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by Matthew Kelly
by Fr. Bob Sherry
Of all the people who have helped me grow spiritually, one man has made all the difference. Without this one man, my life would not have turned out the way it did.
His name is John, and he shared the genius of Catholicism with me before I even knew what it was. He took me step-by-step through the basics of Catholic spirituality, patiently answered my questions, prayed for me every day, and held me accountable. He gave me everything that became the foundation of my spiritual life for the past twenty-five years. He was a friend and a mentor. John passed away years ago, and not a day goes by when I don’t wish I could thank him just one more time.
A few months back, one of the team members at Dynamic Catholic got the idea to invite people to look back over their lives and recognize the people who shared the genius of Catholicism with them. So we created postcards with simple and inspiring messages of thanks. We made them available for free—even shipping is free—and invited you to use them to thank the people in your life who have positively impacted you.
Since then, we’ve heard from hundreds of men and women from across the country who have given and received those cards. Some of their stories were incredibly powerful, and some of them were beautifully simple. Allow me to share just one short story with you.
One woman got her free postcards and posted on our Facebook page when she heard back from one of the people she thanked. It was her dad. Here is her post:
My first recipient got back to me. My dad. He loved the card and thanked me. I could tell he was choked up a bit, but it allowed me to verbally thank him for introducing me and helping me along the way with my faith. I told him how I am passing it down to my daughter, and he sees that. Thank you, Dynamic Catholic, for this lovely (and inspiring) gift.
As we each look back on our lives, we can see people who have made great contributions to our spiritual growth in different ways. John was a friend of my soul. I am convinced that we all need someone like this in our lives to share the genius of Catholicism with us. I pray that you will have the chance to thank that person in your life, and I pray that someday we might be that person for someone else.
May God bless you and all those you love this Christmas,
Hope is the one thing you can’t buy, but that will be given to you freely if you ask. Hope is the one thing people cannot live without.
— From Beautiful Hope by Matthew Kelly
“Man can live forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only one second without hope.” — Unknown
It was Paul’s time. He could see it in the doctor’s eyes. After ninety-two years of life, Paul was ready to go back to God. His last request was to spend a private moment with each special person gathered around his bed.
Three children, five grandchildren, a coworker, and two lifelong friends shared the final hours of Paul’s life. Words of love, appreciation, and forgiveness. Tears of sorrow. Tears of laughter. Each person left the room feeling lighter than they had felt in years. Peace came with each encounter. A peace that only comes from spending time with a life well lived.
Outside, in the waiting area, nervous and a bit scared, Connor waited for his turn. Connor was Paul’s grandson. When Connor was ten, his dad left him, his mother, and his two younger brothers. Connor’s mom, Paul’s daughter, wanted her three sons to have a strong male role model, so she moved the family into her father’s house. A recent widower, Paul was thankful for the company.
In the early years, Paul had taught Connor everything he knew: how to fish, how to live as a man of integrity, and how to pray. In the later years the roles had changed. As Paul’s body began to fail him, Connor had taken his grandfather to Mass on Sunday; he had helped him get dressed in the morning and ready for bed at night; and he had stayed up late with him listening to old Frank Sinatra records when Paul had been in too much pain to sleep. The two men loved each other at a level words could not express.
But Connor wasn’t yet ready to say good-bye. Paul was his rock, his role model, and his best friend. Connor wondered how he would navigate life without him. Connor was the last one to visit his grandfather. He walked in and sat down next to Paul, who had his eyes closed. When he opened his eyes, Paul smiled at his grandson. Immediately Connor began to weep. “I don’t want to lose you!” he shouted and buried his head in his grandfather’s chest.
Paul took a deep breath and savored the moment. He remembered the day Connor had been born, how he had fit in the palm of his hand. Paul thanked God for sending him such a friend so late in life. Paul lifted his grandson’s chin so they could look each other in the eye. “Son, we’ll always be together, you know that. Just pray for me on this side of heaven and know I’ll be praying for you on the other. Then one day we’ll meet again.” He wiped the tears from his grandson’s eyes; they shared a smile and hugged one last time.
That’s beautiful hope.
For some time Brian had been feeling restless, like something was missing. He couldn’t figure out why. He had a good job. He provided well for his wife and two kids. He had a nice marriage. Sure, the passion wasn’t really there anymore, but that happens with age. For the most part, his kids were well behaved. He loved them, and they knew it. On most Sundays the family went to Mass together. Life was good. He was a good guy. So what was wrong? Why couldn’t he just be happy?
