Sunday, February 23, 2020

WE ARE MORE POWERFUL THAN WE REALIZE



Do you not know that you are the temple of God
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 
I Corinthians 3:16 

Maybe you are old enough to remember the TV series, The Incredible Hulk, or maybe you have seen the 2008 superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character "The Hulk." The Incredible Hulk tells the story of how Dr. Bruce Banner accidently gets infected in an experiment, supposedly to make humans immune to gamma radiation. In actuality, it was a secret experiment to revive a World War II military bio-force project to build super-soldiers.   The experiment fails, transforming Banner into the monstrous Hulk. Every time he gets angry,  Banner turns green, bulks up quickly, breaking out of his shirts and into a monster muscleman, on a rampage to fight off all those who come after him.

Today Saint Paul reminds us of our own "hulkness." We are reminded of the incredible power of God within each one of us - a power that many of us do not even know about, a power that many of us are afraid to embrace. It is the power of God living and breathing within us as "temples of the Holy Spirit." 

The readings, especially after Easter, are sprinkled from beginning to end with the Greek word dunymis, from which we get our word dynamite. We translate dunymis as power. Over and over again, we read about cowardly disciples being turned into fearless ambassadors for Christ - preaching, healing and going up against worldly powers with nothing but their convictions - all under the power of the Spirit.

If you have been baptized and confirmed, you too are a "temple of the Holy Spirit," saturated with some of the power of God himself. God literally lives within you! Unlike the Incredible Hulk who was only powerful physically, you are filled with incredible power to become all that God has called you to be and with incredible power to help others be all that God has called them to be.

Many of us, who were baptized as children and confirmed as teenagers, either never understood the power we were given or have simply forgotten about it or have failed to use it. Instead of using the powerful force within us, we have, either by neglect or out of ignorance, become "feverish, selfish little clods of grievances and ailment complaining the world will not get together to make us happy." Instead of unleashing the power that is within us, for our good and the good of others, we look around to find someone to lean on, or be rescued by, because we feel them to be much more powerful than we are!

Others of us are like the stewards who were entrusted with talents by their master in the gospel. Out of fear, we buried our talents, too scared to use the power within us. We are the people who get to the end of our lives and realize that we have been cowards all along, blowing every opportunity given us to use the power we had - all because we were full of fear.

Marianne Williamson put it best when she said, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It's not just in some of us. It's in everyone."   I call the habit of saying "no" to opportunities to grow and change “committing personal and spiritual suicide!”

Others of us squander this power because we are lazy. Once we realize that we have God-given power within us, we know that we are required to use it so, out of laziness, we bury it even from our own eyes. If we can convince ourselves that we do not have such power, we are off the hook. We don't have to do anything with it. We are the people who go through life blaming others for our unhappiness and lack of personal development.  

Brothers and sisters! The whole point of Paul’s words to us today is to remind us that, because of our baptisms and conformations, you and I are very powerful. The problem is not whether we actually have this power, but whether we have the courage and faith to tap into it and use it.

Sadly, our power is often hidden from our own eyes. Throughout my childhood, I was taught that I was not only powerless, but worthless. I was told regularly that I was a total screw-up who would never amount to anything. Even the rector of the minor seminary said that I was "a ball and chain around his leg for six years” in front of my classmates.  Even after I was ordained, a woman at my first Mass reception told me that "with all that schooling, you could have been something."  The fact they told me that was not the problem, but the fact that, for many years, I believed them! With the help of God, I finally got in touch with the power of God within me. For that eye=opening grace, I am eternally grateful. Looking back, I am amazed at what I have been able to do with this power, once I discovered that it was there within me all along and realized that God wanted me to invest this gift.

One of the tactics of spouse abusers is to get the abused spouse to believe that she is powerless. The only way out of that abusive situation is for the abused one to discover the power within them and to stand up to the one who hopes to keep it hidden from them by his demeaning words and actions. The trip to accepting and using our power can be arduous, but it is well worth the risk.   

