Mattie Named CNN “Champion of Change”

Mattie Selected as “Champion of Change”
by Chris Cuomo for CNN Special 

CNN invited 12 correspondents to share a story on their “Champion of Change” – someone they have interviewed or reported on across their years of working in journalism.

Chris Cuomo (who won an Emmy for one of his Mattie features back in 2001, and who is a member of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild) selected Mattie J.T. Stepanek as his Champion.

Thank you, Chris, for choosing to #MakePeaceTheNews

Information from the CNN producer: 

  • CNN’s feature on Mattie Stepanek’s legacy is scheduled to air
    — Tuesday, May 14 in the 9pm hour, and
    — Thursday, May 16 in the 10pm hour — barring breaking news.

  • The Champions for Change one-hour special airs on Saturday, May 18 at 8pm. 
    The story producers are not told in advance if a particular piece will make it to the final show, since it’s considered a week-long event.

  • You can see the promo at the link below. 
  • Mattie’s video story will be uploaded to that digital page once the show airs on the network.
  • Additional media – including more from Chris Cuomo and an essay penned by Jeni Stepanek (Mattie’s mom / Mama Peace) – will also be posted to the page once the video airs.


April 2019 Message from the Guild — Holy Week Reflections

April 2019 Reflection
Holy Week & Easter

“We must do more than pray. We must meditate on being faithful.
And we must share our faithfulness with others.

                                                      Mattie J.T. Stepanek

Celebrating Holy Week with
“Ponder, Praise, and Prayer”
Meditations from Mattie

All through history, Catholics have approached Holy Week pondering the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In 1998, in preparation for receiving his First Communion, 7-year-old Mattie Stepanek created a Lenten meditation booklet with daily Bible readings and personal responses. Titled “Ponder, Praise and Prayer,” the collection is a prayerful journey that begins on Ash Wednesday, continues through the Lenten season and Holy Week, and culminates on Easter Monday.

The Bible verses he selected were not the ones found in that year’s daily readings, but rather, Mattie’s own selections, including some that were his favorites, and others that he said spoke to his heart that season. The following year, Mattie, age 8, was preparing for Confirmation. Because of his disability, he was not expected to live long enough to be able to receive it as a teen. He approached Confirmation by editing his personal daily meditations in the Lenten booklet, and adding a “foreword and forthword” statement, and sharing the booklet with many members of his parish.

Each page of this Lenten collection includes a Bible verse on which to reflect and ponder, a meditative response of and for praise, and a poetic offering as Mattie reached out with purpose – or his “Heartsong.” Mattie, born in July of 1990, wrote some the poems included in this booklet when he was 3 years old, and others when he was 6,7 or 8 years of age.

In the days leading up to Holy Week, Mattie’s meditations are on prayer with responses including:

 “We must do more than pray. We must meditate on being faithful. And we must share our faithfulness with others. Not in a way that is meant to show off, but in a way that is meant to inspire others to see the way of the Lord.” – Mattie

The next day, he continues…

 “Prayer comes in all forms, just as God, too, comes in all ways and forms and times. Be there waiting for God to enter your heart, and follow the message in life.” – Mattie

Just before Palm Sunday, Mattie pondered the meaning of death of Jesus, and also the deaths of his siblings. He prefaces his meditation with this passage from the Old Testament:

 “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.” – Psalm 56:3.

He then writes:

It is always sad when someone dies. And it is especially sad when a little child or a baby dies. But we can’t be angry. We can be hurt, and confused, but not so angry that we turn away from God. There is a reason for everything. We don’t know the reasons, but we can find meaning, if we pray, and trust in God.” – Mattie

As a preschooler, Mattie experienced the loss of his brother, Jamie, and deeply felt and grieved that loss. His two other siblings, Katie and Stevie, died before he was born, and those losses, too, pained him – a yearning for the family he had never met. And, around the time he was creating this booklet, a dear family friend had just lost her baby.  So, death, especially of children, was very painful and real to him.

On Palm Sunday, Mattie places his sadness about all these losses in God’s hands:

“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power
and of love and of a sound mind.”– 2 Timothy 1:7

Then on Monday of Holy Week he ponders the Eucharist, again remembering his brother Jamie, with this meditation and a poem about Communion:

“Our bodies get hungry for food. Our memories get lonely for those who have gone away from our sight and homes. But it is our spirit that needs to be fed with Jesus. It is not a trick. It is not just words. It is not a symbol. It is real life. And through Jesus and the church, we will always be with what we need and we will always see those we love again.” – Mattie


Excerpt from The Reality of Magic-Bread


When I was little,

 I used to be a teeny-bit angry about communion.