On his way to work each day, Brian passed St. Patrick’s, his parish church. Recently something had always seemed to be tugging at him to go inside. For weeks he had ignored it and told himself it would pass. But it hadn’t. The nudging had continued.
Finally, Brian went into the church, not because he thought it would help, but to prove a point. He thought that if he just went in and sat there for ten minutes, nothing would happen, and he could move on with his life. But instead, the stillness swallowed Brian whole. He instantly liked how quiet it was. Everything in his life was so loud; the silence was actually comforting . . . peaceful.
Brian began to daydream about heaven. He wondered what it would be like to stand before God. He wondered how God would feel about the halfhearted way he was living his life. He wondered if God would think he was a good husband and father. And at that thought a deep feeling of dissatisfaction nearly overwhelmed Brian.
Suddenly life felt incredibly short. Work problems, his to-do list at home, and whether or not the Indianapolis Colts would win on Sunday took a backseat in his mind. Brian began to wonder when he had last looked into the eyes of his wife and really listened to what she had to say. He thought of the car sitting in his garage and the promise he had made to his son that they would fix it up together. He thought of his daughter and how they had done nothing but argue for months. He thought about the last time he had prayed to God . . . really, truly prayed.
Brian went back to his parish church the next day. And the day after. And the day after that. He formed a new habit of just sitting in silence. And talking to God. He thought about his life. He thought about heaven. Then he started making a plan with God. He made a plan to change his life.
Not long ago I was at a conference here in Cincinnati, and a woman stopped me. “I’m sorry to bother you,” she said, “but I just want to thank you.”
I stopped walking, and we shook hands. She began to tell me the story of her husband. Of how he had come to one of my Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose events and how God had moved his heart in a powerful way. She told me how the genius of Catholicism had changed his life and how he had become the husband and father she had always dreamed he could be.
She told me about the day of his accident. About what it was like to get a phone call from a stranger saying that your husband had just died. She talked of the heart-wrenching experience of telling their children that their father was never coming home. She spoke of the pain of going to sleep alone that first night.
Then she shared about the day before the funeral and an idea she’d had. In the last year of her husband’s life he had tried to share the love of God with as many people as he could. She laughed as she recalled her children’s embarrassment as their dad shamelessly handed out Catholic books and CDs to anyone and everyone.
She told me that the day before the funeral, she had called our team at Dynamic Catholic in desperation. She said she had begged one of our Mission Team members to rush-order two of her husband’s favorite audio CDs. To honor him, she had wanted to give the CDs as a gift to everyone who attended his funeral.
Before she left she thanked me again. She thanked me for inspiring her husband and helping God change her family’s life for the better. And she asked me to pass a thank-you along to my team for going above and beyond when she had needed it most.
I was deeply moved as I watched her leave. I may never see her again, but if I do, I will be the one who will be thanking her. I will thank her for two reasons.
First, her story reminded me that it’s never too late for a new beginning. Her husband had discovered that. It’s never too late to start over again. It’s never too late to choose to become the-best-version-of-yourself. She reminded me that God wants us to be people of possibility, and people of possibility never give up.
The second reason is that she reminded me why we started Dynamic Catholic in the first place. It’s because we believe our future can be bigger than our past.
If you ever come to visit our team, you will find our mission statement written in large, bold letters when you walk through the front doors of the office. It reads: The mission of Dynamic Catholic is to re-energize the Catholic Church in America by developing world-class resources that inspire people to rediscover the genius of Catholicism.
Our mission statement creates more than just an explanation of what we aim to accomplish. It’s a declaration of what’s possible. It’s a mission of hope.
For this book, we’ve enlisted the help of some incredible people to capture the power of hope. Each author was asked to write on any or all of the following topics: What gives you hope? What sustains your hope? Where does your hope for the Catholic Church come from? What are your hopes for the Catholic Church and humanity? How do you bring hope to others?
Some of the authors in this book are professional authors and speakers, but many are not. Many have never published anything ever before. They are everyday American Catholics doing their best to live the gospel. The reason for this is simple: God’s hope can be experienced and spread at any age, in any state of life, anytime, anywhere. All it takes is an open heart and a willing spirit.
When I first had the idea for this book, I asked members of the team at Dynamic Catholic to tell me about the one person in their life who brought them the most hope. Nearly every single one of them shared with me the person in their life who had suffered the most. Should it be any surprise that the light shines brightest in the darkest night?
These are trying times for people of faith. The Church has been through a lot these last twenty years. As I travel around the country, it seems that we are all less hopeful than we were twenty years ago. We are less hopeful when we think about the future for our families and loved ones. And we are less hopeful for the future of the Church.
