Posts Tagged ‘Knights of Columbus’

Vivat Jesus!

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

What a grand summer so far . . . sure, some time-off with family and priest-friends, but also the 150th Anniversary Mass at Gettysburg, and World Youth Day in Brazil.

Last week added to a banner summer as I joined 3,000 other members at the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus in San Antonio, Texas.

All of us are gratefully aware of the “K of C,” as we call them, observing them with admiration at parish, community, and archdiocesan events.  We especially appreciate their unflagging devotion to pro-life work, Catholic schools, vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, physically and mentally handicapped, and youth work.  As most bishops and parish priests will tell you, “If you want something done, go to the Knights of Columbus.”

In addition to all of this work — they are the largest volunteer organization in the world! — they run the best insurance program around, loyal to the goal of their founder, Father Michael Mc Givney, to care for the widow and orphan of poor, immigrant Catholic workmen.

They have also carried the light of faith to the public square, especially in efforts to protect the fragile life of the preborn baby, the definition of marriage, and religious freedom.

All in all, as I commented in the remarks I was honored to give at the festive States’ Dinner, they are a radiant exhibit of what the Second Vatican Council called for in the vocation of the lay faithful.

The Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson, is an astute churchman, and in his splendid “state of the order address,” always a highpoint of the convention, he showed his attentiveness to the invitation now coming from Pope Francis, and encouraged us brother knights in our call to charity and service.

Mr. Anderson referred to the Holy Father’s warning about a “globalization of indifference.”  As I observed to the convention, “indifference is not a word you will find in the dictionary of the Knights of Columbus.”

I was particularly proud of my two brother bishops, Gustavo Garcia-Siller, the host Archbishop of San Antonio, who preached and celebrated the inspiring opening Mass; and Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, who gave the Keynote, as they both gave priority to our care for the immigrant.

To promote the dignity of the immigrant was especially appropriate with the K of C.  Why?  Well, they were founded precisely to offer fraternity and care for Catholic immigrant workers of 130 years ago, who were then, as now, the victims of prejudice, and whose families were so vulnerable if the breadwinner died or was injured; and two, the Knights themselves are of all nations and ethnic backgrounds, so are naturally free of the nasty nativism that sadly characterizes anti-immigrant sentiment today.

Brother Knights, to be with you was like a retreat — yet fun! . . . as I was with you in prayer and recommitment!

Keep up the good work!

Vivat Jesus!

Al Smith Dinner

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012


Last week I was out in Anaheim for the annual Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus. It was, as usual, a most uplifting and inspirational event.

In his rousing address to the thousands of delegates, representing 1.8 million knights, Dr. Carl Anderson, the Supreme Knight, exhorted us to a renewed sense of faithful citizenship, encouraging us not to be shy about bringing the values of faith to the public square. This duty, he reminded us, came not just from the fact that we are Catholic, but also from the fact that we are loyal Americans.

He then went on to announce a promising initiative of the Knights of Columbus to foster civility in politics. Quoting a very recent study, he noted that over 80% of Americans are fed up with the negativity, judgmentalism, name-calling, and mudslinging of our election-year process, and eagerly want a campaign of respect, substance, amity — civility!

For seven decades, the Al Smith Dinner here in New York has been an acclaimed example of such civility in political life. As you may know, every four years, during the presidential election campaign, the Al Smith Dinner is the venue of history, as it is the only time outside of the presidential debates that the two presidential candidates come together, at the invitation of the Al Smith Foundation, through the archbishop of New York, for an evening of positive, upbeat, patriotic, enjoyable civil discourse.  This year, both President Obama and Governor Romney have accepted our invitation. I am grateful to them.

The evening has always had a special meaning, as it is named after Governor Al Smith, the first Catholic nominated, in 1928, as a candidate for president, who was viciously maligned because of his own Catholic faith.  Smith was known as The Happy Warrior, because while he fought fiercely for what he believed was right, he never sought to demonize those who opposed him.  And, the dinner named in his honor is truly life-affirming as it raises funds to help support mothers in need and their babies (both born and unborn) of any faith, or none at all.

