Saturday, July 23, 2022



You think it's easy writing a blog post ever other day, not to mention writing a major homily every weekend?
This is an actual video of me, losing it while composing a blog post!


Composing blog posts and writing homilies are two of my favorite things to do! 

Thursday, July 21, 2022



What care I for the number of your sacrifices? says the Lord. I have had enough of whole-burnt rams and fat of fatlings; In the blood of calves, lambs and goats I find no pleasure. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.

Isaiah 1:10-17

The prophet Isaiah is on a tear in our first reading. He portrays God as fed up with multiple tedious religious practices that have little to do with promoting justice and righting wrongs. It bemoans the fact that religious leaders have gone overboard in their religious practices while neglecting their responsibilities to the human community.

This is a good reading on the feast of St. Benedict (July 11) who was famous for introducing “the sane center” into monasticism. Until his time monasticism was known for its full-time fanatic religious practices in which some monks were engaged. I remember hearing about Simon Stylites who was a Syrian Christian ascetic who achieved notability by living 37 years on a small platform on top of a pillar. Several others later followed his model of spirituality. Benedict’s monasticism became known, even to this day, for its balance – expressed so notably in the Benedictine motto “ora et labora,” “prayer and work.”

The idea of balance in religion and politics, rather than fanaticism, is so much needed in our church and country. Personally, I am more than tired of all the extremists in politics and the Church. Instead of each side acknowledging that the other side has something to say, it seems both sides have dug their heels in with a “my way or the highway” attitude.

In politics, one party champions individual responsibility, while the other party champions communal responsibility. While these divergent views serve to complete each other, you would think it was merely a matter of one or the other. We do need to teach personal responsibility, but we also have social and communal responsibilities.

In the Church, one extreme emphasizes our past so much that you would think God quit being active in the world in 1950s, while the other extreme emphasizes today so much that you would think we have no history.

When we were renovating our Cathedral in the 1980s, I remember being pulled in two directions. We had one group who wanted to “put it back like it was,” while another group wanted another modern renovation. The “put it back like it was” people wanted to pretend that we had no future, while the “another modern renovation” people wanted to pretend we had no history. What we did was to ignore the extremists at both ends and choose “the sane center.” We chose as our mantra words from the Gospel of Matthew (13:52): "like a householder who brings forth from his storeroom things both new and old." We wove together the best of the old and the best of the new.

Today in politics, both in our country and in the church, it seems that both extremes are “tempted to subordinate an even-handed concern for the truth to the demands of a party spirit in which every action and statement is evaluated according to whether it supports one cause or the other. Opposed parties seek to discredit their opponents, often by acrimonious attacks that are uncharitable and even unjust.” (Cardinal Avery Dulles SJ)

Pope Paul VI, in his famous ecumenical document Ecclesiam Suam, talked about what became known as “the asceticism of dialogue.” He said that for unity, first we have to be clear about what is essential and what is not essential. Most fights are fights over trivial things that people try to make essential. Second, we must avoid arrogance, barbed words and bitterness. We must have individual patience with contradictions, exhibit an inclination toward generosity and magnanimity and accept the fact that divergent views often serve to complete each other and contain some truth. Third, we must come to a consensus on non-essentials that requires individual non-attachment to one’s preferences and points of view, engage in cooperative discernment and accept individual co-responsibility for directions to be taken and choices made and a workable and reasonable, even if imperfect, structure for the sake of unity.

Neither our Church nor our country can afford all this insane, destructive infighting. This is the time to pull together, rather than cutting each other’s legs off. It’s time to live the principle of St. Benedict’s “sane center.”

Tuesday, July 19, 2022


Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Matthew 7:7-8

Impossible things just take a little longer.
Philo T. Farnsworth (Inventor of TV)

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.
Thomas Edison

Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.
William Shakespeare

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Benjamin Franklin

The biggest shortages in the Catholic Church are not money and priests, but faith and imagination.
Ronald Knott

The above quotes, from a variety of people, remind me that we are all called by God to cooperate with him in the working of "miracles" while we are here on earth. We are all called to work in partnership with God in the bringing about of those "miracles." To understand this, we have to look at our lives through the lens of faith or else we will end up assuming that we have simply gone from one accidental happening to another, or worse, that we "earned" all those good things we enjoy through our own power and effort.  

