Big Hustle, Wahlberg said, “In my early recovery journey, after getting out of prison, I wasn’t focused on God. I was focused on myself.” He bought flashy gold chains and a fancy car because he wanted to look successful to the outside world.

During this time, Jim still accomplished some milestones in his life. He stayed free of drugs and alcohol for five years, got married, and had three children. But without God, he remained empty inside and even suicidal.

When Wahlberg finally embraced his Catholic faith and developed a relationship with Jesus, he began to flourish. He shared his experiences with people around the country and made several films about addiction. That part of the story tomorrow…

Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)

Guide people toward recovery from addiction, Jesus.

 

September 18

God’s Love Leads Addict to Recovery, Part 5 

Jim Wahlberg strove to make a difference for others struggling with addiction by making short films on the topic, as well as by traveling the country to share his story. He said, “I met hundreds of people who had lost their children. And I kept getting requests: will you come and show your film? Will you come and help facilitate a conversation? We need your help.

“I said, ‘God, I don’t know what You want from me, but I can’t walk away from these people. So I’m committing to You that I’m going to say, yes, Lord, whatever You want me to do.”

Jim went on to create 12 films about addiction, including What About the Kids? at WhatAboutTheKidsFilm.com. It tells the story of an eight-year-old girl whose parents are addicts. When her mother dies of an overdose, she is left in the custody of her religious grandmother, who teaches her to rely on God.

There is one common theme in both What About the Kids and Jim’s memoir The Big Hustle: “Stigma. It’s about not judging people and knowing that anything is possible with God.” More tomorrow…

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

How can I best do Your will in this world, Father?

September 19

God’s Love Leads Addict to Recovery, Part 6 

Jim Wahlberg’s addiction battle gave him the strength to practice mercy towards his father, who had been an alcoholic himself and never given Jim the affection he craved. Jim learned that the problem was generational. His father’s father was an emotionally cold alcoholic, so it was largely a matter of modeling the example that was set for him.

Wahlberg said, “My dad and I, we healed a lot. A lot of it wasn’t through words. It was through actions. My dad lived with me, in my home, with my family, as he got older and got weaker…He loved my children. All the things that I wanted to hear as a child, I watched him pour all over them, and tell them how adorable they are, how much he loved them.

“I learned a lot in the process, about my dad and how he was raised, about his limitations, about alcoholism, which he suffered from. I learned about all that through my own recovery, in my relationship with God. I learned about myself, and I saw the similarities between he and I. I came to [understand] that he did the best he could with the tools he was given.”

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)

May forgiveness, understanding, and compassion guide my relationships, Father.

 

September 20

God’s Love Leads Addict to Recovery, Part 7 

Jim Wahlberg learned that the stigma associated with addiction is hard to overcome. A Gallup poll once showed that addiction had no place on people’s concerns about the world.

A marketing expert explained to Jim, “When you call your neighbor and [say] your kid has cancer, they cook you a casserole. They cut your grass. They go to the supermarket for you. When you call your neighbors and say, ‘My son is suffering from addiction,’ they pull their shades down. They lock their doors. They tell their kids to stay away from you.”

Wahlberg observed, “Why is it that we’re willing to serve somebody in [one] instance, but not in [another]? This person is in danger of losing their child. Why is it that we do that? It’s stigma. It’s lack of understanding. It’s lack of education on the topic, and I get it…Most people don’t educate themselves on addiction until addiction shows up at their door.”

Today, Jim Wahlberg continues turning his pain into purpose. Having walked through the darkness of addiction, he has emerged into God’s light and is determined to share it with everyone who needs help.

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

Heal my biases against those with addictions, Savior.

September 11

A Christopher Prayer for 9/11

Giver of Life, on this day, we remember and pray for all the souls who died due to the shocking acts of violence committed on September 11th, 2001: the innocents on the planes and at work in the Twin Towers and Pentagon, the heroic passengers onboard Flight 93, and the selfless first responders who, while trying to save lives, lost their own, either on that day or in the ensuing years from 9/11-related illnesses.

Lord, we pray also for the families and friends the victims of 9/11 left behind. Though their grief might have eased over time, the hole in their lives remains. Help them to find joy in the memories of their loved ones, not just sadness at their absence.

Finally, Prince of Peace, guide us to live as people of peace, grounded in Your command to love God and our neighbors above all else. It is easy to succumb to the temptations of anger and hatred when wrongs are committed against us. But these all-consuming emotions lead to a dead end. Help us instead to find the beauty and goodness You placed in this world and to follow the words of Scripture:

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)

Embrace the souls lost on 9/11 in Your embrace, Father.

September 10

Never Ending Grief?

         Feelings of intense grief are natural when a spouse, child, parent, or other loved one dies. Experts say that the “all-consuming, debilitating pain eventually fades” for most people. “But for those with ‘prolonged grief disorder,’ an enigmatic condition that afflicts seven to 10 percent of bereaved adults, time does not heal. Instead, their anguish may persist, raw and unresolved for years, even decades.”

         Symptoms can include a tendency to blame yourself or others, avoidance of situations that remind you of the deceased, and social withdrawal. Complicated grief is now a recognized condition with a treatment developed by Dr. Katherine Shear from Columbia University’s School of Social Work.

According to an article in Columbia magazine, “The protocol focuses on three components of the mourning process: accepting the reality of the death, developing an ongoing relationship with the person who died, and envisioning a future in which the beloved is no longer physically present but possibilities for joy and happiness remain.”

You have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice. (John 16:22)

Jesus, heal my grief and lead me to joy again.

September 9

Reignite Your Spiritual Pilot Light

Dolly Parton lets her light shine in many ways, not just as an entertainer extraordinaire. One of her most impressive acts of philanthropy stems from her founding of the Imagination Library, which has donated more than 150 million books to children worldwide to promote literacy and self-esteem.

But even though she’s focused on shining a light on faith, hope, and goodness, Dolly endures times of darkness like everyone else. So how does she respond? As it says on the four Christopher Awards she has won, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

Dolly agrees with that sentiment. During a Christopher Closeup interview, she concluded that in times of darkness, “I go to that God core inside me. Even when I feel like my little pilot light might have gone out, I know it’s still there. I just have to reignite it through prayer, faith, love, friends, and family.”

It is You who light my lamp; the Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.
(Psalm 18:28)

When I’m feeling overwhelmed by darkness, Lord, ignite the light within me through service, prayer, family, friends, and the power of love.

September 8

Principal Gets Second Job to Help Students

When Principal Henry Darby of North Charleston High School in South Carolina took a part-time job at Walmart, he secretly used that paycheck to help support local kids and their families in need, not realizing the ripple effect that would ensue.

Principal Darby worked a full day at the high school, and then would stock shelves at Walmart from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., three nights every week. He secretly donated the money he earned to help local families struggling financially.

When word got out about Darby’s generous sacrifice, the community came together to raise even more money to bolster this wonderful cause, with Walmart donating $50,000 to Darby’s school.

In honor of Darby’s generous nature, the state presented him with its highest civilian honor, the Order of the Palmetto. As reported by NPR, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said, “Principal Darby personifies the best of South Carolina, a selfless person who goes above and beyond for others.”

A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water. (Proverbs 11:25)

Loving Jesus, thank You for leaders who model selfless behavior.

September 7

A Coffee and Ice Cream Surprise

On her way home from work, Alice Morrow Rowan stopped by a September Farm store to buy a cup of decaf coffee and a scoop of ice cream. In front of her on line were a mother, father, and their three little kids.

Recalling the incident on Facebook, Rowan wrote, “They apologized for making me wait so long while they ordered. I smiled and said it gave me enough time to make up my mind.

“When I got to the register, I was told that my coffee and ice cream had already been paid for! I didn’t quite know how to handle that, so I prayed, and continue to pray, for that family to be blessed tenfold for their generosity and kindness.”

Perhaps buying someone a coffee and ice cream sounds like a small gesture of kindness. But that small gesture can touch someone’s heart and spirit, as this case shows. It isn’t necessarily the magnitude of a good deed that makes it worthwhile, but the intention behind it. Keep your eyes open for an opportunity to practice a small kindness today.

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

Heavenly Father, remind me that all acts of kindness are reflections of Your kindness and infinite compassion towards us, Your children.

September 6

Embrace Ability

For 31 years, The Christophers has sponsored a poster contest for high school students, asking them to visually interpret the theme, “You can make a difference.” First Prize in 2021 was awarded to Alexi Ann Farrell, whose digital poster is comprised of photographs highlighting her volunteer work with youngsters who have special needs. In the center of the entry is the statement, “You can make a difference by embracing ability rather than disability.”

“In 2017, my vocal coach partnered with an organization called Gigi’s Playhouse, a Down syndrome achievement center,” Alexi explained in an e-mail to The Christophers, “to put on a performance led by individuals with Down syndrome. I was asked to assist in directing, as well as mentoring the students…and I fell in love with the work.”

         Farrell continued, “In the world today, people are so quick to judge individuals with special needs and focus on the things that they may be unable to do. Embracing their abilities instead of their disabilities not only gives them confidence, but also helps change society’s view of people with special needs.”

The Spirit gave them ability. (Acts 2:4)

May I celebrate everyone’s unique abilities, Jesus.

September 5

A Simple Way to Start Your Day

         St. Teresa of Calcutta is remembered for her charity work among the poorest in India. But she is also well-known for her practical spiritual guidance for those looking to grow closer to Jesus.

Writing for Aleteia, Sarah Robsdottir shared a piece of wisdom handed down from Father Gary Caster, who heard it from Mother Teresa: “Before you get out of bed…say ‘Good morning, Jesus.’” Father Caster explained that Mother Teresa gave him this advice 33 years ago, and it has helped him orient each day towards “speaking heart-to-heart with God.”

Speaking this way to God can help deepen your relationship with Him. It’s a simple way to acknowledge the presence of Jesus in our lives, from the very moment we wake up until the time we fall asleep. Just like we would greet a spouse or loved one, greeting God with a “good morning” can be a short prayer to start your day off right.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and

fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

(Acts 2:42)

Jesus, may I nurture my relationship with You at the start of each day.

August 24

Chaplain Inspires Faith Journey, Part 1

When award-winning New York Times sportswriter and author Joe Drape moved his family to Kansas in 2008, he didn’t know God was planting a seed. Drape thought he was just there to work on a book about an undefeated high school football team, the Smith Center Redmen, who had two rules: “Love one another, and let’s get better each day.”

But God never lets a good opportunity go to waste, and so while Drape was there, he learned about the life of Korean War hero Father Emil Kapaun, a Kansas native on the road to possible sainthood.

