Immaculate Heart of Mary

February 22, 2020

Ready or Not, Here It Comes!

Last week, I wrote about how we spend a good part of our lives in sorrow because of suffering that is, in most cases, unavoidable. I provided a short but specific definition of the word “suffer,” which is, to undergo or feel pain or distress.” I then provided the definition of “sorrow,” which is “a feeling of deep distress caused by loss, disappointment, or other misfortune suffered by oneself or others.”

February 1, 2020

A Question of Why

When I was a teenager, my mom told me that I didn’t talk for the first two years of my life. When I asked her why she thinks I waited so long before I started talking, she said that she thought it was because I was able to get what I wanted without talking.

August 24, 2019

Off We Go Into The Wild Blue Yonder

During the years that my children were growing up — the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s — my wife, Georgette, made sure that they were exposed to as much music as possible. When she was pregnant with each of them, she would pray, read, and sing out loud, so they would develop a love for God, reading, and music. After they were born, she did the same thing while she nursed each of them.

June 29, 2019

Bishop Sheen and the Woman He Loved

During the 1980s, I purchased several sets of cassette tapes of talks that had been given by the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. At the time, I had a small battery-operated cassette tape player that I used to listen to tapes while I was shaving and getting ready for work, while I was driving, and while I was getting ready for bed.

May 18, 2019

A Ghostwriter For Online Dating

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

May 11, 2019

Barbie Dolls vs Baby Dolls

After I published last week’s article about the 60th anniversary of the Barbie doll, my mom called me on my cell phone. I wasn’t available when she called, so she left a message. In the message, she said that she had read my article and that in addition to her concern about her daughters’ self-images being affected by the Barbie doll, she was also concerned that with the introduction of a teenage, sexualized version of a doll, there would never be a return to the days when young girls were encouraged to play with baby dolls.

March 30, 2019

Religious Extremists and the Vietnam War

I ordinarily attend daily Mass at Sacred Heart Church in downtown Peoria. Last Monday (March 25), I saw my parents at noon Mass and talked to them after the Mass. My mom told me that it was the 58th anniversary of her consecration to the Mother of God. I knew that she had made her consecration years ago, but I was not aware of the actual date.

March 23, 2019

The “Little Lady” With A Big Heart

I opened my law office in January 1983, two months after I received my license to practice law from the State of Illinois. I started out by renting an office from an established attorney who agreed to allow me to set up my own phone line in his office for his receptionist to answer.

He also allowed me to use his secretary to prepare legal documents in exchange for an agreed-upon hourly rate for her services. It was a great deal for me because I did not have to endure the financial burden of paying a full-time staff person and other office-related expenses.

I rented from that first lawyer until the fall of 1984. That’s when his lease expired, and he and his family moved to Colorado. I then rented an office from a group of four lawyers who had recently formed a partnership.

My agreement with the lawyers was the same as the first lawyer. I paid a flat monthly rent in exchange for an office and telephone answering, and I paid an hourly rate for the use of one of their secretaries. That relationship ended in the fall of 1986, after the four lawyers decided that they didn’t like each other anymore and terminated their partnership.

At that point in my career, I felt as though I had enough legal work and cash flow to sign a lease and rent my own office space. I ended up working out a deal with a landlord who had recently renovated an old building in downtown Peoria. The man that I rented from — I’ll call him Larry — owned several businesses and had recently purchased the building that he had remodeled. He had 10 employees who occupied a large office suite on the first floor of the building.

Larry agreed to allow me to do the same thing that I had done with the first two offices that I had rented — install my telephone system so that one phone was in the area where his receptionist answered his phones, and a telephone in the office that I was renting in another part of the building. Larry had recently hired a woman — her name was Geri Abele — who was in her mid-thirties.

She had previously worked for one of the top trial lawyers in Peoria. She had stopped working for the lawyer when she was pregnant with her first daughter. A couple of years after her daughter was born, she had a second daughter. She took care of her two daughters until they were in school, and then decided that it was time to get back into the workforce. That’s when Larry hired her to work full time for him.

Because Larry did not have enough work to keep Geri busy on a full-time basis, he offered me the opportunity to have Geri worked for me for 20 hours a week. He agreed to take care of her payroll taxes, and I agreed to pay him a set hourly rate for the time that Geri worked for me.

