Thursday, November 24, 2022

A THANKSGIVING THOUGHT ON OUR EPIDEMIC OF INGRATITUDE

OBVIOUSLY, I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO FEELS THIS WAY!


Ask Amy: 

Ingratitude has reached epidemic proportions

Dear Amy: My friend recently got married. I understand that her life got crazy with everything surrounding the wedding.

Her mother threw her a three-day bachelorette party, held out of town.

Afterward, I don't think she even texted anyone a simple thank you. It would have been nice to know that she enjoyed the weekend or appreciated that we all showed up from all over the country.

I gave her a gift and never received an acknowledgment for that, either.

The big wedding day was a few weeks later. They ran out of funds for a videographer, so I volunteered.

I am a photographer, so this wasn't completely out of my realm, but it was the first go, for me, at making a video.

After spending months editing the pieces together (which was enormous and time-consuming), I had it finalized with sound and special effects. The results were amazing! Truly, a professional videographer would charge no less than $2,000 for what I turned in!

I don't care about the money (of course), but I'm just so surprised that all I received was a quick texted thank you. Her husband emailed me a nicer thanks, but even his email was only three sentences.

I don't know if it's unreasonable to expect a phone call from them?

Honestly, all of the lack of gratitude has sort of piled up, and I don't particularly feel like initiating yet another "offering," even if it's something as small as a phone call, to this friend. I feel really unappreciated and unacknowledged.

Put Upon

Put Upon: Of every issue I cover in my column, questions regarding the lack of gratitude seem to dominate.

Are we experiencing a gratitude deficit? Do people actually not feel gratitude? Do people lack the emotional tools to understand the connection between receiving something (a gift, a kindness, a nice gesture) and expressing their thanks? Can people not comprehend the joy of connection when they close the loop by saying, “Thank you”?

You feel unappreciated because you ARE unappreciated. A gift as consequential as a wedding video deserves a sincere expression of thanks — spoken or written (even if the couple didn’t like it, they should have thanked you for your effort). And a gift as consequential as your ongoing friendship also warrants an expression of gratitude.

-----------------------------------------------


Dear Amy: My husband and I loaned my niece and her husband $3,000 for their son's college bills. The college was getting ready to kick him out because of nonpayment. We had the money to loan out at the time, so we did it (with no promissory note). Big mistake!

When it came time to pay us back, my niece and her husband flipped the script! At first, he said he thought it was a gift. He later came back and said that it was indeed a loan. We agreed that they would pay us $50 a month. They made two payments and then stopped abruptly. Then they bad-mouthed my husband and me to other family members. Some family members took his side.

I was so hurt by this. I helped to raise my niece. Now I am ready to take her and her husband to small claims court. Doing this will air out our family business in this small town, but it can't be helped.

What do you think? We deserve our money back, right?

Broke in Arkansas


Broke in Arkansas: Yes, you deserve your money back. Although your verbal agreement constitutes an oral contract, I hope you also have some form of written communication between both parties acknowledging their agreement to repay you.

You might have to sue these family members in small claims court. Each state sets its own guidelines regarding the maximum amount you can sue for. According to my research, the upper limit in your state (Arkansas) is $5,000. (Check Arcourts.gov for more information).


© 2019 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

RE-THINKING THE UPCOMING "PIG OUT" SEASON


"I can do without this!"
"I can do without this!"
"I can do without this!"

IT'S NOT TOO EARLY TO APPPLY THE BRAKES
 

I believe that most of my eating for the next six weeks will be simply "because it's there!" Usually, there is not a lot of thought going into it. Whether it is another all-you-can-eat buffet, another box of homemade Christmas cookies and candy or another celebration breakfast, lunch or dinner, it seems that I am about to enter another "eating my way from Thanksgiving, through Christmas and into the New Year" tunnel that I always live to regret on New Year's Day! This far out, I can already hear my doctor saying, "Hey! Ron! You need to lighten up on the sugar!" 

It occurred to me that a lot of my eating, especially from now to Christmas, has at its root the tradition of "rewarding people with food." My mother always did it! My sisters used to do it when I visited them over the holidays! My friends do it! My parishioners did it! Their philosophy always seemed to be, "If you like somebody, feed them! If you like them a lot, feed them as much as you can!" 

When family and friends give you gift certificates for restaurants, big boxes of fudge or invitations to dinner to show their love, don't try to show your appreciation by accepting their gifts and eating as much of it as possible right there in front of them! Your last line of defense may be to ask for a "doggie bag" even if you don't have a "doggie!"  That's why "freezers" were invented! 

