Tuesday, February 27, 2024

SO LOOKING FORWARD TO SPRING

 


I don't know about you, but I am tired of winter! The older I get, the more I tire of winter! No wonder so many old people move to Florida. The only thing bad about moving to Florida is that they miss the intensity of the anticipation of spring. 

This year, I am feeling an anticipation that I haven't felt for a long time - maybe a time when I didn't travel much and lived in a house. Back them I had flower pots on the front porch and back deck, bananas trees close to the fence and flowering trees near the back door.   

Back when I was traveling a lot, I never had live plants in my house because I did not want to bother people to come over and water them when I was gone. I settled for fake flowers and plastic plants. For the last couple of years, since retiring, I did buy three ferns for the deck. I realize now that that was a lazy half-way effort - maybe because I had given away my large empty flower pots.  

This year I am finding myself making plans now for a renewed spring season around here! Even though I live in a condo where the grass is mowed for us, I am thinking about getting some more big pots for the deck and planting some real plants - definitely flowers and maybe even a few herbs. Even though I have given up cigars, I think I might enjoy sitting out more in the evenings this year if I had some real plants to admire and water! 

I will turn 80 this spring. This year, because of a new year's resolution to pay more attention to my health, I have also promised myself that I would get out and walk liked I used to! I have a nice sidewalk on Eastern Parkway right in front of my house that goes for blocks and blocks both way! I also have St. Michael's and St. Louis's Cemeteries a short walk from my door. Both are beautiful and interesting places to walk. I used to enjoy walking there just a few years back.  With new ear buds and free music on my I-Phone, it makes all the sights and sounds even more enjoyable over the sound of traffic. This spring it is good time to begin all that walking again! 

Since I have been told by several close friends that I need to work less and enjoy life more, I have decided to cook more often for friends. Cooking is something I enjoy doing! I plan on visiting more of my family members down in Meade County, especially the homes of some nieces and nephews that I have never been in!  

I have written and talked a lot about the necessity of re-inventing oneself. Hopefully, this is the spring I will take my own advice and re-invent myself by doing less and resist the temptation to take on another huge building project. I need to understand that re-inventing oneself at my age could include giving up the drive to "save the world" and start "savoring the world!" I need to admit that what worked so well in the past may not work so well going forward. I need to admit that I have proven myself, but now it's time to approve of myself! Re-inventing myself this time includes making plans to give this new insight a try!   
 

 



Sunday, February 25, 2024

PUTTING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE

 

Jesus took Peter, James and John and led them up a high

mountain apart by themselves.

Mark 9:2

What a difference twenty years make! Depressed by the sexual abuse scandal that erupted in our country and feeling unsupported in my work as a Vocation Director, about this time of the year back in 2004, I found myself at an all-time low. You can't imagine what it was like to be a Vocation Director during the height of a clergy sexual abuse scandal! News about the scandal was so bad that I asked for some time off to get way and to regain my balance. I needed to pull myself together and get some clarity about what to do next. I spent the whole month of February that year, alone, in a small cottage, on a deserted beach, in northern Florida. I probably spoke to one person that whole month. I probably ran into less than five people on that cold and windy beach during my extended time away. I loved it and I would love to do it again someday – the next time without a scandal!

I came home with the clarity I was looking for. I went from having one of the worst years of my life, to one of the best years of my life. Even though things had gotten worse before they got better, I came home able to handle the constant drip of bad news much better. It even prepared me to handle the next round of bad news when I retired six years ago. I even went from that bad news to six very good years before the next round of bad news. I guess, in time, you can get used to the "bottom falling out" every few years if you take the time to go off for a while to reflect and pray for God's guidance as you wait for another "golden age" to manifest itself. 

Three weeks ago, we read about Jesus getting up early, before dawn, and going off to a quiet place to reflect on his life and to ask for direction for the day ahead. That was followed by many trips to quiet places during his ministry - to seek clarity from God about what he was supposed to do next. Last week, we followed him into the desert for that forty-day retreat he made before he started his ministry.  

Today, we fast-forward to the end of Jesus’ life to the time before his final entry into Jerusalem for his crucifixion, death and resurrection. Today we remember him taking his closest companions on a mountaintop retreat to prepare them for what was about to happen when they got to Jerusalem.  At this point in his ministry, Jesus could read the handwriting on the wall and it spelled “suffering” in big letters. This time he went to the mountain to get final clarity on whether embracing the impending suffering was really the right thing to do. The question to which Jesus wanted an answer, was not “what do I want to do” or “what do people want me to do,” but “what does God want me to do?”

