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.
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.
He told me he was at the Peoria police station being questioned by two detectives. He had been picked up at his house an hour earlier by police officers who arrived at the house in two squad cars, with their lights flashing. He said that his wife and children were horrified when the police officers put handcuffs on him and hauled him away.
Jake told me that he had answered a few general questions but then he got worried, and told the detectives that he wanted to talk to his attorney before answering any more questions. I told Jake not to answer any more questions, and that I would be at the police station within 10 minutes. When I arrived, I was escorted to the interrogation room and was left alone to talk to Jake. He told me he was being accused of assisting a woman with covering up a serious crime.
At that time, Jake was in his mid-40s and was unemployed. He was also addicted to cocaine. His wife had a good-paying job, and they still had young children at home. During our short conversation, I learned that Jake had been having an affair with the woman with whom he was accused of covering up a crime.
I stepped out of the room and told the detectives that Jake was not going to answer any more of their questions. I also told them that he had not done anything wrong other than hanging out and carrying on a relationship with a woman who had allegedly committed a crime. To my surprise, they let him go. They apparently didn’t believe they had enough evidence to charge him with a crime.
I drove Jake home and had a long conversation with him about how he knew better than to cheat on his wife. He had been raised as a Catholic but had been out of the church for several years. I told him that he needed to get his act together, or he was going to lose his wife and children. He listened to me and acted as though he appreciated my concern.
About a year after my experience with Jake, his mother called me — I’ll call her Jane — and asked me to prepare a will for her. Her husband had died several years earlier and because she was in her 70s, she wanted to make sure her affairs were in order. I had previously assisted Jane with another legal matter and I knew that she was a devout Catholic.
When we met to discuss her will, Jane expressed grave concern about Jake. She did not know anything about the incident with the police department. She had other grown children, but Jake had been a problem for her ever since he was a teenager. I asked her if she prayed a daily rosary. She was ashamed to admit that she did not pray the rosary every day, because she had been taught as a child that the rosary should be a part of her everyday routine.
Her reaction to my question surprised me. I have rarely encountered anyone who has been truly embarrassed to say that they we’re not praying a daily rosary. Most people simply recite a litany of excuses as to why they can’t get to their daily prayers. I told Jane that the best thing she could do for her son and the rest of her family was to pray a rosary every day and ask the Mother of God to watch over, guide, and protect them.
A few months passed by before I got around to preparing the will. Jane then came to my office to sign the will. While my assistant was making copies of the signed will, I asked Jane if she was praying her rosary every day. She told me that she had not missed a day since our initial appointment.
A couple of years after I prepared the will for Jane, I ran into Jake at a social event. I had not seen him since the night I had picked him up from the police station. I asked him how he was doing. He told me that after I dropped him off at his home, his wife started asking questions. He said that he eventually admitted to her that he was having an affair. After that, everything went downhill for him.
He said that things got so bad, one evening he loaded a pistol that he had hidden away, and went for a long walk. He had decided that he was going to end his life. He walked over to a wooded area several blocks from where he lived. He then lifted the gun to his head. He couldn’t explain to me what happened next. He said that it was as though an invisible force stopped him from pulling the trigger. As much as he wanted to kill himself, he was unable to complete the act. After a while, he put the gun back into his pocket, walked home, and went to bed.
About six months after Jake told me about his experience with the gun, his mom called and scheduled an appointment to revise her will. I met with her and discussed the changes she wanted in the will. I then asked how her family was doing. She told me that she was still very worried about Jake, but that he seemed to be doing better. I asked her if she was praying her rosary every day, and she said, “I don’t just pray one rosary, I pray three rosaries every day. I want to make sure that the Blessed Mother protects my family.”
Around the same time that I assisted Jane with her will, I had another devout Catholic mother who called me to discuss a legal matter. I had talked to her about the Catholic faith on a few previous occasions, and she had told me that in addition to attending daily Mass and praying a daily rosary, she had consecrated herself to Jesus through Mary, by using the process outlined by St. Louis De Montfort in his book True Devotion to Mary.
