Sunday, August 17, 2014

They Do 'What Justice Cannot Do On Its Own'

                                     By Robert R. Schwarz

This interview was posted originally 
On Jan. 14, 2011.  Portions of it 
have been updated .

At her kitchen table, Marybeth muffled a sob when she read  a simple note that had been left for her at the parish office by a client. Scribbled on the back of an envelope was: “Thank you for helping us when no one else would.”
In the early l9th Century, a Frenchman's prophetic vision about charity quickly resounded throughout the world, eventually inflaming the hearts of 900, 000 people. Among them today are Marybeth and Mike Schoenwald who spearhead the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of the St. James Catholic parish in Arlington Heights, Illinois.
 This husband and wife team provide leadership for 50 volunteers who, since 2005, have been motivated by words of that French visionary, Frederic Ozanam: "Order in society is founded on two virtues, justice and charity. But justice already presupposes a lot of love, for one must love a person a lot if one is to respect his rights which border one's own rights, and his freedom which limits one's own freedom. “ Ozanam wished for "charity to do what justice cannot do on its own.”    Beatified on Aug. 23, l997, by Pope John Paul II, Ozanam poignantly expressed the ideal of the Society's founding patron, St. Vincent de Paul, when he said:  “There are many people who have too much, and who want still more. There are very many more who do not have sufficient, who have nothing and who want to take if people won't give".
Changing Lives
Responding to the needs of nearly 100 families each year, Marybeth and Mike have  been changing lives of single mothers and other people—some St. James members, some not—troubled with unpaid bills, divorce,  addictions, and inability to pay for medical treatment. Members of their team have also been knocking on front doors with a bag of groceries in hand. 
As the Schoenwalds and their volunteers move single moms out of sleazy motels and into apartments (which the Society sometimes furnishes), they take joy in knowing that what they do "unto the least of them [Matthew 25:40], " they do for Jesus Christ. One husband whom Marybeth and Mike help reunite with his family told them: “We know that with your prayers and blessings, we will succeed and be able to give back to society one day everything that has been given to us in our time of need.”
 No money is ever loaned to clients; a typical aid amount is from $400 to $800. Last year ( 2011 the Society’s $36, 000 in aid money almost tripled that spent in 2005, its first operational year. The current ill economy in America has increased cash needs of the Society's clients; for the first time, more clients need help with mortgages rather than rent payments. Most of the aid money comes from small donations and the parish itself. In turn, the Society donates regularly to their partners, the Dominican Republic Conference and the St. Clare/St. Rita Conference in Chicago. 
 Married 33 years, Mike and Marybeth  demonstrate what St. Vincent de Paul proclaimed soon after he and six Paris university students established the Society in 1833: that faith and work should harmonize in service to neighbor. 
The Schoenwalds have faith in an annual garage sale. Helping the Society is their garage sale.  "This year (2014) marks our 10th year of holding the Truly Priceless Garage Sale at our house ," Marybeth said proudly.  "  Goods, which are not priced, are offered in exchange for donations to any of five charities:  Catholic Charities, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Women’s Center, the Pro-Life Action League, and the Center of Hope and Healing.  To date we have raised almost $17,000 in the process of providing good to those who could use them. "  
Rosary and Bible Study Groups 
The Schoenwalds are equally proud of their twice monthly Bible study, "Mother Mary, May I Take Three Giant Steps:  Bible, Prayer, & Catechism , " which  takes place in their modest home a few blocks from St. James. " We begin with the rosary,"  explained Marybeth, " followed by a video of a Catholic bible study.  Then we pray the Divine Mercy chaplet, and end with a video explaining a portion of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  We are on our 2nd study of the Catechism; we studied the Catholicism series; and we have studied The Great Adventure Bible Study, Matthew, the Acts of the Apostles, Revelation, and we are about to begin the Letter of James.  It is a small, but consistent group, and others are always welcome.  The other great thing is that these sessions are held in our family room which is dedicated to Our Blessed Mother, with almost 100 images of her under different titles – this collection was begun by my  mother, and we add to it whenever we have the opportunity. "  