Just as a desert is a good place for introspection, a mountain is a good place for perspective. In a desert, there is nothing to distract you. You are forced to look within. On a mountain, you can see in all directions at once. On a mountain where one can see in all directions, Jesus got a glimpse of the past, the present, the future and how they all fit together heading into his last days. On a mountain, Jesus was able to see the connections between where he came from, where he was presently and where he was going. 

(1) Jesus saw his connection to his past. Israel’s two great heroes appeared to him and talked with him: Moses and Elijah. They told Jesus that indeed he was the one they had dreamed of centuries ago  and had foretold would someday come to save the world. They told Jesus that he was indeed on the right path and that he should indeed proceed onward. If their word was not enough, from a cloud God repeats the words that he had spoken to Jesus at his baptism, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

(2) Jesus saw his connection to his future. The words used in the gospel today to describe Jesus’ clothes becoming “white as light” are the same words used of his clothes at the resurrection. His “white as light” clothing, gave him a glimpse of the glory to come. It helped him get a sneak preview of his victory on the other side of the suffering he was about to endure.

(3) Jesus saw his connection to his present, where he was on his final journey. He tells his disciples, flattened with fear, that there was nothing to be afraid of, even though they had to go down from the mountain and go through the suffering ahead of them. Their tremendous mountaintop experience was meant to help them go through what was about to happen. In fact, this is where we get the expression “peak experience.” I am sure many of you are familiar with the expression “peak experience.”  A “peak experience” is one of those intense spiritual experiences that people, like good old St. Peter, try to hold onto or repeat again and again, but simply cannot because they are unrepeatable.  They are simply “glimpses of glory” and “sneak previews” of heaven itself. They are not meant to be permanent. “Peak experiences” are meant to be memorable experiences that help us get through hard times.

Going off to the desert, going off to the mountains, going off to the beach, going off to the woods or simply going off to a quiet room to listen to yourself think, to listen to your heart of hearts, to listen to God, is an absolute necessity for those who would follow Jesus. The place is not important, but the listening is! If you listen with your heart, you will get the clarity you need, no matter what questions you need to answer or what problems you need to face.   

No wonder so many in our culture seems to be so confused! Our world is so crammed with noise that we cannot hear ourselves think. Surely, you have realized that there is no such thing any more as a quiet dinner in a nice restaurant. In the summer, cars with their windows rolled down and monster speakers blaring, cruise our streets day and night. There are few places left where you can escape constant noise. 

No wonder our culture seems so confused! Our ears are being blasted with constant noise from cell phones, earphones and an over-saturation of electronic stimulation. No wonder our culture seems so confused! We consult our horoscopes and seek out expensive advice gurus, but we don’t take the time to just be quiet and to listen to ourselves. We are driven to fill the quiet, to kill the quiet and to run from the quiet, as if the quiet were our worst enemy. The truth of the matter is that it is in the quiet that we can get our bearings, clarity is given to us and a sense of who we are and where we are going is shown to us.

My friends, the message today is simple: make friends with the quiet. In silence, everything falls into perspective, the path becomes clear and where we need to go becomes obvious. To stay on the right path, we have to go to the quiet often, regularly and routinely, just as Jesus had to do!

That can happen when you are all alone in a deer stand in the woods, on a walk by yourself in the park, on a visit to the Blessed Sacrament in an empty church or just driving down the road by yourself with the radio off! Lent is a time to simply shut up and listen! Doing that has always worked for me in times of confusion and doubt and it will work for you - if you give it a chance! I learned a long time ago that, when people come to me when they are confused about what to do next, all I have to do is get them to talk. I don't have to give them an answer. Most of the time, they already know the answer. They have just never been quiet enough to hear it!

Most of the time, the solution to many of our problems are found in simply listening to that small whispering voice within our hearts. It is there that we hear what God wants us to do! We probably already know the answer we are looking for, but we just haven't been able to hear it above all the static and noise outside of us!  

