Thursday, July 9, 2020


Just Before the Condo Air Conditioners Start Roaring

Very early the next morning before daylight, 
Jesus got up and went to a place where he 
could be alone and pray.
Mark 1:35

There is a whole lot about this pandemic that really gets on my nerves - things like having to think about going out in public places and being in crowds of people, not to mention a de facto ban on travel. On the other hand, I find myself finding new and interesting ways to enjoy being at home by myself. 

One of my very favorite new things to do is to set the alarm to get up early, just before the sun starts to come up, and go out on my deck with a cup of coffee. 

I like to start by just sitting there listening, first to the absence of loud sounds, then to the birds as they wake up and start their chirping. I never thought about birds waking up, but they do. At first there is one or two, then little by little there are more and finally their chirps grow louder and louder into a chorus. You wouldn't notice unless you were listening intently. It's the same with the traffic. At first the street is almost empty, then there is a car or two, then several and then a whole line of them at the traffic light. 

I like it better when it is the quietest, but as the silence fades into the noise of a morning in full bloom, I like to open my i-phone app and read Morning Prayer and the Mass readings of the day. For this, I sometimes have a second cup of coffee.  By this time, the silence has been drowned out by the noise of a busy morning. 

Recently, enjoying this new ritual, I got up at 4:30. A gentle rain was falling on the pond below my deck. The quiet was even quieter. The temperature was "heavenly" as I sat there, with coffee in hand, soaking it up. I was suddenly reminded of an old song from years ago sung by Peter, Paul and Mary - In the Early Morning Rain.

When I begin this newly discovered early morning ritual, I often think about how right the Trappist monks down in Gethsemani have been all those years.  Even at 6:00 in the morning when I step out on the deck, they have already been up for three hours, singing and praying and reflecting in silence.  


As they know, and I have rediscovered during this pandemic, the very early morning hours have a magic about them. You hear things you never hear during the day. You see things you never notice during the day. 

I am reminded of an old song I used to use to open my weekly radio program in Monticello, Kentucky, back around 1975. It is a Christian hymn written by Eleanor Ferjeon in 1931, but made popular by Cat Stevens in 1971. 
                    LISTEN TO CAT STEVENS HERE

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing. Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dew fall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass

Mine is the sunlight
Mine is the morning
Born of the One Light Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning…

Tuesday, July 7, 2020


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

Just Two Fancy Words for Falling Apart


"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

Here is a handy word you need to remember - entropy! Entropy is that natural, spontaneous and unremitting process of decline, decay and disorder unless there is an opposing force working against it.

Anyone who owns a home knows that it will fall into ruin pretty quickly without regular maintenance and constant upkeep. One of the hardest points to get across in marriage preparation programs is the point that just because you are "in love" today and promise to "be true to you in good times and bad," does not mean your marriage will survive without constant care and maintenance. Most marriages that fall apart, fall apart because of neglect. America has a major problem with obesity, but many have not figured out yet that weight cannot be managed in our culture without constant attention to diet and exercise. Many people just "let themselves go" until there is a health crisis or it's too late. Gardens need weeding! Friendships needs cultivating! Professionals need continuing education! Even our faith, unattended, is subject to withering on the vine! Entropy is that natural, spontaneous and unremitting process of decline, decay and disorder unless there is an opposing force working against it.

"Senescence" is the process of becoming old or the state of being old. As we age, we "senesce." We can't stop it, but we can challenge it. We can do a few things to slow it down. Here I am reminded of a famous poem by Dylan Thomas.

Do not go gentle into that good night

Dylan Thomas - 1914-1953

(written about his own dying father and here read by the poet himself)


Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

No known substance can extend life, but here are some useful tips for improving the chances of living a long time and staying healthy: 

- Eat a balanced diet including five helpings of fruits and
   vegetables a day.

- Exercise regularly (check with a doctor before starting an
   exercise program).

- Get regular health check-ups.

- Don't smoke (it's never too late to quit).

- Practice safety habits at home to prevent falls and fractures.

- Always wear your seatbelt in a car.

- Stay in contact with family and friends.

- Stay active through work, play, and community.
- Avoid overexposure to the sun and the cold
- If you drink, moderation is the key.
- When you drink, let someone else drive.
- Keep personal and financial records in order to simplify
  budgeting and investing.
- Plan long-term housing and money needs.
- Keep a positive attitude toward life.
- Do things that make you happy.

The word "senescence" derives from the Latin "senex," meaning "old." "Senile" and "senior" come from the same root, as does "senate" which dates back to ancient Rome where the "Senatus" was originally a "council of elders" composed of the heads of patrician families.

Monday, July 6, 2020



My long-time German friends, sisters, are spending a few days in Wallgau in southern Germany, not far from their home. It's a place they go to quite often. 
Inge and Birgit were here last summer and the summer before that. Inge and her parents, when they were alive, have visited Kentucky several times over the years. 
They send greetings to their Kentucky friends from their vacation spot.


This is Inge, enjoying the local specialty. We met at Taize back in the mid 1970s and have stayed in touch ever since. 

This is her sister, Birgit, walking Inge's dog "Ballu" on (lake) Kochelsee  

This is where they stay regularly,
Gastehaus Feriengluck, near (lake) Walchensee

Sunday, July 5, 2020


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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