Tuesday, October 22, 2019

GOING BACK UP TO PEMBROKE, ONTARIO - Part Two


Diocese of Pembroke
2019 PRIEST RETREAT

INTENTIONAL PRESBYTERATES II

"Claiming Our Responsible Freedom as Individual Priests" 


I was here three years ago for my first Pembroke Priest Retreat
during the same week in October. The leaves on the ski slopes around the hotel are beautiful and the weather is mild - so far. 
Last year this ended with a snowstorm at the airport!


A FEW OF THE DISCUSSION TABLES







 AS THE RETREAT MASTER, I WAS GIVEN A SUITE



OUT FOR A WALK



The lake outside the lodge.


A small island "paradise" with two chairs near the lodge. 



Another resort with an alternative to a church wedding!



HOLY HOUR WITH BENEDICTION





A NIGHT CAP IN THE BAR




Sunday, October 20, 2019

GOING BACK UP TO PEMBROKE, ONTARIO - Part One


Leaving Today For.......


DIOCESE OF PEMBROKE 
PRIEST RETREAT
 Ontario, Canada
October 20 - 24, 2019

We will be staying at the beautiful Calabogie Peaks Hotel again.






"Canthooks" are those tools loggers use to roll logs. Logging is a traditional local industry. The hotel is full of these beautiful old photos that remind me of my childhood days growing up in a logging family. 



Pray that I don't get caught in a snowstorm like the last time!



Daily Mass - October 24,  2016

Thursday, October 17, 2019

YOU ARE INVITED - SAVE THE DATES


I WILL BE CELEBRATING
Fifty Years of Priesthood This Coming Spring


Cathedral of the Assumption
Louisville, Kentucky 
May 17, 2020
9:30 am Mass and Reception

or

Saint Theresa Church
Rhodelia, Kentucky 
May 24, 2020
10:30 am Mass and Reception

COME AND CELEBRATE OUR FIFTY YEARS TOGETHER



 

Ordained May 16, 1970
First Mass May 17, 1970 







Wednesday, October 16, 2019

LEXINGTON DIOCESAN PARISH MISSION


October 13, 14 and 15, 2019



Bishop John Stowe, OFM. Conv. 
Bishop of Lexington 
I was invited by Bishop John Stowe,  Bishop of Lexington. 
He gave a very comprehensive and warm welcome before we started. 



Cathedral Pastor, Father Paul Prabel, and myself. 




"REFLECTIONS"
Elaine Winebrenner, Dwyane Campbell, Todd Hildreth, Robert Marston, Anthony Tarullo and Don Watson





REFLECTIONS can be seen warming up before the evening service on night two. 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

GRATITUDE






Ten lepers were cleansed, but only one
of them returned to thank Jesus.
Luke 17

The opposite of “feelings of gratitude” are “feelings of entitlement.”  Over the years, many parents have resonated with this famous line from Shakespeare’s King Lear, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!”

Some social programs start out as a way to help people, but sometimes end up leaving people with a sense of entitlement, a feeling that those services are actually owed to them.  Many recent studies say that narcissism and a sense of entitlement has risen significantly higher in our country in recent years.  Even Time Magazine named “ME” as the “person of the year” back in 2006. Entitlement is the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. People with a sense of entitlement see no need to say “thank you” because they have come to believe that they deserve to be taken care of and have things given to them.

When I worked in the seminary, I learned that even a few seminarians, after being “taken care of” throughout their training, sometimes leave the seminary with attitudes of “entitlement,” feelings of deserving special treatment since they will be priest during a time of priest shortages. In my transition-out-of-the-seminary class, I spent one whole class teaching them to thank their seminary teachers, the many people in their dioceses who financially supported them, their vocation directors and even the seminary kitchen workers and janitors before they leave, something many of them had never even thought about doing before I mentioned it. I always began that specific class with a bit of cowboy wisdom, “When you get to where you are going, take care of the horse you rode in on!” One glaring symptom of our culture may be a growing sense of entitlement. When I “googled” the phrase “you deserve it,” I found no less than 322,000,000 sites!    

