Personal Growth

May 4, 2019

Barbie Turns 60 Years Old

April 27, 2019

Advice from An Old Farmer

For several years, there has been a list that has been passed around the internet with the title, “Advice from An Old Farmer.” The list contains lessons of life that apply to everyone. I did some research to see if I could find out who the original author was, but I was unable to identify who it was.

April 20, 2019

Who is the Real King?

While I was preparing to write this article, I went to YouTube and watched the opening theme of a weekly TV show that aired on NBC from 1966 to 1968. When the show began in 1966, I was nine years old. I’m referring to Tarzan, a TV show that I watched with my younger brothers every Friday night.

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.

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.

January 5, 2019

Is God a Procrastinator?

During the work week, every morning I drive from my home in Washington, Illinois, to my office in downtown Peoria. To get to my office, I have to use one of the three bridges that are available to cross the Illinois River.

The quickest way to my office is to take Route 24 to the McClugage Bridge. After I cross the bridge, I take the Adams Street exit and stay on Adams until it turns into Jefferson Street, which is a three-lane, one-way street that takes me directly to my office in Peoria.

In October of last year, an underground water pipe broke near the intersection of Jefferson and Hayward streets. Illinois American Water immediately sent a crew to repair the pipe. They cut out a large area of concrete, and then they dug down to the pipe and repaired it.

The area where the concrete was removed was blocked, and traffic on Jefferson was forced to merge from three lanes into one lane to get past where the repair occurred. The crew had the pipe repaired within a day. Then, for the next three weeks, no additional work was done to fill in the area that was dug out and to pour concrete to return the road to its original condition.

During that time, each day from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., the traffic on Jefferson was so heavy that vehicles were backed up almost a mile from the area where the two lanes were blocked. Everyone had to merge into one lane until they passed the area, at which time they were able to again travel on three lanes. After three weeks of no activity, I was extremely frustrated that a crew had not come back to finish the job and open up the two closed lanes.

One morning when I passed the area, I wrote down the name of the side street where the pipe had been repaired. When I arrived at my office, I called the City of Peoria traffic engineering department and explained to the man I talked to that the two lanes had remained unnecessarily closed for the past few weeks. I asked him if someone from his department could contact the contractor and push them to get the street repaired.

He responded by saying, “That’s an Illinois American Water project. I’ll give you the number of the guy you can call to report the problem. You can ask him when they plan on completing the project.” My immediate thought was, “Isn’t that what your job is — to make sure that the streets in the City of Peoria are quickly repaired so people who are driving are not unnecessarily inconvenienced by delays?”

Even though I was irritated that the guy was too lazy to do his job, I kept my mouth shut. I figured that if I complained to him that he should be the one to make the phone call, he would ignore my request and wouldn’t bother to get around to making the call.

After I finished my conversation with him, I dialed the number that he had given to me. No one answered the phone. Instead, there was a voicemail message that requested that I leave a message. I provided my name, phone number, and a detailed message as to why I was calling. I asked for a return phone call to let me know when the project would be completed. Of course, I never heard back from anyone.

Two weeks later, after putting up with the continued heavy traffic and delays, I was so irritated that I looked up the name and phone number of the District 1 Peoria City Council member. District 1 includes the area of Jefferson where the street was torn up. The council member for that district is Denise Moore. I had never met or talked to Ms. Moore.

I called the phone number that was listed on the City of Peoria website and Ms. Moore answered the phone on the third ring. She was in the middle of something, but she made time to talk to me. I explained what was going on and what had happened when I called the City of Peoria. Her immediate response was, “Why did he tell you to call Illinois American Water? He should’ve done that himself.” I told her that I thought the same thing, but I made the phone call anyway and I did not receive any response from the water company.

Ms. Moore promised that she would immediately look into the matter and get it taken care of. The following week, a crew of five men showed up and filled the trench where the pipe had been repaired. They worked on the site for a few days and then the following week, they poured concrete on Jefferson and laid blacktop on the side street.

After giving the concrete several days to cure, the two lanes were reopened for traffic. To her credit, Ms. Moore did what she told me she was going to do and got the job DONE. According to my calculation, the project took more than seven weeks to complete, when it should have been done in two weeks.

A few weeks ago, while I was in the men’s locker room of the gym where I work out, I noticed that one of the two soap dispensers that are available was out of soap. Later, while I was working out, I saw the housekeeping lady who is there almost every day. I usually say hi to her and sometimes exchange small talk, but this time I mentioned to her that the soap dispenser was out of soap.

