Meditations

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.

December 30, 2017

What Did Mary Really Know?

Every year during the Christmas Season, there are articles published that are critical of the song, Mary Did You Know. As expected, in early December, Fr. Robert McTeigue, SJ, published an article with the title, “The Problem With ‘Mary Did You Know.’” In the article, Fr. McTeigue criticized the following lyrics: “Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new? This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.”

Fr. McTeigue’s complaint was that the lyrics imply that Mary was a sinner who needed to be delivered from her sins. This is contrary to Catholic doctrine which states that Mary was preserved free from all stain of original sin from the moment of her immaculate conception, which allowed her to be a pure vessel in which the Son of God could be conceived and born without ever having come into contact with sin.

Another article that was published before Christmas stated that the song implies that Mary was not fully aware that she was the mother of God. The article went on to say that anyone who is familiar with the Bible knows that Mary possessed knowledge that she was the Mother of God, not only because of the Angel Gabriel’s announcement (Luke 1:26-56), but also because of her “song of praise” — known as “The Magnificat” — which indicated that she was aware of her role in the salvation of mankind. Here are the first two sentences of the Magnificat:

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his handmaid. For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; for he who is mighty, has done great things for me and holy is his name. (Luke 1:46-49)

Whenever I read anything about the life of Mary, I think about a book that I read in the early 1980s, while I was in law school. The title of the book was, The Life of The Blessed Virgin Mary. The content for the book was taken from the recorded visions of the well-known 19th-century Catholic mystic, Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774 – 1824).

December 10, 2014

Turning Conflict Into Personal Growth

Elbert Hubbard quoteI want to share with you a very powerful technique for changing the way you respond to offensive  or critical comments.  This technique has the potential of turning what is usually a very painful and unpleasant experience into an opportunity for personal growth and wisdom.

Let’s say someone you know makes an offensive comment or criticizes you.  The most common reaction is to become defensive and angry with the person.  The key word here is “reaction.”

Most people immediately react with emotion to negative comments and criticism instead of taking the time to rationally think through and analyze what was said and the reason the comments were made.  And once this initial reaction takes place, it can be extremely difficult to change your mental state from emotional to rational and responsive.

In order for the technique to work, two different criteria must be met: you believe that the person who made the comments was in the state of grace at the time of the communication, and you believe that the person felt that he or she was being sincere when the comments were made.

Once you are satisfied these two criteria have been met, regardless of how you feel or what you believe, you must talk yourself into assuming that the person who made the comments (1) was rational at the time of the communication, (2) was correct in what he or she said to you, and (3) believed that the comments were completely justified.

By taking a fresh look at the comments in this way, you force yourself to analyze what was said in a completely different way, which is from the perspective of the person who made the comments.

If you force yourself to follow this process, within a few days your mind will sort through everything and will reveal to you lessons you should have learned from the exchange.

September 17, 2014

Harnessing the Power of Fear

FearThere’s a prayer that we learned when we were in second grade that we recite every time we receive the sacrament of reconciliation.  Despite our familiarity with the prayer, most of us aren’t aware of the hidden meaning of the prayer.  I’m referring to the Act of Contrition which begins with the following sentence:

“Oh my God I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love.”

There are two different types of fear that are present in the first sentence of the Act of Contrition.  Do you know what those two types of fear are?  Read the sentence again and attempt to figure out what I’m talking about.

The two types of fear are servile fear and filial fear.  Fr. John A. Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary describes servile and filial fear as follows:

•    Servile Fear: Selfish fear based on the dread of pain to oneself that would follow if another were offended.  It is the fear of punishment for wrongdoing, without being motivated by honor or a sense of duty, and least of all by love.

•    Filial Fear: Fear of some impending evil based on love and reverence for the one who is feared.  Actually filial fear is closer to love that dreads offending the one loved.  Thus the filial fear of God is compatible with the highest love of God.  A person, knowing his or her moral weakness, fears that he or she might displease or betray the one who is loved.  It is selfless fear.

