Devout Catholics

May 18, 2019

A Ghostwriter For Online Dating

Her name is Meredith Golden. She’s 43 years old and lives in New York with her husband and two sons. She has a master’s degree in social work from New York University. According to a recent article in The New York Times, Golden is a professional dating app ghostwriter. The article provided the following summary of what services Golden offers to her clients:

March 30, 2019

Religious Extremists and the Vietnam War

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.

March 16, 2019

When a Promise Really Isn’t a Promise

Last week, while I was at a local doctor’s office, one of the women who worked there surprised me by asking, “Are you the same Harry Williams who taught business law at Illinois Central College during the 1980s?” I looked at the woman and did not recognize her. I then answered, “Yes, were you in my class?” She replied, “Yes, and I really enjoyed that class.” We then had a short conversation about what she liked about the class.

As I walked out of the doctor’s office, my mind flashed back to the mid-1980s, when I taught Business Law at ICC. I spent a lot of time preparing for that class, but it was worth it. The young, fresh-faced students were captivated by the stories I told about my experience as a lawyer. To make the class more interesting, I intentionally wove stories throughout the material I presented to them. This made an otherwise boring class into an adventure into the inner workings of our justice system.

One of the things that I taught my students was the four basic elements that are required before a contract can be legally binding between two parties. The four elements are:

1. Offer – a promise to act or refrain from acting.

January 5, 2019

Is God a Procrastinator?

During the work week, every morning I drive from my home in Washington, Illinois, to my office in downtown Peoria. To get to my office, I have to use one of the three bridges that are available to cross the Illinois River.

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?

December 29, 2018

What Can You Do With A 43-Year-Old Tool Box?

Do you remember what you received for your 18th birthday? It’s been 43 years since I turned 18 (1975), but I still remember what I received from my parents. It was a 21-inch, gray metal Craftsman toolbox. Prior to my birthday, my mom had asked me what I wanted, and I wrote down the type of toolbox that could be purchased from Sears.

At that time, the Craftsman brand was owned by Sears, and Craftsman tools and accessories we’re known worldwide for their quality and lifetime guarantee. During the summer following my 18th birthday, I worked for my dad’s construction company. Most of what I earned went into my savings account to pay for college, but I did set aside a percentage of every paycheck for tool purchases. The only tools that I purchased were Craftsman tools. During that summer, I got into the habit of going to Sears every few weeks to roam around the tool department and purchase at least one tool that I needed.

I followed the same routine during each of the summers that I was in college and law school. During those summers, in addition to working for my dad’s company, I also did home repair and remodeling projects for homeowners. Each time that I was paid for a project, I went to Sears and purchased whatever additional tools that I needed at the time. I acquired so many hand tools that I eventually purchased a second Craftsman toolbox. Both of my toolboxes are still in good shape and are currently sitting on a shelf in my garage, filled with many of the tools that I acquired during the years that I was in college and law school.

Last year, because Sears was in desperate need of cash, it sold its iconic Craftsman brand to Stanley Black and Decker for $900 million. In October of this year, Lowes and Stanley Black and Decker announced that Craftsmen tools were going to be available for sale at Lowe’s, a direct competitor of Sears. Within days of the announcement, Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. At that time, Sears announced that it was closing 142 unprofitable stores. A month later, it announced the closure of 40 more stores. Last week, it announced plans to close 80 additional stores, bringing the total number of closures to more than 260 (which is more than a third of its 700 stores).

It’s only a matter of time before Sears finally crashes and burns, which will leave the 125-year-old company and its more than 68,000 employees in the trash bin of history.

Earlier this month, it was reported that the Boy Scouts of America was considering filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The purpose of the bankruptcy would be to put a halt to the numerous lawsuits that are pending against the organization for the allegedly inappropriate behavior of several of its employees. In addition, there has been a massive exodus from the ranks of the boy scouts over the past few years, because of changes that have been made to allow for the acceptance of girls and openly gay individuals into the organization. The Boy Scouts of America was founded 108 years ago.

What is happening to Sears and the Boy Scouts proves that nothing is permanent in this world. There will be a day when Wal-Mart dies and goes out of business. There will also be a day when Amazon.com dies and goes out of business. The same will eventually occur for General Motors, AT&T, Google, and Apple.

While there are currently several billionaires who are funding medical research that is expected to allow humans to live forever, there will never be a day when that happens. Original sin put an end to men and women living forever on Earth. While we will continue to hear predictions of future immortality, it will never happen.

As a result of original sin, we were all born to die. And just as every human faces certain death, every plant, animal, organism, institution, business, and government face certain death … except for one organization — the Catholic Church, which has already been in existence for more than 2,000 years.

Nothing on this earth is permanent, except for the Catholic Church. When we die and our souls enter into eternity, everything will then be permanent for us. If we’re fortunate enough to make it into Heaven, we will enjoy a permanent and perfect relationship with our Lord, our Lady, and all the other saints in Heaven. (The horror of Hell is that those who end up there will experience a permanent and painful eternal relationship with Lucifer, his agents, and the other unfortunate souls who will forever suffer from the same fate.)