The Al Smith Dinner has never been without controversy, since, as Carl Anderson reminded us, politics can inspire disdain and negativity as well as patriotism and civility.

This year is surely no exception: I am receiving stacks of mail protesting the invitation to President Obama (and by the way, even some objecting to the invitation to Governor Romney).

The objections are somewhat heightened this year, since the Catholic community in the United States has rightly expressed vigorous criticism of the President’s support of the abortion license, and his approval of mandates which radically intruded upon Freedom of Religion. We bishops, including yours truly, have been unrelenting in our opposition to these issues, and will continue to be.

So, my correspondents ask, how can you justify inviting the President? Let me try to explain.

For one, an invitation to the Al Smith Dinner is not an award, or the provision of a platform to expound views at odds with the Church. It is an occasion of conversation; it is personal, not partisan.

Two, the purpose of the Al Smith Dinner is to show both our country and our Church at their best: people of faith gathered in an evening of friendship, civility, and patriotism, to help those in need, not to endorse either candidate. Those who started the dinner sixty-seven years ago believed that you can accomplish a lot more by inviting folks of different political loyalties to an uplifting evening, rather than in closing the door to them.

Three, the teaching of the Church, so radiant in the Second Vatican Council, is that the posture of the Church towards culture, society, and government is that of engagement and dialogue. In other words, it’s better to invite than to ignore, more effective to talk together than to yell from a distance, more productive to open a door than to shut one. Our recent popes have been examples of this principle, receiving dozens of leaders with whom on some points they have serious disagreements. Thus did our present Holy Father graciously receive our current President of the United States.  And, in the current climate, we bishops have maintained that we are open to dialogue with the administration to try and resolve our differences.  What message would I send if I refused to meet with the President?

Finally, an invitation to the Al Smith Dinner in no way indicates a slackening in our vigorous promotion of values we Catholic bishops believe to be at the heart of both gospel and American values, particularly the defense of human dignity, fragile life, and religious freedom. In fact, one could make the case that anyone attending the dinner, even the two candidates, would, by the vibrant solidarity of the evening, be reminded that America is at her finest when people, free to exercise their religion, assemble on behalf of poor women and their babies, born and unborn, in a spirit of civility and respect.

Some have told me the invitation is a scandal. That charge weighs on me, as it would on any person of faith, but especially a pastor, who longs to give good example, never bad. So, I apologize if I have given such scandal. I suppose it’s a case of prudential judgment: would I give more scandal by inviting the two candidates, or by not inviting them?

No matter what you might think of this particular decision, might I ask your prayers for me and my brother bishops and priests who are faced with making these decisions, so that we will be wise and faithful shepherds as God calls us to be?

In the end, I’m encouraged by the example of Jesus, who was blistered by his critics for dining with those some considered sinners; and by the recognition that, if I only sat down with people who agreed with me, and I with them, or with those who were saints, I’d be taking all my meals alone.

*Due to an overwhelming response to this blog post, the comment section is now closed.

Alleluia! My brother knights

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

The early days of this month I had the honor and joy of attending the International convention of the Knights of Columbus, this year in Denver.  Close to 3,000 knights and their wives crowded the “mile high city” for meetings, camaraderie, business, prayer, and festive celebration.  It was a grand time.

Among the conventioneers were dozens of my brother-knights from New York, and I was delighted to be among them.  Our time together allowed me to let them know once again how very much I admire and appreciate the efforts of this sterling fraternal organization.

My great-uncle, Ed Troy, was a knight, and managed their popular bowling alley in Webster Groves, Missouri, when I was a kid, so I have long been fascinated by them.  While a graduate student in American Church history at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., I was invited to become a knight by Mr. Ed Malloy, the father of the retired president of the University of Notre Dame, Father “Monk” Malloy, and, at the subsequent meetings, socials, and apostolic efforts, as I made my way up to Fourth Degree, my respect for them deepened.

