Saturday, January 14, 2017



Father Ronald Knott
January 12, 2017



11:00 am - Mass Homily

“Clearing the Old Weeds: A Simple Way to Make a Great Confession”

Rev. Ronald Knott
January 12, 2017
A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity,
Jesus stretched out his hand, touched the leper, saying,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
Mark 1:40-45

President Clinton was forced by the press to “fess up” for his behavior with Monica Lewinsky. Before that, TV evangelist Jimmy Swaggert, who is known for criticizing the Catholic Church for our Sacrament of Confession openly wept and confessed his sins of adultery to the world - on television. Today, not a day goes by now that somebody is not confessing his or her sins to a twelve-step group, talk show audience, counselor or kiss-and-tell book writer. Indeed, the old saying “confession is good for the soul” seems to be true. There is a natural need for human beings to “unload” and “get things off their chests.”

The Jews have Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement. On that day in ancient times, Jews pinned their sins to a goat and turned it loose into the desert, thus the term “scapegoat.”  Moslems have Ramadan, the holy season which “scorches out sins with good deeds.”  I’ve heard that native Americans had a tradition called the “Eater of Impurities,” whereby each member of the tribe was invited to sit down with a wise man before a high holyday and bring to mind some thought or action that they felt they must hide. After encouraging them not to be afraid, he would say, “now give me that thought” and it would be shared between them and the darkness in which it was held was dispelled.   

Confession may not only be good for the soul, it may even be good for the body. What the ancients knew is now being scientifically documented by people like James Pennebaker of Southern Methodist University. Baring your soul can not only calm your heart, research suggests it can lower blood pressure. In the laboratory, white blood cells of “confessing” participants proliferated. Six weeks later, their T-lymphocytes were still showing signs of stimulation. Other research revealed that distressed people tend to have weakened immune systems and that those who keep the pain to themselves are most likely to sicken. This research concluded that the health benefits of “confession” tend to be proportional to the seriousness of the matter “confessed.”  It even concluded that we “confess” most readily in dark or dimly lit settings and if the location is unique or unusual. Did we throw out those old confessionals too soon?

We Catholics have the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a place to unload one’s guilt and celebrate God’s unconditional forgiveness for whatever we have done or failed to do. It’s a time to “own up” and “let go.” It is a moving experience for both priest and penitent when it is celebrated with the right spirit. I have been moved to tears many times. When it is done under duration or without having one’s heart in the right place it’s real power is diminished dramatically. The regular celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation may have fallen on hard times, but it may still be our best kept secret, even among Catholics.

Why confess to anyone, much less a priest? The main reason is because our sins are not just personal, they are also communal. The priest, in confession, not only puts God’s forgiveness into human words, but as a representative of the community, he puts into words the forgiveness of the whole community. That beats having to go from person to person, asking for forgiveness. As St. Paul tells us, “Whenever one member suffers, the whole body suffers.”  We are not a collection of loners, we are a community called humankind. We are responsible to each other and for each other. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation we not only hears the forgiving words of Jesus, but also the forgiving words of our brothers and sisters.

Why confess to anyone, much less a priest?  When Jesus appeared to his disciples in the locked room after he had risen from the dead, he told them “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven. Whose sins you retain, they are retained.” The celebration of the forgiveness of sins has been celebrated by the church, ever since, in three major ways: in the sacrament of baptism sins are forgiven, in the sacrament of the anointing of the sick sins are forgiven and in the sacrament of reconciliation or confession, sins are forgiven. One of the most humbling roles of a priest is to lead the church in the celebration of these healing sacraments.

Even though the Sacrament of Confession has fallen on bad times, it is not because we have quit sinning. It is more due to the fact that we have lost our sense of sin. We ran off the road with a too strong message of guilt when I was a kid. Now we have run off the other side of the road with a message that there is nothing to be guilty about. St. John tells us that “if we say we never sin, we make Jesus a liar and his word finds no place in us.” We don’t come right out and deny that we have sinned, we just rename our sins so that they don’t sound as bad, and if they don’t sound as bad, we can more easily live with them.  People today don’t actually “steal” from work, they just “take a few things.” People today don’t “kill unborn babies,” they “terminate pregnancies.” People today don’t “commit adultery,” they merely “have an affair.” People don’t “cheat,” they merely “stretch the truth.” When the Watergate scandal broke in the Nixon administration, they did not “break the law,” it was called “misguided zeal.” Our State Department sent out a memo several years back saying that “assassinations,” in Central America should from then on be called “the unlawful deprivation of life.”  Euthanasia is “mercy killing” or “death with dignity.” Notice the use of the words “mercy” and “dignity.” Changing the names of sins by using euphemisms is a lot more popular than changing sinful behaviors.  A euphemism is the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague term for a harsh, blunt, or offensive one. And then if it is not really that bad, then what is there to confess?   

