Saturday, April 16, 2022


It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you....
John 15:16

At dawn a prayer shall be offered over the water. Where there is no scarcity of water the stream shall flow through the baptismal font or pour into it from above; but if water is scarce, whether as a constant condition or on occasion, then use whatever water is available. Let them remove their clothing. Baptize first the children; and if they can speak for themselves, let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them. Next, baptize the men, and last of all the women.
"Tradition of the Apostles"
St. Hippolytus of Rome
215 AD

Many people around the world will be baptized tonight. Maybe you will remember your own baptism or maybe you will remember having been told about your own baptism. As for me, my country midwife grandmother delivered me and immediately baptized me right there because I was going through a near-death experience. 

Many Catholics do not know that total immersion baptism is an option when adults are baptized. Its their choice. When it became a choice, we made provisions for in in the Cathedral renovation in the1990s. 

Many people also do not know that already baptized people are not re-baptized when they come into the Catholic Church as members from other Christian denominations.  It is actually forbidden. We accept their baptisms as valid. 

This a a photo of Archbishop Kurtz baptizing an adult by immersion at the Cathedral of the Assumption on Holy Saturday a couple of years ago. 


Imagine what it was like being baptized as a "slave" in a Catholic log cabin church in rural Kentucky in 1830! Today, it sounds incongruous and sad to use the words "Catholic" and "slave" in the same sentence. As awful as the common practice of slavery was back then, many Catholic slave "owners" of St. Theresa Parish were compassionate and caring enough to baptize their "servants," give them a Catholic education,  attend Mass with them, provide them a Catholic burial and, in this case, are now part of producing a new American saint. Knowing these historical facts can help us realize how far we have come as well as how far we need to go. 

Father Elisha J. Durbin
1800 - 1887
Father Durbin served St. Theresa Church as a traveling missionary before the first resident pastor, Father Charles Ignatius Coomes, took his place. Father Durbin was the first priest to start keeping sacramental records at St. Theresa. Below is entry # 22. 

Father Durbin rode over 200,000 miles on horseback serving Catholic settlements in central and western Kentucky, northern Tennessee and southern Illinois. Father Durbin and several other early pastors of St. Theresa Church are buried in St. Louis Cemetery in Louisville, KY, not far from my condo. 

This is typical of a baptismal record of the time. Slaves were referred to as "servants of" their "owners." 
Slaves would have attended Mass at St. Theresa's log cabin church with their "owners," but they would have been required to sit in an area "apart" from the rest of the congregation. 

December 5th, I baptised Charles Son of Augustin & Matilda
Servants of John Manning. Born October 1829.
Godmother Servant of the same, Maria.    E. J. Durbin . 22

Charles was the uncle of Venerable Father Augustus Tolton, first black priest ordained in the United States and a soon-to-be-canonized saint. He left St. Theresa with his sister, Martha Jane who was the mother of Venerable Father Augustus Tolton, when their "owner" Ann Savilla Manning Elliott moved to Missouri. 

Below is Charles' mother's tombstone in St. Theresa Cemetery in Rhodelia, my home parish.   

In memory of, Matildy, consort of Guston Chisley. 
Born 1806 - Died 1836

"Consort" was typically used in those days to designate a "wife." In the history of this family, the names Guston, Gus, Augustus and Augustine are interchangeable. The future Father Augustus Tolton was obviously named after his grandfather "Guston." 

On Tuesday, April 5, 2022, Mother Provincial Julie accompanied by her Assistant Sister Terese of Chicago and several of her Little Sisters of the Poor serving at St. Joseph Home for the Aged in Louisville asked me to take them on a "pilgrimage" to the grave of Matilda Hurd Chisley in the old Saint Theresa Cemetery who was the grandmother of the Venerable Augustus Tolton. 

The Little Sisters of the Poor are very acquainted with Father Tolton who served his last years and died in a Chicago Parish at age 38 of a heat stroke. Father Tolton wanted to be buried in Quincy, Illinois, where he grew up as a slave and first served as the first black priest ordained in the United States. 

Father Tolton's mother (Martha Jane) came from St. Theresa Parish in Rhodelia and is buried in Chicago. His Grandmother (Matilda) and his step-grandmother (Maria) are buried in St. Theresa Cemetery, as well as some of his uncles and aunts - all Catholic slaves. 

I am doing what I can to make sure they are  made known, remembered, thanked and honored for their contributions to the Catholic Community of Old Saint Theresa down in Meade County, Kentucky, where I grew and first practiced my Catholic faith.  

