Friday, March 27, 2020




"Now, Ron, for God's sake get over yourself and wrap your mind and heart around all those people out there who are really suffering!"


1. `Use the phone or  internet to offer an encouraging word to people who are scared, living alone or overwhelmed with worry.  I am getting some very thoughtful phone calls, texts and e-mail messages. On Monday I got a call from a priest of the Diocese of Nelson in British Columbia (western Canada). I led their priest convocation at least three years ago. He called to tell me how much I had "influenced" the priests who had attended. I was amazed! He said he had been "quarantined" after a recent trip to Mexico City for a Diocesan Vocation Directors' Convention and was calling "everybody on my list." 

2. Make financial contributions to charities that are offering direct help to those who are "going without" with no relief in sight. I got a call from a man who had read my blog about my decision to donate any government check I received to a family in need. He and his wife were inspired to help me help one of those families. 

3. If your pantry or closet is too full with things you probably won't need, or haven't used for quite a while, donate them to social service agencies. 

4. Pray, yes, pray for those who "have it," those taking care of those who "have it" and those who supply the needed materials to those who take care of those who "have it." Pray for all those who provide "essential services" without the luxury of being able to stop. From my condo, I can see them: nursing home workers walking home down the sidewalk, bus drivers in our public transportation system and the large group of hard-working Mexican men and women replacing the roofs on our condo complex - to name a few. 

5. Use your imagination! Mother Paul of the Little Sisters of the Poor here in Louisville just told me today on the phone what some families of the elderly are doing to overcome the ban on in-person visits. They drive up to the Home, park near their loved one's window, roll down the window of the car and call them on the phone to talk! 

6. During this pandemic, there are actually more things you can do to help others than you realize. All you have to do is take your focus off yourself, plug into your creative side and really focus on the needs of others! 

My niece, Janet, is a health care worker. 
Thanks, Janet and all your co-workers!
We appreciate you and love you!
Keep up the great job! 

Thursday, March 26, 2020



I never imagined that so many of us would go this way! 
Thank you for your ministry, my brothers, go now in peace!

"The strife is over, the battle done! Now is the victor's triumph won!"  

Rome, Italy, Mar 23, 2020 CNA.- In the past week alone, more than 3,000 people have died in Italy after contracting the coronavirus. Among the dead, there have been at least 60 priests this month, according to local sources.

“I pray to the Holy Spirit to give us the gift of light and strength. Everyday I do the Via Crucis asking the Lord … to carry this cross with us,” Bishop Gianni Ambrosio of Piacenza-Bobbio said in an Italian interview.

Avvenire, the newspaper owned by the Italian bishops conference, published the names of 51 diocesan priests who died after contracting COVID-19, and noted that religious communities in Italy had also reported nine coronavirus related deaths.

The majority of the deceased were over the age of 70 years old, and some of these priests had underlying health conditions.

The youngest priest to die from COVID-19 in Italy was Fr. Paolo Camminati, who died in the hospital on March 21 at age 53.

Fr. Camminati was known for his dynamic youth ministry, service to the poor, work with Catholic Action, and passion for the mountains. He was the parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes in Diocese of Piacenza, where five other priests with COVID-19 have died.

Among the dead in Piacenza is Fr. Kidane Berhane, a Cistercian monk originally from Eritrea, who resided in the historic Chiaravalle Abbey in Lombardy, and 87-year-old twin brothers, Fr. Mario Boselli and Fr. Giovanni Boselli, who died within a day of each other.

“It is a tough trial. We are dismayed. We feel great suffering,” Bishop Ambrosio told Avvenire.

"It is a darkness that we must face, but with the hope that God never abandons us, that he himself has gone through all the suffering to overcome it,” the bishop added.

Other priests who have died of COVID-19 in Piacenza include Fr. Giuseppe Castelli, 85, and Fr. Giovanni Cordani, 83.

The Diocese of Bergamo has reported the deaths of 20 diocesan priests and two religious. Fr. Fausto Resmini, a former prison chaplain and minister to the homeless, died on March 23 at the age of 67. He had been treated in intensive care since March 5.

“In these days I am listening to the voices of many people, feeling pain for the loss of their loved ones,” Bishop Francesco Beschi of Bergamo said March 19.

In response to this suffering, the Diocese of Bergamo has opened a telephone service that offers free psychological and spiritual counseling and support.

Other Italian dioceses that have lost priests to coronavirus include Parma, Cremona, Milan, Lodi, Brescia, Casale Monferrato, Tortona, Trento, Bolzano, Salerno, Ariano Irpino, Nuoro, and Pesaro.

