Sunday, October 1, 2023


A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, 'Son, go out and work in the 
vineyard today.' He said in reply, 'I will not,' but afterwards changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, 'Yes, sir,' 
but did not go.
Matthew 21:28-32

The meaning of this parable is pretty clear - neither of these sons are much to brag about! One told his father that he wouldn't obey and then changed his mind and did obey. The other pretended to obey his father and then didn't! 

This parable explains clearly why Jesus was always hanging out with riff-raff and ended up at odds with the religious establishment of his day. Those in the religious establishment pretended to say "yes" to God, but actually said "no." The riff-raff appeared to say "no" to God, but ended up saying "yes."

In the religious establishment of his day, Jesus had a terrible reputation! He talked so much about eating and drinking and accepted so many dinner invitations, even from public sinners and religious outcasts, that he earned the nicknames of “glutton,” “drunkard” and “friend of sinners!” As the gospels put it, the religious leaders were so shocked by the huge number of rejects and sinners who were hanging around Jesus that they “murmured” out loud, “This man welcomes sinners and even eats with them!” The religious establishment appeared to love God through external conformity, but in their hearts they were as mean as snakes. They represented the son who said "yes," but didn't go into his father's vineyard. The rejects and sinners were the one who welcomed Jesus' teaching and followed him wherever he went! The religious outcasts represented the son who said he wouldn't go work in their father's vineyard, but ended up going!

This parable explains so much about why Jesus called religious leaders fakes, phonies and frauds. They were the ones who loved to parade around in all their religious regalia putting on airs about how religious they were, but underneath all of that they were rotten to the core, using and abusing people's trust and good will for their own benefit. These people represented the son who said he would go work in their father's vineyard, but ended up not going!

As a priest, I have always seen both of these two groups at work in the church. I am proud to report that I have always gravitated toward those who said they wouldn't go, but did go rather than those who said they would go, but didn't go. When to comes to religion, I have always trusted honest doubters more than convinced fanatics.

I am turned off by pietistic, arrogant, religious know-it-alls. They get on my nerves big time! On the other hand, I have always been attracted to the honest doubt of those who have serious problems with organized religion, especially those who have been hurt by the condemnation and rejection of religious conformists. I identify more with honest doubters than arrogant, sanctimonious super-convinced religious fanatics.

Just as in Jesus' day, there are two very common classes of people in the world. There are those whose profession is much better than their practice. They make great protestations of piety and fidelity. but their practice lags far behind. Many of them are very much wrapped up in American politics today. They like to claim the high road of morality, but they are willing to engage in some boldly obvious un-Christian behaviors in their efforts to turn this country into a Moslem-hating, immigrant hating, women hating, dark-skin hating enclave, run by white male "Christians" who get to dictate the rules. It was about them that Gandhi famously said, "I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

On the other hand, just as in Jesus' day, there are those who profess to have no interest in the Church and in religion, and yet, when it comes right down to it, they live more Christian lives than many professing Christians. They like to sound tough hard-headed materialists, even agnostics, but somehow they are found doing kindly and generous things, almost in secret. I have meet many of them. I am friends with many of them. I have been amazed by many of them.

The key to really understanding this parable is that neither son was the kind of son to bring full joy to his father because both were unsatisfactory. The ideal son would be the one who accepted his father's orders with obedience and respect and who unquestioningly and fully carried them out. The ideal disciple is the one who both professes faith and "puts his money where his mouth is!" The ideal disciple is the one who, "if he were to be accused of being a Christian, there would be enough evidence to convict him."

The ideal disciple is the one in whom profession and practice meet and match! (repeat last line for emphasis). As Jesus said, “Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the ones who do the will of my Father who is in heaven."

Thursday, September 28, 2023



I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak his name no more. But then it becomes like a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in; I cannot endure it.
Jeremiah 20:9

I love stories about great saints who get so fed up with God that they finally “let him have it!” One of my favorite stories is about St. Theresa of Avila, maybe the greatest female mystic of our church. 

She traveled around Spain trying to reform the convents of her order that badly needed renewal. It was her practice to go to the chapel before one of these long and arduous trips to pray for a safe trip. After one such trip, when everything that could go wrong did go wrong, she stormed into the chapel and yelled, “Listen, God, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few.” 

Jeremiah  was called, against his will, to be a prophet. He tried to beg off, telling God he was too young, too inexperienced and totally unable to speak in public. 

God would not accept his excuses. He reluctantly said "yes." His prophetic preaching evoked deadly hostility. He was put in stocks, he was tried for blasphemy and he was imprisoned for desertion. He was even thrown into a well and left to die by his own relatives. 

Jeremiah grew not just tired of the abuse, he steamed with frustration. “Listen, God, you sweet-talked me into this job and then you abandoned me. I am a laughing stock. Your message has brought me nothing but ridicule and rejection all day long. I don’t even want to mention your name any more. I’m fed up. I’m finished. I’m out of here.” 

Then comes that famous “but” in his prayer. “I am furious with you on one hand, but then on the other hand your message is like a fire burning in my heart. It is imprisoned in my bones. I can’t help myself. I couldn’t quit if I wanted to.” 

