Thursday, October 31, 2019


One of My Students at Saint Meinrad Seminary Was Ordained a Priest

I knew him as Brother Francois Amouzou OSB, but after several years his Abbot called him to be ordained a priest for his Benedictine monastery of:
in the French speaking country of 

BELOW: Father Francois with some of his family and friends. 


I feel so honored to have met and interacted with so many priests  and bishops from all parts of the world in the last twenty years - hundreds and hundreds of them!

Just in the last few weeks, from Africa alone, I have met, interacted with and spent time with priests from Togo, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Congo, Rwanda and Ghana. 


I am happy that I was able to buy a used laptop for the brother of one of the other African Benedictines from the Abbey of the Ascension studying at Saint Meinrad. Brother Cajetan's brother is pictured above with 
some of his students gathered around the computer in their classroom. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019


Our local Trappist monk, Father Louis, wrote under the name of Thomas Merton

“We live in a society whose whole policy is to excite every nerve in the human body and keep it at the highest pitch of artificial tension, to strain every human desire to the limit and create as many new desires and synthetic passions as possible." 

Thomas Merton, Seven Storey Mountain, 1948

Sunday, October 27, 2019


“God, I thank you I am not like that sinner behind me!"

Luke 18

“Hypocrites” up front!  The “humble” in the rear!  That’s about how seating arrangement went when I was growing up... at least that’s what we tended to think!  The rich, the uppity and the seriously educated sat toward the front - behind the nuns in the front row.  Drunks, the poor and the marginalized, in all their marvelous country-parish variety, staked out the back seats.  Nobody made us sit that way, but that was the pecking order as I remember it.  Families sat in the same locations, generation after generation.  In my very early days, families had their names in little holders at the ends of the pews. We knew where people were “supposed” to sit and God help you if you dared sit elsewhere.  Stares would focus on you with all the intensity of a laser beam.  We exercised invisible control over each other that way.  Anyone who was ever raised in a small town knows exactly what I mean!  

My family, characteristically, chose the middle… dead center, in fact!  After all, we considered ourselves better than some people and not as good as others.  That’s how we felt and that’s how we sat!  We were probably a bit ambivalent toward God as well.  We were neither too close to Him, nor too far away.  We followed the rules, but we were never accused of being religious fanatics.  We chose a safe distance!  We were a lot like the religiously ambivalent woman in The Color Purple.  “…it ain’t easy trying to do without God.  Even if you know he ain’t there, trying to do without him is a strain!”

Now all of you, unaware of what today’s gospel was going to be about, who unfortunately chose the front seats today need not panic!  Neither holiness nor the effectiveness of one’s prayer has anything to do with where you sit in church. It has to do with one’s attitude toward God and neighbor.  The effectiveness of prayer  comes from within the heart and not in the seating location!  This parable is about attitudes in prayer, not about where you park your body, so you can relax!

 The gospel today says that “Two people went to the temple to pray.  One went home justified, the other did not!”

The first man, a Pharisee, a meticulously religious man, was very proud of his success in keeping rules and he knew of the failure of others to do the same. He was proud of his success and had become contemptuous of those who were not so successful.  When he approaches God, he not only proceeds to inform God just how good he has been, but also compares his grocery list of spiritual successes to the man in the back!  “Thank God, I am not greedy, crooked and adulterous, like that man behind me!”  He assumed he could be good without God’s help, if necessary, which made him “self” righteous!

The second man, a tax collector, aware of his failures, simply asks for God’s forgiveness, mercy and acceptance.  He knew he needed God’s love and forgiveness because he was aware of his inability to be good on his own power.  He compared himself to no one, but God, and was humbled by the comparison!

Often, when we read these parables, we tend to identify the “good” and the “bad,” “winners” and “losers,” and the “hypocrites” and the “humble”… as if reality fell into two simple categories!  Then when we believe we have identified the villain, we project that villain onto others whom we have identified.  Actually, we end up condemning in others what we really hate in ourselves.  This condemnation of others makes it easy to believe that we are really different, better and more favored by God.  Maybe we ought to read this parable as if both of these characters exist in all of us.  In truth, there is a part of both in each of us!  Instead of condemning in others what we do not want to see in ourselves, let us “own” the Pharisee within us.

The Pharisee exists in all of us.  We would like to believe that we are “not like the rest of men, grasping, crooked and adulterous.”  When in actuality we really are “like the rest of men.”  We would like to believe that we are better, different and even more favored by God!  We select out of the truth what we want to believe about ourselves and project the rest onto a convenient list of those we assign labels like "the grasping, the crooked and the adulterous.”  Instead of owning our sin, we project it on others so we can disown it!  After we condemn others, we often tend to invoke God’s condemnation of them as well to feel even better about ourselves. 

When God doesn’t join us in our condemnation we pout like Jonah, the older son, the vineyard workers who worked all day and the Pharisees!  Jonah pouted because God was so forgiving.  He wanted the Ninevites fried in Hell!  The “older son” pouted outside the house because his father was so forgiving of his wayward brother.  He wanted him punished!  The all-day vineyard workers pouted because the late comers were paid the same as they!  They wanted more for themselves and less for others.  The Pharisees pouted because Jesus was a “friend of sinners,” welcomed them and ate with them.  They wanted Jesus to do what they did: condemn and exclude!  The Pharisee in all of us resents God taking away our delight in having “sinners” punished.  We used to call in theology, the sin of “morose delectation:” taking delight in others’ failures.

The Pharisee also exists in all of us, in our subconscious mind where we store those things that we do not like to see about ourselves, where we store that information we do not want to own.  Down deep we know that there is a little Jim Baker, Richard Nixon, Adolf Hitler and Pharisee in all of us, no matter how much we try to hide it from ourselves and others.  We can come to see this, not by comparing ourselves to others, but by comparing ourselves to God.  “We only admit to consciousness that which we have the courage to deal with!”  The pain of bringing these realizations to consciousness so that God can love them away is what spiritual growth is all about!

When we gather here for prayer, as we stand together before God each week in this Eucharist, we gather as sinners… one and all!  There are no neat categories of “good” and “bad”, “favored” and “unfavored,” but simply God’s children: broken, sinful, lost, grasping, adulterous and crooked in one degree or another!  No one can see well enough to condemn anyone else.  We can see only externals.  God can see into the heart.  This God who sees all, did not come to condemn, but to save!  Our prayer, no matter where we sit in church, will not be heard until we recognize our own sinfulness, own it and treat ourselves with the same compassion that God treats us to!  When we are able to receive that compassion from God and from ourselves, we will be able to extend it to others!  When we have done that, we have finally learned to love God, our neighbors and ourselves!  When we have done that, the Sunday Eucharist will have finally exemplified the parable of the wedding feast: a feast where the “good” and the “bad” are invited to sit down with the great King and bask in his love and compassion!