Monday, October 16, 2017

RETHINKING CHRISTMAS

OFFERING AN ALTERNATIVE 
TO 
WASTEFUL CHRISTMAS SPENDING


Some of the Many Beautiful Kids of St. Vincent

Unless you become like little children, you
shall not enter the kingdom of God.
Jesus







I will be making my eighth mission trip down to St. Vincent and the Grenadines December 11-19. I was supposed to go down in September, but my trip had to be cancelled because of the several hurricanes that came through the Caribbean. 

There are several things I want to accomplish on this trip.

1. Attend the dedication of our recently finished ST. JAMES CHAPEL in the Kingstown Diocesan Pastoral Centre which was rescheduled because of the hurricanes, as well as check on the several other area renovations in the Centre.  

2. Visit Father Rex Ramos on Union Island - one of the places where we hope to finally offer our "computer camp for kids" that had to be rescheduled because the shipping container with our donated computers did not arrive in time last June.  

3. Deliver some funds to buy Christmas gifts for some very deserving children, especially the abandoned and neglected children of St. Benedict Children's Home and the children of Bread of Life Home for children with HIV/AIDS.  
This year I would like to offer some help to the kids on the outer islands as well. 

4. Give a small personal Christmas stipend to the seven nuns working on the island running the orphanages and schools. They sacrifice much personally to carry out their ministries. They certainly deserve a little "mad money" for their own personal needs at Christmas time.

 



Sister Nyra Ann and some of her St. Benedict Home charges with Father Tom Clark and myself in the background.


Sister Zita with some of her charges at the Bread of Life Home. That's me in the background. 



That's little Daniel in the dark gray shirt. He really won my heart when he hugged my leg most of the time I was with him. I can't wait to see how much he has grown in the last year. 



Santa (Fergal Redmond, a fellow volunteer from Ireland) talking to a one of the kids at St. Benedict Home after she received her doll. I am going to try to make sure the kids get some dark-skinned dolls this year. Last year we just had to make-do with what we could get. 



The "meticulously-groomed-for-the-Christmas-party" kids are truly thankful for all the help that comes their way. Last year, they said a prayer together before opening their presents. Sadly, you probably would not see that in the US.





We want to make sure Santa remembers the heroic Sisters working down there as well.
(Sister looks very happy. I don't know if Santa is tickling her or she is just happy to get the check!)


If you are interested in helping me with these Christmas projects, please send your tax-deductible check 
made out to ST. BARTHOLOMEW CHURCH - SVG MISSION FUND to me and I will make sure it is deposited in their account in Florida and alert them that they can begin drawing it out and shopping for the kids even before I get there on December 11. 

Since I know this situation and many of its people quite well, you can rest assured that your donations will be used properly. 
I pay my own way down and back and cover all of my own personal expenses. 




When I met this young man  at St. Benedict Home for Children for the first time, he was asleep in his playpen. I am holding him after I woke him up from his nap talking to loudly to Sister Nyra Ann.





Here he is a little older in his SUPERMAN shirt.
I can't wait to see how much he has grown in the last year.




Rev. Ronald Knott
1271 Parkway Gardens Court
#106
Louisville, KY 40217 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

LEFT OUT AND WELCOMED IN

                                                     

HEY GUYS, WHAT ABOUT ME? 
                                  
SATURDAY NIGHT
St. Frances of Rome



The servants  went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, good and
bad alike, and the  hall was filled with
guests.                               Matthew 22

