A Letter from Bishop Joseph Perry on COVID-19

Dear Friends in Christ,

As we approach the feast of the Resurrection on Sunday, April 12, we may well feel like we are entombed by precautionary measures that have altered the rhythm of life these days given the threat associated with coronavirus.  All this is certainly without precedent in our lifetimes.  We struggle daily enough with the cold and flu and other physical discomforts and can find relief in most instances with over-the-counter meds.  And, let’s admit it, we Americans are not used to plagues of this nature and scope that hit other areas around the world.

The austerity of Lent and what the season can mean faces us dramatically.  What is God saying to us in this time of anxiety and misfortune?  It is a time for prayer and sober reflection on our dependence upon the mercy of God.  What prayer can we recite together as a household while we are waiting on the Lord?  For we cannot heal ourselves.  While churches are closed these days for sake of the fright connected with contagion, once they are reopened we hope many more unused to the regimen of weekly ritual focus upon God might be inclined to reorder their lives and join us.

I’ve been busy telephoning the priests of the vicariate, family and relatives and friends to make sure everyone is alright.  With the exception of one of our priests who is hospitalized with the virus, everyone else appears to be alright.  Thank God!

While we already have made necessary changes to our lifestyle and readjusted certain habits, we might measure which of these we might carryover once this is all over, what needs particular attention on our parts for a better quality of life and spiritual tone to our busy lives.  

Certainly, a healing in response to a bad turn with health is one of the gifts of God. 

But first, seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all things will be added unto you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” 

Matthew 6, 33-34

Blessings and good health I wish for you and all who are important to you.

Biship Joseph Perry
Archdiocese of Chicago
CMCS Episcopal Liasion

You Know What It Is That Has A Grip On You

By Frank J Casella

In Mark 9: 14-29 the disciples were unable to drive out the demons.  Jesus said “This kind can only come out through prayer” … a variant reading adds “and through fasting.”   

What are your demons? 

What has a grip on you? 

Photo ‘Morning Buzz’ by Frank J Casella on Fine Art America

If you look at what you worry or think about all of the time, or what uses up most of your time, this is what might have a grip on you. This is your demon.  

Said another way, anything that distracts you from growth in holiness with Jesus is your demon.  You know what it is, and you have not been able to get rid of it.  Look what Jesus says: “This kind can only come out through prayer and fasting”.

You don’t have to look very far around you to see that our culture is distracted by consumerism.  Anyone who has a storage shed, or a garage and/or basement packed with stuff is distracted by consumerism. 

Life is not about what clothes you where, or what your body looks like. It’s not about where you work, or what position you hold. Life is not about what college you went to, or what college your kids are going to. Nor what car you drive, or the house you live in. Your identity is not in what sports team you root for, or what jersey you wear. And it’s not about how much money you have, or don’t have.  Life is about the discipline of your identity in Jesus Christ.  Does consumerism have a grip on you, or are you in His grip?

Our culture tells us that we can have what we want, when we want, whenever we want it.  They call it freedom.  Our Church tells us that true freedom comes from our identity in Jesus and discipline … the freedom to have the ability to do what we ought to.

It takes hard work to live the Catholic lifestyle. And the benefits are out of this world!  Our own society tells us to listen to our bodies about what we want in life, and not allow our bodies to be controlled by our soul.  Do you give your body what it wants, or does your soul tell your body “NO”.   One more Coke. One more slice of pizza. Ten more bucks on lotto. Pornography. Gossip. That second helping at dinner. On the couch in front of the TV instead of in a chair reading a spiritual or uplifting book … like the Bible.  Buying that fancy BMW instead of buying a Ford Taurus SHO …. and donating the difference to the poor. 

Having things is not bad, only when we fail to keep them in right perspective.

Our culture tells us that happiness comes from consumerism, and thus our lives are never fulfilled or complete, we always want more.  What we long for is Jesus, but are we afraid?  We as Catholic men are called to change our bad habits into good habits to live a fruitful life.  A happy life.

Look at the sports Champions.  Most of them excel at doing one thing very well, with discipline derived from good habits.  As soon as they lose their focus they suffer.  Whether its your sports or your diet or whatever else, our Church teaches everything in moderation.  Look at the Catholic Saints, the Champions of our Church, they are all known for doing one thing well – transforming their shortcomings into virtues.