Both fears — servile and filial — have value.  But which is better, (1) to be sorry for your sins because you fear that you may lose Heaven and end up in hell, or (2) to be sorry for your sins because they offend God, who is deserving of all your love?

July 9, 2014

A Lesson From Amazon.com

If you use the Internet to shop for items, there’s a good chance you’ve purchased products from Amazon.com. With 96 fulfillment centers located throughout the United States, Amazon is a financial threat to a number of local and national businesses. Products that are ordered from Amazon are routinely delivered to customers’ doorsteps within one to three days.

In addition to having a national presence, after five years of testing its “AmazonFresh” grocery program in Seattle, Amazon is expanding its local grocery business to Los Angeles and San Francisco. The AmazonFresh grocery program guarantees same-day delivery of groceries and 500,000 other items to customers in its local service areas. If you think Wal-Mart has been a destructive force to local businesses, wait until you see the companies Amazon crushes as it launches its local grocery program in other areas of the country.

In a recent annual report to shareholders, Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, wrote:

Our battle against annoying wire ties and plastic clamshells [packaging] rages on. An initiative that began five years ago with a simple idea that you shouldn’t have to risk bodily injury opening your new electronics or toys has now grown. We have imposed Amazon’s specs on over 200,000 products, all available in easy-to-open, recyclable packaging designed to alleviate “wrap rage” … We have over 2,000 manufacturers in our Frustration-Free Packaging Program … Through hard work and perseverance, an idea that started with only 19 products is now available on hundreds of thousands …

Jeff Bezos has followed in the footsteps of other legendary American entrepreneurs, such as Thomas Edison (the lightbulb), Walt Disney (Walt Disney World), Sam Walton (Wal-Mart), Steve Jobs (the iPhone), Ray Kroc (McDonalds), and Henry Ford (the Model T Ford). They, like Bezos, were all obsessed with managing and controlling even the most minute details of the typical customer experience.

May 22, 2014

Mealtime With Our Lord

Dinner with JesusIn a recent Adoration Letter article titled “Too Tired To Care,” I wrote about the importance of making an effort to always keep your mind young, fresh, enthusiastic, and hopeful.  In the article, I mentioned a reporter who had followed Mother Teresa around for several days and was completely exhausted by the end of each day.  The reporter noticed that Mother Teresa, who was more than twice the age of the reporter, appeared to be as fresh and energetic as she was when she started each day.

There was an important point that I failed to mention about what Mother Teresa told the reporter when the reporter asked her how she was able to maintain such a high level of energy.  Mother Teresa explained that her energy came from the Eucharist.  She pointed out to the reporter that she always began her day with a minimum of one hour in the presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

Earlier this month, we were reminded in one of the Sunday gospels about how after rising from the dead, our Lord joined two of his disciples on their way to Emmaus.  While engaging in a discussion about what had taken place prior to His death, Jesus provided a detailed explanation of how the scriptures, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, foretold His death and resurrection.

Despite the extensive conversation that took place between Jesus and the two disciples, they did not recognize Him until after they sat down with Him for a meal.

Just as it was necessary for the disciples to spend one-on-one time with our Lord and then actually join Him for a meal before they could have a full understanding and appreciation of who He was and what He was teaching them, it is necessary for us to spend one-on-one time with Him and join Him for a meal before we can understand and appreciate Him.

Mother Teresa knew this little-known secret and put it into practice by spending one-on-one time with our Lord every day in the adoration chapel.  She also frequently joined Him for meals by attending Mass and receiving Holy Communion.  Not only did her daily practice result in a better understanding and appreciation of her Savior, it also provided her with a youthful, energetic, hopeful, and enthusiastic mind and soul.

April 21, 2014

An (Almost) Irresistible Offer

The year was 1993.  One of my cousins had recently gotten engaged and her dad told her and her fianc? that he had a proposal for them.  He was willing to pay them $20,000 if they were willing to agree to have a small wedding that only included immediate family members.  The offer came after the wedding invitation list had grown to more than 400 people.  While the groom was interested in accepting the money, the bride put her foot down and insisted that they follow through with the traditional wedding they were planning.

