Sunday, December 31, 2017

FAMILIES IN THEIR MARVELOUS DIVERSITY HOLDING IT TOGETHER




FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY
Cathedral of the Assumption
12:00 pm Mass
December 31, 2017

Husbands  love  your  wives. He stores  up  riches
who  reveres  his   mother.  Whoever  honors   his
father  atones for  sins.  Parents  do  not  nag  your
children. Children, take care of your parents when
they are old.
        SIRACH and COLOSIANS


Christmas is a special time to reconnect and recommit as a family. The Saturday before Christmas, all six of my brothers and sisters and four brother-in-laws got together for a home Mass and dinner – no gift giving. We have been doing it for many years. Because of some health issues in the group, this year we added the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. As a single person with no family of my own, it is my way of connecting to a sense of family. Like always, we had a great time laughing and talking and telling the same old stories from growing up years. Several of them pointed out how lucky we are just to be able to get together. Some families we know cannot even get together because of divorces, hard feelings and old grudges. If they do get together, the getting together is strained and uncomfortable.

As a person who is still a member of a family, but who does not have a family of his own, I pay attention to families. I take notice. The thing that I see most is that having a family brings both joy and pain. Those who try it have my deepest admiration. Not having a family of my own, I realize that I miss out on both the joy and the pain.

Several times, as I flip though the channels, I have been compelled to stop and watch one of those live birth experiences that you see once in a while. I am not ashamed to admit that I usually get choked up and watery-eyed when I watch new parents at the moment of birth. While I am proud that it can move me so much, I am very aware that what those new parents are experiencing is a thousand times more intense. It is a joy that I will never know.

When I was on vacation on a beach in Mexico a few years ago, I was amazed at how many young couples were in the hotel with one, two and three young babies and toddlers in single, double and even triple strollers. Weighted down with diaper bags and stuffed animals, they struggled to keep their brood together. Totally relaxed, with a margarita in hand, I was secretly relieved, if not a bit guilty, that a vacation like their’s is something I will never know……at least I hope not!

A few years ago, about 10:00 at night I realized that I had not eaten supper. The closest fast food restaurant to my house is a White Castle about two blocks away. I ordered three hamburgers and a diet coke and sat down to watch a fascinating show that only happens late at night in a White Castle.  No sooner than I sat down than a distressed young mother with a toddler came in and asked the women behind the counter to call the police. Her “boy friend” had locked them out of the car and was threatening them in the parking lot. She paced back and forth, one minute trying to appease her whining child who needed to go to bed and the other minute peeking out the window to see if he was still out there. Sadly, like many abused women are wont to do, she went back to him before the police got there. A few minutes later, a wild-looking young woman, probably bi-polar, came in and ordered some cheese fries and ate them standing in the middle of the floor, spilling some of them and stepping on them, while muttering to herself. Before she finished, an older woman, her distressed mother came in telling her that she had been combing the neighborhood looking for her to take her home. She apologized to all of us and finally coaxed her into the car and left. As I left that night, I realized once again how many things some families have to deal with. Anyone who is trying to hold a family together has by deepest admiration.

Today is the Feast of the Holy Family. It is not the easiest feast to preach about.  In a world where family life is a painful experience for so many, I have always shied away from those romanticized and idealized sermons that I grew up with. They certainly did not describe my experience. Because my family was not like the “Holy Family” they talked about, I always left church feeling defective as a family. My religion teachers of the past were so driven to hold up the “holy family” as a model for all families that they may have read the stories in the bible about the “holy family” with rose colored glasses, ending up with a religious version of a 1950s TV family. Because their reading of the stories was so idealized, by the 1960’s, people began to reject it and even laugh at it as totally unrealistic and impossible.

A few years ago, I came to realize that maybe the real “holy family” is more like today’s families than we have traditionally become accustomed to think.  The facts show that the “holy family” was not that sugary little family that we use to hear about.

We only have a few stories about Jesus’ childhood and the family from Nazareth, and none of them would be what you would call nice and sweet.