In the gospel today, Jesus heals ten desperate lepers, nine were Jews and one was a foreigner, but only one of the ten returned to say “thank you” and that was the foreigner!  Why?  Did the Jewish lepers think it was merely Jesus’ job, as a fellow Jew, to heal people? Did they think, “Why should I thank him for doing what he’s supposed to do?”  This story reminds me that our sense of entitlement may even include God! Have we grown to believe that it’s God's job to take care of us because we somehow “deserve it?” Why are we so ready to be mad at God when things go wrong and yet never even think of God when things go right, much less offer our thanks? 

Entitlement is an attitude that “life owes me something,” or “people owe me something” or “God owes me something.” Our culture is constantly barraging us with messages that feed those feelings of entitlement starting when we are babies.  Back windows of mini-vans used to announce “baby on board.” Kindergartners are taught to sing, “I’m special.” McDonald’s built an entire campaign around the slogan “You deserve a break today.” Another company proclaimed “Pamper yourself with Calgon!” Another ad campaign told us “You owe it to yourself to buy a Mercedes Benz.”  Clairol told us to change our hair color, because “you are worth it.”

We are even conditioned by the Bill of Rights, which focuses on our entitlements. We may have a right to the pursuit of happiness, but we actually have no rights to happiness itself.  The Ten Commandments, on the other hand, focus on our responsibilities and obligations. Demanding our rights, while we shirk our responsibilities, is always a recipe for losing our so-called “rights.” 

When we feel entitled, gratitude is impossible because we believe that things are owed to us. If you’re like me and really sit down and think about it, we would probably have a whole list of things we feel entitled to, and when we don’t get them, we feel cheated.  

If we start believing that favorable turn of events in life are owed to us, and when they don’t turn out favorably, we feel angry, resentful or frustrated. We begin feeling we have been ripped-off and cheated out of what we deserveIn reality, entitlement is a lie, a perversion of the truth. The truth is life owes us nothing and everything is a gift. 

On the other hand, if we believe that life is a multi-layered gift, we experience life, and even death, in a radically different way. Eliminating attitudes of entitlement from our lives and embracing an attitude of gratitude is both spiritually and psychologically liberating. It frees us from the anger and bitterness of always being disappointed. Since everything is a gift, we need to take it as it comes. 

Gratitude is the only response to seeing everything in life as gift. Gratitude is a fundamental truth of reality. We deserve nothing. Ultimately, everything is a gift.  Saying thank you is more than good manners. It’s good spirituality. “Thank you” is the simplest and most powerful prayer a person can say.

Why are we Catholics, who are so blessed in so many ways, not beating down the doors of our churches to give thanks every weekend end? We have every reason to be grateful because we have come so far! Being Catholic wasn’t even legal in the early days of this country. Many of our great, great grandparents were uneducated, dirt-poor immigrants from equally poor Catholic countries. We have so much to be thankful for! 

The Church calls us together each weekend to celebrate the Eucharist. The word eucharist means to give thanks. Why is there not a rush to offer thanks within our parish communities? Could part of it be that we have come to believe that everything we have is something we earned and we are therefore entitled to it?  Could part of the drop in Mass attendance be about a sense of entitlementWhen we discover once again that everything we have is on loan, maybe we will again be compelled to gather in great numbers with other “Eucharistic” people, people who need to express their gratitude, on a weekly basis. “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” (William Arthur Ward)      

Challenged by the nine no-show lepers in the gospel today, let’s all take a good hard look at our lives and everything in them and remember that it’s all a gift! Let’s resolve today and everyday to be that one leper who returned to give thanks!

  

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

MY BEARDS OVER TIME


GOING THROUGH SOME OLD PHOTOS,
I REALIZED THAT I REALLY MISSED MY BEARD


(Below) My First Communion picture?





(Below) PRE-BEARD ON ORDINATION DAY 
May 16, 1970





(Below) PRE-BEARD AT 27 YEARS OLD - A YEAR AND A HALF ORDAINED
Saint Mildred Church - Somerset, Kentucky
September 21, 1971






(below) @ 1972 I grew my beard on a back-packing trip to Europe. The photo below was taken in Belgium during that first trip to Europe. When I came home, I did not show anyone in the parish until I walked down the isle for Sunday Mass. You could hear audible gasps. After Mass, I heard two old ladies talking about the beard. One of them came to my defense, saying, "Well, Saint Francis had a beard!" The other one, shot back, "Yes, but he isn't Saint Francis!" 





