Sunday, July 5, 2020

WORN OUT WITH IT

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mh4KQcGXlEI&t=538s

Come to me all you who are weary and
find life burdensome and I will give
you rest. For my yoke is easy and my
burden light.
Matthew 11

Seven kids in a small house! I don’t know how my mother did it! She was one of the most generous persons in the whole world, not only to us kids, but to her neighbors as well. She was what I would call “totally selfless.” She was an old-fashioned country mother. Besides giving birth to seven kids, she cleaned, cooked, did laundry, ironed, raised a huge garden, sewed, canned food, raised and slaughtered chickens, helped us with homework, taught us our prayers, took care of us when we were sick and even played with us! I don’t know how she did it, day in and day out, her whole life long, until she finally died of cancer at 58! Every once in a while, the burdens of motherhood weighed her down, sometimes to the breaking point! Even though she loved us and never complained outright, she let us know that she would love to have a break from the burdens of motherhood. “All I want is a little peace and quiet, a small white house with a few flowers in the yard!” It never occurred to us that she wanted that without us! She loved us very much. She did not regret the disciplines of motherhood. She only wanted a little relief, every once in a while. Poor woman! She had to die to get the “peace and quiet” she longed for! 

As I reflected in my blog post last week, personally, I am getting sick and tired these days of trying to stay safe! Just when I thought it might be safe to go out and about, I am told every night on the news that the pandemic in Kentucky is spiking upward! If it would help, I would stand out on my deck and scream as loud as I can! The only thing that stops me is the realization that the neighbors might call the police and have me arrested. Then it would become a classic case of "out of the frying pan and into the fire!" Besides, I would hate to see my photo in the Courier Journal under the headlines, "Local priest loses his mind and is arrested for being a noise nuisance!" 

I have found that when I get into a state of mind like this, it is at least a temporary relief to think of others who are in a worse state than I am in! I know in my heart of hearts that what I am going through is an "aggravation," not a real "problem." I know that there are people out there who have real problems. 

I try to think of the "wounded warriors," the men and women who have missing limbs, brain damage and paralysis because of war injuries. I suspect that most of them are "sick and tired" of their situations to a degree that I can't begin to imagine. God bless them! 

I try to think of the many senior citizens, especially those who are alone and poor, living like prisoners in unsafe neighborhoods, without anyone to visit them and without basic health care. I suspect most of them are "sick and tired" of their situations to a degree that I can't imagine. God bless them! 

I try to think of the many trapped victims of spouse and child abuse who have nowhere to run and who are forced to live, day in and day out, in fear of their lives! I suspect most of them are "sick and tired" of their situations to a degree that I can't imagine. God bless them! 

I try to think of the many children who are bullied every day of their lives, crying themselves to sleep with worry about how to navigate their next day! I think of the shame, fear and powerlessness they feel, often in silence. I suspect most of them are "sick and tired" of their situations to a degree that I can't imagine. God bless them! 

I try to think of those who are seriously addicted to drugs or alcohol and feel they have to sell their dignity in a host of ways just to keep going. The shame, pain and fear that most of them are drowning in is something they feel they can't shake. I suspect most of them are "sick and tired" of their situations to a degree that I can't imagine. God bless them! 

I try to think of those unemployed families who live from hand to mouth every day, worrying where their next meal will come from, what they will do if one of the children gets sick or where they will live if they are evicted. I suspect most of them are "sick and tired" of their situations to a degree that I can't imagine. God bless them! 

I try to think of those battling health conditions like cancer, Parkinson and Alzheimer disease. Many of them are terrified when they think of what's coming next for them. I suspect most of them are "sick and tired" of their situations to a degree that I can't imagine. God bless them! 

I try to think of my many friends and acquaintances down in the Caribbean missions who struggle with employment, food, education, travel and health issues. I suspect most of them are "sick and tired" of those situations to a degree that I can't imagine. God bless them! 

Just like motherhood and priesthood, which have the ability to give life to people and to drain the life out of people, religion has the ability to give life to people, as well as the ability to drain the life out of them. Religion at the time of Jesus was a life-draining experience. But before you rush out and condemn organized religion, know this: Jesus was not against organized religion, but an organized religion that had lost its faith! He wanted, not to condemn organized religion, but to renew it! Jesus did not abandon religion because it lost its way, any more than my mother would abandon her kids or me the priesthood, just because we are tempted sometimes to run away from it! 

Jesus uses the image of a “yoke” to talk about the discipline of religion, something that every good Jew recognized as “the Law,” ‘the bible,” if you will. Jesus was a carpenter. He knew about yokes. He made many of them. When it came to making yokes for oxen, the carpenter did not make one-size-fits-all. He took a “roughed out” yoke and then trimmed and whittled until it was “custom made” so that it would not gall the neck of the ox who wore it. Jesus says his yoke is “crestos,” which means “custom made” or “made to order.” Some translations of “crestos” say it means “easy,” but that is not quite the sense that Jesus means. It is more “easy to bear.” Using this image, Jesus says that his spiritual discipline has high expectations and demands a lot, but it is a joy to carry because it gives life! It’s sort of like that old Boys Town story when the young man who was carrying his brother said, “He ain’t heavy. He’s my brother!” Healthy religion expects a lot, but a healthy religion gives back even more! That’s what the “yoke of Jesus” is all about! 

