Saturday, February 17, 2024



George Gray
Edgar Lee Masters
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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



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



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Sunday, February 11, 2024



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!