I’m sick to death with hearing about “shortages” in the Catholic Church! As far as I am concerned, the biggest shortage in the Catholic Church may be imagination!  Why else do most dioceses have detailed plans on how to close parishes and almost none on how to keep them open before it’s too late?  This thinking has bothered me for a long time! A few years after I was ordained, I needed a program that would teach me about “parish revitalization.” Not finding one in the Catholic Church, I looked outside the box: I turned to the Protestants! I was not only accepted into the doctoral program on “parish revitalization” by McCormick (Presbyterian) Seminary in Chicago, I was given a full scholarship on two grounds: minority religion and poverty income! At the time, I was serving two tiny mission parishes in the “home mission” area of our diocese. Using what I learned from the Presbyterians, I have focused on growing the numbers and deepening the faith in those two mission churches, in an historic rural parish in the center of the state and here in our cathedral parish 1983-1997. In all three cases, I was told by my predecessors, in various ways, that “nothing could be done.”  In all three cases, we proved them wrong, especially here in our cathedral where we grew from 100 elderly members to over 2,000 members, in less than 14 years!

In all three cases, I saw these parishes as “spiritual banquet halls” waiting to be filled with invited guests, as today’s parable of the Wedding Feast puts it! In fact, this parable has guided my ministry for many years. Moreover, I have come to believe that any dying parish could come to life by modeling itself after this parable.

I noticed several things about this parable. (1) The first thing I noticed was that something very special was going on: it was the wedding of the king’s son! The first step in filling an empty church is to convince parishioners that what they have to offer is a “pearl of great price,” something rare, good and beautiful, something people would be honored to share in! That’s why preaching is the “vital” in revitalization.  Any preaching worth its salt is “good news” about God’s unconditional love for all of us. Its purpose is to inspire an enthusiastic response in people’s hearts.

 (2) The second thing I noticed about this parable is that the host not only has something wonderful to serve, he is prepared to serve it.  A crucial step in filling an empty church is to make sure that what you have to serve is ready to be served! An inviting church must also be a receiving church. We must be careful not to be accused of false advertising, as many half-baked revitalization efforts often are, or your next invitation will be shunned for sure. That’s why I don’t believe in those big parish advertising campaigns that usually end up being grandiose claims about a reality that does not exist. Most Catholics are already starving for spiritual food. If you really have it to offer, they will find you! Parish boundaries and diocesan lines mean nothing to them when the news gets out about a place that really nourishes the soul.

(3) The third thing I noticed about this parable is that those who were always invited to such affairs, refused to come. So that the banquet did not go to waste, the servants went out into the highways and byways, issuing invitations to anyone they came upon. The only way struggling parishes have a chance in hell of surviving beyond a hand to mouth existence and flourishing into the future, is to fill their half-empty “spiritual banquet halls” with hungry guests. Where do they come from? (a) There are over 14,000,000 non-practicing Catholics in the United States, an average of 600 per parish. Most parishes, already overwhelmed, are not paying much attention to them. I believe that many of our dying parishes could be revitalized by turning them into the “spiritual acute centers” of the diocese.

(b) The Roman Catholic Church has been bold in doing a lion’s share of work with the material needs of the poor, but it seems that it has become increasingly timid when it comes to sharing our faith with them in a direct way.  Could it be that we believe that our church, unlike a store-front “holiness church,” is too complicated for the poor and that they could not possibly find us attractive beyond our social service ministry? 

(c) What’s wrong with asking other parishes to loan struggling parishes a few parishioners for a couple of years? I had the idea years ago that, rather than close struggling parishes, we set up a “diocesan missionary program,” whereby up and coming parishes could share a few of their talented parishioners with struggling parishes until they get back on their feet. These “missionaries” would bring needed talent and resources to places that need to revitalize their missions: teachers, evangelists, musicians, whatever is needed. One of the basic things about Catholics is that they are supposed to be “inter-dependent.” What better way to challenge the parochialism that inflicts many of our parishes today?  

(d) So that nothing of the banquet went to waste, the servants invited the “good and bad alike.”  I have learned from my many years of experience that great numbers of marginal, disaffected and rejected Catholics respond enthusiastically to a serious invitation to come home, no matter how much or how often they have been hurt, if they are simply invited to sit at the table without condemnation. They don’t even expect the high ideals of the church to be changed. All they want is a safe place to bask in God’s unconditional love and a chance to turn their lives around without judgment. “The healthy do not need the doctor, sick people do!”  If the church is truly “catholic,” “universal and inclusive,” our “mother and teacher,” we can always come home to “mother,” can’t we? Prodigal children still want to come home! Let’s leave the porch and go out to invite them.