Then there is their Rosary network started in 2005 which, said  Marybeth, " has grown to over 200 members/families, who pray for each other’s intentions.  We consolidate the intentions and mail them back to our members.  We all pray the rosary on the 13th of the month for these intentions, each in our own homes, or wherever we happen to be.  Also, once each month, we host an evening of prayer in our home for our priests during which we pray the rosary.  Our house is easily recognizable as a house that prays – as we have a ten- foot, lit up rosary on the front ...We still do the 3 a.m. to  7 a.m. shift of PADS once a month, as we have since the opening night – over 20 years ago. " 

The Schoenwalds ( standing) with people of Human Life
International, which helped bring 
Our Lady of  Czestochowa
to St. James

Brought to St. James  this year by the Schoenwalds   was the  miraculous, iconic image of Our Lady of Czestochowa ; the effort was part of an international pilgrimage for life and family sponsored by Human Life International.  " This was especially important to us because it was an opportunity to bring Our Blessed Mother here to renew devotion to her, to pray and learn about the importance of respect for life from conception to natural death, and to bring more people to church through evangelization, " Marybeth said.   "What was most special," she added , "was that many people came to all-night Eucharistic Adoration at St. James in the presence of this icon.  We also brought the icon to the Carmelite monastery for a rosary with the sisters, who are always praying for us, and to pray the rosary at two abortion clinics on River Road in Des Plaines . One of them is still doing abortions. "
            The tonnage of paperwork which keeps the couple busy full-time is done on the Schoenwald’s kitchen table. While organizing notebook after notebook one afternoon, Mike shook his head and said: “All this required record-keeping was beyond what we expected.”  He and his wife share at least one item on their "wish" list:  more free time just to talk about things like friends and family. They have two recreations: One is Marybeth's organic garden of fruits and vegetables which, she said, "we're still eating in January."  Their other fun time, Mike said, "is finding a good restaurant with a good chef.”
At the table, Mike started to tell about the early years of his marriage to Marybeth, those days when they had little money.  Then, pausing to exchange a glance with his wife, he reflected: “I’ve walked those miles in other people's shoes and know that there, but for the grace of God. go I."  And then Marybeth handed him another notebook.
comments welcome

©2014 Robert R. Schwarz

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Not Your Everyday Teacher: She Directs Child Spiritual Direction

