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  A Christian Faith Magazine May 2005, Volume 10, Issue 10  

Rev. Mark Connolly
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Very often in my priesthood I visit the elderly, in fact I cover three nursing homes each month. What often amazes me is that rarely do you ever hear an aging person thank God for the 80 or 90 years they have had on this earth. Today it seems more than ever the aging are griping and complaining that they cannot see as much or hear as much or move as much as they once did. It seems to be that very little is appreciated by them concerning their lives of the past. Now we know every person in life has his Good Fridays and his Easter Sundays, his tragedies and his triumphs. But there must come a time in the life of each person when he or she must recognize and appreciate the gift of living that God has given to each one of us.

Think of this, there are eight hundred million people on this earth who earn a salary of about $400 a year. No matter what we might think of our social security plan or our small pensions, most of us are in better financial condition than those who live on a salary of $400 a year. What amazes me today is that between three and four percent of our teenagers are the ones who give a bad name to all teenagers. They are the ones who commit the crimes, they are the ones who cause their families horrible pains. What we are forgetting is that the vast majority of our teenagers are good wholesome young men and women. We are always quick to denounce the young man who joins some gang that is troublesome to society, but we rarely reflect on the thousands of young men who have gone to Afghanistan and Iraq to defend our four freedoms.

Appreciation is becoming a forgotten quality, especially for Catholics. Millions of people, who like my mother and father, had many difficulties in becoming American citizens, yet they treasured their American citizenship. When you think of that time that a woman by the name of Mother Seton came into society and founded the parochial school systems that gave Christ like values and a Christ like education to the sons and daughters of immigrants who virtually had no money. From those nuns and those priests who perfected the parochial school system, we owe a debt of gratitude because the simple principle is if you are a good Catholic, you are going to be a good American.

As a Catholic priest all of us who try to do our best have been embarrassed by the priest scandal of the last couple of years. 3½ % out of 47,000 priests have smeared the good work and the kind acts of thousands of other good priests who try to bring Christ into their hospitals, their parishes, there schools and their communities. Whatever is happening to our society probably will not be totally explained in our time on earth, but one factor all of us have to cultivate is a sense of appreciation for what God has given us. He has given us life through baptism, life in our community, life in the talents that he has permitted each one of us to have and each one has to appreciate those gifts. One of the tragedies that can happen to both young and old is that we grow up and grow old without developing a sense of appreciation.

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