Saturday, August 26, 2023



After trying my hand at writing the lyrics for two hymns lately (one for St. Theresa/St. Mary Magadalen of Pazzi and one for The Little Sisters of the Poor), I learned how hard it is to get the words to work out - especially if you are trying to fit them into public domain music!   




Thursday, August 24, 2023


I am very worried about the future of our culture at a time when meanness, cruelty and hate are being modeled even by our highest and most visible political leaders. I can't help believing that their actions and words are actually teaching people that it's OK to act and talk that way!  If it can be reversed at all, it will probably take generations to undo.  

Along with this disturbing trend, our media sources seem to be addicted  to focusing on the worst side of human behavior and constantly giving it a stage and a spotlight to wallow in! Our media sources are well known for focusing on "the plane that did crash" instead of "the hundreds and hundreds of planes flying that day that didn't crash!" I even had a blog post with a few examples of recent bad human behavior on August 17, and how it was being focused on, entitled: "GETTING OUT OF THIS WORLD JUST IN TIME?"

What is even more disturbing to a religious leader like myself is the impotence of organized religion to do much about changing this situation. I can't help from concluding that our impotence to positively influence the culture comes mainly from our own loss of credibility that comes from the fact that our own sins are being exposed to the light of day!  Instead of lecturing others for their shortcomings, we need to take on the attitude of Father Damien of Molokai, Hawaii, when he was famously able to start his homily with the words "we lepers" instead of his usual "you lepers" after admitting that he too had contracted the disease.   

Today, I want to write about the advantages of reflecting on one's own past experiences and what can be learned from them. 

My seminary formation (1958-1964) at St. Thomas Seminary, a minor seminary here in Louisville, focused on identifying sins in oneself and others that one could condemn.  Ken Follett, in his novel "Pillars of the Earth," called it "mousing for vermin!" In a culture of "finding fault," we were forever "examining our consciences" and ranting about "personal and communal weaknesses." In such a culture, we were never able to feel very good about ourselves or each other. We focused more on our sinners than we did on our saints! 

The second half of my seminary formation (1964-1970) at St. Meinrad Seminary over in Indiana was quite different! It focused on "looking for goodness to affirm" in oneself and others.  It focused on moving from "powerlessness to powerfulness," from "being a victim to being a victor" and from "shrinking to expanding." We spent more time on virtue and less on vice!

During those years, I not only moved from one state (Kentucky) to another (Indiana), I moved from one state-of-mind to another - from always looking for "bad to condemn" to "goodness to affirm." That new mindset  affected me so much that years later I started writing a weekly column called "An Encouraging Word" in which I looked at the everyday people around me and tried to focus on the goodness I saw. I even published the  best of those essays in  a little book called "Affirming Goodness." 

As a result of this new focus, I tend these days to be totally annoyed with the news and its constant focus on the most outrageous human behavior imaginable. Yes, there are certainly "weeds growing among the wheat" as Jesus put it, but I believe there are also heroes and heroic behaviors everywhere, if you have the eyes to see them! I believe that a constant focus on outrageous human behavior tends to lower the bar of human striving, while a constant focus on heroic human behavior tends to raise the bar of human striving. We need to focus more on our heroes and less on our villains! 

John Lubbock was right. "What we see depends mainly on what we look for!" One translation of the the Book of Proverbs (11:27) says it even more colorfully. "Anyone can find the dirt in someone! Be the one who finds the gold!"  With that perspective in mind, let we offer just one positive example from the news.

A Teenage Boy Decides To Make A Difference After Seeing His Classmates Bullied For Wearing Dirty Clothes

Megan Quinn
Sun, July 30, 2023 at 11:15 PM EDT

In the United States, one in five students between the ages of 12 to 18 report being bullied during the school year, with approximately 166,000 teenagers admitting that they have skipped school due to bullying. Victims can find themselves a target due to various reasons, one of them being physical appearance and clothing.

After one high school student discovered first hand that some of his peers were feeling self-conscious about their clothing and missing school because of it, he decided to take action that would make their lives easier and encourage them to come back to school without the fear of being teased.

In September 2022, the senior class president of Lacey Township High School, Jimmy Tomredle, learned that some of his classmates were skipping school since they had no clean clothes to wear and were concerned about being bullied.

Wanting to make a positive impact and his classmates feel more comfortable, the 18-year-old delved into some research and came across the story of West Side High School Principal, Akbar Cook, who installed five pairs of washers and dryers in the football team’s locker room so that students could do their laundry for free.

Cook’s decision was inspired after he noticed students were chronically absent from school due to not having any clean clothes. Some of them were homeless and were unable to access washers and dryers.