Drape, a lifelong—albeit lukewarm—Catholic, was impressed by Father Kapaun’s story, but nothing else came of it until seven years later when his publisher asked him if he had an interest in writing about something other than sports for his next book. That’s when Father Kapaun came to mind—and that’s why Joe has now authored The Saint Makers: Inside the Catholic Church and How a War Hero Inspired a Journey of Faith. More on Father Kapaun tomorrow…

I planted…but God gave the growth.

(1 Corinthians 3:6)

Help the seeds You plant in my life to flourish, Creator.

 

August 25

Chaplain Inspires Faith Journey, Part 2

Born in Pilsen, Kansas in 1916, Father Emil Kapaun found his calling-within-a-calling as a chaplain in the Army. That assignment led to him being sent to Korea with U.S. troops. As The Saint Makers author Joe Drape said during a Christopher Closeup interview, “Father Kapaun and his fellow GIs walked into 25,000 Chinese soldiers descending on 6,000 of them.”

         Father Kapaun quickly earned the respect of his fellow soldiers. He moved from battlefield to battlefield with his stole and ciborium, also carrying food, tobacco, and several canteens of water.  Drape said, “He crawled into these foxholes and never really pushed the faith on them. The most he’d say is, ‘Do you mind if we say a little prayer?’ It didn’t matter what faith they were, he never asked.

“During that stretch, a lot of people were getting slaughtered, and he would not leave the wounded behind. He would go to where the wounded were [and]…pile them up on the Jeep [himself]. It was almost superhuman. They just marveled at how he’d go into enemy fire and, with artillery going off, he’d always come back with men.” More tomorrow…

Take action, for it is your duty. (Ezra 10:4)

Fill me with courage in dangerous situations, Lord.

 

August 26

Chaplain Inspires Faith Journey, Part 3

Father Emil Kapaun and U.S. troops were eventually overwhelmed by the Chinese, having no choice but to surrender. But the Chinese didn’t want to bring wounded Americans with them to the POW camp, so they prepared to execute a soldier named Herb Miller, who had been hurt.

When Father Kapaun saw a Chinese soldier with his rifle aimed at Miller’s head, he rushed over, pushed the gun aside, put Miller on his own shoulder, and carried him 60 miles over a period of weeks until they arrived at the camp. Joe Drape, author of The Saint Makers about Father Kapaun, said, “That simple act made everybody around him pick up the wounded. It was a moment of leadership that everybody emulated.”

Under horrific conditions in the POW camp, Father Kapaun continued to care for his men. He helped feed them by foraging for berries and stealing food from the guards. “And when they were dying,” added Drape, “he would go sit with them and bury them, digging the hole himself…He was a 360-degree caregiver for these guys, and they all looked up to him.” More tomorrow…

He will not overlook…the love that you showed for His sake in serving the saints. (Hebrews 6:10)

Help me be a leader that emulates You, Jesus.

 

August 27

Chaplain Inspires Faith Journey, Part 4

Another one of Father Emil Kapaun’s best qualities that impressed author Joe Drape was his ecumenical approach to faith. Drape explained, “You had Turkish soldiers who were Muslims, they loved the guy. You had two Jewish doctors, they loved the guy. Atheists, Protestants, he just saw the goodness in everybody and was able to exude goodness back.”

Father Kapaun eventually died in the POW camp, but the men he served wouldn’t let his heroism and courage be forgotten. Their stories—along with a couple of miracles attributed to Father Kapaun’s intercession—paved the way for his consideration for sainthood.

Father Kapaun’s example also prompted Drape to reevaluate his own lackluster spiritual life. Specifically, he had forgotten how to pray. His friend, Father Jim Martin, gave Drape the guidance he needed, saying: “You have a teenage son. If he was troubled by something, wouldn’t you want him to come to you and ask for help?” Drape responded, “Yes.”

It’s the same with God, said Father Martin: “God wants you to come lay your troubles at His feet and let Him help you.”

Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer. (Psalm 4:1)

Lord, teach me to pray.

 

August 28

Chaplain Inspires Faith Journey, Part 5

In writing The Saint Makers about Father Emil Kapaun and his possible road to sainthood, Joe Drape found himself inspired by the priest’s selflessness and devotion to God and the soldiers to whom he ministered. He even began asking for Father Kapaun’s intercession, an idea that had never occurred to him before. Drape found his relationship with God and efforts to live out his faith greatly improved in the aftermath.

There is a lot more to The Saint Makers, so Drape encourages people to read the book. He described his hope for readers during a Christopher Closeup interview: “I did not intend for the book to come out in a divided culture in the midst of a pandemic, but it’s probably good it comes out at this time.

“I hope people pick it up and say, ‘[Father Kapaun] was just like me. He was nothing special, except he put his faith in God and put the effort in to serve God. He made the world a better place, and he endured illness, division, and ridicule about everything else, physically and mentally. And he did it with grace and dignity.’ That’s a worthy lesson to move on with.”

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

Jesus, help me to trust and serve You.

August 23

Singer Colton Dixon’s Miracle Daughter

On August 18th, 2020, singer Colton Dixon’s wife Annie was delivering twins at the hospital when suddenly a Caesarean was ordered. The parents were met with a heart-stopping situation—one of their twin babies, Dior, didn’t have a pulse.

In an interview with Pure Flix Podcast, Dixon said everything had been going well with the delivery until suddenly he knew “something didn’t look right” when his baby girl came out discolored. The Dixons watched and prayed in panic as the doctors got to work trying to save their daughter.  

Thankfully, the doctors were able to save Dior—and after a short time in the NICU for some head trauma, she is now home and doing well with her parents and her twin sister, Athens.

Colton released a song entitled “Miracles” early in 2020 and believes his daughter truly is a miracle: “Time and time again, we’ve seen God show up and work in a really mighty way, and this was no different.”

By his words, he performed swift miracles. (Sirach 45:3)

Jesus, please bestow Your blessings upon the babies in the NICU, their parents, and the healthcare workers. 

August 22

The Voice of Jeopardy

“This is Jeopardy!” For 37 years, the voice of Johnny Gilbert has kicked off each episode of the iconic game show with those words—and he’s still going strong at age 92.

As a child raised in Newport News, Virginia, Gilbert sang in his Lutheran Church’s choir and eventually pursued a career as a singer. He found some work, but also ran into a talent manager willing to hire him as an emcee at a local club.

As he recalled in an interview on the Today Show, Gilbert didn’t know what a Master of Ceremonies was, but the talent manager taught him how to introduce people on stage. Gilbert’s talent and charisma made him a quick study, bringing him a new skill for his résumé. TV announcing jobs followed, and in 1984 he was hired by Merv Griffin and Alex Trebek for Jeopardy.

After Trebek died from pancreatic cancer in 2021, Gilbert questioned whether he should continue on the show without his good friend. But executive producer Mike Richards still wants him there. He said, “If you just listen to the way Johnny articulates each name, each word, he has a voice and even more importantly, delivery, unlike anyone else.”

A gentle tongue is a tree of life. (Proverbs 15:4)

Teach me to develop my talents, Creator.

August 20

Backstreet Boys Make Dreams Come True

In order to have a little fun, several members of the Kentucky nonprofit Down Syndrome of Louisville recorded themselves lip syncing the 1999 Backstreet Boys hit “I Want It That Way,” because they were huge fans of the band.

Little did they know that their video would go viral and attract the attention of Backstreet Boys member Nick Carter. Not only did he share the video with his online followers, he invited the lip syncers to attend the band’s concert in their area. To say they were thrilled is an understatement.

Julie Torzewski, Down Syndrome of Louisville’s executive director, told CNN. “They’re uninhibited in their emotions, this is what makes them so special. They just embraced the moment, it bought them so much joy.”

The stars of the video and several of their friends got to hang out and sing with the Backstreet Boys before their concert. “It’s so cool to meet them, and they are awesome guys,” Ellie Fizer told WAVE3 News.​ Kudos to the band for bringing joy and a welcoming spirit to their fans with Down syndrome.

Let them ever sing for joy. (Psalm 5:11)

May we as a society be more open and welcoming to people with Down syndrome and special needs, Redeemer.

August 19

The History of Black Catholic Nuns

         At an event honoring the history of black Catholic nuns in the United States, Dr. Shannen Dee Williams of Villanova University said that generations of black Catholic nuns “fought against racism in order to answer God’s call in their lives.”

         Dr. Williams is the author of the book, Subversive Habits: The Untold Story of Black Catholic Nuns in the United States. In a story for Catholic News Agency, she explains that black Catholic nuns “are women who have deep roots in American Catholicism,” and she notes that their stories offer lessons about the fight for racial equality in the U.S. and in the Church.

         Referencing two early communities of black Catholic nuns, the Oblates of the Sisters of Providence (the first to accept formerly enslaved women) and the Sisters of the Holy Family, Williams laments the “profound resistance” they faced from fellow Catholics. Yet she strikes a hopeful tone for the future, saying, “The future of black women in religious life…may very well be in the hands of where the Church is growing, experiencing exponential growth, and that is in terms of Africa.”

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free.

(Galatians 3:28)

Lord, no matter our differences, unite us in Your love.

August 18

A Game in Their Chairs              

Basketball players at a Queens, New York high school learned that you can’t judge another team until you’ve played a game in their chairs.

To draw attention to the special talents of handicapped students, physically challenged basketball players went up against the school’s varsity team. The catch was that all participants had to play from wheelchairs.

In the end, the varsity team lost. Since these players usually jump to sink their shots, they hadn’t developed the upper arm strength needed to shoot baskets sitting down. Players and spectators alike quickly came to appreciate the agility and the skill of the Wheelchair athletes.

Getting to know the unique talents of others is an enlightening experience. What might initially be perceived as a weakness can actually be revealed as a strength. So celebrate and incorporate the special gifts of all. When we cooperate instead of compete, everybody wins.

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

Teach me to appreciate the gifts of all my fellow human beings, Creator.

August 17

How to Overcome Stress                                      

         Many of us find that stress is a constant companion, with society making almost impossible demands. There is the pressure of work. There is the pressure (often self-imposed) to wear the right clothes, drive the best car, or be constantly attractive physically. There is the pressure of real obligations, such as being a good parent, parishioner, or citizen.

         No one is immune from stress. So how do you cope with pressure? Here’s some advice from Rear Admiral William M. Lukash, a doctor since 1948 and former member of the White House medical staff.

         Many years ago, he said in U.S. News and World Report: “Certainly it’s important to get away from the job and relax. You can relax by enjoying good music, reading a book, being with your family. I personally endorse the use of vigorous physical exercise.”

         Sound advice. But consider one more thing: relax through prayer. If you need convincing, read the life story of almost any mystic. They found inner peace in the midst of turmoil. And you can, too.

