“Holiness means giving ourselves in sacrifice every day.”
Shortly after Peter’s cancer diagnosis, a very kind colleague of mine offered to facilitate an introduction to Make-A-Wish. The prospect of telling a 7-year-old he could have one giant wish is both amazing and a little overwhelming. To help that daunting process, they give you a couple categories to consider – things you want to get or to give, people you want to meet, or someone you want to be. As soon as Peter heard the last category, he replied almost instantly, "An army guy! I want to be a solider." CLI is blessed to have several retired military leaders connected to our ministry. I assured Peter I could make that happen and he could use his wish on something else. I quickly phoned one of these amazing people and within about 15 minutes, I had a voicemail from Colonel Laura from the Pennsylvania National Guard telling me they were ready to welcome Peter whenever he was ready. As we approached an off-week for treatment and the weather looked good, I phoned the colonel and asked if we could come in a few days. Without hesitation, a Major Brian was on the phone with the "logistics," and "sir"-ing me left and right. As we pulled up to the base, Major Brian was there to meet us and gave Peter an army cap just like his. As we got closer to the facility, over the loudspeaker, the base was called to attention so they could greet the new colonel for the day, Peter Cellucci. Soldiers lined the entrance and cheered for my son as we walked up the path. Had the day ended right then, it would have been more than enough. But it continued. Groups of soldiers explained each tank and helicopter to us, and even allowed Peter to fire a few of them up. At the end of the day, Colonel Laura gave Peter actual dog tags with his name and "stay strong" engraved on them. She told him they expected him back for training whenever he felt up to it. They even had a solider accompany us with a camera so that we didn’t have to worry about taking pictures. At one point, I thanked the young man for doing that and suggested he probably had lots of other things to do with his day. "Sir, when someone like him wants to follow your call," he replied, pointing to Peter, "it makes you believe in the call even more."
As I looked through the photos he sent me later that evening, I had tears of gratitude for these incredible servants of our country. I thought about the power of vocation. In the Church, we often relegate the word to clergy or the religious life. We sometimes forget it’s God’s desire for us all. Do I live my vocation in a way that attracts others to that same call and to a life of purpose? Would someone want to be "me for a day" based on how they experience me any other day? My children walked away from that amazing experience asking how they could be more like those women and men in uniform, how they could give back to their country. Today, as we remember all of those who gave witness to freedom through their service, let us be sure to strengthen our daily witness to the Lord who grants ultimate freedom. Happy Memorial Day!