Thursday, January 21, 2021


  Random Post-Panic Pandemic Reflections


Getting Ready to Climb Back Out of the Darkness

I wrote this post on January 14, 2021 and I am posting it on January 21, 2021. This pandemic really began for me on March 14, 2020 - the day I decided not to make my 13th trip to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Thank God I had the foresight to cancel! Sixteen people called to celebrate my decision. What a difference ten long months make! We have gone through a somewhat naive hope that it would only be temporary to a persistent state of despondency and now back up to a renewed sense of hope that the worst may be behind us. I documented that scary pilgrimage in a series of blogposts that I turned into a little book called "While Keeping My Distance: Random Reflections During a Pandemic." 

"It ain't over till it's over!" Without denying the truth of that statement, with a new President inaugurated yesterday, with my first vaccination coming in only four days, I am hopeful enough to start my second book of pandemic related reflections. I will call this series of reflections "While Looking for a New Normal: Random Post-Panic Pandemic Reflections." In this book, I will be talking myself into re-entering the world outside the confines of my condominium hide-out. I know that our new President has a heap of problems to address, the vaccination is no magic bullet, and I will have to observe many of the recent restrictions, but I am itching to get ready for the sunshine of a new spring. I am hopeful enough to write the first of, what I hope to be, several post-panic pandemic reflections. 

It has been a wearisome ten months on so many fronts, but let me admit up front that it probably has not been as hard on me as it has been on many, many others. After all, I am an introvert my nature. I live alone in a comfortable condominium with plenty to eat, cable TV, internet service and the knowledge that I had health care if I needed it. Being single, I could quarantine easily and had the freedom to stay safer than many others could. I am able to entertain myself for days on end without much trouble at all. Often being in a crowd is harder for me. There have been days, sometimes several of them in a row, that I have not left my condo except to go to my mailbox or take out the garbage. I was still able to get a lot done. 

I did miss traveling, but even that was not that hard to give up. I was beginning to hate airports and airplanes anyway. I have stood before enough priests and bishops in ten countries in the last few years than is psychologically healthy for most human beings. I didn't have to make the painful. decision to stop those speaking trips. The pandemic made the decision for me. I did miss hanging out in coffee shops with other retirees and having lunch with friends without having to sit outside in a howling wind with a cloth over my face. I did miss going into groceries and department stores once in a while, but I learned during this pandemic that you can order almost anything online, including your groceries, and have it all delivered to your door - often with free delivery! Throughout this drama, as I heard about serious hardships, I tried to remember that all I had were "aggravations," while others had real "problems," so I tried not to complain. 

I did preside at several funerals, some being family members, during the last ten months, but I did not contract COVID and only one of those who had died had contracted it and he had multiple health issues. Some died of cancer, but most of old age. The saddest thing about the whole situation was that none of them could have a "full" funeral. Some funerals had to be live-streamed. Most had to forego a wake. Some were just small socially-distanced gatherings in the cemetery. Some were totally private. Some promised a "memorial service at a later date." I like doing funerals more than weddings so I look forward to again giving people the funerals they deserve. 

Close to a half million people in the United States have died since the beginning of this pandemic. It is not lost on me that I myself have been more than extremely lucky to have escaped getting sick and dying. If only I could be that lucky with lottery tickets! I guess that's OK since I couldn't have taken it with me anyway if I had died! I have learned to appreciate the old saying, "If you have your health, you have it all!" I have been pretty good at watching my weight and being faithful to my treadmill, but I do look forward to getting outside and walking in fresh air and sunshine!  

Here I stand in the rubble of disease, death, political unrest, race riots, an impeachment and extended isolation looking at a new year, a new administration and a new vaccine. I am beginning to remember what hope feels like. I am more than ready to walk out of the darkness and into the light, sticking one toe at a time into the water before I leap. Follow me in the weeks ahead, if you like, as we search for our new normal! 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021


First of all, then, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, 
and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all 
in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in 
all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God 
our savior who wills everyone to be saved and to 
come to knowledge of the truth.
I Timothy 2:1-4

John Carroll was the first Catholic Bishop in the United States.
Archbishop Carroll wrote the above prayer for our newly formed government
 on November 10, 1791, to be recited in parishes throughout his diocese.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Monday, January 18, 2021


“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” 
“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Sunday, January 17, 2021




Jesus looked at Peter and said, “You are Simon the son of John;
you will be called Cephas”— which is translated Peter. 

I conducted quite a few funerals last year – relatives, former parishioners and a neighbor from my childhood days. The very last one was one of my childhood buddies down in Rhodelia. He was known to us as “Eddie Hardesty.” Some of the things I shared at his funeral came to mind when I saw today’s gospel.

