Friday, March 4, 2022


Book is available at:
Tonini Church Supply
966 Breckenridge Ln.
Louisville KY 40207
(next to Home Depot)
or from
Click HERE.


Thursday, March 3, 2022


Fergal is back! Fergal is back! Fergal is back! 

I knew when I asked all of my readers to pray for my Irish friend and fellow volunteer in the islands, that it might work! Well, it did! He is back in the islands after several health scares over the last year and a half when he was back home in Ireland. What can I say? He's a tough old bird! 
He arrived back in Saint Vincent just the other day. I live-chatted with him on SKYPE. 
I took a picture of the computer screen to prove that this "cat with nine lives" is still with us! He is back until fall at his old desk in the Diocese of Kingstown Pastoral Centre!

After a few months down in the islands, he plans to come back through Kentucky on his way home to Ireland! I will let you know when that is - probably late August or early September. He has many Kentucky friends who will be wanting to see him, enjoy a few laughs and share a few "pints." 
"Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated!"

Tuesday, March 1, 2022


One of the main differences between the ministry of Jesus and the ministry of the Scribes and Pharisee, is that when Jesus looked at people he looked for goodness to affirm while the Scribes and Pharisees, when they looked at people, looked for sins to condemn. 

That insight has always informed my practice of ministry. That's why my column in The Record for 15 years, as well as this blog for the past 5 years, have been called An Encouraging Word. I have always rejoiced in the accusation that the "Pharisees" of today's church have hurled at me, like the Pharisees of old hurled at Jesus, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!" There is some goodness in every "bad" person and some bad in every "good" person. Only God can see good enough to sort that out! 

Recently, I left our Cathedral again where I had once welcomed hundreds of marginal Catholics to come and bask in the love of God. I used to tell them that "God loves you, no matter what you have done or failed to do! There are no ands, ifs or buts about that!" They came in droves, from 67 zip codes, not to see and hear me, but to hear the basic "good news" of God's unconditional love that Jesus taught and practiced.  We became "known" as a place that "specialized in ministry to the marginalized." Since the present leadership of our Cathedral is moving in a different direction, I realized that it is time for me to "shake off the dust and move on to another town."  

My second departure from our Cathedral was a painful experience, not because I had no good alternatives, but because I was worried about those few who had been transformed by the unconditional love message of Jesus and who were once again barely hanging on by their fingernails. I did what I could for them for as long as I could, but I finally had to conclude that it was time for me to go. 

As God always does at times like these, he caught my attention one day. This time it was  a video that I stumbled onto. It featured the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and renowned spiritual teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh. In that video, he was being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. When she asked him about his expulsion from Vietnam because of his views on peace-making, he said "For a while, I felt like a bee without its hive! I had this great fear of "drying up" because I had lost my normal place to teach compassion."     

Stumbling onto that video, I thank God today for that latest bit of "amazing grace." In the four or five weeks after I decided to leave our Cathedral, that is exactly how I was feeling! I was feeling "like a bee without its hive." I had an accompanying fear that I might "dry up" without a regular place to practice compassion for those on the margins of the church. I wasn't worried about leaving that place, I was worried about leaving the remaining marginal people who had once found spiritual comfort there. 

While I was there, I certainly did not teach people to break the rules and laws of the Church. I simply told them that I could not "fix" many of their situations, but I could promise to offer them a safe place to work on their issues, a place where they would not be shamed and shunned, a place where they could empty their hearts and let their pain out, a place where they would not be made to suffer more!  That was good enough for most of them - much more than they had gotten in many other places! 

Thich Nhat Hanh died on January 21, 2022, the week after I watched that video. Watching it felt like a farewell present from him to me personally. From watching it, I learned that, in my own ministry, I had been practicing his Four Buddhist Mantras without realizing it because they parallel the basic teachings of Jesus who was always looking for goodness to affirm. 