Peace I leave with you. (John 14:27)

Father, help me to seek You out and ease my stress.

August 16

Medicine Bottles Can’t Block Horizon

You probably know Robert Louis Stevenson as the author of the classics Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  What you may not know is that the Scottish writer suffered from tuberculosis for years before he died, while only in his forties.

Despite serious health problems, Stevenson remained an optimist. He worked daily at keeping his attitude positive.

Once, after a severe coughing spell, his wife said to him, “I expect you still believe it’s a wonderful day.” He answered, “I do. I will never permit a row of medicine bottles to block my horizon.”

Troubles or misfortune can block our view. But we need not let circumstances control our attitude. When fear or indecision threaten to choke your spirit, hold to your faith, pray for the strength to persevere, and focus on the light that always shines on the horizon.

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from Him. (Psalm 62:5)

When my future seems dark, Oh Lord, be my light, my comfort, and my guide.

August 15

Mary and the Golden Thread

         When it comes to motherhood, there is no greater earthly and heavenly example than that of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. For therapist and mother of two Kimberly O’Connell, Mary is more than just a maternal role model. “I like to think of Mary as a…foresister,” O’Connell writes in The Catholic Moment, “a person whom I can consider a friend.”

         “Having children is truly like wearing your heart outside of yourself,” Kimberly continues. “You are distinctly you, and they are distinctly them, but there’s an invisible golden thread that binds our hearts to the hearts of our children…Mary, just like you, knows of this golden thread, and shares in our lineage.”

         “Mary knew what it was like to care for a Son in which ultimately everything was out of her control,” O’Connell concludes. “I believe we all have moments in our motherhood where we realize…our children’s lives are…outside our control…In these moments, we have the ability to stretch ourselves, to acknowledge our fears, and calm our hearts…Rest well with your image of Mary, and feel the connectedness in the golden string she extends from her heart to yours.”

Her children…call her blessed. (Proverbs 31:27)

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.

August 12

Finding God During Life’s Storms, Part 1        

“I love my Catholic faith because of my granddaughters, Katie and Laura.” Katie Prejean McGrady found that note in her grandmother’s Bible after she passed away from dementia in 2020—and she found many other notes, too.

“As I start to look at them,” Katie said on Christopher Closeup, “I realized that they were notes about all of us: her grandkids, my grandfather, her children. She had dementia, so she had begun forgetting things. She realized it, so she started writing things down so she could go back and read them. And I mean, beautiful things about all of us.

“So this little note [read], ‘I love my Catholic faith because of my granddaughters, Katie and Laura.’ It was a touching reminder that oftentimes when we evangelize, we have this perspective of: I have this information as the adult… and I’m going to give it to this young person, and they’re going to be grateful that I gave it to them. [But] a lot of times it happens in a very organic, reverse way, where it’s kids who love Jesus—and their love of Jesus inspires somebody else to want to know a little bit more about Him.”

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

Help me to better know and love You, Jesus.

 

August 13

Finding God During Life’s Storms, Part 2        

Two months after her grandmother’s funeral, Katie Prejean McGrady, her husband Tommy, and their three-year-old Rose returned to her grandfather’s house because they had to evacuate their Louisiana home due to Hurricane Laura. And, oh yeah, Katie was nine months pregnant at the time. Katie gave birth in a different hospital than she had planned—though, thankfully, baby Clare was healthy.

Three weeks later, another hurricane hit the McGrady’s home, leaving even more damage in its wake. That was the point when Katie felt fed up and raged at God. Then, unexpectedly, Katie felt the presence of God, reminding her that He is always faithful, even when His goodness is hard to see.

“He will hand us things that we certainly can’t handle on our own,” Katie explained on Christopher Closeup, “but that’s an even deeper and more challenging invitation to continue to trust. I can’t say I’ve always done that well…and that there haven’t been moments in prayer where I have raged and cried…So I’m a work in progress in figuring that out.”

Do not fear, for I am with you… I will strengthen you.

(Isaiah 41:10)

Help me to trust in You during dark times, Messiah.

 

August 14

Finding God During Life’s Storms, Part 3        

Despite the hardships she endured in 2020, Catholic speaker and radio host Katie Prejean McGrady found God’s presence as well, especially in her experiences with her grandfather. He had been living alone for more than a year since her grandmother had to move into an assisted living facility. “Loneliness hits you hard after you’ve spent 50 plus years of your life with the same person day in and day out,” Katie noted.

Suddenly, during the McGrady’s evacuation, her grandfather had a fuller house than he’d had in ages! There was Katie, her husband, her daughter, three dogs, and Katie’s parents. Katie said, “There was so much life in that house for those eight weeks! Every morning, he would wake up, and he and my daughter…would sit on the back porch…and eat an oatmeal cream pie for breakfast…They became best buds.

“I got to bring my newborn daughter into the house where my grandparents lived…[My grandfather] was so attentive and loving…The circumstances were awful, but every day we got to fill his house with joy.”

Do not cast me off in the time of old age. (Psalm 71:9)

How can I bring joy and companionship to the elders in my life, Jesus?

August 11

Modeling—and Teaching—Giving

For more than 30 years, Beth Chambers has been following Jesus’ mandate to feed the hungry through her work as Director of Catholic Charities of Greater Boston. In that role, writes Mayra Parrilla Guerrero in The Boston Scope, she runs the Teen Center in Dorchester, which supplies needy students in grades 5 through 12 with free breakfasts and lunches, as well as a summer camp program.

Describing the scope of her work, Chambers said, “We have ESL classes, adult education classes, and six food pantries. We also have shelters in Boston and outside of Boston that specialize in homeless families and women in treatment who are able to keep the children in placement with them. We have emergency services to help people with their bills. So we are a multi-service agency.”

The Teen Center provides a safe space for young people and sends them on field trips, among other activities. Some teens also volunteer at the food pantries in order to learn about helping those who are less fortunate than they are.

You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity. (2 Corinthians 9:11)

May I be a model of good works, Divine Giver.

August 10

Adopt a Flowerbed                   

The grounds of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Holladay, Utah, includes a lot of outdoor space where weeds grow rampant. Father John Norman, the pastor, told the Intermountain Catholic’s Linda Petersen that there was no way he could keep up with the landscaping during the summer months. Then, the idea for a unique initiative blossomed in his mind: an “adopt a flowerbed” program.

More than 20 parishioners volunteered to take care of the landscaping, trimming, and pruning of various parts of the property—and they did a magnificent job! Pattie and Darold LeClaire, for instance, cleared out a “rocky and weed-infested” area, bringing in shrubs, trees, and flowers at their own expense.

In addition, the parish has created a “Share the Harvest” program, through which “parishioners share fresh vegetables and fruit from their gardens. The produce is placed in the entryway of the church,” where parishioners who live in nursing homes or care centers can take some fresh fruits and vegetables home with them. Father Norman concludes, “There’s no stopping people’s kindness once you get started.”

The Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. (Genesis 2:9)

May more acts of kindness bloom in our world, Creator.

August 9

Invest Your Humanity                          

         Dr. Albert Schweitzer was an authority on music and a perceptive theologian, but he gave up careers in those fields to concentrate on humanitarian work, providing medical care to the people of equatorial Africa. He expressed his philosophy on fulfillment in the following way:

         “Open your eyes and look for some man, or some work for the sake of men, which needs a little time, a little friendship, a little sympathy, a little sociability, a little human toil. Perhaps it is a lonely person or [a disabled person]…to whom you can be something. It may be an old man, or it may be a child. Or some good work in want of volunteers who will devote a free evening to it or will run errands for it.

         “Therefore, search and see if there is not some place where you may invest your humanity. Do not be put off if you find that you have to wait and experiment. Be sure that you will have disappointments to endure. But do not be satisfied without some sideline in which you may give yourself out. There is one waiting for you if only you are willing to take it up.”

Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all. (Mark 9:35)

Jesus, how may I best use my gifts to serve others?

August 8

Winning Isn’t Everything

Back in 1912, during the Invitational for Ladies at Shawnee-on-Delaware in Pennsylvania, one golfer took 166 strokes to make the 16th hole.

When her tee shot landed in the river and floated downstream, the woman and her husband hopped in a rowboat and followed the ball. A mile and a half later, she managed to knock it back onto shore. The woman then played through the woods until she returned to the golf course and finally sank her shot.

Safe to say, she lost that tournament. But this woman proved herself to be a “pro” in all that matters. She demonstrated persistence, dedication, and honor in a situation where most people would have just given up. Doing what she loved was more important than winning.

That’s an important lesson. You may not be able to win all the time, but you can always enjoy the game.

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)

Jesus, even though I stumble sometimes on my path to You, help me to get up and try again.

August 7

Thistle Farms Grows Hope                      

Experiencing child abuse and the death of her father when she was only five years old instilled Becca Stevens with a yearning to help others. As an adult, that’s exactly what the Nashville resident did by creating Thistle Farms, an organization that provides homes and job training for women who are former addicts, prostitutes, and victims of human trafficking.

Stevens’ mission began more than 20 years ago when she purchased a house and invited five women looking to rebuild their lives to reside there. She told Sounds Like Nashville’s Annie Reuter, “I wanted to work alongside the women in a powerful way, not in a way where you’re just giving them a sandwich or saying a prayer, but to say, ‘Let’s do this together and figure out what love looks like.’”

To sustain Thistle Farms, Stevens started a business in which residents make candles, oils, and other body products that are sold to 400 stores nationwide. The candles are especially meaningful to Stevens. She said, “In the midst of a lot of darkness, if we have a tiny bit of light, you can find your way.”

Every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.

(Hebrews 3:4)

Guide all victims of abuse to healing, Messiah.

August 6

A Saint for Today

The lives of the saints can be inspiring and thought-provoking, especially during difficult times. When the COVID pandemic hit, and churches were being closed throughout the country for public health reasons, Kathryn Jean Lopez wrote in Angelus about one of her inspirations: Claire of Assisi.

Lopez first encountered St. Claire during a pilgrimage to Assisi, and was immediately drawn to her writings and perspective. St. Claire’s passage on looking on the mirror of Christ, with His chosen poverty, sorrows, and lamentations, helps connect us to God during our times of trouble. The image of St. Claire, holding the Eucharist, is from a story where the sickly nun was able a turn away an invading army with just her faith and the Blessed Sacrament.  

Lopez writes, “There are two lessons… First, trust in Jesus. His presence in the world is real and has power, more power than everything that tempts us to despair…The other message is the call to always be His presence. We have no idea what’s to come.” Truly a good lesson for uncertain times!

