Monday, October 12, 2015

Are We ‘Childlike’ or ‘Childish’?

In the Bible, Jesus told his followers that they must be “childlike.” He called a child over and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4).

However, in his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul said believers must stop being “childish.” He explained, “When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11).

Hmm, Jesus said we must become like children, and St. Paul said we must stop being like children. So, who is correct, Jesus or Paul?

Well, when it comes to displaying the attributes of a child, they are both correct. You see, there is a huge difference between childlike and childish.

When Jesus tells us to be childlike, He recalls the aspects of youth that are innocent and pure: unquestioned trust in loving parents; amazement and joy over the wonders of the world; and excited anticipation about the next adventure just around the corner.

Compare this to the mindset of many world-weary adults. A lot of folks these days have an unwillingness or even an inability to trust anyone, mostly because they’ve been disappointed and hurt so often. They also go though life with a resigned boredom and ennui, convinced that life is a tedious chore to be endured rather than an exciting adventure to be cherished.

When Jesus calls us to be childlike, He is telling us to stop being such bitter and cynical and untrusting adults. He is telling us that the mercy and love and parental protections offered to us by our heavenly Father are so amazing, we should never be fearful and jaded about life. The goodness of God far outweighs any problems we encounter here on earth.

St. Paul, on the other hand, criticizes being childish. This is not the wide-eyed joyful wonder of being childlike, but rather the immature and self-centered behavior of a spoiled brat. Let’s be honest, how do most very young children act? They yell when they want something; they cry when they have the slightest discomfort; and they try to grab whatever they can get their hands on, automatically assuming it belongs to them. We expect this behavior from toddlers because they’re too young to understand. But when people who are adults act this way, it’s not nearly as cute. It is instead awful behavior.

This self-centered attitude comes naturally to all human beings, especially when we’re young. As children get older, if they are not trained by their parents to behave with more maturity, they will pout and throw tantrums whenever they do not get what they desire.

To summarize, childlike behavior is trusting and joyful and excited. But childish behavior is self-centered and rude. As with so many aspects of Christianity, the key here is the focus of our will. Are we focused on serving God and our fellow human beings? Then we are being childlike. Are we focused on serving ourselves? Then we are childish.

It’s usually quite easy to determine whether someone is being childlike or childish. If they are childlike, they are joyful and happy (and fun to be with). If they are childish, they are frustrated and unhappy (and other people flee from their presence at quickly as possible). 

So let’s do what St. Paul said and “put aside childish things.” At the same time, let’s do what Jesus said and “become like children.”

Friday, October 9, 2015

The ‘Wait, What?!’ of the Week, October 9, 2015

The school district in Edina, Minn., has hired a consulting firm at a cost of $30,000. This is not unusual, as many consultants are hired all the time to offer their expertise on various subjects. However, the firm hired by the Minnesota school district describes itself as a “Recess Consultant.”

Wait. What?! The school system spent 30 grand for expert advice about the subject of … recess? Holy moly! The company is called Playworks, and to quote the news story, they explain that “recess can be more inclusive and beneficial to children if it’s more structured and if phrases like, ‘Hey, you’re out!’ are replaced with ‘good job’ or ‘nice try.’”

Oh my. You’ve probably heard of the term “helicopter parents,” which describes parents who “hover” over their kids constantly, and won’t let them do anything on their own. Well, there’s another term I recently heard: Generation Wuss. It was used to describe the fragile snowflakes attending college nowadays who have a melt-down whenever they face adversity, such as hearing an idea they do not agree with.

Based on what’s happening in elementary schools in Minnesota (and no doubt this will spread across the country), it look like the next generation of college students will be just as wussified, if not more so. 

Man, if our country ever experiences a major crisis, such as a military invasion by a foreign power or the loss of the electric grid, I’d rather be in a foxhole with a gimpy geezer with a shotgun than with a 23-year-old strapping young momma’s boy, who probably will spend the whole time whining that he can’t find a wifi signal.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Thoughts About Me And ‘Eww’

In mid-August it was announced that musical legend Billy Joel became a father for the second time. His fourth wife Alexis gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Alexis is 33 years old and Billy is exactly twice her age, 66. The celebrity gossip shows immediately gushed with congratulations for the new parents. When I heard the news, however, I instinctively cringed and said, “Eww!”

And then I immediately felt guilty for reacting that way. It’s none of my business what a famous singer-songwriter — who I’ve never met and will never meet — does in his personal life. So what if a 66-year-old man fathered a child with a 33-year-old woman? In this case, at least the child won’t struggle financially. Good for them. On the other hand, “Eww!”