Friends, instead of all that “giving up candy bars for Lent” stuff, it would probably do us more good just to take a few minutes every day to withdraw to a quiet place. That’s what Jesus would do! I think we would be surprised by what we would learn if you'd just shut up for a while, cut out all the external static and just be quiet and listen to ourselves think! Reflect for a moment on where you came from, where you are now and where you are headed! It will be helpful to put things in perspective! 

With what’s left of Lent, I challenge you to find some time and find your place of peace and quiet. I think you will learn that that’s where you can hear clearly what you already know down deep!

 

 

 

 


Thursday, February 22, 2024

LIVING BY CHOICE, NOT BY CHANCE

 

I  grew up hearing many versions of "life is something that happens to you and all you can do is to make the most of it." I rejected that so called "wisdom" a long time ago when I realized that it was a perfect set-up for becoming a victim and for blaming others and the circumstances around you for the life you experience and don't like.  Until I become totally powerless because of old age or disease, I plan to do all in my power to build the life I want. Today, I want to share some of the wisdom I have picked up from others, much smarter than I am, who have inspired me in the hopes it may inspire you as well.  












Tuesday, February 20, 2024

REMEMBERING MY YEARS AT BELLARMINE UNIVERSITY



All during December of last year, when I was heavily involved in cleaning out the surplus that had built up in my condo since I moved in back in 2005, I came across this copy of a framed poster that now hangs in the Campus Ministry Office of Bellarmine University here in Louisville. 

When I retired from there in 2016, I was the longest serving priest campus minister in it's history. I served most of those years with Ms. Melanie Prejean Sullivan. Our ministry was inter-faith because the student body was inter-faith. 

This poster was hung in my honor in the newly dedicated Campus Ministry Ministry Office August 10, 2016.  As I look back almost eight years later, finding it stored away in a closet, I was reminded once again what an honor it was to preach there most Sunday nights, preach most Baccalaureate Masses and pray at most graduations and many special services throughout those many years. To have some of my words memorialized in the Campus Ministry Office like that was certainly icing on the cake! I am so grateful for that experience.    



Sunday, February 18, 2024

RESISTING TEMPTATION CLARIFIES OUR MINDS AND HEARTS

 

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert where he remained for forty days being tempted by Satan. Afterwards, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the good news from God, saying “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in his good news!”

Mark 1:12-15 

We are reading from the gospel of Mark this year – the earliest and shortest of all four gospels. It is characteristic of Mark to get right to the point and not waste words on details. We see that in today’s gospel. He does not tell us what the temptations were that Jesus faced over his forty-day retreat in the desert. We have to read the Gospels of Matthew and Luke for those! The same Spirit that had just descended on Jesus so dramatically at his Baptism, we are now told drove Jesus out into the wilderness for a time of testing.

I’ll get into the temptations that Jesus faced shortly, but first I want to talk a little about why a time of testing was so important for Jesus - and for all of us for that matter! If you think about it, temptations are not sent to us to make us fall, but to strengthen our minds, hearts and souls! They are sent not for our ruin, but for our good. They are meant to be tests from which we emerge stronger than we were before!

Take the case of a young football player who has been doing well in a second level league and showing real signs of promise. What will the coach do? He will certainly not send him down to a third level league where he will sail through games and never break a sweat.  No, he will send him out to play for a first level team where he will be tested as never before and have a chance to prove himself. That is what temptations are meant to do – to toughen us up so we can emerge stronger for the fight. As an added touch, Mark says Jesus was surrounded both by wild beasts and angels during his time of testing. This is a way to say that his temptation battle was fierce, but he had God’s help as a defense!

Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the desert to sort things out, to separate the wheat from the chaff and to “discern” what direction God had for his upcoming ministry as well as to strengthen his resolve to follow God’s will going forward. The word “discern” means to “cut apart.” Considering his options, Jesus had to “cut apart” what was God’s will and what wasn’t!

So, what were his options going into ministry? Mark doesn’t tell us, but when we go to Matthew and Luke, we know that his adversary presented three attractive options: magic solutions, dramatic stunts and alignment with political power. Jesus rejected them all and came out of his discernment saying the solution is metanoia – an internal change of the way we see and the way we look at things! Too bad the translation uses the word “repent.” It really means a “radical change of perspective.”

For the “magic solution,” Satan suggested that Jesus could turn rocks into bread. That would have attracted a ton of followers because that part of the world was full of rocks and drastic shortages of bread! As tempting as that was, Jesus rejected it. He knew that we didn’t need “rocks turned into bread magically.” He knew there was enough bread in the world already. What was needed was a radical change in the way we share the bread we already have!