I cannot imagine life without faith in Jesus and his life-giving discipline. Yes, my own weakness and the weakness of others, weigh me down at times, but that is nothing compared to the life-giving power that comes from walking with Jesus. Yes, I have been worn down lately, but what keeps me going is the certain knowledge that God is at work even now, in spite of this or any former or future pandemic or scandal! As my favorite old hymn goes, “Through all the tumult and the strife, I hear the music ringing. How can I keep from singing?” Knowing how things will turn out when all is said and done, how can we possibly keep from singing? 

Keep the faith! Keep the faith! Our faith has fed on God’s Word, now let us go to the table and let our faith feed on nothing less than Christ’s own body and blood! Remember that faith, even faith the size of a mustard seed, can move mountains, so keep the faith! When life becomes burdensome, that faith will sustain you! 

Friday, July 3, 2020

BEING MORE INTENTIONAL ABOUT ORDINARY THINGS - FOURTEEN

This is the fourteenth in a series of periodic reflections on the "ordinary things" that many people do on a regular basis without much thought. During this pandemic, I am developing a need to "rage, rage" against hast and laziness and replace it with care and attention. My hope is to become personally more intentional about doing ordinary things with care and focused attention, while inspiring others to maybe do the same.

GETTING TIRED OF EXTREMISM


“Extremism is so easy. You've got your position, and that's it. It doesn't take much thought. And when you go far enough to the right you meet the same idiots coming around from the left.

Clint Eastwood

Interview, Time Magazine, February 20, 2005

I have always heard that we cry out in pain at both ends of life - when we come in and when we go out, when we are born and when we die. 


I am one to believe that all the "crying out in pain" that keeps getting louder and louder each day is both the birth of something new and the death of something old. It's like the image of an egg that I have used often in my preaching. One day we woke up to find thin cracks in the church starting to manifest all over it. Each day the cracks keep becoming more numerous and more obvious. As this happens, some panic and do what they can to try to tape it all back together. They are convinced that we are falling apart. I know from raising chickens that the worst thing you can do when an egg starts to crack like that is to tape it back together. I believe that what one needs to do, in such cases, is to stand back and let it hatch. I can't join those who believe that we are falling apart. Rather, I choose to stand firmly with those who believe that we are simply giving birth once again - "ecclesia semper reformanda," "the church is always in need of reform." 



I believe something similar is happening in our culture. In a panic, we are engaging in "culture wars." Some of us believe that we are dying and others believe that we are giving birth. Those who are most fearful are desperately trying to make true what they love. Those who are most hopeful are desperately trying to love the new truth. 



In times like ours, I suggest we resists embracing one extreme or the other, but try to stay in the sane center, working to save what is valuable while being open to innovation and change. The sane center need not be about watering down the truth, accepting mediocrity or compromising principles, but about embracing what is true in both extremes.  As long as it is good, true, right and respectful, why not embrace it?  Only the sowing of evil, hate, division and cruelty need to be rejected! 



Why can't we value self-reliance and take care of the weak? Why can't we appreciate science and religion? Why can't we embrace the gifts of women and men. Why can't we blend the wisdom of the old and the creativity of the young? Why can't we be both passionate and flexible? Why can't we appreciate the faith of St. Paul and the doubts of St. Thomas, the prodigality of the younger son and the fidelity of the older son, the Jewish convert and the Gentile convert? Why can't we accept the fact that Democrats and Republicans both have something to add? 



It doesn't have to be either/or. It can be both/and. We can proudly make our case without having to overstate it. We can honor the case that others proudly make without the need to silence them. 



Traditionalists and progressives both need to heed the words of Thomas Merton. "Those who are not humble hate their past and push it out of sight, just as they cut down the growing and green things that spring up inexhaustibly even in the present.”



Personally, I am trying to be like the "householder" in the gospel according to Matthew (13:51-53) who can "bring out of his storeroom things both new and old!" That passage refers to Matthew's attempt to wed the old Jewish traditions to the new reality of Jesus for Christian converts.


Wednesday, July 1, 2020

A BIG THANKS TO OUR "CATHOLIC SECOND WIND GUILD" PARTNERS

GENEROUS FRIENDS, YOU HAVE DONE MUCH GOOD

YOUR OUR FELLOW CATHOLICS DOWN IN THE ISLANDS APPRECIATE IT SO MUCH



A NEW LAPTOP IN A FINANCIAL EMERGENCY


Right before the pandemic, the Catholic Second Wind Guild donors rushed to replace a badly malfunctioning laptop in the Catholic Pastoral Centre of the Diocese of Kingstown, down in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines where Father Knott volunteers.