I usually fail miserably, but this year I am going to try to apply the brakes early when it comes to the amount I eat on any one occasion. Tasting a little of everything laid in front of me is better than trying to eat everything laid in front of me!! If I get three boxes of cookies, I will eat one cookie out of each box and serve the rest to my guests as fast as possible! When someone plans to give me a gift card and asks me what my favorite lunch restaurant is, I won't say "Panera's!" I'll say "Kroger's" because they sell vegetables and fruit there!  Another personal rule to implement starting at this time of the year is "don't bring it into the house!" This is especially important when it comes to ice cream. pastries and candies. I try to treat them like the addictive "drugs" they are! I don't trust myself being left alone with a half-gallon of ice cream or a pound bag of "M and M"s! 

Realize that you have a choice between suffering from a bit of abstinence now or suffering a lot later trying to get rid of all that weight! As they say, "A moment on a lips, forever on the hips!" Keeping weight off may be hard, but taking it off is even harder! Just stop and take a good hard look at it before you eat it and ask yourself, "Do I really need this?" Look before you leap! Think before you eat! 

Sunday, November 20, 2022

SNEERED, JEERED AND REVILED

 THE FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING

Above him was an inscription that read,

“This is the King of the Jews.” The rulers

sneered at him. The soldiers jeered at him.

One of the criminals reviled him.

Luke  23:35-43

 

Surely, you have heard the expression “God’s ways are not our ways!” It means that God thinks differently from the way we human beings think and God does things differently from the way human beings do them.  We see the most dramatic example of just how differently God thinks in today’s Feast of Christ the King.  Christ our King is presented to us, stripped and naked on a cross, dying in agony between two common criminals, spit running down his face, a sarcastic note nailed above his head, a “crown” of thorns mockingly hammered into the blood-matted hair of his head for all passers-by to laugh at!  Now that’s not exactly how we picture royalty! That is certainly not what we saw recently on TV at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II! We are used to seeing kings powerful, pampered and pompous!  Our King is different, very different!  “He bore our infirmities.  He endured our sufferings.  He was pierced for our offenses. He was crushed for our sins. His chastisement made us whole. His stripes healed us.” Without doubt “God’s ways are not our ways!” God does not think the way we think!

 

However, this unusual “king” thing is only one example. God has always done this kind of stuff!  Centuries ago, when God began to prepare a people from whom he would send a savior, he chose Abraham and Sara, two childless senior citizens with a couple of their feet already in the grave!!  After choosing this people as "his" people, they ended up enslaved in a foreign country.  Even when they are led out of slavery, God picks a man with a speech impediment to lead them. Even his messengers the prophets were, more often than not, hesitant, even whiny, sometimes. One had a dirty mouth. One tried to beg off as being too young and inexperienced. Another tried to run and had to be swallowed by a whale and spit out on the beach near Nineveh. Their most famous and beloved king, David, was a murderous bigamist!  Even when the birth of the Savior of the world came, he was born not from among the rich and educated, not at a state-of-the-arts birthing center with the best of doctors, but in a barn, to a teen-ager, pregnant before marriage, away from home, after riding for miles on donkey back! It just keeps going and going!  Even before his birth, Mary predicted that God’s ways would not be our ways. “The rich are pulled from their thrones and the poor are lifted up from their manure heaps.” 

 

Again, in his ministry, we see that God’s ways are not our ways. Jesus was a layman, not a clergyman. He was kicked out of the synagogue, rejected and hounded by the religious establishment. His closest companions were a personnel department’s worst nightmare: a hated tax collector, a liar, two mama’s babies, an agnostic, a former terrorist, and a petty thief, to name a few!  His closest friends were a motley collection of the marginal type: prostitutes, lepers, the un-churched, women and children, and the dirt poor of every kind.  The gossip about him was that he “welcomed sinners and ate with them,” helping him earn the reputation of being a “glutton and drunkard.”  That’s certainly not what most people expect of God! But, “God’s ways are not our ways.”  Even his final “big entry” into Jerusalem was not in a gleaming chariot with white horses or on a golden throne carried by slaves. No, he enters on the back of a jackass as people chanted, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.”  

 

No wonder most people missed this king. They were looking in the wrong direction. They thought they knew how God would act. They thought he would act as they would act.  As one preacher put it years ago, “In the beginning, God created us in his own image and likeness and ever since we have been trying to create God in our image and likeness!” Instead of thinking as God thinks, we try to make God think the way we think. No wonder we experience God as absent, more than present, in our lives! We keep trying to make God reasonable, we keep looking for God among the rich, the beautiful, the self-righteous and the powerful!  No wonder Christianity is dead in countries where power, prestige and money are prized, but alive and well and growing in countries where the poor, the powerless and the suffering live. The latter understand how God thinks!  The former is still trying to get God to think as they think! The rich and powerful and beautiful and so-called smart people think they can do without God. The poor and powerless know that they need God!

