April

February 17, 2018

The Challenge of Being in a Service Business

Last month, on January 21, 2018, I celebrated the 35th anniversary of the opening my law practice. I graduated from law school in May 1982, and received my license to practice law in November 1982. Two months later, on January 21, 1983, I rented an office from an established Peoria attorney.

Nine years later (1992), I hired my first associate attorney. At that time, I was 35 years old. The attorney that I hired was 10 years younger than me, and had just graduated from law school.

At the time that I hired the attorney, I had an office manager, two full-time secretaries, a full-time receptionist, and a part-time secretary. Hiring an attorney was a big step for me, and I didn’t feel as though I knew enough about running a business to continue to move forward without some assistance.

The same year that I hired the attorney, I signed a contract with Gerber Business Development Corporation to provide me with coaching on how to properly run and grow my business. I had committed to paying the attorney a large salary and I didn’t want to make any catastrophic mistakes in managing and growing my law firm.

I found out about the Gerber company when I read a book that was written by its founder, Michael Gerber. The title of the book was, The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. What Gerber said in his book about small businesses in America hit a raw nerve with me.

I had previously represented several business clients who had done well for a while and then, for one reason or another, had made mistakes that caused their businesses to fail. I had also handled several bankruptcies for individuals who had failed in their own businesses. Many of the businessmen that Gerber wrote about in his book reminded me of my own clients and their failure to succeed in their businesses.

February 10, 2018

The Death of a Special Christ-Like Priest

Georgette and I met on August 4, 1978, when we were both 21 years old. We were married in June 1980, while I was on break from law school. Ten months later, in March 1981, we had our first child, Harry. I graduated from law school in May of the following year.

We moved back to Peoria during the summer of 1982. At that time, Georgette was pregnant with our second child, Anna. I started my law practice in January 1983, and Anna was born the following month. We had our third child, Maria, 13 months later, in March 1984. When Maria was born, I was 26 years old.

It was during this period of time that my mom and my sister Colleen started commenting about how I had become too serious and I needed to lighten up. Colleen is a year and a half younger than me, and of my eight sisters, she was the one I was closest to while we were growing up.

When my mom and sister told me that I had become too serious, I hadn’t realized that my behavior had changed from the young, carefree guy who liked to have a good time and tease other people to an older guy who felt overwhelmed by the burdens of life.

But I wasn’t bothered by their comments about my being too serious. To me, that was what responsible adults did — they grew up and did their best to care for and support their families. In some respects, my mom and my sister were correct. My newfound responsibilities made me feel overwhelmed. At times, I felt as though I was doing well just to keep my head above water. Georgette and I had three babies in three years — Maria was born on Harry’s third birthday — and I was doing my best to support my family while managing my law practice.

Now, more than 30 years later, Georgette and I have 13 grandchildren, with three more on the way. I’m still serious, but I’m having more fun now than I’ve had in years. I’ve given myself permission to lighten up and revert to my childhood when I’m around my grandchildren. Their parents sometimes get irritated with me because they think I get their children riled up too much. But that’s OK with me, because I’m finally able to do what my mom and my sister wanted me to do all those years ago.

February 3, 2018

A Dream & The Greatest Showman

I recently joined my wife and some of our children at a local theater to see the movie, The Greatest Showman. The movie is a musical about the life of P.T. Barnum. It begins when Barnum is a boy. He is the son of a poor tailor who does work for a wealthy man. The man looks down on Barnum and his father, because of their lower-class status.

Barnum is a fun-loving boy who is infatuated with the wealthy man’s daughter. The man knows that Barnum likes his daughter and makes it clear to Barnum that he’ll never be good enough for her. After that, the daughter is sent to finishing school for several years. While she is away at school, she and Barnum continue to keep in contact by writing letters to each other.

Years later, when the daughter returns home from school, she is reunited with Barnum. They end up getting married and starting a family. After borrowing money from a local bank, Barnum buys an old museum building in downtown Manhattan. He then sets up Barnum’s American Museum, which showcases wax figures.

After struggling to make his new business work, Barnum’s children tell him that instead of featuring wax figures, he needs to have characters who are “alive.” Barnum likes the idea and begins searching for and hiring “freaks” to serve as performers. As he is rounding up his new cast of characters, Barnum sings the unique and mesmerizing song, Come Alive.

As Barnum’s new show gains popularity in New York, a reporter for the New York Herald is highly critical of Barnum and his “freak show.” The reporter’s columns about Barnum and his show stir up trouble among certain people in the community, including the upper-class members of the community.

To enhance his reputation with the upper-class, Barnum convinces Philip Carlisle, a local playwright from a wealthy family, to join him in his business. To raise Barnum’s status, Carlisle arranges a trip to Europe for Barnum and his cast of characters to meet Queen Victoria.

