Thursday, August 8, 2019



  Just like the Waltons on TV, we had seven kids and practically lived with our grandparents who lived across the road when I was very young. We lived next to a country store with a small post office inside and my grandfather and father owned a sawmill when I was very young. I was the "John Boy" of my family - a writer and the first to go to college.

That's me on the left eating a roasted marshmallow on a stick. The woods and farms all around us were our playground.  Some of the boys around Rhodelia and Mooleyville met up on Sunday afternoons. 
We thought nothing of building a fire in the woods. 

We would swim in ponds very much like this, with cows standing in the same water! We must have had one hell of an immune system! Kids today would die of some bacterial infection that no antibiotic could stop!

No diving boards at our swimming holes. We would swing from a rope or a wild grape vine. 

That's me on a horse belonging to my cousin, "Bud" Ray (now Father Bob Ray). 
To save money, we always bought blue jeans too long for us. Notice the cuffs on my blue jeans. We would roll them up when they were new and then roll them down as we grew to fit them.  

We were especially fond of camping under rock ledges and damming up creeks. 

There was an old log cabin, much like this one, in the woods near us that we called "the old turkey house." I can still remember dreaming about  renovating it as our "hideout" in the woods. 
I have renovated five houses in my adult life, not to mention the renovations I did at the Cathedral, Saint Meinrad Seminary and now in the island missions. My passion for "renovation projects" evidently started in childhood.  

I especially remember building "Fort Apache" out of what was left of an old rail fence in the woods near our house. Mine was, of course, much bigger and more complex than this miserable example of a fort. Mine had small cabins on each corner of a fenced in square. 
It was the beginnings of a script that I have followed all my life. "Anything worth doing is worth over-doing!" 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019



Caribbean ministry offers care, resources ... 

Sunday, August 4, 2019


You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
 and  the things you have  prepared,  to whom will they
                                               belong?                                              Luke 12

Woody Allen once said, “I know everyone dies, but I am still hoping an exception will be made in my case.” Like all humor, there is a bit of truth in that line. It seems that the possibility of our own death is something that has to be forced into our consciousness. When we are healthy and especially when we are young, our own death is merely a concept. It takes a major illness or surviving a tragic accident to bring the reality of our own death home to us. Until that point we proceed as if we were going to live forever, accumulating and saving until the day when we can say to ourselves, “now I have enough stored up I can finally rest, eat, drink and be merry.”  Then “bam” a sudden heart attack or fatal accident and its over, with all that saved up stuff going to someone else. One of the saddest documentaries I have ever seen on TV was one about the wealthy, lonely widows in Florida. It seems that their husbands had obsessively and compulsively worked their whole lives, trying to get to that magic day when they could retire and “enjoy life,” only to die of an unforeseen heart attack right before they got there.

One of the good things about being seventy-five is the fact that death is becoming a reality that I simply cannot avoid. I have done two things recently that has brought it home like nothing else. First, my tombstone is in place and the only thing left is to engrave the date.  I have accepted the fact that my death is no longer a matter of "if," but "when!" Second, I have updated my last will and testament. I have accepted the fact that I will not be taking anything with me when I go, so I might as well decide to whom I want to give it!  

I am reminded of a joke I once heard about two old ladies standing at the casket of an extremely wealthy old lady friend who had just passed away. One woman whispered to the other, “How much money do you think she left?” The other once whispered back, “All of it, I would guess!”

One of the things rabbis did in the days of Jesus, was to be an arbiter to settle disagreements in the community. It was common to take such problems to the rabbi for resolution. In the gospel today, a man comes up to Jesus and asks him to settle a dispute between two brothers over an inheritance. Jesus refuses to get involved, but does use it as an occasion to teach his disciples about what is truly important in life. His bottom line is: “Money is not everything.”   He goes on to teach that money, while being a necessary thing in life, is unreliable for real security. Thieves can steal it, you can lose it in the stock market, it can create distance between yourself and others, but most importantly, you can’t take it with you when you die. Better, he teaches, not to obsess about storing up material treasures for yourself that are here today and gone tomorrow, but to strive to be rich in the things that matter to God.

It is important to understand here that Jesus was not saying money is evil, but rather that all-consuming love of money is the root of evil. The love of money, the obsessive pursuit material possessions, puts relationships with others and God way down at the bottom of the list. When “making a living” becomes more important than “living,” we are on a slippery slope. The love of money is like drinking salt water, it never satisfies your thirst but causes you to crave more and more.

In another place, Jesus asks us, “What is the good of gaining the world and lose yourself in the process?” All of us have to eat, take care of ourselves and those who rely on us, and prepare for retirement. Not to do so, out of a sense of  false piety, is to be irresponsible. But on the other hand, to think that real security comes from hording as much as we can, is insane. What is the point of driving ourselves obsessively to “have more,” if it ruins our health, destroys our marriage and friendships, puts a wedge between ourselves and our neighbors, makes us intolerably irritable to be around and turns our children into resentful strangers in our own house?

We all remember the story of King Midas who was granted a wish for a good deed done. Without thinking too deeply he asked that everything he touched would be turned to gold.  He got his wish, but soon regretted. When he touched the flowers of his beautiful garden, they turned rigid and gold. He grew hungry and thin, for every time he tried to eat, he found that his meal had turned to gold. His lovely daughter even turned to gold at his touch. His water, his bed, his clothes, his friends, and eventually the whole palace turned to gold. Finally, he asked to have everything back the way it was before. He got his wish. As the story ends, King Midas was poorer than he had been, but richer, he felt, in the things that really count.

The message today is, again today, about balance.  If we were to look at ourselves today, at a distance, we would surely know that we have more money, on the whole, than we have ever had, but at the same time we are more unhappy than ever. We have bought into the lie that, if we only had a stack of money, we would insure our own happiness.

The truth of the matter is that the quality of time spent with your spouse, your children, your friends and your God is the real source of happiness. “Investing” in these relationships are the things that bring true happiness and these “resources” can never be taken away. Thieves cannot still them. Moths can’t eat them up. Rust will not destroy them. They are the “treasures” we can keep in this life and even take into the next.

My Dad used to joke, “Some people have money and some people have kids!” As a child, it hurt to hear that, if he hadn’t had so many kids, my Dad could have had something more important to him, even if was a joke. My mother, on the other hand, had no access to material wealth. My Dad controlled everything. Us kids were everything to my mother. My Dad died and left it all---his money and a strained relationship with his family. My mother died without a penny of her own, but she not only left a very deep, loving relationship with her kids, her friends and neighbors, she took it with her. At her funeral, my Dad was astounded by the number of people who showed up. She had been a simple country housewife, but the church was packed. He kept asking, over and over again, “Where did all these people come from? I didn’t know she knew this many people.” He failed to realize just how “rich” he wife had become!

When I die, I will die rich,  rich in a lifetime of good memories of the people I have served as a priest, the great relationships I have with my family and the many good friends who love me. Even if I were to lose my life-savings and the Social Security system goes belly-up, I will always be rich, because my real "riches" are invisible and indestructible. I can take my “riches” with me when I go.

I, too, have to "make a living," but I hope that never gets in the way of "living."