Today I have now reached the thirty-third year of my life, the very same year in which our Lord Jesus Christ gave up his life on the Cross and the year in which Saint Damien left for the island of Moloka'i to serve the lepers.
Having reached now this momentous year, I feel compelled to offer a few thoughts - however profound or simple they may be - on this occasion of this anniversary of my birth.
One friend reminded me that yesterday (or today by some accounts) is Tolkien Reading Day and a different friend reminded me it is the custom among Hobbits to offer gifts to others on their birthday. Since I've often made Tolkien's statement my own that "I am, in fact, a Hobbit, in all but size," let these words be my gift to all (next year I'll see about a physical gift for all).
I can, without hesitation, say that my life has been good and very blessed by the Lord, despite - or perhaps because of - the numerous difficulties and heartbreaks I have encountered in my short life.
The deaths of my parents have taught me to yearn for heaven where will all be reunited in the presence of God himself, providing we live a life here worthy of him who died for us. Their deaths have also taught me the brevity of life and the importance of love and good friendships.
My fluctuating struggles and pains from my rare form of a rare form of arthritis have taught me to depend on God and on not on my own strength and abilities.
The death of Coach K taught me the importance of setting a good example for others, and how a life lived simply and humbly leaves a great impression even without trying.
My time as assistant coach to the soccer team taught me the truth of Saint John Bosco's words: "The teacher who is seen only in the classroom and nowhere else, is a teacher and nothing more; but let him go with his boys to recreation and he becomes a brother." This is among the greatest lessons I have learned, together with Bosco's other wisdom: "When a person knows he is loved, he will love in return, and when a person is loved he can get anything, especially from boys. This confidence sets up an electric current between boys and superiors. Hearts are opened, needs and weaknesses made known. This love enables superiors to bear with weariness, annoyance, ingratitude, or the troubles, failings and neglect of the boys."
My travels across the globe have shown me a greater world than I previously imagined, and opened a deeper longing for heaven.
This is as far as my thoughts will presently take me.
I have spent the day with the Bishop, first in Alton for Mass and a prayer breakfast with 500 women and then in Sullivan for Confirmation. It's been a full day, and a good one, but now my mind is finished.
After thirty-three years of life, I can say this: God is present, in the midst of deep sorrow and of great joy. He is present always and everywhere, and, like a loving Father, he uses the many experiences of life to teach his children, even the stubborn ones like me who often thinks he knows better. God's will has been done in my life until now (so far as I can tell); may it continue to be done until the day of my death.
Thank you, all, for your many kind wishes and prayers; may God bless you!