Sunday, December 29, 2019

TODAY'S "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! 

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 them!  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 couple of hundred miles! We were certainly not holy card sweet by any stretch of the imagination!

I don’t have my own family, but in the seminary I was pumped full of pious ideas about what a “good priest” should be. I could never measure up to those, nor would I really want to these days. I have worked hard to create a priesthood I can live with, one that gives me life and life to the people I serve. I am not at all interested in twisting myself into being a priest in the image of the old 1950 movie, “Going My Way!”  So, I have a little understanding of what families go through when the church “idealizes” family life and people feel they can’t measure up to Jesus, Mary and Joseph or some TV family of the 1950s like “Leave it to Beaver.” The traditional family of the 1950s was a brand-new and short-lived phenomenon. We can't return to the days of the "traditional" family because they hardly existed in the first place. Many times, the models being held up as "ideal" did not inspire us to reach for that ideal, they actually made us ashamed of our families.

As a preacher, I have always found this feast hard to preach for that very reason. Families today are going through a great upheaval so pushing too much idealism can actually make some struggling families feel defective and judged: single parent families, blended families, interracial 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 was presented me as a child. They had problems too, real problems! What made them “holy” was not that they were problem free, what made them “holy” was how they addressed their problems and rose above them. 

Mary conceived Jesus before she was officially 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 another gospel, 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 was probably a widow and single parent at some point early in Jesus' life.

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 I believe that 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 again this year with what to say about families 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 became 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.  This year my sister Lois took over. I used to do it years ago. 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, followed by two brothers-in-law, an aunt and two cousins! I said it again this year. We have no idea who might be gone by next Christmas!

This year, for the second year in a row, I got the best surprise Christmas present ever from my family. My youngest brother gathered up some of my nieces and nephews and their kids and brought dinner to my house. I usually have to go to them. Last year, when they left, they gave me a box of letters from my 20 nieces and nephews, thanking me for all the times 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 and work, 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. Don't beat yourselves up if you are not some idealized "cookie cutter" family, just do the best you can with what you have! 

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. 




    




Friday, December 27, 2019

ANOTHER CHRISTMAS SADNESS



ONE OF OUR ORPHANS HAS DIED



Sister Nyra Anne sent me a text to tell me that Shanique, one of orphans at Saint Benedict Home down in Saint Vincent, died in the hospital on December 23. 

We were able to send her little Christmas presents and special food over that last few years. Your gifts made a real difference in her life, as they do in the lives of the other "special needs" children. Thank you again this year.


Shanique was born on 11th December, 1989 and has been at St Benedict’s Home for Children since 1990. Confined to a wheelchair, she was entirely dependent upon the caring staff at St Benedict’s for her basic care. Shanique’s smile could light up a room, and her bubbling laughter was infectious! She loved to go out for a spin through the beautiful banana fields near the Home.

I am sure the other children at the Home are in a state of sadness and maybe confusion. God bless Sister Nyra Anne and her staff for caring for Shanique these many years when others would not or could not!

Shanique in wheelchair on the right.


Jesus said, "Let the children come to me and do not prevent them, 
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
  Matthew 19:13-14


With the seventh Blue Christmas Mass for the Grieving here at home behind me, with the news of this death and the personal knowledge of the heroic work of the Sisters and Lay Ministers down in the islands, I can't think of anything better to do with my time and energy during the holidays than to try to do what I can to support those who struggle every day to deal with their sometimes grinding hardships. 

Was I able to "fix" all this loss, suffering and disappointment that I saw and heard about? No! However, I have the satisfaction that comes with knowing that together we did what we could - that at least we did something! 







Thursday, December 26, 2019

MY SILENT MISSIONARY PARTNER

   

Jim Patterson II

For years now, my silent partner in many of my mission projects has been Mr. Jim Patterson II. He does not want this attention. In fact, he may just "kill" me when he sees this, but I have decided that it is time to focus every once in a while on some of my behind-the-scenes missionary partners.  Today I want to focus on Jim who has been with me in this ministry since the very beginning. 

Together, Jim and I have supported many international seminarians and offered them their own Thanksgiving dinner, built a "teaching kitchen" at Saint Meinrad Seminary, renovated the Shrine of Monte Cassino at Saint Meinrad Archabbey, created the Catholic Second Wind Guild in the Caribbean Missions and offered seven annual Blue Christmas Masses for the Grieving, among other things.  Within these projects have been hundreds of smaller projects. Most of what we  have done could not have been done without his valued advice, shared enthusiasm, hard work and generous support. 