After we discussed her legal matter, she told me about her college-educated son who lived in another state. She said that at one point he had lost his job and broke up with his girlfriend, which caused him to suffer from severe depression. She said that she had talked to him periodically over the phone and after one of her phone calls, she had a sense that he was so bad off that he was going to commit suicide.
Her feeling was so strong that she told her husband that she had no other choice but to buy a plane ticket, so she could fly out to see him. And that’s exactly what she did. She said that when she arrived at his house, she felt a darkness and despair that she had never experienced. She ended up staying at her son’s house for more than a month. When she returned home, she felt as though her prayers had been answered and that his despair had subsided. Shortly thereafter, some positive things started happening for her son. She told me that she believed that the Mother of God had intervened and our Lord had performed a miracle on behalf of her son.
Within the past year, another one of my clients told me that her teenage daughter had been suicidal and had taken steps to plan how she was going to kill herself. The mother said that her daughter had been repeatedly bullied at school and was having gender identity issues. Things got worse when her daughter moved out of her house and into a house with a couple of guys who were older than her. Within a week of moving, the daughter was involved in an automobile accident that caused damage to some property. She fled the scene of the accident and was later arrested. After her arrest, she called her mother and asked her to come to the police station to pick her up. The daughter subsequently moved home and admitted that she needed help. Her mother then got her into counseling.
When I asked the mother if she was praying her daily rosary — something that I had convinced her to do several years ago — she told me that she had been faithfully praying her rosary every day. While the situation with her daughter had improved, her daughter still had a long way to go, but the mother was certain that the Blessed Virgin Mary was watching over her family and would see to it that everything worked out for them.
Last week I wrote that there are three specific things that you can do to guarantee that during the last 60 minutes of life for you and each member of your immediate family (your spouse, children, parents, and siblings), your souls will not be lost for all eternity. Doing those three things also protects you and each member of your immediate family from ever committing suicide.
As I pointed out last week, the three things are: (1) Remain in the state of grace by following the rules of the Catholic Church; (2) Pray a rosary every day while doing your best to meditate on its mysteries; and (3) Consecrate yourself to Jesus through Mary by using a consecration process such as the one provided by St. Louis De Montfort in his book True Devotion to Mary, or the one provided by Fr. Michael Gaitley in his book 33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Marian Consecration.
I know for certain that the mother who traveled to be with her son had put all three of the above-mentioned things into practice. I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask the other two mothers if they had made the consecration, but I do know that they were devout Catholics who prayed their rosary every day.
I’ll have a few more things to say about this topic next week.
Three years after the Donny and Marie show ended (1982), Marie married her first husband. The two divorced in 1985, and she married her second husband a year later. She divorced her second husband in 2007. During her two marriages, Marie had three biological children and adopted five children. On February 26, 2010, her 18-year-old son, Michael, committed suicide by jumping off the eighth-floor balcony of his apartment in Los Angeles.
During an interview several months after Michael’s death, Marie disclosed that Michael struggled from depression and had previously attempted to take his own life. She said that after his initial failed suicide attempt, he promised her that he would “never do anything like that again.” She also lamented, “People say things like, ‘Well, at least you have seven more children.’ No, I have eight children. My heart will never put anybody else in that place but Michael.”
I previously wrote about the suicide of the 27-year-old son of Rick and Kay Warren, the co-founders of Saddleback Church, an evangelical church in California. Their son had suffered from mental illness for most of his life. On April 5, 2013, he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Kay later told a reporter, “A lot of it’s a blur. I just know I hit the ground and laid on the ground for hours, sobbing… I will never get over losing my son. I will never stop missing him.”
There is nothing more devastating to a mother than the suicide of a son or a daughter.