January 27, 2018

Why is That Church in a Music Video?

I’ve written before about how I was involved in music during my high school and college years. When I was a senior in high school, I formed a barbershop quartet with three of my friends. I did the same thing in college. While my high school quartet had a limited number of performances, my college quartet performed at several community functions and events.

I’ve always been a big fan of quartets and other a cappella groups. One of the groups that I currently pay attention to is Home Free, an American a cappella singing group that consists of five young men. Home Free got its big break in 2013, when it won a competition on the NBC television show, The Sing-Off. The grand prize that year was $100,000, plus a recording contract with Sony.

Last month, Home Free performed at the Peoria Civic Center. Georgette and I attended the show with some friends. My favorite Home Free song is How Great Thou Art. The music video of the song is posted on YouTube. The video has generated more than 13 million views.

In the video, the group is standing on a hill that is surrounded by several hundred acres of land. The scenery in the background includes cascading slopes and mountains. The beautiful harmony of the group is matched by the gorgeous land that surrounds them. The only building in the video is a small country church, which shows up in a field near the end of the video.

I have the video saved on an iPad that sits on a stand on my bathroom counter. Ordinarily, when I’m in the bathroom in the morning getting ready for work, I use the iPad to play educational, self-improvement, or religious recordings. In the evening while I’m getting ready for bed, I usually use the iPad to listen to music.

My son, Harry, and his wife Kathryn live about five minutes away from where my wife and I live. Because they live so close to us, they’re able to stop by our house to visit on a regular basis. Whenever they stop by for a visit, their two oldest sons, Harry and Liam, immediately start looking around the house for me. Harry is 5 years old and Liam is 3 years old.

January 20, 2018

Why Is It So Hard To Practice Patience?

It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while, I complain directly to God about something that’s bothering me. Last week, my frustration with an ongoing issue finally got to the point that one of my thoughts went up to God in the form of a question: Why can’t you just have an angel appear to me in a dream and tell me what to do? I’m tired of playing these cat and mouse games where I’m always struggling to try to figure out what I should do.

Of course, I immediately felt guilty about addressing God in this manner. Who did I think I was? A prophet? King Solomon? Saint Joseph?

But I get extremely frustrated at times, because while I want to do the right thing, I often feel as though I need specific direction from God. Although I’ve always been good at solving problems, I don’t like it when I have to wait on God to reveal pieces of the puzzle that are needed to solve the problem I’m struggling with.

I’m convinced that one of the primary reasons God operates this way is to teach me the virtues of humility and patience. If He sent an angel to tell me how to solve my problems, I wouldn’t need to learn and practice humility and patience. I would simply wait for instructions from the angel and then take credit for being a special child of God.

Most of us fail to realize that in order to really be humble, we must first suffer humiliations. And we must accept whatever humiliations that come our way with love and gratitude. While humility is the most important of all virtues, the virtue of patience has to be among the top five virtues. Why? Because it’s so difficult to put into practice.

Last week, I wrote about the three grades of patience, which are, to bear difficulties without interior complaint, to use hardships to make progress in virtue, and to desire the cross and afflictions out of love for God and accept them with spiritual joy. It would be impossible to put the three grades of patience into practice if we were to try to do it without God’s assistance.

January 13, 2018

The Difficulties That Arise After Years of Marriage

Last week, I wrote about a couple who was having financial problems because of the husband’s inability to work. Here’s what I wrote at the end of the article:
I’ve been a lawyer for more than 35 years. I’ve dealt with hundreds of couples who, after years of marriage, are facing an unexpected crisis. You would think that after being married for 20 or more years, married couples would be more patient and forgiving of each other than they were when they were newly married. But that’s usually not the case. The fact that they’ve spent years together seems to somehow inhibit their ability to practice real patience and forgiveness toward each other.

Instead of being patient and forgiving, they’re extremely frustrated and angry with each other. Why?

When couples get married, there’s always great hope for the future. With that hope comes the expectation that they will be able to work out all their problems. There is also an expectation that they will someday be able to overcome whatever bad habits or deficiencies they have.

Unfortunately, as each year passes, nothing really changes. Husbands and wives stop making the effort that is required to please each other. It’s almost as if they’ve been through too much together. They’re worn out and exhausted. They’ve run out of patience.

I’ve written before about a saying that is common in the business world: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” This saying stands for the proposition that the more familiar you are with a person, the more contemptible that person becomes.

Over time, as people in the business world become more familiar with each other, their defects and weaknesses become more evident. They are exposed to and become tired of each other’s excuses, bad habits, broken promises, lack of respect, mood swings, angry outbursts, and lack of appreciation. Before long, their patience wears thin, and the slightest infraction causes them to treat each other with contempt.

