Thursday, June 13, 2024



Given At the Little Sisters of the Poor St. Joseph Home
June 10, 2024

Unlike the Ten Commandments, which stress the things that one who loves God should not do, today’s gospel offers us a list of things that a person who loves God does do. It is important to remember here that Jesus is not saying “do these things and God will love you,” but rather “if you love God, these are the things you will do!” We do not do these things to earn God’s love, rather if we love God, we will do these things. So, what then does a serious lover of God look like?

(1)He or she is first of all “poor in spirit.”  What Jesus is talking about here is not merely economic poverty. Even the dirt poor can be greedy in their hearts. What it means, really, is the deep-down knowledge that when it comes right down to it, we own nothing and everything can be taken away from us in an instant. Every material possession, every blessing we have ever had, is a gift from God that was given to us, not to hoard, but to share. The more we have been given, the greater the responsibility we have to share.” “Poverty of spirit” is a basic knowledge that we are all poor, when it comes right down to it. As they say, “There are no pockets in shrouds!”

(2) A serious lover of God is able to mourn. One who loves God seriously knows that we are interconnected human beings and therefore never loses his or her ability to feel the suffering of others. A cold-hearted, self-centered, disinterested person is not a friend of God. A friend of God shares the compassion of Christ who was moved deeply by the horrible suffering of simple human beings and is never far from “the gift of tears,” as the saints called it.

(3) A serious lover of God is meek. A “meek” person is not a person who lets people walk over him or her. A “meek” person lives with the knowledge that he is never “a god,” but nonetheless always a “child of God.” In other words, he neither inflates his own worth on one hand, nor does he allow others to deflate his value on the other hand.  Being meek means to know who we are in God’s eyes- nothing more, but nothing less!

(4) A serious lover of God hungers and thirsts for righteousness. A serious lover of God does not dabble in religion, placing religion somewhere outside the realm of his daily living and daily choices.  Rather, he or she is a serious spiritual seeker, always trying to align his everyday life with Christian principles.  He or she strives always to close the gap between being a Christian in name and being a Christian in fact, while being totally free of religious fanaticism and doing spiritual violence to others in the name of orthodoxy.

(5) A serious lover of God is merciful. Being merciful means letting God be the judge of other people. It means giving people the benefit of the doubt, giving them a break, wishing them well on their path, knowing that with God, it isn’t over till it’s over, and with God there is always another chance. Yes, it also means living the maxim, “There but for the grace of God, go I!” Thomas Merton said, "The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all livings things, which are part of one another, and all involved in one another."

(6) A serious lover of God is clean of heart. A serious lover of God doesn’t just do good things, he or she does them for the right reason and with the purest of motives.  I tried to remind the seminarians at Saint Meinrad that it is a good thing to want to be a priest, but one must go into it for good reasons – to serve people, not for what priesthood can do for them. It is a good thing to give to the poor, but one can give to the poor, not because they love the poor, but because they will get their name in the paper or will have a building named after them. A serious lover of God always does good things, but he also does them for the right reason.

(7) A serious lover of God is a peacemaker. War is getting more and more irrelevant. We need to become as good at peacemaking as we have been at building sophisticated weapons. There will always be misunderstanding between people. One who truly loves God has the ability and the credibility to prevent disagreements from becoming a reason for violence. We need not think globally only. Families, marriages, neighborhoods, siblings and churches desperately need these peacemakers. When enough of us really love God, we will have enough peacemakers to move us closer to universal peace.  If you love God, you love his people! If you love his people, you will do what you can to bring them together.

(8) A serious lover of God will be persecuted, insulted and lied about. The brighter the light the fiercer the attack! Evil does not like goodness. Evil cannot tolerate the presence of goodness and so it attacks. One who seriously loves God is more than willing to take persecution, insults and lies, knowing that personal integrity is more important than comfort or approval.

So, the bottom line is this – you will know that you are on the path to sainthood if these "beatitudes" describe you! If these eight characteristics don't describe you, make a u-turn while you can, because you're headed in the wrong direction!      







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. 









Sunday, June 9, 2024



His relatives set out to seize him, for they
said, “He is out of his mind!”
Mark 3:20-35


Today, Jesus seems to be getting criticism from two directions - from his family and from organized religion! One of the things about Mark's Gospel, the first to be written down, is that it is so blunt and straightforward. He tells it like it is! Those who write later, when the apostles were rising in admiration by the Church, clean up a bunch of stories so that his family and disciples don't look so rude and crude.  


First, we read about the family of Jesus showing up to take Jesus away because they felt that he had lost his mind!  Here is what it said: 

Jesus came home with his disciples.
Again, the crowd gathered,
making it impossible for them even to eat.
When his relatives heard of this, they set out to seize him, 
                                                       for they said, "He is out of his mind."


It sort of shakes our usual ideas about Jesus and his family. To have them show up to "seize" him, thinking that "he is out of his mind" is really something else indeed!


Second the religious authorities show up and they were so "out of their minds" with jealousy, they accused him of being "possessed."  Here it what it says about them.

