Tuesday, April 23, 2024


 After surviving my recent surgery and accompanying health crisis in January, I think enough time has elapsed for a bit of humor about the situation.  Being sick isn't funny, but some of the things that cross your mind when you are sick can be scary, a little paranoid and even curious.  

While I was sick, my dryer broke down, the folding closet door in the guestroom fell off its hinges, the battery in my car decided to die, my washer acted up, the electricity went off for about 30 minutes one cold night before it came back on, one of the plastic panels on the sliding glass door broke and the whole valance fell to the floor while trying to reattach it, the heavy platter on top of my kitchen cabinets finally twisted the whole row of trim and caused it to fall off and onto the floor.  At one point, it was starting to get humorous! 

Sunday, April 21, 2024


I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A hired man, whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves
the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. I am the
good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me.
John 10:11-18

The Latin word for a “shepherd” is a “pastor.” As you await the arrival of the who will be shepherding this flock as your new “pastor,” it might be a good time to talk to you about the qualities of a “good shepherd” – the qualities of a “good pastor!”

As some of you know, I used to teach seminarians about “spiritual and pastoral leadership” who were about to be ordained priests, over at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana. When I began to teach that course, I looked around for texts that I could use on the subject of “spiritual leadership” only to find out that there was a shocking lack of material on the particular subject. Most of the books I came across focused on personal spirituality (mostly Catholic) or parish management (mostly Protestant).  As a result, after several years of teaching that course, I decided to write this little text book for my class entitled The Spiritual Leadership of a Parish Priest: On Being Good and Good at It. The thesis of this book is that personal holiness is essential for a young priest, but it is not enough for becoming a “pastor.” The skills and ability to lead others to holiness is also needed. Even Pope Benedict XVI noted that it was easier for him to define the truth in the CDF than it was to inspire and motivate people to want to live it as the Pope.    

I define “spiritual leadership” in this book as the ability to influence people to move from where they are to where God wants them to be through invitation, persuasion, example and the skillful use of the Church’s rites, rituals and rules. The focus of “spiritual leadership” is on an internal movement to deeper discipleship.  The focus of “pastoral leadership” is on an skillful use of the external tools of the Church and the ability to coordinate the charisms within the community in making that happen.

This idea is confirmed in Scripture in Jesus’ teaching today on “the Good Shepherd.” In that Greek text, there are at least two possible words for “good,” agathos and kalos. Agathos means “good” as in “morally good,” while kalos means “good” as in “good at” or “effective at” something. The “Good Shepherd,” in the gospel” is said to be kalos, “good at shepherding.” Personal holiness and goodwill alone in a designated spiritual leader will not suffice. He must also be effective if he is to be a real spiritual leader.  In other words, today’s “good shepherds,” must not only appreciate and value green grass and flowing water and have their own supply, they must be able to seek and find it for others as well as to be able to lead their flocks to it!     

Spiritual leadership, the ability to influence people to move where they are to where God wants them to be, is critical today. Surely, there is no doubt that organized religion has lost its ability to impose unquestioned rules on behavior on our people and that one of the most pressing needs facing Catholicism today is the quality of its priestly leadership. No amount of ranting and raving about how we ought to be listened to will change this situation. We simply must get better at our ability to influence and persuade instead of blaming the victims for their lack of faith and the culture for its secularism and moral relativism. Nor can we merely collect good tools by simply writing new editions of the rule books, we must be able to use them effectively to persuade people to follow the rules in those books. 

Over the years, I have observed at least two very different ways to herd sheep. One way is to walk in front of them, gently calling them with a convincing voice, while they willingly follow to where they need to go. The other way is to bark and snap from behind, like a sheep dog, chasing and intimidating them into going where they need to go. Good shepherds lead by invitation. Sheepdogs drive the sheep through fear. It is no surprise to me, that in a time when we are losing more and more credibility, the barking and snapping seem to be growing louder and louder and gaining more popularity, especially among those newest to spiritual leadership. When one cannot influence people, with convincing voices that our people want to follow, in the style of the Good Shepherd, mark my word, he will end up becoming a barking sheepdog. Such pastors may be able to drive some sheep into the pen, but more and more of our people will, no doubt, run away from us or simply become more irritated by our barking and snapping.

Instead of facing our spiritual leadership crisis, there seems to be a growing avoidance response in the Church that seems downright curious to me, at least. I would call it a “theme park” response in which people are driven to put on period costumes of nineteenth century Catholicism and build realistic stage sets from some imagined “good old days,” while pretending that nothing has changed and attempting to convince themselves that this will somehow make all the confusion go away.

Any formation of “spiritual leaders” assumes reasonably integrated individuals, but some professionals have noted that because of the shortage of seminarians, screening and formation programs have tended, at least in the recent past, to accept and tolerate candidates with demonstrable personality traits such as dependency, avoidance, narcissism and obsessive/compulsive behavior.

