Manhood Monday: God’s Plan for Our Success

Your weekly dose of “Living the Goodness of a Catholic Man”.

From Today’s Readings:

Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time.

Alleluia  JN 1:49B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Rabbi, you are the Son of God;
you are the King of Israel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

* [1:49] Son of God: this title is used in the Old Testament, among other ways, as a title of adoption for the Davidic king (2 Sm 7:14Ps 2:789:27), and thus here, with King of Israel, in a messianic sense. For the evangelist, Son of God also points to Jesus’ divinity (cf. Jn 20:28).

“There is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them as we will,” Shakespeare tells us. God has a master plan for the human race and to each one of us he has given a little niche in that plan. If we play the part he has given us, though it be noble or humble in the eyes of this world, we will make a success of God’s master-plan, of this great human drama. Our own eternal success will be assured.

Deacon John Rangel, CMCS Director of Mission

God bless your day.

Catholic Men Chicago Southland Apostolate (CMCS)


Frank’s Photo of the Week

You see, God designed us men as problem solvers, and the best way to solve a problem is to spend time in prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit so we can meet God where He is at work .

… that is our goal as Catholic men. Yes, easier said than done.

Embrace the darkness. If we have developed trust in God in the light, we’ll embrace Him in the darkness, and in fact, we’ll even embrace the darkness as His path for us.

In other words, when we experience darkness, we’ll back away if our faith is weak, but we’ll move into it if our faith has been strengthened by years of experience in seeing God’s faithfulness, grace, and power.

The thing we have to do as Catholic men is to live out our salvation in Christ through the Sacraments.

Thanks for Reading.

Make it a great week. See you back here again next Monday.

Frank J Casella,
CMCS Executive Director

A larger collection of photographs can be viewed on my portfolio.


Not signed up yet? Click here.

Please Donate What You Can

We rely on contributions from readers and members of our community to keep Catholic Chicago Men Blog free. If you’d like to pay what you can for the service, we’d greatly appreciate it. These contributions touch the lives of many and help us keep investing in new technologies and better content.

Thank you for being the best part of Catholic Chicago Men Blog! Your contributions make a difference. On behalf of Bishop Joseph Perry, and all of us at Catholic Men Chicago Southland, and all of those that will be helped, thank you.

Responding to Change

Seeking solutions to changes and conflict in your life.

Photo: ‘Blue Chicago Blizzard‘ – Copyright 2012 Frank J Casella

All human relationships include change and conflict. The key is to learn constructive methods for reaching a resolution when change happens.

Whether it’s work or family, marriage or friendships, health matters, our culture, or the many conflicts in our war-torn world, it is more productive to tap into identifying our emotions in times of change, and then accept them – to seek God’s direction in what we are feeling – rather than bottle it up.

I share this from experience. And most of this article is what I have personally learned about, and from, change in my life. You may want to share your own experiences in the comments section below.

Dr. Gary Chapman asks “Is your personality an asset or liability to your relationships and the world around you? The Psalms show us how to express our feelings and emotions, and the Holy Spirit plays an important roll in this. While our personalities are developed in childhood, they are not set in stone. We can change.”

“The message of the Bible is that God loves us as we are”, says Chapman, “but he loves us too much to leave us as we are.” We all need to grow and growth requires change. We can be influenced by our personality, but we need not be controlled by it.

Instead, we are to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 4, St. Paul tells us, to be renewed in the spirit of your minds.” When we yield to the power of the Holy Spirit significant changes in our approach to life and relationships will become evident. But the key as men is to leave it with the Holy Spirit and not take it back as soon as we feel it out of control, or the situation not going as we think it should. But most of all, don’t lose hope.

As Catholic men who are task minded, our deeper question might be where is change? Where do I want to end up? It’s not only the change but considering the thought of change. In seeking a deeper understanding, I may have to drop what I believe to accept something new.