During the 20 hours that she worked for me, Geri sat in the reception area of my office and worked. During the 20 hours that she worked for Larry, she sat in the reception area of his office and worked for him. While she worked in his office, she continued to answer the telephone that I had set up in his office.

After about 18 months, I was at the point where I needed Geri to work for me full time. She liked the type of work that she was doing for me and preferred my office to Larry’s office. I offered her a full-time position, and she accepted on the condition that I would work everything out with Larry.

It just so happened that at that time a couple of Larry’s businesses had slowed down, and he didn’t need Geri for the 20 hours a week that she was working for him. I talked to Larry and it was obvious that he was irritated with me for “stealing” his employee, but he took it all in good stride because he realized that it was going to ultimately benefit him to have one less person on his payroll.

It was a great blessing for me that I was able to ease Geri into a full-time position with my office. When I started my law practice, I had made the Mother of God my “silent partner” and I had asked her to guide me in the operation of my law practice and career. I’ve always felt that it was my “partner” who always saw to it that I was able to find top-rate employees for my law practice.

Over the next several years, Geri took on more and more responsibility and eventually became my office manager. At one point, I had two lawyers working for me and eight other employees. Geri worked for me for a total of 26 years. She retired in 2013, at the age of 65. By then, her daughters were married and had children of their own, and Geri had made the decision that she wanted to spend more time with her grandchildren.

On Wednesday, March 13, 2019, I received a text message from one of Geri’s daughters. The message said that Geri had passed away. She was 71. I had learned a few months earlier that Geri had been diagnosed with cancer that had spread through her spine and into her brain. The cancer was so advanced that treatment didn’t do her any good.

When I found out about Geri’s cancer diagnosis, I called her husband Ray and set up a time for me to stop by their house to see Geri. When I arrived at the house, Geri was sitting in the living room. When I walked over to her, she said, “Hi Harry, I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’ll be able to come into the office tomorrow.” I immediately responded, “Yes, I know, but I wish you could come to work tomorrow. We could really use your help.”

She looked as though she was wishing she could turn back the clock. She knew exactly what she was saying when she said she wasn’t going to be able to come into the office. It was her way of using humor to break the ice and make light of the fact that she was dying.

I then handed her a framed color picture of the King of Mercy. When she looked at the picture, her face lit up, and she said, “Last weekend I was looking for a picture like this — a picture which showed the heart of Jesus.” While the King of Mercy picture does not show Jesus’s heart, it does show His left hand touching His chest where His heart is located. Where He is touching, there are two rays of light streaming from his heart — a red ray and a white ray.

The red ray represents the blood that He shed for our sins and the white ray represents the salvation that He won for each of us by His death on the cross. Geri had not been able to find the picture she was looking for. She told me that the picture that I gave her was an answer to her prayers.

We visited for about 30 minutes. She was fully aware of the fact that she did not have very long to live, and she told me that she was looking forward to meeting our Lord. We talked about her family and my family. It was like old times. She, of course, had the same mannerisms and lively sense of humor that she always had. While there were a few times when she lost her train of thought, she was very much aware of what she was saying and in tune with our conversation.

I asked her if anyone had contacted her parish priest to come to her house to give her the Sacrament of the Sick, and she said no. She was an only child who had been raised Catholic. I offered to contact her priest and make the arrangements for him to come to her house. She was grateful for the offer, and I later contacted the priest and arranged to pick him up and take him to Geri’s house.

In all the years that Geri worked for me, she rarely made any mistakes. She was whip-smart, a term that is normally used to describe a person who is highly intelligent, quick-witted, and has the ability to quickly and succinctly respond to questions and situations that come up.

By the time she started working for me, she had mastered several office-related computer software programs. As a young secretary, she had learned how to take shorthand, so anytime I asked her to do something she was able to quickly write down notes of everything I said. In addition to her mastery of secretarial skills, she had strong interpersonal skills. She did great with my clients and the employees that she supervised. One of the primary reasons she was so good at dealing with other people was because she was genuinely concerned about the well-being of everyone.

She was also a fun person to be around because she was spontaneous, upbeat, enthusiastic, optimistic, generous, and warm. She generally treated everyone as a friend except for those who crossed her. She was proud of her Irish heritage and didn’t like it when someone tried to pull the wool over her eyes.

