Born very ill and not expected to survive his first night, Mattie was baptized as Matthew Joseph in the hospital intensive care unit within an hour of his birth. When he surprised everyone by surviving, his baptism was celebrated in church a few months later on September 22 (the birthday of his late brother, Stevie). From a very young age, Mattie insisted that God spoke into his heart. Sometimes, the messages strengthened Mattie’s spirit as he coped with the loss of his siblings and other personal challenges — including disability, bullying, and a growing awareness of a lack of peace in our world. And sometimes, he said the messages were meant for others, to help them remember and realize their Heartsongs or “unique reason for being,” and to know God’s presence in the world – even amid challenges. Many of Mattie’s poems and passages began as expressions and prayers he shaped after a moment of private meditation or conversation with God. By the age of 5, Mattie was sharing messages of hope and peace “from God, placed in my heart for me to shape with words for our world” in writing and public speaking opportunities. Mattie loved being in church and attended Mass several days a week, and he enjoyed singing in both the Children’s and Family Choirs. After his First Holy Communion at age 7, he became a Lector at Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Upper Marlboro, Maryland where he and his mother were parishioners. For the next year, he studied enthusiastically for his Confirmation into the Church at age 8 (at the invitation of Cardinal James A. Hickey). By age 9, Mattie began serving as a Catechist, first teaching in the 2nd grade classroom, and then teaching the 6th grade CCD class. He was a Greeter for Masses in his parish, and well-known as “The Designated Hugger” — representing Most Holy Rosary for events at home and around the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. Mattie was inspired by and had a devotion to many saints — including St. Jude Thaddeus (for whom he chose his Confirmation name), St. André Bessette (from whom he believed he received a miracle), St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Anthony. He believed strongly in the healing power of the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, and his final request before dying was to receive Holy Communion.