Saturday, July 8, 2023


When I was a boy growing up in the country back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, my family owned a sawmill just like the one shown above. My father owned and managed the operation. My grandfather operated the saw. Three or four local men were hired to help cut the logs, haul the logs, unload the logs, carry away the slabs and stack the rough lumber to air-dry. My brother, Gary, and I were too young at the time to do any of the dangerous work so we would play, watch and learn. All of us, young and old, would have to keep an eye out for dangerous venomous copperhead snakes hiding under the slabs and stacked-to-dry lumber whether we worked or played! 

By the mid 1950s, my father had turned his sawmill business into Knott's Supply, a company offering everything one needed to build a house - from plumbing, paint and light fixtures to septic tanks, storm windows and roofing. I left there for the seminary in 1958. My year-younger- brother, Gary, started his own rough lumber business around the mid 1960's. My youngest brother, Mark, took over the ownership of Knott's Supply in 1984 and expanded it drastically into the thriving business that it is today.   

It seems, from all I know about the Knott Family history, some kind of construction has been in our DNA for as long as anyone can remember, whether that part of the family lived in Maryland, Kentucky, Oregon or California. I may not have gone into the construction business, but I do have a reputation as a priest for taking a leading role in many remodeling and construction projects whether they have been the seven homes that I have owned, a few churches or chapels, a coffee shop, a teaching kitchen, overnight accommodations for senior priests, an orphanage and even a Family Life Center and Guest House. Building and remodeling? It's a Knott thing for sure!

Yes, I grew up like a "Walton!" These days, as I look back on those days, I find myself grateful for many of those difficult experiences during such a challenging time. They actually prepared me for some of the wonderful and unexpected world-wide experiences that followed. Looking back, and especially when I reflect on my recently concluded project at my home parish of St. Theresa, I feel as if I have begun my return home from my very own personal "quest." In literature, a "quest" is an adventurous journey undergone by the main character of a story. The main character usually meets with and overcomes a series of obstacles, returning home in the end with the benefits of knowledge and experience from his quest. 

I am still open to a few more adventures, hopefully a bit closer to home, but I find these words of T. S. Eliot personally applicable. "We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."

Tuesday, July 4, 2023



A Prayer for America's Future

Loving God, forgive us for wanting our own way and making our own paths—often the ones paved with least resistance. Forgive us for fence-walking, or for ignoring completely the truths that can so easily set us free. Deliver us from mindless quarrels and destinations that lead us nowhere, but away from You. Free us from divisiveness, and melt our hardened hearts to love, not hate, and to heal, not debate. We ask this in faith. Amen!

Sunday, July 2, 2023


Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink will 
surely not lose his reward.
Matthew 10:37-42

I have tried to live that Old Testament proverb that says, “He who waters will himself be watered.” I was reminded of it when I saw the first reading and the gospel reading for today. Both readings talk about God rewarding us for our generosity. The first reading tells us about how a woman, who built a little guest room in her house for the Prophet Elisha to stay in, was blessed with the baby that she had longed for over the years. In the gospel, Jesus promises a reward for every good deed, from welcoming a prophet to giving a "little one" a cup of water.

All my life, I have had experiences of having my generous gestures come back to me a hundred-fold. Let me tell you just one story from my days down in the home missions of the diocese back when I was a young priest.

As the first Catholic priest to live in that county, I was stationed at a mission church down along the Tennessee border. We had a handful, less than a dozen, 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 from Louisville 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 the $400.00, 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 then 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 were, only to see an unplanned donation come in from some unexpected source, often on the same day! It happened when I was a volunteer missionary in the Caribbean Missions a couple of years back. It happened during the St. Theresa Family Life Center and Guest House project that I just recently finished down in my home parish in Meade County.

I first learned this "give-and-receive" dynamic from my mother. She had very little money, but she was a serious “giver,” from things out of her vegetable garden to loving compliments and kindly gestures, which always seem to come back to her in abundance. I have seen that dynamic play out over and over again in my 52 years as a priest. It has happened so many times that I was moved to have these words engraved on my new tombstone: "Simply Amazed - Forever Grateful!" That’s probably where I got the idea of writing a column every week for fifteen years called An Encouraging Word. In it, I doubled-down on the spiritual practice of blessing people, not necessarily with material things, but even more so with encouragement which cost me nothing to give.

"He who waters will be watered!" I was paid nothing for my fifteen years of writing those weekly columns, but nothing brought more blessings into my life than the practice of looking for people to compliment and encourage and then expressing what I had seen in that column. The idea was simple. I looked around for goodness to affirm rather than evils to condemn. Indeed, “He who waters will himself be watered!” Jesus put it this way, “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.” (Luke 6:38)

Ever since I have adopted this spiritual practice in a serious way, I have also noticed in an ever-sharper focused way how many people, consciously or unconsciously, engage in the mean and ultimately self-defeating practice of withholding compliments. There may be even more people who stick their heads out a bit and then pull it back in giving praise, which may actually be even more cowardly. Henry Ward Beecher nailed it when he said, “The meanest, most contemptible kind of praise is that which first speak well of a man and then qualifies it with a “but.” Here is how that goes! “Your hair looks great, but you need to lose some of that weight!” "That was a good homily, but it was much too long!

Why is it so hard for some people to offer a direct, clear and unconditional compliment? Why does it seem like an “ascetical” practice that goes against our nature? I guess it goes all the way back to Cain and Abel. Cain became “resentful and crestfallen” because God looked with favor on his brother’s offering. This sin is alive and well even in clerical circles. Father Andrew Greeley once wrote (probably about the withholding he felt from his fellow priests in Chicago) that “the worst thing a diocesan priest can do is to get good at something.” I have felt what he was talking about. Several years into writing my column, I overheard one of my brother priests say loud enough for me to hear, "Oh, that Knott! He's never had a thought he hasn't published!"

We have all heard the old saying, “What goes around, comes around.” Paul expands on that wisdom when he wrote to the Galatians. “A person will reap only what he sows. Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who belong to the family of the faith.” (Galatians 6:7-10)

If we need to be loved, need to be appreciated, need to be noticed or need to be honored, the best way to get it is for us to extend love, to show appreciation, to pay attention to others and to honor them. Writing that column, looking for opportunities to bless others, brought me more blessings than I could ever have imagined. Hardly a day went by that I did not get a note, an email, a call or a greeting of appreciation in public places by people I had never met. I still receive encouraging words from people who remember it, even though I quit writing that column six years ago!

For me, writing that column was a spiritual practice. I still try to carry on that practice of blessing people in various other ways. By watering others, I have certainly been watered! I have learned the truth that if you give to others what you need, it comes back to you multiplied! Try it for a while and see what I mean! You'll be glad you did!

"He who waters will himself be watered!"  My only prayer at this time is that God has abundantly rewarded all those people who have reached out and helped me personally over the years --- and there have been many! They have my deepest gratitude and my prayer is that God has rewarded them a thousand times over for their generosity to me!