(1) The family started out with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy.  Mary and Joseph were engaged, but not yet married when Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Joseph came within a hair of divorcing Mary, but backed off because of a message from God in a dream. (2) When it came town for Jesus to be born, Mary and Joseph were called out of town for a census. Away from home, Mary and Joseph end up having to deliver their baby in a barn, right there in a stall. (3) When Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple for his circumcision, they were so poor that they had to make an offering to the temple of two common old pigeons, instead of the traditional, more expensive, doves. (4) No sooner than they settled down in Nazareth than a maniac king tried his best to kill all the Jewish children he could get his hands on. To protect Jesus from that fate, Mary, Joseph crossed the border, becoming refugees in a foreign country, until the coast was clear back home. (5) When Jesus was twelve years old, he got lost on a trip to the big city, Jerusalem. His panic-striken parents spent a few hellish days till they found him. (6) On one occasion, hearing some of the things he was preaching, his family came to do an intervention on him because they really thought he had lost his mind. (7) A symbol of all sorrowing mothers, Mary finally had to witness her son, stripped and beaten, being executed as a common criminal.

No, this holy family was no “goody-two shoes” family that I had idealized as a child. This family had problems, big problems, but they managed to remain faithful to each other and to God through it all. I think this family has a better chance of being a model if we simply accept the fact that they were like us in so many ways. 

This feast does offer an opportunity to say a few words about family life. The problems are easy to list, the solutions are not so easy to come by. The most obvious fact facing us is that families have changed. There is no use pretending they haven’t or wishing they hadn’t. They have! Instead of pretending or wishing, we need to develop new ways to help and support modern families, including single parent families, blended families, adoptive families and the many other varieties of new families.

Families and couples cannot take anything for granted. The forces against family life are hard at work. Families must be intentional about being family if they have any hope at all to work against the forces that are trying to pull them apart.  To let things slide in marriages or families is to invite disaster. Families need all the support the community and church can give.


The readings today give us an impressive list of “family values,” values that can guide and strengthen even modern families in all their marvelous varieties: honoring your father and mother, taking care of them in their old age, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, obedience, patience, forgiveness, peace, thankfulness and love, to name a few.  Family is not something that we can take for granted. It is something that must be wanted and worked for. Whatever family you have been given or whatever substitute family you have pieced together, may the Holy Family bless you abundantly in 2018!   

Saturday, December 30, 2017

THE BEST NEWS OF THE WHOLE YEAR


All you generous donors, rejoice with me! 

THE MISSING TOYS HAVE BEEN FOUND! 

It feels like a miracle!
I feared they might have been stolen! 
Even though they are late, I could not be happier! 



These nine boxes of toys, candy and clothes have been sitting in the Amerijet warehouse in Miami since November 7. The reason? Before releasing them, Amerijet was waiting for us to fill out a SLI form that we knew nothing about. We have shipped things down several times before, but we knew nothing about this form and no one told us about it. The form is called the Shippers Letter of Instruction.

Yesterday morning, at wits end about this toy situation, I decided to send Ameijet an e-mail personally, instead of relying on the agent who was supposedly representing us. We got the information we needed, and with help from Fergal who is still in Ireland, they got the form they needed at the end of the day yesterday. Thank God for the internet! Now the toys have been released to finally be flown on to St. Vincent. The kids at the two orphanages may get their toys, candy and clothes in time for Epiphany. 

In the meantime, parish parties on the various islands have started. St. Vincent and Mayreau have had theirs already. Bequia, Canouan and Union will all have theirs before the end of the year.  We simply helped fund the general parish parties on these five islands with food and locally-bought simple toys, but the toys we sent down are specific to specific kids in the two orphanages on St. Vincent. Here are a just a few of the gifts on their way.























THE PARISH CHRISTMAS PARTIES

Below are some photos from the parish party on the island of Mayreau. 










Father Rex, pastor, and some of his fans with ice cream treats. 



There will be a posting of other Christmas party pictures as they come in, so stayed tuned! 



should have known it was going to turn out OK when I saw this rainbow (above the little jut of land almost in the middle of the picture) from the deck right before I left to come home! There may even be two! 

Friday, December 29, 2017

REALLY TWISTED TV




God has given me cause to laugh.
Genesis 21:6

Television never gets it right. Priests always seem to come off these days as pious, angry or creepy. There are many very fine priests in this country who serve their people selflessly. Many are pastoring multiple parishes. Sadly, there are no made-for TV “specials” about them and their work.

In the last 16 years, I have had the opportunity to listen to hundreds and hundreds of these priests from every part of this country - and six more besides! Most of our time was spent discussing very serious issues facing us priests, but we did seem to make room for a good time. In fact, we could even laugh at ourselves.

