Fr. John Hardon

February 24, 2018

I’ll Believe It When I See It

Last week, I wrote about one of the challenges that I have as a lawyer, which is the failure of many of my clients to understand the nature and extent of the work I do for them. Much of what I do as an attorney is hidden from my clients.

When I represent a client on a personal injury case, if I’m able to get the case settled without having to file a lawsuit, it customarily takes from 18 to 22 months to conclude the case. If it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit, it can take up to five years from the date of the injury to get the case resolved.

During the time that I work on a client’s case, there is not much that I do that my client can see, touch, hear, smell, or taste. At the end of the case when I collect my fee, which can at times be substantial, I want my clients to understand the breadth and scope of the work that I performed for them. So what is it that I can do to help them understand the extent of the work that I do on their behalf?

From the beginning of time, man has been a visual creature. The serpent seduced Eve to bite into the apple in part because it was so visibly appealing. I suppose you could call the serpent the first advertising and marketing expert that ever existed. He crafted a compelling and irresistible message that enticed Eve to defy God.

After he described the apple as being beautiful, delicious, and life changing, he appealed to her pride by saying, “All you have to do is bite into it to be like God.” There is no doubt that the tree and its apples were beautiful and inviting to the eye. But it was her ability to actually see in her imagination the future that the serpent painted for her — a future that promised that she and Adam would have the same powers as their God — that convinced her to act.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” That’s what Saint Thomas said after our Lord’s apostles reported to him that Jesus had risen from the dead. Our Lord later reprimanded him for his lack of faith and said, “Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed.” John 20:29

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.

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.

September 12, 2015

Creating the Motivation to Make Things Happen

Make Things HappenI recently heard about a conversation that took place between some members of my extended family. The question they were apparently attempting to answer was, Why does Harry take the time to write a religious article every week? They came to the conclusion that I probably have some deep-seated guilt about my past that compels me to write. Writing a weekly article is apparently the only way I can atone for my guilt.

When I heard about the discussion, I was amused that people who really don’t know me as well as they think they do would waste their time attempting to figure me out. I’m 58 years old and I’m still trying to figure myself out.

I’ve written before about the annual Catholic men’s retreats that I attended during the 1990s. The retreat master was Fr. John Hardin. Every year, Fr. Hardin made it clear to the men who were in attendance that we had an obligation to spread the Catholic faith through the written word. He emphasized that writing was not an option. It was an obligation.

I suppose the question of why I take time out of my busy schedule every week to write is a worthwhile question to ask. That question would be relevant in any situation in which someone showed that he or she had the ambition and drive to accomplish something that most other people were unwilling or unable to accomplish.

Consider the following questions:

•  What motivated my parents to adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church and have 17 children, while most of their friends and relatives decided to take the easy route of defying church law by using contraceptive birth control to limit the size of their families?

•  What motivated your parish priest to forego marriage and a family of his own so he could dedicate his life to God through the Sacrament of Holy Orders?

•  What motivated Donald Trump to become a billionaire?

May 16, 2015

How We See Ourselves

SuperiorLast week, I listened to an audio recording of a presentation that was given by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen in the 1950s. During his presentation, Sheen talked about an experience he had while he was a Monsignor in New York. He recounted the following story:

One morning after Mass, while I was in back of the main altar in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, a gentleman approached me and said, “Father I commute every morning into New York City from Westchester. I go to communion every morning. Naturally I come in fasting. This morning my conscience is a bit troubled. There is someone on the radio whom I positively cannot stand. He drives me crazy. His name is Monsignor Sheen. This morning on the train I was talking to a few gentlemen and I spoke very severely and critically about him. Now, if you think that what I did is serious, would you please hear my confession? Otherwise, we’ll just skip it.”

I replied, “No, there’s nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact, I share your opinion and there are moments when I condemn him a thousand times more than you do.” I then commended the man for his piety of coming in every morning for communion. We talked for about 10 minutes and as he left, he patted me on the shoulder and said, “My, it sure is wonderful to meet a nice priest like you.” I did not tell him who I was. Maybe he’s since discovered it, but in any case we always have to be ready for some kind of humiliation.

