Thursday, October 21, 2021


Fear is useless; what is needed is trust.
Luke 8:50  

There are several commercials for Saint Jude Children's Research Hospital that touch the heart, but there is one that stands out for me. It's the one when a little girl looks at the camera and says, "The worst part of cancer is knowing you have it!" I interpret that as meaning that once you know you have cancer, you don't know what's coming the next day, then the next and then the next. The mental stress of not knowing what's next is often worse than the physical pain one has to endure during the treatment.  

It has been occurring to me recently that that is the worst part of aging as well. There is nothing that I know of that is terribly wrong right now, but my mind when it decides to have a "mind of its own," has a tendency to race ahead and start worrying about "what if?" I guess it is my perennial "control freak" habit rearing it's ugly head yet again - a life-script that if I know what's coming, I will be able to do something about it! 

Like Flannery O'Conner said, "I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say." Today, I am taking the risk of writing about my growing tendency to think too far ahead when it comes to health issues! I am writing about it so that I can understand what I am thinking about it and maybe why I am thinking about it. I realize that my writing about it may, or may not, help other aging people, but I have decided that writing about it will help me. I also realize that publishing it for the whole world to see could be giving ammunition to those who already think that I am somewhat of a "nut case!" 

What has exacerbated this problem of worrying ahead of time is the fact that I found out recently that I have a kidney stone. I can not feel it as yet, thank God! So far, so good, but like the little girl said, "The worst part is knowing you have one!"  I never used to ever think about kidneys, but now every little twitch in my back makes me think that I could be in the throes of a case of what many have described as "worse than labor pains" at any moment! 

I take little comfort in the fact that most of the time my mildly obsessive worry, when it comes to health issues, never usually amounts to anything! That means that my worrying was the problem, not the thing I was worried about! It was usually a case of "crossing a bridge before I got to it!" I know that there will probably be more of these opportunities to obsess about as I advance in age, unless I die suddenly, so I am trying not to get into the habit of worrying about possible issues until those issues become realities. I'll have to work at it! 

I can't quit worrying altogether about getting COVID, even though that worrying has subsided a great deal since I received all three COVID shots. Even at that, I realize that COVID is still possible. A phone call last week from a friend of mine and his wife, both COVID positive in separate out-of-state hospitals, who are clinging to life and who barely have the strength to talk, has certainly raised my stress and worry level once again. Along with that, one of my siblings is scheduled to have surgery soon to remove a cancer. Everyday seems to bring more reports of "health situations" in my larger family and circle of friends. 

Here is a old prayer that I keep turning to as I grow older. I want to believe, I am trying to believe, that whatever happens, I will be able to deal with it! Truly, "Fear is useless; what is needed is trust!" 

It would be a shame to let the bad that might happen tomorrow ruin the good that is happening today! 




Tuesday, October 19, 2021


Saint Theresa of Avila Church in Rhodelia, Kentucky, was founded in 1818. In its 203 year history, 97 Sisters of Charity of Nazareth faithfully served our community. One cannot think of Saint Theresa Parish, without thinking of the contribution of this community of Sisters which itself was founded in 1812. 

One of the things we are trying to do in our new effort to turn the now-closed Saint Theresa/Cross Roads School into the new Saint Theresa Family Life Center is to educate the next generation about their contribution and to make sure that contribution is remembered. We are working on a beautiful historic photo gallery in the old school's long hallway featuring their interactions with the pastors and people of our community. One of the features of that photo gallery is a list of every Sister of Charity who served our people - all 97 of them. See the list below. 

Saint Theresa Academy 
Saint Theresa School
Cross Roads School





Sunday, October 17, 2021


Our Lady of the Woods Chapel 

James and John came to Jesus and said to him,"
Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your
right and the other at your left." When the ten
heard this, they became indignant at James and
John. Jesus summoned them and said to them,
"It shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever
wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the
slave of all.

Mark 10: 35-45

If Jesus were to have been born in our day, instead of 2,000 years ago, he might have graduated from Bellarmine University’s W. Fielding Rubel School of Business. As a graduate, Jesus might have used a management consultant to help him get his new ministry off the ground and to help him choose his staff of twelve apostles. If so, he may have submitted the resumes of his would-be apostles to that consultant for feedback. Here is how that feedback might have sounded. (I have referred to this funny consultant report several times over the years and it fits again today.)

To: Jesus, Son of Joseph
% Woodcrafter Carpenter Shop
From: Jerusalem Management Consultants

Dear Jesus:

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have recruited for management positions in the new church you want to found. All twelve of them have now taken our battery of tests; we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologists and vocational aptitude consultants.

We regret to inform you that it is the staff’s opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.

Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no leadership qualities. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been black-listed by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James, son of Alpheus, and Thaddaeus definitely have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale.

One of your candidates, however, shows great potential - Judas Iscariot. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind, and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious and responsible. We recommend this man as your controller and right-hand man.

We wish you every success in your new venture.

Sincerely yours,

Hugh Mann, President
Jerusalem Management Consultants

This little fictitious "consultant report," in which Judas is picked as showing the "most potential" as an apostle makes a very important point. One of the most interesting things about God is that "God does not see as we see. We see people's externals, but God sees into their hearts." The more familiar you are with the Scriptures, the more you realize that God is always picking the weak, the incompetent, the unqualified, the least, the lost and the loser - and then making them strong in carrying out his work. These choices are not isolated events. They happen, over and over, again in Scripture. In today's gospel, we have two of these "least likely to succeed personalities" – James and his brother John. There are many, many more!