In that vein, a few years back I started thinking about some possible new “priest shows.” It has been a while so I thought I'd re-run it. Here goes!

I LOVE LOOSEY: An outrageous comedy about two liberal young priests in the 1960s ministering in a bi-lingual southern California parish. There’s nothing they won’t change.

LAW AND ORDER: A dull and tedious police series about young “neo-con” priests on a mission to “save” the church.

FRIDAY NIGHT SMACKDOWN: Liberal and conservative priests take each other on in no-holds-barred, hand-to-hand combat. Screaming parishioners back their favorite priests and often enter the ring themselves to avenge dirty tactics.

ELIM-A-PRIEST: In an alternative to traditional Personnel Boards, parishes bid on new pastors after going out to eat with them a few times. Various priests with serious personality defects and obnoxious personal habits are “weeded out” while one single “Perfect Pastor” is hired at the conclusion of each show.

FATHER EMERIL: A cooking show featuring various “rectory cuisines” for the stressed out and overworked, twinned and clustered, parish priest. Heavy on Crock Pot, Seal-A-Meal and George Forman Grill recipes from his new cookbook, “Cooking After Your By-Pass Surgery.”

EXTREME FATHER MAKE-OVER: This new show is a wildly popular weekly series where pot-bellied, unkempt priests are nominated by their parishioners for lipo-suction, tummy tucks, Bo-Tox, unwanted hair removal and wardrobe updates. Parishioners shriek in approval when “Father-What-A-Waist” is turned into “Father-What-A-Waste.

NEO-ARCHEOLOGY: Teams of young priests dig through rectory attics and parish sacristies in search of perfectly preserved birettas, copes, cassocks, fiddle-back vestments and other “precious artifacts” of the pre-Vatican II Church, rescuing them “before its too late.”

HOME ALONE: This latest “reality show” features various priests living alone in big empty rectories on Friday and Saturday nights while playing Solitaire and “voting themselves off the island” for entertainment. Boring!

LITTLE RECTORY ON THE PRAIRIE: The Vatican, in a secret experiment, assigns a married priest to live in one of the secluded parishes of some unnamed Minnesota diocese. After giving birth to an obnoxiously sweet daughter, Laura, and almost starving to death on a priest’s salary, the Vatican decides to cancel the experiment and declares the idea of married priests “unworkable.”

GOLDEN BOYS: Four retired priests move into a condo together in some unnamed Florida diocese. This has to be one of the dullest shows to ever be put on TV! There is nothing funny about it!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

TWO WONDERFUL FRIENDS

  

Tammy and Greg Coats

2017 "Employee and Friends Christmas Party" 


5204 Preston Hwy, Louisville, KY 40213


If you are in the market for a used car or truck, here are the people to see!
I bought my last three vehicles there! 
If they don't have what you want on the lot, they will find it! 
Tell them Father Knott sent you! 




Monday, December 25, 2017

CHRISTMAS DAY HOMILY

CHRISTMAS
“If It Isn’t Messy, It Isn’t real”
2017



Traditionally, the Church asks us to read the genealogy of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew - "so and so begat so and so" for a whole page. Even the deacon avoided it and took the short cut. The Church is certainly wiser than I am, but I still don't like it! I want to hear the traditional Christmas story from Luke's gospel. To me, not to do that is like serving pizza on Thanksgiving! What I want on Christmas is the traditional Christmas story from Luke. I want singing angels, smelly shepherds and a dirty manger! Please don't report me to the Pope, but on the other hand, what the heck! Go ahead! He probably agrees with me anyway! 

She wrapped him in swaddling clothes 
and laid him in a manger.
Luke 2:7

I have a saying, “If it isn’t messy, it isn’t real.” If you listen to the Christmas story closely, you will soon realize that it is one of the messiest stories you can imagine. This story isn’t cute or sweet. It was more like one disaster after another. There is the pregnant, unmarried Mary and her soon-to-be husband, Joseph. About the time this birth was to take place, Joseph and Mary were required to take an eighty-mile long donkey ride to register for the census - to the backwater village of Bethlehem. Away from home, Mary goes into labor with no place to give birth, but a barn and no place to lay her baby, but in an animal’s feed box. The only people to rejoice with this young couple were a bunch of smelly shepherds. Shepherds were despised by religious people of those days, not only because they were considered “low life,” but also because they were the “unchurched” of those days. From what we read, the birth of our Savior was a disaster on all fronts, one of the messiest stories imaginable.