Brothers and sisters, as a “temple of the Holy Spirit,” you are powerful, powerful beyond measure! You may not feel it. You may not have realized it yet. You may try to deny it to yourself and to others. You may run from it out of fear. However, the fact remains that you are indeed powerful and that you have been given a share of God's power for some benefit. You are an ambassador for Christ. You are part of his body in the world! Face your power! Accept your power! Use your power!  To deny it, waste it or run from it out of fear is one of the biggest sins you can commit as a baptized and confirmed Christian!   



        

   











Thursday, February 20, 2020

MISSION TRIP THIRTEEN - March 14 - 21, 2020




Flag of the country Saint Vincent and the Grenadines


DURING MY NEXT ISLAND TRIP  
#13
I WILL PRESENT CHURCH LEADERSHIP STUDY DAYS




FAN INTO FLAME THE GIFT OF GOD THAT YOU HAVE

The Radical Conversion of Heart, Mind and Habits Needed Within the Leaders of the Diocese of Kingstown to Build Diocesan Structures for Strengthening Intentional Evangelization and More Effective Spiritual Leadership 

Father J. Ronald Knott
Doctor of Ministry in Parish Revitalization

             

      
“Do not neglect the gift you have. Be diligent in these matters, be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to everyone. Attend to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in both tasks, for by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”
I Timothy 4:14-16

"I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God that you have. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power and love and self-control."
II Timothy 1:6-7


I go at the invitation of Bishop Gerard County, C.S.Sp

PROPOSED SCHEDULE


PART I – Introduction
     1.Why am I here?
     2.What was my reluctance?

PART II – My Background – Who Is This Man Speaking to You?

PART III – The Vision – From Good to Great
                    Questions

PART IV – Start with the Tree

PART V – The Virtues of Leadership 
     1. The Virtue of Magnanimity: A Passionate Commitment to Personal Excellence 
     2. The Virtue of Humility: A Passionate Commitment to Vocational Excellence
     3. The Discipline of Translating a Dream into Reality

PART VI – Spiritual Leadership in General 

PART VII – A Passion for Pastoring: A Call Within a Call 

PART VIII – Preaching for Spiritual Leadership and Personal Sanctification 
     1. Claiming the Pulpit for Spiritual Leadership 
     2. Claiming the Pulpit for Personal Sanctification 

PART VIX – The Three Biggest Threats to Revitalization 
     (a) Lack of Imagination 
     (b) Downward Spiraling Talk 
     (c) Lack of Follow-Through

PART X – Some Practical Suggestions 
     (a) “Trust your camel first, then trust in Allah.” 
     (b) The Principle of Cause and Effect 
     (c) Some Examples of Cause and Effect 
     (d) Coordinator of Local and International Church Volunteers

CONCLUSION
QUESTIONS FOR JOINT SESSIONS







A New Hymn Written For the Occasion 




Participant's Note-Taking Binder and Reminder Cup



Sunday, February 16, 2020

CHOOSING WISELY

                           


       I have set before you life and death, the blessing
       and  the curse. Choose  life,  then, that  you  and
      your descendants may live, by  loving  the  Lord
      your God, heeding his voice and  holding fast to
                               him.                                
Deuteronomy 30: 19,20


Do you want what’s behind door number one, door number two or door number three? Do you want to keep the new kitchen appliances that you have already won or would you like to trade them for what’s behind the curtain on stage? Some of you may remember the still-running TV show, “Let’s Make a Deal.” 

Contestants in ridiculous costumes were offered choices between a bird in the hand for two in the bush, between what was certain and what was possible. Sometimes people would trade something like a plastic comb for a choice of doors. Sometimes they would end up with a Hawaiian vacation, a room full of furniture or a booby prize. 

The biggest winners were confronted with a second, more difficult choice. They were asked whether they wanted to trade their Hawaiian vacation for what was behind a curtain. They could win a shiny new car or they could end up with a live jackass.

The program was popular, I believe, because it was symbolic of the human predicament. We are constantly faced with a world of choices and sometimes those choices produce great blessings and sometimes they bring disasters. Sometimes we are better off because of our good choices and sometimes we are left to live in a hell of regret because of our bad choices, knowing that we brought ruin on ourselves because of those bad choices. 