This is how the four mantras work. Give the other person your full reverenced attention and then repeat each mantra with your mind and body focused as you look directly at them. You can only imagine how powerful the effect would be, if every pastor did this with every hurting parishioner. 

"Dear one, I am here for you!" 

"Dear one, I know you are here and that makes me happy."

"Dear one, I know you are suffering. I am here for you." 

"Dear one, I am suffering too. Please help me." 

Like Thick Nhat Hanh, "that bee without his hive" who eventually found a new "hive" in France where he could practice compassion, "this bee without his hive," has found three new hives where I can practice compassion - one in the twined parishes of St. Frances of Rome/St. Leonard here in Louisville, another one at the Little Sisters of the Poor Home and still another one in developing the new St. Theresa Family Life Center in Rhodelia where I grew up.

 I couldn't be happier. As I asked myself when I left the Cathedral the first time, "Who said you only get one "golden age?" As I have learned a long time ago, when you "let go and let God," you can have as many "golden ages" as you can handle!  I am actually in my fourth or fifth "golden age" since I left the Cathedral the first time in 1997. As my tombstone says, "Simply Amazed - Forever Grateful"

Here I Come!



Sunday, February 27, 2022



“A good tree does not bear rotten fruit,
nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.
For every tree is known by its own fruit.
A good person out of the store of goodness 

in his heart produces good, but an evil person 

out of a store of evil produces evil. 

Luke 6:39-45



I am very aware that I am bombarded every day with messages about how I ought to live, what I need to buy and what I need to do. Depending on the source, I try my best not to listen to most of those messages. So that I can freely and deliberately "take the road less traveled," I collect insightful quotations, wise sayings and other tidbits of wisdom and paste them everywhere in my house to remind myself that I am in charge of my own thinking, that I need not be a victim of what “everybody else is doing" or "what everybody else is thinking." I want to consciously control my own thinking and make my own decisions so that I do not end up unconsciously being a brainless "copy cat" of what other people are doing or thinking. I realized a long time ago, that if I am going to be a priest, I must walk the talk. I realized that I must at least try to set an example for others. I realized that I have to remove the wooden beam in my own eye first, if I am going to be able to see clearly to remove the splinter in my brother's or sister's eye." Otherwise, I will end up being a blind guide for other blind people!  


On one wall of my house, where I can see it often, is this George Bernard Shaw quote. “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” This might not mean much to some of you, but for me it symbolizes the greatest breakthrough in thinking that I have ever had in my life. Until I was a junior in college, I used to believe that “life was something that happens to you and all you can do is make the most of it.” As a result, I ended up being what the same George Bernard Shaw called, “a selfish, feverish little clod of grievances and ailment complaining that the world would not get together to make me happy.” One day, in a flash of grace, it occurred to me quite clearly that "there was no rescue party out looking for me!" That day I made a conscious decision to quit whining from the back seat of my own life and to get behind the wheel! I have told my story hundreds of times, but I also know that that every time I tell it, it always inspires someone to make a similar shift in their thinking. I am hoping that it will help someone here today who needs to make a shift in his or her thinking away from victimhood toward self-empowerment - to get a grip on themselves and quite waiting for a rescue party to come and save them!  


My fellow Catholics! The readings today are about the importance of building your life on a solid foundation, but before you can even consider what foundation you want to build on, you must understand and accept the fact that you are the builder of your own life! If you build your life on the rock-solid foundation of sound thinking that leads to good choices, if you get it that life is about creating yourself, you will most probably thrive! If, however, you build your life on the sand of weak thinking and lazy choices, you will surely doom yourself to live in a swamps of regrets and the world of “might have beens!” 


