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A Renewal of Faith


by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson

In our families and communities, we are called to be missionaries of the new evangelization

Carl A. Anderson

In October, Pope Benedict XVI announced a “Year of Faith” for the universal Church, an opportunity, he said, for us “to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ.” In this way, the pope added, we can respond to the “profound crisis of faith that has affected many people.”

Pope Benedict has often spoken of the need for a new evangelization. In 2010, he established a new Vatican entity, the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, and announced that the next World Synod of Bishops will study the new evangelization. In doing so, he recalled the words of Blessed John Paul II in Christifideles Laici: “Without doubt a mending of the Christian fabric of society is urgently needed in all parts of the world. But for this to come about what is needed is to first remake the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community itself” (34). Thus, the Church is both an “evangelized and evangelizing community,” and the new evangelization should address Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In other words, our witness is not only directed to those outside the Church; it must be accompanied by a renewal of faith by those already within the Church.

Continuing the message of his predecessor, Pope Benedict has made clear that the new evangelization requires a new missionary enthusiasm and the courage and commitment of public testimony. In declaring the Year of Faith, he reminded us, “A Christian may never think of belief as a private act. Faith is choosing to stand with the Lord so as to live with him.”

Of course, renewal has many aspects. Yet, one of the most important is “the witness offered by the lives of believers,” Pope Benedict observed, adding that “by their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us.” This, of course, is the great challenge and the great drama of Christian faith among the laity today in countries that are becoming increasingly secular.

Not all of us may feel competent to become missionaries, but every Catholic can participate in the new evangelization by the testimony of his own life and that of his family. In fact, the lay faithful are called to play a central role in the new evangelization. This was Pope Benedict’s message when he met recently with members of the Pontifical Council for the Family. On that occasion, he observed that “the new evangelization depends largely on the domestic church” and that “the new evangelization is inseparable from the Christian family.” He repeated his call that Catholic married couples should “evangelize with their witness of life” and urged them to assist priests in their pastoral activities. The pope concluded by saying that the Catholic family is “the closest ally of the priestly ministry.”

To further our understanding of the family’s privileged place in the pastoral mission of the Church, the Knights of Columbus has, for more than two decades, sponsored the work of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, which is now located at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Today, hundreds of institute graduates are working to advance the pastoral and teaching mission of the Church throughout North America.

The Pontifical John Paul II Institute is one of the most visible signs of the work of the Knights of Columbus to support the role of the family in the new evangelization. But more important is the work of our local councils, which constantly find ways for our members and their families “to show the world the love and presence of Christ.” This daily witness in our parishes and local communities is our greatest contribution to the work of the new evangelization.

As we prepare for the Year of Faith, we will continue to collaborate with our pastors and chaplains to make each of our councils a place where the world may encounter the Gospel values of charity, unity and fraternity.

Vivat Jesus!