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Showing posts from 2014

Compromise=Cowardice Pt.II

"Be firm. Be virile. Be a man. And then... be a saint."-St. Josemaria Escriva     In my last post I spoke about the pitfalls of compromise.  In this post I will speak briefly about compromising from a position of strength.

    The only acceptable compromise is compromising from a position of strength, not weakness.  So if you are giving the bully at school your lunch money just to stop making him beat you up, you are not compromising, you are losing since you are giving up your strength to appease the bully.

    What about that abusive co worker or boss?  It is not acceptable to compromise your dignity by putting up with daily abuse.  Your duty is to stand up to them, defend yourself, and make it clear how unacceptable their behavior is.

    Standing up for yourself does not mean getting into fights all the time.  Their are different ways to manifest strength which don't necessarily mean gouging someone's eyes out. You need to be tactful and shrewd deciding what is t…

Compromise=Cowardice Pt 1

"'One must compromise" Compromise is a word found only in the vocabulary of those who have no will to fight — the lazy, the cunning, the cowardly — for they consider themselves defeated before they start."-St. Josemaria Escriva from "The Way."
     In today's world it is very fashionable to hear the word "compromise."  Politicians use it, diplomats live by it, the secular media deifies it, parents exhort it and college professors give A's to students who practice it.

    I am not talking about compromise in a peaceful sense.  Compromise is necessary for every institution to flourish, for countries to be at peace, and for marriages to be long lasting and stable. Compromise viewed from this perspective can be seen as agreeing to disagree, but still working together for a common cause.

   The type of compromise that I am talking about avoids risk because feeling good is paramount. Compromise viewed this way is masked cowardice, since it depe…

Christmas CD's Gone Bad

Ah...The Christmas season is upon us.  That season of gay merriment, egg nog, Parson Brown, (seriously who is Parson Brown?) relentless shopping, gaudy lights, sappy Hallmark movies, never ending "It's a Beautiful Life" reruns, memorable tunes, terrible tunes, nostalgic memories, Thomas Kinkade paintings, the Rockefeller tree, Grinches stealing Christmas, Salvation Army bells ringing, christmas lists; all made by "nice" kids, crowded shopping malls, frenzied shoppers, Ralphie with his pink Rabbit onesie, the ubiquitous Santa Claus, and the occasional nativity scene.

Christmas seems like a chaotically, disorganized dish with a bunch of different ingredients which normally wouldn't blend well, but still comes out mildly tasty. (even though it might cause heartburn later on)  Christmas has become that heartburn producing casserole.

Christmas is the time of yuletide cheer, or in my case yuletide horror as I came across.....................wait for it...........…

Greatness Calling - Please Pick Up

"Don't let your life be barren. Be useful. Make yourself felt. Shine forth with the torch of your faith and your love.

With your apostolic life, wipe out the trail of filth and slime left by the corrupt sowers of hatred. And set aflame all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you bear in your heart."  -
St. Josemaria Escriva
I believe that we are all called to greatness. It is embedded in our DNA.  Greatness is that still voice within us, that faithful companion who challenges us to become more than we are. It is present in our deepest longings, and woven into the deepest fabrics of our beings.

God made us all for greatness!

The journey of life involves us trying to find which version of greatness fits within our unique capabilities, talents, and temperament.

God didn't make accidents, even if at times we may feel that way. God made us to make a difference in this world even if we don't know how to.

It has been said that "an unexamined life is no…

The Wussification of America

My 4 year old niece : "Cross my heart and  multiply - stick a cupcake in my eye."
I listened to my niece repeat this cute little saying over and over again.  But this sterilized version was definitely not the version we all knew as kids; that one went more like this:
"Cross my heart and  hope to die- stick a needle in my eye."
For the squeamish this sounds a bit macabre, but it is the original version.  My horrified little niece's mouth dropped open when I recited the original self mutilation hoping for death version to her. Poor kid. Her response was just a result of what she was taught at school. Things have really changed over past 20 years or so.
Let's face it - we are living in softer times.  
We are given trophies just for showing up.   Male aggression is blamed for all the violence in the world. We are taught that children should be nurtured rather than challenged. We are taught that it is more important to feel confident than to actually accomplish s…

My Great Grandparents - Heroes in World War II Czechoslovakia

Note:  Some of the content of this post was taken from a blog that I wrote in 2010.

