Tuesday, August 30, 2016



August 30, 2016

Rev. Ronald Knott

They were astonished at his teaching
because he spoke with authority.
They were all amazed and said to one another,
“What is there about his word?

I retired recently from St. Meinrad Seminary, after ten years of running the continuing education division called the Institute for Priests and Presbyterates, of which I was the founder. It was really a “leadership training program” for priests and bishops.

One of the most important things I learned about “leadership” I learned back in my thirties, long before I started that leadership training program at St. Meinrad, back when I first came to Louisville to be pastor of the Cathedral of the Assumption.

Until that assignment, I had been a home missionary and the pastor of a small country parish in the center of the state. I was not prepared to lead a large city parish, much less the archdiocesan cathedral. I had to play it by ear and learn on the job.

When I arrived at the cathedral, I was given an even younger associate pastor. When we would go to staff meetings, I would come with an empty yellow pad and he would come with hand-outs. As a result of his preparation and my lack of it, we reached a collision point. I was the “designated leader” and he was the “real leader.” I had the title and he had the power. Something had to be done. I had to either kill him or step up to the plate and become a leader, not only in name, but also in fact! I learned very quickly that a title means very little unless there is some ability to go with it!

This was the situation in the gospel we just read. The scribes and Pharisees had the designated titles of leadership, but Jesus with no titles at all, was becoming the real leader. The people were amazed that a person without any religious credentials was such an effective religious leader. Like my own situation, it was destined to come to a collision point. Unlike my own situation where I stepped up to the plate, rather than eliminating my competitor, the Scribes and Pharisees had Jesus condemned to death. Instead of pulling themselves up to Jesus’ level of spiritual leadership, they pull him down and had him put to death.

This was also the situation that poor Jeanne Jugan faced in her life. She was poor, uneducated and powerless, but she showed the world that the power of simplicity and poverty can sometimes be more powerful than the power that "people in power”hold.

With basically nothing but faith and determination, she founded a community of sisters now serving the elderly in 31 countries. She suffered the indignity of having the leadership of her beloved community seized by a priest who decided that he would replace her as leader and send her into retirement without any say in the decision. Even when others saw this as an injustice, Jeanne simply accepted it as the will of God and took the lowly obscure job of begging for the community. The Holy See later removed the priest, but by the time she died 27 years later, few of he young Little Sisters even knew she was the foundress. Father Le Pailleur might have grabbed her title, but Jeanne Jugan really kept her power. She became a saint, but he didn’t. That’s true power!

My friends, a designated leader if not always a real leader! Jeanne Jugan was powerful whether she was recognized as Mother Marie of the Cross or not! What made her powerful was not her title, but her goodness. The famous Charles Dickens said this when he met this powerful powerless woman, “There is in this woman something so calm, and so holy, that in seeing her I know myself to be in the presence of a superior being. Her words went straight to my heart, so that my eyes, I know not how, filled with tears.”

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