Why is the Catholic Church a permanent institution? Because it was founded by our Savior with the promise that it would never die. The permanency of the Catholic Church will endure until the end of time, at which time it will be merged with the Heavenly Kingdom.

In a spiritual sense, the Catholic Church is perfect because its heart is the Holy Spirit. While there will inevitably come a time when every human heart stops beating, the Divine Heart of the Church will never stop beating. The Catholic Church is the only conduit by which souls reach Heaven, regardless of whether some of those souls were never aware that the Catholic Church is the one true Church.

Unfortunately, because the Catholic Church is managed by imperfect humans, there will always be scandals that flare up and disrupt the faithful operation of the Church. But those scandals will never deliver a death blow to the Catholic Church. We have that guarantee from our Lord.

As you and I conclude the Christmas season and begin a new year, we need to carefully consider what rituals and activities we engage in each day to enhance our permanent relationship with God. Then we need to work at increasing those daily rituals and activities. For most of us, if we were to write down everything we do each day, we would come to realize that most of our activities are geared toward our temporary existence on Earth, rather than our permanent relationship with God.

Now is the time to change all that.

December 22, 2018

Can We Stop Sending Christmas Newsletters?

For the past several years, Georgette and I have done what a lot of families do during the Christmas season — mail a Christmas newsletter and a picture of our family to our relatives and friends. When we started mailing the newsletter, it was less than a page long, but over the years, as our family grew with marriages and grandchildren, the newsletter eventually expanded to four pages of text (two pages, front and back).

A few years ago, Georgette and I decided that we were going to discontinue the newsletter. While we had received compliments over the years from various individuals, we felt that four pages were excessive and that it was unreasonable to expect people with busy lives to sit down and read a four-page newsletter about our family.

We announced to our children that we were going to discontinue the Christmas newsletter. Our youngest daughter Teresa refused to accept our decision and told us that if we weren’t going to write the newsletter, she was going to do it on her own. She then proceeded to do exactly what she threatened she would do. She wrote a four-page newsletter. We didn’t want to offend her, especially after she had taken the time to write it, so we mailed the newsletter with our family picture.

Every year since then, Georgette and I have told Teresa that a newsletter was not necessary, but she has consistently insisted that she be allowed to carry on the tradition. This year, I actually thought that Teresa would finally relent and give up on her quest to continue writing the newsletter. Why? Because at the ripe young age of 22, she works the equivalent of two full-time jobs. Her first job is with a local company as a web designer, photographer, and graphic designer. Her second “job” is her own wedding photography business (photographsbyteresa.com).

I was wrong about Teresa being too busy to write the newsletter. As usual, she refused to take no for an answer and wrote the newsletter. Here’s how she began the newsletter:

I received a text message last week. It was from my dad. This is what his message said:

December 15, 2018

A Valuable Cheat Sheet For Growth & Perfection

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of willingly choosing to accept less freedom in order to become something greater than what we already are. When we choose to consistently give up certain freedoms, we become much more responsible, and we are eventually able to achieve more than we would have ever thought was possible. This is a critical concept that must be understood and practiced by those of us who are serious about becoming what God intended us to be.

I believe that one of the biggest shocks we’re going to experience immediately after our deaths will be when God reveals to us what we could have achieved if we had followed His plan for us. The disparity between what we actually achieved on Earth and what He planned for us will be so enormous that we will be completely flabbergasted. What will be most obvious to us is how selfish we were and how most of our thoughts and actions were focused on what we could do for ourselves rather than what we could do for God and our neighbor.

In order to close the gap between who we actually are and what God intended for us to be, we must focus daily on managing and eliminating our pride and our primary fault. We must freely choose to actively resist the tendencies and temptations that favor our pride and our primary fault. At the same time, we must also choose to practice the actions and virtues that are contrary to our sinful tendencies and faults. By doing this, we will be imitating our Savior in a minor but important way.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, while our Lord was praying and anguishing over the suffering and death he was about to endure, He could have easily chosen to flee and never return to Jerusalem or any of the cities surrounding Jerusalem. He had a free will just like you and me. He had the freedom to choose to disappear into the wilderness, or to accept and embrace the suffering and death that His Almighty Father had planned for Him. By freely choosing to follow His Father’s plan, He opened the gates of Heaven for all of us.

Unfortunately, most people don’t think about what God’s plan is for them. They don’t think about or realize that before they can successfully follow God’s plan, they must first diligently work on eliminating their faults. They behave as though they will never have to answer to God for their behavior. Yet they wonder why their lives are so empty. And they blame others for their inability to improve themselves.

If you have read about some of the lives of the saints, you know that they had a daily regimen in which they prayed and assessed where they were in life and where they thought God wanted them to be. They knew the importance of self-management. They also knew that if they were to live up to God’s expectations, they had to develop certain habits and rituals that forced them to regularly review and manage themselves. They weren’t perfect at this, but they were at least 10 times better at it than most people are at managing their lives.