I thought that it was “magic bread”

And that we should have given a piece of it

To Jamie so that he wouldn’t die, or so that

He would come back to life, like Jesus did.

But now, I am five-and-a-half, and so much older.

Now I know that communion is not magic.

Miracles are not tricks.

They are real.

Heaven is real.

Jamie’s spirit is real and alive in Heaven.

But sometimes, what is real can feel very sad,

Even though later,

Like when we die and go to Heaven,

We will feel happy forever.

I believe all of that, God, but sometimes,

Waiting for what’s Real is really hard.


          Mattie J.T. Stepanek
          February 18, 1996
          Unpublished – Private Manuscripts

On Good Friday he reflects on Heaven, with this passage, meditation, and poem: 

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes God’s messenger because he or she is God’s messenger, will share in his or her reward. And whoever welcomes a good person because the person is good, will share in his or her reward.”Matthew 10:40-41


“Only God knows exactly what ‘Heaven’ means, but we know that it is the best-of-the-best, and it is forever. So always live with your heart set on Heaven.” – Matti

The next day, Easter Saturday, he offers “Climbing to Heaven”– a poem that moves us from the wood of the cross to the glories of eternity.

The next day, Easter Saturday, he offers “Climbing to Heaven”– a poem that moves us from the wood of the cross to the glories of eternity.

The next day, Easter Saturday, he offers “Climbing to Heaven”– a poem that moves us from the wood of the cross to the glories of eternity.

On the final page of his Lenten booklet, Mattie invites each of us to reflect and ponder on the messages shared, and to respond at a personal level with praise and prayer, and he encourages us to:

“…choose to reach out with the Message, by sharing your Heartsong with others. Share God through your words and way of living, every day.”

As we move through this Holy Week, and through each week of our lives, let the purity of Mattie’s belief and faith open our hearts to God, and to His son, Jesus Christ, and to the beautiful glories that are the truth of Heaven.

The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild

Download the PDF version of the
April Guild Reflection here…

View and download our
Spring Guild Message & Activity
(poetry & RRR pages — coming soon…

March 2019 Message from the Guild

March 2019 Reflection
Ash Wednesday & Lent

A Lenten Journey with Mattie J.T. Stepanek
Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild

 When Mattie was eight years old, he created a Lenten booklet entitled “Ponder, Praise, and Prayer” with meditations for every day of Lent and Holy Week. He begins each day with a reflection and selection from sacred scripture. He then responds to the Word by adding his own personal thoughts. And then finally, he reaches out to readers sharing one of his Heartsong poems to complete the meditation for the day. As we enter this Lenten season, the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild shares with you an excerpt from these private, unpublished meditations so you may come into a deeper understanding of Mattie’s profound dialogue with God and his grace-filled spirituality.

In the preface of this booklet, Mattie offers us an invitation:

“As you move through Lent and Holy Week, I encourage you
to ponder and reflect on the Bible verse suggested for each day.
Then, give praise through your personal response to the verse.
And finally, choose to reach out with the Message,
by sharing your
Heartsong with others.
Share God through your words and way of living, every day.”

This was Mattie’s meditation for Ash Wednesday:

Ponder & Reflect:

The eleven disciples went to the hill in Galilee where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him, even though some of them doubted. Jesus drew near and said to them, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age. — Matthew 28:16-20

Praise & Respond:

We must have faith in God. We must look for God in others, and in all of life. We must never give up,for it is never too late. Just say ‘yes’ to God. – Mattie

Pray & Reach Out:

Facing the Future
Every journey begins
With but a small step.
And every day is a chance
For a new, small step
In the right direction.
Just follow your Heartsong.

     Mattie J.T. Stepanek
December 31, 1998
Journey Through Heartsongs
(Hyperion 2002)


The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild

Download the PDF version of the
March Guild Reflection here…


View and download our
March Guild Message & Activity
(poetry & RRR) pages here…
(coming soon…) 

February 2019 Message from the Guild

February 2019 Reflection
Valentine’s Day

“I have a song deep in my heart,
and only I can hear it…

Everyone in the whole, wide world
has their own special song ….”

Mattie J.T. Stepanek

Celebrating Heartsongs
Remembering Mattie
1990 – 2004

Today, we remember and celebrate love in honor of a saint named Valentine – a Roman who lived during the 3rdcentury. He was known for sending handwritten notes of kindness to people in need of hope and peace. What is remarkable is that Valentine penned and sent these messages of the heart while he was imprisoned and condemned for his faith.

