Saturday, February 18, 2023



When I was younger and in school, it seemed like the weeks and months simply dragged on. A semester seemed to take years and a year could seem like eternity. Today, every third day seems like Thursday as I am getting closer to the end of another week. The older I get, the faster time seems to get away from me. 

One thing in particular seems to exacerbate this tendency to believe that time is picking up speed. GOOGLE PHOTOS resends some of my old photos every day under the headings of "On Year Ago," "Four Years Ago," "Seven Years Ago" and so on. Every time I open GOOGLE PHOTOS, my eyes are drawn to the top bar that present me with several old photos and the years they were taken. Each time, I simply cannot believe my eyes that such-and-such an event happened several years earlier than I might have guessed. To me, if it says seven years ago, I was thinking it was three! If it says four years ago, I might have guessed two! 

In the end, I have to admit that I can't keep "time from flying (tempus fugit)", but I can do what another Latin maxim that I also learned in high school seminary that says. "Carpe diem (seize the day)" - make the most of the days I have left! 


"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."
Appeared in an advertisement for Edward Stieglitz’s book on aging in a 1947 edition of the Chicago Tribune, falsely attributed to Abraham Lincoln



Thursday, February 16, 2023


My home parish of St. Theresa of Avila, down in Meade County, holds a special place in my heart. Founded in 1818, it has been through lots of changes. The present brick church, opened in 1857, was preceded by two log cabin churches - the first on the banks of the Ohio River and the second one in the present "old cemetery." 
The wooden cross marks the spot where the second log cabin church stood in the "old cemetery." 

Ever since I started working on the present project of turning the old grade school in to a new Family Life Center, I have been finding old pictures I had never seen. I am sure many of the present parishioners have not seen them either. I am happy to share them and show some comparisons.  

Built 1855-1857 - Dedicated 1861 
As it appeared @1900

(This is how it looked at my First Communion in 1952)

(This is basically how it looked at my First Mass in 1970)


(One of the major differences is the fact they lowered the windows, replaced 
the clear-glass with stain-glass windows and built a new bell tower in the late 1920s under Father Odendahl who came from Germany. 
Several pastors before him, Father Raoux from France, started the new parish in Payneville off of St. Theresa in 1872, built the "old rectory" at St. Theresa and secured the large stain-glass window over the main altar of St. Theresa in 1896.)  

Sunday, February 12, 2023



GIVEN AT ST. MARY MAGDALEN (Payneville) and ST. THERESA (Rhodelia)

Before us are life and death, good and evil,
whichever we choose shall be given to us.
Sirach 15:15-20

In retirement, there are two major things consuming my attention these days. They are connected.

First, as most of you know by now, I am involved in a new project down in my home parish, founded in 1818. I am trying to turn the grade school that I attended, closed for 28 years now, into a new Family Life Center which I hope will serve both St. Theresa and St. Mary Magdalen parishes. Behind the physical renovation of the building is a desire to stop more and more young adults and young families in the community from drifting away from the church while re-energizing the faith life of our older members who are working so hard to keep these two parishes going.

As I research our parish histories (St. Theresa founded in 1818 and St. Mary Magdalen, founded off of St. Theresa, in 1872 by Fr. Jule Pierre Raoux), I am realizing some of what our ancestors had to endure to pass the Catholic faith on to us. In his lifetime our first pastor, Father Elisha Durbin, rode 500,000 miles through the wilderness of Kentucky on horseback establishing and ministering to small frontier parishes like Saint Theresa in western Kentucky, north Tennessee and southern Illinois. Under his guidance, our Saint Theresa ancestors built two log cabin churches in the early 1800s and his successors built the present brick church between 1855-1856 and St. Mary's in 1872. At the end of the Civil War, they opened Saint Theresa Academy in 1868 for boarders and day students and operated an attached farm to support it. Some of St. Mary's parishioners attended the old St. Theresa Academy. I went to the first and second grade in that old Academy building before it was torn down, as well as the much smaller 1952 school that many of both parishes attended, that I am trying to reopen as a family life center. Our ancestors did all that with very little money, but they did it with faith and determination, as well as with their blood, sweat and tears. The 97 Sisters of Charity served our area heroically and unselfishly for 123 years from 1870 – 1993. They even used an outhouse and had no running water for 82 of those 123 years!

The second thing that is consuming my attention these days is this. After all the sacrifices that our ancestors made in passing on the Catholic faith to us, I am running into their descendants, some of them family members, who have come to believe that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence and are deciding to leave the Roman Catholic Church for those greener pastures. Others have just dropped out and are going nowhere! I am being asked all the time to meet with people who are trying to decide whether to stay with us or leave and go after the latest best offer in one of those new churches that are springing up. I know for a fact that some of you here in these small towns are struggling with the same question – should we stay or should we go - and some of you are sitting here looking at me right now.

Today’s first reading gives me a chance to talk about the second thing that is consuming my attention these days - the question of whether one should choose to stay or whether to leave!

In the Book of Joshua, we have the story of Joshua, who succeeded Moses, leading the people of God into the Promised Land after a long arduous journey through the desert from Egypt. After all they had been through, he notices them looking around at all the new religions around them. Many were tempted to give up their old-time religion and embrace one of those new religions they see around them. Joshua tells them that they need to make a decision and tells them of his own decision.

Decide today whom you will serve, the god of your fathers
or the gods of the country you are now dwelling.
As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua 24

In the gospel, Jesus asks his disciples to choose – to choose between staying and leaving. He had just taught them that he himself was the Bread of Life that they were invited to “feed on.” The crowds started to murmur because his teaching on that subject was hard to accept. Here is what Scripture says:

As a result of his teaching about being the Bread of Life,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then asks the Twelve,
“Do you want to leave too?”
John 6

My brothers and sisters, Jesus asks us the same question today that he asked his apostles: “Will you stay or will you leave?” So many of our fellow Catholics “no longer accompany us.” Some just drifted away all together and went nowhere. Others have walked away to join some other church.