    

Saturday, October 14, 2017

OH, THE RAVAGES OF FORTY-SEVEN YEARS OF PRIESTHOOD!


My first years to imagine priesthood.



My only week as a pious seminarian.




My seminary years as a heavy drinker.




Oh no! Where did this photo come from?
I didn't want people to see me getting dressed for ordination!




My "hairy" years in the "home missions."



My "back to the seminary to get even" years. 




MY RECENT YEARS AS A RETIRED PRIEST

In my pre-nursing home wheelchair. 




Yes, it's coming, but I am still hoping an exception will be made in my case! 









Mostly, I look back in amazement and laugh!



Thursday, October 12, 2017

DIOCESE OF GREENSBURG (continued)


On Monday morning, October 9, I flew from Louisville to Chicago and on tp Pittsburgh on United Airlines. 
I was picked up at the Pittsburgh Airport and taken to the Bishop Connare Center by a driver for the Regency Limousine Service for the hour and a half trip. Got there in just enough time to change my clothes and give my first presentation to the permanent deacon candidates.



Father Jonathan Wisneski
Organizer of the Priest Convocation and related speaking events. 



The first night I stayed at the Bishop Connare Center (which was the old minor seminary)..





The first evening I was asked to the deacon candidates and their wives. 



The next morning, before going on to the priest convocation  at the Chestnut Ridge Golf Resort, 
I spoke to the retired priests who live in the Bishop Connare Center. 




THE 2017 PRIEST CONVOCATION

"The Powerful Spiritual Leadership of a Unified Presbyterate"
Priests Working Together as a Team With the Bishop

About 100 priests are in attendance.








Three Filipino priests who know the two Filipino priests down in St. Vincent and the Grenadines where I volunteer. It is indeed a small world! 



More Filipino priests. I jokingly call them the "Filipino Mafia of Greensburg." 





Archbishop Kurtz taught a couple of the priests at this convocation when he taught in the seminary before becoming a bishop. 



Praying together.


Eating together.



Standing with some of the young Filipino priests serving in the Diocese of Greensburg.




MASS AT THE LOCAL PARISH
Sts. Simon and Jude









Hanging out with the priests of Greensburg around the fire. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

DIOCESE OF GREENSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA, PRIEST CONVOCATION

DIOCESE OF GREENSBURG

Priest Convocation 
Rev. Ronald Knott, Presenter

October 9-12, 2017 


Bishop Edward C. Malesic







Downtown Greensburg

Sunday, October 8, 2017

ANXIETY

CATHEDRAL OF THE ASSUMPTION
Homily for October 8, 2017

"Reasons to Keep Your Cool" 


Have no anxiety at all. Let the peace that God
gives, guard your hearts and minds.
Philippians 4

He’s got to be kidding! No anxiety at all? With a war on ISIS still going on, a political minefield in Washington, a stand-off with North Korea, hurricanes one after the other, the funeral of my brother-in-law’s brother who died of an aneurism, two friends battling aggressive cancers and God-knows-what else, how can Saint Paul’s words possibly fit those of us living in today’s Church and world? How can we possibly remain anxiety-free in the middle of all these situations?

“Anxiety” is a state of intense, often disabling apprehension, uncertainty, and fear caused by the anticipation of something threatening. It is often not so much about what is happening or even what has happened, but about what might happen.

  Have no anxiety at all. Let the peace that God 
gives, guard your hearts and mind.

My dear mother comes to mind when I think of anxiety. It seems that she always had a thin stream of anxiety trickling through her veins. Even though she has been dead for forty-one years now, I can still see her in my minds eye picking at her lower lip, a nervous habit that always accompanied intense moments of anxiety. I can still remember one time when we laughed at her for being so anxious. She snapped back, “Well, somebody around here needs to worry!” Looking back, she had a lot to be anxious about: seven kids, a demanding husband and breast cancer, to name only a few! 

