A Time to Speak — Encouraging words for discouraged Catholics

Father J. Ronald Knott

Father J. Ronald Knott

He encouraged them all to remain firm in their commitment to the Lord. Acts 11:23

During the sex abuse scandal in the church, I have been very concerned about the nearly 200,000 Catholics in our archdiocese, especially those who have given up on the church or who were barely hanging on before this came to light. At first, I thought there was nothing I could do to help them. I was wrong.

I have a pulpit every weekend. From there, I can preach the Good News. In 2002, it occurred to me that I could enlarge my pulpit if I had the chance to write a weekly column in The Record dedicated to offering the average Catholic an encouraging word. I was both challenged and humbled to be given that opportunity. I wrote every week for 15 years.

Then there are parish missions, a time when extended preaching can be done over three days. I have preached more than 75 of them over the years.

Because I am still concerned about the discouraged Catholics in our archdiocese, I have agreed to offer a new parish mission here in our archdiocese. I am calling this one “Keep Your Eye on the Prize: Encouraging Words for Discouraged Catholics.” I will offer one in the country and one in the city this coming Lent.

The first of the two will be held at St. Brigid Church in Vine Grove, Ky., March 11-13. The second one will be held at Holy Family Church March 25-27. Both will begin at 7 p.m.

On Monday nights, the title of the extended homily will be “Developing a Solid Center that will Help You Weather Any Storm.” On Tuesday nights, the title of the extended homily will be “Catholic Christianity: The Message is Still Valid Regardless of the Goodness of its Messengers.” On Wednesday nights, the title of the extended homily will be “More than Surviving: Thriving in a Less than Perfect Church.”

After expenses, the nightly collections will go to support my retirement ministry in the Caribbean missions, particularly my work in the Diocese of Kingstown in the poor country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines where I have been volunteering for the last four years.

This is not the first scandal we have faced and overcome, and it will not be the last. Good and evil will continue to battle each other, but when all is said and done good will triumph. It has already been decided. This is not something humankind will accomplish. It is a totally free gift from God — no ands, ifs or buts about it.

In light of this, we must clean up the mess, make amends where we can, find ways to prevent it from ever happening again and, finally, forgive. We can do it. We must do it. We don’t have time for self-righteous indignation. We are all sinners.

After we have made amends to those who have been hurt and grieved our losses, we must get back to the business of being the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

During all this, I have been impressed by the faith of people in the pews. When I was almost drowning in discouragement, their continued faithful presence at Sunday Mass preached an encouraging word to me. I, like many other priests, have probably received more notes of encouragement in the last several years than ever before.

This purging and cleansing will ultimately be good for our church. The truth will set us free, even if does sting in the process. The words of Jesus to Peter are now addressed to us, “Will you go away also?”

Do not join those who give up. Let’s join those who search for even better reasons to keep the faith.

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