I sat down two years ago and traced my own choices and how those choices have affected my life for good or bad. It is an autobiography of sorts that traces the choices I have made since I was six years old and how those choices have affected the way my life has turned out. I put it all in a book. It is entitled Between Courage and Cowardice: Choosing to Do Hard Things for Your Own Good. What I have learned from those reflections is that choosing to do hard things has more often than not brought blessings and growth to my life, while choosing the easy way has more often than not brought me pain and stagnation. 

In your first reading, the Israelites are about to enter the “promised land,” after an arduous trip across the Sinai desert. Before they start their exciting new lives in the land of plenty, Moses lectures them about the necessity of making good choices in a land filled with blessings. He reminds them that there are curses as well. Their happiness will depend, in a great measure, on what they choose. 

In many ways, you and I are still living in a “promised land, flowing with milk and honey.” In this land of freedom, we get to make choices. Our choices affect us, for good or for bad. We need that know that our freedom to choose, does not guarantee that we will make good choices. Making good choices requires, not just knowledge and freedom, but wisdom. We live in a world of unprecedented knowledge on one hand and unprecedented lack of wisdom on the other. The ability to choose from many choices does not guarantee that we will choose wisely. We live in a land full of smart people doing a whole lot of dumb things.  We know a lot of facts and we have been pumped full of information, but at the same time we live in a world knee-deep from the fall-out of people’s bad choices. The freedom to choose from a smorgasbord of choices does not guarantee that we will choose wisely.

My friends, it is important that you are not just smart, but wise. It is important that you choose wisely because your choices can bring blessing to you and those around you or they can bring ruin to you and those of us around you.

This brings me to another point. You were not created just for your own good. As Jesus says to his followers in the gospel reading last Sunday, “No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bushel basket or under a bed; he puts it on a lamp stand so that whoever comes in can see it,” and in another place, “You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Your light must shine.” We don't make choices in a vacuum. Our choices affect other people. 

I would like to end this short homily by quoting Nelson Mandela in his first inaugural speech. He was quoting Marianne Williamson. I can think of nothing better to leave you with than these challenging words.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel secure around you. You were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us. It’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.


My friends, make good choices and let your light shine - for your own good and the good of the world in which you will live, work and raise your children, the world the rest of us have to live in as well! 

We hear a lot these days about our freedom to choose. However, that freedom does not guarantee that we will make good choices. We are all suffering from a "failure of wisdom" that is being caused by a lot of smart people making some very stupid choices.  Think before you decide because the easy thing to do is seldom the best thing to do! 





























Friday, February 14, 2020

HAPPY SAINT VALENTINE'S DAY




There are numerous martyrdom stories associated with various Valentines connected to February 14, including a written account of Saint Valentine of Rome's imprisonment for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, Saint Valentine restored sight to the blind daughter of his judge, and he wrote her a letter signed "Your Valentine" as a farewell before his execution. The Feast of Saint Valentine was established by Pope Gelasius I in AD 496 to be celebrated on February 14 in honour of the Christian martyr, Saint Valentine of Rome, who died on that date in AD 269.



The day first became associated with romantic love within the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it grew into an occasion in which couples expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as "valentines"). Valentine's Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards. 



CUPID BECAME ASSOCIATED WITH THIS FEAST


The mention of Cupid typically conjures up images of a cherubic winged infant wielding a bow and arrow, but this wasn’t always the case. Long before the Romans adopted and renamed him, Cupid was known to the Greeks as Eros, the god of love.



Armed with a bow and a quiver filled with both golden arrows to arouse desire and leaden arrows to ignite aversion, Eros struck at the hearts of gods and mortals and played with their emotions. In one story from ancient Greek mythology, which was later retold by Roman authors, Cupid (Eros) shot a golden arrow at Apollo, who fell madly in love with the nymph Daphne, but then launched a leaden arrow at Daphne so she would be repulsed by him. In another allegory, Cupid’s mother, Venus (Aphrodite), became so jealous of the beautiful mortal Psyche that she told her son to induce Psyche to fall in love with a monster. Instead, Cupid became so enamored with Psyche that he married her—with the condition that she could never see his face. Eventually, Psyche’s curiosity got the better of her and she stole a glance, causing Cupid to flee in anger. After roaming the known world in search of her lover, Psyche was eventually reunited with Cupid and granted the gift of immortality.



