Thursday, March 10, 2016


...happened right here, on the third floor
fire escape at St. Meinrad, on the landing
outside that door (bottom left corner of the photo) in 1966.
The fire escape is gone, but certainly not the results of that conversion experience.  


This is the true joy in life...the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
George Bernard Shaw 

I was born at home, on April 28, 1944, in a very small, very rural town, along the Ohio an hour down-river from Louisville. Almost dead on arrival, I was delivered and baptized by my country midwife grandmother. 

The most courageous thing I did as a young man was to leave that small town in 1958 and go to the seminary. (Later, I wondered whether I was running away from something or toward something!) I went to St. Thomas Seminary in Louisville. I wanted to be a priest in the second grade and never changed my mind. I could not get adults to take me seriously. My pastor refused to fill out the papers for me to go to the seminary until I begged. Even as I was leaving, a couple of adults made bets in front of others that I would not make it till Christmas. I was almost thrown out of the seminary in my second year of high school. The Rector called me a “hopeless case” to my face. He relented only after I cried for a second-chance. His last words to me, in front of the whole class, were: “Knott, you have been a ball and chain around my leg for six years!”  My experience of the St. Thomas Seminary approach to seminary formation was, “We know you are a piece of garbage and we will keep digging till we prove it!” 

I next went to the Benedictine run St. Meinrad Seminary. My experience of the St. Meinrad approach to seminary formation was, “We know you have gifts and talents and we will keep digging till we find them and help you make them grow!”  When I arrived there in 1964, their approach scared me even more than the St. Thomas Seminary approach because I thought if they were to dig, they would find out that I didn’t have any talents! I responded by trying to become invisible.  

Their approach obviously began to seep into my subconscious because the most courageous thing I did as a seminarian during those years was to stand up to my own cowardice. I grew up believing that "life is something that happens to you and all you can do about it is to accept it.” As a result, I arrived at St. Meinrad extremely bashful, backward and scared of life. However, one day on that fire-escape outside Benet Hall, pictured above, I blurted out a decision I had made somewhere in the very depths of my soul to a friend of mine from Indianapolis. “Pat, I am so damned tired of being bashful, backward and scared that I am going to do something about it, even if it kills me!”  

On that fire escape that day, I decided to take charge of my own happiness and quit blaming other people for the way I experienced life. I decided to quit waiting to be rescued. I decided, to paraphrase the words of George Bernard Shaw, “to be a force of nature, rather than a feverish little clod of grievances and ailments, always complaining that the world will not get together and make me happy.” I decided to quit playing the blame game and make myself happy, no matter what assignment I got, no matter who the bishop was, no matter what ideological direction the church or country took!  I started with baby steps and moved deliberately and courageously toward bigger and bigger steps.  The rest is history. I have been working my program ever since and I am still working it today! Thanks to that "fire escape decision," I have soared beyond my wildest imaginations back then! 

The latest manifestation is the decision to take charge of my own retirement rather than leave it up to the diocese to take care of it for me. Actually I have been planning to take charge of my retirement since ordination. For one thing, I wanted to own my own home by the time I retired so I started saving for it back in 1970.  It is only one of many of my goals that have been met! 

During the last several years, while I was on the staff at St. Mienrad Seminary, I had the chance to teach this to several hundred future priests as well. I will be gone, but I am sure some of them will remember what I said, whether they followed the advice or not. If they followed it, I am sure they will be filled with gratitude. If not, I predict they will be filled with regret. They will suffer the pain of "the missed opportunity." 

Recently, I came across the little written piece below that pretty much outlines my life path since that day on a fire escape at Saint Meinrad back in 1966. 

The Huffington Post

We take our freedom for granted so often, don't we? We can go where we want when we want to, say how we feel, do what we love to do. We know this, and yet surround ourselves with barriers, with reasons not to take the step out into the unknown. We don't follow our bliss, because although the idea of adventure is exciting, actually taking the chance is terrifying. 

Living your life gripped by fear of the unknown is no way to live, but how to you make the transition?

Like in all things, it's best to start small. People are fabulous at adjusting, it's one of the more impressive traits of our species. We can change and adapt to our circumstances. For example, have you ever had a real terrible experience that lasted more than a few weeks, like an unfitting relationship or a frustrating job, and you look back and wonder just how you made it through? You made it because (a) you are stronger than you know and (b) you adapted.

