A caregiver in the UK named Kayrin Callaghan knew who she wanted for her bridesmaids the moment her fiancé proposed to her. Kayrin has supported a woman with Down syndrome for two years and also helps three others. She asked the four of them to be part of her wedding and reports, “They were so happy when I asked them to be my bridesmaids—there were lots of tears.
“They are so special to me. I wanted to give them the chance to walk down the aisle. We’re going to have a Disney-inspired Halloween wedding, so they’ll get to wear princess dresses.
“I want them to feel as special as they are to me.”
Four-year-old killed in Bronx scooter crash
What does the popularity of stories like this say about us?
A four-year-old boy was killed Sunday night in the Bronx and his father was arrested when the motorized scooter they were riding collided with a turning car. The father is charged with endangering the welfare of a child and possession of stolen property, as police said the scooter was stolen.
Actress Anne Heche died Sunday night as well when she was “peacefully taken off life support,” according to a spokeswoman. She had been on life support after her car crashed into a home on August 5. Heche was declared brain-dead Friday but was kept on life support in case her organs could be donated.
In the midst of pain and tragedy, stories of hope stand out like a ray of sunshine on a stormy day. But there’s a deeper reason we resonate with stories of grace: we were created by grace to experience grace and to give the grace we receive.
David’s prayer is ours: “You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. . . . Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:13–16). Before your parents knew you existed, God did. Before they loved you, he did.
He made us by grace, then he saved us by grace: “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing: it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).
Now he calls us to share his grace: “We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
When we encounter stories of grace, we feel their transformative power, for their stories are our stories.
A powerful picture of grace
The most powerful picture of grace I have seen outside Scripture was made real to me many years ago when I attended a Broadway theater production of Les Miserables. I will never forget the emotions of that night.
You may know the central scene from Victor Hugo’s novel, one of the most famous in all of literature: Jean Valjean, the convicted thief, has stolen silver from the bishop who took him in, but he was caught with the pieces in his possession. The gendarmes brought him to the bishop so he might press charges.
Instead, the bishop told the soldiers that he had given Jean the pieces. Then he gave him his two silver candlesticks as well, his most valued possessions.
The soldiers freed him. Then the bishop said to him in a low voice, “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to what is evil but to what is good. I have bought your soul to save it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.”
And so it was. Jean Valjean would be a changed man, and he would help to change the world. He was changed by the power of grace.
A flame in a starvation bunker
Such grace changes the world still today.
Father Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish priest sent by the Nazis to Auschwitz. In July of 1941, a man escaped from his Barracks 14. As punishment, ten prisoners were chosen to die in the starvation bunker. They would receive no food or water. Their throats would turn to paper, their brains to fire, until finally their suffering would end in a horrible death.
One of the ten began grieving loudly for his wife and children. Suddenly there was a commotion in the ranks. A prisoner had broken out of line, calling for the commandant—cause for execution.
The prisoners gasped. It was their beloved Father Kolbe, the priest who shared his last crust of bread, who comforted the dying, who heard their confessions and fed their souls. The frail priest spoke softly and calmly to Nazi Camp Commandant Fritsch: “I would like to die in place of one of the men you condemned.” He pointed to the weeping prisoner grieving for his wife and children.
Fritsch compared the two; this priest indeed looked weaker than the man he had condemned to death. He looked at his assistant and nodded. Father Kolbe’s place on the death ledger was set. The men were made to remove their clothes, then herded into a dark, windowless cell. “You will dry up like tulips,” sneered one of their jailers. Then he swung the heavy door shut.
As the hours and days passed, the camp became aware of something extraordinary happening in the death cell. Past prisoners had spent their dying days screaming, attacking each other, clawing at the walls. But now, coming from the death box, they heard the faint sounds of singing.
On August 14, 1941, there were four prisoners still alive in the bunker, and it was needed for new occupants. In the light of their flashlight, the Nazi soldiers saw Father Maximilian Kolbe, a living skeleton, propped against one wall. His head was inclined a bit to the left. He had a smile on his lips, his eyes wide open, fixed on some faraway vision. He did not move. The Nazi doctor gave lethal injections to the first three prisoners, then to Father Kolbe. In a moment, he was dead.
Today visitors to the starvation bunker at Auschwitz find on its floor, next to a large spray of fresh flowers, a steady flame. It is burning today. It will burn forever.
If you were that man for whom one died, how would you respond to such grace?