Recently I visited my mother and we were discussing the history of her family. I was struck by the real life drama that she described in detail. Let me introduce to you my great grandparents Andrei and Rosalia Budik

The year was 1939 the place, a small peasant village in eastern Czechoslovakia, now present day Slovakia called Kaluza.  In many ways Kaluza was just a plain, unassuming village located near the Western Ukrainian border. But this tiny, simple village would be caught in the middle of the Nazi death machine that just recently finished conquering Poland.

In many ways the war was over before it began, Czechoslovakia's fate was sealed in September of 1938 with the signing of the Munich Pact which guaranteed Hitler no opposition to annexing the Sudetenland.  So after Germany invaded Poland in September of 1939, The Nazi's crossed through Slovakia en route to their next location.  Hitler a…

Tights In Gym Class - Not Cool

    Me: (at 8 years old:) "Mama don't make me wear these tights!!"     Mama: "Grandma got them for you....They will keep you warm."     Me: "But I don't like them."     Mama: "Oh, sweetie you look so cute in them."     Me:  "Everybody will laugh at me!!"     Mama: "They wouldn't dare. You are my angel."     Me: "Angels don't wear tights!"     Mama: "Hurry, put them on, you're going to be late."     Me:  "But Angels, don't wear ti-i-i-i-ghts!  (Mama pulls my arm forcefully.)
There I was nervously looking at the clock.  It was 9:25 AM, only five more minutes till gym class.  I knew that once that clock would strike 9:30 my whole world would be over.  As each second passed I became more and more anxious imagining the worst possible scenarios: Little Johnie giving me a wedgie,  little Umberto hurling one of his gargantuan boogers at me, or little Melissa not being my steady girlfriend anym…

Scarfs can be evil

When I was a child, my mom had the typical habit of over bundling my brothers and I in the winter; but with an Eastern European flair.

At the first sign of snow, she would dress all of three of us in the thickest, most impenetrable coats, and Russian ushankas which were fur hats with flaps on the side. (Come one!what kid wears a Russian hat in America during the height of the cold war?) Then came the dreaded multi-colored wool scarfs that were so tight that you had to keep loosening them every ten seconds so you wouldn't choke. How about itchy? Can we talk about itchy? She dressed us like we were going on some Arctic expedition instead of going to school in Elizabeth, New Jersey.  We kind of resembled Ralphie's brother from a Christmas story...

Maybe it was her Eastern European upbringing that inculcated in her such a fervor for winter wear. We always heard about how when she was little girl, they never canceled school even in 3 ft of snow. (Later on we found out that the scho…

Adolf Nicki Minaj

Can we all at least agree that at some point it stops being art?

It is a common thing to hear today that art's primary aim is, "self expression." The problem with this is that not every human urge needs expression.  There is such a thing as legitimate and illegitimate expression.

For example, I might have the urge to punch someone out. Acting on this urge is not legitimate expression  Yes..the urge to punch needs "expression."  But what separates a human from an animal is the ability to control these urges and to express them in their proper context.

Not too long ago there was an artist who dipped a crucifix in urine and another artist who covered the image of the blessed virgin in elephant dung. ( Those artists would never try the same thing with an image of Muhammad,)  This was defended, called artistic expression and even publicly funded.

There was a time when the sole purpose of art was to promote truth and beauty, to lift the spirit to heights unattainable…

Duty before Holiness

"Duty before everything else, even before what is holy." - Saint Padre Pio  There is a mistaken notion that assumes that holiness consists of shirking duties for spiritual pursuits.

This is a misplaced, romantic concept of holiness that attaining holiness means escape.  It's also not consistent with what the Catholic faith teaches.  The Catholic faith teaches that true holiness comes from the fulfillment of one's duty within their vocation.

So if you're a priest, your path to holiness will look much different than if you are a married person.
However, the thing that unifies both vocations or states of life is their faithfulness to their respective duties.

So what is a duty?

A duty is an action which places a certain responsibility upon the person.  Duties are not usually optional.  They are the things which everyday existence is based upon. For a priest, it may be reciting the breviary.  While for a married person a duty might be to work a 50  hour week  to pro…

The Good Samaritan Experiment

I was inspired to write this while reading, Anton Chekhov's short stories.
So here it is...The Good Samaritan Experiment.

