Saturday, May 9, 2020



She would be 103 this coming September. We had a 
post-mortem birthday party in her honor on her 100th birthday. 

Here she is at my First Mass on May 17, 1970, six years before she died of breast cancer at age 58. 


In the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of the Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville, there are two angels, one on each side of the tabernacle. 
They were originally on the old high altar. In the 1970s renovation, they were taken out. One was found in the basement and the other was outside  in the garden between the rectory and the church. There was some damage. 
My four sisters (Brenda, Lois, Nancy and Kaye), two brothers  (Gary and Mark) and I paid for having them repaired and re-installed in the present renovation in honor of our parents, Ethel and James.  
I affectionately call the angels,  "Ethel and Jim."  Above is a photo of "Ethel," a selfless "angel" during her life here on earth. 


As a simple country housewife, my mother would have been blown away to have known that there would be a public monument in her honor with her name on a bronze plaque. I only wish I could have afforded it when she was alive. 


"Wind Beneath My Wings"
(from "Beaches" soundtrack)

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh.
It must have been cold there in my shadow,
to never have sunlight on your face.
You were content to let me shine, that's your way.
You always walked a step behind.

So I was the one with all the glory,
while you were the one with all the strength.
A beautiful face without a name for so long.
A beautiful smile to hide the pain.

Did you ever know that you're my hero,
and everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
'cause you are the wind beneath my wings.

It might have appeared to go unnoticed,
but I've got it all here in my heart.
I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it.
I would be nothing without you.

Did you ever know that you're my hero?
You're everything I wish I could be.
I could fly higher than an eagle,
'cause you are the wind beneath my wings.

Did I ever tell you you're my hero?
You're everything, everything I wish I could be.
Oh, and I, I could fly higher than an eagle,
'cause you are the wind beneath my wings,
'cause you are the wind beneath my wings.

Oh, the wind beneath my wings.
You, you, you, you are the wind beneath my wings.
Fly, fly, fly away. You let me fly so high.
Oh, you, you, you, the wind beneath my wings.
Oh, you, you, you, the wind beneath my wings.

Fly, fly, fly high against the sky,
so high I almost touch the sky.
Thank you, thank you,
thank God for you, the wind beneath my wings.




I so look forward to the days when it's safe to travel again. I have over 500,000 frequent flyer miles on American Airlines, not to mention quite a few on United Airlines and Delta Airlines - mostly the result of leading so many priest convocations and trips to the Caribbean missions. I have led over 150 priest convocations in 10 countries and made 12 trips to the Caribbean missions since 2001. 

I really don't need a "vacation." As far as travel, I mostly look forward to seeing the people I know down in Saint Vincent.  Missing my last trip down there was one of the biggest disappointments I have had in a long time.  Besides a few more trips to the Caribbean missions, I am thinking about maybe one more trip to Europe to visit my friends in Germany and Belgium before hanging up my passport. 

As my mind wondered whether travel (like I have known it in the past) is a thing of the past, I decided to list the places I have been. I thought it might make me feel fortunate even if I never get to go any place else. I simply cannot complain. 

United States (all 50 states, except Vermont)
Canada (7 of the 10 Provinces)
The Netherlands
Puerto Rico
Saint Maarten 
Trinidad and Tobago
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Saint Lucia
Vatican City



I realize that I have been lucky to have been to so many places over the years, but I hope this is not the end of the road. I hope I can do a little more than merely reminisce about past adventures! If not, I will certainly be grateful and try not to complain. We'll see how this shakes out, but in the meantime, it doesn't hurt to dream a little bit more, does it? 

Thursday, May 7, 2020



                                  photo from the Saint Meinrad ON THE HILL newsletter Sping 2020

Father Christian Raab, a monk of Saint Meinrad, leads a pilgrimage to Monte Cassino Shrine to pray for those affected by the caronavirus on March 13, 2020. Seminarians made a similar pilgrimage in 1871 when small pox threatened the community. 
The present shrine was built later in thanksgiving for the community being spared. 

My friend, Jim Patterson II, and I worked on the restoration of the shrine in 2017. It was re-dedicated on October 1, 2017.  He sponsored the chapel itself (above) in honor of his mother. I sponsored the prayer garden on the right of the chapel (below) in honor of my mother. 


