Saturday, February 27, 2021


   I Underwent My Annual Physical On February 18th 

 I Received My Feed-Back On February 23rd

I Couldn't Understand Half of What He Was Telling Me! 
I Think He Said That He Would Live!     

Thursday, February 25, 2021


 Random Post-Panic Pandemic Reflections



1. Cathedral of the Assumption + Cathedral Heritage Foundation 

 2. Institute for Priests and Presbyterates at Saint Meinrad Seminary

 3. Catholic Second Wind Guild in the Caribbean Missions


                                  "The greatest human temptation is to settle for too little."                                          Thomas Merton

I have always been fascinated by a Benjamin Franklin quote, "Some people die at 25 and aren't buried until 75." Norman Cousins, I believe, explained well what Franklin meant when he wrote, "Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies within us while we live." 

I am not afraid of dying as much as I am afraid of failing to live while I am alive. If you read this blog regularly, you know I quote it often because I believe deeply in what it says - the opening lines of Dylan Thomas's (1914-1953) famous poem. 

"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. 

James Taylor was right when he sang, "Never give up, never slow down, never grow old and never ever die young."

All this became clear to me in my late thirties when I became pastor of the Cathedral of the Assumption, something I almost turned down out of fear - fear of the expectations that would be placed on me and fear of personal failure in meeting those expectations. I decided to "go with it" because I realized that if I didn't, I would spend the rest of my life wondering what would have happened if I had said "yes." Archbishop Kelly was clear that he wanted the Cathedral parish revitalized and he wanted me to lead it. His words were simple, but his expectations were high. "Do something with it!" 

In preparation for this new venture, I read and re-read every bit of history of the place I could find. In his history of of the Cathedral, Presence and Possibility: Louisville Catholicism and Its Cathedral, Father Clyde Crews refers to the period of 1870 - 1910 as "a Cathedral in its prime." During that period, he singles out a pastor, Msgr. Michael Bouchet. He wrote of him, "Bouchet was the perfect model of the flock he led; they were a busy, proud and creative people, and yet they were capable of holding to a singleness of purpose centered around the religious nurture they received through the Cathedral church." "There was enough zest, enough compassion, enough intensity of devotion to maintain the phrase "Golden Years" to describe these people and their era."  

Father Crews went on to describe what happened after those years. "But "Golden Years" have a way of not lasting forever. Several factors would be at work to give the Cathedral a different complexion as it moved into the twentieth century." How right he was! When I arrived, the congregation had dwindled down to 110 registered members and was placed by some on a list of parishes for possible closure. The only solution offered before the time of my arrival was to close the historic Cathedral and name one of the suburban parishes (Holy Spirit) as the new cathedral. 

When I arrived in June of 1983, I realized that the historic Cathedral's "last hope" had been placed on my shoulders.  No wonder I had dreaded saying "yes" to "do something with it!" I had three things going for me besides the naivete of my youth. I had a doctorate in "Parish Revitalization" from McCormick (Presbyterian) Seminary in Chicago. I had the support of Archbishop Kelly. Downtown Louisville itself was undergoing "revitalization." I had saturated my consciousness with visions of possibilities by reading about the role of Medieval cathedrals in the hearts of their cities and focusing on our own Cathedral's "Golden Age" at the turn of the previous century. 

Realizing that I had to become "another Bouchet," I set about using the pulpit as the place to call the congregation to claim its tradition of being again that "busy, proud and creative people, capable of holding to a singleness of purpose centered around religious nurture" that Father Crews wrote about. I would ask from the pulpit, over and over again, in my early years as its pastor, "Who said we only get one "Golden Age?" Let's create another "Golden Age!" We did just that! Growing from 110 members to 2100 members in fourteen years, we revived and expanded the traditional cathedral ministries of excellence in liturgy, preaching, education, hospitality and outreach to the community. 

When I left the Cathedral in 1997, I remember clearly saying to myself that I did not want to spend the rest of my life talking about the "good old days" of my years revitalizing the Cathedral parish. I turned the old question on myself. "Who says I only get one "Golden Age?"  So far, I have talked myself into two more "Golden Ages" after the Cathedral experience - fourteen years as founding director of Saint Meinrad's Institute for Priests and Presbyterates and six years as founding director of the Catholic Second Wind Guild in the Caribbean missions. 

When I was practically forced to stop  my work in the Caribbean mission early this year because of so many forces coming together (e.g. pandemic, volcano, health and age), I find myself asking that same old question, "Who said I only get three "golden ages?" I decided in January to end my volunteer work in the islands and look for a volunteer opportunity closer to home. As I have done in the past, when one ministry ends and before another begins, I started praying for direction. One day, it occurred to me that for me “charity may not have begun at home,” but why can’t it “end up at home?”  It dawned on me in a flash that I might have an opportunity to do something creative in my home parish of Saint Theresa down in Rhodelia where I grew up.  I thought maybe it was time, after fifty years of priesthood, to give something significant back to the parish that formed me. The wheels are already turning. The excitement is building. Contacts have been initiated. Stay tuned! I believe that my fourth "golden age" may be coming into focus! 

Again, I am reminded of a quote that I have often used in the past. 'When the student is ready, the teacher will appear!" Rather than focusing on the doors that have closed, I feel like I am standing in front of another door about to open onto yet another "Golden Age." As Helen Keller said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one, which has been opened for us.” As Bilbo Baggins, in Lord of the Rings, said, "I think I'm quite ready for another adventure." 