When the topic came up for discussion at the supper table in my home, I made the following proposal to my three oldest children: When you’re old enough to get married, I’ll pay each of you $20,000 if you let me and your mom pick out your spouse.  You can do anything you want with the money — go on a honeymoon, use it for a down payment on a house, put it in the bank.  All you have to do to get the money is let us choose your spouse.

My 10-year-old daughter Anna immediately spoke up and said, “There’s no way you’re going to choose my husband.  I don’t care how much money you offer me.”  I responded by saying, “Why?  Don’t you trust us?”  She shot back, “No, not to pick my husband!”

I glanced over at my 12-year-old son Harry and I knew from prior experience what he was thinking.  He was doing calculations in his head to figure out all the things he could buy if he accepted the $20,000.  I looked at my 9-year-old daughter Maria and asked, “What about you Maria?  Would you take the $20,000?”  She had a serious look on her face and responded, “Give me $25,000 and you’ve got a deal.”  (Maria obviously takes after the LaHood side of the family, all of whom are master negotiators and dealmakers.)

I often wonder what kind of conversations went on around the supper table of the holy family.  Did St. Joseph tease his Son the same way I teased my children?  What did they talk about?  Did they laugh together as they talked about the events of the day?

March 13, 2014

Controlling your Mind, Emotions, and Body

Mind Body SoulThe spring semester of my junior year in college (1978) was the best semester I ever had as a college student.  It was also the most challenging.  I had a full load of 300-level classes in accounting and business and competition among the students was very tough.

In one of my accounting classes, the teacher routinely assigned as homework 10 of the 60 problems that were provided after each chapter of the textbook.  At the beginning of the semester, in order to really learn the materials and gain a competitive edge, I decided that I was going to work through all 60 problems after every chapter.  But I had one problem.  The answer key for the problems was not available to students, so there was no way for me to know if my answers were correct.

I found out from one of my classmates, a foreign exchange student, that she could order the answer key from Hong Kong, so I gave her the money and two weeks later I had the answer key in my hands.  Each time I came up with the wrong answer to a problem, I figured out what I did wrong and reworked the problem.  The problems that were used by the teacher for the tests were variations of the 60 problems at the end of each chapter.

During that entire semester, I was at the top of my game.  Focused.  Motivated.  Disciplined.  But there was a reason I had my act together.  It was because I gave up everything that had sugar in it for Lent.  I stopped drinking my favorite daily soft drink (Pepsi), and I stopped eating my favorite daily snacks, which included Hostess Brands’ donuts and apple pies.  At that time, I was addicted to sugar.  My favorite breakfast cereal was Trix, which had sugar as one of its main ingredients.

As I recall, I had massive cravings for the first three days of Lent.  After that, each day got better.  Within two weeks, my cravings were gone.  In addition to having more energy, my mind was sharper than ever.  The biggest change that I noticed was the iron-willed discipline that I developed as a result of denying myself my favorite foods.

February 20, 2014

A Legacy Worth Talking About

Veronica VeilImagine you are driving on University Street in Peoria and in the distance you see a large crowd of people gathered in a parking lot.  As you drive closer to the crowd, you see a man who you have met before tied to a telephone pole.  To your horror, you see two young, well-built men taking turns at beating the man with leather whips that have sharp pieces of metal attached to the ends of each whip.

You pull over and park your car and rush over to the area where the crowd has gathered.  The man who is tied to the telephone pole is on his knees, with his head down.  His back is covered with blood.  Several of the people in the crowd are cheering and encouraging the two men to swing harder when they beat him.

As you move closer, you see some law enforcement officers who are in charge of controlling the crowd.  You realize that what is occurring is a government-sanctioned beating.

You notice that there’s a woman who is standing about ten feet away from the man who is being beaten.  You know from having met the man that the woman is his mother.  The woman is visibly shaken and flinches every time one of the whips tears into the flesh of her son.  As you push through the crowd to get closer to the woman, you notice that there are tears in her eyes.