What example do we leave our kids when we put them into multiple sporting teams at the same time?  Confusion!  There is a discipline in doing one sport at a time and doing it well.  Sure, they can do them all … just one at a time in different seasons…It’s okay. Each sport activity has its own discipline, and coach, yet we tell our kids they can have what they want, when they want it, instead of inspiring them to make a decision to learn the discipline for one sport / game, and thus for life. 

I saw too many kids a few years back with my son’s basketball team who can’t focus on the basketball game with the rules from one coach because they just came from soccer with rules of a different coach. They don’t make or have time to practice at home, to be prepared, conditioned, and disciplined.  What about you, where or what is the confusion in your life? Are you able to work for two different bosses on the same day? Do you feel that your life is complete and happy?

Faith: Are you going to Mass on Sunday? 

Do you bring your family with you? 

Consumerism wants you to believe that Mass is boring: the Catholic faith is religion and rules. 

Do you go to Mass with an open mind prepared for God to speak to you, or do you just show up? 

Do you remember to take your experience from Mass and share it in everyday life through your thoughts and actions? 

What you think you become. Do you have good intentions … or right-action?

It all starts with prayer and fasting, as Jesus says, then He will come into your life and give you more satisfaction and peace in life than you can imagine.  An hour a week in Holy Adoration.  A day without coffee to sacrifice for someone you know who has a health set back. A day without texting or iPhone … start with two hours … and communicate with Jesus instead.

The Catholic Church says take your eyes off self and put them on serving others. God speaks more through your loving and serving others instead of serving yourself.  Are you listening to your body … or are you listening to your soul? 

Is Love only a feeling to you? Turn Love into an action!  Ask Jesus to reveal to you what your demons are … and what is distracting you fully from passion and purpose in life.  No, don’t tell God what you think it is, but ask Christ to show you your life through His eyes.  Sit in his presence until He speaks to your soul. He has your best interest in His Sacred Heart.  He holds YOU in the palm of His hand.

Do you know what it is that has a grip on you?  Some of you already know, when you begin to live in His grip you will develop growth in Holiness, and become the best man and person that He has called you to be.

Need help getting started?  Do you follow this blog if not alaready? Next study the toolbox for the Catholic man. Questions? Contact us.

Frank J Casella, CMCS Executive Director

Being Renewed and Mastered by the Faith

By Frank J Casella

Whenever there are people working on my house, from the plumber to the A/C tech, and most recently the roofer and siding company, I try to spend some time talking with them and to check their ‘spiritual temperature’ to see where God is at work.

My wife and I try to hire a Catholic / Christian to service our home, when possible … keep it in the family.

So, one man was telling me how his son is in jail, and how he bought his son a TV so that he can watch the Cubs games. He also told me that his son started reading the Bible again, and the others in the jail call him the Bible guy.

I asked the man how this came to be, that his son went back to the Bible? He said that now that his son has time on his hands that he can concentrate on it more. Where before he had a lot on his mind and trying to fight his battles in life. I shared with this man what I’m about to share with you below.

After this discussion I said a prayer and thanked God for touching hearts in this way, and prayed the Holy Spirit continue to develop this relationship between the father and the son, and the spiritual growth of the Son while in jail.

Many times, even in my life, it is through our struggles that we mostly come close to God. For God’s will is that we depend on Him. Sometimes He needs to do things that get our attention! … and our response.

There are some important words recently shared by Benedict XVI, pope emeritus, through his reflection The Church and the Scandal of Sexual Abuse. As I was reading the pages of this document, I couldn’t help but see how these words not only speak to this matter in the church, which is deeply important, but also when you take them out of this context how they speak to us in general about living the Faith.

These words in particular jumped off the page at me:

“God became man for us. Man as His creature is so close to His heart that He has united himself with him and has thus entered human history in a very practical way. He speaks with us, He lives with us, He suffers with us and He took death upon Himself for us. We talk about this in detail in theology, with learned words and thoughts. But it is precisely in this way that we run the risk of becoming masters of faith instead of being renewed and mastered by the Faith.”

I don’t know about you, but I am guilty of becoming too busy for God, and to pass on advice to others about living the Faith even when I was failing at being renewed and mastered by the Faith myself. We are raised with knowing the Catechism and the ways of the Faith. But practicing it, living it, and putting it into action is something else.

