An Encouraging Word — Who are the angels in your life?

Some have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2

Father J. Ronald Knott
Father J. Ronald Knott

At the beginning of the New Year, I like to reflect back on the people who have crossed my path in a life-changing way. Our crossings of paths may have appeared to be accidental, but from hindsight, I am convinced they have been “angels,” “messengers” from God, sent to invite me to take steps on the path that God has laid out for me.

The first angel that comes to mind is my grandmother, Lillian Mills Knott, a country midwife, who delivered me at home and baptized me immediately after a difficult birth.

Sister Mary Ancilla first raised the possibility of my being a priest and Sister Agnes Bernard offered the first clear and firm encouragement.

My cousin, Father Bob Ray, first mentioned to me that there was a place called St. Thomas Seminary. I can still remember where we were standing on the playground of St. Theresa School in Rhodelia, Ky. He was in the eighth grade and I was in the seventh.

As a seminarian, my sister Brenda took me in and later took me by the hand and helped me find a job and an apartment here in Louisville, which launched me into a whole series of new adventures.

Paul and Wilhelmina King were not only my first landlords, they became like surrogate parents throughout the rest of seminary, offering me a home away from home, until ordination and beyond. She introduced me as her “son” until she died. Paul and I, along with our mutual friend and another personal benefactor, Jack, are still connected.

Rev. Jack Wilhelm, pastor emeritus of First Presbyterian Church in Somerset, was responsible for pushing me to get a Doctor of Ministry degree in parish revitalization, which had a lot to do with my becoming pastor of the Cathedral of the Assumption.

Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly, out of nowhere, called me one day and invited me to be pastor of our Cathedral, something I would never have thought of for myself.

Theologian Michael Downey first proposed that I start writing books and Mrs. Jeanne Paradis underwrote my first effort. Twenty-five books later, I know for a fact that I would not be writing unless these two angels had been instrumental in overcoming my reticence.

Melanie-Prejean Sullivan, my ministry partner at Bellarmine University, and I started doing campus ministry together 14 years ago. I realize that I probably would not still be involved without her encouragement, inspiration and help.

Father Mark O’Keefe was the messenger from God who invited me to come to St. Meinrad to start what has become known as the Institute for Priests and Presbyterates.

Who are the angels in your life, those messengers from God, who have invited you to take a leap into a new way of being?

While we owe these angels so much, I can’t help wondering how many times we failed to entertain others, not knowing who they were or where they were from.

Father J. Ronald Knott

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