Italy has the highest coronavirus death toll in the world. The Italian Ministry of Health reported March 23 that 5,476 people have died. More than 59,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Italy since February.

The Bishop of Pinerolo has tested positive for COVID-19. Bishop Derio Olivero was hospitalized March 19 with breathing complications. He is 59 years old and remains in stable condition.

Bishop Antonio Napolioni of Cremona has recovered after being hospitalized for 10 days with severe respiratory symptoms after contracting COVID-19. He returned to his home March 16.

Four diocesan priests and one Passionist missionary, Fr. Edmondo Zagano, have died after contracting COVID-19 in the Diocese of Cremona.

“I experienced minute by minute the dramatic crescendo of problems in the situation and the workload on doctors, nurses and all the staff,” Bishop Napolioni recalled of his time in the hospital.

“It is an absurd Lent,” he said. “But in a certain sense perfect. Jesus is in the desert for forty days, fighting with the devil. Lent is not about the beauty of custom, but the profound mystery of the evil, death and despair that exist. But also of the Lord who is there. We must recognize His presence."


An Italian priest infected with coronavirus gave up a respirator his parishioners bought for him to a younger patient — and then died from the deadly virus, according to reports.

The Rev. Giuseppe Berardelli, 72, refused to take the respirator while in a hospital after finding out the other patient — who was a complete stranger — also needed it.

The main priest in the town of Casnigo died last week in Lovere hospital, the broadcaster said, citing hospital officials.

He was one of at least 60 priests who died in Italy this month  as the European nation was the epicenter of the deadly pandemic. 

“He is a ‘Martyr of Charity,'” New York Jesuit priest James Martin said. Martin — an author who edits the Jesuit journal America — said Berardelli was a “saint like St. Maximilian Kolbe, who in Auschwitz volunteered to take the place of a condemned man with a family, and was killed.”

 Pope Francis celebrates an Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction prayer service in front of an empty Saint Peter's Square. 

The first US priest victim of the caronavirus is believed to be
Father Jorge Ortiz Garay, a pastor in Brooklyn, New York, age 49. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020


“I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber.” 
Blaise Pascal

I am thinking about all the poor extroverts who are suffering from the "social distancing" required during  this caronavirus pandemic. 

I'm an introvert and yet I, too, am about to go "stir-crazy" here by myself in this condo! However, I am thankful to be an introvert because I would much rather go crazy alone than in a group! 



The last time I remember going "stir crazy" was. I think, the winter of 1977. I got snowed in for almost a month when I was pastor of Saint Peter's Church in Monticello, Kentucky. 

I was living in an apartment in the church basement that had no windows to look outside. The one small basement window had an air conditioner in it so it was like living in a tomb. You could hear nothing from outside. When you turned off the lights, you could see nothing on the inside.  It was like living in an underground concrete cemetery vault (like the poor man below).  I still get sentimental every year on Ground Hog Day! 
The roads were impassible. Services were cancelled in both counties. I had a TV, but it was during the days before cable TV. I think I was able to receive one station, maybe two, but very poorly with an outdoor antenna. 

At my most desperate stage, to pass the time, I taught myself to make German and Austrian pastries. Sometimes, I would spend the whole night baking and then sleep most of the next day. I remember making a very successful Austrian Nuss Torte. Instead of eating it by myself, to prove that I did make it, I took a picture of it and put it in the freezer so others could see it when the world thawed out again. I think I was trapped in that basement so long that my beautiful Austrian "nut cake" got "freezer burn" and had to be eventually thrown out. I still ask myself, after all these years, "Why, oh why, didn't you eat it?" Obviously, "cabin fever" drives people to make poor decisions!
a typical Austrian Nuss Torte



Monday, March 23, 2020

Sunday, March 22, 2020



Thanks to a suggestion from my friend, Gary Marvin, when I said that I would probably not be writing homilies until the pandemic is over and the churches are reopened, he said that I should offer "something" to those who cannot get out. I have decided to offer this "something" to my readers - some printed weekly homilies.

Crater Lake in Oregon

Gary's idea of offering "something" to my readers who "can't go to church," reminded me of something I did during the summer of 1968. As a third-year seminarian at Saint Meinrad, I decided to work that summer in Crater Lake National Park in Oregon for the United Church of Christ as a "campground minister" in their ecumenical program for seminary students. It offered me an opportunity to preach three times each weekend. Since the services were ecumenical and held outdoors in the campgrounds, I called them "Unchurch Services." In a file, I still have a couple of those weekly "Unchurch Service" bulletins from 1968. 