If Mary and Joseph had been at home, all their Jewish neighbors and friends would have gathered outside the home to await the birth with musical instruments. When they would have announced, “It’s a boy!” they would have struck up the band. Luke, knowing that this was not just another Jewish boy’s birth, but the birth of God’s son, has a multitude of singing angels from heaven wrap their wings around this pathetic scene to welcome this long-awaited birth. The bottom line of this messy story, Jesus deliberately identified himself with the “little people,” “humble circumstances” and the messiness of this world.

Luke, who brings us the Christmas story that we are all familiar with, is a champion of the “underdog.” The heroes of his stories are mostly the “losers” and “marginal people” of society: women, children, foreigners, the sick, the unchurched and the poor. The Christmas story simply reflects his theology that Christ came for all people, including people the connected of this world never imagined and God’s love will not be restricted to the few, no matter what the church or state says.

When Jesus grew up, the statement that the circumstances of his birth made, was spelled out in detail by his preaching and actions. He “welcomed sinners and ate with them.” The lost sheep was sought out. The prodigal son was welcomed home. The good and bad alike are invited to his wedding feast. His workers all received a full day’s pay, no matter when they started working.

One of the best compliments I ever got as a pastor, was one I got one Christmas when I was pastoring this Cathedral Parish. A man told me that the congregation at the Cathedral in my time reminded him of the “Island of Misfits Toys” from the “Rudolf, the Red-nosed Reindeer” Christmas special. The “Island of Misfits Toys” was, of course, that special island where broken toys could go to be repaired so that they, too, could be part of Christmas. As most of you know, we specialized in welcoming marginal and fallen-away Catholics back to the Church. I never felt more like a true pastor than I did in those days. I never felt that I was acting more like Jesus, living the message of Christmas, than I did in those days.

Even though the Christmas message is over 2,000 years old, it seems that the world still doesn’t get it! Because reality is messy, there are some people in the world, and even in the Church, who react to all the messiness of life, not by embracing it, but by running from it. Religions seem to be all going back into their corners and making enemies of each other yet again, a sort of a “God loves me and not you” approach. Jews, Moslems and Christians cannot get along! Even some scared Catholics are trying once again to take back all that openness we were famous for just a few years ago! Instead of tearing down fences, they are committed to rebuilding the walls!

Regardless of what people do or believe, I am convinced more than ever this Christmas that the bottom line of this annual celebration is the unbelievable love God has for all people, yes all people. That’s why smelly shepherds, young refugees, curious foreigners and various “nobodies” have major parts to play in this great story!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

AN AGING PRIEST'S CHRISTMAS REFLECTION



It's Christmas Eve 2017! 
I'm 73, almost 74, years old! 
I've been retired for three years!
I take a few pills!
I like to stay up, but I hate to get up! 
I have no spouse or children! 
I live alone!
Christmas has become simpler every year! 
 I didn't put up a tree! 

HOWEVER

I am very happy!
I feel great!  
I have my health! 
I have few regrets!
I feel supported and loved by my siblings!
I have a variety of very faithful friends! 
I am proud of my accomplishments! 
I thrive on living alone in my own space!
I love my volunteer work in the island missions!
In short, I feel my cup is running over! 








A grateful heart attracts miracles? Bring them on! 

I believe in miracles! Miracles are possible in our lives, but miracles are different from magic! Magic is about sitting around wishing somebody else would make things happen to make us all better. Magic is waiting for a fairy godmother to come and wave her magic wand over us and we don’t have to do anything. For a miracle to happen, like the blind Bartimeus in Scripture, we have to get up, throw away the security blankets that we have wrapped ourselves in and be clear about what we want and be willing to go for it! We have to override the naysayer in our own heads and the naysayers who line the roads of our lives. Wishing and magic waits for others to fix us. Really wanting something makes us take action. God is willing to help those who are willing to do something - anything - to help themselves. God is willing to grant miracles to those who get up, step forward and open their minds, hearts and hands - no matter how old they are!






