Saturday, January 1, 2022



For most of my life as a priest, I have assiduously avoided New Years Eve parties. The thought of spending that sacred evening being a screaming drunk, surrounded by a mob of screaming drunks, has just never appealed to me. I know I am different and I realized a long time ago that that fact does not necessarily make any better or any worse than anyone else. It's just my personal preference. As the old saying goes, "To each his own said the old lady as she kissed the cow!"

Here is what I enjoy doing on New Year's Eve. I spend the day setting the stage for the evening's event. I clean the house. I make a fresh bed by changing the sheets, fluffing the pillows and turning down the covers. I put on my baggy loose pants and comfortable shirt. I prepare a new journal for the new year. I fix a few extra nice healthy things to snack on. By evening time, I turn the commercial-free cable music channel to "Soundscapes" (soothing "new age" music) and turn on my convincing fake fireplace.  I pour myself a nice drink, skim though last year's journal and remind myself of what I was thinking at various times, not only evaluating the events of last year, but more importantly how I reacted to the events of last year. That triggers a few laughs, a few sighs and more than a few out-loud words of  gratitude. 

Once I have had enough of that, I turn my attention to the future: things I need to remember, people I need to pay more attention to, ideas I may want to implement, corrections I need to make and projects I need to finish. I start writing things down in my journal, in no certain order, as they come to mind. 

This year two resolutions already came to mind. (1) Since the chaos of our world will, no doubt, last for quite a bit longer, I need to figure out more ways to anchor myself from the inside. There is an old quote that sums up what I am going to try to do with this year's time of serious reflection. "Since you cannot control the waves, you must find a way to adjust your sails." (2) I need to get back to my health regime that took a beating over the holidays. This I usually do quite easily when I begin it on New Year's day. 

I am so damned tired of COVID that I could scream! I tried screaming a few times and I can vouch for the fact that it doesn't help and it just gives the neighbors more ammunition when they come to drag me off to the funny-farm and the operators of that institution try to make me "move in" - "for own good," of course !  

Compared to others, I have little to scream about so I need to get a grip! The only thing I have to fall back on is this - the realization that compared to other people, I have it made! I live happily alone in a comfortable paid-for condo. I consider myself "financially secure" and I have adjusted pretty well to retirement living.  I have plenty to eat and my health is probably above average for my age. I know a lot of people much younger than I am who have bodies that are "shot" already. I have a wide variety of faithful friends. I am at peace with most people with the exception of an irritating horse's ass here and there!   

Even with these advantages over a whole lot of other people, because I am so tired of the unraveling madness all around me that this COVID has unleashed on the world, I still find myself wanting to scream and lash out at something. As I said, I know that screaming and being upset, being unsettled and being irritated in response to this wearing down of my nerves, does not help. It simply exacerbates the pain - like the urge to scratch a poison ivy outbreak. 

I just finished checking out the news on my computer. Here are only a few of the headlines. "Father drives son to store to commit murder." "Woman arrested after running onto the Phoenix Airport tarmac to stop flight she missed." "Teens ambushed their teacher on her daily walk then dragged her into the woods." "Over 65 shots fired on busy Philadelphia street; 6 wounded."  That's only the tip of the iceberg! No wonder I find myself wanting to scream! 

As I said earlier, "If you can't control the wind, you can adjust your sails." I have no simple answers, but here are a few things I hope to implement to help anchor me in an out-of-control world.  


When I was a child, I had the privilege of being able to play in the woods all day. We had no ear buds or cell phones or any other electronic gadgets, not even transistor radios! We could  actually forget what was going on in the so-called "real" world. Today, I am convinced that many of my country cousins who like to deer hunt in the fall are attracted more to the experience of long periods of silence than they are to the actuality of killing a deer. (By the way, for your information, you can actually still go to the woods these days, without a gun, in places like the Bernheim Forest.) 

A long drive with a broken radio and a cell phone with a dead battery can actually be a great blessing. Regular benefits come from deliberately turning off the radio and cellphone on a long trip, opening the windows on a spring day and just taking in the quiet. I like to do that once in a while. For an hour or two, I can actually forget the world is falling part. 

