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

On Giving Advice

Several years ago my family welcomed our Golden Retriever into our home. He is a rescue dog that came to us with severe aggression towards women. We didn’t know this until a few days after being with us and taking him for walks. Short of the long, we chose to consult the advice of a dog behaviorist who helped us as a family to be on the same page with each other for the dog, and it took nine months go get him to be like a dog again.

And with this new knowledge I was eager to give advice to other dog owners who I also met on walks. Many of them didn’t care most of the time saying it was too much work. But there were a few people who had some issues with their dog, and came to ask for advice and it rectified the situation.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you can’t change people unless they want to change themselves. This is why, as blogger Seth Godin says, best not to give advice unless someone asks you for it.

Not a month goes by without people contacting us here at Catholic Men Chicago Southland (CMCS) for advice on Catholic manhood and spirituality. Likewise, we regularly meet with men over coffee to provide advice on growing in holiness as a Catholic man. And we never charge them to give this advice, and don’t think we ever will.

Sometimes people see advice as criticism. I find this in my own household that when people see how we live simply and our income is below average, they somehow think we are unhappy and make it their business to share advice on what we need to do, how we need to live, and how to get more work or more money. Often times we never ask for it.  I always appreciate their caring, and if I didn’t know the difference I would take it as criticism.

I was talking about this with two people I met last week while in line at the Catholic Charities food pantry. They both have their own stories to tell about this very topic, how everyone is always ready with free advice on what worked for them – to the point of criticism. The woman is an intelligent retired doctor, and the other was one of the most respectable young men I have met in a while, who walked away from gang involvement after watching his younger brother be killed by the effects of gangs. Both of them offered how much of being a good Catholic they try to live out, without them first knowing my background with CMCS.

So, the key take away here, is the true secret of giving advice is after you have honestly given it to be perfectly indifferent whether it is taken or not, and never persist in trying to set people right.

On a side note, the good doctor asked in our conversation if we wanted to know why she was in the pantry line. Turns out, when she retired she was compelled about letting go – the ability to release from our grasp those things that inhibit us from developing an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus.  Specifically, she gave away all the money she had and no longer has savings or stocks.

She only keeps her social security income in a checking account, and lives simply and debt free. This ensures that she is free from things and no longer distracted in her relationship with the Lord. I recall that when I worked for the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago that he did a similar thing, and he mentions it in his book The Gift of Peace.

Since we’re talking about giving advice, one thing about receiving advice then, whether asked for or not, is to receive it through forgiveness: What works for someone else often times will not work for us in the same way.  So, I find, you have to be creative to apply the advice to your life, and have forgiveness if the person who gave it to you gets frustrated with you or doesn’t understand. This can be family or others who are most close to us.

This is what I love most about rescue dogs, is that when you love them with leadership they give it back so much more – unconditionally. Because they know the difference.

We have much to learn from dogs about love. But don’t take this as advice from me.

Comment Questions:

  1. When you see someone who can use your advice, do you make it your business to tell them, or do you say a prayer for them and stay out of the way or wait for them to ask you?
  2. What are some ways you have learned about giving advice?
  3. What are some ways you have learned about letting go?

 

Frank J Casella is executive director of Catholic Men Chicago Southland, and co-founder of the Catholic Chicago Men’s Conference.

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Bishop Joseph Perry: Men’s Spirituality

The prophet Isaiah said it first in the days of the Old Testament, before St. Peter ever did in the New Testament.

“Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!”

The prophet Isaiah’s religious experience was also a theophany, in which the prophet perceives God on his heavenly throne. God’s majesty and transcendence overwhelm the prophet. He had a vision of a high throne and the hem of a garment that fills the Temple that evoked God’s universal kingship and splendor.

In this vision the seraphim archangels minister to God, praising God’s holiness and the glory that fills the earth. The seraphim angels also prepare the prophet for his mission. In response to Isaiah’s claims that he himself is unworthy, in his words, “a man of unclean lips living amidst a people of unclean lips,” a seraph places a burning coal on Isaiah’s lips, thus purifying him. Isaiah is now prepared to carry God’s message to the people since, as the passage says, his “guilt has been taken away” and his “sin is blotted out.”