In the poetry of the Archaic period, Eros was represented as a handsome immortal who was irresistible to both man and gods. But by the Hellenistic period, he was increasingly portrayed as a playful, mischievous child. It is this chubby love-inducing putto that has persisted over time and has become our ubiquitous Valentine’s Day mascot.








Thursday, February 13, 2020

A CATHOLIC SECOND WIND GUILD GATHERING

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Volunteer Dinner

On Sunday night, February 8,  I hosted a reunion of the volunteers who went down to the SVG Missions last summer. 

I gave them a report on the health status of fellow volunteer, Fergal Redmond (who is back in Ireland recuperating), as well as on the progress of various ministry projects in the islands.  I reported on the 16 boxes of supplies shipped just recently. 

I will be going down myself for the 13th time in mid March to lead a diocesan-wide workshop on "revitalization." When I get back, hopefully we can complete plans for their return mission trip this coming summer. 

One of the major developments, and one that could pave the way for more volunteers going down, is the hiring of a Coordinator of  Local and  International Volunteers. This person would be my local contact person down there who could assist in the recruitment and care of local and international volunteers, as well as the planning of the projects in which they will be involved. I have someone down there looking for suitable candidates for this job so that I can interview them while I am down there in March. This coordinator could definitely help propel the Catholic Second Wind Guild into its next growth phase.  




LEFT TO RIGHT
Karen Crook, Susan Sherman, Dr. Paul Sherman, Tim Tomes, Beth Kolodey and Bill Kolodey (husband of volunteer Beth Kolodey our kids computer teacher who helps us from here). 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

YOU FIND WHAT YOU LOOK FOR



My fifteen year column in THE RECORD, called "An Encouraging Word," was written with these sentiments in mind. I decided that, in my column, I wanted to look for goodness to affirm, not evil to condemn. 



by
Kimber Simpkins


Have you ever noticed how as human beings, we tend to go negative?

Looking out into the world, we see the crumpled fast food bag in the street and the torn curtain in the window.


Looking into the mirror, we see the pores and dark circles under our eyes. We see the freckles and miss the dimple, or we hate the dimple and miss the smile.


Our eyes focus in on what’s wrong.


I’ve noticed it’s hard to undo this tendency in myself, though sometimes the veil drops suddenly, and I can see the beauty of the world around me.


Many years ago, a friend and I made a three-day visit to the Polish city where we were to live for a year while we taught English.


Arriving on the train, I was struck by the torn metal siding in the station and the crumbling rust of the ancient stair railings; as we walked along the sidewalk, how the entire city seemed one blocky stamped-out Soviet-era apartment building after the next.


Neither of us spoke, but I felt sure my roommate’s thoughts mirrored my own: This was where we were going to live? This worn foot sole of a town was going to be our home for a year?


Just as my mind headed in the direction of I don’t think I can live here, a tiny bird flew down a foot or so in front of my shoes, hopping a few inches here and there to nibble the tops of a tuft of grass poking out of the broken concrete.


I let my suitcase bump to a stop and watched. The bright saturated green of the grass, the pale orange stripe on the bird’s beak, the angle of sunlight against the cracked sidewalk… it was beautiful. And at that moment my heart gave a hopeful thump. There was beauty here, too. I only needed to look for it.


As humans, we have a built-in bias to see what’s not working, what needs fixing, what doesn’t measure up. In general, it’s not bad to see the negative… we avoid falling into pits by looking out for potholes. But seeing only the negative results in what I call “paper towel tube vision.”


When you look through the empty cardboard paper towel tube, you only see whatever shows through the little circle at the end of it, and nothing else. This is what we’re seeing when we see only the flaws on our cheeks and only the crumpled coffee cups on the curbs of life. We see whatever appears in that little circle and lose all perspective.