(below) The photo below was taken in Monticello, Kentucky, at Saint Peter Church, @ 1977.





(below) The photo below was taken about the time I became Pastor of the Cathedral in 1983.





(below) The photo below was taken @1990





(below) To celebrate my 25th anniversary as a priest, in the photo below, I cut off part of my beard in 1995 .






(below) This was my beard during the years when I worked at Saint Meinrad Seminary.




(below) During my years working at Saint Meinrad. 




In the photo below, I had quit dying my beard for a short time because I had become allergic to the dye. Ugh! 





In the photo below, I celebrated my retirement by cutting off my beard altogether because it had turned white when I quit dying it and someone said I looked like Colonial Sanders. 







(Below) I really miss having a beard of some size and shape. Below is what I look like now - four years into retirement without a beard.





(Below) I am thinking about growing another beard! But again, maybe not! 

Sunday, October 6, 2019

FAN YOUR ABILITY TO RESPOND INTO FLAME


"I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God that you 
have. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, 
but rather of power and love and self-control." 
II Timothy 1:6-7

Here is a handy word you need to remember - entropy!  Entropy is that natural, spontaneous and unremitting process of decline, decay and disorder unless there is an opposing force working against it.

Anyone who owns a home knows that it will fall into ruin pretty quickly without regular maintenance and constant upkeep.  One of the hardest points to get across in marriage preparation programs is the point that just because you are "in love" today and promise to "be true to you in good times and bad," does not mean your marriage will survive without constant care and maintenance. Most marriages that fall apart, fall apart because of neglect. America has a major problem with obesity, but many have not figured out yet that weight cannot be managed in our culture without constant attention to diet and exercise. Many people just "let themselves go" until there is a health crisis or it's too late.  Gardens need weeding! Friendships needs cultivating! Professionals need continuing education! Even our faith, unattended, is subject to withering on the vine!   Entropy is that natural, spontaneous and unremitting process of decline, decay and disorder unless there is an opposing force working against it.

This what Paul was talking about when he was writing to his young fellow missionary Timothy. Paul is in prison when he writes to a very discouraged young Timothy. It was Paul who had ordained an enthusiastic young Timothy. Now he writes to a young man overwhelmed and drowning in discouragement in his ministry. Things were falling apart. Timothy wants to give it up and come home. The "fire" he once had in him was going out.  Paul tells Timothy to "fan into flame once again that gift that God gave you when I ordained you."  

Paul tells Timothy that God does not give us a spirit of cowardice, where we back off from life's challenges, give into our lazy streaks, take the easy way out and wimp out when things get tough.

I was so moved by Paul’s advice to Timothy that I decided to write an autobiographical book last year tracking the decisions I have made from about age six to the present and how they made me who I am today – for good or for bad! The book is called Between Courage and Cowardice: Choosing to Hard Things for My Own Good.  Writing it was one huge eye-opening spiritual experience! In the words of Winnie the Pooh, looking back, I have been braver than I believed, stronger that I seemed and smarter than I thought.

Rather than a spirit of cowardice, Paul tells Timothy that God gives us three qualities that enable us to face danger, fear or setbacks with self-possession, confidence and resolution. Those qualities are: dunymis, agape and sophronismos.

Paul prays that the Spirit will give Timothy dunymis. Dunymis should be translated as strength.  Here it means strength in the sense of adequacy to meet life effectively, the strength to do well what needs to be done. Parents, doctors and priests need this quality. They need integrity, discipline, courage and confidence – and the ability to inspire it in others. Wimpish parents are a menace to their children. Wimpish doctors are a menace to their patients. Wimpish priests are a menace to their parishioners. Anyone in leadership or service professions need strength to do their jobs well.  

Paul prays that the Spirit will give Timothy agape. Agape, translated as love, is not merely a sentimental feeling toward people. It means practical helpfulness. Good will and warm feelings are not enough for those who would raise children, warm feelings are not enough for children taking care of elderly parents or priests who would pastor today’s parishes. More is required than sentimental feelings. Practical helpfulness, competence if you will, is the loving service that people need from those who would lead others.  

