I would like to express my appreciation to all the Knights of Columbus families who have shown such encouraging support for the publication of A Civilization of Love: What Every Catholic Can Do to Transform the World (HarperOne). I am especially pleased by the way in which council chaplains, parish priests, seminarians and college Knights have responded to this book.
In discussing A Civilization of Love with a variety of people, it is clear to me that many are eagerly seeking ways to allow God to become a larger part of their daily lives. They want to find greater spiritual fulfillment by sharing their time and talent with others, especially those in need.
All of this has greatly reinforced the importance of the mission of the Knights of Columbus. As an organization, we are as relevant today as when we were founded 126 years ago; perhaps even more so. Our Order offers Catholic men a variety of ways to invite God to share in a greater part of their lives, and there is no organization more committed to sharing time and talent with those in need.
We are hearing a great deal these days about the need for change in society. I believe that Christianity is the religion of change — change in the lives of individuals and in societies. The Knights of Columbus has always been committed to ongoing change in society by proclaiming the saving truths of the Gospel through the personal witness of its members.
Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have used the phrase “a civilization of love” to emphasize the type of society Catholics should work to build. In writing A Civilization of Love, I could not help but think that the Venerable Servant of God Father Michael J. McGivney had a similar vision for society. Perhaps most importantly, he found a very practical means to sustain the mission of the action-oriented fraternal association he established by founding it upon the principles of charity and unity — principles that form the twin pillars of a civilization of love.
How blessed we were to hear Pope Benedict at St. Patrick’s Cathedral single out Father McGivney for his vision and zeal and as an example of the unity of purpose and vision among the Catholic faithful that resulted in the impressive growth of the Church in the United States.
Some may think that this is simply a kind of pious idealism which has no chance to change anything in the real world. But this sort of “realism” shortchanges the great dignity and calling of each person.
We all know the Lord’s answer when asked to sum up the “law and the prophets” (see Mt 5:17). He said that love of God and love of neighbor are the true vocation of every person. If this is true, then only one form of society is ultimately worthy of the dignity of every person. That society is a civilization of love. This is perhaps idealism to some, but for Christians it is the source and summit of reality.
And for us Knights of Columbus? In many ways, our Order is the preeminent lay Catholic organization. As such, we must play a leading role in the pope’s efforts to build a civilization of love in the very places we know best: our families, councils, parishes, schools and communities. We have much work to do.