Easter

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 15, 2017

A Beaten-up Passenger on United Airlines Flight 3411

The first time I ever heard the word “oligopoly” was when I was a freshman in college. The word came up in my economics class. At that time, I was 18 years old (1975).

An oligopoly is a market structure that is composed of only a handful of companies that together have control over the sale of certain goods or services. In contrast, a “monopoly” exists when one company is the only supplier of goods or services in a certain market. Examples of monopolies that we are familiar with include Ameren, the company that supplies our electricity and natural gas, and Illinois American Water, the company that provides our water.

Because monopolies do not have any competition, they are heavily regulated by the government to keep them from adopting unfair policies or raising prices to unreasonable or confiscatory levels.

Examples of oligopolies can be found in the entertainment industry, pharmaceuticals, cellular phone services, the computer industry, the aluminum and steel industries, the oil and gas industries, the airline industry, cable television services, and cellular phone services.

One oligopoly that controls more than 90% of the news and media outlets in the U.S. is made up of six U.S. corporations: CBS, NBC, Viacom, Time-Warner, Walt Disney, and News Corporation. For computer operating systems, Microsoft and Apple are an oligopoly because they dominate the market with their Windows and Apple computer operating systems. The oligopoly that controls cell phone services is made up of four U.S. corporations: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile.

While members of an oligopoly are competitors, they are acutely aware of the processes, systems, and actions of the other companies; therefore, the decisions and actions of one company influence and are influenced by the decisions and actions of the other companies. The decisions and actions of these companies often restrict and limit the goods and services that are offered to consumers.

April 8, 2017

The Empathy Switch

Whenever I give a closing argument to a jury, I include comments about the importance of empathy. I tell the jurors that while the law does not permit them to have sympathy for my client, it does permit them to have empathy.

A person who has empathy toward another person is able to develop a deeper understanding of what the other person is going through, by mentally putting himself or herself in the place of that person.

We often hear about how important it is to step into the shoes of another person so that we can understand what that person is going through. That’s what empathy is.

Empathy is different from sympathy. The definition of sympathy is “feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.” Feeling sorry for someone is different from understanding what the person is going through by mentally putting yourself in the place of that person.

The opposite of empathy is callousness and cruelty. Can a person who is generally empathetic turn into a person who is callous and cruel? The answer is yes. It happens all the time.

There is the equivalent of a “switch” that is inside each of us that immediately turns off our ability to have empathy for another person. That switch is triggered when we become angry with that person.

During the time that we are angry, we are not able to mentally put ourselves in the place of the person we are angry with. Without the filter of empathy available for us to utilize, our thoughts, words, and actions can become callous and cruel.

Whenever I become angry with someone, I have to mentally remind myself that if I allow myself to remain angry, I will do and say things that can hurt the other person and cause grave harm to our relationship. If I don’t release my anger by practicing the virtues of humility, kindness, and forgiveness, I will not be able to understand where the other person is coming from.

March 26, 2016

Women Who Showed Up The Men

Women in the ChurchWhen Georgette and I got married in June 1980, I told her I wanted our first four children to be boys. The reason was that I wanted to form a barbershop quartet with them. While I was in high school, I organized a barbershop quartet, and while I was in college, I formed another quartet.

Georgette and I had our first and only son 10 months after we were married. Then we had six daughters.

I’ve written before about how I grew up in a family of 17 children — nine boys and eight girls. My experience growing up in a large family and the fact that I had seven children of my own have taught me that it’s much harder to raise girls than boys.

I learned a lot from my daughters while they were growing up. My philosophy about parenting and discipline changed dramatically over the years — so much so that I made a significant change in the way I treated my three youngest daughters compared with the way I treated my three oldest daughters.

While my son was like an energetic puppy who thrived on the adventures of life, my daughters were more like sensitive doves who needed to be treated with love, compassion, and humor. I discovered there was a delicate balance that needed to be maintained between forcing them to do what I felt was best for them and allowing them to choose their own destiny.

There’s an old cynical saying that men sometimes repeat: “Women! You can’t live with them and you can’t live without them.”

The problem we men have when it comes to our inability to peacefully live with a woman is that we don’t like being told what to do. That’s where the “you can’t live with them” comes in. Even Jesus seemed as though He was a little irritated when His mother suggested that He needed to do something about the lack of wine at the wedding in Cana.

There’s also the old saying, “Behind every successful man is a woman.”

March 19, 2016

The Real Story of the Young Messiah

The Young MessiahA new movie, The Young Messiah, was recently released and is currently being shown in theaters. The movie was adapted from the novel, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, which was written by Anne Rice.