Who hasn’t wanted to quit – quit the church, quit one's marriage, quit one's job or even quit being a parent? 

It is easy to be ordained, fun to go through a first Mass, exciting to get your first parish. However, one doesn’t really decide to be a priest until he has survived at least one of those dark moments when almost nothing about priesthood seems fun any more. It is then that one really chooses priesthood. 

It is easy to commit to a wedding, when you are in love and when everything is exciting. However, one really makes the decision to be married when the honeymoon is over, when one survives a crisis in their marriage. It is then that they either commit or run. 

As Jeremiah discovered, you don’t answer a call once, but over and over and over again. You don’t just say “I do” once, but “I do” again and again, especially in those dark and confusing times. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Then I shall say to myself, “You have so many good things stored up for years to come. Rest, eat, drink, be merry!” 
 Luke 12:19

There is an old Jackson Browne song, “Take It Easy,” that contains a line that has always stuck in my mind: “Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.” What he is referring to, of course, is that incessant inner dialogue that most of us have going on in our heads throughout the day.

Even though mind-chatter can be positive, for many of us it is more often than not quite negative. Though we work hard to improve our situations, our negative thinking keeps sabotaging our work, leaving us wondering why there seems to be no progress.

Are you aware of your inner dialogue? Some say that how much fulfillment you get in your life is directly proportional to the quality of your inner dialogue. Henry Ford was right when he said, “Those who think they can, and those who think they can’t, are both right.”

As a young man, I was told by several adults that I “could not do anything right” and that I “would never amount to anything.” That wasn’t helpful, but the bigger problem was that I had started believing them and feeding myself similar messages. It was only when I started feeding myself positive messages that I began to come into my own.

A positive experience of this dynamic came my way around 1983. Some people were telling me that I should publish my homilies. I always had an excuse. I did not have time. I did not have a publisher. The real problem was that I was still telling myself that I was not good enough to be a writer.

As my excuses were being shot down, it became clear to me one day that I needed to change my own self-sabotaging internal dialogue. I repeated encouraging messages to myself, daily, for two years until one day an editor from a publishing company mysteriously showed up. With 39 books in print, I can now say that I am a writer. As me and my youngest brother like to say to each other, "Anything worth doing is worth over-doing!" Encouragement was not universal. As one brother priest once said behind my back, "Oh, that Knott! He has never had a thought he hasn't published!" 

This dynamic works for our good as well as our undoing, especially if we resist positive messages and constantly feed ourselves negative messages. Victims of spouse abuse never make it out of their abuse as long as they think they don’t deserve anything better. It is only when they are able to say, “I deserve to be treated with respect,” and say it enough that they start believing it, that their freedom can be achieved.

Affirmations, litanies, mantras and prayers such as the “Jesus Prayer” have this in common: they are all a few words, repeated over and over again at regular intervals, until God opens the subconscious mind to accept them and then begins to go to work to bring them about. God doesn’t need to be persuaded to give, but the human heart often needs to be persuaded to receive.

How have you been talking to yourself lately? Have you been critical or encouraging? 

Sunday, September 24, 2023


What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Are you envious because I am generous?
Matthew 20:1-16a 

Of all the parables of Jesus, this is one of my very favorites. A parable is a little made-up story to make a point about God. Jesus came to reveal God, and because most of his audience was made up of simple people, he made up little pointed stories as a way to get his message across. It was a way to help them understand something they didn’t know by comparing it to something they did know.

The point that Jesus makes about God here in this parable is that God is nuts about us! The hero in this little parable is a vineyard owner and that vineyard owner is God himself. Jesus’ listeners were familiar with vineyard owners, but the owner in this story seems a little crazy in the way he operated his vineyard. You know what this vineyard owner did? He gave all his workers, even those who came in at quitting time, a full-day’s pay no matter how much or how little they worked for him because they all, no doubt, needed the income. 

There were two different audiences listening to Jesus that day and he wanted both audiences to hear him. (1) He spoke to the “religious types,” the ones who kept all the religious rules, and to the “non-religious types” who couldn’t, wouldn’t or hadn’t kept those religious rules. 

The message from this parable outraged the “religious types” who thought that God should love them more because of all they had done for God. To them, this parable was “bad news.” It was unfair. On the other hand, the “non-religious types” were bowled over to hear that God loved them with all his heart, in spite of the fact that they were able to do so little for God. To them it was “good news.” The message of this parable is not about God's fairness, but about God's generosity.

If Jesus wanted us to know that God loves us no matter how much or how little we do for him, then that parable has a pretty mind-blowing message. It sounds unbelievable! It sounds too good to be true! Because it sounds too good to be true, many cannot accept it or this parable has never been explained to them. Those who find it too good to be true try to tell us that Jesus must not have meant what he said so let’s help it make sense by adding a list of “yes, buts,” playing down the radicalness of this mind-blowing good news, saying “Yes, God loves you unconditionally, but, if, when, except.”

The reason why so many religious types were threatened by this parable was their fear that if people start believing its message, they would start doing anything they damned-well please!

