I’ve written before about Fr. Clair Bourdereaux, a Franciscan priest who was assigned to Sacred Heart Church in downtown Peoria in 1976. He remained there for 19 years, until his death in January 1995. Fr. Clair had all the qualities of a great counselor. He was holy, smart, wise, gentle, diplomatic, compassionate, and understanding. He had the unique ability to connect with people on their level and set them on a path toward holiness and happiness.
Last week, I wrote about how a 1989 committee that was acting under the authority of the National Council of Churches in Christ U.S.A. removed from the Gospels of Mark and Luke a critically important thing that Jesus told His apostles. While previous versions of the Catholic Bible quoted Jesus as saying that certain evil spirits could only be cast out by “prayer and fasting,” the newly revised version of the Catholic Bible did not include our Lord’s statement that fasting had to accompany prayer before certain evil spirits could be cast out.
On Thursday (April 30), the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm in Chicago that was named after St. Thomas More, filed a federal lawsuit against J.B. Pritzker, the Governor of Illinois. The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of the Beloved Church and its pastor, Stephen Cassell, alleged that Pritzker had taken actions that demonstrated “illegal and discriminatory hostility to religious practice, churches, and people of faith.”
About 10 years ago, I attended a four-day marketing conference in Chicago. One of the speakers was a young woman who was in her early 30s and was a well-known expert in email marketing. In one of her presentations, she talked about how she hires other people to do what she considers non-essential tasks — grocery shopping, meal preparation, and house cleaning — so she can spend her time on higher value activities.
I see him at least once a week walking on the side of the road. He’s an elderly man who appears to be in his 80s. I don’t know his name. For now, I’ll call him Wilbur. I’ve never met Wilbur, but last week when I saw him walking, I had the urge to pull over, introduce myself, and ask him a few questions. But I didn’t follow through on my urge. As usual, I passed by him and continued driving.
I usually attend daily Mass at Sacred Heart Church in downtown Peoria. The church is about three blocks away from my office, so I ordinarily walk to Mass every day. On most days, Georgette joins me at Mass, and we’re able to have lunch together after Mass about once a week. It’s a great way for us to break up our day, while receiving the spiritual boost that we need to adequately handle all the issues and problems that come up in our lives.
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.
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.
My wife and I raised seven children to adulthood — one boy and six girls. Our children would tell you that while they were growing up, I was suspicious and distrustful of all outsiders, including people in the school system, the people my children interacted with in community theater, and the people who were their friends.
There can be a fine line between excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others (paranoia) and reasonable and rational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others (healthy paranoia).
There may have been a time 80 or 100 years ago when most of the people a person came into contact with had good intentions and could generally be trusted, but in today’s culture, where sinful behavior is glorified and virtuous behavior is vilified, we have to be extremely careful about who we trust. We must be willing to make people earn our trust, instead of simply trusting them because they seem to be nice and respectful, or because we’re related to them, know their parents, or have heard good things about them.
But there is a danger in practicing healthy paranoia toward others. The danger is that the line between reasonable and rational paranoia and excessive or irrational paranoia is very thin. When we cross that line, we can easily become negative and cynical, which can, over time, destroy the healthy relationships that we have with the people that we care about.
What can we do to avoid crossing that line? I’ll tell you what I do to keep myself from crossing the line. First, I follow the basic principles that I believe are required of me as a devout Catholic:
• Remain in the state of sanctifying grace at all times;