January 6, 2018

Something Married Couples Face After Years of Marriage

Last week, I had an appointment with a man — I’ll call him Jim — who hired me eight months ago to represent him on a personal injury case. As usual, Jim brought his wife with him to the appointment. I’ve met with Jim and his wife on four occasions over the past eight months. Jim was injured when a large truck disregarded a stop sign and collided with his vehicle in the middle of an intersection. Because of his injuries, Jim has not been able to return to work. He’s been without an income for eight months.

Jim and his wife are in their late 30s. He’s a skilled tradesman who has been a member of a trade union for more than 20 years. Jim has never had any problem finding work, primarily because he is willing to travel to other states to work, when necessary. Since the accident, Jim’s financial situation has become progressively worse. He has had to borrow money to support his wife and children, and he also recently cashed in part of his retirement, so he could keep up with his bills.

Prior to the accident, Jim’s wife did not work outside the home. A few months after the accident, she felt that she had no other choice but to get a job, so she applied for and secured a job at a local business.

Each of the times I’ve met with Jim, he’s been upbeat and happy. He’s an intelligent, good-natured person who likes to talk and tell stories. His wife has come to all his appointments and has always been courteous and friendly — until last week.

Last week, when I entered the conference room to meet with them, Jim was the same as he’s always been, but his wife was quiet and had an angry look on her face. Her demeanor indicated to me that she and Jim either argued on the way to my office, or she was fed up with his situation.

I talked to Jim about his condition and he indicated to me that he was still receiving physical therapy three times a week. He said that he probably wasn’t going to be able to return to work for at least another 10 to 12 months. He told me that before the accident, he worked at the same trade for 20 years.

December 30, 2017

What Did Mary Really Know?

Every year during the Christmas Season, there are articles published that are critical of the song, Mary Did You Know. As expected, in early December, Fr. Robert McTeigue, SJ, published an article with the title, “The Problem With ‘Mary Did You Know.’” In the article, Fr. McTeigue criticized the following lyrics: “Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new? This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.”

Fr. McTeigue’s complaint was that the lyrics imply that Mary was a sinner who needed to be delivered from her sins. This is contrary to Catholic doctrine which states that Mary was preserved free from all stain of original sin from the moment of her immaculate conception, which allowed her to be a pure vessel in which the Son of God could be conceived and born without ever having come into contact with sin.

Another article that was published before Christmas stated that the song implies that Mary was not fully aware that she was the mother of God. The article went on to say that anyone who is familiar with the Bible knows that Mary possessed knowledge that she was the Mother of God, not only because of the Angel Gabriel’s announcement (Luke 1:26-56), but also because of her “song of praise” — known as “The Magnificat” — which indicated that she was aware of her role in the salvation of mankind. Here are the first two sentences of the Magnificat:

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his handmaid. For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; for he who is mighty, has done great things for me and holy is his name. (Luke 1:46-49)

Whenever I read anything about the life of Mary, I think about a book that I read in the early 1980s, while I was in law school. The title of the book was, The Life of The Blessed Virgin Mary. The content for the book was taken from the recorded visions of the well-known 19th-century Catholic mystic, Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774 – 1824).

April 28, 2012

Walt Disney & The Renegade Bishop

I’ve written before about Fr. John Hardon, a spiritual advisor and mentor of mine during the 1990s.  From 1989 to 1999, I attended 11 men’s retreats that were given by Fr. Hardon.   He died in 2000 at the age of 84.

At one of Fr. Hardon’s retreats, he told about an experience he had while he was visiting a Catholic convent in Communist Russia.  He was giving a retreat to the nuns at the convent and during one of the nights he was there, he and another priest were awakened by the sound of a thunderous crash.  By the time they jumped out of bed, got some clothes on, and ran into the hallway of the second floor balcony, they saw a group of Russian men standing inside the large room below.  The men had crashed a large truck through the main floor window and a portion of the exterior wall of the convent.

What Fr. Hardon and the other priest saw as they looked down from the balcony to the first floor, was a group of nuns on one side of the room and the men on the other side of the room.  The men were drunk and obnoxious and were yelling out obscenities.  It was clear from what they were saying that they had come to rape the nuns.

Fr. Hardon said that he started running down the stairs to stop the men from harming the nuns.  While he was running, all he could think of was, “My time has come.  My time has come.”  He knew that the “time” had come for him to prove his love for God by becoming a martyr for his Church.

When he arrived at the bottom of the stairs, Fr. Hardon ran over and stood directly in front of the man who was leading the other men.  At that point, Fr. Hardon and the leader were face-to-face.  The room was silent as both of them stood their ground and stared at each other.

