Thursday, November 11, 2021

GRABBING THE BRASS RING

ONE VERY IMPORTANT LIFE LESSON


Brass ring devices were developed during the heyday of the carousel in the U.S.—about 1880 to 1921. At one time, the riders on the outside row of horses were often given a little challenge, perhaps as a way to draw interest or build excitement, more often as an enticement to sit on the outside row of horses which frequently did not move up and down and were therefore less enticing by themselves. Most rings were iron, but one or two per ride were made of brass; if a rider managed to grab a brass ring, it could be redeemed for a free ride. References to a literal brass ring go back into the 1890s.

As the carousel began to turn, rings were fed to one end of a wooden arm that was suspended above the riders. Riders hoped that the timing of the carousel rotation (and the rise-and-fall motion of their seat, when movable seats were included in the outer circle of the carousel) would place them within reach of the dispenser when a ring (and preferably a brass ring) was available.

"Grabbing the brass ring" or getting a "shot at the brass ring" also means striving for the highest prize, or living life to the fullest.


 
"GRABBING THE BRASS RING" 
ONE AT A TIME

A Review Of My Own Evolution

I have spent most of my life standing up to that little coward inside me that has tried it's best to run my life! That little coward had several significant people egging him on when I was very young, but I finally decided to stand up to him and tell him to shut up and stand back! Three years ago, I detailed the story of my battle with him in a little book called BETWEEN COURAGE AND COWARDICE: Choosing to Do Hard Things for Your Own Good. I guess it's part of getting older to take time to reflect back on your own life and either regret it or be amazed by it. I have done that and I have even summed my life up in four simple words - Simply Amazed, Forever Grateful.

My life may not be amazing to anyone but me, but I don't care! I would say, without giving myself full credit, that it has turned out to be much more amazing than I could have imagined growing up in Rhodelia, a small Kentucky town of twenty-seven people, where I was told regularly that I "wouldn't amount to a hill of beans." I looked that expression up the other day. Here is what it says. "Beans, being fairly easy to grow, are commonly used in everyday expressions to indicate something of little value. Consequently, someone who "isn't worth a hill of beans" is seen as being worth very little."

With the help of God's amazing grace, I refused to turn those words into a "self-fulfilling prophecy" so I fought back long before I even knew what a "self-fulfilling prophecy" meant. Thinking back, they actually did me a favor. They super-motivated me to prove them wrong. I decided to be intentional about my own life, rather than its victim. I stood up to the naysayers sounding off around me and to the negative voice blaring inside my own head. I would not want to dictate to others how they ought to live their lives, but if they asked, my only recommendation to them would be this: never say "no" out of fear or low self image to unexpected opportunities to grow and to change. I know so many people who have committed personal and spiritual "suicide," one cowardly "no" at a time, and now live lives filled with the regret that has resulted from missed opportunities.

My courage has fallen into two categories: the courage to seize an opportunity and the courage to leave an opportunity when its time is up - especially in order to make room for another opportunity. I give God the credit for presenting these opportunities. I call these opportunities for change and growth "moments of grace" or "unmerited divine assistance" offered by God. As such, they have two parts: (a) they are spontaneous invitations or opportunities offered to us by God that mysteriously show up when they show up and (b) they require our ability to seize the moment by stepping up to the plate in doing our part to see where a response to those invitations will take us.   Yes, grace "takes two to tango:" God's offer and our acceptance.  

 ANYBODY CAN DO IT

Summon the Courage to Stand Up To Your Own Cowardice
Don't Let Life Just Happen To You
 Be Deliberately Intentional About How You Live

After spending quite a bit of time measuring my own courage and cowardice in face of opportunities to grow and change, I want to recommend this "life review" process to anyone who is reading this blog post. If you see that you have a life-long habit of seizing opportunities, pat yourself on the back and "keep on keepin' on!" If you see that you have a life-long habit of giving into fear and laziness in response to the scary opportunities coming your way, it not too late to change that habit and take a path that is much more life-giving. The reason I decided to share my "life review" with you is not to get you to follow my path or to admire me, but to hopefully inspire you to follow your own path and be proud of yourself! Your own "life review" will give you the insight you need to make corrections, if needed, before regret becomes a common thread running through your life. 

