Feeding Our Habits

Eggs with Steam – Copyright 2019 Frank J Casella

Habits are an important part of our lives, when put in right perspective. Just like in the business world, systems are another word for business habits. It is said the fastest way to success in life, is to replace bad habits with good habits.

As Catholic men, we know that whatever we feed our brains is what forms our habits. Our Faith promotes through the sacraments a method to develop the good habit of study and living the scriptures everyday.

The daily readings feed us like a dinner plate of different foods: Old Testament, Psalms, New Testament, and prayers for adoration and supplication. But we have to develop the habits and spend time with it each day, and then practice it in our lives. Baby steps lead to walking our spiritual journey with the Lord.

When we make the decision to go off this path, and do things in our own thinking, it is known as sin. Feeding our habits with things like pornography, too much booze, abuse of others verbally or physically, or getting sucked into the drama of things shared on social media, can take us to a visit with our priest for confession. The good thing is that God is a God of second chances.

But the thing about second chances is we have to make the corrections so that we don’t keep going back. As Henry Ford once said, “Failure is an opportunity to begin again, only more intelligently”. Our shortcomings serve the purpose to embrace God and depend on His will for our lives.

Feeding our good habits, with Christ as the center of our lives, is what helps to transform our bad habits into virtues, and is what makes working towards being a saint is all about.

“Lord Jesus, open the Scriptures to us;
make our hearts burn while you speak to us.”

Teaching, Potential and Mercy

Note: This article about Divine Mercy Sunday is from the CMCS archives, and very timely as we are presently experiencing the Pandemic of COVID-19.

On this 2nd Sunday of Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday, the 1st reading celebrates the building up of the early church. The community of believers were on fire for the Lord. They were united (one heart and mind), bore witness to the Resurrection, and shared their possessions. Wonderful! Alleluia! On the other hand today’s gospel story paints a much different picture of the “first” church, the “first” community of believers. Here we see Jesus’ disciples hiding in a room, doors locked, for fear of the Jews. No witnessing going on here! The only thing they shared was FEAR and DOUBT! So what might these scripture passages say to you and me today?  Jesus spent three years teaching and training his disciples in preparation for their ultimate mission. Today I see Jesus continuing his teaching by encouraging his disciples and us to reach our God-given full potential.

One warm, sunny Spring day a few years ago, I was out in the yard doing the early prep for my garden when I heard a small voice behind me say, “Hi Papa! I wanna help”.

Now if you are anything like me, this is not the kind of help you look for when the helper is 5 years old. My initial reaction is that I know if I do it myself, I would be done and out of here much faster.

But, part of being a grandpa is giving someone we love the opportunity to develop their potential and share life’s lessons. So, I gave my grandson the responsibility of handling the water hose. All he had to do was water each plant as I put it in the ground. Well, as you can imagine, he watered everything in sight; the yard, the fence, the sidewalk, the driveway, the neighbor’s yard, himself and, on occasion, the new plants in the garden!

But in the end, we got the job done. And at the same time, I felt that the time we spent together was a time of “seed planting” in my grandson, and early preparation for later in life when knowing how to work with others and following through would be an important part of his life. In a sense, I was teaching him how to build on who he is and developing his full potential.

That’s what I see Jesus was doing with his disciples in today’s gospel. He is taking them by the hand and starting them on a journey to their full potential. Look where he found them, behind locked doors scarred, disheartened and defensive.

Uninhibited by their location, he came and breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”, the gift that would unlock the doors they were living behind. Remember, they were there so that others would not find them.

We are not living behind closed, locked doors – physically. But, this is still a gospel for us because the human condition DOES choose to live behind closed doors, or better said, closed minds. Each of us has the potential for prejudices, bad habits, negative attitudes, fears, tunnel vision, false concepts and ideas. And we stay there because we don’t want others to see others differently, or, find the “real us” either.

As he breathed on them he said: “what you forgive is forgiven; what you hold bound is bound”. In doing this, he is challenging them to live up to their full potential as given to them by God.

What we can also read into his message is this: “if you want to stay in this room, behind locked doors all your life, you can, but you don’t have too. This is not where you will have life to the fullest”.