I will now offer you something from last week (Third Week of Lent) and something for today. (Fourth Week of Lent) from a little book I wrote two years ago for Lent.

For this, and all my books, click on MY BOOKSTORE link on the right of the homepage of my blog. 

In that little book, I talk about Jesus going to the desert, the mountain, the well, the doctor and the grave as places where we can interact with Jesus during Lent and be taught by him.  I hope these short reflections help somebody.

You can access all of the Sunday reading each week at the USCCB website under "Daily Readings." Just click on the day you want. 


(last Sunday)


Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst. 
John 4:14 

On the first Sunday of Lent, Jesus invited us to conversion of life by going to the desert. The desert is a place devoid of distractions, a place to gain insight. On the second Sunday of Lent, Jesus invited us to go up the mountain with him.  Mountains are places where you can go to gain perspective, to get the big picture. From a mountaintop you can see into the distance – where you’ve been and where you are headed. On the third Sunday of Lent, Jesus invites us to go to the well, a place one goes to quench one’s thirst.  

In many ways, people today are thirsty, restless and looking for meaning. The Prophet Haggai, about 520 years before Christ, described our culture quite well when he wrote, “You have sown much, but have brought in little; you have eaten, but have not been satisfied; you have drunk, but not been exhilarated; have clothed yourselves, but not been warmed; and you have earned wages for a bag with holes in it.” We “have it all” one hand and yet we are still not satisfied on the other. We are “cravers for more!” 

It has been suggested that our consumer culture has spawned a new climate of thirstiness and restlessness. The experts call it ‘churn,’ using the word to describe our short attention span and our ‘what’s next’ attitude. This restlessness is seen in a consuming lust for endless distractions and amusements. This restlessness is being fed, some believe, by the overstimulation and excessive exposure to violent movies, fast-paced videos, computers and cell-phones, loud hard-wired music and over-scheduling.  All these together exacerbate agitation, restlessness and hyperactivity.   

What the world seems to be craving right now is what Jesus called “rest for one’s soul.” He said on one occasion, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jesus offers “rest” to those who are “worn out” in their search for “meaning.”  

In this gospel, we meet a wonderful woman who is an example of all that!  Jesus meets this woman at a well. She is tired - tired to the bone. She is physically tired - tired of being thirsty and having to constantly draw water and carry it long distances. She lived a half mile away and the well was over 100 feet deep. She was emotionally tired - tired of trying to find satisfying relationships in her life. She had been “looking for love in all the wrong places,” as the country song goes. She had been married five times. She was tired of being discriminated against by others. Jews hated Samaritans like her and women in general were considered socially inferior. She was spiritually tired – tired of a burdensome religion that was not really satisfying. At the well, she meets Jesus and pours out her heart to him and he, in turn, gives her “living water” and “rest for her soul.” 

Fellow seekers, all of us are like this woman in some degree. We all have a void in our lives that we try to fill. Some of us strive frantically our whole lives to fill that void by gaining material things, gaining stature, gaining status, gaining fame, finding the perfect relationship and much more. The fact of the matter is we will never fill that void with “things or stuff” because that void was put there for a specific purpose. We have a built-in missing piece – given to us by God himself 

What is the purpose of that void? What is that missing piece? It is the place where God belongs! Only God can fill that hole. Saint Augustine of Hippo described it best when he said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you!” 
It’s as if we all running around with a hole in our souls that we are desperately trying to fill. The truth of the matter is that only God can fill it, and yet we try our best to fill it with unsatisfying distractions and amusements, objects and things. Lent is a time to stop by the “well” for “living waters” and find “rest” in God.     

The best meditation for this gospel could be Francis Thompson’s “The Hound of Heaven.” “I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind; and in the midst of tears I hid from Him…” 

I have always loved the words of Celie in the movie “The Color Purple.” Celie feels a hole in her life. She is more than a bit aggravated by the feeling of God’s absence in her life – what she refers to as God “just sitting up there glorifying in being deef.” She speaks for many people today when she says, “It ain’t easy trying to do without God. Even if you know he ain’t there trying to do without him is a strain.”   Those who experience the strain of trying to “do without God” will no doubt feel a hole in their souls, a hunger and thirst that nothing seems to satisfy. Lent is time to re-connect with God after ‘trying to do without him.”  
Jesus has taken us to the desert, to the mountain and to the well so that he might lead us to conversion of life, a life that is full and satisfying.  