You need to understand that Fr. Hardon was not the type of man who would have been able to handle himself in a fight.  He had a small frame, was thin, and was around five foot nine inches tall.  Although he could beat anyone in an intellectual fight, he probably never got in a physical fight in his life.  Despite his small stature, Fr. Hardon had the courage of a jungle lion and wasn’t afraid of anyone or anything.

April 21, 2012

A Life of Love and Enthusiasm

One of the greatest benefits of growing up in a large family and raising seven children of my own was that there were always young children around the house.  No matter how frustrating life got, I could always count on a baby or young child saying or doing something that would put a smile on my face.

Years ago, I got into an argument with one of my teenage daughters about a minor issue that had been blown out of proportion.  I was angry about what we were arguing about and finally told her I wasn’t willing to discuss the matter anymore.  We weren’t making any progress, and I didn’t want to say anything that I would later regret.

When I walked out of the kitchen and into the living room, I noticed my three-year-old and one-year-old daughters playing with their dolls and singing a song together.  They were oblivious to what was going on around them.  I couldn’t help but stop and smile.  My entire mood changed as I watched them play.

It was refreshing to see how excited my young children were by what they were doing.  That’s the way children are.  They’re not bogged down by anxiety and worry.  They view everything they do as new and exciting.  They attack each day with eagerness and enthusiasm.

The dictionary defines enthusiasm as (1) ardent and lively interest or eagerness, (2) an object of keen interest or passion, or (3) something inspiring zeal or fervor.  Some synonyms for enthusiasm are: eagerness, earnestness, energy, exhilaration, fervor, zest, fire, intensity, joyfulness, pep, spirit, and zealousness.

The great essayist, philosopher, and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) once said:

Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success.  When you do a thing, do it with all your mind.  Put your whole soul to it.  Stamp it with your own personality.  Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object.  Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

April 14, 2012

Balancing on the Tightrope of Life

The time for sorrow and suffering is over.  That’s what you and I will hear when our souls enter into heaven.  Can you hear the words being spoken as you enter into the Kingdom? “The time for sorrow and suffering is over.” Can you smell the heavenly scent?  Can you feel the soft cushion of the plush green heavenly grass under your bare feet?  Can you taste the cool clean sparkling water from the nearby heavenly stream?  Can you see your Savior in His full splendor and glory sitting on His throne?

Do you know what I’m looking forward to when I get to heaven?  I’m looking forward to waking up every day completely rested and refreshed.  I can’t remember the last time I woke up that way, if ever.  The hardest part of my day is getting out of bed in the morning.  The “heroic moment” is what St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, called it.  Here’s what he had to say about the heroic moment:

Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, getting up on the dot, at a set time, without granting a single minute to laziness.  If with the help of God, you conquer yourself in the moment, you have accomplished a great deal for the rest of the day.  It’s so discouraging to find yourself beaten in the first skirmish.

I not only wake up tired, but I get tired of conquering various other moments throughout the day, such as the moment I have to sit down and work on a difficult project, or the moment I have to meet with a difficult client, or the moment I have to buckle down and work on writing the weekly article for my Adoration Letter.

Last week in The Resurrection and The Woman, I wrote about the special relationship Jesus had with his mother and the role His mother plays in bringing people closer to Him.  What most Catholics don’t realize is that the Mother of God is always standing by ready to assist them with their struggles and suffering.  We know this because prior to Jesus dying on the cross, He made Mary the mother of all mankind:

April 7, 2012

The Resurrection & The Woman

Do you know who saw Jesus for the first time after He rose from the dead?  According to the gospel of St. John, it appears as though it was Mary Magdalene, one of the women who was standing at the foot of the cross when our Lord died.  (“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.”  John 19:25)

St. John also revealed to us the details of Mary’s encounter with Jesus on the morning of His resurrection:

“But Mary stood outside the sepulchre, weeping.  As she was weeping, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, and she saw two angels in white, sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been laid.  They said to her: Woman, why are you weeping?  She said to them: Because they have taken away my Lord; and I don’t know where they have laid him.  When she said this, she turned and saw Jesus standing; and she did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her: Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom do you seek?  She, thinking it was the gardener, said to him: Sir, if you have taken him, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.  Jesus said to her: Mary.  She, turning, said to him: Rabboni (which is to say, Master).  Jesus said to her: Do not touch me, for I am not yet ascended to my Father.  But go to my brethren, and say to them: I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God.”  John 20:11-17

I have a question for you: We know when Mary Magdalene saw Jesus, but when was it that Mary, the mother of Jesus, first saw her Son after He rose from the dead?

At a General Audience that Pope John Paul II gave on May 21, 1997, he reflected on the question of whether Jesus appeared to His mother after His Resurrection.  Here, in part, is what the Pope said:

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