Sophronismos, an untranslatable Greek word, means self-control, prudence, temperance or moderation. This is the name of my little publishing organization – Sophronismos Press. It can be translated as “keeping one’s cool” or “knowing what to do in the face of panic. A na├»ve “loose cannon,” especially under pressure, is a menacing quality in a parent, a spouse or a pastoral leader. Unable to control himself in trying times, how can he possibly be able to guide others through their moments of panic and trial? Being “calm, cool and collected,” maintaining grace under pressure, are qualities that will be called on many times in marriage, parenting and pastoral ministry.  A flight attendant who runs up and down the isle of a plane in flames, screaming “we’re going to crash, we’re going to crash” is not very helpful. She needs to be able to tell the passengers, “remain calm, tighten your seat belts, we will be landing soon” no matter how she feels inside!

My best example of what Paul meant by sophronismos happened to me when I was pastor here during this renovation. One morning someone came running into the rectory yelling, “the cathedral is falling!” Not knowing what they meant, I went outside where they were digging around the foundation to prepare for building the addition on the back for the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, sacristy and dining room for the homeless. As I stood out on Muhammad Ali, sure enough the wall was cracking around the big window. I was paralyzed with fear, thinking it would all come crashing down in a rubble. As I stood there watching, I wanted to run away, but I remember hearing my own voice say, “Ron, you don’t have the luxury of coming unglued! You will be the pastor of that parish next weekend whether that building falls down or not! The parishioners are going to need you more than ever, so get a grip on yourself!” That, my friends, is what sophronismos means! It’s the ability to “keep one’s cool in the face of panic!”

It has been one of the most helpful words in my 50 years as a priest! That’s why I named my little publishing company Sophronismos Press. When I was ordained fifty years ago, I didn't really know what I was getting into, but I did know that I would be serving the church during a very tumultuous time in its history - maybe not the most tumultuous time in history, but certainly one of the most tumultuous times in recent memory.  Even though I could not foresee all that would happen, I knew that my priesthood would be more like shooting the rapids of the Colorado River in the dark than floating on some serene mountain lake on a sunny afternoon. To help me keep my focus, I selected a Quaker hymn to be sung at my first mass and every anniversary since - "How Can I Keep From Singing?"  Like Peter walking on water, it reminds me that when I keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, I can keep on keeping on, but when  I take my eyes off what is most important and begin to focus on the storms and how deep the water is, I begin to sink!  I used this story of Peter’s walk on water for my 25th anniversary as a priest.
  
Brothers and sisters, I pray in the words of Saint Paul today, that no matter your position in life that you be given the strength to do what needs to be done, the ability to offer practical helpfulness to those under your care and the grace to remain calm under pressure. If you don’t keep “fanning those three gifts into flame” you could reach a point of “just not giving a dam” which is deadly.

The word used by fourth century monks for this sad state of mind was acedia.  Acedia is something much stronger than just feeling a little bored discontented, although it can begin this way. It is less extreme, and more in our control, than a major clinical depression. Its spiritual overtones make it related to, but arguably distinct from depression.

Acedia is not a disease, it’s a temptation – to disconnect, to stop caring, to stop making an effort. It is a temptation that can grow and harden into a persistent attitude of apathy and cynicism which is deadly to any kind of personal or spiritual growth.

I find it fascinating that acedia, in its root, means negligence - a negligence that leads to a state of listlessness, a lack of attention to daily tasks and an overall dissatisfaction with life, of not caring (not giving a damn, if you will) or not being concerned with one’s position or condition in the world. In other words, unlike clinical depression, it can be resisted. The sooner it is confronted, the more success one has in that confrontation.

We all know priests, married couples and parents who woke up one day and found themselves in precisely this spot – with feelings of being stuck with few options and little hope. Maybe we are even one of them! If we were to be honest with ourselves, we would have to admit that we didn’t get there overnight. It happened because of extended neglect. We didn’t take the time to nourish ourselves from the inside out. We didn’t stop to “fan into flame” the gift that God gave us - no matter whether we are a parent, partner or priest!



