Friday, January 3, 2020



I am very happy to announce that my organization, Catholic Second Wind Guild, has been able to expand its ministry a bit more into the country of Trinidad and Tobago by helping my friend Archbishop Jason Gordon publish two books under the banner of my little publishing company, Sophronismos Press, here in Louisville. His books, like mine, can be found on 

I thank Timothy Schoenbachler, who does my books, for helping design the covers, complete the lay-outs, secure the Library of Congress numbers and gets them published at Amazon

Archbishop Jason Gordon
Archdiocese of Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago

It was then Bishop Jason Gordon who invited me to be involved in the Caribbean Missions. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020



Ring Out, Wild Bells

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

I love New Year's Eve! However, I love it for a completely different reason than many other people love it! 

I absolutely detest parties on New Year's eve with all their mandatory over-drinking, shouting, noise-making and feigned hugging.  I used to lie to get out of them. Now that I am 75, I just say "no" to invitations without even giving an excuse.  I do not judge or condemn others who love those things, but they are certainly not things that I enjoy - never have!  

What I enjoy is staying home in my cozy condo where I enjoy my own company in a long evening of prayerful reflection on the past year and the new year coming up.  I prepare for the evening like many people would prepare for a party. I clean my house, buy some nice food to nibble on, pour myself a drink, put on some nice music, read over last year's journal, start a new journal  for 2020 and write down my thoughts. I am one who likes to live "with purpose" and "on purpose," rather than "playing it by ear" and "going with the flow," so these New Year's Eve retreat serve a purpose - a time to lay out my plans for another year! I have been enjoying my "new year's retreats" for years and years now. Being the true introvert that I am, it is something to which I really look forward every year's end! 

As the years roll by, I am becoming more and more aware of my age and my health. Seventy-five is not all that old these days when more and more people live to be a hundred or more, but the fact that I am only a little more than four years away from turning eighty is sobering indeed! I am pretty healthy for my age. I have no arthritis or joint problems, my heart seems fine, my blood pressure is good, my cholesterol is normal, my bone density is fine and I can do the treadmill test quite easily without getting winded. At my age, while still being in pretty good health, I am becoming more and more aware that I need to savor each and every day of health while I can. 

Last year I spent a good deal of time reflecting on my life up to this point. I put those reflections in a little book entitled BETWEEN COURAGE AND COWARDICE: Choosing to Do Hard Things for Your Own Good. When it was done, I tried to come up with a phrase to summarize how I feel about my life so far. I spent a lot of time editing it and correcting it and reworking it. I finally settled on four words - SIMPLY AMAZED - FOREVER GRATEFUL. The  more I go back and look at those words, the more convinced I am of their truth. That is exactly how I feel about where I came from and where I am today - so convinced, in fact, that I had them engraved on my new granite tombstone. To make sure I did not take myself too seriously, I ended the year with another book published, a book of humor, entitled I JUST HAD TO LAUGH, in which I collected together fifty years of personal humorous anecdotes. 

2020! Such a perfect round number! What would I like to be the focus of this "perfect" year? This will be my reflection question during the last evening of this year! After serving as a pastor in three places over 27 years, publishing over 32 books, writing a weekly column for 15 years, presenting over 160 convocations around "presbyteral theology" in 10 countries, offering at least 75 parish missions in 3 states, serving as a "vocation director" for 7 years, teaching in the seminary for 14 years, being a campus minister for 14 years and serving in the foreign missions for 5 years so far, what can I do next that will be life-giving and age-appropriate? 

So far, I can see 2020 as a year of less frantic travel and more carpe diem (seizing the day) right here at home. I have not advertised the priest retreats that I have been doing for several years. Invitations have mostly come  through "word of mouth." I have had no need to advertise. I actually turned down two invitations to archdioceses in Canada for 2020 because of the travel complications of getting there and back. I have long ago quit enjoying air travel! Because of that, for the first time in 20 years, I have only one priest convocation on my calendar at this point.- one down in the islands in March. I am not saying that I will never do another one. I am just saying that it is OK if I don't. 

God is ultimately in charge of my future, of course, but he invites a response of prayerful openness to his invitations. That's what my New Year's Eve retreat will be all about - listening and trying to respond.  Here are four things, so far, I feel that I need to reflect on and pray over. 

(1) The first thing I feel called to focus on in 2020 is to keep up my mission work down in the Caribbean, but focusing more on a "succession plan" for myself and fellow volunteer from Ireland, Fergal Redmond. I would like to get Catholic Second Wind Guild to the point that it could keep expanding its ministry without us, if necessary. 

(2) The second thing I feel called to focus on in 2020 is my heath and wellness - staying healthy and well as long as I can. The secret to this, as I see it, is fidelity to a good diet and regular exercise. I consider these "spiritual disciplines" very much like  prayer.  

(3) The third thing I feel called to focus on in 2020 is giving more focused attention to doing small thoughtful things for my family, friends and the total strangers who cross my path. I want to resist the urge that many senior citizens have to be self-focused as if that is something we deserve or earned. I believe that my legacy will be the good memories about me that I leave with them. I want them to remember me as a person who remembered to focus on them. If I do that, I believe that I will come to realize the deep satisfaction that comes from understanding that "it is in giving that one receives."

(4) The fourth thing I feel called to do in 2020 is to keep focusing on  the discipline of writing. I don't write these days because I believe the world needs to hear what I have to say, but because "I don't know what I think until I read what I say," as Flannery O'Connor put it. It helps me to write, to bring it out where I can see it and reflect on it. Besides, what better hobby can an old person have as they find themselves more restricted to their homes than writing? If it helps other people who read it, then that is merely icing on the cake! 

(5) I want to remember a poem that I heard quoted this year by Congressman Elijah Cummings who died just recently.  


Dr. Benjamine E. Mays
pioneering civil rights leader

I only have a minute.
Sixty seconds in it.
Forced upon me, I did not choose it,
But I know that I must use it.
Give account if I abuse it.
Suffer, if I lose it.
Only a tiny little minute,
But eternity is in it.

(6) Finally, I like to kneel down on both knees in silence as the clock strikes midnight and the New Year begins! 

I wish all of you a very happy 2020!

If you are my age or older, I want to end here with a little New Year's humor.
Click on arrow  

Sunday, December 29, 2019



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.