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By Steve and Kim Brown
Worldwide Marriage Encounter
Last week at Mass our priest told a beautiful story that we wanted to share with you, as well as we can remember it. He talked about a man on vacation who traveled through a desolate land on the way to his vacation destination. This particular area was barren of vegetation, rocky and not very pretty to look at. On his way through, he noticed an old man who was walking along holding on to a long poking stick and he had a backpack on his back. The old man was using the stick to poke holes in the ground and then he would remove from his backpack an acorn that he would plant in the ground. He did this over and over.
Curious, the vacationing man approached the old man to ask what he was doing. The old man explained that his wife and daughter had died long ago and now he filled his days with planting acorns in this barren land. He wanted to do something useful with his life and so he had planted hundreds of thousands of acorns over the years. Even if only a few of them grew into trees, he hoped it would make a difference someday.
Twenty five years passed and the man was once again traveling through the same desolate land on his way to his vacation destination. But when he looked around, instead of seeing a barren, rocky and ugly landscape, he was now surrounded by a beautiful forest that was streaming with birds and flowers and life. He remembered the old man from so many years before and marveled at what he was able to accomplish by his daily commitment in planting acorns. What a gift the old man had left behind.
That story has stuck with us and we have found ourselves thinking about it and referring to it through out the week. We talked about how sometimes we may not see the fruits of our labors from day to day. But that is okay. All we have to do is keep on doing whatever we are doing to make a difference in whatever small way we can and someday we just may be surprised to see what a difference it makes. When we thought about it in terms of our marriage, we considered our daily communication to be like those little acorns that the old man was planting. Every day, if we commit to that small gift of communication for our spouse, over time it will make a difference. With your commitment, even on the days you may question whether or not it is making a difference, eventually your marriage with flourish with the same abundance that the old man’s forest did. Your marriage will be vibrantly filled with contagious love. We encourage you to approach your daily communication with the same persistence as the old man. When you look at your marriage years from now you will be amazed at what you see.
And some questions for you to consider:
• Thinking about the old man’s daily commitment to planting acorns, do I share the same commitment to our daily communication? How do I feel about my answer?
• Do we communicate on a regular basis or only occasionally? How do I feel about my answer?
• Do I believe that daily communication is making a difference in our marriage? How do I feel about my answer?
• Do I think we share a love that is contagious to others? How do I feel about my answer?
• Where do I see us in twenty five years?
• Where is my favorite vacation destination?
By Stacy Dibbern
Annual Catholic Appeal Manager
Last summer, my husband and I decided to make some healthier life choices. We start eating better, we joined a local gym, and on nice weekends, we go to our favorite place for a hike: Peaked Mountain. Over the months, these changes have had an impact: we’ve lost weight, we’re fitter, and I can get up Peaked a lot quicker than I could just a few months ago. Recently, I decided to push myself even further by adding running to my workout routine. While this has been difficult to do between the demands of a family, running the Annual Catholic Appeal, and taxiing a high-schooler around during sports season, I felt like I needed to freshen things up.
I knew I needed some type of guidebook or roadmap, so I purchased the popular running app that would get me from the couch to running 3.2 miles, or 5 kilometers. After several weeks of this, a friend who is new to running herself mentioned a 5k race in July that she had registered for, and would I like to register and run this with her? Well, the husband and I are now registered, so I have an official goal to work towards! Having a goal keeps me focused on the long-term. Envisioning the race day, knowing that these weeks of preparation, these nights when I don’t really feel like running but I should, will make me strong and allow me to finish all 3.2 miles on that day in mid-July.
Recently, Pope Francis spoke about the gift of fortitude. The Holy Spirit helps us “feel the closeness of the Lord, sustains us and fortifies in the fatigues and trials of life, so that we won’t be led into the temptation of discouragement.” Fortitude gives us “the strength to do God’s will in spite of our own natural weakness and limitations” and with the gift of fortitude, “the Holy Spirit helps us to overcome weakness, so that we are able to respond to the love of the Lord.” God has given us the guidebook, the app, and the coach that we need to stick with the program, even when we’d rather quit. God wants us to get up off the couch and put in some “miles” in the three areas of spiritual development that we discussed last week: prayer, celebration, and imitation. These are the goals that matter.
We have other important goals that we’re trying to reach here in the Diocese: $3 million and 10,000 volunteer hours. So far, we have raised $2,437,186, and 100 volunteers have donated 2,500 hours of their time. If you are interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities, we’re having a Volunteer Fair at the Bishop Marshall Center at St. Michael’s Cathedral on June 11th from 5-7 p.m. We will have on hand representatives from several of our Annual Catholic Appeal supported agencies with information about their programs as well as opportunities for folks to find out how and where they can volunteer. Light refreshments will be served. If you’re interested in learning more about this event, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (413) 452.0670.