 

One the most common ways we do not think as God thinks is when we think that God is absent when things go wrong and present only when things go right.  Looking back over my own life, I can say with confidence that it was during those times that God seemed most absent is when God was actually most active! I could not see it at the time, but it is crystal clear from hindsight! (1) As I look back over my life, especially over a very painful childhood lived out in an atmosphere of almost daily psychological abuse. It was painful and I would not want to go through it again, but I have come to realize that God was certainly using it to prepare me for helping hundreds of others as a priest. I can say with certainty that that experience, and the triumph over it, has helped my effectiveness as a priest more than any other thing! (2) When I was sent to the home missions right after ordination, I certainly felt at the time that God seemed to have abandoned me. In reality, looking back, God was extremely active at that time in my life. God was preparing me for my life’s work as a preacher, as a "revitalizer" of parishes and as a person sensitive to religious prejudice. Looking back, I have realized over and over again, that that period of my life was preparing me for what I have been doing ever since!

 

On this Feast of Christ the King, a feast in honor of the king that is the reverse of how we think of kings, we are challenged to think differently about God. It’s message is simple: God’s ways are not our ways, it is precisely when we feel God most absent, is when God is most present! So I say to all of you who have things going on in your life that you don’t like, things that make you feel that God is absent, just wait! Trust God! I believe that you will someday realize that, even in times of loss and tragedy, God is very active.  Scriptures tell the story in a million ways: God’s ways are not our ways! Contrary to popular opinion, breakdown is a sure sign of a breakthrough, there is a crown on the other side of every cross, resurrection on the other side of death!   That heart attack may just wake you up to what’s really important! That relationship breakup may be the best thing that ever happened to you! That firing may just take you to the best job you ever had! That unexpected death may bring you closer to others!  Ugly ducklings today may just turn out to be swans tomorrow! Getting what you want may turn out to be your worst nightmare! That child that disappointed you most may just turn out to be the child that makes you most proud! That feeling of God being absent, may be the beginning of feeling closer to God than ever! Never underestimate the value of a so-called tragedy!  God’s ways are not our ways!     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Saturday, November 19, 2022

VIEWS FROM MY PORCH - THE CHANGING OF SEASONS


ALL CREATION SUMMMONED TO PRAISE

DANIEL 3:64-73

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition

64 “Bless the Lord, all rain and dew;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
65 Bless the Lord, all you winds;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
66 Bless the Lord, fire and heat;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
67 Bless the Lord, winter cold and summer heat;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
68 Bless the Lord, dews and falling snow;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
69 Bless the Lord, ice and cold;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
70 Bless the Lord, frosts and snows;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
71 Bless the Lord, nights and days;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
72 Bless the Lord, light and darkness;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
73 Bless the Lord, lightnings and clouds;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

SEPTEMBER 9, 2022
NOVEMBER 5, 2022NOVEMBER 12, 2022





Thursday, November 17, 2022

IMPOSSIBLE THINGS JUST TAKE A LITTLE LONGER

 


"If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you."
Luke 7:1-6

Having a negative-sounding name like “Knott” has it advantages. It makes you damned and determined to overcome negativity in life. My youngest brother, Mark, and I are what are called “Type A” personalities. We are driven to accomplish things! We are over-achievers! We never rest or let up! I am even flunking retirement! We joke about having a couple of personal mottos and those mottos go like this! “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing!” “Never tell a Knott he can’t do something!” I could probably sleep better at night if my last name had been something like “Linger,” “Stall” or “Dally” instead of “Knott!”

After 52 years, there is so much I can't remember about seminary, but there is one thing that remains vivid in my mind and has contributed to my “driven” personality. One of our teachers asked us to present some "pastoral situations" for class discussion - maybe a wedding, funeral or counseling situation. He asked us to write up the "ideal" way we might handle the situation once we were ordained.

After we had all written up our "ideal" approaches, he collected the papers and ripped them up into small pieces and threw them in the garbage.  He said to us, "You will hardly ever get to do the "ideal," so let's talk about some alternative approaches."  Man, has that insight ever come in handy over the last 52 years!

Right after ordination I was sent to the home missions of southern Kentucky. I found myself pastor of a church with only 7 parishioners (three adults and four children) with $70.00 in the bank. I was not trained to be a missionary. I knew nothing about the "bible belt" as they called that area of the country. I didn't know how to start a church or how to raise money.  I could have just sat down and waited out my time down there, but I didn't! I remembered my seminary teacher's advice, "If you cannot do the ideal, find an alternative approach."

