Not once in 15 years did Father Ron Knott fail to deliver his weekly column to The Record. He’s had three different editors since he began “An Encouraging Word,” which he plans to conclude at the end of September.
All of his effort — a total of 750 columns — were a product of his simple goodwill. He’s never been financially compensated for his dedicated column-writing. But one suspects that he knows his efforts are appreciated. He has received thousands of letters and cards over these 15 years, most of them full of gratitude for his column.
He has The Record’s gratitude, too. Rare is the person who would begin such an undertaking; even rarer is someone who consistently follows through, week after week, with no expectation of reward. In fact, sometimes, though not too often, Father Knott surely expected to hear from detractors.
His columns were often opinionated, but most of the time they captured a nearly-universal feeling among his fellow Catholics. Occasionally he challenged prevailing opinions. And he always did so with respect.
The rest of us could learn a thing or two from Father Knott. He took a long look at his talents and found a way to use them to help, as he wrote in his first column, “the average Catholic” during a difficult time.
He introduced “An Encouraging Word” on Sept. 26, 2002, not long after the clergy sexual abuse crisis erupted in the Archdiocese of Louisville. As the director of the Vocation Office, he saw acutely the harm abusers had caused to their victims, the laity, innocent priests and potential seminarians.
He wrote in that first column, “During this sex scandal in the church, I have been concerned about the nearly 200,000 Catholics in our archdiocese, especially those who were barely hanging on before this came to light.
“At first I thought there was nothing I could do to help them,” he wrote. “I was wrong.”
Father Knott sat down at his computer and began to encourage parishioners and clergy alike.
There are other priests, deacons, religious and lay people just like Father Knott — those who see a problem and dedicate themselves to being a force for good.
We need those people —from every walk of life — to take up the Gospel call to love one another, encourage one another. We should also remember to thank them for their constancy and faithfullness.
One way to express our gratitude is to emulate them — by committing to something faithfully that will encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ.
A simple but regular outreach of goodwill can work wonders for each of us. And it touches on something Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz often refers to — the theology of abundance. This concept says that God has provided what we need and it’s up to us to cultivate our gifts to build the Body of Christ.
Let’s remember to tend in a simple way the garden of our gifts and share its fruits with our brothers and sisters in Christ.