I have come to appreciate the wisdom of Jesus when he sent out his first missionaries. He did not send them out alone. He sent them out two-by-two so that they could support and encourage one another in their sometimes difficult and frustrating tasks.  



Tuesday, December 24, 2019

MY BLUE CHRISTMAS EVE MASS HOMILY - 2019





Let me greet those of you who came here tonight with heavy hearts, heavy with deeply held feelings of loss and sadness this Christmas. I want you to know that this Mass is especially designed for you. Only you can feel exactly what you feel, but I am here to simply recognize the fact that you are hurting and to offer you an atmosphere of compassion. The very word “compassion” means “to suffer with.”  Tonight, you are surrounded and embraced by “compassionate” people, people who are here to “suffer with” you.

I started offering Blue Christmas Masses nine years ago, after I woke up and started to notice that not everyone in the church was “merry” at Christmas time. I was hearing that some people even dreaded the Christmas holidays because they reminded them of all they had lost. It is such a painful time for them that they even dreaded the very thought of going to Christmas Mass and having to be reminded of all they had lost.  

When I started preparing to preach that very first Blue Christmas Mass, I began not only to notice how broken-hearted and grief-stricken some people are at this time of year, but I began to notice also how truly sad many of the details of the Christmas story really are! Before looking at the story through the eyes of the grieving, I was always more affected by Christmas hymns, which are so often filled with cute sentimentally and, of course, great joy. However, I realized that if you really look at the details of Christmas story itself in Scripture, you realize that it is literally filled with confusion, disappointment, fear, pain, hardship and even terror. You need to read between the lines to find any “joy to the world” in this story.

The Christmas story, if you really pay close attention, is filled with fear and dread. “Do not be afraid,” the angel tells Mary when he announces that she is to conceive the child Jesus. “Do not be afraid,” the angel says to Joseph when he hesitates before taking the pregnant Mary as his wife. About to go into labor, in fear Mary and Joseph make a scary donkey-back trip to Bethlehem where, in desperation for a place to stay, they find out that they must deliver their baby boy in a smelly animal stall. “Do not be afraid” the angels say to the shepherds of that region who were struck with great fear at the news of Jesus’ birth. Terrorized in fear, the crazy child-killer Herod drives Mary, Joseph and Jesus to escape with their lives and flee to Egypt in the middle of the night.  Cute? Sentimental and sweet? I don’t think so! Over-flowing with joy? Hardly! The whole story is quite sad and desperate, really!

Have you ever been confronted with a surprise pregnancy not knowing what to do or where to turn? If so, Mary in this Christmas story has been there too!

Have you ever been the victim of vicious gossip and character assassination? If so, Mary in this Christmas story understands. She could have been stoned to death if Joseph had not covered for her!

Have you ever had to painfully give birth to a baby at a most inconvenient time and in a public situation? If so, Mary in this Christmas story has been there too! 

Have you ever had anyone predict a painful road ahead for someone you love? If so, Joseph has been there. When Jesus was presented in the Temple, Simeon predicted that Mary would be pierced by a “sword” of sadness and pain throughout her life.

Have you been raised by a foster parent? If so, Jesus in this Christmas story has been there too! Joseph was the foster father of Jesus.

Have you ever been a refugee who has been driven into a strange country to escape a possible violent death? If so, Mary and Joseph have been there too! They had to flee to Egypt in the middle of the night to escape the child-killer Herod! Maybe you have had a child who was murdered or was killed in a violent auto accident.

Have you ever been homeless and had to roam around for somewhere to lay your head? If so, Mary and Joseph, can identify. According to tradition, they lived in 26 different locations in their 3 ½ years of exile in Egypt!

Have you ever had a child on the Amber Alert List? If so, Mary and Joseph have been there too.  Their young son was missing for three days on a trip to Jerusalem! Maybe you have had a child who has been kidnapped or is still missing. Maybe you have had a child who has committed suicide or died of an overdose.

Have you ever lost a spouse suddenly, leaving you a widow or widower? If so, Mary understands tonight. Joseph died long before her and she had to be taken in by John after Jesus’ death. Maybe your spouse died suddenly of a heart attack or a car wreck, leaving you lost and dependent.

Have you ever had to watch someone in your family being gossiped about, stalked, falsely arrested and publicly humiliated? If so, Mary has been there too!