I asked three parishes and a Catholic car dealer here in Louisville to pay my salary until I got settled. I then applied to McCormick Presbyterian Seminary in Chicago for a scholarship to study "parish revitalization."   Guess what? The three parishes and the car dealer agreed to pay my salary for three years and I got a full scholarship from the Presbyterian Church to study “parish revitalization.”

When I came to Louisville in 1983, I had been named pastor of our Cathedral. The church was almost empty - just 110 registered parishioners and a few visitors.  Very few people knew it, but it was on a list of churches up for possible closure. Some wanted to close it and make one of the nicer suburban churches our cathedral. I was told by the former pastor not to get my hopes up and that "nothing could be done because there weren't any Catholics living downtown.”

I could have just sat down and waited out my time, but I didn't! I remembered my seminary teacher's advice, "If you cannot do the ideal, find an alternative approach."  I realized that there were very few Catholics living downtown and that raising a lot of money from within the diocese would be out of the question so I went for an alternative approach.  For parishioners, I went after the hundreds and hundreds of "fallen away" Catholics, especially those who worked downtown. For money, I asked people of all religions to help us fix up the cathedral so that all religions could use it. Guess what? In fourteen years we grew from 110 members to 2100 members and we raised over $22,000,000 and 67% of that $22,000,000 came from non-Catholics!

Friends, I learned a long time ago that the biggest shortage in the Catholic Church is not money or priests. It's imagination and faith! This is why I love that little sawed-off guy in the Sunday-before-last gospel, named Zacchaeus! He wanted to get a glimpse of Jesus coming down the road, but he was too short to see above the crowd! He could have said, "Oh, well, maybe next time," but he didn't. He found an alternative. He "ran ahead" and "climbed a sycamore tree." Because of his ingenuity, determination and faith and because Jesus was able to see Zacchaeus in the tree, Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus' house for dinner which led to him becoming a disciple!

Faith is the greatest force in the world. My friends! Declaring a situation as "impossible" is very convenient. It lets us off the hook and relieves us of the hard work of looking for "alternatives."  Nobody will blame us for doing nothing if we can convince them that "nothing can be done," would they? Instead, learn from Zacchaeus!  Use your imagination, use your faith, look for alternatives and be resourceful!  One of my heroes is Philo T. Farnsworth the inventor of TV! He said it best when he said, “Impossible things just take a little longer!”





Tuesday, November 15, 2022

THERE IS NO RESCUE PARTY OUT LOOKING FOR YOU!

THE RISE IN CRIPPLED PERSONALITIES


“This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."

George Bernard Shaw

 
I can remember the spot and the year that it finally hit me that there was "no rescue party out looking for me!" Until then, I had become a master of whining and blaming and waiting for some rescue party to show up and save me from my situation. It truly was a moment of grace. It was a life-changing "wake up call" that motivated me to become my own personal life coach and personal spiritual director. Hardly a day goes by that I don't thank God for that moment of grace. Looking back at that day, and what has happened since, has left me "simply amazed and forever grateful!" 
There are many people who truly need help and we should do everything in our power to help them. There are many people  who simply need to be given an opportunity to help themselves and we should help them find that opportunity. Sadly, there are still some people in our culture who "want to be taken care of" when they are perfectly capable of "self-help." Some of them have been pampered, protected and spoiled until their personalities are stunted and starved.  Able to walk, they want to be carried. In those cases, when we carry them instead of challenging them to get up and walk, we actually help "cripple" them even more! With that said, I absolutely disagree with those self-serving persons who conveniently perpetuate the myth that a majority of our citizens these days fall into this category! Some of them use their accusations and condemnations as a screen to hide the fact that they are abusing the very same system on a much larger scale to even more deceptively advance and enrich themselves! I consider them the worst of the wolves in sheep's clothing! I may be dismissed as gullible, but I still believe that most people are doing the best they can and crave encouragement even more than help.  
 
I have dedicated myself to one of the "helping professions," priesthood, but I have resisted the idea that I have been called to be "holy" for other people. Rather, I have insisted on creating a life of trying to lead and empower others to seek their own "holiness." I am irritated most when people tell me they have given up their spiritual searches and religious practices because spiritual leaders like me are not perfect! They are the ones, to paraphrase Shaw, who have become 'feverish, selfish little clods of ailments and grievances, complaining that others will not devote themselves to being holy for them!' We are meant to encourage each other and inspire each other on our spiritual journeys, not to be "stand-ins" for others' spiritual journeys! As the Kingston Trio used to sing, "I gotta walk that lonesome valley. I got to walk it by myself. Oh, nobody else can walk it for me. I got to walk it by myself."  

