Friday, February 14, 2020


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. 


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


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.  

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


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. 

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


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.