Thursday, September 20, 2018



First stop - Saint Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown

Trappist Father Seamus with Father Tom Clark, Fergal and Dr. Paul Kelty. 

Our tour group with Trappist Brother Luke 

Trappist Brother Luke with Thomas Merton's (Trappist Father Louis) grave in the background. 

Noon Prayer in the Church at Gethsemani Abbey

Saint Thomas Church (1816) (right). The house (left) was built in 1795 and became the residence of Bishop Flaget and the first Saint Thomas Seminary (1811). 

Standing in front of My OId Kentucky Home. 

My Old Kentucky Home Visitors' Center

Lunch at Mammay's in Bardstown

What is Mrs. O'Leary's cow doing inside Mammy's Restaurant? 

with Jan and Phyllis

Tuesday breakfast at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant with Jan (middle) and Phyllis (right). 

Tim Schoenbachler designed most of the Pastoral Centre renovation in the Diocese of Kingstown, SVG

with Jan and Phyllis


The last evening, we spent celebrating Tom and Rea Clark's 31st wedding anniversary at 

311 Clover Lane restaurant.  It was a wonderful time of sharing stories and Fergal getting to know them. 

The Pastoral Centre,
St Vincent and the Grenadines.
19th Sept 2018.

Dear Fr Ron,

I can scarcely believe that 10 days have elapsed since I arrived in Kentucky. It has turned out to a be a most unforgettable visit and I find it difficult to express in words my heartfelt gratitude for opening your home to me. You have gone out of your way to ensure that my stay here in Louisville would be memorable in all that I encountered and experienced. Of prime place was the party you hosted for me. When my daughter Mary inquired how it went, I told her that some very charming, cheerful, delightful and engaging people responded to your blog post invitation. It was so satisfying to relate to her the extraordinary Kentucky hospitality I was honored to experience throughout a lovely evening filled with laughter, good conversation, wine and exceptional finger food. The truth was that the roles were reversed - everyone made me, as host,  feel at home and most welcome at my party!  

You always seem to engage the right people and evidence of this was reflected in those who responded to your blog post invitation. With Tim, Jan, Phyllis and Bill looking after the beverages and food, we were guaranteed excellent service.  How could I ever forget Karen and Tim from SOS; Jim and Elaine; Carolyn and George; Carmyn and Jeff; Beth who is seriously considering a return visit to teach computer courses to the kids in St Vincent;  Sue and John; Lulu and of course Doreen who would love to return to Ireland and ride with the Galway Blazers one more time! Then there was Debbie and her husband Dr Paul who drove us to the Abbey of Gethsemani on Tuesday ably assisted by Fr Tom who gave a running commentary on all that was to be seen at the monastery – mirabile visu! It was wonderful to meet your neighbors Fr Gray as well as well as Billy. Kindly convey my gratitude also to Ryan and Kenny, to Maggie and David. It was a pleasure to share with Dani and Doug, with Rita and Gary and of course not forgetting Mary Means. A special word of thanks goes to Paul Bluel - I look forward to having a decent chat with him on my next visit.

From my first day here I looked forward to meeting those I had up to now only written to -  I needed to put a face on the name. It was a most enjoyable first encounter to have had breakfast with Greg (Burch) and I came away realizing that my meetings with others would be cherished. The visit to Mr Geraghty, who supplied the lettering for our new chapel on St Vincent was special. He is fortunate to have Kim Browne work for him – she made a big impression and her naturalness and sincerity were captivating. Making contact with all of the Coates family at their place of work was a uniquely pleasant experience. Being summoned, while there,  to join in the birthday festivities of one of their managers greatly added to the visit. Please remind them that the banter about holidays, alcohol, Ireland etc. etc. will be recalled and narrated when I return to Galway.   

These your friends and, I would like to think, mine also if I am not overly presumptuous, help me return to the islands with a sense of renewed commitment. In so many ways they have expressed a vote of confidence and given their support to what I am about in my daily routine.  Their sense of involvement is both engaging and infectious and has in turn expanded the appreciation of companionship in my life. For this I am most grateful.