Then Thomas comes into the picture. Remember, he wasn’t there on the first visit so he didn’t see what Jesus had done, therefore, he didn’t believe. So, he sets parameters – “I will believe if…!”  Does that sound familiar? If I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist. Does that sound like us?

Jesus tells us to “Love your neighbor” and we say, “God, you don’t know my neighbor”. He tells us to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you”. We say, “I can’t, I want revenge…or, I might consider that right after I get even”. Jesus continues: “Give and it shall be given to you”. We say, “I’ll decide what to give and to whom”. In other words, if I don’t see the immediate value or consequence, I don’t buy it or I don’t feel compelled to obey that command.

Thomas didn’t see it either. But, Jesus refused to let him get away. He saw more in Thomas than he saw in himself.

You see, Jesus believes in the emerging person – the untapped potential – sometimes locked away in a room, deep inside us that we don’t want anyone else to see. Perhaps the real truth is, we don’t see it ourselves.

So, on behalf of Thomas and all the rest of us, Jesus, in an act of great mercy, says to him; “if that’s what it takes to set you free, then so be it. Put your hand in my side, your finger in my nail holes – if that’s what it takes!”

He is saying to Thomas and us: “I have come so you will have life – and you can’t have it locked behind closed doors, behind closed minds. You cannot do my Fathers will living in the very small world limited to only what you can see”.

Jesus knows the human being, our heart, our mind, and even the locked rooms we have.

He wants to reach in, pull us – the real us – the potential he sees, to the surface, for all the world to see – to set us free from the bondage – so we can live our lives to the fullest.

And he is going to keep coming in, coming in, coming in to those locked rooms, because he desperately wants to set us free. In his Lenten reflection booklet “Daybreaks” Fr. Ron Rolheiser says this, “The Resurrection assures us that God never gives up on us, even if we give up on ourselves”.

Brothers and sisters, today’s gospel is a story of Great Mercy. Jesus refuses to let his followers lock themselves outside of his plan for salvation.

Will we let him do the same for us?

At Mass this weekend we will join in the liturgy of the Eucharist. As devout and believing Catholic Christians we will exclaim within our hearts the same act of Faith first uttered by Thomas the Apostle “My Lord and My God.” But as praiseworthy as that act of Faith may be, as followers of Christ, it is not enough, for as Jesus himself said (Matt 7:21) “not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My father in heaven.” And God wills that we be merciful as He is Merciful. ALLELUIA.

Deacon John Rangel,
CMCS Director of Mission

Comments are open …

Manhood Monday: The Message of Easter

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

From Today’s Readings:

Monday in the Octave of Easter

Alleluia Ps 118:24

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Cardinal Cupich Easter Reflection
Click here to view in other languages

God bless your day.

The CMCS-Team


Frank’s Photo of the Week

Photo: ‘Flowers in the Field’ Copyright 2020 Frank J Casella on Fine Art America

Now that the days of the Lord’s Passion have drawn to a close, may you who celebrate the gladness of the Paschal Feast come with Christ’s help, and exulting in spirit, to those feasts that are celebrated in eternal joy.

Amen!

“This is what God wants us to learn in this time of worldwide crisis — that we are one family, one Body united in the blood and water that flows from the heart of Christ, joined together in a beautiful, supernatural solidarity of compassion.”

Archbishop José H. Gomez, President of US Catholic Bishops

Nothing and no one can separate us from God’s love! That is the message of Easter!

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.

Bishop Joseph Perry: Holy Week Message

A Blessed Holy Week and Easter to all our readers and CMCS-Men

We walk with the Lord this week in his suffering and keep vigil with him for his resurrection. The grace and merit given the death and resurrection of Jesus is communicated to us in our Baptism. We consciously absorb these mysteries and their graces by our participation in the Church’s liturgies this Holy Week:

Palm Sunday the Lord’s entrance into the city of Jerusalem; the commemoration of his Last Supper and arrest on Holy Thursday; his death and burial on Good Friday; the Holy Saturday Vigil where we move with some powerful scripture passages from darkness to light, receive new converts to Catholic faith and fellowship, renew our baptismal vows and celebrate the resurrection. Come the feast of the Resurrection next Sunday, Christians climb to the rooftops to shout out to the world, again, the greatest piece of news ever, namely, that our God in Jesus in alive, when evil men meant him dead and the life he now has is promised all of us who believe in him while we await His return to take us with him.

