Saturday, August 12, 2023



I grew my first beard around 1972 when I was the Associate Pastor at St. Mildred Church in Somerset, Kentucky. I had just returned from my first back-packing trip to Taize, France, with some of the young adults from the parish and surrounding community. 
The late 1960s and early 1970s was the very beginning of priests growing beards and letting their hair grow long. I was a little bit more than nervous letting my parishioners know about my new beard so I waited till the last minute to walk up the aisle for Mass when I got home from Taize. On the way up the aisle, I could hear people sucking in air in horror as I passed by them. 

It was after Mass that I overheard my first reaction. I was standing at the door greeting people, when I heard two old ladies discussing my new beard. The first one asked the other one, "Isn't that beard disgusting?" The second one answered, "Well, Saint Francis had a beard!" The first one responded indignantly and in a huff, "Well, he's certainly no Saint Francis!" 

I have always thought that one was funny! I am glad that I haven't over-heard most of the critical remarks, but there are still two such events that I am confused about.  (1) I was standing at the door after Mass one Sunday when a man walked up to me and hissed, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself!" I presumed that he was talking about something he didn't like about my homily, but I wasn't sure and he left me no time to ask. I am still not for sure even to this day! (2) One day, I was standing at the door after Mass and a woman shook my hand vigorously and said, "Great homily, Father!" and walked on! Normally, I would have been grateful for the compliment, but that Sunday the Associate Pastor had given the homily, not me! I guess it was just another case of "good old Father what's-his-name?"

Thursday, August 10, 2023


Over the Christmas holidays a few years ago, I got the opportunity to watch the 2007 movie, The Bucket List, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. It is about two terminally ill men on a road trip with a "wish list" of things to do before they “kicked the bucket.” Being only nine months away from turning 80 myself, it still strikes a chord with me.

In one of my very favorite scenes, they are both sitting on one of the pyramids in Egypt. Morgan Freeman’s character says to Jack Nicholson’s character, “You know the ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death. When their souls got to the entrance to heaven…the gods asked them two questions. Their answer determined whether they were admitted to heaven or not! “Have you found joy in your life?” “Has your life brought joy to others?”

At the time I was watching that movie, I thought these two questions would be great questions to explore personally.  “Have I found joy in my life?” “Has my life brought joy to others?” At my age, I would have to answer "yes" to the first question. I have been happy most of my life - especially so in the last 50 years. Unless people have been lying to me all those years, I would have to say "yes" to the second question as well. They have convinced me that I have indeed brought joy to many people's lives. 

Another way to ask those same questions would be these: "Who am I?" and "What is my purpose?" I spent some time recently with these two questions as well. (1) I am a loved child of God. It took me many years to get to that awareness because I used to doubt the "love" part. As a child of God, I have realized that I have responsibilities to develop and expand the investment God has made in me. Therefore, I believe seriously in deliberate and intentional personal and spiritual growth. (2) My purpose, my vocation, is to serve others. I know this and I believe it to the core of my being. My purpose here is to empower, encourage, challenge, console and build others up. My  purpose has been to serve others, honor others, encourage others and enable others! I have come to realize, finally, that it is in giving that I receive. By giving to others what I need, what I need will be given back to me - in spades! 

At my age, I am finding that I need to update my "bucket list." I have done most of the things on my old "bucket list," often more things than I ever thought possible and many of them were not even on my list! Now that my last "dream" has come true, the new St. Theresa Family Life Center and Guest House down in my home parish, I am ready to add a couple of post-scripts to my old "bucket list." I know what I don't want to do, but it isn't clear yet what I do want to do. All I do know is that all I have to do now is to step back, reflect seriously and wait patiently till God helps me figure out what those new things, maybe the last things, that I could do! 

After listening for God's direction, I believe my mind will take in everything I tell it so I need to feed it faith, feed it truth and feed it love.  Only then, I will be able to update my "bucket list" at least one more time! 

How about you? Do you even have a "bucket list?" If you do, does it need updating? It's hard to "go somewhere" if you don't have a map! It's even harder to "get somewhere" without being "fueled up" before you start! In life, get behind the wheel, decide to be your own "tour guide," your own "life coach" and your own "spiritual director" if necessary!  Just do it! 

Tuesday, August 8, 2023



British members of the Catholic Church have returned to the tradition of abstaining from meat on Fridays — and the positive environmental impact is substantial.

A new study by the University of Cambridge and collaborators indicates that, by cutting or reducing meat from their diet one time per week, practicing Catholics in the United Kingdom, about 10% of the total population, saved the equivalent of more than 55,000 tons of pollution each year, according to That’s roughly the pollution produced by 82,000 people flying from London to New York, according to the same source.

In September 2011, bishops in England and Wales announced that they would call Catholic churchgoers to revive the centuries-old tradition of fasting from meat on Fridays.

Research shows that although only about 28% of the country’s Catholic population shifted their dietary habits based on the bishops’ statement, 55% of those who changed their diet attempted to eat less meat on Fridays, swapping meat for other proteins like fish or cheese, while 41% cut meat out altogether on Fridays, according to

“The Catholic Church is very well placed to help mitigate climate change, with more than one billion followers around the world,” said professor Shaun Larcom, the lead author of the study. “Pope Francis has already highlighted the moral imperative for action on the climate emergency, and the important role of civil society in achieving sustainability through lifestyle change.”