When I was about to be ordained, anxiety was very much on my mind. The church was undergoing a great upheaval and priests were beginning to leave in significant numbers. I asked myself many times, in that year leading up to ordination, “How am I going to keep my cool in a fast-changing church and in a world coming unglued? How will I be able to stay focused when one problem after another is going to be hurled into my face from both inside and outside the church? How will I be able to calm others when I seem to be torn up all the time myself?”

I have spent my life as a priest searching for an inmost calm that no storm can shake. When I discovered and admitted to myself that I cannot control what happens out there, I knew I must find a way to control my reaction to what happens out there. As one spiritual teacher said, “It is easier to put on slippers than it is to carpet the world.” I knew I was going to need, and certainly wanted to have, the peace that only a close relationship with Jesus could give me, that peace that Saint Paul invites us to embrace in our second reading today.

Have no anxiety at all. Let the peace that God
Gives, guard your hearts and minds.

I have spent most of my young adult life looking for an inmost calm that no storm could shake, an inner peace that would remain rock solid no matter what! I am, happy to say that I have found it. Sometimes I panic and forget, but I always come back to it sooner or later. Once I discovered that a peaceful center is available to me, I know I can always come back to it.

How can one have that peace? A close relationship with Jesus brings that peace. If you truly believe that you are loved without condition, that God is on your side and holds no grudges, that in the end things are going to turn out OK because God has promised us so, then a great peace will come over you. You will know that no matter how bad things get sometimes, no matter how much you have to handle, no matter how great your losses, you will know in your heart of hearts that you are in good hands because you are in God’s hands. When you know these things to be true, a great peace begins to stand guard over your heart and mind! That is what St. Paul is talking about today when he tells us to “let the peace that God gives guard you hearts and minds.”

Once I began to live in the knowledge that, in spite of it all, things will ultimately be OK, I began to realize that many of my life’s greatest blessings have come out of what long ago seemed like an unbearable disaster.  Looking back at the times in my life when God seemed absent, at the times when I was overwhelmed with anxiety, worry and panic, in hindsight I can see that the hand of God was actually bringing me to where I needed to go and teaching me what I needed to learn. Most of the things I have most worried about never happened! Statistics even tell us that fully 90% of the things we worry about never happen! Most of my imagined tragedies have actually contained great blessings! It has happened too many times to dismiss as a fluke.  

I went through one of those anxious periods again as I was going into retirement. The plans I had worked on for three years fell apart in three days. It may not be connected, but I ended up in the hospital a couple of days later with a blood clot in my left leg. I was grieving the loss of some of the things I expected to happen. If things had gone as I had planned, I would have gotten on an airplane for France, without knowing about the clot, and probably died on the way over or on the way home. I have recovered from the clot, but as it turned out that that upheaval was clearing the way for something even better. Today I am glad that God spared me from what I thought I wanted. 

For me, this seems to be the way it always happens - a big breakdown before a big break through! I look back now and I am happy that my original plans did not work out because something much better has happened - my missionary work in the islands! Trip eight is coming up in December! I can't wait!

Peace, however, is not a time when there are no problems. Peace is a calm state of mind in the midst of problems and in spite of problems. Peace is a trusting state of mind that comes from a close relationship with Jesus whose name is Emmanuel, meaning “God with us.”

Brothers and sisters, we cannot control most of what is going to happen, so let us finish each day and be done with it. Let us do our best and let go of it. Let us not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen.  Our fretting anxiety has no power to affect tomorrow, but it can certainly ruin today.  Let us thank God for how far we have come and trust God with how far we can go.  This peace of mind is Jesus’ last gift to us. 

Let me end with one of my very favorite prayers by St. Francis DeSales. 

“Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations."

Friends, we will never be problem free, but we can be free of anxiety and needless worry!