April 13, 2019

A New Adventure is on the Horizon

My wife Georgette was born in Tripoli, Lebanon. Three months after her birth, her parents immigrated to the United States. When they arrived in Peoria, Illinois, they could not speak, read, or write in English.

March 30, 2019

Religious Extremists and the Vietnam War

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

March 16, 2019

When a Promise Really Isn’t a Promise

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

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

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

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

January 26, 2019

Are Real Catholic Men Toxic?

In last week’s article, The War Against Real Men, I wrote about the marketing video that was recently released by Gillette, which implied that all men are, by nature, mean, evil, and predatory. During the video, the announcer lectured the public about toxic masculinity and the need to eradicate it.

When I was a teenager, there was an ad that frequently appeared in the comic books that promoted the “Charles Atlas Bodybuilding Course.” The ad was written in comic-strip format. The first frame of the ad showed a young man who was a “97-pound weakling” being humiliated in front of his date by a bully kicking sand in his face.

The next frame of the ad showed the young man in his home kicking a chair and sending away for the Atlas body building course. The ad then showed the man receiving the course and building up his muscles. The last frame of the ad showed the man on the beach punching the bully in the face. He was then identified as the “Hero of the beach,” while a beautiful girl standing next to him declared, “Mac! You are a real man!”

Back then, teenage boys wanted to be just like the man in the ad — tough, muscular, and admired by pretty girls. At that time, to me, real men were warriors who didn’t back down from bullies. That’s the way my dad and my grandfather, Tom Williams, were while I was growing up. They were tough, strong, and ready to do battle if it ever became necessary.

As I grew older, I realized that being a real man wasn’t just about being tough and strong. There were more important qualities that real men possessed. Those qualities included a man’s loyalty and devotion to his wife and children, his work ethic, his resiliency, his industriousness, his confidence, and most importantly, his strong faith in God. Fortunately for me, I was able to learn about those qualities from the example of my dad and my grandfather.

If you think about it, those same qualities have been found in real men since the beginning of time. The men of the Old Testament — including Abraham, King Solomon, and Moses — had those qualities. The Son of God and His foster father, Saint Joseph, had those qualities. And, of course, all of our Lord’s followers — including St. Peter, St. John, St. Stephen, and St. Paul — possessed those qualities.

Today, in America, there is an unprecedented attempt by what I call the “power brokers” to silence and eradicate men who possess those qualities. Such men have been branded as being toxic and harmful to society. The word “masculine” has become a bad word — a word that is associated with bullying, arrogance, and sexual abuse.

Who are the power brokers? In most cases, they are the men and women who are in control of Hollywood, the mainstream media, the institutions of higher education, the public school system, the multinational corporations, the high-tech companies such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Netflix, and our federal, state, and local governments.

The power brokers have perfected the practice of lumping certain individuals into cleverly named, all-inclusive evil categories. After coming up with a clever name for a particular group of individuals, the power brokers proceed to silence and restrain those individuals by slandering, berating, demeaning, and bullying them into submission. The power brokers use every tool at their disposal to accomplish their goal. They are masters at using social media and the court system to get their way.

What do the power brokers have in common? They are all evil to their very core. As a society, we are often surprised by the behavior of someone who is truly evil. Unfortunately, we don’t really have any predictable ways of recognizing and dealing with individuals before it becomes obvious that they are evil.

So what makes a person evil? From a Catholic perspective, a person becomes evil when he either (1) allows himself to be consumed by one or more of the seven capital sins, or (2) intentionally chooses to engage in and embrace sinful behavior. (As a reminder, the seven capital sins are pride, lust, anger, avarice, envy, gluttony, and sloth.)

When a person surrenders to sinful behavior, he becomes an agent of the devil. It is at that point when evil metastasizes inside the person’s soul and begins to spread like cancer. And like cancer, the evil does not usually reveal itself until it has gotten out of control and has destroyed the conscience of the person.

Whether they know it or not, at a spiritual and subconscious level, the power brokers are agents of the devil who are committed to one primary goal — the complete silencing and, if necessary, the destruction of every person who is a reminder to them that their sinful behavior is an abomination, and that they must either repent or they will burn in Hell for all eternity.

Who is it that is a reminder to the power brokers, by word and example, that their sinful behavior is an abomination? The answer is, real men.

What is it about real men that is a threat to the power brokers? It’s their deeply held belief and faith in God, His Church, and His commandments. The real men that I’m referring to are those men who are devout Christians or Jews. Their lives are governed by the Judeo-Christian values and beliefs that have been the foundation of all successful civil societies since the beginning of time — values and beliefs that reject sinful behavior while promoting virtuous behavior.

If you pay any attention to the news, you know about what happened to Nicholas Sandmann, a 16-year-old Catholic boy who attended the pro-life March for Life in Washington DC on Friday, January 18, 2019. Sandmann and several of his classmates from Covington Catholic High School attended the march.