Sheen went on to discuss the importance of humility. Here’s what he said:

You never hear anything about humility any more. People think humility means a submissiveness, a passiveness, a willingness to be walked on, or a desire to constantly live in the doghouse. No, that’s not the meaning of humility. Humility is a virtue by which we recognize ourselves as we really are. Not as we would like to be in the eyes of the public, not as our press releases say we are, but as we are when we examine our conscience.

April 18, 2015

Guidelines For A Disgraced Congressman

Ben Franklin - 13 Virtues to Moral PerfectionIf you pay attention to the news, you know about the recent resignation of our local U.S. Congressman, Aaron Schock. Schock is currently under investigation for violating federal law while he was in office. Some of the violations include using campaign funds for his own personal benefit, overcharging the government for mileage expenses, and flying around in private jets that were owned by individuals or companies who donated money to his campaign.

Last week a lawsuit was filed against Schock in federal court by a man who had previously donated $500 to his campaign. The lawyer who filed the lawsuit is going to ask the judge in the case to certify the case as a class action lawsuit. Lawyers like class action lawsuits because they can potentially earn millions of dollars in fees for representing an entire class of individuals, which in this case would be all the people who donated money to Schock’s campaigns.

The filing of the lawsuit was just one more nail in the coffin in which the dead career of Aaron Schock resides.

Up until a few months ago, Schock could do no wrong. He won his first election at the age of 19 when he ran for the local school board. At the age of 23, he was elected to serve as a State Representative in the Illinois House of Representatives. Then he ran for U.S. Congress and won.

During the past 30 days, one news story after another pointed out various illegal acts that were committed by Schock. Now his reputation is in ruins and he is facing an uncertain future that will most likely include time in prison.

What happened to the ambitious, smart, innocent, good-looking young man who could do no wrong?

Like many of our politicians — especially those at the national level — he lacked virtue.

The dictionary defines “virtue” as “moral excellence; goodness; righteousness” and “conformity of one’s life and conduct to moral and ethical principles.

March 14, 2015

A Banker Responds to My Novena

BankDuring the first three years of my law practice (1983 to 1986), I rented an office from some other attorneys. In addition to the use of an office, I was allowed to use the other attorneys’ receptionist to answer a separate telephone line that I had set up in the reception area. My agreement also included an arrangement in which I was able to use one of the secretaries to prepare legal documents. She kept track of the time she spent doing my work, and I paid an agreed-upon hourly rate to the attorneys for her services.

I moved out of the attorneys’ office and rented my own small office suite in the fall of 1986. At that time, I hired my own part-time secretary. About a year later, my part-time secretary started working for me on a full-time basis.

Because I was responsible for paying for my own office, a full-time secretary, and other office-related expenses, I quickly fell behind on my bills. After struggling financially for several months, I began a 30-day novena to St. Joseph. During the novena, I asked St. Joseph to increase my business so I could get caught up on my bills.

Shortly after I finished the novena, I received a telephone call from a local banker whom I had previously assisted with some legal work. The work I had done for him involved collecting money from bank customers who were behind in their credit card payments.

When I got on the phone with the banker, he told me that he had recently been hired by another bank and was in charge of refinancing previous home loans and loaning money to first-time home buyers.

The banker asked if I had ever considered performing title searches and issuing title insurance policies through Attorneys’ Title Guaranty Fund. I told him that I was familiar with Attorneys’ Title, but had never given any serious thought to getting involved with that type of work.

January 31, 2015

A Letter to a Coach and Mentor

No Pain No GainLast November, I received a letter from the wife (“Carla”) of one of my longtime business coaches and mentors. In the letter, Carla said her husband (“Dan”) was going to be celebrating his 60th birthday in December. She said that, as a gift, she wanted to give him letters from his friends and colleagues. She asked if I would be willing to write a letter to her husband that told him how I had benefited from my relationship with him.

Carla’s letter forced me to think through the handful of men who have had the most influence on my life. I came up with seven men, four of whom influenced me prior to my 18th birthday. The remaining three came along later in life.