Isaiah’s vocational call contrasts the majesty of God, holy, glorious and mighty with the human ordinariness of Isaiah who must be prepared to bear God’s message. Angels purify Isaiah so that he can prophecy for God.

Most of us do not experience visions and theophanies that overwhelm us with God’s might and transcendence. Most of us experience God in the mundane experiences of daily life, in the ordinary reality of conversing with our wives, engaging our children, of going to our places of employment, hanging out with friends, in the ups and downs of family life, walking the dog, seeing a movie, riding the subway or participating in a family reunion.

The ordinary work and leisure of everyday life are where God tends to reach out to meet us. God comes to us where we are, as we are.

Jesus met his first disciples at their places of work. When Simon, Andrew, James and John first meet Jesus in the gospels they were not overwhelmed by a vision but were fixed on their work. In fact, Jesus interrupted their work and the men may have found that a bit annoying. They were not expecting angels let alone a theophany; they were washing and mending their nets after a fruitless night of fishing.

Jesus, however, began to preach from Simon Peter’s boat using it as a pulpit for the day, a powerful image I dare say for God’s presence in the ordinariness of human life. Not in the Temple or a synagogue, where Jesus could also be found but in the boat of a few working men is where the encounter with the incarnate God took place.

After Jesus finished speaking to the crowd He turned to the work at hand, the work of fishing for a living. Indeed, a lot of fish had to be caught because Roman taxes laid against the fishing trade were heavy. And Simon Peter worried about this constantly – being able to pay his taxes.

Jesus teases Simon to “put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon was reluctant to start the process again, especially when they had caught nothing the night before. But when he did put the nets back into the water the catch of fish was almost immediate; the nets straining with the bounty. There were so many fish that the nets began to break. They called for help to their companions, James and John. The boats were beginning to sink because of the weight of the catch.

It is in response to the sudden and overwhelming catch of fish that Simon Peter is suddenly overtaken by his sense of the presence of God in his fishing boat in the seemingly ordinary person of Jesus. Like Isaiah in God’s Temple, Simon’s sense of unworthiness in the presence of God overwhelms him. He trembles as “He fell down to his knees before Jesus, saying, ‘Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!’” As if to say, ‘I am not worthy of what you have provided for me this day!’

A profound recognition of God incarnate took place not while Jesus was transfigured or enthroned in majesty but in the casting and drawing up of their fishing nets. In response to the miraculous catch, Simon recognizes God with him. For Peter and the other fishermen, the encounter was a call to a new adventure. “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will be catching men!” And the gospel tells us, they left their jobs and everything and committed their lives to Him!

God met Peter and God meets us where we are. Like Isaiah Peter initially felt unworthy, unready and unprepared for the encounter and for his new work but God sees us and wants us for who we are and where we are. God will purify us, prepare us for our tasks and make us ready to do our work, however ordinary or exalted this work might be that we’re doing. But our ordinariness will always be a part of who we are, not a place absent from God but where God meets us every day.

II

It’s a matter of finding God in the ordinariness of your life. It’s a matter of letting Christ enter the boat of your life and allowing Him to do some wonderful things for you despite how worthy or unworthy you deem yourself.It’s a matter of keeping focus gentleman, taking the lead over yourself with your life and leading your family if you are a family man. These are not easy times to be a religiously focused man. Some people snicker and make jokes of religion and piety. Some are skeptical about God and his church. Some are put off by the observation that religion doesn’t make you rich in material things. Some believe they can get along in life quite well without this religion thing.

People make the decision easily to attend a football or soccer game rather than attend Sunday Mass. People do this and sleep comfortably the same night thinking they can get up the next morning by their own strength. The sweep of the popular culture out there to live life with little or no reference to God or the Church is immensely attractive. It is an undertow that carries men and their families away from the grace of the Gospel and the sacraments.

Are you interested in saving your wife and your family? Are you interested in your own salvation?

I know a man who insists that every Sunday evening his family sits down and has dinner together. Nothing, absolutely nothing can interfere with that family-time. The teenagers in the family are welcome to bring a friend to dinner, but everything else must give way to the family being together at table for once in the course of a week. The chaotic schedules that bear down upon each of the family members makes coming together next to impossible on other days of the week. But this husband and father considers the Sabbath sacred for his family and underscores each one’s participation.