How could I ever forget my first visit to the restored Cathedral of the Assumption! Before Mass, I easily identified with the plaudits of Pat Patterson and Dr Kelty who shared stories of the renovation vision including the nightmares encountered along the way. The restoration of this magnificent edifice is a tribute to you and your team. Luckily, I have captured on video some of the singing –  it was outstanding and a quality musical addition  to the liturgy. After Mass it was stimulating to hear of Bob Owings speak of his desire to visit St Vincent and the Grenadines with his wife. I think you will have to draw up a list of volunteers – there are so many of them from Kentucky.  I would dearly  love to welcome them all. By the way, would it be in bad taste to ask each of them to bring some bourbon? (Ha!).

Once again, kindly endorse my special words of thanks to Tim Schoenbachler. His many talents are proving to be invaluable and as you well know are a recognizable feature of so many Second Wind projects on the island. Little did I know of the surprise I was to encounter at the night of the party - experiencing his culinary expertise was truly a delight.   His follow-up invitation to dinner at his house last night proved to be a memorable occasion!

How could I ever forget the last evening with Tom and Rea Clark? Just to think I was there to help them celebrate their 31st wedding anniversary! Absolutely wonderful, engaging and generous people!  What a way to end my first Kentucky visit! 

During my brief visit I was struck by the words of gratitude that so many expressed in relation to your involvement in their lives. But in truth this does not come as a surprise to me. You are an inspiration at what you do, and that indeed covers quite an expansive field. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with you so closely and I appreciate the engagement of co-operating  with friends here in Kentucky in helping others less well off. It continues to be an incredible experience.

With sincerest gratitude,


Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Saint Frances of Rome Church
Rev. Ronald Knott
September 15, 2018

Accompanying Jesus and the Twelve were some
women who provided for them out of their means.
Luke 8:1-3

Let me be perfectly honest with you! I am a self-confessed old lady magnet. Now that I have that out of the way, I feel better.

Old ladies latch on to me like white on rice. I know I have never been “cute,” so it must be something else.  Maybe I come across as a pathetic abandoned puppy, a stranded cat, a crippled bird or something of that nature?

It is so bad that I remember telling Archbishop Kelly once, when we were house mates at the Cathedral Rectory, that one of my old lady friends had died that day. His response was immediate. He didn’t bat an eye. He shot back, “I’m not worried! You’ll have another one by 5:00!”

Well he wasn’t far off. A couple of years ago, a few days after the funeral of another old lady friend, Marea Gardner, one of the old ladies of this parish called me. (To protect the guilty, I will not mention her name because I think she’s here right now.) Barely back from cemetery, my phone rang. The voice said, “I hear there’s an opening!”

After today, I have pledged to quit being so charming to old ladies. For the last 35 years, I have been burning up the highways going to nursing homes every week! One case, in particular, comes to mind. When I was pastor of the Cathedral, I was asked to go see an old lady. I was told she was very sick, close to death and had no relatives. (If someone ever tell you that, don’t believe them! It’s a trap!) Well, being new to Louisville, I fell for it - hook, line and sinker. I naively went to see her. She was a wonderful charming old lady, so it did not take her long to sink her hooks into me and once she set the hook, I could not escape. After two or three trips, I knew it was going to be another case of “until death do us part!”

One thing you need to know is, that if you go once, they are like drug addicts. You can’t stop until one of us is dead! Well, in her case, she did not die “soon” as I was led to believe.  I made 525 trips to the nursing home over the next ten years! I thought that woman would never die!

