While I was preparing to write this article, I went to YouTube and watched the opening theme of a weekly TV show that aired on NBC from 1966 to 1968. When the show began in 1966, I was nine years old. I’m referring to Tarzan, a TV show that I watched with my younger brothers every Friday night.
When I was growing up, one of the pranks that my brothers and I sometimes played on our friends involved a deck of cards. When one of us was over a friend’s house, we would ask the friend if he had a deck of cards. When he produced a deck of cards, we would hold the deck up and ask if he had ever played “52-card pickup.”
I ordinarily attend daily Mass at Sacred Heart Church in downtown Peoria. Last Monday (March 25), I saw my parents at noon Mass and talked to them after the Mass. My mom told me that it was the 58th anniversary of her consecration to the Mother of God. I knew that she had made her consecration years ago, but I was not aware of the actual date.
The quickest way to my office is to take Route 24 to the McClugage Bridge. After I cross the bridge, I take the Adams Street exit and stay on Adams until it turns into Jefferson Street, which is a three-lane, one-way street that takes me directly to my office in Peoria.
In October of last year, an underground water pipe broke near the intersection of Jefferson and Hayward streets. Illinois American Water immediately sent a crew to repair the pipe. They cut out a large area of concrete, and then they dug down to the pipe and repaired it.
The area where the concrete was removed was blocked, and traffic on Jefferson was forced to merge from three lanes into one lane to get past where the repair occurred. The crew had the pipe repaired within a day. Then, for the next three weeks, no additional work was done to fill in the area that was dug out and to pour concrete to return the road to its original condition.
During that time, each day from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., the traffic on Jefferson was so heavy that vehicles were backed up almost a mile from the area where the two lanes were blocked. Everyone had to merge into one lane until they passed the area, at which time they were able to again travel on three lanes. After three weeks of no activity, I was extremely frustrated that a crew had not come back to finish the job and open up the two closed lanes.
One morning when I passed the area, I wrote down the name of the side street where the pipe had been repaired. When I arrived at my office, I called the City of Peoria traffic engineering department and explained to the man I talked to that the two lanes had remained unnecessarily closed for the past few weeks. I asked him if someone from his department could contact the contractor and push them to get the street repaired.
He responded by saying, “That’s an Illinois American Water project. I’ll give you the number of the guy you can call to report the problem. You can ask him when they plan on completing the project.” My immediate thought was, “Isn’t that what your job is — to make sure that the streets in the City of Peoria are quickly repaired so people who are driving are not unnecessarily inconvenienced by delays?”
Even though I was irritated that the guy was too lazy to do his job, I kept my mouth shut. I figured that if I complained to him that he should be the one to make the phone call, he would ignore my request and wouldn’t bother to get around to making the call.
After I finished my conversation with him, I dialed the number that he had given to me. No one answered the phone. Instead, there was a voicemail message that requested that I leave a message. I provided my name, phone number, and a detailed message as to why I was calling. I asked for a return phone call to let me know when the project would be completed. Of course, I never heard back from anyone.
Two weeks later, after putting up with the continued heavy traffic and delays, I was so irritated that I looked up the name and phone number of the District 1 Peoria City Council member. District 1 includes the area of Jefferson where the street was torn up. The council member for that district is Denise Moore. I had never met or talked to Ms. Moore.
I called the phone number that was listed on the City of Peoria website and Ms. Moore answered the phone on the third ring. She was in the middle of something, but she made time to talk to me. I explained what was going on and what had happened when I called the City of Peoria. Her immediate response was, “Why did he tell you to call Illinois American Water? He should’ve done that himself.” I told her that I thought the same thing, but I made the phone call anyway and I did not receive any response from the water company.
Ms. Moore promised that she would immediately look into the matter and get it taken care of. The following week, a crew of five men showed up and filled the trench where the pipe had been repaired. They worked on the site for a few days and then the following week, they poured concrete on Jefferson and laid blacktop on the side street.
After giving the concrete several days to cure, the two lanes were reopened for traffic. To her credit, Ms. Moore did what she told me she was going to do and got the job DONE. According to my calculation, the project took more than seven weeks to complete, when it should have been done in two weeks.
A few weeks ago, while I was in the men’s locker room of the gym where I work out, I noticed that one of the two soap dispensers that are available was out of soap. Later, while I was working out, I saw the housekeeping lady who is there almost every day. I usually say hi to her and sometimes exchange small talk, but this time I mentioned to her that the soap dispenser was out of soap.