I guess it just strikes me as a bit abnormal. First, there is the whole phenomenon of the “trophy wife,” when a successful middle-aged man marries a gorgeous woman half his age. I prefer the concept of loving spouses who grow old together. That’s kind of hard to do when one spouse already is a senior citizen on the wedding day, while the other spouse still hasn’t reached the age to be invited to her 10th high school reunion. It seems a little unnatural to me when a guy marries someone who wasn’t even born at the time of his first marriage.

Of course, the whole trophy wife thing is not new; it’s been going on for centuries, especially with kings and emperors. Since we don’t have a monarchy in America, Hollywood stars and musical celebrities have become our culture’s version of royalty.

I think the first historical example of a trophy wife dates all the way back to the origins of mankind. After being expelled from the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve’s relationship soured, and he finally dumped her and took up with a young flight attendant he met during a business trip to San Diego. At least I think that’s what happened. I might be confusing this with the plot of a movie I saw a while ago. I’d better check my Bible.

Anyway, trophy wives are one thing, but becoming a father in your 60s is quite another thing. “Eww!” (Oh sorry, I couldn’t help myself. That just came out. I’ll try to refrain from any more eww outbursts.) To me, it doesn’t seem quite right to be searching for a quality daycare center for your child at the same time you’re searching for a quality assisted living center for yourself.

Just do the math. When Billy Joel’s new daughter is in third grade, he’ll be 73. Those parent-teacher meetings are going to be so weird. When the young girl is in high school, Billy will be in his 80s. And when his daughter is ready to be walked down the aisle, Billy will be, um, most likely long gone.

While pondering this topic, in the back of my mind I kept hearing the words: “Felix Unger.” I had no idea why my brain was telling me that, so I looked up online and discovered that Tony Randall, the actor most famous for playing the character Felix Unger in the TV show “The Odd Couple,” got married when he was 75 years old to a woman who was 25. They had two children together, the second when Tony was 79. “Eee— Eee— Eee— Stop it!” OK, good, I was able to keep myself from saying it. 

Again, I feel guilty that this topic makes me cringe. It’s none of my business. God bless them. Oh, while searching online I discovered author Saul Bellow became a father at age 84. “Eww!”

Monday, October 5, 2015

Time For The Terrific Catholic Men’s Conference

Have you noticed how difficult it is to be a faithful Catholic man nowadays? The values of our culture have changed drastically in recent decades. Things that were unheard of not too long ago are now commonplace. Our society is awash in pornography and casino gambling, and few people think it’s a problem. We don’t allow living children to be born, and then call it “comprehensive health services.” Selfishness and dishonesty, narcissism and instant gratification are promoted as the keys to happiness. And the foundation of all strong civilizations—the intact family—is crumbling right before our eyes, and few seem to notice or care.

To be a Catholic man in our modern world is to be completely counter-culture. These days a guy could walk down Main Street dressed as Marie Antoinette and get fewer puzzled looks than if he told people he’s a faithful Catholic who loves Jesus and prays the Rosary. Go ahead, reveal THAT about yourself at the next cocktail party or business seminar, and see just how quickly people move away from you.

Even within the Church there are many obstacles. A lot of folks who go to Mass say it’s fine to be Catholic, as long as you’re not a fanatic. Of course, “fanatic” to them is defined as anyone who actually takes Church doctrines seriously.

It really is hard to be a faithful Catholic man in this day and age.

So, have I got a deal for you! On Saturday, October 24th, the 8th annual Connecticut Catholic Men’s Conference will be held at Goodwin College, 1 Riverside Drive in East Hartford, CT. It begins at 8:30 a.m. and concludes with Mass at 4 p.m., celebrated by Hartford Archbishop Leonard Blair. The head of the Office of Radio & Television, Fr. John Gatzak, will be the Master of Ceremonies.

The conference is fabulous. There are great speakers, great food, and great fun. The keynote speaker is well-known author Patrick Madrid. Also, many priests will be there hearing confessions. So you know what that means, guys: it’s the perfect opportunity to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation with a priest who doesn’t know who you are! How great is that?

But beware, a few years ago, the director of the Men’s Conference was in line to go to confession, and just as he expected, the next available priest was in fact someone who did not know him: the Archbishop himself! The guy said afterward he was so nervous, his mind went blank when it was time to say the Act of Contrition. So the Archbishop prayed the prayer with him. When it was over, he realized it was a wonderful and memorable experience, his best Confession in years.

Besides the inspirational speakers and the opportunity to receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (and I suppose if you’ve never been baptized, one of the priests will be happy to throw you into the nearby Connecticut River—no, just kidding!), the best part of the Conference is simply being together with four- or five-hundred other faithful Catholic men.

