Tag Archives: Life Lessons

Easy rider – had everything but God


For one thing, Mudd learned he was only as good as the horse he was riding. The fact that he could win good prize money one weekend, and then go a month without winning anything else, also kept him humble.

But if anything, his two years of competing professionally in rodeos showed Mudd that he was going to have to work twice as hard as some of the bigger and stronger competitors who excelled in that physically demanding sport.

“People were saying, “Man, if you were bigger, you’d be winning a ton of money.” But I’m not, this is how God made me. Mudd, 54, grew up in Louisiana wanting to do nothing other than rodeo from the time his father put him on a horse at about four years old.

Mudd left the professional rodeo circuit after a couple of years and became a salesman. He used the insights he gained from his rodeo years to build a successful sales and business career, but he was angry at God.

Slipping downward

“I wasn’t winning, and rodeo was all I knew. It was my identity,” said Mudd, who grew up in a Catholic home where his mother taught him and his siblings their prayers, and always made sure the family went to Mass on Sundays.

Even as a teenager, Mudd said he felt a close relationship with God and enjoyed going to church. But over the years, as the rodeo trophies piled up and life’s responsibilities increased with marriage and a business career, Mudd said he lost sight of the big picture.

He woke up one afternoon, hung over from a party the night before. He walked to the bathroom to wash his face and saw his reflection in the mirror.

“‘I saw a man in the mirror I despised,” Mudd said. “I knew my momma raised me better than this.”

Alone before God

That low moment — hitting rock bottom as it’s known in recovery circles — led to Mudd realizing he was an alcoholic. He didn’t know it at the time, but it was the first step on a journey that would lead him to a conversion experience, spawned from spending time before the Blessed Sacrament. The path would lead Mudd to rededicate himself to the Catholic faith and to pour his energies into apostolic endeavors like leading retreats, speaking at parishes, and building chapels in Mexico. He joined Legatus and had become a founding member of its Lake Charles Chapter.

But ultimately, Mudd learned that as a husband and a father, God had given him a vocation and that becoming a loving, attentive husband and father was his true path to holiness and salvation. “The things I’ve been able to do are all because of God,” said Mudd, who has been married to his wife, Kelly, for 29 years. They have three daughters, two of whom are now married, and three grandchildren, including one on the way.

Mudd and Kelly were high school sweethearts back in the late 1980s growing up in Creole, located in Southwest Louisiana.

Hooked on rodeo

One of Mudd’s earliest memories is being about four years old on a horse, working cattle with his father until they made money. One day, his father put him in a horse show, where he won a few ribbons and buckles.

“I was hooked,” said Mudd, who grew up competing in rodeos. In high school, he was a state and national rodeo champion. So was Kelly, who in high school won a national all-around rodeo title.

“That’s how I started relating success, through the rodeo, that if you work hard at it, you’d win a prize,” Mudd said.

He and Kelly went on to college. She graduated with her degree, but he quit halfway through to pursue rodeo full-time. He turned professional when he was about 23. He competed as a steer wrestler, an event where he would ride alongside the steer, jump off his horse, grab the steer by the horns and slide before throwing it down.

Mudd was a good competitor, but not having the size or strength of top-level rodeo athletes led him to leave the professional world after a couple of years. It was a moment he did not expect.

Humbled and hungover

“Rodeo is a humbling sport,” Mudd said. “It’s not like football or basketball where you sign a multimillion-dollar contract. In rodeo, you get what you win, so if you’re not winning, you’re not eating.

“I thought, ‘What am I going to do now? I had no college education. I had no trade,” Mudd said.

But what he did have was a rock-solid work ethic that he had developed through his father’s example and from his experiences in rodeo. He went into car sales, and started a waste management company in his late 20s that he later sold to a corporation. He bought a small oilfield heavy construction company and built it into a successful enterprise.

Along the way, however, Mudd said he developed a drinking problem. The nights partying in college and on the rodeo circuit grew to the point that he estimates he was drinking 16 to 20 nights a month.

“We’d drink and have a good ole’ time,” Mudd said.

The drinking led to that midafternoon where Mudd woke up with his wife not in bed; she had left the casino hotel where they were staying that weekend after he got pretty drunk the night before and passed out.

Lasso from the Lord

Deciding to become sober, Mudd said he was sleepless one night when he decided to drive to the church to pray, but found it was locked. He walked around the building until he found that the door to the parish Adoration chapel was open. He sat to the side of the Blessed Sacrament. He felt at peace when he left the chapel, and kept coming back.

God used that Adoration chapel like a lasso to bring Mudd deeper into the life of the Church and his calling as a Catholic man. He went on retreats, and built churches and chapels in Mexico. He went on a pilgrimage to Italy in 2010, where in Assisi he met Tom Monaghan, who told him about Legatus.

As his faith journey progressed, Mudd’s understanding of his vocation also deepened. Growing up, his father was a hard worker and good provider, but left the family spiritual guidance to his wife. That was Mudd’s approach early on in his own marriage.