“My thank you goes beyond my brand new laptop. Words alone can't express how grateful I am to have met such a wonderful person as Fr Ron who only needs to hear the slightest of a cry to run to help in every way possible. 
Fr Ron, thank you for all you have done and continue to do. The joy you bring to little children and the life you give to broken things could never be repaid. 
Thank you.”

Kimberley Olliver

Diocese of Kingstown, Assistant Financial Officer




"Along with her (Kimberley), I wanted to express my personal gratitude to you for this gift. It was a most timely donation for which I am most grateful. 
I can scarcely believe that it is coming up to eight months since I left St Vincent and the duration of this time lapse struck me when I reflected on how well Kimberley has assumed her responsibilities over this period. Even before I left last July, she had been ‘complaining’ about some hiccups on her old laptop. So, you can imagine how delighted she was with her new acquisition."

Fergal Redmond
Diocese of Kingstown, Chief Financial Officer
(He is temporarily operating from his home in Ireland during the pandemic. He, like me, is itching to go back.) 


RELIEF FROM A CUT IN THE FOOD BUDGET




Because the rippling effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have severely affected the diocesan budgets,  Bishop County has had to implement cutbacks - from staff numbers and staff salaries to food budgets.  Besides the cuts, some items are too expensive or not available. 

Above are photos of 6 of the 9 boxes of food staples and other needed items we have sent down to alleviate some of the pain. There are items for the bishop's house, items to be shared with the staff, items for the orphanage, items for the Sisters and items for a priest serving on two of the outer islands. The next box or two will go to those not yet helped. 

A DELAYED EASTER IN THE OUTER ISLANDS



Because of COVID-19 precautions, churches in the islands were closed for Easter. On Sunday June 7, Trinity Sunday, the parish was able to gather again. This is a photo of the kids on Mayreau island receiving their delayed Easter baskets.  Father Boniface had to miss the photo because he had to catch the boat to Union island immediately after Mass. Notice how well-dressed and groomed the kids are! This is true when they are sent to school and brought to church! It was one of the first things I noticed when I starting working down there - how much they value their children! 

The islands of Bequia, Canouan and Union also had delayed Easter Basket distributions. Photos from there are unavailable at this time.  


This is the boy in the photo above holding the sign that reads
"Thank You Father Ron" 

This close-up shows a cute little boy with a basket almost as big as he is! 

This beautiful little girl, in her Sunday best, could hardly carry her Easter "goodies." 



A few of the kids on Union island got their Easter Baskets the Sunday following the ones on Mayreau island. Some, who could not make it that Sunday, got their baskets later. 



Part of the new fence (to keep roaming goats from doing their business the church) we built in partnership with the parish of the Immaculate Conception on the island of Mayreau. The fence is done, but the new gate has yet to be installed. 


Old fence in a pile. New fence going up. Church and bell tower in top left of the photo. 



Three years in the making, we were able to help replace the badly leaking roof on Saint Joseph House on Union island. Saint Joseph House is rentable property given to the Diocese of Kingstown SVG several years ago to produce income to support the parish. The old roof was leaking so badly that it could not be rented over the last three years. With a few more internal repairs, the parish will be able to rent it again and have the support it needs to continue to stay open and operate. 



Father Boniface Oganna, a priest from Nigeria, is serving as the pastor on Mayrau and Union islands




I Hope You Enjoy Giving As Much As I Do!

I learned this habit from my mother. Growing up, we didn't have much, but any time anybody came to our house, my mother would give them a bag from her garden, a jar from her shelf or package from her freezer. They never seemed to leave empty-handed. She intensely enjoyed giving, even though she had very little to give.  She is now enjoying her fabulous heavenly reward, but she is also enjoying a wonderful earthly reward, an unselfish reputation. Her legacy to us, her children, is the enjoyment of giving that she taught us by her example.  





Monday, June 29, 2020

BEING MORE INTENTIONAL ABOUT VERY ORDINARY THINGS - THIRTEEN


This is the thirteenth in a series of periodic reflections on the "ordinary things" that many people do on a regular basis without much thought. During this pandemic, I am developing a need to "rage, rage" against hast and laziness and replace it with care and attention. My hope is to become personally more intentional about doing ordinary things with care and focused attention, while inspiring others to maybe do the same.

LIVING IN A WORLD OF DISEASE AND UNEASE

   


I am getting sick and tired of trying to stay safe! Just when I thought it might be safe to go out and about, I am told every night on the news that the pandemic in Kentucky is spiking upward! If it would help, I would stand out on my deck and scream as loud as I can! The only thing that stops me is the realization that the neighbors might call the police and have me arrested. Then it would become a classic case of "out of the frying pan and into the fire!" Besides, I would hate to see my photo in the Courier Journal under the headlines, "Local priest loses his mind and is arrested for being a noise nuisance!" 

