Friday, January 13, 2023


A couple of years ago, I sat down to summarize my life in five words or less as I have experienced it so far. Believe me, weeks of intense trying to feel the emotions that summarize your life and then trying to name those emotions in five words or less is intense, but well worth it!  The four words I came up with are these "Simply Amazed - Forever Grateful." 

Knowing when I was born, where I was born and how I grew up and then looking back over all the places I have been and the variety of people I have met, I am amazed! Yes, amazed!  

I am also grateful! Yes, grateful! I am both grateful for the range of opportunities that God has offered me and I am grateful that he gave me the grace to be able to embrace many of those opportunities.  

One of the biggest blessings of my life for which I am amazed and grateful are the opportunities that were presented to me to be exposed to people of other races, cultures and religions. I call them "opportunities to embrace the world!"

I think it was going to Seminary at St. Meinrad over in Indiana that introduced me to this strange new world. For the first time in my life I was thrown into an environment that became more and more international, multi-cultural and inter-racial. It started in 1966 on a fire-escape there when I made a resolution to put myself into as many new opportunities to grow and change as I could. After several decisions to do just that here in my own country, I stumbled onto an opportunity to go world-wide! 

Below are only samples of hundreds of photos I have collected from my ministry travels where I got to meet and get to know people from various countries and ethnic backgrounds. Yes, I call them "opportunities to embrace the world."

In the summer of my second year after ordination, 1971, I made my first of five back-packing trip to Taize in France. I still don't know what possessed me to respond positively to a three-line description of an opportunity to gather with hundreds of students from around the world in an ecumenical monastery, much less return four more times. On the first trip, I had absolutely no idea what was ahead of me but I went ahead anyway! 

That's me (28 years old) in the dark blue t-shirt at Taize, France in the early 1970s

In 1983, when I was sent to Louisville to be pastor of the Cathedral of the Assumption, I embraced another scary opportunity. While there, I ended up helping start the ecumenical and inter-faith support organization called the Cathedral Heritage Foundation that later morphed into the Center for Interfaith Relations
That's me on the left when the Cathedral Heritage Foundation hosted the Dalai Lama of Tibet in the Cathedral, one of many interfaith leaders from around the country and the world.

After my years as pastor of the Cathedral, I ended up as a Vocation Director, the founder of the Institute for Priests and Presbyterates and a seminary staff member. Besides meeting seminarians from all over the country and all over the world, I was able to start a program called World Priest that focused on welcoming international priests to the United States and helping them acclimate to American culture. 

Here I am moderating one of the many discussions between international seminarians at St. Meinrad and international priests recruited by dioceses around the United States who attended our World Priest Workshops. 
Each year, while I was working at St. Meinrad, I would host an annual Thanksgiving Dinner for international seminarians who had no place to go for the holidays. The two typical pictures above include seminarians from around the United States, as well as Vietnam, the Philippines, the Bahamas and a couple of African countries. 

While I was working at Saint Meinrad, I paid special attention to the Benedictine monks from Togo in Africa who were studying there. Here are three of those African monks being given a tour of our Cathedral of the Assumption. I helped them with personal expenses and made sure they could afford the class trips to Rome that were offered to their graduating class right before they were to be ordained. One of those monks from Africa became the first Abbott of his monastery back in his country of Togo. 

One of the most successful programs I was able to develop while working at Saint Meinrad as founder and director of the Institute for Priests and Presbyterates was the more than 150 priest convocations I conducted in 10 countries. Below are a few pictures of the hundreds of Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops and priests I would typically meet giving week-long workshops on "presbyteral unity" in the United States, Canada, England, Ireland, Wales, the Bahamas, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad. Sadly, I had to turn down invitations to Singapore, Tonga (in the south Pacific), Nigeria and India because of time and distances.  