One of the techniques Saint Ignatius of Loyola taught to his students was for them to set aside time each day — early in the morning and again at around noon — to determine how well they had done since the last time they had reflected on how they were spending their time. They were taught to reflect on: (1) how well they had done in managing and overcoming their faults, (2) how well they had done in following God’s plan and the plan they had prepared for themselves, and (3) what God’s plan for them was for the next half day.

In reviewing how well they had done in overcoming their faults, Saint Ignatius’s students were instructed to review what each of them had done to manage and correct their pride and their primary fault. Had they freely chosen to give up the traits that were associated with their faults? Had they freely chosen to practice the virtues that were contrary to their faults?

I want to suggest to you that you immediately incorporate Saint Ignatius’s exercise into your daily regimen. I’m going to provide you with a cheat sheet that you can use to review — in the morning and at around noon of each day — to determine what sinful tendencies you engaged in, and what virtues and virtuous actions you engaged in. Here’s the cheat sheet:

Pride – Defiance, intolerance, vanity, boastfulness, disdainfulness, revengefulness, impatience, unforgiveness, self-centeredness, stubbornness, unbridled ambition, self-aggrandizement, dishonesty, hypersensitivity, conceitedness, haughtiness, touchiness, and blindness to advice.

December 8, 2018

Living in a World Where Vice is Glorified

Last week I wrote about the first step that a person needs to take to begin the process of overcoming his or her limitations, faults, and fears. That first step is to work daily at overcoming pride. None of us can completely eliminate pride. It will always be with us. But if we focus daily on replacing our pride with humility, we will eventually be able to minimize the impact that pride has our thinking, behavior, and reaction to others.

The biggest obstacle to minimizing our pride is the satisfaction and pleasure we receive when we engage in prideful thoughts and behavior. We enjoy the feeling of being superior to others. We get great satisfaction from being defiant, intolerant, and impatient with others. We like the feelings and emotions that are associated with the belief that we are smarter than everyone else. We take pleasure in getting revenge against people who have slighted or betrayed us.

None of these attributes were present in the holy family. The Son of God was conceived inside the womb of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit and was completely free from all sin. The Blessed Mother was conceived without sin inside the womb of her mother, Anne. (This is referred to as the Immaculate Conception). And according to Catholic tradition, Joseph, the spouse of Mary and the foster father of Jesus, was born with original sin, but after his birth, his soul was cleansed and the stain of all sin was removed by Almighty God.

Even though Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were truly superior to all others, they behaved as though they were less deserving than everyone they came into contact with. They humbly relinquished the freedom they had to be self-righteous and to feel superior to others. They also voluntarily gave up their freedom to be defiant, intolerant, vain, boastful, impatient, unforgiving, dishonest, hypersensitive, conceited, stubborn, revengeful, and blind to advice.

The holy family had every right to be self-righteous, unforgiving, and revengeful, yet they consciously utilized their free will to reject any temptation that may have come their way to engage in one or more of those vices.

Pride is only the first of two steps that we have to take on a daily basis to deal with our limitations, faults, and fears. The second step is to work at overcoming our primary fault. Because of original sin, we were all born with seven root passions: pride, lust, anger, covetousness, envy, gluttony, and sloth. These are referred to as the Seven Capital Sins, and are also known as the Seven Capital Tendencies or the Seven Capital Passions.

Humanity’s first parents, Adam and Eve, had complete control over their root passions. Unfortunately, as a result of their original sin, they lost the ability to exercise complete control over their passions. Ever since then, original sin has automatically been communicated to and imposed upon all newly created souls. Every one of us — except for Jesus and Mary — inherited original sin from our first parents. Baptism removes original sin and restores sanctifying grace — the friendship of God — within a person’s soul; however, baptism does not remove the stain of original sin or our tendency to succumb to the root passions.

Our worst faults are often completely hidden from us. While the people who know us best can usually see our faults, most of the time we fail to see our own faults because our pride has completely blinded us to them. And, of course, the people who know and love us have given up on trying to tell us what our faults are, because they know we’ll react with anger and outrage if they are pointed out.

Because of our fallen human nature, combined with the individual unique traits we were born with, the environment we grew up in, and our life experiences as children and young adults, each of us developed a primary fault which caused us to become attached to and adept at one of the six remaining root passions — anger, lust, envy, gluttony, covetousness, or sloth. Here are the attributes that are associated with each of these six root passions:

Anger – Annoyance, indignation, rage, wrath, aversion, explosive, vindictive, impatience, revenge, cruelty, vengeance, not at peace, and/or fierce silence.

November 3, 2018

A Garment That Protects You From Evil

Last week, in my article titled Secrets of a Dying Man, I asked you to imagine finding a seriously wounded man on the side of the road. I then wrote,

While you are waiting for help to arrive, the man tells you that his name is Tony, and that he was raised as a Catholic. You quickly take off the Brown Scapular that you always wear around your neck and place it around his neck, fearing that he is going to die before he gets to the hospital. You tell him that you are going to pray an act of contrition with him. You then slowly recite the prayer out loud, so he can follow along with you.

Contact