Have you ever watched a child or a loved die a slow and painful death right in front of you? If so, Mary has been there too! Maybe you have watched a loved one struggle with drug addiction until it was too late. Maybe they died after a long, long battle with cancer.

The whole story of Jesus’ birth and life is quite sad and desperate, but you know what? God was right there, doing his thing, right in the middle of it just like he is in the middle of your situation! Maybe you came here tonight looking for answers. Well, I am doing my best to support you, but I must tell you there are no answers. One of the great mysteries of our faith is that we are called to “walk by faith, not by sight.” In other words, God does not give us easy answers to our deepest questions, but he does walk with us in our pain and fear. Hebrews 4:15 is so right when it says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” One of the names given to Jesus at his birth is one foretold by Isaiah, “Emmanuel,” which means “God with us!” As Pope Francis mentioned recently, God may not give us answers, but he has given us a “companion” in the person of Jesus, someone who has “walked the talk,” someone to walk beside us through our doubts, fears and suffering! He "sits with" us. He "accompanies" us. 

To remind you of this great truth, that answers are few and far between, we will offer you a small statue of Mary who said in faith “let it be done to me according to your will.” (You can see a photo of the statue on the cover of your program.) She is presented as obviously pregnant. Kneeling, she is looking down at her swollen abdomen and, with outstretched hands, she wraps her hands around the mystery of all the pain that is to come in her life. 

The good news, that we leave here tonight with, is this. Because of her “yeses” to God, we can still have a wonderful Christmas because we know that we have a Savior in Jesus Christ and our loved ones are safely with him in peace! Maybe our minds and hearts have not caught up with this truth, maybe we have some more grieving to do, but our faith tells us that we will eventually get there! 








BLESSING OF THE BLUE CHRISTMAS MARY STATUES
2019

Loving God, we ask you to bless these images of Mary that we distribute tonight. Let them be a reminder to those who treasure and display them of Mary’s openness to God even in times of great disappointment, fear and confusion.

She kneels, heavy with child, and embraces its mystery with outstretched hands.  Let her famous words, “let it be done to me according to your word,” become our words as we try to wrap our minds around our losses and disappointments.  When we look at her image in the days and weeks ahead, we ask for her help and assistance in coming to terms with our own losses.

Loving God, the first Christmas was a mixture of light and darkness, great joy and deep sorrow. This Christmas is no different for many of us. Help us keep our eyes on the big picture! Help us look beyond our present situation. Help us wait in joyful hope to that great day when we will be reunited with all those we have loved in this life! We ask this in the name of the Christ Child, Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen! 









































Sunday, December 22, 2019

CHANGE YOUR MIND, CHANGE YOUR EXPERIENCE





Joseph decided to divorce Mary quietly,
but an angel appeared in a dream and
told him to have no fear about taking
Mary as his wife. When Joseph awoke
he did as the angel had directed him.
                                                                    Matthew 1:18-24

When I first arrived here as pastor of the Cathedral in 1983, I was regularly attacked by people over the statues of Mary and Joseph that used to stand on shelves in the sanctuary above where the sanctuary side doors are now. They were placed there during the former 1970's renovation. They irritated the traditional sensitivities of many pious Catholics. We removed them during the present restoration. They are now, I believe, over in the History Center across the street.  

Mary and Joseph were portrayed in very realistic first century Palestinian clothes. Mary was old, stooped and weather-worn, as she would have looked at the end of her life, at the time of her assumption into heaven. Joseph stood there slumped, like a tired worker, with his mouth open in awe. They are fine pieces of art, but they were not what people were used to! They couldn't change their minds. 

I believe the artist did a good job portraying Joseph by having him standing there with his mouth open. What better way to picture this well-known saint? Standing in awe, with his mouth open, captures the fidelity, simplicity and openness of this holy man. He never seems to know what was going on around him!

Usually, when I talk about Saint Joseph, I talk about St. Joseph's fidelity to God, even when he didn't seem to understand what was happening. St. Joseph walked by faith and not by sight.  He never speaks in the gospel. Instead, St. Joseph, has become known as a "shut up and put up" kind of saint.

This year, I want to talk about St. Joseph as a man who could change his mind. Some of us have made up our minds about things years and years ago and we are proud that we are not about to change them now. We may even think that our inflexibility is a virtue. St. Joseph teaches us that, to follow the will of God, we need to be able to change our minds sometimes.

