Tuesday, November 16, 2021



Jefferson Street, Concordia, Kentucky 


In my research involved around my new project at Saint Theresa Church in my hometown of Rhodelia, I have come across several interesting tidbits of history. This one is from the river town of Concordia a few miles from Saint Theresa Church. It is from a legal paper involved in the opening of a tavern in Concordia in 1867 by some of our deceased parishioners. I doubt if the stated requirements could be met in today's world. 


The Commonwealth of Kentucky

issued to 


Concordia, Kentucky

I wonder what "to tipple" or "to drink more than is necessary" meant back then? "Tipple" is not a word we use anymore unless the expression "he was a bit tipsy" comes from it.  It sounds like an Irish word to me! I'll have to ask my friend, Fergal, in Ireland. I wonder what "scandalous or disorderly behaviour" involved in a small river town in Kentucky back in the late 1800s? Could it possibly include prostitution, gambling and gun fights? Surely, God forbid, not in one of our small towns! 

From the looks of the town, "to drink more than is necessary" might have been absolutely "necessary!" 

Concordia (no longer a river port) might be smaller today, but it certainly looks a whole lot better than it did back then and is surely a lot quieter! Over a hundred and fifty years ago, it may have been a rowdy little town. Today, it is a peaceful little town with nice people and no taverns! 

Sunday, November 14, 2021


Of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the  angels in heaven, nor the Son, but  only the Father.

MARK 13:32

The message today is simple: we are going to die! We may not want to think about it, but no doubt about it, someday somebody will be having a funeral for you and for me. Aware of this fact and almost being 78 years old, this stark reality is coming more and more into focus! It’s no longer “some people die,” but: I’m going to die!” A few years ago, I had my tombstone installed in the cemetery of my home parish down in the country. My beloved Saint Theresa Parish gave me a free gravesite. I have a free casket from Abbey Caskets at Saint Meinrad as a perk from when I worked there. I have my will up to date, my end-of-life papers are signed and my funeral plans have been sent in to the Chancery. My bags are packed, now I want to lay it all aside, forget it for a while and keep living as well as I can for as long as I can! 

Some of the great saints of the past are often pictured with a skull sitting on their writing desk – sometimes with a sign that said momento mori - remember death. It was placed there as a daily reminder of the fact that death is certain. Not me! I have a needle point pillow that encourages me to think about living! It says that “the best is yet to come!”

These days, we try not only not to think about death. We are even trying to find ways around it. Some believe in reincarnation, believing that we never die but just keep coming back again and again until we get it right! Some are trying cyonics, the practice or technique of deep-freezing the bodies of people who have just died, in the hope that scientific advances may allow them to be revived in the future. For $35,000 a year how many years could you afford to be frozen before you think science finds a cure for your death? Others imagine that cloning will provide us a way to recreate another one of us, just like the last one.

The funeral industry is getting better and better at disguising death, offering us beautifully dressed corpses that look like they are merely sleeping, placing them in air-tight caskets with “life-time guarantees” whatever that means! Still others are engaging in death-denying practices like unprotected sex, overeating, smoking or forgoing vaccinations, as if somehow death could never happen to them!  The fact is, there is no cure for, no escaping from, death!

Then there is the “religious crowd,” those who comb the scriptures looking for clues about the end of the world so that they can “get ready” right before the curtain falls. Behind their search is the assumption that they can live any way they choose, repent at the last minute and get in under the wire. They did it in Jesus’ day. People still do it today.

In his day, Jesus spoke of his Second Coming. Early Christians actually did look for a Second Coming in their lifetimes. The first book of the New Testament, the First Letter to the Thessalonians, talks about getting ready for that imminent Second Coming. They were so convinced that it was going to happen in their lifetimes that many Christians basically gave up on this life to sit down and wait for it to happen: they quit their jobs, the quit planting and they just explored their so-called “signs.”  It got so bad that Paul was prompted to write a second letter to the Thessalonians, telling them to get up and get back to work because “no one knew” when it would come. The gospels of Mark and Matthew, written a little later, speak of the Second Coming, but warns people that “no one knows the day or the hour” and “if someone tells you that this or that will be the day, do not believe them.” 

Even today, especially at the turn of this century twenty-one years ago, some people got all excited about reading “signs” indicating the end of the world. Again, it did not happen! Every few years, some fanatical religious leader will start a cult built on the assumption that that he or she had discovered “in the scriptures” signs that the world will soon end. All of them have been wrong.

There are three things worth pointing out here. (1) No one can predict the date through reading “signs” because no one knows. (2) When it does happen, it will not be a disaster but rather a glorious day for those who live faithful lives. “Eye has not seen. Ear has not heard. Nor has it even dawned on human beings the great things God has in store for those who love him.” Therefore, we wait, not in dread, but “in joyful hope.” (3) The only reason for trying to predict the end of the world, is to live anyway you want and then try to “get ready” before the curtain drops. Foolish! If you live in readiness, you have nothing to be afraid of. The real message, then, is to “be ready,” not “get ready.”

I think about my own death more these days than I ever have. One reasons is because of the Scripture readings the Church offers us to reflect on at this time of the year. Second, it has to do with the fact that I am heading toward 78 and the fact that the diocese sends out a “funeral planning form” about this time of the years every couple of years, asking us to update our plans so they will know what to do with us if we were to die unexpectedly. All this together, makes me look at something I may not want to look at: the fact that me, myself and I will die sometime. It is not morbid, but it is just a fact of life. 

Here are a few things I have put into my “funeral planning form.” (1) I have stated that, if I were to die tomorrow, it would be OK because I have had an incredible life as a priest, a life richer and fuller than I ever imagined when I was growing up. I am not pushing to go just yet, but I think I can leave this world anytime a very thankful man. (2) I don’t want to waste a lot of money on such foolishness as a gold-plated casket, a bronze vault and a gaudy monument, nor do I want my ashes thrown frivolously out of some airplane or used as a mantle decoration. I plan to be buried in one of my oldest black suits from J. C. Penney’s, in a simple wooden “monk’s casket,” made out of unfinished poplar wood from St. Meinrad Archabbey, with a lid that is put on with screw drivers, I won’t be needing this body again, so let them take whatever organs that can be used and then let the rest of it rot in the ground! As a message to those I leave behind, I want to be buried clutching the Lectionary that the Archbishop of Winnipeg, Canada, gave me a few years back when I told him and his priests that preaching has been the center and joy of my life. I want a funeral with joyful Easter music. I want the preacher to deliver a "homily," not a "eulogy." In other words, I want him to talk about what God has done for me, not what I did for God. I want to be buried in the cemetery of my home parish, in the country, where I grew up. My small tombstone, already in place, has my full name, the date I was baptized, the date I was ordained and the date I died can be added.  On top, I have these words engraved – “simply amazed – forever grateful.” In short, I want people to get the message that I am not clinging to this life, but my eyes are on the next one.

Planning your funeral may not be fun, but it is the best way to take stock of what you believe about life and death. It can be a statement of faith. 

In the meantime, forget about predicting the end of the world! Let’s all live well, as long as we can! Let us live with our bags packed and out of sight, ready to go, should it happen today or years from now! In the meantime, let us live! Let us live in “joyful hope,” knowing in our hearts that we are truly “heaven bound!”