Fulton J. Sheen

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.

October 21, 2017

Wildfire Halted by the Prayers of an Old Lady

On October 14, 2017, a headline on a news website caught my attention: “As everything around him burned, one Napa man’s house somehow survived.” The headline — and the article that followed — was published on the SFGATE.com website, a sister-site of the San Francisco Chronicle. Here’s how the article began:

It was 2 a.m. Monday morning. Dr. Kenny Omlin of Napa was in the process of getting his family off their 11-acre estate as flames from the Atlas Fire rapidly approached. He opened his car door and saw his 80-year-old mother sitting in the passenger seat, clutching a rosary and praying.

“When I first saw her, I was like ‘Seriously?’ It’s the middle of the night, there are flames coming, and she’s just sitting there praying,” Omlin told SFGATE. “I didn’t say this out loud, obviously, but I wanted to say: ‘This is no time to pray. We need to get out of here.’”

Omlin was tasked with evacuating six people from his property, including his wife, his mother, his 84-year-old father, his brother who has Down syndrome, and his two children, a 10-day-old and a 20-month-old.

“We were right in harm’s way,” he said. “And it took us two hours to get off the property.”

Omlin and his family drove away as flames started to consume their property on Monticello Road, about a quarter mile from where the Atlas Fire started.

As he left, Omlin was certain that everything would burn.

After they escaped from the fire, the Omlins drove to the small house of their nanny, where they could stay until they figured out where they were going to live.

Two days later, Omlin was able to secure a police escort to return to his home to assess the damage. When he returned, he found that his house and the house where his parents and brother lived were untouched. “The only thing near us that was still standing was a vineyard down the hill beneath us,” Omlin said. “Everything else was torched.”

November 20, 2016

My Grandmother’s Favorite Priest

fultonsheenThere was a famous priest that my grandmother, Effie Williams, loved to talk about. She was personally familiar with him because after he was ordained, he was assigned to her parish — St. Patrick’s Church in Peoria. Whenever she talked about him, her face would light up.

The one thing she talked about most was his eyes. She said that when he looked at you it was as though his eyes could see right through you — straight into your soul.

The priest was Fr. Fulton J. Sheen, later known as Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Grandma Effie told me that when Sheen spoke, everyone listened, even the people who were not Catholics. It was as though there was a magnetic force that surrounded him that attracted people to him.

If there was such a force, it came directly from the extraordinary graces he received as a result of the holy hour of adoration he made every day for more than 60 years in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord — from the time he became a priest in 1919, until the time of his death in 1979.

It was a talk that was given by Archbishop Sheen that I listened to on a cassette tape that ignited the flame that eventually turned into a burning desire within me to start the Saint Philomena Perpetual Adoration Program. I don’t remember the year I first listened to the tape, but it was sometime during the 1980s. The tape was part of an album of tapes that I purchased that were made from recordings of a retreat Archbishop Sheen had given to priests and bishops.

The title of the tape was, The Daily Holy Hour. The audio recording of the tape is posted on the home page of my website at Adoration.com. I would strongly encourage you to listen to it. I cannot do justice to Archbishop Sheen’s message by attempting to describe it to you here. You have to hear it with your own ears.

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

May 23, 2015

I was a god for a day

I Am GodAfter I graduated from Saint Louis University law school in 1982, my wife and I moved back to Peoria. At that time, my wife was pregnant with our second child. Shortly after returning to Peoria, I began teaching CCD classes on Sunday mornings at St. Sharbel Catholic Church to seventh- and eighth-grade students.

That year, as Christmas approached, I was asked to be Santa Claus at a Christmas party that was being planned for the children of the parish. At the party, I sat down on a throne-like chair, and the children lined up to sit on my lap and tell me what they wanted for Christmas.

There was one thing about my experience as Santa Claus that had a lasting impact on me. It was the look in each of the children’s eyes when they approached me. Each one of them looked at me with awe and admiration. It was as though they were looking at God Himself. I had never had anyone look at me the way those children looked at me.