These religious types today believe that what people really need to hear is more about the "fear of God." These people believe that fear is what keeps people in line. However, in my experience, what really happens is when people finally “get” this incredible message the opposite starts to happen. People start wanting to change their lives for the better – just like those who followed Jesus in his day. They started “hungering and thirsting” for holiness.

How about you? Do you really believe the message of this parable? Do you “get it?” Do you understand that God already loves you and you don't have to earn it? Do you understand that "grace" is when God gives you the good things that you don't deserve (unconditional love) and "mercy" is when God doesn't give you the bad things that you do deserve (condemnation)? Let me repeat that for emphasis! 

Once you accept this “good news,” once you begin to live that “good news,” God can slowly turn your spiritual life around and cause it to blossom in a very amazing way!  You will begin, maybe for the first time in your life, to love God, to love your neighbor and to love yourself with all your heart because you finally understand that God has always done that for you - even during those times when you didn't, or couldn't, love him back!

The “good news” today is this! God is always giving us a "full day’s pay" of love, no matter how late we show up to love him back! 









Thursday, September 21, 2023

"ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS........."

As one who has never taken a computer class, but learned by trial and error, I have a couple of friends willing to help me through a few problems. I need their help and I appreciate their help, but one of the things that drives me crazy is when they answer my question with this response. "All you have to do is........," followed by instructions using technical words that I have no idea about their meaning! This funny exchange says it all! 

The query:

Dear Tech Support,

Last year I upgraded from Boyfriend 5.0 to Husband 1.0 and noticed a distinct slowdown in overall system performance, particularly in the flower and jewelry applications, which operated flawlessly under Boyfriend 5.0.

In addition, Husband 1.0 uninstalled many other valuable programs, such as Romance 9.5 and Personal Attention 6.5, and then installed undesirable programs such as: NBA 5.0, NFL 3.0 and Golf Clubs 4.1. Conversation 8.0 no longer runs, and House cleaning 2.6 simply crashes the system. Please note that I have tried running Nagging 5.3 to fix these problems, but to no avail.

 What can I do?

 Signed: Desperate


The response came weeks later…


Dear Desperate,

First keep in mind, Boyfriend 5.0 is an Entertainment Package, while Husband 1.0 is an Operating System.

Please enter command: I thought you loved me.html and try to download Tears 6.2. Do not forget to install the Guilt 3.0 update. If that application works as designed, Husband 1.0 should then automatically run the applications Jewelry 2.0 and Flowers 3.5. However, remember, overuse of the Tears application can cause Husband 1.0 to default to Grumpy Silence 2.5, Happy Hour 7.0, or Beer 6.1. Please note that Beer 6.1 is a very bad program that will download Snoring Loudly Beta version.

Whatever you do, DO NOT, under any circumstances, install Mother-In-Law 1.0 as it runs a virus in the background that will eventually seize control of all your system resources.

In addition, please do not attempt to re-install the Boyfriend 5.0 program. These are unsupported applications and will crash Husband 1.0.

In summary, Husband 1.0 is a great program, but it does have limited memory and cannot learn new applications quickly. You might consider buying additional software to improve memory and performance. We recommend Cooking 3.0.

Good Luck

Tech Support

Tuesday, September 19, 2023



"Virtue Stands in the Middle"

A principle derived from the ethical theory of Aristotle meaning "good practice lies in the middle path" between two extremes.

Some priests have a call within a call. They are called to be pastors. The essential object of action as a pastor is the common good. As such, the pastor must move from his own personal point of view, to a viewing point. Unlike a seminarian or even an associate pastor, a pastor does not have the luxury of living merely in his personal point of view.

It is a pastor’s task, therefore, to reconcile differences of mentality in such a way that no one may feel himself a stranger in the community of the faithful. Pastors are (a) defenders of the common good, with which they are charged in the name of the bishop. At the same time, they are (b) strenuous defenders of the truth, lest the faithful be tossed about by every wind of opinion.”

When Jesus discussed leadership, it was always in terms of servanthood (Mark 10:42-43). The servant image encourages us to view leadership not as power and prestige but as service and devotion. A servant-model nowhere demands the abdication of the leadership role. Jesus was both servant and leader, and he never saw the two roles in a mutually exclusive way. Two extremes must be avoided: authoritarianism (exercising his ministry in an overbearing manner) and abdication (disdaining his rightful role as leader). The key word here is proper authority. “The priest should avoid introducing into his pastoral ministry all forms of authoritarianism and forms of democratic administration which are alien to the profound reality of ministry, for these lead to secularization of the priest and a clericalization of the laity.”

A parish priest should never be the servant of an ideology or of a faction. There is a growing tendency of some priests to align themselves, even beginning in the seminary, with sub-groups in their presbyterates and in the Church in general, creating a destructive “them” and “us” climate of suspicion and even hate. This “virus” prevents people from engaging in respectful dialogue. It seems to have started in American politics a few years back and has now invaded our churches and even the hearts of some of its pastors.