Sandmann was ruthlessly attacked by the power brokers after a three-minute video was posted on Twitter by a member of a radical group. The video allegedly showed that Sandmann was being disrespectful and confrontational with a so-called “Native American Elder.” After the video was posted, Sandman was savaged by the media, members of Hollywood, government officials, and even members of his own church. There were multiple instances where people made death threats against Sandmann and his family.

It wasn’t until a second, two-hour long video was released that the true facts of what actually occurred were revealed. That video showed that it was the native American protester who walked over to Sandmann, lifted up his drum until it was close to Sandmann’s face, and then began beating on the drum in an attempt to get a negative reaction from Sandmann. While the protester was attempting to get Sandmann to become confrontational, Sandmann simply smiled and stared at the protester.

Despite what was revealed in the two-hour video, the power brokers have continued to attempt to destroy the good name and reputation of Sandmann and his fellow students at Covington Catholic High School. Why? Because to the power brokers, Sandmann, his classmates, and his church are toxic.

To the power brokers, toxicity is synonymous with belief and faith in God.

To my delight, Sandmann’s father is a real man who is not going to let the evil power brokers get away with trashing his son’s and his family’s good name and reputation. He has hired the top libel and slander attorney in the country to go after the power brokers. I hope that the Sandmann family and their attorney obtain a multi-million dollar court verdict against the power brokers.

There is a spiritual war that is going on in our country. On one side are the evil power brokers who want to silence and eradicate the real men who they believe are a threat to their sinful way of life. On the other side are the real men and their families who believe in and are faithful to God — men who do their best to lead virtuous, holy lives.

Make no mistake about it. This is a war that is raging between good and evil and it’s up to you and me to do everything in our power to be victorious (with the assistance of our Lord and our Lady).

Our Savior warned us that we would be hated by His enemies. His enemies not only hate us but they also genuinely believe that we are toxic and poisonous to their beliefs and way of life.

All the more reason to stand tall like real men and defeat the enemies of God.

December 22, 2018

Can We Stop Sending Christmas Newsletters?

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 15, 2018

A Valuable Cheat Sheet For Growth & Perfection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 8, 2018

Living in a World Where Vice is Glorified

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 1, 2018

The Double-Edged Sword of Freedom

If you’re like me, you can probably only name a few of your teachers and coaches from grade school and high school who had a significant impact on your life. That’s not very many people considering the fact that you spent 12 years in school and only a handful of teachers and coaches made a dramatic difference in your life.

What made these few teachers and coaches so special was that they cared enough to push you beyond what you thought you were capable of doing. They were bold, creative, confident, resilient, and had a positive can-do attitude. And they wouldn’t take no for an answer because they believed more in you than you believed in yourself.

There was one coach who had a significant impact on my life. His name was Bob Daugherty. He was my wrestling coach during my sophomore year in high school. Daugherty was a taskmaster who constantly bullied me and my teammates. Every practice started with a grueling workout. Then we were forced to endure repetitive drills on the fundamentals of wrestling.

There were multiple times during our workouts when we were in severe pain from the exercises that we were forced to perform. While we were complaining and groaning about the pain, Daugherty would walk around barking, “It’s only pain. It’ll go away in five minutes. Quit acting like a bunch of sissies.” (He actually used a different word than sissies, but it would be inappropriate for me to repeat that word in this publication.)

The year that Daugherty was my coach, I held the record among my teammates for the most takedowns. I only lost one wrestling match that year. I got beat by a tall, slim farm boy who was a lot stronger than he looked. At one point during the match, his knee crashed into my head and I was momentarily dazed and confused. It took me several seconds before I knew what was going on. I lost that match by one point.

Coach Daugherty forced us to learn the fundamentals and to get in better shape than we had ever been before. His workouts were planned and regimented to the point that we had very little freedom to do what we wanted to do. He knew that it was important for a person to accept and experience less freedom in order to become something greater than what they already were.

There are certain freedoms I had to voluntarily choose to relinquish in order to attempt to become a champion wrestler. I had to choose to give up the freedom to eat whatever I wanted. If I wanted to succeed as a wrestler, I had to adhere to a very restrictive diet, so I could get down to and stay within my weight class. I had to give up the freedom to be easy on my body, sit around and watch TV, neglect my health, and hang out with my friends after school. I had to give up the freedom to avoid pain and discomfort. Instead of taking advantage of the freedoms I was accustomed to, I chose to submit myself to a grueling daily schedule of diet, exercise, and training.

Here’s the key concept that I want to emphasize: By consistently choosing to give up your freedom, you become more responsible and you are eventually able to become a much better person and achieve more than you would have ever thought was possible.

Last week, I wrote about a movie in which a champion boxer, Rocky Balboa, taught a young boxer a valuable lesson. Rocky told the boxer that the primary person that he’s up against in the boxing ring and in life is himself. Rocky’s point was that before any of us can successfully move forward, we have to first do battle with ourselves by overcoming our own limitations, faults, and fears.

As a reminder, here’s what I wrote last week concerning our biggest enemy — the person that we see in the mirror every morning:

What is it that gets in the way of our daily battle with the person we see in the mirror every morning? Our biggest enemy is pride, the one root passion that everyone struggles with. We were all born with a strong tendency toward pride, the mother of all sins. And because of our fallen human nature, combined with the individual unique traits we were born with, the environment we grew up in, and our life experiences as children and young adults, each of us also developed a primary fault which caused us to become attached to and adept at one of the other six root passions — anger, lust, envy, gluttony, covetousness, or sloth.