One of my first remembered deliberate responses to a spontaneous  invitation to change and grow came when I was about ten years old. It was an opportunity to go to Camp Currie on Kentucky Lake in western Kentucky one summer for a week. It was a camp operated by the Kentucky State Conservation Department where I was exposed to things like learning to swim, archery, boating, shooting, first aid, wildlife identification, plant identification and conservation. I decided, even at that age, to stand up to my fear and seize that opportunity. That decision started a process of learning to overcome my fear and to say "yes" to other growth opportunities.   
                     
                                                                           
"Pray, Take A Deep Breath And Then Go For It"


THE OPPORTUNITIES I HAVE SAID "YES" TO AND THE RESULTS

NONE OF THOSE "YESES" WERE THAT EASY
 

Growing up, I did some farm work, worked part-time in a grocery store and mainly worked in my father's building material business. 

I had always thought about being a priest, even as a child, but it wasn't till I was 13 and in the 7th grade that I heard about a seminary in Louisville that would take students right out of the 8th grade. I seized the opportunity and managed to convince the adults in my life to leave my country home at age 14, against their advice, to begin a 12 year program in the city to become a priest. (I think they allowed me to do it because they were convinced that I didn't have a chance in hell to succeed and would soon come back home. They were wrong. I didn't come home. I did succeed!)

I attended three seminaries: graduating from two Catholic seminaries with a High School diploma, a Bachelor of Arts degree, a Masters of Divinity degree and from a Presbyterian seminary with a Doctor of Ministry degree. I was the first in my family to graduate from college. 

As a seminarian, I broke a long-standing seminary tradition by leaving home and moving to Louisville and renting my own apartment during summer and holiday breaks. I don't think I even asked for permission. After ordination, it was very rare at the time for a priest to own his own house, much less live in it, but I have owned, renovated and flipped six houses to pay for the condo I now own and live in.  

As a seminarian, after first choosing to no longer go home during summer and holiday breaks, I got a job loading trucks at Paramount Foods, a pickle and catsup factory the first summer.  Next, I worked at St. Joseph Infirmary as an information desk clerk, medical library clerk, emergency room orderly, chaplain assistant and grounds keeper during another summer.  

After that, I painted houses outside Chicago during another summer. During my last summer before my ordination as a Deacon, I worked at Crater Lake National Park as a limousine driver, night desk clerk, bar tender, beauty pageant master of ceremonies and a campground preacher for the United Church of Christ. I drove out there in a used Continental convertible that I agreed to deliver from Chicago to Seattle. I drove home from Oregon, on a dare, in an old 1951 Buick that someone gave me at the end of that summer. I made it home, barely, but that old car never started again and had to be junked.  

After ordination to the priesthood, I taught Sociology at Somerset Community College and founded IF (Inter-Faith: an inter-denominational Campus Ministry Program). I gave the Baccalaureate Address at a Public High School with no Catholics three years in a row. I belonged to a small weekly support group of ministers for 10 years: a Baptist, a Presbyterian, a Disciple of Christ, an Episcopalian and a Lutheran. I took 5 groups of college students on month-long back-packing trips through France, Spain, Switzerland, Italy,  Austria, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and England. We spent a week of each trip at an ecumenical monastery in Taize, France, dialoguing with 1500 students from 50 countries around the world. After fifty years, I am am still in contact with a few of them. 

That's me with the beard and stripped shirt talking to students from various countries in Taize, France.

I have hosted visitors in my home here in the US from Ireland, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Togo, Tanzania, Italy Mexico, Korea, the Philippines, Kenya, Poland, El Salvador, Trinidad, Barbados and Nigeria to name just a few.  