She responded by saying that she would take care of it. She didn’t get the job done that day, which didn’t surprise me. I already knew that she was lazy because I had observed her frequently stop to visit with other people, and she would often stretch the time that it would take to complete a task.
Last week, I noticed that the dispenser was still out of soap. Later, when I saw the housekeeping lady piddling around with a menial task, I approached her and said, “Did you forget about the soap dispenser?” She looked at me as though she didn’t know what I was talking about. I then said, “Do you remember when you told me that you were going to put soap in the soap dispenser in the men’s locker room?” She answered, “Oh! They didn’t take care of that?” I replied, “They probably don’t know anything about it. You’re the only one who knows because I’m the one who told you about it.”
She immediately began reciting a litany of excuses. I interrupted her and said, “Do you have access to the soap?” She said, “Yes, I can get the soap.” “So can you go do the job right now?” I asked. She answered, “I cannot do it now, but I’ll make sure to get it done tonight.” I haven’t been back since then, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she did not get around to replacing the soap.
So why am I telling you all this? Because it irritates me to no end that 80 percent of the people I come into contact with can’t seem to get anything done. They always have a long list of excuses to justify their laziness. And they always do everything in their power to explain how busy they are.
If any one of those people followed a truly productive person around all day, by the end of the day, they would be on the ground clutching their chests and complaining about how exhausted they were. I consider myself to be an expert on this topic because, over the years, the primary fault that I have struggled to conquer is laziness. If I gave you a dollar for every time I’ve confessed laziness, you would be wealthy.
Why do I work so hard to quickly get things done? One reason is because I have this little video that plays in my mind that shows me what may happen the moment that I meet God. I see Him saying, “What did you get DONE for Me and My Kingdom while you were living on Earth? With all the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years that I gave you, what did you get DONE? How much praying did you get DONE? How many corporal and spiritual works of mercy did you get DONE?” Then the video in my mind gets worse. God then shows me the millions of things I could have gotten DONE for Him but didn’t.
When the infant Jesus was lying in the manger shivering from the cold, He knew that He was on Earth for one primary reason — to die on the cross so the gates of Heaven would be opened for those of us who want to enter into His Kingdom. He could have procrastinated and put off being born, but he kept to His Father’s schedule and despite all the pain and suffering He knew he was going to endure, he got the job DONE.
What did you get DONE last year? What did you get DONE last month? I’m not talking about all the worldly things that you did. I’m talking about the things you got DONE that helped you to know, love, and serve God in a more meaningful way.
After challenging the housekeeping lady to get the soap dispenser job DONE, I went home and told Georgette about my experience. I then told her about how I wanted to slap the lady upside the head for being so lazy and making excuses — like Moe used to do to Curly in The Three Stooges. By then, I had worked myself up and said to Georgette, “Why is it that nobody can get anything DONE? It seems as though a third of my time is spent bullying people to do their jobs and get things DONE.”
In her typical way of dealing with me, she said, “Honey, maybe we should check your blood pressure. It seems as though it may be a little high right now. Are you okay? Do you need to lie down?” Of course, she knew that her comments would get me more worked up, while at the same time letting me know that I shouldn’t be so wound up about such a small matter.
I’ll tell you how I really feel about this issue of getting things DONE. I have to fight with myself every day to create urgency and set deadlines for tasks that I know need to get DONE. It actually benefits me when I push others to commit to getting things DONE by creating for them a sense of urgency and a deadline for completion. Yes, I may have to bully some people to force them to get things DONE, but I don’t apologize for my behavior. I don’t feel guilty about pushing people to do what they should be doing on their own. In fact, I consider it a work of mercy.
Do you want to know one of the SECRETS to getting into Heaven? The secret is … DONE — what you choose to get DONE for God, how much you get DONE for God, and how fast you get it DONE for God. Like the saints, we need to create urgency and deadlines, so we can get more things DONE for God.
We’ve just started a new year. What are you going to get DONE this year to become a more devout Catholic, to perform frequent works of mercy, to develop a better relationship with God, and to help others develop a better relationship with God?
Warren is a genuine Christian leader who, despite an immense amount of pressure from outside groups and the media, has refused to abandon his traditional evangelical beliefs. He is opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage, and is an advocate of abstinence-only education, instead of the use of condoms to prevent HIV/AIDS.
Warren married his wife Kay in 1975, and they subsequently raised three children. On the morning of April 5, 2013, their youngest son, Matthew, committed suicide. The day after Matthew’s death, Warren sent an email to the members of his church that stated, in part:
No words can express the anguished grief we feel right now. Our youngest son, Matthew, age 27, and a lifelong member of Saddleback, died today.