I can think of nothing better to recommend to you for a “prayer day” than seriously preparing for an honest celebration of this sacrament of reconciliation. Take some time to prepare. Pray over it. Dump all the guilt and grudges in your life. Bag it all up and dump it at the feet of Jesus. Pin it on the “Scapegoat,” Jesus Himself. He will gladly take it from you. Like the Indian medicine man I talked about before, he invites you to “give it to a priest” and “let him assure you of God’s forgiveness” as you “let it go.” You will feel great.

One of the best confessions I have ever heard was from an elderly man many, many years ago. He was about to die but managed to talk his son into bringing him to church for his last confession. He was convinced he would go to hell if he didn’t because he was carrying a secret sin from many years  that he was unable to share with a priest. He was convinced she would go to hell if he didn’t confess it and all the “bad communions” he had made ever since.  He struggled to get his walker into the confessional. He also struggled to get up enough courage to say the words. I helped him out. I told him he did not have to say the words. I would guess until I got to it and all he had to do was say “yes” when I got to it. I guessed it in about three of four guesses. I didn’t talk about it or discuss it. I just gave him absolution. He said to me on his way out, “Father, I have never had anyone talk that nice to me!”

He left and literally died in about a week. His daughter called to tell me, saying, “I don’t know what my father told you and I don’t know what you told him, but he came out of that confession grinning from ear-to-ear, saying “OK! I am ready to die!”

If there is anyone of you who is carrying some deep dark secret sin that you have been carrying, unable to confess, this is your lucky day. Come to me and simply say, “I have some old sins that I would like forgiveness for, but I can’t talk about them.” I will pause for a few seconds, pray quietly as you call it to mind. I will then give you absolution without discussion. I believe it is the right thing to do under these circumstances.

I am available for confessions from, from 1:00 till 2:00.  We will then finish with a conference at 2:30 in the chapel.     

12:00 pm - Lunch

1:00-2:00 pm – Opportunity for Individual Confessions



2:30 pm - Prayer Day Conference

“Planting a New Garden: Building A Renewed Spiritual Life in Your Senior Years”

Rev. Ronald Knott
January 12, 2017

“No longer do I believe because of someone else’s word.
  I have heard for myself and now I believe.”
John 4:4-42

After seventeen years of service, I retired from Bellarmine University last June. What I tried to do there is to encourage young adults to choose God, not because their parents have told them to, not because other people have said they should, but because they have gotten to know God personally and want to know more about God.  I tried to encourage them to choose, on their own, to be a serious disciple of Jesus.  I couldn’t give them the gift of faith, only God can do that, but I thought I might be of help, simply by sharing what I know about the scriptures and from walking the spiritual path myself for the last 73 years. I challenged them to say, like the people of Samaria said to the woman at the well, “No longer do I believe because of someone else’s word.  I have heard for myself and now I believe.”

In this wonderful story, after one of his many hot walking trip around Galilee, Jesus runs into a woman, while looking for a drink of water at the communal cistern. Even though it was illegal for a man to speak to a woman in public, even his wife and daughters, Jesus breaks the rules and engages this woman in a conversation, a conversation that leads to her conversion.

As the story unfolds, the whole town comes to believe in Jesus, at first because of her story, but later because of their own experience - after engaging Jesus in a conversation themselves. “No longer do we believe because of your word. We have heard for ourselves and have come to believe on our own.”

Let me confess something to you. Most of my priestly life I have felt guilty about my spiritual life. I always felt I was trying to fit into a spiritual life designed for others, but one that didn’t fit me. It was like wearing the wrong size shoes. As a priest, it got worse. It was always a battle between time for my prayer life and time for my ministry.

As a seminarian formed by Sulpician priests and Benedictine priests for twelve years, then a diocesan priest for almost thirty-seven years, and finally back in a Benedictine-run seminary as a diocesan-priest staff member for ten years, I had the advantage of seeing “diocesan priest spirituality” from both sides: how it’s taught in the seminary and how it’s lived in the real world of a diocesan priest. 

