The doorbell rang at the parish house. Father Coughlin stopped working on Sunday’s sermon and went to the door. When he opened it, he found little Martha, a beautiful child, the seven year old daughter of a parishioner who lived across the street, standing there with a cup in her hand.
Kneeling down to speak to the child he asked, “Well, hi, Martha. What are you doing standing here with a cup in your hand?”
Martha smiled and said, “Can I get a drink of water, Father? I’m really thirsty. Our water was turned off. Mom can’t pay the bill.”
“Of course, Martha,” he said. “Come on in.”
Father Coughlin gave her a drink and then filled two gallon jugs with water and carried them as he walked Martha across the street to her home.
Martha’s mother, Helen Callahan, opened the door when he saw them coming up the steps. She looked embarrassed and said to Martha, “Honey, you shouldn’t bother the Father with our problems. He has a lot of other things to worry about.”
She then broke down and told Father Coughlin that her ex-husband had been late on his child support and she ran short on money. She had been doing her best but sometimes she had to juggle things, and it didn’t always work out. She said that they were fine on everything else and she should have the check within two days.
Father Callahan then said, “Well, Mrs. Callahan, we can keep you supplied in bottled water until it is turned back on. I’ll have Miss Hopkins, my housekeeper, call you. She’ll be glad to draw a bath for both of you at the parish house when you need it.”
Mrs. Callahan thanked him and Father Coughlin returned to his study to call the water company. Arrangements were made to quickly cut the water on without penalty as long as the bill could be paid within three days. The problem was solved.
Ten years later, young Martha had grown into a beautiful, smart seventeen year old high school senior. Her academic achievements had resulted in her selection as valedictorian at St. Francis High School. Father Coughlin, the event Chaplain, smiled broadly as Martha walked forward to deliver the valedictory address.
As she reached the podium she lifted a small drinking cup. It was the cup she had taken to the parish house years ago. Before beginning her address, she raised the cup for all to see.
“My fellow classmates, faculty, and distinguished guests,” she began. “I raise this cup because it is something that has always helped to guide me in accomplishing my goals. It represents a time of my life when things were more difficult for my mother and me and we didn’t always know if we would make it or not.”
Martha went on to talk about how she had been raised by a single mother who worked tirelessly to teach her right from wrong and guide her to make the most of herself. And then suddenly, she looked in the direction of Father Coughlin.
“To dear Father Coughlin, who gave me water to quench my thirst. This cup is my reminder of his love and devotion to each of us, for without him many of us might have fallen by the wayside in the rough neighborhood where we grew up.
“But it also reminds me of something much greater. It reminds me of the cup Jesus used at the Last Supper to share the wine, representing his blood. For when the apostles drank of the symbolic blood, they were giving their pledge to Jesus that His death would not be forgotten. And now, over two thousand years later, the story lives on and His eternal light shines on each of us, giving us the gift of life with Him forever.
“Graduates, go forward and never forget. He lives within us all.”
And with that, she walked offstage to thunderous applause. Going directly to her mom, she hugged her with great love. Then, locating Father Coughlin, she hugged him with tears in her eyes.
He looked at her with twinkling eyes and said, “God go with you, dear Martha. You are destined for something special. Don’t let anything hold you back.”
She would not forget. She would not let him down. With God’s help she would meet the challenge. She would be worthy of Father Coughlin’s trust.
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