First, there is Isaiah. One day, while in the Temple of the Lord, Isaiah is overcome by an awareness of God's greatness and his own unworthiness! He is so overcome with his own unworthiness that he cries out, "Woe is me! Not only do I have a foul mouth, I come from a bunch of foul-mouthed people! I am surely doomed!" God's response was to send an angel, with a hot coal, to wash his mouth out and to clean up his lips for the preaching ministry he had in mind for him! What a choice!

Second, there is Paul! For years, Paul had been the lead bounty-hunter in tracking down Christians for execution. Smug with righteousness, he felt as if he was doing God a favor by ridding the world of these heretics who had no respect for the old-time religion. Paul had even held the coats of those who stoned Saint Stephen to death. One day, on his way to round up some more Christians for execution, God knocked Paul off his proverbial "high-horse" and called him to make a complete u-turn in his thinking. Instead of persecuting Christianity, God called Paul to be its biggest promoter! What a choice!

Third, there is Peter! Peter was an uneducated, red-neckish, bumbling blow-hard fisherman with a big heart! He was a thick-headed, hard-headed and empty-headed clod who meant well, but would brag one minute and fall on his face the next! When the chips were down, Peter pretended that he didn't even know Jesus and had never heard of him - not once, not twice, but three times. However, this is the very one that Jesus left in charge of his church after his death. What a choice!

Fourth, there is James and his brother John that we read about today. Like Peter and Andrew, James and John were fisherman. They were men of the sea. In the Gospel of Mark that we read today, James and John ask Jesus for the best seats in his new kingdom. As time went by, the writers of the Gospels could not bring themselves to have such tacky and self-serving words coming out of the mouths of these exalted apostles, so Matthew changes the story and has their misguided request coming out of their mother’s mouth. Blaming women has been a favorite technique of men since Adam blamed Eve!

We see James and John at their worst in today’s gospel. They are climbers, ambitious self-seekers and sneaks. Again, we see in their lives that yet again “God choses the weak and makes them strong.” Jesus evidently saw something in them because they end up in the inner circle. Along with Peter, they witnesses the Transfiguration, some of the miracles including the raising of Jarius’ daughter and the agony in the garden. Beheaded, James was the first the apostles to give his life. His death is the only biblical record we have of the death of one of the Apostles.

The list goes on and on! Moses, who was charged with convincing the Israelites to leave Egypt and making a forty-year desert crossing, actually had some kind of speech impediment. Either he stuttered badly or he had forgotten much of the language of his childhood. They could still be in Egypt if Moses had not gotten Aaron to do his public speaking for him. What a choice!

Mary, when she was chosen by God to be the mother of the world's Savior, was a dirt-poor, unknown teenager from a podunk town called Nazareth! What a choice!

The list goes on and on, throughout Scripture and Church history, to this day! It seems that "God is always choosing the weak and making them strong in bearing witness to him!" My friend and former associate pastor, Father Bill Medley, was consecrated the new bishop of Owensboro several years ago. He was shocked, and many of us were pleasantly surprised at this choice, because, in many ways, he is not the "type" to be selected. He is not a canon lawyer. He is not a career chancery official from Philadelphia or Detroit. He did not study in Rome. He is simply a good pastor from a small rural Kentucky town and yet it was he who was chosen for this important ministry! What a choice!

In my own experience, all throughout the years that led up to my priesthood, I always felt like the "least likely to succeed." Looking back, I am amazed as I have seen this scrawny little boy from the tiny country town of Rhodelia, painfully bashful, labeled a "hopeless case" by seminary officials, being led over the years by the hand of God through a wide variety of ministry experiences in ten countries that I never could have imagined being involved in when I first started this journey in the fall of 1958! I can still remember an experience I had in Chicago when I was about to deliver a lengthy address to close to 900 priests, a Cardinal and six bishops. As I was mounting the high platform with several TV cameras pointed at me, I was trying to talk myself out of a panic attack by repeating, "They don't know I am from Rhodelia! They don't know I am from Rhodelia!" What a choice!

In 2016, at the December graduation, Bellarmine University awarded me an honorary Doctorate and I was invited to address the graduates, their families, the faculty and the staff that day. The title of my commencement address was "A Hopeless Case." I spoke directly to the graduates who struggled to get there that day. Yes, I admired the winners of awards and scholarships and I congratulated them, but those who really struggled were my kind of graduates and I wanted to share a bit of what I had learned, especially with them!

Let me speak directly to those of you who struggle with your self-image, with feelings of unworthiness, with thoughts of never being good enough and with being labeled, rejected or discriminated against. The world may be dealing you a bad hand today, you may have been passed over and put upon in the past, you may feel that you will never be good enough or can never measure up, but also know this: God may have his eye on you right now, he may have a mission for you that he is about to reveal! He may be ready to take you to places you cannot even imagine. Your pain and suffering could be part of some grand plan! You may have been learning what you need to know for the amazing job that God has always had in store for you.

When you leave here today, remember James and John. Think how God took them, in their weakness, and tuned them into powerful witnesses. Just as God took them, fragile clay pots as they were and filled them with his great treasure, God can do the same with you. When God calls you, don’t be afraid of your weaknesses, just be ready to answer with Isaiah, "Here I am, Lord, send me!" Last of all, don't forget this! God has a reputation for choosing the weak and then making them strong!