Responding to change means to spend time in the quiet presence of the Holy Spirit, to consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Bible, and learn from the magisterial teachings of the Catholic Church – which is the church’s authority or office to give authentic interpretation of the Word of God.

Responding to change does not mean to listen to what others or our culture say what’s important, without mentioning the (sources from the) Holy Spirit. The thing about (men’s) spirituality is that it cannot be measured. Thus some forms of spirituality can deceive us if we’re not tapped into the Holy Spirit seeking wisdom and direction for the truth.

In other words, I’m sure you are aware how there are people in circles of the church who share their own theology so to speak, who don’t provide the sources of church teaching from what they are saying about the Holy Spirit, meditation or contemplation, etc.. (do an internet search on them and see if there is much controversy and what is said about them). This can be compared to how a news reporter may say ‘sources tell us’ without sharing who those sources are (this no longer means what it used to) – don’t listen to them!

For example, some people I follow on Catholic Manhood are (not in any order): Matt Fradd, Bishop Thomas Olmstead, Fr. Larry Richards, Randy Hain, Sam Guzman, Brian Caulfield, Bill Dodds, Hector Molina, Patrick McCaskey, Fr. Burke Masters, Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, and of course our own Bishop Joseph Perry. Many Catholic men also follow: Dr. Gary Chapman, Dr. Charles Stanley, Dr. Tony Evans, and Dr. Meg Meeker, to name a few. You can also consult our growing Catholic Books post.

Change Begins With Me

Begin by changing your own attitude. Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle in your own heart. Say to God “If you give me a vision of what a spiritual change in my life will look like, then I’m willing to make the changes.” Then read the Bible and other Catholic resources and look for passages that tell you what this change should be.

Think. Prepare. Action. – It happens with focus. It doesn’t happen with information, from head to heart.

Every day do something that will make you better, and ask God to help you live up to this model. The fastest way to success, is to replace bad habits with good habits. If we hear but don’t change our behavior, we’re then essentially fooling ourselves. It’s when we put God’s guidance into action that transforming change can take place.

Say to yourself: “To see changes happening in my life, it begins with me.”

There is always something left to love. And the worse things are, the more there is to love. In Christ, God has assured us of his love, his acceptance, his understanding, his peace at all times – especially when times are the dreariest and the most hopeless God asks us who would be his holy people to be as ready as God is to lift up, to forgive, to support, to love every man.

Bishop Joseph Perry

The hope is in that of having a positive attitude. Not to focus on the problem but the solution. This focus of seeking the solutions, and reaching out to others, will lead to the answers in responding to change and conflict in your life.

God give you peace.

Frank J Casella

Bishop Joseph Perry: Pentecost

Photo: ‘A Picture of Faith’ – Copyright 2014 Frank J Casella

Our faith is a gift.  We often speak of a good relationship in terms of one whom we love or a friend being a gift to us.  We speak of our children as individual gifts. We consider a good job, having good health, all being singular affirmative donations to the experience of life.  The religious among us might even consider these gifts coming from above and not of our own initiative.

But, our faith is a gift and a task – an unspeakable gift from God to us, a holy task we are called to do, meaning, we are called to live the life of faith and to invite others to share in the life of faith.  Our faith touches the core of who we are and our faith fulfills us deeply.

We trust that along the path of life we have come to understand this entire religious experience as an affirming, positive gift, namely to know God and to live in His embrace and under his direction is a singular gift bar none  – such a relationship with God is called “grace.”

It is often said that in our modern day living the life of faith is more of a challenge than in the past.  Perhaps, we suffer under more distractions, preoccupations and self-determinations in our time.  Nonetheless, I want to encourage our readers to stay the course.

The Christian feast of Pentecost is a wonderful reason why we should stay the course. At the end of his life of faith and service the Lord Jesus was taken up into glory.   That, dear friends, is our future too.  It is our horizon of hope at this time.  Jesus assured his disciples that he would send the Paraclete – the Holy Spirit, to equip us with the strength and courage needed for the ordeal to come and then he would come back for us to take us with him.