Life is a work in progress, and it’s understandable how many men I talk with find it a struggle to develop the discipline to grow in the Faith, even though the benefits outweigh the work.

Have you ever noticed that when Jesus had struggles, and ultimately faced His Crucifixion and death, He went to the quiet place to pray? He fought His battles on his knees. He brought himself into one-ness with God, because He could not do it alone in His own flesh, but that of the Father. Just like the man in jail I told you about, I believe he is turning to God because of the place he is at right now – he can not go through it in his own strength.

I am really impressed how this Dad forgave his son while in jail, and supported him by buying him a TV. I’m sure the son feels this encouragement like no other. It’s like during the Passion of Jesus Christ, how Saint Peter denies Jesus three times and runs away. Yet in the end Jesus handed Peter the keys to the Church with true forgiveness.

Likewise, as Benedict XVI says: “A society without God — a society that does not know Him and treats Him as non-existent — is a society that loses its measure.” How many times have we, as men, because we are wired to fix things, taken matters into our own hands confident with how God wants it done, or never considered God’s plan in the first place? This to me is treating God as non-existent.

“The reason is the absence of God”, as Benedict XVI says, “The power of evil arises from our refusal to love God. He who entrusts himself to the love of God is redeemed. Our being not redeemed is a consequence of our inability to love God. Learning to love God is therefore the path of human redemption.”

If you don’t know were to begin to love God, or make renewal, I’m reminded of these little books by Mother Angelica. She shares in a simple way how to turn to Jesus, say your prayers, pray to the Holy Spirit, and go to confession. That is simply what religion, and loving God, is about. And remember we have Bishop Perry’s Virtues of a Catholic Man to help put this all into action.

You can’t have and live your Faith without action …. towards loving God. You can be given the Catholic sacraments, but they mean nothing unless you work on them … all the time.

The Church is known as the redemptive agency in the world. And a very important aspect of this is the Eucharist. We as men, especially those of us who lead a family, need to bring ourselves to the Eucharist as a living sacrifice. We need to do this to the point of being transformed from the good intentions of viewing it as only a Host, into the right-action of being moved by the presence of the Living Eucharist.

Read these words slowly at least three times shared by Benedict XVI: “The declining participation in the Sunday Eucharistic celebration shows how little we Christians of today still know about appreciating the greatness of the gift that consists in His Real Presence. The Eucharist is devalued into a mere ceremonial gesture when it is taken for granted that courtesy requires Him to be offered at family celebrations or on occasions such as weddings and funerals to all those invited for family reasons.”

The Living Eucharist is one of the most important ways I think we come to love God, and to become renewed and mastered by the Faith. And to see how and where God is at work in our lives and in others. This is a free gift that helps us, as Benedict XVI says: “To see and find the living Church is a wonderful task which strengthens us and makes us joyful in our Faith time and again.”

This is how the man working on my house came to tell me about his son. Because, I gave God my time to just be in the moment, so the man felt the love of God radiate from me to the point that he opened up to sharing what he is struggling with. God presents these moments to us when we bring ourselves into one-ness with Himself, the Master of the Faith. And through people is the most common way I have seen how God works in the world.

Thanks for reading.

Follow me on LinkedIn LinkedIn.FrankJCasella.com


Side Note: To the men reading this from Chicagoland, be sure the check out the Catholic Chicago Men’s Forum coming in two weeks. Hope to see you there!

How do you know what God asks of you?

Husbands – If your love is motivated by God, your Wife will know it, and it will be reflected in the climate of your relationship.

Likewise – A Woman’s heart should be so hidden in God that a man has to see Him just to find Her.

When I’m talking with Catholic men about their personal holiness, one of the most common things that comes up is how a man says that he can never make his Wife happy. That no matter what he does to stay one step ahead of her, to fix things as us men are wired to do, she is often telling him what he is doing wrong.

My answer to this is simply to please God before your Wife. In other words, when we decide that we want to live life God’s way instead of our way, we are going to have to give up our way and trust that God’s way is better.

Our wives will see in due time how we’ve abandoned our own selfish ways, and get our ego out of our own way, and are waiting on the Lord to show us the better way. In other words, please God in all we do, before others, and your Wife will follow your lead.

