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Charity That Evangelizes


by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson

The Gospel mandate of love, emphasized by Pope Francis and his predecessors, inspires the Knights’ Christian witness

Carl A. Anderson

Recently, Catholics around the world celebrated the news that Pope Francis will canonize Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II in April 2014 on Divine Mercy Sunday.

Of course, John XXIII is the pope who envisioned and then inaugurated the Second Vatican Council, and John Paul II will be recorded by history as its authoritative interpreter.

During the last general meeting of the council in 1965, Pope Paul VI summarized its accomplishments. He observed that the encounter with secular society was central to the council’s work, adding that “secular humanism, revealing itself in its horrible anti-clerical reality has, in a certain sense, defied the council. The religion of the God who became man has met the religion (for such it is) of man who makes himself God.”

And then the pope asked, “What happened? Was there a clash, a battle, a condemnation? There could have been,” he said, “but there was none.”

Instead, Paul VI said the Good Samaritan “has been the model of the spirituality of the council.” He pointed out that “charity has been the principal religious feature” of the council, emphasizing that “it is Christ himself who taught us that love for our brothers is the distinctive mark of his disciples.”

In presenting the Catholic Church as the Church of the Good Samaritan, Paul VI stressed that the response of the Church to secular culture must arise from the Church’s charism of love, which sees every person as a being made in the image and likeness of God.

John Paul II showed us even more clearly how this charism is also a vocation for every Christian to love his neighbor and that it should be lived out in the day-to-day reality of life, as we work to build first a culture of life and ultimately a civilization of love.

Benedict XVI further deepened our theological understanding of this vocation in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, which reminded us: “Love of neighbor, grounded in the love of God, is first and foremost a responsibility for each individual member of the faithful” (20). And in a recent interview in the Italian Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, Pope Francis gave a moving description of how he views the encounter today between the Church and culture. He said, “I see clearly … that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful…. I see the Church as a field hospital after a battle.”

We see a consistent message from five popes over five decades, calling us to live more fully our Lord’s commandment of love of neighbor. This message has encouraged the activity of the Knights of Columbus, which was founded on the principles of charity, unity and fraternity. Often, being true to these principles demands nothing less than courageous holiness, and we see this witnessed by so many brother Knights as they, like the Good Samaritan, reach out in tragic situations to help neighbors in need.

More recently, Pope Francis spoke of this path of charity. He said, “The Church, Benedict XVI told us, does not grow through proselytism, it grows through attraction, through witness.”

He added, “The witness that comes from charity, which is to worship God and serve others, is what makes the Church grow.”

When people see the witness of what the pope called “humble charity,” they say like the prophet Zechariah: “We want to come with you” (Zec 8:23).

John Paul II expressed the same idea years earlier in the document Ecclesia in Europa when he called Christians to a “charity that evangelizes.”

This is the mission of the Knights of Columbus today, and it is the key to our continued growth. If this ideal is lived faithfully by every brother Knight, the Order will continue to serve as the strong right arm of the Church.

Vivat Jesus!