Saturday, January 26, 2019


"My parents are over there! Come meet them!"

Lunch with a Special Needs group.

Pope Francis embracing a disfigured man. 

Sharing lunch with the homeless in Rome. 

Pope Francis with little Downs Syndrome girl. 




Morning Mass in Santa Marta Chapel

Pope Francis holding a sick baby in hospital neonatal unit in Rome.

Pope Francis delivers his homily in Santa Marta

Preaching to priests and Vatican staff workers at morning Mass.

Pope Francis praying with the residents of a drug rehab center in Rome

Little boy rushes the stage at a Pope Francis audience. 

Pope Francis hearing confessions 
Pope Francis hearing Confessions in Saint Peter's Square.

Pope Francis washing the feet of the handicapped on Holy Thursday.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2019


Thomas Wooldridge

January 23, 1945 - January 15, 2019

We lost my sister last April to a brain tumor, my brother-in-law, Paul, to an infection of the aorta in December and my second brother-in-law to a sudden heart attack last week.

Rev. Ronald Knott

“We accept good things from God; should we not accept bad things?”
Book of Job

We have had so many family funerals of late, I am running out of things to say! However, it seems that God always comes through especially if I stop long enough to listen and reflect. I am not the type to go running to see if I can find a good funeral homily in some book somewhere. I like to let God speak to me and give me a few insights that people might find helpful.

It occurred to me that there are two things we, as a family, can take away from the readings that came to me as I sat down to write this homily. First, we have been a very fortunate family overall. We have accepted many good things from God over the years. Now it is our turn to accept a few challenges. Second, we are a family of over-achievers and under-achievers all mixed in together. Regardless, of our accomplishments or lack of them, whether we have been highly visibly or almost invisible, God gives each of a full day’s pay of love no matter what!

First, we have been a very fortunate family overall. We have accepted many good things from God over the years. Now it is our turn to accept a few challenges. In a way, our family has been a bit like Job’s family. Job had life by the tail. Things were going well. His family was thriving. They were free of many of the ordinary problems that many people around them had to face: chronic illnesses, grinding poverty and disastrous losses. He had almost come to expect things to always be good the way they have always been!

For Job, things could not have been better. Then it started! First, his fine herd of 500 yoke of oxen and 5000 donkeys were stolen right out from under him. In the process, those who tended them were put to death by the sword. Second, a fireball from out of the sky came down and killed his 7,000 sheep - and the shepherds looking after them. Third, bandits made off with his 3,000 camels and killed the servants caring for them. As if that was not bad enough, a tornado hit the house where all his children were gathered, the roof fell in all of them were crushed to death! It gets worse! Poor Job comes down with boils all over his body, from head to feet!

Distressed to the point of a breakdown poor Job tore his cloak, cut off his hair and sat in ashes. His wife even suggested that he curse God and die. Job responded to her with these wise words, “We accept good things from God; should we not accept bad things?” The story ends with these words, “In all this Job did not sin, nor did he charge God with wrong!”

When I was trying to think of an appropriate reading for this funeral. The story of Job came to mind. In many ways, Tom has been a Job-like character. His father died a tragic death when he was a young man. He, himself, had a tragic accident many years ago that had left him in tremendous back-pain and several surgeries that offered him little relief. His pain radiated out into his family who were at a loss as to how to help him.

In the last nine months, it seems the story of Job continues to unfold in our family. We lost Kaye to a brain tumor last April, Paul to an infection of the aorta in December and now Tom to an unexpected heart attack. As if all this isn’t bad enough, Randy Smith, Nancy’s husband is in the hospital even now.

In spite of all this, we have been a very fortunate family overall. Other families have had it much worse. We have accepted many good things from God over the years. Now it is our turn to accept a few challenges. During the trials that have come upon our family in the last nine months, I have heard the phrase “we are so thankful” many times over. Kaye was spared years of painful treatments and surgeries – and maybe extended nursing care. Paul was spared another round of excruciating pain and experimental surgeries. Tom had always said, that if he ever had a heart attack, he wanted the “big one.” He has been spared more chronic back pain that could have gotten much worse as he aged. I believe that the consensus of our family are the words of Job, “We accept good things from God; should we not accept bad things?”

Second, the gospel has another message for us as a family and for those of you here today to show your support! Some of us have lived our lives in the public eye – out there for all to see. Like the vineyard workers, some of us have lived our lives quietly, out of sight, simply doing our duty. In the gospel today, those who “worked in the heat of the day,” those who were most visible, assumed that they would be loved more by God. Those who “started at finishing time,” those who have barely been noticeable, assumed they would be loved less. This startling parable has a shocking conclusion. “Give them all a full day’s pay! I love them all without condition!”

There’s one thing I know for sure. I may have been in The Record every week for fifteen years, I may have been pastor of the Cathedral and I may have traveled all over the world leading priest retreats, but that does not mean that God loves me any more than people like Tom Wooldridge who have lived their lives pretty much in obscurity. As my family goes to God, one at a time, I am confident that God will say to us, one at a time, “Give them all a full day’s pay! I love them all without condition for I am generous.”

