Thursday, June 27, 2024



A scribe approached and said to Jesus, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go!” Another of his disciples said to Jesus, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” Jesus answered them, “Follow me.”

Matthew 8:18-22

My friends, each one of us is precious in God’s eyes. Each one of us is special.  Each one of us is a unique expression of God’s love and creativity. In all the world there is no other person exactly like us. There never has been or never will be another person just like us!  Besides being special and unique, we are not here by accident. We were sent here for a purpose. We have a mission. We have something to do here that can be done by no one else. Our responsibility is to find out what our mission is and then carry it out with all our might.  Our purpose here is commonly called our “vocation” or “your call.”  Because it is God who calls us to our special task, God will be there to help us carry it out. Our most important task may just have been in our younger years, but it may just be in the last days of our lives!

A few people enthusiastically “jump in head first” without counting the costs like the first would-be follower in today’s gospel and end up crashing and burning very quickly.  Some people hear God’s voice directly like Jeremiah, Peter and Andrew, James and John, seems to have done. More people hear their calls as “a hunch,” “a quiet knowing” or “a small still voice” that never seems to go away.  They just know in their guts. Other people hear God’s call through the invitation of others, those who say to them over and over again, “you’d make a good doctor,” “you’d be a great teacher,” “you’d make a good priest,” “you’ll make a great parent.” If they hear people saying one of those things, over and over again, they ought to listen to see if their heart agrees!  Those voices just might be messengers from God himself!   

What if we listen for God’s call? What if we don’t?  God wants the best for us! If we do what he calls us to do, we will be ourselves, we will be what he created us to be. We will feel, and we will know, that we are in the right place. Our life’s work will fit who we are. When we follow our calls, we will be happy, not a “ha-ha” happy, but a deep-down satisfaction, in spite of challenges.

However, sometimes we know what we are supposed to do in life, but we don’t do it because we are scared of its demands, scared of what other people will think of us, scared of failure or scared of disappointing our parents, peers and friends and so we put it off “until our parents are dead” like the second of the would-be followers in today’s gospel.  We pay a price for not listening to God’s call.  We pay a price for pleasing others instead of becoming who we are. When people go against their call and do something else, their lives will seem to be out of sync, they will be frustrated, their hearts will not be in their jobs or professions. They will go through life with a low-grade depression, a restlessness that will follow them wherever they go! Then, when they are old and look back, they will be filled with regret, anger and frustration that life somehow passed them by!

Everybody has a vocation, a call from God, to do something for him, to help him carry out some part of his work in the world. A call is not so much about what we want to do, but what God wants us to do! The famous Albert Schweitzer put it this way, “The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” The famous Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it this way, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?” 

Some of us are called to help God carry out his mission by being teachers, doctors, scientists and food producers. Others of us are called to carry out God’s mission by being social workers, artists and scientists. Still others of us are called to help God carry out his mission by having children, by being a good husband or wife or by living the single life. Finally, some of us are called to be priests, sisters, brothers, deacons or full-time lay ministers.

Whatever our call, we are called to help God carry out his mission in the world in some way!  As St. Theresa put it, “Anyone who realizes that he or she is favored by God will have the courage necessary for doing great things!”  



Tuesday, June 25, 2024


The Birth of John the Baptist
Given at the Little Sister of the Poor Home for the Aged
June 24, 2024

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son. They asked his father what he
wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote,
“John is his name.” The child grew and became strong in spirit,
and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.
Luke 1:57-66,80



He had a beard, so he can't be all bad. But in spite of his beard, John the Baptist has never been one of my favorite saints. Screaming men who wear fur and eat bugs make me very nervous. They are not the type of person you could sit out on the deck and have a beer with. Before you open the can, they would be giving you a lecture on the evils of drinking.

Since I have gotten older and wiser; I have begun to appreciate John a little more. In fact, maybe he could be a role model for today's American Catholic. John the Baptist stands out as a believer who is both critical and committed, the two essential ingredients most needed in today's church. He, above all, seems to have found a balance between those two poles.

As our church continues to undergo massive transformation, the tension between the left and the right continues to produce anxiety in the hearts of believers everywhere. It seems that zealots at both ends of the spectrum are claiming to own the truth. Somehow, we must cooperate and give up our competition, separatism, and fragments of the truth. Maybe John the Baptist can teach us to ignore zealots of every stripe and listen to the less shrill voices of reason and joy. Maybe we can find some common ground between the hypercritical and the blindly committed. Maybe John can teach us to be both critical and committed.

Criticism, without commitment, is cruelty. There is a growing number of Catholic people who have moved to the edges or left the church altogether to take potshots at the church from their safe positions of smug superiority. They have their well-documented lists of flaws and sins to justify their withdrawal from active church life and are willing to point them out on cue. They are like the people who look at a thorny bush with a single flower and see a thornbush rather than a rosebush. Behind their superior attitude is a belief that others are responsible for the health of the church, and they will not grace the church with their presence until it conforms to their point of view.

Just as dangerous are those who are committed without being critical. Even Pope John Paul II, when he was still Cardinal Wojtyla, wrote in 1969: “Conformism means the death of any community; a loyal opposition is a necessity in any community.” Blind commitment without question is also unhealthy for the church. There are those among us who would have us believe that anything our leaders say or do should be followed without question, without hesitation. Sometimes, the church's best friends are those who criticize it.