Jesus…seeing her…said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” (Matthew 9:22)

God, may we never fear the future in Your loving presence.

August 3

The Power of Selflessness, Part 1

News anchor Richard Lui recently wrote a book called Enough About Me: The Unexpected Power of Selflessness. And though he didn’t know it at the time, the seeds of the book were planted by his parents when he was growing up in California.

Richard’s father Stephen was a Presbyterian minister, youth pastor, and social worker, while his mother worked as a teacher. She loved her job so much that she turned down promotions because she wanted to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds get a better education and fulfill their potential.

However, she took a break from teaching to raise her kids.
As a result, the Luis didn’t earn enough money to fully support Richard and his siblings. During a Christopher Closeup interview, he recalled, “We were on food stamps and, thanks to the welfare system, able to get by.”

Despite not having a lot, materially speaking, Richard witnessed his parents helping others in whatever ways they could. That’s why he knew that when his father began showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease, he would have to exercise his own “selflessness muscles.” More tomorrow…

Be rich in good works. (1 Timothy 6:18)

Help me exercise my selflessness muscles, Lord.

 

August 4

The Power of Selflessness, Part 2            

“Richard, your dad can’t remember our names.” With those words from a relative at a family reunion, the reality of Alzheimer’s Disease entered Richard Lui’s family, and his life began to change. The New York-based news anchor had spent years building his career on CNN, NBC, and MSNBC, but he was willing to give it all up to help care for his father in California.

Richard planned to approach his boss at MSNBC, Yvette Miley, about his situation, but he expected her to tell him they couldn’t accommodate him wanting to work fewer hours. To his surprise, however, Miley revealed that she herself was caring for her mother in California. She understood his situation and was willing to work around his schedule.

For the past seven years, therefore, Richard has been on-air in New York two or three days a week, while commuting to California to help care for his father the rest of the time (at least until COVID shut down traveling in 2020). Prior to that, he estimates that he traveled between 300,000 to 500,000 miles a year. He is grateful for his boss’s selflessness. More tomorrow…

Honor your father and your mother. (Exodus 20:12)

May we as a society take better care of our elderly, who need love and care, Father.

 

August 5

The Power of Selflessness, Part 3                        

Richard Lui’s boss was kind enough to reconfigure his work schedule, giving him time to care for his ailing father. But this wasn’t Richard’s first experience with an employer who acted with an employee’s best interest at heart.

When Richard was a student at UC Berkeley during the 1990s, he was hired for a marketing position at a small manufacturing company run by a man named Mike Breslin. Things were going well for a time, but a national recession hit the business hard, so Breslin informed his staff that they would have to take a 20 percent pay cut until finances improved. What Breslin didn’t reveal was that he was cutting his own salary to $0, so that he could keep his employees on the job.

It is an example of selflessness that motivates Richard to this day, and which makes its way into his book Enough About Me: The Unexpected Power of Selflessness. In his research, Richard learned that selflessness in the business world results in more success than acts of selfishness—and that productivity increases significantly when a boss offers gratitude to workers.

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

Remind me to make sacrifices for others, Paraclete.

August 2

Retiree Keeps Changing the World

Some people look forward to retirement as a time to relax or travel. And in a way, that’s what Olga Murray did when she moved on from her legal career 30 years ago. But her form of retirement is quite active and focused on changing lives.

As reported by Jamie Yuccas of CBS News, after Murray retired, she traveled to the country of Nepal “on a whim.” She soon found herself in love with the country and its people. “The children, they held my hand, they laughed,” she recalled. “They were just so delightful, and they wanted to go to school. Most kids didn't go to school then.” 

Murray realized that her new passion in life was educating these children, so she created the “Nepal Youth Foundation, a nonprofit that combats poverty, builds schools, and rescues girls forced into servitude.” As a result of Murray’s work, 50,000 kids have been educated and 72 hospitals have been built. Murray, now age 96,” observed, “I don’t think about stopping and, you know, as long as I have my marbles and I’m healthy, I’ll just continue to do that.”

Moses was 120 years old when he died…his vigor had not abated. (Deuteronomy 34:7)

Give our elders good health, passion, and purpose, Lord.

August 1

Hero Puts Faith Into Action

Freelance TV cameraman Sean Conaboy was heading home from a job in Manhattan one night in May 2021. His regular subway was undergoing track work, so he decided to take a different train to get back to Brooklyn. That decision proved to be life-altering for Conaboy and a woman named Kelli Daley.

As reported by The Tablet, newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn, Conaboy stood on the subway platform and noticed a man wearing winter clothes, even though it was warm outside. Soon after, Conaboy heard a woman screaming nearby! He looked up to see the suspicious stranger stabbing this woman, Kelli Daley. Conaboy tackled the attacker and wrestled him onto the ground until police arrived. His actions saved Daley’s life.

Conaboy, a lifelong Catholic who attends Mass at St. Michael’s Church in Sunset Park, was hailed as a hero throughout the city. The 52-year-old accepted the praise humbly, and added, “When I reflect back on it, yes, I think God was with me at that moment…Moments to put faith into action happen every day. All you have to do is look up.”

Be strong and courageous…The Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

Inspire me to put my faith into action, Savior.

July 31

Bonding with God

         The wisdom of St. Ignatius of Loyola once helped Seth Haines overcome a disordered attachment to alcohol. In an article for America Magazine, Haines recalled his journey to sobriety after encountering the idea of bonded attachments, wherein healthy relationships are fostered to support personal wellbeing.

Wanting to extend this concept of stability into his spiritual life, Haines began to search for a way to cultivate a bonded attachment to God. Though he wasn’t Catholic at the time, his search led him to explore the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and he began to learn how to utilize imaginative prayer to overcome disordered attachments. Haines wrote, “[Ignatius] attached himself to the divine love of God through Christ and treated everything else as secondary.”

         Referencing Ignatius’ characterization of himself as “a man given to the vanities of the world,” Haines encourages us to follow the Spiritual Exercises to become people who, “Cultivate a bonded attachment with the Giver instead of the gifts.”          

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.

(James 4:8)

God, may I deepen my relationship with You.

July 30

                                       Cupcakes for a Cause                                           

         Since 2016, when they lost their grandfather to bladder cancer, the Andrade family has worked hard to raise money to aid cancer research. As a matter of fact, over the past several years, they’ve collected a whopping $160,000 for the Jimmy Fund, which helps support the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

But in 2020, seventh grader Gabriella Andrade decided to spearhead her own project to fundraise for cancer research, by utilizing a hobby she particularly enjoys and excels in: baking!

In just one year, with the assistance of her little sister and her parents, who covered the cost of her supplies, Gabby sold over 300 cupcakes, netting a profit of $1,100 for the Jimmy Fund. She was recognized as one of Rhode Island’s top youth volunteers of 2021 by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Gabby’s award includes a $2,500 scholarship, a silver medallion, and an invitation to a virtual awards ceremony.

“It is so spectacular to think about the impact one little cupcake can make!” 12-year-old Gabby exclaimed to the Rhode Island Catholic.

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

Abba, may we utilize our God-given talents to help others.

July 28

Two Friends Defy the Odds

When they were born with brain damage, neither Odin Frost nor Jordan Granberry was expected to survive. But the two best friends defied the odds and graduated high school together.

The two boys met at Wayne D. Boshears Center for Exceptional Programs in Tyler, Texas, when they were just three years old. Tim Frost, Odin’s dad, told CBS News, “They pretty much had this immediate bond. Neither one of them could speak, but wherever the other one was, they were always together.”

Their friendship continued to blossom, and despite having received a two percent survival rate diagnosis from doctors, both Frost and Granberry reached essential milestones together.

And on July 16th, 2020, both Frost and Granberry attended their high school graduation ceremony and crossed the stage to get their diplomas. “It’s something we thought would never happen,” Tim Frost said. “We didn’t think [Odin] was going to live...Now he’s walking the stage and graduated.”

But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. (Psalm 55:13)

Heavenly Lord, bless all those who live with special needs, and surround them with true love and friendship.

July 27

A Bridge of Friendship

         It’s 1,100 miles from Eaton Rapids, Michigan, to Wichita Falls, Texas, but friendship offered in adversity bridged the distance. When a tornado struck Wichita Falls many years ago, 22 people from Methodist congregations in Eaton Rapids and nearby towns drove to the Texas community to help its residents rebuild their homes.

It was the sort of personal response to disaster that had become traditional with members of the United Methodist Church in Eaton Rapids. For years, they donated skills and labor to families living in areas hit by natural disasters, such as tornadoes and floods.

The volunteers paid their own expenses, setting up headquarters in local churches on arriving at a disaster scene where they could be of assistance. Frequently, they gave money to those in need of help. They raised the money through a maple sugaring operation.

In helping those near and far, we testify to the essential unity of the human race.

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! (
Psalm 133:1)

Inspire me to reach out to those in need, Lord.

July 21

Olympian Finds Faith and Success, Part 1        

Scott Hamilton is known for winning the gold medal in figure skating for the United States at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. But as a child, Scott suffered from low self-esteem for various reasons. He was shorter than all his classmates and wasn’t growing; he endured numerous hospital stays due to a mystery illness that left him feeling sick much of the time; and he was bullied because he was adopted.

After four years of trying to determine his illness, one doctor finally told Scott’s parents, “We can’t figure this thing out, but I can give you some real solid advice, and that’s go home and live a normal life.”

Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton were exhausted from the nonstop caretaking, so they took the advice of their family physician, who recommended they send Scott to ice skating lessons every Saturday morning at a new facility nearby. Not only did it give the couple some necessary downtime, it exposed Scott to a talent he didn’t know he had. More tomorrow…

There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit… It is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. (1 Corinthians 12:4,6)

Guide me in discovering my talents, Holy Spirit.

July 22

Olympian Finds Faith and Success, Part 2        

After beginning ice skating lessons, Scott Hamilton quickly became an excellent athlete and felt healthy self-esteem for the first time. His medical problems also miraculously improved as he pursued his new passion. Scott’s mother was his greatest champion throughout his childhood and teen years. She also served as a model of optimism, even after she was diagnosed with cancer when Scott was a sophomore in high school.

During a Christopher Closeup interview, he said, “She was always finding the best side of everything, and I understood that was a conscious choice on her part. She fought [cancer] for two years and then succumbed. And it was like, how do I live without her? [But] I was able to mourn her in the best way possible: by trying to become the person that she always thought I could be.”

Scott himself was diagnosed with cancer as an adult. He observed, “I learned that there’s the opportunity for something spectacular on the other side. It allows you to endure whatever your condition is, knowing there’s a promise of a better day.” More tomorrow…

Be transformed by the renewing of your minds. (Romans 12:2)

May my endurance lead me to hope, Savior.