Of course, Dan made the list. In my letter, I outlined the admirable traits that each of the first six men on my list possessed. I asked Dan to make sure to read about the other men before reading what I had to say about him, because what I had to say about the other men provided a foundation for what I had to say about him. Here’s what I wrote about the men who had the greatest impact on my life:

1. Carl Williams: My dad and the father of 17 children (nine boys and eight girls).       I was his fifth child. Dad’s 85 years old now and is still in good health. The most significant quality that my dad passed on to me was his love for and his loyalty to my mother, Kathryn Williams.

After more than 62 years of marriage, my dad is still in love with and fiercely loyal to my mom. To this day, he still insists that his children show her the love and respect she deserves, and comes to her defense anytime he believes she is not being treated appropriately by any of her children.

2. Tom Williams: My grandfather, who lived in the house next to my parents’ house. His grandchildren called him “Jidu,” the Lebanese name for grandfather. Jidu spent his adolescent and teenage years in Lebanon and was required to actually fight in a war while he was a teenager.

December 6, 2014

Writing and the Spiritual Life

WritingI recently stumbled across an old article that Fr. John Hardon had given to me more than 20 years ago. The title of the article was “Writing and the Spiritual Life.” He gave the article to me after telling me that I had an obligation to influence other Catholics through the written word. After rereading the article, I decided to republish it here so you could also benefit from Fr. Hardon’s wisdom.

 

WRITING AND THE SPIRITUAL LIFE

Few people realize the value of writing. It was St. Augustine who confessed, as he said that he was “one of those who write because they have made some progress and who, by means of writing, make further progress” in the spiritual life (Letter 143).

The proverbs of all nations praise the value of writing:

• “Nature’s chief masterpiece is writing well”

• “Look into your heart and write”

Except for the inspiration to write, we should not have the Sacred Scriptures. What is the Bible except the inspired word of God in written form?

My purpose here is to look briefly at some of the reasons why writing is such an asset of the spiritual life. To be convinced of the worth of writing, daily – if only a few words – is to have made a giant stride on the road to sanctity.

Discipline for the Mind. Left to themselves, our thoughts tend to roam about. Our minds are not naturally under control. They tend to run in all directions at once and are not spontaneously under our command.

That is why writing is so important. It provides a pathway for the mind. It gives direction to our thinking. It helps us to master our faculty of thought.

Intellectual Humility. Cardinal Newman explained why more people do not write. The reason, he said, is that writing demands humility.

When I read what I have written, I must look at myself as I really am. I must see the vagueness of my thinking, the inconsistency of my logic, the triviality of my life and the experience is humiliating.

July 19, 2014

Modern-Day Advice from a 13th-Century Saint

Thomas AquinasLast week, I wrote about how an adorer (“Tony”) had criticized me because of an article that I had written about Amazon.com and its founder, Jeff Bezos.  Tony provided several reasons why I (and other Catholics) should refuse to do business with Amazon, one of which is that “Amazon distributes pornography.”  Here’s how I responded to the comment about the pornography issue:

I’m not sure what Tony is referring to when he says that Amazon “distributes pornography.”  My assumption is that he may be referring to some of the books and DVDs that are offered for sale on Amazon, or he may be referring to a service that Amazon offers that allows businesses to rent space on Amazon’s servers (computer hardware) to store videos that are delivered through the businesses’ websites.

I’ll be commenting more on this next week, but I noticed that Tony’s email address is hosted by Comcast, a company that acts as a conduit for millions of users who, because of Comcast, are able to access pornography over the Internet.  Without Comcast and other similar service providers, no one would be able to order products or access photographs or video content over the Internet.

I could easily argue that having an account with Comcast is a more egregious offense than ordering products from Amazon, since the monthly subscription payments that are made to Comcast help to fund the transfer of pornography to end users.

The relevant question that needs to be answered is: What are the standards that Catholics should be following when dealing with companies who in some way support pornography, contraception, gay marriage, abortion, or any other modern-day evil?  I’ll answer this question next week.

In his literary work, Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) outlined an ethical formula that an individual is allowed to use to determine whether a certain action is permissible, even though there may be unintended consequences that are morally evil.  The formula that Aquinas spelled out is commonly referred to as the “principle of double effect.”

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.

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