By Robert R. Schwarz 

                        "The bottom line: help students fall in love with God"
[Posted originally March 2, 2014 ]
            The teacher held a mirror up to the 6- year old student. "Whom do you see here?"  she asked the girl.
 " Me," the girl replied . " And my name is Susie."
" And what else do I know about you? "
"I live in Arlington Heights, " the student  said, no  doubt wondering where her teacher was going with this.
It was the  teachable moment all teachers wait for to  drive home an important  point . In this case, it was the child's spiritual formation. "You are Saint Susan of Arlington Heights,  " the teacher affirmed . "You are a saint- in- the -making. "
The teacher, Mrs. Pat Farrell,  wanted her student to realize that saints were normal people like this student and not "just someone up on a cloud who always had the right answer."  Pat is director of spiritual formation for k-8 students  in the St. James Catholic parish in Arlington  Heights, Illinois.
A student and his "sketch" of her as his saint. 
Pat's next learning strategy that day engaged  a  student  in a role play  to help him  form his prayer life.  After that, she led the class in an informal talk about God and Jesus . It was a concerted effort—one she's been doing for the past 13 years—to bring children closer to a living relationship with the Holy Trinity. 
            " God is a God of relationship , and my goal, my mantra is to help these young people become aware of the God within them and to relate to that God,"  Pat explained during our recent interview in her parish office . Asked if the concept of God being within one was too abstract for a young student, she replied:  "You start of the see glimmers of this [ understanding ] when they are in junior high."
"Teaching spiritual formation is very different from teaching English, " she said.  "Spirituality to me differs from theology or religious education in that these are cognitive processes. It is that relationship with that indwelling God….We have  only to listen with different ears, see with different eyes."   At the  9 a.m. Friday  Mass she also trains her students to appreciate the church's ongoing  liturgy " Anyone is welcome to come." 
            Pat, a fiftyish  woman obviously not short-changed in either intellect—she also teachers critical thinking as an adjunct professor at Roosevelt College— or expressive humor, sits at a small desk top-heavy with papers. Her eyeglasses match her   fuchsia colored Celtic sweater with a golden-like Celtic cross on it.  We are surrounded by  teacher and church  stuff: sacramentals, classroom props—and lots of family photos . She likes to be precise when speaking.
The Farrell family in 2011
 Pat has observed that  that many Catholics are leaving churches today   because,  as children,   their faith was taught to them intellectually  and not by or through a  personal relationship   with God. "There are so many challenges today to raising a faith-based family ," she asserted . " And I'm going through this too because I have teenagers and a young adult. " What saddens Pat is "seeing the number of young people stepping away from their faith . " Aware of those  parents who  dismiss this fall-out  by saying , well, that's what all the youth is doing, she counters with: " We have to work a little harder to give them reason not to ! This is why the archdiocese had indentified this year as the "Year of the Strong Catholic Parent." Pat is doing her part by giving spiritual direction to adults when they ask for it. Her academic background also includes three master of arts degrees : from Loyola University in religious education; Dominican University  in library and information science; and Northeastern Illinois University in philosophy and phenomenology.     
            At a special ceremonial dinner last month,  Pat was one of 33 employees of the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools to the receive the 2014 Distinguished Service Award. The presentation was made by  Cardinal Francis George and Sr. Mary Paul  McCaughey.  
            I asked Pat to  relate her life's  spiritual journey .    She talked about it with apparent candor, confidence, and a knack for anticipating  my  next question.  " By the time I was three, I knew I was being called to do God's work , " she began .  It was a calling she felt deep within her and one she soon shared with her parents.  "My parents were the biggest influence on my life. They were people of great faith. My mother was the quintessential volunteer with a strong sense of [Catholic] social justice and mission.  " 
       Her father, who   emigrated as an infant from Ireland and later worked for the American Oil Company, would quote to her St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine.   "My parents were devoted to each other, and when Dad would put us to  bed at night, he would always say , ' Did I tell you today I love you ? '  He never left the dinner table without saying to my mother,  'Your dinner today, my darling, was delicious. ' "   ( A plaque in Pat's home, from a Lutheran friend, reads:  The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.  )
            " While growing up, I did not want to be a nun ," Pat said . But after graduating from Dominican University, she considered  going into a convent because she was still in awe of the Dominican sisters . She admits  that these nuns  " in a large part made me what I am today ." Since then Pat has kept  a strong relationship with the Dominicans and today is a Dominican Associate.
When she decided to pursue that childhood  calling  to do God’s work,  she sought work with the  lay ministry office of the Chicago’s archdiocese  but was told she had to be a nun to qualify.  So, she went to work for a medical society, still feeling  the call for church work.  When several years later the archdiocese began promoting lay ecclesial ministers for its  Together in God’s Service Program,  Pat applied . Her call had been answered.