I have found that when I get into a state of mind like that, it is at least a temporary relief to think of others who are in a worse state than I am in! I know in my heart of hearts that what I am going through is an "aggravation," not a real "problem." I know that there are people out there who have real problems. 


I try to think of the "wounded warriors," the men and women who have missing limbs, brain damage and paralysis because of war injuries. I suspect that most of them are "sick and tired" of their situations to a degree that I can't begin to imagine. God bless them! 

I try to think of the many senior citizens, especially those who are alone and poor, living like prisoners in unsafe neighborhoods, without anyone to visit them and without basic health care. I suspect most of them are "sick and tired" of their situations to a degree that I can't imagine. God bless them! 

I try to think of the many trapped victims of spouse and child abuse who have nowhere to run and who are forced to live, day in and day out, in fear of their lives.! I suspect most of them are "sick and tired" of their situations to a degree that I can't imagine. God bless them! 

I try to think of the many children who are bullied every day of their lives, crying themselves to sleep with worry about how to navigate their next day! I think of the shame, fear and powerlessness they feel, often in silence. I suspect most of them are "sick and tired" of their situations to a degree that I can't imagine. God bless them! 

I try to think of those who are seriously addicted to drugs or alcohol and feel they have to sell their dignity in a host of ways just to keep going. The shame, pain and fear that most of them are drowning in is something they feel they can't shake.  I suspect most of them are "sick and tired" of their situations to a degree that I can't imagine. God bless them! 

I try to think of those unemployed families who live from hand to mouth every day, worrying where their next meal will come from, what they will do if one of the children gets sick or where they will live if they are evicted. I suspect most of them are "sick and tired" of their situations to a degree that I can't imagine. God bless them! 

I try to think of those battling health conditions like cancer, Parkinson and Alzheimer disease.  Many of them are terrified when they think of what's coming next for them. I suspect most of them are "sick and tired" of their situations to a degree that I can't imagine. God bless them! 

I try to think of my many friends and acquaintances down in the Caribbean missions who struggle with employment, food, education, travel and health issues. I suspect most of them are "sick and tired" of those situations to a degree that I can't imagine. God bless them! 



When all is said and done, I really have nothing to complain about!
I am still
SIMPLY AMAZED - FOREVER GRATEFUL

A recent sign of hope outside my door. 


Saturday, June 27, 2020

BEING MORE INTENTIONAL ABOUT VERY ORDINARY THINGS - TWELVE

This is the twelfth in a series of periodic reflections on the "ordinary things" that many people do on a regular basis without much thought. During this pandemic, I am developing a need to "rage, rage" against hast and laziness and replace it with care and attention. My hope is to become personally more intentional about doing ordinary things with care and focused attention, while inspiring others to maybe do the same.


I have written about living alone several times during this pandemic and how comfortable I am doing it. I hope I am not overstating my case.  Recently, I came across something I wrote a few years ago that I would like to share with you.


LIVING ALONE 
"Getting used to living alone is not the problem, it's giving it up once you do!"
Lady Rosamund
"Downtown Abbey" 


If there is any doubt that we’re living in the age of the individual, a look at the housing data confirms it. For millennia, people have huddled together, in caves, in mud huts, in cottages and condos. But these days, 1 in every 4 American households is occupied by someone living alone; in Manhattan, the number is nearly 1 in 2.

Eric Klinenberg recently published “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone,” which he calls “an incredible social experiment” that reveals “the human species is developing new ways to live.” 

True, the benefits of living alone are many: freedom to come and go as you please; the space and solitude to recharge in a social media world; complete control over the bed. In the seminary, we slept in single beds. As a priest, I have to have either a king or queen size bed, even though I usually use only one side!

Still, the single-occupant home can be a breeding ground for eccentricities. In a sense, living alone represents “the self let loose." In the absence of what Mr. Klinenberg calls “surveilling eyes,” the solo dweller is free to indulge his or her odder habits — what is sometimes referred to as Secret Single Behavior. Feel like standing naked in your kitchen at 2 a.m., eating peanut butter from the jar? Who’s to know? Personally, I have the habit of putting on clothes to go downstairs in the middle of the night, just in case I fall down the steps and people find my unclothed body a few weeks later!

A 28 year old schoolteacher calls it living without “social checks and balances.” The effects are noticeable, she said: “I’ve been living alone for six years, and I’ve gotten quirkier and quirkier.”

What emerges over time, for those who live alone, is an at-home self that is markedly different — in ways big and small — from the self they present to the world. We all have private selves, of course, but people who live alone spend a good deal more time exploring them. Personally, I have a two-floor condo. The upstairs, where people come in, is always clean and tidy. The downstairs, where I spend a lot more time, not so much!

I read about one man who said his living-alone indulgences center on his sleep cycle. A 40 year old record producer said he’ll go to bed at 2 a.m. one night, and then retire later and later by increments, “until I go to bed when the sun comes up.” These days, personally, I often stay up past midnight. I love to write late at night. Even after I go to bed, I sometimes get up and go downstairs to work on the computer about 2:00 am and then go back up around 3:00 am and go right back to sleep – so far without a problem.