I became the first Catholic priest ever to live in two Kentucky counties while pastoring two small Catholic parishes as the youngest pastor in the diocese at the time. I served as a volunteer Chaplain at a state Boy's Camp for juvenal delinquent boys. I had my own Sunday morning radio program called "Morning Has Broken." I started a summer volunteer program for seminarians and high school youth from northern Illinois and Louisville to work with the poor of Wayne and McCreary Counties. I also founded Clothes 'n Stuff, a large used clothing store. I was a member of the Somerset Jaycees and directed the hosting of exchange students from Italy and Austria in their  International Students Program

In Calvary, Kentucky, my third priest assignment, I led the renovation of an old convent into a retreat house and parish hall, the renovation of the church, the renovation of the rectory, the cleaning up of two cemeteries and the clearing out of a park area across the road from the church. 

At the Cathedral of the Assumption (1983-1997) I led the revitalization of that parish from @ 110 members to @ 2100 members. With the help of an interfaith organization we created, the Cathedral Heritage Foundation, I helped lead a $22,000,000.00 restoration project. At the end of that process, as much as I wanted to hang on I chose to resign and make room in my life for another adventure. 

During my 7 year tenure as the diocesan Vocation Director, I was given the opportunity to visit seminaries and seminarians in Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Baltimore and Louvain, Belgium, in Europe. I was able to recruit our first Spanish speaking seminarian who is now a priest.   

During my 17 years as a weekend Campus Minister at Bellarmine University, besides Sunday night Masses, I celebrated over 20 Baccalaureate Masses with homilies and gave Invocations and Benedictions at those graduations.  I introduced an annual standing-room-only Blue Christmas Mass for the Grieving, wrote two books about my experiences as a campus minister there and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Bellarmine University at my retirement.      

I accepted the opportunity to address all the monks at St. Meinrad Archabbey in two sessions about the need to re-invent seminary training to include serious ongoing formation. Those talks led a $1,750,000.00 grant from the Lilly Foundation to found the nationally recognized Institute for Priests and Presbyterates

During my years as a staff member at Saint Meinrad Seminary, and continuing a few years after, I conducted over 160 Priest Convocations, Retreats, Assemblies and Study Days in 9 countries: England, Ireland, Wales, Canada, the United States, The Bahamas, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad. 

Besides teaching classes in preaching at Saint Meinrad Seminary and publishing several collections of my own homilies, I was invited to present a paper (later published) at the fifth annual Conference on Catholic Preaching at Notre Dame University, Indiana, in The John S. Marten Program in Homiletics and Liturgics.

I accepted the opportunity to lead 2 Monastic Retreats: St. Meinrad Archabbey (Indiana) and St. Benedict Abbey (Kansas) and two College Seminary Retreats in Texas and Indiana. 

Besides teaching Homiletics, I taught Pastoral Practice, Introduction to Presbyterates and Transition Out of the Seminary courses. I was a seminary Spiritual Director. I was responsible for  building Jack's Coffee Shop in the Alumni Commons; the Vianney Center with its "teaching kitchen" and the St. Simeon Residences in Bede Hall for senior priest programs.  I was a partner in the renovation of the Saint Meinrad Archabbey's Marian Shrine at Monte Cassino.  

Over the years, I was given the following awards: the National Conference of Christian and Jews Community Service Award, the National Federation of Priest Councils' Touchstone Award, the Saint Meinrad Distinguished Alumni Award,  the Louisville Forum Fleur de Lis Award, the Louisville Defender Community and Spiritual Enrichment Award and Louisville Central Area "COMMUNITY AWARD For Significant Contribution to the Revitalization of Downtown."