Her  "Call to Adoption"
With son Patrick at age 5
  Yet, another call was waiting for Pat. She now had  met Jerry , whom she married .  Jerry today is the business director for  Queen of All Saints Basilica in Chicago. Now came the tragedy of  three miscarriages for Pat . Doctors told her that because she and Jerry were genetically identical twins ( a rare occurrence of when  the  DNA of husband and wife match exactly ),  Pat would never be able to carry a pregnancy to full term.  "I was dumbfounded, " Pat said.   " I was numb."
             Before the miscarriages,  Pat and Jerry  had talked  about adopting children in addition to their planned  biological children.  The couple now prayed over adopting a child and were willing to accept a child of any race or with any handicap. They contacted the former Family Counseling Clinic in Grayslake and  soon 11-day-old Ann arrived  in the Farrell home. 
             Ann, now 21 ,  will soon graduate from her mother's alma mater and  intends to  pursue a doctorate in biomedical ethics.  " She's very strong-willed, like her mother, " Pat said.   
  From the same adoption agency ,  came 13-day-old  Joseph, who today  Pat describes as the family's  "song and dance man" . Joe is a  sophomore and a theatre major  at  Dominican University, where he has been cast as a leading man in  several Dominican productions.   "He plans to go on to graduate school in Social Work and hopes to be a high school counselor and teach theatre," his mother  said. Explaining her son's dual goals , Pat said that sometimes  students being counseled can better express themselves through drama.  "Joe has a heart for this. "
Patrick, the third adopted child,   arrived at the Farrell home  when only three days old. When Patrick attended the St. James school,  Pat  once described him   as "the happiest kid in the world with an incredible belly laugh I can hear half-way down the hall. "  He is now a high school sophomore and  has told his mother he would like  to work with animals. " That may be," she said, " because one of our  family dogs was born five months before  Patrick , so the two grew up together. "   
            All three of Pat and Jerry's children are Afro-American.   "The desire to adopt black children was from the  God deep within me, " Pat said. " I had a gut feeling, a sense that this  was the path I was supposed to be on. I did not want children to look exactly like me."  Then , speaking slowly, softly, and  with conviction, she quoted a  gynecologist : " You get the souls that are supposed to be yours. "
            "I don't  mean to sound arrogant, " Pat said , " but my kids are very good kids. " She does admit, however,  that raising children can make a mother lose her temper now and then.          
             Fourteen  years ago, while employed as  director of research for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and also working   part-time  at St. James, Pat faced  another critical decision:  whether she should leave the surgeon society to work full-time for  St. James.  Chuckling, she said,  " I've always loved medicine and considered being a doctor when I found out I couldn't be a priest. "
            Then one day in church, after everyone had left the St. James Mass service and Pat was sitting alone in the dark  praying for direction,  she swears she heard  a deep voice saying to her,   Do  you not think that I will take care of you ?  It wasn't  long before she  had  traded her research tools for a full-time commitment  directing student  spiritual formation at St. James.
The Bottom Line: 'Fall in Love with God '
Pat on her way to form a saint-in-the-making
  One of Pat's goals today is to  "
deepen the parents'  partnership " in developing   their children's spiritual formation.  Asked to make a pitch for a St. James school education as opposed to one in a public school, Pat thought for awhile before replying with: " Look, the  bottom line is that we are here [ at St.James ] to help students fall in love with God."  Can't  public school teachers can do the same? I asked. " Absolutely, " she said. " But at St. James , religion  is really well integrated into everything we teach. "  For examples, she cited that when the students are learning about  World War II history,  she'll walk into classroom  and teach about the church's position on a "just war " ;  or, at Easter  time , when the Jewish-Arab conflict might again be in the news,  she'll  '' form her students into three groups and have them "decide" how they would divide  the Holy Land into parcels for Jews, Muslims, and Christians.
                     And what of Pat's own  spiritual  formation ?  Anything she's had to learn the hard way ?  "Pretty much everything, " she said with self-deprecating  humor. Then , turning  serious, she added:  " Trusting God, letting go…that's something I've really worked on with my spiritual director. " Pat sees her  woman spiritual director "now and then " ,  prays a  lot during the day, and  attends  Eucharistic Adoration . Does she always obey God?  "Yes," she replied. Then offered a Farrellesqe retort: " But I may tap dance around Him for a while. "
She goes to the sacrament of reconciliation weekly or monthly —"depending on what I've done, " she said grinning . " I couldn't do this work without it. It's such a cleansing. I think it's the  most human of the sacraments. Heaven knows I make plenty of mistakes every day." She shares some of  her convictions about confession with  her students.  With people who may  not be happy with what she does, she looks for "common ground. "     

