Saturday, November 21, 2020



This little Greek word means a lot to me - enough to name my little publishing company, Sophronismos Press, after it. 

It means "knowing what to do in the face of panic" or  "knowing how to keep your cool under pressure." 

It has been more of a goal than a reality in my life, but it is something that I continually crave, pray for and work toward. 



and "sophronismos" kicks in! 



Thursday, November 19, 2020





I have seldom been the type to take to the streets or gather for public demonstrations, but I admire those who do! Even though my efforts may not have been heroic, I have tried to do my part by using the gifts that I have - writing, teaching and gathering material help. I am not a hero. I just keep trying to find ways, sometimes very small and maybe sometimes even significant ways, to do what I can for the cause. 

Recently, I wrote a letter of support to the African American Catholic woman from Saint Martin de Porres Parish here in Louisville, who wrote a wonderful article about racism for our local Catholic weekly, The Record. She wrote one of the most articulate articles I have read asking the question, "What are white people afraid of?" 

I wrote a weekly column every week for that very same Catholic paper for fifteen years. Since then, I have had a blog post for five years now. I wrote columns and I post things on my blog regularly that highlight the presence, gifts and contributions of other races. 

Just recently, I sent a contribution to a young African American teenager here in Louisville,  who has both parents incarcerated, who started a bee-keeping business to make money so as to be able to go to Trinity High School even though he is not a Catholic. He too is a writer, so as a fellow writer, I also encouraged him to keep writing. 

My "Kroger card" triggers a "Friday Freebie" every few weeks. Every time I get a "Friday freebie" coupon online from Kroger (things like a free dozen of eggs, a bag of cookies or some yogurt), I always cash in my coupon, grab that product, stand at the door waiting for an African American family with a bunch of kids or an elderly couple with a sparse basket and offer it to them, telling them that is is free, but I can't use the "freebie" that week. 

Another very small thing I do to encourage "essential working" minorities is to "over-tip" them as a tangible way of appreciating the fact that they are risking their health to take care of other's needs. 

When I worked at Saint Meinrad Seminary as the founder of the Institute for Priests and Presbyterates, as part of that program I started a World Priest Program to help orient international priests to American culture and conducted over 150 priest assemblies teaching priests and their parishioners of over a hundred dioceses how to better welcome international priests, most of whom have black and brown skin. I would regularly seek out lunch tables to sit with seminarians from other races. I always learned something new.  I even had one of my books for priests translated into the Swahili language of east Africa.

In my retirement, I founded an organization for retiring priests, bishops and professional lay Catholics (the Catholic Second Wind Guild) to encourage them to share their time, talents and treasure in the poor Caribbean missions of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a predominately black country with mostly black Catholics (many descendants of African slaves). I have made twelve service trips myself. I have encouraged several volunteers to make the trip. I have raised hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of medical supplies, financial aid, furniture, automobiles, scholarships, Christmas toys, Easter baskets, clothes, church furnishings, school supplies and food. 

I have learned one obvious thing about racism. It has at its root - plain old fear! We all seem to fear what we do not know. When we are afraid we often do some awful things to "protect" ourselves. The secret to getting over one's racism is to put oneself in other people's shoes, to get to know them and to go out to meet them on their terms. In my years of crossing the boundaries of race, I have gained a new perspective on others and on myself! I keep looking for those "little ways" that I can undo the hurt, stop the pain of racism - and, yes, to definitely learn what other races have to teach me - and they do have a lot to share.   

I grew up in an all-white country town of twenty-seven people. Since then, I have deliberately gone out to meet and appreciate people of every skin color on earth. It has indeed been a great blessing!  Today, as the old gospel song goes, "I Wouldn't Take Nothin' For My Journey Now!"

Tuesday, November 17, 2020


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Sunday, November 15, 2020



Out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Matthew 25: 14-30

I just love this parable! I love it because I have been all three of the characters in it at one point or another in my life! 