I do not condemn them. In fact, I can understand why they leave. Even if they are now members of another church, they are still our brothers and sisters in the faith. In fact, I believe that when people leave us, their leaving is sometimes partly our fault. Many have told me that, while they were with us, they felt that they were not being fed spiritually. Churches that offer uplifting preaching and spend money on vibrant music programs are leaving those of us who don't in the dust! In the news a couple of weeks ago, in an article about churches of all denominations losing members, it said this: "The closure of churches are often due to a failure to adapt. Maybe they stopped reaching out to young families. Oftentimes, closed churches didn't figure out how to change when the community changed until it was too late!"

My friends, offering the same old stuff in the same old way is not working! That's why I have been working so hard to build a Family Life Center to serve both parishes. A transformed old closed grade school is one way adapt to the many changes facing these two communities. We have young families who need some support and encouragement, before and after marriage. We have older people, who are living longer, who also need some support and encouragement. Our Family Life Center will offer a place where we can have programs that help us adapt to the many changes facing these two communities. I was thrilled to hear that the Programming Committee for the new St. Theresa Family Life Center will have members from both parishes. In giving you this new resource, it is now up to the Programming Committee to use it well. Now that we have a nice comfortable adult space to offer such programs for all ages, I will be there, as well as Father Ray, to offer some educational programs along with many others,

So why do I care and why do I stay? I stay because of the Eucharist – the very thing that divided the followers of Jesus. I am not about to go off and leave that, no matter how boring the homily or how tedious the music! I know there are churches with highly paid preachers, big orchestras and huge choirs, but they don’t have the Eucharist! As boring and tedious as our services can be on occasion, Christ the Bread of Life, is still being made present on our altars at our celebrations of the Eucharist! For that reason, I won’t leave for the latest best offer!

I am not about to leave a church that assembled the New Testament as we know it – whether that New Testament is a Catholic or Protestant translation! I am not about to leave a church with a mile-long list of martyrs like the 26 Japanese Catholics who were crucified in 1587 or Father Stanley Rother of Oklahoma who was assassinated in 1981, saints like Saint Francis of Italy, Saint John Paul II of Poland and Mother Theresa of India. I am not about to leave a church that is gathering in every part of the world this morning for one that started up somewhere in in the US a few years ago, no matter how popular their services might be for some people! I am not going to leave a church that my mother went to as a girl wrapped in a blanket with my uncles and aunts, bouncing around in the back of a horse drawn farm wagon for miles each way, to get to Mass while fasting from midnight! I cannot leave our church once I became aware of eight St. Theresa’s early pastors buried in Saint Louis Cemetery in Louisville right behind my condo – priests who said Mass for our ancestors, huddled together with their parishioners in freezing log cabins and who went out to anoint and pray with the sick and dying after riding on horseback through snow, sleet and rain for 100 plus miles at a pop! I am not going to leave a church connected to the 20 young men who had their throats slit, all at the same time, on a beach in Libya in 2018, rather than renounce their Catholic faith. I am not going to leave a church where priests and bishops in Hitler’s prison camps risked their lives to clandestinely say Mass with a precious pinch of bread and a secret thimble of wine! I am not going to leave a church that is world-wide, made up of people who are very poor and very rich, well-educated and illiterate, people who are black, yellow. red, white people and every shade in-between, people from every nation on earth. With all that variety under our tent, surely I can forgive our church for being a mess sometime!

Yes, we can be messy, boring and tedious sometimes. Yes, we might fight, argue over silly differences and find ourselves disappointed with our cowardly leadership sometimes, but I choose to stay in spite of all that! I stay, not because we are “relevant,” “trendy” and “popular,” but because I believe that we are part of that messy “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church” that has been handed down to us in an unbroken line across generations of believers!

As I said at the dedication of our new Family Life Center with Archbishop Shelton sitting right there, "My friends, there is no rescue party out looking for us! If you want to get on the parish closing list, all you have to do is to do nothing!" He smiled and looked down! We are going to have to wake up, step up to the plate and do something to help make sure these two parishes stay healthy. We owe it to our ancestors who invested so much in building these two parishes! We owe it to the next generation - your children and grandchildren. After all, the very word "tradition" means "to hand on!" Let's not let them down by "doing nothing!" I have no children myself, but I am doing all that I can to give you a nice new platform for family-building programs and parish gatherings so that you can continue to "hand on" what was given to us! Help me out! Step up to the plate and do a small part at least, because if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem! Let me repeat that! If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem!

As the first reading today put it, "Before you are life and death. Whichever you choose shall be given to you." At Saint Mary's and Saint Theresa's, let's reject death and choose life! Let's choose to creatively adapt to the societal changes that are overwhelming these two communities and other rural communities like them! Let's choose to imagine steady improvement and revitalization, not steady decline, disintegration and finally closures! Let's choose to stay Catholic! Let's choose to go to church, encourage each other to go to church and choose to be an active part of the church! Let's choose not to just sit around "shrinking" and "doing nothing" until we get a death sentence from the Chancery! Let's all choose to do our individual parts to secure a prosperous future and let's choose to fight like hell for that future! "Before us are life and death. Whichever we choose shall be given to us." Let’s choose life! There are no plans at this point to close either one of them, but let’s make these two parishes so vibrant and active that the diocese would not even think about closing either of them! However, as old idiom puts it, “Once the horse has bolted, it is too late to lock the barn door.”