I was able to conduct over 75 Parish Missions in Kentucky, Indiana and Florida 

Leading up to my retirement, I founded the R J MISSION PROJECTS, the CATHOLIC SECOND WIND GUILD (a mission outreach to Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines Chapters), made 12 volunteer trips to the Caribbean Missions (four countries) over 5 years and raised over a million US dollars and helped send several tons of medical and school supplies to the Caribbean missions. 

I was an invited speaker at US Conference of Catholic Bishops meetings in Florida and Chicago and at a Antilles Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in Port of Spain (Trinidad).       

I have published a total of 33 books (2 in Spanish, 1 in Vietnamese and 1 Swahili) and several articles in magazines and journals like AMERICA, ORIGINS, CHURCH, SEMINARY JOURNAL, THE PRIEST, DEACON DIGEST and PASTORAL REVIEW (London, UK) 

I was a weekly columnist for The Record newspaper for 15 years (An Encouraging Word). I served on the Louisville Priests Senate (4 terms) and the Archdiocesan Board of Consultors (1 term). I served two terms as a trustee: J. Graham Brown Foundation, Kentucky's largest charitable trust. I have been a blogger for 6 years

I accepted the opportunities to take cruises to Alaska, to the Caribbean and to the Greek islands and Turkey. 

These days, I am serving as the founder of the St. Theresa Heritage Partners and overseeing the design and fundraising for the St. Theresa Family Life Center at the parish where I grew up. I am serving as a part-time chaplain for the  Little Sisters of the Poor in Louisville and filling in part-time at the Cathedral of the Assumption, my old parish. 

I haven't said "yes" to every opportunity. I turned down leading priest retreats in Singapore, Tonga, Nigeria, India and Hawaii, as well as a tour of the Holy Land, because of conflicting responsibilities and a couple of minor health issues.  

Together, that's not bad for a boy from Rhodelia, who was too bashful to read in front of his classmates in the seminary - if I have to say so myself. Believe me, if I can do it, anybody can! It's not about luck or magic or anything special like that. All it takes is over-riding your fear and getting up the guts to say "yes" to God-sent opportunities as they present themselves. The more times you say "yes," the more opportunities present themselves. The more you say "yes," the easier it becomes to say "yes." 

I challenge you to take the time to write your own "life review." It is an excellent spiritual practice. It's sort of "an examination of conscience" on steroids! I think you will be surprised at all that you have accomplished so far! I believe it will make you feel good about yourself. Even if you don't do it now, God will do it for you someday so you might as well get started! 

The best news of all might be this:  as long as we are alive, we all still have time to "grab the brass ring" when it comes around!  God is always sending us "opportunities." It's up to us to stay alert, to summon our courage and to seize the moment! 






Tuesday, November 9, 2021

St. Theresa Heritage Partners Newsletter #3


ATTENTION 
Saint Theresa Parish - Cross Roads School Alumni 
and 
Saint Theresa Friends 

 FOR YOUR THANKSGIVING DAY FAMILY DISCUSSION



ISSUE #3  •  OCTOBER 2021


Phase 1: Building Exterior Completed

Help Needed to Complete Phase 2: the Interior



PRELIMINARY DESIGNS OF THE INTERIOR


ENTRY
CAFE/KITCHEN/LECTURE HALL
STAFF OFFICE
HALL GALLERY
SMALL GROUP MEETING ROOM
MEETING/EDUCATION ROOM

______________________________________________

GIVING OPPORTUNITIES

Saint Theresa Family Life Center 

The following project areas might be “adopted” by individuals, one family or several related families pooling their gifts together. These figures do not reflect actual costs. They are simply reflections of parts of the overall costs covering expenses for electrical, plumbing, lighting, finishes (flooring and painting) and furnishings.

