Thursday, February 29, 2024


No one has ever been able to explain why bad things happen to good people. However, this shortened passage from the Book of Job has always helped me to at least put the bad things that happen to me in perspective and to learn something from the bad things that happen to me and those around me. 

When "bad things" happen to me, I try to remember at least two things: (1) Compared to what others have to go through, all I have most of the time are aggravations, while others have real problems. Realizing that, I try my best not to complain. (2) Compared to what others have to go through, I have had it good for many years while others have suffered for many years with permanent severe health issues, grinding poverty and a constant fear so intense that they have never had a chance to enjoy even one full day of peace, success and happiness. 

Read this little story and remember it the next time you go through a time of trial. Remember two things: (1) The more you have been "on top" in life, the more your having to experience the "bottom" will probably cause you to complain bitterly and even blame the same God you never thanked when things were going so well for you. Above all, ask yourself, "Is this a real problem or is this a mere aggravation? (2) Try to remember how good you have had it compared to so many others in this world and stay faithful like Job, the man of God, who was able to put his "bad experiences" in perspective and learn something about yourself and others from those experiences.   


In the land of Uz there was a blameless and upright man named Job, who feared God and avoided evil.

Seven sons and three daughters were born to him; and he had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred she-donkeys and a very large household, so that he was greater than anyone in the East.

His sons used t take turns giving feasts, sending invitations to their three sisters to eat and drink with them.

And when each feast had run its course, Job would send for them and sanctify them, rising early and offering sacrifices for every one of them. For Job said, “it may be that my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Job did this habitually.

One day, when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, Satan also cam among them.

The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you been?” The Satan answered the Lord and said, “Roaming the earth and patrolling it.”

The Lord said to Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him, blameless and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil.”

The Satan answered the Lord and said, “Is it for nothing that Job is God-fearing?” Have you not surrounded him and his family and all that he has with your protection? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock are spread over the land.  But now put forth your hand and touch all that he has, and surely he will curse you to your face.”

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on him.” So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.

One day, while his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their eldest brother, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys grazing beside them, and the Sabeans carried them off in a raid. They put the servants to the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.

He was still speaking when another came and said, “God’s fire has fallen from heaven and struck the sheep and the servants and consumed them; I alone have escaped to tell you.”

He was still speaking when another came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three columns, seized the camels, carried them off, put the servants to the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.”

He was still speaking when another came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their eldest brother, and suddenly a great wind came from across the desert and smashed the four corners of the house. It fell upon the young people and they are dead; I alone have escaped to tell you.”

Satan then went forth and smote Job with severe boils from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.

Then his wife said to him, “Are you still holding to your innocence? Curse God and die.”

But Job said to her, “Are even you going to speak like a crazy woman? We accept good things from God; should we not accept bad things?”

Through all this, Job said nothing sinful.



Tuesday, February 27, 2024



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



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!