Until I was twenty-two, I was the coward who buried the talent that God gave me because I was "scared." I had battled fear all my life! In my youngest years, I was sacred of taking any risks because I thought I would fail. I was scared of taking any risks because I was afraid people would laugh if I did fail. I actually sabotaged any hope of personal success because not taking any risks kept me in a place where I felt comfortable. At twenty-two, I made up my mind to see if I could stand up to my fears. It was a long and scary learning process. 

Until I turned twenty-nine, I was the one who thought he maybe, just maybe, had one or two talents. At that age, I had gotten up the courage to stick my neck out a little bit. However, I was always intimidated by the people who seemed to have more talents than me.  I held back. I was alright risking a little bit, but just enough where I could run back to safety if things got too scary. I always stayed at the shallow end of life's swimming pool. 

When I turned thirty-nine, Archbishop Kelly asked me to come here to be pastor of the Cathedral and to lead its revitalization and restoration effort. He obviously saw that I had more talents than I did. My first response was to be tempted to bury my talents out of fear and stay where I had grown comfortable. Looking back, I can say that I am proud of myself for facing those fears, for believing that maybe I did have more talents than I realized and for diving off the high board and into the deep end of life's swimming pool to see what would happen. Every time I come back here, every time I think about my fourteen years here, I thank God for helping me to face my fear and say "yes" to coming here all the way back in 1983.

Who says you only get one golden age?" After I left here, I have stood up to more and more fear and have invested the talents that God has given me. I have done more things, reached more people through books and columns, lectured in ten countries, met more Cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests that I ever thought possible before I stood up to the fear that used to hold me back!  

The question today is not whether you and I have talents, but what we do with the talents we have. Do we take some wise risks and courageously invest our talents and watch them grow or do we bury them because we are too cowardly to take any risks and watch them stagnate and rot from non-use?  When courage and cowardice are in a tug of war, with which side do we usually choose to stand - and why? 

Originally, Jesus was talking about himself as "the master who goes on a journey and returns after a long time." He wanted to teach his disciples about the work he was assigning to them for building the kingdom to come. Christians, as followers of Jesus, are called to carry on that work. As we will learn in next week's gospel, that means we must be actively involved in feeding the hungry, quenching the thirsty, welcoming strangers, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and visiting prisoners 

Even though the "talents" in this parable represent more than our modern definition of an inborn trait, I think Jesus' parable can be applied this way as well. After all, to be "kingdom builders" we must invest the talents given us by being passionately committed to personal and vocational excellence. We must be dedicated to being "all that we can be" and using "all that we have been given" as we "wait for the masters return."

So I ask you, "which one of these servants do you identify with? Are you like the scared little coward of a servant who hides, plays it safe and denies the gifts God has invested in you? Do you always choose the safe way, the cowardly way, the way that leads to stagnation because you are scared of life, scared of opportunities and cared of maybe becoming different from who you are now? If you are, then most of Jesus' words are addressed to you. He wants to shake you out of your fear, apathy, complacency and laziness to challenge you to do the work of kingdom building that he assigned to you before you live to regret it. You do not want to be among those who have to spend eternity with a mind full of "should haves," might haves" and "could haves."  

Are you like the second servant who does the best you can with what God has given you? You may not be the most educated, the most confident, the most visible person in the community, but you work hard and consistently make the most of what you have. If you are, God says to you today, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" 

Are you like the third servant who has been entrusted with much - many talents, lots of money and success upon success throughout your life? Did you invest your talents to make the world a better place, your parish a stronger faith community and your country more just, more peace-filled and more welcoming? Did you take all that God invested in you and try to become a better person, a more responsible citizen and a more faithful disciple? Did you, on the other hand, squander what you were entrusted with on your self, on your own pleasures and excesses, falling into the trap of hoarding it for your own use and your own benefit? Know this! There is great responsibility that comes with being entrusted with the most talents! Yes, "to whom much is given, much is expected." If you have shouldered that responsibility well, then expect God to say to you at the end, "Well done, good and faithful servant! Come share your mater's joy!