“I wasn’t much of a spiritual leader at all,” said Mudd. Misplaced priorities, even in the early years of his renewed faith journey, led him to miss out on his daughter winning a beauty pageant, because he was on a retreat.

Today, Mudd still takes part in activities like church-building projects in Mexico, but he makes sure they do not interfere with family life at home. He retired from his business career last year and is thinking about opening a horse ranch to help men in recovery from substance abuse addiction.

Regardless of what he does next, Mudd said God and his family will always come first.

“You can’t give what you don’t have. That’s what I’ve learned on this whole journey,” Mudd said. “I’m just blessed.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer

New children’s books enliven evergreen lessons for life

Children are both a gift from God and our future, so writing for them is no small undertaking. It takes a special talent to translate the world into a simpler, more innocent place full of possibilities. For two Legates, Chuck Ormsby and Anthony DeStefano, writing children’s books is a labor of love in which they impart character-building, evergreen lessons.

Godly insights for everyone

Anthony DeStefano and his wife Jordon are members of the Jersey Shore Legatus Chapter. He has worked successfully in politics and business, and is a member of the board of directors of Priests for Life and Rachel’s Vineyard. He has also been an EWTN television host and appeared on many national television and radio programs.

And through it all, he writes.

Stefano is an award-winning, best-selling author of 20 books for adults and children. His first book, A Travel Guide to Heaven, (2003) has been published in 15 languages and in 20 countries. Another book for adults, Hell: A Guide, will be out in June.

DeStefano’s latest children’s book released in October, The Seed Who Was Afraid to be Planted, is the retelling of Jesus’ parable of the seed in verse, beautifully illustrated by Erwin Madrid, an animator on the Shrek franchise. The story is about a seed wanting to stay in a cozy drawer rather than get buried in the ground. Faced with his biggest fear, the seed undergoes a transformation into a beautiful tree that nurtures the creation around it. It imparts the lesson that no matter how small or scared we may be, God has plans for us more wonderful than we can imagine.

Speaking specially to Catholics

This new book is his first with a Catholic publisher. “Now is the time to start writing Catholic books with the Church,” he explained. “I’ve had the sense over the last three years—and I think all Catholics have had this sense—that the Church is going through troubled waters. I’ve had a conviction that instead of focusing on the general market where I’ve had a lot of success, I should write for a Catholic-specific audience.” It also helped that DeStefano had met the publisher of Sophia Institute Press, Charlie McKinney, and was very impressed. Sophia will also publish his next two children’s books: Our Lady’s Wardrobe in April and The Grumpy Old Ox next Christmas.

DeStefano’s stories, which reflect Godly values and insights, have attracted readers across denominational lines and even no denominations. The Seed Who Was Afraid to be Planted, he explained, is also a message that applies to everyone.

Facing the universal phobia – fear

“I believe the biggest problem that people face—not just children—is fear,” DeStefano said. “People are afraid about their money, and job, and families, and health, and most of all they are afraid they don’t have what it takes to overcome their problems.” Unless we help children deal with their fears, he said, it can manifest into much bigger problems that could last a lifetime.

The idea for the book came to DeStefano during adoration while reading the parable of the grain of wheat that fell to the ground and had to die in order to grow. “It hit me like a bolt of lightning; Why not retell the parable of the seed from the perspective of the seed?” he explained. “The message is about trusting God and allowing him to transform your fear into something wonderful.”

Taking the worst, pulling out the best

It is a message that relates to Christ himself, according to DeStefano. “Jesus is the best example of the seed who was planted,” he said. “He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, and He died and was buried in the earth. It was the worst evil that ever took place in the world: the murder of God by His own creatures. But three days later, the Resurrection represents the greatest good that could ever happen. The gates of heaven were thrown open and all of us can receive everlasting life. If God can take the worst thing and pull out the best thing, He can pull good out of our life.”

Imparting such a vision can transform a child’s whole life, DeStefano said. “It can help prepare children to understand other deeper truths— including the love God has for us, the beauty of creation, the temporary nature of bodily death, the meaning of resurrection, and the joy of heaven.”

Far-reaching love for kids

Attorney Chuck Ormsby, member of Pennsylvania’s Bucks County Chapter, also has deeper messages in his whimsical children’s books. They reflect his own commitment to God and children alongside his full-time work at his law firm, Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC. He has specialized in corporate law for over 30 years alongside raising three children with his wife, Linda, and building schools in Uganda.

“I went on my thirteenth trip there this past Halloween,” he said. “Previously we built a school in the jungle where a genocide took place,” Ormsby said. It all began in 2007 when Ormsby accepted an offer from visiting priest, Father Joseph Sserugo, to visit Uganda. He came to build a primary school on a one-square-mile piece of land that had been a place of genocide, thereby turning it into a blessing. Pope John Paul II high school was later built and is currently educating 600 students.

There is also a vocational school begun by Ormsby with another 150 students. Students can be sponsored at the Pope John Paul II High School, to defray yearly tuition. And there are also opportunities for covering their room and board at the local university (go to bridgetouganda.org to learn more).