As a project for his Leadership Academy of Humanities Program, Tomredle worked alongside school staff and local appliance stores to ensure that his fellow students would be able to use laundry services at the school free of charge. He composed and sent several letters to appliance stores in the area before he received a response from Anchor Appliance in West Creek, who donated a washer and dryer to the school.

After school custodians installed the appliances in the school’s community closet, “Tomredle’s Terrifically Tidy Laundry Services” was officially open for use.

The grand opening day was complete with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, speeches, and a turnout of over 60 people, including the school district’s superintendent, teachers, students, and Tomredle’s close friends and family.

In order for students to use the laundry room, they must make an appointment via Google Forms and a teacher must be present while laundry is being done.

Tomredle provided a few of his own laundry detergent bottles to kick off the grand opening of the laundry room, however now he has started a detergent donation drive, asking others for detergent, dryer sheets, and other laundry products.

Tomredle’s actions have more of an impact on students than he may ever know. According to West Side High School Principal Akbar Cook, 85% of the student body at his school were missing three to five days of school a month since they did not have any clean clothes to wear.

Students reported that those who wore dirty clothes to school easily became a target of bullying, with their classmates making remarks about how they were “dirty” and that they “smelled.” One student even fought a security guard, refusing to allow him to check her backpack since she was homeless and had dirty clothes in her bag. “She was fighting for her pride,” Principal Cook told CNN.

According to a study consisting of 600 public school teachers, conducted by Whirlpool, a home appliance company, the link between absenteeism and no access to laundry services is high. It was discovered that one in five students do not have access to clean clothing, and often miss school because of it.

Like Tomredle, Whirlpool is dedicated to combating bullying and encouraging students to attend school. In 2017, the company donated washers and dryers to 12 schools. After one year, 93% of students who utilized the appliances reported an improvement in attendance.

No student should have to fear that they will be ridiculed and teased because they do not have the proper means to wash their clothes.

If every school was dedicated to making their students feel safe and comfortable, they would ensure that they had access to laundry services that allow them to wash their clothes and feel confident walking through the hallways. It's time more students and school staff begin having these conversations to ensure positive changes.

Megan Quinn is a writer at YourTango who covers entertainment and news, self, love, and relationships.


Tuesday, August 22, 2023




The collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said, "Does not your teacher pay the temple tax?" "Yes," Peter said. Jesus said to Peter, “Go to the sea, drop in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax. Give that to them for me and for you."
Matthew 17:22-27

To say the least, this is an insightful little story. It shows that Jesus, while he was here on earth, was not only questioned by the State, but also by the Church, about whether he would pay his taxes!

Matthew’s gospel has two stories about Jesus and paying taxes. Both times, we see the questioner trying to ensnare Jesus as a man at odds with the government and organized religion. Jesus knew we had dual citizenship, so he says later on in chapter 22, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s!

Today the question, rather than paying taxes to the State, was about whether Jesus would pay the religious “temple tax.” It would be like a reporter from The Record asking me if I was going to make my annual contribution to the Archbishop’s Catholic Service Appeal to which all our priests are asked to contribute!

Again, the tax authorities asked their question with malicious intent. They were actually hoping that Jesus would refuse to pay such a tax because if he refused, they would have something of which to accuse him!

Peter’s immediate answer to the questioners was that Jesus would indeed pay his taxes. After answering their question. Peter went to Jesus and told him of the situation. Jesus basically tells Peter to pay it so that they would not set a bad example for others. If the laity are expected to support the Catholic Services Appeal, why not their priests? After all, both Jesus and Peter knew that the Temple was God’s House and it cost quite a bit of money to operate, just as we priests know that it costs the archbishop a lot to run the archdiocese!

The last part of this story is quite interesting. If you take it literally, you would assume that Jesus told Peter to go fishing and that he would catch a fish with a coin magically in its mouth worth what the both of them owed in Temple taxes! That’s certainly not what Jesus meant here!

We are told that people of those days often said things in the most dramatic and vivid language possible and often with the flash of a smile. This was what Jesus was doing in his answer to Peter. Jesus did not perform miracles to spare people from doing things they could do for themselves. Jesus did not work miracles to simply spare his disciples from hard work and personal responsibility.

No, what he is saying to Peter was something like this, “Peter, go back to your fishing job and earn what we need to pay our Temple taxes! It would be like telling a typist that she could find a new coat in the keys of her typewriter or a mechanic that he could find food for his family in the cylinders of a car. No, here it’s simply a matter of doing the work, reaping the reward and paying your bills!!

What I have learned from this gospel is simple. I need to quit asking God to miraculously take care of things that I am quite capable of doing for myself! As I like to remind myself sometimes, “Ron, there is no rescue party out looking for you, so just do it!”