When it comes to making changes, making smaller adjustments over a longer period of time is the key to seeing them become part of your life. If you start too big, by taking on too much, you'll become overwhelmed, and you'll return to your old ways in no time (which is why so many New Years Resolutions ultimately fail).

If you're on the cusp of being brave and taking the leap into the unknown, even if it's a little unknown, you are a girl on a ledge. You can choose to turn around, return to where you came from and never know what lies over the side, or you can choose to take the leap of faith and begin to change your life for the better.

Let's talk a bit about bravery. What do you think of when you think of bravery? Do you think of a soldier on a dangerous mission? What about a single mother of two who has an upcoming interview at a new job? Or a bright girl with unsupportive parents who tries out for the high school basketball team?

Contrary to what you might think, being brave comes in all shapes and sizes, and is subjective to each person. Sometimes, just getting out of bed in the morning is an act of bravery, and learning to recognize these small successes is incredibly important in this life journey.

So many times, you are reminded of your limitations, of all the things that you can't or shouldn't do. Today I encourage you to yes, know your limitations, but at the same time, examine your possibilities. Stop telling yourself that you can't. Sure, there are some things you can't do, but start thinking about all the things you can do.

If this is you, if you're the girl on the ledge, you have the choice to stay in the life you have now. You can stay in the bad relationship or in the frustrating job or keep spending time with people who bring you down. Or you can take a step off the side, examine all of your possibilities and start to fly.
Who knows? You might even soar.


It started by putting my toes in the water! I have since learned to swim out in the deep! 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Country Humor

Be Careful What You Pray For! 
I think every priest ought to spend some time in a country parish. They might learn something. I remember my three and a half years at Holy Name of Mary Parish in Calvary, Kentucky 1980-1983. I wouldn't trade it for anything! I have so many great memories that still make me laugh out loud when they cross my mind. Here is one of my very favorites.

One day, as I was standing in front of the church talking to the guys (something they like to arrive early for), one of them announced that I should say some special prayers for rain. Before I could agree to do it, another one interrupted him. I am pretty sure it was a Bradshaw! "Just hold on now! Remember the last time we called for special prayers for rain? We lit one of those thirty-day candles and started pray'. Well, it commenced rain' so much that we had to go in there and blow it out after two weeks!"

An old Farmer’s Words of Wisdom we could all live by.
The last quote fits everyone…I don’t care who you are.
wise old farmerYour fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.
Keep skunks and bankers at a distance.
Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.
Words that soak into your ears are whispered!….not yelled.
Meanness don’t just happen overnight.
Forgive your enemies; it messes up their heads.
Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you.
It don’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.
You cannot unsay a cruel word.
Every path has a few puddles.
When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.
The best sermons are lived, not preached.
Most of the stuff people worry about, ain’t never gonna happen anyway.
Don’t judge folks by their relatives.
Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
Live a good and honorable life,
then when you get older and think back,
you’ll enjoy it a second time.
Don’t interfere with somethin’ that ain’t bothering you none.
Timin’ has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
If you find yourself in a hole,
the first thing to do is stop diggin’.
Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got.
The biggest troublemaker you’ll probably ever have to deal with,
watches you from the mirror every mornin’.
Always drink upstream from the herd.
Good judgment comes from experience,
and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.
Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier
than puttin’ it back in.
If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence,
try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.
Live simply, love generously, care deeply,
Speak kindly, and leave the rest to God.
Don’t pick a fight with an old man.
If he is too old to fight, he’ll just kill you.

Here's another story from my Calvary, Kentucky, days. One of my farmer-parishioners was testifying at the capitol in Frankfort about some farm issue. About the time he was wrapping it up, these priceless words of hometown pride came out of his mouth. "I feel sorry for anybody who wasn't born in Calvary!" I always thought it would make a good tee shirt to raise money for the parish. I am sure everybody would have bought at least one!
The last story comes from "The Lost Tales" of Dr. Burke Casper, a country doctor, who served the people of my beloved Meade County. He actually took out my tonsils in his clinic in Brandenburg in 1952. 
Dr. Casper visited an old woman in her farm home one day. She was hard of hearing. After examining her abdomen and finding nothing wrong, he prepared to leave the house. From the next room, he overheard her tell her daughter, "It was nice of that minister to stop by!" Her daughter told her, "That wasn't a minister! That was a doctor!" The old woman responded, "Well, I thought he was acting a bit familiar for a minister!"