Thursday, October 3, 2019

WANT TO DO SOMETHING HEROICALLY DIFFERENT THIS CHRISTMAS?


Help Us Find Some More Good Used Laptops! 

Get yourself a new one for Christmas and we'll take your old one in good condition. 
Even better, sponsor a new one for our kids computer camp 2020. 

We have collected fifteen laptops for use down in the Caribbean Missions, but as you an see from the photos below, those interested in learning out-number our available laptops. 


Our volunteers on the island of Canouan in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines last summer


To learn faster, each student needs to have a computer to herself. Looking at someone else use a computer is not the same as having one to use yourself. 






Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Parish on the island of Canouan

Let's try to get fifteen more used laptops before next summer! 
Ask around! Put the word out! Help some poor kids learn and connect to the world! 

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

MY FRIEND - ARCHBISHOP GORDON OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO


VISITS ME FOR A FOURTH TIME



Archbishop Jason Gordon, Archbishop of Port of Spain

























The Country of Trinidad and Tobago


Port of Spain, Trinidad



When I retired, Archbishop Gordon got me started volunteering in the Caribbean mission when he was the Bishop of Barbados and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. When the two dioceses were separated and Bishop Gordon was Bishop of Barbados and Bishop County became Bishop of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, I continued mostly in Saint Vincent because the needs were greater. Now Bishop Gordon is Archbishop of Trinidad and Tobago. Surely, you know by now - I am still helping him where I can! 

On his way to and from Saint Meinrad, Archbishop Gordon is staying at my house as he has done several times in the past. I am close to the airport. 

I WAS ABLE TO GET A FEW PHOTOS
I wish I could have gotten more. 



Archbishop Gordon and I concelebrated the noon Mass at the Cathedral. Some people dropped by my condo in the evening. 



Mr. and Mrs Vincenzo Gabrielli



Mr. and Mrs. Hammond




Caryl Blondel (Cathedral parishioner from Trinidad), Jim and Jamie Broome.



George and Carolyn Ritsert 


Don and Rose Marie Williams



Dr. and Mrs. Paul Kelty



The Korphages (Doug and his mother) 



Jan, Tim and Phyllis who helped with the hors'd'ouvres. Bill Kolodey helped with the drinks. 

Sunday, September 29, 2019

BLIND TO THE REALITIES AROUND US




There was a rich man covered with purple
and fine linen who dined sumptuously every day.
Lying at his gate was a poor man covered with
sores who longed for the rich man’s table scraps.
Luke 16
.

Did you know that “doing nothing” can actually be illegal? Many countries, but not the United States, have “Good Samaritan Laws” that legally require citizens to assist injured people and people in distress. Failure to offer assistance in France can be punished by up to 5 years in prison or 100,000 Euros. This is actually the case of the photographers at the scene of Princess Diana’s fatal car accident. They were investigated for violation of the French Good Samaritan Law, for their failure to offer assistance. 

Did you know that “doing nothing” can also be sinful as well.  This is actually the case in today’s beautiful gospel story about a very rich man and a very poor man. Before we look at the sin here, a sin of omission, let’s look at this wonderful story in detail because it is the details that are so stark and shocking.

The rich man has no name, even though he has traditionally been called “Dives,” meaning “rich” in Latin.  Dives, in today’s language, lived in a gated mansion, ate gourmet food every day and dressed in Armani suits. Lazarus, we are told, oozing with open sores, was dumped in front of Dives’ mansion. From there, this poor man could see loads of food being carried in and out of the mansion, just inside the gates. Poor Lazarus did not hope to share in that food. He simply longed for the opportunity to eat from the big baskets of scraps being loaded into the dumpster, but they were not even offered to him. Rich people back then wiped their hands, not on napkins, but chunks of bread that were simply thrown away. Too weak from hunger to fight them off, alley dogs came and licked Lazarus’ open sores.      
 