Jesus Christ, you traveled through towns and villages “curing every disease and illness.” At your command, the sick were made well. Come to our aid now, in the midst of the global spread of the coronavirus, that we may experience your healing love.

Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care.

Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbors from helping one another.

Heal us from our pride, which can make us claim invulnerability to a disease that knows no borders.

Jesus Christ, healer of all, stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow.

Be with those who have died from the virus. May they be at rest with you in your eternal peace.

Be with the families of those who are sick or have died. As they worry and grieve, defend them from illness and despair. May they know your peace.

Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected and who put themselves at risk in the process. May they know your protection and peace.

Be with the leaders of all nations. Give them the foresight to act with charity and true concern for the well-being of the people they are meant to serve. Give them the wisdom to invest in long-term solutions that will help prepare for or prevent future outbreaks. May they know your peace, as they work together to achieve it on earth.

Whether we are home or abroad, surrounded by many people suffering from this illness or only a few, Jesus Christ, stay with us as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare. In place of our anxiety, give us your peace.

Jesus Christ, heal us.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020



I borrowed this word from St. Paul as a name for my little publishing company. 

Timothy, fellow missionary of Paul, was a young man who faced his own crisis at the beginning of his ministry and offers us a model of fidelity in spite of crushing disappointment. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul writes to a young man who wants to give up and come home. Paul reminds Timothy that the Spirit gives us three things, during times like this, to continue their work: dunymis, agape and sophronismos - strength, practical help and the ability to control oneself in the face of panic.

Every Catholic, if he or she is to survive and thrive in today’s world, must find that peaceful center, that inmost calm that no storm can shake, that anxiety free place where one waits in joyful hope, that place of grace under pressure, that solid foundation on which his or her house can withstand any storm, that peace of mind and heart that only God can give. This is why the prayer life of a believer is so essential, it keeps us connected to an underground stream of peace and calm no matter what the weather is above ground! (See Psalm 1)

Times of crisis are normal. They are to be expected. If they are normal and to be expected, then we need to develop the inner strength to face them, deal with them and overcome them. Eleanor Roosevelt put it this way, “You gain strength, courage and confidence every time you look fear in the face. We must do the thing we think we cannot do.”

During this pandemic, I wish you sophronismos – the ability to know what to do in the face of panic, the ability to keep your cool. You can do this! We must do this! A favorite poem by Rudyard Kipling seems to be appropriate here.


                                   If you can keep your head when all about you
                                   Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
                                   If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
                                   But make allowance for their doubting too,
                                   If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
                                   Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
                                   Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
                                   And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

                                   If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
                                   If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
                                   If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
                                   And treat those two imposters just the same;
                                   If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
                                   Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
                                   Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
                                   And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:

                                   If you can make one heap of all your winnings
                                   And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
                                   And lose, and start again at your beginnings
                                   And never breath a word about your loss;
                                   If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
                                   To serve your turn long after they are gone,
                                   And so hold on when there is nothing in you
                                   Except the Will which says to them; “Hold on!”

                                   If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
                                   Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch,
                                   If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
                                   If all men count with you, but none too much,
                                   If you can fill the unforgiving minute
                                   With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
                                   Yours is the earth and everything that’s in it,
                                   And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Let me share another of my favorite quotes from W. H. Murray. It serves as a reminder that the God who called us to fidelity, stands ready to help, empower and equip us for our various vocations. We are not in this alone.  Once we commit, help is on its way.

                                      Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw
                                      back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative
                                      (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of
                                      which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that
                                      the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence
                                      moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would
                                      never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues
                                      from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen
                                      incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could
                                      have dreamed would have come his way.


Sunday, May 3, 2020


The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice.
John 10

Most of us may have seen sheep at the State Fair or maybe at a petting zoo, but most of us have very little in depth or practical experience of herding sheep.

I do not have any personal experience with sheep, but I do have a very clear memory of sheep from my childhood. Father Johnson, our country pastor, raised sheep in the church cemetery. Many times, I can remember driving past the church and catching a glimpse of him in his coveralls, buckets of feed in his hands, with his flock walking eagerly behind him. It was not lost of me, even as a child, that the word “pastor” meant a “shepherd.” Our pastor was a shepherd in more ways than one – he had his sheep grazing in the church cemetery and he had his sheep sitting in the church pews on Sundays.

