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...
Trooper Thanks Guardian Angel
On the morning of March 6, 2022, the Skyway 10K Race was taking place on Florida’s Sunshine Skyway Bridge to benefit the Armed Forces Families Foundation. To protect the runners from cars, roadblocks were set up on the way to the bridge.
Everything was uneventful for the Highway Patrol members guarding the route until reports came in of an erratic female driver speeding towards the bridge and blowing through several roadblocks. When Trooper Toni Schuck spotted the vehicle, she took off in pursuit.
The other driver refused to pull over, so Trooper Schuck maneuvered herself in front of her car and came to a complete stop to keep her from mowing down any runners. The other driver barreled into the trooper’s car! Both the trooper and the driver, who was drunk, sustained injuries, but survived.
Trooper Schuck told the Today Show that she has kept her late grandmother’s Bible with her in her patrol car for her entire career. Schuck credits her grandmother with being her “guardian angel” in this incident.
His faithfulness is a shield. (Psalm 91:4)
Protect me from danger, Guardian Angel.
A Humble Spirituality
Born in 1873, St. Thérèse of Lisieux lost her mother at an early age, leading to years of emotional distress that lasted until she was 13, when she had a “complete conversion” to Christ. She adopted a humble spirituality, as evidenced by her statement, “I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifices to all ecstasies. To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul.”
Regarding her conversion, she wrote, “I felt, in a word, charity enter my heart, the need to forget myself to make others happy. Since this blessed night I was not defeated in any battle, but instead I went from victory to victory and began, so to speak, ‘to run a giant’s course.’”
Running “a giant’s course” refers to Psalm 19:5, in which the sun’s arch throughout the day is compared to a challenging course traversed by a great athlete. It’s interesting that Thérèse describes her journey in such glorious terms, but it wasn’t worldly glory that she was speaking of. She had discovered the glory of God in her own life, and she began to see how this glory manifested itself in the most simple and beautiful ways.
In the heavens He has set a tent for the sun, which… like a strong man runs its course with joy. (Psalm 19:4-5)
Teach me to run my course with joy, Creator.
Befriending St. Joseph, Part 1
Deacon Greg Kandra admits that he never paid much attention to St. Joseph because he never says anything in the gospels. But over time, the deacon’s views changed. He now finds Jesus’s earthly father to be the most relatable member of the Holy Family, and he shares his views in the book Befriending St. Joseph: Finding Faith, Hope, and Courage in the Seven Sorrows Devotion.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Deacon Greg credited Monsignor Joseph Funaro, a pastor for whom he worked in Queens, New York, with increasing his understanding of St. Joseph. Msgr. Funaro made the saint a part of parish life through celebrations of his feast day and novenas.
“Whenever he preached about him,” said Deacon Greg, “he liked to make the point that St. Joseph was not perfect. He’s the one member of the Holy Family who is not sinless. He was flawed, and he had problems, and he is very much like the rest of us…So it helps to look at him as a very humble, ordinary, flawed, challenged human being on this remarkable journey.”
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. (James 4:10)
Serve as a guide on my journey through life, St. Joseph.
Befriending St. Joseph, Part 2
St. Joseph’s journey through life included a lot of unexpected happenings involving a loss of control. Since people nowadays like to be in control of everything—but very rarely are—Deacon Greg Kandra finds a lesson in this for all of us.
During a Christopher Closeup interview about his book Befriending St. Joseph, Deacon Greg explained, “Joseph is a reminder that sometimes the best thing to do is to let go and let God, and to trust that He’s taking you where He wants you to go.”
“Think of all the different moments in Joseph’s life where things didn’t go the way he had probably planned. I’m sure he imagined this very tranquil, happy life, living with Mary in Nazareth with his little carpenter shop. He had no idea how God was going to enter his story and his life. He was going to have to go to Bethlehem, then to Egypt, and then back to Nazareth.”
“God kept throwing monkey wrenches into his life. Instead of fighting it…Joseph completely trusted in God [with] tremendous leaps of faith again and again. It gives me a lot of hope and inspiration to think about that.”
Trust in the Lord with all your heart…and He will make straight your paths.
May St. Joseph be my model of trust in You, Lord.
Paddington Bear’s Jewish Roots
Paddington Bear has been beloved by children since the book A Bear Called Paddington was published in 1958. But did you know that the character was inspired by Jewish children who escaped the Holocaust?
In 1938, Great Britain chose to accept Jewish children as refugees due to growing anti-Semitism and violence in Germany and Austria. Close to 10,000 children would eventually find a safe haven in England.
British author Michael Bond, who created the Paddington book series, recalled that during World War II, he saw these refugee children arriving at London’s Reading railroad station. They each carried a small suitcase and wore labels around their necks to identify themselves.
That’s why, in the book, the little bear is found sitting on his suitcase in Paddington Station in London with a note around his neck that reads, “Please take care of this bear. Thank you.” It was a subtle tribute to the lives of children whose lives had been upended—and a call for acceptance and compassion all around.
You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:19)
Open my heart to the plight of refugees, Father.
A Senior’s Happy Birthday Mission
At age 100, Carl Webb was still serving Greensboro, North Carolina’s Westminster Presbyterian Church in a unique way. He would call parishioners, and even strangers, to sing “Happy birthday” to them on their special day.
When Mr. Webb first moved to Greensboro, he attended church with his daughter, Betsy, and learned they made lists of everyone celebrating a birthday every month. Since he had been a singer all his life, Mr. Webb thought people might appreciate phone calls on their birthday. When word got around about his efforts, people eagerly signed up to receive his joyful messages, said PresbyterianMission.org. He did it for 20 years, making approximately 36,000 calls.
In an interview with NBC News’s Kevin Tibbles, Betsy said people come up to her almost every day saying how much her father’s calls meant to them, especially when they were sad or lonely. One church member said, “Love, positivity, kindness, friendship. Our world needs more Carl Webbs.”
Carl Webb died in 2021. May he be singing in heaven.
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to You.
May music lift our hearts and spirits, Jesus.
La Mia Mamma
Growing up in Italy, Peppe Corsaro loved the scrumptious and long-lasting Sunday meals prepared by his mother, a tradition which existed around the country. When he moved to London to build a career as a restaurateur, he came to miss the uniqueness of Italian cooking.
A friend jokingly suggested to Corsaro that he should bring his mother to London to cook in his restaurant. Corsaro didn’t take it as a joke, though, so he did exactly that. His business is now called La Mia Mamma, and it has grown in the years since then to include a residency program for other mothers and grandmothers from Italy.
“Most of the mammas, who are usually in their sixties and often retired, have never lived abroad before,” reports Jacopo Prisco of CNN. “They all bring their own recipes and work to ensure that they are executed to perfection, with the help of experienced kitchen staff.”
So far, the mammas have enjoyed their work and even ask when they can come back again for another three-month stint.
His mother prepared savory food. (Genesis 27:14)
Abba, may we treasure the talents and traditions passed on by our mothers.
To Light—and Sell—a Candle
If you’re reading this book, you’re familiar with The Christophers’ motto, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” For many people, that’s a metaphor on how to approach life in general. But 13-year-old Shane Popiny from Lansdale, Pennsylvania, takes the concept more literally.
As reported by Matteo Iadonisi for WPVI-TV, Shane suffers from both autism and cerebral palsy. When he was younger, people were always telling him, “You can’t do this, you can’t do that.” He decided to prove them wrong.
Due to his lifelong love of candles because they calm him down, Shane, with help from his family, founded the “Shane and Pepper Candle Company,” Pepper being the name of his service dog. The family makes and sells candles to benefit kids with autism.
In addition, they hope to open a store that employs people with disabilities. Shane said, “I want to make them feel like they’re important. I want to make them feel like they’re included.”
Let your light shine before others. (Matthew 5:16)
Creator, remind me to be an “encourager,” not a “discourager.”
Greek Yiayia Prays for the World
Anthi Katsouli of Katarraktis, Greece, has experienced a lot during her 106 years of life, and there is one thing she still does every day: pray for the world. In an interview with Anna Wichmann of GreekReporter.com, her grandson Dimitris shared details about his “yiayia,” which is Greek for “grandmother.”
Born in 1915, Katsouli lived through World War II, which included the Nazis invading Greece and burning down her village and house. She and her family fled to the Tzoumerka mountains, where they hid until the war ended.
Dimitris said his yiayia’s faith has always been her guiding light. On most days, she goes outside her house to pray, facing the mountains “so she can see God.” She still cooks and cleans, though her children and grandchildren are nearby to help.
When Dimitris asked her for some wisdom she has gained from age, Katsouli advised him to live “a moderate life.” He explained, “She doesn’t mean ‘moderate’ in terms of its quality, rather that we think of everything, measure everything, and don’t do anything superfluous or unnecessary.”
With God are wisdom and strength. (Job 12:13)
Teach us to seek wisdom from our grandparents, Jesus.
To Sing is to Pray Twice
In New York’s Daily News, John Ficarra recalled that his mother’s talent and passion for singing began at a young age. She took opera lessons at age 10, sang in USO shows during World War II, and years later, performed a selection from “Madame Butterfly” in her church’s talent show.
When she heard her church was forming a choir, she was eager to join. Then, she discovered that their priest decided the choir would be for men only. This regressive view didn’t sit well with Mrs. Ficarra, so she confronted the priest, citing St. Augustine, who said, “To sing is to pray twice.” She asked the priest why women should be denied the opportunity to pray twice. “He had no answer,” wrote Ficarra, leading her to be an integral part of the choir for the next 52 years.
Towards the end of her life, Mrs. Ficarra suffered from dementia and lived in a nursing facility. Still, when Mass was offered in the cafeteria there, she would always sing along. After she died at age 94, John wrote that he found comfort in the fact that dementia couldn’t rob his mom of her passion for music.
My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to You. (Psalm 71:23)
Sustain dementia patients with Your love, Savior.
The Song That Saved Lives
In 2017, hip hop artist Logic (real name: Sir Robert Bryson Hall II) sang his new song “1-800-273-8255” on several televised awards shows. The song—whose title is the number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline—was inspired by Logic’s own battle with anxiety and depression.
In the brutally honest lyrics, a young man contemplating suicide, because he believes no one cares about him, calls the lifeline. The counselor who answers the call shares this message: “It’s holding on, though the road’s long, seeing light in the darkest things. And when you stare at your reflection, finally knowing who it is...I know that you’ll thank God you did.”
A study, authored by Thomas Niederkrotenthaler of Vienna, Austria’s Medical University, found that calls to the Suicide Lifeline increased by 10,000 in the aftermath of Logic’s performances—and that actual suicides decreased by 5.5 percent.
Niederkrotenthaler told CNN, “The present study shows for the first time that if help-seeking and recovery from severe crisis is prominently featured in the media, this can have a positive effect of increasing help-seeking and reducing suicide.”
Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)
Help me find hope when I am depressed, Jesus.
Planting Seeds of Knowledge
Washington Jesuit Academy is a school in our nation’s capital for fourth through eighth grade boys from underserved communities. They educate in the Jesuit tradition of “cura personalis,” a Latin phrase meaning “care for the whole person.”
In an interview with Religion News, JB Gerald, the school’s director of Student Alumni Success, said that once a student is accepted, he is supported “through a lifetime…We walk in life with them…We’re there throughout the ebbs and flows, the successes, the marriages, the kids, the deaths.”
TJ Farrington, an eighth grader just accepted to prestigious Gonzaga College High School, said, “I learned, don’t take things for granted, especially the opportunity we have here.”
Newly appointed president of the school Marcus Washington grew up in Washington, D.C. and attended Gonzaga. He says, “We’re saying, OK, what are the obstacles in your way? Food, education, spirituality, discipline…We’re trying to take those kids and interrupt all of those obstacles…so that they can then go through and determine their own future.”
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. (Romans 12:2)
Lord, grant me the wisdom to seek and share knowledge and support.
Sunrise Through the Darkness, Part 1
If you ever saw the Christopher Award-winning film World Trade Center, you’re familiar with the story of Will Jimeno, a Port Authority police officer who arrived at the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, to help evacuate people from the buildings after the planes hit. But Will, his sergeant, John McLoughlin, and his colleague, Dom Pezzulo, wound up buried alive in the rubble when the North Tower collapsed.
Dom didn’t survive, and Will was ready to give up hope of being rescued until a vision of Jesus reenergized his spirit. Will is now sharing his story of survival, faith, and post-traumatic stress in the memoir Sunrise Through the Darkness.
Recalling the morning of 9/11 during a Christopher Closeup interview, Will said, “I saw a lot of death, a lot of destruction. But at the same time, 20 years later, what I want people to remember is that what I saw the most that day was love. I saw total strangers, helping each other. Didn’t matter what color their skin was, what their religion was, where they came from. People actually came together.” More tomorrow…
When I fall, I shall rise. (Micah 7:8)
Help me to find common ground with those different from me, Creator.
Sunrise Through the Darkness, Part 2
When the North Tower collapsed at the World Trade Center on 9/11, Port Authority Police Officer Will Jimeno and his two colleagues were buried 20 feet underground.
After being burned, crushed, and buried alive for many hours, Jimeno thanked God for his life, for his wife Bianca, and for their baby on the way. Then, he recalled on Christopher Closeup, “I basically closed my eyes and had committed to dying. I just wanted the pain to be over.”
But something happened when the former altar boy at St. Francis of Assisi parish in Hackensack, New Jersey, closed his eyes and began drifting off. Will saw “a person walking toward me with a glowing white robe, no face, brown hair to the shoulder…This peace came over me…I knew it was Jesus.”
“I woke up out of that vision, that dream, with a resurgence of fighting and hope. I made a decision that if I died…I would have given up on myself because God doesn’t want us to die. He wants us to do as much as we can to live in this world. That’s why it’s a gift. Life is a gift.” More tomorrow…
When I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. (Micah 7:8)
Instill me with faith when my spirit feels crushed, Jesus.
Sunrise Through the Darkness, Part 3
Both Will Jimeno and his sergeant, John McLoughlin, received a second chance at life after former Marines Jason Thomas and Dave Karnes heard Jimeno’s shouts for help and rescued them. Tragically, their colleague, Dom Pezzulo, perished.
In the hospital immediately afterwards, Will almost died several times. His recovery was grueling and painful. But slowly, over time, his physical wounds healed with intense rehabilitation—and he was happy to see his daughter, Olivia, born on his birthday, November 26th, that same year.
Will’s mental and emotional scars, however, were another story because he didn’t realize he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or the effect it was having on his family.
He said, “I would get angry about things, I would blow up easy. I realize today, I was angry about what happened, about not being able to help my teammates that didn’t make it, about my physical and mental struggles. But the pivotal point for me was the following year.” That part of the story tomorrow…
May He rescue me from all tribulation.
(1 Samuel 26:24)
Guide me towards healing from my trials, Holy Spirit.
Sunrise Through the Darkness, Part 4
Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after being rescued from the World Trade Center’s rubble, Will Jimeno found himself short-tempered and exploding in anger at minor things. One time, he began screaming at his wife and kids because he couldn’t find the TV remote.
He went so far as to pick up a shoe to throw at his wife, when he suddenly realized what he was doing. Jimeno said, “I remember dropping the shoe, and I was embarrassed. I got in my truck, went up to the country…I started thinking, I know that people who are drug abusers, physical abusers, alcoholics, sometimes their children grow up to be those people.
“At that moment, I prayed to God to help me. I made a decision that I was going to go seek help, because if I wasn’t a good father, a good husband, a good example, my children would probably grow up to be something that I didn’t want them to be and, in a way, the terrorists, the cowards, would have, through me, touched another generation.” More tomorrow…
If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
(1 John 5:14)
Grant me the humility to seek help when I need it, Lord.
Sunrise Through the Darkness, Part 5
Will Jimeno found help with therapist Debbie Mandell, who had counseled a lot of his fellow 9/11 rescue workers. She told him, “Will, [post-traumatic stress] is something you’re not going to cure. This is something you have to learn to live with.”
During a Christopher Closeup interview about his memoir Sunrise Through the Darkness, Will said, “That was the big, pivotal point for me…Through her advice, the support from my wife, my family, and most of all myself…I started learning there’s things that trigger me…I want people to understand that when people talk about mental issues, there are people who are mentally ill, but most of us have mental struggles.
“It doesn’t have to be to the point of warfare. It could be simply just the stresses of life: working two jobs, having a child that’s sick, dealing with cancer, the list goes on…When I started getting a bit upset about something, I [learned] how to breathe, to go walk, to do physical activity to allow that negative energy out.” More tomorrow…
Be transformed by the renewing of your minds. (Romans 12:2)
Teach me to deal with the stresses of life, Father.
Sunrise Through the Darkness, Part 6
Even with counseling, Will Jimeno struggled with survivor’s guilt following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, wondering why he was alive when so many others didn’t make it. He credits the widow of a New York City Firefighter who died on 9/11 with giving him a valuable piece of advice.
She told him, “Do something for me, my husband, your family, and all those we lost. I heard you had a beautiful little girl named Olivia. Do what the middle of your daughter’s name says: Live.”
Will noted, “Every single day, I work from the darkness to the sunlight because I owe it to all those that love me, I owe it to myself, and I owe it to God, who gave me another chance to live, every single day.”
He added, “If you’re a person who’s dealing with darkness, understand you have to dig down deep inside of yourself and push yourself, motivate yourself. Yes, it’s great to have other people around you to motivate you, but it starts with you.”
Be strong and courageous…The Lord your God is with you. (Joshua 1:9)
Help me find my sunrise through the darkness, Savior.
The Mother Teresa of Pakistan
Born in Germany in 1929, Ruth Pfau went on to earn a medical degree and join the Daughters of the Heart of Mary order of nuns. While traveling to India in 1960, visa problems led her to stop in Karachi, Pakistan, where she witnessed a man suffering from leprosy (now known as Hansen’s Disease) crawling through the dirt to get to a dispensary for his medicine.
A visit to a nearby leper colony, where those afflicted with the nerve and skin disease had been abandoned by their families, cemented Dr. Pfau’s commitment to helping these outcasts from society and affirming their innate, God-given dignity.
As reported by NPR, Dr. Pfau helped create “a system of 157 medical centers across the country,” which treated not just leprosy, but also blindness and tuberculosis. Through her efforts, leprosy became controlled throughout Pakistan by 1996—and she became known as the “Mother Teresa of Pakistan.”
After her death in 2017, Dr. Pfau was celebrated by the Pakistani and German people for the remarkable legacy of love and healing she had left behind.
The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed. (Matthew 11:5)
May I be a source of healing for others, Jesus.
A Blooming Future
When Elaine Scott’s daughter, Emily, was born with Down syndrome 25 years ago, Elaine reached out to parents to form a support group. That was the beginning of the Chester County Down Syndrome Interest Group in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
Through the group, Elaine met Colleen Brennan. Years later, they got together to run Kati Mac Floral Designs, a flower shop that now employs people with special needs.
Both parents noticed that their children were offered opportunities to work, but never in a nine-to-five environment that offered some stability. Kati Mac changed that. “It might take someone with special needs a little longer to complete a task, but we give them that time,” Colleen told WPVI News.
Employees are trained in the floral arrangement process, and they work with peers who are warm and welcoming. Elaine said, “We were hoping that…we’re building a long-lasting, loving employment opportunity that will be mirrored…in the Chester County community at large.”
Hard work was created for everyone. (Sirach 40:1)
All of Your children have gifts to contribute, God; may we celebrate the dignity of all who labor.
‘Jesus Stuff’ Saves Prisoner, Part 1
Growing up without much supervision because his mother had to work two jobs to support the family, Darryl Brooks began using drugs and selling them at a young age, eventually ending up in prison, where he continued to sell drugs. His prison cellmate preached about God to him all the time, but Brooks responded, “I don’t want none of that Jesus stuff.”
As reported by PrisonFellowship.org, it wasn’t until five years into his sentence that Brooks finally realized he needed to change his ways and his attitude. He attended a church service and later a discipleship class, where he said, “God wrecked my life, and I ain’t been the same since…After I got saved, I started living my life for the Lord, but I was still struggling…to figure out how to live life the way God designed me to live.”
Brooks was eventually transferred to a different prison unit so he could take part in the Prison Fellowship Academy, which offers inmates life skills classes, counseling, and Bible study to prepare them for life once they are released. That training changed Brooks’s life. More tomorrow…
I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.
Awaken prisoners to Your healing mercy, Lord.
‘Jesus Stuff’ Saves Prisoner, Part 2
While enrolled in the Prison Fellowship Academy, Darryl Brooks was not only able to turn away from his drug dealing past, he learned how to be a good father to his daughter. He also gained a new perspective on the power of healthy relationships.
Brooks told PrisonFellowship.org, “I saw so many volunteers come through the gate and begin to express the love that I never felt growing up. That really put the icing on the cake…Those [people] coming in, wrapping their arms around me and saying, ‘Hey man, there’s a better way to live.’”
After Brooks’s release, he worked as a janitor, but returned to the prison as a volunteer to mentor other inmates. He said, “Coming back through that gate, it was an emotion that I cannot really explain. Coming back and giving back…it was always a reminder that [being in prison] was what I [didn’t] want.”
Brooks’s volunteerism eventually led to a full-time job with the Academy. Today, he serves as director of the entire program, bringing God and hope to those who are just like he was.
I…beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.
May Your life-changing love lead prisoners to the light, Lord.
The Facets of Family Love
Listening and courtesy are ways to express our love for others. In the classic Christopher News Note Ways to Say I Love You: Charity in the Home, Father John Catoir wrote, “Courtesy. Consideration. Kindness. These help create feelings of warmth, caring and acceptance in the home. All are facets of love.”
Father Catoir noted that showing patience with children is a great way to teach them lasting lessons, quoting Fred Rogers, who said, “The only real discipline comes from love, not fear.”
As an example, Father Catoir recounted the story of a woman who was marveling at a friend’s infinite patience with her three-year-old child, who kept interrupting her housework to call her outside to see a butterfly, a flower, or an ant.
The woman asked the mother, “Don’t you ever want to scream?” The mother responded, “Well, I brought her into the world. The least I can do is let her show it to me.”
What a loving way to look at the interruptions a child brings into the home, to see them as a gift that might enable us to view the world in a new light.
Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. (1 John 3:18)
Open my eyes to different ways of showing love, Father.
Fill Each Moment with Love
During periods of our lives when we’re facing severe challenges, it can be hard to see God. But Sister Amanda Marie Detry of the Daughters of St. Paul finds inspiration in the life of the late Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận of Vietnam.
Arrested by the communist government there in 1975, he spent 13 years in prison. As he wrote in his memoir Five Loaves and Two Fish, “Many confused thoughts came to my mind: sadness, abandonment, exhaustion...But one thought broke through clear and bright to disperse all the darkness: ‘I am not going to wait. I will live each present moment, filling it to the brim with love.’”
This approach changed his life, both in prison and following his release. He wrote, “Each word, each gesture, each telephone call, and each decision I make is the most beautiful of my life. I give my love to everyone, my smile to everyone; I am afraid of wasting even one second by living it without meaning... Only one moment exists for you in all its beauty, and that is the present moment. Live it completely in the love of God.”
Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
(1 John 4:7)
Teach me to see the beauty of the present moment, Jesus.