Personally, I am a "project person." I need a project to feel alive. The main thing I have learned from so many projects is that it is one thing to have an idea and another thing to bring that idea into reality. I am not more imaginative than the next guy, but I am so determined and hard-headed that  I may have a better track record than some in materializing my ideas. I "stay with them" "like a dog on a bone."  Scripture says, "Without a vision the people perish." I might add that "without a vision, I would perish!" 

Yes, I have had my failures, but with God's help, with partners walking with me and with my own drive and determination, I can say that quite a few of my projects have succeeded and some of them have bordered on being "minor miracles" in my estimation. There is nothing exceptional about me, except maybe my Knott-headed steely determination to "get it done" once I set my mind and belief to the task. 

Let me give you some examples. I am not offering them to brag on myself. I am amazed, but I dare not brag because I am not the source of these "miracles." I was simply given some amazing opportunities by our "higher power" and all I did was respond positively to them because I literally believed that "miracles" were possible! I have seen it too many times before to doubt it.  

Here are some of the opportunities given me that seemed at the time to have come from nowhere. I realize now that they were invitations from God to trust him by saying "yes" to those invitations. In hindsight, I see that together we have worked several "minor miracles" in my lifetime. I was guided through remodeling seven houses, publishing several books, writing my own weekly column for a Catholic paper for fifteen years, starting an interfaith campus ministry organization in Somerset and producing my own radio ministry in Monticello. I was given the opportunity to earn a doctorate in ministry from a Presbyterian Seminary. I was invited to be a campground minister for the United Church of Christ in a national park, a bar tender, a hotel desk clerk, a hospital orderly in an emergency room, an MC in a beauty pageant, an international motivational speaker in nine countries, a missionary in the Caribbean, a university chaplain,  the creator of a whole new seminary department called the Institute for Priests and Presbyterates, lead five college-student backpacking trips to Europe, help remodel a deteriorating shrine, build a teaching kitchen and coffee shop, help restore a Cathedral while revitalizing its congregation, start an organization in my home parish called Saint Theresa Heritage Partners so as to establish a new Family Life Center in its old closed grade school building where I went to school as a child.  
When I was pastor of our cathedral, and helping to lead it through a 22 million dollar restoration and an intense revitalization effort, there were many times I wanted to "give up" when things got tough. Oh, yes, there were many, many times I wanted to get on a bus and never come back! To help me and the congregation focus on the positive and keep going, I wrote a little piece I called “The Dream.” “Translating a dream into reality takes great courage. Doubt is a constant enemy. When doubt reigns, there is a strong temptation to let go of part of the dream as a way of resolving inevitable tensions. Success depends on the ability to remain enthusiastic, focused and purposeful to the end.” When doubt overtakes me, I try to remember the story I once heard about an engineer who designed a new controversial plan to dig a tunnel between Switzerland and Austria. To save money and time, it was his idea to have people digging from both ends. It had never been tried before. The diggers started. The engineer set the date when they would meet. When the day came and the diggers had not met, he killed himself out of shame and embarrassment. On the day of his funeral, it was announced that the diggers had broken through and the tunnel was perfect! The poor man had given up one day too soon! 

Many people are held back from accomplishing their dreams by the circle of acquaintances who surround them. When they set out to exert themselves in some new direction, they often find themselves confronted by rejection or disapproval that leads them to adjusting themselves to fit whatever status quo that circle deems most favorable. Their compliance is rewarded and their failure to comply is punished. Their very need for love and acceptance becomes the vehicle of their subjection.

When we are held back by the need of others for us not to change, we must learn to stand up and follow our own instincts. When others protest our changing, it’s usually not that they don’t want us to change, they just want us to change to meet their needs, not ours. The truth of the matter is, a small number will like us, a small number will dislike us, and the vast majority won’t care one way or the other.