Saturday, December 23, 2017

THEY WERE THERE FOR ME - THE END OF AN ERA





Paul and Wilhelmine King

Practically parents, they were a significant part of my life for the last fifty plus years. To understand our relationship, I have attached what I said at the funeral home for both of them. He was a Baptist who attended a United Church of Christ church near his house later in life. She was a Lutheran from birth, but they were equal opportunity church goers when they did go. They attended a lot of my Masses when I had a special occasion - ordination, twenty-fifth anniversary or whatever came up, like parents would do. This photo was a gift  I gave them of their 50th wedding anniversary. I took them to a professional photographer - something they would never have done for themselves. To understand them, I will start with her funeral first. 



FUNERAL SERVICE FOR WILHELMINE KING
July 22, 1999
Rev. Ronald Knott


Wilhelmine!  Mrs.  King!  Monica!  Mama King!  Monie!  Wifey!  We called her by many names, but whatever name we called her by, we knew her as “one of a kind.”  She was a unique woman, if there ever was one!  To meet her was to remember her! She was German to the core and proud of it!  She was Paul’s beloved wife for 51 years.  She was friend to Inge and Lori even longer.  She was friend to Jack for over 40 years. She was my friend and substitute mother for 34 years!  She was a special friend to Connie for the last few years.  She was sister-in-law to Linda and Elwanda.  She was sister to Ludwig. She was friend to hundreds of others too numerous to mention 

We are here today to celebrate her life here on earth with Paul, her family and her friends.  But we are also here to celebrate her entry into eternal life with the God, the God  who made her and sustained her for almost 81 years!  Before we talk about her life, let me say a few things about the God who gave her, not only this life, but eternal life as well.



(1) Who is this God who created such an interesting woman?  Who is this God who has created us and sustains us, even as we speak?  Wilhelimine was a character and looking out over this room, she had an interesting assortment of characters for her friends as well.  The Bible tells us that when God looked at everything he had created, he saw that “it was very good.”  There is a built-in goodness in each one of us: not matter what we think of ourselves or what others may think of us, no matter what we have done or failed to do.  In fact, the Bible says that we are all “created in the very image and likeness of God.”  I have imagined God laughing to himself the day Wilhelmine was born.  I imagine God saying to the angels: “this ought to be interesting!” And so she was----a very interesting woman indeed.

(2) What about the life that Wilhelmine is now enjoying?  St. Paul said to right when he once wrote that “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, the great things that God has is store for those who love him.”  People have struggled for centuries in attempts to describe what heaven might be like: more poetry than in prose  No one knows for sure, of course, but the Bible gives us images, metaphors and word pictures that at least try to give us a sense of the wonderful things that await us on the other side.  One of the most common images of heaven in the Bible is that of a “great banquet” to which  all those who love God are invited to share.  I chose our first reading from Isaiah the prophet for that very reason.  Isaiah speaks of heaven as a mountaintop feast of “juicy rich food and choice wine.”  As a woman who loved food, especially sweets, I have no doubt that Wilhelmine could appreciate that image!  She could not have described heaven any better herself:  free food and plenty of it!  I guess it goes back to growing up during the second world war! I learned a long time ago that the best way to her heart was through her stomach.  Her idea of an appropriate Christmas present was a box of food. Very seldom did many of us  visit her without taking some food in hand.  If we didn’t, we lived to regret it! 


(3) And how do we get to heaven?  The gospel I chose today gives us the clue.  I didn’t wear this Roman collar too much when I was with her: more often it was blue jeans and shorts.  But when I did,  she always told me I “looked good” in my “uni-form.” She thought it looked good, but it did not impress her.  She helped me realize long ago that not all spiritual people are church goers and not all church goers are spiritual people.  She was not a church goer, but she was a deeply spiritual person.  She had a soft spot in her heart for the hungry, the orphaned and the hurting: be it taking-in a bashful, backward 21 year old from the country like myself or Edd Roe or giving a bag of stale doughnuts and a slightly old sandwich to a hungry young lifeguard at the spa or bag of trinkets for the lady in the camera department at K Mart.  Her compassion extended even to the birds and squirrels that she fed every day or some mangy dog she found on the street.  She literally talked to the animals! That’s why we will pray the Prayer of St. Francis today in her memory.  He is always pictured feeding and blessing the animals. As tough as she was on the outside, she could be moved to tears by a sad story on TV.    She may not have been a church goer, but in the words of Jesus “as long as she did it to the least of these, she did it for me.”