My friends, when it’s all said and done, it’s not what we do for God that counts, but what God does for us! Yes, it’s not what we do for God, but what God does for us!

Sunday, January 20, 2019


           "Wedding at Cana" 

This sculpture group is at the entrance of the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita, Kansas. I saw this marvelous display of sculptures when I led the Diocese of Dodge City, Kansas, priest retreat there a few years ago. 

It was at Cana in Galilee that Jesus
 began the signs that revealed his glory.
John 2:11

Jesus came to this world to teach us, by performing a series of "signs" or delivering "messages" about what heaven is going to be like!  There will be many more as we follow his life this liturgical year, but today we read about the first of those "signs" or "messages."    

Now, you would think the first "sign" or "message" that he would want to deliver, right out of the gate, would be something more practical, like healing the physically, emotionally or spiritually sick. There were certainly plenty of them to go around! You would think that his first "sign" would be something practical like feeding those who were hungry. There were certainly plenty of them to go around!  Instead of multiplying loaves of bread to feed the hungry first or curing a few hundred lepers first or even healing a bunch of mentally disturbed people first, he went to a wedding reception and delivered a truck load of wine - somewhere between 120-180 gallons, in fact! What kind of "sign" or "message" is that?

If you line up the details of this reading, surely Jesus wanted to make a statement about abundance.  His first "sign" or "message" seems to say that, in the kingdom of heaven, there will be plenty.  In a culture where people routinely lived on the edge of starvation and want, for Jesus to make this wedding reception event his first "sign" or "message" was quite powerful.  A wedding is about fertility, new life, continuation, happiness and possibility.

Every detail symbolizes plenty and abundance.  Not only were the bride and groom's family there, along with their relatives and neighbors, but also Jesus, his disciples and even his mother!  Not only were the water jars now full of wine, we are told they were full to the brim!  This wedding was not a single day affair. Jewish weddings went on for a week, so this 120 -180 gallon infusion of extra wine toward the end of the week, didn't even count what the family had purchased in the first place and had already been consumed!  Not only was this new wine added to what was already supplied, this new wine was actually much better than what was served first, unlike most weddings when they pulled out the cheap stuff after people were pretty well two-sheets to the wind and wouldn't know any better!

This multiplication of wine was the first "sign" or "message" that Jesus performed to teach us about the kingdom that God has in store for us. The rabbis at the time of Jesus had a saying, "Without wine, there is no joy." So this "sign" or "message" wasn't as much about a wedding or wine as it was a "sign" or "message" about the joy that awaits us in the kingdom of God. As Jesus said, "I have come to bring you life - life to the full - life full to the brim - a joy that is not stingily divvied out in thimbles, but "pressed down. shaken together and poured into our laps."  Saint Paul talked about it this way, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it even dawned on human beings the great things God has in store for those who love him." 

Jesus did not teach, as some assume, that this kingdom awaits us in the afterlife. Jesus taught us that we are already in his kingdom. He wants us to start tasting it now, even though it will not come to its fullness until we enter heaven.  Think about it! We are partially in heaven already! All we have to do is have the eyes to see it!  Jesus said as much before he performed this first "sign" or "message."  In fact, these were the first words out of his mouth when he began his public ministry! "Metanoiete! Change the way you see so that you see that the kingdom of God is at  hand, right there in front of you!! Indeed, it is within you!

The kingdom is already here? To that Jesus said, "Yes it is! If you have the right eyes you can see that it has already begun! It is subtle, like yeast working in a batch of dough, but it is here! The "signs" that I perform - healing the sick, feeding the hungry and releasing those who are bound up - are "signs" that the kingdom is building. The "signs" that my followers, as they spread around the world in the years to come, will perform will be "even greater" because there will be millions of my followers "healing the sick, feeding the hungry and releasing those bound up."  Then someday, in the great by-and-by, there will be no sickness, no hunger and no imprisonment of any kind!

One of the "signs" of the kingdom today is the work of (1) Catholic Relief Services, carrying on the ministry of Jesus, delivering medicine, food and aid to desperate places. It should make us all proud that one of the most respected, most efficient and most trusted relief agency is Catholic Relief Services.  (2) Another “sign” is the daily feeding of street people downstairs, something that has been going on in this place for over 150 years! (3) Still another smaller “sign” is my own little “Catholic Second Wind Guild” Caribbean charity fund and my personal volunteering down in the poor, small country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  Through the donations and volunteering of disciples like us, the kingdom of God is shown forth, and will be shown forth, until there is no need for it when the kingdom comes to perfection in the world to come!  Then on that day, there will be no earthquakes, no disease, no hunger, no thirst and no crying! On that day, when our lives will be "filled to the brim," there will be plenty for everybody! Until then, let's do what we can to help the suffering experience a little taste of heaven, right now!