We know from the Gospel of Mark that during our Lord’s public life, He was approached by a synagogue leader who told Him that the leader’s 12-year-old daughter was “at the point of death.” He then said to our Lord, “Please come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” Mark 5:21-24
Prior to arriving at the synagogue leader’s house, our Lord was told that the girl had already died. He still went to the house with some of His apostles and the girl’s father. When they arrived at the house, our Lord entered the dead girl’s room, held her hand, and told her to rise. The girl immediately woke up and started walking around. Our Lord told the girl’s father to give her something to eat. He then gave strict orders to everyone who was present not to tell anyone what had happened. Mark 5:35-43
Raising the young girl from the dead was not our Lord’s first miracle. His first public miracle was described in the Gospel of John:
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Warren is a genuine Christian leader who, despite an immense amount of pressure from outside groups and the media, has refused to abandon his traditional evangelical beliefs. He is opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage, and is an advocate of abstinence-only education, instead of the use of condoms to prevent HIV/AIDS.
Warren married his wife Kay in 1975, and they subsequently raised three children. On the morning of April 5, 2013, their youngest son, Matthew, committed suicide. The day after Matthew’s death, Warren sent an email to the members of his church that stated, in part:
No words can express the anguished grief we feel right now. Our youngest son, Matthew, age 27, and a lifelong member of Saddleback, died today.
After Venom has successfully attached itself to a person’s head and body, the person possesses enhanced powers. Venom has the ability to exercise a certain amount of control over the mind of the person it attaches to, which leads to the person committing evil, violent acts against others.
Venom was originally introduced in the May 1984 edition of The Amazing Spider-Man comic book series. In 2007, Venom appeared as one of the villains in the movie Spider-Man 3. Early in the movie, Venom attached itself to Spider-Man, which gave Spider-Man enhanced powers and turned him into an uncaring and evil person.
After Spider-Man caused harm to others and ruined the relationships that he had with the people he loved, he realized that he needed to do everything in his power to separate himself from Venom. After Spider-Man was able to figure out a way to free himself, the alien organism took control of Eddie Brock, Spider-Man’s archenemy.
Every person on Earth has experienced or will experience the equivalent of what Venom does to people. At one time or another, each of us will be overwhelmed by something that has the power to destroy us. While we will not be overcome by an alien organism like Venom, we will be forced to deal with something that could be potentially worse: intense suffering.
Every person who has been born since the dawn of time has had to endure spiritual, intellectual, and emotional suffering, including the Son of God and His blessed mother, Mary. It is how we respond to suffering that will determine our final eternal destination.
If we respond to our suffering with frustration, anger, selfishness, hopelessness, and/or despair, then we will be covered by the equivalent of the black slime of Venom, and there will be a high probability that the suffering we endure will take over our very being.
If we respond to our suffering the way that Jesus taught us to respond — with humility, acceptance, love, gratitude, and an acknowledgment that our suffering is a gift from God that is meant to lead us to salvation — then instead of being covered by the equivalent of the black slime of Venom, we will be adorned with the glowing light and grace that emanate from the merciful heart of the Son of God.
There is a crisis that is occurring in our country right now that is having a Venom-like effect on a large share of our population. This crisis has led to a 28% increase in suicide rates since 1999. Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death among young people.
Earlier this month, two famous and successful people who appeared to have everything — Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain — committed suicide. In a subsequent USA Today article, Kirsten Powers wrote, “Why are so many more Americans getting to this level of emotional despair than in the past? Something is wrong with our culture.” Suzanne Venker of WashingtonExaminer.com wrote that the “elephant in the room” is the breakdown of the American family and the “shallow interactions of social media” are not a valid and legitimate replacement for true relationships. An article in The Week magazine stated, “Community and family bonds are broken down, as people work endless hours in pursuit of material success and numb their loneliness with drugs, alcohol, TV, and the internet.”
But these are only symptoms of a much deeper sickness — a sickness that can only be cured by prayer, faith in God, and adherence to the principles that were taught by our Savior and have been handed down to us through the teachings of the Catholic Church.
