Concelebrated Mass - Memorial of St. John Vianney
Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Knights of Columbus 128th Supreme Convention
August 4, 2010
Praised be Jesus Christ!
Archbishop Wuerl, Pastor of this local Church of Washington,
Dear brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Religious, Seminarians and Lay Faithful,
Dear Knights of Columbus and Families,
and especially you, Supreme Knight and Mrs. Anderson
It is truly an uplifting experience to be together here this morning during this 128th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus, being assembled from so many different places throughout the world. What is so particularly exhilarating is that we are gathered in the name of Jesus and in His love in order to celebrate His Eucharistic Sacrifice.
It is very inspirational to have as the theme of our Convention: “I Am My Brother’s Keeper” - a phrase that expresses so much of the meaning of Christianity, so much of what the Church has learned from Jesus and His teachings.
In this regard, permit me to share with you a personal experience I had some years ago in Rome. It involved Mother Teresa, now Blessed Teresa, of Calcutta. On the occasion of her receiving an international award, Mother Teresa was scheduled to give a talk in the Vatican to a group of diplomats from different countries. She was to speak in English and I had been asked to translate her remarks into Italian. Before the ceremony began, I had the opportunity to be with her personally and to ask her about her talk. When I said to her, “Mother Teresa, what will you be speaking about?” she smiled and replied to me, saying: “Oh, I don’t know.” But then she added quickly: “All I know is that I will be talking about Jesus.”
Mother Teresa kept her promise that day. She spoke about Jesus and His teaching and His love for those in need - all those things that she exemplified in her own holy life, for which the Church has subsequently beatified her.
Those words of Mother Teresa still echo in my memory: “All I know is that I will be talking about Jesus.” This concentration on Jesus and the poor and needy with whom He identifies Himself explains so much about the meaning of the Knights of Columbus, about the value of charity, and about the theme chosen for this Supreme Convention: “I Am My Brother’s Keeper.”
Our holy Catholic faith when put into practice equals the charity of Jesus Christ. It is He who has revealed God’s love and has challenged us to return God’s love by the charity of our lives through an outreach to those in need.
The four great ideals of the Knights of Columbus begin with charity - a charity that members of the Order endeavor to live in unity, fraternity and patriotism after the example of Father Michael J. McGivney, who accomplished so much for the Church.
In 1859 Father McGivney was a young boy in America, not yet seven years of age, when Saint John Vianney, whose feast we celebrate today, died in France after living an extraordinary life of pastoral charity. Saint John Vianney did everything possible to promote both the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. He was an apostle of the confessional and expended himself for the spiritual welfare of his people. He also provided for the material well-being of those in need, especially his orphans.
Although Father McGivney never knew Saint John Vianney, he lived his priesthood in perfect continuity with the same great ideals of pastoral charity.
In addition, by the grace of God, Father McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus, who to this day embrace his great and fundamental ideal of charity. And it is because of this that the theme of our Convention is so meaningful: “I Am My Brother’s Keeper.” From this theme, inspired by the tradition of the Church and by the particular legacy of Father McGivney, there emerges a great challenge for the Knights of Columbus and their families to express solidarity with every brother and sister in society.
It is a question of being faithful to God’s word in the role of discipleship as it is offered this morning in the Gospel. For the Knights of Columbus it is a question of being numbered among the successors of the seventy-two disciples whom Jesus sent out to prepare His coming. And it is a question of being faithful witnesses by word and example to the truth of Christ’s Gospel and His Church. Hence Saint Paul’s words to Timothy are relevant not only for Timothy but for all the Knights of Columbus who form such an important component of the Church’s activity. To all of you the Church repeats these words: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus...: proclaim the word; be persistent, whether it is convenient or inconvenient.”
Hence in this Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Knights of Columbus are invited once again to mobilize, in the charity and truth of Christ, to support His Church and to be of service to every brother and sister in need.
How impressive that this charge is summarized in the words of our liturgy’s response: “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News” (Mk 16:15). And as you do this, dear friends, in word and action, realize that you are supported by your holy founder, Father McGivney, by Saint John Vianney and all those gathered with our Blessed Mother Mary in the Communion of the Saints. And be assured that the Church needs you, blesses you and urges you onward, in the name of Jesus.