Tuesday, July 13, 2021


I have always been a sort of a "crusader" who has tried my best to do what I could to change the world and the church for the better. Lately, I have had to admit to myself that, with all chaos and negativity in the Church and world, that I am getting too much of that chaos and negativity "on me" and letting too much of it "in me."  I am beginning to realize that it is wearing me down and wearing me out! No, I do not intend to bury my head in the sand or give up trying to be an influence for good, but I am going to have to adjust my thinking a bit. I am tired of being angry much of the time. As someone said, "We cannot control the wind, but we can adjust our sails!" 

For my own peace of mind, I have decided that, in the time I have left, I am going to "adjust my sails." I don't want to spend the last years of my life angry, mean-spirited and lashing out at all the people, institutions and situations I cannot control. Going forward, I am going to do two things. (1) I am going to try to live more by the Serenity Prayer: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference." I am going to put the prayer somewhere where I can see it so that it becomes part of my regular prayer life. (2) I am going to reflect even more on the words of that old hymn that has guided me the last 51 years as a priest: "How Can I Keep From Singing?" Instead of playing it once a year on my anniversary, I am going to start playing it once a month or so and really listen to its words. 

Since I cannot control the wind, for a more peaceful existence I am going to adjust my sails in these ways. I am going to be more selective about what I "let in" to my life. 

1. I am going to limit the amount and sources of news that I listen to and watch.  I believe that the twenty-four-hour-a-day multi-channel news cycle has done more than anything to keep me upset and focused on everything that is wrong in the world. Their constant drum beat of murder, corruption, crime, political intrigue and outrageous behaviors is poisonous to my perspective and outlook.  

2. I am going to spend more of my time with people who are positive and give me reasons for hope and try to avoid angry, mean and destructive people who drag me down with them. Rather than engage them or argue with them, I am going to move away from them and find opportunities to quietly disengage from them. For this very reason I cancelled my FACEBOOK account a few years after I signed up. It may be a good tool for some communication, I suppose, but I found it to be a sewer spewing gossip, misinformation, ridicule and anonymous character assassination. I am not going to waste my time combing through its garbage  looking for something healthy to ingest! 

3. I am going to be even more intentional about looking for goodness to affirm in people, rather than evils to condemn. For years, I have tried to make this a regular part of my spiritual practice. That is why my column in The Record for fourteen years, as well as this blog for six years, has been named An Encouraging Word. My mother taught me at a very early age that "if you don't have something good to say about people, don't say anything at all." I believe that "you always find what you look for," so I have decided to look for goodness to affirm rather than evils to condemn. 

4. I am going to ignore the harsh and angry rhetoric coming from religious blogs, websites and pastoral letters condemning society's “moral relativism” and “secularism.” Instead of asking “What’s wrong with you people?” I think we should be asking ourselves, “Why are we spiritual leaders not convincing enough to change our suffering culture? What’s wrong with our style of leadership? What is it about us that people won't listen to us? Instead of boiling with anger at the world and being sucked into today's incredibly stupid liberal-conservative religious and political ideology warfare, I am simply going to focus on Jesus' positive message of unconditional love for all people. Retired now, I simply will not join those religious leaders hell-bent on condemning, controlling, firing, denying, isolating, demeaning and marginalizing those who are doing the best they can, even if it isn't what we consider "right." I have decided to enjoy my religion and let it give me life, and through me, life to those who come in contact with me! To do that, I have decided, in my retirement years, to focus on the "treasure" and not so much on the "crock" that holds it, to focus primarily on the essential message of the gospel, not the less-than-perfect institution, always in need of reform, that should be delivering it.  

Today, I have decided to choose happiness, to live in peace and to not leave either of them to chance!  To do that, I will be deliberate about where I choose to put my focus and with whose perspective I choose to align myself!  



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