Saturday, November 14, 2020


I was eating lunch in Taize, France, between my two Belgian friends - Jacques on the left and Pol on the right.  Pol, Anneke (his wife-to-be who joined us in the following years) and I have remained friends all these years. I have visited them outside Rome and in Belgium. They have visited me here in Kentucky, with and without their children, a few times. Pol sent me a treasure trove of old photographs this week. Pol is now Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at the Catholic University of Leuven (Louvain) in Belgium.  Pol and Anneke have lived and worked all over the world including a stint at Purdue University in Indiana. 

Five years later, here Pol and I are walking down one of the streets of Cluny in France  (home of the famous Medieval abbey) on July 3, 1977. I believe that is my favorite pastry shop on Pol's right. Delicious! Beautiful! Sweets to die for! I think we hitch-hiked the two mile trip from Taize several times in the five years I was there.  

Anneke and Pol Coppin, sons Sten and Jan, when they visited me in Kentucky in 1987. Matti, a third son, had not been born yet.

Anneke, myself, Sten and Jan

This is third son, Matti,  on a later 1994 trip to Kentucky 

Sten and Jan are married and have children. Matti is still single. 


Thursday, November 12, 2020

REMEMBERING THE PAST - Catholic Students Mission Crusade


In grade school, I helped "adopt pagan babies," a popular program for children in Catholic schools, whereby they brought their pennies to school to help "adopt" a poor child in mission areas for baptism. Some of you will remember this program. 

I found this typical certificate online. You could even assign a baptismal name to the "pagan baby" you adopted. 

In high school seminary, I made rosaries to send to "the missions." I learned that I could really turn them out! I know I made hundreds of them as a high schooler. 

In college seminary, I was a member (and once an officer) of the the Catholic Students Mission Crusade. I was reminded of that fact in this old photo of me from 1965 when I was a third year college seminarian at Saint Meinrad Seminary. I am wearing my first cassock and I have my official CSMC ribbon and membership medal around my neck. 

As a theology level seminarian, I thought about joining the Glenmary Home Missioners order. I decided against it, but as a newly ordained priest, I was actually assigned to the "home missions" of our archdiocese for my first ten years.  

As a retired priest, I have been volunteering in the "foreign missions" of the Caribbean in the countries of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.  I have also volunteered to do priest workshops in Saint Lucia, The Bahamas and the Antilles Episcopal Conference. 


The Catholic Students Mission Crusade (CSMC), was a mission education organization, founded in 1918 by two Society of Divine Word seminarians, Clifford J. King and Robert B. Clark, who wanted to establish an organization similar to the highly successful Protestant Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions that John Mott had founded. The first meeting took place in 1918 at Techny, outside Chicago, Illinois, with over 100 clergy, seminarians, laity and a few bishops attending. The organization grew quickly under the leadership of Frank A. Thill, its national director who later became Bishop of Salinas, Kansas in 1938. Thill edited the organization's national magazine, The Shield, and traveled the country challenging students to imitate the zeal and dedication of the medieval Crusaders for their faith.

Two parallel themes permeated the organization: imagery surrounding the medieval crusaders and the promotion of missions at home and abroad. By the 1930s, the CSMC had enrolled a half-million members. In the next decade, it began compiling U.S. Catholic missionary statistics and in the 1950s it drew on the experience and knowledge of member mission societies to produce Fundamentals of Missiology and Perspectives in Religion and Culture. Other books in the 1960s drew attention of U.S. Catholics to the church and cultures in Africa and Asia.

At biennial national conventions, except during World War II, several thousand youth and adult leaders rallied for a summer conference, where they listened to talks by missionaries, walked through large-as-life mission displays, and took part in liturgical services aimed at inspiring young people to read, support missionaries in prayer and to consider a mission vocation themselves. Locally the CSMC was conducted in school units on the junior and senior high school level, as well as in colleges and seminaries. The units used the many audio-visual resources produced by the national office in Cincinnati, Ohio, and attempted to infuse a mission spirit throughout the schools. "Round Table" discussions, talks by returned missionaries, prayer, song and mission kits provided information and formation about missions at home and abroad. For half a century, the Catholic Student Mission Crusade became one of the most effective and pervasive mission education and promotion programs.