Most of you are familiar with the monk, Thomas Merton. We have his library at Bellarmine University where I worked as its longest serving campus minister. People come from far and wide to use that and absorb his wisdom. Many of you may not be as familiar with the founder of his religious community, the Cistercians. He was a Benedictine monk named Bernard of Clairvaux. St. Bernard was a great reformer in the Church of the 12th century. He might have died over 860 years ago, but his wisdom lives on and it is valuable even today – even for those of us in here today! He offers us four foundation pillars on which to build a good life. A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit." As our first reading put it, "The fruit of a tree shows the care that its tree was given!" If your life is to produce good fruit, St. Bernard says you must (a) consider yourself (b) consider those below you (c) consider those around you and (d) consider Him who are above you.  


  1. (a) In considering yourself, St Bernard said, “Behold what you are! It is a monstrous thing to see such dignity trivialized and squandered!”  The first foundation stone on which to build a successful life is a passionate commitment to your own personal excellence – becoming the best version of yourself that you can be. I learned a little maxim in Latin many years ago which I have found to be so true.  Nemo dat quad non habet “One cannot give what one does not have.” Jesus said, “A bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” St. Francis de Sales said, “Be who you are and be that well! In practical terms, if you are going to marry, be good at it, be a fabulous partner or don’t get married! If you are going to have kids, be good at it, be a tremendous parent or don’t have them! If you are going to go into public service, be good at it, be transparent, honest and self-giving or don’t get into it at all! If you are going to a priest, get serious about it or don’t get ordained! Be who you say you are! Be a person of integrity. Do the right thing even when no one is looking!  

  1. (b) In considering those below you, you must never forget that the gifts you have been given have been given to you, not just for your own good and personal benefit, but for the good of the community! The second foundation stone on which to build a successful life is a passionate commitment to vocational excellence, to be the very best you can be at what you do!  This means a lifelong commitment to honing your skills,  to deepening your respect and reverence for those under your charge and to always trying to lift the vision of others to higher sights, their performance to a higher standard and their personalities beyond their normal limitations.   Become an example of who people want to follow! 

  1. (c) In considering those around you, take stock of those with whom you surround yourself! The third foundation stone on which to build a successful life is to choose your friends and associates wisely. Many people do not realize the impact the type of people they surround themselves with has on their well-being. The people you surround yourself with will either lift you up or bring you down, support you or criticize you, motivate you or drain you. By developing relationships with those committed to constant improvement and the pursuit of the best that life has to offer, you will have plenty of company on your path to the top of whatever mountain you seek to climb. Remember, people who tell you what you want to hear are not necessarily your friends, just as those who tell you what you don’t want to hear are not necessarily your enemies. Surround yourself with people of integrity and quality. Do not hang out with lazy thinkers and undisciplined people! Instead of building you up, they will bring you down!    


  1. (d) Last of all, in considering Him who is above you, never forget where you came from and where you are going. You have not always been here and you will not always be here! In the whole scheme of things, your lifespan is relatively short. The fourth and final foundation stone on which to build a successful life, therefore, is to develop an interior spiritual life to match your external material life, so that you can walk on two legs, not one! Statistically, marriages with God in them, for example, last longer and are happier. The same can probably be said of other vocations and professions. Awareness of God reminds us every day that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that an amazing amount of invisible support is just a prayer away and that our lives have a  point and a purpose beyond financial success! Don’t let organized religion’s many failures cause you to miss out on religion’s many contributions! Stay connected and be serious about that connection!   


My fellow Catholics! These four foundation stones, if built upon with care, focus and determination, make up the cornerstones of a good life, in whatever direction you go! Those who came before you have been given an excellent foundation on which to build! Now heed the words of Saint Paul, “Each one of you must be careful how he builds!” Remember the words of George Bernard Shaw, “Life is about creating yourself!” Regardless of your age, you have the freedom and tools to make something of yourself! Rise to the challenge! What you do with the freedom and tools given to you is up to you! I pray that each of you will develop a passionate commitment both to who you are and what you do! I pray that you will seek to be good and good at it! For God's sake, decide today not to be guided by "what everyone else is doing and what everyone else if thinking!" Be better, reach higher, control yourself and remember this: “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit."