Saturday, April 30, 2022


Father Tolton's mother and brother, as well as his maternal grandmother and grandfather and several uncles and aunts, were raised as Catholic slaves in St. Theresa Church in Rhodelia, Kentucky, home parish of Father Bob Ray and Father Ron Knott.

The news of Vatican Officials being in the United States just recently to study possible miracles attributed to the intercession of Father Tolton is good news for all of us down in St. Theresa Church and all over the Archdiocese of Louisville.


Vatican officials in U.S to study
alleged miracles in Father Tolton’s cause

Father Augustus Tolton, pictured in an undated photo. Born into slavery in Missouri, he was ordained a priest April 24, 1886, in Rome. He is the first recognized African American priest ordained for the U.S. Catholic Church and is a candidate for sainthood. In 2019, Pope Francis declared he had lived a “virtuous and heroic life,” giving him the title “Venerable.” (CNS Photo/courtesy of Archdiocese of Chicago Archives and Records Center)

QUINCY, Ill. — The local ABC-TV affiliate in Quincy, where Father Augustus Tolton grew up and is buried, reported April 14 that Vatican representatives were in the United States to investigate possible miracles related to the priest’s sainthood cause.

Father Tolton was born into slavery and is the first recognized African American priest ordained for the U.S. Catholic Church.

His cause for canonization was officially opened by the Archdiocese of Chicago in 2010 and he received the title “Servant of God.”

On Dec. 10, 2016, his cause took a step forward at a cemetery in Quincy where his remains were exhumed, verified and reinterred. In June 2019, Pope Francis declared that Father Tolton lived a life of heroic virtue, giving him the title of “Venerable.”

The next step is beatification, which requires verification of a miracle attributed to the sainthood candidate’s intercession. In general, a second such miracle is needed for canonization.

While Father Tolton died in Chicago in 1897, he requested to be buried in Quincy, which is in the Diocese of Springfield. He and his family had fled there after escaping slavery in nearby Missouri and it’s where he returned to minister after being ordained in Rome on Easter in 1886.

At the time his remains were exhumed, Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry, who is postulator of the priest’s cause, said two miracles were possible and had been sent to Rome, where they were being looked into.

“We received about 50 some testimonials of people from all over the country testifying to favors from God through (Father) Tolton’s intercession,” said Bishop Perry, one of the nation’s African American Catholic bishops.

“Remarkable things — everything from needed employment to illness in the family to all kinds of problems,” he told Chicago Catholic, the archdiocesan news outlet. “These people are really just excited about their prayers being answered because of him. He’s been pretty active up there, I think. He probably needs a secretary up there to handle all that has been put on his lap.”

In its April 14 report, KHQA-TV Channel 7 provided no details as to what the alleged miracles under investigation might entail.

In November, as part of celebrations for Black Catholic History Month, a grassroots effort emerged that called on Pope Francis to canonize Father Tolton and five other Black Catholics whose canonization “causes” have been officially opened.

These other sainthood candidates are: Mother Mary Lange, founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence; Sister Thea Bowman, the first African American member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration; and Julia Greeley, known as the city of Denver’s “Angel of Charity” — all three of whom have the title “Servant of God”; and Mother Henriette Delille, founder of the Sisters of the Holy Family, and Pierre Toussaint, both of whom have the title “Venerable.”

More about Father Tolton’s sainthood cause and the Father Tolton Guild can be found at

Friday, April 29, 2022


Across the globe, more than six million people have succumbed to Covid-19 and left untold millions in a state of bereavement, anger and disbelief. No wonder so many people are angry, lashing out and acting abnormally. They are feeling powerless and do not know what to do about it. 

Living in a World of Grief

In the midst of the pandemic, we're finding a new language of loss, one that holds space for all the ways we grieve.

In the days following the death of my mother almost 14 years ago, I was desperate for words to describe the chasm that had opened beneath me. So when a friend who’d recently lost her own mother insisted I read C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed, I got the book immediately and opened to the first words of the first chapter: “No one ever told me that grief feels so like fear.”

If you’re familiar with the five stages of grief as famously characterised by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, you’ll know that among the well-known DABDA (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) framework, there is no F for fear. 

“No one ever told me that grief feels so like fear.”