Here's the short version of how St. Joseph changed his mind. Mary and Joseph are engaged to be married. Mary becomes pregnant before the wedding and tells Joseph that she conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph refused to believe it at first. He may have even showered Mary with some harsh words. He had his mind made up to divorce her when he had a dream in which an angel appeared to him, confirming Mary's explanation and telling him not to be afraid to proceed with the wedding. Joseph woke up with a changed mind and proceeded with the wedding, accepting his new family.

 "Change your mind" is the very first challenge that came out of Jesus’s mouth as he began his ministry. Metanoiete!” he says in Greek.   “Change the way you look at things! Change the way you see because God is up to something new.  To see what God is up to, it takes a radical change in the way you look out at things.”  By being able to change his mind and look at the Mary's pregnancy with new eyes, Joseph was able to see that he was actually part of a great plan that God had formed long ago,  not being duped by an unfaithful fiancĂ©e as it might appear.   

One of the many times I can remember consciously changing the way I looked at something in my life, as a priest, took place two weeks after I was ordained. I had my heart set on being an associate pastor here is Louisville where I could enjoy all that a big city has to offer. What I got was an assignment to the “home missions” as far away from Louisville as I could get back then. I was angry, but I had to go. Then, half-way down there, in Danville, I had a dramatic conversion in my thinking. It was obvious to me that I would probably be there for 10 years, whether I was mad or not! I decided to change my mind and embrace the assignment. Since I didn’t get what I wanted, I decided to want what I got. I decided to give it my all!  What I didn’t know at the time was, because I had changed my mind, it was going to be a great assignment. Because I decided to look for the blessings of that place, I found what I looked for! Because I chose to look at that assignment in a new way, my experience of the following ten years was a different one, one filled with fabulous experiences and opportunities. I shudder to think what my priesthood might have been like today, if God had not helped me change the way I looked at things.

Through the years I have learned a helpful lesson from St. Joseph - the ability to look at things in a new way, the ability to change my mind.  

Where are some of the places you need a new way of seeing in your life? Who are the people and what are the situations that you have been hoping would change to make life better for you? Why not change your experience of those people and situations by re-choosing how you see them?  Do you feel your children or spouse have let you down? Are you still grieving over a huge personal mistake you have made in the past? Did you lose a child or a spouse and can’t get over it? Do you feel you have been cheated, discriminated against or slighted and still fume inside over it?   Are you still waiting for someone to say they are sorry, give back what they took or take back something they said? Are you down on yourself and bitter about something in life?

St. Joseph can teach us that we can change all of that by changing the way we look at it and think about it! People say you can’t change the past. I am here to tell you that you can change the past. You can change it simply by re-choosing the way you think about it, how you want to remember it and what you want to believe about it.

St. Joseph, teach us how to change our minds, like you changed yours!  

Thursday, December 19, 2019

A "MIRACLE" OF NEW CHROMEBOOKS AND USED LAPTOPS


I HAVE SOME GREAT NEWS TO SHARE

Our Third "Kids' Summer Computer Camp" Is  Ready to Roll
 

This coming summer, we hope to offer our third "kids' summer computer camp" down in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. As you can see from these photos, taken last summer, we had more kids to show up than we had computers. 





Beth Kolodey, our kids'computer teacher, could not be more pleased going into her third summer. 


THE GOOD NEWS
Through the generosity of some caring and generous people, this Christmas we have added twenty new Chromebooks and four good used laptops to the program. 

Thanks especially to Bill and Beth Kolodey, who stood in line in several stores during the recent "Black Friday Sales" to get them at the huge bargain price of $99.00 each!  





We added twenty new Chromebooks in one day! 
Wow! 

COULD WE USE MORE? Yes, of course, we could use more! If you can donate a new one or a good used one, just let us know! It could change a poor kid's life! 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

CONGRATULATIONS, BETH, YOU MADE THE NEWS

Louisville's EAST END LIVING magazine featured our SECOND WIND GUILD computer teacher in their December 2019 issue. 
Beth has led two Summer Computer Camps for Kids down in the island missions. We are making plans already for our third camp this coming summer. 


Sunday, December 15, 2019

A HEART-FELT THANKS TO THOSE WHO SO GENEROUSLY HELPED....



NOTE: I HAVE NO CATHEDRAL HOMILY TODAY TO PUBLISH
Archbishop Kurtz will preside instead at the 12:00 Mass.


