Wednesday, October 16, 2019


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. 

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


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!