I love it when a new baby is born into our family. Among other things, it’s a reminder of how loving and generous God is to allow us to share in the gift of creation.
But along with the ability to share in the creation of a new human soul that will live for all eternity, we have the responsibility and obligation to nurture and teach our children to know, love, and serve God.
We also have the responsibility and obligation to watch over, guide, and protect them from physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional harm. This responsibility has become more difficult over the past 60 years because of the complete breakdown of the Christian moral code that was at one time the foundation of our laws and culture (prior to the 1960s).
I remember being in high school during the early 1970s and hearing one of my great-aunts say that she “would never want to bring another child into this world because of all the dangers that the child would be exposed to.” And since the 1970s, the dangers that our children are exposed to have increased exponentially.
So what can those of us who are devout Catholics do to protect the bodies, minds, and souls of our children and grandchildren?
In 1990, when Georgette and I had four young children, we lived in a house that had a fenced-in backyard. Whenever our children were in the backyard playing, every five or ten minutes Georgette would look out the kitchen window to make sure the children were okay.
One of our neighbors, whose yard was on the other side of the backyard fence, owned a big dog that would often stand at the fence and bark at our children while they were playing. We were not concerned about the dog because we knew that it was not able to jump over the fence.
One day, while two of our daughters were playing in the backyard, Georgette glanced out the kitchen window to check on them. The moment she looked out the window, she saw the neighbor’s dog jump over the fence and run toward the girls. Georgette immediately ran outside and placed herself between the dog and our daughters, who were so frightened they were paralyzed. She then brought the girls into the house.
What had happened was that our neighbor had cleaned up his yard and piled some brush up against the fence. The dog climbed on top of the brush and was then able to jump over the fence. We contacted our neighbor and he removed the brush so the dog could no longer jump over the fence.
Fortunately for us, the moment our girls were in danger, their mother was there to protect them. Georgette did what any loving mother would do — rush to the aid of her children.
Consider this: If a loving, earthly mother would do everything in her power to protect her vulnerable children, what would the mother of God (and mankind) do for her vulnerable children? The Blessed Virgin Mary is no stranger to suffering. She has had personal experience with the dangers that threaten all of us.
What were some of the dangers she went through while she lived on Earth? She was forced to flee to Egypt with her husband and infant Son so her Son wouldn’t be murdered by Herod’s army.
Twelve years later, when she lost track of her Son for three days, she and her husband feared that His life was in danger.
Later in life, she experienced the one nightmare any loving mother would sacrifice her life to avoid. She saw her innocent, grown Son tortured and murdered by His enemies. If anyone understands danger, it’s the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Now, of course, we all have to exercise prudence and good judgment when it comes to our own personal protection. But even if we do that, we are still extremely vulnerable. Unfortunately, there are criminals and predators all around us. Worse, they are also around our children and grandchildren. Our police departments are often not able to take action until after a crime has been committed. So what can we do to protect ourselves and our loved ones from danger — build a fortress and lock ourselves up?
It is simply not within our own power to protect ourselves and our loved ones from all the physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological dangers that exist in our society. The good news is that we do have the power to pray for the protection that we need.
Ever since the incident with my wife and the dog in the backyard, I have made sure to have a personal bodyguard available at all times to protect me and my family from harm. Her name is Mary, and she is the mother of God. Although she is not physically at my side, she is constantly looking out the “window” of Heaven, watching over me and my family. Any time we are in danger, in a flash she is there to stand between us and the evils that we face. She is the perfect mother who sees all dangers and is available to provide the protection we need.
I’m willing to share with you the information you need to “hire” this same bodyguard for the protection of you and your family. I would like to charge you an extremely high fee for this information — $25,000 sounds good — because the information is so valuable. I’m concerned that because you are not paying for this information, you will place little to no value on it. However, having said that, here is my free advice as to how you can obtain the type of personal protection that is only available to a small percentage of the population.
If you would like to have a personal bodyguard for your family, you only need to do three additional things: (1) make sure you are in the state of sanctifying grace at all times; (2) pray your Rosary every day; and (3) wear your brown scapular at all times. If you don’t know how to pray the Rosary or if you don’t have a brown scapular, contact me and I’ll make sure to get you what you need.
A word of warning: The Blessed Virgin Mary will not take it upon herself to be your personal bodyguard unless you reach out to her every day by praying your Rosary and wearing your brown scapular. The Rosary is a powerful weapon against evil, and the brown scapular is the bulletproof armor you need to repel the spiritual and physical dangers that will inevitably come your way.