........MAKE THIS ANOTHER SPECIAL ISLAND CHRISTMAS

candy, toys, school lunch snacks, clothes, books and school supplies




Scrubbed, combed and dressed-up,  island children praying before opening their presents. 



ST. BENEDICT DAY NURSERY AND CHILDREN’S HOME 

December 6, 2019

Dear Fr. Ron and other kind helpers

On behalf of St.Benedict Day Nursery and Children’s Home
I wish to say: Thank you so much for your kind and caring gifts for our children.
The Slide (see picture below), Goodies,Candies, other food products and cash. We are extremely thankful for your kind assistance.

A little note: Some of the children, staff (and myself) contracted the terrible flu virus a few weeks ago.Thank God, we are all much better now. All the children are back to school except for one boy- to be better to attend school next week,

God bless you again and again

Yours truly,
Sr. Nyra Anne Pajotte O. Carm.
Administrator, St. Benedict’s Day Nursery
And Children’s Home


The new sliding board replacement for the old cracked and broken one.  


Holding up the school lunch snacks, crackers, cookie packets, Vienna sausage, tuna fish, cookie mix, lots of Christmas candy, some toys and a little cash for other needed items. 

Sister Nyra Anne, administrator, on the left and Sister Carmen on the right. 

SAINT MARY'S SCHOOL AT THE CATHEDRAL
with Sister Carmen




DIOCESAN CHRISTMAS STREET FAIR


Many of the kids of the diocese will receive a toy at the diocesan  Christmas Street Fair.  Some of these bears will go there and some to the kids in need at three of the parishes. 

I have instructed that several of the other really good toys should go to some of the "poorest of the poor" kids in places like Bottomtown.  


BISHOP, PRIESTS, DEACONS, SISTERS AND PASTORAL STAFF

Twenty-five insulated lunch bags filled with useful personal items, along with a little personal cash, will go the bishop, priests, deacons, Sisters and diocesan lay staff. 





IT'S NEVER TOO LATE


I have one more box for last-minute gifts that I plan to send down a little closer to Christmas. (Cash donations, however, can be transmitted in minutes.) When that box is filled and shipped, Santa will have given all his has for this year! 



I'VE ALREADY STARTED ON EASTER 

At Christmas, I focus on the main island of Saint Vincent.
At Easter, I focus on the four outer islands.




HAPPY 59th BIRTHDAY TODAY



Bishop Gerard County, C.S.Sp.
Bishop of Kingstown, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Thursday, December 12, 2019

PRAYER DAY AT SAINT JOSEPH HOME - LAST WEEK


LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR
December 5, 2019

Mass, Confessions, Conference and Benediction











DECEMBER 9, 2019

celebrated Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and witnessed the Little Sisters renewing their vows. 




DECEMBER 12, 2019 

Today, I will celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe with the Little Sisters and the residents of Saint Joseph Home. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

THE BLUE CHRISTMAS MASS --- A REMINDER


 ALL OF YOU ON FACEBOOK DO ME A FAVOR

GET THE WORD OUT TO THOSE WHO ARE GRIEVING THIS CHRISTMAS


BY ADVERTISING THIS CHRISTMAS EVE MASS.

 CHRISTMAS EVE
December 24, 2019
6:00 pm


Holy Family Church 
3926 Poplar Level Road
Louisville, Kentucky 




 Article from THE RECORD 11-28-2019


Sunday, December 8, 2019

YOU COULD LOSE YOUR HEAD



John the Baptist's Head on a Platter 
Delivered, As Promised, by King Herod




When John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees,
he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned
you to flee from the coming wrath?”
Matthew 3:1-12

Today, we hear about the prophet John the Baptist. When people hear the word “prophet,” they tend to think of people who specialize in predicting the future – almost like “fortune tellers.” Yes, prophets can predict the future sometimes, but they are mainly people who can see clearly what is going on in the present that people try not to look at or admit to.  

A “prophet” is really a person of “insight,” more than “foresight.” When prophets” are rejected, run out of town and even killed, it’s not because they predict the future, nearly as much as because they have the guts to point out the truth right under people’s noses, because they make people look at some truth that they would just as soon not look at!  “Prophets” get on people’s nerves because they stir up the dust, rock the boat and refuse to let sleeping dogs lie. “Prophets” will not leave “well enough” alone. They call us to be better than we are. They hold us to our commitments. They shake us awake. They will not let us cover our eyes or go blind to what’s really happening right there in front of us!