Come on, people! "Be a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."  Remember this! "There is no rescue party out looking for you!"  Get up and get on with taking as much personal responsibility as possible! 



Sunday, November 13, 2022

DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME PREDICTING WHEN THE WORLD WILL END

 


See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name
saying, ‘I am he,” and “The time has come.’ Do not follow them!
Luke 21:5-19 

It had been a very busy week at the parish. I decided to go to bed early, thinking I would get a little rest. Wrong! About an hour after I dozed off, the telephone rang. The caller was a panic-stricken, rural-sounding man with a house full of kids screaming and yelling at each other in the back ground. He had gotten my number out of the Yellow Pages. "Reverend, is the world going to come to and end tonight?" In my groggy state, I presumed it already had and he was simply calling to let me know!"

Well, after ten years in the Bible Belt as a home missionary, I had handled enough of these calls to know that a long discussion on biblical exegesis would not work. This man needed a yes or no answer from an authority - and he needed it now! So without batting an eye, I answered with all the authority I could muster at that hour of the night. "No, sir, the world will not end tonight. Please go to bed!"

He put his hand over the receiver to deliver my verdict to his screaming brood.: "He said it wasn't going to end tonight!" There was a lot of muffled arguing before he came back on the phone. "The kids came home from school today saying some preacher had predicted the end of the world and all the other kids were talking about it. They won't go to bed till you talk to them." Believe it or not, I had to talk to five kids, one by one, and tell them in my most confident voice: "Go to bed, honey! The world is not going to end tonight!" The father came back on the line, thanked me, and hung up. I was so pleased with myself that thought I would never go back to sleep!

See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name
saying, ‘I am he,” and “The time has come.’ Do not follow them!
Luke 21:5-19

Jesus left this earth with a promise he would come back. Ever since then, his followers have become periodically obsessed with predicting "the end time" especially during difficult times. However, I want to remind you in no uncertain terms that of  all the millions of doomsday preachers, with all their claims of having "figured it out" from their interpretation of the Bible, over all the many years, not one of them has been right yet! Some of Jesus' disciples, especially at the time of Mark's writing, were obsessed with the belief that Jesus was come in their life time - any moment now! This gospel passage warns those who were trying to predict the "end time" to go on living and leave the "when" to God.  Even Paul, after he had written to the Thessalonians about the imminent coming of Christ, had to write to them again and tell them to get off their rear ends, get back to work and get on with living. Some had quit working and had sat down to wait for "the end." 

Fellow Catholics! You have no doubt been confronted by some who claim to be able to deal with Biblical “end time” texts! Jesus warns us today not to follow them! He tells us that many will come claiming “I am he” and “the time has come.” He tells us today not to get sucked into their claims of being able to predict even from Scripture. Every time the world gets complicated and events seem to be out of control, a significant number of religious people comb the scriptures trying to find clues to back their dire predictions. It’s almost as if they hope the world is coming to an end! Hoping that the end is imminent is a lot easier, I suppose, than doing the hard work of trying to fix the problems of the world!

See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name
saying, ‘I am he,” and “The time has come.’ Do not follow them!
Luke 21:5-19

In today’s gospel, Luke warns us about two things. He warns us “not to follow" those who would interpret current events as signs of the world's end, but he also warns us to "watch out" for our own behavior in the meantime because we will have to face a lot of disruption and even persecution before it’s all said and done. However, when "the end" comes, it has already been decided that good will triumph over evil! So, it’s not a matter of predicting, but a matter of perseverance. In other words, he tells us to worry about living well and being a good disciples so that we don't have to try to "get ready" whenever the end does comes.

Friends, how do we make sure we are prepared? We hunger and thirst for holiness, we keep our hands to the plow, we live with our bags packed for a great adventure and, most importantly, we "wait in joyful hope" for the return of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We should not fear having to endure eternal misery as much as the fear of regret for having missing out on the opportunity for eternal happiness. We need not live in fear and dread because "eye has not seen nor ear heard the wonderful things that God has in store for those who love him." As the Boys Scouts always say so wisely, "Be prepared!" Be prepared for eternal happiness!

 

 


Thursday, November 10, 2022

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

LEARNING SOMETHING EVEN FROM CROOKS


Jesus said to his disciples, “A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property. He summoned him and said, ‘What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.’ The steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I shall do so that, when I am removed from the stewardship, they may welcome me into their homes.’ He called in his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He replied, ‘One hundred measures of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note. Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.’ Then to another he said, ‘And you, how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘One hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note; write one for eighty.’ And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently. For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than the children of light.”