And so, as we gather to say goodbye to her today, we thank God for all the goodness he has shown her over 80 years.  We thank God for all the blessings that came to us through her.  I believe that even now she is “chowing down” at the heavenly banquet table and this time she won’t have to sweat for hours in the sauna before she get weighed in by her TOPS group at the church behind her house.

And, yes, she could be a tough old lady.  I would describe her as a tough woman with a big heart.  She could be blunt, gruff, demanding and unyielding.  She described herself as “open schpoken” and didn’t particularly care whether you liked it or not.  There are several of us who have hung up the phone on her more than once, right Inge, Lori, Jack, Connie?  But the things is we could never stay mad for very long, could we?   There was something about her that made us know she did not mean it, so we forgave her and she forgave us seventy-times seventy times.



As most of you know, she was born and raised in southern Germany, in the Alps, not far from the Austrian border.  Two of her favorite movies were the Sound of Music and Heidi.  God only knows how many times she watched those movies.  It was her way of revisiting her beloved Alps and remembering her home in Bavaria.  She loved schmaltz.  So we will sing “Edelweiss,” from the Sound of Music, at the end of this service as a final send-off!  “Edelweiss” are small white flowers that grow in the Alps. She had some real ones, dried and framed, on her kitchen wall.



Another song from the Sound of Music was “A Few Of My Favorite Things.” I sat down this week and tried to remember some of her favorite things.  Let me share them with you.  She loved Christmas and Christmas presents.  She has enough Christmas decorations in her basement to decorate New York!  She loved sweets, especially chocolate, if it was German chocolate, all the better!  She loved food in general, but in particular she loved spaetzele, weiner schnitzel, swartzewalder kirsch torte, sauerbraten, a beer once in a while, coffee and kuchen in any shape or size. She loved her junk.  I believe she must have the world’s largest collection of plastic beads.  She loved her car, her daily shopping trips and nice lunches out, especially if she could get somebody else to pay for them!   She was Queen of the Discount!  As a matter of principle, she never paid ticket price for anything.  She knew where the senior citizen discount coffee deals were.  She knew the restaurants where they gave out small free birthday cakes.  She had a coupon for everything.  She could get salespeople in any store to take back anything, no matter how many years ago she bought it.  She loved photos.  She has boxes and boxes of them.  She hated beards.  She told me to shave this off, at least once a week for 30 years!  She didn’t get jokes, no matter how hard Paul and I laughed. She loved her friends and loved interacting with them.  Finally, and most of all, she loved her “Paulie,” the perfect partner for such a unique woman.  Paul, there has never been a man who has treated his wife as well as you have yours!  You are so lucky because you have nothing to regret. I am sure that all of you could add a hundred other things to this list.  In short, she loved her life, her Germany, her husband and home and her friends in a million small ways. 

Finally, allow me to be even a little more personal. The first time I met her was the day I showed up 34 years ago to rent her basement apartment.  She was sitting in a plastic “kiddy pool” in her back yard.  She could not understand why I would not take off my clothes and get in there with her!  Many nights she would call, just to say “goodnight.” I wished I had saved some of her messages on my answering machine.  They were a riot! The last meal we had together was at my house on the Fourth of July.  I made her a German chocolate cake.  The last time I saw her well was waving at me from her back porch.  No matter which way I left, she always came out onto the back porch and waved till I got out of sight! The last time she spoke to me was last week when she first got to the hospital.  I leaned over and asked her she if she knew who I was.  She cocked her one good eye up at me and whispered, “You’re my baby!” She always said that when we would have a little falling out.  She’s call and say, “You’re still my baby!” Man, am I going to miss her!

Paul, we are all here to support you!  Thanks for everything, Wilhelmine!  It’s been a wonderful adventure!

PAUL KING FUNERAL
DECEMBER 21, 2017


Rev. Ronald Knott

I met Paul King a little over 50 years ago. I started renting his basement apartment first, along with other “orphan children” like Edd Roe. Once we were “taken in” by Paul and Wilhelmine, some of us have been involved in his life, to one degree or another, ever since. Even when I quit renting the basement, I basically had a “home away from home” upstairs. I would stay with them when I came to Louisville, like they were my family, when I was first ordained and living in Somerset and Monticello. I think one of my main roles was to “take Wilhelmine off Paul’s hands” so he could have a few hours of peace watching TV in the other room. More than 50 years! Wow! Edd, we were all young back then – even Paul and Wilhelmine were in their early 40s!