An Anchor’s Faith, Part 1
For ABC News anchor Linsey Davis, her Christian faith serves as the foundation of her personal life. However, she remains committed to journalistic objectivity and neutrality when reporting the news—though when a subject’s faith is relevant to a news story, she supports including it.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Linsey explained, “I was just talking a while ago about one of the earthquakes that happened in Haiti. We were there on a Sunday, so we did go to church to see where people were still showing their faith. I did think that was important to highlight in that kind of moment. What are people clinging to? What’s keeping them resilient?”
“I think that when something is very authentic and organic,” continued Linsey, “with the look, this is what people are doing—they’re praying and they’re praying for other people, and the church is bringing refugees in—I do like to highlight that…That’s fair.” More tomorrow…
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
Christ, be my anchor during life’s storms.
An Anchor’s Faith, Part 2
At the end of the day, ABC News anchor and correspondent Linsey Davis always makes time to get grounded in God and prayer. During a Christopher Closeup interview, she revealed, “I am a person of tradition and ritual, so every night before I go to bed, I’m still on my knees and thanking God for all of the blessings, and [praying about] those things that concern me, that are weighing on my heart.
“I’m asking for understanding or for help or whatever it might be. When I wake up, I tend to read from two different daily meditation books…Sometimes I’m almost checking it off the list, but I need to let that word sink in, and process it, and keep it with me throughout the day. But the end of the day and the evening is a little set aside time, right before bed, to give thanksgiving, and sometimes trying to get some help with a concern, or praying for other people.”
Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. (Ephesians 6:18)
Jesus, I humbly lift up my own concerns and the concerns of my loved ones to You in prayer. Help us.
Patience and Faith
In his memoir Confessions, St. Augustine recalls his life as an atheist and how he eventually found his way to walk in the light of Christ. One of the greatest gifts God placed in his life was St. Monica, his mother, a devout Christian.
While Augustine strayed from the faith often in his youth and well into adulthood, Monica remained steadfast in her loyalty to God and continually invited her son and her husband, who was a pagan, to discover the joy of sacrificial love.
In the opening of his Confessions, Augustine writes, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.” These are the words of a man who had searched the world for happiness and found that only God could lead us to lasting joy. Imagine what a sense of reward his mother must have felt to know her son had come home to the faith.
The story of Monica and Augustine demonstrates that faith and patience go hand in hand. Faith is knowing that God is at work, constantly guiding events to bring about the greater good and calling us to play our part in His plan of love for humanity.
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Help me be a model of faith in You, Creator.
Foundation of Belief and Hope
Pamela McGee found success early in life. She played basketball in the Olympics and was already operating her own public relations firm by age 23. She also undertook a tour of inner city schools at the request of the University of Southern California.
When McGee began her talk to students at Brandeis High School in New York City, she was met with stony silence. But by the time she finished her talk, she had the students cheering as they repeated after her, “I’m beautiful. I’m intelligent. And I am tomorrow.”
McGee said she wanted to try to make a difference in their lives. At each school, she gave the students her own Ten Commandments for Success. She told them not to be afraid to fail and to believe in themselves because the Kingdom of God was within them.
She helped students build a core of hope by teaching them to believe they are strong in God’s strength and that they are not alone.
God is a refuge for us. (Psalm 62:8)
Remind me, Jesus, that the Kingdom of God is within me.
Aletha Gee Walton’s family was frantic with worry. The 69-year-old with early-stage dementia had disappeared, and no one knew if she had wandered off or been kidnapped.
Her family alerted authorities in Prince Edward County, Virginia, leading to police and other first responders from all around the area to engage in a major search and rescue effort, which included air support.
Finally, eight days after she had disappeared, Walton was found in a densely wooded forest less than a mile from her home, sitting on a tree stump singing “Amazing Grace.” As reported by WTVR, she had survived a week of “extreme heat and stormy weather,” prompting her family to comment, “Amazing Grace. God was with her the whole time.”
Prince Edward County Sheriff L.A. “Tony” Epps said, “This has been incredibly challenging, but we are thrilled to be able to provide the family the best possible outcome.” Walton’s friend Rita Allen added, “Thank Jesus. It was a big blessing.”
Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost. (Luke 15:6)
Light of the World, guide lost souls home to Your loving embrace.
Conflict and Resolution
Here are some ideas that will help you resolve conflicts when they arise:
■ Don’t wait too long before you act.
■ Talk to the other person and make certain that no one is being misquoted or misinterpreted.
■ See the dispute as a problem to be resolved together.
■ Make sure you are fully informed about the issue.
■ Look for areas of agreement, even if they are minor.
■ Explore various solutions.
■ Resolve to make the common good your major concern.
■ If needed, seek the help of a neutral third party.
If you approach conflicts in an intelligent fashion, they become easier to resolve without injuring others or building resentment. Managing conflict is an important step on the road to peace.
Pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace…Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies. (2 Timothy 2:22,23)
Show me how to avoid or resolve arguments, Prince of Peace.
An Author’s Kind Gesture
Brad Meltzer has become a New York Times best-selling author many times over. But on Twitter, he recalled doing an author signing at a Barnes and Noble in Dallas 25 years ago, following the release of his first novel, The Tenth Justice.
Six people waited at the end of the line because they wanted to chat with him. They revealed they had driven four hours from Oklahoma just to meet him, and had to go back the same night because they couldn’t afford a hotel.
Meltzer noted that they seemed genuinely nice, so he offered to buy them dinner before they left. That’s when a representative from his publisher pulled him aside to say, “You don’t know these people. They could kill you!” But Meltzer brushed aside her concerns and invited her to dinner as well, where they all had a wonderful time.
In March 2022, Meltzer was doing an author signing when a man approached him to say he’s been a fan for 25 years, especially because he took him out to dinner when they first met. Yes, this was one of the Oklahomans from 25 years ago. Meltzer expressed deep gratitude for the loyalty of his fans.
Be kind to one another. (Ephesians 4:32)
Teach us to reach out in kindness to strangers, Lord.
The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate have been serving the poorest of the poor in Haiti for nearly 80 years. One of their longtime servants is 87-year-old Father John Henault, OMI. For nearly six decades, Father John has ministered to the people of Haiti, where he founded and directs a clinic for lepers.
In an interview about his work, Father John said, “I have received a good number of scratches, dents, and bruises from my endeavors. I wear these battle scars as medals with pride. I need to have something to show the Lord in order to get into Heaven.”
The Christophers were saddened to hear last year of the violence and unrest threatening the missionaries’ work in Haiti. Later, we received a note and a donation from Father John, in which he wrote, “As yourselves, I depend on donations to keep the clinic open and to improve treatment of lepers so I can only make a ‘once a year donation.’”
Father John added that he felt called to donate for “those who need help one way or another, including spiritual and moral help.”
Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Lord, make me poor in spirit and generous of heart.
Strangers Unite to Save a Life
It wouldn’t be unusual for Superman to stop a moving car, but he, of course, is a comic book hero. In Boynton Beach, Florida, however, five ordinary strangers banded together to do the exact same thing and likely saved a woman’s life.
As reported by Inside Edition, Laurie Rabyor took medication on an empty stomach, then proceeded to drive her car. That led her to pass out and slump over the steering wheel. Though her car was initially stopped at an intersection, it began drifting into oncoming traffic without her foot putting pressure on the brake.
Rabyor’s coworker, Janette Rivera, was in a nearby car, saw what was happening, and ran out to help. As she approached Rabyor’s car to try to stop it, she called for other motorists to assist her. Four others quickly joined her, and they were able to stop the car’s forward momentum with their bodies and get Rabyor the medical attention she needed.
Rabyor doesn’t remember what happened, but she said of her guardian angels, “Thank God for people like you.”
Rescue me speedily. (Psalm 31:2)
May I work together with others to accomplish good in the world, Jesus.
Mary’s Angels Rosary Makers
The Mary’s Angels Rosary Makers, an organization started a little over 25 years ago, consists of a small but loyal group of women and girls who meet in the basement of Lafayette, Indiana’s St. Boniface Church. Their mission is simple.
Every Wednesday, these volunteers craft rosaries, making sure to say at least one “Hail Mary” before creating each one. Along with volunteers from the local St. Mary’s Cathedral and Church of the Blessed Sacrament, these women have made over 75,000 rosaries, which have been distributed throughout the world, from prisons to mission trips to miliary posts in Iraq.
“The money to buy supplies just seems to come along from generous people who hear about us,” one of the founding members of Mary’s Angels, Marlene Jarboe, told The Catholic Moment. “The Blessed Mother is the inspiration for what we do.”
Cheryl Wagner, the other founding member, concluded, “Each [Rosary] we make is a gift of our time given back to the One that provides us with the minutes we live.”
And Mary said…
“Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:46,48)
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.
A Saint’s Humility and Courage, Part 1
In his writings, St. Maximilian Kolbe recounts an incident from his childhood when he was scolded by his mother for some mischief he had gotten into. Later, he was prompted to reflect upon his actions and turned to the Blessed Mother in prayer.
Kolbe writes: “That night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.”
This vision not only foreshadowed St. Maximilian’s martyrdom at the hands of the Nazis, but it also revealed his character. It was in this moment of humbling himself before God that Maximilian embraced the courage to rise to the occasion of whatever life would bring—which included the priesthood—and learned that the virtue of humility leads to authentic courage. More tomorrow…
When pride comes, then comes disgrace; but wisdom is with the humble.
Teach me to be humble and courageous, Father.
A Saint’s Humility and Courage, Part 2
As a young priest, Maximilian Kolbe served for several years in Asia, founding two monasteries, one of which remains an important church in Japan to this day. He was called back to Poland a few years before the outbreak of World War II and found himself in the crosshairs of the Nazis when he refused to declare his allegiance to Germany.
After being arrested and then released, Kolbe helped run the Franciscan monastery of Niepokalanów, Poland, where he opened a temporary hospital and published religious works, including anti-Nazi literature. He also helped 2,000 Jews hide from the Nazis at the monastery.
In 1941, the Niepokalanów monastery was shut down and Kolbe was arrested and imprisoned, eventually being transferred to Auschwitz. There, he offered his life in place of another man who had been sentenced to death. In his final days, Kolbe ceaselessly led the other prisoners in prayer. Credited with miracles and intercessions after his death, St. Maximilian was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1982.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)
Help me live out sacrificial love for others, Jesus.
Doctor in a Warzone
When he was young, Adam Goldstein had no intention of following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a doctor. But while spending several months in Ethiopia studying geology for his college major, Goldstein encountered an American doctor who worked at Mother Teresa’s clinic there and asked for help.
The experience of caring for society’s neediest sparked a passion in Goldstein, so he decided to go to medical school. As reported by The George Washington University’s website, he now serves as director of trauma surgery at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel. However, in 2022, he took a break from that work to travel to war-torn Ukraine to treat injured citizens in a “150-bed makeshift hospital.”
Goldstein said, “We are here to provide support to the local hospital in helping treat whoever needs help—may it be the huge number of refugee population or local community…to help any way possible…[whether it’s] just giving a hug and showing that we care, helping with emergent surgeries [or] providing care that is needed.”
Honor physicians for their services, for the Lord created them. (Sirach 38:1)
Protect those in warzones around the world, Lord.
Country music star Thomas Rhett has first-hand experience of a broken marriage: his parents divorced when he was nine, because his father, also a country singer, was always on the road. When the time came for Rhett himself to get married, his future father-in-law, Steve Gregory, gave him some blunt advice.
Gregory owned a charter jet company in Nashville, so he flew country artists around all the time—and he saw the temptations they faced and often gave in to. As Rhett recalled on the podcast Making Space with Hoda Kotb, Gregory told him, “You better keep your head on straight. You better not do anything out there on the road, because I promise you, I’ve seen it and I will call you out immediately.”
Rhett promised he would remain faithful to his wife, Lauren, but didn’t fully understand life on the road until someone once grabbed him inappropriately during a concert. After that, he made sure to set new boundaries. And with a strong grounding in his Christian faith, he and Lauren have built a happy marriage together, along with their four daughters.
Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
Foster love and fidelity between married couples, Jesus.
Amazing Amy Wows on the Golf Course
Amy Bockerstette, also known as “Amazing Amy,” is the first person with Down syndrome to compete in a national collegiate athletic championship. In her case, it’s golf. And as Amy is making history, the real lesson is what she’s taught her dad, Joe, throughout this impressive feat.
At first, Joe thought he would have to make sacrifices to raise a child with a disability. However, he realized, “You just can’t put limits on people. It was ridiculous for me to think that Amy couldn’t achieve what she’s achieved.”
Joe is now his daughter’s caddie and her number one fan, admitting to CBS News, “Some of the most fun moments of my life have been on the golf course with her.”
Amy loves being with her dad, too, while taking the golfing world by storm. She’s showing the world that even if you have a disability, it doesn’t mean you can’t live your dream—or have fun doing it.
God will accomplish something through you.
Jesus, may we learn from Amy’s example and go after our dreams with a smile.
Alias Anna, Part 1
Little is known about the execution of Hitler’s “final solution” in Ukraine via “mobile killing squads.” However, a new middle grade biography, titled Alias Anna, brings the evils inflicted on Ukraine by both Hitler and Stalin to light, through the true story of a Jewish teenager who outwitted the Nazis. The story was written by Susan Hood and Greg Dawson, the son of the Anna in the title, whose real name was Zhanna Arshansky.
Life for the people of Ukraine in the 1930s, which was then a part of the Soviet Union, wasn’t easy. Because the country wouldn’t comply with Stalin’s goals, he shut the border so they couldn’t get food, essentially starving four million Ukrainians to death.
Despite that hardship, Zhanna and her sister Frina had an “idyllic childhood.” Once Zhanna and Frina’s gifts for playing the piano were discovered, they were put into special schools for musical prodigies which helped them develop their talents, not knowing at the time that their talents would save their lives. More tomorrow…
Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. (Psalm 107:5)
Feed those enduring famine because of war, Creator.
Alias Anna, Part 2
Because of the German-Soviet non-aggression pact, the Jewish people in Ukraine never learned what the Nazis were doing until Hitler broke the pact and invaded the country.
Hitler’s lies about Jews being responsible for the war quickly spread, leaving some Ukrainians approving of what happened next: the systematic slaughter of their Jewish neighbors by Nazis who would round them up, march them into a ravine, line them up, and shoot them.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Alias Anna authors Susan Hood and Greg Dawson noted, “At least 750,000 Ukrainian Jews were dead before the doors of Auschwitz, or Treblinka, or the other death camps even opened…That’s where it began. That’s something that’s little known in this country.”
Because they were Jewish, Zhanna, Frina, and their parents embarked on a forced death march. But Zhanna’s father was able to bribe one of the guards, allowing her to escape. His final words to Zhanna were, “I don’t care what you do. Just live.” More tomorrow…
When you walk through fire you shall not be burned.
Protect and guide those living in warzones, Lord.
Alias Anna, Part 3
In the biography Alias Anna, authors Susan Hood and Greg Dawson write that World War II was filled with both “blessings and betrayals” for Zhanna after she escaped from the forced death march in Ukraine.
For instance, when she sought refuge at the house of a friend, the girl’s mother slammed the door in her face. But when she approached the home of a classmate whose mother Zhanna believed to be anti-Semitic, this woman took her in immediately and allowed her to stay with them. A few days later, Frina escaped as well, allowing the sisters to reunite.
Greg said, “There were Christian…families in Ukraine who hid my mother and her sister at the risk of death. Because if the Nazis found you were harboring Jews, everyone would be shot. There’s a special honor in Israel for people like them, they’re called Righteous Gentiles. It’s a very small group of non-Jews, who put their lives on the line to help Jews during the Holocaust. [One of the families] that saved [Zhanna and Frina]…were officially recognized as Righteous Gentiles.” More tomorrow…
He will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble.
Give us the courage to help the oppressed, Father.
Alias Anna, Part 4
Zhanna and Frina were soon able to get forged identification papers that hid their Jewish background. They became Anna and Marina and, because of their piano talents, they were able to become entertainers for the Nazis, who did not know they were Jewish.
During a Christopher Closeup interview about the book Alias Anna, written about his mother, co-author Greg Dawson shared, “Once [the sisters] were on their own, the sense of survival [kicked in]. For example…during the years when she was a captive entertainer for the Nazis, [Zhanna] would be invited to dine with the SS and the field officers…Afterwards she and her sister would play for hours for these Nazi officers and Gestapo…And they were very decorous and polite.”
Greg added, “I [asked my mother], ‘How could you play for the people that had murdered your parents and grandparents?’ She said, ‘I wasn’t playing for them. I was playing for my mother, my father, my grandparents. I was playing for Mozart and Chopin and Brahms, and the music I loved.’” More tomorrow…
While the musician was playing, the power of the Lord came on him. (2 Kings 3:15)
May music lift the hearts of the downtrodden, Creator.
Alias Anna, Part 5
Zhanna saved Frina’s life numerous times throughout the war—and Frina ultimately saved Zhanna’s. After the war ended, Zhanna wanted to return to Ukraine, but Frina insisted they go to the United States instead. As it turned out, Stalin branded most of those who returned to the Soviet Union as traitors. As a result, those people ended up suffering exile, torture, and death.
Thankfully, life moved in a positive direction for the sisters after the war. Greg Dawson, co-author of the book Alias Anna, written about his mother, observed, “After her experience, she never betrayed any bitterness. Tremendous anger, but there’s a difference I think between anger and bitterness. Bitterness can be crippling to you. Anger is a healthy reaction…And when they reached this country, remarkably, they still were buoyant. They were still in love with performing.”
Greg’s co-author, Susan Hood, concluded, “I was so struck by [the girls’] talent and how music and the arts saved them. They end up making it all the way to New York and get full scholarships to Juilliard. It’s such a triumphant story.”
May we shout for joy over your victory. (Psalm 20:5)
Guide survivors of war towards opportunities to flourish in life, Father.
The Bleacher Brothers
If you attended a Major League Baseball game in the summer of 2022, you might have seen the surprising sight of two Franciscan priests in their brown robes walking around the stadium—and even throwing out the first pitch on occasion. That’s because Father Roberto “Tito” Serrano and Father Casey Cole, known as “the Bleacher Brothers,” were touring America’s ballparks on a mission of evangelization.
In an interview with John Lavenburg for CruxNow.com, Father Cole explained that St. Francis of Assisi didn’t only preach in churches; he went out into the streets and wherever the people of his time congregated. In today’s world, baseball stadiums are one such place.
“[Baseball has] some spiritual things to it,” said Father Cole, “about patience, about fraternity, about tradition, that we can easily connect to the church and life and the faith.” Father Serrano added, “We want people to come up to us and be curious because we are curiously dressed…That gives us an opening to share our life…to share the gospel message in a different way.”
He commanded us to preach to the people. (Acts 10:42)
Help me be an effective witness of Your divine love, Jesus.
Jesus of the Korean War
The heroism and holiness exhibited by Father Emil Kapaun when he served as a U.S. Army chaplain during the Korean War put him on the road to sainthood. In 2013, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House. And in 2021, the late priest was granted South Korea’s highest military honor: the Order of Military Merit.
As reported by Catholic News Service, Father Kapaun’s nephew, Ray, was on-hand to accept the honor for the man South Koreans have dubbed the “Jesus of the Korean War.”
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said of Father Kapaun, “Under the extreme situation of being wounded and taken prisoner, Father Kapaun showed bravery of protecting freedom, peace and his belief…Also, he celebrated Mass to pray for the enemy, which was a true practice of love…[His life] will become a great spiritual legacy for not only the U.S. and Korea, but also for all of humanity.”
Do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your
God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
Help me to nurture Christlike love and holiness, Father.
Taking Care of Your Health
If you’re advised you need surgery, AARP.org suggests doing some homework first. Specifically, they offer the following suggestions for finding the best surgeon:
■ Assemble a list of candidates who could perform the surgery, and ask your primary care doctor for his or her recommendation.
■ Find the right letters. For instance, look for doctors with FACS (Fellow of the American College of Surgeons) after their names.
■ Get hard numbers. Check the American College of Surgeons’ riskcalculator.facs.org for information about risks and benefits.
■ Ask tough questions, such as: How often do you do this surgery; what complications have you had; are there alternatives?
■ Get a second opinion.
Try to find someone not only experienced but also calm under pressure.
The clever consider their steps. (Proverbs 14:15)
Guide us toward the knowledge we need to make good
decisions, Divine Healer.
A Doctor’s Heart for the Poor, Part 1
Though born in the Dominican Republic, Yomaris Peña lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from ages two to 11 because her father, a physician, decided to move there to work. In his practice of medicine, he had a special heart for the disadvantaged.
“In Puerto Rico,” said Peña, as quoted on Aleteia, “I had the opportunity to see my dad helping other people when he himself was an immigrant…He taught me that when we’re in much more privileged positions, we must reach out a hand.”
Her father’s influence led Yomaris to become a doctor herself. And when her father was diagnosed with cancer at age 51 and returned to the Catholic faith he had abandoned in college, Yomaris found herself drawn to a life of faith as well.
The elder Dr. Peña passed away soon after, and Yomaris came to the United States, eventually working for SOMOS Community Care in Washington Heights, New York, which serves a predominantly poor Latino and African American population. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, her dedication to selfless service continued. More tomorrow…
Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. (Proverbs 31:8)
Guide me in being a servant leader, Jesus.
A Doctor’s Heart for the Poor, Part 2
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Dr. Yomaris Peña of SOMOS Community Care worked on the frontlines, testing people for the disease in a poor neighborhood in the Bronx, New York. The positivity rate in her area was 50 percent.
Her work continued in various places over the next several months, and she was grateful when vaccinations finally became available. Dr. Peña was also heartbroken that her low-income area was among the last to receive the vaccines. She fought to help her community and went on to lead the Aqueduct Center, which vaccinated more than 90,000 people.
Regarding her approach to her life, work, and faith, Dr. Peña explained, “I’ve always appreciated life from the moment my dad died at a young age, and I understood that you don’t take a dollar with you. You take what you gave, and you leave what you did. So, through this experience, I’ve understood the value of life again…I talk to God a lot…If I’m afraid, I talk to God and say, ‘You’re in control. Help me and show me the way.’ And He always shows me.”
Those who are kind to the needy honor [God].
May love and selfless giving be my legacy, Father.
The LEGO Church Project
LEGOs aren’t just for kids anymore. In fact, the small, multi-colored plastic bricks are being used to create a positive change within the Church.
Twenty years ago, John Kraemer, who lives with mild cerebral palsy, created the LEGO Church Project for the purposes of evangelization and raising disability awareness.
Thomas J. Salerno at Catholic World Report explains, “John uses LEGO bricks to build a large copy of a particular Catholic parish; he uses around 20,000 pieces for each project, and the final construction weighs around 40 pounds.”
Kraemer cites his faith as “the foundation on which everything in my life is built.” He has questioned God’s purpose for him in this life because of his disability, but now believes God is using his unique talents to spread a message about what people facing challenges can accomplish.
He said, “I have this desire to give hope and encouragement to those who may have challenges of their own and are not quite sure how God can use them.”
There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:4)
May people with disabilities discover their God-given talents, Creator.
Promoting Positive Views of Aging
“When you think of an older person, what are the first five phrases or words that come to mind?” asked Yale Professor Becca Levy.