Luke 16:1-8


I guess the bottom line of this strange parable about a bunch of crooks is that we can learn something - even from them!

First of all, the steward was a crook! He was a slave who nonetheless was in charge of running his master’s estate. His master was probably an absentee landlord which was common in those days. His master, being away most of the time, gave his steward a clear path to a career of embezzlement.

Second, the debtors were cooks as well. When they heard that the steward had been fired, they collaborated with him in his scheme to falsify the books. With his days numbered, the steward decided to lower the debts of all his maser’s debtors. That way, they would be grateful for lowing their debts and if they reported him, they could be blackmailed as collaborators in that very same scheme.

Third, the master himself was probably a crook too. Instead of condemning his scheming steward, he praises him for being so slick and cunning in his crookedness. He actually admired the trick that his steward played on him to save himself once he was fired!

In this strange parable, Jesus is not suggesting we all become slick and crooked. He is simply saying that “the children of this world are much more creative in dealing with their own kind than the children of the next world are in dealing with their own kind.” It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Would that Christians were as eager and ingenious in their attempt to attain goodness as the people of this world are in their attempts to attain money and comfort!” It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Would that Christians were half as hungry for righteousness as the people of this world are for material wealth! Would that Christians would be as clever about reaching holiness as the people of this world are about making money!”

Yes, the bottom line about this strange parable is that we can learn something even from crooks!





Sunday, November 6, 2022

A STORY OF FIDELITY ON STEROIDS

 


We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.
II Maccabees

The trouble with having been a priest as long as I have been is that I am now beginning to hear stories about myself from people I worked with a long time ago. The stories usually begin with words like, “I will never forget the time you said, such and such!” I cringe as I wait to see just how bad it is! Sometimes it is funny, sometimes insightful and sometimes a little embarrassing. Recently, a former staff member told me about a baptism I was about to do for several babies. I read down the list of their names and shouted, “Movie stars! Athletes! Rock stars! For God's sake, whatever ever happened to saints’ names?”

Unlike today, when people choose the names of drug addicted, multiple-divorced and foul-mouthed TV and sports personalities for their children, not too many years ago it was a practice for parents to choose at least one name of a saint-hero in naming their children. The purpose was to choose a model of courage and holiness to inspire the young boy or girl in living his or her life - someone who had laid down his or her life for Christ in some heroic way. I was named after St. James, the apostle, who was a preacher and bishop of Jerusalem, a relative of Jesus who was the first of the apostles to die a martyr’s death by being beheaded. 

While parents usually chose a saint’s name for baptism, at Confirmation it was the practice to let us choose our own hero. I chose “Anthony,” the 13th century Franciscan who was famous for his holiness and who, also like St. James, was famous for his preaching.

Today we are presented with a condensed version of one of my favorite Jewish hero stories of the Bible, the seven Maccabean brothers and their mother, who were cruelly tortured, mutilated and killed because they refused to compromise their religious principles. (it's too bad we did not get to hear the complete story, only a condensed version.) In the complete story, all seven brothers, one by one, were whipped, scourged, had their tongues cut out. They were skinned and scalped, had their hands and feet amputated, and were cooked alive in a huge frying pan. Their mother, who was forced to watch, cheered her sons on in their heroic fidelity to the faith. After she had witnessed the death of all seven of her sons, she too was put to death.

Fidelity! We have a whole lot of names for it: keeping a promise, carry through, doing what you said you'd do, keeping your word, putting your money where your mouth is, putting up and shutting up, being faithful, to name a few.

I know of no one personally who has had to die for the faith. Maybe it exists in some places in the world, but it seems to be rare today especially in this country. In fact, I don’t know a whole lot of people who would die for their faith, even if called on to do so! I always wonder if I could lay down my life if I had to! I do, however, know a whole lot of people who have given up the faith because someone said or did something they didn’t like. I know people who have left the church and given up their Catholicism because a church was renovated; they were refused a church wedding, even though they never went to church and had no plans to start; their child was thrown off the parish softball team; their child’s baptism was postponed because the parents did not practice the faith, refused to set an example and bring the child up in the practice of the faith; because the priest made some kind of critical remark in a homily or even because the church was painted a color they hated.

Fellow Catholics, here is the question I think this reading raises. Do you make decisions about how to live your life against a set of unchanging principles or do you make decisions about how to live your life as you go along, deciding what to do, depending what will get you ahead in a given moment?