Sunday, March 6, 2016

HOMILY 3-6-16



If you were blind,   that would not be  a  sin. But
 since you say you can see, when you are actually
             blind, you remain in your sin.         
   JOHN 9:41

Tyler Perry is a successful African-American playwright, actor and screenwriter. Perry attributes his success to what he calls “spiritual progress,” especially the “spiritual progress” that resulted in making peace with his own father.  One of his profound insights was around learning that “parents do what they know how.” He finally realized that he could not change his history with his father, but he could change the way he wanted to remember it! “My life changed,” he said, “once things changed in me.!"

I, too, had to learn how resentment kept me stuck and how I could free myself by choosing to “see in a new way.” “Choosing to see in a new way” is like letting yourself out of prison, cutting your own chains, throwing off a heavy load. Like Tyler Perry, it was only when I chose to “see my past in a new way” that I could no longer be a victim of it.

We cannot do anything about our pasts, but we can choose whether we want to be its victim. Once I began to understand that my Dad “did what he knew how,” I was able to move from anger to compassion. I thank God that I was able to bury all that resentment, even before I buried him!

“Seeing in a new way” is exactly the conclusion Jesus came to in his search for clarity during his forty days in the desert.  Coming out of the desert, he began to preach “conversion.” “Metanoiete” means “change the way you see!” Change the way you look at things and heaven will open up to you.   Once things change in you, things around you will look very different.”  The devil tried to get Jesus to change things. Jesus resisted that temptation. Instead, Jesus called for an internal change within people, believing that if people would change inside, things outside them would also change.

Today we have a wonderful story about a bunch of blind people: one who can’t see and others who won’t see. All of them need Jesus in order to be able to “see in a new way.”  In this wonderful story, Jesus uses the occasion of healing physical blindness to tell us something about the healing of spiritual blindness, the inability to “see in a new way.”

The man born blind, not only regains his physical sight, but step-by-step he begins to see Jesus in a new way. At first, he says he doesn’t know who this Jesus is who healed him. As the story unfolds, he calls Jesus a “prophet” and finally “Lord.”

The Pharisees and his parents can see physically, but they are spiritually blind and refuse “to see in a new way.” The Pharisees are blinded by their own rigid religious structures. They can’t see the beauty of this great healing, a blind man getting his sight. All they can see is that the healing  took place on the Sabbath day and healing was illegal on the Sabbath day. The parents are blinded by their fear of being ostracized by neighbors, friends and organized religion if they admitted to this healing. They conveniently choose not to know and not to see. “Ask him,” they say, “he is old enough to speak for himself.” Both Pharisees and parents are afraid of “seeing in a new way” because it would mean their cozy little routines would be disrupted. It was convenient for them not to see and so they remain stuck in their chosen blindness.

I am amazed when I talk to stuck people. I believe that most people who are stuck are basically people who are blinded by their inability to “see in a new way.” They whine and cry and wait to be rescued, but they cannot change their minds and look at their situations from a new angle. They can’t “let go” of their old way of thinking and seeing, and so they remain stuck in their blindness. They are like the monkeys I read about several years ago. To catch these monkeys for the zoo, people would cut a hole in a tree, just small enough for a monkey to his hand into. Then they fill it with peanuts. When the monkey sticks his hand into the hole and grabs the peanuts, he can not pull his hand back out. Instead of letting go of the peanuts, they howl and cry till someone comes and hauls them off to the zoo. All they had to do was to let go of the peanuts and their hand would slide out again. People are a lot like that: they cannot let go of the things they hang onto, the way they see things and so they remain trapped, whining and crying all the while.

Some people simply cannot “let go” of the way they see things. They clutch at beliefs like: life ought to be fair, parents ought to be perfect, spouses should not let each other down, the church ought to be perfect, things ought to make sense and people ought to respect you, love you and meet your needs. And, of course, when life isn’t fair, when parents and churches aren’t perfect, when spouses let them down, when things don’t make sense and when people do not meet their needs, they fall apart and remain stuck in their belief that if they just don’t like it enough, it will go away. All they would have to do to free themselves is to “let go” of their old beliefs and “see things in a new way.”

Jesus was right, “If you are physically blind, there is no sin in that, but when you choose to be blind, your sin remains, you keep your own suffering going.”  Tyler Perry is right, too, when he says, “My life changed once things changed in me.”

What about you? What situations do you need to “look at” in a new way? What people do you need to “look at” in a new way? Is the way you have been “looking at” these situations and people still causing you pain? If so, ask God for healing! Ask God for a new set of eyes! Once things change in you, life will change for the better for you!