     Her favorite prayer is from St. Teresa of Avila, her favorite saint:
Christ has no body now but yours
    No hands, no feet on earth but yours
             Yours are the eyes through which He looks
compassion on this world
            Christ has no body now on earth but yours. 

            For fun and recreation, she and husband ride their bicycles ; she swims  all year with her son Patrick in a Park District pool, attends son Joseph's stage performances, and goes to some movies ( she wants to see " Saving Mr. Banks "  and " August: Osage County  "; she likes Meryl Strep ) . She says reads voraciously , especially  biographies like On Heaven and Earth, a dialogue between Pope Francis and Rabbi Abraham Skorka.  She likes to quote the 13th Century mystic Meister Eckhart : If the only prayer you ever said in your whole life was 'thanks', you've said enough. 
Teaching liturgy in the St. James chapel
   When I wanted know what she would like to hear  Jesus say to her at the front door of heaven, her  one-liner was:  " Come on in, Pat " !
            Pat's  biggest personal challenge is winning the daily battles of spiritual warfare. "I  do believe in the forces of evil, " she said.  " When you are called to this work, you are a target for spiritual attack .  "  Most people don't sense that this spiritual warfare is going on,  she added.  Pat believes that for everyone—to one degree or another—  spiritual warfare is  a lifetime deployment .  " But it's a process that deepens your faith, " she gladly added.  
            Apropos of that, she claims James 2:18 as her favorite Holy Scripture: Indeed someone might say,  you have faith and  I have works . Demonstrate your faith to me without works , and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. 
            As for  those students whom Pat instructs to look in the mirror if they want to see a saint-in-the-making,  some  child eager for affirmation of this  is always stopping her in the hallway to ask,  " Mrs. Farrell,  am I a saint-in-the-making, too ?"   Pat's reply: "Oh, yes ! "

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                                                                                                                                                                              ©  2014  Robert R. Schwarz

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Bean Counter Wall Street Should Hire

By Robert R. Schwarz

 This interview was posted 
originally on May 1, 2014

"  I  believe your faith has to be everything that you're about"
" I married my guardian angel "