Kitchen and Cafe/Lecture Hall - $20,000.00 -ADOPTED 
Hallway Photo Gallery - $10,000.00 - ADOPTED 
New flagpole - $1,000 - ADOPTED
7th and 8th Grade Classroom (Museum Space) - $10,000 - ADOPTED 

1st and 2nd Grade Classroom (Meeting Room) - $10,000 
3rd and 4th Grade Classroom (Meeting Room) - $10,000 
5th and 6th Grade Classroom (Staff Offices 1, 2, 3 ) - $5,000 each
 
Men’s Restroom - $10,000 
Women’s Restroom - $10,000 
Remodel of Storage and Supply Annex - $1,000 

Pastor’s Office and Furnishings - $10,000 
Parish Secretary’s Office and Furnishings - $8,000 
Entry Reception-Waiting Area - $1,000 

Large Flat Screen TV for the CafĂ©/Lecture Hall - $2,000 
Audio-Visual Equipment for 3 Classroom - $1,500 each 
Assortment of small kitchen appliances - $1,500 
Assortment of commercial pots and pans - $1,500 
Assortment of commercial dishes, glassware and flatware - $1,500 

New Family Life Center Sign - $1,000 
5 Porch Planter Boxes - $300 each 
6 Sidewalk Path Lights - $200 each 
10 Porch rockers - $200 each

GENERAL CONSTRUCTION AND FURNISHING EXPENSES 
Gifts can be as small or large as one is capable. 

OPERATIONAL ENDOWMENT AFTER COMPLETION 
Gifts can be as small or large as one is capable.

__________________________________________________________

To Get the Job Done We Need All Hands on Deck

Our new Saint Theresa Family Life Center is about to go into a critical stage. Phase One (the outside) is basically finished and paid for and the plans for Phase Two (the inside) will be ready to go to construction soon, but we do not have all the funds needed. The Archdiocese will not give its approval to proceed until we have the funds in hand.

We need some large, medium and small donors. Consider donating personally and, if you cannot donate much, ask others you know, with or without connections to St. Theresa, to help us out. Try pooling your gifts with your extended family to “adopt” part of the project as a group. If your family is not that big, partner with other families to whom you are related. Usually, all it takes is for a couple of people to lead the process of contacting and asking the others.

I have done, and will continue to do, my part. Help us out here by doing your part in talking it up and doing as much asking as you can until we reach our goal. We have had a marvelous start. The families of this community need what our new Family Life Center will be offering. Let’s all get behind protecting our rich history and securing its future. Yes, we can do this!

Make checks payable to St. Theresa Church and send to:
Rev. Ronald Knott
1271 Parkway Gardens Court #106
Louisville, KY 40217

jrknott@bellsouth.net / 502-303-4571



Forward This E-mail To Possible Partners






 

Sunday, November 7, 2021

RADICAL GENEROSITY



Jesus glanced up and saw the rich putting their offerings  into the treasury and also a poor widow putting in two copper coins.

           Luke 21


The closest thing today to the Temple in Jerusalem of Jesus’ day - at least in my experience - is a downtown cathedral. Just as the Temple in Jerusalem attracted a host of characters at the time of Jesus, most downtown cathedrals today attract a cross-section of humanity: millionaires and street people, tourists and residents, the non-religious, the marginally religious and religious fanatics. Some are possessed and some are merely obsessed. Like bees to honey, an important religious landmark, be it the Temple or a Cathedral, attracts a human circus. They come to p-r-a-y and to p-r-e-y. Some come to make contact with God and some come to make a few bucks by working the charity system.

For 14 years, from 1983-1997, I had the privilege of being the pastor of the Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville. From confessions that would curl your hair, to mental cases that would work your nerves, it was, by far, the most interesting pastoral assignment I have ever had, bar none! I had to deal with a strange man who had the urge to take off all his clothes to scare old ladies. I had to pull a drunk out of the bishop’s throne. I had to wrestle a stalker to the floor who pulled a knife on me over a homily. I mistakenly called the cops on the archbishop. I have had a man drop dead during a wedding, babies pee on me during baptisms and altar servers vomit on me during Mass. I had to drag a screaming woman from the altar steps to the back door through a wide-eyed congregation, too frozen to move. I was panhandled and manhandled.

