An Encouraging Word — The freedom to choose our responses

Choose life, not death. II Kings 18:32

Father J. Ronald Knott
Father J. Ronald Knott

We have all had them. For me they have been 1944, 1958, 1970, 2014. What are they? They are the years of major transitions! I was born in 1944, I went to the seminary in 1958, I was ordained in 1970 and 2014 will be the year I will officially retire.

For me, these dates did not mark the end of something, but the beginning of something. My life started in 1944, my preparation for priesthood started in 1958, my priesthood started in 1970 and I want 2014 to be the start of one of the most rewarding periods of my life.

As always, there are things we have control over and things we do not. As far as the things we have control over, I have always tried to live by the words of George Bernard Shaw:

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

As far as the things we do not have control over, I have always been inspired by the words of Victor Frankl who taught me that even then, we have some control: “The last of the human freedoms is the ability to choose how one responds to any given situation.”

As we go into 2014, whether it will be one of those major transitions years or not, maybe the best resolution of all is to, first, be more proactive in using the power we have to create the lives we want and, second, be more proactive in choosing our responses to the things that we truly have no power over.

For that, I would reverse the order in the famous Serenity Prayer. I would pray: “God grant me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference.”

  • “God grant me the courage to change the things I can.” My main goal for retirement is to challenge most of the traditional beliefs about priest retirement. I want to remain an active priest, very active, but active in a whole new way. I want to do a whole lot more than just fill in on weekends, watch the sun go down over some Florida beach or, God forbid, take up golf. I want to map out a whole new life; not have it mapped out for me by AARP.
  • “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” Good health, of course, is critical. Even though I would like to “rage against the dying of the light” as long as I can, I pray hard for the grace to choose a serene response to the inevitable decline in health should I live long enough to experience it.

2014? Bring it on!

Father J. Ronald Knott

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