Sometimes, old ladies don’t come onto my radar “one at a time.” Sometimes they “overlap,” in layers, two or three or four deep – as was the case with Patricia Kirchdorfer! Patricia was a friend of Marea Gardiner. I had been taking communion to Marea for a couple of years. At the beginning, Patricia was still driving herself to church.  They lived in the same neighborhood. Well, as fate would have it, Patricia had to quit driving and then it started up! “Me too! Me too! Since you’re going to be in the neighborhood, how about bringing me communion on your way to Marea’s house?” Well, it didn’t take long before the hook was set! I estimate, between her house and the Episcopal Church Home, I made 300-400 communion calls, minimally, in the last few years!  In fact, my car knows the way by itself!

Seriously, however, I am going to miss her. Like several of the others, we had many good laughs and happy moments together! Like Marea Gardner, she had so many life experiences, she was so well read and had traveled, that our visits were never boring! We could talk about a lot more than medications, walkers and hip replacements! She is going to leave a big hole in my life!

As I always try to do, I tried in this homily to come up with something tailored to her. After much thought, I decided to pick readings about some of the women heroes in the Bible and see if her life mirrored theirs in some way.

Our first reading was about the Queen of Sheba and her admiration of King Solomon’s wisdom, as well as his fine taste in furniture, art, jewelry, cuisine, clothes and his well-dressed staff. When she saw it with her own eyes, it says, “It took her breath away.” Patricia always struck me as a woman who felt she had at least a bit of royal blood in her veins – or at least “should” have had some!” She valued her lineage and fine things. Like the Queen of Sheba who came to King Solomon with gifts of spices and precious stones, Patricia not only admired fine things, she liked to share them! (Something typical of her, was the fact that she knew my fellow Irish volunteer down in the islands was going to be visiting here this week and she wanted to make sure there were flowers in his room when he arrived. In fact, she was obsessing about his visit even after her stroke! Sadly, she did not live long enough to implement her wishes, but it was the thought that counts in this case! (He is here with me today.)

Our second reading is about a Macedonian woman by the name of Lydia. Lydia was a strong business woman with deep faith and a generous heart. She was not into the local gods of the area where she lived but had begun studying the one God of the Jews. She and some of the local women used to meet at the riverside and pray. It was there she met Paul and Silas who told her about Jesus, which led her to become the first convert to Christianity in Greece. Becoming a believer, and wanting to share her new faith in Jesus, Lydia and her entire household were baptized. After her baptism, she begged the apostles to stay in her house several weeks so that they could be further instructed in the faith. There in her large house, she began the first Christian church on Greek soil.

Our gospel reading tells about some women “groupies” who followed Jesus and his disciples and “provided for them out of their means,” just like Lydia did for Paul and Silas.

This gospel reminds me of a little story I read in one of William Barclay’s biblical commentaries. I have changed it slightly to make the characters more “catholic.” It is the story of an old shoemaker who once wanted to be a priest, but it never worked out for him. At some point, he befriended a young seminarian. When his young friend was about to be ordained, the old shoemaker asked him for a favor. He asked if he could always make his shoes so that he could feel the priest standing in his shoes when he stood at the altar, at which he could never stand himself.

This story was the inspiration of a gospel hymn entitled “Someone Made the Shoes That Jesus Wore,” which makes the point that not everyone of Jesus’ followers was an apostle, but there were many who helped from the background - people like the holy women mentioned in today’s gospel.  Today, like then, many of the greatest servants of the gospel are the unseen people who work behind the scenes, but who are nonetheless essential to the mission of the church.

When I think back over my life as a priest, this truth hits me between the eyes. I could not have gone to the seminary unless there were hundreds of generous “little old ladies” who dropped dollar bills into the collection baskets of our parishes from 1959-1970. I could not have made it through the seminary without the help of many cooks, janitors, secretaries and teachers who got up early and went to bed late to make it possible for me to study and pray.

Even today, there are hundreds of anonymous helpers who made it possible for me to do ministry in the seminary, mission projects in the Caribbean and who keep places like Maryhurst, Saint Meinrad and Saint Frances of Rome going.  It is not lost on me that people like me often get the credit, because we are in very public positions, for the good works of many who work anonymously behind the scenes. In truth, we do it together!