She responded by saying that she would take care of it. She didn’t get the job done that day, which didn’t surprise me. I already knew that she was lazy because I had observed her frequently stop to visit with other people, and she would often stretch the time that it would take to complete a task.

Last week, I noticed that the dispenser was still out of soap. Later, when I saw the housekeeping lady piddling around with a menial task, I approached her and said, “Did you forget about the soap dispenser?” She looked at me as though she didn’t know what I was talking about. I then said, “Do you remember when you told me that you were going to put soap in the soap dispenser in the men’s locker room?” She answered, “Oh! They didn’t take care of that?” I replied, “They probably don’t know anything about it. You’re the only one who knows because I’m the one who told you about it.”

She immediately began reciting a litany of excuses. I interrupted her and said, “Do you have access to the soap?” She said, “Yes, I can get the soap.” “So can you go do the job right now?” I asked. She answered, “I cannot do it now, but I’ll make sure to get it done tonight.” I haven’t been back since then, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she did not get around to replacing the soap.

So why am I telling you all this? Because it irritates me to no end that 80 percent of the people I come into contact with can’t seem to get anything done. They always have a long list of excuses to justify their laziness. And they always do everything in their power to explain how busy they are.

If any one of those people followed a truly productive person around all day, by the end of the day, they would be on the ground clutching their chests and complaining about how exhausted they were. I consider myself to be an expert on this topic because, over the years, the primary fault that I have struggled to conquer is laziness. If I gave you a dollar for every time I’ve confessed laziness, you would be wealthy.

Why do I work so hard to quickly get things done? One reason is because I have this little video that plays in my mind that shows me what may happen the moment that I meet God. I see Him saying, “What did you get DONE for Me and My Kingdom while you were living on Earth? With all the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years that I gave you, what did you get DONE? How much praying did you get DONE? How many corporal and spiritual works of mercy did you get DONE?” Then the video in my mind gets worse. God then shows me the millions of things I could have gotten DONE for Him but didn’t.

When the infant Jesus was lying in the manger shivering from the cold, He knew that He was on Earth for one primary reason — to die on the cross so the gates of Heaven would be opened for those of us who want to enter into His Kingdom. He could have procrastinated and put off being born, but he kept to His Father’s schedule and despite all the pain and suffering He knew he was going to endure, he got the job DONE.

What did you get DONE last year? What did you get DONE last month? I’m not talking about all the worldly things that you did. I’m talking about the things you got DONE that helped you to know, love, and serve God in a more meaningful way.

After challenging the housekeeping lady to get the soap dispenser job DONE, I went home and told Georgette about my experience. I then told her about how I wanted to slap the lady upside the head for being so lazy and making excuses — like Moe used to do to Curly in The Three Stooges. By then, I had worked myself up and said to Georgette, “Why is it that nobody can get anything DONE? It seems as though a third of my time is spent bullying people to do their jobs and get things DONE.”

In her typical way of dealing with me, she said, “Honey, maybe we should check your blood pressure. It seems as though it may be a little high right now. Are you okay? Do you need to lie down?” Of course, she knew that her comments would get me more worked up, while at the same time letting me know that I shouldn’t be so wound up about such a small matter.

I’ll tell you how I really feel about this issue of getting things DONE. I have to fight with myself every day to create urgency and set deadlines for tasks that I know need to get DONE. It actually benefits me when I push others to commit to getting things DONE by creating for them a sense of urgency and a deadline for completion. Yes, I may have to bully some people to force them to get things DONE, but I don’t apologize for my behavior. I don’t feel guilty about pushing people to do what they should be doing on their own. In fact, I consider it a work of mercy.

Do you want to know one of the SECRETS to getting into Heaven? The secret is … DONE — what you choose to get DONE for God, how much you get DONE for God, and how fast you get it DONE for God. Like the saints, we need to create urgency and deadlines, so we can get more things DONE for God.

We’ve just started a new year. What are you going to get DONE this year to become a more devout Catholic, to perform frequent works of mercy, to develop a better relationship with God, and to help others develop a better relationship with God?

December 29, 2018

What Can You Do With A 43-Year-Old Tool Box?

Do you remember what you received for your 18th birthday? It’s been 43 years since I turned 18 (1975), but I still remember what I received from my parents. It was a 21-inch, gray metal Craftsman toolbox. Prior to my birthday, my mom had asked me what I wanted, and I wrote down the type of toolbox that could be purchased from Sears.