How can a priest lead the community entrusted to his care to unity, when he is part of the forces of disunity, even under the mantle of “orthodoxy?” In his encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam, Pope Paul VI said that our dialogue is “not proud; it is not bitter; it is not offensive; it is peaceful; it avoids violent methods and barbed words; it is patient; it is generous; it is respectful.”

Sunday, September 17, 2023



Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times? Jesus answered Peter, “I
say to you, not seven times but seventy times seven times”
Matthew 18:21-35

Again this Sunday, we are asked to consider forgiveness - not only for what we have done, but also for what we have failed to do - and that includes not forgiving each other! As I mentioned last week, I read that lists over 160,000 books on the topic of forgiveness. That’s 32,000 more than books on sexuality. That alone should tell us what the human heart hungers for most and why the Church considers it so important to preach about! 

Like the cartoon character Charlie Brown himself, good old Saint Peter craves affirmation. Like a needy little puppy looking for a pat on the head, Saint Peter is always on the look-out for ways to impress Jesus. No matter how hard he tries, he seems to keep missing the mark over and over again. You have to love this big klutz with a soft heart. 

The stories of Saint Peter embarrassing himself are numerous, but the one we have today is typical. Jesus had just told his disciples that they must forgive one another. When Jesus finishes speaking, imagining that another chance to impress Jesus has presented itself, good old Saint Peter springs into action. Peter knows well that the rabbis had always taught that people needed to forgive three times. Peter gets out his little mental adding machine and multiplies three by two and adds one for good measure. Then he asks his question and answers it at the same time. “How many times must we forgive? Seven times?” He obviously expected Jesus to say, “Wow, Peter, how generous you are! You are better than the best! Seven times is way beyond the call of duty!” You can almost see his big eager grin melt like wax when Jesus told him to forgive, not seven times, but seventy-times seven times. In that culture, that was a way of saying – “forgive without even counting the times!”

The biggest mistake people make when it comes to forgiveness is thinking forgiveness is for the benefit of the offending party - that forgiving requires us letting them off the hook!  To be honest, it is the other way around. Forgiveness of others is actually a gift we give ourselves. It lets us off the hook! Grudges consume vast amounts of time and energy: the incessant mental energy of rehearsing it over and over in our minds, the regular bad feelings it keeps generating for us with the constant retelling of it to anyone who will listen. We all know people who constantly bring up their festering grudges and we have to stand there and let them go through their bag of stinking “bag of grudges” one more time!  Let’s all make sure we are not one of those people who drags a stinking bag of grudges around with them and makes everybody have to hear about it.   

While we are working so hard dragging around our grudges, the offending person is probably not even aware of the punishment we are inflicting on ourselves. As the comedian Buddy Hackett put it, “Don’t carry a grudge. While you are carrying the grudge, the other guy’s out dancing.”  Again, as Mark Twain so wisely said, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”

“In the long run, it’s not a question of whether they deserve to be forgiven. You’re not forgiving them for their sake. You’re doing it for your own sake. For one's own health and well-being, forgiveness is simply the most energy-efficient option. You can muster that heart power to forgive them as a way of looking out for yourself. Forgiveness releases you from the punishment of a self-made prison where you are both the inmate and the jailer. Forgiveness releases you from the incredibly toxic, debilitating drain of holding a grudge. Don’t let these people live rent free in your head. If they hurt you before, why let them keep doing it year after year in your mind. Forgiving, even seventy times seven times, is a favor you do for yourself. Forgiveness is one way to keep rotting garbage from piling up in your mind and heart.

The second reason to forgive is also selfish. We forgive so that God will forgive us! The Book of Sirach, our first reading today, lays it out quite clearly. “Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?” Jesus put it this way, “Forgive and you will be forgiven. The measure you measure with, will be measured back to you.” Holding a grudge is a dangerous, as well as a self-defeating, thing to do to oneself!

Grudges are like cancers. They need to be stopped, cut out and removed before they kill us, emotionally and spiritually. As the first reading says, only a sinner “holds them tight” and “nourishes” them in an insane need to be right. The need to be right is expensive. You can be right without your offender needing to be convinced that you are right. Forgiving is ultimately “agreeing to disagree” and letting it go!

How many old grudges are you carrying around in your mind and heart? Who do you refuse to forgive? Isn’t today a good time to cut yourself free, emotionally and spiritually? It may be the biggest step toward self-care you’ll ever take!


Thursday, September 14, 2023



Shepherds vs Sheep Dogs  



"Pastor" is the Latin word for a "shepherd." There are two very different ways to herd sheep. One way is to walk in front of them, as the Good Shepherd himself did, gently calling to them while they follow behind, leading them where they need to go. The other way is to bark and snap from behind, like a sheep dog, chasing and intimidating them into going where they should go.

This is a true story. In the Middle East there are two countries, separated only by a border, who have large sheep industries. The two cultures are radically different. They have even fought wars with each other. In one country, the shepherds walk behind their flocks. In the other country, shepherds walk in front of their flocks. In the country where shepherds walk behind their flocks, the quality of the mutton and the wool is poor and it is not a profitable industry. In the country where the shepherds walk in front of their flocks, the quality of the mutton and wool is excellent and the profitability is high. Why?