Don’t delay. You can’t afford to put off hiring a personal bodyguard for your family.
Last week, I wrote about how good fiction writers develop stories by incorporating five milestones into the plot of every story. Here are the five milestones and where they can be found in the stories of Superman and Jesus:
Milestone 1: The Introduction – Introduces the main characters and provides important background information about them. It also sets the scene for the rest of the story, including which one of the characters is going to end up being the hero.
During the 1960s and 1970s, when Think and Grow Rich was one of the most popular books for businessmen and salespeople, it was considered by many to be the blueprint for success and wealth. During those years, numerous salesmen in America thought of Napoleon Hill as a superhero.
If you’re familiar with any of the modern-day superhero movies, you know that every superhero has an “origin story,” which provides the background of where the superhero came from and the superhero’s special powers.
For example, the origin story of Superman is that after he was born on the planet of Krypton, his parents put him in a space capsule and sent him to Earth. His parents knew that Krypton was going to be destroyed, so they sent him to a planet where they knew that he would be safe. As he grew up, Superman discovered that he had powers that no one else on Earth had.
Napoleon Hill positioned himself as a hero by frequently repeating his origin story, which included an experience he had in 1908 when he was a young reporter. It was at that time that he had a chance to interview Andrew Carnegie, one of the greatest industrialists and philanthropists of all time.
At the end of the interview, Carnegie challenged Hill to seek out and interview the greatest and most successful businessmen in America, so Hill could discover the true formula for success from those businessmen. Carnegie promised Hill that if he accepted the challenge, Carnegie would do what was necessary to arrange for Hill to meet the most successful businessmen in the country.
Hill accepted Carnegie’s challenge and over the next ten years, he interviewed some of the greatest entrepreneurs, inventors, retailers, and industrialists of all time. Some of the men that he interviewed were Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, William H Taft, Luther Burbank, John D Rockefeller, Harvey Firestone, Theodore Roosevelt, Charles M. Schwab, F. W. Woolworth, and William Wrigley Jr.
In 1928, Hill published The Law of Success, which consisted of several volumes of books. Nine years later, Hill published his most famous book, Think and Grow Rich.
One of the most famous statements that Hill was known for was, “You are the sum total of your dominating or most prominent thoughts.” Hill firmly believed that when people controlled and focused their thoughts on building wealth, they would do whatever was necessary to create the desire, specialized knowledge, and persistence that was required to achieve great success.
While Hill tried to make it seem as though all you needed to do to become wealthy was to simply focus all your thoughts on wealth, his books set forth multiple steps that required a great degree of discipline, self-control, and sacrifice to achieve the success that was desired.
What intrigues me most about what Hill wrote in his books was his emphasis on how critically important it is for people to control their thoughts, before they can ever hope to succeed at anything. It is our thoughts that drive our desire to sacrifice and practice the discipline and self-control that is necessary for success at anything.
Because of our fallen human nature, we humans must constantly struggle to control our thoughts. Unfortunately, most of our thoughts are random, erratic, negative, and driven by emotions. It takes a great degree of effort and discipline to exercise control over our thoughts.
One of the most important ways in which we can control our thoughts is to develop the ability to crowd out distractions, temptations, and negative emotions.
Do you want to know one of the secrets of the saints? If you do, reread the previous paragraph.
The greatest saints, including Saint John Paul II and Saint Teresa of Calcutta, were able to control their thoughts by crowding out distractions, temptations, and negative emotions.
Do you know what their most successful technique for doing this was?
It was their commitment to pray continually throughout the day, beginning the moment they woke up in the morning and ending the moment they went to bed at night.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta began the first three hours of her day in prayer in the adoration chapel. Saint John Paul II prayed 20 decades of the rosary every day. Saint Teresa’s time in the chapel and Saint John Paul II’s rosary ritual were in addition to all the other prayers they engaged in throughout the day.
While Napoleon Hill gave us a formula on how to think and grow rich, God gave each of us a formula on how to think and grow holy. That formula is to crowd out all our distractions, temptations, and negative emotions by continually praying throughout the day.
By doing that, we are able to replace our random, negative thoughts with thoughts of God and His Kingdom. As an additional bonus, with each prayer that we recite, we receive the additional strength and grace that we need to carry our cross and grow in holiness.
This is the true formula for eternal success.
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.