The CSMC closed its national doors in 1972. New understandings of mission which surfaced at the Second Vatican Council, the demise of crusade themes and medieval imagery, and a plethora of liturgical and catechetical developments following the Council, and social and political issues of the 1970s directed the attention of U.S. Catholic youth elsewhere."

Tuesday, November 10, 2020



Rev. J. Ronald Knott

Jesus said to his disciples: “This is my commandment” love one

another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay

down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15: 12-16

Friends, let me begin with an obvious disclaimer. I am not married, nor have I ever been. I may not know all the ins and outs of married life, but I do have fifty years of experience in keeping a similar sacramental commitment to God and his people, “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death.”  Allow me, then, to share what I know with you who have a similar commitment to God. to each other and, yes, to the whole community.  Marriage is not just a private, personal event. It affects the whole community. It has a public dimension or else you wouldn’t need a license from the state.

The first thing I know, after fifty years of experience, is this: it is much easier to make such a commitment than it is to keep a commitment. I remember an old television commercial I saw many years ago. I don’t even remember what they are advertising, but it shows a pathetic couple being married in one of those hideously tacky Las Vegas wedding chapels while two old ladies look on. The old ladies both oooh and aaah before looking at each other and saying, “They don’t have a clue!”  I will leave the ooohs and aaahs to others, but I want to share some truth with you!

Thinking back to May 16, 1970, the day I was ordained in front of packed Cathedral of witnesses, I did not have a clue about what I was getting in to really! All I had was a faith that what God had called me to, he would help me remain faithful to! 

The second thing I know, after fifty years of being a priest and witnessing marriages, is this:  ordinations and weddings are not magic where the bishop lays hands on a young man or a priest waves his hands over a young couple and they automatically live “happily ever after.”  Like fragile plants in a scorching sun and water-deprived soil, both priesthood and marriage take constant attention and focused care. Half of my ordination class are no longer priests and over half of all marriages do not last. I am convinced that failed priesthoods and failed marriages are seldom done in by external forces, they simply starve to death! They are not killed by some evil outside force. They starve to death from a lack of personal care and focused attention!    

Back in 1970, on my ordination day, I remember committing myself to being a priest, but I also remember clearly committing myself to trying my best to remain a priest by not leaving it to chance.  I made a promise to myself that I would nurture my commitment with a fierce intensity. I decided that, if I were going to be a priest, I would try my level best to be a happy and effective priest! I followed my up and down, back and forth, progress by journaling. I now have about eighteen volumes. I am still a priest by God’s grace, but I am certain that even God’s grace needed to be responded to!

The third thing I know, after fifty years of being a priest and witnessing marriages, is this: our two worst enemies are entropy and acedia – strange words that we need to become familiar with if we hope to keep such commitments long-term!  

Entropy is that natural, spontaneous and unremitting process of decline, decay and disorder unless there is an opposing force working against it.

Anyone who owns a home knows that it will fall into ruin pretty quickly without regular maintenance and constant upkeep.  One of the hardest points to get across in marriage preparation programs is the point that just because you are "in love" today and promise to "be true to you in good times and bad," does not mean your marriage will survive without constant care and maintenance. Most marriages that fall apart, fall apart because of neglect. Gardens need weeding! Friendships needs cultivating! Professionals need continuing education! Even our faith, unattended, is subject to withering on the vine! A huge percent of the people who tell me they no longer believe, will also tell you they did next to nothing to nourish that faith! Entropy is that natural, spontaneous and unremitting process of decline, decay and disorder unless there is an opposing force working against it.

Acedia is the word used by fourth century monks for our other commitment enemy.  Acedia is not a disease, it’s a temptation – a temptation to disconnect, to stop caring, to stop making an effort. It is a temptation that can grow and harden into a persistent attitude of apathy and cynicism which is deadly to any kind of personal or spiritual growth.