In the flocks where the shepherd walks behind and pushes, drives, corrects, and is always in charge, the young sheep grow up afraid to stray from the flock for fear of being rapped up-side the head by the shepherd’s staff or having dogs sent out to round them up. They have no opportunity to explore for better grass and water, or to play with other young lambs. They simply become obedient, passive and apathetic. By the time they are grown, they have lost all initiative. They are not really healthy.

In the country where shepherds walk in front of their flocks, the young lambs have plenty of opportunity to stray, play, experiment and then catch up with the flock. Instead of being overly controlled, compressed, repressed, depressed and suppressed, they feel free, empowered, enhanced and stretched. They eat more, sleep better and grow up large and healthy. They are truly led. Good shepherds lead by invitation. Sheepdogs drive the sheep. Leaders pull. Bosses push.

Related to this is a tendency in public discourse these days to scold, and this tendency has invaded the words of some of the Church’s pastors. Father Bill Corcoran of Chicago has pointed out that many are worried about the effectiveness of the Church when its leaders are perceived as the Village Scold. If pastors cannot approach their ministry in a positive way, then maybe it is best that they remain silent. Parish priests are sometimes experienced by others as nabobs of negativity to all that society has to offer. Parish priests need to allow themselves to stand in awe of the good God has wrought in our world. They need to celebrate and give thanks for what is good about others, their mission, their vocation and their Church. Dealing with error is necessary, but how one does it is also important. Parish priests need to remain on message and that message is a Gospel of hope. When we lose hope, we scold. Spiritual leaders are dealers in hope, not in anger and pessimism.

In the pre-Vatican II church, the "sheep dog" approach was very popular. During and after Vatican II, the "good shepherd" approach was very popular. Today, some of our young pastors seem to want to go back to the "good old days" of being "sheep dogs" because they believe if they don't, their sheep will keep doing anything they damned well please and must be "herded" back into line or the church will not survive!  Good luck with that, boys! 

Tuesday, September 12, 2023


Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better.

Liberty will not descend to a people; a people must raise themselves to liberty; it is a blessing that must be earned before it can be enjoyed.

Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither is safe. 

A country cannot subsist without liberty nor liberty without virtue.

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that, too.

The last of the human freedoms is the ability to choose one’s response to any given situation.

True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.


Sunday, September 10, 2023



"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he refuses to listen to you and anybody else, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.”
Matthew 18:15-20

In today's gospel, we are presented with a three-step process for resolving conflicts. First, go talk to the person face to face. If that doesn't work, take somebody with you who you both trust. If that doesn't work, go to someone in the church - maybe the pastor or deacon - and if that doesn't work, then treat them like you would a "Gentile or tax collector!" Just how would Jesus treat a gentile or a tax collector? He would love them anyway!

I have been a priest for 53 years. I can honestly say that the most spiritual experience of my life was not the day I was ordained, not the day I said my first Mass, baptized my first baby, married my first couple, anointed my own mother before she died or presided at my first funeral. The most spiritual experience of my life was the day I decided consciously to forgive and seek forgiveness from a family member. I finally realized that taking offense is just as toxic as giving offense.

I read that lists 160,510 books on the topic of forgiveness. That’s 31,629 more than on sexuality. What does that tell us about the human heart and what it hungers for most?

You haven’t experienced freedom unless you have experienced the freedom that comes when you let go of resentments that sear your soul, preoccupy your thoughts and drain your strength. Yet, there are so many people who hug their hurts and nurse their wounds in an all-consuming preoccupation because they cannot “let go.”

When they refuse to forgive, they choose to be “right” over being free. Catherine Ponder said it best when she said, “When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”

The biggest mistake people make when it comes to forgiveness is to believe that it is a favor one does for the one who has wronged them. It was Suzanne Somers who said it best when she said, “Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.”

Lewis B. Smedes said it this way: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Alan Paton pointed out, “When deep injury is done us, we never recover until we forgive.”

Another mistake people make when it comes to forgiveness is to believe that forgiveness is a sign of weakness and spinelessness if you don’t “stand up for yourself.” Actually, as Mohandas Gandhi pointed out, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

The refusal to forgive keeps one imprisoned in the past. Paul Boese put it this way: “Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” Archbishop Desmund Tutu of South Africa said, “Without forgiveness, there is no future.” Forgiveness is basically a choice to have a future over a past.

The biggest obstacle of all to forgiveness is the belief that the one who wrongs you needs to apologize, make amends and show evidence of change. While that is certainly part of justice, it is not essential.

Forgiveness is most powerful when it is unilateral and unconditional. Unilateral and unconditional forgiveness is a sign of ultimate strength, because when you forgive unilaterally, you take charge of your situation and refuse to be someone else’s victim any longer.

One of the most useful insights on the subject of forgiveness I have ever stumbled across was one from the Nazi concentration camp survivor, Victor Frankl, in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning. He wrote these deeply meaningful and truly useful words: “Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing — the ability to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

We cannot always control what happens to us or around us, but we can choose how we want to respond. Things do not always work out. People divorce. Employees need to be fired. Children break our hearts. Friends let us down. Parents fail at parenting. In a world where revenge, vindictiveness, reciprocation, retribution and retaliation seem to be the most typical responses, we can train ourselves to respond differently.