Archbishop Pindar and the priests and deacons of the Archdiocese of Nassau, Bahamas

Pictured above are the Cardinal, Archbishops and Bishops of the Antilles Bishops Conference meeting at the Papal Nuncio's house in Trinidad. This was the second Bishops Conference I was asked to address. In Florida, I addressed the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at their spring meeting on the subject of building presbyteral unity.  

Bishop Milan Lach SJ and his priests from the Eparchy of Parma, Ohio, and myself at their Presbyteral Convocation at St. Meinrad. Most of the priests, some married, are immigrants from the eastern European country of Slovakia. 

Archbishop Neary and myself (in the middle front row) with the priests of the Archdiocese of Tuam in Ireland. We met at the hotel of the famous Knock Shrine. 
Cardinal Collins and myself are pictured here before Mass at one of the five convocations on presbyteral unity that I conducted for him, his priests and his seminarians in the Archdiocese of Toronto, Canada. He personally attended four of them. 
Pictured here is Bishop Gary Gordon of  the Diocese of Victoria in far western Canada, one of the 15 dioceses in Canada that I presented presbyteral unity material over several days.  His dog's name is "Merlin." On three separate occasions, when Bishop Gordon was the Bishop of the Diocese of Whitehorse, Canada, Merlin defended the Bishop from bears, which earned him the honorary title ‘St. Merlin’.

Bishop Gerard County and his priests and deacons of the Caribbean Diocese of Kingstown, SVG.

Bishop Peter Joseph Hundt (now Archbishop of St. John's Newfoundland) and his priests of the Diocese of Cornerbrook-Labrador in Newfoundland - at the far eastern end of  Canada

The Archbishop and one table of his priests at the priest convocation I led in the country of Saint Lucia in the Caribbean. 

In my retirement, I volunteered to serve in the Caribbean mission countries of Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines mainly. Below are a few of the people I worked with and served during my 12 trips down there. 
We did a lot of work with empowering school children in the Caribbean missions. This is a class and its teacher in St. Mary's Cathedral School in downtown Kingstown, SVG. I gathered a huge amount of school supplies for children and their teachers and raised money for scholarships to island Catholic schools. 

I was the presenter at  two one-week Deacon Training Sessions for the Diocese of Kingstown SVG. 

I got to work with Sister Nyra Ann, a Carmelite Sister, who was the administrator of St. Benedict's Orphanage. We bought quite a bit of equipment, snacks, toys, school supplies and sent a few of them to the Special Olympics in the United Arab Emirates. One Christmas, we treated all of them to a Kentucky Fried Chicken lunch and a personal shopping trip! 

We were able to raise the funds to the sponsor several SVG youth to go to World Youth Day in Poland. 

We offered three week-long "computer camps" for kids (two on the main island and one of the outer islands) and provided over 25 laptop computers to kids who had never used one before. 

With a lot of support from friends, we made sure kids on several islands got Easter Baskets every Easter. This photo was taken at the church on the island of Mayreau. 

I gathered sponsors to send down three huge shipping containers of surplus medical supplies (tons of equipment worth thousands and thousands of dollars) to the poor country of SVG from Supplies Over Seas here in Louisville. 

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a small country made up of a large island and a chain of 32 smaller
islands. This often required using small planes to get around, especially when I had to stop in Barbados on flights from Miami on my way to SVG. Many times this required stops on several islands before getting to St. Vincent. Toward the end, American Airlines offered a direct fight from Miami to SVG once a week. 

This is just a sample of the contacts I have made in the Caribbean missions. I am happy to say today that I am grateful to have friends all over the world as well as grateful for these many "opportunities to embrace the world!" 

Monday, January 9, 2023



September 1950
That's "Grandma Knott" surrounded by Aunt Amelia, Aunt Margaret and some of her many grandchildren. 
That's me sitting on the ground. I was 6 years old going into the first grade.

Lillian Delia Mills Knott
1890 - 1971
daughter of 
Joseph Mills and Elizabeth Baskett

On this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, I am always reminded of the extraordinary circumstances of my own birth and baptism on April 28, 1944. 