Seeing the good doesn’t mean we don’t see the bad, too. It means we throw away the paper towel tube and let our eyes take in what we don’t like and invite ourselves to see what’s good there, too. We let ourselves see it all, the big panoramic view that acknowledges that we are more than any mistake or flaw or misdeed.


Imagine letting your mind unfold like a vast, exquisite map laid out on a table. Seeing the bigger picture can be an awesome way to see yourself with more love.


Make a habit of looking for the good. Catch yourself looking at the world—or at yourself—with a narrow, negative view. Then step back mentally and spread out your awareness.


See with the eyes of your heart. Look for something that’s working, something sweet, something lovely, something that opens you up.


Look for the good in people, even people you wouldn’t want to sit over dinner with.


Look for the good in the mirror.


Let looking for the good become a new default for you, and give yourself credit when you’re able to hold whatever’s happening with that big perspective and big heart.



Sunday, February 9, 2020

SALT AND LIGHT



You  are  the salt of  the earth. You are the light of the world
 Matthew 5

You are salt! You are light! The celebration of baptism is one of the most beautiful, and least understood, ceremonies of the church. Some of the time, young couples, under pressure from their parents, are more eager to “get it done” than to understand its meaning.  That’s too bad because baptism has some very powerful, if not always understood, symbols.

The main symbol, is of course, water – plain old water. Water is a powerful symbol because it both gives life and kills.  (1) Water gives life. Ask any farmer. Baptism is first of all an adoption ceremony. In baptism God adopts us as his own children. The pouring of water symbolically seals the adoption deal, like the signing a contract or a shake of the hand. (2) Water also kills. Ask any sunami suvivor. The pouring of water symbolically kills sin.  So the water of baptism both gives life and kills. That is why the baptism fountain has been called a “womb” (new life) and a “tomb” (death).

              You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.

Historically, the church had two more important baptismal symbols taken from this gospel: salt and light, the symbolic giving of salt and the symbolic giving of a candle.  In the baptismal ritual, right after the water is poured over the head of the baby, the priest can put a few grains of salt into the baby’s mouth with a prayer that he or she would grow up to add some “seasoning” to the world, to make a difference in the world. The priest hands the parents and godparents a lit candle, a candle that got its light from that big Easter candle that represents Christ. So in baptism, we all get a small share of Christ’s light to take into a dark world.

              You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.

Most people, even people who have been through this baptism ceremony, think that their job as a Christian is to “be good” and don’t screw up too badly so that you can get to “go to heaven.” Yes, God adopts us as his own child, with all the rights and privileges of an heir, but we are adopted as “ambassadors” so that we can go out and take  Christ’s “salt” and “light” to the world.  That’s why Jesus makes the point in today’s gospel that a lamp is not lit to be put somewhere out of sight, like under a bed or a basket, it is lit so as to give light to all in the house. “Just so,” he says “your light must shine before others,” not to draw attention to yourself, but to God. Your good deeds are meant to point people, not to yourself, but to God. We not here to simply save our own hide, but to help other people save theirs! We save our own hide, through helping others save theirs.

This is especially true of married couples and priests. The Catechism says that two of the sacraments are geared toward the salvation of others –they are sacraments of service -  marriage and ordination.  Contrary to all that has been pumped into you by TV and film, people do not get married for their own good, but for the good of their spouses and children. That, my dear friends, is the difference between a civil wedding ceremony and the Sacrament of Marriage. A wedding is all about what you can do for me. The sacrament is all about what I can do for you. (By the way, forget that 50-50 stuff that is so popular. That came from Hollywood and they have proven in spades that it doesn’t work.) Jesus says love is about giving 100%, no matter what you get back.)  Marriage is not only about offering service,  it is permanent. It is for better or worse, rich or poor, sick or healthy until death!