II

Being a baby-boomer myself, born not long after the end of World War II, perhaps, like some of you I have read my share of war narratives, listened to my own father’s experience being in the US Army during that war in the European theatre and watched many a documentary about that war.  Those accounts are usually gripping but they are never without aspects of the good and even of the heroic.  If war brings out the worst in some people, it brings out the best in others, like all tragedies of one sort or another.

The late Pope John Paul II brought to our attention the horror of World War II when we read of him having experienced that war himself in his own displacement and the persecution and extermination of his own friends and acquaintances, Jews and fellow Catholic Poles and fellow priests.  Pope John Paul II raised up to the honors of the altar many saints and martyrs of that terrible period 1939-1945, some whose names now mark our church calendars, such as Carmelite Sister Edith Stein, Franciscan Father Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish Sisters of the Holy Family and others.  Even now retired Pope Benedict XVI as a lad was forced to join the Hitler Youth and later escaped only to be taken prisoner by American troops till Germany finally surrendered.

III

I think it is the combination of the good and the heroic set against the background of the graphic and disturbing that has helped me to keep my balance in life and to taste its deeper meaning.  The abject misery of people victims of war and conflict in the Middle East and in Africa today only forces me to count my blessings and give thanks to God for all I have.

Among my greatest blessings I count to be my Catholic faith.  Since my faith and my life are inextricably tied up with the Church I must name the Church among my greatest blessings. The two of them – my faith and my Church – give me my energy, my identity, my horizon of hope at this time and at all times.  These two gifts will carry me under God’s grace to heaven.  They will do the same for you too.

I find myself then, not lacking the horizon of hope at all as I look at our Church in these challenging times. Besides, I realize that the Church is in good hands because it is in Christ’s hands.  But, the Church is not only a gift that the Lord has given you and me it is also a care upon our hearts and a responsibility on our shoulders.

Every Sunday is a graced opportunity to give witness before God and the Church each our own enthusiasm and love for our Catholic traditions as we recite the Creed together, as this faith marks our lives indelibly shaping every thought and action of ours. This faith is the lens through which we view the entire world.  In this sense, our religion is not a hobby that we have time for today but perhaps not next week or next month depending upon our mood.  Our religion is a preoccupation of ours because we love and admire Jesus Christ.

One of the Second World War’s heroes of Christian resistance to the Nazis was the young Lutheran theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  He was arrested by the Nazis in 1943, imprisoned in Buchenwald Concentration Camp and hanged at Flossenburg Concentration Camp just a few weeks before the war ended.  The Nazis would not let him go even when they knew that Hitler’s regime was finished. They had an old score to settle with Bonhoeffer.  He had been one of the Nazi regime’s harshest critics.

I am always impressed by what a Christian of heroic stature has to say about the Church because I know it doesn’t come out of a book when he or she is condemned to die for the faith, nor do their words come from blind loyalty but from the depths of that person’s soul.

Of the Church, Bonhoeffer had this to say:  “The Church is not very influential, not a very imposing institution and always in dire need of improvement.”  Nevertheless, he added, “The Church is an office from God.” [“What is the Church”, found in No Rusty Swords, Nashville, TN, Abingdon Press, 1977].

What Bonhoeffer says is true because the Church is easily dismissed by the popular culture that finds the Church an annoyance and the message we peddle an invasion of  privacy.

The Church, of course, is essentially made up of flawed human beings, baptized, anointed, awaiting redemption in Christ. But these flawed human beings carry a message that’s not of their invention.

The Church is not a very imposing or influential institution and it is in dire need of improvement.  But, we must not stop there forgetting the most important thing that Bonheoffer said about the Church:  “The Church is an office from God.”  By “office” he meant that the church is a care we have from God and a work to be done for the Lord and for the salvation of others.
While the Church is not of our making it is of our implementation for which we need the mercy of God in carrying for its mission.

