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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Own Your Actions: The Virtues of a Catholic Man

As a man, how do you like being lied to? If you’re like me, the answer is “not much”.

I have found over the years the best way to find a true friend is to be one,

And the best way to find trust from others is to own your actions:

Say what you mean.

Do what you say.

Be accountable for what you say and what you mean.

Others will treat you the same way, because they know what to expect from you, and what you then expect from them.

How is this done?

Live Bishop Perry’s virtues-of-a-catholic-man (PDF File), read below.

Start with one Virtue and get it right before you move to the next one.

Many men report this to help transform their lives from good intentions into right-action and to be the best version of themselves, and more like the Man God’s calls them to be.

Peace to you!

Frank J Casella, CMCS Executive Director

Virtues of a Catholic Man

  • A Catholic man has some sense of what or whom he would die for if
    necessary.
  • A Catholic man passes his faith to his children and sees to their religious education.
  • A Catholic man informs himself about his faith, reads Scripture, select
    Catholic literature, and studies the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
  • A Catholic man insures that there are sacred symbols in his household, such as, a crucifix(es), Bible, use of sacramentals such as the Advent wreath, Christmas cre`che, etc.
  • A Catholic man leads prayer in his household at significant domestic
    events, such as, birth, Baptism, graduation, marriage, illness, death, and other special meals and events with use of a passage from Scripture or other Catholic sources.
  • A Catholic man practices presence with his wife and children.
  • A Catholic man invests himself in some project or apostolate at the
    parish or diocesan level.
  • A Catholic man is faithful to his wife, his children, his Church and his
    friends, indeed all his commitments.

© Bishop Joseph N. Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago

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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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Eve Sinned Because Adam Was Silent.

This is an update from the article archives for Catholic Men Chicago Southland.

By Frank J Casella

My youngest son has always had a love for basketball. When he was 10 years old he called me over to show me how he could make ten free throws in a row.  Not impressed, I said “nice job … now raise the net up to where it belongs”.  Impatient to grow taller, he lowered his goal.

Men, is this what you do?  We lower our standards and then become proud of our accomplishments. What would God be saying to you?

All of this goes back to Adam and Eve in the garden.  Eve sinned because Adam was not protecting her heart.  Adam lowered God’s standards by being silent when the serpent was having conversation with Eve (Genesis 3:6).

Up until that point Adam was talking and leading his life based on his relationship with God (Genesis 3:6). He was a Man who lead in such a way that Eve could not resist him.

Men, are you the priest of your house in such a way that your wife (or future wife) cannot resist you? God created Adam before Eve because Adam was to be responsible to both rule and lead.

Even though it was Eve whom the serpent tempted to eat the fruit that had been forbidden in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-6), it was Adam whom God went looking for. It was Adam who was responsible (Genesis 3:9).

The way to be a servant leader is to align yourself with God and know His will for your life.  When you have this goal, everyone in your life then benefits.  Our culture, on the other hand, would rather you be silent .. and serve your own selfish needs.

The reason so many men today are living without is because we misunderstand our goal and settle for trinkets, sports jerseys, TV remotes, golf clubs, nice cars, video games, careers, and vacations.  Those things are okay – unless they cause you to be misaligned with God and His will and take you off course of pursuing God’s own heart.

Look at it another way, many sports games have an official who prevents chaos by following the rules from the playbook – not his own ‘book’.  Men, is your playbook the Bible, or your own – chaos – human understanding?

Many men today are feeling smothered and gasping within because we do not know how to be a man. One thing that happens to a man when he can no longer breathe is that he will try to live vicariously through others. It is this man who, for example, will wear another man’s jersey with another man’s name and number on the back of it. Regularly.

Any man who has to all the time wear another man’s name on the back of his shirt may need to ask himself how he views his own manhood, and identity in Jesus Christ. Instead, we need to strive to wear our own jersey, and create our own identity in Jesus Christ.

Men, God has a standard. He has a goal in mind for your life: To be a servant leader after God’s own heart is that goal.

Yet what so many us men have done is lowered our standard. The results of this lowered standard affect so many more than just you and me. This lowered standard affects us all.

It shows up in our country. In our culture. In the economics of our world. You don’t have to look any farther than our homes, churches, communities, and globe to discover that men – not all, but many – have missed the goal to live as a servant leader after God’s own heart. The impact of a lower standard leaves its scars no matter what race, income bracket, or community a person is in.

The outcomes are different depending the the location, but they are devastating none the less. Some of which are Inadequacy, promiscuity, emptiness, depression, chronic irresponsibility, family breakup, misuse of finances, divorce, violence, chemical addition, overeating, indulgence, bankruptcy, low self-esteem, and general aimlessness plague our society as a direct result of the abuse or neglect of being the man that God calls us to be.

The call for men to come forth and stand for servant leadership, and being a man that God calls him to be, has never rung louder. Our world is on a path of self-destructive behavior. That must change. Yet that change will not occur unless us men – YOU – will raise the standard to where God had originally placed it.

My son is now 19 and still shooting free-throws. He is a coach for a basketball school. But it’s about more than being a coach. It’s about developing relationships with kids half his age, and showing them how to raise the standard too.