One day, after she had worked for me for several years, while I was trying to convince her about something she didn’t agree with, she suddenly blurted out, “Oh, don’t give me that Lebanese blarney!” The word “blarney” is an Irish term that means, “to charm, pleasantly flatter, or persuade.” She put the word “Lebanese” in front of the word “blarney” to add additional impact to her statement. She apparently thought that I was going way too far in trying to use my “Lebanese charm” to get her to agree on something that she wasn’t willing to agree to.

There’s an old Irish joke that I never had a chance to tell Geri: “Do you know what Irish Alzheimer’s is? It’s when you forget everything but the grudges.” If you’re offended by that joke, you shouldn’t be. I heard it from a full-blooded Irish man who was proud of the fact that he held grudges, and every Irish person I’ve ever told the joke to has laughed out loud in agreement.

There was one occasion in 1990 when I was assisting another lawyer with a lawsuit that involved the City of Peoria. The lawyer was from out of town and while he was also whip-smart, he had a habit of bullying and intimidating people when he wasn’t getting his way. Since we were working together on the case, the lawyer frequently had contact with Geri to assist in scheduling meetings and court hearings.

On one occasion, he asked Geri to take care of something for him. When he called back a few days later, she had not yet had the opportunity to handle the matter for him. He got upset with her and said, “Listen here, little lady. When I ask you to do something, I don’t want you making any excuses as to why you didn’t get it done. You need to just hop to it and get it done.”

In her own professional way, Geri made it clear to the attorney that she had other things of higher priority and that he had nothing to worry about. She told him that she would eventually get the task done without jeopardizing any of his plans.

I was not in the office when Geri talked to the attorney, but when I returned, she said, “No man talks to me that way! He has no idea who he’s dealing with!” From then on, anytime the attorney called or stopped by the office, while Geri behaved professionally in his presence, she was no longer willing to accommodate him in the same way that he had become accustomed to.

Years later, the “little (Irish) lady” still bristled every time she heard his name. And yes, it was okay with me that she held a grudge against him.

If Geri had any weakness, it was that when I was critical of something she had done (which was not very often), she took the criticism extremely personal, which caused her to sometimes ignore and attempt to escape from the situation rather than to face it head-on. I think that one of the reasons for this was because she had such high expectations of herself that when she was criticized, she tended to be too hard on herself and would then do what she could do to avoid discussing the matter any further.

Geri had a tremendous love for life, her family, and her friends. Her two daughters worked for my law firm while they were in high school and college. They were model employees who minded their own business and were always well-dressed and well-behaved. My six daughters also worked for my law firm while they were in high school and college. Geri was the first supervisor each of them had as paid employees, and they benefited greatly from her experience, wisdom, and kindness.

I’m sharing Geri’s life with you because I wanted to honor her and remind myself of what a great blessing she was to me, my employees, my children, and my clients. If I could pick 25 people that I’ve known throughout my life who could live healthy lives to the age of 150, Geri would be one of them. Why? Because she was down to earth, generous, kind, warmhearted, and had a tremendous love for life. The world would be a much better place if there were more people like Geri Abele.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her…

October 27, 2018

Secrets of a Dying Man

I want you to imagine that there is a cave that is located in a public park that’s about 30 minutes from where you live. The park consists of 320 acres, half of which is comprised of trees, valleys, and heavy brush. Hidden away in the trees and brush is an underground cave that only one person knows about.

One day while you are driving home from work, you notice a man on the side of the road who appears to be injured. You pull over and check to see if he is all right. You quickly realize that he is in bad shape and is dying. He appears to be in his 70s. He is able to tell you that he was walking on the side of the road and was hit by a large truck that swerved off the road and hit him. The truck then drove away without stopping.

You grab your cell phone from your car and call 911. While you are waiting for help to arrive, the man tells you that his name is Tony, and that he was raised as a Catholic. You quickly take off the Brown Scapular that you always wear around your neck and place it around his neck, fearing that he is going to die before he gets to the hospital. You tell him that you are going to pray an act of contrition with him. You then slowly recite the prayer out loud, so he can follow along with you.

After you’re finished with the prayer, Tony asks you to pass a loving message on to his elderly wife and family. He then tells you that he wants to share two very important secrets with you before he dies. He tells you that both secrets have miraculous attributes. The first secret is an earthly secret and the second is a spiritual secret.

The first secret is the location of what he calls a miraculous cave. The cave he is referring to is the underground cave that’s located in the park. He tells you that if you look in his pocket, you will find a map to the cave. He tells you that if you follow the map, you will find an unlimited supply of gold in the cave. He says that he’s known about the cave since he was a teenager. He found out about it from a man who was on his deathbed.