Never underestimate a nice walk through a beautifully manicured cemetery. Most cemeteries are very quiet. Many are peaceful. Some are absolutely beautiful. They can remind me not to waste time feeling sorry for myself. They can remind me that there are some things worse than having a bad day, a bad week, a bad month or even a bad year.  An extended walk can actually bring my focus back to what is important and the importance of taking advantage of the time I have to "smell the roses," even if they are on a strangers grave! 

Here is one of my favorite insights about silence. “You are most powerful when you are most silent. People never expect silence. They expect words, motion, defense, offense, back and forth. They expect a leap into the fray. They are ready, fists up, words hanging leaping from their mouths." Alison McGhee

It may not be in my power to shut the world up, but it is in my power to shut the world out, at least for a while. As Will Rogers said, "Never miss a good chance to shut up!"  


Electronic media is a blessing and a curse. It is not uncommon to see people walking around looking down at their cellphones: in grocery stores, on sidewalks, on buses, in cars, in restaurants and even in churches. As good as electronic media could be, it has sometimes driven us further apart when we use it to communicate with others in place of normal personal face-to-face communication. 

As much as I enjoy electronic media, I need to wake up to some of the truth about it. Some electronic media outlets today are actually guilty of intentionally misinforming the public. In the cases of misinformation, electronic media has been known to ruin the reputation of innocent people. Some media hyped conclusions on different topics are accidently or intentionally misleading. Unfiltered electronic media sometimes spreads unnecessary information which can lead to disputes and chaos. It may be fast, but often its content lacks depth. In case of minimal news, some media outlets settle for negative approaches to keep themselves going.

 I plan on using the conveniences of electronic media, but this year for my own sanity I need to put my foot down to any over-use and abuse that I may be involved in. As part of my "keeping my sanity program," I plan to limit any of my overuse and rediscover what it's like to smell the roses and carry on a coherent conversation with real people in front of me. I plan to turn my cell phone off when people come to visit, when I am in an inside public area and never turn it on at table while eating with people. I am just not that important and nether is much of the information people want to send me or talk to me about. I can wait. It can wait. Leave a message! I am too busy "smelling the roses," "dining with a friend" or focusing on a task right in front of me! 

I do not use FACEBOOK. I consider much of it a cesspool of gossip and I don't want to pollute my mind with such garbage. I already know everybody has the "smartest dog/cat in the world and their baby is the "cutest ever!"  Frankly, I don't care what people had for dinner, much less want to see a picture of it on my phone!  If people don't want to see my blog posts, they don't have to sign up to get it or download it. It is strictly voluntary. It's not forced onto anybody and it's not distributed via unwanted mass e-mails! 


To survive in an out-of-control world, with any peace of mind and sanity, I know I have to focus. I cannot ingest constant chaos all day long and expect to maintain my equilibrium. To focus, I have to restrict how much I let into my consciousness at one time. I need breaks. I need rest. I need time to recover and to recoup. Even Jesus withdrew and went off to a "lonely place" once in a while! Anybody with responsibility, whether he or she be priest, parent or professional, needs time to recover if we are to last the long-haul. It's not about me saying "yes" all the time nor saying "no" all the time. It's about pacing myself. The world will not collapse without me, no matter how indispensable I may like to think I am! The time to be renewed and refreshed will not happen by accident. I must plan and structure it. I must take control of my own life or it will be nibbled away by needy people until I am completely unable to function in a healthy way, leaving them without a valuable source of help and support on which they can rely.   Just because I live in a "buffet world," does not mean I have to eat the whole thing in one sitting! Picking and choosing wisely, saying "yes" and saying "no," is the healthy and sane approach. 


One of the last papers I wrote before leaving the seminary was an essay about the difference between courage and foolhardiness. It was about the fine line between bravery and stupidity. In a world that keeps inviting me into the latest conflict, I have decided to look before I leap, to keep my powder dry and to get my act together before rushing into a rash decision with my hair on fire! My favorite Greek word, the word that I used to name my little publishing company, is sophronismos. Sophronismos is an almost impossible word to translate into English. Sometimes it is translated as wisdom, but it is a very specific kind of wisdom. It is more the wisdom of "knowing what to do in the face of panic" or "knowing how to keep one's cool under pressure." 