C.S. Lewis

It’s an omission that grief therapist Claire Bidwell Smith has thought a lot about. The author of the recent Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief, Bidwell Smith had lost both of her parents to cancer by her 25th birthday. The way this grief manifested in her didn’t seem to align with what we expect grief to look like: “I felt enormous anxiety,” she says, in part because “our culture isn’t so great at talking about grief” and in part because she didn’t recognize anxiety as grief. Even the doctors she saw in ERs in her late teens and 20s didn’t connect her symptoms with her losses. “If they had stopped to ask me anything about my life,” she says, “I think we could have gotten fairly quickly to the fact that it was a panic attack.” 

It took a few more years, a few more panic attacks, and enrollment in a psychology program at college before she herself made the connection. A class focused on trauma helped her understand that her anxiety was rooted in loss, that her fear was grief. It was not full PTSD, she says, but she noticed some markers of trauma. Once she began to put the pieces together, everything she’d been experiencing began to make sense. 

Kate Bowler was already a Duke Divinity School historian when, at 35 and as a new mom, she was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, driving her into a deeper exploration of grief. Her resulting memoir, Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved, as well as her most recent book No Cure for Being Human and her podcast Everything Happens, allow Bowler to continue to examine our discombobulation when bad things happen. She has settled on the word “finitude” to describe what so many of us are experiencing in our COVID world. “It’s the perpetuity of it,” she says, “when we can’t feel like our lives are marked by unlimited choices.” Grief embodies finitude. It reminds us that we are, as Bowler says, “stuck in our bodies and our life and in a world whose global health…” She trails off, and then says, “We don’t get to choose.”

Accepting the Messiness of Grief

Bidwell Smith, whose work helps people process their pain around loss, has noticed just how often grief masquerades as anxiety and fear. She’s noticed too how many people experiencing this anxiety seek her out because they think they’re grieving wrong, that their anxiety isn’t grief at all, or that their grief isn’t following the prescribed trajectory DABDA seems to represent.

“Recognizing the grief that is there helps people move through it in a way that yields more healing than steeping in anger or anxiety.” – Claire Bidwell Smith

What she has learned as she helps others is that the stages don’t work as neatly as we expect. “Elisabeth Kübler-Ross herself wrote…that they weren’t meant to necessarily be these strict, linear guideposts,” says Bidwell Smith. And yet, she understands why so many of us use her five stages as a grief checklist. “It sounds really appealing to think, okay, I just have these five stages I need to get through…when I get to the other side, I’m going to feel so much better than I do now.

Alongside Bidwell Smith’s desire to encourage us all to turn toward the messiness and lawlessness of grief, Kate Bowler notes that social expectations also underlie our impatience to have grief over and done with. “Our culture loves to pretend that nothing is lost and nothing is wasted and…nothing’s a setback, it’s just a setup,” says Bowler. “Grief is such an important place to stay, to help us face the reality of our lives. And I don’t mean the terrible reality, just the reality.”

Bidwell Smith sees her role as disavowing her clients, and the rest of us, of such rigid expectations, so we can begin to recognize grief in emotions where we might not expect it, such as anger or irritability or anxiety. “I give people permission to grieve and educate them on all the different ways we can grieve,” she says. “Recognizing the grief that is there helps people move through it in a way that yields more healing than steeping in anger or anxiety.”

It’s not just death that leaves us grieving. Bidwell Smith has had clients dealing with health issues, or divorce, or moving. They need permission to grieve too, she says. Bowler has noticed that lots of us disqualify ourselves from grief because we don’t feel like our losses are big enough, or tragic enough, or, as a friend said to her, “problem-y enough.” “We’re all worried that our things don’t count, but it all counts,” Bowler says.

COVID and Collective Loss

This past year has brought us all nearer to grief. Whether we’ve experienced the loss of someone close to us or have read the mounting numbers of COVID deaths with horror or have mourned the absence of so many moments we’d taken for granted, not one of us has avoided grief even if we have yet to acknowledge it. Over a year into the pandemic, Bowler describes it as a “long-form grief.”

“So much of what we’re trying to get at with understanding grief is just by asking ourselves those questions in the Serenity Prayer: ‘What are the things that I can change? Can I have the wisdom to know the difference?’” says Bowler. “Because if there are things that we can’t change, that’s when grief begins.”

This pandemic has offered us a master class in understanding the ways we’re affected by loss and has handed us the opportunity to speak openly about grief.