God does not need you to do His work. He needs you do be obedient to His will. God’s will is that we depend on Him.

How do you know what God asks of you to please him?

Silence.

The Holy Spirit is a very powerful aspect of the Holy Trinity, but I believe is taken too much for granted. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “listen to your gut”. What this means in the spiritual life is to listen to your ‘knower’. The Holy Spirit is the communicator for the Father and the Son, and lets you know what they are saying to you.

But the problem we have in our culture today is too many distractions. Things that keep us from true solitude to listen to our own thoughts and what we believe truly, and what God is saying to us truly.

We allow the news media and social media, and opinions of others, to influence what we think and all of this waters down what God is trying to say to us.

Jesus is the source of true power in life, and with your wife. Yet, when we seek our own power outside God’s will is to serve Satan, to be blunt with you.

Ultimately, us men live for an audience of One. God is the only One who is worthy of our affections and allegiance. When we compare ourselves with others, we quickly become consumed with pride or envy, and our passion for Christ quickly fades. To make the choice for Godly passion, we need to value God’s purposes more than distractions and getting ahead of others, and we need to care about people’s souls (including our own) than cars, clothes, and vacations.

It doesn’t come easy because, like the example of Jesus, it is through our struggles and being tempted by Satan beyond our self control that we locate the source of real strength, power, and true freedom in Jesus.

The benefits, as ‘they’ say, are out of this world!

You shall worship the Lord, your God,
and him alone shall you serve.” Luke 4:1


Frank J Casella is a photographer, and co-founder of Bishop Perry’s Catholic Chicago Men’s Forum.

Measuring Up To Jesus

By Frank J Casella

The other day when I was on Twitter a quote I saw from sales guru hit me: You become what you think about all day long. It made me ponder on what I think about every day, which lead me to realize how much my thinking, and lifestyle, has changed over the years.

I used to be more selfish, helping and serving others with the end motive of serving my own needs and ego, and praying for my own needs — talking to God more than listening. St. Francis says [that] it is through giving that we receive, and I took it literal.

Today, when I give of myself I do not look for what I receive, because the real gift is how God is blessing others through me .. which I may never see. My agenda has become Gods agenda. Said another way, I live my life as a prayer.

If we focus our attention on bad news and gossip, and distractions, we will miss God’s incredible, visionary, optimistic purpose for every believer: to grow so much in our faith that we shine like beacons to everyone around us!

God’s vision for each church is that we would grow so much in our love for God that we’d love people the way He loves them: unconditionally and passionately. He want’s us to be filled up with Christ’s grace, truth, and purpose so that everything we do will reflect Him to those around us.

Measuring Up To Jesus Photo Copyright Frank J Casella All Rights Reserved

I assure you, the longer you look at Jesus on that Cross, the more He will speak to you about who you are and how you can become more Holy.

The greatest image I have of my late father is how he prayed the rosary, looking at the Cross, each morning in a room with only the window light , just him and God, before leaving for work.

The greatest image my children say they have of me is how I kiss the crucifix each morning as soon as I wake up. What they do not see is how often I spend just gazing at it in holy contemplation.

“If a hypocrite is standing between you and God, it just means the hypocrite is closer to God than you are.” — Zig Ziglar


Frank J Casella is a photographer, and co-founder of Bishop Perry’s Catholic Chicago Men’s Forum.

If you want to hear God, you have to listen.

By Frank J Casella

If you have never experienced the presence of God, you may wonder how He reveals Himself. The Lord has many different ways of reaching out to His children, so the following is certainly not a complete list. But when you desire and know that Jesus is always near, He will choose the best way to connect with you.

God speaks. I don’t recall ever having heard the Lord’s audible voice, but I have experienced Him speaking clearly and forcefully to my heart. His communication is so unmistakable that those who hear Him remember the message and the reverent experience long after.

God sends a message. Sometimes the Lord lays on a person’s heart the need to get alone with Him. When this happens to me, God is usually saying He’s ready to give me this blog post, for example. It is unwise to ignore such urgings or even to delay until a more “convenient” time. Always do this as soon as possible — I have made the mistake of putting off listening only to discover that when I finally did slow down, the message was harder to receive outside of His perfect timing.

