It has been a hot, sunny and humid week here in Minnesota (the Land of 10,000 Lakes- and 10 million mosquitos!) where, as the newly re-cycled State Chaplain of the Florida Knights, I attended the 137th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus. But the spirit generated by the gathering of so many like-minded Catholic men and the lovely, exquisitely-executed liturgies celebrated each day by nearly 100 Cardinals and bishops, along with an even greater number of priests, makes me feel like the trip was truly worth the time and effort.
Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson, delivered a “State of the Order” address this Tuesday afternoon, and held the audience in rapt attention, despite its one and one-half hour-plus delivery time. It was supported with audio-visual accounts of the various works of charity performed by many of the nearly two million Knights from around the world. Some of the stories behind these works are absolutely amazing.
Founded in 1882 by Venerable Father Michael McGivney in New Haven, the Knights organization has blossomed beyond our borders to include large segments in such diverse countries as Poland, Korea, France, Lithuania, Mexico, Canada, Cuba, the Philippines, France and Guatemala. Much has changed since Father McGivney established our Order, but the mission remains the same. Our Order still empowers good men to become great men! We continue to grow the Order as brothers, fathers, husbands, parishioners and citizens, guided by the principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism. Where there’s a need, there’s a Knight lending a helping hand. There is no larger Catholic organization for men in the world than the Knights.
In May, the British government released a terrifying report saying that the persecution of Christians around the world is at “near genocide levels.” We see this crisis unfolding in the Middle East, where Christianity is on the verge of annihilation. One of our guest speakers was the Patriarch of the Syriac Catholics in Iraq, who spoke of the atrocities committed against the Christians in his native land by ISIS. He said that the Christian population has been reduced to less than 200,000 from a rather healthy three million before war. With the help of the Knights (of which he has been a long-time member), he and his brother bishops are trying to help families to return and rebuild their homes and the heavily-damaged and destroyed churches.
The Knights prove their commitment of service, charity, generosity and kindness when they put food on the tables of hungry families or coats on the backs of poor kids; when they provide the gift of mobility through partnership with the Global Wheelchair Mission; when they step up in the wake of natural disasters or show a major involvement with the Special Olympics since its inception fifty years ago. They are in the forefront of the Respect Life movement because of their commitment to promote he Culture of Life. In the past 10 years they’ve placed over 1,000 ultrasound machines in crisis pregnancy centers. They defend the dignity of every person from conception to natural death.
To have an even greater impact in our families and parishes, the Knights have provided a new spiritual program model that provides local councils with an unprecedented number of activities spread across the areas of Faith, Family, Community and Life. It is called “Faith In Action.” Its purpose is to strengthen Catholic family life – to build the domestic church. Let me give you an example of such faith in action.
What made the week most special to me was not so much the wonderful speeches of the Supreme Knight, nor the eloquent homily of the host Archbishop, nor the masterful talk on soon-to-be Saint John Henry Cardinal Newman and Conscience, by Cardinal Collins of Toronto, but the excellent witness of the father of Kendrick Castillo, the young hero and want-to-be Knight, who gave his life to protect his classmates this past Spring at the Stems School in Colorado. Eight students were injured in the shooting, but no others died when he charged the assailant to save his classmates a week before graduation. The Knights voted unanimously to grant him posthumous membership in the Order and presented his parents with the “Caritas Dei” (“Love of God”) Award, only the fourth such honor bestowed on a person by the Knights. Kendrick and his Dad had spent more than 2,500 hours in community service with the Knights, so much did the young martyr admire their work. His father and mother showed what excellent example good parenting working in hand with faith in God can do for the family.
I hope that more men of our parish will consider joining the Knights of Columbus in the coming months. Our own Knights will soon speak to the men of our parish at all Masses on an upcoming Sunday.