COVID has offered us a master class in understanding the ways we’re affected by loss and has handed us the opportunity to speak openly about grief, to express the anxiety it’s often wrapped in, and to broaden our recognition of trauma. But only if we’re willing to have that reckoning. As we navigate our way out of the pandemic, Bidwell Smith cautions us against re- sisting grief, against moving too quickly to reclaim our previous normal. “We need to be able to talk about it, we need to share our stories of loss, and we need to have someone bear witness to what we’re experiencing,” she says. And while she senses a positive shift in our cultural willingness to examine what we’ve all been through, she believes there’s more work to be done— for example, by introducing death ed classes, she says, “like sex ed.” She’d like medical professionals and those working in education to be better versed in the language of loss and end of life to better deal with what comes up for those grieving, “emotionally, physically, and logistically,” she says.

What to Expect When We Weren’t Expecting This

Even with the benefit of preparing ourselves better, grieving will re-main a process for which individuals, families, and communities need to allow real time and care. It’s not a to-do list item; it asks more from us. Bowler relates how her psychologist shared with her a story of hiking

the Appalachian Trail. The newbies arrived at the beginning of this long, arduous hike loaded down with supplies. “They want to carry everything because it’s such a long journey and, naturally, they’re scared,” she explains. Only when they realize what they’re carrying, and for how long, do they accept that they need to put some of their load down. Bowler’s point—and that of her psychologist—is clear: What, we must ask ourselves in grief, can I put down?

It shouldn’t surprise any of us who’ve survived this pandemic to note that grief cloaks itself in anxiety, that grief can feel like fear. Or, as writer Joan Didion put it, “Grief, when it comes, is nothing like we expect it to be.” What both of our grief experts want us to know is that we can move through that grief and emerge somewhere on the other side, accepting our finitude and finding peace with it. It won’t be neat and it won’t be easy. But it also won’t be wrong.

Thursday, April 28, 2022


"As you get older, three things happen. The first is your memory goes,
and I can't remember the other two."
Norman Wisdom

I spend a lot of time thinking - maybe too much sometime? One of the advantages of living alone is having large blocks of time to journal, blog, read, write books and produce homilies. All of those things take a lot of thinking, reading, pondering, reflecting, remembering, planning, wondering and worrying. 

One of the things that occurs to me all the time these days is how fast time is flying. It started a few years ago, when I was in the middle of telling someone something about a past event. I was thinking that it happened maybe three or four years ago, only to be told that it actually happened ten years ago! I couldn't believe it without some personal research! As it turned out, they were right!

About a year ago, my computer started sending me daily posts called "On This Day." It is a copy of the photos that I had taken that day - three, four, five or up to nine or ten years ago. Almost every day when I look through the "photos of the day," I find it almost impossible to believe that that many years have passed since I originally took some of those pictures!  

These days, it seems that every other day is Thursday and time to get ready for another weekend!

I am also beginning to cringe when I see myself in casual videos and photographs! To me, I look more and more like somebody else. It doesn't help my cause when people ask my age and I answer "I will be 78 on my next birthday," instead of simply saying that "I am 77!" It also doesn't help either to stare at my 1970 ordination class photo and start counting how many of them are already dead! 

Now, with a new "no time-change law" taking effect, I can't even look forward to "falling back an hour" every fall! 

I always thought old age was for other people, but the facts are clear enough! It's time for me to wake up and smell the coffee and continue, even more fervently, making the most of the time I have left! With that said, it's useless for any of us to become paranoid about how fast we are getting old. Let's not obsess about how close we are to dying. Rather, let's obsess about making the most of whatever time we have left!

"You know you're old when the candles cost more than the cake."
Bob Hope

"Life is hard. Then you die. Then they throw dirt in your face. Then the worms eat you.
Be grateful if it happens in that order."
David Gerrold


At my age, I do what Mark Twain did. I get my daily paper, look at the obituaries page
and if I’m not there, I carry on as usual."
Patrick Moore

What I hope they will say about me!

click on the arrow and expand the video below



Sunday, April 24, 2022


Is It 
"I'll Believe It When I See It"
"I'll See It When I Believe It?"

St. Leonard Church
4:00 pm April 23, 2022
10:00 am April 24, 2022

Thomas said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nail marks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
John 20:19-31

One of the things that happens when you read the Bible on a regular basis, like I am required to do, is that even familiar passages are always speaking to you in new ways. It happened again a couple of years ago when I read a text from the Gospel of Matthew, 28:16-20, that I had read many times. That was the first time I noticed the words, “When the eleven remaining disciples (Judas had committed suicide) saw Jesus after his resurrection, they worshiped even as they doubted.”

