In my Major Seminary days, (1938 – 1944), at Mundelein, Illinois, from the ages of 18 to 24, I found myself in my room at 7:15pm every evening of the school year. The rules forbade newspapers, magazines, radios and visiting other rooms. Each room had its own bathroom facilities so I had no excuse to leave it. At breakfast the next morning, we broke silence. Lights out at 9:45pm, after night prayers in our house Chapel.
The darkness and the silence of the night had their fill of hobgoblins and demons of discouragement that even Harry Potter would be challenged by. Doctors told me that my health would keep me from the Priesthood. In my first days there, I put a small image of the Sacred Heart on my desk. For the next six years, this image of Christ would come with me from room to room on the Seminary campus. On its back, I wrote: “I place all my trust in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, now when I need His Help more than ever before.”
Every night, I looked at the kind Face of Christ, gazing out at me from the image, and shared my feelings with him: my fears, frustrations and the loneliness of the room. In the dark corners, all kinds of demons and hobgoblins did their best to demoralize me. “You’ll never make it for the next six years! Give up, go home! This life will never bring you happiness!” The voices screamed to me each night.
As I spoke my trust in the Sacred Heart of Christ, a wonderful peace would settle my troubled heart. The voices from the dark lost their power to influence me. His Healing Presence came quietly to take away the loneliness of the room. Every night we spoke with each other. I began to look forward to this quiet time together.
In the foreword of his novel, The Listener, Taylor Caldwell, the world renowned author, wrote these words: “The most desperate need for people today is for someone to listen to them, not as patients, but as human souls.”
Jesus of Nazareth comes into our lives as the Man Who Listens! “Come to Me. All you who are weary and are burdened, and I will refresh you.” In all the confusing experiences of life, with their heartaches, disappointments and painful times, Jesus assures us, His followers, of His availability, at all times, all the days of our lives!
Fr. George Mc Kenna
On a late September afternoon, the young professor of Gospel Studies wore a look of discouragement and pain as he addressed his class of students. In a low voice, he apologized for his lack of preparation for the class, citing his great overload of work.
Among the students in the class that day sat Jeanne Doering whom sympathized with the teacher, just starting his first year at the University. A sudden thought struck her, and after class, she gathered some friends together to form what she called the “Barnabas Committee”.
In Barnabas, the companion of St. Pau, the early Church found a person of encouragement. As he went from community to community, Barnabas lifted up the spirits of the struggling Church with words of encouragement and hope.
Faculty members began receiving type written notes of appreciation for their efforts in teaching, usually accompanied with a piece of candy or a little trinket, simply signed, “The Barnabas Committee.” The once negative tone on campus turned into a much more positive one.
People about us are always in need of affirmations and encouragement, be they our children, local teachers, public officials, or our religious leaders. “Am I really worth anything, or am I doing any good in my efforts to carry out my work?” This is a constant question found in everyone’s mind. Be a Barnabas person!
Make it a goal for each day to say or write positive words to at least 5 people. In a sincere, truthful way, compliment others on their work, their looks and their accomplishments. We will at once see a light come into the eyes of others as they take on new hope for the future.
Our words may come just at a moment when dark despair holds forth in the hearts of these family members, co-workers and friends. For children, an ounce of praise is better than a pound of criticism.
A Happy Fathers’ Day to all the men that make a difference in the lives of others!
Fr. George Mc Kenna