Today, I would also like to talk about the virtue of magnanimity, meaning to be generous in forgiving, eschewing resentment or revenge, and being unselfish and other-focused. The word comes from two Latin words: magna, meaning great, and animus, meaning soul or mind. Being magnanimous means being “big minded” or “great souled.” It has nothing to do with who is right or who is wrong. It simply means to freely choose to be “noble” regardless of who is right and who is wrong.

It is really about “making a good ending” by choosing to be “big minded” or “great souled” regardless. Magnanimity is possible only for those who are not addicted to being right and who do not have a burning need to be faultless.

In life, we come face to face with unexpected circumstances, people who let us down and things that do not turn out the way we want them to be. Misunderstandings, human mistakes, bitter disappointments and shattered dreams are actually part of normal living. The more important thing to remember in those circumstances is that what happens is often not nearly as important as how we choose to react to what happens.

It takes magnanimity to go through a divorce without bitter vindictiveness and revenge. This is especially true when children are involved. In such cases, we might not be able to teach them about the permanence of marriage, but we can teach them about how to be civil, gracious and respectful with adversaries. It is as much of a gift to oneself as it is to the other, because it takes too much energy to carry a grudge.

It takes magnanimity to forgive an ungrateful child, a hurtful spouse or a hateful sibling, a former friend or a mean co-worker and treat them well without being bitter, resentful, caustic and hostile. All the time and energy it takes to nurse wounds that we would as soon not heal is ultimately self-punishing anyway. It takes magnanimity to forgive and make the first move toward reconciliation without needing to exact an apology. That is noble indeed. Taking the high road of humility is not a bad road to take for a relationship worth saving.

My best advice that I can leave you with today is this: pick up the phone, write an e-mail or ring a doorbell and make the first move toward reconciliation with anyone you have hurt or been hurt by. Pray over it for a while before you act. No matter the response you get, whether it is good or bad, let it go. It will be easier if you understand that you won't be doing them a favor or even God a favor, as much as you will be doing yourself a favor! Do it for your sake! Let yourself out of that prison of resentment, anger and grudges. Be free whether it is anger toward others, yourself or the Church! As Mark Twain so wisely said, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”

Thursday, September 7, 2023



                                                                                AGE 7
When I made my First Communion at age 7, Sister Mary Ancilla asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. It was the first time I publicly announced that I wanted to be a priest. Not too long after that, I proceeded to flunk the altar boy test three times! Sister Mary Ancilla, who also trained the altar boys, threw up her hands after I flunked the third time, saying "Ronnie, you are a good kid, but I don't think you'll ever be any good around the altar!" We remained friends until she died, but as "punishment" for that remark I made her sit in the front pew at my first Mass to remind her of her doubting words! We always laughed together about it. Sadly, she did not know that you should not tell a Knott that he can not do something! 

                                                                                   AGE 14
                                               "YOU WON'T MAKE IT TILL CHRISTMAS"
When I was in the eighth grade in 1957-1958, I heard that there was a new seminary in Louisville that would take boys right after the eighth grade. I talked my Dad into taking me to see Father Johnson so that I could get his permission and help getting into that seminary. His response was not positive! He looked me over and barked, "No, you are too little and too young! Go home, grow up and then we will talk about it!" My only defense was to cry! With that, he said, "OK, I will fill out the papers, but you won't last till Christmas!" With that prediction bouncing around in my head, I left for St. Thomas Seminary the fall of 1958 to begin a 12 year program to priesthood! By the time I was ordained, I had spent almost half my life in a seminary! What Father Johnson did not know was that you should not tell a Knott that he can not do something! 

                                                                                  AGE 16
Well, I limped through my first year of seminary - barely! As a country boy, from a very small town, thrown into a urban world with other mostly urban kids, I went into cultural shock. It was like I was from a foreign country trying to learn their language and their culture without any help as far as counseling and guidance went! As a result, in the middle of the first semester of my second year - age 16 - I was called into the seminary Rector's office (Father White). He delivered this blow to my heart and soul, "Mr. Knott, you are a hopeless case! We are sending you home in the morning!" My only defense was to cry again! With that, the Rector backed off and gave me another chance! What he did not know was that you should not tell a Knott that he can not do something! 

AGE 26
I was not sad, but reflective, in this photo as I waited to go into the Cathedral on May 16, 1970 to be ordained a priest. With my new priest-chasuble over my arm, I guess I could not believe that I had survived 12 years of seminary and had finally made it to priesthood. I was probably thinking about all the people who did not know that you should not tell a Knott that he can not do something! 
  AGE 26 
When I finally made it, neither Father Johnson or Father White were around to give me a chance to gloat or to allow me to rub it in! However, other naysayers were waiting in line. At one of the post-ordination receptions, a young woman asked me how long I had been in school. When I answered, "counting grade school, I have been in school for 20 years" she gasped and said, "My God, you could have been something!" She was probably thinking that I could have gone into something like law or medicine where I could have made a lot of money? What she did not know was that you should not tell a Knott that he can not do something! 