Criticism without commitment is cruelty. Commitment without criticism is lazy, sentimental, and infantile. What is needed is the spirit of John the Baptist. He was both critical and committed. What we really need today is people who care enough and love enough to raise some questions. We need committed people who are willing, in the words of Saint Paul, to "profess the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15). Those who drop out and attack from the outside are no help.  Those who stay and bury their heads in blind conformity are dangerous and destructive. What we need are people who are committed but vigilant and attentive, knowing in their hearts that this old church requires, in the words of Pope Paul VI, “that continual reformation of which she always has need.”




Sunday, June 23, 2024



A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him.
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus asked them,
“Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”
Mark 4:35-41

This year, we are reading from the Gospel of Mark. Mark was known for writing to encourage a discouraged community of believers going through a hard time. We should not be surprised to read this story of Jesus and his disciples caught out on a lake during a violent storm. The panicked disciples are scared to death with Jesus asleep on a cushion as if he didn’t care! What better way to describe a community of believers, losing hope, with God seemingly not caring, than a story about being caught out on a lake in a storm with Jesus asleep? The Sea of Galilee was notorious for its storms. They came literally out of the blue, even when the sky was perfectly clear, with shattering and terrifying suddenness.

To get Mark’s point, we need to read this story, not literally, but symbolically. If it describes no more than a physical miracle in which an actual storm was calmed, it is wonderful to marvel at, but it would just be something that happened once, but does not affect us! What we need to learn from the story is that fearless peace entered them once his disciples knew Jesus was with them and paying attention to them! With a close connection to Jesus, we too can have peace even in the wildest storms of life!

Last week, I spoke to the people of St. Frances of Rome about the storms in my life and the storms that many of you have faced in yours – when God seemed to be asleep – and how we managed to survive once we realized that God had been with us all along!

I told them how I had spent twelve long years in the seminary preparing for ordination to the priesthood, only to see the bottom appear to drop out about the time I got there. When I was ordained in 1970, priests and nuns were leaving in a steady stream. I told them about being sent to the home missions of southern Kentucky to live in a church basement with no windows to start Catholic churches in two counties with not enough people to even pay my $200.00 a month salary. I told them about being threatened by the Ku Klux Klan in one of those counties for welcoming some young African Americans attending the local Job Corps, being thrown out of the ministerial association in the other county just for being a Catholic. I told them about having a knife being pulled on me by a schizophrenic at the Cathedral because I welcomed fallen-away, divorced and gay Catholics back to church. I told them about how I took three months off to try to pull myself together during the sexual abuse scandal when I felt like quitting. I told them about how angry I am today at those in the church who want to “go back” to some imagined “good old days” and who are engaging in all sorts of meanness, character assassination and anonymous personal attacks in the name of “orthodoxy,” deciding for themselves who God loves and who God doesn’t love!

I reminded them about how many of you are facing your own storms. Many of you have invested tons of money to give your kids a Catholic education only to see them drop out of church as soon as they graduate. Many of you have been through painful divorces, bankruptcy and marital infidelities. Others of you have lost your life partners or children to cancer, car wrecks, heart disease or drug addiction. Some of you have been through serious painful surgeries. Some of you are still battling serious illnesses, financial problems or facing going into nursing homes.

In spite of all those painful experiences, we are both still here! One of the most important things I have learned in my 80 years of life is that “It isn’t over till it’s over!” I have learned over and over again that a “Breakdown is a sure sign of a breakthrough.” Looking back, I can say that often what I thought was an unrecoverable disaster was only the beginning of a new and better period of my life. I can often look back and be glad that I had to go through some of those painful trials. By going through them, I have learned much about myself, about how much you go through and how to talk to you about it!

When I was ordained in 1970, I was worried about my future. Discouraged, but not discouraged enough to quit even though so many priests and Sisters were leaving. That’s why I chose the hymn with the refrain, “No Storm Can Shake My Inmost Calm,” for my First Mass and have had it sung at every one of my 54 anniversaries since! With my eyes wide open, I made the deliberate decision to stand my ground and stay put, realizing that I would be serving the Church in one of the most tumultuous periods in recent Church history. I knew in my heart of hearts that my years as a priest would be more like shooting the rapids of the Colorado River than lounging peacefully in a canoe on a serene mountain lake. I had a pretty good hunch as to what I was getting myself into! At least I knew enough that it was not going to be a rough ride! I chose to do it anyway, even though I might not have realized just how chaotic it would become.

As I look out at you today, you who have been so welcoming and so affirming to me, I realize that we are both entering yet another storm together. For me, this could very well be one of the very few Sundays celebrating Mass with you the rest of this year and probably the community of St. Frances of Rome as well. After this Sunday, I will have one Mass at St. Leonard in July, one in August, one in September and one in October so far. Beyond that, I don’t know yet because the two new pastors serving these two communities don’t know yet. As the Archbishop struggles with a shrinking number of priests, he is being forced to re-arrange things, but it looks pretty certain that you will have to get used to new priests while I will probably have to look for new places to do ministry!

Like many of you, I do not look forward to another period of uncertainty about where our place will be in the days ahead. I do know one thing, Jesus may appear to be asleep in this boat, but he isn’t! In the midst of all the chaos we are experiencing, we need to remember that God is at work even now and the kingdom is coming into reality ever so quietly like tiny seeds sprouting and growing of their own accord.

Friends, No matter what! Let’s not lose hope or get distracted! We need to keep our eyes on the prize! In the meantime, let’s try not to forget this! “Breakdown is very often a sure sign of a breakthrough!” I want to believe in my heart that we are both going to be OK and God has good things in store for both of us! Thank you and God bless you for your amazing support and encouragement just as I have tried to do the same for you!