A 70 year old woman who writes a blog on aging, timegoesby.net, has lived alone for all but 10 or so years of her adult life. She said she has adopted a classic living-alone habit: “I never, ever close the bathroom door.” Leaving it open “is one of those little habits that makes no difference most of the time,” she said. But when guests visit her two-bedroom apartment outside Portland, Ore., she added: “I have to make huge mental efforts to remind myself to close the door.

Like many, she also talks to herself — or, rather, to her cat. “I’ll try things out on him when I’m writing,” she said. “He’ll look at me like he’s actually listening. I wouldn’t discuss what I’m writing with my cat if someone were around.” I don’t have a cat, but I do ask myself questions, out loud, when no one is around!

Other people say their greatest eccentricities emerge in the kitchen. Eating can be a personal, even self-conscious act, and in the absence of a roommate or partner, unconventional approaches to food emerge.

“I very rarely have what you would call ‘meals,’ ” said Steve Zimmer, a computer programmer in his 40s who lives by himself in a Manhattan loft. Instead of adhering to regular meals or meal times, he said, he makes “six or seven” trips an hour to the refrigerator and subsists largely on cereal. As for me, I cannot go to sleep with knives on the counter in the kitchen. They have to be out of sight so that an intruder cannot find them so easily.

The founder of the Web site quirkyalone.net, is a kind of unofficial spokeswoman and lobbyist for singletons. She has had roommates in the past but now lives alone. She said that rather than cooking a big meal for one, an unappealing prospect, she fashions dinner out of “discrete objects”: “I’m often, like, here’s a sweet potato! Let me throw that in the oven with aluminum foil and eat it.” Personally, it’s not a problem for me to eat a piece of cake followed by a salad and popcorn, if I am still hungry!

One woman noted that the longer she lives alone, the less flexible she becomes — and the less considerate of others’ needs. “If I go on vacation with a group of friends, I feel a little overwhelmed,” she said. “I’ve got to share this room with other people? We have to organize showers?” Personally, I would rather stay home than share a room with someone on a vacation – even if it were a free vacation!

A computer programmer said he is also conscious of becoming too set in his ways, especially where sleeping is concerned. “I just do not sleep as well with someone else,” he said. “A lot of homes have double master bedrooms. I can really see the value of that.” Personally, I cannot imagine sleeping with someone else in the bed with me! No way!

My “single habits” are many. I clean my house before the cleaning lady comes every couple of months. I cannot go to sleep unless my car keys are next to my bed “in case of an emergency” during the night. I have to turn off the water and check the stove before I leave the house overnight. Before I go to sleep, I have been known to check the front door several times in a row “to be sure I locked it!”

It is aggravating sometimes to have to “do it all” when you live by yourself, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!







Thursday, June 25, 2020

FACIAL HAIR OVER TIME----------AN UPDATE


A LONG-STANDING PRACTICE

Ever since I grew my first beard during the summer of 1972, while on a backpacking trip to Taize in France, I have made it a practice to change my beard to celebrate significant milestones. Here is my updated short history of my facial hair during times of transition. 


This could be my First Communion picture?




Pre-beard on ordination day. 
May 16, 1970


Pre-bead and sideburns at 27 years old - a year and a half ordained. 
Saint Mildred Church - Somerset, Kentucky
September 21, 1971


In the summer of 1972 I grew my beard on a back-packing trip to Europe. The photo below was taken in Belgium during that first trip. When I came home, I did not show anyone in the parish until I walked down the isle for Sunday Mass. You could hear audible gasps. After Mass, I heard two old ladies talking about the beard. One of them came to my defense, saying, "Well, Saint Francis had a beard!" The other one, shot back, "Yes, but he isn't Saint Francis!" 



The photo below was taken in Monticello, Kentucky, at Saint Peter Church, @ 1977



The photo below was taken about the time I became Pastor of the Cathedral in 1983.


The photo above was taken @1990



To celebrate my 25th anniversary as a priest, in the photo below, I cut off part of my beard in 1995.


This was my beard during the years when I worked at Saint Meinrad Seminary. @2010. I was there between 2001 and 2015. 



In the photo above, I celebrated my retirement in 2015 by cutting off my beard altogether because it had turned white when I quit dyeing it. and because someone said I looked like Colonial Sanders. 



It's baaaaaaaaaaack! 
Five weeks into the pandemic. 
April 28, 2020, on my 76th birthday. 


Eight weeks into the pandemic and it's still growing!

Eleven weeks into the pandemic and still growing!


It could come to this in a year or two! If so, have me committed! 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

BEING MORE INTENTIONAL ABOUT ORDINARY THINGS - ELEVEN

This is the eleventh in a series of periodic reflections on the "ordinary things" that many people do on a regular basis without much thought. During this pandemic, I am developing a need to "rage, rage" against hast and laziness and replace it with care and attention. My hope is to become personally more intentional about doing ordinary things with care and focused attention, while inspiring others to maybe do the same. 

