Friday, February 2, 2018



In this one I was thirteen - five months away from going to the seminary.  

A few months later, I had just turned fourteen! 

This old photograph was taken a few minutes before leaving home for Saint Thomas Seminary, a place I had never seen before in my life (not even pictures), to begin my twelve year trip to the priesthood. I thought this photograph was forever lost, until I found it just recently in my garage. It was taken in September 1958.

Saint Thomas Seminary on Brownsboro Road in Louisville.

Some more photographs that I presumed lost.

Here I am in my second year of high school seminary. This was the year I was almost sent home. The rector called me into his office and called me a "hopeless case" to my face. Does that young man look like a "hopeless case" to you? 

On a home visit on Easter Sunday the following spring - 1959 - age 15. 
I have no idea why I was so happy! Maybe it was because I was not thrown out after all?

Graduating senior year of high school seminary 1962 - age 18.

End of first year of seminary college 1963 - age 19.

I was getting taller and thinner! Oh, to be thin again! 
Noticed the same clinched left fist as the one in the first picture?????

Seminary does strange things like that to you!!!!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018



It is hard for me to believe, but I have been retired for over three years now. It has been wonderful, but I don't seem to have slowed down one bit. 

I thought that once I got to Christmas, I would stay home for a while,  slow the pace down quite a bit and just take it easy for a while. Here it is the end of January and I feel that I have been running on all cylinders even during this traditional "down time." 

I am not traveling these days, but I am doing all the work of getting ready to travel. I have presentations to prepare, plane tickets to buy and an arm-load of details to iron out. I have even been buying toys on sale for the island kids for next year. Several times in the last month, especially since I got back from my 8th trip to "the missions" down in the Caribbean, I find myself getting out of the bed, going down to the computer in the middle of the night, to work on some writing project. (As I write this, it is almost 1:00 in the morning. I had been sleeping for three hours. I will go right back to sleep after a half hour of this with no problem.)

Why am I still driving myself, working as hard as ever and finding myself unable to stop? I like to think it is because I like what I am doing. While that is certainly true, I have to admit that I also have some fear of becoming obsolete. To be honest with myself, I sometimes feel that behind my relentless drive is a fear that I am like an old worn-out car. I fear that if I turn it off, it might not start again! 

Is my fundamental fear really a fear of becoming obsolete? Is that why I am afraid of stopping? Yes, I think that's it! I afraid that if I stop, I might not be able to start again!  Yes, that's why I am scared to death of slowing down! 

The sound of my own wheels may drive me crazy sometime, but I am committed to sticking my neck out, embarking on new adventures, pushing the envelope and seeing how far I can take this life for as long as I am able. Instead of calling this "retirement," I have decided to call it "retreadment." In my case, I believe their is still some more mileage to be had on this "tire" with a "retread!" 

With my work in the islands, with presbyterates in Canada, the United States and other countries and with the publishing of this blog, I wake up even at night in a bit of an obsessive compulsive state of mind. If I can't quit thinking about all these things, then so be it!  In the end, I would rather burn out than rust out, any day!  

Sunday, January 28, 2018


Related image

He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.

One of the hardest, and most valuable, lessons I learned as a pastor was one I learned from my very first associate pastor right here in this cathedral. His name was Father Joe Vest. Actually, it is a bit embarrassing to talk about. When I arrived here at the Cathedral in Louisville to be its pastor in 1983, I had already been pastor of three small rural churches – so small in fact that I could remember what I was supposed to do without even looking at a calendar or do much planning. I could wing it most of the time and get by quite well!

At my very first Cathedral staff meetings, I would enter the meeting with an empty yellow pad and Father Vest would enter with hand-outs. In short, I was disorganized and he was super-prepared. I was getting madder by the week until one day it hit me. I had power and he had authority. I was pastor in name and he was pastor in fact! I realized at that point that I had two choices. I could either kill him or get my act together and become pastor, not only in name, but also in fact. It became painfully obvious that the problem was not his strength, but my weakness.

I was reminded of this situation when I read today’s gospel. Jesus was a teacher in fact, while the scribes were teachers only in name. The Scribes had the power and Jesus had the authority. When Jesus taught, people listened because he was believable. What he said rang true with them. When the scribes taught, people did not listen because what they said seemed so cold and impersonal and abstract. It did not ring true. It merely sounded scripted.

This whole contrast between Jesus and the scribes reminds me of our wonderful Pope, Francis.  When he teaches, his words have “authority.”  What makes Pope Francis so popular with ordinary people (even non-Catholics), and so threatening to those overly invested in the status quo, is that people find what he says rings true! Like Jesus, who moved among the common folk rather hiding behind titles, positions, robes and rules like the scribes, Pope Francis asks all of us to become who we say we are, he calls us to leave our comfort zones and get out among the people on the margins of society. He asks us to leave our self-righteous certainty and radically embrace a trust in God. If we don’t, he says we become “abstract ideologists,” “fundamentalists,” “little monsters that gives him goose-bumps.” “rigorists locked up in small things,” “bureaucrats and government officials” and “people who connect the proclamation of the gospel with inquisitional blows of condemnation.” Pope Francis is calling us to be authentic priests, deacons, sisters and faithful lay people – not some caricature of those high callings.

He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.

I am worried about Pope Francis. If I remember correctly the scribes were part of an “establishment coalition,” who had a lot to lose, who were committed to having Jesus killed to protect the religious traditions of the old-time religion.  The scribes were religious leaders in name. Jesus was a religious leader in fact. Let us never forget that prophets are not killed because they lie. They are killed because they tell the truth.   I fear that if he is “done in,” it will be an “inside job” by people who want to protect the institution from any real serious change.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says there are two sacraments directed at the salvation of others: holy orders and marriage. In other words, there are two kinds of “spiritual leaders” in the Church: bishops, priests and deacons, as well as married couples. Yes, married couples are “spiritual leaders” too! Priests, like me, are “spiritual leaders” of the people entrusted to them by the bishop. Married couples are “spiritual leaders” of their spouses and their children. Just as I am responsible to lead you spiritually when I preach and preside at Mass, as married partners you are responsible to lead your spouse and your children spiritually. 

Neither you, nor I, can give what we do not have!  If I do not practice what I preach, I cannot hope to inspire you to grow spiritually. You can, no doubt, tell if I am a phony and a fraud and practice what I preach! Just so, as marriage partners, you are not able to inspire your spouse or your children if you are not a credible examples of what you expect of them!  

Just being a “priest” or “spouse” or “parent” as a noun is not enough! We have to be able to “priest,” “spouse” and “parent” as a verb!  Not every ordained priest is effective at priesting! Not every married person is effective at spousing. Not every parent is effective at parenting.  The mere title of “priest,” “spouse” or “parent” is not enough. We must be convincing voices that ring true. We must be effective at what we do. We must walk the talk or will end up being people nobody listens to!  We must become who we say we are, not only in name, but in fact!