Likewise, I wasn’t ordained for my own good, but for your good.  As a diocesan priest, I have been called from the laity, to live among the laity, so as to serve the laity. My priesthood has no meaning without my relationship to you.  If my priesthood is not about giving service, then I am a fraud. Like marriage, it is not only about offering service, it is also permanent. Like you married people, I am a priest “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do I part.”

At our baptisms, we accepted our commission to be “salt” and “light” to the world – we were called to make a difference in the world.  Your marriage and my ordination merely adds more intense ways to serve to that basic commission we all got at baptism:  to be “salt” and “light.”

You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.

Lent is coming up in two weeks. Lent is about calling ourselves back to the basics of our faith – being salt and light to our families and friends, to those in our professional world, to our neighborhoods and communities and even to our enemies.
                     
You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.

Lent is a time to remind ourselves to look beyond the ends of our own noses, to look out of our own little worlds to the bigger world and to take our focus off our own needs and wants and focus on the needs of others. Lent is not so much about “giving up” stuff as it is about “remembering again” to be “salt and light” for the good of others.   
   

Friday, February 7, 2020

SECOND REMINDER - SAVE THE DATES


COME AND CELEBRATE OUR FIFTY YEARS TOGETHER
Fifty Years of Priesthood Anniversary


Cathedral of the Assumption
Louisville, Kentucky 
May 17, 2020
9:30 am Mass and Reception

or

Saint Theresa Church
Rhodelia, Kentucky 
May 24, 2020
10:30 am Mass and Reception





 

Ordained May 16, 1970
First Mass May 17, 1970 







Tuesday, February 4, 2020

IT'S NOT TOO EARLY TO CONSIDER SPONSORING EASTER BASKETS

.....FOR THE KIDS OF UNION, BEQUIA, CANOUAN AND MAYREAU ISLANDS


The Four Small Island Mission Parishes of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines


96 BASKETS NEEDED X $10.00 EACH


We will fill 96 Dollar Tree Easter baskets with "on sale" items and ship them down by air in time for Easter.






This year, each of the Dollar Tree baskets will have some artificial grass, a small plush rabbit,  jelly-belly beans, peeps, taffy, tootsie roll pops, some small school supplies, a bouncy ball and a small golden egg with coins. 



Easter Sunday 2019 - the Canouan Island Parish
(notice the THANK YOU FATHER RON sign in back row) 


Easter Sunday 2019 - the Mayreau Island Parish




Easter Sunday 2019 - the Union Island Parish 
(notice the THANK YOU FATHER RON banner in the front row) 




make your tax deductible check payable to:

Saint Bartholomew Church - SVG Mission Fund 

and send to me: 

Rev. Ronald Knott
1271 Parkway Gardens Court
#106
Louisville, KY 40207

Sunday, February 2, 2020

THE POWER OF PREDICTIONS




The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him.
Luke 2:22-40



With more poor schizophrenics left to roam the streets and more and more self-absorbed people with those "cell phone earpieces" dangling from their lobes, it seems to me that I am hearing more and more people talking, louder and louder, to thin air! While I'm at it, would someone please tell me what drives people who feel a need to share their obnoxious car music with whole neighborhoods, their intimate phone conversations with everybody in the grocery store and every thought that crosses their minds in a text message? I am willing to pay good money to the first company that comes up with a "portable jamming device" that I can carry discretely on my belt to protect myself from their total lack of civility!  

I am not against one talking to oneself - in private! I must confess that I am always talking to myself, but hopefully I do it in my own mind or behind the closed doors of my home!  If not, please, somebody go get me some help!

In  the gospel today, Jesus is brought to the Temple, by Mary and Joseph, for his Jewish circumcision and to be consecrated to the Lord. While they were there, they ran into two old people, Simeon and Anna, who speak up and make predictions about the future of the baby Jesus for everyone to hear. 

Predictions, those made about us, and those we make about ourselves, are very powerful. In Egypt, a new ruler was given five names, each of which described a virtue expected of him. In the Isaiah reading at Christmas, we see that the future king of God’s people would bear four names: Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-forever, Prince of Peace. 

We tend to believe what is said about us, and said to us! We tend to rise to meet the high expectations or sink to meet the low expectations voiced about us! If people say we are smart, we tend to act as if we are smart! If people say we are losers, we tend to act like losers.