Friday, April 15, 2022


click on arrow and then click on enlarge

Jesus, keep me near the cross,
There a precious fountain—
Free to all, a healing stream—
Flows from Calv’ry’s mountain.

In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever;
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and Mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.

Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day,
With its shadows o’er me.

Near the cross I’ll watch and wait
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand,
Just beyond the river.

It was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured. He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins. Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. The Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all. 

Isaiah 52 

Today around the world Christians gather to solemnly celebrate the feast of "Jesus, the Willing Scapegoat." We all know what a "scapegoat" is, but many of us may not know where the idea came from. On the Jewish Day of Atonement, the high priest confessed the sins of the people while imposing his hands upon a goat. This "scapegoat" was then expelled into the desert with the people's sins pinned to it. The symbolism of expelling the guilt-laden goat from the community is obvious: the "scapegoat" carried the community's sins away. Isaiah's long, sobbing, and repetitive look at the bruised and bleeding face of God's sinless servant is used each Good Friday. The inclusion of this moving text focuses us on Jesus as the perfect fulfillment of this prophecy. The sinless Jesus becomes our willing "scape goat," bearing our sufferings, infirmities, offenses, guilt, and sins. Though innocent, he willingly bore our guilt.


Jews are not the only people who had the idea of pinning one’s sins to a scapegoat. I am told the American Indians had a tradition called the "Eater of Impurities." On a high holy day, the wise man of the tribe would sit down with each member of the tribe individually and suggest something like, "Bring into your mind some thought, some feeling that you have that you wish no one else to know; some idea or fantasy, something you feel aberrant or abhorrent; that you feel that you must suppress or hide away." Often that person would be so frightened that he would hardly be able to allow that thought to arise in his mind for fear that it might somehow leak out his ears and be heard, that someone might overhear the fearful content of his mind. The wise man encouraged the individual to see how frightened he was of exposing himself, of being vulnerable, of approaching wholeness. After some time, the wise man would say "Now, give me that thought.” The thought or image would be brought out and shared between them and the darkness in which it was held would be dispelled in the light of trust and compassion.


Now that sounds like "confession" to me! Even though we receive reconciliation with God through Christ, the church has been entrusted with the ministry and message of reconciliation. “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them…” Like the Old Testament priest who was the intermediary between the sins of the people and the scapegoat, like the Indian wise man who was a catalyst for letting go of some awful secret, the priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation receives the sins of the people and announces God’s forgiveness. He helps the sinner pin his sins to the cross from where forgiveness comes back to us all.


Behold, our willing scapegoat, the Lamb of God! He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins. By his stripes we are healed. The Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.


The idea of the scapegoat is a biblical one. The term scapegoat is a translation of the Hebrew word Azazel. The Azazel was part of the ancient Jewish feast of Yom Kippur's  ritual of animal sacrifice.

It was literally a goat that carried the sins of the nation into the wilderness. Though not technically a sacrifice, the scapegoat would visually and ritually cleanse the nation from the guilt of their sins. In the book of Leviticus, chapter 16, we read about what God wanted to happen on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This chapter in Leviticus tells us both the purpose for the Day of Atonement and the important details of what people were expected to do.

“For on this day [Yom Kippur] shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the Lord from all your sins.” (Leviticus 16:30)

The purpose of the holiday was twofold—first, to “be clean.” The idea of cleansing and purification is a fairly standard one in most every tradition. Most of the world religions have standards for purity and make provision when the adherents of that religion fall short. The holiday of Yom Kippur and its corresponding ritual of sacrifices function as the mechanism to purify and cleanse.

The second purpose of Yom Kippur is just as important, but easily missed: to be “before the Lord.” Here is where we find the Bible making a significant break from other religious traditions. Rather than having a God that simply needs to be appeased, the God of the Bible requires cleansing for the purpose of relationship, because He wants to be with us. Much like a parent welcoming home a child after a summer’s day at the park—a child who is probably hot, sweaty and dirty—God wants us to be clean because He wants to enjoy our company. Our impurity is not something God permits in His presence. And so, He says to us much the same thing a parent would say to that child—go wash up before you come to the table to eat because I want a person who is clean at my table.

So, if being clean and being with the Lord are the dual purposes of the holiday, how was it supposed to work? If you’re only familiar with fasting on Yom Kippur, the fuller answer may surprise you. Leviticus chapter 16 lays out in vivid detail a system of sacrifice. Though it may be unfamiliar and maybe even shocking to modern readers, physical sacrifices were indispensable to the celebration of Yom Kippur.