The researchers also said that if American Catholics upheld the same meatless Friday tradition, we’d see more than 20 times the environmental impact in the United States as shown in the U.K. study.

“Meat agriculture is one of the major drivers of greenhouse gas emissions,” Larcom told “If the Pope was to reinstate the obligation for meatless Fridays to all Catholics globally, it could be a major source of low-cost emissions reductions, even if only a minority of Catholics choose to comply, as we find in our case study.”

Sunday, August 6, 2023


Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain
by themselves. Jesus was transfigured before them; his
face shone like the sun and his clothes became white
as light. Moses and Elijah appeared to them. 
Matthew 17:1-3

A taste! A sample! A feel! A lick! A sip! A bite! A glimpse! A glance! A peep! A flash! A forecast! A tease! A preview! We have lots of names for it – experiencing something beforehand. That is what this mountain top experience is all about, Jesus giving his disciples an advanced glimpse of glory before it happened.  

On a mountaintop, you can see in all directions. On the mountaintop in this gospel story, Jesus was able to see in all directions, not only literally, but also symbolically. He could see the past, the present and the future. He could see how the prophets of the past foretold his coming as the Messiah. He could see the necessary suffering in front of him. He could see the glory that awaited him after his resurrection. This insight, this realization, was a mind-blowing, clothes-glowing, religious experience when everything came into focus for him. In other words, he finally “got it!” From this gospel, we have created a phrase for these kinds of experiences. We call them “peak experiences."

The only problem with a taste, a sample, a feel, a lick, a sip, a bite, a glimpse, a glance, a peep, a flash, a forecast, a tease and a preview, is that we end up wanting more and more of it - like a drug addict's first "high!" That’s what was on Peter’s mind when he blurted out in the middle of this mind-blowing experience, “Lord, this is so wonderful, so unbelievable! Let’s set up some tents and just stay up here on this mountain top forever!”

This is what happens when some people have been on a wonderful retreat or have been given a major insight at a workshop or program. They want to repeat it over and over again and make it permanent. They even crusade to get other people to go where they went for their experience so that others might have the same experience they had! How many times have we been hounded by people who insist that we, too, need to go to Marriage Encounter, Lourdes, Medjugore or an A.A/Al-Anon program so that we, too, can have the same retreat experience that they had?

“Peak experiences,” however, are normally unique - neither transferable nor repeatable. They serve a unique purpose. Like the one in the gospel today, these experiences help people get through the bad times, without losing hope. What happened on the mountain that day was designed to help the apostles make it through the rough days ahead of them. They had to come down from the mountain and face the passion and death of Jesus before he would rise from the dead. After his resurrection, when they did see the risen Christ in his brilliant white robes, they remembered this mountain top experience with Jesus in his “white as light clothes." They realized they had actually gotten a glimpse of resurrection glory beforehand. The very word "transfiguration" itself means "a change of something into something better." 

The thrill of a new perspective cannot be sustained for an indefinite period. As anyone who has been through the initial "high" of treatment programs knows, they have to go back to reality and face all the old issues and old problems for a while. If these experiences are personal, unique, temporary and not transferable, then why bother with them to begin with? Aren't they just a cruel tease? Absolutely not! Rene Daumal described the slipping back into the old realities this way: “You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees, one descends; one sees no longer, but one has seen!” There is an art to living peacefully in the real life world, with its real life problems. When we can longer see, we can at least remember what we have seen, and remembering what we have seen, helps us keep going.

I believe that a “peak experience” is what separates those who remain in the church from those who drop out. Without that one special Mass, that one special retreat, that one special experience of the holy, it is hard to keep going in a church that seems to be experiencing so many problems. The more powerful one's  “peak experience” is, the more "desert experiences"  one can endure! This phenomenon is impossible to explain to someone who has never been through a "peak experience.”

I have been fortunate enough to have two or three "peak experiences" as a priest, times when I felt, beyond a doubt, that God had worked through me to help others. They do not happen every day, but they were so powerful that, remembering them, I have been able to remain in the priesthood, without giving into the hopelessness that sometimes overtakes priests these days. 

For this reason, several years ago I committed myself to turning my time and attention toward doing some extra priest retreat work so as to make some money so I could help out in the Caribbean missions. I made twelve trips down there to support the bishop, the diocese, the parishes, the schools, the orphanage, the hospital and the priests and Sisters. One of the many things we did during those years was to send some of the youth of that diocese to World Youth Day in Poland. Even though I had to quit my mission work in the Caribbean missions because of COVID and a volcano eruption, I helped gather money from some friends to send some more youth to World Youth Day that is taking place this year in Portugal.  Why do I do it? I do it because I believe that these trips put these disadvantaged young people in a position to have a unique, once-in-a-lifetime religious experience, a "peak experience" if you will, that will help sustain their Catholic faith for years to come.

These “peak experiences” cannot be staged or arranged. They are gifts from God that come in God’s own time. If you have never had one of these experiences, pray for this gift, pray for your own “glimpse of glory.” These "peak experiences" make the tough times bearable. They help us make sense of all the nonsense that we see much of the world enduring!