For the “dramatic stunts solution,” Satan suggested that Jesus might jump from a tall building and be rescued by angels before he hit the ground. That certainly would have attracted a ton of followers because people have always liked to see something out-of-the-ordinary, things strange and exotic. As tempting as that sounded, Jesus rejected it. He knew that with the right eye sight, they could already see that wonders were happening all around them every day!

For the “alignment with political power solution,” Satan suggested that Jesus either try to become a king or align himself to political power to accomplish his mission by making people be good! As tempting as that sounded, Jesus rejected it. He knew that people  had to be inspired to do the right thing, not forced to do the right thing – conversion,  not coercion, was Jesus’ suggested solution!  

Sadly, all three of these temptations are alive and well today in our churches and among spiritual seekers of many stripes. We want “the magic,” “the miracles” and “the mighty” to fix things for us, rather than using the power we already have within ourselves by changing the how we see and what we choose!   

The temptation that saddens me most is the third temptation – the temptation to “align oneself to political power” as a way to fix us rather than inspire people to go through personal conversions.  No where is this more obvious to me is the spiritual leadership failure of some of our American bishops. Unable to influence people to choose truth and goodness, they have aligned themselves with political power to make people be good whether they want to or not by enacting more laws enforcing conservative Catholic and right-wing Christian moral teachings. I might agree with most of their moral stands but I totally reject their methods for gaining acceptance of those stands. Jesus rejected potestas (the power of force) and promoted auctoritas (the power of persuasion). In the process, sadly, many of our church leaders are now losing what little moral authority they once had for short-term gains. It's frustrating to watch! 


Temptations have two things in common. They will either make you a stronger person if resisted or they will be your downfall if given into! Every temptation requires “discernment,” the ability to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff, the ability to separate what is truly good from what simply looks good at the moment! It is impossible to escape the assault of temptation, but we have to be very careful about falling for offers that only look good! Two old sayings come to mind! “All that glitters is not gold!” “There is always free cheese in a mousetrap!"



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Saturday, February 17, 2024

USEFUL WISDOM FOR 2024 #7


ARE YOU TOO SCARED TO REALLY LIVE? 

George Gray
by
Edgar Lee Masters
1868-1950 
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I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me--
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
 but my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
 and catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one's life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
 of restlessness and vague desire--
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

This poem is in the public domain.


"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover." – Mark Twain

 

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

WHAT'S ASH WEDNESDAY ALL ABOUT?

 

Return to me with your whole heart, says the Lord.

Joel 2:12 

When I was a kid growing up in Meade County, I used to come to Louisville with my Day a few times a week to pick up supplies for his building material business. We always took Dixie Highway, the mother of all road sign highways! After hundreds of trips and millions of signs, the only one I can remember today, fifty years later, is a huge sign around Waverly Hills. In huge letters, it demanded that its readers “Get right with God!”

“Get right with God!” Students, that is pretty much what this season of Lent is all about! It’s a sacred forty days when we get back on our spiritual paths by reconsidering how far we have strayed from the path and making a u-turn. It’s a time to “get right with God.”

Jesus told us that we are to “love God with our whole hearts, souls and minds and our neighbor as ourselves.”   That is the gold standard, the staring point and the measure of our faith. And so, during Lent, we break that one commandment down and focus on its three components during Lent. We focus on prayer – our relationship to God. We focus on fasting – our relationship to our own appetites. We focus on giving alms – our care and love for others, especially on our suffering poor brothers and sisters. So Lent, really, is about getting back to basics and making the important things important.

At the very beginning of this holy season, Jesus warns us not to play silly little mind games. (1) “When you pray,” he says, “don’t draw attention to yourself. Do it quietly. Make it something between you and God.”  In other words, if you resolve to pray more during this holy season, don’t announce it to everyone that you are going to go to church say the rosary, don’t kneel in the quad in some dramatic public display for all to see, don’t brag to all your friends that you have to go to Mass today because it is your Lenten resolution. No! Keep it between yourself and God. Just slip away quietly. 

