An Encouraging Word — Blessed by the family

Father J. Ronald Knott
Father J. Ronald Knott

On him shall his family hang the glory. Isaiah 22:24

Have you ever wondered what your family thinks about you — or whether they even think about you all that much? You know your name comes up every once in a while. You know they talk about you sometimes. Would you like to hear how they evaluate you and what you do, or would you just as soon not know?

Well, I didn’t have to wait till my own funeral home gathering for my relatives to say what they think about me and my life, without the benefit of being there to hear it. They recently took the opportunity to tell me now, while I am on this side of the grass.

On Sunday, June 29, my family had a retirement party for me down at St. Theresa Church in Rhodelia, Ky., — the parish where I grew up, went to grade school, celebrated my first Mass and will be buried. I heard the idea came from a dream my youngest brother, Mark, had in which my dead mother told him that the family should honor me for my years of service.

I didn’t know what to expect since they told me to butt out of the planning and “leave it to them.” They wanted me to just sit back relax and receive the gift they wanted to give me. They told me that they had invited family and a few “fans.”

As the day approached, I found myself getting more and more excited about learning how my family, hometown parish friends and neighbors from growing up days, viewed me, what I have done over the last 45 years of ordained ministry, and how they would express it.

There were about 180 people in attendance. Deacon Greg Beaven, who does so much for my home parish, spoke first and gave an overview of my ministry years. Then Paula, my oldest niece, representing the whole family, gave a talk. She had asked my family to submit one word to describe me. I braced myself.

She said the words that came in were: “close, amazing, inspiring and generous,” but the two words that were repeated over and over again were: “supportive” and “caring.”

Those words from my family were the best gifts any priest could hope for! I have tried to be those words, but it is wonderful to be able to hear them while I am still alive. As I looked around the room, I realized that my siblings had kids and grandkids to show for their life’s work. Those words from them were what I have to show for my life’s work. I will treasure them.

The lesson here is this: Don’t wait till it is too late to tell those you love how much you love them.

George Burns might have been a bit sarcastic when he said, “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city,” but for me it is a fact!

Father J. Ronald Knott

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