I was delivered at home by my country midwife paternal grandmother "Lillie" as she was known. Both my mother and I almost died during the birthing process. My grandmother, with years of experience as a midwife, knew what to do. She baptized me right there is the bed in which I was born and had someone go get a doctor.  

She lived across the road from us so I was close to her as a child and spent a lot of time with her. I helped her grind sausage, churn butter and I worked with her in her vegetable garden. I can't remember her talking a lot. She would just invite me to do new things and then show me how to do them without a whole lot of talking. She always wore her hair pulled-back and rolled-up in a bun  on the back of her head. To me, it was a symbol of her wise and practical nature. 

I did not know that she had baptized me until I called my pastor for a baptismal record before ordination. No one had bothered to tell me. You can imagine my surprise when the priest said, "Oh, I see your grandmother baptized you!" I was happy that she lived long enough to be able to attend my first Mass and follow me during my first year as a priest. 

It was this grandmother who "birthed" me into this world and this grandmother who "birthed" me into the family of God!  I still remember her every year on my birthday and every year on today's Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord."

Her birthday is this Thursday January 12. She would have been 133 years old this year.  I will remember her that day as well. 

"Reading Devotions to Grandfather" 
Albert Anker

Sunday, January 8, 2023


Behold, magi from the east arrived.
Matthew 2

Just when you thought Christmas was over, we are presented today with these strange out-of-town stragglers called "Magi!"

I like these guys, these driven spiritual seekers from the east, these men on a mission! On top of it all, they were from present-day Iraq of all places! They were part of a tribe of priest-teachers to the ancient kings of Persia. They were men with an eye out for God. Their job was to watch the heavens for any unusual activity. Unusual activity among the stars was a sign to them that God was up to something. An unusually bright star, combined with a feverish search for God, meant they had to check it out. The star they followed even had a name. It was called “the birth of a prince.” Astronomers today believe there actually was a dramatic star-event about this time in history.  They left everything that was comfortable and familiar to them and set out for new lands, for new insights and for new understanding.  Their search led them to Jesus.

These brave souls stand in contrast to that woman in eastern Kentucky that I saw interviewed on KET a few years back. She had never been more than two miles from the mountain cabin she was born in. When asked why, she answered the reporter, “I just don’t believe in goin’ places!” These brave souls, these strange magi, did believe in going places, in having new insights, in expanding their understanding. They are my kind of people.

My friends, these strange spiritual seekers invite us today to go, not on some exotic vacation, but on our own serious spiritual quest. Personal and spiritual suicide is the result of saying “no” to opportunities to grow and to change and to expand our spiritual horizons.

The opportunities to grow, to change and to expand our spiritual horizons come to us in two ways: by accident and by choice. How they come is not as important and how we respond to these opportunities.

Sometimes things happen to us. We have no choice, except in how we respond to them. Maybe we have lost a job. Maybe we have just been through an unwanted divorce. Maybe we have been diagnosed with cancer. I have found, and observed in others, that when we deliberately reach out and embrace the unwanted situation and see it as an opportunity to develop on the inside, to go on a spiritual quest, it can transform a disaster into an opportunity.  This cannot be done easily or often. It takes great spiritual fortitude and courage. I think I have been able to do it only four or five times, but when I could look at a supposed disaster from another angle, I always came out of that situation in an even better place. The result of saying “no” to these opportunities is to live in the past in a constant state of desperation, thinking that if you just don’t like it enough, it will go away. In the end, people like this just “don’t believe in going places.” Unconsciously, they choose to stay stuck in “what might have been.”