Even at that, even this next one may not be my last! "Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go." T.S. Eliot.

Sunday, February 21, 2021



The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert where he remained for forty days. 

Mark 1:12 


On Ash Wednesday, we traditionally open the holy season of Lent by receiving ashes as a sacred, outward sign of our willingness to get serious about conversion of life. This year we were asked to tweak the practice for safety reasons. It is a very old and public sign that even some of our Protestant friends are choosing to use these days. It is meant to be seen by others. 


The rector of the seminary at St. Meinrad, where I used to work as a staff member, is a former Baptist who loves the signs and symbols of the Catholic Church. He is more than a little dramatic by nature, so he tends to get carried away sometimes. Those who lined up to receive ashes from a priest, who was a life-long Catholic like me, got a modest cross in the center of their foreheads. Those who got in his line, got a cross that went from their hairlines-to-the-top-of-our-noses and from ear-to-ear! They looked like they had been hit by a coal truck! They were the talk of the lunch line afterwards!    


Over the next five weeks, during the Sunday readings of Lent, we will go with Jesus to a desert, to a mountain, to a well, to a doctor and to a grave to get the insights we need to be created anew. 


On this first Sunday of Lent, to be created anew, Jesus invites us to go to a desert with him, to an empty place where there is nothing to distract us, a symbolic place of laser-focused attention. 


If we are to be serious about conversion of life, we must first be willing to withdraw from the noise and pace of ordinary life, at least once in a while, in order to hear ourselves think and to receive direction from the Holy Spirit. As the ancient Chinese proverb puts it, “Outside noisy, inside empty!” 


Most of us cannot afford to take a traditional forty day “retreat” even back when there was no COVID-19. We don’t have the luxury of heading off to some monastery or even to a secluded cabin in the woods. We have to “make do” with an hour here, an afternoon there or, if we are really lucky, a whole day.   A few of you are so busy that fitting in a few hours of quiet time might sound impossible, so in preparing this week’s homily, I read a few articles about multitasking. What they seemed to agree on is this: we all have an ever-present pressure of trying to cram more and more into each moment. We are inundated with faster and faster gadgets to do more and more in a shorter amount of time. Ironically, my research said that the more we use such gadgets and the more we try to handle at one time, the more inefficient our brains become. 


I learned my lesson a few years back. In a fifteen-minute span, I got a face-time call from the Bishop of Barbados, while I was writing an e-mail to a priest in Ontario, Canada, about a retreat I would be leading and waiting to Skype a fellow island volunteer who was home visiting in Ireland. As a result, I realized that I had booked a wedding on a day that I would still be in Canada for yet another priest retreat.  It took me hours to unwind that embarrassing mistake.


Multitasking is an illusion. There is evidence that our brains cannot concentrate on more than one complex task at a time. The more information our brains are forced to handle simultaneously, the more they slow down. Tasks take longer. Mistakes multiply. Real efficiency is found in mono-tasking, not multitasking. For this very reason, more states have prohibited talking on cell phones and texting while driving. 


What is even scarier is the theory that bombarding our brains with bursts of information is undermining our ability to focus. These bursts of information play into a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. This stimulation provokes excitement – a dopamine squirt – that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored. I know at least two younger priests whom I consider to be addicted to technology gadgets. 


I noticed an advertisement on TV some time ago that captures the spirit of “going to the desert.”  I am sure some of you have seen it. Chevy Trucks has a commercial with “the guys” going deeper and deeper into the woods until they finally get a “no signal’ on their cell phone! With that, they let out a yelp of delight! Maybe one of the best things people can do during this season, and probably a very hard thing to do, is to go somewhere for an hour or two where your electronic gadgets are turned off or somewhere where you can get “no signal” and just “be!” 


That will be harder than you think! For some people, one hour without being technologically connected will be as hard as trying to go without oxygen! That’s the point of all the disciplines of Lent – to find out who and what is in control of our lives. Is it over-eating, over-drinking, over-drugging, over-scheduling or even over-texting and over-posting? When we “give it up for Lent,” whatever it is, we find out how much power it has over us and how little power we have over it! The whole point of “giving things up things for Lent” is not to punish ourselves, but to test ourselves, to find out if we are really in control of our own selves. The idea is to enlighten ourselves about ourselves, not simply to punish ourselves. God is more interested in us knowing ourselves, than in us punishing ourselves!  Lent, really, is not so much about doing more, but about doing less. Doing less, for many of us, is actually harder than doing more.   


Friends, it’s time to go to the desert, to re-learn how to be fully present to ourselves, to each other and to God! Are you brave enough to face your relationship with yourself, your relationships with others and your relationship with God? If you are, let’s really “do Lent” the way it is meant to be done - seriously, with thought and with spiritual maturity!  Forget all that childish stuff like giving up candy bars. God is not impressed! It’s a waste of time!  Do something serious!  Do something worthwhile or it is probably better to do nothing at all! 


After being invited this weekend to “go to the desert with Jesus” for a new insight, next week we will be invited to “go to the mountain with Peter, James and John” for a new perspective! Then we will go, to the well with the Samaritan woman, to the doctor with the man born blind and finally to the grave with Martha and Mary to be instructed by Jesus. This Lent, we are all invited to take this "transformation trip" with Jesus as we prepare for a glorious Easter!