Jan. 14, 2020 Influence: Good and Bad - Father Michael's Words to Live By

“So, the Lord was with Joshua; and his fame was in all the land.”  (Joshua 6:27)


A few years back, Time Magazine recently published its list of the worlds’ one hundred most influential people. Of these “influencers” the magazine’s editorial staff grouped them into categories of influence--from leaders and revolutionaries to builders and titans, from artists and entertainers to heroes and icons, scientists and thinkers.

Interestingly, the magazine included some whose influence was wholly negative. Bernard Madoff, who stole a reported sixty billion dollars from investors and bankrupted many charitable organizations, made the list, as did Joaquin Guzman, the Mexican drug lord behind the horrific violence that has claimed over 15,000 lives in his home country and abroad.

For the majority of those listed, however, I suspect that their fame is their influence. In contrast to the mercurial and famous influencers, there were three individuals listed that very few people would know. Had influence been determined by a vote, I suspect that most readers of Time magazine would not have deemed them influential. Their names are Brady Gustafson, Mary Scullion, and Somaly Mam.


Brady Gustafson, just 21 years of age, saved his fellow Marines when they came under direct attack in Afghanistan. Though Brady himself had suffered a life-threatening injury, he fought to save his friends and fellow Marines until help arrived.

Mary Scullion works tirelessly with an organization to help the homeless in Philadelphia, stating that “none of us are home until all of us are home.” As a result of her efforts, there are now less than 200 homeless men and women in Philadelphia.

Somaly Mam was sold into the sex trade at age 12 and for over a decade suffered at the hands of her abusers. As an adult, having escaped from her captors and having every opportunity to make a new life for herself, Somaly Mam instead returned to Cambodia to try and save others who are still enslaved. She has suffered death threats and her own daughter was raped in retaliation for her efforts to shut down the brothels in which young girls lose their lives daily.


In our society, influence generally indicates power over others; power that inevitably reflects on the one who is influencing. But for these three individuals, influence has very little to do with their own glory. Their influence is characterized in their service to others.

Indeed, their influence is not about making a name for themselves, but rather about lifting up those without names and faces who have no influence, and who most of the world will never know: homeless men and women, child-victims of the sex trafficking industry, and small-town young men and women who defend American interests in places of extreme violence and conflict. Offering their lives in this way opens the possibility of creating lasting influence in the lives of the world’s least influential.


“The talent of success is nothing more than doing what you can do well and doing well whatever you do without thought of fame. If it comes at all it will come because it is deserved, not because it is sought after.”  ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Take, O Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my will; all that I have and possess. You have given them to me; to you, O Lord, I restore them. All things are yours: Dispose of them according to your will. Give me your love and ur grace; for this is enough for me.  ~ St. Ignatius of Loyola

Blessings my friends,

Fr. Michael+