(2) “When you fast,” Jesus says, “don’t wear it on your sleeve for everyone to know about! Do it quietly. Make it something between you and God.” In other words, if you resolve to give up beer or chocolate, don’t tell anybody about it. Don’t go wringing your hands letting everybody know about it by complaining about how you are suffering from the tragic loss and how heroic you are for doing it. When you skip a meal or turn down a trip to buy a beer, try not to let anybody know about it. And by the way, the money you save by doing this is NOT to be kept, but given away. Neither is fasting about losing a few pounds for spring break either! 

(3) “When you give alms,” Jesus says, “don’t make a public announcement about your gift or brag about how generous you are.”  Make anonymous contributions to food pantries, charitable organizations, alternative spring break programs or your parish. Don’t even write a check to use as a tax deduction or ask for a plaque to be dedicated in your honor. Try to be as anonymous as possible.  Make it a pure gift.

The whole gospel today is not only about doing good things, but also doing them for the right reason. We do not pray, fast and give alms to gain sympathy or praise from others. We do not pray to be noticed and admired. We do not fast to save money or to lose weight. We fast so that we can experience how much we abuse food and so that we are able to give alms to those who are hungry.

In short, Lent is not about externals, but about an internal shift. It’s about “getting right with God, ourselves and our neighbors.”  It is better not to come up and receive ashes if you are not committed to “getting right with God” in a quiet, private, you-and-God kind of way! God can see right through your hypocrisy and fake religiosity.  Don’t waste your time playing games with God and those around you. The goal here is a serious internal change, getting you heart “right with God.”      

 


 


Tuesday, February 13, 2024

GET YOUR ASHES TOMORROW: A MENU AND A SUGGESTION

 



To sign up for Father Jim Flynn's daily Lenten Reflections on Laudato Si ask him to be included:

jflynn502@aol.com 


 



Sunday, February 11, 2024

SIMPLE COMPASSION DONE INTENTIONALLY DOES SO MUCH GOOD

 

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged
him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean!”
Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand, touched
him, and said to him, “I will do it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately.
Mark 1:40-45

The very last thing I wanted to talk about today was leprosy, but to understand the amazing radical compassion of Jesus, and try to imitate it even somewhat, you have to know how awful leprosy was at the time of Jesus and what a risk Jesus took not only by speaking to this man, but reaching out his hand and actually touching him!

At the time of Jesus, there was no disease regarded with more terror and pity than leprosy. No other disease reduced a human being for so many years to such a hideous wreck. The infected area loses all sensation.  Often you did not know you had it till you burned or scalded yourself without feeling any pain. Your body becomes discolored with patches and blisters. The muscles waste away, the tendons contract until your hands become like claws. Then there is an ulceration of the feet, hands and fingers until a whole hand or foot may drop off.  All of this happened to your body over a period of twenty to thirty years.

As you were enduring this terrible disease, you were ostracized from the community to suffer alone sometimes living in cemeteries. You had to wear ripped clothes, go bare-headed and wear a covering over your mouth. If you saw anyone coming, you were required to call out “Unclean! Unclean!’ so people could run. Back in that day, probably most cruel of all, was the belief that such a sick person was being punished by God for some sin he had committed! 

Many of the Jewish practice were carried into the Middle Ages. A priest, wearing a stole and carrying a crucifix, led a leper into the church and read the burial rites over him while he was still alive. The leper was required to wear all black, live in a leper house and was not allowed into a church service. He could however watch from outside through a “leper squint,” a narrow slit in the walls. A leper not only suffered physically, but also suffered from being socially and religiously shunned. It is into such a situation that Jesus is confronted by a leper. Here is what the text today says. Pay attention to every word.


                                 A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged
him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean!”
Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand, touched
Him, and said to him, “I will do it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately.
 
Even though, by law, the leper was not allowed to speak to Jesus, Jesus did not drive him away. What Jesus did was absolutely amazing in that culture. It says that Jesus (a) “was moved with pity,” (b) “spoke to him,” (3) “reached out and touched him” and (4) “healed him.”

I tried very hard to think of situations today that even come close to the situation of this leper and Jesus that we can compare it to in our experience if we can ever hope to imitate Jesus’ radical compassion. The closest I could come up with was the way we treated AIDS when it came onto the scene. I think I was the first priest in Louisville who was willing to do a funeral for a Catholic who had died of AIDS. At the request of family members, I remember trying to persuade over the phone another Catholic man dying of AIDS in Tennessee that his disease was not a punishment from God and that God loved him without condition and he would soon be with him in heaven!