A very rich man who was bored with his life thought of the following scheme:  “I’ll disguise myself as a homeless person and beg. I will then give one million dollars to the first person that helps me!”  After a self congratulatory nod he began to enact his plan:  He went to a local thrift store and bought the worst looking clothes.  The clothes were so tattered and worn that the shop owner offered him a free shirt.  Each time he moved he felt the itchy polyester against his skin. In order to further his derelict appearance he tore some more holes in his already tattered garments, wiped his hair with vegetable oil, and put some dirt smudges on his face. He looked in the mirror and uttered; “Now I am ready to go to the streets.” He quickly exited his mansion so he wouldn't be seen by any of his wealthy neighbors.  Just the mere look of him in this dilapidat…

Conversation with A Struggling Believer Pt. II

Person: "That is sheer nonsense. You definitely have left me. How many times I have prayed, followed the commandments, endured abuse, and yet you have the nerve to say that I left you? What about all the other people that you have let down in the world;  the numberless victims who are killed each day without the hope of a better day?"

God: "I am the same God who has always existed since I created the world. The way I operate is through faith. Every single, great follower of mine has had faith. Look at Noah, Abraham, even look at all the miracles that my son did. He did them all through faith. It is faith that provides the means for man to become great.  As for the numberless victims that you mentioned I am answering their prayers in ways not understandable to you or others. Take for example that you are running a company.  Times are tough and you are not making enough money to cover your expenses. Now as the executive you are forced with the decision to ei…

The Old Man And His Harmonica

As I was having lunch with my wife something caught my attention...

There right across us sat on old man in a wheel chair assisted by a caretaker. The scene was unremarkable until he pulled out his harmonica and began to play "jingle bells."  At first I was amused, who would be playing "jingle bells" on Halloween?  It sounded like a clever prank, something that me and my brother would do except in this case the one doing the prank was an old man with Alzheimer's.

By the look of him it seemed like he was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's. He was mostly unaware of his environment, and he did not respond to the caretaker talking to him. But whenever he would begin playing that harmonica he would almost instinctively spring to life, smile, and serenade the entire room with his tunes.

I don't think that he knew it, but each time he played that harmonica it brought a smile out of all of us in that room.  It didn't matter what we were doing at that mo…

Halloween Memories

Today is Halloween.   It got me thinking about my Halloweens as a child...

For starters, my Halloweens were not typical. We didn't do any trick or treating. Yes you read trick or treating.  I was the child of suspicious European parents who didn't believe in doing anything "American" which for me and my brothers meant not doing anything normal.

Instead of trick or treating we went to our relatives' houses, where instead of candy we got crumbled up dollar bills, a couple of slobbering kisses, and the promise that the same semi traumatic thing will happen next year.  Seriously, all we wanted were a couple of Reese's peanut butter cups.

After crying for the first couple of years about how we weren't like any of our friends, my brother and I got smart.  We pooled all of those crumbled up dollar bills and saved enough to buy some Lego sets.  We were so ruthless that we took our youngest brother's money and rationalized that he probably didn…

Conversation with A Struggling Believer Part I

Person: "I have come to the point where I believe that Christianity does not possess the answers that mankind needs."

God: "Go on continue..."

Person: "Just yesterday I was talking with a friend about how another priest left the priesthood. Now this priest was beloved and by all accounts he was the perfect parish priest; godly, holy, and pious. When I found out that he left it left me very doubtful. If he could leave the priesthood then what about me?"

God: "What about you? How are you doing with your faith?

Person: "I am still hanging on, but not for altruistic aims.  I am not a quitter. It is in my nature to keep going. I am not doing this out of love. I am doing it out of duty. Who knows maybe when some more cogent philosophy comes along I might leave the faith like the rest of my family already has."

God: "What about the good things in your life? Your wife, job, your house, beautiful music etc?"

Person: "These things are …

My Definition of Dumb

Recently I had a conversation with my wife about an annoying person. All of sudden in eureka like
excitement I exclaimed that that person was "flat out dumb." At first we were both stunned by my overly simplistic description, but as I thought more and more about it, what I said did actually make some sense.

By dumb I don't mean someone who is deficient in IQ or basic cognitive ability. Some of the dumbest people that I know have PhD's and are wealthy. What I mean by dumb... (drum roll please) is a person who lacks self-awareness so much so that he/she makes the same mistakes over and over again.  Alcoholics Anonymous have a saying that goes something like this: insanity is doing the same things over and over again but expecting different results.