God makes His presence known through His Word. I recently meditated for several days on a scripture passage. I felt the prompting from God, as Fr. Larry Richards says to do, to open my bible and see what that page reads. You then write the verse down that speaks to you, and put it in your pocket to meditate on for as long as the Holy Spirit prompts you to do so. When I do this I knew that I’m in His presence because His Word was speaking specifically to my heart.

Believe the Lord is real and present in this world. He wants to share Himself with us so we can draw contentment, courage, and joy from His presence. To know what He’s saying, we must be willing to slow down and listen.

What do you listen to the most? Radio. Friends. The news media. People who you work with. Who has priority in who or what you listen to, God or someone else?

God’s plan is not the easiest, but it is the best. Have you asked God to show you His plan, will, and purpose for your life? How much time do you listen, or do you do all the talking, then get up? Often, when I feel it’s time to stand up that I’m done listening, it really means it’s time to listen deeper.

The concept called ‘Two Chairs’. This is where you sit across from an empty chair and see Christ as sitting there … and you listen. Give God time to speak. Other times I visit Holy Adoration at my parish and do the same, with the living Eucharist in front of me.

Some closing thoughts.  Sometimes it can take several days before we get His message. Sometimes I feel this restlessness, and this is how God gets my attention. I’ve now been conditioned to know the prompting .. don’t rush it, but in time you will learn it. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it.

For example, recently with a project I was working on with some other people, whom I didn’t know their spiritual walk or ‘temperature’, I felt that restlessness. Like something wasn’t right. There was this lack of structure from the leader for the group. I din’t know whether to pull out before the downward spiral happened, as God provided me the wisdom to see this, or to stay the course and provide them the (spiritual) voice of reason.

A Catholic friend who I trust, and who had knowledge of this group, said to me in passing what an issue that group has and how there are too many bosses. I believe God used that to speak to me. I spent much time mindful and prayerful on my purpose with this project, and what to do. The Lord at the next meeting prompted my heart (some of you may call this your gut) how toxic and a distraction this group was to my life and His will for me. It was really my ego that wanted me to stay.

I was able to see this because I am always making progress to live my life as a prayer, to see people and circumstances through God’s eyes, if you will. This takes practice and testing all the time to be sure you hear his ‘voice’, and make regular and prayerful conversation with Him. Also confirm it with the words from the Bible and the Catholic Catechism, the more time we spend in those words helps us to learn through our Faith what the Bible is saying to us.

So, the ‘flag’ was raised during this meeting and I challenged this group on their character and integrity. With that, God spoke clearly through them how I should make my exit and not stay in it. We have to be careful, because, what He says to us may clash with how other people think. Other times he puts it on our heart to just remove ourselves quietly from the matter. This is why we need to make time to listen to ourselves think. What’s more important, ease and pleasure, or hearing from God? Even if it’s ten minutes a day .. think in pure silence.

Sometimes He will stop us when we try our own way, other times not. It all depends what He wants us to know, or the lesson to be learned. To do this, I have found, we need to make time to drain our brain of our own thoughts and what’s going on in our life at the time. My brain can be so busy at times I have a hard time ‘coming in for a landing’. But as the Bible says, more of Him and less of us. The world around us can be so distracting … if we let it.

Yes, faith without action is not faith. Yet, action without listening is blind faith. Jesus provides clarity and direction when we are on His agenda and not ours, being in tune in listening to the Holy Spirit is the key.

When we repent, or visit our priest for confession, then turn to Christ with our head, gut, and heart, He knows then we are truly listening and this often times is when He can speak to us. His time, not ours. Focus on the Crucifix.

How much time in 24 hours do you listen to Jesus?


Frank J Casella is a photographer, and Executive Director of Catholic Men Chicago Southland. An Catholic Apostolate of Reverend Bishop Joseph N. Perry of Chicago.

Lenten Meditation by Bishop Joseph N. Perry

We run into people all the time who admire Jesus Christ as a good man from the past who somehow ran afoul of the authorities and was executed and has nevertheless endured over the long stretch of history as a figure of wisdom. But many of these same individuals will not hand their lives over to Him. Truth be told, Jesus Christ does not want our admiration of Him. He wants our discipleship. There’s a difference. Discipleship entails a well thought-out, calculated, intentional commitment to Jesus Christ with a modeling of our lives after His life.

Bishop Joseph Perry