The depression, despair, and hopelessness that Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain experienced were so overwhelming that they finally came to the conclusion that the only way they could deal with their suffering was to kill themselves. There are millions of people like them who suffer from severe depression and despair.
While there are some people who for various reasons do not have the mental capacity to willfully and voluntarily choose to kill themselves, there are millions of people who do have the mental capacity to make the decision to end their lives. And they end up giving in to the depression and despair that are ravishing their souls.
Are you suffering from depression? Do you feel as though your life is not worth living? Are you in constant physical pain or severely limited as to what you can do physically? Are you frustrated and angry about what you have become or what your future holds for you?
If you suffer from any of these conditions, you have a choice. You can either choose to allow yourself to be dragged down the dark cavernous tunnel that could lead to suicide, or you can choose to make your way to the tunnel of light, love, mercy, and eternal salvation.
Next week, I’m going to give you some suggestions on how you can break free of the Venom-like vice that may be crushing you and replace it with hope for your future here on Earth and in Heaven.
By the time I was eight years old, I had received my first communion. Once a month, I was required to go with my Saint Mark Catholic School classmates to the church so we could all line up and go to confession. In preparation for my first communion, I had learned several prayers, including the Act of Contrition, Act of Faith, Act of Hope, and Act of Love. I knew the mysteries of the rosary by memory because my mom insisted that we pray the rosary together every day as a family.
I had already learned and accepted as true that I was a child of God and that I was created by Him to know, love, and serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him in Heaven for eternity.
My memories of being eight years old were triggered on Friday (August 4) when I read an article on the internet about a discrimination lawsuit that had been filed against Heritage Oak, a secular private grade school in California.
The lawsuit was filed by the parents of an 8-year-old child who was born as a boy, but shortly before turning seven years old, decided that he wanted to be a girl. When he announced the news to his parents, he said, “I am a girl. I want to be called a girl.” He then requested that his name be changed to Nicole (Nikki) Brar. The boy’s parents went along with his newly declared identity and enrolled him in Heritage Oak, for the upcoming 2016-2017 school year.
The lawsuit claims that the school rejected the child’s request to wear a girl’s uniform and rejected a request that he be referred to with pronouns that would indicate that he was a girl. The lawsuit further claims that the school failed to address issues that related to him being bullied in the classroom, and that the school required that he use an individual staff restroom instead of the girls’ restroom.
It wasn’t that long ago when this particular child would have been diagnosed as having a serious mental health problem. But his parents saw nothing wrong with his behavior and hired a therapist who is a specialist in gender identity for children. According to the lawsuit, the therapist “encouraged Nikki’s parents to let her buy girls’ clothes if that is what she was asking for. When Nikki was able to wear girls’ clothes, she was happier and liked the way she looked.”
One explanation for the child’s behavior is that his mother previously taught college courses in gender and transgender theory. The lawsuit stated that she was sensitive to her child’s “transition” because one of her students who identified as a transgender had committed suicide.
In my opinion, it is safe to assume that when the boy was two years old, playing with a toy on the floor of the living room, he heard, absorbed, and accepted as true his mom’s explanation to her husband or her friend on the phone why it was perfectly acceptable for a boy or girl to decide that they would be happier about themselves if they changed genders. And there’s a strong likelihood that during the following five years of his life, while he was engaging in normal activities around the house, he heard, absorbed, and accepted as true similar opinions and beliefs.
I wonder how many college students at universities throughout the U.S. have taken gender and transgender theory classes over the past 20 years.
In addition to the colleges and universities promoting perverted behavior, our public high schools have also been spreading the transgender message for several years. More recently, our public grade schools have also come on board and started indoctrinating students and encouraging them to be more tolerant, accepting, and approving of this type of behavior.
Last year, a Catholic mother and client of mine told me that her teenage daughter who attends a public high school was struggling with gender identity issues.