You try to move closer to her but one of the government officers steps in front of you and orders you to leave the area or you will be arrested.  You turn around and see that you have an opportunity to approach the man who is being beaten.  You notice that he has blood streaming down his face from thorns that have been pounded into his head.  You rush over to the man and wipe the blood from his face with your shirt.

You feel someone grab your arm and throw you to the ground.  You look up and there are two officers standing over you.  They both start kicking you in your stomach and back.  You quickly get up and stumble over to your car.  Your mind is racing, wondering if there is anything else you can do to help the man.

January 22, 2014

The Queen of Titles

The dictionary defines the word “title” as “an appellation of dignity, honor, distinction, or preeminence attached to a person or family by virtue of rank, office, precedent, privilege, attainment, or lands.”  It is said that the Blessed Virgin Mary has more than 1,000 titles, a handful of which are: Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, Seat of Wisdom, Mirror of Justice, Vessel of Honor, Cause of Our Joy, Gate of Heaven, Morning Star, and Comforter of the Afflicted.

All the Blessed Mother’s titles identify her with dignity, honor, distinction, and preeminence.  They are attached to her by virtue of her unique relationship with the three persons of the Blessed Trinity.  She is the daughter of God the Father, spouse of the Holy Spirit, and mother of God the Son.  No other human in the history of the world has ever been recognized by so many titles.

Of all her titles, which one do you think would be most descriptive of her life?  Which one would best reflect the role she plays in our lives?

In my opinion, the one title that is most descriptive of the Blessed Virgin Mary is “Our Lady of Sorrows.”  There is a feast day that is dedicated to her as Our Lady of Sorrows, which falls on September 15, the day after the Feast of the Cross.

The word “sorrow” is defined as “a deep distress, sadness, or regret especially for the loss of someone or something loved.”  Synonyms for the word sorrow include “affliction, anguish, grief, and heartache.”

There is only one word that can adequately describe a mother who personally witnessed the torture and murder of her innocent son: sorrowful.  The Blessed Virgin Mary understands, at a deep level, distress, sadness, affliction, anguish, grief, and heartache.  Because of the personal suffering she endured — combined with her role as the mother of mankind — she is the ideal person to assist you and me with our sorrows.

December 20, 2013

A Super Ball and the Mother of God

Super BallDo you know when the Super Ball was invented?  It was invented when I was 7 years old (1964), by chemist Norman Stingley.  I first learned about it from seeing commercials on television, which showed the new magical ball soaring into the sky whenever someone threw it against the pavement.  I later got to see it in action firsthand after several of my cousins convinced their mothers to buy them their own Super Balls.

Of course, as soon as I saw that my cousins had Super Balls, I asked my mom if she would buy me one.  She initially refused, but after a few days of begging, she finally relented and made a deal with me.  She told me that if I read the children’s bible from cover to cover, she would buy me a Super Ball.  It was a sneaky way to get me to read the bible, but it worked.

I thought about my mom using my desire for a Super Ball to get me to read the bible when I saw Pope Francis’s message to the Americas last week.  During his general audience on the eve of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, he said,

Tomorrow (December 12, 2013) is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas.  I would like to greet all my brothers and sisters on that continent, and I do so thinking of the Virgin of Tepeyac.

When Our Lady appeared to Saint Juan Diego, her face was that of a woman of mixed blood, a mestiza, and her garments bore many symbols of the native culture.  Like Jesus, Mary is close to all her sons and daughters; as a concerned mother, she accompanies them on their way through life.  She shares all the joys and hopes, the sorrows and troubles of God’s People, which is made up of men and women of every race and nation.

When the image of the Virgin appeared on the tilma of Juan Diego, it was the prophecy of an embrace: Mary’s embrace of all the peoples of the vast expanses of America – the peoples who already lived there and those who were yet to come.  Mary’s embrace showed what America – North and South – is called to be: a land where different peoples come together; a land prepared to accept human life at every stage, from the mother’s womb to old age; a land which welcomes immigrants, and the poor and the marginalized, in every age.  A land of generosity.

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