This is what I will remember most about Patricia Kirchdorfer. She is one of those wonderful behind-the-scenes women in the Bible, down through the ages and into or own day, who do so much for their children, spouses, neighbors, friends, parishes and make the ministry of others possible “out of their means.”

She shared herself and what she had out of gratitude to God for all the blessings she had received in her life: her family, her Julliard music background in the harp, her work with Bishop Sheen in New York, her travels and especially her friends. 

I know you, her family, is grieving today, but after you have a good cry and some time has passed, I hope you will join me in being happy for her. I am happy that Patricia lived long and well. I am happy she died a believer. I am happy she only had to go through a small bit of pain and suffering. I am happy she was well-cared for and had the best medical care.

Thank you for sharing her with me. I am happy that I was allowed to be her friend, personal chaplain and part-time weekly entertainment! She would always proclaim with delight when I came into the room, “For goodness sake!” I would always kiss her on the forehead when I came in. I brought her copies of my blog printed out. At the end of the visit, I gave her communion and ended with reading the “Learning Christ Prayer” that we both were introduced to by Marea Gardner. Before I left, I would kiss her on the forehead again. She would thank me profusely, telling me how much my visits meant to her. I would wink and say, “Well, after all, I am the assistant savior of the world!” Then we would both howl with laughter as I vanished around the corner!   

In her honor, as well as Marea Gardner’s honor, let’s say the “Learning Christ” prayer together.

Now, before any of you old ladies get any bright ideas, don’t even think about it! After this funeral, I am changing my phone number!

Sunday, September 16, 2018


What good is it, my brothers and sisters,
if someone says he has faith but does not have works? 
Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear
and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them,
"Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well, "but you do not give them
 the necessities of the body, what good is it? 
So, also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
James 2:14-18

Ever since Martin Luther reached a boiling point and put his foot down 400 years ago, Catholics and Protestants have perpetuated this myth: Protestants think that Catholics believe that the you can earn your way to heaven by doing good deeds while Catholics think that Protestants believe that you can get to heaven just by believing in Jesus – you don’t have to do anything.  

Part of the problem is that the Letter of James stresses the need for good works, while Paul’s Letters stress the need for faith. The Letter of James today says this: “Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians (2:8-9) says this: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and not of yourselves, it is a gift of God. it is not from works, so no one may boast.”

So, which is it? Faith or deeds? The short answer is that they cannot be separated. If you have faith, you will do good deeds. Good deeds are responses to deep faith.

The Catholic Church, in fact, teaches us in the Catechism (161): “Believing in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation. Without faith no one has ever attained eternal life.” Even Protestants would admit that the author of the Letter of James taught that justification is by faith alone, but also that faith is never alone. It shows itself to be alive by good deeds.  A believer's good deeds are expressions of thanks to God for the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.

What caused the problem, of course, was not the teaching of the Church, but some of the practices of the Church. People like Saint Augustine and Saint Ambrose would have agreed with “salvation by faith,” as our present Catechism teaches, but the Church’s wide-spread practice of selling indulgences, as a means to salvation, in effect contradicted its own teaching. The practice basically said that if you give enough money to the church or the poor or you did enough other good deeds, you could basically guarantee your way into heaven.

Now if I haven’t completely lost you yet, let me tell you about a couple of practical situations where I have seen this theological controversy of faith versus works played out.

When I was down in southern Kentucky as first pastor of Saint Peter Church in Monticello from 1975-1980, I ran into this trite old Protestant-Catholic misunderstanding head on. There was a lot of poverty in Wayne County in those days. I immediately set out to see what our church, hopefully in partnership with the Protestant churches, could do to help alleviate some of it. I got nowhere.