Growing up, I was not aware of what the therapeutic community knows today - how damaging or helpful comments from others can be to our self-worth. Children tend to believe negative and positive assessments of themselves from teachers and parents, developing a compromised self-concept when criticized on a regular basis or an enhanced self-concept when praised on a regular basis. As I mentioned last week at the noon Mass homily, I was barraged, growing up, with powerful negative messages and predictions – things like “You will never amount to a hill of beans!” Even when I left for the seminary, most of the adults around me told me I would never make it!

It wasn't till I got older that I understood that I had joined them in criticizing myself.  I can remember making the decision to stop my own self-defeating self-talk and start replacing it with positive and encouraging self-talk. It has been a long hard road because they say positive-to-negative comments need to be at least five to one for success in overcoming the damage.  

Following the advice of Henry Ford who said, "Those who think they can, and those who think they can't, are both right," I have been able to talk myself into doing things I never thought possible. When I was your pastor here between 1983 and 1997, I actually woke up every morning listening to a home-made tape I made in my own voice with positive affirmations. I actually had to daily talk myself into being the pastor I became! Another of the many things on that tape that have come true is this affirmation. "I am a published spiritual writer."  I listened to that affirmation for several years before an editor for Crossroads Press in New York showed up here and talked me into sending them my first manuscript. Listening to that prediction every day was indeed powerful. I now have thirty-two books in print. 

I still have a long way to go. I still say things to myself like "I am not good at figuring out electronics," but if I stop, take my time and tell myself, "You can do it," I usually can!  Negative self-talk increases my stress and it stops me from searching for solutions.        

I have fought negative talk throughout my priesthood - both in myself and others. In almost every assignment I have had, some priest has told me how impossible the situation was going to be! I found that the parishioners, in almost every one of those  assignments, believed it themselves. I was even told by the pastor before me, when I came here in 1983, "Don't get your hopes up! Nothing can be done with the Cathedral. There aren't any Catholics living downtown anymore!" My job. from the pulpit, was to get the members of all those parishes to change the way they thought about themselves and magic happened in every situation. I remember asking you, over and over again, "Who said the Cathedral only gets one "golden age" - that last one over a hundred years ago? I’m here to talk you into another “golden age!” I have spent years practicing and teaching the power of positive self-talk!

As I approached retirement, I was trying to say positive things to myself in an attempt to get myself to believe that indeed “the best is yet to come.” I believe that life, at all stages, is basically a self-fulfilling prophecy. I can, if I believe I can! I can’t if I believe I can’t! So far, retirement has been amazing, especially when I added the Caribbean missions to my list of ministries.  

Fellow Catholics! What others say to you and about you is powerful, but you need not be a victim if it is negative. You can choose what to believe about yourself and you can override negative messages by positive self-talk!    As W. C. Fields said, “It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to!” Buddha said, “We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think about.”

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him.
Luke 2:22-40




















Thursday, January 30, 2020

MORE PRAYERS PLEASE!

FERGAL REDMOND


Many of you know my fellow volunteer down in the island missions, Fergal Redmond, of Galway Ireland. 

He has been stuck back in Ireland and unable to return to Saint Vincent on schedule because of lung and heart issues. 

On January 27, he was finally admitted to surgery to have three stints put into the arteries leading into his heart. The surgery was a success. Now he is trying to deal with his breathing issues.

Please continue to keep him in your prayers. He is a very good friend and a most valuable partner in the missions. We both started about the same time. He has been a full-time volunteer and my most valuable contact down in St. Vincent and the Granadines. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

FOCUS ON ANOTHER MISSIONARY PARTNER


Dr. Paul Kelty

One of my longest serving "island missionary partners" is retired Dr. Paul Kelty of New Albany, Indiana. He not only generously helps with some of our projects, he is a personal sounding board. He was a great  help to me when I hosted Fergal Redmond, a fellow volunteer from Ireland, when he visited here last year. 