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said,
"He is possessed by Beelzebul,"
and, "By the prince of demons he drives out demons."


What we have here, with the religious authorities, is an example of pettiness and jealousy in ministry that has been around since the beginning. This gives me a chance to tell you about one of the things I addressed in the retreats for priests I gave around the world - over 150 of them in 10 countries!  Pettiness and jealousy in ministry, unfortunately, is not restricted to the clergy. Anyone of you who has ever been involved in lay ministry knows that it can happen there as well. So, what I have to say about priests can apply to lay ministers and even family members as well. 


There was one thing the religious enemies of Jesus, even some family members, could not understand and that was his popularity and success in ministry.  Since it was obvious that he was doing good things, the only tactics they had left to fall back on was to discredit his success by accusing him of losing his mind or attributing his success to the fact that he was in cahoots with the devil. Since it was obvious to all that he had power to cast out demons, the religious leaders attributed his power, not to God, but to the devil. Jealous of his power to do good, they slander him by telling people that his power to do good came from evil itself.


Jealousy and competitiveness have been the dark side of clerical culture for a very long time and is alive and well today - even in families! When the apostles, James and John, were caught making a move to grab the best seats in Jesus’ new kingdom, they had to face the jealous indignation of the other ten apostles as well as a stern reprimand from Jesus. We may remember the story about John trying to put a stop to someone who was driving out demons in the name of Jesus because he was not “a member of the inner circle.” Then there is the story about Joshua doing pretty much the same when he complained to Moses that Medad and Eldad were prophesying even though they had not been “in the tent” with the others when the spirit came to rest on the other prophets.   Snubbed by some Samaritans while on their way to Jerusalem, James and John asked Jesus if it would be OK to call down fire from heaven and burn them up! 


The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests dedicates quite a bit of space to the subject of clerical envy and competition. Whether you liked his work or not, the late Father Andrew Greeley made a similar point in one of his books. He talks about the leveling that goes on among priests, whereby they are reluctant to applaud the work of other priests for fear that it will take away something from themselves.


Father Greeley wrote that, in the clerical culture, “to be a member of good standing, a priest must try not to be too good at anything or to express unusual views or criticize accepted practices or even to read too much. Some ideas are all right, but too many ideas are dangerous.” “When a layman mentions that Father X is a good preacher, the leveler priest’s response might likely be, ‘Yes, he preaches well, but he doesn’t get along with kids.’” Or, “He’s really good, but all he does during the week is prepare his sermon.” Or, “everyone says that, and it’s probably true, but he’s not an easy man to live with.”  One famous Protestant minister once said, “The meanest, most contemptible form of praise is to first speak well of a man and then end it with a “but.”   


In my August transition class with the deacons, when I was working at St. Meinrad, I always ended with a class on the spiritual practice of blessing people. Blessing people is not about waving crosses over them, but about looking for goodness in them to affirm. For some reason, this does not seem to come naturally to ordained ministers. It is a spiritual discipline that must be intentionally cultivated.


Not too long after I retired, when I was cleaning out my files, I came across my notes for former student, Jorge Gomez of the class of 2011. Fr. Jorge from Mexico and his diocesan seminarian brother, Stanley, from Kenya, were killed in a car wreck in Tulsa a week or two after Father Jorge's ordination. Here are the last words I said to Deacon Jorge to bless him on his way out of the seminary. “You have not forgotten that you do not have a vocation to the seminary, but to serve the People of God. You have a deep love and respect for your country, your family, your people and your community. You are very dedicated to “the people.” You seem to know instinctively that, as priests, we are “called from the people, to live among the people, to serve the people.” I also told each one of them which saint they reminded me of. For him I selected St. Luke, whose heroes are always the underdog, the foreigner, the disaffected and the left out.  I am very happy I took the time to bless him with these words while he was still alive! It makes me happy that I even made a donation for his ordination celebration because his whole town was invited and his family was poor! 


Brothers and sisters, our sins may not be so much about “what we have done,” even the mean and nasty things we say about each other, but “what we have failed to do,” our withholding of clear and unconditional compliments when we have the chance!


St. Cyprian, in the Office of Readings for the feast of Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian, put it this way. His words could be applied to religious women, lay ministers and fellow family members as well.  “Why should a priest not take pride in the praise given to a fellow priest as though it were given to him?  What brotherhood fails to rejoice in the happenings of its brothers wherever they are?”


One famous American Protestant preacher, as I mentioned earlier, described our sin best when he said, “The meanest, most contemptible form of praise is to first speak well of a man and then end it with a “but!” "My sister may be a good cook, but her house is always a mess!" My brother may drive a nice car, but he is in in debt up to his ears!" "My neighbors have a nice house, but they don't mow their grass very often!" "My husband may be good at sports, but he is always late for work!" "My wife may hold down a full-time job, but she needs to lose some weight!" 

Brothers and sisters, we need to get off our "buts" and give each other clear compliments, focusing on what's right with them, not just what's wrong with them!