In the meantime, I found Faith and Fraternalism, the scholarly history of the Knights of Columbus by Christopher Kaufman, one of my university professors, issued for the centennial of the Knights of Columbus in 1982, to be illuminating reading.  As you probably are aware, they were founded in 1882 by the Venerable Father Michael McGivney – – who, please God, will one day be a saint – – in neighboring Connecticut.  Men in those days were attracted to popular secret fraternal societies, which provided elementary insurance benefits at a time when there was no “social safety net,” a chance for socializing, and a network of friendship and support.  Unfortunately, most such fraternal societies in the America of that era (e.g., the Masons) did not at all welcome Catholics, and were, in fact, suspicious of them.  Thoughtful bishops and pastors urged their men to avoid such organizations, but it was the resourceful Father McGivney who said, “Let’s start our own.”

Today, of course, the Knights of Columbus is the largest volunteer organization in the world, a tremendous credit to the Church, and an acclaimed resource to our country.  All of that vitality, pride, and faith was colorfully evident in Denver, and I was happy to be part of it.  Anybody who thinks the Catholic Church in America is “on-the-run,” in retreat, or listless, should attend a Knights of Columbus convention!  They are joyfully confident in their Church!

I am so grateful for the dynamic presence of the Knights of Columbus in our Archdiocese of New York.  They often graciously provide an honor guard for me at liturgies throughout our counties, and I never pass up the opportunity to thank them for their commitment.

Especially do I appreciate their efforts in four areas.  First is their unflagging pro-life effort.  A goal of the Knights for 129 years has been to bring the values of the gospel and the Church to the public square.  While the Knights firmly believe in the American tradition of the separation of Church and state, they have never fallen for the fallacy of a separation of morality and politics.  Thus, they have been an unswerving force in defense of the life of the unborn baby.  In fact, at the Denver meeting, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson called upon Catholic politicians to be people of integrity and courage in allowing the clear teachings of the Church to affect their decisions. They also “put their money where their mouth is” as they work hard to provide care and support for God’s special children and their parents who are faced with mental and physical challenges, children some members of the “culture of death” claim should never be born.

Two, they are heroic in their support of Catholic education. Hundreds of students in the archdiocese are able to attend Catholic schools because of scholarships from the Knights.  Annually, the Knights of the archdiocese present me with a generous check to support some of our struggling schools.  They are indeed “regents” of our blessed Catholic schools.

Three, I applaud their promotion of vocations. Yes, they are vigorous in their defense of marriage and family.  But they are also indefatigable in their push for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life. Once again, they annually present me a gift to support our seminary, vocation office, and programs to help women and men discern a vocation to serve Jesus and His Church as a sister, brother, or priest.

Four, they have been bold in their defense of the Catholic faith.  In a positive way, they have long offered attractive explanations of our beliefs to a culture at times nervous about the wisdom of the Church.  But they have never shied away from loyalty to the Church when its freedom is threatened.  In Denver, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson was particularly eloquent in his expression of concern about contemporary attacks on religious liberty, especially regarding our beliefs in the true nature of marriage, the rights of the unborn baby, conscience protection for our healthcare workers and institutions, and parental choice in education.

Alleluia!  My brother knights, I thank you for your vigorous, unapologetic Catholic faith, your active charity and compassion, your devotion to God, Church, country, faith, and family, your love of the Holy Father, of bishops and priests (hard to find at times these days!), your joy and your hard work.  I’m proud to be one of you!  May your members only increase!

Archbishop Gomez on Immigration Policy

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Last week, Archbishop José H. Gomez addressed delegates at the Knights of Columbus Supreme Convention in Denver, Colorado. He spoke about the immigration policy in America. I thought you might want to read Archbishop Gomez’s remarks.

Here’s an excerpt:

From a Catholic standpoint, America’s founders got it exactly right. Human rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are universal and inalienable. They come from God, not governments. And these rights are not contingent on where you are born or what racial or ethnic group you are born into.

The human right to life, the foundation of every other right, implies the natural right to emigrate. Because in order for you and your family to live a life worthy of your God-given dignity, certain things are required. At minimum: food, shelter, clothing, and the means to make a decent living.

If you and your family are unable to secure life’s necessities in your home country – due to political instability, economic distress, religious persecution, or other conditions that offend basic human dignity — you must be free to seek these things in another country.

Click here to read his whole speech.