Let me offer you a few words to help bring to a conclusion this earth-shaking convention in which we’ve all taken part these past days.
But I have to tell you something. You might remember that at the States Dinner, Cardinal Dolan commented that he had been given “the honeymoon suite” here at the Hilton Hotel. Well, I don’t know what’s going on around here but when I returned to the hotel last night, I found that that the hotel staff had placed a baby crib in my room! I esteem marriage and family as much as Cardinal Dolan
but this is taking things way too far!
II. Esteem for the Knights of Columbus and Chaplains
First, let me thank you, brother Knights. Throughout these days of our Supreme Convention, I have experienced your faith, fraternal spirit and friendship. Presuming to speak for my fellow Knights of Columbus Chaplains, I wish to thank you for your solidarity with us, your bishops and priests. I truly hope you know how deeply this is appreciated and what a source of strength and encouragement you are to us all.
It is said that sometimes we cannot see the forest for the trees. When we are dealing with issues in our respective jurisdictions, whether at the State, District, our Council level, we may lose sight of how wonderful the Order really is. One of the great things about coming every year to the Convention is that we get to see the forest . . . we get to see the Order as a whole . . . whether it is in the magnificent report of our Worthy Supreme Knight, or the International Awards Ceremony which we witnessed yesterday, or just by meeting one other in the elevators and hospitality suites. What a great gift God has given us in the Knights of Columbus. There’s nothing else quite like it in help us be true Catholic men, live our vocations, engage in the life of Church, and help create a better world.
If you and I want to boost our ability to attract new members, the first thing we should do every day is to get down on our knees and thank the Lord and thank Fr. McGivney for making us part of this Order. When our hearts are grateful for the privilege of being Knights of Columbus, it won’t be hard to approach a Catholic man who ought to be Knight, to invite him, and to produce on the spot a form 100!
III. The Order’s Chaplains
Let me thank you also for the resolutions supporting the Order’s chaplains, our brother Knights, bishops and priests who serve the Order generously. They are the successors of Father McGivney and their role of faith-formation and sharing the sacraments helps you to live your live the principles of the Order more robustly, to live your vocation to marriage and family, to protect life, encourage vocations, and to defend religious liberty whenever and wherever it is threatened.
In particular, I thank you for recognizing Father John Grace, someone who works day in and day out with the Chaplains of the Order, in order to assist them in doing the work of Father McGivney in our day and age. As you know, this year Father Grace has celebrated the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination. Please join me once again in thanking and congratulating Fr. Grace!
Delegates, I can only urge you to work every more closely with your State Chaplains, to help and encourage them to do their job in helping the Order as it enters with the whole Church into the year of faith. Please help the State Chaplains in their work with the Council Chaplains, so that every meeting of the Knights of Columbus includes faith-formation, so that every meeting of the Knights of Columbus helps our membership to grow in his understanding and love of the Catholic faith, in order that they may bear witness to the faith with renewed vigor,
with great love and generosity, in the world today. Charity is the first principle of the Order but it is charity that evangelizes, a charity that bears joyful witness to the truth of the Gospel. You brother Knights stand with us in solidarity and we your chaplains stand with you so that together in our day and age we can be true to the vision of our Venerable Founder, Servant of God, Father Michael J. McGivney.
And while we’re on the subject, I would remind you as I remind myself of the encouraging report which Our Worthy Supreme Knight give us on the Cause of Father McGivney. I echo his words to pray daily the Order’s prayer for Fr. McGivney’s canonization and urge you to urge all your brother Knights and their families to join the Father McGivney guild to receive information & report favors received.
IV. The Cause of Religious Liberty
A lot has been said these past few days regarding religious liberty. Let’s just think about what has happened here these past few days. Let’s think about the letter which our Apostolic Nuncio read to us, an unprecedented letter, which told us several things:
- how grave are the threats to religious liberty that we are facing
- how close the Holy Father is to us in this struggle
- and how important the role of the Knights of Columbus is in defending and protecting religious liberty.
In fact, the Holy Father has asked us to do this and I know we will not fail him!
The Holy Father and the Holy See, the U.S. Bishops, and Knights of Columbus . . . we are aligned not only in thought but also in prayer and action in order to turn back the threats to religious liberty that are before us, whether it is the HHS mandate, the attempt of the government to claim itself as the source of our rights and to reduce religious freedom only to freedom of worship; whether it is state laws that have shut down Catholic adoption agencies or hampered the church from helping the victims of human trafficking – we have be true patriots by being loyal sons of the Church. . . we are indeed called ‘to proclaim liberty throughout the land!’
In this regard, let me offer two suggestions: First, that you help promote the religious freedom texting campaign of the U.S. Bishops. Text the word, “liberty” or “libertad” to 377-377 so as to rapidly receive information regarding religious liberty and have the opportunity to help the cause at a moment’s notice. Following the magnificent Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration, my second recommendation is that we pray the Rosary daily, but especially in the month of October as individual Knights and with our families for the cause of religious freedom. More than ever we need the powerful intercession of Our Lady who has always protected God’s People in times of danger, and, as we have heard, we are facing threats to religious freedom of “unprecedented gravity”.
But let us not forget why it is we are so passionate about defending religious freedom. It’s not just because we want “freedom of choice” to run Catholic institutions and businesses according to our convictions. That’s extremely important but our reasons run even deeper. First, religious freedom is fundamental. It’s about our innate relationship with our Creator. It’s about the fact that we human beings have inviolable dignity not just because of the size of our crania or the advantage of opposing thumbs, but above all because it is the Creator who gave us our fundamental freedoms. This means we have a dignity above and beyond the rest of creation ... a transcendent dignity, as the Church’s teaching tells us. But even that is not the whole story. What use is to be made of the freedom with which God has endowed us? It is not merely the freedom to do what we want but the moral freedom to do what we ought; to be free of sin, to enjoy the freedom for good, for excellence, that is ours when we attain to virtue and lead holy lives. Here is how Blessed Pope John Paul II put it: “Only those who commit themselves to the love of Christ truly become free.”
The first principle of our beloved Order is charity. As we know this principle is robustly put into practice at every level of the Order. Yet, the charity we practice is nothing other than the love of Christ poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We want liberty to reign in our land so that the love of Christ might reign in our hearts and in the hearts of fellow citizens. We want liberty to reign in our land so that we might be free to bear witness to the love of Christ in every aspect of our lives, personal, social, and professional ... and work together with all people of good will to build up a true civilization of love.
Thank you, brother Knights! Thank you, fellow Catholics! May God bless our Church! May God bless our beloved Order! And may God bless the homelands we represent! Vivat Jesus!