My most recent birthday brought its usual, much-appreciated greetings and gifts from family and friends. As always, my wife Jo Ann's card carried the thanksgiving to God we traditionally exchange with each other on special occasions.

The most surprising greeting came in the form of an e-mail from my nephew Greg, who just started his first year at James Madison University. It was only four lines, but it spoke volumes.

On the surface, there was nothing too unusual. He wished me a (slightly) belated birthday and hoped I enjoyed my birthday dinner. He gave me the good news that he had found the perfect university for him. "I absolutely love it here and one of these days I'll have to call and tell you all about it," he wrote.

His e-mail also dredged up some regrets that I had about my college years. I did not give the proper priority to my family. They drove me 6 1/2 hours to West Virginia University and picked me up, but usually the only contacts I had with them otherwise were phone calls or short notes asking for more money.

This was despite the fact that my dad was a prolific letter writer and his correspondence usually included an update from my mother.

A telephone conversation with my brother Phil and his wife Helen, Greg's parents, included the welcome news that Greg was attending youth Mass on Sunday evenings. I am ashamed to admit that I didn't find time for God during my college years.

Through God's grace, I have since learned the absolute importance of God and that family comes second only to faith.

I cannot relive my college years, but I can strive in my future years to give God and family their rightful places in my life. My regrets are alleviated because Greg's e-mail ended the same way God's Word to us ends.

"Love."

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God is easy to find - if we look.