The ship’s chief engineer, coming down the companionway into the engine room, shouted at one of the crew members, “How long have you been working here?” The crew member answered honestly, “Ever since I saw you coming down the ladder.” There is a constant temptation for all of us to take it easy until an emergency arises.  Often, we tend to excuse our own spiritual idleness, putting off action to some future time we imagine will be more practical. We… Read more

Duchenne muscular dystrophy slowly robbed Daniel Escalona of his ability to run, walk, and move his arms.  Yet it didn’t dim his determination.  Daniel graduated from his Chicago high school in June 2012, and is now a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  The school has a state-of-the-art dorm and support system for 24 students with disabilities. Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Daniel’s father, Alejandro, reflected on the bittersweet, but proud experience of sending his disabled son off… Read more

Three hundred years ago, a prisoner condemned to the Tower of London carved this sentiment on the wall of his cell to keep up his spirits during his long imprisonment: “It is not adversity that kills, but the impatience with which we bear adversity.” Rebelling against difficulties or obstacles that can’t be legitimately avoided only makes a bad situation worse.  Ordinary common sense recommends that we ride the storm, not buck it.  But going one step further—from the natural to… Read more

Jim Abbott has been retired for 13 years from an improbable major-league baseball pitching career that included a no-hitter for the New York Yankees.  The reason his career was improbable is that he’s only got one arm. During 10 seasons, from 1989 to 1999, he played with the California Angels, the Yankees, the Chicago White Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers.  Though his 87-108 win/loss record wasn’t stellar, it still included one of baseball’s most difficult feats, the no-hitter. It’s hard… Read more

Preacher and writer William L. Stidger once told a story about the conductor Walter Damrosch who stopped his orchestra when everything was apparently going along smoothly.  He asked, “Where is the seventh flute?” As Stidger points out, the conductor didn’t ask for the first flute, or the second—but the seventh.  Even the seventh flute had an important role in creating the harmony the leader desired. The lesson, Stidger explained: “We may feel inferior, untalented, not beautiful, and some of us… Read more

Sometimes the impact of a prayer can begin with one simple stitch.  This was the case with the St. Mary’s Prayer Weavers based in Metamora, Illinois.  The group consists of nine women who sew prayer shawls and lap robes for their fellow parishioners, both men and women, who are suffering from physical or spiritual ailments. The group used to donate their items to parishioners who lived in nursing homes or were unable to attend church, but member Susan Wyckoff notes… Read more

Chinsuk Kim first picked a career as a radiology technologist in a Las Vegas hospital.  She quickly realized, however, that the job was not for her. After working in a casino for a few years and saving some money, she discovered a convenience store franchise opportunity. Owning a store, she found, was a good fit for her personality. A few years later, Todd Ferguson walked in to that store for a cup of coffee; he soon became a regular customer…. Read more

Hospice workers respect life while also providing comfort care at its end. Pam Greene, a hospice nurse in Nebraska, told a reporter that she is now passionate about helping people through the process with dignity. Years ago she “hated death and dying. I didn’t like going to funerals.  I didn’t like any of that kind of stuff.” But she followed the advice of one hospice director, who noted that those who work in this field need a good understanding of… Read more

Frederick the Great of Prussia was walking along a road on the outskirts of Berlin one day when he accidentally brushed against a very old man.  “Who are you?” Frederick asked out of idle curiosity as the two came to a halt. “I am a king,” the old man answered. “A king?” echoed Frederick.  “Over what kingdom do you reign?” “Over myself,” was the proud reply.  “I rule myself because I control myself.  I am my own subject to command.”… Read more

It was August 14, 1941, at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.  The Nazis were picking which prisoners would be killed that day.  After 10 men were selected to die, one of them—Franciszek Gajowniczek—cried out, “My wife! My children! I will never see them again!” Also present at this time was another Nazi prisoner, Father Maximilan Kolbe, a Franciscan Friar.  He stepped forward and told the Nazi commandant, “I am a Catholic priest.  Let me take his place. I am… Read more

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