If you were blind, that would not be a sin. But 
since you say you can see, when you are actually 
blind, you remain in your sin. 
JOHN 9:41 

So far, we have been to the desert, the mountain and the well. Next, Jesus invites us to admit that we are sick and invite us to go to the doctor for healing.  

Tyler Perry is a successful African-American playwright, actor and screenwriter. Perry attributes his success to what he calls “spiritual progress,” especially the “spiritual progress” that resulted in making peace with his own father.  One of his profound insights was around learning that “parents do what they know how.” He finally realized that he could not change his history with his father, but he could change the way he wanted to remember it! “My life changed,” he said, “once things changed in me!” 

I, too, had to learn how resentment can keep you stuck and how you can free yourself by going to the eye doctor and have them opened. The ability to see in a new way is like being let out of prison, having your chains cut, throwing off a heavy load. Like Tyler Perry, it was only when I chose to “see my past in a new way” that I was no longer a victim of it.  

We cannot do anything about our pasts, but we can choose whether we want to be victims of it. Once I began to understand that my Dad “did what he knew how,” I was able to move from anger to compassion. I thank God that I was able to bury all that resentment, even before I buried him! 

“Seeing in a new way” is exactly the conclusion Jesus came to in his search for clarity during his forty days in the desert.  Coming out of the desert, he began to preach “conversion.” “Metanoiete” means “change the way you see!” Change the way you look at things and heaven will open up to you.   Once things change in you, things around you will look very different.”  The devil tried to get Jesus to change things. Jesus resisted that temptation. Instead, Jesus called for an internal change within people, believing that if people would change inside, things outside them would also change. A new life begins with having your eyes opened!  

Today we have a wonderful story about a bunch of blind people: one who can’t see and others who won’t see. All of them need Jesus in order to be able to “see.” In this wonderful story, Jesus uses the occasion of healing physical blindness to tell us something about the healing of spiritual blindness. 

The man born blind, not only regains his physical sight, but step-by-step he begins to see Jesus in a new way. At first, he says he tells people he doesn’t know who this Jesus is who healed him. As the story unfolds, he calls Jesus a “prophet” and finally “Lord.”  

The Pharisees and his parents can see physically, but they are spiritually blind and refuse “to see in a new way.” The Pharisees are blinded by their own rigid religious structures. They can’t see the beauty of this great healing, a blind man getting his sight. All they can see is that this healing  took place on the Sabbath day and healing was illegal on the Sabbath day. The parents are blinded by their fear of being ostracized by neighbors, friends and organized religion if they admitted to this healing.  They conveniently choose not to know and not to see. “Ask him,” they say, “he is old enough to speak for himself.” Both Pharisees and parents are afraid of “seeing in a new way” because it would mean their cozy little routines would be disrupted. It was convenient for them not to see and so remain stuck in their chosen blindness.  

I am amazed when I talk to stuckpeople. I believe that most people who are stuck are basically people who are blinded by their inability to “see in a new way.” They whine and cry and wait to be rescued, but they cannot change their minds and look at their situations from a new angle. They can’t “let go” of their old way of thinking and seeing, and so remain stuck in their blindness. They are like the monkeys I read about several years ago. To catch these monkeys for the zoo, people would cut a hole in a tree, just small enough for a monkey to his hand into. Then they fill it with peanuts. When the monkey sticks his hand into the hole and grabs the peanuts, he cannot pull his hand back out. Instead of letting go of the peanuts, they howl and cry till someone comes and hauls them off to the zoo. All they had to do was to let go of the peanuts. People are a lot like that: they cannot let go of the way they see things and so remain trapped, whining and crying all the while.  

Some people simply cannot “let go” of the way they see things. They clutch at beliefs like: life ought to be fair, parents ought to be perfect, spouses should not let each other down, the church ought to be perfect, things ought to make sense and people ought to respect you, love you and meet your needs. And, of course, when life isn’t fair, when parents and churches aren’t perfect, when spouses let them down, when things don’t make sense and when people do not meet their needs, they fall apart and remain stuck in their belief that if they just don’t like it enough, it will go away. All they would have to do to free themselves is to “let go” of their old beliefs and “see things in a new way.”  

Jesus was right, “If you were physically blind, there is no sin in that, but when you choose to be blind, your sin remains, you keep your own suffering going.”  Tyler Perry is right, too, when he says, “My life changed once things changed in me.” 

What about you? What situations do you need to “look at” in a new way? What people do you need to “look at” in a new way? Is the way you have been “looking at” these situations and people still causing you pain? If so, ask God for healing! Ask God for a new set of eyes! Once things change in you, life will change for the better for you!  


(next Sunday's blog post)