Priesthood, even today, offers seductions of power, prestige and flattery. These seductions attract those who are drawn to the status and practice of ministry because it helps satisfy their need to be the focus of attention and affirmation. Is this not manifested in a new exaggerated emphasis on the theology of the priest as “a man set part,” the need to wear cassocks even in public places like airports and at sporting events and the rise in the numbers of young priests sent to treatment centers or pulled out of ministry simply because “they cannot relate to people?” This focus becomes even more pernicious if it is couched in religious language about “orthodoxy” and being “servants.”

My sense, from years of pastoral experience, is that most Catholics want to be good and serve God, but many do not know how and many of us do not know how to lead them there. It seems that the more we try to define truth for them, the more they feel uninterested and bored by it. Some leave the Church to look for greener grass in other denominations, while others simply give up the search. This crisis will, no doubt, get worse in the next generation. We have a spiritual leadership crisis and seminaries must find better ways to rise to the occasion in meeting the need for more real spiritual leaders. Our people need competent and effective spiritual leaders and they deserve them. Our whole raison d’etre as priests is to “…help the People of God to exercise faithfully and fully the common priesthood which it has received.” As priests, we must more become who we say we are. We must, more and more, “walk our talk.”  Yes, we need to be personally “good,” but we also need to be “good at it!” Yes, we need to be competent as well as holy! 

Friday, April 19, 2024


Due to an unfortunate location to put her nest, this mother had three eggs (one more than in the photo) that were not able to hatch because a cat or other animal got to them and even destroyed the nest. 

This mother was able to hatch five of her eggs and was out showing them around. However, I only saw them one day. Maybe they are hiding away and will show up again or maybe they were victims of other animals? 

Thursday, April 18, 2024


Rhodelia, Kentucky


9245 Rhodelia Rd 
Payneville, KY 40157

Office Phone: 270-496-4362
Office Fax: 270-496-4416

Email: sttheresa@bbtel.com

Office Hours
Tuesday and Thursday 8:30 am – 4:30 pm
Kathy Shacklett, Office Manager 

Tuesday, April 16, 2024



Be holy for I your God am holy!
Leviticus 19:1-2

Today, in both the first reading from the Book of Leviticus and the Gospel of Matthew (25:31-46), we are presented with powerful lists of what is required to be “holy” in imitation of God’s “holiness.”  Both readings center on eliminating those things in our lives that do not lift up, encourage and assist the suffering of this world. Holiness is presented, not in worshipping God, as much as it is as service to others, especially the poor – in loving God’s people as much as God loves them! This is how to “be holy as he is holy!”

One of the most useful insights I have ever stumbled across was one from the Nazi concentration camp survivor, Victor Frankl, in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning. He wrote these deeply meaningful and truly useful words: “Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing — the ability to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

We cannot always control what happens to us or around us, but we can choose how we want to respond. Things do not always work out. People divorce. Employees need to be fired. Children break our hearts. Friends let us down. Parents fail at parenting. In a world where revenge, vindictiveness, reciprocation, retribution and retaliation seem to be the most typical responses, we can train ourselves to respond differently.

Today, I would like to talk about the virtue of magnanimity, meaning to be generous in forgiving, eschewing resentment or revenge, and being unselfish and other-focused. The word comes from two Latin words: magna, meaning great, and animus, meaning soul or mind. Being magnanimous means being “big minded” or “great souled.” It has nothing to do with who is right or who is wrong. It simply means to freely choose to be “noble” regardless of who is right and who is wrong.

It is really about “making a good response” by choosing to be “big minded” or “great souled” regardless. Magnanimity is possible only for those who are not addicted to being right and who do not have a burning need to be faultless.

In life, we come face to face with unexpected circumstances, people who let us down and things that do not turn out the way we want them to be. Misunderstandings, human mistakes, bitter disappointments and shattered dreams are actually part of normal living. The more important thing to remember in those circumstances is that what happens is often not nearly as important as how we choose to react to what happens.

It takes magnanimity to go through a divorce without bitter vindictiveness and revenge. This is especially true when children are involved. In such cases, we might not be able to teach them about the permanence of marriage, but we can teach them about how to be civil, gracious and respectful with adversaries. It is as much of a gift to oneself as it is to the other, because it takes too much energy to carry a grudge.

It takes magnanimity to forgive an ungrateful or hurtful child, an angry Sister or a hostile resident and treat them well without being bitter, resentful, caustic and hostile. All the time and energy it takes to nurse wounds that we would as soon not heal is ultimately self-punishing anyway. It takes magnanimity to forgive someone and make the first move toward reconciliation without needing to exact an apology. That is noble indeed. Taking the high road of humility is not a bad road to take for a human relationship worth saving.