Don’t be surprised if your initial images are negative. But don’t be discouraged either. Levy’s research suggests that beliefs can change given the right circumstances. And, she says, your physical and mental health improve when you’re exposed “to positive descriptions of aging.”
Levy tells Judith Graham of Kaiser Health News that a first step toward change is increasing awareness. Notice how and even whether elders are portrayed in the media, for example.
Another helpful exercise is to focus on positive role models, which might be “people you know, a character in a book, someone you’ve learned about in a documentary, a historical figure…There can be different strengths in different people that can inspire us.”
In old age they still produce fruit. (Psalm 92:14)
Encourage us to notice and appreciate our elders, Lord.
See How They Love Each Other
During the COVID pandemic, Australia locked down with restrictions on movement and gatherings. While this crisis could have led to a splintering of the community, two Catholic parishes found a way to make sure the connections made through the Church continued.
As reported on Aleteia, the “Food for Friends” program matched volunteers from the parishes with those in the area who needed meals. By dropping off home-cooked food, citizens connected with each other and continued to feel like a part of the community.
When parishioners couldn’t gather for a Marian feast, they tied photos and images of the Blessed Mother to the railings of the church, giving each other strength and a common, but socially distant, experience. It was another way that the parishes creatively came together to offer support and connection through a difficult time.
The whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul. (Acts 4:32)
Lord, may I find ways to care for those in my community who are struggling and in need of Your love.
Everything Sad is Untrue, Part 1
All children want to fit in with their peers, but that was a larger-than-usual challenge for Daniel Nayeri. As an Iranian refugee who was resettled in Oklahoma with his mother and sister, the youngster felt scared and nervous because he was seen as an outsider by many, including his classmates.
Having come from a culture with a rich tradition of storytelling, Daniel came to see stories as a way of connecting with others. Several decades later, he integrated the Persian myths from his childhood with details of his own life growing up—including his mother’s conversion to Christianity, which led them to flee Iran—and turned them into the Christopher Award-winning young adult novel Everything Sad is Untrue: (A True Story).
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Daniel noted that his mother had a good life in Iran, working as a doctor. She was also a woman deeply devoted to her Muslim faith, not just superficially, but as “a scholar of its texts.” That’s why what came next was such a surprise. More tomorrow…
The word of God is living and active. (Hebrews 4:12)
May Your words change my heart, Creator.
Everything Sad is Untrue, Part 2
When Daniel Nayeri’s family traveled to the United Kingdom for his aunt’s wedding, his devout Muslim mother was exposed to the Bible and Christianity for the first time. After reading more about the Christian faith, she converted and joined an underground church when they returned to Iran.
In Iran, however, converting to Christianity is a capital crime. Evangelizing to any Muslim is also prohibited. Mrs. Nayeri broke all those laws and “ran afoul” of her city’s secret police force. Her life, and her family’s life, were threatened, so she, Daniel (then age five), and his sister escaped from the country. (Daniel’s father chose to stay behind.)
The Nayeris wound up in a refugee camp in Italy, and eventually received asylum in the U.S., specifically Oklahoma, where their lives became starkly different—and poorer—than the comfort they experienced in Iran. Because Mrs. Nayeri’s medical license wasn’t recognized in the U.S., she was forced to work low-paying jobs to earn money. But she never regretted converting. More tomorrow…
Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)
Guide those fleeing religious persecution, Savior.
Everything Sad is Untrue, Part 3
Despite the hardships his mother’s conversion brought on, Daniel Nayeri never resented her decision to convert to Christianity. Once she accepted Jesus, he said during a Christopher Closeup interview, “There was something here that she sincerely saw the value in, greater than money, prestige, safety, stability, family, and everything else.”
Mrs. Nayeri faced traumas in the U.S., and even violence due to an abusive new husband, but she never passed the negativity of those traumas on to her kids. Daniel said, “I greatly admire my mom for having done that, and I credit it to…her faith and to her understanding of God.”
Daniel is also grateful for the “generous and kind” people who helped them, including Jim and Jean Dawson, the elderly Christian couple who sponsored and co-signed the Nayeris to come to America. The Dawsons welcomed the Nayeris, who initially couldn’t speak English, into their home and took financial responsibility for them as well. Daniel recalled, “This was sacrificial love.” More tomorrow…
By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)
Help me practice sacrificial love, Jesus.
Everything Sad is Untrue, Part 4
After moving to Oklahoma as a refugee from Iran with his mother and sister, Daniel Nayeri began processing his own hardships through storytelling, although it took some time: “I think [stories are] something that you give to people…You have to offer yourself up, and that’s dangerous—or at least it feels dangerous, because it’s a very vulnerable thing to do.”
Daniel eventually found the courage to share his story with his classmates and parents, telling them about his mom’s conversion to Christianity and their lives as refugees. He explained, “I could see that by deciding to share it with them, they were taking it in…The power of it was that we understood each other just a little bit more.”
“That required everybody to take a step,” continued Daniel. “It was not just on them to suddenly see something in me and take it in. It was also incumbent on me to say, ‘I’m going to take this risk. I’m not going to clam up. I’m going to reach out with this story.’…There has to be generosity and grace in both speaking and listening.” More tomorrow…
Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up. (Ephesians 4:29)
Remind me of the power of storytelling, Word of God.
Everything Sad is Untrue, Part 5
In Daniel Nayeri’s Christopher Award-winning young adult novel Everything Sad is Untrue, which is based on his own life, a schoolboy struggles to fit in to his new country, while missing certain people in his homeland. In real life, Daniel understands that neither life in Iran or in the U.S. is all good or all bad, noting, “There are people here who have been generous and kind, and there are people there who I miss with all my heart.”
Regarding the title of his book, Daniel concluded, “There’s a section in the book that talks about your perception of the future and how that affects your experience of the present. So, if you think the future is going to be a redemptive place where it will be possible to forgive all that has happened, then that’s something that will bear into your experience.
“And if you think the future [will be] a whole lot of nothing, then that will also make that effect. So, the title is from the perspective of this young boy who is experiencing a lot of difficulty and sadness. But [he is] looking past it to a moment where it will be untrue.”
He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Teach me to see the good that is around me, Jesus.
Live the Golden Rule
In the classic Christopher News Note Live the Golden Rule, there’s a story about Elizabeth Cody Newenhuyse, who wrote a piece for Today’s Christian Woman about her struggle to overcome a judgmental attitude towards others.
“The other day,” she recalled, “a rather shabbily dressed young woman walked by our house while I was working in the yard. I literally thought to myself, ‘Be kind.’ I smiled and said hello, and she gave me a beautiful smile in return. It just lit up her face. It was a small but significant encounter, because it represented a victory over my old negative pattern of judging people by external appearances.”
Processing what she learned from that encounter, Newenhuyse concluded, “When you’re tempted to think or act critically, stop and consciously substitute a positive response. Pay a compliment. It may seem artificial at first, but after a while, it will become a habit, and a God-honoring habit at that.”
What a beautiful way to honor God! By showing kindness through small gestures, they turn out not to be small at all.
Anxiety weighs down the human heart, but a good word cheers it up. (Proverbs 12:25)
Teach me to be positive instead of critical, Father.
How to Tame a Pistol
Air Force pilot John Haney knew he was in for a rough time. His wife, Ashley, was heading out for a four-month deployment, leaving him home alone with their newly adopted golden retriever, Pistol, who behaved like a bull in a china shop.
John had been raised in a turbulent home. The only peace he found as a child was in his pet dog Shammy, who was both loving and well-behaved. He hoped that his experience with Pistol would be similar, but that wasn’t the case initially.
One day, John took Pistol to a friend’s house to play with his dog. Again, Pistol misbehaved. Writing in Guideposts, John said, “Every time he behaved badly, I corrected him. Not harshly, but persistently. And I praised him whenever he did the right thing. To my astonishment, Pistol caught on. That was it: consistent correction paired with positive reinforcement.”
By the time Ashley returned home, Pistol was a different dog. And John believed that he himself now had what it takes to be a good parent. He and Ashley eventually had a baby named Amelia, for whom Pistol served as a loving presence.
The righteous know the needs of their animals. (Proverbs 12:10)
May families bring love to their pets, Father.
Hair Dreams by Christal
Missouri City, Texas hair stylist Christal Mercier found her purpose during her sister Dena’s cancer battle. Dena had worked as a model, but lost her hair due to cancer, leaving her feeling depressed and embarrassed. Christal prayed for a way to help her sister and came up with the idea of creating a specially made and fitted wig for her. That wig allowed Dena to regain her confidence. It also set Christal on a new path.
As reported by Click2Houston.com, she founded the nonprofit “Hair Dreams by Christal” to provide people who have lost their hair due to various medical conditions with “non-surgical hair loss replacement systems.”
One of the beneficiaries has been nine-year-old Kaila Ray, who ended up with bald patches on her scalp due to alopecia. Kaila’s father, Louis, said, “Christal put a wig on her, and she saw how she looked…and a big smile came across her face.”
Christal says, “I have a gift from God, and I just like to share it.”
We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us. (Romans 12:6)
Help me build someone’s confidence, Savior.
Chaplain Lauds Star Trek and Holy Spirit
Though Star Trek fan Father Larry Rice didn’t take over the Starship Enterprise in 2021, he did step into a major leadership position: chaplain for all students, faculty, and staff at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a university in Troy, New York.
The school’s focus on science and technology is perfect for Father Rice since his family includes several scientists and engineers—and he himself majored in computer science before changing paths to become a Paulist priest.
Father Rice believes that his affinity for Star Trek will help him connect to RPI’s student body. He told the Albany Times Union, “Star Trek has always had a message that we’re going to get through this…together. The future is worth fighting for. Our diversity is our strength.”
In addition, the priest told The Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, that he remains attentive to the work of the Holy Spirit: “I can be attentive to what God is accomplishing in people that are even outside of our faith tradition because the Holy Spirit is at work in all of them and everywhere.”
We speak…in words not taught by human wisdom but
taught by the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:13)
Accomplish Your will for me, Holy Spirit.
The Bridge to Life
In College Point, New York, adjacent to St. Fidelis Church, you will find The Bridge to Life. Founded 30 years ago to assist struggling single mothers and the “better lives they seek,” the facility recently relocated from Flushing to College Point. They are making use of every inch of their 8,000 square feet, which includes 18 new rooms to aid mothers and their young children.
Among these rooms are a toy room and a woman’s clothing room, providing everything from coats to cosmetics. Perhaps the most popular room for visiting mothers is the “layette room, where mothers can find onesies, pacifiers, diapers…and other items.” According to The Tablet’s Paula Katinas, “Each mother who comes in is given a bag filled with infant care supplies and can come back every three months to replenish.”
“This is so much bigger than our old place,” executive director Francesca Yellico declared to The Tablet. “We’ll be able to do so much more here. We always wanted to offer nutrition classes, but we never had the room. Now we do.”
As Paula Menera, a member of The Bridge to Life’s board of directors concluded, “We offer help to women, not judgment.”
He gives…woman a home. (Psalm 113:9)
Abba, may we never neglect the care of single mothers.
Patience for Greatness
Sarah Merrill had always wanted to become a doctor, but she put her dream on hold to have a family. Eventually, the mother of nine pursued that dream again, and in 2022, she graduated from medical school and was about to begin a residency at Indiana University to become a neurosurgeon.
Merrill told Good Morning America, “I remember studying for the MCAT when my two youngest were two and three years old, and my two-year-old would climb on me like a mountain while I was trying to take practice tests.”
To make the childcare situation work, Merrill’s husband worked remotely, while her mother moved closer to the family to help out. The kids were also supportive and took inspiration to set their own ambitious goals.
Offering advice to others, Merrill said, “Set the goals that are what you're really passionate about, that you would love to do and want to do, and once you’ve set that goal, then it helps to think small…If you know what your priorities are, focus on the next step and then you’ll get where you want to go.”
All things can be done for the one who believes.
God, grant me the patience to accomplish great things.
A Happy Person’s Sadness
Though award-winning actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth considers herself an “overall happy person,” she admits that she also endures times of sadness and depression. This might shock people who know her joyful public persona.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, she explained that she deals with those difficult moments by simply telling the people around her, “Today is not a good day for me. I’m sorry.”
“I think that’s a good lesson,” Kristin added. “It’s okay to tell people around you that today is not going to be a good day—or ‘This is what I’m feeling today, and we don’t have to make a big deal of it’…Because then they’re not expecting a tap dance and a baton twirl.”
In order to combat her times of darkness, Kristin has adopted as her mantra the words from Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” She said, “Sometimes…I get quiet so that I can listen and hear what is being said to me. I believe it’s God. Sometimes it’ll not be the answer I want or the feeling I want, but that’s what I do.”
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears.
Be my strength during times of sadness, Jesus.
Keep Reaching for the Stars
Wally Funk never gave up on her dream of being an astronaut. And at the age of 82, she became the oldest person to go into space. No one was as excited as her congregation at White’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake, Texas.
In the 1960s, Funk had been the youngest graduate in the Woman in Space Program, a privately funded project that tested female pilots’ fitness for space travel. Despite outperforming her male counterparts, she was denied entry into NASA’s space program.
According to religionnews.com, Funk continued to study aviation over the years, always believing she would get her chance to go to space one day. Thanks to a special invitation from Jeff Bezos, she finally reached the stars on his space tourism venture, Blue Origin, in July 2021.
“We’re so proud of her,” said the Rev. John McKellar, co-pastor at White’s Chapel, who came out to celebrate Funk’s space flight, along with 300 members of the congregation. “What an inspiration she’s been to us all.”
He cheered them all by relating a dream…which was worthy of belief. (2 Maccabees 15:11)
God, always shine upon us like the moon and the stars.
An Olympic Gymnast’s Faith, Part 1
Writing for Catholic News Agency, Kate Olivera chronicled the conversion story of three-time Olympian and Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes, who was part of the 1996 squad that won the first U.S. women’s team gold in gymnastics.
Dawes recalled a moment of doubt at the start of the games, when she became overwhelmed by the pressure just before appearing in front of billions of people watching around the world. It was then that her team captain, Amanda Borden, knelt beside her and together they prayed, asking God to watch over them.
Recalling that moment, Dawes said, “It was good to have that reminder that I’m not alone...because [God] is the one that is going to strengthen me, and He is the one that’s going to strengthen us…I remember when I stood up after that prayer with Amanda, I felt free. I felt light…And we went out, marched out together and we all made history.” More tomorrow…
Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles. (Isaiah 40:31)
Remind me that You are my strength, Creator.
An Olympic Gymnast’s Faith, Part 2
Olympic gold medalist and gymnast Dominique Dawes credits her mother’s Baptist faith for instilling a strong bond with God early on. She told Catholic News Agency, “The seed that my mom planted in me really took. She sowed a seed that has been one that has kept me grounded, (and) has given me this level of discernment, as I think the Spirit has protected me quite a bit in my life and has steered me away from some people and situations that maybe weren’t the healthiest for me.”
Dawes eventually felt called to the Catholic faith and to a special connection to the Virgin Mary, saying, “I always felt as a young person, while my mom did the best that she could, and my coach who many times was labeled as a mother figure, neither of them were truly happy people.”
“I felt as if I wanted to find...a mother who maybe was happy,” Dawes continued. “Those loving arms that you can run into and just feel that sense of comfort and love, which I never felt as a child.” More tomorrow…
The Spirit helps us in our weakness. (Romans 8:26)
Holy Spirit, protect me from dangerous situations and guide me in Your path.
An Olympic Gymnast’s Faith, Part 3
Regarding her conversion to Catholicism, Dominique Dawes noted that her grandmother was full Piscataway Conoy Native American. She was also Catholic and named after Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. Dawes said, “I knew very little about this until I became an adult. And I was like, ‘Oh, that’s my grandmother I felt calling me into this Church.’”
Today, Dawes is married to a Catholic school teacher, and they have four children together. She also runs a gymnastics academy where she fosters a positive culture. Dawes told Catholic News Agency, “The people that I have on board, they really are so positive…It amazes me, because the environment that I came from was so critical. Like, nothing you could do in the sport of gymnastics was right. Nothing was ever good enough…When I opened these doors, I said, ‘I really want this big sign that says, ‘You are Enough.’”
Dawes’ story demonstrates that a relationship with Christ can empower us to challenge the status quo so we leave a more loving culture, where all people can find their talents and thrive.
Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (Romans 14:19)
Remind me that I am enough, Savior.
Operation Little Vittles
When Gail Halvorsen passed away at age 101 in 2022, he left a legacy that continues to bring sweet smiles to people’s faces. Halvorsen was a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, stationed in Germany after World War II.
The Soviets had blockaded the entrance into West Berlin, so one day in July 1948, Halvorsen found himself at the barbed wire fence at Tempelhof in Berlin, reported the Gail S. Halvorsen Aviation Education Foundation. There were 30 children gathered on the other side of the fence, so he handed them two sticks of gum, the only treat he had with him.
“The result was unbelievable,” recalled Halvorsen. “Those with the gum tore off strips of the wrapper and gave them to the others. Those with the strips put them to their noses and smelled the tiny fragrance. The…pleasure was unmeasurable.”
That experience sowed the seeds for “Operation Little Vittles,” in which Halvorsen would drop chocolates and gum attached to mini-parachutes to children during the Berlin Airlift. He lovingly came to be called “the Candy Bomber.”
Your sustenance manifested Your sweetness toward Your children. (Wisdom 16:21)
Help me make life sweeter for others, Savior.
Integrity Makes the Case
Though it took 35 years, the late Gil Hodges was finally elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2021. His playing career included the Brooklyn Dodgers’ only World Series win in 1955. And Hodges also managed the Miracle Mets to a surprising World Series victory in 1969.
Despite his accomplishments, Hodges always failed to generate enough votes from baseball writers to enter the Hall of Fame. As New York Daily News columnist Bill Madden pointed out, the reason that changed was likely twofold: 1) a big endorsement from beloved Dodgers’ broadcaster Vin Scully, and 2) the integrity/sportsmanship clause that writers are asked to consider in their voting, a clause that takes on more meaning now that steroid users are being considered for the Hall of Fame.
Madden quoted one source as saying, “You could make the case…that no one in the game epitomized that clause more than Hodges, a quiet leader, an ex-Marine World War II hero who was universally respected by teammates and foes alike. I think that made the difference for him, especially in this day and age.”
The integrity of the upright guides them. (Proverbs 11:3)
Help me be a person with integrity, Father.
Out of the Deep End
At age five, Chris Jones of Columbus, Ohio, slipped into the deep end of a swimming pool and almost drowned. By the time someone spotted him and pulled him out, the boy’s heart had stopped beating and he had stopped breathing. It wasn’t until Police Officer James Poole arrived on the scene and administered CPR that Jones was brought back to life.
Jones had always wanted to meet the officer who saved his life, but he never did—until 20 years later. Jones saw Poole’s name mentioned on social media and contacted the police department about arranging a reunion. The department set it up, but kept it a secret from Poole, telling him they were doing a video segment on community liaison officers.
When Jones arrived with his five-year-old daughter, he asked Officer Poole, “Do you remember me? In 1997, you pulled me out of a swimming pool.” An emotional and humbled Officer Poole gave Jones a big hug. Jones thanked Poole for saving his life and making it possible for him to have a daughter of his own. Jones said, “He’s my guardian angel here on this planet.”
The breath of the Almighty gives me life. (Job 33:4)
Bless and guide those with life-saving skills, Father.
The Work of Human Hands
In the summer of 2021, Daniel Sanchez woke up at 3:00 a.m. every day to head into the fields alongside migrants to pick cherries and apples in the broiling heat of a Yakima, Washington day. But Sanchez wasn’t a migrant himself. Rather, he was a seminarian who ministered to them and their families.
John Gehring writes in the National Catholic Reporter, “The majority of migrants are from Mexico and work legally as part of the H-2A visa program for temporary agricultural workers…Bishop Joseph Tyson not only came up with the idea for housing seminarians with migrants, but also walked the walk himself by living [in their camp] for nearly a month.”
Bishop Tyson explained, “This is hot, hard work. I think the seminarians build resilience by being around that kind of resilience. If you want to elevate the bread and wine, the fruit of the vine and work of human hands, I want our priests to feel that weight in their bones. The sacrifice of the Mass involves real human labor. I want them to see what it takes to get that on the table.”
Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. (James 1:22)
Teach me to appreciate the sources of my food, Jesus.
Adopt a Cop
African American teens in Brooklyn, New York, don’t always have a positive view of the city’s police officers, but a new program is aiming to change that while building better community relations.
As reported by Dean Moses in AMNY, the police department created an initiative called “Adopt a Cop,” which allows young people to choose an officer as a mentor. They then develop a relationship by engaging in fun activities, having meaningful conversations, and even feeding the homeless.
Taylor Cole, age 17, said the experience gave her a more positive view of the police. And NYPD Youth Coordination Officer Tyrone Saxon added, “I actually learned a lot more from them than they probably learned from me. I see these kids every day. I talk to them. I engage with them. I know their families, but it’s just breathtaking that young people can come in here with a certain opinion about how they feel about police and before they get to leave, I get a chance to put an impact on their life, to show them there are good officers, this is a good profession.”
Do not look on…appearance…but…the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
Help me turn strangers into friends, Jesus.
Actress and producer Susan Strasberg had her faith in the traditional dream of success shaken at an early age. As the child of a theatrical family, she was surrounded by wealthy, famous people.
She was puzzled by how many of them seemed unhappy. “The conventional American Dream,” said Strasberg, “is that if you have everything materially, you have no reason to be unhappy.”
Through the years, she became more and more aware that “being wealthy and owning five cars” meant very little.
She realized that success was something different. She defined it simply: “I think God desires that we all use our gifts and talents to reach our potential.”
Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you. (Psalm 55:22)
Help us use our gifts and talents to reach our potential, Sustaining Lord, and more than that, to help others reach theirs.
Teaching History and Hope, Part 1
When the credits came up every week at the end of the hit 1970s TV series Good Times, 11-year-old Don Tate sat mesmerized by the painting displayed in the background. It inspired him to become an artist and storyteller himself, one who highlights little-known stories from African American history and brings them to life for a new generation.
In the context of Good Times, the painting under the credits was done by the character JJ Evans. But in real life, it was a work of art called “The Sugar Shack,” by former football player Ernie Barnes. Seeing it moved Don to start drawing himself. His uncle, who ran a barber shop in their community of Des Moines, Iowa, even hung Don’s pictures around the shop and declared to customers, “My nephew is the best artist in the country!”
His uncle’s words built up Don’s sense of talent and self-worth. In addition, Don’s aunt became one of the first African American writers at the Des Moines Register. Her success taught him that he could also make a living being a storyteller. More tomorrow…
We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us. (Romans 12:6)
May I encourage the talents I see in other people, Creator.
Teaching History and Hope, Part 2
Don Tate first caught The Christophers’ attention with his children’s book Poet, which tells the story of George Moses Horton, who was born into slavery, but taught himself to read despite all the obstacles in his way. During a Christopher Closeup interview, Don said, “He became the first African American in the South to publish a book.”
Horton often incorporated his deep religious faith into his work. Don said, “Horton…found happiness on Sabbath Sunday. Typically, not always, that was a day off for enslaved people. On that day, George attended church services. He was happy listening to the preacher read the Bible. He was happiest singing and dancing to lively music. And he was in seventh heaven when in relationship with God.”
