An Encouraging Word — With the help of our friends

Father J. Ronald Knott

Father J. Ronald Knott

Accompanying him were the Twelve, as well as some women and many others who provided for them out of their resources. Luke 8: 1-3

Who doesn’t remember the old Beatles song, “With a Little Help from My Friends,” where the main theme reminds us that we all “get by” with a little help from our friends? Those of us with even a modicum of “success,” know in our heart of hearts that we did not do it by ourselves, but with the assistance of others. It has certainly been true in my case and it is certainly something I try never to forget.

I still remember a little story I read in one of William Barclay’s The Daily Study Bible Series about this truth. I have changed it a bit to make it “Catholic.” It is the story of an old shoemaker who once wanted to be a priest, but it never worked out for him. At some point, he befriended a young seminarian. When his young friend was about to be ordained, the old shoemaker asked him for a favor. He asked if he could always make his shoes so that he could feel the priest standing in his shoes when he stood at the altar, at which he could never stand himself.

This story may have been the inspiration of a gospel hymn entitled “Someone Made the Shoes That Jesus Wore,” which makes the point that not everyone of Jesus’ followers was an apostle, but there were many who helped from the background — people like the holy women mentioned in the Scripture passage cited above. Today, like then, many of the greatest servants of the Gospel are the unseen people who work behind the scenes, but who are nonetheless essential to the mission.

When I think back over my life as a priest, this truth hits me between the eyes. Even this column would not be possible without a whole bunch of people who edit it and do the layout each week before you read it. I could not have gone to the seminary unless there were hundreds of generous “little old ladies” who dropped dollar bills into the collection basket of our parishes from 1959-1970. I could not have made it through the seminary without the help of many cooks, janitors, secretaries and teachers who got up early and went to bed late to make it possible for me to study and pray.

Even today, there are hundreds of anonymous helpers who support my efforts to help international seminarians, make it possible for me to do mission projects in the Caribbean and to write and publish spiritual books that people seem to enjoy reading all over the world. It is not lost on me at all that I often get the credit, because I am in a very public position, for the good works of many who work anonymously behind the scenes. In truth, we do it together!

Father J. Ronald Knott

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