Out of the mouths of babes

Ormsby’s foray into writing children’s books as a hobby has a humbler beginning. “We were driving in the car and one of the kids asked, ‘Why is Dad’s head ‘shaped like that’ —round and bald,” he explained. “My wife said, ‘So water runs off. If it had a dent in it, water would well up and he’d have a problem; puddles would form, birds would come drink and trees would grow.’” Thus was born Mr. Puddlehead, published in 2016 by Archway Publishing.

The brightly animated story in verse is reminiscent of Dr. Seuss. The moral behind the silly story is: accept the way God made you, and see the puddles in your life as a blessing.

Life lesson from grandma

On another day, Linda came home from pushing a grandchild in the stroller with a sticky mess on the wheel that had picked up a napkin and a cigarette. From that came the story of Mrs. Sticky Wheel. She is in too much of a hurry to clean off the mess so ends up coming home with a dog, a cat, a duck and a pig stuck to the stroller.

On the first page of the second book, Mrs. Sticky Wheel marries Mr. Puddlehead. On the last page is the moral:

“She learned a lot from this haul
Address your issues when they’re small
Or better yet so not to stall
Avoid your problem after all.”

A third book is in the works. When his oldest of five grandchildren, Tiernan, recently explained that his superhero power is never getting tired, Ormsby envisioned his next book – a story where the villains are such a pest, while the superhero needs no rest.

Stay tuned.

PATTI ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.

Life lessons from the kitchen: Everything in its place

Ever wonder why the recipe you watched on your favorite cooking show takes so much longer than they say or show? I remember trying to do “30-minute meals” many years ago. I never hit the mark. I’m pretty sure that the closest I got was one hour.


Chris Faddis

Later in life I would learn a very important culinary term — mise en place — a French culinary term that means “everything in its place.” Simply put, in the kitchen, it refers to the preparation that is done before cooking. It involves everything from planning, preparing and measuring ingredients before starting to cook the food.

Mise en place is the difference between success and utter chaos in the kitchen. I’ve learned that the way blogs and TV shows teach us to cook is out of order. Most recipes tell us to do each step one at a time — chop the onion, then sauté it. While we’re sautéing, we’re supposed to chop the other vegetables and cut up the chicken. Ever had to turn the pan off because you’re not quite done chopping everything by the time the onions are done cooking? Here’s a little tip: If you want to get close to that 30-minute meal, you’ll have to first prepare and portion all of the ingredients.

Good chefs understand the value of good prep. Most of the work is done well before you ever light the stove. Great chefs understand mise en place as more than just a culinary term but a philosophy of life.

As I work to apply this philosophy in our business culture — ensuring that “everything is in its place” in all aspects of our business so we can best serve our customers — I’ve also begun to look at how this applies in family life. I strive to teach my children to have the right priorities. I try to model this for them by having everything in its place: God first, my spouse (vocation) second, my children, then other family, neighbors (including my career and business responsibilities), and finally the world at large.

We all know the importance of sharing family meals, but maybe we can take it even further. What if we could use the simple practice of preparing dinner to teach our children or grandchildren the importance of mise en place? Try involving your whole family in preparing a meal where you all take on a task of planning, preparation and getting your mise en place before cooking the meal. Not only would it provide more family time, but it would also provide a valuable and practical lesson in the importance of priorities. I can tell you from experience that practicing this culinary discipline will make preparing a meal less stressful. Why? Because when everything is in its place, there is less room for chaos.

CHRIS FADDIS is the founder of Bene Plates. Learn more at beneplates.com


Citrus Grilled Chicken Salad

2 oranges, 2 lemons
½ cup olive oil
3 tbsp honey (or agave)
4 tbsp fresh chopped thyme
½ bag baby arugula
1 Belgium endive
½ cup cherry tomatoes
½ red bell pepper
1 cup snap peas

Salt and pepper chicken tenders. Juice 1 orange and 1 lemon and place in bowl. Add half of olive oil and thyme to juice. Mix and cover chicken with this mixture; let stand for 20-30 minutes. Heat grill pan on medium. Grill chicken for 5 minutes per side.

In a new bowl, add honey, remaining olive oil, thyme and orange and lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste; whisk together.

Wash and rinse all vegetables. Place arugula in a bowl. Chop endive crosswise and place over arugula. Chop the snap peas into thirds and place over top of salad. Slice red bell pepper and place in salad; add cherry tomatoes. Toss salad with citrus dressing; place on plate. Add chicken (three per plate) and enjoy.


Life Lessons

Patrick Madrid
Ignatius, 2016
170 pages, paperback $16.95

Madrid’s latest — subtitled Fifty Things I Learned in My First Fifty Years — draws from his life’s many interesting, funny, instructive, and poignant experiences. With wisdom and humor, he reflects upon the treasure-trove of riches we can all take from our own lives.

Grounded in scripture and a firm moral foundation, the book shows how the smallest stories are clear pointers to the greater story of God’s work in readers’ lives. The laughter, the tears, and the beauty of life come alive through Madrid’s insightful and clear style. He’ll inspire you to see the wonder of God in your own life’s journey.

Ignatius Press