Dec. 23: The Heart of Christmas

Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Matthew West has always had a year-round fascination with Christmas.  It’s not just the presents and decorations that attract him; it’s the focus on the birth of Jesus Christ.During an interview on Christopher Closeup following the release of his album The Heart of Christmas, West recalled that, when he was growing up, his parents always read the Christmas story in Luke’s gospel before any presents could be opened Christmas morning.  At the time, the waiting … [Read more...]

Dec. 22: Christmas Kindness at Kmart

During the 2011 Christmas season at an Omaha, Nebraska, Kmart, an anonymous donor paid $200 toward the balance of Lori Stearnes’ layaway account.  As someone who lives paycheck to paycheck, that act of kindness meant a great deal to her.  Filled with the Christmas spirit, Stearnes used the money she had planned to spend on presents to help someone else.In Indianapolis, a young father waited in line with his three children to make a payment on his layaway account, knowing that he wouldn’t be a … [Read more...]

Dec. 21: Need to Unwind?

Have you ever finished a busy day at work but been unable to relax once you are at home?This was Kevin Lowry’s predicament.  While he sat in his Columbus, Ohio, home trying unsuccessfully to unwind, his four-year-old daughter Hannah kept tapping on his shoulder, asking if he wanted to play with her.  She was patient but very persistent.  Finally, he gave in and found himself pleasantly surprised by the results of this exercise.Lowry writes, “It may seem counterintuitive, but I think the b … [Read more...]

Dec. 20: Counting Your Blessings

These days Lexie Davis considers himself blessed to be free of drug addiction.  For a long time he was burdened by a crack habit which cost him his home, his family, and his business.The 58-year-old New Yorker had been living at the Volunteers of America Charles H. Gay Shelter Care Center for homeless men when a minister asked him a life-altering question.“He asked me who was the greatest homeless man I had ever known,” Davis told the Daily News.  “I told him I don’t know any…He said Jesu … [Read more...]

Dec. 19: Finding Your True Self

The need to fit in has increased since the advent of social networking sites such as Facebook, where a person’s worth may be measured by how many friends they have.  However, as Catholic New York columnist Mary DeTurris Poust wisely notes, “Life is not a popularity contest.”“Too often we think becoming successful or holy means becoming someone different than the person we are created to be,” DeTurris Poust continues.  “Truth is, we are loved exactly as we are, by a God who holds us in the pal … [Read more...]

Dec. 18: Joy: A Year-Round Basic

Many people associate joy with Christmastime.  Churches remind us to “Rejoice and be glad” while Christmas carols teem with joyous refrains.  Catholic News Service writer David Gibson wonders why such a vital feeling should be confined to the Christmas season.“Joy ranks high among the basics of Christmas,” Gibson asserts.  “But for Christians, joy…is a year round basic.  In others’ eyes, joy lends credibility to Christian life.  Joy is inviting and contagious.”Gibson goes on to say that m … [Read more...]

Dec. 17: Singing for Joy

Traveling on the road as a musician, Bob Rowe would use his off-stage hours to volunteer at local nursing homes and other care facilities for the elderly.Greeted at first by despondent, suffering people, he witnessed their change in outlook when he played his guitar and sang.“I thought, ‘If I could organize this into a bigger outreach, I could make a difference in my little corner of the world,’” Rowe explained.So Rowe founded Renaissance Enterprises, through which he and fellow music … [Read more...]

Dec. 16: Planting Seeds

For the last 35 years, several parishes in Minnesota’s Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul have collected clothes and gifts for the poverty-stricken people of Appalachia in rural Kentucky just before Christmas.  These contributions are then transported to Appalachia by truck.The program, which is run by the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women, used Bob and Elaine Eberhard’s small farm as one of its “launching points” for many years.  Initially Elaine, 79, wondered why the impoverished … [Read more...]