The word "discern" is related. It literally means  "to cut in two." It's the ability to separate one thing from another, as in "good" from "not so good." To me "picking my battles" after "discernment," is a sign of "sophronismos."  In my old age, I think it is wiser to be a "marksman," than it is to be a "loose canon." 


All of us need someone we can trust who can listen to us, who will be honest with us and who can help guide us back to our chosen path. In my profession, we call them "spiritual directors." While I am all for the idea of having a "spiritual director, " in reality I know they are as scarce as hen's teeth! Trying to find one who is capable, one I can trust and one who is available to me is an exhausting search. 

Even if my search for such a trusted advisor is fruitless, I still don't have to be a tumbleweed blown around by every gust of wind coming down the plain. I have learned that I can be my own "spiritual director" in an emergency. All I have to do is be serious about wanting to engage in personal and spiritual growth. As Jesus said, "Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you." 

I find that doing what I am doing right now, tonight, is one of the great places to start - journaling. I journal almost ever night before I go to sleep. I spend a few minutes reflecting on the events of the day, my reaction to them and the things I have either learned or want to remember. It is a practical way of reminding myself of my desire to "direct" myself toward my stated goals and to engage in some self-correction if necessary, before things get too far out of hand. Tonight, I will start page one of a brand new journal. After I finish a quick review of last year's journal, I will begin to write down some of my wishes, dreams and goals for 2022. I am going to try to "discern" where I want to grow! 

Another thing I do in my personal and spiritual "self-direction," is collect wisdom quotes. Many of them I have committed to memory. I can pull them up at a moments notice. Many are from Scripture. Some are from the Saints. A few are from famous people. Many of them are simple bits of wisdom that have come out of the mouths of some very ordinary people - people who are wise and just plain good to the bone. 

Another thing that helps me tremendously to engage effectively in my "self-direction," is having a few close friends I feel free to confide in. Some are priests. Some are lay Catholics. Some are Protestants. Some are non-believers. Some are just friends. I am proud of the fact that I can relate pretty easily to a large cross-section of people.  

It seems, sooner or later, during these personal New Year's Eve retreats that I remember the first word that came out of the mouth of Jesus as he began his ministry. The word, in New Testament Greek, is "metanoiete." It is sometimes translated as "repent." That is sad because that invitation, in people's minds, usually means to "feel sorry for some mistake you made or some sin you have committed." I think it is much more challenging than that! "Metanoiete," I believe, is better translated as "change the way you think about things," "change the way you look at things," "change your mind about what you think is important!"

For me, the New Year is about this kind of "changing." Notice I used the word "changing," not "changes." Metanoia is not about making external "changes," it's about "changing" internally! In 2022, I want to keep "changing," not just making "changes" as in "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic." As Cardinal John Henry Newman said, "To live is to change, and to change often is to become more perfect."


Have a Happy New Year! It's in our power! We just need to go get a grip on ourselves and choose happiness!
We need to know that if we are safely anchored, our happiness is possible even in an out-of-control world!


Friday, December 31, 2021


Luke 8:50


 Keep Watching This Amazing Video Until You Really Understand It.
Once You Understand It, Commit to Living It Out.



Wednesday, December 29, 2021




I loved you all the summer through
I thought I'd found my dream in you
For me you were the one
But that was yesterday and yesterday's gone
We walked together hand in hand
'Cross miles and miles of golden sand
But now it's over and done
'Cause that was yesterday and yesterday's gone
We had such happiness together
I can't believe it's gone forever
Wait 'til summer comes again
I hope that you'll remember when
Our love had just begun
I loved you yesterday and yesterday's gone
We had such happiness together
I can't believe it's gone forever
Wait 'til summer comes again
I hope that you'll remember when
Our love had just begun
I loved you yesterday and yesterday's gone
Yesterday's gone
Yesterday's gone
Yesterday's gone

Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: W. Kidd / D. Stuart


Monday, December 27, 2021



I discovered this amazing secret long before I came across this video. 
The biggest obstacle to a life of adventure is to give into the deadly desire for comfort.   

 Keep Watching This Amazing Video Until You Really Understand It.
Once You Understand It, Commit to Living It Out.