That relationship is highlighted in two stanzas from Horton’s poem “Heavenly Love”: “Eternal spring of boundless grace! / It lifts the soul above, / Where God the Son unveils His face, / And shows that Heaven is love. / Love that revolves through endless years – / Love that can never pall; / Love which excludes the gloom of fears, / Love to whom God is all!”
God is love. (1 John 4:8)
May my talents celebrate Your love, Creator.
Teaching History and Hope, Part 3
Faith remains a vital part of Don Tate’s life. Though he grew up around a hellfire and brimstone version of God, his spiritual journey as an adult led him to the gospels and their message of redemption and love.
Don’s artistic talents also reached a “full circle” moment with his Christopher Award-winning children’s book Pigskins to Paintbrushes, which tells the story of Ernie Barnes, the artist behind the Good Times’ painting that originally inspired Don. Barnes became a football player and later returned to art after an injury ended his sports career.
Don explained his approach to his career during a Christopher Closeup interview: “Reading and stories are how children learn about the past. Reading and stories are how children put today into context and how they can dream about the future. That’s not going to happen if we can’t get them excited about going to the library and picking up a book. So that is the most important goal when I sit down to write a story: to get them excited about literature.”
Do your best to present yourself to God… rightly explaining the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
May good books teach and inspire me, Holy Spirit.
Principal Lives Out Father’s Legacy
Harold Thomas Jr., principal of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Academy in Washington, D.C., is following in the footsteps of his father, who was principal of the same school 20 years earlier.
Harold Thomas Sr. passed away two months shy of his 82nd birthday. His son told Catholic News Service, “I am carrying on his legacy, and the beautiful part is I feel his presence.”
Thomas Jr. said he didn’t consider a job in education at first, but then realized it was a natural fit for him. When he accepted the job as principal, his father would come and volunteer at the school. Thomas Jr. benefited from the groundwork established by his father and, since his passing, he reflects, “Sometimes I still find myself wanting to pick up the phone and tell him what is happening and seek his advice.”
Thomas Sr. loved working in Catholic schools, and Thomas Jr. agrees, noting, “It is a ministry of love and commitment, and you really have to love what you are doing.”
The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in
His hands. (John 3:35)
Lord, thank You for the mentorship and love of fathers.
To Help a Child
When his wife died in 1987, John Nagle was left a widower with four children, ranging in age from seven to 19. Nagle’s mother-in-law, deeply grieving the loss of her daughter, told him, “There is no pain greater than the pain of losing a child.”
This message stayed with Nagle, so after moving his family to Washington state to take on a new job, he started sending $10 a month to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, to help kids struggling with cancer.
That connection to St. Jude’s came full circle years later when Nagle’s 14-year-old grandson, Nick, was diagnosed with bone cancer. Despite the fact that he was in a different state, Nagle called St. Jude’s for literature that would help the family learn what to expect in terms of treatment. As reported in St. Jude Inspire magazine, it turned out that “two of the protocols used to treat [Nick] were developed at St. Jude.”
Today, Nick is a healthy 33-year-old, and Nagle remains committed to helping the children’s hospital which has done so much good for so many.
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:16)
Help me ease the suffering of others, Messiah.
Sergeant Mentors Youth, Part Two
During the COVID-19 pandemic, young people lost many of their daily support systems. That’s why New York Police Department Sergeant James Clarke kept his annual Youth Police Academy alive at his own expense. One grateful teen participant was Donovan Osborne, who nominated Clarke for the New York Daily News’s Hometown Heroes Award.
Donovan, a 17-year-old student at New Visions Charter High School, was bullied by his peers because of his height and his focus on academics. His mother told reporter John Annese that she didn’t want her son “taken in by the streets” and gangs in their South Jamaica neighborhood, so she is grateful for the NYPD’s youth programs.
Donovan himself added, “When I first met Sgt. Clarke, I didn’t have the highest courage, strength, or determination. But after my first summer with Sgt. Clarke, I was more determined than ever to not give up, to not ever give in.” Donovan credits Sgt. Clarke’s guidance and encouragement with helping him earn many scholarships for college.
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise.
Guide young people towards the right path in life, Jesus.
Sergeant Mentors Youth, Part One
When James Clarke of Queens, New York, was a high school student more than 40 years ago, he had his sights set on becoming a pilot. But his sister pointed out to him that he was good at mentoring other kids, so he should consider being a police officer.
Today, Clarke is a 39-year NYPD veteran and sergeant who runs the annual Youth Police Academy, which offers guidance and positive role models to young people during the summer months. John Annese of New York’s Daily News reports these participants are typically between the ages of 10 and 15. Activities include playing sports, field trips, and talks about avoiding drugs and gang life.
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools in 2020, the Youth Police Academy lost its usual meeting place and funding. So, Sergeant Clarke took it upon himself to invite kids to Springfield Park and hold outdoor get-togethers three days a week because “our children need an outlet and a safe place to go during the summer,” he explained. More tomorrow…
Set the believers an example in speech and conduct.
(1 Timothy 4:12)
May I strive to be a good role model, Father.
Thank God for Grandchildren
When Peggy Weber went to a church to venerate a relic of St. Anthony of Padua, she took along her daughter and three of her grandchildren to show the youngest kids how to light a candle and say a prayer.
In her demonstration, Peggy told the children to thank God for something good in their lives. She wrote at LoyolaPress.com: “They nodded with the earnestness that oozes from an innocent child. Then one of my grandsons spread his arms wide open and proclaimed in a loud voice, ‘Thank You, God, for dinosaurs!’…I wanted to throw my arms open and shout out loud, ‘Thank You, God, for grandchildren!’”
The children’s candid communication with God gave Peggy a reminder of the openness that all of us, as children of God, should have when we approach our loving Father. By seeing faith through young, innocent eyes, she felt her own faith life renewed and knew that God sees her with as much love as she sees her grandchildren.
Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory
of children is their parents. (Proverbs 17:6)
Thank You for the joyful people in my life, Lord!
Teaching from a Student’s Front Porch
When 12-year-old Rylee Anderson of Madison, South Dakota, needed help with a math question, she never expected her teacher to assist her from her very own front porch.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic that swept across the U.S. in 2020, teachers had to quickly adjust to educating students remotely. With this vast change, Rylee was struggling to understand a math concept.
She emailed her teacher, Mr. Chris Waba, for help. Later that day, Rylee’s doorbell rang and there was Mr. Waba—socially distanced on the other side of the screen door—with a whiteboard in hand. “He made it easier to understand,” Rylee said. “I appreciated him coming over.”
By the end of the lesson, Rylee finally understood the concept, smiled, and thanked Mr. Waba. “That’s what teachers are looking for, those smiles,” Waba told CNN. “That’s the joy of being a teacher, and that’s what we do it for.”
My child, do not forget my teaching but let your heart
keep my commandments. (Proverbs 3:1)
Thank You, Lord, for the blessing of teachers, and may they continue to enlighten the next generation with wisdom.
Give Seniors the Gift of Time
The advice column “Dear Abby” once printed a letter from a senior citizen giving advice to the younger generations. It read: “Our children grow up, marry, and have children. Each grandchild is special. We love them and adore being with them.
“Then the grandkids grow up and have little ones of their own. By this time, we’re old and sometimes need help with housework, yard work, or would just like to get out of the house to go eat or shop…While it may not be intentional, it seems there is no time for the elderly.
“We may say we’re fine and don’t mind being alone, but it IS lonely at times. No one calls to say hello and ask if we need anything…It would be nice if each family member called once a week or came by once a month. The love we’ve always had for family is still there and strong.
“Children and grandchildren, please think about this and remember: The most important thing you can give your elderly relatives is TIME. Time is the most precious gift of all and doesn’t cost a thing. Someday you will be old, too!”
Do not cast me off in the time of old age. (Psalm 71:9)
Guide me to help a lonely senior, Holy Spirit.
Bat Girl Lives Dream After 60 Years
After her request to be a bat girl for the New York Yankees was turned down 60 years ago because of her gender, Gwen Goldman—now age 70—finally fulfilled her dream. She told WCBS Radio, “It was a thrill of a lifetime—times a million.”
Back in 1961, Goldman was rejected from being a bat girl by then-Yankees general manager Roy Hamey, who wrote, “It is a game dominated by men. A young lady such as yourself would feel out of place in a dugout.”
In 2021, Goldman’s daughter, Abby, forwarded that letter to current Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. After reading the letter, Cashman wanted to reward the ambition Goldman had shown as a 10-year-old girl, saying, “Some dreams take longer than they should to be realized, but a goal attained should not dim with the passage of time.”
From meeting the players to throwing out a ceremonial pitch, to being in the Yankee dugout, Goldman said it was a day she “never would have expected.”
In the time of their visitation they will shine forth.
Jesus, blessed are the dreamers and all those who break down barriers to make those dreams a reality
Uniting Gold Star Children of Vietnam, Part 1
It’s estimated that 20,000 American children lost their fathers in the Vietnam War. To make things worse, these kids had no way of finding and connecting with each other at the time, which would have allowed them to bond with those who understood their pain.
Tony Cordero became one of those children at age four, on Father’s Day weekend in 1965, when his dad, Air Force Major William E. Cordero, died during a mission. Prior to his father’s death, Tony’s family—consisting of his dad, his pregnant mother, and his three siblings—all lived together in off-base housing adjacent to Clark Air Base in the Philippines.
After the plane went down, the Corderos were notified of what happened. A local military family and the Catholic chaplain gave them support during this uncertain time when they didn’t know if Major Cordero was a prisoner of war or whether he had been killed. (It was ultimately revealed that he had died.) Within a week, the family moved back to California to be near the children’s grandparents. More tomorrow…
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)
Be near to the families of those killed in war, Father.
Uniting Gold Star Children of Vietnam, Part 2
When four-year-old Tony Cordero, his three siblings, and pregnant mother returned to California in 1965, they worked to build a new life. During a Christopher Closeup interview, Tony said, “I think about what my mom did. She was not 30 years old when she was expecting child number five and her husband was missing in a war zone…It wasn’t easy.”
“My mom’s parents were the constant in our lives,” Tony continued. “Irish Catholics, going to Mass every Sunday. My dad’s parents [were Hispanic], in Santa Barbara. They provided emotional support, leadership, but also financial support. They paid for us to go to Catholic elementary school.”
In his father’s absence, Tony’s grandfathers became his male role models: “Even though my maternal grandfather was Irish, he looked literally like Luca Brasi from The Godfather. My paternal grandfather, was…an eighth grade-educated blacksmith.” Tony also credits his father’s stepmom for being a model of selflessness, working at Catholic Charities for 50 years, even when she was in a wheelchair. More tomorrow…
In old age they still produce fruit. (Psalm 92:14)
Bless all grandparents who serve as role models, Creator.
Uniting Gold Star Children of Vietnam, Part 3
For the entirety of his youth and well into adulthood, Tony Cordero never knew any other kids whose fathers had been killed in Vietnam. In 1989, as he approached age 31, which was one year older than his father was when he died, he researched whether there was an organization that connected the now-adult Gold Star children of Vietnam.
There wasn’t, so with the help of a woman named Wanda Ruffin, he decided to create one himself. They named their group “Sons and Daughters in Touch,” and slowly received many requests to connect with the group.
On Christopher Closeup, Tony recalled, “When we gathered for the first time, Father’s Day 1992, at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial [in Washington, D.C.], we had hundreds of sons and daughters from all over the country who could look at each other and say, ‘I know what your life was like. You know what my life was like. This was not easy, but finally I’m able to stand here at the Wall with people who understand my story.’” More tomorrow…
Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (Romans 14:19)
Help me find people who understand my struggles, Jesus.
Uniting Gold Star Children of Vietnam, Part 4
In 2003, Tony Cordero organized a trip to Vietnam for the members of “Sons and Daughters in Touch.” They embarked on a flight to Saigon, with 50 sons and daughters, as well as 20 Vietnam veterans and two Catholic priests.
Tony said, “When we came back home after two and a half weeks there, going from Saigon to Hanoi, and enabling every one of those sons and daughters to get to the ground zero where their dads were lost, the boogeyman was gone…He no longer was that evil thing that we had grown up thinking about.”
“Today, my family lives in Orange County, California. We’re parishioners at Christ Cathedral, Robert Schuller’s former Crystal Cathedral. The parishioners there are a composite of my life. They’re Caucasian like my Irish grandparents, they’re Hispanic like my dad’s family…and they’re Vietnamese.
“I have incredible respect and admiration for the Vietnamese people, especially those who are here in the United States today. But when we left Vietnam, the boogeyman had been conquered.” More tomorrow…
Those who counsel peace have joy. (Proverbs 12:20)
Bring peace to troubled souls, Prince of Peace.
Uniting Gold Star Children of Vietnam, Part 5
“Sons and Daughters in Touch” has grown and evolved more than its founder, Tony Cordero, could have imagined back in 1989. Initially, he hoped all the members could get together once to get to know each other.
Instead, said Tony on Christopher Closeup, “we have [become] an incredible voice for Gold Star families. We have great relationships with older Gold Star families from World War II and Korea—and younger [ones] from post-9/11.”
Tony concluded, “To look at the impact that this organization has had on the lives of so many people…when in their darkest moments of despair, if they need a friend, they can simply go to our private Facebook page [or SDIT.org] and ask a question or start talking to people. That gives them comfort.
“[The deaths of our fathers] isn’t what dominates every moment of life, but it is an undeniable fact about what happened to us, and it’s not a pretty story. The middle chapters of the story aren’t pretty, but the ending is what can be.”
If we love one another, God lives in us. (1 John 4:12)
May bonds of friendship grow and heal all those wounded by war, Savior.
Blind Teen Swimmer Wins Paralympics
Anastasia Pagonis, age 17, from Garden City, Long Island, won the gold medal in the 400-meter freestyle at the Tokyo Paralympics, achieving her goal despite the odds.
When Pagonis lost her sight at the age of 14 from a genetic disorder coupled with an autoimmune disease, the water became her salvation during that tough time. “Right when I got in the water, I fell in love with it. I was like, ‘This is for me,’” Pagonis told WABC-TV.
Pagonis set a goal to participate in the Paralympics, a series of international multi-sport events involving athletes with a range of physical disabilities. Most swim coaches dismissed Pagonis and wouldn’t coach her. Finally, one man, Marc Danin, stepped up to the challenge, believing the teen had it in her to win.
After rigorously training for two-hour practices, nine times a week, Pagonis qualified for the Paralympics and won gold in Tokyo. Her coach was so proud, saying, “To see the joy on her face gave me complete joy.”
Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)
When I endure unexpected losses, Lord, guide me towards new opportunities.
Afghan Refugees Find Help in Nashville
To help Afghans escape Taliban rule, Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Nashville, Tennessee, will help resettle 150 refugees into local communities as part of the U.S. State Department’s Afghan Placement Assistance Program.
“We serve people because we can address their needs, and addressing the humanitarian needs of refugees has been part of the mission of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Nashville since its founding in the early 1960s,” said Rick Musacchio, Diocesan Director of Communications, to OSVnews.com.
Frances Anderson, the state refugee health coordinator assisting the State Department, feels “incredibly grateful for the compassion and interest across the United States to assist in this humanitarian work.” She has seen how tragic this has been for all evacuees who have had to flee their homes due to Taliban rule, adding, “I cannot begin to feel or understand the trauma of what they are experiencing.”
If the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a
building from God, a house not made with hands,
eternal in the heavens. (2 Corinthians 5:1)
Jesus, may refugees find safe passage to a land of peace.
Pursuing Multigenerational Living
“Boomeranging” is the word used to describe the recent trend of young people moving back in with their parents because they can’t afford to live on their own. But there is another trend as well, reports Karen Swallow Prior for Religion News Service: middle-aged people and their parents choosing to live together and support each other.
One example is Shelah Simpson and her parents, Rudy and Hallie. She wanted them to move closer to her as they aged, yet they were initially reluctant to leave their home state and old friends. The Simpsons finally agreed to purchase a new home together with Shelah in which there were upper and lower living quarters so they could “live together, but separately.”
Shelah, who had lived alone for many years, soon came to appreciate having a family to come home to every day. They share the chores of cooking and cleaning—and Shelah enjoys chatting with her dad during her lunch breaks. In addition, she said, “Just having someone with whom I can attend church instead of sitting alone is enormous.”
Agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)
Guide and sustain multigenerational families, Jesus.
Getting Back on the Horse
Equestrian Laura Collett earned a team eventing gold for England at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. It was an experience she wasn’t even sure would happen after an accident left her severely debilitated eight years ago.
While competing at another equestrian event, Collett fell off her horse. The horse then landed on top of her, leaving her with “a punctured lung, lacerated liver, a fractured shoulder and two broken ribs,” reported the BBC. In addition, she lost her vision in her right eye and spent six days in a coma.
But participating in the Olympics had been a childhood goal of Collett’s, so she committed herself to whatever rehabilitation was needed to compete again. She said, “A lot of people questioned whether…I had the mentality to want to get back on a horse after such a bad accident, but all of that just made me want to prove everyone wrong.”
And prove everyone wrong she did! Her gold medal win was a thrilling moment and comeback for a young woman who refused to give in to defeat.
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
When life knocks me down, Jesus, help me get back up.
A Memorial Day Tribute
When San Diego florist Jenelle Brinneman heard that a nonprofit organization was halting its efforts to put roses at the gravesites of veterans on Memorial Day, she stepped into action and kept the practice going. “These are our heroes that did so much for us,” she told ABC News. “Remembering them is so important to everyone.”
As word of her “Roses for Veterans” effort spread, Brinneman began to receive support in the form of donations and volunteers. In 2022, 150 volunteers prepped and distributed 3,000 roses and 40 bouquets at Fort Rosecrans and Miramar National Cemeteries in San Diego. And at Valley Center Cemetery outside San Diego, another 20 volunteers put 300 roses beside military grave markers.
“[It] makes my heart full to know someone else is taking time to recognize these amazing men and women and what they’ve done,” said Amy Oney, the granddaughter of a WWII Veteran. Brinneman added, “They deserve to be respected. Something as simple a gesture as a rose goes so far.”
I thank my God every time I remember you. (Philippians 1:3)
Lord, may we always honor the sacrifices of those who died serving their country.
Out of the Dark, Part 1
Grammy Award-winning Christian singer Mandisa has achieved great successes in her life, from appearing on American Idol to scoring hits such as “Overcomer.” But she’s also endured trauma that left her feeling betrayed by God.
For instance, during her teenage years, Mandisa was raped. During a Christopher Closeup interview about her memoir Out of the Dark, she recalled that as her assailant sexually abused her, he kept telling her, “You’re so beautiful.”
That led Mandisa to equate “beauty” with “danger” and find solace in food, which played a role in her weight struggles throughout her life. And instead of dealing with the trauma, she suppressed it and tried to move forward.
In the ensuing years, Mandisa’s Christian faith grew, and she became a contestant on Season 5 of American Idol. Though the show gave her public exposure, it also created a devastating emotional moment when judge Simon Cowell made a rude comment about her weight on air. So how did she handle that embarrassment? More tomorrow…
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed.
(2 Corinthians 4:8)
Lead me out of the dark towards Your light, Father.
Out of the Dark, Part 2
Mandisa saw it as a blessing when she became a contestant on American Idol, but soon had to deal with the public shame of judge Simon Cowell making a rude comment about her being overweight. She relied on her Christian faith in determining how to respond, eventually forgiving Cowell during the show.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Mandisa recalled, “It’s strange to say God led me towards American Idol…He used it, not just in my life, but even the moment where I forgave Simon and I told him I could do so because Jesus forgave me for all that I’ve done wrong.
“I looked at how God used that and hopefully had an impact on other people who may not go to church, but heard this girl on American Idol talking about Jesus and forgiveness. You never know how God can use things like that. And it taught me such a great lesson about forgiveness and how the impact is more for the person forgiving than even the person that’s being forgiven.” More tomorrow…
If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (Matthew 6:14)
Help me to choose forgiveness, Divine Mercy.
Out of the Dark, Part 3
In the years after American Idol, Mandisa’s career soared as she scored hits such as “Good Morning” and “Overcomer.” She also engaged in a public weight loss journey that led her to shed 100 pounds.
But when her close friend and backup singer, Lakisha Mitchell, died of breast cancer, Mandisa felt betrayed by God because her prayers for healing weren’t answered. “It made me question God’s goodness and even His existence,” she recalled.
Mandisa isolated herself from her friends, finding solace in TV and food—and regaining the 100 pounds she had lost. Doubts continued to plague her, adding to the unresolved traumas already in her past and leading her to consider suicide.
Thankfully, before Mandisa acted on those feelings, her friends staged an intervention, reminiscent of the friends in the Bible who lifted the roof off a house in order to get their paralyzed friend in front of Jesus. Their love led Mandisa to finally seek out the help she needed. More tomorrow…
Two are better than one… If they fall, one will lift up the other. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
Teach me to be a supportive friend, Jesus.
Out of the Dark, Part 4
After her friends’ intervention, Mandisa went to a counselor to deal with her trauma. The experience was a revelation. During a Christopher Closeup interview about her memoir Out of the Dark, she said, “Talking about these things, it’s good and healthy for you. It’s not a sign of weakness.”
“In the same way that if you have a physical ailment, you would go and see a doctor, I’ve come to appreciate counselors. These are professionals to help you deal with some things that are easy to sweep under the rug. So, through my counseling journey, which has continued, it’s helping me to talk about difficult issues…that I’m forcing myself to face.”
Mandisa added, “I want to destigmatize counselors and therapists in the body of Christ, particularly, because I sometimes hear the phrase, ‘I’ve got God and that’s enough for me.’ It’s a bit of a red flag for me, because I feel like He’s made us for community…Have somebody come alongside you in your journey…So, if there’s any takeaway from this book, I hope it’s how much we need one another.” More tomorrow…
In abundance of counselors there is victory.
Guide me toward wise advice and counseling, Father.
Out of the Dark, Part 5
Mandisa also touches on issues of race and diversity in her memoir Out of the Dark. She grew up as a self-proclaimed “valley girl” in California, an African American surrounded mostly by white people.
For college, though, she attended Fisk University in Nashville, a majority black school that was originally founded in the 1800s to educate freed slaves. Those experiences taught her the beauty of diversity.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Mandisa observed, “I’m in this [Christian music] industry, where there’s not a lot of people who look like me…So, I love being on tours with so much diversity. That is something to be celebrated.
“I think God is like, ‘[Without diversity], you are missing the beauty that I have created with different colors and styles and experiences.’ I think if we were to embrace one another—and not just hang around the same kind of people that are like us—we would understand the beauty of diversity that we have in the body of Christ.” More tomorrow…
All of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
Teach me to see the beauty of diversity, Father.
Out of the Dark, Part 6
Mandisa has gained much wisdom in the last 10 years, and she hopes that people who read her memoir Out of the Dark benefit from her experiences, especially in terms of their relationship with God.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, she concluded, “I’m so thankful for David in the Bible, because he was a man after God’s own heart. He committed murder, he had an affair, there were a lot of things that he did wrong.
“When I looked through the Psalms that he wrote, one of the things that I see is that he would talk to God about all of it, if he was angry about something or sad or joyful. I think what God has been showing me is, ‘When you feel like I didn’t answer things the way that you wanted to, if you’re angry at Me or if you’re sad, come to Me with that.’”