This same family man, once dinner is finished, leaves the dishes to the teenagers and takes his wife for a half-hour walk outside, just the two of them, to talk and share among themselves.

III

Most of us benefit from a “Plan of Life” that helps us live as a Christian man carrying forth what it is that God has ordained us to do. Living life haphazardly, bouncing from one thing to the next, one chore to the next, whatever-happens-happens kind of approach, from one surprise to the next, from one tragedy to the next, is not a careful way to live as a Christian. A Christian man takes each and every item of his life and analyzes it prayerfully in order to discover what God means for him and where God is leading him.

Our religion is a preoccupation that permeates everything we are and do, that infuses the thoughts we think, the choices we make, the sufferings we suffer and the joys we take delight in. The message of the Lord found in the gospels is the very constitution of our lives.

Therefore, it asks for certain steps taken on our part by way of a structured religious life, to make sure that we are responding to the Lord when he tells us to put out into the deep, to make sure that we have the spiritual armor to combat the onslaughts of despair and temptation and secularism that pushes God away from our lives, to make sure that we, like Peter, can fall to our knees and recognize God’s powerful presence in our homes and families. As Joshua, Moses’ deputy, is quoted as saying in the Old Testament:

“If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve…
as for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord!”

 

In a Catholic man’s plan of life, it helps to include:

  1. Some regular prayer with your wife and in the home together – this can be done with use of a prayer book, or the rosary or spontaneous prayerful words from you or your wife.
  2. Making sure Sunday Mass is a non-negotiable with your wife and your children – before sports or other things that amount to entertaining yourselves. We must entertain God first.
  3. Making sure there are Catholic symbols in the home: a crucifix at a minimum, some statue or sacred picture or art that reminds you and visitors to your home what in your life is important. When I visit homes the first thing I look for is some sign or signs of people’s faith. Some people have no visible indications in their households of what they believe in. Reading solid Catholic literature is important in order to keep abreast of news and issues in our church – this can be done through requisite magazines by Catholic publishers or through Catholic outlets’ journalism through the internet. We can always make recommendations about wholesome Catholic literature when asked. There is a variety of Catholic reading material, from the average to the scholarly.
  4. How about an occasional attendance at weekday mass or ten minutes in Eucharistic adoration at a parish chapel nearby?
  5. How about family time marked off in the course of the week where you and your wife and children can spend time together and punctuate the beauty of what God has given you? If you don’t take charge of your family, some thing or someone else will.

Start out small with a plan – something to keep the graces showering upon yourselves. Don’t be afraid men to get on your knees before God and thank Him for the privileges of faith and insight. Don’t be afraid to shepherd your family in the ways of the Lord. Don’t be afraid to put out into the deep and lower your nets, for a catch.

It is not sufficient to merely utter that we are sinful men and rest there. Too many of us relish in the notion that we are sinful men. The Lord would like our friendship, our worship, our conversion of life and our loyalty to Him.

 

Homily of Most Reverend Joseph N. Perry for the CMCS Bishop Perry Catholic Men’s Conference Chicago on April 2, 2016.  St. Ailbe Church, Chicago, Illinois.

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If You Don’t Stand For What You Believe, People Won’t Know Where You Stand

By Frank J Casella

Have you ever met a person who says they believe one thing, but then does something else?

Have you ever faced making a decision and can’t find the best answer, or the best direction to go.

In my volunteer work with Catholic Men the topic often comes up about how to make decisions. It usually comes down to based on our personal belief system. Specifically, it’s important to us that we make decisions in the work place and at home that reflect Jesus Christ as the center of our lives.

My late father often said the words, “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”. This is why it’s important to know what we believe. In fact, even an atheist knows what he believes .. That he doesn’t believe in God or Jesus.

Many converts to the Catholic Faith I have witnessed are on fire for the Truth of the Church more so than those like me who have been brought up in the faith.

Why is this?

I think it’s because they (converts) have made a decision to the Faith instead of being born into it.

When we make a conscience decision about anything in life, instead of that decision handed to us, then we have an intentional commitment to it.