Other than that, I could not come up with much from my personal experience, but I thought of a few situations that come close. I am talking about nursing home workers who daily touch, wipe, bathe, feed, clean up after and rub the wrinkled and sagging bodies of the sick and elderly in our nursing homes around this city. I volunteer at the St. Joseph Home for the Aged, operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor, but I only see the residents when they are cleaned up and dressed and riding around in wheel chairs! I do not see, smell, feel or touch what they have to touch behind the scenes. I know that many of those workers do not choose to do that work. That have to do it to make a living! I cannot take their places. I could not do what they do. I cannot pay them more. But what I can do is to give them the respect, honor and the affirmation they deserve. When I speak to the residents being pushed around in wheel chairs, I always make a concerted effort to speak to the workers pushing them, thank them, pat them on the hand and ask them how they are doing!

What can we all do to imitate the amazing radical compassion of Jesus for the leper in today’s gospel? I spent some time trying to come up with a list of opportunities. Hopefully you can come up with some more if I just invite you to be aware in the days and weeks ahead. We cannot fix most of the situations I will mention, but we can at least extend compassion, sympathy and encouragement which cost us nothing if it comes from a Jesus-like heart!

The world has become a mean place. It’s almost as if people have been given permission to be as nasty and mean as they can be to people they don’t like or people who threaten them just by being different: the homeless, refugees, the mentally and physically handicapped, the addicted, the obese and the poor in general.  In the group we might add others that we tend to treat with less dignity because of the work they do: fast food workers, sanitation workers, public transportation drivers, janitors and housekeepers.

Not all of us could reach out and touch a leper like Jesus, but all of us can treat others who are discriminated against, constantly put down and taken for granted with respect. We have the power to make a hurting someone's day. Sometimes, all it takes is something as little as some focused attention like eye contact, asking their names, wishing them a good day or even a pat or a wink when appropriate. Look for opportunities to do just that! When I was writing my column in The Record, called An Encouraging Word, I intentionally looked for people to affirm who never expected it, never got noticed or never have been affirmed for anything! I trained myself to look for goodness to affirm behind their often off-putting exterior. It was a sort of spiritual magic. I called it “blessing people.” “Blessing people” is not about waving crosses over them, it was about looking beneath their externals and see the “child of God” hidden there and giving it a spiritual hug!

 

 

 

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

A REALLY GOOD LENTEN SUGGESTION AND EARLY VALENTINE GIFT


Lent starts next week on Valentine's Day! As we all know, the three disciplines of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. There are always places where your financial sacrifices (alms) are needed, but I have one suggestion for you where 100% of it will go to help Sister Nyra Anne, an older Carmelite nun, who is trying to take care of 21 orphans (some severely handicapped) with a small staff down in the poor Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 
Sister Nyra Anne Pajotte, O. Carm. administrator of St. Benedict Home for Children. Photo taken 8 years ago. 
A few of the 21 orphans with Sister Nyra Anne, two staff persons, Father Tom Clark of Bardstown, Ky and myself on one of my 12 visits to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 
Me holding one of the orphans at St. Benedict Home for Children

The attractive part of this suggestion is that I know Sister Nyra Anne personally and I have met many of her orphans personally. I made twelve trips down there until I had to quit because of COVID and when their volcano erupted about three years ago. 

In the past, we  have sent food, toys and school supplies. What is needed now are some funds to help pay those hired to help Sister Nyra Anne take care of 21 orphans on a 24 hour-a-day schedule. Believe it or not, the present minimum wage rate down there in US dollars is $12.00 per day or $237.83 per monthShe has been struggling at that, but now the government is thinking about officially raising the minimum wage to $285.39 a month which is still very low and needed, but this will create more of a burden on St. Benedict's Home for Children that she is heroically operating in her old age beyond retirement.  

If you are looking for a place to send your alms this Lent, a place you can trust where it will be stretched as far as possible, this is the place! The cheapest and easiest way to get it there without paying Western Union transfer and Eastern Caribbean monetary exchange fees is to write your check to: St. Bartholomew Church SVG Mission Fund and send it to me. I will then take it to a local Truist Bank for deposit into the St. Bartholomew SVG Mission Fund account. I have a book of their deposit slips here. Do not write the checks to me, but to St. Bartholomew Church SVG Mission Fund. 