“When you open up and let God in on the things that you’re trying to keep hidden, that’s when He’s able to shine light on that and…speak to those issues. So, I’m trying to be like David and just speak honestly with God.”
The Lord is near to all who call on Him…in truth. (Psalm 145:18)
Remind me to be honest in my prayers to You, Jesus.
Enjoying Nature is Good for You
Taking time to appreciate nature isn’t only enjoyable, it’s also good for you, both psychologically and socially. Psychology Today reports that simple activities, such as “walking through the woods, observing a beautiful sunset, or simply tending to a plant…seem to orient us toward greater concern for and connection with others.”
A University of Rochester study discovered that exposure to the natural world bolstered feelings of “connectedness and community” in people, whereas looking at man-made objects pointed them toward self-focused values, such as “fame and wealth.”
In addition, “Nature often inspires awe—‘the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends our understanding of the world’—and research shows that experiencing awe diminishes our sense of self, which can motivate us to be more caring and helpful toward others.”
So, start making time to appreciate the wonders of God’s creation!
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)
Open my eyes to the beauty around me, Creator.
A Sports Dad’s Confession
Dr. Patrick Cohn is a sports psychology expert who helps athletes perform at their highest potential. However, after his 16-year-old daughter, Patti, who was being recruited by college coaches, quit playing competitive tennis, Cohn realized he had pushed her too far.
To make up for past mistakes, he interviewed Paula, his nine-year-old daughter, to call out some mistakes sports dads make with their kids. Paula, who plays soccer, offers this advice: “Tell [kids], ‘Good luck,’ ‘Have fun,’ or ‘It doesn’t matter if you win or lose.’”
She further advises parents to stop distracting kids by screaming on the sidelines, noting a pre-game pep talk is fine as long as it doesn’t “go on and on and on.”
Big sister Patti also shares some insight for parents who have kids competing in sports: “Make sure it’s what the kid wants and not what you want,” she told the TODAY Show.
Doing wrong is like sport to a fool, but wise conduct is pleasure to a person of understanding. (Proverbs 10:23)
Lord Savior, help us become better listeners while guiding our children along life’s journey.
Installing Carpets and Hope
Many years ago, Fernando Mateo taught young prison inmates a better way out of poverty than selling drugs.
Mateo grew up on New York’s Lower East Side and knew what it was like to be poor. By determination and hard work, he built up a profitable carpet business. Then, he wanted to give others a chance by teaching them a trade.
He set up a program offering inmates a three-month course in installing carpets. When they finished, they received $500 worth of tools. And when they got out of prison, they were given jobs as apprentices at $10 an hour.
Participants were enthusiastic. One 17-year-old said, “Before this came along, I really didn’t see a future. Now I see otherwise.”
Seeing the future is something everybody deserves, even those who have made mistakes.
Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
Holy Spirit, lead me to be a source of hope to someone in need of guidance.
The Electric Nun
Many nuns serve as a light in the darkness to the people around them, but for Sister Alphonsine Ciza, that’s true in more ways than one. In the Democratic Republic of Congo’s town of Midi, she helped build a small hydroelectric plant that powers “a convent, church, two schools and a clinic free of charge.”
Blackouts are a common occurrence in the Congo, with many communities only generating enough electricity for two or three days a week. “Fed up with relying on candlelight and costly fuel-powered generators, Ciza started raising money in 2015 to build the hydropower plant,” reported Reuters.com. “She picked up skills as a young nun, repairing electrical faults around the convent, which convinced superiors to send her to study mechanical engineering.”
It took three years to raise the money and build the plant, but now, Sister Alphonsine is thrilled that students are able to learn on actual computers—with the lights on!
The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.
Guide me in using my talents to brighten the lives of others, Messiah.
A Sense of Belonging
While many teens graduate high school with high hopes for the future, this wasn’t the case for Kim Brown’s daughter, Ellie, who has intellectual and developmental disabilities. Kim didn’t see any opportunities for Ellie in their west Houston community, so she created one herself.
As reported by LOCALish, the Browns launched a nonprofit in their backyard, called “Belong Kitchen,” in which Ellie and her family prepared “grab-and-go” meals for customers. Belong Kitchen grew over time and drew interest from other families whose special needs members couldn’t find work. The business moved to a brick-and-mortar location and adopted the motto, “Special people making special food.”
Kim said, “I think our employees certainly gain self-confidence. I think that we take for granted the impact that gainful employment has on typical adults. Being able to come to work, getting a paycheck, having friends at work, feeling like you’re not the only one that is special or different, has a lot of value.”
Prosper the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:17)
Guide people with special needs toward fulfilling work, Lord.
Grief as Part of Life
At some point in life, we are bound to experience a deep grief over the loss of someone dear to us.
Grief can be devastating. Recovery may take a long time. But we are not helpless in the face of grief, which can have its positive aspects.
There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “Without sorrows no one becomes a saint.” So grief can be a period of personal growth for us.
The Englishman Edward Marham once wrote, “Only the soul that knows the mighty grief can know the mighty rapture.” So grief can help us appreciate life’s joyous moments that much more.
When grief comes, don’t try to run from it. Accept the support of family and friends, cry when you feel the need, but do your best to move forward in life. That’s what God wants for you: to live fully each day you have.
He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…He
was wounded for our transgressions. (Isaiah 53:4,5)
Thank You, Jesus, for taking my griefs and sorrows upon
Yourself in love.
A Mother’s Intuition
Jorge Alfaro, who joined the San Diego Padres at the start of the 2022 Major League Baseball season, called his mom in Colombia, because he had sent her flowers for Mother’s Day and wanted to make sure she got them. She watches all the Padres games, so she asked about that day’s lineup.
Alfaro told her that he wouldn’t be starting because he had been in a bit of a hitting slump. She responded, “If you’re not in the lineup, just be ready, you’re going to hit a home run today.” Jorge laughed and told her, “Mom, that’s hard to do.”
Well, it was the bottom of the ninth, there were two outs, and the Padres were down by two runs. Two men managed to get on base, so manager Bob Melvin picked Alfaro to be his pinch hitter because he had the power to belt a home run.
Sure enough, that’s what happened, giving the Padres their first pinch hit, walk off win since 2019, reported AJ Cassavell for MLB.com. Alfaro said, “It’s just unbelievable. She called it earlier…It feels like a dream. How did she know?”
Sometimes a mother just knows.
She opens her mouth with wisdom. (Proverbs 31:26)
May all children receive comfort and encouragement from their mothers, Lord.
A Safe Haven for New Life
Not all expectant mothers have the support systems they need to deliver their babies in a healthy, happy environment. But in Carmel, Indiana, O’Connor House offers a safe haven for single mothers and their precious new miracles.
Christian single mother and co-founder Colleen DuLac felt divinely inspired to establish this home in 2001. Named for former New York Archbishop John Cardinal O’Connor, this house was a project four years in the making.
The first O’Connor House was created in 2005; it has since moved to a bigger property to fulfill the growing needs of the community. In addition to housing for eight mothers and their children for up to 18 months, O’Connor House also provides counseling, Bible study, and educational classes, ranging from professional skill building to how to feed and change a baby.
“We help them see that anything is possible,” Executive Director Michelle Corrao told The Catholic Moment. “We give them their wings…I tell our staff, whether these women are here a day, a week, or a year, you’ve made a difference.”
Every perfect gift is from above. (James 1:17)
Blessed Mother, guide and protect all mothers.
Founded in 2019 by Father Zach Presutti, S.J., Ignacio House is a place “where formerly incarcerated men can continue their college education.” The facility, which can house up to 24 people, was built in the Bronx, near Fordham University.
One of its residents, Italo Sanchez, had served time at Otisville Correctional Facility. He told Catholic New York’s John Woods that he was in a dark place, feeling like he had “accomplished nothing.” But Ignacio House served as a light in the darkness for him: “It was a big change coming from where I was. It’s brotherly love, community—we have each other’s backs. There’s a lot of trust here.”
Sanchez is now employed by an architect and also works in construction for Local 79, none of which would have been possible without the support and inspiration he received from “Casa Ignacio.”
“I’m glad for all the blessings,” Sanchez concluded. “God put me here for a reason. He passed me the torch, and I’m running with it. I’m not looking back.”
Remember those who are in prison. (Hebrews 13:3)
Lord, may we believe in the possibility of second chances.
The 50 Yard Challenge
Like many young boys, Rodney Smith Jr. did not enjoy mowing the lawn. But during his senior year of college, after stopping to help an older man cut his grass, Smith got a whole new perspective on this chore.
He vowed to start mowing lawns for those who needed it, free of charge, specifically aiming to assist the elderly, the disabled, and single parents. Six years ago, at age 28, Rodney established an organization in his hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, encouraging young men and women to do the same.
Aptly named “Raising Men and Women Lawn Care Service,” this nonprofit gives its registrants a “50 yard” challenge. Mow 50 yards in your neighborhood for free, and you will be gifted with a “brand-new lawn mower, weed eater and blower,” hand-delivered by Rodney himself.
To date, more than 2,000 young people across the U.S. have completed this task, and the initiative has spread to eight other countries. “My mission in life is to give back,” Smith told CNN. “Especially to those who need it the most.”
Do good and…share what you have. (Hebrews 13:16)
Father, may we strive to lead our youth by example.
Veterinarian Treats Pets of the Homeless
About 25 percent of Modesto, California’s homeless population owns a pet, but there are few healthcare options available to them. Veterinarian Kwane Stewart helps fill this void by walking the streets with his medical bag to tend to as many cases as he can, saying “their pet is the reason [their owners] wake up in the morning.”
Stewart started treating the pets of the homeless back in 2011, when he spotted a homeless man holding a dog that was suffering from an allergic reaction to fleas. Stewart paid for the dog’s medicine out of his own pocket. The homeless man was in tears, grateful for the vet’s kindness.
Stewart told medium.com, “When you give back, there is something you get in return that feels much larger. I knew I wanted to keep doing it.”
Stewart has since treated more than 400 pets on the streets, noting, “The look on people’s faces when they get their pets back, especially after a surgery or a life-saving procedure—those are moments I’ll remember forever.”
You save humans and animals alike, O Lord.
Heavenly Father, watch over and protect our pets.
Paula Faris’s New Chapter, Part 1
Burned out. Scared. Energized. Those descriptions sum up the last few years of Paula Faris’s life. After feeling overworked at ABC News because of her schedule anchoring Good Morning America Weekend and co-hosting The View, she chose to take on the less time-consuming position of being a correspondent in order to spend more time with her husband and three children.
But in March 2020, Paula learned that ABC News wouldn’t be renewing her contract, forcing her to completely reevaluate what to do moving forward. Then, things got even crazier when COVID-19 shut down much of the world.
With God’s help, Paula navigated fear and uncertainty, realizing that her own struggles as a working mother reflected the lives of millions of women around the country. She is now using her communication and journalism skills not only as a popular podcaster and author, but as the founder of Carry Media, a company which celebrates and advocates for working mothers.
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth.
Help me adapt to change, Messiah.
Paula Faris’s New Chapter, Part 2
When the pandemic shutdowns happened in March 2020, both Paula Faris and her husband John, who works in real estate, took their kids and relocated to South Carolina, where Paula’s sister lives. They felt a sense of peace in South Carolina and decided to stay.
Though she has a positive attitude about it now, Paula admits that losing her job led her through the stages of grief, such as anger, depression, and acceptance. “I’ve had to learn that I can be sad and expectant in the same breath,” she said during a Christopher Closeup interview.
She added, “My husband is still with the same company, but God opened up a lot of doors [so] he could work from home about 80 percent of the time. I have a podcast, Faith and Calling, and I’m launching a media company…Thank God we didn’t get what we wanted. Thank God we got what we needed…It’s been a blessing to us living here in South Carolina, pushing a reset on our lives, walking into new scary chapters.” More tomorrow…
Do not be frightened…The Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
Paraclete, may we trust in You to give us what we need.
Paula Faris’s New Chapter, Part 3
It was ironic that Paula Faris lost her job at ABC News at the same time she released her memoir Called Out about reducing her busy work schedule in 2018. That decision helped her focus more on her family, and at first her bosses were accommodating. That changed in 2020.
“But it led me into this new season,” said Paula during a Christopher Closeup interview. “What I’ve learned the last couple of years is…God calls us to do different things in different seasons…I feel this heart for the mom in the workforce who is burned out, exhausted, and trying to bring home the bacon and fry it, too. There’s not a lot of support for her.”
“So, I’m like, ‘Okay, God, what do I do with this?’ Fast forward, I’m launching Carry Media, which is all about advocating and celebrating the mom in the workforce…I’m taking the skills that made me an effective broadcaster into this new space: my ability to ask questions, engage in conversation, my curiosity, my propensity to get things done.” More tomorrow…
Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord. (Colossians 3:23)
Guide me in this season of life, Jesus.
Paula Faris’s New Chapter, Part 4
Paula Faris named her new company Carry Media because she wants to help carry working mothers toward feeling less alone by offering them practical and emotional support.
“Some women work because they have to put food on the table,” Paula noted. “Some women work because they want to. I was the primary breadwinner of our family for a long time. I had moved up the corporate ladder. I got to the pinnacle of my career. Then, I was like, ‘What good is it to gain the world, but to lose my soul in the process?’”
Paula lamented the fact that women who want to work are often “punished for just furthering society by even having children. There are these misconceptions that we don’t want to work, or we can’t get the job done…Motherhood makes us a better leader. Motherhood makes us an empathizer. Motherhood makes us a visionary. Motherhood makes us incredibly efficient. The workplace just needs to do better by moms.” More tomorrow…
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. (Proverbs 31:26)
Bless and guide mothers who balance work and family, Lord.
Paula Faris’s New Chapter, Part 5
Paula Faris notes that American culture says it values the family, but it often falls short. She says, “We put so much emphasis on career and success…But you go to other countries, and it’s not like that. They have wonderful family leave structures. They have affordable childcare. They also take six to eight weeks of vacation. Their job isn’t their life.”
Paula adds, “I think the way to affect positive change is not by emasculating men. It’s not by diminishing anyone else. It’s by linking arms, and saying, ‘We need your help.’ At the end of the day, we’re just trying to create strong families.”
In reflecting on both her present and her future, Paula concludes, “God’s calling me to this new chapter, and I hold it loosely. He might call me to something else in two years, and that could change. But the point is, I don’t determine my value and my worth from what I do anymore. And I know that wherever I’m called, whatever it is vocationally, I’m there to effectively shine a light. That’s the ultimate calling: to shine a light for Jesus, wherever you are.”
You are the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14)
Be my guiding light, so I can be Your light, Jesus.
‘Star Wars’ Creator Promotes Responsibility
Star Wars creator George Lucas has always worked moral lessons about courage, friendship, selflessness, and sacrifice into his stories. In an interview with Paul Duncan, author of the book The Star Wars Archives: 1999-2005, Lucas elaborated on his philosophy about everyone’s ability to have a positive influence on the people around them:
“One of the basic concepts of human nature is personal responsibility. You either take responsibility for what you are doing, or you do not. But to deny that you have anything to do with the world, that you don’t influence it in any way, is ridiculous.
“We all influence the world. We all teach. Some of us have larger voices than others, but everybody teaches every day of their lives. And everything you teach you are responsible for. I have a very loud voice and therefore I take it very seriously that whether you are influencing one person or a million people, the burden of responsibility still exists upon the individual.”
Set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)
Guide me in being a role model, Holy Spirit.
A Nurse’s Heart
For Janet Woods, nursing has been more than a career; it’s been a vocation. It continues to be just that even though she has been doing the job for 50 years.
A pediatric nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia, Woods is beloved by her colleagues, who call her an inspiration. They wanted to celebrate her special anniversary, so when she showed up for work one morning in 2021, they lined the halls, applauded her, and gifted her with 50 roses.
As reported by Jan Crawford on the CBS Evening News, Woods has “helped care for nearly 50,000 babies during her long career,” and has never considered retiring, even at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Woods said, “If you can extend a hand and help a family or help someone along the way, it gives you great joy. It was never a thought that I would leave. Ever. I would not have abandoned what I do. That’s when you’re needed the most.”
Upon you I have leaned from my birth. (Psalm 71:6)
Bless all nurses with kind and caring hearts, Divine Physician.
Former U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills traveled to New York City to celebrate his tenth Alive Day, the day that former military members commemorate the date on which they were almost killed in combat.
Mills lost parts of both arms and both legs due to an IED explosion while serving in Afghanistan. He endured a lot in his recovery, bolstered by his family and faith. But he maintains a sense of humor about it, describing the incident as having “a bad day at work.”
May marks Military Appreciation Month, so Mills traveled to New York for a ceremony in Times Square, telling WABC-TV’s Michelle Charlesworth, “Everybody in the world rallied behind me, and New York has been right at the front of it.”
Mills now offers support to other wounded warriors struggling to move forward in life. He explained, “Life goes on, so I try to give them the inspiration of never give up, never quit, to push forward in life and to make each day their own. Because it’s up to them to keep pushing forward.”
Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character. (Romans 5:3-4)
Help me push forward through my hardships, Savior.
A Circle of Mercy
For many students, a class ring is an emotional keepsake from their high school years. However, not everybody can afford the traditional class ring. That was the case for student Alice Chen of Baltimore’s Mercy High School when a difficult year in her family’s business left their surplus income tight.
However, a “legacy ring” donated by a member of the class of 1968 made sure that Chen wouldn’t go without, reported Catholic News Service. She slipped on the ring, and it was a perfect fit.
Donor Celeste McGinty Skinner told the Catholic Review, “It was an emotional moment for me. I wanted to give my ring to someone who would carry on the Mercy legacy.”
Celeste donated her ring at her 50th class reunion and has since struck up a correspondence with Chen. The Mercy Legacy Ring program started in 2003 when a Class of 1964 ring was given to the school. “Receiving a legacy ring adds a layer of connection to past graduates and commitment to being a ‘Mercy Girl’ that you wouldn’t feel otherwise,” Chen said.
One’s almsgiving is like a signet ring with the Lord. (Sirach 17:22)
Lord, may I use my gifts to help those who are without.
The Song of the Lark
Can a painting save a life? In actor Bill Murray’s case, the answer is yes. During a press conference, Murray recalled his earliest days as an actor, working in a play in Chicago. He said his performance was so bad one day that he walked out of the theater feeling suicidal.
Murray started heading toward Lake Michigan. But along the way, he passed the Art Institute of Chicago and decided to go in. As reported by the Today Show, “That’s when [Murray] saw ‘The Song of the Lark,’ an 1884 painting by French artist Jules Adolphe Breton depicting a peasant woman standing in a field with a glorious orange sunrise behind her. She pauses to listen to a bird's morning melody.”
Murray concluded, “I’ve always loved this painting. I saw it that day and thought, ‘There’s a girl who doesn’t have a lot of prospects, but the sun is coming up anyway, and she’s got another chance at it.’…That gave me [a] feeling that I, too, am a person and get another chance every day the sun comes up.”
If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. (Psalm 94:17)
Father, when I feel depressed, remind me that every sunrise offers new hope and a new chance at life.
From Homelessness to the Olympics
At age 11, Wadeline Jonathas moved to the United States from Haiti with her parents. Despite doing their best to make ends meet, the family ended up in a homeless shelter near Boston within a few years.
As reported by NBC News’s Anne Thompson, Jonathas found refuge in “books and basketball.” In school one day, the track coach saw her and invited her to try out for the sport. She responded, “What is track and field?”
Jonathas not only learned what “track and field” is, she found that she excelled at it, despite struggling with hunger and wearing her coach’s track shoes because she couldn’t afford her own. Working two jobs, while attending school and running track, ultimately paid off when the University of South Carolina offered her a scholarship.
Finally able to eat three meals a day, Jonathas quickly improved from the top 200 runners in the country to fourth best. In 2021, she earned a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics for helping the US Women qualify for the 4x400m relay.
Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before
us. (Hebrews 12:1)
Guide those in poverty toward better horizons, Messiah.
A Birthday to Remember
Meri Mion of Vicenza, Italy, received quite the surprise for her 90th birthday: a visit from the U.S. Army. And they even brought her a cake to commemorate the occasion! The reason behind the gesture involves a bit of history.
As reported by WABC-TV, “The 88th Infantry Division fought its way into [Vicenza] on April 28, 1945.” Mion and her mother, who lived in a nearby village, had baked a cake that day for her 13th birthday. They “left [it] on the windowsill to cool.”
But when retreating Nazis began shooting at their house, mother and daughter were forced to hide in the attic for the night. When they emerged the next day, the village had been secured by the Americans. The cake, however, had disappeared, consumed by the U.S. Army’s hungry soldiers.
On April 28, 2022, the Army finally returned to Vicenza and paid their debt to Mion by bringing her a new cake and celebrating with her. She said, “Tomorrow, we will eat that dessert, with all my family remembering this wonderful day that I will never forget.”
The righteous are generous and keep giving.
Help me to repay old kindnesses, Lord.
In the short film Feeling Through, a homeless teen named Tereek approaches a man named Artie, who is holding a cane at a sidewalk’s edge with a sign that reads, “I am deaf and blind. Tap me if you can help me to cross the street.”
After a moment of uncertainty, Tereek taps Artie on the arm and helps him navigate his way to a bus that will take him home. Artie writes messages on a notepad for Tereek, who answers by tracing one letter at a time on Artie’s hand. In this way, they discover simple things about each other.
After Artie gets on his bus, he takes Tereek’s hand, and drawing one letter at a time on his palm, says, “You’ll be okay,” revealing that he understands Tereek is facing troubles. This is when we come to understand the generous spirit with which Artie was allowing Tereek to help him, because he knew Tereek needed to realize the power of good that resided within himself.
The connection made by these two characters exemplifies the way people can fulfill each other’s needs when they open their hearts and are willing to give of themselves.
The measure you give will be the measure you get back.
Remind me of my own power for good, Creator.
Welcome the Children
When Father Nicholas Fleming was assigned to Saints John and James Parish in West Warwick, Rhode Island, the church’s future looked bleak because there were more parishioners dying than being baptized. But after he heard of an initiative in another church that involved welcoming families with children, he tried the same thing—and it worked! As reprinted on Aleteia, here is an excerpt of the letter Father Fleming leaves in the pews:
“Dear Parishioners, Welcome!...It is our hope that your little ones will grow up to be vital members of our parish family…Please relax! We know that it’s not easy to get your whole family to Mass, and it can be even more difficult to keep all of your little ones still throughout, but your kids should know that this church is their home and we, the community, are all brothers and sisters.”
“Everyone knows that children sometimes cry, make noise, or escape from your watchful care. Don’t be overwhelmed, and don’t be afraid to ask for help! We are one family, and in Christian charity we are called to help our brothers and sisters.”
Let the little children come to Me…It is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs. (Matthew 19:14)
May our faith communities welcome families, Jesus.
Airport Piano Player Gets a Surprise Tip
Tonee “Valentine” Carter was playing music at an airport piano bar when a chance encounter with a well-known author led him to the biggest tip of his life.
In 2021, motivational speaker and author Carlos Whittaker’s plane got delayed at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Due to that turn of events, Whittaker encountered the 66-year-old Carter playing his usual gig at the airport piano bar.