The ritual began with the High Priest (Aaron in the Leviticus passage) preparing himself by bathing and changing into a special set of holiday vestments that included a turban and sash! He then selected three animals as sacrifices—two young goats and one bull. The goats each had a purpose—one as a sacrificial offering and the other as a scapegoat. Aaron cast lots (not unlike a roll of a die) to select one goat as the offering and the other as scapegoat . This random selection ensured that the high priest would not be able to sway the decision; God Himself would make the decision. The goat selected as an offering was killed along with the young bull. Their blood together was brought into the center, most holy place of the Temple. That sacrifice atoned for (cleansed, purified) the High Priest, the people and the sanctuary. The stage was set for the next goat, the scapegoat.

What followed next was very dramatic . The High Priest placed both hands upon the head of the goat and confessed aloud the sins of the nation, transferring them to the goat. This casting of the sins was more than symbolic; it was ritual. As the previous goat was killed as a representative of the nation before God, this goat would carry away the sins as a representative of the nation. In our world today, this kind of confession is rare. Today, we would think of the scapegoat as needing some kind of written contract releasing the nation from its guilt and contractually placing that guilt onto the goat. In the biblical world, a person’s word, their confession, was as valid as any written contract.

The goat was then brought deep into the wilderness by a trusted man and released in a barren place. Ancient Jewish tradition records that the goat would be led to a rocky place, or a place of jagged rocks to ensure the death of the goat in the wilderness. Evidently the rabbis wanted to make sure the sins wouldn’t make their way back into the camp looking for something to eat! This is the tradition of the Azazel, the scapegoat.

Thursday, April 14, 2022


I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you.

I Corinthians 11:23

On Holy Thursday, when we celebrate the institution of the priesthood, I would like to ask your prayers for the "Presbyterate of Louisville." A "presbyterate" is the body of priests, diocesan and religious priests together, who help the bishop carry out his ministry as chief shepherd of a particular diocese.  Individually, these priests "make the bishop present" by "pastoring a single portion of the Lord's flock."

The Church is clear in saying that priests are not priests one by one, but that they are priests and serve the mission of the Church, as a team, under the leadership of a bishop. Vatican Council II put it this way: "All priests are united among themselves in an intimate sacramental brotherhood. In a special way they form one presbyterate in a diocese to whose service they are committed under their bishop"  Pope John Paul II said, "Ordained ministry has a radical communitarian dimension and can only be carried out as collective work." 

In my work as the founder of Saint Meinrad's Institute for Priests and Presbyterates, I conducted over 150 priest convocations in 9 different countries. I tried to encourage a deeper unity among priests and with their bishops. I even had a new hymn written for those occasions. I put together several prayer cards - one for seminarians, one for priests and one for lay people - so that we can all pray for that "communitarian dimension of ordained ministry." They are available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. I tried not only to get priests to work toward closer unity, but priests, future priests and the people they serve to pray for that unity.

On this Holy Thursday, I believe that building the unity of our presbyterate is going to be one of the most pressing tasks facing our new archbishop. Many of us have sadly felt more marginalized and demoralized these past few years. I would like to print the words of  one of those cards, "A Catholic's Prayer for the Priests of the Diocese." I not only encourage you to pray it this Holy Thursday, but to cut it out and pray it often.                              ___________________________________________________________________________________


Loving God, I ask a special blessing on all the priests of our diocesan presbyterate. Help them to remember always that they do not work alone, but that they are an "intimate sacramental brotherhood" under the leadership of Archbishop Kurtz, a ministry team for which they are all responsible.

For the sake  of their united and coherent ministry, help them to remember that the ministry they do is not theirs alone, but a share in our bishop's ministry. For that reason, keep them always respectful of and obedient to his leadership. 

Help them to be diligent in their ministry, absorbed in it, so that their commitment may be evident and their service helpful.  Inspire them to take good care of themselves and help them be attentive to becoming more effective in their service.

Show my fellow Catholics and me ways to encourage our priests - those who offer priestly service to us in the Church. Help them to set a good example for us in all that they do. Support our sick, retired and absent priests with your loving care. I ask this in the name of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!




Lord and Teacher
copy and go to

Commissioned by
Rev. J. Ronald Knott 
Institute for Priests and Presbyterates 
200 Hill Drive
 St. Meinrad, Indiana 47577

Text by 
Harry Hagan, OSB Feast of Pope St. Gregory the Great, 2012
© 2012, Saint Meinrad Archabbey.