ON EMBRACING  "NEW REALITIES" 
                    

There’s a good chance the coronavirus will never go away completely. Even after a vaccine is discovered and deployed, the coronavirus will likely remain for decades to come, circulating among the world’s population. Experts call such diseases "endemic" — stubbornly resisting efforts to stamp them out. Think measles, HIV and chickenpox! 

With so much else uncertain, the persistence of the novel virus is one of the few things we can count on about the future. That doesn’t mean the situation will always be as dire. There are already four endemic coronaviruses that circulate continuously, causing the common cold. And many experts think this virus will become the fifth — its effects growing milder as immunity spreads and our bodies adapt to it over time.

“This virus is here to stay,” said Sarah Cobey, an epidemiologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago. “The question is, how do we live with it safely?” Americans have only started to wrap their heads around the idea, polls show.

One of the hardest things to wrap my head around is that the way I have been living my life has taken another turn and it is up to me whether I give up or get up! I learned a long time ago that you can be pitiful or you can be powerful, but not at the same time!

When I arrived at the Cathedral of the Assumption in 1983 to begin a time of great transition for me personally, not to mention the people I was called to lead. I had been given the task of "revitalizing" a dying congregation before it was too late. It had had a glorious past. The years of 1890 - 1910 were referred to as the "golden age." One of the questions I tried to answer for myself and get the congregation (what was left of it) was this, "Who said you only get one golden age?" I repeated it to myself and to them, over and over again until we believed it. Once we believed it, we ended up seeing it! We experienced a "second golden age."

When I left there after fourteen glorious years, the thing I had to fight most in my own mind was the belief that I only get one "golden age." In the years to follow, by embracing the future with hope and positive energy, rather than wallowing in what was over and done with, I worked toward experiencing a second personal "golden age." I developed a nationally well-known ongoing formation program for priests with a $2,000,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment. Besides running my newly created Institute for Priests and Presbyterates at Saint Meinrad Seminary, I traveled the United States, England, Ireland, Wales, Canada and the Caribbean as a motivational speaker on the subject. I did Parish Missions, served as a university campus minister and published several more books. In those fourteen years, I experienced my second personal "golden age," but I did not want to spend my remaining years boring people with stories about my past ministries.

When I retired, I thanked God for those two personal "golden ages," but I asked for a third "golden age" in my old age. I began implementing what I came to call the "Catholic Second Wind Guild," a retirment program for myself and other clergy and lay professionals who wished to volunteer in the Caribbean missions. After five years, this third "golden age" was materializing quite quickly.  Then, boom, came the COVID-19 pandemic, which has thrown a monkey wrench in many parts of my plans. I can't travel to the islands until who knows when! I have been "laid off" from the Cathedral until the pandemic passes. Invitations to speak at big gathering of priests are drying up. No one is scheduling Parish Missions. I can't even celebrate my 50th anniversary of priesthood. I feel like I knew who I was and where I was going four months ago, but now I don't know who I am or where I am going.

Even though I have been able to continue some of my Caribbean ministry and priest lectures by using "social distancing" and the internet, I know in my gut that going forward will not be something I get to decide, but it will be something revealed to me.  I know from experience that when I come to an unexpected fork in the road like this one, the game is not necessarily over. It just means that I am facing another "breakdown that will lead to yet another a breakthrough." I know, in my heart of hearts, that if I surrender to God's plan, and not clutch to my own,  things will be good. As I said earlier, it will probably not be something I get to decide. Rather, it will be something revealed to me! Therefore, I am trying to wait in joyful hope for God to reveal my fourth "golden age!" If it is half as good as the last three, I will be more than satisfied! I will again be "simply amazed and forever grateful!" 


A sign of hope outside my door today. 

Monday, June 22, 2020

A BIG DUCK FROM A LITTLE POND?

Recently, a friend visited my hometown of Rhodelia and sent me a couple of the photos below. They brought back many fond memories - some of those memories I have shared before on this blog. My hometown is so small that I believe you can actually see the Rhodelia signs at both ends of town at the same time. 

In my time, Rhodelia was very much like the setting for the Walton series on television. In my teenage years, I was a little embarrassed by my humble background. It was because I was a seminarian in the big city of Louisville and many of the city guys called people like me "hillbillies" and "hicks." When people asked me where I was from, I would simply say "Meade County." If they pressed the issue, I would say "near Brandenburg."

I remember one time, when I was about to address 1,000 Chicago priests, the Cardinal and 6 auxiliary bishops, I  found myself becoming terrified and feeling very insecure. As I walked up the steps of the platform to face the TV cameras and that huge audience, I remember whispering to myself, "They don't know I am from Rhodelia! They don't know I am from Rhodelia!" I have spoken to so many such groups that I now laugh at the thought of facing such an audience! I am not nervous, or insecure, at all! 