Additionally, as a vocation director for seven years, I can say that the spiritual formation of seminarians today is excellent, but because it is derivative of charisms not necessarily our own, I can say from experience that it does not often translate well after ordination. (1) There is great emphasis, for example, on more and more communal prayer and group activities, when overnight most of us will be praying alone and living alone for the rest of their lives. 68% of all American priests now live alone and number is growing. (2) They are taught personal spirituality, but not necessarily how to be spiritual leaders and teachers of spirituality. As such, with ordination they become “designated” leaders, but not necessarily “real” leaders.    

Most writers on the subject of the spirituality of diocesan priests agree on two things: (1) the diocesan priest’s spirituality is eclectic, an amalgam of quasi-monastic Jesuit, Dominican, and Franciscan spiritualities often filtered through Sulpician and Irish approaches to the spiritual life (2) the diocesan priest continues to search for a spirituality properly his own.

Even today, especially when I worked with seminarians, as well as ordained priests, I hear that many struggle with a spirituality that works for them. It was common to hear seasoned pastors tell me, “By the time I finish all my pastoral duties, I don’t have time for a prayer life.” It was common to hear newly ordained priests tell me, “By the time I finish my Holy Hour, my Chaplet of Divine Mercy, my Rosary, my Stations of the Cross and my Breviary, I don’t have time for ministry.” New priests today tend to run off one side of the road while older priests run of the other.

A few years ago, I had a big “breakthrough” in my spiritual life.  My “spiritual life” became “my” spiritual life. It released me from guilt.  It started with these words from Pope John Paul II. “There is an intimate bond, a deep unity, between the priest’s spiritual life and the exercise of his three-fold ministry of word, sacrament and spiritual leadership.” Pastores Dabo Vobis III,26.  I finally learned that, for me,  preparing to preach is a spiritual practice for me, preparing to celebrate the Sacraments with people is a spiritual practice for me and leading people spiritually is a spiritual practice for me. I also learned the same thing from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1534) that says “If priesthood contributes to personal holiness it is through service of others that it does so.”

No longer do I believe because of someone else’s word.
  I have heard for myself and now I believe.”

What about you? I suspect some of you have been in the same predicament as me – trying to force yourself to fit into someone else’s spirituality and feeling guilty all the time that it doesn’t feel comfortable to you.  Well, let’s talk about that for a bit and see what you can do about it. If I didn’t believe you can teach old dogs new tricks, I would have agreed to do this prayer day to begin with!

I believe that developing one’s prayer life is a lot like trying on shoes. To make it fit comfortably, you don’t file your foot down to fit the shoe, you stretch and shape the shoe to fit your foot!

One of the good things about the Catholic Church is that it has a huge shoe store with all sizes, shapes and designs. We have many pious practices and prayer styles  - anything from meditation, Lectio Divina, spiritual journaling, novenas, the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, candle lighting, memorized prayers, printed prayer cards, Anointing of the Sick, the Liturgy of the Hours,  pilgrimages, Mass, Holy Hours, Reconciliation, chaplets, hymn singing and the veneration of relics to name a few. Some of on that list appeal to me more than others. Some do not appeal to me at all – and I don’t feel guilty about it at all! I don’t need to feel guilty that every shoe in the store doesn’t fit me!  I like slippers more than boots. I can wear sandals sometimes, but I have a priest friend in California who won’t wear anything but sandals. I don’t see the point of high heels, even though I know a woman who has nearly 100 pairs of them. Almost every shoe I own is black, but I know people who wear nothing but brown shoes. Some of you can wear shoes off the rack and some of you need orthopedic shoes.  Like shoes, one-size does not fit all when it comes to a personal spiritual life.

Sometimes, we need to re-evaluate our spiritual lives. What worked when I was on the seminary staff does not work for me as a retired priest. What worked for you as a married woman may not work as well for you as a window. What worked when you could hear and see well may not work when hearing aids don’t work for you or you have macular degeneration.  You may have a friend who loves the rosary, but you can’t get in to it, while you love journaling and your friend has no interest in writing their own prayers.
We have the word “catholic” in our name for a reason. “Catholic” means “universal.” Priests, if they are to be pastor all this diversity, must realize that different approaches and strategies will be required for their various parishioners. As St. Gregory Nazianzus said, and St. Gregory the Great repeated, "One and the same exhortation does not suit all" and "according to the quality of the hearers ought the discourse of teachers to be fashioned."  Again, one size does not fit all. 

