Transmit the Light

I dislike the dark, dreary days of winter when we do not see the sun for days. I cannot even imagine how people living close to the North or South Pole can endure months of darkness. As one who grew up in a country where the sun shone almost 340 days of the year, sunless days really get to me. Over the last week the sun has been no show for several days and I am afraid the lack of sunshine is having an effect on me. Researchers have identified what is known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) that is caused by lack of exposure to the sun.

These facts are relevant and true because, I believe, God made us for the light. When our bodies absorb sunlight we feel happy and we are in a good mood. When darkness envelopes us, we can easily begin to grow sad and dreary. In the same way, when our spirits bask in the SON, we are happy. When we are not exposed to the Son, we can get down on ourselves. We are children of the Light and we are meant to be nourished by the light.

If you have been at a celebration of baptism, you would have witnessed a ceremony that takes place after the pouring of the water. The priest or the deacon invites the godparents to light the baptismal candle from the Paschal Candle which was lit during the Easter Vigil. He then presents the lit candle to the parents with the words, “Receive the Light of Christ!” Then he continues saying these words:

Parents and godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ. He (she) is to walk always as a child of the light. May he (she) keep the flame of faith alive in his (her) heart! When the Lord comes, may he (she) go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom!

As children of the Light, we are called upon not only to keep the flame of faith alive, but also to transmit that light to others. In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord challenged all of us: “You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” How do we transmit this light?

Rather than give you some ideas or suggestions, I would like to share with you an example of someone who transmitted that light for me. His name is Mike Cafferty and I met him when I was doing my Ph.D. at the U of I and he was pursuing his undergrad. He was a handsome, Irish boy who had a zest for life. However, he was a quadriplegic who could move only his head and talk. He was in that condition because of an accident he met with in his senior year of high school. Before that he had been a normal kid, a swimmer, an athlete, who loved to dance and dated girls.

I was touched by his courage because, in spite of his disability, he had a sunshine spirit. He smiled a lot and never complained about his unfortunate condition. He went on our retreats and was involved at the Newman Center. One day he said something to me and I was completely blown away. As I was leaving after my noon Sunday Mass, he stopped me and asked me for a favor. He said, “Father Britto, can you please help me to love God more?” I could not believe what I was hearing. Here is someone with all sorts of reasons to be mad and hurt; all he wanted was to love God more.

After my degree I left for Rome and lost touch with Mike. Then he contacted me to tell me that he was going on to Law School. He said that he wanted to become a lawyer to fight for the rights of disabled people. Once he got his law degree he began to work as a public guardian. His ultimate dream was to become a judge.

Eventually he got married to Karen and I was the one who celebrated their wedding at St Joseph’s in the city. It was the one wedding where not only the bride, not only the groom, but also the priest cried during the vows. It was a moving celebration. Mike and Karen have two children now, Michael (2) and Rose (5).

Two months ago Mike asked to see me. I went over to his apartment and spent a little alone time with him. He had bad news to share with me. With tears in his eyes he told me that he was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. He did not have much time left. Immediately I thought of Job, the biblical figure, who was tested beyond belief. I kept asking the Lord, “How much more can one man suffer?” Even in the midst of his dark diagnosis, Mike was worried only for his wife and children.

Mike passed away a few days ago and I celebrated his funeral at St Christina on the South Side. Everyone who attended the funeral unanimously declared that Mike was a unique person. In my priestly ministry I have encountered hundreds, if not thousands of people. A few are etched into my memory. But Mike is someone I will never forget. He taught me courage, optimism in the midst of pain, caring for people and loving the Lord. Mike never gave up trying. He asked all his male friends to take his place for his children. For me, he has been a transmitter of the Light. I am blessed to have known him.

Let us all reflect the Light of Christ to others!

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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St. Paul of the Cross

320 South Washington Street
Park Ridge, IL 60068

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Phone: (847) 825-7605

Mass Schedule

Monday - Friday

8:30 am - Upper Church


4:30 pm (vigil) - Upper Church


7:30 am - Upper Church

9:00 am - Holy Family Chapel

9:30 am - Gym

10:30 am - Upper Church

12:00 pm - Gym