                                                                                   AGE 77
                                                             "FIFTY-ONE YEARS AND COUNTING"
In 1995, I celebrated my 25th anniversary. In 2021, I celebrated my 50th Anniversary (a year late because of COVID). I have now passed my 53rd anniversary. I will be 80 next year on my 54th anniversary. I don't know how many anniversaries I have left, but I do know one thing. By choice, I will be buried right next  to Father Johnson in the St. Theresa Cemetery. He was the pastor who predicted in 1958 that in the seminary I "wouldn't make it to Christmas!" I just wanted to remind him, and anyone looking at our graves, that you should not tell a Knott that he can not do something! 

With God's Help and Your Courage, Even Impossible Things Become Possible. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2023



“It's not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place 
in between that we fear . . . . It's like being between trapezes. It's Linus when his blanket is in 
the dryer. There's nothing to hold on to.”
Marilyn Ferguson 

I've been here so many times before that I know what is happening - that uncomfortable time when one world ends and another one hasn't started yet, when one dream is completed and another hasn't hatched yet! I call that period the "in betweens" when you know that one era of your life has been completed and you are not sure what the next era will be like. You might say I am in psychological "limbo" again. "Limbo" comes from the Latin word "limbus" meaning "edge" or "boundary."  "Limbo" is "an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition." One of my nieces described it clearly this way when we were sitting on her porch after her young husband's funeral. "I knew who I was yesterday, but today I don't know who I am!" 

For me, the "in betweens" are not as much scary as they are uncomfortable. It's a lot like an extended freeze-frame moment when you jump from one rock to another without be able to see clearly where you are jumping.  Now that I have finished my latest three-year project, the completion of the St. Theresa Family Life Center and Guest House, I feel like I am floating in a vacuum waiting for the the next rock to appear before I can land again. As Marilyn Ferguson puts it, "it's like being between trapezes" or "its Linus when his blanket is in the dryer." 

I find myself sort of bouncing around feeling some mild doubts about whether this time there will ever be another rock to land on, feeling a bit unmotivated, unproductive and directionless. I am feeling a bit like a control freak without his control, a bit like an addict without his drug.  

I've been here so many times before that this time I know in my heart of hearts that there will no doubt be another rock to land on, another trapeze to grab onto and the dryer will once again finish its job. I know that for a time I will be like a workaholic without his work so I just need to rest up, wake up and be ready to step up in God's time, not mine! 

During this "down time," I have counted no less than twenty-five times when I can remember having been in the "in betweens." Three years ago, after it became obvious that my work in the Caribbean Missions and traveling around the world leading priest convocations had come to an end, I found myself in the "in betweens."  It was during that uncomfortable period, when I wondered whether "if I turned the key off whether the car would ever start again," that it occurred to me that I might set out to build the  St. Theresa Family Life Center and Guest House down in Meade County. Now that my latest project is completed, I find myself again in the "in betweens." I know down deep that the next step will be a partnership between me and God. God will offer me a new opportunity, but it will be up to me to see it and seize it so I need to be vigilant and be ready!

It may sound a bit melodramatic, but what all my remembered twenty-five times of being "in between" have in common is that each of them have been comparable to those short periods between classic "quests" in literature. 

A quest in literature is an adventurous journey undergone by the main character or protagonist of a story. The protagonist usually meets with and overcomes a series of obstacles, returning in the end with the benefits of knowledge and experience from his quest. It is clear that a quest also means something that is difficult to achieve but the hero is all set to achieve it through any means and that it means good for the people as well as for the quester. Its real function is to show not only how a quester goes through a test set for him, but it also teaches the readers that such realities could emerge in their cases and that they should also be able to surmount such things with their intellect, perseverance and courage. 

As I said above, a quest is not only good for the quester, but also those who read about his quest. That, my friend, is why I write about my quests - not to be admired, but to be imitated - to invite others to step out on their own quests. 

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

The quote above, to me, says simply that anything can happen and you can go anywhere. Just take that first step without knowing where you might end up. That kind of travel is addictive. You can get ‘swept up’ so just put one foot in front of the other and keep going.

And yes, things might go wrong, something bad may happen, but if you don’t take that risk, how will you ever know? On such a quest, keep your wits and common sense about you -- ‘keep your feet' as Tolkien said. 

I really like the idea of a Road that Tolkien wrote about, and that if you leave the safety of your house and take that Road, it can take you to some amazing places.

Sunday, September 3, 2023


Peter took Jesus aside and began to scold him.
Matthew 16:21-27

Up to this point, things were going very well in the ministry of Jesus.  A deaf man had regained his sight. Five thousand had been miraculously fed on one day and four thousand on another. A blind man had regained his sight. A successful exorcism had been performed on a young demon-possessed girl. Another young girl had been lifted well from her sick bed. A woman with a hemorrhage had been restored to health. An insane man had given back his sanity. A man with a withered hand had had it made healthy again. A leper had been cleansed from his leprosy. A crippled man was made able to walk. A deaf man with a speech impediment was able to hear and speak plainly.