Dives was filthy rich, but that was not his sin. Dives ate gourmet food every day and dressed in Armani suits, but that was not his sin. Dives did not even order his security guards to have Lazarus removed from around the gate! Dives did not verbally or physically abuse poor Lazarus! There is no indication whatsoever that Dives was evil. He didn’t do anything harmful to Lazarus. But that seems to be the point of the whole parable: the rich man did nothing wrong, he simply did nothing. His sin is that he didn’t even see Lazarus, and because he didn’t even see him, he did nothing!  He was complacent! He was so absorbed in living his own cushy life that he didn’t even see the suffering right in front of him.

Dives is like “the complacent” in our first reading today - lying on ivory couches, eating lamb chops and tenderloin, drinking fine wines and dabbing themselves in expensive perfumes while the people around them starved - that the Prophet Amos condemned in the first reading.

Let me be clear on one thing. This gospel is not condemning wealth. Besides, you don’t have to be rich to be blind to the suffering of those around you. Jesus did not condemn wealth. He taught, rather, that “to whom much is given, much will be required.” The richer you are, the more responsibility you have, but that does not let those of us who are neither rich nor poor off the hook! We all have a responsibility to notice the suffering around us. The sin here then, is not wealth, but the blindness that goes with being totally self-focused.

The first step to helping those around us who suffer is to notice them. We cannot do something about the poor and suffering without compassion for the poor and suffering and we cannot have compassion for the poor and suffering without first noticing them.

When I worked at Bellarmine University, we offered yearly opportunities to notice the poor and suffering up close. There were some who have had their eyes opened in a dramatic way on trips to Guatemala and Appalachia. For some these trips have been life changing. Others have volunteered to work in places like nursing homes for the very old and places like the Home the Innocents for the very young. We called them “consciousness raising” experiences. I have finally gotten to the point after four years where I can now send professional level volunteers to the Caribbean Missions. Our first group of five went down this past July – a doctor, a nurse, a computer teacher and two other young adults. Some have been involved in the renovation of the diocesan pastoral center in the Diocese of Kingstown and the purchase a couple of needed vehicles. Some helped us send seven youth to world youth day. Others are involved in sending school supplies, surplus medical supplies, Christmas toys and used liturgical furnishings. I have been down thirteen times since I retired. Archbishop Gordon of Trinidad and Tobago, here with us today, when he was bishop of Barbados and Saint Vincent is the very man who got me started. These experiences help wake us up and help us take notice, something Dives was unable to do until after he died. There he met poor Lazarus whom he never even saw sitting at his gate and regretted his blindness after it was too late. 

Just as poor Lazarus longed to eat the leftovers from Dives table, but nobody made and effort to get them to him, there are some people and organizations in this town who do make sure that our leftovers are not wasted. These efforts began with noticing. Kentucky Harvest was started by a man who noticed that grocery stores and bakeries were throwing away perfectly good though outdated food, while many were hungry. That organization has spread to other cities. On one trip to Florida, I helped a local man of some wealth pick up flawed oranges from a citrus grove to take to homeless shelters.  The dining hall downstairs staffed by its many volunteers, has fed thousands and thousands over the years by collecting leftover food from restaurants and food companies. They will be feeding them again after this Mass. That whole operation began when a few people started noticing the poor and the waste and brought them together in a brilliant solution. At Nord’s Bakery on Preston, the people from the Franciscan Shelter House pick up day-old doughnuts to feed the hungry. I have always been impressed by the generosity of the Nord’s as well as the generosity of those who come to pick up the day-old doughnuts and serve them to the hungry.  We have sent ten tons of surplus medical supplies to Saint Vincent from Supplies Over Seas because somebody noticed the waste and teams of volunteers help get it to needed areas.         
 
Friends, the message today is simple: true Christianity is not just about avoiding evil, but more about doing good.  In the eyes of Jesus, failure to do good is often just as sinful and doing evil. At the beginning of Mass, we confessed to “what we have done” and “what we have failed to do.” In another passage, Jesus tells the parable of judgment when people stand before God and ask, “Lord, when did I see you hungry?” Jesus answers them, “As long as you failed to do it to one of these, you failed to do it to me.”  Maybe our biggest sin is not the evil we do to others, but the good we fail to do for them.  Before we can do that, we have to look beyond the ends of our own noses, beyond what’s going on in our own lives, and notice the people around us and what is going on in their lives.