At that time, the Craftsman brand was owned by Sears, and Craftsman tools and accessories we’re known worldwide for their quality and lifetime guarantee. During the summer following my 18th birthday, I worked for my dad’s construction company. Most of what I earned went into my savings account to pay for college, but I did set aside a percentage of every paycheck for tool purchases. The only tools that I purchased were Craftsman tools. During that summer, I got into the habit of going to Sears every few weeks to roam around the tool department and purchase at least one tool that I needed.

I followed the same routine during each of the summers that I was in college and law school. During those summers, in addition to working for my dad’s company, I also did home repair and remodeling projects for homeowners. Each time that I was paid for a project, I went to Sears and purchased whatever additional tools that I needed at the time. I acquired so many hand tools that I eventually purchased a second Craftsman toolbox. Both of my toolboxes are still in good shape and are currently sitting on a shelf in my garage, filled with many of the tools that I acquired during the years that I was in college and law school.

Last year, because Sears was in desperate need of cash, it sold its iconic Craftsman brand to Stanley Black and Decker for $900 million. In October of this year, Lowes and Stanley Black and Decker announced that Craftsmen tools were going to be available for sale at Lowe’s, a direct competitor of Sears. Within days of the announcement, Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. At that time, Sears announced that it was closing 142 unprofitable stores. A month later, it announced the closure of 40 more stores. Last week, it announced plans to close 80 additional stores, bringing the total number of closures to more than 260 (which is more than a third of its 700 stores).

It’s only a matter of time before Sears finally crashes and burns, which will leave the 125-year-old company and its more than 68,000 employees in the trash bin of history.

Earlier this month, it was reported that the Boy Scouts of America was considering filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The purpose of the bankruptcy would be to put a halt to the numerous lawsuits that are pending against the organization for the allegedly inappropriate behavior of several of its employees. In addition, there has been a massive exodus from the ranks of the boy scouts over the past few years, because of changes that have been made to allow for the acceptance of girls and openly gay individuals into the organization. The Boy Scouts of America was founded 108 years ago.

What is happening to Sears and the Boy Scouts proves that nothing is permanent in this world. There will be a day when Wal-Mart dies and goes out of business. There will also be a day when dies and goes out of business. The same will eventually occur for General Motors, AT&T, Google, and Apple.

While there are currently several billionaires who are funding medical research that is expected to allow humans to live forever, there will never be a day when that happens. Original sin put an end to men and women living forever on Earth. While we will continue to hear predictions of future immortality, it will never happen.

As a result of original sin, we were all born to die. And just as every human faces certain death, every plant, animal, organism, institution, business, and government face certain death … except for one organization — the Catholic Church, which has already been in existence for more than 2,000 years.

Nothing on this earth is permanent, except for the Catholic Church. When we die and our souls enter into eternity, everything will then be permanent for us. If we’re fortunate enough to make it into Heaven, we will enjoy a permanent and perfect relationship with our Lord, our Lady, and all the other saints in Heaven. (The horror of Hell is that those who end up there will experience a permanent and painful eternal relationship with Lucifer, his agents, and the other unfortunate souls who will forever suffer from the same fate.)

Why is the Catholic Church a permanent institution? Because it was founded by our Savior with the promise that it would never die. The permanency of the Catholic Church will endure until the end of time, at which time it will be merged with the Heavenly Kingdom.

In a spiritual sense, the Catholic Church is perfect because its heart is the Holy Spirit. While there will inevitably come a time when every human heart stops beating, the Divine Heart of the Church will never stop beating. The Catholic Church is the only conduit by which souls reach Heaven, regardless of whether some of those souls were never aware that the Catholic Church is the one true Church.

Unfortunately, because the Catholic Church is managed by imperfect humans, there will always be scandals that flare up and disrupt the faithful operation of the Church. But those scandals will never deliver a death blow to the Catholic Church. We have that guarantee from our Lord.

As you and I conclude the Christmas season and begin a new year, we need to carefully consider what rituals and activities we engage in each day to enhance our permanent relationship with God. Then we need to work at increasing those daily rituals and activities. For most of us, if we were to write down everything we do each day, we would come to realize that most of our activities are geared toward our temporary existence on Earth, rather than our permanent relationship with God.

Now is the time to change all that.

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.