Sisters and brothers, maybe this can be a good opportunity to re-evaluate your spiritual lives. What worked in the past may not be working well these days. God knows that you have had to adapt in so many ways when you left your home to come here, just as I have had to do when I “retired.” If your spiritual life is working, stick with it! If it isn’t, it might be time to re-asses and even time to try something new.

(1)   If you think you would like to start journaling and maybe even writing your own prayers and thoughts, let me know and I can fix you up with a journal and suggestions about journaling.  What you write might even inspire your family long after you are gone.
(2)   If you would like to read prayers, let me know and I can fix you up with a prayer book with lots of traditional Catholic prayers.
(3)   If you would like to start saying the rosary again and you don’t have one or forgot how, I am sure we can help you secure a rosary and a little book with directions.
(4)   If you would like to do some spiritual reading of some little short reflections, I have 15 volumes. I can leave them somewhere and you could take turns borrowing them.
(5)   There are little books laying around the chapel with daily Scripture readings for your use. You can read and pray over them ahead of daily or weekend Masses as a way of preparing yourself for Mass.
(6)    If you want to try meditation, I have a one-sheet guide to help introduce you to it.

Whatever you do, find a way to pray that fits you. Don’t feel guilty if it doesn’t. I have been trying to get myself ready for the home stretch these day by re-assessing many things in my life, including how I pray. At our ages, we ought to be able to say what the woman of the well said in our reading this afternoon.

No longer do I believe because of someone else’s word.
  I have heard for myself and now I believe.”

Friday, January 13, 2017


St Theresa of Avila
1515 - 1582

"May today there be peace within. 
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. 
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. 
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. 
May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of you."

Tuesday, January 10, 2017




This man has a dream. He needs a champion to help him translate his dream into a reality.

His diocese was given some commercial property overlooking the the ocean. He wants to transform it into THE PADRE PIO RETREAT HOUSE to serve the needs of his diocese and the needs of retreat groups from the United States.

The Diocese of Bridgetown (Barbados) has many needs and simply cannot afford to take this on themselves. He is a partner with my new organization called Catholic Second Wind Guild in hopes the Guild will help find such a champion, help recruit retired retreat masters and help attract people interested is a stunning prayerful environment in the island nation of Barbados. 
The property basically consists of twelve apartments each having two bed rooms, a kitchenette, living room and private deck" housing units separated by a parking lot. Bishop Gordon hopes to buy the lot between his property and the ocean, build a central chapel/multipurpose building that would connect the two housing units. The compound has a swimming pool. Since the island is relatively small, it is less than 30 minutes to nice restaurants and excellent golf courses. There is a handy road down to a secluded beach. 
A champion, willing to help the bishop realize his dream, could work out a deal with the diocese to have exclusive access to one of the two bedroom, two bath, kitchen, living room and deck units to decorate and use whenever they wish to go down for quiet, access to some of the most beautiful golf courses in the world, amazing restaurants and gorgeous beaches. 
American Airlines has two direct flights daily from Miami to Barbados.

This partnership would be a third project of my Catholic Second Wind Guild (Barbados Chapter). 
Our first project was to help the Bishop buy TV recording equipment to do evangelization throughout the Caribbean. Since then, he finished a new TV studio on the Cathedral property. 
A second project, was to conduct free-of-charge, the annual priest retreat last fall.

“Translating a dream into reality takes great courage. Doubt is a constant enemy. When doubt reigns, there is a strong temptation to let go of part of the dream as a way of resolving inevitable tensions. Success depends on the ability to remain enthusiastic, focused and purposeful to the end.”

– Father Ronald Knott
Rev. Ronald Knott

If this is not for you, you can help by passing this blog post on to others.

I have no idea where this champion will come from, but I do believe there is one out there somewhere. You just be the medium through which this connection will be made possible.

Sunday, January 8, 2017



Behold, magi from the east arrived.
Matthew 2

…and bringing up the rear, we have the “magi!”  Just when you thought it was all over, and the tree has been taken down, we are presented these strange out-of-town stragglers! The angels have all returned to heaven. The shepherds have all returned to the fields. The oxen and the donkey have all gone back to work. Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus have left their emergency stable/nursery in Bethlehem and traveled back to their home in Nazareth. And just as the party is about over, this mysterious band of foreign visitors show up asking for a peak at the new baby, completing Matthew’s picture of Jesus’ birth in which the poor and the rich, the dumb and the smart, the Jew and the Gentile are all part of welcoming the savior of the world.