Let me illustrate with some examples:

"Dumb" is that boss who keeps yelling at his staff and wonders why productivity and morale is so low. "Dumb" is that person who keeps saying yes to their child the w…

Finding The Opportunity Inside the Obstacle

I recently read this great article.  The article is about finding the opportunity within each obstacle.  This is a skill that I believe that I believe that we all need.  It was very inspiring.  Here are two of my favorite excerpts:

If you mean it when you say you’re at the end of your rope and would rather quit, you actually have a unique chance to grow and improve yourself. A unique opportunity to experiment with different solutions, to try different tactics, or to take on new projects to add to your skill set. You can study this bad boss and learn from him—while you fill our your résumé and hit up contacts for a better job elsewhere. You can prepare yourself for that job by trying new styles of communication or standing up for yourself, all with a perfect safety net for yourself: quitting and getting out of there.        With this new attitude and fearlessness, who knows, you might be able to extract concessions and find that you like the job again. One day, the boss will …

60 Years Later; Still In Love

About two weeks ago I had the privilege of attending the 60th wedding anniversary of my aunt and uncle.  (I prefer to call them in their Italian forms of Zio and Zia.)

That's right 60 years, that is 21,900 days and 6 million years in Hollywood time.  Honestly how many people have been together for more than 6 years much less 60? Now every time there is a wedding reception and the longest tenured couples are called up I would put my money on my Zio Totonno and Zia Giovanna!

When I walked in, (coincidentally I happened to be walking in at the same time as they did.)  I was struck by the youthfulness and visibility of their love.  They still spoke to each other as 20 something year olds as they walked up those steps. Their steps might have been slower walking up, but their love was as youthful as ever as they walked into the room where their family awaited excitedly.

Their everlasting union is a testament to our commitment phobic world.  Their marriage is the proof that love, which i…

A Spiritual Retreat with St. Catherine of Siena Part II

"The soul can not live without love, but always wants to love something, because she is made of love and, by love, I created her."

As humans we were created to love.  Love is as natural to the human as the air is to the atmosphere.  We, as humans were created for a transcendent purpose.  The opposite is also true.  The evil person also loves however, in their case the evil person loves evil.So how is love manifested in each person? Through goodness and virtue, but most importantly a person loves most purely when that love is connected to the ultimate source of love, which is God.  Since God created humans out of love he is the source of love and the closer a person is to that source the more he/she will love.  The opposite is also true.  The evil person will love the source of all evil which is the devil.  When it comes to love no human can remain neutral; either one loves God or loves the devil.

"The number one is excluded, for, unless a man has a companion, I can not b…

A Spiritual Retreat with St. Catherine of Siena

I am currently reading The Dialogue of Saint Catherine of Siena. In this post and in others I will be placing several of my favorite quotes with brief commentaries on each of them.  Before reading them I would highly suggest reading the biography of St. Catherine (To read her bio click here or here.) to gain a broader perspective of her teachings.

My goal through these quotes is to create a mini retreat, where we encounter St. Catherine in the midst of
our normal day to day activity.

So with St. Catherine as our guide lets begin:

"...I wish that you should know, that not all the pains that are given to men in this life are given as punishments, but as corrections, in order to chastise a son when he offends."

It is comforting to know that God doesn't punish because he is bored and needs some entertainment. God punishes, rather corrects to give us the chance to become better. I know that this concept can seem antiseptic when viewed from the surface. But if viewed through …

What Does One Do When Encountering A Saint?

There in the chaos. In the hustling and bustling of my job stood a woman.

I, being tired, and overworked did not notice her.  I hurriedly took her order and thought nothing of it until I saw her..

Smile.  It was a special smile it was immortal, it was a smile , a shy one at that, half curious, half peaceful.

She smiled again and in that second I saw a piece of heaven...

Time stood still.  I was in the presence of greatness and greatness demanded that I tune out the noise and pay attention to her.

After relishing in the sublime, she broke my momentary trance by asking me if I could help her carry her food to her autistic son.

"Help her." I thought that was the least that I could do.

As I arrived to the table where her son sat I heard awful grunting sounds.  The boy was not aware of my existence or of anything in the near environment.  The only thing that he was aware of was the harmonica in front of him which he would play from time to time as his father clumsily struggled to…