When most people hear that word, they respond with either a “gee, I sure hope they’re not asking that of me”, or what do I have to give up. We have to sacrifice this for that or that for the other thing, and we live in a world that doesn’t put a value on either or choices. We want it all, and the concept of sacrifice as many of us understand it does not make sense in our world. Yesterday and today the lives of two people who walked this earth almost 2000 years apart were celebrated. Yesterday was the feast day of Maximilian Kolbe. For those of you unfamiliar with his story, he was a priest from Poland in the early 1900’s and had the temerity to speak out against Hitler and the Nazis. For his oral and written challenges to these pillars of humanitarianism, he was placed in a concentration camp called Auschwitz. There was a rule at the camp to discourage attempted escapes. If anyone tried to escape, 10 prisoners from the escapee’s barracks would be executed. One day, an escape was attempted from Fr. Kolbe’s barracks, and subsequently, 10 prisoners were chosen to be executed; Fr. Kolbe was not one of the “chosen”. However when one of the men who had been chosen and therefore sentenced to death begged for mercy from his jailers because he had a family, Fr. Kolbe volunteered to take his place. He did, and was placed in an open pit and left to starve to death along with the other 9. What Maximilian Kolbe did could certainly be considered a sacrifice even in our current lexicon, he gave up his life and traded it for the life of another. No greater love than that, to lay down one’s life for a friend. However, sacrifice means to make something holy, and that is the true gift of Fr. Kolbe’s action, by his choice, he turned a circumstance of pure evil into a gift because he offered it to God. God, who can make all things holy chooses to allow us as mere human beings to participate in His life of holiness when we choose to make our lives more than just what they appear to be. Saint Maximilian clearly understood and lived that.

Today, we celebrate Mary. Regardless of your personal beliefs about her, it is almost universally accepted that God spoke to this very young woman through His angel and offered her a choice. Her answer, despite her fear, was a resounding yes. Mary’s fiat, her yes was given without asking what the future held, it was given without questions about what it might mean for her future, it was given without reservation, simply because God asked her. She would endure many “sacrifices” the way we use the word, she would give up many things in her life because of the choice she made as a young girl. But the true sacrifice she made in the true meaning of the word was that she made a choice to make holy her life on earth by saying yes to God.

These two examples of human beings like ourselves are, to be sure, extreme. Mother Theresa however makes it more simple and brings it to a level where I can relate, she says, “we can do no great things, only small things with great love”. Any one who is married can relate easily to this statement. When each of you chose to marry the man or woman you love, you stopped living the life you had known to that point to embark on a journey together. In a very real sense, you sacrificed what you had without each other for what you have with each other. It does not mean that you gave anything up, but simply that you made a choice to offer up your life to and for one another and God. You made your relationship holy through sacrifice. But as Christine likes to point out to engaged couples that we have been blessed to work with, when you take those vows, even though you mean them with all your heart, you are counting on better, health, and richer, not worse, sickness, and poorer.

What is the point of all this. The point is, we don’t know. We don’t know what the future holds anymore than we knew what it held 10 years ago, or 20 years ago. If we knew, decisions would be simple, they would require no faith, no trust, no hard choices. When Christine married me, she took a leap of faith on many levels, and I am so overjoyed and honored that she did. When we chose to love one another after we already had been blessed with Maggie and Max, and had sent a baby to heaven, we conceived Catie. We did not know what the future held for her, we did not know that as she was growing that there were some rogue cells that would one day come together and give us a summer to remember and a new appreciation for the songs of Elvis Aaron Presley. If we had known, I know that we would have made the same choice, to love each other and to welcome her into our lives for the blessing she has always been and for the teacher she has become. Catie certainly did not ask for all that has happened to her this summer, but she has taught me how to live life more fully, and she has taught me how to appreciate this moment, right now, because I can never get it back once it goes by. In a very real way, like St. Maximilian and Mary, she is making a sacrifice, she is making her every day holy because she is saying yes to the path that God has chosen for her. I pray that I can do the same each day.

On a separate note, please say a prayer for Christine as she got into a heated argument today with Christine. Confused? New Christine lost the keys to the car today, and after a cursory search, gave up looking and returned her attention to Catie and Maggie lighting a prayer candle for Catie, figuring that the keys would turn up when she needed them. Old Christine became indignant and started screaming at new Christine to stop dilly dallying and find the keys immediately. New Christine stuck her tongue out at old Christine, and a short time later, the keys did indeed show up, and new Christine told old Christine to relax.

May the God who allows us to participate in His story through our choices guide you to make the ones that will keep you on the path back home.


Christine, Kevin, Maggie, Max, Catie, Mia, Molly, and M.E.

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