I find it fascinating that acedia, in its root meaning, means negligence - a negligence that leads to a state of listlessness, a lack of attention to daily tasks and an overall dissatisfaction with life, of not caring or not being concerned with one’s position or condition in the world. The sooner it is confronted, the more success one has in that confrontation.

We all know priests, married couples and parents who woke up one day and found themselves in precisely this spot – with feelings of being stuck with few options and little hope. Maybe we are even one of them! If we were to be honest with ourselves, we would have to admit that we didn’t get there overnight. It happened because of extended neglect. We didn’t take the time to nourish ourselves from the inside out. We didn’t stop to “fan into flame” the gift that God gave us - no matter whether we are a parent, partner or priest!

Friends, my advice to anyone  about to make a permanent commitment is two-fold.  Be aware of entropy - that natural tendency in the universe toward decay and decline unless there is another force working against it. Like you would a new car or a new house, do the necessary regular maintenance on this marriage to “keep it up.”   Resist the temptation of acedia – the temptation to quit giving a damn that is the result of negligence that could finally lead to ruin.    

Finally, it has been statistically proven that if you keep God in your marriage, you will have a better chance of success. That daily generous free help from God is called grace.  It’s there and it’s free, but you have to respond to it, you have to do your part! I know one thing for sure, I have survived fifty years of priesthood, not because I was lucky, but because of God’s grace and my focused attention to personal and vocational maintenance! I hope you will make every effort to do the same! Long-term happiness is available to you, but it is not about luck and it is not an accident! It requires a wholehearted openness to God’s grace, that free help that he offers you every day.

If you want to live “happily ever after,” doing your homework will certainly help!








Sunday, November 8, 2020




I am consciously Christian!

I am deliberately Catholic!

I am unapologetically ecumenical and interfaith!  


One of the proudest moments, as the longest serving Catholic chaplain at Bellarmine University, was the day they showed me this large print hanging on the wall of the new Campus Ministry Office the day it was dedicated.  


Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite  to the feast whomever you find. The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. 

Matthew 22:9-10

When I was a newly ordained priest, serving in the "home missions" of southern Kentucky, I was urged by the pastor to "start some ministry among young adults." I decided to get involved at Somerset Community College (University of Kentucky). Since I was already friends with a group of four other younger ministers from smaller denominations in that community like myself in a "support group" and there were only a handful of Catholic students at the College, I suggested that we start a campus ministry program together and call it IF, Inter-Faith. We all agreed and went to work. We were able to offer several successful programs that we would not have been able to offer separately. I even ended up teaching a credited sociology class called "Modern Social Problems."  We were able to offer five back-packing trips to the ecumenical monastery in Taize (France) for a week and then for three weeks through several other countries afterwards. At that ecumenical monastery, we met up with 1,500 youth from many countries and many faith backgrounds for a week of discussions and prayer.     

When I was pastor at the Cathedral of the Assumption from 1983 - 1997, our unofficial motto was "We'll take anyone." I added another one later on. "You can always come home to mother!" (A Cathedral is the "mother church" of a Diocese.)  We also got the nickname "the island of misfit toys." In that Christmas story, that is where broken toys went to be repaired so they, too, could be part of Christmas. 

That spirit led to a period of tremendous growth. We all want to be included. The more excluded we are the more we want it. They came from 67 zip codes. 

Part of our outreach in those days involved the founding of the internationally-known inter-faith organization, the Cathedral Heritage Foundation (now called the Center for Interfaith Relations), that is still operational. 

When I was still working at Saint Meinrad, I established a World Priest program that helped integrate  international priests into US culture. As part of that effort, I was able to lead over 150 priest convocations in 10 countries. One of the major components of those presentations was about creating better ways to welcome, integrate and appreciate the international priests that we were bring into our presbyterates. No one appreciated it more than the international priests themselves. 

In a day when so many want so many excluded, I am proud that I have a record of ministry that has been broad in its inclusion.