“The Lord worked with the apostles and confirmed the word through them,” says John’s gospel.  Similarly, the Lord works with his Church in our time and in its difficulties and its accomplishments.  And He confirms his message through the Church’s worship and sacraments, through its teachers and preachers, its prophets and saints, and even, praise God, through you and me.

IV

Remember the beginnings of our religion were with a group of impoverished and hesitant individuals who probably would not make it in a typical contemporary job interview. They were largely from the poor and working classes. They felt keenly their oppressed, second-class status under subjugation by a foreign power, a hostile empire that would soon as nail them to a cross than ask questions or say ‘hello.’  They were people without defense, without influence.  They searched for their dignity in their religion as descendants of Abraham, Jacob and Moses and their association with Jesus of Nazareth.

One of them was not sure about Jesus and for reasons of his own internal conflicts decided to betray Jesus to his enemies in exchange for some money.  Another disciple denied that he ever met Jesus at a moment the Lord needed him most.  This one went so far as to curse and swear up and down that he was never in Jesus’ company.  Mysteriously, Jesus chose this one to head up his Church after his own departure.

The rest of the band ran in fear of the authorities and locked themselves in a hidden away upper level room in the city wondering what to do next.  A few women stood by Jesus till the end even watching closely his grave.  So much in pain were they over his brutal execution.

Another disciple could not quite believe the report that Jesus was seen alive again several days later, unable to grasp the pieces of Jesus’ teaching and message and the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy in his behalf.

Amazingly, this band of reticent followers was sent out into the world to win the world for God, in many instances, at the cost of their own lives.

Those first Christians may not have been sure of a lot of things and may have been guilty of their own missteps in life.  You may say they were timid and afraid amidst their own disenfranchisement in a violent world.  But one thing for sure those first Christians soon discovered they were sure about and that was what they were willing to die for. The test of our faith, friends, hinges upon what we are willing to stake our lives upon.  Hopefully our faith is one of those things.

Should we be surprised then at weak Christians, hesitant, reticent Christians, flawed and sinful Christians who worship with us, some who even lead and teach the faith today?  Let us never lose the horizon of hope.  If Jesus worked with that first and original, fledgling group, a collection of timid and flawed human beings.  If he works with us, should we not work with each other to improve this Church for the kingdom Jesus is establishing?

V

Pentecost is a feast of hope for the Church.  Jesus had spent his life showing us how to find meaning and purpose and joy through a life of faith in him and a life of service to others.  He has shown us how to live with the horizon of hope ever before our eyes.  He has told us that glory is the reward of such a faith-filled servant life.

Then, as Jesus lived, so may we live.  And as all ended in glory for him so may all end in glory for us.  This is not a vain hope for a vague future.  It is the actual future of which this feast of the birth day of the Church at Pentecost is a pledge.

God’s gift of the Holy Spirit animates us both as individuals and as Church to do the work God does, to be the people of God, to live the life of the Gospel.  Pentecost celebrates the unseen, immeasurable presence of God in our lives and in our Church.

The Holy Spirit is God’s breath that animates us to do the work of the gospel of the Risen One, the strength to make God’s will our will, the power of God transforming us so that we might infuse his life and love into our broken world.

God breathes his Spirit into our souls so that we may live his life in the here and now; God ignites the fire of his Spirit within our hearts and minds that we may realize the coming of God’s reign in our own time and place.

Manhood Monday: The Holy Spirit Speaking to Us

Your weekly dose of “Living the Goodness of a Catholic Man”.

From Today’s Readings:

Alleluia JN 14:26

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Holy Spirit will teach you everything
and remind you of all I told you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Lord,

What will be the right thing for me to persue right now so that I might be and do what you desire for me to be and do?    – Amen.