When I think of Eddie Hardesty back when we were growing up in Rhodelia, I think of the word “feisty.” I looked it up to be sure. “Feisty” means “energetic, gutsy, scrappy, frisky and free-spirited.” That was our beloved Eddie Hardesty alright!  He reminds me so much of the Apostle, Peter, who is called by Jesus in the gospel reading today. I find it quite coincidental that his funeral Mass took place out in Saint Peter Church out on Johnsontown Road! I am not absolutely sure, but I am pretty sure Eddie’s “feisty” side comes from his Flaherty genes. Those “feisty” genes drove him to always say things like – “I dare you!” “Watch this!”  “I can beat that!” Maybe he outgrew it, but I seriously doubt it! As kids I think we all admired his “I’ll try anything once” attitude! I guess that is why one of his favorite names for us was “scaredy cats.” “Scaredy cats! Scaredy cats!”


I remember three childhood events in particular that were typical of my friend Eddie. (1) One day, he made a parachute out of a white handkerchief and tied it to a cat, bragging that the cat would float from the barn loft where we were standing and slowly hit the ground. It didn’t! The cat dropped straight down to the ground like a rock. The poor cat survived the fall and ran away with the handkerchief dragging behind it. I don’t think we ever saw that cat again! (2) Another day, we were exploring Rocky Branch, a small stream where we lived, when one of us found a fish about the size of a minnow. Of course, he couldn’t just leave it alone!  He picked it up and asked if anyone would dare him to eat it raw! Of course, we dared him, never thinking he would actually do it! We should have known better! He took a big bite out of it, swallowed it and threw the rest away! All of us, looking on, were simply awed by his bravery!  (3) Another day, I told him that I was going to be a priest! He was not impressed! He blurted out as loud as he could in front of the other kids, ‘Ha! If you become a priest, I’ll become a nun!” He lost that bet, but he never paid up! So, I recommended to his wife, Judy, that he be buried in a black dress and a veil!”


In today’s gospel, Jesus calls a man by the name of “Simon son of John” to follow him and gives him the nickname, Cephus or Peter, meaning a “rock.” That name had to be tongue-in-cheek because Peter was anything but “solid like a rock.” “Marshmallow Man” was more like it! The stories of feisty Saint Peter boldly rushing in and thoughtlessly pushing ahead are numerous. There are at least six stories in the gospels about him bragging one minute, sticking his foot in his mouth the other and ultimately having to eat his own words. Let me share a couple of examples with you.  


One day, caught in a storm while he was out a sea, Peter sees Jesus walking on the water toward the storm-tossed boat he was in. Not really believing it was Jesus, he rushed to get out of the boat and to try walking on water toward him to check it out. Once out on the water, he looks down and sees how deep it is and looks around at how strong the wind was blowing. Realizing what he had done, he begins to drown. He cries out for help and has to be helped back into the boat. 


At another time, at the Last Supper, Jesus get up from table and begins to wash the feet of the apostles. When he gets to Peter, Peter resists. “No way, Jose! I won’t let you wash my feet!”  When Jesus tells him that if he doesn’t allow it, he can have not part what was to come. Peter quickly throws it in reverse and back-paddles. “Ok, then, wash my feet, my hands and my head while you’re at it!”  For Peter, “anything worth doing is worth over-doing!”


At yet another time, Jesus had just told his disciples that they must forgive one another.  When Jesus finishes speaking, imagining that another chance to impress Jesus had presented itself, good old Saint Peter springs into action. Peter knows well that the rabbis had always taught that people needed to forgive three times. Peter gets out his little mental adding machine and multiplies three by two and adds one for good measure. Then he asks his question while answering it at the same time. “How many times must we forgive? Seven times?” He obviously expected Jesus to say, “Wow, Peter, how generous of you! You are better than the best! Seven times is beyond the call of duty! It is even more than is required!” You can almost see his big eager grin slowly melt away when Jesus told him to forgive, not seven times, but seventy times seven times - that is, forgiving without counting the times. 


Still, in another story, after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to Peter and some of the others while they were fishing. Having caught nothing, they were about to give up. Jesus told them to lower their nets on the other side of the boat.  They caught so many fish that their nets were about to break. Then after the catch, Jesus asks for a couple of their fish to cook for breakfast on the grill he had set up on the beach. Good old Peter runs to the boat and drags the whole net to Jesus and dumps 153 fish at his feet! Again, with Peter, anything worth doing is worth overdoing! 


What was it about Peter that Jesus found so attractive? It certainly wasn’t his impressive list of successes. It was his willingness to get in there and try something new, to get in there and risk success in the face of possible failure, to keep coming back to the task and trying again and again. Peter was passionate about everything he tried. 


My friends, we can learn a lot from Saint Peter. God does not demand perfection of us, he simply wants a serious relationship, a passionate effort and heartfelt fidelity! No one’s relationship with Jesus was more enduring than Peter, the Apostle. No one tried harder than Peter, the Apostle. I am sure, when Saint Peter opens the gates of heaven for my friend Eddie Hardesty, he will burst into laughter and tease him a bit saying, “Come on in! I dare you! I double-dog dare you!” I hope, when Saint Peter opens the gates of heaven to people like me, he will say, “Ron, you weren’t perfect, but because you really tried, you are good enough for God! Come on in!”