July 23

Olympian Finds Faith and Success, Part 3        

Though Scott Hamilton faced his struggles with a spirit of Christian hope, he didn’t always have that firm grounding. He felt he had a guardian angel looking out for him, but he didn’t understand the Bible when he first picked it up to read it.

“One day,” recalled Scott during a Christopher Closeup interview, “I went on a walk, and I sat and opened my heart to allow God in because I didn’t know how to reach Him. I was hoping He would reach me…When I was up against [tough times], I would pray. I didn’t know how I was praying or who I was praying to. Anytime I had a problem, if I verbalized it, that solution would come to me.”

After dating Tracie, the woman who would become his wife, Scott’s spiritual seeking found both a direction and a destination. Since they wanted their relationship to move forward, Tracie introduced Scott to her minister, who recommended that Scott read the Bible again, but this time focus on God’s interactions with His people. That became the key to Scott’s new understanding of Scripture. More tomorrow…

I am your servant; give me understanding. (Psalm 119:125)

Teach me to understand Your words and will, Father.

July 24

Olympian Finds Faith and Success, Part 4        

In reading the Bible again, Scott Hamilton came to believe “that every single thing I need to know was given to me by Jesus. Every way of solving a problem, of redeeming a relationship, of rising above any affliction.”

Scott recently created a podcast called Live Your Days and does his best to include a “faith element” with his guests. He explained, “I look at it as the four legs of a chair…1) The physical, we’ve got to be healthy. 2) Emotional, we’ve got to feel good about ourselves. 3) Intellectual, we’ve got to be interested in growing, [in] understanding who we are in the world and how we fit in it. 4) And then the last piece is the Spirit. If any one of those four legs are missing, you’re probably going to fall down.”

Scott then revealed that he fell ill a few years ago: “No one could figure out what was wrong. I felt my life force slipping away…I knew I was going to die and I was 100% comfortable with that…What a gift that was to understand that when I get to the end of these days, I’ll be able to accept it because of what I’ve learned about who I am in Christ.” More tomorrow…

Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. (John 11:26)

Teach me who I am in You, Jesus.

July 25

Olympian Finds Faith and Success, Part 5        

Gratitude is one of the hallmarks of Scott Hamilton’s life now. And though he was bullied as a child for being adopted, he has come to realize the beauty of what his parents did for him.

He said, “Being adopted is a huge part of my identity. I was loved, unconditionally, sacrificially loved. [And I had] that experience of seeing my mom and dad leverage everything they had to get me the healthcare I needed, and then put me in skating, almost at their own financial ruin…[They] taught me that it doesn’t matter if you’re biologically a child or if you are chosen. To be in a family, it’s a treasured gift.”

Scott and Tracie eventually started their own family, and it was momentous. Scott said, “When my son [Aidan] was born and I looked into his eyes, I was looking into flesh of my own flesh for the very first time ever. It was powerful.”

After Scott’s bout with testicular cancer and a pituitary brain tumor, he and Tracie didn’t think having another baby was likely. Nevertheless, they had another son named Maxx, whom they consider a miracle. They also adopted two children from Haiti, bring Scott’s adoption journey full circle.

[Children] are a heritage from the Lord. (Psalm 127:3)

Instill parents with sacrificial love, Savior.

July 26

Olympian Finds Faith and Success, Part 6        

At this point in his life, Scott Hamilton remains focused on giving back for the blessings he has received. He created the Scott Hamilton Cares Foundation to fund research for cancer treatment options. And he hopes that his Live Your Days podcast encourages viewers to live their lives to the fullest.

During a Christopher Closeup interview, Scott concluded, “Since I started the whole Live Your Days platform, there’s been days where the world just comes at me…It’s really wild that the more you put out something on building joy, building gratitude, building ownership of your life, the more that the forces of this world try to pull the rug out from underneath you.

“You know, my brain tumor started to grow back a little bit, and we’re keeping an eye on it still. [But] I’m not going to just sit down and think about that thing all day long. I have options, and if I have to endure another episode of whatever, I will. I’m still here, and I’m still fighting and I’m still craving every opportunity to live joyfully and productively.”

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

Help me to live with joy and gratitude, Paraclete.

July 20

A Pioneer at First Base                            

The San Francisco Giants defeated the Oakland Athletics on July 20th, 2020, but all eyes were on first base when 30-year-old Alyssa Nakken appeared in uniform on the field, serving as the first female coach in a major league baseball game.

Before breaking barriers, Nakken was already seen as a “strong leader” by her alma mater, the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco. Dan Rascher, director of academics for the Master’s degree program in sports management, told Catholic News Service, “[Nakken] has been very helpful for many students…men and women…interested in working in baseball.”

As the Giants’ assistant first base coach, Nakken develops, produces, and directs a number of the organization’s health and wellness initiatives, and helps oversee outfield and baserunning instruction.

Coaching was something Nakken hadn’t expected to do, so she feels a great sense of responsibility, saying, “I’m so excited to be in this role for the challenge…But also, I’m excited that now girls can see there is a job on the field in baseball.”

I press on toward the goal. (Philippians 3:14)

Lord, give me the strength to pursue my goals, despite obstacles in my way. 

July 19

Deaf Priest Making a Difference

Father Min Seo Park, one of only two dozen deaf priests in the world, arrived in the United States from his native country of Seoul, South Korea, in 2021, to serve as chaplain to the Catholic community at Gallaudet University. He is also serving an underrepresented deaf community that believes deafness should be treated as a culture.

Deaf since an illness at the age of two, Father Park grew frustrated by the Church’s lack of priests who could offer Mass in sign language. As reported by the Catholic Standard, Father Park prayed to Jesus Christ on the cross: “I asked Him if He could send a signing priest for the deaf. However, suddenly I felt that Jesus said to me, ‘Why not you?’”  

The path to his vocation was not easy, and Father Park struggled to keep up with his studies at St. John’s Seminary in New York. Luckily, the seminary provided sign language interpretation, making it easier to stay on track. Ordained in 2007, he taught several seminarians sign language, already helping to fill a gaping need to minister to the deaf. And he’s only getting started.

You shall not revile the deaf. (Leviticus 19:14)

Lord, may we heed Your calling and take up our vocation.

July 18

Helping with Healing

         For some people, it’s almost as difficult to handle the illness of a relative or friend, as it is to cope with our own diminished abilities when we ourselves are ill. While visiting a patient, we may feel uncomfortable, not knowing what to say or how to help.

         Even so, our presence is often the best gift we can give a patient. Here are some suggestions to enhance that gift:

■ Make your visit short, and be alert to signs of fatigue or pain.

■ Come close to the person physically, even touching him or her to show your concern and your acceptance of the person as he or she now is.

■ Avoid false cheeriness or empty words. Those who are in pain are aware that they don’t really “look great.”

■ Offer to help the patient or the family by babysitting, running an errand, or cooking a meal.

Friends and relatives, through their interest, can ease the pain of the sick person and aid in the healing process. There are times we are each called to fill the role of healer.       

God has appointed in the church…gifts of healing. (1 Corinthians 12:28)

Lord, let me be a consolation to someone who is ailing.

 

July 17

Love Can’t Be Caged

         Father Walter Ciszek didn’t let himself be defeated by 23 years of degradation, hunger, exhaustion and, at times, isolation. During an interview with The Christophers many years ago, the Jesuit priest discussed his life in Russian prisons and labor camps as an alleged “spy of the Vatican.” (He was released in 1963 in exchange for two Soviet spies.)

In those harrowing situations, Father Ciszek came to realize what was to be the scope of his priestly mission: “in every situation [to] react as best I could with the convictions I had,” despite his own personal misery.      

         Although he experienced cruelty, Father Ciszek also felt the concern of others. Fellow captives expressed love through their hospitality. He recalled, “They would share with me. And in the camp, if you would share a piece of bread that you got with a friend of yours, that meant you respected him. That meant you were giving part of your life away.”

         For us, hospitality and sharing don’t usually involve giving part of our lives away. But they do demonstrate selflessness, which is a reflection of the divine.

         Share your bread with the hungry. (Isaiah 58:7)

         Jesus, give me the strength to choose selflessness.

July 16

Sanitation Worker’s Road to Harvard

Rehan Staton suffered a career-shattering injury, nearly crushing his hopes for his future. But then he got help from unlikely co-workers who put him on the path to Harvard Law. 

Staton grew up in poverty in Bowie, Maryland. As reported by Good Morning America, he trained religiously to be a boxer, surrounded by people who lauded his athletic abilities more than his grades. Staton was ready to go pro when he suddenly developed severe tendonitis right before graduation, shattering his boxing dreams. Due to his low grades, he gave up hope of going to college. Instead, he landed a job as a sanitation worker.

To Staton’s surprise, his sanitation co-workers became a guiding light. They saw his potential and connected him with a professor at Bowie State University, a school that initially denied him. The professor encouraged the university to enroll Staton.

Staton flourished, graduated with honors, and was accepted into Harvard Law School in 2020. That surreal moment made all the sacrifice worthwhile. He said, “You can always see the light in any dark situation…You need to hold on to that light.”

It is You who light my lamp; the Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.
(Psalm 18:28)

God, show us the light in times of darkness and uncertainty.

July 15

How to Handle Disputes

         Family disagreements have been with us since the beginning of time, so here are a few ideas on handling conflict productively:

■ Be willing to discuss matters and give consideration to the views of others.

■ Stick to the point of the conflict; don’t inject irrelevancies.

■ Don’t argue at mealtime.

■ Don’t argue in front of others.

■ Never abuse anyone physically, verbally, or psychologically.

■ Don’t resort to unfair tactics to win your point.

■ Look for areas of agreement.

■ Be willing to admit when you’re wrong.

■ Be willing to forget the disagreement once it’s behind you.

■ Be willing to forgive or apologize if either is called for.

Do not answer before you listen, and do not interrupt when another is speaking. (Sirach 11:8)

Lord, teach me to disagree without being disagreeable.

July 14

Fulfilling a Dream at Age 95

         At age 95, Brigid Kavanagh was given “a new lease of life,” according to her son Declan, who, along with his brother Sean, helped his mother fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming an author. 

         Kavanagh was told by nuns in her early school days, “You should be a writer.” Despite that initial nudge in that direction, Kavanagh never attempted to fulfill that passion until later in life. She finally took a chance in her eighties, but faced a series of rejections from publishers.

         Kavanagh thought her dream of seeing her words in print was over. However, in 2020 with the strict lockdown in Ireland, Kavanagh’s sons, Declan and Sean, seized the opportunity to help their 95-year-old mother fulfill her ambition and publish her memoir, In My Mind’s Eye: Walking Amongst Ghosts.