“They worshiped Jesus even when they doubted?” That’s pretty much the opposite of what we do. When we doubt, we quit worshiping. We assume that worshiping is only for believers. People, in our experience, who doubt quit worshiping! So why would these disciples worship Jesus, if they had doubts about Jesus? Why would the writer even include their doubts in the story?

The first thing many people assume about faith is that doubt is the opposite of faith. Not true! Honest doubt is not the opposite of faith. There is faith even in honest doubt.  Honest doubt is actually an integral part of faith. When Matthew tells us that the disciples “worshipped even when they doubted,” he wants us to know this basic principle: honest doubt was part of the faith, even for those who were closest to Jesus. The Easter stories, we have been reading, are a mixture of faith and doubt. The disciples are presented as very skeptical about Mary Magdalen’s report about seeing Jesus alive on that first Easter Sunday. Thomas, flat-out refused to believe until he saw Jesus with his own eyes and touched Jesus with his own hands.  On the road to Emmaus, other disciples were astounded by the report of Jesus being seen alive and did not recognize him walking right beside them on the road. Even after many reports, even after having seen him themselves, they worshipped, even as they doubted. Yes, the message is simple: faith is never black and white, all or nothing, but always mixed with a good measure of healthy doubt.  Doubt does not necessarily mean you don’t have faith. Doubt probably means you do have faith!

“They worshiped, even as they doubted.”  The bigger question than whether doubt is part of faith, is what do you do when you doubt. Many, when they doubt, think they should absent themselves from prayer and worship until faith returns or becomes strong again. They say to themselves, “It is hypocritical for me to pretend to believe when I really don’t believe. When I start believing again, when my faith is strong again, then it will make sense for me to start praying and worshipping again.” That may sound good, even reasonable, but that’s not how it works! The story of the doubting St. Thomas has a lot to teach us. Thomas says in today's gospel, Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Even in his doubt, Thomas did was pretty much the opposite of what we do when we have doubts. He kept going back to the community. When we doubt, we quit joining the community. We assume that joining the faith community is only for those who believe, for those without doubt. People, in our experience, who doubt quit joining the worshiping community! Not St. Thomas! He kept joining them, even when he doubted, until he believed!

As the doubting disciples teach us today, what really works is for us to worship even when we doubt, to worship until we believe.  Like a coal, pulled away from a heap of burning coals, that soon loses its heat, a doubter separated from the community of believers soon loses even more of his faith. A faith community strengthens faith and a doubting community strengthens doubt.

“They worshipped, even as they doubted.”  This may be yet another version of the great truth: “fake it till you make it.” Even though Alcoholics Anonymous made that idea famous, it actually goes back to the ancient Roman poet, Ovid who said, “Pretend to what is not, and then you’ll become in truth, what you are pretending to be.”  The great philosopher William James put it this way, “Act as if and the mind will produce your desire.” The idea is, if you take something that feels impossible, or at least completely unnatural, and pretend that it is the easiest, most natural things on the world for you to be doing, eventually, it will become as easy as you have been pretending it to be!

I practice this often in my own life. (1) As many of you know from me talking about my history, I grew up pretty much crippled by bashfulness. Bashful people find it painful to be in public situations. To cope, they are driven to avoid public situations as much as possible. This is a sure way to keep bashfulness going. The solution is to get out in public as much as possible, faking confidence, until one day you wake up and find out that you are no longer bashful.  The only way out of the fear of public speaking is to “fake it till you make it,” to do public speaking until you are no longer afraid to speak in front of crowds.  You cannot think your way out of bashfulness, you have to act your way out of bashfulness. (2) When I was sent to southeastern Kentucky as a newly ordained priest, against my will, somehow I was able to open my mind to “faking it till I made it.” I decided, since I did not get what I wanted, I would act as if I wanted what I got until I was able to really want what I got. It worked. Those ten years were wonderful years in many, many ways. I “acted as if” it was a great assignment until it actually became a great assignment.        

‘They worshiped, even as they doubted.”  My friends, all of us have a good measure of doubt, even as we believe. The secret to making sure that the scales do not tip too far to the doubt side, is to act as if we believe until we believe, to pray our way out of doubt, to worship until we feel like worshiping. So, when you are tempted to drop out because “I don’t get anything out of it” or “I’m not into it today,” that is when you really need to get into it, that is when you really need to act as if you are getting something out of it until you get something out of it.  Yes, even believers sometimes have to “fake it till they make it.”