This month concludes the Order’s 125th anniversary celebration. As this issue of Columbia makes clear, the vision of our founder, the Servant of God Father Michael J. McGivney, has provided a uniquely prophetic inspiration for generations of Catholic laymen. I use the word “prophetic” deliberately. Father McGivney’s legacy has been truly relevant to each new generation of Catholic men, but continues to be essentially forward looking. Father McGivney was able to anticipate by more than 75 years the call of the Second Vatican Council for the laity to assume their proper role within the mission of the Church for the renewal of society.
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We might regard Father McGivney as prophetic in another sense as well: He founded a brotherhood of Catholic men willing to provide a strengthened voice for Catholics and willing to accept the challenges presented by an increasingly diverse and democratic society. These men were not afraid to stand up against anti-Catholic bigotry in a variety of forms, nor afraid to witness to Gospel values at home, in the workplace and in society.
Today, however, we face even greater challenges from a pervasive secularism that sees no room for the Christian message. It also rejects the Christian traditions of marriage and family and Christian values in education and health care. Once again the times call for men with the courage of Christian witness who can look to the future with confidence and hope.
As Knights of Columbus we continue to be committed to the renewal of our Church and our society. This is a theme of my new book, A Civilization of Love: What Every Catholic Can Do to Transform the World (HarperOne). The book’s guiding idea is simple: God is love — as Pope Benedict XVI reminded us in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est. The implications of this reality are far reaching and should guide us even in the practical details of our daily lives.
Throughout his long pontificate, Pope John Paul II spoke repeatedly of the need to build a civilization of love. Some might have been surprised that he did not urge the building of a new “Catholic” civilization, culture or society. Yet, John Paul understood that Catholics would be called upon to encounter societies and cultures that would be indifferent or even hostile toward Christianity. He also knew that every person around the world ultimately seeks the same thing: a love that is true and authentic. Each person has been created out of love and for love, and is called to a vocation to love others. We first learn this in the family, which John Paul called the “school of love.” Because the vocation to love is universal, it can transcend all borders and ethnic, racial and religious differences.
At the same time, John Paul knew that the greatest expression of the vocation to love exists in Jesus Christ. The pope’s call to build a civilization of love remains a universal call to the deepest yearning of every person, regardless of creed. At the same time, this call is an expression of the living witness of Jesus Christ.
A Civilization of Love is a book that explores how Catholics can join in this effort and provide in every aspect of their daily lives a living witness to the presence of Jesus Christ. It is a book that is inspired by the work and example of thousands of Knights around the world, and can serve to show others how our principles of charity, unity and fraternity can provide the basis for a true transformation of society.