         Seeing her words finally in print was truly a dream come true for Kavanagh, but moreso, she was grateful to her sons for making this dream a reality. “I just can’t believe it,” Kavanagh shared with RTE News. “I’m absolutely thrilled.”

He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age. (Ruth 4:15)

Loving Jesus, may we never lose sight of our dreams.

July 12

The Commandments of Freedom

Sister Nathalie Becquart, xmcj, is the Xaviere sister that Pope Francis appointed to the job of Under-Secretary to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. She also reflects on Scripture for Salt and Light Media. She recently shared lessons from the story of the Ten Commandments in Exodus.

Sister Nathalie wrote, “In first place is the experience with God, the encounter with Him…which is a journey towards true liberty. In this way, the Lord our God is presented as the Lord of Liberation, the One who wants human beings to be free from slavery, free from idolatry. His Law is a law of freedom, of liberty. And the Psalm tells us that His decrees and precepts have a truly positive impact on us.

“The effects of God’s law are comparable to the fruits of the Spirit: refreshing the soul, giving wisdom to the simple, rejoicing the heart, enlightening the eye, enduring forever. The aim of this Law is about incarnated life, as our God is a God of Life, concerned with our concrete lives. He wants to feed us, to meet our deepest desires.”

The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)

Guide me in observing Your commandments, Lord.

July 11

Kids 4 Change

         You’re “never too young” to make a difference. This is what 11-year-old Cartier Carey of Hampton, Virginia, believes with all of his heart. He became living proof of this credo in the summer of 2020, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, when he opened a lemonade stand, which ended up raising a whopping $4,500 in profits in just one month.

Cartier decided to use this money to buy supplies for parents in need, even setting up a special diaper donation sideline as well. “There was no diapers at all [in the stores],” Carey told ABC News, “and I was like, ‘Oh, people are having babies, so I should help [them] afford diapers.’”

Cartier collected over 22,000 diapers to distribute for this purpose and continued his charitable work into the virtual school year through the establishment of a nonprofit entitled “Kids 4 Change.” He urged his peers to start similar initiatives within their own communities, matter-of-factly concluding that “others can [also] make a difference, just like I’m doing now.”

Let no one despise your youth, but set…an example…in love. (1 Timothy 4:12)

Father, may we seek to emulate the pure, selfless generosity of our children.

July 10

                                        Saved by a Cyclist                                     

         Gregory Randolph, age 73, was exploring the remote terrain of Lake County, Oregon, when his Jeep got stuck in a dry waterbed between two narrow sides of a canyon. Miles away from civilization with no emergency equipment to dislodge his Jeep, not to mention any cell phone service, Randolph stayed the first night in his car with his two dogs, Buddy and Cruella. The next day, he decided to walk for help, but after 14 miles, he collapsed from heat exhaustion.

Miraculously, a young cyclist on a weeklong getaway, Tomas Quinones, soon found the prone Randolph with one of his canines, Cruella, nearby, loyally standing guard. Having the proper supplies on hand, Quinones got to work reviving him.

Although Quinones had no cell phone signal himself, he did have a SPOT tracker device, which allowed him to send out a signal for assistance. Thanks to Quinones, Gregory and his two dogs survived their harrowing expedition. Quinones humbly told KPTV, “I just happened to be in the right spot at the right time.”  

The human…plans…the Lord directs the steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Lord, we thank You for the assistance of Good Samaritans.

July 9

Don’t Let Age Hold You Back                

Gymnastics is generally seen as a young person’s sport, with most competitors being in their teens or early twenties. But Chelsie Memmel is trying to push past those boundaries by returning to competition at age 32.

In 2005, Memmel won the title of world’s all-around champion, and in 2008, she earned an Olympic silver medal. She retired from gymnastics in 2012, got married, and gave birth to two children.

During the pandemic in 2020, Memmel started practicing gymnastics again at the gym her parent’s own in Wisconsin. The workouts reignited her passion for the sport, as well as her desire to compete again. In 2021, she performed well enough at the U.S. Classic to qualify for the national championships.

Memmel told USA Today, “The biggest thing for me is don’t be afraid to go after something, to set a goal. And try not to listen to someone who tells you, ‘Yeah, you probably can’t do it.’ It should be about you and your journey and not listening to people who don’t think you can.”

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance. (Proverbs 21:5)

Jesus, help me to believe in myself and my abilities.

July 8

                                   Eagle Scout to the Rescue                                    

On a mountain hiking trail in Hudson Valley, New York, a 10-year-old boy became separated from his family. While wandering alone, he slipped onto a slope and found himself desperately clinging to the side of the mountain, 20-feet above a highway. Thankfully, Lawrence Chiulli, an Eagle Scout, came swooping in for the rescue.

Chiulli jumped into action the minute he saw the boy was in trouble. “I noticed that he was in a spot where he wouldn’t be able to hold on much longer, though I told him he could,” Chiulli told CBS New York’s Tony Aiello.

Being both an Eagle Scout and member of the National Guard, Chiulli was trained to remain calm in times of crisis. He scrambled up the mountain and got there just in time, as the boy was slipping. Chiulli helped him hang on until first responders arrived and maneuvered a bucket truck beneath them to bring them to safety and reunite the boy with his family.

Chiulli concluded, “I was genuinely happy to be in the right place at the right time.”

The Lord God of hosts has a day of tumult...a cry for help to the mountains.

(Isaiah 22:5)

Lord, place me in the right place at the right time.

July 7

                        More Good, Part Three                           

While visiting Wichita, Kansas, in her quest to document stories of goodness from around the country, Mary Latham met a woman named Julie, who had been shot in a robbery. As recounted in the Saturday Evening Post, complications from surgery resulted in Julie losing both arms below the elbow and both legs below the knee. Then, one week after her release from the hospital, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Julie told Latham that she came to realize that lying on her couch feeling sorry for herself was a dead end. She now travels to various hospitals to be a source of comfort, compassion, and guidance to patients who have lost limbs.

Latham observed, “I think that’s a theme of all of these stories. People are going through something tragic, and they immediately turn around and figure out how to help the next person. If their child dies, now they’re helping other families that lose children…The first thought is, I have to give back, I have to help, instead of wallowing in self-pity. It’s so therapeutic to keep that person’s spirit alive and help these other people.”

Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

Help me turn my tragedies into hope for others, Lord.

July 6

                              More Good, Part Two                              

As 32-year-old Mary Latham made her three-year drive across the country, searching for stories of kindness in honor of her late mother, she made a discovery that might seem remarkable in our divided times. She told the Saturday Evening Post, “I’m in Trump homes, Hillary homes, atheist homes, super-religious homes—the common denominator is that everyone wants to be part of something good right now.”

Along the way, Latham heard about large acts of goodness, such as the two Chicago sisters who each donated a kidney to a stranger because their father received a kidney donation. There were also small gestures, such as the customer who asked her bank teller if she was alright. The teller felt stressed, but responded, “It’s nothing some M&Ms won’t fix.” A half hour later, the customer returned with a bag of M&Ms for the teller.

Latham said, “I love telling that story, because that’s something we can all do. A bag of M&Ms. We feel like an act of kindness has to be big, but it can be buying someone a cup of coffee. Or just smiling more.” More tomorrow…

Whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all. (Galatians 6:10)

Lead me to perform an act of kindness, Paraclete.

July 5

                                       More Good, Part One                                          

“Mary, there are always going to be tragedies in the world, but there will always be more good. You just have to look for it.” Mary Latham’s mother made that observation to her daughter in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shootings in 2012. And after losing her mother to cancer in 2013, Mary held on to those words close to her heart until they became her mission.

She decided to drive her late mother’s blue Subaru hatchback from her Long Island, New York home to every state in the country looking for stories of kindness—or, as her mother put it, “more good.” As reported by Ken Budd in the Saturday Evening Post, the trip encompassed three years and 43,000 miles.

He wrote, “As Latham drives across our increasingly cynical and divided country, something fascinating has occurred. By seeking kindness, she has inspired kindness. Latham has stayed in 154 homes during her travels, welcomed as a guest by strangers…And with each stop, and each story, she shares a refreshing message: Kindness lives—and it’s nonpartisan.”

More tomorrow…

Those who are kind reward themselves, but the cruel do themselves harm. (Proverbs 11:17)

May my acts of kindness inspire more kindness, Jesus.

July 4

What Made Lincoln Special

         “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here.” How wrong Abraham Lincoln was when he said those words in November 1863. The world not only remembers what was said at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg, but has forever carved it on the walls of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

         “What was there about Abraham Lincoln?” asked Louis Redmond in an essay in Our American Heritage. “He came out of nowhere special—a cabin like any other out West. His folks were nobody special—pleasant, hard-working people like many others…He…talked about running a country as if it were…just a matter of people getting along.”

         Lincoln started out like most people, although perhaps a bit poorer and less educated. What made him special was a conviction that the Declaration of Independence “gave liberty not alone to the people of this country, but hope to all the world, for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights would be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance.”

You were called to freedom. (Galatians 5:13)

Lord, help me to serve humanity.

July 3

                                            The Lawn Kid                                           

         At age 14, Nathan Adams was told he was too young to be hired for regular employment. He didn’t let that deter him, however. Using skills passed down to him from his late grandfather, Frederick, an Army veteran, Adams created his own lawn mowing business—but with a philanthropic twist.

“My grandfather passed in February,” Nathan told Fox News, “and I thought that maybe in his honor since I had my own business, I could cut lawns for veterans for free.”

During the first month of Nathan’s project, he cut about 20 lawns, free of charge, (the first cut for veterans is always free—after that, they are given a discount). Those in his Buffalo, New York neighborhood dubbed him “the lawn kid.” He was even gifted with a new lawn mower by a neighbor and Lowes employee, Leona Doherty, to assist him in his endeavor.

“It makes me so proud to see [Nathan] doing something in my dad’s honor,” Nathan’s mother, Angela, concluded. “He has a good heart. He also has ADHD and autism…and he doesn’t let that slow him down.”

The memory of the righteous is a blessing (Proverbs 10:7)

Savior, help us to honor and remember all veterans.

July 2

The Great White and the Priest

When a four-meter-long great white shark attacked a surfer, a Catholic priest came to the rescue, saying it was God’s grace that gave him the courage to act at that moment. 

Father Liam Ryan, a 33-year-old priest in Perth, Australia, was surfing on a beach in July 2020, when suddenly, a great white shark breached the water’s surface, mauling a fellow surfer, Phil Mummert, a few meters away.