It’s nice once in a while to be reminded that you’re not the only guy in the world who loves Jesus and the Church He founded. There are other men in the world who have not completely succumbed to the secular and selfish spirit of our age. 

So here’s my great deal: go online and register for the Conference, at: It’s only $40, and that includes lunch. And if it turns out you think the Conference was a complete waste of time, I will personally refund your money. (Oh brother, what am I saying? Wait till my wife hears about this. She runs our family checkbook, and I could be in big trouble!) See you there, guys!

Friday, October 2, 2015

The ‘Wait, What?!’ of the Week, October 2, 2015

A couple of weeks ago presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson said he would not support a Muslim for president. He explained that Sharia Law is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution, and anyone who puts Sharia Law ahead of the Constitution would not be a good president. Carson was immediately excoriated by the media for being “anti-Muslim,” “bigoted,” and even “un-American.” Many pundits demanded that he drop out of the race because of his “hateful” comments.

Meanwhile, the spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Ibrahim Hooper, said this during a 2003 radio interview: “If Muslims ever become a majority in the United States, it would be safe to assume that they would want to replace the U.S. Constitution with Islamic law, as most Muslims believe that God’s law is superior to man-made law.”

More recently, a poll conducted in May of this year by the Center for Security Policy showed that 51 percent of American Muslims preferred that they should have their own Sharia courts outside of the legal system ruled by the U.S. Constitution. 

Wait. What?! Now tell me again, what exactly did Ben Carson say that was wrong?? Muslims in the U.S. freely admit they prefer Sharia law over the Constitution, therefore Ben Carson is a bigot who must drop out of the race because he told the truth? Um, anybody besides me see something odd here?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Stop Writing About Old Age!

The other day a friend said to me, “Bill, for the last two months all you’ve written about is getting old. To be honest, that TOPIC is getting old. Would you please write about something different?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Oh, come on,” she replied. “It’s as if you get a cash bonus every time you refer to yourself as a geezer. You’ve written about feeling old at your high school reunion and about being jealous of people your age who can retire. You wrote a column about Bugs Bunny, but described him as a grumpy old man, er, I mean, rabbit. And, of course, recently you shared a bunch of fun facts about your middle-aged anatomy, including that your prostate is the size of a grapefruit. Hey Bill, too much information!”

“No, that was just an exaggeration,” I explained. “I’m sure it’s no larger than an orange. And besides, I was going to write that my hemorrhoids are the same size and texture as gravel, but I decided that was a bit crude, so I went with the prostate joke instead.”

“Eww!” she exclaimed. “Good thing you didn’t put THAT in the newspaper. You’re a good example, Bill, of the old adage: ‘Youth is fleeting but immaturity can last a lifetime’.” 

Hmm, maybe she’s right. Maybe I have been focused a little too much on the surprising reality that if someone was born in the 1950s, that means he or she is not a young person anymore. I’m usually pretty good at math, but this one kind of snuck up on me. Without warning the calendar suddenly started saying, “Almost 60 years old, pal!” (Yes, my calendar actually speaks to me.) Then a voice in my head innocently replied, “No way, he’s no more than early 40s, right?” (Yes, a voice in my head actually has conversations with the calendar, often without even telling me.)

Maybe I should spend some time focusing on youthful themes. But what exactly is a “youthful theme”? I could write about some of the things I remember from my childhood, such as rotary dial telephones and using wooden baseball bats without batting gloves. Or I could write about paying 40-cents for a gallon of gasoline and composing term papers by going to the library and looking up stuff in an encyclopedia, rather than doing a Google search from the comfort of your bedroom.

But if I write about those things, anyone under age 50 won’t have a clue what I’m talking about, so again it merely emphasizes my impending geezerhood.

I think the key is that old adage; immaturity can indeed last a lifetime. I have discovered that many middle-aged and senior citizens, especially men, had their senses of humor peak in the 6th grade, and now many decades later, the things that were most humorous to a 12-year-old boy are still at the top of the hit parade. (“Hit parade” being another term that people under age 50 do not recognize.)

For example, you’d be surprised how often the tense atmosphere of an important business meeting can be relieved when you suddenly start talking like Elmer Fudd. (“Shhhh. Be vewy, vewy quiet. I’m hunting contwactors. Heh-heh-heh.”) I’m glad to report that over the years I have personally helped many meetings from becoming too tense. However, based on the trajectory of my business career, maybe that should not have been my sole contribution during meetings. 

Well, I certainly don’t want to bore people by writing about the same topic over and over again. And I promise not to dwell on, um, gee, I forgot what the topic was. It’s hard to remember things at my age, you know.