We now have numerous children in our country who are having gender identity issues. While we can attribute part of the problem to our schools, the root of the problem lies in the way many children are now being raised by their parents.
Many of our young children are now being raised in homes that are managed by parents who have no belief in or need for God. These children have no sense of what their true purpose in life is and no clear understanding of why they were created. In other words, they have no real identity. Without an understanding of who they are and where they came from, they can easily be led to believe that their identity is fluid and can change on a whim.
Like other Catholics who grew up in devout Catholic homes, I grew up with a very clear identity of who I was. I was taught that God had planned my existence from all eternity and that I was created in His image and likeness. I was also taught that He had a plan for my life and that if I did my best to discern and follow His plan, at the end of my life, I would be welcomed into His Heavenly Kingdom for all eternity.
Last week, I wrote about the importance of hope and the prayer that I say every morning while I’m in the shower. Two of the other prayers that I say every morning while I’m in the shower are the Act of Faith and Act of Love.
Here’s the Act of Faith that I learned when I was seven years old:
O my God, I believe that Thou art one God in Three Divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that you sent your only Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for my sins, and that He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths of the Holy Catholic Church, because Thou hast revealed them, Who canst neither deceive nor be deceived.
At the meetings, each of the members of the group had a chance to stand up in front of the group and showcase the marketing we were doing and to bring up any issues we were concerned about in our businesses. The group leader and members provided useful feedback, and all of us benefited from the wide range of knowledge and skills that the members possessed.
On one occasion, Matt told a story about his friend, Dr. Tom Hanson, who had a transformative experience while he was climbing a mountain in Colorado. After Hanson climbed halfway up the mountain, he became fearful and his mind locked up on him. All of a sudden, it felt as though the side of the mountain had turned into an ice rink on its side.
Hanson yelled up to the coach who was leading him and the other climbers, “I can’t do it.” The coach looked down at him and said, “Look at your feet.” Hanson looked down at his feet and the coach yelled, “Which foot is higher than the other foot, your left or your right?” Hanson replied that his left foot was higher. The coach then yelled, “Okay, then move the right foot so it’s higher than the left foot.”
After Hanson did what the coach told him to do, the coach shouted, “Now which foot is higher than the other foot?” Hanson replied that the right foot was higher. “Okay, then move the left foot until it’s higher than the right foot,” the coach shouted. Eventually, by continuing to follow the process that the coach had introduced to him, Hanson successfully climbed the mountain.
The reason that Matt told the story was to emphasize the point that when we humans are overcome by fear or anxiety, we lose the ability to think and behave rationally. As a champion athlete, Matt had developed a process to deal with the fear and anxiety that he experienced when he was competing with other athletes.
He told us that the first thing he always did was to completely relax his body. He said that when the mind locks up from fear and anxiety, the body becomes tense and rigid. He said that before you can relieve the mind of the fear and anxiety, you must first relax the body.
Matt told us that the quickest way to relax our bodies is to close our eyes, breathe deeply, and imagine every part of our body being relaxed. He recommended that we take at least 10 deep, slow breaths, while feeling the lower, middle, and upper back expand with the air we are breathing. He then said that we should slowly exhale after each breath, and that by following this process, our bodies would become relaxed, which in turn would have a calming effect on our minds.
I thought about the lesson I learned from Matt when a lawyer friend of mine told me that he had sought counseling because of some anxiety-related problems he was experiencing. He said that after several unsuccessful sessions with his initial counselor, he sought the assistance of another counselor who, within a short period of time, helped him develop the skills that were necessary to manage and overcome his anxiety.
When I asked my friend if he would be willing to share with me what he had learned, he said that his counselor taught him three “tools” to help him manage his stress and anxiety. Here’s what he told me:
1. The first tool is to be mindful. Basically, this means to understand why you are thinking the things you think. As simple as this sounds, most people never do this. They go through life bouncing around like a pinball. Their thoughts drive their emotions, and their emotions drive their actions.