            Wall Street would profit by hiring Brian King . Some firms no doubt would curse the day this CPA worked on their books. And just imagine the Ponzi Scheme poster boy   Bernard L. Madoff  discovering that his newly hired accountant lights sacramental  candles in church for his clients . One can only speculate  how soon King would be fired after office gossip reached Madoff's ears that Mr. King  was a perennial neighborhood Santa Claus with the uncompromising belief that all humans are to love their neighbors as  themselves.   
The Bean Counter as Santa
    King, a lector and member of  the St. James parish in Arlington Heights, Illinois,  is neither your typical " bean counter "  ( his metaphor  for an accountant ) nor, for that matter,  your typical  Catholic Christian—if there is one. "I believe God sends me to people who need help ," he says. "If they want a reference,  I tell them to call my pastor."    King is a cheerful 56- year- old Certified Public Accountant  who loves to talk—his Irish heritage makes him a natural story-teller—which he regularly punctuates with bursts of laughter ; you want to believe he's never morose or petulant.  A perfect Santa Claus.   When we talked, he was in blue jeans and a dark blue sweatshirt and without shoes. He's a husky,  five-foot-eleven ,  blue-eyed , gradually balding man weighing —so he told me when asked—237 pounds. We faced each other across the dining room table of his pleasantly  furnished  two-story home ( his office is here  )  shared with  his wife Rita , a religion teacher at the nearby St. Viator  high school. 
            We   often stray from the topic at hand when King adds religious or spiritual footnotes to it, such as  details about his  accountant work:  " I  always  tell clients I can't meet with them before 9 a.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays because I go to church. They all know  I'm Catholic . Many of my clients are not Catholic . " A smile  forms on his Irish, St. Nicholas  face as he adds: "I refer to myself as a radical Roman  Irish Catholic extremist ."  Comes a burst of laughter .
            He describes his work as a " Rent-a-CFO " who helps companies and individuals make better decisions about tax matters and other financial matters with which they are struggling . " I get in there and roll up my sleeves. "
At home with his "guardian angel" Rita
   As for his Santa Claus role he's loved doing for the past five years, he says he "just enjoys seeing children's faces and listening to all the things that are important to them ."  He's also known in the neighborhood  as "the guy who hands out mint patties and popsicles.'' He's known so well that sometimes around the Yule holidays this Santa will just walk into a neighbor's home without knocking or ringing the bell. Santa Brian also visits retired people and makes the rounds at a downtown pub where, in earshot of the solitary  person drinking his problems away, he will remind everyone that
Christmas is about Christ and that "it's important that you know that God is always with you."
            He was six years of age when a cousin revealed to him  there was no  Santa Claus. " It was  kind of crushing, "  he recalls.  Today he tells his family, "You know ,  if you don't believe in Santa Claus, you don't get as many presents. "
            As a Christian and an accountant,  Brian met his greatest challenge  during the 2008-2009  national  economic recession  when he was the CFO of a company that had so far lost 40 per cent of its business. " It was pushing me to my extreme, " he says  .  He wasn't to blame, he says:  "They were happy I was there . " He was getting advice from banks,  business colleagues, friends, and the owners.  Brian knew  he had to make the right decisions; if not, many people would eventually be hurt by the company's " nasty turnaround. "  He was committed to making a decision without his own interests  in mind.
            He started attending weekday Mass at St. James and  lighting votive candles for the people for whom he worked.  The company soon  rebounded  and, Brian says, " nobody got burned and I was able to look in the mirror and say I made the right decisions.  "  From that experience , Brian learned an important lesson:  Whatever good he does in life is really not done by Him but through  him by God. 
He Married His Guardian Angel
            He emphasized that the "biggest accomplishment "in his life was marrying  Rita , his "guardian angel. "  The two met at a Labor Day party at  Rita's sorority when they were seniors at the University of Dayton ( Ohio ) . " We connected fast, "  he says. " We used to sit up talking in her sorority house until 3 a.m. "  One day when Rita and Brian were at a Dayton shopping mall, their conversation  turned to the topic of jewelry—rings to be specific. Next thing, Brian was telling  Rita, " Let me show you a ring I like. "
Seniors at their college homecoming party 
   The ring, of course, was to be Rita's engagement ring—if and when Brian could pay for it.  He used all his money for a down payment
 and had to sell his college meal ticket to pay for  the rest. " Friends started buying me a donut for breakfast. " He was forced  to cut back for three months  on his meals , causing his weight to drop from 175 to 143 pounds. 
            The couple were engaged,  coincidentally ,   on St.  Joseph's  Day in 1979 , and several months later were on a jet to Bermuda for a honeymoon.
            After getting his B.A. degree in business from Dayton,  Brian later  earned his M.S. degree in taxation from De Paul University in Chicago.