I have to admit that the look in those children’s eyes made me feel special. Wouldn’t we all like to be looked at by others with awe and admiration?

There was a period of time after each of our children was born when they would gaze at my wife with awe and admiration. Although this period of time didn’t last very long, every time it happened my wife told me how good she felt when her newborn child looked at her as though she was the only person in the world.

Whether or not we are willing to admit it, we all have a deep desire to be admired and adored by others. Since the beginning of time, this desire has been used by Satan to tempt us. He has a lot of experience using this particular temptation. The first time he used it was when he tempted Eve to sin against God. He told her that if she did what he said, she would be like a god.

That’s the way I felt at that Christmas party — like a god who was being worshipped by children.

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.

January 18, 2013

The Destructive Triangle – Covetousness, Avarice, and Greed

As you know, two of the Ten Commandments deal with covetousness: “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife,” and “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s goods.”  Covetousness is defined as an inordinately strong desire for possessing someone or something.  In his book Victory Over Vice, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said:

Covetousness is an inordinate love of the things of this world.  It becomes inordinate if one is not guided by a reasonable end, such as a suitable provision for one’s family, or the future, or if one is too solicitous in amassing wealth, or too parsimonious [stingy] in dispensing it.  The sin of covetousness includes, therefore, both the intention one has in acquiring the goods of this world and the manner of acquiring them.  It is not the love of an excessive sum that makes it wrong, but the inordinate love of any sum.

Simply because a man has a great fortune, it does not follow that he is a covetous man.  A child with a few pennies might possibly be more covetous.  Material things are lawful and necessary to enable us to live in accordance with our station in life, to mitigate suffering, to advance the kingdom of God, and to save our souls.

It is the pursuit of wealth as an end, instead of a means to the above ends, that makes a man covetous.

We often hear the words “avarice” and “greed” used interchangeably with covetousness.  Both avarice and greed fall under the umbrella of covetousness.  The Modern Catholic Dictionary defines “avarice” as follows:

An excessive or insatiable desire for money or material things.  In its strict sense, avarice is the inordinate holding on to possessions or riches instead of using these material things for some worthwhile purpose.  Reluctance to let go of what a person owns is also avarice.

Greed occurs when a person’s avarice becomes so extreme that it has become an uncontrollable passion.  The greedy person loves wealth and material possessions to such an extent that he continually seeks to acquire and accumulate more and more for their own sake.  Over time he develops a lust for power that is fueled by his ability to use his wealth to buy influence, get what he wants, and force his will upon others.

June 26, 2010

Just One More

BarbieI was able to bring Georgette home from St. Mary’s hospital last Monday (June 21).  The trip took about 7 ½ hours.  In order to keep her blood from clotting, we had to stop every 90 minutes so she could get out of the car and walk around.  All things considered, she is doing very well.  She’s not allowed to drive for 4 weeks and is forbidden from lifting anything heavier than a gallon of milk for 6 weeks.

Even though my mom went through a heart surgery last November, I was not fully aware of the impact that such a surgery has on a person.  During the surgery, the patient is put on a Heart/Lung machine which takes the place of the patient’s actual heart and lungs while the surgeon is repairing the heart.  Although the patient’s heart is restarted after the surgery, the same cannot be done with the lungs. 

During the surgery, a breathing tube is placed through the patient’s mouth and partially down her throat.  The end of the tube has a balloon-type apparatus that expands so that no outside air can travel through the nose or mouth to the esophagus.  The other end of the tube is hooked up to a ventilator that does the breathing for the patient.  The ventilator is not shut off (and the tube removed) until the patient can breathe on her own (with the help of oxygen that is delivered through another tube that is placed in the patient’s nose).

After the patient gets to the point where she can breathe on her own, she has to work on building up her lung capacity.  This is a long process that requires the patient to use a device to “exercise” the lungs to build up new capacity.  As I’m writing this (9 days after the actual surgery), Georgette still gets short-of-breath if she carries on a regular conversation for more than a few minutes.  She also gets tired and short-of-breath if she walks too much.