Today, even though not much of it is left, I am proud of my place of birth and my hometown until I reached fourteen when I left for the seminary. I certainly do not want to be buried up here in the city. I want to "go back home" and "be with my people." I want to "go home" to my beloved Rhodelia! 





I was born (April 28, 1944) in the house (above) with the dormer, in the back, on the right. Believe it or not, it had been the Rhodelia Hotel at one time. The building in front of it (Owensboro Wagons) had been torn off by the time I was born. Horse drawn wagons were on their way out by the time I was born. I do remember my grandfather using mules to pull logs out of the woods after trees were cut down. I also remember one older woman coming to town in a horse drawn buggy. Our old house was finally torn down a few years ago, about 60 years after we moved to a new house.  



I was delivered in that old house (above) by my grandmother on my dad's side. Her name was Lily Mills Knott.  She was a country midwife in the early 1900s.. In danger of death, she baptized me a few minutes after birth. I spent a lot of time with her when I was a child. She taught me a lot of things like planting and raising a garden and even churning butter.  Thankfully, she was able to attend my First Mass. 


Close to our house in Rhodelia, was the home of Ms. Georgia Vessels (above). There are three things I remember about this old house. 1. It served as a Post Office for a short time. The door where the two section are joined in the middle of the building was where you could pick up your mail. 2. My uncle Bob and aunt Mary Catherine lived in the right hand end of the house when they were first married. I might have been four or five when I was caught sneaking into the kitchen (far right) and stealing a muffin from the cabinet. 3. My only First Communion photo was taken in front of that house. I have no idea why, except that they might have been the only people in town with a camera at that time. The house is still standing, barely! The reason, I have been told, is that it has been designated a "historic landmark." Who knew? 

My only First Communion photo was taken in front of the old house above. I am standing  in front of the right hand corner where the large shrub can be seen today in the color photo above. Today, the porches and sidewalk stones are gone. 



I went to first and second grade (bottom four windows on the right) in the old Saint Theresa Academy building. Operated by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, it had been a boarding school, day school and an overflow home for Louisville orphans at one time. It was torn down when I was eight years old. 



Sister Mary Ancilla (second from the left, top row) taught me in the first and second grade in the old Academy building above. In this photo, the pastor (Father Johnson) and the Mother General of the Sisters of Charity (Mother Bertand) examine the plans for the new, four-classroom, school that was about to replace the old Academy building right before it was torn down.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

BEING MORE INTENTIONAL ABOUT VERY ORDINARY THINGS - TEN


This is the tenth in a series of periodic reflections on the "ordinary things" that many people do on a regular basis without much thought. During this pandemic, I am developing a need to "rage, rage" against hast and laziness and replace it with care and attention. My hope is to become personally more intentional about doing ordinary things with care and focused attention, while inspiring others to maybe do the same. 

AN IDENTITY CRISIS



Recently, I had dinner with a friend who I had not seen for a while. We used to meet regularly - maybe every five or six weeks - but because of the pandemic and "social distancing," it was our first time in ten or twelve weeks.

We don't usually talk about work or sports or entertainment, but oddly enough we talk about our personal growth or lack of it. It's sort of two-person introvert support group. 


Since we had not met for a while, I came prepared. To "prime the pump" on the discussion, I asked him two questions about how he was handling the pandemic. I asked him (1) what have you been most scared of personally and (2) what have you been most scared of professionally.

I won't share what his answers were, but I can share mine. (1) I told him that I was most afraid of getting sick myself. (2) I told him that I was most afraid of losing my identity.

FEAR OF GETTING SICK I try to be careful and follow the CDC guidelines, but I don't obsess about contracting the virus. However, I am very much aware that I am in the high risk age group. While I am pretty healthy for my age, at 76 anything could go wrong, at about anytime, without much notice. Because of all that, I catch myself wondering how I would handle hospitalization, if it came to that, especially if I had to be put on a respirator. I wonder whether I would even allow it if I were in a state where I could make that decision. I know I would ask some very serious questions. 

FEAR OF LOSING MY IDENTITY More than a fear of getting sick, I have found myself going through a mild "identity crisis." An "identity crisis" is a period of uncertainty and confusion in which a person's sense of identity becomes insecure, typically due to a change in their expected aims or role in society.

Yes, I have been "retired" for five years, but I have stayed busy doing quite a few of the things I love to do. I don't have a position or a title, but I have had "my work" and plenty of it. I was flying here and there, to Canada and around the United States mostly, doing priest retreats, convocations and parish missions. I was volunteering in the Caribbean missions and managing my new Catholic Second Wind Guild that supports it. I was helping out at the Cathedral downtown and the Little Sisters of the Poor nursing home down the street. Things were going so well! 