Whittaker told Good Morning America that he was so moved by Carter’s performance that during a break, the two started talking. That’s when Whittaker discovered that Carter had kidney disease. Whittaker wanted to help Carter so he posted the story to his large Instagram following, asking for donations to give Carter the biggest tip he’s ever received. He raised $60,000!
Carter was beyond grateful for the generous tip, intending to pay it forward and donate to the American Kidney Fund: “God made me a steward of that money, and I ain’t letting Him down.”
Their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have
overflowed in a wealth of generosity. (2 Corinthians 8:2)
Lord, thank You for the gift of music—and for kind strangers.
Not Dying for a Drink
Perhaps the name Jason Robards is familiar to you. The late actor was an Academy Award winner with many fine roles in his career.
Robards was also a recovering alcoholic. At one time, he permitted his name and face to be used in a special advertising campaign conducted by the National Council on Alcoholism. The ads carried this message: “I’m living proof you don’t have to die for a drink.”
Because of his willingness to help others, Robards was given the council’s Gold Key Award.
Alcoholism is chiefly a disease of denial, a progressive disease, and it only gets worse if not treated. But alcoholism can be managed. The first step is to admit having the problem. Help exists in every community, so visit Alcoholics Anonymous at www.AA.org to look up assistance in your area.
When I was brought low, [the Lord] saved me. (Psalm 116:6)
Lord, may I not be too proud to admit my struggles and seek help for them.
Hooked on Books
Jennifer Williams’ mother was a librarian who loved reading so much that she read to her kids every day until they went to college. Williams, now an elementary school teacher, hopes to instill in students the same joy she finds in reading.
“It’s very obvious to teachers of young children which kids are read to versus kids who are not,” she said in a Reader’s Digest article titled “The Book Lady.”
Some families don’t have many books, so Williams joined a community project that gave away 900. But she said she wanted to do more “to stretch my faith, my work ethic.” Her new goal is to give away one million used books.
Word is spreading among her friends and neighbors, as well as on social media. The donations that pour in benefit schools and small libraries. Williams has received 78,000 books and counting so far. She concluded, “If you can read, you can learn almost anything.”
An intelligent mind acquires knowledge, and the ear of
the wise seeks knowledge. (Proverbs 18:15)
May all children get a good start finding joy in early
A Hero Priest
In 1990, Father Ignacio María Doñoro de los Río was a military chaplain from Spain working in El Salvador. There, he learned of a family living in such poverty that they had agreed to sell Manuel, their 14-year-old son disabled by paralysis, for $25 because they needed food for their other children.
The buyer, however, was someone connected to organ harvesting and trafficking. The boy would have been killed for his organs.
The story, reported in El Pais, tells the harrowing tale of how Father Ignacio went undercover to pose as a human trafficker. He drove to the poor family’s home in the remote mountains and offered them one dollar more than the price agreed upon by the other buyer. They agreed, so the priest took Manuel and got him the medical help he needed.
With intense rehabilitation, Manuel recovered from his paralysis and remains alive all these years later, grateful to Father Ignacio, who he calls “the most important person in his life.”
Faithful friends are beyond price; no amount can balance their worth. (Sirach 6:15)
Protect those who risk their own lives to help others, Lord.
Hooked on Books
Jennifer Williams’ mother was a librarian who loved reading so much that she read to her kids every day until they went to college. Williams, now an elementary school teacher, hopes to instill in students the same joy she finds in reading.
“It’s very obvious to teachers of young children which kids are read to versus kids who are not,” she said in a Reader’s Digest article titled “The Book Lady.”
Some families don’t have many books, so Williams joined a community project that gave away 900. But she said she wanted to do more “to stretch my faith, my work ethic.” Her new goal is to give away one million used books.
Word is spreading among her friends and neighbors, as well as on social media. The donations that pour in benefit schools and small libraries. Williams has received 78,000 books and counting so far. She concluded, “If you can read, you can learn almost anything.”
An intelligent mind acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. (Proverbs 18:15)
May all children get a good start finding joy in early reading, Jesus.
A Powerful Gift of Friendship
After his wife passed away, Dan Peterson missed her so much that he felt ready to die himself. Then, a chance encounter with a four-year-old girl named Norah Wood saved his life!
Norah was grocery shopping with her mom in Augusta, Georgia, in 2016, when she encountered the severely depressed Peterson in the store and asked to give him a hug.
Peterson was surprised, but responded, “Absolutely!” As reported by CBS News, he recalled, “This is the first time for quite a while that I’ve been this happy.”
Norah and Peterson’s friendship continued to grow with each passing year, and they saw each other at least once a week. Peterson was there for her kindergarten graduation, and Norah was even there to give Peterson a hug the day before he died.
Peterson passed away in 2020, but the beautiful gift of friendship with young Norah kept him living—and smiling—much longer than expected. Norah’s mom, Tara, believes this story continues to resonate because “it was just humanity at its best: To love and to be loved.”
Those who love Me will be loved by My Father and I
will love them. (John 14:21)
Jesus, help me be a friend to a lonely person.
Divine Mercy in Action
Father Paul Keller took to Twitter to share a story of mercy involving his father, Peter, and his grandfather, Joseph. On the day of his wife’s funeral, Joseph walked out of his house, never to return, leaving his son, Peter, to be raised by his aunt. Life was difficult, but they made it work.
Father Keller recalled, “I never heard my father speak any negative or angry words about his father. All he would say is, ‘Well he had trouble with alcohol.’…Decades later, when my father was engaged to my mother, he found his father living on the street. Along with my mother, he came to him telling him, ‘I’m Pete, your son. This is my fiancée.’”
“As it was described to me,” continued Father Keller, “my grandfather cried, partly happy that his son was ok and that he was engaged to a wonderful woman. They helped get my grandfather off the street and into a tuberculosis hospital. My grandfather died a month later.”
Father Keller called the example his father set “Divine Mercy in action.”
If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (Matthew 6:14)
Inspire me to be a model of mercy in action, Jesus.
A Link in the Chain
The Christophers’ founder, Father James Keller, joined with many Hollywood stars of his time to produce movies that gave expression to the inherent dignity of each individual in society. One of those films, A Link in the Chain, starred James Cagney as an aging college professor wondering whether his efforts had made a difference in his students’ lives.
The professor’s reminiscences about those students provide him with the resounding answer that all good finds its source in God and is then passed on through humanity by those willing to act with love towards one another. He says, “I, too, was but a link in the chain, a chain that was first forged with the Word, the Word of God. From Him came all the great words, words that were given to us to be repeated endlessly until their inner meaning is understood and accepted.”
We are all called to take up the mantle of hope and become a link in the chain of God’s love for humanity. When we do this, we are being Christophers, Christ-bearers, carrying on a tradition that traces itself back to Christ.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
Teach me to be a link in the chain of Your love, Jesus.
A Life-Saving Exchange
For the past decade, Tia Wimbush and Susan Ellis have been friends and co-workers at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. In 2019, both women received the devastating news that their husbands needed kidney transplants in order to stay alive. Wimbush’s husband, Rodney, had the more recent diagnosis of kidney failure, having to undergo daily dialysis just to survive. Meanwhile, Ellis’s husband, Lance, faced the new reality that his body was rejecting the kidney he received just three years ago, from his own mother.
While expressing concern to one another about their husbands, the two women made a startling discovery: they were each a blood type match for the other’s spouse. So, after the official confirmation and paperwork, the four friends went into surgery to make the life-saving kidney exchange. Both couples emerged from this experience healthier and closer than ever.
Tia told CNN, “They really are family…I’m hopeful for humanity, and I hope other people will take that away from this story. You can be somebody else’s hope.”
Faithful friends are life-saving medicine.
Jesus, may we seek the opportunity to be somebody’s hope.
A Couple’s Selfless Wedding Wish
Despite hitting several pandemic-related wedding roadblocks, one thing was clear for Diann Maurer and Donovan Poe. They knew that when the big day finally came, they would ask guests to contribute to the local St. Vincent de Paul pharmacy in lieu of traditional wedding gifts.
When the Irving, Texas couple finally tied the knot in April 2021, they assumed guests would still feel the need to give. “We liked the idea of volunteering,” Maurer told The Dallas Morning News. “So we wanted to elevate the opportunities to give back in ways of service, rather than just necessarily financially.”
They asked guests to give of their time or make a financial donation to the local St. Vincent de Paul pharmacy, which provides free medications to uninsured Texans in need. The donation was met with gratitude from Sean Myers, President of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of North Texas: “For them to take the spirit of joy that comes with celebrating marriage and use it as a catalyst to help others is unique and inspiring.”
Look…on the day of his wedding, on the day of the
gladness of his heart. (Song of Solomon 3:11)
Lord, help me be a catalyst for inspiring generosity.
Prayer Lesson from ‘The Twilight Zone’
Eddie Luisi, longtime stage manager at ABC’s Good Morning America, is old enough to remember Rod Serling’s TV series The Twilight Zone. The stories sometimes had a dark tone, in which a main character pursues and achieves a particular goal, then discovers that some unintended negative consequences come with that achievement.
During an interview with Michael Sherlock on the Shock Your Potential podcast, Eddie explained that lesson affected his spiritual life, noting that on The Twilight Zone, “Sometimes you ask for something, it’s one thing, but there’s all this other stuff around that isn’t really good for you. So [I ask], ‘Okay, God, what do YOU think is best for me?’”
Eddie also stays focused on offering others his best. He makes it a habit to bless others mentally when he crosses their path, even if they are rude to him. He realizes they might need a blessing more than others, noting, “I try…to always be kind to people, always smile, hold the door, say thank you. Little things for everybody.”
Oh that You would bless me…
and that Your hand might be with me. (1 Chronicles 4:10)
What do You think is best for me today, God?
Baseball Great’s Legacy of Faith
The late Gil Hodges played first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but he is best remembered as the manager of the 1969 “Miracle Mets,” who turned baseball’s lovable losers into a World Series-winning team. In 2022, his accomplishments were finally honored with his induction into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
There is much to admire in Hodges’ personal life as well. As recounted by Anthony McCarron in New York’s Daily News, “A faithful man who said a Hail Mary before big-league games, he was a regular presence in the pews at Our Lady Help of Christians, his local parish, even before Sunday afternoon games at Ebbets Field.”
In April 2022, on the 50th anniversary of Hodges’ sudden death from a heart attack, a memorial Mass was held at Our Lady Help of Christians and attended by several family members, including his grandchildren. Parish administrator Father Dwayne Davis said, “Even being a star, he never forgot his faith. He was a very faithful Catholic. It was important to him in raising his family. That’s a connection that will live on for us.”
The good leave an inheritance to their children’s children. (Proverbs 13:22)
May I always make time to nurture my faith, Savior.
A Morning Prayer
Friendship Room is an Ohio Valley nonprofit that offers
hope and healing to the lost and forgotten. One day, on their
Instagram page, they posted “A Morning Prayer” by Henry H.
Evansen to offer hope to everyone who needs it. It reads:
“Each morning when I awake, I say,
‘I’ll put my hand in God’s today.’
He leads me, oh, so tenderly.
When paths are dark and I despair,
No need for me to understand,
If I but hold fast to His hand.
My hand in His, no surer way
To walk in safety through each day.
By His great bounty, I am fed,
Warmed by His love and comforted,
And realize how much I am blest.
My thanks go out to Him, and then
I put my hand in God’s again. Amen.”
I will uphold you with My victorious right hand.
Guide me closer to You each day, Resurrected Christ
Making People Laugh
A Southern belle named Sarah Colley once wanted to have a stage career and be just as famous as Katherine Hepburn.
She studied acting and directed some shows, but she didn’t win much fame until she developed a stage character. You might remember her as Minnie Pearl of the Grand Ole Opry and TV’s Hee Haw.
Reflecting on how her stage career wound up being quite different from her imaginings, she said, “I think the Lord intended for me to dedicate my life to making people laugh. I think that’s one of the reasons I have gotten so much happiness out of it.”
There was only one Katherine Hepburn. But there was also only one Minnie Pearl. Her life was an encouragement to all of us to be open to the possibilities of change that present themselves every day. Sometimes a change of plans can lead to great success.
The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
I pray that my ways will please You, God.
The Rapping Bishop Reaches Youth
“Where there’s a will there’s a way” is a common phrase. And for one recently appointed bishop, his way of evangelizing young people is rap music.
Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Espaillat of the New York Archdiocese finds rap to be an effective method of attracting marginalized youth to the church. Acknowledging the importance of authenticity in relationships, the Bronx cleric uses the music he knows. “It’s what I grew up with,” he told Fox5’s Sharon Crowley.
At age 45, he is the youngest U.S. bishop and the first Dominican appointed in the New York Archdiocese. Some of his seminary superiors reportedly didn’t appreciate his musical enthusiasms. But Bishop Espaillat said, “I’m not doing anything that Jesus Himself wouldn’t have done.”
What will you do today toward achieving your goals?
Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an
example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in
purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)
Guide us, Lord, to use our God-given talents on behalf of
those in need of what we have to offer.
Hope Walks Aid the Homeless
Residents in one South Bronx community were thrilled when Hope Walks resumed during the summer of 2021. The initiative was established five years ago when an Immaculate Conception School student asked how they could aid the homeless in their neighborhood.
The Hope Walk consists of a group of seventh and eighth graders, as well as older volunteers, who bring physical and spiritual nourishment to those living on the streets. Covering about a 12-block radius, the Hope Walk used to only take place several times a year, but due to a greater need and a renewed desire for “community,” it has increased to three times a week.
Before starting their Hope Walk, participants pray at the local chapel of the Sisters of Christian Charity. While the homeless are grateful for the food and drink distributed, they are most thankful when these volunteers stop to pray with them. Joe McQuarrie, director of Immaculate Conception’s campus ministry, told Catholic New York, “In all of my time, I’ve never been part of something as cool as this Hope Walk.”
We walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
God, no matter our circumstances, may we walk with faith and hope in our hearts
‘God Will Work This Out’
After the Phoenix Suns lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2021 NBA finals, Suns’ coach Monty Williams epitomized class and sportsmanship when he went to the Bucks’ locker room to congratulate the team on their victory. But Williams has long been a man who walks through life with grace.
As recalled by journalist Rod Walker on nola.com, when Williams was fired by the New Orleans Pelicans in 2015, he didn’t engage in self-pity, but rather cited his belief that God would lead him toward new opportunities. An even more challenging time came a year later when Williams’ wife Ingrid, with whom he had five children, was killed in a car crash caused by a driver high on meth. The impaired driver died as well.
At Ingrid’s funeral, Williams noted that his faith would guide him through his heartbreak. He then added words of mercy for the driver who caused the crash: “We cannot serve the Lord if we do not have a heart of forgiveness…We…should be praying for that [driver’s] family because they grieve as well. So, let’s not lose sight of what’s important. God will work this out.”
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Guide me through heartaches and challenges, Holy Spirit.
Mom’s Hunch Brings Healing to Daughter
When Austin Carrigg gave birth to her daughter Melanie, who has Down syndrome, she knew there would be challenges in their future. But as Melanie became a toddler and was unable to sit up, hold her head up, or stay awake, the concerned mother believed some other health issue might be the underlying cause.
Austin took Melanie to several pediatricians, who simply attributed her problems to Down syndrome. But Austin wouldn’t give up on her “mother’s intuition.” After an instance in which Melanie threw up and seemed to lapse into a coma, ER doctors deduced that her blood sugar was dangerously low.
As reported by the Today Show, Austin fought for a referral to a metabolic geneticist, who diagnosed Melanie with “ketotic hypoglycemia, a condition that causes low blood sugar with ketosis.” Treatment, thankfully, is simple: you take cornstarch and that stabilizes the blood sugar. Within six months, Melanie was walking, playing, and thriving. Austin soon discovered that other children with Down syndrome suffer from the same condition, so she is now working to help them, too.
Let her works praise her in the city gates.
Guide the fierce love of mothers for their children, Lord.
A Caregiving Journey, Part 1
As her parents aged and developed medical problems, Noreen Madden McInnes felt called to care for them as much as possible, even though she lived in San Diego, while they resided in Mountain Top, Pennsylvania.
Her first experience of caregiving occurred when she was a little girl and would accompany her grandfather to visit his elderly, widowed sisters. Seeing him perform “these Christian works of mercy and care,” she recalled during a Christopher Closeup interview, “planted a seed within me that this is how we treat the elderly, with love and respect, and you spend time with them.”
In addition, Noreen’s grandmother modeled God’s unconditional love to her. Noreen said, “She was like my angel, praying for me, caring for me, and loving me in all facets of my life…As I got older, I lived far from her but…whenever I got back to Pennsylvania, she was always waiting for me with a ham sandwich. And I think, ‘That’s our Lord. He is always waiting for us to call on Him, always ready with a ham sandwich.’”
Do not cast me off in the time of old age. (Psalm 71:9)
May our culture love and care for our seniors, Father.
A Caregiving Journey, Part 2
In her journey as a caregiver, Noreen Madden McInnes came to rely on the Catholic faith she had seen modeled by her family all her life.
During a Christopher Closeup interview about her memoir Keep at It, Riley! Accompanying My Father Through Death Into Life, she said, “We are formed, united with the heart of God in liturgy, in the encounter with the real presence of Christ. But that’s not the end. That is how we are shaped to be sent from the liturgy to be Christ to others. I witnessed it with my grandparents and parents and how they met the world.”
When her parents began experiencing medical problems, Noreen regularly flew in to visit them, which gave her a new perspective on her mother Joan’s faith. Joan had always looked at life “through rose colored glasses,” and Noreen admitted this could get annoying. But as Noreen accompanied Joan to Mass every morning, she recalled, “I was able to see [my mother’s] complete trust in the Lord, her deep faith that God was truly with her in every moment, no matter how bad things got.”
I will trust, and will not be afraid. (Isaiah 12:2)
Increase my trust in You, Holy Trinity.
A Caregiving Journey, Part 3
While Noreen Madden McInnes was in Pennsylvania because her father Frank was in the hospital, her mother Joan was killed in a car accident while driving over to visit him. This was a devastating blow for their whole family.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Noreen said, “[Mom] lived every day as if she was ready to go home to the Lord, so I think that when we celebrated her funeral Mass, it was tragic and painful…But all of a sudden, this great joy came to me. I was flooded with tremendous grace that I knew my mom had. She was in heaven, and [I knew] that we need to celebrate that and not focus on our loss…That grace carried me through the days of accompanying my dad through all his sickness.”
Another thing that carried Noreen through dark times was their family motto, “Keep at it, Riley!” Though nobody in their Irish Catholic clan was named Riley, the phrase had been passed from generation to generation as a way to say, “You never give up, you never give in. You just give it to the Lord. And what seems an annoyance or a problem, it’s really a blessing.”
Let us…approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we…find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
Fill me with grace, Prince of Peace.
A Caregiving Journey, Part 4
Noreen Madden McInnes notes that even in the midst of his illness, her father Frank embodied the ideal of trusting in God and never giving up. During a Christopher Closeup interview about her memoir Keep at It, Riley!, she described him as a people person with a warm and friendly personality.
For instance, Noreen once took her dad to a rehab session in the hospital, filled with patients in wheelchairs. He was placed next to a sickly-looking man. Suddenly, this man happily exclaimed, “Frank!”
With a big smile, Frank greeted him, saying, “Hello, Donald, how are you?” The nurse then told Noreen that Donald had only said one word in the three months he was there: Frank.
“In those few minutes,” said Noreen, “[I looked] at this poor person that’s sick and didn’t have any family with him. But just a smile and greeting [from my dad], and you see the dignity that he, too, is made in the image and likeness of God, regardless of his suffering and illness. That’s how we are to look at the face of everyone.”
A cheerful heart is a good medicine. (Proverbs 17:22)
May I be a healing presence to those who are sick, Jesus.
A Caregiving Journey, Part 5
Though Noreen Madden McInnes still sheds tears talking about the loss of her father, she also expresses deep gratitude that she was able to serve him in his final months as an anam cara, which is an Irish term for a spiritual midwife who accompanies the dying from this life into their “eternal reward in heaven.” Again, her family’s faith played the key role.
During an interview about her memoir Keep at It, Riley!, Noreen concluded, “At the end of life…you see what appears is a downward spiral [in the aging]. Every day, they’re more sick and frail. But in reality, it’s a spiral upward towards Heaven. You’re waiting for the angels to come and carry them home to God.”
“What a gift that relationship is because, in reality…our Lord is our anam cara, accompanying us…[I knew that my father would] be called home to the Lord, and I would meet him again one day. As sad as I am for myself without him here, I know he has his eternal reward.”
You have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice. (John 16:22)
Lord, may we remember death is not an ending, but rather an eternal beginning with You.
Rosie the Riveter’s Legacy
As men joined the military to fight in World War II, their jobs were filled by five million civilian women, who collectively became known as “Rosie the Riveters.” The iconic poster of a woman curling her bicep represented Rosies all over the country.
In 2021, at age 99, one of the six original Rosies, Phyllis Gould, passed away. She had worked as a welder at a shipyard, making 90 cents an hour, which was equal pay to men at the time. When the war ended, Gould feared that people would forget the work done by all the Rosies, so she set out to promote their legacy.
CBS News reported, “Gould helped establish a museum and make March 21st ‘National Rosie the Riveter Day.’ She wrote hundreds of handwritten letters lobbying for a Congressional Gold Medal for the Riveters. Her efforts paid off…She took that tenacious work ethic home with her too. She built a log cabin with a hammer and nails. At age 92, she joined fellow Riveters at the White House, a lifelong dream of hers.”
One generation shall laud your works to another.
May we honor the accomplishments of our forefathers and foremothers, Creator.
Family Adopts Son’s Best Friend
In Bensalem, Pennsylvania, a family opened their home to their son’s best friend, and after years of waiting, welcomed him as a true part of their family. “There are just no words to explain how grateful I am for my family,” Rita Marlow told WABC-TV.
A decade ago, Nate Rosas, who lived in foster care, was playing soccer with Rita’s son, Zach, and they became fast friends. A few years later, the family took Nate in as their foster child. After the first year and a half, Nate decided “that this is where he wanted to stay.”
Years of paperwork and hearings came to fruition in 2021, when “Gotcha day!” arrived. It was the day that finalized Nate’s adoption with Zach’s family, and it was marked with celebration. “I can’t put it into words,” 16-year-old Nate said, so happy to finally be part of a family—something he’s waited his entire life to have.
You have received a spirit of adoption. (Romans 8:15)
Loving Jesus, bless all foster care children and help them find good homes with loving parents.
Spreading Kindness through Soda Bread
When Mary O’Halloran, owner of the New York City pub Mary O’s, faced hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, she did it with a smile by spreading kindness one Irish soda bread scone at a time.
With her pub closed, O’Halloran, along with her six children, went to work to help in any way they could. First, they made 30 meals a day for frontline workers. But as the pandemic persisted, and with her pub still closed, O’Halloran feared how she’d support her family with no money coming in.
Remembering her mother’s recipe from Ireland, O’Halloran began making soda bread scones with homemade blackberry jam, each packed with a handwritten letter from her eight-year-old daughter. Word spread throughout the community and soon she had one million dollars worth of orders.
O’Halloran told ABC News that she is grateful for her community, noting, “I pray and hope everybody receives their scones with the same feeling I have when I make them.”
So that there may be food in my house…I will…pour down for you an overflowing blessing. (Malachi 3:10)
Generous Lord, thank You for the kindness of strangers.
