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Pastor Ben's message 7/16/2023

I was very fortunate when I first came to the United States. While I was studying at the University of Dayton I was invited to stay at a rectory in Dayton. The deal was that I would help with weekend and weekday Masses, and I would, basically, receive board and lodging. That’s not the reason I was fortunate, I was fortunate because the pastor there was a great priest. He was hospitable, kind, generous and a very hard worker. Gradually, he involved me in the life of the parish, teaching CCD classes, adult education classes, hearing confessions and celebrating baptisms. The real jewel was that in the evenings, after he had worked on his homily for the Sunday Masses (which he did every evening), we would sit and have a drink together and chat about the day, the priesthood, the church, parish life what I was studying and so much more. This was my life for about two years. I learned how to be a parish priest from talking with and watching that good man. He made me feel welcome here and he helped form me into a better priest.

When I moved to Cincinnati to teach at the seminary, out of the blue, I received a phone call from a priest I did not know and had never met. He was from the Diocese of Covington. He told me that some mutual friend had told him how I was moving to Cincinnati, and he wanted to invite me out to lunch to welcome me to this part of the country. That was twenty-three years ago, and that priest is one of my closest friends today. Once again, a very gracious and honorable priest.

It is amazing that in a garden of weeds many of us think we are the flower! We can often identify the hardships, negativity, impositions, and grief that is caused to us by others. It seems to us that sometimes they reach up and strangle us, they undermine us, they choke the life out of us, they soak up all the life and nourishment around us. It can seem that some people can make our life difficult, cruel, harsh, and full of sorrow and regrets. It is true that such people can exist in families, in marriages, in workplaces, in communities, in monasteries, and even in parishes. They are the weeds, the hard ground, the crows that peck and pick, they can make life pitiful and arid. And it is true, there are some people in our lives who are like this. Although, we often fail to recognize if we ourselves might be weeds, or harsh ground, or pecking birds, in the lives of others. But we don’t have to be like the weeds.

Many of us are fortunate enough to have experienced the opposite; we can see the good ground around us in the kindness, virtue, generosity, grace, and goodness of others. Every day, all over our family of parishes, families, marriages, communities, provide good ground for our people to find life and love, for our children to find models for life, for people to find a place to be. I suppose that all of us are both seed looking for a good place to grow and ground where others seek nourishment and fruitfulness. In that case let’s choose to grow and produce abundant fruit, let’s choose to be fruitful ground for others to find life.

Four things: One, we should be careful that as we complain about the weeds in our lives, we don’t become weeds and choke the life out of others and make the soil they live in dry, arid, and barren. Two: Don’t fail to recognize the flowers that are around us, and don’t forget to thank them for all the beauty they bring into our lives. And three: Don’t fail to be a flower even in a garden of weeds. Four: Good ground produces good fruit. Everyday our children look to us for models of leadership, kindness, love, and faith. If we don’t plant those seeds, what seeds are we planting?

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