Tuesday, June 11, 2024


Visiting From the Chicago Provincial House of the Little Sisters of the Poor
Palatine, Illinois
Celebrating Her 25th Anniversary of Vows

Part of my "retirement plans" was to volunteer regularly at St. Joseph Home for the Elderly, operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor, here in Louisville. 
Sister Julie's Family and Relatives

Among the Sisters at this table, there are Sisters from Kenya, the Philippines and the South Pacific islands. 

“Sister Julie’s 25th Jubilee”
Rev. Ronald Knott
June 8, 2024

This is my commandment: love one another as I loved you.
John 15:12

Over the Christmas holidays, a couple of years ago, I got the opportunity to watch the 2007 movie, The Bucket List, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. It is about two terminally ill men on a road trip with a “wish list” of things to do before they “kicked the bucket.” Since I had just officially retired, it struck a chord with me.

In one of my very favorite scenes, they are both sitting on one of the pyramids in Egypt. Morgan Freeman’s character says to Jack Nicholson’s character, “You know the ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death. When their souls got to the entrance to heaven…the gods asked them two questions. Their answer determined whether they were admitted or not. “Have you found joy in your life?” “Has your life brought joy to others?”

When Sister Julie asked me to preach today, I thought these two questions would be two great questions to propose to her as she reflected on her first 25 years as a Little Sister of the Poor! “Have I found joy in my life?” “Has my life brought joy to others?” Jesus, of course, put it this way! Has God’s love for me brought me happiness? Has God’s love for me inspired me to bring happiness to others? I am confident that she is able to answer both questions with a resounding “yes.” Her life as a Little Sister of the Poor has certainly brought joy to her life and her life as a Little Sister of the Poor has certainly brought joy to the lives of those she has served!

What we are talking about here basically is Sister Julie’s living out of the Great Commandment. The "great commandment" of Jesus says, "Love your neighbor as yourself," not "Love your neighbor rather than yourself!" In other words, if you have no love for yourself, you will have no love to share with your neighbor! You cannot give anybody else anything, if you don't have anything to give! As I learned in High School Latin class, "Nemo dat quod not habet." "If you ain't got it, you can't give it!" Only those who know God’s love can love another as they are loved!

To love oneself, one has to be dedicated to wholeness of "mind, body and spirit." We can also call it being dedicated to one’s "education, health and spirituality." Whichever words you prefer, the task is to fill your mind with truth, fill your body with a balance of healthy food and exercise and fill your spirit with help from your "higher power."  If you "fall in love" with pursing those three things in your own life, you will have an abundance of love to give to others. 

Sir Ranulph Fiennes makes a great point when he said, “There is no such thing as “bad weather,” just “inappropriate clothing.” We can complain about the weather or how bad the world is, but it comes down to us taking the necessary personal precautions to survive and thrive in the world as it is! If it's cold, we wear a coat and hat! If it is weak, crooked and selfish, then we make sure we are personally strong, honest and communally focused! If the world is filled with ignorant, unhealthy and materialistic people, then we make sure we are individually educated, healthy and spiritually sound! 

Alexis de Tocqueville was so right when he said this about personal responsibility and how it affects the society we live in when he said something like this: ‘A nation cannot remain strong when every citizen belonging to it is individually weak; just as no religious community, family, marriage or parish can be strong if it is totally made up of cowardly and enfeebled individuals.’

Taking personal responsibility is what it means to “love oneself.” That is part of the great commandment, the part that brought joy into the life of Sister Julie. However, that is only half of the Great Commandment. The other half is to “love your neighbor” – in other words to being competent in “bringing joy into the life of others.”

When I preached recently about the Good Shepherd, I noted that there were two possible words for “good” in the Greek text – agathos and kalos. Agathos means “good” as in “holy,” but that is not the word used for a “good shepherd.” The words used there is kalos, meaning “good” as in “good at something” – “competent”, if you will!

Sister Julie did not become a Little Sister of the Poor to merely bring herself joy. She became a Little Sister of the Poor to bring joy to the lives of others. To do that, she needed to become “agathosandkalos” – personally “goodandcompetent at serving” the elderly poor! Just as no community like the Little Sisters of the Poor can be successful in its mission of service to the elderly poor if every Sister in it is personally weak and incompetent.  Each member needs to be both “good” and “good at it.”  Being a member of this community should bring joy to each individual member and each member of this community should bring joy to the lives of every other member. It’s that simple and it’s that hard! Being personally “good” and “good at what she does” is what we celebrate today in the life of Mother Provincial, Julie!  

With the help of Tim Schoenbachler, I wrote the lyrics of this hymn last year for the Feast of Saint Jeanne Jugan, Foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor. We sang it as a Post-Communion hymn at the Anniversary Mass.

Last August, 2023, I published a collection of homilies I gave over the last few years at the local Little Sisters' Home for the Elderly.
The book is available at Amazon Books. 









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