Supporting a sports team has the ability to unify a city. But in every game, the fans of one team are pitted against the fans of another.
As I participated in the Order’s Guadalupe Festival in Phoenix, Aug. 8 — at an arena where sporting events are usually held — I observed how our faith has the power to unite us, but without the necessity of pitting us against “another team.”
At the festival, nearly 20,000 people from a variety of backgrounds joined together, unified in their celebration of Christ’s mother and her son’s message, which she brought to our continent centuries ago.
We shared an arena with people of every conceivable ethnic background. And as we prayed the rosary in 26 languages from Europe, Asia, Africa and North America, I realized that the force that unified those in the arena is that which can and does unify all of us in this hemisphere: the Christian faith.
Our continent is one drawn together by shared history. On a historical level, all of its countries — to some degree — are nations of immigrants and Native Americans. On a spiritual level, all of these countries share a common heritage of Christianity. And on a personal level, every person on this continent shares a mother: Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Of course, Our Lady of Guadalupe has been unifying this hemisphere for nearly 500 years. In the 1700s, Pope Benedict XIV said of her: “To no other nation has such a wonder been done.” And at the time he said this, that nation stretched from Seattle to the Southern tip of Argentina.
It is no surprise that Pope Pius XII later proclaimed Our Lady of Guadalupe “Empress of the Americas.”
Our Lady of Guadalupe points us to her son, and she also points us to unity in her son. For Catholics, this unity must transcend borders. In this spirit of unity — the second principle of our Order — it took only a few years after our foundation for the Knights to spread throughout the Christian hemisphere — to Canada (1897), to Mexico (1905), to Panama and Cuba (1909), and to many other countries in this hemisphere since.
No other place on earth has as many practicing Catholics as the Americas. While some continents have never been Christian, and while many European churches are nearly empty, ours are still full.
Here, the Church faces a bright future. Here, we are indeed fortunate to be citizens of the Catholic hemisphere, a continent of baptized Christians, unified by the Gospel message of Christ.
For if we who live on the American continent have a shared past, we have a shared future as well: a future of unity in faith.
What unites us as a Christian family is far greater than anything that divides us. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the mother of each of us, regardless of where we are from or what language we speak.
This is a unity that joins us as Knights, that joins us to the Church and to our fellow Christians on this continent.
But we cannot rest easy viewing this history of unity as a settled matter; we must protect it going forward. It is up to us — in our lives, in our homes and in our families — to put our faith into practice.
From Canada to Argentina, all of us who live in the Americas are called, like St. Juan Diego, to bridge the divide of cultures. We are called to communicate the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, mother of the civilization of love.
It is up to us to make that unity real by living exemplary family and professional lives, and by supporting the faith of Catholic immigrants today so that they become the Catholic parents of tomorrow. If we do these things, our legacy will be a Catholic hemisphere that remains Catholic.