I am going to read a Scripture, talk about it a bit and then invite you to share a few comments, but first I want to say a few words to his sister, Linda. I want to start there.

Linda, we can’t thank you enough – me, Edd and Vicki, Jack, Inge and Lori – for all you have done to help Paul at the end of his life. We all know that it was not easy. Paul was beginning not to be Paul about the time you took him to Hopkinsville. You had your own losses and your own health problems, but you gave him a good ending and we appreciate it. He deserved it. None of us wanted Paul to suffer in any way. You did a good job under very difficult circumstances. God will bless you for it and we thank you for it.

The Scripture I have chosen is the call of the apostles from John’s Gospel. I want to focus on one of them – a disciple named Nathaniel, called “Bartholomew” in the other three gospels.  When Jesus saw Nathaniel, he said, “Behold a true Israelite (a true man of God)! There is no duplicity in him!”

This was Paul King, as we knew him! (1) He was a man of God. (2.) There was no guile – no duplicity – in him.

Paul King was a man of God. I heard many times from Wilhelmine that he would kneel beside his bed every night and say his prayers. He was a Baptist at heart, but went to the United Church of Christ right down from his house on Eastern Parkway out of convenience.

As a Baptist, a profession of faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior and adult baptism were important to him. He told me in the early 1980s that he had never been baptized, but would love to be baptized. That was before he joined the United Church of Christ near his house, so he did not have a church home. I told him that I would baptize him, not in a Catholic Church, but the way that meant something to him. I baptized him in my hot tub down at the lake. I filled it with fresh water. With Wilhelmine  looking on with pride and a good amount of disbelief, I ask him to profess his faith in Jesus Christ. Then I immersed him under the water three times – in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Besides being a man of God, a “saved" Christian, there was absolutely no guile– no duplicity in him. He was almost childlike – not childish, but childlike! Did Jesus not say, “Unless you become like little children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of God?” Unless you become trusting and innocent, you cannot really know God.

Of course, the other side of being without duplicity, being childlike, is that you can be na├»ve. I can remember the story of him working for that post-depression work program out west somewhere when he was a young man. He had made several gold coins, I believe, when someone stole them or cheated him out of them on the way home! He sent money to probably some suspicious charities and worst of all, he got into that scam toward the end that none of us could talk him out of!   He was convinced he was on the verge of millions of dollars. It aggravated us, and probably scared Linda, but we need to remember that it came from that “good place” inside him, a place of innocence, childlikeness and no duplicity!

Before I open this up for a little sharing, let me say thank you to Linda again. Let me say thank you to Edd and Vickie who were so faithful. Jack cannot be here because of his health, but send his good wishes. Jack was so good to Wilhelmine and Paul. He was so faithful for many years, so helpful taking him to appointments during his last years. Inge and Lori were there for him in a thousand ways – being his friend, playing cards, going to the German-American Club activities, taking him food and visiting him.  Thank you, especially, for being patient with him when he began “losing it.” Not one of us wanted to do anything to hurt Paul or see Paul hurt. I know I am going to miss some things, so that’s why I thought I’d ask you each to share your favorite PAUL KING STORY before we close with a prayer.  Remember, he was a Baptist so we are not listing things so that we can prove that he earned salvation. Salvation is a free gift that cannot be earned. The good that he did was always a response to that free gift of salvation. By the way, despite what people say about us, we Catholics believe that too! Good deeds are a RESPONSE to free salvation!

(Now, let's hear from some of you here today! Some shared stories.)


(Front row) Inge Holl of Louisville, friend from their days in Germany when Paul was a US soldier in World War II. (Gray sweater) Paul's sister, Linda, from Hopkinsville. (Black sweater) Paul's neice, Jackie. (Man in gray coat and tie) Mr Daniels, son of Inge. Jack Anderson, very close friend and helper, could not be there. He resides at Nazareth Home. Neither could his good friend and neighbor, Lori, who lives in Florida. Edd and Vickie Roe of Paducah are in the picture below. 
