The Young Messiah has received mixed reviews and is based on a fictional story about the childhood of Jesus Christ. The movie begins when Jesus is seven years old. He is starting to realize that He has supernatural powers. His parents struggle with when and how they are going to tell Him the truth about who He really is.

The only facts that we know about Jesus during the first 29 years of His life are the events surrounding His birth, His presentation in the temple as an infant, and when His parents lost track of him for three days when He was 12 years old. The life of Jesus as portrayed in The Young Messiah may be a nice story, but it’s completely fictional.

Let’s take a look at the real childhood of our Lord, starting with what St. Luke wrote:

Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was 12 years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great sorrow.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I would be in my father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Luke 2:41-50

April 4, 2015

Flushing Poison Out of Your Heart, Mind and Soul

Forgiveness - PoisonDo you know what the Blessed Mother, the apostles, the disciples, and all the followers of Jesus had in common, other than believing that Jesus was the Son of God? They all forgave everyone who was involved in the torture and murder of their Savior. Think about how difficult that had to be. I know how hard it is for me to forgive certain people for what they have done to me, but I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been to forgive those murderers.

Because I am the type of person who holds grudges, there have been several occasions during my life when it was extremely difficult for me to forgive individuals who betrayed me or treated me unjustly. When I was younger, there were a few occasions where it took several years for me to forgive different people. It no longer takes me years to forgive, but it can still take several weeks or months before I finally give in.

Each time I have had to confront the issue of forgiving someone, I have argued with myself. Some of the arguments that have gone through my mind to try to convince myself that I need to forgive are:

●  You know that you’re going to have to eventually forgive him if you ever want to get into Heaven. That was one rule that was laid down by our Lord. He was very specific when He said that God is only willing to forgive us to the same degree as we have forgiven others.

●  It’s not good for your mental, emotional, and spiritual health to refuse to forgive him. In fact, he probably isn’t thinking about you anyway. While he’s going on with his life, you’re continuing to let what he did negatively affect you.

●  Your anger and resentment toward him are robbing you of your inner peace. It eats away at your spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being.

Some arguments that I’ve used to convince myself that I’m not ready to forgive a person are:

April 19, 2014

A Reason To Smile

SmileAbout five years ago, I was attending a weekday Mass at a local church.  Halfway through the Mass, two women in their sixties snuck in the side door of the church and ran over to the nearest pew.  Both women were wearing gray sweatshirts.  The way they scurried over to the pew reminded me of the animated mice you would see in a Disney movie — because the women were short, pudgy, cute, and grinning from ear to ear.

As they were running toward the pew, the women intentionally stooped down so it would be difficult for the priest to see them.  They timed their sprint into the church to coincide with the moment the priest turned away from the pulpit and walked toward the chair on the other side of the altar.  When the women ran inside, the priest’s back was to them and he did not see them.

I was familiar with the church and the priest, and it was a well-known fact among the people who attended daily Mass that the priest would become visibly irritated every time someone entered the church after Mass started.

The women’s cleverly timed sprint into the church worked perfectly.  In addition to sneaking in without the priest seeing them, they provided some entertainment for the people who were already in the church.

I personally knew one of the two women and although I had seen the other woman on several previous occasions, I didn’t know her name.  The name of the woman I knew was Sharon “Guppy” Litchfield.

I initially met Guppy outside the St. Philomena Adoration Chapel about 15 years ago.  The day I met her she had a big smile on her face.  The day she snuck into the church she had a big smile on her face.  Come to think of it, it seems as though every time I saw her she had a big smile on her face.

I can guarantee you that if the priest had seen her scurry into the church and had reprimanded her, she would have still smiled.  Although she avoided conflict, whenever she was confronted, she would simply smile and accept whatever happened as God’s will for her.

April 11, 2013

The Role of Women in the World

Last week, at a general audience, Pope Francis touched on the role of women in the Catholic church.  He started out by discussing the importance of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and then, in a bold expression of the importance of women in the church and in society, stated:

Today, however, I would like to dwell … on testimony in the form of the accounts that we find in the Gospels.  First, we note that the first witnesses to this event were the women.  At dawn, they go to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, and find the first sign: the empty tomb. (Mark 16:1)

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In the professions of faith of the New Testament, only men are remembered as witnesses of the Resurrection, the Apostles, but not the women.  This is because, according to the Jewish Law of the time, women and children were not considered reliable, credible witnesses.  In the Gospels, however, women have a primary, fundamental role. 