St. Bartholomew Church in Miramar, Florida, allows US donors to pass US tax deductible gifts to the Diocese of Kingstown in St. Vincent through their US account. Once the deposit is made, I will notify Sister Nyra Anne that your donation is on its way to her. Once the deposit clears, the diocese down there will then give her your donation. 

   FOR U.S. TAX DEDUCTIONS WRITE THE CHECKS TO;
St. Bartholomew Church SVG Mission Fund

FOR DEPOSIT SEND THE CHECKS TO ME
Rev Ronald Knott
1271 Parkway Gardens Court #106
Louisville, Kentucky 40217 

 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

IN 1597, 26 JAPANESE CATHOLICS WERE MARTYRED ON THIS DAY

 


Today is the Feast of Saint Paul Miki and His Companions

Nagasaki, Japan, is familiar to Americans as the city on which the second atomic bomb was dropped, immediately killing over 37,000 people. Three and a half centuries before, 26 martyrs of Japan were crucified on a hill, now known as the Holy Mountain, overlooking Nagasaki. Among them were priests, brothers, and laymen, Franciscans, Jesuits, and members of the Secular Franciscan Order; there were catechists, doctors, simple artisans, and servants, old men and innocent children—all united in a common faith and love for Jesus and his Church.

Brother Paul Miki, a Jesuit and a native of Japan, has become the best known among the martyrs of Japan. While hanging upon a cross, Paul Miki preached to the people gathered for the execution: “The sentence of judgment says these men came to Japan from the Philippines, but I did not come from any other country. I am a true Japanese. The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I certainly did teach the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason I die. I believe that I am telling only the truth before I die. I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask Christ to help you to become happy. I obey Christ. After Christ’s example I forgive my persecutors. I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain.”

When missionaries returned to Japan in the 1860s, at first they found no trace of Christianity. But after establishing themselves they found that thousands of Christians lived around Nagasaki and that they had secretly preserved the faith. Beatified in 1627, the martyrs of Japan were finally canonized in 1862.

Reflection

Today, a new era has come for the Church in Japan. Although the number of Catholics is not large, the Church is respected and has total religious freedom. The spread of Christianity in the Far East is slow and difficult. Faith such as that of the 26 martyrs is needed today as much as in 1597.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

BEING QUIET ENOUGH, YOU MAY HEAR YOUR ANSWERS

          

Rising very early before dawn, he left and

went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.

Mark 1:29-39

 

When I was a young boy, we lived across the road from my grandparents. We simply ran back and forth all day, as if we had a home and a branch office across the road. One of the things I remember clearly is going in the front door of their house after dark, knowing they would be sitting side-by-side in the dark in their rocking chairs.

They sat down in their rocking chairs after supper and, even though the sun had gone down and it had gotten dark, they didn’t bother to turn on a lamp. They just sat there in silence, rocking. I always knew where my grandfather was sitting because I could see the red dot of his unfiltered Camel cigarette glowing in the dark. It never crossed my mind whether they thought my arrival was a nuisance or a relief. I guess I thought I was doing them a favor barging in uninvited and relieving them of the quiet!

I read somewhere that couples who can enjoy their time together in silence will always stay together. A child, however, probably cannot imagine anyone enjoying silence.

Today we read about Jesus getting up early in the morning to go off by himself for some quiet prayer time. Notice some of the things it says right before he got up early, before dawn, to be by himself in silence. “Everybody was looking for him.” “The whole town was gathered at the door.” “They brought to him all who were sick or possessed.” “He cured many of the sick and drove out their demons.” After all that, it says he rests, prays for direction and then moves on to another town to minister to the people there.

This is the pace and pattern of Jesus’ ministry – frantic activity, withdrawal and rest, prayer for clarity and then back to work! We see it here and we see it again and again in his ministry. In chapter six, after an especially busy time, it says that Jesus took his apostles to a deserted place to rest and pray before going back to work. It says, “People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat!”

For many people today, this kind of silence can be downright scary. There is a term for it – "sadatephobia" - fear of silence. This “fear of silence” was relatively unheard of fifty years ago, but today psychotherapists are seeing large numbers of individuals with can't handle silence and they believe the numbers will continue to rise in the coming decades. Many experts believe that technology has given rise to the constant need for sound, therefore producing a greater number of people suffering from "sadatephobia."

