Saturday, January 27, 2024


Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

As a searching investigator of the integrity of your own conduct, submit your life to a daily examination. Consider carefully what progress you have made or what ground you have lost.  Strive to know yourself... Place all your faults before your eyes. Come face to face with yourself, as though you were another person, and then weep for your own faults. 


Thursday, January 25, 2024



A light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground
and heard a voice saying, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting."
Acts 9 1-20

Are you saved? Have you been “born again?’ Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior? If you really want to make a Catholic squirm and doubt their religious upbringing, just get them against the wall and rattle off that set of questions!

When I worked in the Bible Belt, down in the south eastern corner of what is now the Lexington Diocese,  Catholics, including myself, were often bombarded with those questions. More than one Catholic was left confused and bewildered. Their counterparts could date the precise hour they were “saved,” while Catholics were left standing there puzzled and confused.

Does one have to have a dramatic, certain and dated experience or can one grow toward God in an extended process, sometimes without a clear beginning or end? In Sts. Peter and Paul we see both types of conversion experiences: Paul with his definite and certain experience of conversion at a particular moment and Peter with his long and extended process of conversion over time.

Many of our fundamentalist brothers and sisters look to the Apostle Paul as their hero and ideal. His conversion was a shattering, clearly memorable confrontation with the person of Christ on the road to Damascus when he was on his way to hunt down Christians and kill them. After this dramatic about-face, Paul fanatically embraced what he had recently persecuted and attacked. His conversion experience was so dramatic that the story is retold three times in the Acts of the Apostles and referred to three more times in various New Testament Letters.

Paul’s emphasis on personal-individual faith, his emphasis on dramatic decision and evangelistic zeal have become the prototype and model of conversion for some Christian groups, especially the more fundamentalist groups. Many of these groups attach a certain spiritual superiority to this type of conversion, leaving many people who have not has such an experience feeling inferior and second rate.

Roman Catholics, while respecting Paul’s experience, look to the Apostle Peter as their hero and model. Peter’s experience was very different. Peter does in fact make his profession of faith, but, like many of us, it is the climax of a long and gradual insight into who Jesus was, and in his case even a denial or two! 

Even though some would like to suggest that everybody has to have a definite conversion experience that can be dated, the New Testament does not suggest a single stereotype for an authentic Christian conversion experience.  The fact is, the church has always welcomed both kinds of conversion experiences. God calls us in a variety of ways. If you have never had a “fall-to-the-ground conversion experience,” you need not feel inferior nor apologetic. We all answer God’s call in our own way and in the way that we are called, be it like Paul or Peter!

With all that said, however, the fact remains that all of us, sooner or later must choose or reject Jesus and the path he invites us to walk - even if we cannot remember the hour we first believed!    


Tuesday, January 23, 2024


I just had one of the worst Christmas holidays that I can remember. I barely managed to perform my duties and keep a forced smile on my face when necessary. I went through a minor, but distressing, health crisis. Christmas Eve may have been the worst day of the whole affair. I will spare you the details, but let's say I was really "struggling!" I was truly miserable on a day I have always felt great and there was nothing I could do about it! 

As if that wasn't bad enough, I knew I would soon be facing an unrelated over-night surgical procedure. I am talking about it publicly because an enlarged prostate gland is the most common prostate problem among men over age 50. This condition can cause embarrassing urination issues. By age 60, half of all men will have an enlarged prostate, a condition also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. By age 85, the proportion reaches 90%. 

Why am I telling you this? For sympathy? Absolutely not! We need to be talking about this men's health issue in order to educate, encourage and share experiences. This is my effort to do just that by sharing my own experience in the hopes  it might help somebody! There is nothing to be ashamed of and nothing about it that needs to be hidden! Yes, even many priests, Bishops and Popes have had this problem. Thank God my prostate was not cancerous or needed to be removed! 

Don't wait! Check it out! Deal with it! It takes some education and a little courage to deal with a reality of this proportion among men everywhere! Don't put it off till your options are limited. Act now and know about all your options going forward. 

The surgery was on January 19th at the Physicians Surgical Center in New Albany! The surgery was successful, but humbling and eye-opening on several fronts!

In just one overnight stay, they used 40 gallon-size bags of Irrigating Sodium Chloride to flush the bladder after the "aquablation" surgery to remove the debris created during that high-pressure water prostate shrinking procedure. 

I am not used to being sick! When I started feeling sorry for myself, I tried to remember and pray for those going through cancer treatments, those who cannot afford medical care, those innocent people in Gaza/Israel/Ukraine and those who are dying in various painful situations! As the good Sisters of the past used to tell us - "offer it up." The word "compassion" comes from two Latin words "cum" meaning "with" and "passio" meaning "suffer." "Compassion" means "to suffer with." That Christmas Eve was a deliberate effort on my part to try to experience "compassion' for others much worse off than I was, rather than focus on myself! I don't know whether it did them any good, but it did me some good because it gave me a possible meaning for what I was going through and woke me up to the fact that I am certainly not immune to the health crises I hear about all the time from others!

Most of my life, except for the flu and a night-marish rotator-cuff surgery episode, I have been healthy. I realize that I am lucky not to be "used to it." In fact, my health until now has always been "good." I have no high blood pressure, no dangerously high cholesterol, no diabetes nor any joint, heart or back problems! This Christmas I learned what the expression "If you have your health, you have everything" really means! That expression, for sure, means very little to the young and those who have never been really sick! When I get through this, I promise to try my best to never complain again!

As one who has been able to be in charge of his own life, I have learned a very new and important lesson - the day has come when there may be times when I will be totally powerless and will have to surrender control to those around me! I have finally realized in a very personal way what the chronically ill go through every day! I am reminded to remember them and pray for them much more often than I have in the past! 

