An Encouraging Word – On doing it while you can

Father J. Ronald Knott
Father J. Ronald Knott

You do not know what any day may bring forth. Proverbs 27:1

Recently I had two back-to-back experiences that I cannot get out of my mind. In a one-week period, I visited two people with cancer and left with the belief that they would be around for several months or more. Both died within 24 hours. It left me shaken for several days.

In both cases, I found myself thinking about what I could have said and done further. It was a matter of not regretting what I said, but regretting what I could have said when I had the chance.

As it often happens, I stumbled onto a quote, this one from American author Og Mandion, that gave me advice for the future.

“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.”

I have not only tried to live this wisdom myself, I have had the opportunity to teach it to other priests. Before I retired two years ago, I taught a “transition out of seminary and into ministry” class to the deacons about to be ordained priests. I always ended with a class I called “the spiritual practice of blessing people.” Sadly, this practice does not come naturally to them nor to most of us. It must be taught.

In the very last class, I teach them to bless others. To bless does not mean to wave crosses over others. To bless is to hold in reverence, to wish unconditional, total, unrestricted good. To bless is to invoke divine care upon, to think or speak gratefully of others.

After I explain what “blessing each other” means, I go around the class and say some of the most positive things I can think of about them. It usually produced a profound silence.

Recently, I came across a list of things I said to a young Mexican seminarian in one of those classes, right before he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Tulsa. His name was Father Jorge Gomez. That young priest was killed instantly in a traffic accident only seven weeks after I said those things to his face.

Very often, we tend to wait till we get to the funeral home, until it is too late, to say nice things about people we love or people we have known. In a poignant song from a few years back, Erik Hassle sings, “Don’t bring me flowers after I’m dead. Save your givings for the living instead.” Another song by We The Kings had a similar plea, “Whatever you need to say, say it now, say it now, say it now.”

“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight.” Amazing advice.

To read more from Father Knott, visit his blog:

Father J. Ronald Knott

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One reply on “An Encouraging Word – On doing it while you can”
  1. says: Karen Money

    “An Encouraging Word” really struck a cord with me. I lost 2 friends to suicide and had wished that I had given them an encouraging word when I had seen them. Those experiences have caused me to do exactly what you wrote about in the article. I use “snail mail”. Sending cards has taken such a backseat to electronics, and it’s just not the same. Keep up the great work Father Ron, you are truly a blessing.

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