November 24, 2018

A Lesson From Rocky Balboa – The Italian Stallion

It happened in 1976, during my sophomore year in college. After completing my final exams in December, I returned home for the Christmas break. I was looking forward to spending time with my family and friends during the three weeks I had off from school.

Word on the street was that there was a good boxing movie playing at the theater. It was about an underdog who takes on the heavyweight champion of the world. I was a huge fan of boxing and was an avid follower of Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer the world had ever seen. He was strong, fast, bold, confident, charismatic, and unstoppable. I had heard that the newly released movie had a character who was modeled after Muhammad Ali.

Back then, there was no internet where you could watch a trailer or other videos about a newly released movie. The only way we heard about movies was through word of mouth, television news reports, articles in print publications, and late-night talk shows, where actors would come on to talk about their upcoming movies.

I ended up going to the movie with my cousin Danny Williams. The movie was about Robert “Rocky” Balboa, a young, kindhearted working-class man who was born and raised in an Italian neighborhood in Philadelphia. Rocky worked in the slums of Philadelphia as a debt collector for a loan shark. He was also a small-time boxer who fought in local nightclub boxing matches that took place in the Philadelphia area.

The main story line of the movie begins with Apollo Creed, the heavyweight boxing champion of the world, who is scheduled to participate in a title fight in Philadelphia. Five weeks before the fight, Creed’s opponent backs out of the fight because of an injury to his hand. Creed then decides to create some publicity for himself by challenging a local fighter to fight him in the ring. After checking out the local boxers, Creed decides that the opponent who has the highest potential of generating the most publicity for him is Rocky, a local southpaw boxer who is well-known in the area as “the Italian Stallion.”

Rocky accepts Creed’s challenge and begins training for the fight. One of the most famous scenes from the movie shows Rocky working out, jogging, and then running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art with the theme song of the movie, “Gonna Fly Now,” playing in the background. (The song became so popular that in July 1977, it was named the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 list.)

During the first round of the fight, Rocky stuns Creed by knocking him down, the first time Creed has ever been knocked down in a fight. Until then, to Creed, the fight has been a publicity stunt, but now he’s forced to take Rocky seriously. They end up going at it for 15 rounds, beating each other senseless. At the end of the fight, Creed is declared the winner by virtue of a split decision.

The movie was the highest-grossing film released in 1976 and the second highest-grossing film of 1977. Because of the success of the movie, six sequels followed: “Rocky II” (1979), “Rocky III” (1982), “Rocky IV” (1985), “Rocky V” (1990), “Rocky Balboa” (2006), “Creed” (2015), and “Creed II” (2018). The two most recent films, “Creed” and “Creed II,” are about Apollo Creed’s son, who sought out and convinced 72-year-old Rocky Balboa to train him to be a champion boxer.

At one point during the 2015 Creed movie, while he is training Creed, Rocky walks Creed over to a mirror and tells him to look at himself in the mirror. While Creed is looking at his mirror image, Rocky points to the image and says, “Every time you get into the ring, that’s who you’re going against. I believe that in boxing, and I do believe that in life.” He then tells Creed to throw some punches at the image he sees in the mirror while attempting to dodge each of the punches.

Rocky’s statement to Creed is a metaphor for all the challenges we face in life. While we may have to deal with other people on a regular basis, when a challenge comes our way, the primary person we’re up against is ourselves. Before we can successfully move forward, we have to be able to identify and overcome our own limitations, faults, and fears. The only way we can ever hope to do that is to first overcome our number one enemy: ourselves.

What is it that gets in the way of our daily battle with the person we see in the mirror every morning? Our biggest enemy is pride, the one root passion that everyone struggles with. We were all born with a strong tendency toward pride, the mother of all sins. And because of our fallen human nature, combined with the individual unique traits we were born with, the environment we grew up in, and our life experiences as children and young adults, each of us also developed a primary fault which caused us to become attached to and adept at one of the other six root passions — anger, lust, envy, gluttony, covetousness, or sloth.

From a practical standpoint, how does all this apply to the battle we have to wage against ourselves every day?

Do you know why people who have a problem with procrastination are never able to overcome it? It’s because they have not learned how to overcome their pride and their primary fault. Do you know why some people are always late and are never able to change or modify their behavior? It’s because they have not learned how to overcome their pride and their primary fault. Do you know why some people who are well-organized and able to accomplish a lot in a very short amount of time are never able to fully understand or empathize with people who are not like them? It’s because they have not learned how to overcome their pride and their primary fault. Do you know why some people who repeatedly eat or drink to excess are never able to change or modify their behavior? It’s because they have not learned how to overcome their pride and their primary fault.

Is there a process a person can go through to momentarily overcome their pride and their primary fault so they can win each battle they have to fight within themselves? The answer is yes. I’m going to begin explaining that process to you next week.