I can remember it like it was yesterday — my first hearing before a judge that involved a significant legal issue. I was 26 years old, and it was during my first year of practicing law (1983). The day before the hearing, I received a telephone call from John Mathers, the attorney I was renting an office from. He was out of the state on business and wasn’t going to be back in time to attend the hearing. He asked me to cover the hearing for him, told me where I could find the file, and explained the issues in the case.
Last week I suffered through a humiliating experience that completely blindsided me. In hindsight, I probably should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. I ordinarily don’t have any problems sleeping, but this particular experience left me so shell-shocked that I had trouble sleeping for several nights after it occurred. All I could do was lie in bed, rosary beads in hand, and alternate between praying the mysteries of the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
One day about 20 years ago, I needed to have a court order signed by one of the judges at the Peoria County Courthouse. I walked over to the courthouse from my downtown office. When I entered the courtroom, the only people present were the judge and a local area attorney. As soon as I walked up to the judge to ask him to sign the order, he said, “Where’s your jacket?”
I periodically encounter a devout Catholic who is struggling with emotional issues that are causing him or her to experience significant suffering. After a short discussion about what’s troubling the person, I always ask the exact same question: Do you pray your rosary every day? The answer is always ‘no.’ Always.
One of my greatest challenges is controlling the way that I talk to myself. Whether we realize it or not, most of the talking we do is to ourselves. We’re experts at getting ourselves worked up over a situation, generating self-righteous indignation toward others, and convincing ourselves that we’re right and others are wrong.
Last week, I reread two documents: the U.S. Constitution, which was written more than 200 years ago, and The Communist Manifesto, which was written more than 150 years ago. James Madison and the other authors of the Constitution were primarily concerned with guaranteeing the freedom and liberty of all Americans by placing severe limitations on the power of the federal government. Karl Marx, the author of The Communist Manifesto, mapped out what would become a blueprint for dictators whose primary aim was to achieve power by exercising complete control over the lives of their citizens.