I recruited two nuns who were “home health nurses.” They would go into the hills and hollars and offer simple health service. We opened a used clothing store. We had a fund to help the poor pay rent, utilities and food. Many of the churches thought we were selling some Catholic notion that if people did social work they could earn their way to heaven. After trying to involve them in some kind of ecumenical, cooperative effort, one day I was told “no” point blank that they did not believe in churches doing social service. I was told that the role of the church is simply to convert people to Jesus Christ – that salvation comes by faith, not works.

We may have been the only church in the county offering practical help to the poor. The reason I think so is that I can still remember answering the phone one day when a caller asked me, “Is this the church that helps people?” We always understood our service work as an expression of our faith, not a means to salvation.  We were perceived as a church who did not believe in “salvation by faith.”

I see this controversy played out more and more at Catholic funerals these days. The American wedding industry has about ruined the Sacrament of Marriage as a religious experience and now the Funeral industry is doing its best to highjack funerals as a religious experience. What I am talking about specifically is the spreading practice of multiple “eulogies” after communion at Catholic funeral Masses.  

"Eulogies” should never be given at a Catholic funeral because they perpetuate the myth that we Catholics believe we can earn our way to heaven by doing good deeds. A “homily” is about what God did for the deceased. A “eulogy” is about all the things the deceased did for God. The assumption is that if the one doing the “eulogy” can list enough good things that the deceased did in this life, then the conclusion should be that he or she earned her way into heaven. God, just look at all he or she did for you! Surely God will owe him or her for all those good deeds! It perpetuates the myth that salvation can be earned by doing those good deeds.

The real message of course, the teaching of the church, is this: salvation is a free gift of God for the taking! A good homily says, “See what God has done for this person by offering him or her salvation free of charge! Is it not wonderful what God has done for him or her, not is it not wonderful what he or she did for God?”

After that message is preached loud and clear, then it is OK to list the responses the deceased made in appreciation for that free gift from God! That’s what a “homily” is all about. A “eulogy” teaches bad theology, a bad theology we have been trying to overcome for the last 400 years – a theology of salvation through good deeds!

One of the nastiest letters I have ever received came after a funeral homily I gave in this very Cathedral. I had focused on all the wonderful gifts that God had showered on the deceased in his lifetime and how the deceased had responded to it in faith. The writer of that letter was not happy at all! She ripped me up one side and down the other, saying “I did not drive 200 miles to hear about God! I wanted to hear about all the good that my uncle did in his life!”

I have been to a couple of funerals recently where I literally wanted to scream! One was at a priest funeral. I won't mention the others which were worse. After a fine homily, a well-planned and carefully executed funeral Eucharist, two family members got up and talked about how much the dead priest had gambled and drank. They joked like it was an after-dinner toast at a wedding rehearsal dinner! It was disgusting!

The reason for the rising popularity of “eulogies,” I believe, is that many people have quit believing in an afterlife. As a result, funerals are now turning into sappy, staged, privatized productions called “memorial services” or “celebrations of life,” focusing on “this life,” not “eternal life.” I saw a funeral home TV ad recently that bragged that they could “design a specialized service to fit the personality of the deceased.” It is almost coming to this! Did the deceased like balloons? We can do balloons! Did the deceased like chocolate? Then we can get you a casket that looks and smells like a brownie! Funerals are becoming less and less about praying for the deceased and more and more about relieving the grieving.  Do we not hear people say more and more that “funerals are for the living?” The dead, we are subtly told, are only alive “in our memories” not in some afterlife. I wouldn’t be surprised if Peggy Lee’s famous song, “Is that all there is?,” will not soon beat out “Eagle’s Wings” or “Ave Maria” for the most requested funeral hymn!

Brothers and sisters! We believe that we are saved by grace! It’s all about what God does for us! As a response to the free gift of salvation, we need to show our appreciation by lives of loving service. However, we should never forget that our good deeds cannot “best” God! We can never “outdo” him! We don’t even need to!  A living faith responds to that free gift, yes, but that living faith does not “earn” anything!

We need, not to just teach this and believe this, our practices should never contradict what we teach and believe!