I remember reading a newspaper article about a young man from New York named Charlie DeLeo. He grew up as a “tough kid on New York’s Lower East Side.” After returning from Vietnam, he got a job as a maintenance man at the Statue of Liberty.
When asked about the work he does, Charlie said that part of his job is to take care of the torch in the statue’s hand and the crown on the statue’s head. He has to make sure that the lights are always working and the 200 glass windows in the torch and the crown are always clean. Pointing to the torch, Charlie said proudly, “That’s my chapel. I dedicated it to the Lord and I go up there and meditate on my breaks.”
Charlie does other things for the Lord as well. He received a commendation from the Red Cross after donating his 65th pint of blood. After hearing about the work of Mother Teresa in India, he has given over $12,000 to people like her. Charlie listened to Pope John Paul II speak at Battery Park and prayed fervently for the success of the Pope’s visit to the United States.
Charlie DeLeo said, “I don’t socialize much, don’t have fancy clothes, but I have fun. The thing is, however, I don’t have enough money to get married. I don’t keep any of my money. After I got my job, I sponsored six orphans through those children’s organizations.”
Charlie ended the article by saying that he calls himself the “Keeper of the Flame” of the Statue of Liberty. Later a park guide said, “Everybody knows Charlie is special. When he first gave himself that title, people smiled. But we all take it seriously now. To us, he’s exactly what he says: ‘Keeper of the Flame.’”
Charlie DeLeo began his life as a tough kid on New York’s Lower East Side. Then he decided to put God first in his life. That decision changed his life forever. Charlie is a living illustration of the two points Jesus makes in today’s gospel:
the decision to put God first in our life,
the decision to live out that choice.
Sincerely in Christ,