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“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit…..” In John’s gospel, Jesus illustrates the necessity of his death by pointing to the planting and harvesting of wheat; he also uses this moment to teach us an important spiritual principle of dying to selfish desires and dying to self. Bishop Fulton J. Sheen explains the principle of dying to selfish desires: “When we die to something, something comes alive within us. If we die to self, charity comes alive; if we die to pride, service comes alive…”

There are many saints both known and unknown who have given us an example of dying to self for the Glory of God and the good of others. They have shown us how charity and service can affect the lives of many.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta left the security and comfort of the Convent of Loreto to enter the slums to live and work among the poorest of the poor. Though the yearning to return to Loreto always tempted her, Mother Teresa relied on her faith and determination to do the will of God. Mother’s whole life bore witness to finding and loving the greatness and dignity of every human being. When she died in 1997, her Missionaries of Charity had grown to over 4,000 sisters who served in 594 houses in 120 countries throughout the world. Today those numbers continue to grow and along with lay missionaries, co-workers and volunteers Mother’s charity and service still affect the lives of millions.

In March of 2017, three women from a parish in central Florida felt the call to start making and distributing rosaries. Soon they took the name “Mary’s Hands Rosary Makers” and began to meet once a week to pray and make the rosaries together. Not long after, their number grew to six and by early summer of that same year, they had completed 600 rosaries for First Communion, Confirmation, funerals and other parish events. In July they received a call from a Ugandan priest who wished to give a rosary to each of the 7,000 children in his parish schools. At first, they deemed this request as impossible to fill, until they remembered that nothing is impossible with God. As they began the daunting task, they prayed for guidance from the Holy Spirit and not long after they were told that the participants in the Steubenville Summer Conference could probably make missionary rosaries as part of their program. To their amazement, the participants of that conference completed 2,000 missionary rosaries. March 2018 marks the one year anniversary of “Mary’s Hands Rosary Makers and to date, they have 3,000 missionary rosaries.

Every day we see the effect of charity and service in our own church. The Ecumenical Quilters have worked for years providing handmade sleeping bags for countless numbers of people. Here in Winter Haven, Florida, those sleeping bags are given to the homeless who sleep on the ground in the woods. If you could only see how thankful they are when we hand them out.

It’s costly to die to self; to give up your time, your comfort and sometimes your security for the sake of Jesus and others, but, at the end of the day, just as Jesus was glorified in his service and through his service, so the Father will honor the one who serves Jesus. “The Father will honor whoever serves me.” John 12, verse 26.

Sylvia Bates