Peter was so overcome with excitement by all these miraculous things that he was moved to call Jesus the "Messiah."  In this gospel, Peter was the very first one to do this. The "Messiah" was the "promised one to come" that Jews had looked forward to for centuries, the one who would do the very things that Jesus was doing. The lights went on for Peter! He came to the conclusion that Jesus just had to be the "Messiah” – the awaited One that had finally come!

Jesus immediately took the wind out of his sails, telling him that the Messiah would not only do wondrous things, but would have to go through great suffering, rejection by religious authorities and even death on a cross. Only then would he rise victorious from the dead after three days.

Peter did not like what he was hearing one bit, so he took Jesus aside to scold him. "Look, Jesus, we are on a roll here. The people are behind you. Soon we will be able to conquer these foreign Roman invaders occupying our country and finally throw them out. Then you can be our King and we can all be part of your royal court. Please don't blow it now with all your negativity about suffering and death!" 

When he heard this, Jesus spun around in disgust and thought to himself, "Satan said he would be back to tempt me again and here he is disguised as one of my leading apostles, Peter!" Jesus then looked around at all of his disciples and addressed Peter directly, "Get behind me, Satan! You are not thinking like God, but like human beings! I went through these kinds of temptations in the desert before I began my ministry! I rejected them then and I reject them now! What you are thinking about is not God’s plan for me! Now stop it right now!"

As Peter's face fell, Jesus addressed the whole crowd following him, "Now listen up, because you all need to get one thing straight! If you are going to follow me, you need to be ready to suffer with me, for whoever loses his life my sake will save it. Otherwise, if you go down the path that Peter has just proposed, you will certainly lose your life! You will not be thinking like God, but like human beings!"

Just because Jesus stood up to Peter in this story, we do not need to conclude that it's never OK to scold and argue with God. The fact is, many of the major figures in the Bible and church history argued, scolded and had words with God - people like Job, Jeremiah and Theresa of Avila. Just as Peter learned a lesson today, sometimes the only way they learned what God's will was for them was through a struggle. As any good teacher knows, encouraging, challenging, questioning, discussion and debate are the best way to learn. Like students, when disciples are allowed to think through and discover things for themselves, the best learning takes place.

The prophet, Jeremiah, is a case in point.  Jeremiah was a very young man when God called him to be a prophet and to preach in his name. God said to Jeremiah, "Hey, Jeremiah! I've had my eye on you since the moment you were conceived! I have a job for you! I want you to go to the people and preach my message to them!" What was Jeremiah's response? "No thank you! I'm not interested in preaching to anybody! I'm too young! I have other things I want to do in life! Besides, I'm not good at public speaking!" God snaps back, "Do as I say and don't give me any of your lame excuses! Wherever I send you, I will be with you! Don't worry about what you are to say. I will put the right words into your mouth as you go along."

This wasn't the last time that Jeremiah argued with God. After he was deeply involved in his ministry as prophet, and everything seemed to be going wrong, Jeremiah returns to give God a royal chewing out.  "You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.  I should have known better than say “yes” to you! When I speak in your name, I am the butt of people's jokes and mockery. I’ll tell you what! I quit! Take this job and shove it. I ain't working here no more! From now on, I am never going to mention your name again!"   

After he had unloaded his guns on God, Jeremiah must have felt better because he follows his rant with these words. "On the other hand, God, I have to admit that your words are like a fire in my heart. They are embedded in my bones. I grow tired trying to hold them in. I guess I'll just have to keep doing what you want me to do!"

Saint Theresa of Avila was a great woman of very deep faith, but she was not afraid of giving God a piece of her mind every once in a while. One time, I read somewhere, she went to the chapel and prayed for a safe trip on one of her many journeys around Spain. Everything imaginable went wrong on that trip. When she got back to the convent, she marched right into the chapel and yelled, "If this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!"

Many of us grew up being told that faith is about unthinking trust and acceptance of God, the Bible, the teachings of the Church and the trials of life. To question any of those things was to demonstrate a weak faith and a blasphemous heart. However, faith does not grow through unthinking submission, but through a process of questioning that leads to understanding. Just as Jacob wrestled with the angel of God in the Book of Genesis, a real commitment to God often involves a deep, honest and sustained wrestling with God.  The only sin is never to enter the wrestling ring, but just walk away because the struggle is too much trouble! The real sin is to dismiss God without ever really engaging him, without even arguing with him! If you insist on rejecting God and his Church, at least do it after an honest fight! At least, give God a chance to win!  

I challenged you today to enter the ring with the rest of us who remain in the church. Remember, we go into the ring as a tag team. Together, we wrestle with God - in here and out there. We need to put up a good fight and not wimp out just because we are just too lazy or too scared. God will win, of course, but when the match is over, we will know more about God and how he operates than we did when we first entered the ring.  We will have flexed spiritual muscles we never knew we had, and we will be strong enough to handle the inevitable struggles of marriage, family life, priesthood or whatever profession we find ourselves in!