Because of this damnable pandemic, all that has basically come to a screeching halt! Maybe some of it will come back, but about the only thing left right now is this blog and a couple of graveside funerals, for which I am very grateful! I cannot fly to other dioceses to do presentations to priests. I can't fly down to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, taking volunteers with me, to meet with the people I have gotten to know and to work on our projects. I am not allowed to go into nursing homes. Masses at the Cathedral were cancelled. Even now, with a reduced schedule, I am not all that needed for a while.

I wake up these days feeling very aware that I have entered a period of uncertainty and confusion in which my sense of identity has become insecure, due to these unwanted changes in my planned schedules and the scaling down of my role in the church. I keep remembering what one of my nieces said to me the day after her husband died. "I knew who I was yesterday. Today, I don't know who I am!" These days, I am a workaholic with little to do. I am a priest without a ministry. Maybe this is what happens to parents when they experience the "empty nest" syndrome? 

I know I like to be in control of things, especially those things that affect me directly. I like to be responsible for my own happiness and do those things that bring me, and those around me, happiness. I like the freedom to choose what I do, when I do it and where I want to do it. I have worked very hard to get to this point in my life. Lately, I feel that I am slowly losing the identity I have worked so hard to build because so much is now out of my control.  

Maybe that's what's really bothering me! Maybe this pandemic is exposing the truth that there are more and more things not in my control. Maybe what I am learning during all this is how to "let go" of situations that I can't control and how to live constructively without that control. I have learned from the many seniors that I have known and loved over the years that "letting go" is a huge part of aging.

In the first part of our lives, it was all about learning how to take control of the situations we found ourselves in. Maybe the last part of our lives is about learning to let go of control of the situations we find ourselves in? So far, I don't like it, but maybe I can learn? Maybe I will have to learn! 

                                                         


Thursday, June 18, 2020

AN INSIGHTFUL AND TIMELY ARTICLE FROM A FELLOW CATHOLIC IN "THE RECORD"



JUNE 10, 2020

What are white Americans afraid of?

Lolita Ewing 


Lolita Ewing is a member of St. Martin de Porres Church and founder of Hands Across Louisville, a local organization that promotes unity and advocates for an end to gun violence in Louisville.


White America, why are you so afraid of African Americans?

Since all the protesting has been going on for the last two weeks, I have been asking myself, why are white Americans so afraid of African Americans? It has really been baffling me. No matter what harm white Americans bring to African Americans, it seems it is okay or can be justified.

This started 400 years ago, and in the whole scheme of things not much has changed. Just the personnel. Let’s go back some 400 years ago, when we, as African Americans, were at home on the continent of Africa minding our own business.

All of a sudden, we noticed some strangers in the back yard. We were curious to find out who these people were that didn’t look like us at all. So, we went to greet our visitors. Little did we know this was the beginning of a massive trap, as our greetings turned into capture.

We would be taken from our homeland to be put on a boat to travel, chained on our backs, for two to four months. About one-third of the slaves would not make it due to disease, lack of nourishment and closeness. The sick and dying would be thrown overboard. It could be as many as 200 to 600 people starting the journey.

The slaves that made it would be separated from their families and sold in an auction. They only wanted the strongest and the healthiest to work in the fields from sunup to sundown.

We were beaten miserably, stripped of our very existence, our names were changed, we were forced to learn a new language. We were put with other slaves who did not speak our language even though they looked like us. The nightmare was just beginning. They only wanted the brightest, healthiest, and the best workers.

So, all during slavery and up until now white Americans have gotten what they wanted. African Americans have been protesting since we stepped on the soil. There have been wars, civil unrest, demonstrations, walkouts. You name it, it has been done for African Americans to be treated equally and fairly all across the board. But it has never happened.

Yes some things have changed. A few laws were put into effect so that some could get a decent education. But it came with a price.We could move into what we thought would be a better neighborhood, but it came with a price.

Yes, what few accomplishments we have gained have all come with a price of racism: “We don’t want you living close to us. We don’t want you eating with us. We don’t want you to socialize with us.”

So, it was okay for us to nurse your children, be raped by the men and have your children, build your country, but you don’t want to have anything to do with us and you have the audacity to be fearful of us African Americans? Help me to make sense of this.

We didn’t come to this country voluntarily. We were stolen from our own country. We did everything you asked of us when we got here and that wasn’t enough. You separated us from our families and that was not enough. You put the fear of God in us and brutalized us severely. Yet you, white America, are still afraid of us 400 years later. Talk about holding on to a grudge.

What used to be subtle racism has become full-blown. Racism varies all over the country, but one thing remains the same: It is still there. It never left.

Now, you want to know what is the problem? You are afraid because you have a guilty conscience about what you did to two continents of people — the Native Americans that were already here when you got here and the people you stole to help you build a country to your suiting.

We have talked to you until we are blue in the face and you still aren’t listening. Leave us alone.

ALL African Americans are not criminals. Open your eyes to see who we really are and work on your own issues. Just because we don’t look or act like you does not mean we are problematic.