Father Ryan and another surfer, Alex Oliver, didn’t hesitate, paddling straight into danger to help the injured and bleeding Mummert get to shore and to the hospital.

Mummert recovered from his injuries and is beyond grateful to everyone who helped save his life that day, including Father Ryan. “Just the definition of heroes, isn’t it?” he said, as reported by CatholicVoice.org.au.

Father Ryan observed, “There’s something deep inside you that wants to help. Christianity is built on that principle of someone giving their life for you.”

We were reconciled to God through the death of His      

Son…Having been reconciled, will we be saved by His   

life. (Romans 5:10)

Jesus, may I strive to emulate Your sacrificial love.

July 1

Struggling Ice Cream Shop's Sweet Surprise

Howdy Homemade, a beloved Dallas, Texas ice cream shop, recently earned a sweet surprise live on the Today Show, not just for its delicious flavors but for its deeper mission: employing individuals with special needs.

Several years ago, founder Tom Landis felt inspired after meeting Coleman Jones, a young man with special needs who showed great leadership potential. Now, Jones is the face of Howdy Homemade, and they have since hired more employees with Down syndrome and other special needs. 

When the pandemic hit, the store endured hard times and Landis feared he would have to close his doors. He said, “I honestly think that’s when God said…‘I'm going to surround you with a village of people, from all over Dallas.’”

The community came together and raised over $100,000 for the shop, and CNBC’s The Profit host Marcus Lemonis surprised Landis and Jones with a $50,000 grant. Lemonis said, “[We] are blown away by the leadership you’re showing and the role models the two of you are to the rest of us.”

Peace be to the whole community, and love with faith,   

from God the Father. (Ephesians 6:23)

God, may I be of service to a community member in need.

June 29

Carl Reiner Gives Confidence Boost

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

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

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

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

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

June 28

A Force for Good, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

June 27

A Force for Good, Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 26

A Grandparent’s Special Bond

For working parents, it is difficult juggling childcare. Even though grandparents are known for their loving and caring nature, only one out of three grandparents regularly help take care of their grandchildren. A recent Oxford University study, however, is hoping to change that statistic.

The study involved more than 1,500 children and discovered that grandparents who play a vital role in raising their grandchildren could help them through an emotional crisis and hone their problem-solving skills.

“Grandparents have a wealth of experience. They’ll often tell stories about their lives and how things worked when they were young, and once kids become adults, they’re able to maximize those lessons,” Sara Moorman, an Associate Professor of Sociology at Boston College told the blog Positive Outlooks in September 2019.

Additional studies show another benefit for grandparents helping to raise their grandkids. They tend to live longer, too!

Grandchildren are the crown of the aged.

(Proverbs 17:6)

Lord, thank You for the love and wisdom of my elders.

June 25

A Hand Up

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

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

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

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

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

June 24

Ausome Balloon Creator

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 23

Be Kind with Abandon

         Stay-at-home mother and Maine resident Gwenivere Rollins was having a rough Monday morning. She was on her way to the second of three doctor’s appointments that day for her 18-month old daughter, Farris, who was suffering from croup and an ear infection, as well as a full-body viral rash.

On the way to the doctor, Rollins made a quick stop at the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through window to order a coffee for herself and a donut for her daughter. When she pulled up to pay, the cashier told her that her bill had already been taken care of by the State Trooper in the car ahead of her.

Rollins was moved to tears by this generosity and expressed her gratitude on social media. Her post ended up getting over 4,000 shares. Along with her fervent thanks to the State Trooper, Gwenivere added this insightful bit of wisdom:

“I myself am really ill and needing surgery, as well as being a college student and a stay-at-home mom. You NEVER know what someone is carrying, so always, always be kind…Spread kindness as fast as this post has spread. Do good recklessly. Be kind with abandon.”

We are…created…for good works. (Ephesians 2:10)

Abba, may we remember that kindness is contagious.

June 22

Free for the Asking

         If you ever found yourself on U.S. Rt. 16 heading for Delaware’s Eastern Shore resort area many years ago, you might have noticed Gerald Pearson’s produce stand. It stood out from the others because it had a sign that read, “Free Food.”

         Pearson gave fresh fruits and vegetables to travelers, many of whom were tourists from New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. “They’ll see the sign but they don’t believe it,” said Pearson. “So they come up to the house and ask if it’s really free.” It was.

         Explained Pearson, “It’s just surplus that I have. We’ve got enough here.”

         Maybe you have a surplus of your own—be it in terms of food, money, clothes, books, furniture, or just plain friendship. Learn to share your surplus willingly with others and taste the pleasure of giving. “It is in giving that we receive,” says the popular prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. You might just find that to be true yourself.

Send out your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will get it back. (Ecclesiastes 11:1)

Teach me to be generous, Holy Spirit.

June 21

Some Words Have a Religious Past

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

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

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

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

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

Teach me to appreciate Your words, Jesus.

June 19

Forever Dad

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 18

How to Be a Good Father

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

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

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

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

■ Thou shalt never abuse your children physically or psychologically.

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

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

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

■ Thou shalt give good example at all times.

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

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

June 17

A Grandmother’s Last Wish

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

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

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

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived

first in your grandmother. (2 Timothy 1:5)

May grandparents always be loved and honored, Savior.

June 16

Belated Graduation in Memory of Mom

      Floyd Covey of Upshur County, West Virginia, was only in high school when he was drafted into the Army to fight in the Vietnam War. As a result, he never received his diploma.

      Now age 78 and a resident at Martinsburg VA Medical Center, Covey told staff members that his mother had always wanted her son to be a high school graduate, and he still longed to fulfill that wish for her, even though she had since passed away. The staff reached out to Upshur County education officials, who soon made Covey’s dream a reality.

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

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

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

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

June 15

A Caring Community

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 14

Finn’s Bench

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

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

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

Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life and honor.

(Proverbs 21:21)

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

June 12

No Birthday Left Behind

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 11

The Gift of Forgiveness, Part 3               

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

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

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

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

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

Holy Spirit, help me be of service to others.

June 10

The Gift of Forgiveness, Part 2

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

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

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

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

Help me to forgive the seemingly unforgivable, Jesus.

 

June 9

The Gift of Forgiveness, Part 1

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

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

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

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

Give me the strength to forgive, Divine Mercy.

June 8

Play by Play

Silvia Grecco of Sao Paulo, Brazil, loves soccer, as does her young son Nickollas. The catch is that Nickollas was born blind and has never actually seen a soccer game. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t experienced them. Silvia has been narrating each game to him, and their story was recently told on Aleteia.

When watching games together, Silvia goes into detail about the players, the plays, even the stadium’s atmosphere. This comes from a deep love of the boy she adopted, who was born premature and passed over for adoption by 12 other couples. “He was reserved for me,” she said. “He had to be my son.”

When the story came out, Nickollas came to the attention of his favorite team, the Palmeieras. They were inspired by his dedication to the team and by his mother’s love and willingness to make the games come alive for her son.  

Nickollas has gotten to meet many of his favorite players, and attend games in person. Nickollas and Silvia also won The Best Fan Award from FIFA, the worldwide soccer organization, for their love and dedication to the sport.

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. (Isaiah 35:5)

Messiah, remind me there are power and strength in love.

June 7

Tiny Homes with Big Hearts

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 6

From the Basketball Court to the Altar

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

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

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

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

Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness but     

will have the light of life. (John 8:12)

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

June 5

Gowns 4 Good

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

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

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

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

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

June 4

Mark Wahlberg Shares his Faith

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

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

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

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

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

Teach me to share Your lessons with others, Jesus.

June 3

Do What You Can

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 2

The Hotel is Divine

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

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

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

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

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

Teach me to welcome the stranger, Father.

June 1

The Senior Flower Girls

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

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

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

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

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

May we remember and honor our grandmothers, Lord.

May 30

A Reflection from the Greatest Generation

Five months after graduating from the Brooklyn, New York campus of St. John’s University in 1944, Edward Toriello, Sr. found himself fighting the Battle of the Bulge under the command of General George S. Patton. At age 98, Toriello reflected on his wartime years and his life in an interview with his alma mater for www.stjohns.edu.

Toriello survived that historic battle and credits the prayers of his mother for his safety. He is quick to remind anyone who asks that the men who lost their lives are the true heroes, having given their lives to preserve the freedoms we hold dear. Post-war, he worked at the New York telephone company, where he met and married Zina (who passed away in 2013). They raised six boys together. Toriello is thankful for his beautiful family.

Toriello is also a force for good in his community through various volunteer efforts that include raising $100,000 for the Southern Ocean County Medical Center. He concluded, “I have been blessed by the Lord, who I thank every day for my life and the blessings that made it all possible.” 

These things I remember, as I pour out my soul.

(Psalm 42:4)

God, bless our veterans.

May 29

A Racing Pioneer

When Sarah Fisher was a high school sophomore, she was considered an outsider due to being a racing enthusiast. But when she received a surprise call from NBC News—who had heard about the teen tearing up the dirt track in sprint cars and wanted to do a story on her—Fisher rose to the challenge that set her on the path to breaking racing records for women.

Fisher raced in her first Indianapolis 500 at age 19 on May 28th, 2000, becoming the third and youngest woman to compete in the iconic race. She didn’t finish due to an accident, but that would be the first of nine Indianapolis 500 starts for Fisher, the most for any woman in its history. It paved the way for more female race car drivers in the years to come.

Two decades later, Fisher reflected on what she would tell her younger self. “Smile more,” she told Dana Hunsinger Benbow of the Indy Star. “Enjoy what you’re doing because there are great people around you. And don’t spend life looking back. There is always more to come.”

I smiled at them when they had no confidence; the light of my countenance they did not extinguish. (Job 29:24)

Lord, in the race car of life, may we not focus only on the destination, but enjoy the journey. 

May 28

An Early Memorial Day

Christopher Award-winning historian David Blight discovered that the first Memorial Day occurred earlier than previously known. While researching a book on the Civil War, Blight learned that Union soldiers captured by the Confederates near Charleston, South Carolina, were imprisoned at the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club.

History.com reports, “More than 260 Union soldiers died from disease and exposure while being held in the racetrack’s open-air infield. Their bodies were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstands.”

When the war ended, former slaves “exhumed the mass grave and reinterred the bodies in a new cemetery.” And on May 1st, 1865, ten thousand freed slaves and some white missionaries engaged in a memorial parade around the racetrack to honor the fallen soldiers. Bible verses were read, while “three thousand black schoolchildren carried bouquets of flowers and sang ‘John Brown’s Body.’” Though records of this event are few, it does serve as the first instance of a Memorial Day commemoration.

These stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial forever. (Joshua 4:7)

Keep alive the memories of fallen soldiers, Lord.

May 27

Medical Danger Caught in Time

“It was divine intervention.” That’s how Long Island, New York mother Judy Tedesco explains the fact that she survived not one, not two, but three brain aneurysms.

The 52-year-old went to the doctor in January 2021 after experiencing severe headaches and swelling around her eyes. The physician sent her for a CT scan, discovered the three brain aneurysms, and immediately had her transported to South Shore Hospital.

“Her doctors tackled the problem from two different fronts,” reported Eyewitness News, “first in January with microsurgery, clipping two of them on the right side…Then, in April, they obstructed the aneurysm on the left with a tiny mesh device inserted through a catheter.”

Brain aneurysms that rupture kill people immediately 30 percent of the time, so Tedesco was blessed to discover hers early enough to save her life. Six months after her surgeries, she was fully healed and back to normal. She said, “There’s more for me to do, apparently, on this earth.”

Cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” (Luke 10:9)

Guide me towards the healing I need, Savior.

May 26

Making a Success of Family Life

         Marlene Shelton LaRoe was a family life therapist in Houston for 25 years. She helped families overcome difficulties that, left unattended, could threaten family stability.

One thing she learned from her practice is this: successful family living doesn’t just happen. People have to work at it. She offers this advice for families who want to make their life together everything it could be: “Roll up your shirt-sleeves. Relating is work. Growing is work. Loving is work.”

So how do you go about doing that kind of work? Pope John Paul II shared these words: “Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others and share their burdens. Each one must show concern, not only for his or her own life, but also for the lives of other members of the family.”

Encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Jesus, help me to become a source of strength for my family.

May 25

Community Fridges Feed the Hungry

Not all people who suffer from hunger or food insecurity can find the help they need. But now, community fridges, filled with food for the taking, are helping to solve that problem.  

After seeing an Instagram post about a community fridge project in New York, Ismael Salazar decided to start a similar effort in his Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights. He partnered with his friend, Day Hernandez, to make it happen.

“I went on Facebook Marketplace and I found a free fridge. It was technically donated. We picked it up, we cleaned it, we washed it, we painted it,” said Hernandez to KABC.

They next connected with the owner of Milpa Grille, who offered to place it outside and plug it into her restaurant, welcoming anyone to take food from the fridge at any time.
Now this idea is spreading, with more businesses setting up fridges in their neighborhoods, filled with food donations, such as produce, prepared meals, milk, and eggs. It’s a prime opportunity for neighbors to give back to those in need.

Taking the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and…set before the crowd. (Luke 9:16)

Lord, grant us both physical and spiritual nourishment.

May 24

Actor Becomes Mental Health Advocate, Part 5

Having endured his own time of darkness, Maurice Benard now finds himself with a renewed commitment to bringing light to people enduring mental health problems. His memoir, Nothing General About It, earned a Christopher Award for that very reason. And on his Youtube talk show MB State of Mind, he interviews fellow actors and others about the mental struggles they’ve faced.

Ultimately, Maurice hopes that people who read his book and watch State of Mind feel less alone. He adds, “I’ve gotten help in the past for my nervous breakdowns, but if you’re having anxiety or depression…if you feel [suicidal tendencies], call somebody.

“There’s NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), Didi Hirsch, there’s so many that I work with, Mental Health of America, and they’ll set you up somehow. There’s no need to do what I did for four months. Get help now…I know I look strong and I’m tough, but there is a fragile side to me that’s unbearable. So if I can do it, anybody can do it.”

Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find.

(Matthew 7:7)

Make me willing to ask for help when I need it, Lord.

May 23

Actor Becomes Mental Health Advocate, Part 4

Maurice Benard struggled with depression for four months before seeking out a psychiatrist. In retrospect, he wishes he had asked for professional help sooner. The doctor put him on the drug Lexapro, which can make you feel worse for the first five days, but then starts improving your mental state.

General Hospital started shooting again just as the Lexapro was working, so Maurice was able to return to work and went on to win his third Daytime Emmy Award for the Alzheimer’s storyline. “[I was at] the [second] worst of my life,” he noted on Christopher Closeup. “And then you go and do your job, and at the end win an award. What a difference a year makes, man.”

Beyond that, Maurice is also experiencing a renewed sense of joy, saying, “What brings me joy is that I’m free of that darkness. I don’t have it in me. If we had this interview a year ago, I would be a totally different person…I have so much joy because I know that other feeling, [the darkness], because it just happened, in a sense. And I see the huge difference…It’s like heaven.” More tomorrow…

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did

not overcome it. (John 1:5)

Bring light to those with crippling depression, Jesus.

May 22

Actor Becomes Mental Health Advocate, Part 3

Life was going well for Maurice Benard during the early days of 2020. His memoir, Nothing General About It, was being released. His General Hospital storyline, about Sonny dealing with his father’s Alzheimer’s, received acclaim. And he was enjoying his time with his wife Paula and their kids.

Then came COVID and everything shut down. And, in a case of art imitating life, Maurice learned that his father had Alzheimer’s. “It was the end of the world—in my head,” he recalled on Christopher Closeup, noting he felt suicidal.

He continued, “I’d go and run outside, and…I was looking at a tree to figure out how to put a rope around it [to hang myself]…But somehow, this is where I think God comes in, He puts a hand on your shoulder and says, ‘It’s all right, just keep [going].’”

In Maurice’s case, God made Himself present through the actor’s family. Maurice recalled, “I was in the car with my son, Joshua, and I was crying, and I said, ‘I don’t think I can go on any longer.’…Then Joshua says, ‘Dad, I’ll take care of you.’ And he did. My other kids were great, too.” More tomorrow…

He drew me up from the desolate pit. (Psalm 40:2)

Send me a lifeline when I feel despair, Messiah.

May 21

Actor Becomes Mental Health Advocate, Part 2

For Maurice Benard, there has always been a spiritual dimension to his struggles. He said, “I believe that when you’re going through a nervous breakdown, it’s God and the devil fighting each other. That’s my interpretation…But God usually comes through. All the time for me.”

Maurice finally received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which involves a series of chemical imbalances in the brain. Through therapy and the drug lithium, he was able to pursue the life and acting career he dreamed of—at least until he got cocky and stopped taking his lithium.

That led to another nervous breakdown during the earliest days of his job on General Hospital, where he was hired to portray mob boss Sonny Corinthos. Producers, crew, and his colleagues were all supportive, though, and eventually Maurice got back on lithium and was able to function again. He also began speaking publicly about his mental health struggles, in order to help others in similar situations. More tomorrow…

Blessed be…the Father of mercies…who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Strengthen me in my mental and spiritual battles, Savior.

May 20

Actor Becomes Mental Health Advocate, Part 1

Around the time he started out as an actor at age 21 during the early 1980s, Maurice Benard’s bipolar disorder began manifesting itself through mania, hallucinations, and even violent outbursts. He wound up in a psych ward and mental hospital where he endured horrific treatment without anyone being able to learn what was actually wrong with him.

One day, while strapped down to a bed, Maurice managed to get his hands free and break off a latch. His hopelessness led him to hold the latch over his wrist, as if to slit it, in order to kill himself and escape his mental anguish.

During a Christopher Closeup interview, Maurice recalled, “Then I just started praying, and I felt God, strongly. So I took the latch, broken in half, made it into a cross, and put it by my bed. And I knew in that moment, with so much pain, that there was a reason that I was going through this. And I know now with all the mental health [advocacy] that I’ve done, that that’s the reason.” More tomorrow…

O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror. (Psalm 6:2)

Make Your presence known to those with mental illness, Father, and bring them Your healing comfort.

 

May 19

God’s Little Messenger

A trip through the woods to get closer to nature turned into a surprising encounter with God for Stu Reininger of Calabria, Italy.  The boat captain had been taking a hike to clear his head. Within the last year, he had lost his fiancée and his younger brother, both of whom died tragically.

Writing in Guideposts, Stu shared how he was going up the trail when a shepherd dog began to follow him, almost egging him on as if herding him, to pay attention. Stu preferred to be lost in his grief, but the dog wouldn’t give up, pushing Stu toward a certain spot. Suddenly, Stu heard the faint bleating of a baby goat. Its mother must have wandered off after giving birth, so the baby goat would surely have died if left alone. The dog had led Stu there to save the goat’s life.

Stu concluded, “I picked up the baby goat, then settled it into my knapsack to return to the flock…I sized up the dog that had once seemed like my nemesis and thought of the parable of the lost sheep. There were things that happened in this world that I’d never be able to resolve or understand. But it wasn’t for being overlooked by God.”

I am the good shepherd. (John 10:11)

Lord, may I trust in Your divine timing.

May 18

Liver Donation Saves Two Lives

The prognosis for one-year-old Brooks Campbell was grim. Acute liver failure due to an autoimmune disorder would kill the boy in a matter of days if an organ donor wasn’t found. Brooks’ father, Matt, and his family were all ineligible because they had a blood clotting disorder. And Brooks’ mom, Andrea, was pregnant and, therefore, couldn’t donate part of her own liver.

As reported by the Today Show, Andrea’s brother, Grant, drove from Texas to Ohio to visit Brooks in the hospital. When he learned about the child’s need for a liver, he volunteered to donate a part of his own.

One year prior to this, Grant had faced some losses in his life that left him suicidal. Thankfully, he never acted on those thoughts and was able to save his nephew’s life. As Matt told Grant prior to the surgery, “I guess you found your purpose.”

The liver transplant was successful, and both donor and recipient recovered well. Grant treasures the experience, believing that Brooks saved his life just as much as he saved Brooks’ life.

It is God who is at work in you, enabling you…to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)

Lord, may we remember that every life has a purpose.

 

May 17

A Cut Above

         Lex Moran knows how fortunate she is to be alive. In 2016, while standing at the front porch of her home in Louisville, Kentucky, the 29-year-old was shot a staggering four times by a gunman. The injuries resulting from this attack required an “8-hour surgery, 10-day recovery,” as well as “physical and emotional recovery.” 

         With her newfound lease on life, Moran befriended an older homeless man named Joe, whom she often saw at her neighborhood bus stop. One day, Joe mentioned to her that “his hair…was tickling his ears.” That happened to be the same day that Moran obtained her master barber’s license.

She had all her supplies in her car, and in a photo that went viral, she gave her friend Joe a much-needed trim. “I didn’t do it for any attention,” Moran told MSNBC. “I [have] been doing this for Joe. I am just attached to him.”

“I’ve gotten so much love from just helping Joe,” Moran concluded. “If I can just be a little hope, and a little change, and a little love that is in the community, maybe I can lead other people to do the exact same thing as I am.”

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

Father, may we strive to use our skills to help others.

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 h