Pray the above prayer and let God speak to your heart. Close your drapes and make it time with only you and the Lord. When you think you are done and it’s time to leave, that is the point when you are to stay put.  For that is the time when you have ‘drained your brain’ of worldly concerns – talking to God from your human understanding – and are ready to open your ears to listen for the prompting of the Holy Spirit speaking to us.  Give it time, and don’t rush it.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not;  In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths. 

Proverbs 3: 5 – 6

God bless your day.

The CMCS-Team


Frank’s Photo of the Week

Dog Eyes – Copyright 2008 Frank J Casella

When you train your dog with leadership and love, he looks at you with dog eyes of trust and love back.

When you trust in the Lord, that is when God speaks to you through the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks for Reading.

Make it a great week. See you back here again next Monday.

Frank J Casella,
CMCS Executive Director

A larger collection of photographs can be viewed on my portfolio.


Not signed up yet? Click here.

Click here to learn about the annual Bishop Perry’s Catholic Chicago Men’s Forum held on the Saturday after Easter. All men from around the Archdiocese of Chicago and surrounding Chicagoland are invited to attend.

The Secret to Your Identity as a Child of God

How to experience the journey of spiritual transformation.

Photo: ‘Flowers in the Woods’ Copyright 2017 Frank J Casella on Fine Art America

It is said, as I shared in my last post, that if you start to spend ten minutes to an hour a day with your own thoughts, it will take up to sixty days before you remove all the clutter and eventually can start the hour thinking about yesterday and today!

I have found this to be so true!

Silence can be scary, I know. Especially when you haven’t done it in a while, or you may have thoughts of it causing your skeletons in the closet to come to the surface of things.

This is where prayer comes in.

It is like walking through the forest or woods. At first you notice the beauty of the trees, and how the sunlight interplays with the branches. Then as you walk down the trail, and listen to the birds and sounds of nature, your brain starts to shift to the peacefulness as your surroundings fall into the background.

Things start to enter your brain about your deeper thoughts that do not have a chance to surface because of all the distractions in life. The secret here is to seek what God says about these thoughts.

How do you learn to understand the Word of God? By reading it and by trusting the Holy Spirit.

Reading the Word of God can be as Fr. Larry Richards says “Bible before breakfast and Bible before bed”, or it can be just spending time with the daily Mass readings. The important thing is to put our thoughts in right perspective, because when we remove the Word of God from our lives we can feel overwhelmed and on our own.

Remember that God uses people and our circumstances to do His work. This is all a journey, and not a destination.

Check out this 2-minute video where Father Burke Masters shares his journey from knowing to believing his true identity in Christ. You may recall he shared something like this with us at our Men’s Forum a few years ago.

The world can have us confused in everyday life about our true identity as men. It can be from what we do for a living, to our image through the things we own. We may love God, but do we truly have Christ in our hearts?

Once we experience the journey of allowing God to transform our us, we begin to see our lives, and the world, through His eyes and our true identity as a child of God. And this can only come through the silence of deep thinking and prayer.

Thanks for reading.

Frank J Casella

Manhood Monday: The Words of Eternal Life

Your weekly dose of “Living the Goodness of a Catholic Man”.

From Today’s Readings:

Monday of the Second Week in Lent.

Verse Before the Gospe l Jn 6:63c, 68c

Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life;
you have the words of everlasting life.

Spirit and life: all Jesus said about the bread of life is the revelation of the Spirit.

Needing to go to Confession is like needing to check in with a doctor regarding our physical health.  We cannot afford to neglect spiritual doctoring of our souls any more than we can afford to neglect a physical doctor of our bodies.  The Sacrament of Penance also works for a healthy life.  Mature and healthy men are men who can take themselves to task, recognize their mistakes and take aim to correct those mistakes for the sake of positive connections with their spouse, their children, their friends, the people they work with and, therefore our God.

Check your parish confession schedule or some parish, shrine or oratory that has a regular confession schedule.

Bishop Joseph Perry: ‘Haven’t Been To Confession In A While?’