One good thing did come out of the time in which I was waiting for my surgery and staying away from crowds so as not to expose myself to flu, COVID and RSV. Being home by myself most of the time, I had loads of time to write. I have homilies written and posts on my blog ready for weeks to come. Of course, I will go back over them as the dates get closer and touch them up to hopefully make them even more effective! It proved to me once again that good things can come out of bad times! 

Until Christmas of this year, turning 80 in 2024 did not phase me! Now I have a whole new appreciation of health and I have decided to make that my central focus in the new year! Once I get through this present episode, I have promised myself that I would do all I could to try to preserve my health going forward!

Sunday, January 21, 2024


When he called James and John, they dropped
everything immediately and followed him.
Mark 1:14-21

As some of you already know from my years of preaching and writing in The Record, that I feel I first felt my “call” when I was about six years old. (If you've heard my story a hundred times already, that's what you get for following me around from church to church!) No, God did not speak to me from the clouds. Mary did not appear to me in some grotto. Something, however, happened that awakened in me the idea of a vocation that I have never forgotten.

Since I was born and grew up in Rhodelia where there were no barber shops, an elderly man up the road by the name of Alvey Manning cut my hair for $.25. One day, one of his nephews who had recently been ordained, Father Henry Vessels, came for a visit. I just happened to be there for a haircut. Father Vessels paid no attention to me and I don’t even remember talking to him that day. At some point, he had taken off his Roman collar and coat and laid them on one of the beds. I don’t know what possessed me, but I sneaked into the bedroom, held the collar up to my neck and looked at myself in the mirror. Not knowing what got into me, I put it back, dropping it like a hot potato, as if I had broken every religious taboo in the Catholic Church. I have never forgotten that experience.

The next time the subject of priesthood came up was in the second grade when Sister Mary Ancilla asked us to tell the class what we wanted to be when we grew up. I can still remember thinking, “should I or shouldn’t I” tell them! I can still remember telling myself to go ahead and say “priest” whether they laughed at me or not! The only problem was I proceeded to flunk the altar boy test, not once, not twice, but three times! This prompted Sister Mary Ancilla to say to me, “Ronnie! You are a good kid, but I don’t think you will ever be any good around the altar!” (As punishment, I made her sit in the front pew at my First Mass.)

Throughout grade school, unphased by Sister Mary Ancilla’s negative evaluation of my possible calling, I did not dwell on the idea of being a priest, but it was always there in the back of my mind. When it came time to go to high school in 1958, I found out that the church would accept young men to start their seminary training out of the eighth grade. Against the advice of almost everybody who knew me, even my pastor Father Felix Johnson, I left home at barely fourteen years of age to begin a twelve-year seminary program to become a priest. It was hard, very hard, an uphill battle most of the way, but I never looked back, I have never been through an identity crisis for more than a day or two and, even today, I would not trade with anybody. Most of the time, a little over fifty years now, I have loved doing what priests do. At age 79, almost 80, with the finish line in sight, I still hope to finish my life as a priest.

In today’s gospel Jesus notices four fishermen, two sets of brothers, fishing. He calls them to follow him, to become his disciples. We are told they immediately dropped their nets, two of them even dropped their father, and followed Jesus. Unlike the resistant foot-dragging and running-in-the opposite-direction response of Jonah, mentioned in our first reading, these guys are decisive and passionate.

Throughout Scripture, different people respond differently to God’s call. Abraham and Sarah were old, one foot in the grave as the scriptures put it, when they were called to be the father and mother of God’s “chosen people.” Sarah was even caught snickering in her tent about the very idea of becoming a mother in her old age. Moses, who had some sort of speech impediment, tried to beg off when God called him to lead his people out of slavery. Because of his youth, David wasn’t even called in from the fields for the selection process, yet God chose him over all his older and wiser brothers. Isaiah tried to beg off because he had a foul mouth, but God chose him to be a prophet anyway, after washing his mouth out with a hot coal until it was clean. Jeremiah also tried to beg off, using the excuse that he was too young and pathetic at public speaking. God chose him anyway. Mary was barely a teenager when God called her. Paul was a fanatic Christian basher, but God called him to make a 360 degree turn and convert thousands to the Christian way of life. Sts. Francis of Assisi and Augustine of Hippo were playboys of the worst kind. St. Dominic’s nickname was “dumb ox.” He was so fat that they had to cut out part of the table so that he could reach his plate. He became one of the church most brilliant theologians. Elizabeth Ann Seton was a married Episcopalian when God called her to convert to Catholicism, to become a nun on the death of her husband, to start schools, orphanages and hospitals all over the eastern coast of the United States and finally to become one of a handful of American saints. These men and women join a long list, not only of very ordinary people, but also a long list of misfits, adulterers, losers, weaklings, incompetents, thieves and idiots that God has called to important work.

You are also called to called to carry on some part of Christ’s ministry to the world. Yes, you! God has a special job for you to do in your life that no one else can do. You cannot use the excuse that you are too young or too old, too unworthy or too short on talent. One of the most regular themes in scripture is this: God does not use the world’s standards for choosing those he calls. No, he “chooses the weak and makes them strong in bearing witness to him.” Even Jesus himself was the “stone that the builders rejected that became the cornerstone.”

From personal experience. I learned a long time ago, both as a seminarian myself and as a seminary staff member for fourteen years, that the best seminarians do not always make the best priests! In my own case, very few people had much hope for me making it to priesthood. I am pretty much surprised myself, but as Mary said to the angel, “with God, anything is possible.” My new tombstone down in Saint Theresa Cemetery sums up how I feel about my own call. It is summed up in four words - “simply amazed – forever grateful.”