Thursday, November 17, 2022



"If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you."
Luke 7:1-6

Having a negative-sounding name like “Knott” has it advantages. It makes you damned and determined to overcome negativity in life. My youngest brother, Mark, and I are what are called “Type A” personalities. We are driven to accomplish things! We are over-achievers! We never rest or let up! I am even flunking retirement! We joke about having a couple of personal mottos and those mottos go like this! “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing!” “Never tell a Knott he can’t do something!” I could probably sleep better at night if my last name had been something like “Linger,” “Stall” or “Dally” instead of “Knott!”

After 52 years, there is so much I can't remember about seminary, but there is one thing that remains vivid in my mind and has contributed to my “driven” personality. One of our teachers asked us to present some "pastoral situations" for class discussion - maybe a wedding, funeral or counseling situation. He asked us to write up the "ideal" way we might handle the situation once we were ordained.

After we had all written up our "ideal" approaches, he collected the papers and ripped them up into small pieces and threw them in the garbage.  He said to us, "You will hardly ever get to do the "ideal," so let's talk about some alternative approaches."  Man, has that insight ever come in handy over the last 52 years!

Right after ordination I was sent to the home missions of southern Kentucky. I found myself pastor of a church with only 7 parishioners (three adults and four children) with $70.00 in the bank. I was not trained to be a missionary. I knew nothing about the "bible belt" as they called that area of the country. I didn't know how to start a church or how to raise money.  I could have just sat down and waited out my time down there, but I didn't! I remembered my seminary teacher's advice, "If you cannot do the ideal, find an alternative approach."

I asked three parishes and a Catholic car dealer here in Louisville to pay my salary until I got settled. I then applied to McCormick Presbyterian Seminary in Chicago for a scholarship to study "parish revitalization."   Guess what? The three parishes and the car dealer agreed to pay my salary for three years and I got a full scholarship from the Presbyterian Church to study “parish revitalization.”

When I came to Louisville in 1983, I had been named pastor of our Cathedral. The church was almost empty - just 110 registered parishioners and a few visitors.  Very few people knew it, but it was on a list of churches up for possible closure. Some wanted to close it and make one of the nicer suburban churches our cathedral. I was told by the former pastor not to get my hopes up and that "nothing could be done because there weren't any Catholics living downtown.”

I could have just sat down and waited out my time, but I didn't! I remembered my seminary teacher's advice, "If you cannot do the ideal, find an alternative approach."  I realized that there were very few Catholics living downtown and that raising a lot of money from within the diocese would be out of the question so I went for an alternative approach.  For parishioners, I went after the hundreds and hundreds of "fallen away" Catholics, especially those who worked downtown. For money, I asked people of all religions to help us fix up the cathedral so that all religions could use it. Guess what? In fourteen years we grew from 110 members to 2100 members and we raised over $22,000,000 and 67% of that $22,000,000 came from non-Catholics!

Friends, I learned a long time ago that the biggest shortage in the Catholic Church is not money or priests. It's imagination and faith! This is why I love that little sawed-off guy in the Sunday-before-last gospel, named Zacchaeus! He wanted to get a glimpse of Jesus coming down the road, but he was too short to see above the crowd! He could have said, "Oh, well, maybe next time," but he didn't. He found an alternative. He "ran ahead" and "climbed a sycamore tree." Because of his ingenuity, determination and faith and because Jesus was able to see Zacchaeus in the tree, Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus' house for dinner which led to him becoming a disciple!

Faith is the greatest force in the world. My friends! Declaring a situation as "impossible" is very convenient. It lets us off the hook and relieves us of the hard work of looking for "alternatives."  Nobody will blame us for doing nothing if we can convince them that "nothing can be done," would they? Instead, learn from Zacchaeus!  Use your imagination, use your faith, look for alternatives and be resourceful!  One of my heroes is Philo T. Farnsworth the inventor of TV! He said it best when he said, “Impossible things just take a little longer!”

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