It helps not to skip to Easter Sunday unless we have walked with the Lord through his passion. We can’t experience Easter appropriate without having gone through Good Friday. This remains a metaphor for all our experiences of life. I think of it this way:

  • If someone we loved died tragically and we were not there with them, our affection for that person would drive us to want to know every detail every minute, every second of their passion and death. We would want to walk their path, rehearse each step, each place that led up to that loved one’s death, as if to be with that person vicariously when we could not be there with him or her when it happened.
  • We have heard of people traveling to Normandy, Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, even the rough streets of the city for just this purpose. “I want to know!” “I need to know how it happened and why…” we say. It is the same with Jesus. Our love and admiration for our Savior leads us to rehearse the significant steps of his passion and the loss of his life for we could not be there yet we know what happened has impact on us.

Holy Week contains special days for our walk with the Lord. Due to the suspension of all public Masses in the Archdiocese of Chicago because of COVID-19, consult your parish website for Holy Week schedule for the times of services online. Involve your spouse and children with you so that the graces of this holy season can embrace you and your loved ones.

~ Bishop Joseph N. Perry

Manhood Monday: Trying to Become Saints

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

From Today’s Readings:

Monday of Holy Week

Verse Before The Gospel Jn 12:1-11

Hail to you, our King;

you alone are compassionate with our faults.

God bless “Keep in mind that our community is not composed of those who are already saints, but of those who are trying to become saints. Therefore let us be extremely patient with each other’s faults and failures.” your day.

Saint (Mother) Teresa, quoted in ‘No Greater Love’ edited by Becky Benenate and Joseph Durepos

The CMCS-Team


Frank’s Photo of the Week

A bare altar with purple banner sets the tone at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, Illinois, where faithful Catholics visit throughout the days for prayer and observing for Holy Week. Photo: ‘Holy Week’ Copyright 2016 Frank J Casella on Fine Art America

Growing up as the fourth of five children and the child of parents who owned a prominent business in the community, Casella Custom Draperies (later Dorothy’s Custom Draperies), I had a name to live up to. I was reminded all of my life while living at home what a Casella does and doesn’t do. People in the community would often tell my parents of their interaction with us kids, especially when my mom was measuring their windows. Because of this I have become proud to be a Casella, but more important the name that I and my family bring to Jesus Christ. For Christ and the Church was and is the foundation of our family. Below are some ways that we, as Catholic men, can live up to the virtues that Jesus modeled for us during His earthly ministry.

During this Holy Week, may we commit ourselves to living “in the name of the Lord.”

14 Ways To Becoming The Man God Calls You To Be
  1. Admit your weaknesses and limitations, while finding strength in faith and genuine love to overcome your sins and faults.
  2. Men need confession regularly. Also, ask your wife and children for forgiveness when you fail them.
  3. Learn what being a real man is all about, study and live-out the Virtues of a Catholic Man.
  4. Be leery of the demonic influences which destroys men and their homes.
  5. Be strong, without putting on a mask of false strength. Persevere and don’t quit.
  6. Focus on the right goal, live as a beloved son of God, and be a man that can become a saint.
  7. Acknowledge one’s faults and live according to the Holy Spirit. Trust in and live God’s agenda, and not in your own human understanding.
  8. Appreciate properly the differences between men and women, and how God made you to be a gift to each other.
  9. Be a man of true love and of wisdom, pursue holiness, and make a difference in the world.
  10. Be a roll model to your children, so they don’t have to look elsewhere for a mentor. Bring them to the pew on Sunday, and encourage this when they are out on their own.
  11. True manliness is not opposed to love but thrives on it, and knows the place of sexuality for the unmarried man as well as for the married man.
  12. Maintain your children’s trust by how you love their mother.  Date your daughters, example to them what to expect from a man.
  13. Catch your kids doing something right.
  14. Develop a relationship with Christ that reveals your meaning and identity as a man.

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

Are God’s Priorities Your Priorities?

