Friday, August 4, 2017


My Priest Retreat/Convocation Model

Given in more than 100 dioceses in 9 countries since 2014

A typical response letter from a Bishop, Archbishop or Cardinal. 
This is the latest letter after two back-to-back retreats in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

The book that got me started was published in 2000

That book was followed by this book, published in 2011

The first book has since been translated into Spanish and Swahili. 


Diocese of Beaumont, Texas
Archdiocese of Castries, St. Lucia (Caribbean)
Diocese of Jefferson City, Misouri
Diocese of Greensburg, Pennsylvania

Thursday, August 3, 2017


A home Mass?
At least three parishioners missing or late for Mass? 
No communion rail?
No altar cloth?
Home made bread and home made wine? 
Everybody at the altar? 
No pews with kneelers? 
No approved liturgical books? 
Sitting during the consecration? 
No gold cups and plates? 
Pottery chalices?
Flagons of wine on the altar?
No approved liturgical vestments? 



Tuesday, August 1, 2017


Died July 21, 2017 at 95

My Tribute to Helen Ritter

“On the Hunt for Who I’ve Not Yet Become”
Cathedral of the Assumption
July 29, 2017
Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true. 
Behold, I make all things new.
Revelations 21:5

I believe you can tell a lot about a person by what Scripture readings they choose for their funeral. As I studied the readings Helen chose for her funeral, I see a distinct pattern, a pattern of optimism about the future even after death. From Isaiah we heard the words, “No longer will your sun set or your moon wane. For the Lord will be your light forever.” From Revelation, “Behold I make all things new.” From the Gospel of John, “I will come back again and take you to myself, so where I am you also will be.”  The pattern I see is the pattern I saw in her life in the years I knew her. She was a woman on the hunt for who she had not yet become. In other words, she was open to change. As result, she was always growing. When God says to us, “Behold, I make all things new” he was surely speaking to the likes of Helen Ritter. She took the talents that God gave her, invested them and watched them pay off in service to others.  

She was a lifelong member of the Cathedral of the Assumption. She was baptized here. She went to school here. In good times and in bad, she faithfully supported the ministries of this sacred place. She was here during its glory days. She was here during its decline. She was here for its revival. In fact, when I arrived she was part of that small number of faithful women who “kept the lights on” when the parish had dwindled down to about 110 members. I felt her encouragement and support and enthusiasm when I arrived here as probably the youngest pastor ever at 39 years old. She believed with me that indeed “all things could be made new” with God’s help. Her faith, positive energy and subtle, often tongue in cheek, humor and quick wit was contagious and life giving to me, the whole staff and the various committee members of this parish. She was a symbol of the best we had to offer as a parish.  

As a university graduate, school teacher, leader of several associations and volunteer in multiple service organizations, Helen Ritter has been on a hunt for who she had not yet become. She was dedicated to personal growth and change in herself and in those she mentored and served. She exemplified the words of Albert Einstein. “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” I would add that the measure of an authentic human person is the ability to adapt and change with the times. The words of actress Audrey Hepburn apply to her way of thinking.  “People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed.”  “Behold, I make all things new!”

Let me insert a personal observation. It occurred to me last week when I was being interviewed by a radio station in the Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines where I am volunteering in my retirement. I thought of her as I was making my point. The interviewer was asking me about celibacy and the single life.
He was heading down the familiar path many people take when they talk about celibacy and the single life. It is perceived by those who are not called to it to be limiting and stifling and miserable. I used to get irritated, but now I just laugh at their ignorance. As I told my four married sisters, “Look at this face. Do you see an unhappy miserable person? Don’t feel sorry for me! I am very happy with my single life! I haven't met anyone I would trade with yet!

Marriage is a wonder life, a beautiful life and the most common way of life for most people. God intended it to be that way. I honor it and I admire those who follow that call. God also calls some of us to the single life so that we can serve the many. Taking the risk of speaking for Helen Ritter and myself, I would like to say in clear and most uncertain terms that the single life can also be a rich, generous and happy way to live as well. Helen, being single, was free to love the many, not just a few. She was fun, funny, generous, affirming and free to be herself. She did not suffer from singlehood, she was freed up by it! The whole point of celibacy is not to be against love and marriage, but to free one up to offer one’s life in loving service to the whole community, not just to one’s family.  She did that in a marvelous and amazing way. Her singlehood made her available for service.

Let me end this homily by saying what all homilies are supposed to say. The big story today is not what Helen did for God. The big story is what God did for Helen. As good as she was, she did not strive to be good so that she could earn God’s love. Her goodness was a response to the unconditional love that God has always had for her. Let me repeat. Her goodness did not spring from an effort to get God to love her. Her goodness was a response to the love that was there from the moment of her conception.

Finally, on behalf of the parishioners, myself, Fathers Fichteman, Father Linebach, let me thank the Ritter family and her friends for sharing her with all of us. She may be one of the last of those 110 faithful parishioners whom I met when I first came here in 1983, those who “kept the lights on” during the waning days of the old Cathedral Parish and those who welcomed the possibility of living to see a second “golden age” for this place, those who believed in the words of our first reading she chose for her funeral, words that apply to her personally, as well, as she enters into eternal glory.

Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.
Behold, I make all things new.
Revelations 21:5

Helen Ritter was a niece of Cardinal Joseph Elmer Ritter, born in New Albany, Indiana.
Cardinal Ritter was the former Archbishop of Indianapolis and later Archbishop of St. Louis, Missouri, when he was made a Cardinal.
Helen referred to him as "Uncle Elmer."

Cardinal Ritter died in 1967

Sunday, July 30, 2017


Like a merchant searching for fine pearls, when
he finds a pearl of great  price he  goes and sells
all that he has and buys it.        
Matthew 13:45-46

Listen to that again! “A merchant finally finds a very rare and beautiful pearl. A must-have, he goes and sells everything he has to buy that one single pearl.”

Have you ever wanted something so badly that you were willing to do almost anything or go through anything to have it? I am not talking about sitting around wishing and hoping that God or Readers Digest Sweepstakes or some fairy godmother or the Lottery would magically grant you your wish. I mean you want it so badly that you would do anything or go anywhere to have it?

Olympic athletes do exactly that! They set a goal in their minds and then focus their radar on that goal and daily do what it takes, year in and year out, to reach that goal. They certainly don’t just sit around and dream about or wish they could be an Olympic champion. They practice obsessively until they become one.

Several weeks ago, I read a story by a respected writer about his dream of owning a racing bike when he was nine years old. From selling newspapers, he had earned enough money to buy a bicycle magazine, which he devoured month after month. He decided, even at that age, that his foremost goal in life was to get a specific European racing bicycle he saw in that magazine. He went to bed, nightly, dreaming of his perfect bicycle. It became so real in his mind that he could almost see it and touch it.

It cost $175.00 (well over $1,0000 in today’s money). When he asked his father to buy it for him, his father told him he could have it when he was twenty years old. He could not get his father to budge, so he bargained with him. “Can I have the bicycle if I earn the money myself?” Never dreaming that a nine year old could come up with that kind of money, his Dad agreed. Well, the short of it was, he went into selling greeting cards from door to door. In knee-deep snow, dressed as cute and pathetic as he could, he rang doorbell after doorbell. His magic line was, “Would you prefer one box or two?”  He knew that he must sell cards to have his dream. To his Dad’s and everyone else’s surprise, he soon made enough to buy his precious bike.

It wasn’t a bike for me, it was being a priest. I was seven years old when I decided that I was going to be a priest. At fourteen, the earliest allowed back then to enter the seminary, I came up here from Meade County to begin my twelve year trek to become a priest. The adults in my life, parents, teachers and pastor, humored me, allowing me to begin seminary, thinking that I would finally "get it out of my system" and come home in a few months. To their surprise, this determined fourteen year old finished the twelve years of seminary and has been ordained for over forty-seven years and counting.

We call people like the merchant in search of the most perfect pearl in the whole world, people like the boy who wanted his dream racing bike or people like the boy who really wanted so much to be a priest, “passionate.” The word “passionate” comes from the Latin word passio, "to suffer.” The thing that all three have in common was that they were not only willing to dream about and wish for what they wanted, they were willing to pay the price to have it. The pearl merchant was willing to search high and low and finally sell everything he had to own the perfect pearl. The nine year old was willing to trudge through the snow and sell Christmas cards until he got his precious dream bicycle. This determined fourteen year old was willing to leave home and family and go off to an alien world and study his butt off, some summers working three jobs at a time, to reach his goal of ordination to the priesthood.

        When he finds that perfect pearl, he sells all that he has and buys it.

Jesus tells us today that this is the attitude and passion we need to have about “entering the kingdom of heaven.”  What is this “kingdom of heaven,” this “pearl of great price,” that Jesus is talking about? By “kingdom of heaven” Jesus is not talking about a state of being that will unfold only after we die, it is a way of living that begins here and now. It is a life of integrity, of trust in God and service of others. Jesus invites us to be passionate about living a life of integrity, living a life of trusting God without hesitation, living a life of dedicated service to others.  He calls it in other places “hungering and thirsting for holiness.” If only we could be as passionate about having a good life as we are about making a living! We all have to “make a living,” but Jesus invites us also to pursue a “good life” as well, a life of integrity, trust in God and service of others. This is really the “pearl of great price.” This “wealth” cannot be lost or destroyed, even in death!

Very often when people like me talk about being passionate about religion, some tend to translate “being passionate about religion” into being a “religious fanatic,” boring people out of their minds with endless God-talk, guilt trips and ecclesiastical intricacies. Personally, I have no use for religious fanatics who obsess about the earthenware jar that holds the great treasure, rather than the treasure itself. They end up preaching the church, instead of the message entrusted to the church. What I am talking about is living a life that is Christ-like in every aspect. 

“Hungering and thirsting” for the “kingdom of heaven” is a “pearl” worth looking for, a gift from God himself! Why search for it? It will make you happy down deep inside, not just feel good for a few hours! “Happy are those who hunger and thirst for holiness?” This kind of happiness can not be lost or stolen. It is the one thing you can take with you into the next life, where it will grow into a perfect happiness for all eternity.