The thing is, most of us I find try not to make intentional decisions, but rather just live for the moment as long as it takes care of our needs, wants, and personal desires.

So, if you are a Christian, how do you make a conscience decision based on what you believe?

The way I try to do it is to look at the person or matter through the eyes of Christ. To first ask myself if this decision is on my agenda or on God’s agenda. How does Jesus see them or this matter, and how would He respond. … through me.

Many times when I seek where God is at work in the matter, elements come into play that go beyond whatever I could do on my own.

I also try to live my life as a prayer; to have a conversation with God all day long, and do more listening than talking. This takes practice being in tune with the Holy Spirit, and listening for ‘the voice’. Test the small decisions to know that you hear it right first, before moving to the big decisions.

Finally, I spend a few minutes each day just to think. In silence.

After I drain my brain of the many concerns of the day, several things come to mind that I write as a thought and not as a to-do list. It becomes easier over time, as you become more serious and disciplined, and sincere, then God will speak, you will see.

By doing all the above you will find over time that making a decision becomes more easy, and you will have clarity over a matters faster, because you know what you believe.

Some decisions are not made for us alone, and this is were we bring in trusted council to help us with discernment, such as a priest or spiritual director, or trusted friend.

Why is all of this important?

Because our lives are just passing through here on Earth. So the time we have left is meant to make a positive difference for the next generation, compared to when we showed up.

And we do this by making the right decisions in the little everyday things, so that over time we have a satisfying life well lived, rather than a life of confusions and wanderings.

Said another way, I’ve never met a person that served themselves who was happy and full of joy, and living a satisfying life.

So, decide on what you believe, and then let that belief transform your decisions in this life. Sometimes you will find this is opposite of what the world tells you to do.

But, then, if you don’t stand for what you believe, people won’t know where you stand .. including yourself.

 

Frank J Casella is co-founder of Chicago Catholic Men’s Conference, and executive director of Catholic Men Chicago Southland Apostolate.

Portions of this post are from this article on LinkedIn Blog

 

 

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The Works of Mercy. What are we doing about it?

By Deacon John Rangel

“Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply,  Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt 25:37-40)

 

One day I offered a homily at our parish’s weekly school children’s morning mass. The gospel reading for the day happened to be from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 25. To emphasize the first of Jesus’ precepts, to feed the hungry, I mentioned that every minute of the day seventeen people in the world die from hunger. Of those seventeen people, thirteen of them were children! Death by starvation is still a very real and deplorable occurrence in the world especially in those countries without the wealth and abundance that we enjoy here in the USA. This begs the question “What are we doing about it?”

Jesus instructs us in his final discourse not only to feed the hungry but to be sensitive to and address other needs of our less fortunate brothers and sisters. These are called the Corporal Works of Mercy. Men, I pray that each and every one of us not only have these embedded in our hearts but practice them in our daily lives. Our school children were very good about knowing the corporal works of mercy… do you?

All too often our knowledge of the works of mercy starts and stops with the corporal works. This is understandable because these address temporal needs, needs that we can see, feel, or touch. Now here’s the challenge! How many of us know and practice the Spiritual Works of Mercy. I drew complete silence from our school children with this question. And yet, are not these works more important because they address the eternal life of our brothers and sisters?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states “Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving, and bearing wrongs patiently. (CCC 2447)* The first four require that we interact with others on matters of faith, morals and church teaching. The last three are personal, individual actions that we undertake with God’s grace.

The works of mercy, God’s precepts, challenge us to move outside of our comfort zone, to be sensitive to the temporal and spiritual needs of our neighbors. For when we do it for the least of these we do it for Jesus.

… as we continue our journey to the Crucifixion and Resurrection, let’s ask ourselves these questions:

•    Does Christ’s judgment talk make me uneasy?  Should it?
•    How often am I aware of Christ’s presence in others?
•    What should I do when Christ comes to me through difficult people?

May you be blessed with the peace of Christ.

 

Deacon John Rangel is Director of Mission for Catholic Men Chicago Southland

 

Note* Mt 18:15; Mt 6:14; Isa 58:6-7; Heb 13:3

*2447 The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities.242 Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.243 Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God: 244 (1460, 1038, 1969, 1004)

 

 

 

 

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