Friday, July 20, 2018



Mother Paul leads the community in prayer from the pulpit. 

Holy Thursday Mass at Saint Joseph Home last Holy Week with Seminarian Michael.

Lunch in the dining room with Sister Charles serving. 

My friend Sister Bernard

I have Mass there quite often - including this Prayer Day and this coming Saturday. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018


Some Old Photos As I Remember Them 

Mother Catherine Spalding SCN, Foundress

Some of today's Sisters remembering the old days and the old ways. 

Before he became Muhammad Ali

He charmed a nun who ran the library at what is now Spalding University, across the street from the gym where he trained. Sister James Ellen Huff of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth gave him a job dusting so he could make a little money. She said she liked his “zest.” Sometimes she would return from dinner with a snack for him before he went to train. Once she returned and found him asleep on a long library table. After the world came to know him, she put a sign over the table that read, “Cassius Slept Here.”

I am simply amazed at all the good they have done - before I was born and in my life time!

I am even more amazed at what they are doing today around the world and here at home! 

They will always have a very special place in my heart! 

Sunday, July 15, 2018



He summoned them. He sent them out.
He gave them authority. He instructed
them to take nothing for the journey.
Mark 6

When I read the lines “when I am weak, then I am strong” in last weeks second reading and the lines from this week’s gospel, “take nothing for your journey,” I immediately thought of one of my heroes, a young 13 year old poet by the name of Mattie J. T. Stepanek who died a few years back. He had been writing poetry since the age of five. I own three of his poetry books. I have a clipping about him being released from Children’s Hospital in Washington DC due to respiratory and other health complications caused by his mitochondrial myopathy, a rare form of muscular dystrophy.  His mother, if she is still alive, also has it and three of his siblings have already died of this disease. He was always in fragile condition and requiring platelet transfusions every few days. A precocious child, as I said, he started writing poems when he was five years old and won many national literary prizes.

When I was following him, he lived in a wheel chair loaded with medical equipment and needed oxygen through a ventilator in his throat all the time because his “automatic” systems like breathing, heart rate, body temperature, oxygenation and digestion didn’t work well on their own.”

Through his poetry, he expressed wisdom in a way that touched many hearts. With his unabashed enthusiasm for life, Mattie charmed everyone who crossed his path and inspired many people, young and old, to overcome every obstacle that they encountered and to strive for their goals with dignity and humanity. His three wishes in life came true, in spades, in his very short life: publish a book of poetry, meet his hero Jimmy Carter and appear on Oprah. When he met President Carter he did not talk about his own health problems, but about problems in Bosnia and Africa and his desire to be a peacemaker in the world. In spite of the fact that he was hooked up to all that equipment, he was still able to see miracles every day in his life.

In last week’s second reading Paul reveals himself as such a person, a person who remained hopeful and courageous in face of physical pain, personal setbacks and sell-outs by those closest to him. He even brags that “when I am weak, then I am strong.” Weariness, physical pain, opposition, slander, failure and even martyrdom could not diminish his hope in the power of God to turn disasters into opportunities to do wonderful things. Paul never gave up on God’s ability to pull a miracle out of the ashes, no matter what he faced.

In this week’s gospel, Jesus sends his first apostles out to preach the gospel and instructs them to “take nothing for the journey.”  There is no need to think of these words in a literal sense. If we did, we would all own nothing but one set of clothes, one pair of shoes and a walking stick. The spirit of what he says, however, is important. What Jesus is really saying, I believe, is that when it comes to doing ministry, nothing external matters compared to the zeal in our hearts. “Nemo dat, quod non habet.” “You can’t give what you do not have.”  Gimmicks, slick advertising and complicated structures merely slow you down, turn people off and end up becoming a substitute for real faith. It is when we are weak, it is when we depend completely on Jesus, it is when we walk by faith and not by sight, that we are strong.

Mattie Stepanek and Saint Paul give me hope and remind me of the great truth, “when I am weak, then I am strong.” These last years have been difficult for priests. Many times, I have been angry, scared and low on hope. Throughout this dark experience, I have kept coming back to the truth preached by St. Paul and exemplified by the courageous life of young Mattie Stepanek: “when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Retired Archbishop John R. Quinn of San Francisco reminded me again of the great truth of today’s second reading in an article he wrote several years ago for AMERICA magazine. I have his words in one of my journals. He makes the point that we priests might be at our best when we are down, not when things are going well. I tend to believe him. He wrote:

I believe, in fact that this is the best time in history to be a priest, because it is a time when there can be only one reason to be priest or remaining a priest – that is, to “be with” Christ. It is not for perks or applause or respect or position or money or any other gain or advantage. Those things either no longer exist or are swiftly passing. The priest of today is forced to choose whether he wants to give himself to the real Christ, who embraced poverty, rejection and misrepresentation or whether he wants an earthly messiah for whom success follows on success.

I just got back from my 10th volunteer mission trip the islands. I usually come home wondering what difference I am making because the needs are endless. I usually come home exhausted from the poverty, heat, noise, chaos and the endless stress of getting there and back!  My need to “fix it” and “make it all better” is severely challenged. I find myself worn down by “compassion fatigue” and tempted to “quit caring.” At seventy-four, I am aware that the sand is running out of my hour glass! I wonder how much longer I will be able to do what I am doing.

Am I concerned? Yes! Am I discouraged sometimes? Yes!  Will I give up? Hell, no! I know in my gut that the experiences I have “down there” will help me appreciate and be thankful for what we have “up here.”  Whatever problems we have in the church up here are a hundred times worse down there. We have a priest shortage, but they only have nine priests and presently two have had strokes and one has Parkinson’s. They have no place set up to take care of sick and elderly priests. With very little to take with me on the journey compared to the needs I see, I have to rely even more on Jesus as I do that ministry. I am trying to believe that “when I am weak, I become strong.”    

Trials purify motives.  It is only when we lose control that we find out that God is truly in charge and all is in God’s hands. How one handles things that must be handled is more important than what must be handled. It is easy to believe when one sees clearly. It is easy to be hopeful is when everything is going our way. It is easy to keep going when successes follow on each other. Who needs God when you have the world by the tail! Down in the islands, I am being taught the fact that I certainly do not have the world by the tail! The problems are so overwhelming at times that I feel powerless in a world of people who feel powerless. I know that my presence is not really about giving as much as it is about learning what it is like to be powerless. I am forced to remember the words of Mother Teresa who said, "God is not calling me to be successful. God is calling be to be faithful." I am trying to remember the words of Thomas Merton.  "I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it."

My friends, the idea of “power in weakness” makes no sense to those who buy wholeheartedly into today’s values of “being number one” and “win at all cost.” But history has proven that when the church is fat and lazy and comfortable, it dies, but when the church it attacked, in trouble, powerless and lean, it is most powerful. Look at the church in Europe! It is almost dead! Look at the church in Africa! It is alive and growing!  Maybe the best days of the church lie ahead of us, rather than behind us, in spite of the trials we are enduring at this time. I, for one, am trying to believe so!