Sometimes tragedies can trigger spiritual adventures. We can wait and embrace them as they come to us or we can deliberately set up situations where we are forced to grow.  I call this “inducing labor.”  Maybe we decide to leave an abusive relationship, resign a job that is killing our spirits, go back to school or enter a treatment program. It’s scary. You have to leave the security of where you have been and enter a time of great turmoil and chaos.  That’s why so many people resist change or turn away from it in a panic: the path to a new life is scary and painful. That’s why some people sign themselves out of treatment programs, why some young people never leave home, why some abused women return to their abusers: the fear of the known is not as scary as the fear of the unknown.  As much as they say they want things to be different, as much as they whine and revile, in the end, they give into their cowardice, they choose the status quo. In the end, they “don’t really believe in going places.”      

My friends, these Magi, these ancient spiritual seekers have a lot to teach us about the spiritual life.  In a world of people obsessed with working on their outsides, these men teach us about passionately working on our insides: pursuing the truth, stretching ourselves and our potential, being people in charge of their own passions, hungering and thirsting for holiness. They also teach us that spiritual growth is always a risk, always dangerous, always requiring great personal courage, but always worth it. As my new favorite writer puts it, "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." 

My life as a Magi started on a fire escape at St. Meinrad in the Spring of 1966 when I was in college. I was extremely bashful.  I avoided meeting new people or getting myself into unfamiliar situations.  I was scared of life.  I was what George Bernard Shaw called “a feverish little clod of grievances and ailments, complaining that the world would not dedicate itself to making me happy.” 

That day, I was standing on a fire escape outside my room at St. Meinrad Seminary with a fellow seminarian, Pat Murphy.  In what had to be one great moment of grace, an impulse gift from God, I suddenly blurted out, “Pat, I am so sick and tired of being bashful and scared of life that I’m going to do something about it even if it kills me!”

I was shocked by the words that came out of my own mouth! But from that moment on, I have been standing up to the coward in me.  I have been deliberately “slaying dragons” and “confronting demons,” in my head and on my path, ever since!  I decided that day not to indulge my resistance to personal and spiritual growth anymore. That day, on that fire escape, I made my first conscious decision to enter the world of intentional personal growth and deliberate living!  How appropriate and symbolic that my decision was made on a “fire escape!” I decided that day to quit being a coward and become a "Magi." I decided to deliberately put myself in new and challenging situations so I could grow as a person! I decided to quit being "safe" and, as a result, being "stuck!" 

First, I decided not to go back home when school was out that summer of 1966. I got an apartment here in Louisville and found a job - something that seminarians did not dare do back then! The next summer, I left Louisville to paint houses in the Chicago area. The following summer, a nervy move on my part, I took a job with the United Church of Christ as a camp ground minister, desk clerk and bar tender in Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. The summer after ordination, I decided to back-pack in Europe and meet up in France with hundreds of young adults from all over the world. I made five such trips over the following years. I applied to McCormick Presbyterian Seminary, another nervy move on my part, to get a Doctorate in Parish Revitalization, applied for and received a full scholarship and graduated. Later, I decided to go back to the seminary as a staff member and, with the help of a major grant from the Lilly Foundation, founded the Institute for Priests and Presbyterates, taught classes on pastoral ministry and conducted over 150 priest retreat in 10 countries. Since retirement, I started working in the Caribbean missions and made 12 trips. When that was stopped because of COVID and a volcano eruption, I started a major project in my home parish down in Meade County two years ago.  It's about 95% done.  

This will be the year when I hope God will introduce me to yet another journey. I am just 16 months away from turning 80! I will prepare myself by standing up to the temptation to say "no" "because people in their 80s don't do stuff like that!" As Henry Ford put it, "Those who believe they can and those who believe they can't are both right!" 

Maybe this is your "Magi" year as well, the year you begin that inner quest that you have been waiting to start! If so, get started! Be brave! Take a risk! Reinvent yourself! Don't be a coward! Get out there! Be a Magi!  As my new favorite author, Anais Nin, put it,

 "It takes courage to push yourself to places you have never been test your break through barriers. And the day came when the risk it took to stay tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."