Because, since he was a kid himself, he’s raised the basket (standard) to where it belongs and has made hundreds of shots with the net at the right height – but he had to work at it.

One drill that we played along the way is to shoot ten in a row.  If you miss one shot, you start over.  My son rarely has to start over.  He now shoots over 200 free throws in a row. He tells me once you have the basic (free throw) down, other shots fall into place.

He has raised his goal and maintained that higher standard. Not in his strength, but through Christ who strengthens him (1 Timothy 1:12).  He has applied this standard to his life as well.
You can too. Will you?

 

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

 

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Taking Life Seriously

We hear a lot these days about “intentional discipleship” from preachers, motivational speakers and writers about what it takes to be real Christians in these times.  These speakers highlight for us the increasing secularism of American life, namely, that the modern mind-set is intent on pushing away a religious tone to life as evident in state and federal legislation that advances freedoms beyond that which the scriptures would countenance, or the lifestyles of people we know and love, matched with decreasing numbers attending church or synagogue or mosque.  We Americans believe in God to large percentage even though our actions may not always clearly represent that belief.

We are aware, as strident Christians have always been aware these two thousand years, that the popular culture presses up against us in ways religious belief and lifestyle cannot endorse. We are faced daily with choices and decisions none too easy to make.  Political and religious leadership sometimes don’t help to model us citizens with their decisions and law making and lifestyles.  Even our children and grandchildren make choices opposite the way we have reared them.  What to do?  Pray fervently and daily, certainly.  In the meantime:

Intentional discipleship means that we take the message of Jesus Christ seriously and apply it to our lives to the best of our ability without equivocation while encouraging others to do the same.  This is evangelization.  We stake our lives on the gospel vision of life. We have lived the gospel all our lives and find consolation in its truth.  We are so convinced of this we had our children baptized in this faith.  We practice this faith day-in-and-day-out. The vision and message of Christ shows itself in our homes, the way we live, the way we spend our money and give some of it away, the way we assess and comment on current events some indeed tragic.  Gospel truth shows itself in our devotion to our spouses and children, our charity and forgiveness of others, our managerial relationship with others, our choices at the ballot box and the counsel we give others.

Indeed, nothing is worthwhile unless we do it intentionally and with fervor as upright Christians.  This is the manner in which Jesus lived and died for us.  It is the only way his disciples can live authentically his legacy.
 
Bishop Joseph N. Perry

 

 

 

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What Is A CMCS Man?

Come Holy Spirit, Command Me To Do Your Will.

 

If you’ve been to the Catholic Chicago Men’s Conference, then you’ve been challenged to bring the encounter home. To make a commitment to ‘Living the Goodness of a Catholic Man’, and to be a CMCS Man.

CMCS is Catholic Men Chicago Southland, and who is the sponsor of the Catholic Chicago Men’s Conference. What this means is that although our men’s conference and our online real estate is open and available to Catholic men of Chicagoland, our apostolate has a main focus offline to foster the holiness of Catholic men on the south end of the archdiocese of Chicago.

But don’t let the title of CMCS Man create barriers for you, it’s simply what we call it. In the same way, we call a parish leader the man who coordinates men’s ministry in his parish. This could be a men’s group who meets on a regular basis, or a one time event such as a parish prayer breakfast (that we can help you with).

The main purpose though of a CMCS Man is how you put your Faith into action. How you engage with other Catholic men, for example, meet other guys about your Faith weekly or monthly, or for Men’s Bible study in our homes.

When you attend the conference we give you the A Man’s Prayer’ prayer card. Men tell us that when they pray this each day it transforms their life, usually with an outward thinking mindset rather than inward on self.  If you’d like us to send you more prayer cards, both English and Spanish, for your men’s group or your parish contact us.

The other resource is Bishop Perry’s Virtues of a Catholic Man. The method we suggest is to ‘perfect’ each Virtue in any order until you have them all completed (mastered). This becomes very rewarding and always a work in progress, yet what comes with it is your spiritual nurturing to make Christ the center of your life. God will speak to your heart, you will see.

One thing that CMCS has established since day one is how the purpose of a non-profit mission statement is to transform a person, from good intentions, into right-action.  For this reason we provide encouragement though the CMCS Letter and archive. You can also call or email us for support in your Catholic walk. I personally meet with men weekly over coffee to help them with discernment towards growing in holiness.

We invite you to contact us about your spiritual growth or if you’re looking for ideas relating to men’s spirituality. Please know that Bishop Perry and the CMCS Team are praying for you always!

The Annual Men’s Conference is really the by-product of all we do at CMCS. The life adjustments that we all make the rest of the year determines our spiritual life, and determines the impact we have with our family and our community. We’ve known this to have an impact for up to three generations.  So this, right here, is the core and virtues of the CMCS Man.

Thank you very much for your interest, and valuable time and investment in what it means to be a CMCS Man!

Frank J Casella, CMCS Executive Director
Co-Founder Catholic Chicago Men’s Conference

 

Photo: Frank J Casella © All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

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