I didn’t realize it as a child, but raising sheep was not just a hobby he engaged in just for fun or because they were pets. It was more practical than that! He raised sheep so that he would not have to pay for mowing the cemetery. He raised sheep so that he could sell mutton dinners to make money for the upkeep of the church at our annual picnic every August. Looking back, I have to admit that he was indeed a very wise and industrious country pastor for doing that!

To understand the gospel today and get at the teaching Jesus wanted to impart to his followers, we may need a brief crash course in Palestinian sheep herding at the time of Jesus.

A shepherd’s equipment was very simple. He carried a bag made of animal skin. In it he carried his food: bread, dried fruit, some olives and some cheese. He carried a sling to ward off predators and sometimes to get the attention of a wayward sheep. He had a club that hung on his belt to defend himself and his flock from wild animals and robbers. He had his shepherd’s crook that he used to catch and pull a sheep back from straying.

Palestinian shepherds spent so much time with their sheep that they would give each of them an individual name like “brown foot” or “black ear.” Because the shepherds knew the individual names of their sheep and the sheep knew their shepherd’s voice, unlike Australian shepherds who have dogs trained to bark and snap from behind, all a Palestinian shepherd had to do was to walk in front of his sheep, call their names and they would run to follow him. Even when several flocks got all mixed together at a watering hole, the only thing a shepherd had to do was to call out to his flock and his sheep would recognize his voice and come running to him. They were scared of anyone else’s voice and would typically run away from it.

Jesus calls himself the “good shepherd” who not only knows all his sheep by name, who not only leads them to green pastures and restful waters, but who also seeks them out when they get lost and brings them home in celebration.                    

Many people do not know what the point of the good shepherd image is! They do not know the incredible things Jesus is saying about God in this image!

Many people actually think, that before God will give them the time of day, they have to be perfect! They believe that if you want God to love you, you have to do enough good deeds and avoid enough bad deeds, to earn that love!  Nothing could be further from the truth!

I have always liked the words of the II Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation. We will use it tonight. In “good shepherd” style, we will pray: “When we were lost and could not find our way to you, you loved us even more.” That truth is, of course, the message of today’s gospel. That beautiful line, “When we were lost and could not find our way to you, you loved us more than ever,” reminds me of a story from India in which God holds each of us by a string. When we sin, we cut the string. God reaches down to tie it up again, making a knot – and thereby bringing us a little closer to him. Again and again our sins cut the string – and with each additional knot, God draws us closer and closer to himself!”

Many well-meaning religious teachers and preachers, scandalized by people’s behaviors today, believe that the best was to assure change in people is to “put the fear of the Lord into them” by delivering stinging fire and brimstone messages. It doesn’t seem to be working! Maybe that’s because that isn’t God’s message after all!

What changes people’s hearts is not fear and condemnation, but the love-message of the image we just read about! This unconditional love-message brought people to Jesus and caused their lives to be transformed. They did not come to God out of fear. They came to God out of love.

For a while, our church moved away from delivering a harsh, condemning religious message. These days, there are some who think all this “love stuff” was a mistake – a mistake that gave people permission to do whatever they damned well please! The truth of the matter is simply this – God’s love triggers change in us, but change in us does not trigger God’s love! God loves us no matter what, and when we really “get” that fact, we willingly change our behaviors out of love, not fear. Even Pope Benedict agreed when he told his audience in Brazil that Church grows by attraction, not heavy-handed conversion tactics, just as Christ draws all to himself by the power of his love.

I am convinced that the message of God’s unconditional love is not a mistake that we ought to back away from, but a truth that has not been heard about enough! If a mistake has been made, it is that we have abandoned preaching this message and started preaching “church-ianity.”  Our core message is being neglected sometimes, in favor of an obsession over liturgical minutiae, pelvic orthodoxy and other important, but secondary, concerns.

St. Paul put it well when he said of us, the church: “We are “earthenware jars that hold a great treasure.” We need the “earthenware jar” of the Church to transport the “treasure” of good news from one generation to another, but we also need to remember that the “earthenware jar” can never become more important than “the treasure” itself.  If people do not hear the good news, then what good is the Church? The Church exists in order to preach the good news and we need to get out there and deliver the message that we belong to the Good Shepherd and he loves us without condition.