This Advent be a Star of Bethlehem

The Missal had a prayer booklet inside the back cover. I skimmed the biography then read the St. Jude Prayer for Today. I reached the line, “I pray that today I will share with the world the person God created me to be.” I saw before me the twinkling eyes of a young man who forever changed my education ministry.

He asked, “Do you know how to build an atomic bomb?” At the time I was transitioning to high school teaching and was serving as a substitute teacher. Taken aback, my brain immediately said for me to go back to the comfort of adults and college teaching. Yet, my heart knew that standing before me was an inquiring mind. This student obviously saw destructive forces as power. Either the doctor before my name or something I had said in the lesson had intrigued him. He had no idea of the academic world. He seemed to be respectfully assigning my years of study to generating knowledge about destructive power. Somehow that made me a hero to him. Was this the world we were handing to our children? Not on my watch.

Truthfully knowing more about Einstein’s later regrets about the Manhattan Project than the actual inner workings of such a weapon, I said, “Yes I do.” He stood awestruck before me. I sent him off to Google what Alfred Nobel had created. He was back quickly with the answer — dynamite. I sent him back again to see how much dynamite was used in our world last year. He returned with the number. Then, I had him look at the computer I was using. On it was the name and description of the founder of the Nobel Peace Prize — that very same Alfred Nobel. I asked this young man why the inventor of such a tool and weapon chose to be remembered by a peace prize. Silence. Inquisitive eyes met mine. I asked if he wished to know the secret. He nodded. I gently said, “Anyone can destroy, but only the brave and creative can build. The true challenge or mystery of life is finding where and what you choose to build.”

The following September he had moved on to college and I had accepted a full-time high school teaching position. One mantra I built for my classroom was that real men and women build something that lasts after them. No matter the example that had fueled the discussion, each year someone would ask, “How do you know it will last past your death?” I would just smile. A second or two later a classmate would answer “You don’t. You build it anyway.” 

One does not have to be a physicist to recognize the disproportionate time and energy attributed to negative and destructive forces in our world. Just the other day my cell phone posted an ad for a game. The images were of things being destroyed. The words asked, “Just how angry are you today?” When did we decide to allow unchallenged the idea that the best answer for our world was to bring pain and suffering to others when one feels angry or upset?

The message called forth from the next generation really depends upon the conversation we each choose to have with them. If we really believe it is time to reduce the power of death and destruction, it is time to have those conversations. Our world needs the vision of the Good Samaritan to look past what we can destroy to seek a new beginning. From the dawn of time, people have created with the hope that their actions alleviate pain and/or bring about changes that will prevent future injustices and suffering. That desire to embody the Greatest Commandment by loving one’s neighbor is always present within each of us. It serves our neighbor and ourselves. From the St. Jude Prayer for Today, “Help me to live with kindness and compassion so that I may honor my holy self.”

St. Jude is known as the patron saint of hope and impossible causes because he persisted even in the face of the most difficult circumstances. The Holy Spirit guided Jude to be, and if we are open to the guidance, he can show each one of us today how to be the positive difference that is immediately needed in our world. The prophet Daniel describes such people with the words, “The wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those that lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever” (Dn 12:3). 

The St. Jude Prayer for Today:
Dear St. Jude, my devotion to you is the source of my hope. You give me courage to face my challenges and joy to celebrate my successes with grace. I know that my prayers to you invoke God’s healing love. Help me to live with kindness and compassion so that I may honor my holy self. I pray that today I will share with the world the person God created me to be. God live in me, and it is only in Him that I will truly be filled. Help me to discover God’s blessing through your company, St. Jude, so that my journey of faith will be strengthened by the power of unified prayers to the mercy of a loving God.

Anchor columnist Helen Flavin is a Catholic scientist, educator and writer.

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