The opposites of “prophets” are what we now call “enablers,” people who are always telling us, “Don’t look! Don’t see! You might have to do something about it!”  If we were on the Titanic. They would be the people who would go up and down the hallways of an obviously sinking ship telling people “Don’t panic! It’s only a leak!” These are the people who try to make us feel good, rather than face the music. They try to make it easy for us to believe that we are incapable of doing any better than that what we are doing now. They encourage us to give into our laziest inclinations. Instead of shaking us awake, they rock us to sleep. These people try to shut “prophets” down for being “too negative,” no matter how badly things may be falling apart.  Yes, instead of shaking us awake, as prophets do, enablers rock us to sleep.       

I have been called a “prophet” more than once by members of our local body of priests. I don’t know if being called a “prophet” one or two times really qualifies me for actually being a “prophet,” but for years I have loudly preached the message that we priests need to “to wake up and smell the coffee” because things around us have changed radically while we keep repeating the same old ways of doing things. My reward for my unrelenting message has been an unspoken challenge that I should take my message somewhere else! I finally took the hint and hit the road! The farther away from home I got, the better the reception I got for my ideas. Over the last twenty years, I have delivered my message to bishops and priests in 150 dioceses in 10 countries with enough success to be invited back a second time to places like Toronto, Saginaw, Crookston, London (Ontario) and Beaumont (Texas). Several bishops have thanked me after they have heard my message, saying that I had said many things they have wanted to say to their priests but were afraid to!  Several thousand priests have bought my little book on building the unity of priests with their bishops and I have had many articles published that challenge priests to be all that they can be! At home, I have been ignored, basically. As Jesus said, “A prophet is never accepted in his own country!” I am OK with being ignored, I just don’t want my head cut off, so I try more and more to keep my mouth shut at home!

I have been begged by Bishop County down in the island country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, where I have been volunteering since I retired, to lead a workshop on “diocesan revitalization” in March for the clergy, religious and lay leaders of the diocese. So far, I have resisted because I think I know what needs to be said, but I am not sure they really want to really hear it. What they are asking for is a “prophet” to come speak to them. Prophets name the problems, rub people’s noses in their self-defeating behaviors and do not let them off the hook with weak excuses. I have a graduate degree in “parish revitalization” and I have learned a long time ago that church people often say they want to see things change, but they usually want it without themselves personally ever having to change.  I love the people of SVG, but I am still reluctant to deliver my message. So far, I have written 125 pages of things I propose to say to them. After 12 trips down there and five years of working with them from here, I have no idea how many of them will receive the insights that I am prepared to share with them. Some of them may have already dismissed me as just another out-of-town “American expert,” who doesn’t have the foggiest idea what the real situation is in the Caribbean. The bishop has told me that he and some of his priests and diocesan leaders are eager to hear some straight talk from a priest who sees that they can do better if they would only rise above a sense of hopelessness and some self-limiting behaviors so as to seize the many wonderful opportunities within their reach!   

I am reluctant to lead this workshop because I know that naming problems and dragging the truth out into the light of day could, in the long run, lead to some improvements for them, but also lead to some painful rejection for me in the short run.  If they take the message to heart, I believe they could, in time, move from good to great. Between now and March, I need to decide whether this is a risk I really want to take. If I do it, I hope they will understand that people who tell them what they want to hear are not necessarily their friends and people who tell them what they don’t want to hear are not necessarily their enemies. For that reason, courage is needed from prophets who are called to speak, but courage is also needed from those who are called to listen to them.   

Now I have some questions for you! How do you accept the words of everyday “prophets” in your life? Maybe you’ve been told you are drinking too much. Maybe you have been told that you need to go to the doctor to have a medical problem checked that you have been ignoring. Maybe you’ve been told by someone that the way you treat people is too sharp and mean spirited. Maybe you’ve been told by the people you love that you need to quit smoking or to lose weight. Maybe you’ve been confronted by your friends about your adultery, petty theft or lying. Maybe you’ve been confronted by a family member for your gambling or wasteful spending, for setting a bad example for the young, for texting while driving or for your abusive and crude language?


Because the truth hurts, did you react by “killing the messenger” with an angry outburst, with punishing silence or some form of vindictive sabotage? Maybe that person who told you something you did not want to hear was really doing you a favor by jarring you awake? Remember this! People who tell you what you want to hear are not necessarily your friends and people who tell you what you don’t want to hear and not necessarily your enemies! 
That's what prophets do - they name the elephant in the room and let the chips fall where they may!