In my 14 years, I probably met at our Cathedral most of the types that Jesus met in the Jerusalem Temple, including the poor “widow woman” of today’s gospel. This woman taught me a very important lesson about priesthood.

I was running late for the noon mass. I was going to the back of the Cathedral for something when I was confronted by a “bag lady” coming at me, with both arms waving to get my attention. I was used to it, so used to it, that I thought I “had seen it all” when it came to “street people.” As soon as I spotted her, I just assumed that she wanted money. I had been down that road so many, many times. Before I could get my well-rehearsed “come back later” or “go see our social worker” speech out, she asked excitedly, “Father, where is the poor box? I want to make a donation!” At that she opened her dirty hand and there she clutched her gift of a few nickels and pennies for the “poor box.” I had stereotyped and judged her by her appearance. Her generous “widow’s mite” judged me!

This modern-day version of the “widow and her mite” taught this priest several lessons. (1) You never know what is going on inside people, merely through external observation, so always “take off your shoes” and approach them as you would “holy ground.” There is nothing as dangerous as a judgmental, “know it all” priest, be he young priest or an old priest. (2) As Jesus taught the Pharisees, some of the people may have the appearance of saints, but inside are like whitewashed tombs, while some of those who appear to you to be terrible sinners may just turn out to be living saints. “Do not judge, lest you be judged.” (3) Generosity has very little to do with the size of the gift. Many big givers give once in a while from their surplus and blow a horn when they make their gifts, but the ones who really keep parishes going are the many consistent little gifts from people who have to sacrifice to give. When I used to go to parishes to ask for funding for the home missions, I soon found out that I came home with more money when I went to “poor” parishes than when I went to the so called “wealthy” parishes.

In our first reading, the widow of Zarephath, who risked being generous when she herself was close to starvation, is also one of my Biblical heroes. The widow-woman, down to her last handful of meal and a few drops of oil, had to choose between feeding herself and her son or offering hospitality to a traveling holy man. Ignoring her own needs, she chose to be generous. She took that handful of meal and those few drops of oil and made a small cake and gave it to a stranger. For her radical generosity, God rewarded her with bread that never ran out the whole next year.

What she teaches us today, I was taught in spades when I was a young priest. I was stationed at a mission church down along the Tennessee border. We had a handful of parishioners and money was very tight. In fact, one of my first jobs was to raise my own salary. Often it was a strain to even pay the church’s electric bill. I lived in the basement of the church to save the parish money. One of the ministries we had was a used clothing store for poor people who needed access to cheap clothing. One day, we got a load of clothes from the family of a man who had died. I was going through his stuff, trying to organize it. I came across a box of old shoes. In the bottom of the box, under the shoes, was a stack of $20 bills that amounted to about $400.00. I knew in my heart of hearts that the old man had hidden it there before he died and that the family was not aware of it. I stood there holding it, knowing that we could really use it, but also knowing that the family did not know what they had given us. I finally decided to send it back to the family who thanked me for my honesty. A few months went by and one day a letter came in the mail. The family sent us a $1,000.00 check from his estate because we had been so honest! That kind of thing happened all the time down there. We would get down to almost nothing, be generous to someone even needier than we, only to see an unplanned donation come in from some unexpected source, often on the same day!

Both these women today have an important lesson to teach us and that is this: generosity is always rewarded, and often extravagantly! My mother was like that. She practiced radical generosity. We didn’t have much growing up in Rhodelia, but no one left our house without taking something with them whether it was out of the garden or a jar of canned vegetables or something out of the freezer. She was not the only one in Rhodelia who did things like that! It has almost become a family trait that is still passed down by their children. As Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl from Holland who was forced to live for two years in a secret attic by the Nazis, being caught and ending up dying in a prison camp, wrote during World War II, “No one has ever become poor by giving.” That is exactly what many simple holy women have taught me over my lifetime!