In this week's sermon, the priest told us the following story, which I hadn't heard before:
There was once a fifteen-year old boy growing up in Ohio. His dream was always to become a pilot. He was working part-time in a drugstore, and every penny he made was spent on flying lessons at the little airport near his home. His goal was to get his pilot's licence as soon as he was 16.
One day as he and his father were driving by the airport, he spotted a low flying plane. Suddenly the plane spun out of control, went into a nosedive and crashed into the ground. The boy and his father raced to the crash site and pulled the young pilot from the plane. He died in the boy's arms as they waited for help. It was especially traumatic for the boy because he knew the student pilot who had died.
The boy was too upset to eat supper that night, and spent the next two days in his room pondering this event, asking God why his friend had had to die at such an early age. Meanwhile, the boy's parents were wondering what effect the tragedy would have on their son. Would he stop taking flying lessons, or would he continue? They agreed that the decision would be his.
On the third day, the boy's mother brought him some freshly baked cookies. As she entered his room, she noticed that his notebook was open on his desk. Across the top of the page was written, "The Character of Jesus" and below that he had written, "Jesus was sinless, He was humble, He championed the poor, He was unselfish, He was close to God."
The mother was proud that in this dark hour her son had heeded the lessons of childhood and turned to Jesus for the answers to the questions he had. She asked her son what he had decided about whether or not to continue his flying lessons. The boy looked into his mother's eyes and said, "Mom, I hope you and Dad will understand, but with God's help, I must continue to fly."
That boy was Neil Armstrong. And on 20 July 1969, he became the first human being to walk on the moon. Few people who watched that historic event knew that it was from his faith in Jesus that he had drawn strength and guidance to make a crucial decision as a teenager which now enabled him to take his place in history.