Other people are held back from accomplishing their dreams by self-doubt. When they set out to exert themselves in some new direction, they are often confronted by a whiny little inner voice that tells them to back off because they are not the type to do great things! Giving into self-doubt and fear are good ways of sabotaging their own efforts as a way of resolving the inevitable tensions that come with dreaming big dreams. When they devote ourselves to risk-taking, they must stand up to their own cowardice and need for comfort, multiple times over.

Still others are held back from accomplishing their dreams by their inability to ask for help. The refusal to ask for help is a kind of sickness in itself. Such people have come to believe that no one’s help is worth the price in vulnerability that it will cost them. People seem naturally to resist asking for help and advice, with its implications of their shortcomings, but simply asking for help is the world’s most powerful and neglected secret to success. One of the great surprises of life is to find out that God is waiting to send us help and there are plenty of people who will gladly give us a hand – if we only ask.

Presently, the next "miracle" that I am assisting in giving birth to is the new Saint Theresa Family Life Center down in my home parish in Rhodelia. Recently, I have reached one of those critical points, a crisis point really, where it is "make it or break it" time because of the soaring inflation levels in the building trades. At a time like this, as in every one of my projects, doubt is raising its ugly head tempting me "to give up," "back off" and "walk away!"  In any project this big, to quote myself from my Cathedral project days, "Doubt is a constant enemy. When doubt reigns, there is a strong temptation to let go of part of the dream as a way of resolving inevitable tensions. Success depends on the ability to remain enthusiastic, focused and purposeful to the end.” Please pray for me that I can "keep the faith" and "remain enthusiastic, focused and purposeful to the end." 

I am trying to keep believing that this next "miracle" will be completed. I have already received a hint from a fellow believer in "miracles" in our community who wrote: "I will help and together with others your legacy will be achieved! Keep the faith!" Now, I am actively "waiting (and working) in joyful hope" for this next "miracle" to unfold before me!

Let me end with a song that Elaine Winebrenner sang at the last Mass I celebrated as pastor of the Cathedral after that "miracle" had materialized.   The music and lyrics are below. 

Beautiful the Dreamer

Beautiful the dreamer in His eyes
Those who look beyond the darkened skies
To the light that breaks above the stars
To the place where vision wakes
And shines in our hearts.

Beautiful the dreamer in God’s eyes
For without a vision we will die.
So let the prophet speak, the vision soar
And rise forevermore
Beautiful the dreamer in God’s eyes.

Father, give us dreams alive and new
Come fill our hearts with what you want to do.
Fix our eyes on heaven ‘til we see
Just what your kingdom here on earth can be.

Blessed are the ones who do not see
And yet with perfect vision still believe.
Blest are those who let their spirits dream
Never stopping ‘til they see their King.

They forever fly on eagle wings,
Where stars and angels sing.
Praise to the Redeemer
Beautiful the dreamer in His eyes.

Praise to the Redeemer
Beautiful the dreamer in His eyes.

   Mike Hudson/Paul Smith



Sunday, July 17, 2022



Martha! Martha! You are anxious and upset
about many things; one thing only is required.
Luke 10:41-42

Because I didn’t really understand it, I never used to like this Martha and Mary story very much.  In fact, I believed that Martha got a bum deal here.  Here she is slaving away in a hot kitchen, trying to get a meal on the table, while her sister Mary has parked herself in the living room with the guests, listening in on the living room conversation.  Even when poor Martha comes into the living room, mopping her brow with her apron, to ask for a little help, she not only doesn’t get it, but she also gets a quick reprimand for being such a workaholic! I have always felt sorry for her for that let down! She probably ran back into the kitchen sobbing! 

These days, I understand the story a little better. Jesus is not condemning good deeds or hard work in order to praise contemplation.  In the sequence of the gospel, Jesus has just finished telling the story of the Good Samaritan, in which doing good deeds was praised.  In fact, Jesus ends that story by telling his disciples, and us, to go and do the same as the Good Samaritan.  What he is doing here is simply reminding Martha of the primacy of listening to the Lord and also reminding her why, and for whom, she is doing all her work to begin with. He is reminding her that she is loved whether she gets dinner on the table on time or not!  So this story is meant to balance the story of the Good Samaritan.  It’s not a matter of either/or but of both/and.  It’s a matter of action and contemplation, a matter of work and rest!

