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.”

Bishop Joseph Perry: A Prayer for Employment

Pray this each day, whether or not you are employed.

O God, Father of us all, You bestow on us gifts and talents to develop and use in accord with your Will and to advance your kingdom on earth.  Grant to me, through the intercession of Saint Joseph, the man chosen by God to care for you in your childhood and youth, employment and work that I may with dignity provide for my family. Grant me the opportunities to use my energy and abilities for the good of those who depend upon me for care and support.  You placed me in charge of this family.  I beseech your assistance in helping me provide for them as you would have me do. You are our God and head of this family.  Amen

Bishop Joseph N Perry

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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 …

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.

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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.

7 Catholic Manhood Quotes

How living our faith and doing God’s will helps us through difficult times

Photo: ‘When Men Put God First’ Copyright 2014 Frank J Casella on Fine Art America

The theme of the entire New Testament is that the infinite God has shown Himself to us in Christ. Faith thus starts with God who through Jesus opens his heart to us and invites us to share in his own divine life. Faith does not simply provide information about who Jesus is. Rather, our faith involves a personal relationship with Christ, a surrender of our whole person with all our understanding, our will and feelings, to God’s self-revelation of Himself to us.

Bishop Joseph Perry

“Faith is not a contract. Faith is surrender. If no other relationship in our experience is one of self-surrender, if it’s all contractual, people won’t know how to believe.”

Francis Cardinal George

“The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it…. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

C. S. Lewis

It’s really very simple. Am I building up the kingdom of heaven or am I building up my own kingdom? Am I putting God’s name first and proclaiming His name, or am I proclaiming my name? Am I doing everything for God’s glory, or for my glory? We have to focus on this every day. If I am going to live God’s will, it has to be because I first seek the kingdom. Then He promises everything else will fall into place.

Fr. Larry Richards, Surrender! The Life-Changing Power of Doing God’s Will

God’s will is almost always much tougher to do than our will. It requires more effort, more discipline, and it yields much less instant gratification. Most unpleasant of all, doing God’s will requires us to surrender our position as the center of the universe (at least in our own minds). We have to put God at the center of the universe and direct our attention toward Him, rather than sit on our little imaginary thrones and expect others to direct their attention toward us.

Deacon John Rangel

”What this means is if we are going to do the will of God, every day is going to be a day of self-sacrifice. Again, to make this real and practical I tell people that they should examine their consciences every night before they go to bed and ask, “Did I do at least one act of unselfishness today? Did I give my life away at least once today?” If the answer is no, then they squandered the whole day on themselves, only did what they wanted, only took care of themselves. What a waste of a day!

Fr. Larry Richards, Surrender! The Life-Changing Power of Doing God’s Will

Be Pure. Hate evil. Embrace Christ with all your heart! Too many of us men need to surrender our personal agenda to God. We must strive to be transparent with God and with others, and to be more like Christ and less like our old selves.

Frank J Casella

Taking it all in stride

God’s will is that we depend on Him.

Taking things in your stride means, as you go along the bumpy road of life, which most people will inevitably experience, you endeavor not to let the more challenging events you encounter blow you off course.

Much of the strength I get to take things in stride is through my faith and relationship with Jesus Christ. Just because I am a Christian doesn’t mean I don’t have problems. In fact, I probably have more. Because people it seems test you to see the power of your belief.

Anger, worry, struggles and the like are revelations that things are not going our way, and that we are not in control of everything. When I take things in stride, and wait on God and meet Him where He is at work (in my life), it’s always amazing how things unfold and come together in ways that I could never do myself.

Try it. Pray for your circumstances. Ask God to show you what to do. Wait for the answer. Don’t take it back … just wait … in HIS time not yours. You will see.

God’s will is that we depend on Him. So keep it all in perspective and take in all in stride.

Frank J Casella