Today, we also have the opportunity to remember and reflect on a 20th century saint-in-the- making named Mattie – an American teen who lived his almost 14 years on earth celebrating life despite challenges related to a life-threatening disability. Mattie, like Valentine, cherished family and friends, and penned and shared poetry and messages of hope and peace, and shared these passages with his neighbors around the world.

Mattie called his messages Heartsongs, and he left us with seven books filled with his poetry and peace essays. In them, he reminds us to realize our Heartsongs– or our purpose in life, to celebrate that hope is real and peace is possible and life is worthy, and to joyfully “Remember to play after every storm!”

Mattie’s life of purpose would not be overshadowed by his life of challenges from disability, chronic health problems, financial difficulties, bullying, or other obstacles. His messages, and his way of living, inspired by his deep connection with God, can be summed up with his last spoken word, “Yes!”

On this St. Valentine’s Day, let us each pause and reflect on our Heartsong– our purpose from God – and share that with others. Let us choose kindness, and embrace hope, and practice peacemaking, and celebrate life and humanity.
And, let us pray for Mattie’s cause for sainthood.

Margaret Kolm
, The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild

Download the PDF version of the
February Guild Reflection here…


View and download our
February Guild 
Message & Activity
(poetry & RRR) pages here… 



Mattie Remembered in Parish Times

Mattie J.T. Stepanek was on earth fewer than 14 years and he died nearly 15 years ago. But his life and legacy continue to inspire children and adults today because he lived with depth and purpose, and with a passion for sharing messages of hope and peace.

During January, Mattie was remembered in The Parish Times newspaper in an article reminding readers that Mattie’s presence on earth was a blessing, despite dismal pre-natal prognoses for his health and developmental outcomes and recommendations that the pregnancy be terminated.

Mattie’s mother, Dr. Jeni Stepanek, said that Mattie was neither an accident nor a mistake, but instead, “a spirit meant to be.”

Mattie did face many medical and developmental challenges during his brief life. However, he also penned seven New York Times bestselling books of “Heartsongs” poetry and “Just Peace” essays and he was a well-respected and award-winning spokesperson for disability and peace organizations. From the age of seven, he served as a lector in his home parish, and at age nine, he began teaching CCD classes.

Thousands of people of diverse faiths and nationalities and walks of life attended his funeral, where Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter eulogized him as “the most extraordinary person” he has ever known. The article in the recent Parish Times edition refers to Mattie as someone who reminds us of the truth that all life is worthy.

To view the full issue of the January 2019 Parish Times — CLICK HERE… 

To view the “Remember Mattie” article — CLICK HERE… 


Created in God’s Image: Presentation by Mattie’s Mom

Created in God’s Image:
What does it mean to take this truth
with you in everyday life?

this event has been rescheduled
for Sunday, March 31, 2019

On Sunday, March 31, Jeni Stepanek, PhD (Mattie’s mom) will offer an interactive presentation for youth and adults who want to deepen their spiritual roots and learn more about the late poet and peace ambassador, Mattie J.T. Stepanek, and his message of Heartsongs and living with purpose.

Although open to all interested youth and adults, the primary audience are Teen Faith Mentors who serve as catechists to students in Adaptive RE — a spiritual program at St. Rose of Lima in Gaithersburg, Maryland for students with disabilities — as they face challenging situations, crises of their own faith, and the need to advocate for others. The session will help them grow forthward, knowing there is great power and strength in the fact that they are “Created in God’s Image.”

In addition to being an award-winning speaker and NY Times Bestselling author, Jeni serves as a Senior Faculty Specialist in special education at the University of Maryland, College Park and is the CEO & Chief Peace Officer for the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation which endeavors to continue Mattie’s peace mission. She is also a Director for the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild which is gathering and organizing information for Mattie’s possible Cause of Canonization or sainthood in the Catholic Church.

Through presentation, discussion, and a hands-on activity, Jeni will share information and inspiration about Mattie’s life and legacy, and explore the theme of living with purpose as Mattie expressed it in messages of hope and peace. Goals of the session include:

  • Share information about Mattie Stepanek and how he changed our world for the better, and continues to do so even years after his early death.
  • Encourage participants to think about what they believe God’s purpose might be for them, and about what legacy they each want to create.
  • Support participants in identifying ways that they are currently living out the truth of their purpose and being created in God’s image in the work they do with the Adaptive RE students.
  • Empower participants to explore personal hurdles that need to be overcome in accepting the idea that “We are all created by God – with purpose – in God’s Image”.All are welcome to attend.

All are welcome to attend.

Sunday, March 31 (4:30 – 6:00 pm)

St. Rose of Lima –Woodlands Room
11701 Clopper Road
Gaithersburg, MD 20878