My problem is the opposite. I am among a few who suffer from a condition called “misophonia,” "hatred of noise" (also known as selective sound sensitivity syndrome,) in which negative emotions, thoughts, and physical reactions are triggered by specific sounds. Fingernails on a blackboard is only one of many sounds that send people like me up the wall. Several years ago, because of a NIGHTLINE program about people who suffer from misophonia, I finally realized that there are many of us who “manage” this condition by avoiding occasions where certain sounds will occur. Watching that program, I literally came out of my chair yelling, “I’m not the only one! I am not just imagining this!” The condition was only recognized by the medical community around the year 2000. Even my doctors were skeptical. Most had never heard of it. Now it's talked about a lot. Amazon has over a dozen books on the subject of misophonia, the hatred of noise.

For many more people, not just the young anymore, it is impossible to sit in a quiet room for even a few minutes without noise - smart phones, head phones, blaring music on the car radio, having the TV on even when no one is watching it or even the noise of traffic blaring around them. Newer restaurants, I believe, are deliberately designed to encourage noise. As a result, a parallel market for gadgets that drown out noise is also booming: noise cancelling earbuds, white noise machines, noise reducing triple pane windows and the like.

I have suspected for a long time now that there is, as well, a connection between the noise level of today's world and the loss of our sense of the divine. Simply put, it seems to me that the world is so noisy today that even God can’t get a word in edgewise! As the old Chinese proverb puts it, “Outside noisy, inside empty.”

There is a beautiful moment in the Bible when the prophet Elijah feels God’s presence. The Scriptures say that a powerful wind tore the mountains apart, but God was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. It was the whisper of God. God doesn’t yell, he whispers. Maybe that is why we can’t hear him all that well these days.

Silence today is looked on as odd, something to be avoided at all cost. In reality, it may be dangerous to do without it. “We need quiet time to examine our lives openly and honestly - spending quiet time alone gives your mind an opportunity to renew itself and create order.” (Susan L. Taylor).

The noisy world of social media, constantly being bombarded with external stimulation, seems to be having a detrimental impact especially on the young. Teens’ use of electronic devices including smartphones for at least five hours daily more than doubled, from 8 percent in 2009 to 19 percent in 2015. These teens were 70 percent more likely to have suicidal thoughts or actions than those who reported one hour of daily use.

In 2015, 36 percent of all teens reported feeling desperately sad or hopeless, or thinking about, planning or attempting suicide, up from 32 percent in 2009. For girls, the rates were higher — 45 percent in 2015 versus 40 percent in 2009.

In 2009, 58 percent of 12th-grade girls used social media every day or nearly every day; by 2015, 87 percent used social media every day or nearly every day. They were 14 percent more likely to be depressed than those who used social media less frequently. All that information is nine years old. By now it is probably even much worse.

Besides avoiding quiet at all costs, several years ago we dumped the idea that we need to honor the third commandment that tells us that we should stop every seventh day to rest and pray. Thinking that the whole idea of regular day of rest was outdated, thinking that we know better than God, we created the endless-loop workweek. Now we are dealing with the results of such arrogance: stress related diseases, alienation among spouses and children and the rise of the drug culture to kill the pain and to help us sleep. Thinking that the whole idea of a regular day of prayer was outdated, thinking that we can do without God’s guidance and input, we replaced regular prayer time with recreation, shopping, more work and, yes, noise, noise, noise. God only knows how many Catholics will skip Mass next Sunday to get things set-up for the Super Bowl, an annual “holy day” of screaming and yelling! Those of us who could care less and would rather be a hundred miles away from all of it, are looked down on as “pathetic introverts.”

Is it a sin not to observe the Sabbath, not to rest and pray with the community once a week, like they used to say it was many years ago? After thinking about it to some length, I believe it is! Does it hurt God not to observe the Sabbath? Yes, but only because God loves us and not resting and praying hurts us! God gave us the third commandment, not because he needs our worship and he needs rest, but because we need to express our gratitude and we need to rest, because we need to quieten down and listen for God’s direction in prayer before we go back into our frantic lives on Monday and because we need to spend some quiet “down time,” on a regular basis, with our families and friends. When I was a kid, Sundays were about going to church, having a big family dinner and visiting relatives - that was it! Maybe we weren't so dumb after all!

The world tells us that the secret to success is to do more and more. God tells us that the secret to success is to sometimes do less. Who are you listening to?