Whenever I think about how my mom and sister lamented about how serious I had become, I think about a priest with whom I once had the pleasure of working. That priest was Monsignor Gregory Ketcham.
Until I met Msgr. Ketcham, all the priests I had ever dealt with were serious men who always behaved as though they had a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. Like me, they were forced to grow up quickly and learn how to handle the stress and anxiety that come with the responsibilities of adulthood.
But Msgr. Ketcham was different. He never lost his youthful, boyish innocence. He didn’t take life too seriously, and he had the energy and stamina of a high school athlete. Even though he had all the responsibilities associated with being a parish priest, it never seemed as though he was overwhelmed or weighed down by them. The way he handled his responsibilities was almost like a game to him. He had played football in high school and college, and to him, life was like a football game. He approached all his responsibilities and challenges like a star quarterback, with strategic planning, confidence, and optimism.
It didn’t seem as though Msgr. Ketcham was ever worried about making a wrong decision or having to deal with a bad outcome. If something didn’t turn out the way he had hoped, it was OK with him. He simply considered it a worthwhile experience. He then changed his game plan and moved forward.
There’s a certain innocence and enthusiasm about youth that tend to dissipate as a person matures and takes on the struggles and responsibilities of adulthood.
Msgr. Ketcham’s youthful innocence and enthusiasm never dissipated. He had the childlike innocence that Christ told us was necessary before we could enter His Kingdom. Msgr. Ketcham’s innocence and enthusiasm were magnetic. He had a unique ability to draw people — young and old — to him. Our Lord had that same ability when He was on this Earth.
I met Msgr. Ketcham in June 2003, when he became the pastor at St. Philomena Catholic Church. He came to St. Philomena when we needed him the most. During the previous handful of years, our parish had lost 25% of its families to parishes in North Peoria. Morale was low, and we needed a positive leader who could lift up our spirits and create a vision for our future.
At that time, the word on the streets in the Diocese of Peoria was that St. Philomena, which is located in Central Peoria, was going the same route that the inner-city Catholic schools and churches had gone. It was expected that over time, our parish would be drained of its people and resources and would eventually become a shell of what it once was. It seemed as though we were quickly moving toward that destiny.
But then our Lord favored our parish by sending us the one priest who had the spirit, confidence, resilience, energy, enthusiasm, charm, and optimism that were needed to lead us into the future.
After Msgr. Ketcham arrived at St. Philomena, I met with him to discuss the perpetual adoration program. Georgette and I had started a part-time adoration program at St. Philomena in 1991, and we converted it to a perpetual adoration program in October 1994. I set up the meeting with Msgr. Ketcham so I could fill him in on the details of how the program operated.
When we met, Msgr. Ketcham was upbeat, kind, and gracious. I asked him about his family, and he told me that while he was growing up, he had learned a lot from his dad, who had worked as a salesman.
As I got to know Msgr. Ketcham, it became clear to me that he had all the qualities of a great salesman. He had the ability to overcome obstacles in a confident and positive manner. He was a master of handling conflict. When a conflict arose, he didn’t become irritated or angry like most people do. He simply dealt with the situation by patiently listening to what everyone had to say, and then he would masterfully reframe the conversation in a way that would make the conflict irrelevant.
He also seemed to be completely immune to criticism, another trait that all great salespeople have. If someone criticized him, he had the humility and wisdom to understand that the criticism was more about the person who had expressed the criticism than about him. To him, critical statements were simply one more obstacle to be overcome so he could get to his final goal.
While he was with us at St. Philomena for only three years, Msgr. Ketcham was able to boost morale and put us on a path to new growth.
In June 2006, he was named the chaplain and director of St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. He remained there until 2014, when he became the pastor of St. Patrick of Merna in Bloomington and St. Mary in Downs.
In July 2016, Msgr. Ketcham was diagnosed with a large, inoperable brain tumor that was surrounded by a cluster of smaller tumors. His doctors told him that the main tumor had been growing in his brain for up to three years. Over the next seven months, he received radiation, chemotherapy, and other medical treatment. Ultimately, the treatment failed to work.
Over the next several months, he experienced an immense amount of suffering, which included severe headaches. In December 2017, home hospice was brought in to assist with his care. Until then, his three older sisters took turns taking care of him.
On February 8, 2018, our youthful, charming, boyish priest, who lived life the way our Lord wants all of us to live, was welcomed into the Kingdom of God. I think that it’s safe to say that everyone who ever got to know him is a better person today because of his spirit, innocence, youthfulness, influence, enthusiasm, wisdom, humility, and holiness.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him….