September

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).

September 24, 2016

A Choice You and I Must Make

whats-your-choiceCan you imagine how Saint Joseph felt when he was unable to find a suitable place for his wife to give birth to her child? How would you feel if your wife was about to give birth and the best you could do for her was a barn full of animals?

For Saint Joseph, this had to be the most humiliating experience of his life. Did he get angry? Did he become defiant and lash out at God? Did he blame the government? Or did he simply accept what had happened to him as being a part of God’s plan for him.

Now imagine that you are the Blessed Virgin Mary. Your divine son is 12 years old. As you do every year, you travel with your husband and son to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. When it’s time to begin your journey to return to Nazareth, you follow the custom of splitting up. You travel with the women while your husband travels with the men. Both of you assume that your son is traveling with the other person.

On the evening of the first day of your journey, you reunite with your husband and you find out that your son is missing. You don’t know if he is alive or dead. You remember that after your son was born, Herod ordered his army to find and kill him. At your son’s presentation, Simeon warned you that a sword would someday pierce your heart.

You and your husband frantically search for Jesus. Your suffering is so intense that you refuse to stop and rest. After three days, you finally find him in a temple, sitting among some teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.

For the Mother of God, the loss of her son had to be the most humiliating experience of her life. What mother would be so careless that she would lose her son? Did she get angry? Did she become defiant and lash out at God? Did she blame the custom that she was bound to follow? Did she blame her husband? Or did she simply accept what happened as being a part of God’s plan for her and her family.

September 17, 2016

Can God’s Grace Be “Banked”?

bank-accountLast month, I made a telephone call to a man I’ve known for more than 20 years. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call him “Luke.” I hadn’t seen Luke for several months. I had been accustomed to seeing him at least once a week in the adoration chapel, then he stopped showing up.

After Luke stopped coming to the chapel, I asked another person who knows him what happened to him. The person told me that he had heard that a priest at Luke’s church had said something that humiliated Luke in front of some other people. After that, Luke stopped going to church. He also stopped going to the adoration chapel. In case you’re curious, the priest who made the comment was not associated with Saint Philomena Church, where I’m a member.

I had planned on calling Luke a couple of months ago, but I didn’t get around to it until Monday, August 15, the feast day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. Every year on August 15, I renew my consecration to the Blessed Mother. I made my first consecration on August 15, 1985, and have renewed it every year since then.

I learned how to make the consecration by reading Saint Louis de Montfort’s book, True Devotion to Mary. One of the guidelines that Saint Louis de Montfort has for individuals who renew their consecration each year is to perform a spiritual or corporal work of mercy on the day of the consecration.

On the day of my renewal, I thought about Luke. When I called him, he didn’t answer. I left a message for him to call me. He tried calling me back, but we weren’t able to match up until later in the week. When I finally reached him, I asked him why he was no longer going to the chapel. He said that he had developed a new devotion to Saint Sharbel.

I’m familiar with Saint Sharbel because I used to be a member of Saint Sharbel Catholic Church in Peoria. Saint Sharbel was born in Lebanon and later became a Maronite Catholic monk and priest. He died on December 24, 1898. For 23 years prior to his death, he lived as a solitary hermit.

September 10, 2016

An Icon of the Good Samaritan

mother-teresa-and-childThe number one Catholic in the world, Pope John Paul II, called her “an icon of the Good Samaritan.” The number one atheist in the United States, Christopher Hitchens, called her “a religious fundamentalist, a political operative, [and] a primitive sermonizer.” Planned Parenthood called her a “very successful old and withered person, who doesn’t look in the least like a woman.”

That old and withered, primitive sermonizer was canonized as a saint on September 4, 2016, by Pope Francis.

During her lifetime, she was known as Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Today, she is known as Saint Teresa of Kolkata (the name of the city Calcutta, India, was changed to Kolkata in 2001).

You’ve probably heard of the Singing Nun. Mother Teresa was the Smiling Nun.

Susan Conroy was a 21-year-old American college student when she started working with Mother Teresa. She later wrote a book, Mother Teresa’s Lessons of Love and Secrets of Sanctity. In a recent article that was published in the National Catholic Register, “Willing Hands, Loving Heart,” Susan wrote about Mother Teresa’s joyful spirit:

Mother Teresa used to say that “a smile is the beginning of love.” A spirit of joy, as seen in a smile, was so important to Mother Teresa. She used to say, “We will never know just how much good a simple smile can do.” 

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Mother Teresa made it sound so easy! If you have hands and a heart, you can do it! There was actually one more thing you needed in order to help this saint serve the poorest of the poor: Besides a smile, you had to come with a spirit of cheerfulness. Mother Teresa explained that many of those whom she and the sisters served were physically or mentally ill; they were lepers, abandoned children, the dying and the lonely. She said that if we went to them with a sad face, we would only make them more depressed. So come with a smile! Come with joy!

September 3, 2016

Forced to Testify in a Deposition

DepositionOne of my early mentors — I’ll call him James — was a well-known trial lawyer in Peoria. I met James in January 1983, the same month that I opened my law practice. He started out by giving me research and writing projects. Before long, I was covering his court hearings and helping him prepare cases for trial.

Several of James’ opponents had a nickname for him — “the gentle interrogator.” The name described him perfectly. Whenever James cross-examined a witness, he was a perfect gentleman. Because he came across as a kind, gentlemanly lawyer, most witnesses would let their guard down and reveal information that no other lawyer would be able to get from them.

I rarely saw James get angry. He was always cool, calm, and in control.

I envied James because he had qualities that I lacked. More often than not, when I questioned a witness, I would get irritated. If a witness was evasive or failed to cooperate, instead of gently leading the witness in the direction that I wanted the witness to go, I would become hostile and aggressive. My behavior would cause the witness to become more evasive and defensive.

I thought about James last week when I sat through a 3-hour deposition of one of my clients.

A deposition is a court-related procedure in which a witness or party to a case is questioned by the lawyers who are involved in the case. Depositions are ordinarily scheduled to take place in a lawyer’s office with a court reporter present. After the deposition, the court reporter prepares a transcript of the testimony of the witness and sends it to each of the lawyers.

At the beginning of a deposition, the person who is to be questioned is placed under oath to tell the truth. The lawyers for each party in the case are then allowed to take turns asking the witness questions. The questions must be relevant to the case, or designed to lead to relevant information.

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