Sunday, August 20, 2023



The woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord help me.” Jesus said to her, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs!” She said to Jesus, “Please Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps from the table of their masters!”
Matthew 15:21-28 

Well, since I didn’t see anybody laughing or even smiling when I read it, I guess I will have to explain today's gospel story which I consider one of the funniest in the whole New Testament! 

First of all, however, I think I should give you a little background. This is the first and only time Jesus is reported as being outside Jewish territory. Jesus deliberately went there to get away from the demands of the crowds who were constantly pursuing him and to get away from the hostility of the Scribes and Pharisees. He needed some quiet time to think and pray about the terrible days he had come to realize that were ahead of him. By leaving Jewish territory and entering Gentile territory, he assumed that very few of his fellow Jews would follow him.  

No sooner than Jesus had crossed the border, a woman who had heard about him and the wonderful things he could do for hurting people, showed up and came up to him asking for help for her afflicted daughter. She was not only a Gentile, she was a Canaanite Gentile and Canaanites were ancestral enemies of the Jews.

The text says that Jesus didn’t say a word to her in to answer to her request! Maybe it was because Jewish men were forbidden by law to speak to women in public? Maybe, as human, he was struggling with his own prejudices? Maybe he was just trying to pull himself together and think about how to help her? In any case, imagine that moment of awkward silence as they stood there in a stand-off – Jesus not saying anything and her not leaving!  Not being able to stand that awkward silence, the disciples of Jesus intervene. “Jesus, tell her to get out of here and quit calling out after you!” Not dissuaded by their angry rebuff, the desperate woman approached Jesus, bowed to him and said simply, “Lord, help me!”  

Here's where the fun starts! It loses something in translation so I am going to have to try to explain it in such a way that you’ll get the humorous exchange. Jesus says something quite awful-sounding to her, but you have to imagine him smiling and winking knowingly at her as he says it. Both Jesus and the woman knew, and everyone standing around knew, that the Jewish nickname for Gentiles was “dogs.” Jesus says to her in response to her request, “It is not right to take food that belongs to Jewish children and give it to “dogs” like you!” (Wink! Wink!) The word he used here is similar to the "b" word we have for “vicious females!”  

She must have picked up on Jesus teasing her as he was saying out loud what everybody looking on was thinking about her. Instead of using the “b” word for a female dog, in her answer she uses the word for a “little puppies” or cute “household pets.” “Please, Lord, for even “little puppies” like me don’t mind eating the scrapes that fall from their master’s table!” (Wink! Wink!) It almost like she is saying to the smiling Jesus, “Harmless little Gentile "puppies" like me don’t mind eating left-over scraps from Jews like yourself!”

I have always imagined them laughing and hugging each other after their verbal exchange as Jesus says to her, “O, woman, great is your faith! Let it be done as you wish! Your daughter is healed!”

Remember, this story takes place outside Jewish territory. The significance of this story is that it foreshadows the going out of the gospel to the whole world; it shows us the beginning of the end of all the barriers between God and the peoples of the world!

We have a long way to go, but some of us remember the days when we Catholics believed that non-Catholics would probably not make it to heaven? Others of us will remember the days when many Protestants thought we Catholics would certainly not make it to heaven because we did not have that “born-again” experience that they had!

Just to remind you of how far we have become, let me remind you of what the Catholic Church actually teaches today about other religions. These words come from the Vatican Council II documents.

The Document of Ecumenism says this: “Catholics must joyfully acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our Protestant brothers and sisters.  Nor should we forget that whatever is wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brothers and sisters can contribute to our own edification.” (That's worth repeating!) Wow! We have come a long way, haven't we? I have benefitted greatly by what I have learned over the years since those post-Vatican II years. I preached one whole summer in Crater Lake National Park under the auspices of the United Church of Christ. I got more help in learning to preach from them than I did from Saint Meinrad Seminary! I got my Doctorate in Parish Revitalization from McCormick Presbyterian Seminary in Chicago! It was because of what I learned from the Presbyterians that I was able to do what I did to revitalize the Cathedral of the Assumption parish downtown in the 1980s and 1990s! 

The Document on Non-Christian Religions says this: “The Church rejects, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against others, or harassment of them, because of their race, color, condition of life or religion.” (That too is worth repeating!) Wow again! We have come a long long way, haven't we? It was because of that Vatican II Document that we were able to start the Cathedral Heritage Foundation, now called the Center for Interfaith Relations, which is still functioning around our Cathedral downtown for almost 40 years now! 

Would that we would all dedicate ourselves to living what today's passage from the Gospel of Matthew tells us and what the Church clearly teaches us in our relations with other peoples and their religions!  Yes, indeed, we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go!  Let us especially reject those loud screeching voices today who want to take us back to the way things used to be - from the tolerance and ecumenism of today to the intolerance and religious bigotry of yesterday! I don't know about you, but I'm certainly not going back to those days!