Friday, January 4, 2019

INVITED TO SPEAK AT A PREACHING CONFERENCE

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

ANOTHER YEAR! ANOTHER CLEAN SLATE! ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY!



HAPPY NEW YEAR, FRIENDS! 



LET'S MAKE THIS ONE OF THE BEST EVER! 















COMING HIGHLIGHTS 
 2019


Release of the three-volume set:
 ENCOURAGING WORD ANTHOLOGIES

Release of book: OUR LENTEN JOURNEY

Regional Parish Mission - Saint Brigid - Vine Grove, Kentucky

Diocesan-Wide Parish Mission - Holy Family- Louisville, Kentucky

Mission Trip XII - Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Presenter at a Notre Dame University Preaching Conference

Hosting Visitors from Germany

Second "Kids Computer Camp" - Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

75th Birthday - April 28

49th Priesthood Anniversary

Priest Retreat Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota

Priest Retreat Diocese of Belleville, Illinois

Priest Retreat Diocese of Pembroke, Ontario, Canada 

Mission Trip XIII - Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Sunday, December 30, 2018

FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY



OUR HOLY FAMILIES





Put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, 
and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, 
as the Lord has forgiven you.Over all these, put on love.
Let the peace of Christ control your hearts and be thankful.
Colossians 3:12-17


Some of my earliest religious memories revolve around the image of Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus - the Holy Family of Nazareth! I credit that to Sister Mary Ancilla, my first and second grade teacher. I remember how important the Holy Family was to her and so it became important to us, her students. It was probably a Sisters of Charity thing, having their Motherhouse in Nazareth, Kentucky, and all! 
Yes, we adopted a few “pagan babies,” an idea that is ridiculed in some places today. Maybe the idea was theologically thin, but our desire to help starving babies on the other side of the world with our pennies and prayers was very real. Another part of the Holy Family emphasis was the Holy Childhood Association. I remember that we used to donate our nickels and pennies to that association. I know we got a membership card and stickers, but I don’t remember too much else about it. 
I didn’t even know if it still existed, so like any up-to-date priest would do these days, I turned to the “internet” to see if there was anything about it. Guess what? It’s still going. I found out that it was founded in 1843 by a French bishop. Deeply affected by the distress of Chinese children abandoned in the streets, he was moved to start a society for children to help children so as to develop in young children a clear understanding of their role as Catholic Christians in the global family! It’s about teaching kids to think globally and children learning to share their spiritual and material resources with other children in the poorest of countries. 
Two million US children, under the age of 14, are members of the Holy Childhood Association today. They contribute $2,000,000 each year to support programs that help children. Even better, it teaches children to look at the world as a “family.” I am pretty sure that they even help the kids down in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines where I volunteer. 
The Holy Family of Nazareth was presented to us, even as first graders, as the ideal family and we were challenged to model our own families after it! That always made me a little more than uncomfortable. I knew that Rhodelia was not Nazareth and we Knotts were not Jesus, Mary and Joseph! I always felt we missed the mark by a mile or two! As a preacher, I have always found this feast hard to preach for that very reason. 
Families today are going through a great upheaval and pushing too much idealism can actually make some struggling families feel defective and judged: single parent families, blended families, adoptive families, same sex families and foster families. These families need encouragement and support, not condemnation and judgment. Preachers today have to be careful how they preach on this feast or somebody could get hurt! But, you know, the more I read the story of the Holy Family, the more I realize that theirs was not the idealized family that I imagined as a child: they had problems, real problems! What made them “holy” was not that they were problem free, what made them “holy” was how they dealt with their problems. 
Mary conceived Jesus before she was married. Joseph considered divorce at one point. Mary gave birth in a barn, away from home. Joseph and Mary were so poor that all they could offer was two doves when Jesus was presented in the Temple. We are told in today’s gospel that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were refugees in a foreign country, trying to avoid a child-killing maniac. As we read in the gospel today, when Jesus was 12 years old, he was listed as a missing person for a few days on one of their trips to Jerusalem. Joseph seems to disappear in the gospels after that, so Mary may have been a single parent at some point. 
Jesus was almost lynched by a mob of angry parishioners after a sermon in his own hometown of Nazareth. At one point in his ministry, some of Jesus relatives showed up and tried to take him home, convinced that he had actually lost his mind. Mary had to watch Jesus tried and executed like a common criminal. What made the “holy family” “holy,” was not that they were problem free. What made them “holy” was the way they handled their problems! 
It does no good whatsoever to beat families over the head with some idealized and romantic notion of family life. Whether we like it or not, families have changed and most families are doing the best they can --- and many of them are doing it against great odds! They need encouragement, not judgment! 
I struggled with what to say about families this year on this feast of the Holy Family, but after thinking about it for several days, this idea came to me over the holidays as I got together with my own family: families don’t just happen, they must be worked for! As long as our parents were alive, we were a family because of them. We automatically got together with them, but after they died, after we sold the family home, being a family was a decision. These days, somebody has to take the lead to get us together. My sister, Nancy, has been hosting our sibling Christmas dinner each year. Each year, I always say at some point, “We need to love and appreciate each other because one of us may not be here next year!” A few months after I said that last year, my youngest sister died of a brain tumor last April. I said it again this year and my brother-in-law was dead just two days later! I had his funeral the Friday before Christmas! We had no idea he would be gone so soon! 
This year, I got the best surprise Christmas present ever from my family. My youngest brother gathered up some of my nephews and their kids and brought dinner to my house. I usually have to go to them. When they left, they gave me a box of letters from my 20 nieces and nephews, thanking me for all the time I have “been there” for them and how proud they are of me! I was deeply and profoundly moved because it was something totally new and unexpected. 
Even those of us who are single must create surrogate families, circles of friends with whom we can share and celebrate and even commiserate. To have friends, we must be a friend! We have to give to others, what we want from them: respect, love, support, honesty and fidelity. Friendships, like all forms of family, are a matter of intention, not luck! 
On this Feast of the Holy Family, I salute all the families here today, in all your great variety! Some of you are nothing less than heroic in your efforts to maintain your families. 
Whatever family we have created for ourselves, the values on which they are built are always the same. They are the values mentioned in the readings selected for this feast: heartfelt compassion, kindness, forgiveness, humility, gentleness, patience, gratitude, care, respect and love.