It is here that the role of the laity takes on particular importance in God’s plan. It is the task of the laity to participate with others in establishing a just social order. As citizens of the world, the laity are to take on their own distinctive role and see that the divine law is inscribed in the life of the earthly city.
The political life is crucial to the development of civilization. John Paul II echoed the teaching of the Second Vatican Council when he wrote, “The lay faithful are never to relinquish their participation in public life” (Christifideles Laici, 42). But politics is not the only means of achieving a truly human life and the common good; other components must supplement this work.
Here, for instance, is where the Knights of Columbus offers an additional contribution to development of the social order. By the acts of charity done on behalf of the community, by the individual Knight performing his job in the secular world with integrity and competence, by raising a good family and making the home a sanctuary of life, Knights transform the world around them and build a civilization of justice, love and peace.
My grandfather was a Knight who practiced law during the Great Depression. He once gave pro bono representation to a widowed landlady against a tenant who tried to cheat her of the 50 cents he owed for rent! That is the world my grandfather bequeathed me, a world that looks out for widows and the needy. That was also the world that inspired the Venerable Servant of God Father Michael J. McGivney to found the Knights of Columbus.
Indeed, the laity are the architects of civilization. The society they bequeath to future generations will be a just social order of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism in proportion to what gets done now in our families, our councils, our parishes and communities, and among our youth.
Let us build something great, expressive of our love for one another. Let us make it a gift pleasing to God that renders back to him in thanksgiving our gift of life and the beautiful world we have received from him. There is much to do and much at stake. This is the time for action!
Father Joseph M. Walsh is a member of Fitzgerald Council 833 in Lincoln, Neb. Last spring, he was awarded his doctorate of theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. His doctoral thesis on the role of the laity in the temporal mission of the Church included a study of the Knights of Columbus.