            Brian's grandparents immigrated from County Mayo and County Galway , Ireland,  and eventually settled  on Chicago's South Side . His  grandfather  later owned a bar there  but moved the family to the North Side where he became a streetcar operator when his wife let it known she did want the children living above a bar.     Brian's mother died  when he was five , and Brian and his one sibling brother were raised by his father,  uncle, and aunt .   "It was  an Irish Catholic house and so it was pretty funny. "  ( He lets loose another burst of laughter. )  He claims his father   "was  one of the best role models any kid could have. "  Now 89, Brian's father and his uncle share a home in Arlington Heights.  "They still fight like two little boys, " he jokes.
            Brian and  Rita have three children:  Thomas ( named after Brian's uncle ), a 27-year-old accountant residing in Downers Grove; Colleen, 25, a catering and banquet event manager, and Kathleen, 28, a pediatric cardio intensive care nurse. The daughters live out of state.  " Rita and I always kept a unified front when telling the kids what to do or not, Brian says. "That  was the best way to raise them. "  Today his adult children believe their parents have some kind of mental  telepathy.   Brian quotes them:  " You guys can communicate without even talking. "
Challenges Keep Him Humble
            We talked more about his faith.  He says he has a "different faith pattern" than most people. When he's challenged by a life problem , he says he looks for God's role in it. "You know what , I see acts of God in everyday life. I appreciate every challenge because I think they keep me humble. "
With a Chinook Salmon he caught in Lake Michigan 
  His thoughts turned to charity :  " There's a mission for everybody to go out and help people. "  But , he added,   " There are those who cannot take care of themselves and those who choose not to. "  He referred to St. Paul's exhortation that people who refuse to work should  "not eat. "
            Though he claims he doesn't  "push" his beliefs  onto his clients,  he says he doesn't hesitate to  let them  know he's a Catholic.  "One of the most sincere things  I can offer is my background in being a Roman Catholic , because that's where my foundation is from a personal and business standpoint.  I  believe that your faith has to be everything that you're about ."   His favorite Bible verse  is spoken by Jesus  ( Matthew  6:3-4 ) : But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And our Father who sees in secret will repay you.
            Mr. King is obviously not a man restricted by a lot of  do's and don'ts . "I don't need  to  go  to church every morning . I go because I want to.  When in church I am as relaxed as I can be. Church is something I do for myself. My faith is  something I do for others.  My faith is something out in the street… I pray throughout the day. " He maintains that he's not going to Hell if he misses a Sunday in church. " I don't believe going to church is as important as keeping your obligation to God. ".  Nevertheless,  he and Rita always attend Sunday Mass. Brian is also candid  about his shortcomings,  such as acts of kindness to other drivers on  the road . "I'm not always good at it …I could tell you some really bad stories about myself. "
The King family at a surprise 25th wedding
anniversary. ( from left ) Brian, Colleen, Thomas,
Kathleen, and Rita. 
    Twice a year, he says, he goes to confession and has taken  it to Frs. Joji and  Gilbert .  He doesn't like to wait in a confession line "because it's like going to Wal-Mart." This could explain why  more than anyone he goes to his wife Rita with a confession, though he knows "it doesn't  count ."  He tells her  what is bothering him , but not those "deep dark secrets"  he "wouldn’t  tell to anybody but God ."  His wife  gives him " good  feedback . "
            Spending time with  Rita and , when possible, his children and grandchildren,  makes Brian the happiest. " Rita and I love to entertain…having people over to the house where we can just sit and visit. " His fantasy—and also goal—is to live some place where all of them could live close and  " I could  spend the rest of my   life having fun with my bride."   But he'd like that to occur outside Cook County   because of his increasing property taxes,  which he says he can't afford any more.  
            For recreation, this bean counter  hunts turkey near Spring Green, Wisconsin and fishes with a friend in Delavan , Wisconsin.  " I don't catch many fish because I spend too much time talking . " He loves smoked foods and Cajun and Creole cooking and also delights in cleaning the  house. " Rita says I'm the happiest when  I've got a bottle of Sparkle and a paper towel  in hand. "  For television,  he and Rita will watch "NCIS ", "Law & Order" ,  and  " Everybody Loves Raymond. " He likes to read war histories and recently read a book about the   Desert Storm  fighting in the Middle East.
            A lot of television news he won't watch . He gets angry when the reporting of certain news events remind him  of  the "moral and ethical decay" he sees in the American society.   " I really struggle with that," he says—so much that Rita won't let him watch certain news segments.  She's concerned that her husband  will someday "shoot the television set. "
            Citing the lack of compassion  some people have for others , Brian , his voice lowering,  says: " What we really need to do is become selfless, but I see more and more people  becoming selfish and self-centered ."
            When he dies,  he hopes people will remember him  for "making a difference  in some peoples' lives and never having taken advantage of anyone. "       
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