Now I suppose this story can be read on many levels.  In fact, in the fifty-two years that I have preached on this text, it has spoken to me on a variety of levels, depending on where I was in my own experience.  At some point, when I had picked it up and read it over many, many times, all of a sudden it took on a new meaning that day.  As I read it over and over, I kept saying to myself: “This story is about self-worth.  This is truly about self-worth!”

I know these two women.  They moved into my head years ago and they have been arm-wrestling ever since about who is going to be in charge of my thinking.  For most of my life I’ve sided with the busy and anxious Martha.  But recently, as I’ve gotten older, Martha is really getting on my nerves.  Mary, after all, is the smart one.  Both of these characters want to serve the Lord, but they do it for different reasons.  Martha is that part of me that believes that I am not really worth much unless I do a lot of work to prove my worth.  Martha is that part of me that is always anxious, always lecturing myself and always saying to myself that I ought to be ashamed of myself for not being perfect.  Martha is that part of me that believes that if I accomplish a lot, if I can keep proving myself then maybe I can make up for my obvious deficiencies.  Martha is that side of me that believes that my worth is directly tied into what I can get done.  If you have a Martha in your head, I am sure, like me, you too are totally exhausted most of the time by your own busyness about many things.

I’ve just recently discovered Mary’s point of view.  Mary has a message for those of you who feel you “aren’t worth much” because you “can’t do much anymore.” Mary knows that she is already loved, she has already done enough and so she doesn’t have to do a thing about it except enjoy the fact that she is loved.  Mary is that side of me that wants to believe that God already loves me, no matter what, just as I am right now, whether I do anything this week or not.  Mary is that part of me that wants to believe that God loves me and I am worth something just because I am, not because I am a priest, not because I’ve earned a few degrees or because I can pastor three or more parishes at once.  Martha always leaves me anxious, but Mary leaves me encouraged and gives me mental rest and peace of mind.  Martha is always trying to do something to get God to love her while Mary understands that she is already loved by God.

The monks at Gethsemani Abbey are the "Marys" of the church. Like Mary who sat in the living room listening to Jesus, they are contemplatives. They are known especially for the amount of time they pray and mediate.  The "Marthas" of the church are the ones who are always obsessing about doing things. They are the ones driven to ask the monks what they do besides pray and meditate. They are always relieved to hear that they "produce fruitcakes and fudge." Underneath  their prejudice  is a belief that anything beyond work is a waste of time! 

I read a story several years ago about how many widows there are in Florida! It seems their many of their husbands died of heart attacks trying to "get ahead" so they could kick back and live it up someday!  Sadly, they worked themselves into an early grave!  

Many of us go through life with that same work-work-work prejudice. Many of us grew up believing that God’s love is conditional - it's based on how much we do for God! We grew up believing that God loves us when we are good, quits loving us when we are bad and starts loving us again when we shape up. Like Martha, we grew up believing we needed to prove our worth to God by doing good deeds! That is actually very poor theology.  Mary teaches us today that God’s love for humankind does not have to be earned.  True, as we learned in the Good Samaritan story, God calls us all to serious action and thoughtful behaviors as signs of our gratitude for all God has done for us,  but God never withholds love from us, no matter what we do or fail to do. That, my sisters and brothers, is why the Scriptures are called “good news.”

Let me end this homily with a humorous story about a time I was talking about this reading.

I was having Mass at the old Sacred Heart Home on Payne Street. The Carmelite Sisters had

closed their convent on Newburg Road and moved into Sacred Heart Home. All through the

homily that day, I could hear one of the nuns snickering on my right side. After Mass, she

came up to me and said, “Finally, someone understands me! My name is Sister Martha and I

spent most of my life as a cook for the Carmelite Sisters! I so appreciated your sympathy for

Martha in today’s gospel!” I laughed all the way home!