Suggestions for making what is important in life, priorities

Photo: ‘Day of Interment‘ – Copyright 2019 Frank J Casella on Fine Art America
No Second Chances

Over the recent months there has been much in the news about the meaning of life. The COVID-19 virus is the one important thing that happened and caused us all to put things into perspective. We are all faced with death like overnight.

I couldn’t help but think of the number of car accidents that I have lived through, and the thoughts on how close those came to put me a similar state of death. We only live one life here on earth, and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. There are no second chances!

Sometimes we get so busy with our priorities, obligations, and agendas that it is easy to forget what is most important: Relationships.

This is why it is so important to always take care of unfinished business, and to prioritize our relationships? Spending meaningful time with the persons who are important to us and our life, and let them know this. Do the things that show them this.

In the business world we are taught that you don’t get a second chance at a first impression. There is much in life today that recycles but, with the years we have left, God willing, what is the lasting impression that YOUR life makes on this world? If you are a husband or father, your wife or children need your influence more than they may tell you … or even know!

In other words, after you and I die is there evidence that we have lived?

…. or are we just passing through???

God’s Presence In – and Through – Your Life

There was a time in my life when I was allowing myself to be used by technology, especially email. I had several email addresses (at least way more than I have now), and it bothered me when I couldn’t respond to an email within ten minutes. Short of the long, I was having an “affair” with technology and my computer.

Today, I track my computer time, designate “offline times” and make a WBO list (when back online), and shut down my computer at night so that I don’t go back to it. I don’t use a Smartphone, rather a flip phone when out and tablet with WIFI when inside, and I contact my friends the old-fashioned way = I call or visit them to make our relationship benefit from personal touch.

“A Catholic man practices presence with his wife and children”.

Bishop Joseph Perry

This is one of Bishop Perry’s “Virtues of a Catholic Man”. Presence is what technology in our present age cannot replace. With Smartphones the average person today consumes 350 percent more information than someone living just 25 years ago.

This information overload leads to shortened attention spans, memory loss, mental fatigue, and – in some users- a form of addiction. It is said that the average person’s attention span is that of a gold fish: nine seconds. Remember when Facebook was known as the “third largest country”? And Twitter was known as the “water cooler”.

The Pontifical Council for Social Communications addresses the fragile relationship between nature and modernity by reminding us: “Depending on how they use media, people can grow in sympathy and compassion or become isolated in a narcissistic, self-referential world of stimuli with near-narcotic effects”. In a recent poll, one in seven people said they see less of their spouses because of time spent online.

What about you?

One way to determine if technology is in control of your life is to include technology use in your examination of conscience. At the end of each day, and before you (go to) receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation; take a moment to ask yourself:

Have I been using technology to deepen my relationships with God and others, or to avoid them?
Has my time online caused me to neglect anything or anyone that I should be paying attention to?

Remember that God is not flashy, and doesn’t have to “Like” you when you post a prayer request, he is always there. God desires to be present in your life, and to communicate with you, and with others through you. Connection to Him is the one constant that will never depend on a signal, service provider, or even a monthly payment.

Another form of technology that can keep you from balancing your life is the television (or Netflix), and that infamous clicker. Sports engagement, or even that gamming, can become a huge distraction when not kept in check. If your wife or family talks to you while you’re engaged with this stuff and you become hostel or angry for being disturbed, consider that you have an addiction.

Anything that is not in moderation is not of God: food, shopping, children, sports, hobbies, etc.

Here are some suggestions for making what is important in life, priorities. I suspect you might have some more to add to this list:

  • If your wife is disciplining the kids and you don’t stop what you’re doing to back her up, then consider your priorities are off the track.
  • When family is gathered around the dinner table, texting goes into the drawer. Literally! Talking with each other is the game plan.
  • Family prayer….especially nightly with small children…. also spirituality conversations with the older children.
  • Mealtime prayers with children of all ages from small to older …. children learn more from our actions than from our words … even when out to eat.
  • Making prayer and especially conversation about our Lord and Catholic Tradition part of Family ritual.
  • Telling family stories with a “message” of hope especially where God’s hand can be emphasized…
  • Daily praying A Man’s Prayer, and living The Virtues of a Catholic Man.
  • As always: If you’re not filling and penetrating your wife’s heart with your love and affection, someone or something else will.

Frank J Casella