Grandpa, Gardening, and Growth
Reilly Johnston, writing for Holy Cross Ministries, recalls spending time with his grandfather, whom he lovingly calls “Big G.” Big G’s hobby was gardening, and over the years he would go through the ritual of starting seeds in the basement, transplanting them outside, cultivating and caring for his plants, and sharing the bounty of fruits and vegetables with his family and friends.
Reilly writes, “He taught me a lot of life lessons through the process of gardening, including patience, the importance of dedication and motivation, and the need to put others before yourself—to name a few. I have carried these lessons, and many more, with me throughout my time gardening over the years, as well in my life outside of gardening.”
After Big G passed away, Reilly continued maintaining the garden, and encourages other families to take up the spade and begin their own tradition. “By taking part in cultivating new life,” he said, “gardening allows families to cooperate actively in God’s creation with one another.”
Kindness is like a garden of blessings. (Sirach 40:17)
Lord, help me to cultivate what’s important in life.
Students Promote Animal Care
Some school assignments remain thoughts on paper. Others jump off the page and are brought to life when one person takes notice. That’s what happened when a fifth grader at Notre Dame Academy in Buffalo wrote an essay about changing the world. It included the line, “I would like to make blankets and take care of the animals.”
When the school’s principal, Jenniffer Maslakowski, read this essay, she set about to help the student’s wish become reality. The result? Local families and friends teamed up and arranged for students to assemble blankets for the SPCA Buffalo Animal Shelter. For instance, Girl Scout Troop 34213 contributed necessary fabric and precut material.
Maslakowski told Western New York Catholic, “I saw an opportunity not only to do something for our community, but to show our students that with a little work, they can create changes.”
O Lord…the earth is full of Your creatures. (Psalm 104:24)
Inspire us, Holy Spirit, to look for opportunities to improve everyday life.
Why You Shouldn’t Hold a Grudge
Author Malachy McCourt wrote in his book A Monk Swimming, “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” In fact, holding a grudge doesn’t bring any kind of relief, but instead inflicts pain on the person whose already been hurt.
Octavios Messias explored the topic “What Holding a Grudge Can do to You” for the website Aleteia. He shared three reasons you should practice forgiveness instead:
■ Holding a grudge is more a way of repressing a feeling than of assimilating it.
■ Sorrow imprisons us in the past. The only way we can be free is to liberate ourselves from what once was.
■ If God believes in forgiveness, who are we to put ourselves in a position of superiority and judgment?
“Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? Seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times but seventy-seven times.”(Matthew 18:21-22)
Loving and forgiving Jesus, help me forgive those who have done me wrong, and help me find peace in my soul.
Letter Carrier Gives a Lift
Letter carrier James Desnacido had not seen one of his customers, Allen Menkin, in at least a couple of months. But one day, as Desnacido was out on his regular route, he heard Menkin’s wife frantically calling for help. Allen had collapsed approximately two hours prior, and his wife was not strong enough to lift him back into his reclining chair.
Thankfully, Desnacido was able to get Menkin back on his feet, and then help lower him back into his chair. The postman was later recognized by his local NALC (National Association of Letter Carriers) Branch #2502.
Allen was unable to attend the ceremony honoring Desnacido, but he sent his mailman the following message: “Give deepest thanks and my best regards to James. He is the representative that the Postal Service should be proud of!”
“I just do like all carriers,” Desnacido concluded modestly in The Postal Record. “Help out when you can, and then get back to delivering when everything’s safe.”
Two are better than one, because…if they fall, one will lift up the other.
Loving Lord, bless and honor the unsung heroes of our world.
Remembering a Stranger in Need
In 2022, Papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski offered a funeral Mass for 64-year-old Roberto Mantovani, who died of pneumonia in a homeless shelter near Rome’s Termini railway station. Years ago, an injury had ended Mantovani’s career as a professional soccer player for Hellas Verona F.C.
In recent years, he had been living on the streets near the Vatican, where he was befriended by people who tried to help him, including Cardinal Krajewski, who told Catholic News Agency, “[Mantovani] was a cheerful, sunny person. At the lunches we had, he made everyone laugh.”
The funeral Mass was attended by volunteers from the homeless shelter where Mantovani was staying, police officers from the station near where he often slept, and workers from the Community of Sant’Egidio, who distribute food to Rome’s homeless and run the Vatican’s newest homeless shelter.
In life, Mantovani was known to sleep in front of a closed door. May he stand before an open door now, and may he follow Christ through that door to eternal glory.
If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard. (Proverbs 21:13)
May I see You in the face of the homeless, Jesus.
Working for Peace in Jail
Though Rita McCaffrey’s husband was a judge, she couldn’t seem to stay out of jail. It was for a good reason, though.
Mrs. McCaffrey volunteered at the Rutland Correctional Center in Vermont. In fact, she spent 40 hours a week on a program to help inmates plan and make decisions about their future.
She saw this not only as part of the rehabilitation process, but also as a work of peace. Jails, she pointed out, are traditionally places of violence. By introducing a peaceful element into a center of repressed violence, she helped add to the overall climate of peace.
Every home, every neighborhood, every city needs individuals dedicated to living peace, to sharing it. In your words, your actions, and your thoughts, be a peacemaker.
Live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be
with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)
How can I be at peace with myself and others, Prince of
Journey with God, Part 1
“The Lord was always…trying to get my attention, but for some reason, I just ignored Him.” That’s how Gary Zimak remembers his younger years when he struggled with chronic worry. Despite being a cradle Catholic who attended Mass every week, he felt determined to make it through on his own, never asking God for help. “He just wasn’t real enough to me,” admits Gary.
That changed in the 1970s, when a friend invited Gary to a Charismatic Renewal prayer meeting. During a Christopher Closeup interview about his book Journey with God, Gary recalled, “I went kicking and screaming. I didn’t want anything to do with it. Then, I got in there…People were praising the Lord, and they had their Bibles with them, and they were hugging me. [I thought], ‘Whoa, these people are weird…but they’re happy. They have something that I want.’”
“I kept going back,” continued Gary, “and I started to realize, ‘God is real, and He’s bigger than my problems, and He loves me. Maybe I should ask Him for help.’ That’s what I’ve been doing ever since.” More tomorrow…
When you search for Me, you will find Me; if you seek Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
Open people’s eyes to Your existence, Creator.
Journey with God, Part 2
Once Gary Zimak accepted God as being real, he also came to a deeper acceptance of God’s love for him. Previously, Gary had the “head knowledge” about God’s love, but he finally came to accept it in his heart, which made a world of difference. The Holy Spirit played a role in that acceptance.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Gary explained, “The Holy Spirit is the very spirit of Jesus…We now have that spirit because of our faith, our relationship with the Lord…I can only do so much, and the Lord knew that. That’s why He gave me His spirit, so that I can love with His spirit. I can have the peace and joy that comes from His spirit.
“I’m not a patient person, and it’s one of the fruits of the spirit: patience…If I let the Holy Spirit work in me, I can follow the Lord, look at my problems…and with that joy and peace that flows from the Spirit, say, ‘I can handle this with the Lord’s help.’…The Holy Spirit’s main job is to transform us into the image of Jesus. For somebody like me, He’s got a big job, but little by little, the Holy Spirit’s doing that in me.”
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness. (Galatians 5:22)
Transform me into Jesus’s image, Holy Spirit.
Journey with God, Part 3
As he writes in Journey with God, Gary Zimak begins each morning with the words, “Holy Spirit, please inspire my thoughts, my words and my actions today.” He admits that he doesn’t feel any differently after that prayer, but he believes the Spirit is helping him regardless of his feelings.
There are also times when Gary doesn’t feel the presence of God and endures “desert experiences.” Life has taught him to keep believing in those circumstances as well. He said on Christopher Closeup, “If something doesn’t feel good or if I feel I’m not making progress, I just want to say, ‘That’s it, I quit.’ But with that help of the Holy Spirit—and with what little persistence that I can muster up—I’ve learned, you’ve got to move forward. I’m going to pray whether I feel like it or not.”
“It took me a long time to get to that point, but now when I don’t feel it, I know that the Lord’s trying to stretch me a little bit…We’re supposed to love the giver more than the gifts, and that can be challenging. So, that desert experience, we all go through it. It doesn’t last forever, and it helps us grow in faith.”
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)
Help me to persevere in prayer, Holy Spirit.
Journey with God, Part 4
Though it might seem counterintuitive, accepting our crosses in life can lead us to happiness. Gary Zimak acknowledges that this is a paradox and makes no sense in worldly terms. However, we create a lot of stress when we fight against these crosses, so instead we should ask God to bear the burden with us.
“We’re all going to have [crosses], whether we’re followers of Christ or not,” said Gary during a Christopher Closeup interview about his book Journey with God. “We all will have some suffering in this life because we live in a fallen world. This life isn’t heaven, but our heaven can begin in this life.
“It doesn’t mean we won’t have problems, but it means the Lord is bigger than the problems, and He can give us the peace to deal with them. That’s a hard message, though, because people don’t think it’s possible. Once you give it a try, it works. He does give us peace.”
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. (John 14:27)
When my crosses overwhelm me, Jesus, send me Your peace.
Journey with God, Part 5
Another key to happiness that Gary Zimak points out in his book Journey with God is service to others. It may involve handing out donuts in church or helping your spouse with the dishes instead of reading your prayer book. We need to pay attention to our surroundings and circumstances and ask, “How does God want me to love Him today?”
Helping other people isn’t easy, however, when those people are annoying. Gary admits he struggles with this himself. The trick, he says, is asking the Holy Spirit for help: “I want to be able to look at people who drive me crazy and see them the way Jesus sees them. Part of it has to do also with His patience with me…He’s put up with a lot from me. Yet I get impatient with other people. But I think this is an ongoing process.”
“I’m a big believer in the sacrament of Confession. The grace I receive in Confession helps me get better at this because people do drive me crazy sometimes. It’s easier to spend time with the Lord alone, but what are the greatest commandments? Love God and love others. That’s what He wants.”
Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 19:19)
How do You want me to love You today, Lord?
Ministering to Detroit’s Poor for 45 Years
As a young seminarian, Rev. Tom Lumpkin was drawn to working with the poor after witnessing people living in refrigerator boxes. Little did he realize that God was calling him to help launch Detroit’s Catholic Worker community, which he faithfully served for 45 years.
The Catholic Worker Movement was founded in 1933 to answer the question, “How can the Christian believer live justly in society?” It was the calling Lumpkin was seeking. A few years after being ordained in 1976, he helped open Manna Meal Soup Kitchen at Most Holy Trinity Church. Eventually, they moved up the road to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, where he and volunteers prepared and served meals to the poor daily.
Rev. Lumpkin told religionnews.com he was “the only diocesan priest in the world who had his diocesan assignment with the Catholic Worker Movement.” Despite retiring, Rev. Lumpkin says, “You never retire from your Christian vocation. You can always be a force for good.”
Let each of you lead the life…to which God called you.
(1 Corinthians 7:17)
Lord, help us to faithfully walk in Your footsteps to serve the poor with dignity and grace.
Friendship Spans Generations
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, teenager Keslar Just of Loudoun County, Virginia, got the idea to send letters to lonely seniors who were quarantined in nursing homes, inviting them to be her pen pal. She only got one response, though, from 92-year-old Jean Peck in Henrietta, New York.
As reported by WJLA-TV, the two wrote 80 letters to each other over the course of two years and even talked on the phone several times. A beautiful bond was formed between these two women from different generations.
Early in 2022, Peck’s family let Keslar know that she was put in hospice care. Keslar, now a college student, immediately traveled to New York to visit her friend in person before she passed away. Though Peck had been unresponsive, Keslar’s visit perked her right up.
Keslar said, “Seeing it in person, when Jean reached out to hold my hand and she became responsive…the family was very appreciative for our relationship and our letters. I will always remember our relationship and what that brought to both of us.”
You shall rise before the aged. (Leviticus 19:32)
May our culture better appreciate seniors, reaching out to them in friendship, Messiah.
Faith Guides Actor’s Life, Part 1
Actor Josh Swickard has portrayed Detective Harrison Chase on ABC’s General Hospital since 2018. But he grew up in Illinois as the son of a pastor. During a Christopher Closeup interview, Josh told program host Tony Rossi that he was fortunate to have parents who guided him and his three sisters in their lives, without resorting to a rigid “do this or else” approach. As a result, neither he nor his siblings ever “really went nuts.”
When Josh turned 18, he asked himself an important spiritual question: “My parents believe this, and my grandparents believe this, but what do I believe for myself?”
He realized that Christianity was real for him, and he lived his life accordingly. Still, Josh knew there was a lot more room to grow in his faith, and the perfect person from whom to learn had served as the best man at his wedding: his 97-year-old grandfather, Arthur Brown, a World War II veteran who had run with a gang in high school, but who changed his ways after picking up a Bible that someone had given him. More tomorrow on their life-changing relationship…
To all who received Him…He gave power to become children of God. (John 1:12)
Increase my faith in You, Jesus.
Faith Guides Actor’s Life, Part 2
General Hospital star Josh Swickard called his grandfather, Arthur Brown, during the show’s COVID shutdown and said, “We’re both locked up right now. You want to do some FaceTimes every morning and crack the Word?” So, they did Bible study every morning, for up to three hours.
Not only did Josh benefit in his understanding of Scripture, he came to appreciate his grandfather even more. Josh said, “Seeing how he lives life and dives into every morning, going, ‘This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.’ He’s forcing himself to do it with joy in how he says it, no matter what he’s feeling. Then he starts quoting Scripture, and he sings a hymn.”
That ritual taught Josh we can all take action to choose our disposition for the day. He related the idea to going to the gym, noting that if you only go once a week, you won’t get fit. You need to work out multiple times a week for it to have an effect. The same can be said of getting spiritually fit. It has the most effect when practiced several times a week. More tomorrow…
Blessed…are those who hear the word of God and obey it! (Luke 11:28)
May I enrich my life through Your Word, Father.
Faith Guides Actor’s Life, Part 3
Actor Josh Swickard explained that the growth of his faith during General Hospital’s COVID shutdown led him to start daily conversations with the Lord. During a Christopher Closeup interview, he said he prays, “Lord, I hope all my thoughts, my actions, and the words that come out of my mouth glorify You.”
“Something that simple,” added Josh, “and all of a sudden, you start to see life in a really beautiful way. I’m so new to it, and I obviously fail every day, and I’m overcome by sin—we all are. But boy, it’s such a better way to live, in my opinion.”
When Josh discusses his faith, he conveys a sense of joy, humility, and kindness. He credits that to seeing the way his family has lived out their faith, without an overemphasis on judging others. “All I know,” explained Josh, “is that God has called me to be the light or the salt, and He’s called me to love. When I break it down to that simple truth, everything else goes out the window.” More tomorrow…
Love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:12)
Jesus, above all, may I strive to emulate Your unconditional love.
Faith Guides Actor’s Life, Part 4
Josh Swickard’s parents and grandparents were his role models in approaching married life for himself and his wife, Lauren. He said, “I put a lot of pressure on marriage when growing up, because I didn’t see fighting. I didn’t see people raising their voices and yelling in multiple generations.”
“Thankfully, I married a wonderful woman,” continued Josh. “I think we had one disagreement where there were raised voices when we were dating. And I was like, ‘I’ve got to be honest with you. I don’t know how to cope. I don’t have the right tools for this. So, if we want to make this a lifetime thing, we can’t yell at each other.’ And she said, ‘Okay.’ Knock on wood, it’s been four years, and we haven’t yelled at each other yet.”
Josh and Lauren even co-produced and co-starred in the Netflix movie A California Christmas, for which Lauren wrote the script. They had no squabbles working together either. The reason? “I really don’t mind being the sous chef,” Josh explained. More tomorrow…
Love is patient; love is kind. (1 Corinthians 13:4)
May married couples love and respect each other, Lord.
Faith Guides Actor’s Life, Part 5
Josh Swickard has a lot of joy in his life right now: from a successful career to a loving marriage to a healthy, happy baby daughter. But when dark times come, he approaches them with the wisdom he’s learned from life, family, and God.
Josh concluded, “If I’m going through a dark time, I’ll pray, and I’ll give it to the Lord. After I give it to the Lord, I usually recognize…I’m so blessed. No matter what house you live in or what your bank account looks like or what you drive, everyone goes through [darkness].”
“My dad did a lot of mission trips, so I grew up going to Central and South America. Seeing that in your developmental years—what actual poverty looks like—it puts everything in perspective. So, I…give it to the Lord.”
“That usually pulls me out. Sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s okay. You have a bad day. That’s the beauty of morning by morning, new mercies I see. Regardless, God is still good. That’s the one thing that doesn’t change. If you try to keep that [idea] center and not tertiary, I think you’re in good shape.”
His mercies…they are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22,23)
Be my light in the darkness, Jesus.
Lenten Practices for Children
If you are at a loss as to what liturgical practices you should incorporate into your child’s daily routine this Lent, The Catholic Moment offers these engaging activities that might benefit your spiritual life as well:
■ Encourage participation in small acts of charity.
■ Collect or raise money for a worthy cause.
■ Block out a special time every day for prayer.
■ Consider giving up something you really love for Lent.
■ Involve your children in creating menus for Lenten meals.
■ Bake bread together, making sure to discuss how Jesus is the “Living Bread of the World.”
■ Go over the Lord’s Prayer and the Stations of the Cross.
■ Act out the Palm Sunday story, using blankets to show your children how people laid down their coats at Christ’s feet.
■ Demonstrate the miracle and renewal that comes through Christ’s resurrection, through the dyeing of Easter eggs and/or the planting of spring flowers, such as crocuses.
God…put a new…right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)
Lord, may Lent be an opportunity for spiritual renewal.
What is Shrove Tuesday?
The day before Ash Wednesday is known as “Shrove Tuesday.” But do you know why that is? Explaining the origins of the day in Guideposts, Rick Hamlin writes, “The word ‘shrove’ comes from the old English word ‘shrive,’ which refers to asking for absolution from your sins. To get ready for Lent, it was traditional to ask forgiveness.”
The tradition of eating pancakes (yes, that’s a thing!) on Shrove Tuesday was to feast on the foods and sugary things you might be giving up for Lent. Dancing, such as we see during Mardi Gras, was the celebration before the Lenten period of fasting and contemplation.
The day before Lent is a time to indulge a bit, to make merry with your friends and community before entering the wilderness of Lent and imitating Christ’s 40 days of prayer and fasting. But it starts with seeking and receiving forgiveness, to be “shriven and forgiven,” Hamlin writes, as a way to prepare for the Easter season. With a side of dancing and pancakes, of course.
Whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the
hypocrites. (Matthew 6:16)
May my Lenten journey start and end with joy, Jesus.
Grace Tully worked as a personal secretary for Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt for more than 30 years. Right up to the time of her death, Tully spoke with admiration of the way she was treated by them.
With the Roosevelts, she said, you were never considered just the help. You were considered part of the family.
Tully recalled that if someone was working late and Eleanor Roosevelt was aware of it, she would order another chair to be put at the dinner table so that person could eat with the presidential family. That special touch of hospitality made all the difference.
Real hospitality goes beyond mere politeness to guests. It is a commitment to the golden rule—and it includes one’s friends, as well as strangers. So be hospitable, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and
with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.
Help me be a model of hospitality, Jesus.
A Snowboarding Pioneer Retires
One of the best things about watching the Olympics is seeing athletes at the top of their game, after years of honing their skills. Snowboarding legend Shaun White fits the bill, having competed on the world stage since not long after snowboarding became an Olympic event.
He won gold medals in 2006 and 2010—and at 2022’s Beijing Olympics, he said a fond farewell to the sport as he announced his retirement. On his last run, he took a moment to slowly ride down the course and wave to the cheering crowds.
As reported on the Today Show, White got emotional when talking about his career: “I just want to thank everyone for watching. Everyone at home, thank you. Snowboarding, thank you. It’s been the love of my life.”
At age 35, White was the oldest Olympian to ride the half pipe. Through his dedication and love of the sport, he showed a generation of snowboarders that hard work and perseverance pay off—and that using your God-given talents can lead you to achieve great things.
Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before
us. (Hebrews 12:1)
Guide me, Lord, so my endeavors reflect Your goodness.
Texas Boy Shares Love of Literacy
Ten-year-old Orion Jean has a mission: to collect 500,000 books from across the country through his “Race to Kindness” initiative for children in need. “I want to be able to share my love of literacy with as many people as possible,” he told CBS News.
Jean’s mission started in 2020 when he won a student kindness contest in Fort Worth, Texas. He realized his $500 prize was a “catalyst to something so much bigger.” After donating toys to a children’s hospital and assisting various food drives, he launched “Race to Kindness” to share the gift of reading with hundreds of thousands of kids.
“Race to Kindness” motivated people across the country to give away their used books to children who didn’t have any, collecting 120,000 books thus far. As Jean said, “It’s all about my moral duty to help people…Kindness is a virtue we can all possess. So why not start today?”
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God. (1 John 3:1)
Loving Jesus, bless the children for they are the ones to
make the future brighter.
Best Buddies Helps Disabled Thrive
Based on findings from the “A Place in this World” report, 62% of people with developmental disabilities (IDD) dream of having their own apartment. However, 75% live with their parents. The Best Buddies Living program is an opportunity for people with disabilities to live independently in a dynamic environment where they can learn, grow, and thrive.
The Best Buddies Living program invited six high school age students with IDD to practice their independent living skills. According to Bestbuddies.org, this two-day, two-night program “introduced participants to skills like grocery shopping, cooking meals, making a bed, doing laundry, hygiene routines, taking the Metro, and budgeting.” They even got to do a sleepover in their own apartment in Washington, D.C.
This program encouraged students to step out of their comfort zone, learn new skills, and, most importantly, have fun with the other participants. These are skills they will continue to carry with them into the future.
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)
Lord, bless all those with disabilities and help them continue to learn, grow, and thrive in all they do.
Reaching Out Like Jesus
The Christophers’ founder Father James Keller, M.M., once wrote, “The Gospels reveal how our Lord was ever on the move, not merely to enjoy Himself, but always with the hope and prayer that as He moved among the people, He would reach some who could be reached in no other way.”
When we look at the whole of Christ’s life, we see a balance between formation and outreach. It is a balance we all need in our lives, but we must always remember that the value of our formation is measured by how it prepares us to go out into the world and give of ourselves to others.
Of Christ’s ministry, Father Keller wrote, “His was the loving purpose of bringing God to men and men to God. He went to dinners, to weddings, to all sorts of gatherings. He engaged in conversation with all types of persons in all sorts of places. And the people flocked to Him because He first went to them.”
This spirit of generosity is at the heart of what it means to be a Christopher, and it is the approach to life that inspired Father Keller to start The Christophers back in 1945.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.
Teach me to reach out to others with Your love, Jesus.
Praying in a Warzone
Russia’s war on Ukraine has resulted in the separation of many Ukrainian families. Cerith Gardiner of Aleteia wrote, “Spouses have had to live with tremendous anxiety. Wives could be a phone call away from hearing that their husbands have been killed…As the men stay behind, they worry about whether their families are safely settled far from home.”
Gardiner related the story of Petro and Oksana Galuga, residents of Kyiv who have been married 25 years. Oksana fled to Poland with their children when the war began, leaving Petro behind to help with humanitarian efforts in his role as State Secretary of the Knights of Columbus in Ukraine.