God bless your day.

The CMCS-Team


Frank’s Photo of the Week

Photo: ‘Swing’ by Frank J Casella on Fine Art America
The Playground of Life

I’m sure you’ve heard it said that the world is our playground? Though, I’ve noticed that many times we can learn from a playground about how to live in the world.

One day as I was taking the dog for a walk by a playground, I couldn’t help but notice a young brother and sister being corrected by their parent about sharing a swing.

The older child said somthing to tease the younger, causing the younger to slug the older. The parent corrected the younger about making a bad decision, yet didn’t correct the older, and then asking the two to appologize to each other.

This incident made me wonder how these two children will behave when they grow up, and what the world would be like without forgiveness.

Then the answer came to just look around us. How many people do you know who’ve shared their life experiences about others, where there wouln’nt be an issue if they’d just say “I’m Sorry” and forgive?

So, it seems that saying “I’m sorry” is a key to making life easier as we play in the playground of life.

Thanks for Reading.

Make it a great week. See you back here again next Monday.

Frank J Casella,
CMCS Executive Director

A larger collection of photographs can be viewed on my portfolio.


Not signed up yet? Click here.

Click here to learn about the annual Bishop Perry’s Catholic Chicago Men’s Forum held on the Saturday after Easter. All men from around the Archdiocese of Chicago and surrounding Chicagoland are invited to attend.

Trust In God

The thing we have as Catholic men is to live out our salvation in Christ through the Sacraments.

20 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid, for God has come only to test you and put the fear of him upon you so you do not sin.”
21 So the people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the dark cloud where God was.

Exodus 20:20-21

How is the battle going?

I met with Deacon Coleman one day, from Zacchaeus House ministry, he is a member of the CMCS-Team. We got to talking about ministry to men, how guys worry about work and family, about providing and how to live their faith.

Like how many guys need jobs, and how some union guys go into poverty because they can’t do side-work while waiting their turn on the list for a job. There are marriages and relationships with strife because of worry and (living up to) expectations, feelings that we are all falling short of our goal.

The answer to all of this is to slow down and trust in God. Simply said but not simple to do.

Why?

Because do you find most of us guys are spending too much time not trusting in God, though we say that we do, but trusting in ourselves? Or listening to others on social media instead of listening to God?

Once we realize our way isn’t working is when we seek God and pray for answers. And anger happens usually when things are not going our way.

Many of us too fear silence … quiet time with the Lord.

This is where CMCS comes in. Here is a movement of men who, whether online or one-on-one, or through our annual events, is a place where we learn about the common challenges we face as men in the workplace and at home, on our spiritual journey.

I, as Director, struggle with trusting in God too…. For one, how to be the voice of reason here after meeting with several of you one-on-one about developing your holiness. Sometimes I try too hard to get it right, instead of trusting the Holy Spirit to speak to you through me.

You see,  God designed us men as problem solvers, and the best way to solve a problem is to spend time in prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit so we can meet God where He is at work .

… that is our goal as Catholic men. Yes, easier said than done.

Embrace the darkness. If we have developed trust in God in the light, we’ll embrace Him in the darkness, and in fact, we’ll even embrace the darkness as His path for us.

In other words, when we experience darkness, we’ll back away if our faith is weak, but we’ll move into it if our faith has been strengthened by years of experience in seeing God’s faithfulness, grace, and power.

The thing we have as Catholic men is to live out our salvation in Christ through the Sacraments.

Here is one tip:

“It is a defined dogma of the Catholic Church, revealed by the Holy Spirit and preserved from any possibility of error, that the Body and Blood,Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ are truly and substantially present in the Most Holy Eucharist.”  CCC 1373-1375. Eucharist is not a symbol. The Mass is not a pageant or play acting or a skit anymore than the Lord’s horrendous death on the cross was a skit.

Now what are you waiting for? Go into battle!

Frank J Casella