The miraculous part of the cave is that every time you remove gold, the next time you return to the cave, the gold that you removed has not only been replaced, but there’s an additional amount of gold that has been added to the supply that was previously there. For example, if you remove 10 pounds of gold from the cave, when you return there will be 12 pounds of gold in the place where you removed the 10 pounds.

Tony warns you that you will be tempted to share the secret with members of your family, knowing that the gold will never run out. He warns you that most people are not ready to handle the riches that they would be able to acquire from the cave. He also tells you that if too many people learn about the cave, the government will find out about it and close it down.

Tony then tells you the second secret, after which he asks you to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet with him. Before you are finished praying the chaplet, Tony passes away.

The day after Tony dies, you meet with his wife and family to pass on his message of love. You then get in your car and follow the map to the underground cave. You are shocked to find out that everything Tony told you was true. You load up your car with gold, take it home, and hide it in your basement.

The next day you go back to the cave and the gold that you took the previous day has been replaced with more gold than you loaded into your car. The only person you tell about the miraculous cave is your wife, who assures you that she will never tell anyone.

Over the course of the next five years, it’s as though you are living in paradise. You and your wife are able to provide your young children with everything that they could ever want. Each year, you take your family on a new “vacation of a lifetime.” On the five-year anniversary of the day that you learned the secret from the dying man, you are involved in the same type of accident that he was involved in. As a result of your injuries, both of your legs have to be amputated. You quickly realize that all the gold in the world cannot help you get your legs back.

You are angry, depressed, and resentful. How could this happen to you? You had everything going for you. You and your family were set for life. For the next year, you suffer under the torment of what could have been. You have nightmares of the accident that ruined your life.

Because of your despair, your wife insists that you begin attending daily Mass with her. The first day that you go to daily Mass, the priest announces that the day is October 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Upon hearing the priest’s announcement, for the first time since Tony told you the two secrets, you remember the second secret. Tears start streaming down your face because when Tony told you the second secret, he emphasized that before you took advantage of the first secret, you were required to put the first secret into practice.

What was the second secret? It was what Tony called “the best-kept secret in the Catholic Church.” Tony started out by telling you about the miraculous power that the Blessed Mother was given to influence our daily lives, which is triggered by the recitation of the daily Rosary. He told you that if you remained in the state of grace and prayed the Rosary every day while doing your best to meditate on its mysteries, the Mother of God would arrange for an abundance of additional grace to flow to you every day from Almighty God.

He emphasized that the grace that you received would work the same way that the gold worked — that each time you received grace as a result of the intercession of the Blessed Mother, like the gold in the cave, the grace that was sent to you would be replaced with more grace than you received.

He said that each subsequent day, you would not only receive the same amount of grace that you received the previous day, but you would also receive the additional grace that was added when the previous day’s grace was replaced. He said that as the grace increased each day, it would begin to flow through you to your wife, your children, your parents, and your siblings. Tony emphasized the fact that the cumulative grace that you would receive each day would be far superior to the material gold that you would be able to collect from the cave.

After your experience at Mass and your recollection of the second miraculous secret, you make a promise to God that you will do your best to attend Mass every day and that you and your family will pray a Rosary every day. Over time, your anger, depression, and despair dissipate and you begin to have hope again for your future and the future of your family. You also begin to see the extraordinary effects of the great grace that flows to you and your family each day as a result of this new daily prayer ritual. You never get your legs back, but you end up with something much more valuable — a guarantee that you and your family will eventually spend eternity with God, His mother, and all the angels and saints.

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Although there is no such thing as a miraculous cave, the secret of the Rosary is genuine and real. Miraculous graces really will descend upon you and through you to the members of your family when you develop a relationship with the Mother of God by praying her daily Rosary.

I was fortunate to have a mother who taught me the secret of the Rosary when I was a boy. Although I didn’t put the secret into practice until I was out of college, I can tell you from what I have observed in my own life and the lives of the members of my family who have implemented this secret, that it works exactly the way I just described it. If you are skeptical about this miraculous prayer, all I ask is that you suspend your disbelief for one year and follow the secret for the next 365 days. I can guarantee you that you will experience the great power of the Rosary as well as the Blessed Mother’s eagerness to assist you and your family.

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