Our friendship goes way back to the days when I was pastor of the Cathedral of the Assumption (1983-1997). He is a true friend who is generous with his time, talent and treasure. There is nothing he will not try to do to be of help. He is part of a group of several friends who make my volunteer work in the Caribbean islands, Catholic Second Wind Guild, possible. 
Thanks, Paul! God bless you! 

Sunday, January 26, 2020

PICKING LOSERS AND MAKING THEM WINNERS




       They immediately abandoned their nets and became his followers.             Matthew 4:12-23


I don’t think I am mentally ill yet, but for most of my life I have not felt “good enough.” I fell a lot better about it now, but as a child, I was told I was “too skinny,” my ears were “too big.”  I was told regularly that I would “never amount to a hill of beans.” When I came up here to Louisville to go to high school seminary, I was told by my city-born classmates that I was “too country.” As I have mentioned several times before, even the rector of the minor seminary called me a “hopeless case.” These kinds of things cut deeply as a child and usually stay with you throughout your life especially when you were a bashful kid to begin with.

In the seminary, they are always talking about the “ideal” seminarian and “ideal” priest. The saints are held up to us as models, in a sort of “why can’t you be more like them” kind of way. We were regularly quoted the Scripture passage: “Be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We were constantly examining our consciences and being monitored for less-than-perfect behavior. As a seminarian, all this always left me feeling not quite “holy enough” and not quite “good enough.”

I have made some progress, especially in the last half of my life, but even as a priest, even today, I often find myself not feeling “good enough.” It is not uncommon for me to catch myself lecturing myself: “you ought to be more religious, you ought to be more patient, you ought to know more, you ought to be thinner, you ought to exercise more, you ought to pray more,” on and on and on and on!

I used to think I was just one of a few people who struggled with feelings of worth, but I have learned that there are many of us, more than I ever imagined. Like I used to do, I have learned that most people suffer in silence, holding it in and trying to hide it. I tell my story, not to get sympathy or pity, but to help others. I found out that, when I broke the silence and talked about my feelings of not feeling good enough, it actually helped others. In fact, every time I talk about it, it seems that someone is helped.  

Oddly enough, it was not formal counseling that helped me break through that crippling negative self-image, but especially from studying the radically simple message of the parables that Jesus told. One day, as if scales fell from my eyes, I began to “get” what Jesus was talking about. 

“You are created in the image and likeness of God.” “It was not you who chose me, it is I who chose you.” “This man welcomes sinners and even eats with them.” “The good and the bad, alike, are welcomed to the weddings feast.” “God loves the lost sheep and the prodigal son.” “Everybody receives a full day’s pay.” “God chooses the weak and makes them strong in bearing witness to him.”

Nothing brings my point home better than the call of the first apostles. Today we hear about four, but as you scan down list of all of Jesus’ recruits, you will surely see a motley crew: a liar, a traitor, an agnostic, two middle eastern terrorists and a couple of “mama babies,” to name a few.  Sounds pretty much like your average ordination class in most dioceses!

Fellow disciples! Fellow Catholics! The calling of the apostles should give us all hope. “God chooses the weak and makes them strong in bearing witness to him.”  They were not saints to begin with, far from it, but God chose them, they responded in faith and he gradually turned them into saints. When Isaiah was called, he tried to beg off. He told God that he had a foul mouth, a mouth not good enough to speak God’s word. No problem! God sent an angel down with a hot coal to clean out his mouth. Jeremiah tries to beg off saying that he wasn’t good enough. He told God he was too young and had no public speaking ability. That didn’t stop God from picking him anyway!

The same can be true for us. No matter how badly we may feel about ourselves, no matter how badly others may think of us, when God calls us to do something, and we are open to him, he can give us all we need to do the job, whether it is to parent, teach, build a successful marriage, start a career, whatever, it is. The secret is to “let God get a hold of you” and “transform you” into what he wants you to be. 

Even though I know that the validity of Jesus’ message does not depend on the goodness of his messengers, there are many days where I do not feel good enough to do what I do. I have always taken great comfort in the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “If God can work through me, God can work through anyone.”