This text may be used freely under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Recommended hymn tune: BEACH SPRING, but it may be used with any tune that is trochai 87.87.D.

Sunday, April 10, 2022


April 10, 2022
St. Leonard Church

‘When the great crowd that  had  come to the feast heard

that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches

and went out to meet him, throwing their coats on the road.’


I am convinced that most people do not understand what Palm Sunday is about and I am not absolutely confident that I can explain it as well as it needs to be explained. I’ll try anyway!


To understand it, I think we need to go all the way back to the beginning. Remember, Herod was so paranoid about the baby Jesus being a “newborn king” that he had all the young boys in Bethlehem slaughtered – just in case. Jesus, Mary and Joseph escaped the slaughter by escaping to Egypt for a few years. 


Even when Jesus came out of obscurity to begin his ministry, we read at the beginning of Lent about Jesus being tempted by the devil in the desert as he discerned what direction his ministry should take – what God’s plan was for him.


One of the temptations Jesus was offered by the devil was to take the political power road – to become a king. We know that, even though Jesus concluded that this was not God’s path for him, people were always trying to make him a king. Even some of his apostles thought that that option was always on the table. Remember the story where James and John tried an end run around the other twelve by asking for the two best jobs in this powerful new kingdom they thought he was going to set up in the near future.


We will read on Holy Thursday that Judas was so disappointed with Jesus over this very issue that he tried to force Jesus hand to “get on with it,” only to see it backfire. When it didn’t work, he ends up committing suicide.


All this “king talk” among the people, all the dreams about power inside his inner circle and a rising tide of paranoia among the Roman occupiers was about to explode when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.


When Jesus and his band arrived in Jerusalem, the streets were clogged with religious pilgrims from everywhere. The air was full of tension. Jesus’ own popularity had reached a fever pitch, the religious leaders’ jealousy had reached the boiling point and the government’s worry had become paranoid.  Everybody in authority, as well as Jesus, seemed to know that this trip smacked of a show down.  Jerusalem was indeed tense when Jesus arrived for the Passover - something big was about to happen. 


It was in this tense situation that Jesus came riding into the city, not quietly, but with total fanfare. Everybody noticed. This triumphant entry into Jerusalem was not some harmless little passion play. It was a deliberate move with dark possibilities.  Everybody knew that the very presence of Jesus in Jerusalem at Passover could set off a riot.


‘When the  great crowd that  had  come to the feast heard

that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches

and went out to meet him, throwing their coats on the road.’


Palm waving and the throwing of coats on the road were not just a nice gesture of welcome, spontaneously invented for this particular occasion. These gestures had major political overtones. In the past, when kings arrived to ascend their thrones, people threw coats on the road. Palm waving was a symbol of Jewish nationalism, synonymous with waving a rebel flag. Many in the crowds wanted a Jewish Messiah-King who would overthrow the hated Roman occupation and they thought Jesus could fit the bill. Even though Jesus had fought off several efforts of this kind, the crowds knew what kind of Messiah they wanted. They wanted a powerful revolutionary.


In response to the people’s misguided reception of him as a political, David-like, Messiah, Jesus deliberately came into the city on the back of a jackass, a pack animal.  It was a powerful counter statement that simply went over the heads of the crowds. While they waved palms and chanted nationalistic slogans, by this action Jesus said, “No! I’m not the kind of king you imagine! My power is a spiritual power, not a political power!”


This “temptation,” the temptation to become a powerful political leader, had been proposed by Satan at the beginning of his ministry.  The gospel tells us that Satan left him to wait for another occasion. It had been proposed to him, on various occasions, throughout his teaching days. Here it was again!   Satan, in various guises, never gave up, even at the end. Jesus, consistent in his refusal, remained faithful to his call as a humble, peaceful, spiritual messiah to the end.


Throughout history, the church has sadly from time to time given into the temptation to choose political power as a means to its goals, always with disastrous results. Again, in our own time, not convinced of the real effectiveness of spiritual power, some Christian communities have fallen for the temptation to take the short cut to achieve its mission by courting political power.  What is their rational? It seems that they believe that if people won’t choose to be good, they need to be made to be good! Palm Sunday has a lot to teach the church, even today!  My friends, our power is not a political power. It’s even more powerful than political power. It’s a spiritual power! Pope John Paul II had no armies, but he helped bring down communism just by his preaching and presence. That’s spiritual power!  Pope Francis has no real political power, except in a one-square mile of ground inside the walls of the Vatican, but he has tremendous spiritual power. That is the real source of our power as well – the power that comes from authentic Christian living.