“We all feel very lonely and sad that we are separated,” Petro said. Highlighting what keeps them connected, he added, “We pray together. It unites us very much spiritually.”
“Peter is very much in keeping with his name,” Oksana said. “Peter is the rock.”
“Eventually the Lord will give us peace,” Petro said, “and we will have the opportunity…to rebuild our country.”
He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.
Lord, grant us peace so we can build a better world.
Hoagies 4 Hope
For many years on Super Bowl Sunday, Clearview Regional High School in Mullica Hill, New Jersey, sold sandwiches to raise money for various good causes. In 2022, one of the school’s own students, Julia Buck, was selected to receive the proceeds of the fundraiser.
Julia had been in a terrible car accident the year before, one that involved three other girls from the high school, when they were hit by an oncoming truck. As reported on WPVI, Buck and one other girl were airlifted to a hospital with serious injuries. After 10 months and 10 surgeries, the community was still rallying behind Julia.
The funds raised from “Hoagies 4 Hope” helped Julia’s family, as her mom left full-time work to care for her. The road to healing was difficult, but Julia’s determination and the support of those around her made a marked difference. “They told us she was going to possibly be paralyzed,” said Jennifer Buck, Julia’s mom. “And today, I cannot believe she’s walking.”
Peace be to the whole community, and love with faith, from God the Father. (Ephesians 6:23)
Thank You, Lord, for the community that surrounds me.
Catholic Roots of Super Bowl Success
When he hoisted the Lombardi trophy in February 2022, 36-year-old Sean McVay became the youngest-ever head coach to win a Super Bowl. His journey to success leading the Los Angeles Rams began two decades earlier when he was a student at Marist School in Atlanta. There, he learned values and discipline, both on and off the field, and he credits his education with helping him on his career journey.
In 2003, while a senior at Marist, McVay led the football team to the state championships. He then went on to Miami University to play football in Division I, and once finished with college he began his professional coaching career. He never forgot the lessons of his Catholic education.
As quoted by Catholic News Service, McVay shared this message with Marist’s 2021 graduating class: “Marist is a special place…I’ve been so fortunate and blessed because there’s so many of the foundational principles that were instilled in me from the time I got here that have been instrumental in a lot of the things that have been good in my life.”
The Lord’s gift remains with the devout, and His favor
brings lasting success. (Sirach 11:17)
May Your words and lessons guide my endeavors, Lord.
Saved by Spider-Man
It was an older person’s worst nightmare. At 3:00 in the morning, 79-year-old Stella Thorley fell on her way to the bathroom, unable to lift herself to an upright position.
“I’m so tall it makes it harder,” the six-foot Thorley, a pensioner from Crewe, England, explained to Cheshire Live News. “I…just lay there…By the morning, I was so confused, and in shock.”
To make matters worse, when Stella’s daughter came to check on her that morning, the front door would not open because the house key was stuck in the inside lock. Enter seven-year-old Jayden Kenyon, Thorley’s neighbor, who was able to reach his arm through the mail slot to dislodge the key and let her daughter get inside. Jayden got “lots of cuts and bruises” from this retrieval, but to the youngster, it was more than worth it.
“I knew it was an emergency, and we had to rescue Stella,” Kenyon concluded matter-of-factly, “and I just wanted to help like Spider-Man does…I felt a bit like bendy Spider-Man. He’s my favorite superhero…I felt amazing.”
Let each of you look…to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)
Savior, may we lend a helping hand to those in need.
‘I Hate No One’
Father Dehua (“Edward”) Zhang was truly a remarkable man. Born in Tianjin, Heibi Province in China in 1928, Zhang long dreamed of becoming a priest. On November 18, 1944, he made his first vows with the Little Brothers of St. John the Baptist. Unfortunately, the communist government got wind of this, sentencing him to hard labor in various prison camps located throughout China.
In 1986, Zhang was released on good behavior, but before he could be ordained, he was imprisoned again, for eight more years. In 1994, he was able to escape, first to Hong Kong and then to New York, where he fulfilled his dream of ordination.
“Father Ed” served two parishes in Queens, New York, and he was especially faithful in his visits to the elderly. He continued his ministry until his death in 2022, inspiring all who knew him with his gentle, forgiving nature.
“You would think he had every right to be bitter,” Bishop Robert Brennan said in Zhang’s funeral homily, reported in The Tablet. “[Yet he] is known to have said, ‘All this is the Divine Will of God. God is love, so I hate no one.’”
Love covers all offenses. (Proverbs 10:12)
Savior, may we strive to emulate Your Divine forgiveness.
Olympian Deals with Disappointment
Throughout life, it’s likely we’ll occasionally disappoint ourselves and others. People might even judge us harshly. But not everyone experiences their distress in as public a way as world-class skier Mikaela Shiffrin did in 2022.
According to CNN Sports, she “had a realistic chance of becoming the first American skier to win three gold medals at a single Olympics.” Instead, she crashed and left without a medal.
Unkind social media critics let her have it and even suggested she leave the sport.
The 26-year-old Shiffrin, who had medaled in previous Olympics, responded, “The pinnacle of the last four years of work is over…[Yet] you can go through all of that and have the most turbulent times and still rise again tomorrow.”
Shiffrin plans “to go out again and try next time,” reminding everyone that failure doesn’t have to be fatal to our dreams if we don’t let it be.
Though they fall seven times, they will rise again.
God, give me the strength to persevere during frustrating
Building the Ice Chapel
When some towns get hit by a blizzard, its citizens break out the shovels and snow blowers. But in Houghton, Michigan, which received 200 inches of snow during the winter of 2021-2022, Catholic students at Michigan Technological University take a different approach: they build an ice chapel.
It’s a tradition that has been going on for years in this traditionally freezing part of the country, which holds an annual Winter Carnival that includes snow sculptures. But the ice chapel is no simple sculpture. It becomes an actual place of worship.
As reported by Jennifer Barton in Today’s Catholic, Father Ben Hasse of St. Albert the Great University Parish ministers to Catholic students in the area. He conceived the idea of building an open air “snow church” years ago as a means to bring people together, even those who are not active churchgoers.
Matthew Henry, a FOCUS missionary who helped build the church, said, “A lot of…students are there…and we’re able to welcome them into the community that way and have them…participate in literally building up the Church.”
He shall build a house for My name. (2 Samuel 7:13)
Guide me in helping to build Your church, Jesus.
Black Authors Shine a Light, Part 1
When they were kids growing up in Pittsburgh and Brooklyn, respectively, Kelly Starling Lyons and Torrey Maldonado rarely saw children’s books with characters who looked like them, characters who were African American.
That lack of representation all those years ago planted a seed in them, however. Today, they are both acclaimed authors, shining lights on their culture, past and present, and giving children and young adults characters they can look up to.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Kelly recalled growing up in a family where both reading and storytelling were important. Her grandparents often shared stories from black history that she never heard in school.
The first book she remembers seeing with a black character was Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. She said, “It made an impact on me: the power of seeing yourself and what that does in terms of letting you know that you matter—and your family and your history matters. That planted a seed in me that bloomed into my later becoming a children’s book author.”
We are children of God. (Romans 8:16)
May children have good role models, Creator.
Black Authors Shine a Light, Part 2
Torrey Maldonado grew up in what he calls “a book desert.” The Red Hook Houses in Brooklyn were the largest black housing projects in the United States. They were also a hotbed of crime and drugs.
Torrey, however, was always a “bookish child,” though he couldn’t be so publicly because others would accuse him of being “soft” instead of tough, which is how you needed to be in order to survive in Red Hook.
Torrey’s mom encouraged his love of reading in their home. He never saw any characters who looked like him, though, until his mother gave him the book The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, featuring a young African American boy.
“My mom planted that seed,” said Torrey, “but she also lit a spark in me that grew over time into me realizing, ‘That magic…of our community that’s not showing up in books, I can do that. I can share that magic.’…[Kelly and I] are trying to inspire young kids to grow up to take our place and become the writers that the world needs.”
In your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech. (Titus 2:7-8)
Help me plant seeds that bear good fruit, Lord.
Black Authors Shine a Light, Part 3
Kelly Starling Lyons earned a Christopher Award for her children’s book Tiara’s Hat Parade, which shares the story of an African American girl who tries to revive her mother’s spirits after she’s forced to give up her beloved hat making business.
The book grew out of the fact that hats hold a special place in African American culture, especially in church. Why? Kelly explained, “You have people who work…tough jobs where they’re not able to show their individuality and their style. And also, as a way of being humble, covering your head when you’re going into a house of worship.”
There is an implicit element of faith in Tiara’s Hat Parade, when Tiara prays for her mom to be able to make hats again. God answers that prayer by making Tiara herself the instrument of that happening. Kelly notes that she doesn’t intentionally aim to work God into her stories, but since her faith and family are the two most important things in her life, it usually works out that way. “To me, it was just natural that she’s worried about something, so she takes it to God,” said Kelly.
If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
(1 John 5:14)
Hear my pleas for help, Savior, and guide me to solutions.
Black Authors Shine a Light, Part 4
Torrey Maldonado’s mom instilled him with “mustard seed faith” and inspired the character of the mother in his Christopher Award-winning young adult novel Tight. When Torrey saw trouble in their crime-ridden neighborhood, she advised him to “look for the angels, for the helpers,” he recalled on Christopher Closeup.
She also encouraged him to envision a better future by asking what he wanted to be and do in his life. Torrey said, “I would open up to my mom and tell her these wild dreams. She called them prophecies. She believed God was putting those dreams in me…My mom said, ‘You can do those things. You can go to those places. You could be that person. You just have to have mustard seed faith.’
“Following my mom’s wisdom, I found that biblical wisdom…I applied a little bit of that faith and became the first person in my family to graduate from college. Then, everybody was saying, ‘You can’t publish any books because you don’t know anybody in the book publishing world.’ Now I’m on my third book published, and I’ve got more books coming out.”
If you have faith the size of a mustard seed…nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20)
Grow my mustard seed faith, Messiah.
Black Authors Shine a Light, Part 5
Torrey Maldonado recalled that prayer was looked down on in his tough neighborhood growing up. But he credits his mother with teaching him that all prayers don’t begin with, “Father, grant me…” or a phrase like that.
As an example, he points to a passage from his book Tight, in which the main character, Brian, goes to the store and has to buy food on credit because his family can’t afford to pay cash. Brian sees a young girl looking at him, and he feels like “a broke joke.” As a result, Brian says a prayer, though it begins with the words “I wish,” because young people in those situations simply pray differently, Torrey explained.
Kelly Starling Lyons added, “I love the idea of taking what you’ve survived…and looking for the blessing, the people who are the helpers, the light that shines in your family, the magic that you have and the talents that God has gifted you with…When I grew up…my grandma used to say, ‘You pray with your feet moving.’ It’s prayer plus action. Love is an action word. It’s not just saying it, but it’s showing it and it’s doing it.”
Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. (Ephesians 6:18)
Teach me to pray with my feet moving, Jesus.
A Light in This World Forever
Family and friends always knew that Tallu Schuyler Quinn, the founder of the Nashville Food Project, was special. She was born with a spirit of kindness and generosity, said her loved ones. That spirit remains, despite Quinn’s death from brain cancer at age 42.
Under her leadership, the Project grew from a church kitchen with several volunteers to a multi-service operation that makes hundreds of thousands of meals.
The Tennessean quotes her alma mater as saying: “She built an impressive and impactful program that addresses food insecurity and food sovereignty problems in the greater Nashville area…To know her, was to love her. She was an incredible beam of light.”
One mourner said that many people won’t go to bed hungry today, and for the future, because of Quinn and her work, noting, “Although her candle burned out tonight, she will remain a light in this world forever.”
If you offer your food to the hungry…your light shall
rise in the darkness. (Isaiah 58:10)
Help us, Lord, to appreciate the many ways we can make a
positive difference in life.
It’s certainly unusual to have a person who can’t speak deliver the valedictorian speech at a college graduation ceremony, but there’s no question that Elizabeth Bonker was the perfect choice for this groundbreaking occasion.
Though Bonker has nonverbal autism, her comprehension and intelligence are high. She communicates by typing on a computer and attended Florida’s Rollins College, where she majored in Social Innovation, minored in English, and founded a nonprofit called “Communication 4 All, an organization dedicated to providing communication resources for all non-speakers so that they too can be freed from their silent cage.”
In her speech, delivered via a text-to-speech computer, Bonker said, “Each and every one of us can live a life of service…God gave you a voice. Use it…I leave you today with a quote from Alan Turing, who broke the Nazi encryption code to help win World War II: ‘Sometimes, it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.’ Be those people. Be the light! Fiat lux. Thank you.”
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Help me to use my voice and be a light, Messiah.
Greek Restaurant Prevails in Pandemic
Adan Muñoz had just launched his own Greek restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, when COVID-19 caused economic hardships in the city’s restaurant business. Despite an uncertain future, he remembered what his grandma taught him about generosity. That lesson helped Muñoz’s restaurant survive.
Yia Yia’s Taverna, named in honor of Muñoz’s grandma (“Yia Yia” is Greek for “Grandma”), began providing free meals to the newly unemployed. Muñoz told the Daily News, “People would say, ‘I just lost my job, and I’m applying for government [aid],’ and I’d say, ‘Just sit down, have a glass of wine with me, next time you’ll pay.’”
Online reviews were soon praising the food and Muñoz’s hospitality. Even though they were fighting to keep the restaurant afloat, it was a “sign they loved the food, a sign we were doing something right.”
Those once-virtual customers became in-person regulars, all thanks to Yia Yia’s teachings of generosity.
Their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity. (2 Corinthians 8:2)
Loving Jesus, help us rejoice with a generous spirit.
Education is a Lifelong Companion
English essayist Joseph Addison once described education as “a companion which no misfortune can depress, no crime can destroy, no enemy can alienate, no despotism can enslave.”
“At home,” Addison added, “education is a friend, abroad it is an introduction. In solitude, education is a solace, and in society it is an ornament. It chastens vice and guides virtue.”
These are wise words to consider for young people attending school, but the benefits of education can be applied to individuals of any age. After all, this world is full of God’s wonders that we can better appreciate the more we learn about them. Education can also play a role in lifting people out of poverty or helping them discover their untapped potential.
Perhaps most importantly, education can expose us to different peoples, cultures, and times in history that we’ve never experienced ourselves, but that can contribute to our understanding of the world and human nature. So always take advantage of the benefits of education
An intelligent mind acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. (Proverbs 18:15)
Guide me towards knowledge and wisdom, Holy Spirit.
Doctor Brings Light to Patients, Part 1
Early in his medical career, Dr. Wes Ely worked as a phlebotomist at a nursing home where one of his patients was an unresponsive elderly woman with dementia, who never spoke or indicated she was even aware of her surroundings. During the doctor’s regular visits, he would simply put a tourniquet on her arm and draw blood without acknowledging her in any way.
One day, Dr. Ely noticed that the sun was shining through this woman’s window, directly into her eyes, so he closed the curtain. He was shocked when she then turned to him and said, “Doctor, everything that is light is Jesus Christ.”
That incident had a profound impact on the Catholic doctor’s career and the way he has chosen to practice medicine by focusing on his patients’ physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Dr. Ely shares his views—as well as the life-saving work he has done improving practices in hospital intensive care units—in his Christopher Award-winning book Every Deep-Drawn Breath: A Critical Care Doctor on Healing, Recovery, and Transforming Medicine in the ICU. More tomorrow…
I am the light of the world. (John 8:12)
Light my way through this world, Jesus.
Doctor Brings Light to Patients, Part 2
For some Christopher Award winners, being notified about the recognition is the first they hear of The Christophers’ motto, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” But that was not the case with Dr. Wes Ely, who won for his book Every Deep-Drawn Breath.
Unbeknownst to us, he has lived by that motto since childhood because his mother used to receive the local Catholic newspaper which carried the columns of Father John Catoir, The Christophers’ Director at the time.
The idea of lighting a candle in the darkness was especially important to Dr. Ely during his childhood because his father left their family to pursue a different life. This choice wounded the young Ely, who says he felt “defective” after the abandonment.
His mother, however, countered this idea with one of her own. She wrote on a bookmark, “Wes, Jesus loves you. May you know this, and love and serve Him all the days of your life.” Dr. Ely’s mother put those words on paper, but eventually they came to be written on his heart. More tomorrow…
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God.
(1 John 3:1)
Help me to know and feel Your love for me, Jesus.
Doctor Brings Light to Patients, Part 3
Another impactful experience for Dr. Wes Ely was his work as a farmhand during his high school years. During a Christopher Closeup interview, he recalled, “I was in charge of the pickers, and the pickers were usually migrant workers. They worked for an hourly wage, and their whole life was in these fields. They didn’t have a safety net, and I saw that.”
“These pickers, they would get a cut, that would become an abscess,” he continued. “They would get a toothache, that would become a gap in their smile. I realized that they were, in a sense, silenced in their own life. I [saw] this as a testimonial injustice.”
Around this time, Dr. Ely read Maya Angelou’s memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, in which she addresses the trauma she experienced and how she was silenced as well. That, said Dr. Ely, “made me dive even deeper into this notion that people all around me were suffering and getting hurt. Could it be that maybe there was something I could do from a vocational perspective to help give them a voice and find a way forward? That’s what led me into medicine.” More tomorrow…
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice? (Isaiah 58:6)
Guide me in correcting injustices, Divine Judge.
Doctor Brings Light to Patients, Part 4
Despite his noble intentions, Dr. Wes Ely admits that he often lost sight of his patients’ humanity during the early parts of his career, especially when he became a critical care doctor in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
For instance, it was common practice to intubate ICU patients and put them under deep sedation for days or even weeks at a time, believing this would help them recover. In the early 90s, Dr. Ely noticed that while his patients who underwent this treatment were often cured of their original problems, they wound up developing “acquired dementia, acquired PTSD and depression, and neck down, muscle and nerve disease.”
Dr. Ely sought a solution, which resulted in the A2F bundle safety checklist. He explained, “We’re going to try and get you out of bed [and] walk you, even on the ventilator…give you just enough sedation and pain meds so you’re not suffering…Meanwhile, your brain is being engaged, and so are your legs, arms, and chest wall so that you’re not losing muscle and the neurons aren’t dying.” More tomorrow…
Honor physicians for their services, for the Lord created them. (Sirach 38:1)
Give doctors the wisdom and humility to truly heal, Lord.
Doctor Brings Light to Patients, Part 5
Dr. Wes Ely has developed practices for Intensive Care Units that are greatly improving the quality of patients’ lives once they recover, but he approaches his career with a spiritual mindset, too.
During a Christopher Closeup interview about his Christopher Award-winning book Every Deep-Drawn Breath, he explained, “I was in India, in Kolkata, at Mother Teresa’s Home for the Destitute and Dying, and one of the things that she always said when they asked her, ‘How do you pick up these people? They’re covered in vomit and maggots and flies.’ And she said, ‘I look in their eyes, and I say to myself, ‘This is Jesus Christ.’”
“For a non-Christian, the same thing can happen. You can look in the person’s eyes—whether you’re Muslim, Hindu, atheist, agnostic—and say…‘I am here to serve this entire person.’…I take a spiritual history of my patients and put them in charge…and I ask, ‘Do you have any spiritual values that you want me to know?’” More tomorrow…
Just as you did it to one of the least of these…you did it to Me. (Matthew 25:40)
May I see Your face, Jesus, in all people.
Doctor Brings Light to Patients, Part 6
Dr. Wes Ely has taken part in his patients’ spiritual requests, whether they were religious or atheists. But his Catholic faith played a role when he treated Gian, a fellow doctor who had contracted COVID-19 and wanted to receive the Eucharist.
Since Dr. Ely is a Eucharistic Minister, he was able to bring Gian Holy Communion. Dr. Ely reflected, “As physicians, Gian and I incorporate science into faith, acknowledging that when we ingest the Eucharist, it enters the workings of the cells of our entire body. My faith affirms that consuming the Eucharist helps me become a better servant of God and others…I believe that how we handle ourselves on earth will echo into eternity, and the Eucharist is both our shield and protection during life—and our Viaticum, food for the journey, in dying.
“For Gian, the knowledge that this might be the last time he received the Eucharist—and it was—transformed the…ICU, to a place where he felt safe, loved, and in an eternal relationship with God. It was a humbling experience for me to do that.” More tomorrow…
Whoever eats of this bread will live forever. (John 6:51)
Feed my soul through Holy Communion, Jesus.
Doctor Brings Light to Patients, Part 7
Dr. Wes Ely hopes that people who read his Christopher Award-winning book Every Deep-Drawn Breath find it helpful and enriching on multiple levels. There are social justice aspects to its stories, as well as the idea that “alongside suffering can be joy and love.”
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Dr. Ely also reflected on the ways he lights a metaphorical candle when he endures times of darkness in his life. He concluded, “There’s been a lot of heartache in my family and…with my patients, when I hope that one of them will survive and they don’t. When I hit those moments of darkness, I try to remind myself that my job is to take what comes and find the beauty and the love alongside that sadness and heartache.”
“I have a motto that I keep in the forefront of my mind: V = v. I got this from Maximilian Kolbe. He used to teach the seminarians that the capital V, Voluntas, God’s will, must become my little v, voluntas. In other words, my will is subordinate to God’s will in my life…That’s how I go forward.”
Your will be done. (Matthew 6:10)
Help me conform my will to Yours, Creator.
Controlling Your Inner Pharisee
Estefania Garcia admits that she has an inner “mini Pharisee” that rears its head from time to time, prompting her to feel contemptuous of others who think differently than she does. But then she remembers the judgmental attitudes of the Pharisees in so many New Testament stories, dubbing them “the Mean Girls of Jesus’s time.”
When this happens, writes Garcia at Busted Halo, she recalls Matthew 9:9-13, when the Pharisees ask why Jesus is hanging around sinners. Jesus responds, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”
Garcia observes, “God desires that we show each other the same love and mercy that He shows us all. Showing compassion is more important to Him than any religious ritual or sacrifice…We should all take time to think about what these words really mean: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ How am I practicing mercy right now? Am I letting everyone sit at my table like Jesus did, or am I just being a mean girl?”
I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.
Teach me to be more loving and merciful, Jesus.
Good Samaritan Goes Above and Beyond
It was a morning like any other in Santa Ana, California, for 94-year-old tamale vendor Jose Villa Ochoa. But one casual encounter with 28-year-old Kenia Barragan would change his life—and hers—forever.
After buying a torta (Mexican sandwich) from this gentleman, Kenia stopped to chat with him and learned he sold tamales for a woman who paid him at the end of the day. No one else would hire Ochoa, also known as “Don Joel,” due to his advanced age. Without some employment, like many older people, Don Joel would not be able to survive.
Deeply moved by Ochoa’s story, Barragan shared the details of their meeting on social media, and even petitioned for money to assist him. She ended up raising more than $80,000. Don Joel was moved to tears by Barragan’s generosity.
“I’ve always wanted a purpose in my life,” Barragan told Fox 11 News, “and I wanted to help people…We need to take care of each other. Even if you can’t give money—donate a prayer, give something back, take time to get to know someone.”
Give liberally…the Lord…will bless you.
Lord, may we take care of each other.