Reflections on Another Thirtysomething Birthday

Last Sunday was my birthday. I wanted to write this column on the actual day, so I could be like the saints who — judging by the dates on their works — seemed to do virtually all of their writing on major feast days. (Writing it that day would also have had the added benefit of making it a little less late, and my editors a little more happy.) But, having less self-dicipline than the average saint, I instead spent the day talking on the phone and singing karaoke with my friends.

I did, however, start the day by going to Mass. The reading, from the Gospel of John, was on the blind man who was cured by Jesus, and then went out and told everybody what Jesus had done for him. The homily was on the importance of our telling people what God has done for us.

That got me thinking.

God has done truly amazing things in my life. His hand has been apparent from the very beginning. I don’t acknowledge that nearly often enough, or publicly enough. And today I want to publicly right that wrong.

God allowed me to come into existence and be born. When I think of all of the billions of reproductive “coincidences” that had to happen for that particular sperm to hit that particular egg on that particular day, I’m astonished. I was born into an intact, loving, devoted family. And what’s more, I was born into a Catholic family, to wonderful, amazing parents who understood that their primary responsibility in raising children was in leading them to God and saving their souls. I had parents who understood that inculcating the faith in us was primarily their responsibility, not the Catholic school’s or the CCD program’s. They taught us the faith at home, and we lived the faith at home, in every aspect of our lives.

I was given my siblings. Those three fine, funny, amazing people I grew up with — Paul, David and Julie — are among the greatest gifts I have ever received. And, 36 years later, we’re all still here. I still have my parents. They are healthy and they are my friends. And so are my siblings.

I was given a large extended family full of aunts and uncles and cousins on my mom’s side, and on my dad’s side a small family where we were the only grandchildren and thus the center of their universe.

God has allowed me to live on this earth for 36 years. That may seem like no big deal, but when you stop to think about it, it’s amazing. Given my medical history, being born even 50 years earlier would have made me one of those childhood mortality statistics. In my 36 short years I have survived encephilitis, cancer, a ruptured appendix and God only knows how many scrapes, bruises, burns and close calls.

I’ve been given amazing friends. I’ve been given incredible opportunities — to travel, to study, to learn. I’ve been given the privilege of suffering — not too much, but just enough to understand what it is to suffer, and to feel a certain solidarity with those who suffer today. And I’ve been given the grace and the strength to survive suffering and to grow from it.

Most importantly, God has granted me my most fervent wish — to participate with Him in the salvation of souls. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve thought that saving souls — leading them to God — is the coolest, most beautiful and most permanent thing a person can do. I wasn’t sure how I could possibly do that (being a weak, fallible, breakable human and all), but God has created a way. Step by tiny little step, He has allowed me to become one of His many instruments of salvation — useless on our own, but quite powerful when fueled by His grace.

I praise and glorify God for all of it.

So what about you? I highly doubt that I’m the only one so richly blessed. We all are — each in our own way and according to His unique plan. You don’t have to wait until your next birthday. Take some time today, and catalog some of the amazing things God has done in your life.

When you add it all up, I think you may be pleasantly surprised. Maybe even amazed. But you will be, most definitely, grateful.

Mary Beth Bonacci is an internationally known speaker, author and syndicated columnist. She has written two books, We're on a Mission from God and Real Love, and has developed numerous videos, including her brand-newest video series, also entitled Real Love. Visit her website at

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