Here we can see an argument in favor of the historicity of the Resurrection: if it were invented in the context of that time, it would not have been linked to the testimony of women.  Instead, the evangelists simply narrate what happened: the women were the first witnesses.   This tells us that God does not choose according to human criteria: the first witnesses of the birth of Jesus are the shepherds, simple and humble people, the first witnesses of the Resurrection are women.  This is beautiful, and this is the mission of women, of mothers and women, to give witness to their children and grandchildren that Christ is Risen!  Mothers go forward with this witness!  

What matters to God is our heart, if we are open to Him, if we are like trusting children.  But this also leads us to reflect on how in the Church and in the journey of faith, women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord, in following him and communicating His face, because the eyes of faith always need the simple and profound look of love.  The Apostles and disciples find it harder to believe in the Risen Christ, not the women however!  Peter runs to the tomb, but stops before the empty tomb; Thomas has to touch the wounds of the body of Jesus with his hands.  [Emphasis added.]

March 30, 2013

Does The New Pope Have What It Takes?

Popes - Last Three.

You may have seen the recent report describing how Pope Francis made a telephone call to a kiosk in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to cancel his daily newspaper delivery service.  The call was made a week after the former cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was elected as our new pope.  The person who answered the telephone, Daniel Del Regno, is the son of the owner of the kiosk.  When he answered the phone, Del Regno heard a familiar voice say, “Hi Daniel, it’s Cardinal Jorge.”

Del Regno immediately assumed it was a friend of his who was imitating the former archbishop of Buenos Aires.  The newly elected pope reassured him by saying, “Seriously, it’s Jorge Bergoglio.  I’m calling you from Rome.”

Pope Francis proceeded to thank Del Regno for delivering the paper and extended best wishes to his family.  In an interview, Del Regno said that when Cardinal Bergoglio left for Rome, Del Regno asked him if he thought he would be elected pope.  The cardinal responded, “That’s too hot to touch.  See you in 20 days.  Keep delivering the paper.”

Prior to ending the call, Del Regno asked the pope if he would ever return to Buenos Aires.  Pope Francis told him that for the time being it would be difficult to return home but that he would remember the people of Buenos Aires in his prayers.  The pope then asked Del Regno to pray for him.

During an interview, Del Regno’s father, Luis Del Regno, said that they were paid to deliver the morning newspaper to the former cardinal’s residence every day but that every Sunday the cardinal “would come by the kiosk at 5:30 a.m. and buy the La Nacion [newspaper].  He would chat with us for a few minutes and then take the bus to Lugano, where he would serve mate [tea] to young people and the sick.”

The newspapers delivered to Cardinal Bergoglio were always folded and secured with a rubber band.  The elder Del Regno said that at the end of every month, the cardinal always returned the 30 rubber bands he had saved from the previous month’s newspapers.

March 23, 2013

Modern-Day Goliath Crushes David

David-GoliathLast month, a “David vs. Goliath” case was argued before the Supreme Court of the United States.  The “David” in the case is Vernon Hugh Bowman, a 75-year-old farmer from Indiana.  The “Goliath” is the mighty Monsanto Company.

Monsanto is an American multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation that has its headquarters in Creve Coeur, Missouri.  At one time, it was one of the top chemical companies in the United States.  You may have heard of some of the controversial chemical compounds used in products it manufactured: Agent Orange, PCBs, and the insecticide DDT.  Monsanto sold off its chemical operations in the late 1990s so it could focus on agricultural biotechnology.

One of Monsanto’s most popular products is its genetically modified seeds, which are known as Roundup Ready seeds.  These seeds were specifically designed by Monsanto to survive applications of “Roundup,” the company’s number one-selling weed killer.  The use of Roundup Ready seeds enables farmers to kill weeds with Roundup without harming the crops.

Roundup Ready seeds have become so popular that they now account for approximately 90 percent of the soybeans and 70 percent of the corn and cotton grown in the United States.

In order to purchase and use Roundup Ready seeds, farmers are required to sign a contract that prohibits them from saving and replanting seeds from the resulting crop.  Since the offspring of the Roundup Ready seeds contain the same genetically engineered trait as the original seeds, farmers are not allowed to save and replant the second-generation seeds.  If farmers wish to benefit from the genetically modified seeds, they are required to buy new seeds from Monsanto for each new planting season.

Since the invention of Roundup Ready seeds, Monsanto has sued farmers on 146 different occasions for violating the terms of the contracts they signed.  The cases have involved farmers in 27 states.  Of the 146 cases, Monsanto has settled 135 in its favor and won the 11 cases that went to trial.

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