On April 24, 2005, during the Mass inaugurating the Petrine Ministry of Pope Benedict XVI, the deacon read these famous words from chapter 16 of Matthew’s Gospel: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.” The awe-inspiring reality of these words was apparent to us this past spring when, for a few days in April, Peter was with us in the United States.
The Lord chose St. Peter as the rock of his Church because of Peter’s witness. Jesus had asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Mt 8:27-30). And the disciples answered that some said John the Baptist or Elijah or Jeremiah. In other words, a prophet, a teacher, a wise man — someone proposing a new and better ethical way of living. The Son of Man is all these things. But Peter acknowledged a different reality. Peter recognized not only words of good counsel, but also the words of eternal life.
In the days before Pope Benedict’s visit there was great interest in the media and elsewhere about what the pope would say. Would he be critical of certain practices among Catholics, policies of the government or trends in American society? Instead of criticism, we heard the same theme each day, albeit in a slightly different way: “God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved” (Jn 3:17).
The response of the American people, and especially Catholics, to Pope Benedict’s message went beyond what anyone expected. In this issue of Columbia we report on a national public opinion poll commissioned by our Order and undertaken by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. We title this report on public reaction to the pope’s trip “Success by Any Measure” — and it surely was that.
The poll found that among Catholics:
66 percent say they are now more likely to appreciate being a member of the Catholic Church.
50 percent say they now plan to make family a bigger part of their life.
50 percent say they now plan to lead a more moral life.
45 percent say they now plan to attend religious services.
And 39 percent say they now plan on becoming more active in their community.
This is Pope Benedict’s great gift to us: millions of Catholics more willing to actively live the Catholic life. It is up to us, the Knights of Columbus, to offer these men and their families a proven and true way to live more deeply their Catholic life — the way envisioned by the Venerable Servant of God Father Michael J. McGivney. Pope Benedict has offered us a great opportunity for renewal of the Church, and it is the responsibility of every Knight to accept and act upon this great gift to help build up the Church.
In his homily at the funeral Mass of Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger kept repeating Christ’s words, “Follow me.” He said they were “the key to understanding the message that comes to us from the life” of Pope John Paul II. Now we see that they are also the words that are the key to understanding the papal ministry of Benedict XVI. Indeed, “Follow me” are words that speak to us in a special way through the life of Christ’s vicar on earth. Now is the time for the Knights of Columbus to respond with a resounding “Yes!”