If we are to become the people and the Church God dreams of us becoming, this must change. We need hope. After all, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. Hope is the one thing you can’t buy, but that will be given to you freely if you ask. Hope is the one thing people cannot live without.
What we read today walks and talks with us tomorrow. We truly do become what we read. I hope this book walks and talks with you so much that God fills your whole mind, your whole body, and your whole soul with hope. I hope you feel proud to be Catholic. We are a people of hope. And our future is even brighter than our past.
How will you bring hope to others today?
Matthew Kelly is the New York Times bestselling author of The Rhythm of Life and twenty other books, including Rediscover Jesus.
Do you ever notice that special look in the eyes and smiles of two people just starting to fall in love? I find it so beautiful. It seems they cannot help but smile. I wish that glow would last in them forever.
But after some length of time, people become so accustomed to beauty and splendor that they lose their glow and find life very routine.
We are moving very rapidly into the so-called “holiday season.” And since most of us have been in the holiday season so often, we have lost our glow and respect for its real meaning and essence.
I find it bad enough to refer to this time as the holiday season, instead of saying what it really is: Christmas. But what gets me even more is when people say something like, “Our family will have Christmas on Saturday at Aunt Tillie’s house this year.” That’s the secular phrase: “We will have Christmas.”
It seems to me that Christmas has turned from a time to be in awe that God has become human and lives among us to a time when we open presents and eat food.
How did we ever come up with the greeting “Merry Christmas”? Why “merry”? Are we saying “Merry birth of Jesus”? Sounds odd to me. Maybe we need a contest to come up with a more appropriate Christmas greeting. We need a phrase to help us live a more intentional life so we can reflect on the real meaning of Christmas. We are becoming such a secular society that even our specifically religious holy days have become secularized.
We refer to a national tragedy as “9/11” and everybody seems to recall the horror of that day. Maybe Christmas could be called “John 3:16 Day” to remind us that God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son to us.
At Dynamic Catholic, we pray for you, parents, who do your best to instruct your children in the ways of faith in the midst of all the secular trimmings. Never give up on trying to share your Christmas awe with the little ones who are very charmed by the guy with the white beard and red suit.
I have really had some great conversations that came from giving away your books—a wonderful way to evangelize. This year, I was determined to give six books away to people who I thought needed a bit of a lift. And I wanted to let God reveal the people to me. I have already given several away, and my goal is to give all six away by Christmas.
I completely agree that giving someone the right book at the right time can be life-changing. I shared a book with a new friend starting RCIA and she was very excited. When a friend had back surgery, I lent her a great Catholic book, and she absolutely loved sitting with that book every day in her cozy chair while recuperating. I even shared Resisting Happiness with a friend after we had an impromptu heart-to-heart. (She is grieving the loss of a sibling and can't seem to find the joy in Christmas this year.) When she received the book, she was thrilled and couldn't wait to start it.
I am a stay-at-home mom of three kids, so I would probably never set aside the money to buy full-price books just to give away to acquaintances, distant friends, and strangers. And I normally don't have time to figure out what book to buy. But that is the great thing about your Book Program: you have already picked the book. I just need to pray that God puts people in my life who need that book. And what a gift it is to be able to give the right book to the right person.
I admit that last year, I rushed a little bit on giving away a few of the books—and I'm not sure if the timing was right. I am hopeful that those books will be read at the perfect moment. I gave Rediscover Jesus to my father. I think he enjoyed it, but it is hard to know the impact of one book. My dad's best friend loved the book, so I can be at peace knowing that God will be working in my dad's life through his best friend—and through the book I gave him.
I also think that giving away these books has changed me, not just the people who received them. I now pray a daily Rosary, and many times, each Hail Mary is for a different person in my life. That is often how God reveals to me who would benefit from a certain book. And I now find myself at confession and in the chapel more often. Even my two-year-old son has been impacted. He was listening to me pray the Rosary in the car the other day, and he said in very loud, exuberant baby talk, "For an increase in the virtues of faith, hope, and love!" If only the rest of the world could be so excited about the virtues!
Thank you for all the prayers.
Want to share your story? Write us at email@example.com
Making time for each other isn’t that difficult if you think about how to anchor the time around already established routines at home.
Life is short, and the holidays fly by. Don’t waste this time texting your friends about how crazy your family is making you (even if it’s true). Do your best to be present to them, seek to understand and to love.
Waking up early is a war. It is a battle against the self. You are your enemy. And there is only one way to win the war: Discipline.
When you choose to be the-best-version-of-yourself, when you exercise virtue and strength of character, you impact the world more than you will ever know.