Friday, December 22, 2017

HEROES OF ADVENT SERIES - NUMBER FOUR - MARY THE MOTHER OF JESUS


THE BURDENS OF BEING BLESSED



 The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a virgin named Mary.        
                                                                     Luke 1:26-38



Mary, the mother of Jesus, has been so honored by the church for so long, with layers and layers of titles and honors that sometimes we forget what she was really like when she lived here on this earth.

Her real Jewish name was Miriam. Mary is the English translation of Miriam. She was named after Miriam, the sister of Moses. Mary was probably born in Nazareth, a town of about 1600 people. She spoke Aramaic with a Galilean accent. She would have known at least a few words in Latin, the language of the occupying Roman soldiers who were everywhere. They were the foreign occupiers of their country. She would have known a few words in Greek, the language of business and the educated classes. She would have known Hebrew, the language used in the readings of the synagogue, their church services.

She belonged to the peasant class who squeezed out a living from farming or small trades like carpentry. Carpenters made even less than farmers. Joseph and Jesus were carpenters. They would have been among the poorest of the poor.

Life was grinding enough as it was, but they were also tripled taxed, taxed to death to put it simply. They had to pay taxes to Rome, Herod and the Temple, their version of federal, state and local taxes.

Mary probably lived in a two-room house in a family compound shared by cousins, uncles, aunts and parents. The small home faced out onto a central courtyard shared by the other houses and the animals. It would have been very noisy. In the courtyard was a shared cistern, an outdoor oven for bread baking and a millstone for grinding.

Mary would have worked, on average, ten hours a day carrying water, gathering wood, cooking, washing dishes and doing laundry.

Mary was probably thirteen when she got married. They did this for two reasons: to protect her virginity and to have as many babies as possible. Having lots of children was something you were very proud of and was seen as a blessing from God. Not to have children was a disgrace.

Her marriage would have been nothing like our American marriages. “Falling in love,” “getting engaged” and then “getting married” would have sounded very strange to them. Mary and Joseph would have been engaged while they were children. This would have been arranged, not by them, but by their parents, often with the help of a professional match-maker. This arrangement could have been made without Mary and Joseph ever having met each other. Marriage in those days was far too serious to be left to the emotions of romantic love. A good marriage was more about the financial security of the family unit.

When Mary and Joseph were teenagers would have made the second step toward marriage called betrothal which would last for a year. Mary could have backed out at this point, but once entered into, was considered binding, broken only by divorce. They were considered man and wife without living together. It was during this betrothal period that Mary got pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph, knowing that he was not the father, decided to divorce her quietly, that is without going public. If he had gone public, Mary would have been stoned to death for adultery.

The marriage, itself, would have been the third and final step. Joseph, because of a dream he had where an angel told him the truth about Mary, decided to go ahead and marry her.

Mary was not fragile like the holy cards paint her up to be – a blond, fair skinned Cover Girl model in a blue dress! She was a tough peasant woman, capable of walking the hill country of Judea while pregnant, of giving birth in a stable, of walking four of five days on foot to Jerusalem once or twice a year. She was capable of sleeping in the open country and doing long hours of hard work. She was tough. She was nothing like most holy cards. She had dark skin, dark eyes and dark hair. She, most probably, could not read or write.

Joseph seems to have died before Jesus left home to begin his preaching. Some believe that he might have been much older than Mary. It had to be painful for Mary when Jesus left her to begin preaching. Mark says that she and some of the family actually went after him, thinking he had lost his mind.

Mary was probably about 50 when Jesus was crucified, well beyond the age when most women died back then. She was there when the Holy Spirit came down on the early church, but then disappears. Some believed that she died in Ephesus, in Greece, with John to whom Jesus had commended her to on the cross.

What is obvious from all we know about Mary is the fact that she WASN’T special. In many ways, she was just another good woman from a small Jewish town, trying to get by through hard times, living the way other women had lived for generations. What is so amazing is not Mary’s specialness, but the fact that God chose someone so ordinary to be the mother of the Savior. The only thing extraordinary about her was her extraordinary openness to whatever God wanted from her. She experienced poverty, oppression, violence and the execution of her son, yet she continued to trust God. Most of what we associate with Mary is honors heaped on her after her death.

That is her challenge to us, seeing God in the ordinary times of life, even in times of loss, disappointment and even death. Personally, I can’t always see God’s hand in my life as I go along, but I certainly can when I look back!