Do people around you know that you will always operate out of your principles no matter what or do they know that you will always operate out of expediency, doing whatever it takes to get what you want, even if it hurts you and the people around them? Can you stand up to your own addictions, compulsions and cravings or are you a victim of your own addictions, compulsions and cravings? Are you a person who people can always depend on because you are a person of his or her words or are you a person who always goes for the latest best offer, regardless of what you promised yesterday? Is there anything you would die for or is everything negotiable?

Do people know that you mean “yes” when you say “yes’ and “no’ when you say “no” or do they know that, for you, “yes” and “no” may mean “maybe.” In other words, are you a person of principle or a person of expediency? Are you guided by a set of non-negotiable principles that you will not sell-out on or is anything you say or do, or promise to do, “up for grabs?”

No one is usually able to get to the point of being able to lay down his or her life for their faith, all at once! It is sort of like lifting weights, you build yourself up to that point! You usually build yourself up to that point by making principled decisions, one baby step at a time. If you can’t keep a simple promise, can’t show up when you said you would, can’t be where you said you’d be and can’t be loyal to your friends, how can you ever hope to be principled in the big things, the things that really hurt, the things that exact a great price, like keeping your marriage or ordination vows, much less being beheaded for the faith?

A principled life takes concentration, courage and practice. A principled life is the “road less traveled,” but this road leads to life. The alternative is a life ruled by “if it feels good, do it!” This is the “road most traveled” and this is the road that leads to disaster and death.-- and sadly many take it!




 

















Friday, November 4, 2022

A FEW MORE MEMORIES FROM MY EARLY DAYS

GROWING UP A WALTON

Perhaps you remember the TV series The Waltons? The Waltons was an American television series about a family in rural Virginia during the Great Depression and World War II. It was based on the1961 book Spencer's Mountain and the 1963 film of the same name. The series aired from 1972–1981.

The TV series described very closely how I grew up as a child in Rhodelia, Kentucky. Just like the TV series, my grandfather and father operated a sawmill long before it evolved into the building material business that my youngest brother owns today. I used to play at the sawmill exactly like the one pictured below. Going barefoot, I still have a scar on the bottom of my right foot where I stepped on a sharp tin can getting out of a logging truck one day. (Think about that for a minute! Then think about a few copperhead snakes that loved to live under piles of lumber!) 


Just like the Waltons, we lived right next door to the General Store operated by Harold and Verna Vessels who lived above the store. Just like the Waltons, my grandparents were a daily fixture in my life since they lived directly across the road from us and we had full reign of both houses. Just like the Waltons, inside the General Store was the Rhodelia Post Office. In fact, I was born in the house to the right of the store and I used to play with other kids while waiting for the school bus in our yard right behind the gas pumps.  Inside the store was a pot-bellied stove that people would gather around while they waited for the mailman to come. Back then, the mailman brought the school clothes that we had ordered from our yearly Sears and Roebuck Catalogue.  Oddly enough, the mailman even brought live chicks from a hatchery over in Indiana to the farmers in need of multiple chicks to raise for our amazingly fresh cage-free eggs and fried chicken.  


I guess you might say that I am "John Boy" from that TV series. I was the first in my family to graduate from college and like "John Boy" Walton I turned out to be a writer! The Waltons was set during the Great Depression of the early 1930s, however I have always joked that we hadn't heard that the Depression was over in Rhodelia till the 1960s! 

As a teenage seminarian going to high school here in Louisville in 1958, there was a period when I was teased for being a "hick," a "hillbilly" and a "redneck" by my urban classmates. This left me for a period of time "ashamed" of my rural roots. As I got older, I outgrew that youthful "shame!"  Today, I am proud to be from Rhodelia! In fact, I want  to be buried back down there, certainly not up here with the "city slickers" of Louisville! My tombstone sums it up. At the very bottom, it says "Home At Last!" 


Wednesday, November 2, 2022

NOVEMBER IS OUR SPECIAL TIME TO PRAY FOR THE DEAD


Praying for the Dead?


By Fr Ron Rolheiser, 2 November 2020


Why pray for the dead? Does this make any sense? What possible difference can our prayers make to a person once he or she has died?

These are valid questions. A number of objections can be raised against the practice of praying for the dead: Do we need to call God to mercy? Does God need to be reminded that the person who died was in fact a decent, warm-hearted, person? God already knows this, is already as merciful as mercy allows, and needs no nudging from us to be understanding and forgiving. Cynically, the objection might be put this way: If the person is already in heaven he doesn’t need our prayers and if he is in hell, our prayers won’t help anyway! So why pray for the dead?

We pray for the dead for the same reason we pray for anything, we feel the need and that is reason enough. Moreover, the objections raised against praying for the dead are just as easily raised against all prayer of petition. God already knows every one of our desires, every one of our sins, and all of our goodwill. So why remind God of these? Because prayer builds us up, changes us, not God.