I like these guys, these driven spiritual seekers from the east, these men on a mission! And, yes, they’re from present-day Iraq of all places! They are part of a tribe of priest-teachers to the ancient kings of Persia. They were men with an eye out for God. Their job was to watch the heavens for any unusual activity. Unusual activity among the stars was a sign to them that God was up to something. An unusually bright star, combined with a feverish search for God, meant they had to check it out. The star they followed even had a name. It was called “the birth of a prince.” Astronomers today believe there actually was a dramatic star-event about this time in history.  They left everything that was comfortable and familiar to them and set out for new lands, for new insight and for new understanding.  Their search led them to Jesus.

These brave souls stand in contrast to that woman in eastern Kentucky that I saw interviewed on KET a few years back. She had never been more than two miles from the mountain cabin she was born in. When asked why, she answered the reporter, “I just don’t believe in goin’ places!” These brave souls, these strange magi, did believe in going places, in having new insights, in expanding their understanding. They are my kind of people.

My friends, these strange spiritual seekers invite us today to go, not on some exotic vacation, but on our own serious spiritual quest. Personal and spiritual suicide is the result of saying “no” to opportunities to grow and to change and to expand our spiritual horizons.

The opportunities to grow, to change and to expand our spiritual horizons come to us in two ways: by accident and by choice. How they come is not as important and how we respond to those opportunities.

Sometimes things happen to us. We have no choice, except in how we respond to them. Maybe we have lost a job. Maybe we have just been through an unwanted divorce. Maybe we have been diagnosed with cancer. I have found, and observed in others, that when we deliberately reach out and embrace the unwanted situation and see it as an opportunity to develop on the inside, to go on a spiritual quest, it can transform a disaster into an opportunity.  This cannot be done easily or often. It takes great spiritual fortitude and courage. I think I have been able to do it only four or five times, but when I could look at a supposed disaster from another angle, I always came out of that situation in an even better place. The result of saying “no” to these opportunities is to live in the past in a constant state of desperation, thinking that if you just don’t like it enough, it will go away. In the end, people like this just “don’t believe in going places.” Unconsciously, they choose to stay stuck in “what might have been.”

Sometimes a tragedies can trigger spiritual adventures. We can wait and embrace them as they come to us or we can deliberately set up situations where we are forced to grow.  I call this “inducing labor.”  Maybe we decide to leave an abusive relationship, resign a job that is killing our spirits, go back to school, enter a treatment program or decide against an abortion. It’s scary. You have to leave the security of where you have been and enter a time of great turmoil and chaos.  That’s why so many people resist change or turn away from it in a panic: the path to a new life is scary and painful. That’s why some people sign themselves out of treatment programs, why some young people never leave home, why some abused women return to their abusers: the fear of the known is not as scary as the fear of the unknown.  As much as they say they want things to be different, as much as they whine and revile, in the end, they give into their cowardice, they choose the status quo. In the end, they “don’t really believe in going places.”      

My friends, these magi, these ancient spiritual seekers have a lot to teach us about the spiritual life.  In a world of people obsessed with working on their outsides, these men teach us about passionately working on our insides: pursuing the truth, stretching ourselves and our potential, being people in charge of their own passions, hungering and thirsting for holiness. They also teach us that spiritual growth is always a risk, always dangerous, always requiring great personal courage, but always worth it.

This year, the magi have just as much significance for me as ever, even in my second year of retirement. I am signed up to continue my priest retreats in Canada, the United States and the island country of St. Lucia. I have parish mission scheduled here, Marion County and Naples, Florida. I am in my 15th year of writing my column in the Record. I am now a regular fill-in here on Sundays and Mondays. I have many things to accomplish in the island missions. I am doing short videos for Caribbean Catholic TV in Barbados and want to do more. I plan to finish the renovation the Pastoral Center in St. Vincent and the Grenadines so we can start receiving retired professional volunteers to go down with me to do ministry projects in my new organization for retired priests, bishops and professional lay people called CATHOLIC SECOND WIND GUILD. My headquarters is part of that renovation. I have a chapter in the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and another one in the country of Barbados. In time, I hope to open another one in the missions of Alaska.

Maybe this is your year as well, the year to begin that spiritual journey you have been thinking about for years. If so, let me share one of my favorite quotes with you, one that has guided my life for many, many years. It is by a Scottish mountain climber by the name of W. H. Murray, "Until one os committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way."

Henry Ford, another hero of mine, put it more simply. “Those who think they can and those who think they can’t are both right!”  

If you are not one now, be a Magi yourself in 2017!