Good deeds for God

By Father Joseph Breighner
This will be Father Joseph Breighner’s last online column. You can continue to read his messages by subscribing to the Catholic Review print or electronic edition.
Since I love to tell stories, I find that they have a way of finding their way to me. Recently my good friend, Monsignor Ed Miller, the wonderful pastor of St. Bernardine in West Baltimore, told me a couple of them. They are both about children.
Apparently, on the children’s envelope for the collection, there is also a space for personal sharing. The heading reads, “Good Deeds I Did For God.” Father Ed shared two responses that stood out in his memory.
One little boy wrote, “I didn’t do any good deeds for God!”
Ahh, see – there is a place for the sacrament of reconciliation in the lives of children. That comment stood out because it was not a response any pastor really wants to hear.
The second story was much sweeter. A little boy wrote, “I used my lunch money to buy food to feed a hungry dog.”
As a dog lover (as well as cat lover), that comment warmed my heart. Ed was so impressed that he wrote a letter to the boy and enclosed a $5 bill. He wanted the little boy to experience how good things come back to us. When we love our neighbor as our self, we are, in fact, loving our self. And when we love the stray dog, we are loving our favorite dogs and cats.
But, if my memory serves me correctly, this story had more to it. Every year at St. Bernardine, they have a ministry weekend. All the various ministries of the church – lector, greeter, usher, home visitors, extraordinary ministers of holy Communion and countless others – are celebrated. The mother of the little boy who gave his money to feed the dog, asked her son what ministry he would like to do.
Without hesitation, the boy replied: “I want to be a priest, just like Father Miller.” That’s a pretty good return on Father Ed’s investment!
Vocations are mostly home grown. Almost every priest has some favorite priest in his memory. As a boy, I wanted to be a priest like Father Wagner because he told funny stories. Hmmm, what have I spent my life doing?
I wanted to be a preacher in the pulpit like Monsignor McCall – no, not my memories of fire and brimstone, but making an impression on the congregation. I hope I have done that too.
While I’m highlighting priestly vocations, I’m sure every profession had someone attract us to it. Ironically, as I write this column, I notice that Danny Reese just died. When I first began my radio show in 1975 on WPOC, Danny was a disc jockey there. At least, I think he was there that early. Anyway, he always referred to himself as “old blue eyes” on the air. No doubt, many a female heart beat faster. And no doubt Danny had been inspired to go into radio by the likes of Johnny Dark.
The point in all of this is we want to be our best selves in whatever profession we pursue. People are watching, and they are hoping we will inspire them – to be the best of whatever – mother, father, teacher, lawyer and on and on.
A few weeks ago, we celebrated the feast of the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, and, nine days later, the sending down of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The connection is clear. Christ left us in person so that he could be closer to all of us in Spirit. The same Spirit that empowered Jesus is now our Spirit. We are indeed the hands and arms of Christ. Christ living in us, and Christ living through us. That’s why every job, every profession, every place is another way for God to get into the world. It’s not some of us who are important. It’s all of us who are important. Each of us is a way for God to get into the world in a way which God could do through no other person. And one hungry dog is awfully happy that one little boy chose to live for God. A good deed, indeed.
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