This is the first, though not foremost, reason why we pray for the dead. Prayer is meant to change and console us. We pray for the dead to comfort ourselves, to stir and celebrate our own faith, and assuage our own guilt about our less than perfect relationship to the one who has died. In praying for the dead we do two things: We highlight our faith in the power of God and we hold up the life of the person who has died so as to let God take care of things, let God wash things clean. That is one of the purposes of a funeral liturgy, to clearly put the dead person and our relationship to him or her into God’s hands.

But this is not the most important reason why we have funeral liturgies and why we pray for the dead. We pray for the dead because we believe (and this a doctrine, the communion of saints) that we are still in vital communion with them. There is, death notwithstanding, still a vital flow of life between them and us. Love, presence, and communication reach even through death. We and they can still feel each other, know each other, love each other, console each other, and influence each other. Our lives are still joined. Hence we pray for the dead in order to remain in contact with them. Just as we can hold someone’s hand as they are dying, and this can be an immense consolation to them and to us, so too, figuratively but really, we can hold that person’s hand through and beyond death.

Perhaps the words and prayer forms we use seem to indicate something else, since they are addressed to God and not directly to the person for whom we are praying. Thus, for example, in praying for the dead we use words like: “Lord, have mercy on her soul!” “Lord, we place her in your hands!” “She loved you in life, radiated your gentleness, Lord, give her peace!” The words are addressed to God because it is in and through God that our communication with our loved one who is deceased now takes place: God’s bosom is the venue for our communication, God’s power is what is holding both of us in life, and God’s mercy is what is washing things clean between us. We can of course also talk directly to the person who has died, that too is valid enough within the doctrine of the communion of saints, but given the critical place of God’s love, power, and mercy in this situation, our prayer is generally addressed to God so as to highlight that it is within the heart of God that we have contact with our loved ones who are deceased. Hence, our prayers for the dead generally take this particular form.

And classically, within Roman Catholic theology at least, we have believed that our prayers help release this person from purgatory. What’s to be said about this?

Purgatory, properly understood, is not a punishment for any imperfection nor indeed a place distinct from heaven. The pains of purgatory are the pains of adjusting to a new life (which includes the pain of letting go of this one) and the pains of being embraced by perfect love when we ourselves are far from perfect. By praying for the dead, we support them in their pain of adjustment, adjustment to a new life and to living in full light. Purgation eventually leads to ecstasy, but the birth that produces that ecstasy requires first a series of painful deaths. Thus, just as we tried to hold their hands as they died, so now, in praying for loved ones who have died, we continue to hold their hands, and they ours, beyond the chasm of death itself.

Used with permission of the author, Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser. Currently, Father Rolheiser is serving as President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio Texas. He can be contacted through his website, www.ronrolheiser.com. Now on Facebook www.facebook.com/ronrolheiser



WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHIN' IN

verse one

We are all trav'ling in the footsteps
Of those that've gone before
We'll all be reunited
On that new and sunlit shore.

When the saints go marching in
When the saints go marching in
Lord, how I want be in that number
When the saints go marching in









 


Tuesday, November 1, 2022

HAPPY ALL SAINTS DAY! MAY WE ALL BE IN THAT NUMBER...

 .....WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHIN' IN! 


 

We are all trav'ling in the footsteps
Of those that've gone before
We'll all be reunited
On that new and sunlit shore.

When the saints go marching in
When the saints go marching in
Lord, how I want be in that number
When the saints go marching in

And when the sun refuses to shine
When the sun refuses to shine
Lord, how I want to be in that number
When the saints go marching in

Oh when the saints go marching in
Oh when the saints go marching in
Lord, how I want to be in that number
Oh when the saints go marching in

And when the trumpet sounds its call
When the trumpet sounds its call
Lord, how I want to be in that number
When the trumpet sounds its call

When the saints marching in
When the saints go marching in
Lord, how I want to be in that number
When the saints go marching in

And some say that this world of trouble
Is the only one we'll ever see
But I'm waiting for that morning
When the new world is revealed

Oh when the moon turns red with blood
Oh when the moon turns red with blood
Lord, how I want to be in that number
When the moon turns red with blood

When the saints (oh when the saints) go marching in (go marching in)
When the saints go marching in (go marching in)
Lord, how I want (Lord, how I want) to be in that number (be in that number) 
When the saints go marching in.



Monday, October 31, 2022

HOW ABOUT A LITTLE MORE SICK HUMOR?

 After doing so many weddings over the years, I actually thought this was hilarious!